Friday 26 July 2013

(G)Widigada, where art thou?

As a researcher (it was something I excelled at - WHEN I had the time -  at Uni) I sometimes have a little prompt (thank you eldest daughter dear) and find I am following a deep line of research which keeps me occupied for hours.  She phoned around 5 p.m. and 3 hours later I am still researching.  What started me off were a couple of links to the previous occupants of our house - well, if I am honest, I think it was all probably flattened by Thomas Lewis, he who proudly put the plaque over the door "Built at the charge of Thomas Lewis 1718" . . .  but the building that was on this site in the mid to late Medieval periods.    I dived straight in and FINALLY have the name of the man who lived here in the 1400s and was made Esquire to the Body of Henry VII (after Bosworth, when Lord Dynevor supported Henry Tudor and raised an army locally from local gentlemen and their retainers.)  If you have been watching the White Queen on tv recently, you have no idea how exciting it feels to be part of that history unfolding as the weeks go on, from our little quiet spot of Carmarthenshire.  Here, the occupants had Friends in High Places and answered their call.

He was Gwilym ap John, born around 1430, and son of John ap Llywelyn "Ddu" (Ddu means dark), and Lleucu ferch Gwallier, who were both born around 1400. His occupation was given as "Gwilym Egwad the Poet".  His talents as a poet were cultured by Lewys Glyn Cothi, the Bardic poet , who addressed the eleventh Ode, in the fourth Dosparth of his poems, to this Gwillim ab Sion ab Llewelyn ddu, and calls his house (here on this site) Neuadd wen Llywelyn Ddu, "the white (or fair) mansion of Llewelyn ddu."

We always wanted to believe that the lower front portion of this house was the original Great Hall, but recent events point out to it being reinvented by Thomas Lewis.  The recent demolition of a plinth (built at the side of the house overlooking the yard and originally intended to support an oil tank for the central heating!), contained quantities of large lumps of building stone, including some dressed and rebated pieces which could well have belonged to the earlier dwelling here. We found several other pieces of high-status dressed stone and a piece of rebated stone window surround used as flooring in what used to be the old Dairy at the back of the house.

Anyway, I digress.  Then I got distracted by the mention of Llewelyn ddu ap John (Gwilym's elder brother) being born about 1430 at Gwidigada commote, Carmarthenshire, where his father's first wife Nest Philip hailed from.  I have finally tracked down the Manor of Widigada in Llanegwad to Cwmgwili, 2 miles N-N.East of Abergwili.  Job done!

Anyway, I expect by now you are all bored to death, because early Welsh history doesn't float your boat, but thank you for listening.  Sometimes I wonder if I will open the kitchen door when I go downstairs for medication or something in the night, and walk into the past, just like in Alison Uttley's wonderful children's book "Traveller in Time" . . .


  1. I truly admire your patience for being able to wade through the shells just to get to the nut of the matter. And the name spellings are so very interesting.

  2. Hi Gypsy Quilter. What a lovely blog you have. When I research, it is the ONE time I have any logical thought patterns whatsoever! I can sort the wheat from the chaff as I get very single-minded . . .

  3. I love and adore your history and tales. Again, I have somewhat of a connection to UK, and Wales through ancient relatives, and a deep connection to being a reincarnated herbalist in ancient times, as I was told by a physic.
    Do you ever feel presence of "others" in your beautiful home?

  4. I thought you must have Denim, because you used (recently) the word "cacas" or something very similar which has a . . . particular . . . meaning in Welsh. Think poo! Love the herbalist connection. Is it something you are very drawn to?

    As for "others" . . . well, my middle daughter brought "others" out of the woodwork, and how! It's' a looooooooooong story though. I may tell of it one day.

    1. Have always been drawn to herbs since I was very little, and too young to know why at the time and ancient stories of King Arthur and Avalon, Greek and Roman mythology.
      Yes, Caca, for poo. Its nicer to say. But I do say the salty sailor version lots, I am not a proper lady.
      I need to watch the White Queen. I have seen its trailers on tv but have not watched. I will try to record it and watch later.
      I look forward to your tales of "others".

  5. It must really feel as though you are part of history BB - how can you bear to think of leaving such a beautiful and historic place?

  6. Waver - the shove is coming from the cost of living here and heating 19 rooms!

    Em - I'm glad about that : )

  7. What a brilliant post and so interesting. I've been watching and been enthralled by "The White Queen" so found your post doubly fascinating. It must be wonderful to live in such a historic house. I've recently been in contact with a long lost cousin who lives on the Welsh Borders and she has been researching some of our Welsh ancestors - I will send a link to your blog to her if you don't mind as she will find your post really interesting.

    I must check out that book by Alison Uttley too :)

  8. Trying to type around Edward--our version of "little Whale'---fascinating background on your home. The research is indeed a challenging and engrossing way to spend hours--with mind faraway in another time.
    Our 1980's house here is a carbon copy of a million others built in that decade, but we've been told that an older farmhouse was demolished to make way for it. A man who lived here told me that the house had gone very shabby and was the coldest building in which he ever spent a winter, but I'm guessing it was a more interesting structure than the present one.
    If only those with the surname 'Lewis' had added something distinctive to the name--a middle initial, or an outlandish moniker by which to sort them from the hoard of Lewis families!

  9. How interesting for you with BBC's White Queen being aired right now. I too looked up my welsh cottage's history but only found out it was part of a large estate which came as a dowry in the 1700's. Interesting to find scraps of history though.
    I love A Traveller in Time and still have the book. Same with 'Spirit Of Punchbowl Farm' where Lindsey goes back in time and meets a boy who used to live on her farm. Being a Horsey Gal I'm sure you know which book I'm talking about :)

  10. Ah sharie, there you have me, as my eldest daughter got named because of those series of books . . . I am living in the sort of house with beams and inglenooks and attic bedrooms PURELY because I was brainwashed by those books in childhood . . . I lived their life, in a way! No bees or Jersey cattle though! Looking at your profile, it would seem you and I have a lot in common : )

    MM - I was looking around the churchyard in Llanybydder on Thursday, and no end of KLewis's in there - I thought of you!

    RR - you will adore Alison Uttley's writing, I promise. I hope your cousin enjoys my posts too.

  11. Fascinating history your lovely house with all its history beating through the walls, and ghosts walking its stairs ;)