by Richard Gwynallen
Elizabeth ferch John ap Howell
1593 – circa 1664
Relationship to Fawn: 10th great aunt
(This article was updated on 3 December 2017 regarding the section about the Llangelynnin Church.)
I consider it a real find to run across actual locations where some of our ancestors lived. In The Gwyns and Powells: Welsh Naming Practices and the Welsh Quaker Migration, we mentioned that the Gwyn-Powell line of our family became part of the Welsh Quaker movement of the 17th century. This essay follows Elizabeth, one of the children of Sybil ferch Hugh Gwyn and John ap Howell introduced in that previous essay.
Elizabeth ferch John ap Howell was born in 1593, in Llanwddyn, Montgomeryshire, Wales. She married Humphrey ap Hugh about 1625, and moved to his family estate of Llwyn Du (black wood) in Llwyngwril in Merionethshire/Meirionnydd.
The house dates back to the 12th century, still stands, and apparently is still a private residence.
“. . . a house called Llwyn Du (black wood), dates from 1138, but is best known as the home of Quakers during their persecution in the 1600s, prior to leaving Wales for America. The occupants at this time were Humphrey ap Hugh, and his family.” (http://www.llwyngwril.org.uk/ )
George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, first visited Merionethshire/Meirionnydd in 1657. It is probable that he visited Llwyn Du in 1657 and on his second visit in 1667. The latter is referenced in his Journals (Vol. II, page 89) when he speaks of his journey through Merionethshire and ” . . . to the seaside, where we had a precious meeting.”
This was an vibrant period of the Quaker movement, not just because their persecution led to the Quaker migration to the American Colonies, but because the unique feature of the Quaker movement providing a more equitable role for women than any other western religious tradition of the time was new and controversial. “Ministry,” that is to say, the prerogative to speak during a Quaker Meeting, was open to women from the very beginnings of the movement in the 1650s. Colleen Clark’s essay, The Role a Female Traveling Minister Played in Spreading Quaker Beliefs indicates that in the early years, a large number, possibly the majority, of traveling Quaker preachers were women. Quaker women traveled alone and published. However, it wasn’t an easy innovation. The Quakers were attacked for this position frequently, and the pressure created internal dissent. Much has been written on the role of women in the Quaker movement. For our purposes here, it’s enough to understand that the Quaker movement was giving a social and religious voice for women like our ancestor, Elizabeth, and her children. It’s easy to see the women of Llwyn Du playing a more active role in the discussions and plans that must have been held at the house and in Quaker Meetings.
The village of Llwyngwril is within the Snowdonia National Park, and consequently is rather pristine.
Humphrey ap Hugh inherited the family farm and was still “living there in 1662, but died soon after . . .” He had been a Justice of the Peace for Merionethshire. About 1625 Humphrey and Elizabeth married.
Elizabeth had family connections in the area. Her uncle, Richard Nanney, was Rector of Llangelynin. Llangelynnin Church (Welsh: Eglwys Llangelynnin) is possibly one of the remotest churches in Wales and is amongst the oldest, dating back at least to the 13th century. This is mostly likely where Elizabeth and Humphrey married.
The above pictures are courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. I was graciously directed to the site by distant cousin and descendant of Evan Gwynne of Llanfair Caereinion, Fr. Euddogwy, who noticed that I had inserted the picture of the church of Llangelynnin Conwy not Llangelynnin Merionydd. He notes that the church is that is the subject of this article “is situated in a very bracing location above the sea and has some super ancient and 18th century features,” and that “the beach below the Quaker Burial Ground at Llwyngwril (which appears below) is a great spot for surfing.”
Elizabeth and Humphrey had four children: Owen, John, Samuel, and Ann. All remained in Wales, but many of the children of Owen, Samuel, and Ann emigrated with their families to Pennsylvania in 1690 as part of the Welsh Quaker migration. John had no offspring.
Owen, born about 1625, was “amongst the first in Wales to join the Quakers.” He had been an officer under Oliver Cromwell, and subsequently had been a Justice of the Peace under the Protectorate. After joining the Quakers he refused to pay tithes in 1662, was prosecuted in the Sheriff’s Court, and his cattle were seized as the result of the award against him.
After his father died circa 1664, he deeded ground to the Welsh Quakers as a burial ground, though Quaker burials seem to go back to 1646. The burial ground is near the beach.
Owen’s children, John, Joshua, Elizabeth, and Rebecca, all emigrated to Pennsylvania. His eldest child, Humphrey Owen Humphrey inherited Llywn Du. However, he was so frequently fined that “it is believed he left little personal estate . . . what little money he had remaining he lent freely to Friends going to Pennsylvania . . .” (page 249)
The home of Elizabeth and Humphrey was a center of Welsh Quaker activity, generously supported by them and their children, which made the home most likely a vibrant center of social activity, intellectual richness, and planning of Quaker resistance and migration.
Information on the village today can found at: