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Glas-hirfryn: Who built the house?

Discovering who built the house

The earliest known owner of Glas-hirfryn is 'Morus ap Dafydd of Glas-hirfryn' whose name appears in a genealogy as the husband of Magred, daughter of Lewys Wynn ap Morus Wynn of Moeliwrch, Llansilin, which lies just over 4 kilometres to the east.

Lewys Wynn is thought to have been born in about 1530, which would place Magred and Morus ap Dafydd’s births in about 1560. The dendrochronological date of c. 1559 for the building of the storeyed house at Glas-hirfryn suggests that this was built by Morus’s father Dafydd, an Elizabethan gentleman about whom nothing appears to be known.

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Sycarth Castle, Llansilin, associated with Owain Glyndŵr

Historical background to the region

Moeliwrch, like Glas-hirfryn, lay in Cynllaith, a region strongly associated with Owain Glyndŵr about a century and a half before Glas-hirfryn was built. Following the Glyndŵr rebellion the descendants of Ieuan Gethin at Moeliwrch and other houses nearby became the region’s most powerful landowners.

The marriage of Magred and Morus ap Dafydd aligns Glas-hirfryn firmly with the social and cultural elite of the region. Moeliwrch was a mansion which hosted bards and musicians for many generations, from the mid fifteenth to the mid seventeenth century.

Local cultural traditions

A praise poem for Magred's great-great-grandfather, Ieuan, was written by Hywel Cilan (fl. 1435-70). Perhaps most significantly of all, her great-great-great-grandfather, Hywel ab Ieuan Fychan, was one of Guto’r Glyn principal patrons in Powys. One of his poems (‘Ar achlysur ailadeiladu tŷ Hywel ab Ieuan Fychan ym Moeliwrch’), addressed to Hywel on the occasion of the rebuilding of Moeliwrch, probably in the period c. 1435–50, blesses the house and is rich in social, cultural, architectural and political undertones.

Poems such as this would have been recited in the locality for generations and would no doubt have been in people's minds when houses like Glas-hirfryn were built a century and more later and despite the rapid architectural advances that had been made during this period which saw the change from cruck-frame to box-frame construction. Guto’r Glyn’s poem about Moeliwrch emphasises the use of oak (‘derwgoed’‘ngwar rhiw’), where it could be seen from afar (‘Ond are fryn, rhoi lyn lu’), the black and white patterning of the walls (‘Gwal fraith’), and the placing of beams on stone sills (‘Gorau coed ar gerrig gwaith’), all of which are reflected in the design and construction of Glas-hirfryn.

The names of harpers and crwth players who performed at Moeliwrch in about 1562, led by master musician and poet Wiliam Penllyn (fl. 1550–70), are recorded in Morus Wynn’s (Magred’s grandfather’s) household book.

Regional architectural traditions

In view of the intricate carpentry at Glas-hirfryn it is possible that verses were also written about this house when it was built in the sixteenth century, though none has yet been found.

The elaborately carved oak boss once sited in the middle of the ceiling of the ground-floor hall

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