According to tradition, Rhiwaedog was once the palace of the Princes of Gwynedd and was home to Owain Gwynedd, King of Gwynedd. The mansion has several unique features, including oak stud doors, oak floors and staircases, lead lights, fireplaces and a confession box. The present Plas Rhiwaedog was built during the second half of the C17 (c.1664), but according to John Speed’s map which was published in 1610, a building called Ruedok once stood there.
What’s in a name?
Rhiwaedog means ‘Bloody Hill’ and it appears that the name derives from Llywarch Hen’s time in the C6. A bloody battle was fought between Llywarch Hen’s men (who were lead by his son, Cynddelw) and another tribe from the eastern side of the Berwyn hills. Cynddelw was killed following the battle, and he was the last of Llywarch Hen’s 24 sons. Tribal leaders took great pride in their sons’ military bravery and Llywarch Hen wasn’t about to stop Cynddelw from fighting – even though he was his last surviving son.
In the C12, Rhiwaedog was known as ‘Neuaddau Gleision’ (‘Blue Halls’), due to the blue-grey colour of the estate’s buildings.
On the paternal side of his family, Llywarch Hen could claim progeniture from Coel Hen (Old King Cole), King of Britain. His mother, Gwawr was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, a descendant of the Irish Kings. Llywarch was himself chief of many lands and he had 24 sons. Llywarch Hen was immortalised in a series of ‘englynion’ (verses) from the C9-10.
Poets of Rhiwaedog
Several poems were composed in praise of the Rhiwaedog family in the 1500-1620 period, by acclaimed poets such as Gruffydd Hiraethog, Tudur Aled, Sion Ceri, Bedo Hafhesp, Sion Phylip, Richard Phylip, Richard Cynwal, Wiliam Cynwal, Rhys Cain, Wiliam Llyn, Sion Tudur, Simwnt Fychan, Tomos Prys, Huw Arwystli, Lewis Dwnn, Lewis Môn, Lewis Menai and Owain Gwynedd. Richard Cynwal was John Lloyd of Rhiwaedog’s family poet. John Lloyd was the High Sheriff in 1616 and he was a close friend of Dr John Davies, Mallwyd. Dr John Davies and Bishop Richard Parry were responsible for publishing the revised version of William Morgan’s Welsh Bible in 1620. Dr John Davies was cleric at Llanfor Church during John Lloyd’s time at Rhiwaedog and he wrote a poem to John Lloyd, asking him to give local residents a horse in order for them to be able to cross the river on their way to Llanfor Church – before the church was built at Rhosygwaliau. The poetic tradition of Rhiwaedog survived until 1774, when Robert William of Pandy Rhiwaedog wrote an elegy on the death of William Lloyd, Rhiwaedog.
Rhiwaedog Treasures – Crystal of Rhiwaedog
An egg shaped crystal was once owned by Owain Gwynedd and it was in the family’s possession until the death of the last member of the family. The crystal could foretell the death of the head of the family, when its brilliant colour became cloudy and a split in the crystal would become more pronounced. Tradition has it that several similar treasures once belonged to the Rhiwaedog family, but they are now lost. Several attempts were made to discover the treasures, but all were unsuccessful.
The Rhiwaedog Family
The Rhiwaedog estate was acquired by the Lloyd family of Bala following the marriage of their predecessor, Meredydd ab Ieuan ab Meredydd to Margaret, heiress of Einion ab Ithel of Rhiwaedog. The last member of the main branch of the Rhiwaedog family, Ann Sophia Maria Iles, died in 1832 and until that point, the family could be traced back to Owain Gwynedd, King of Gwynedd in the C12. Upon the death of Ann Sophia Maria Iles, Rhiwaedog was transferred to Frances Lloyd, who was the daughter of John Lloyd, owner of Berth and Rhagad and wife of Richard Watkin Price, heir to the Rhiwlas estate.
Following the death of the old Rhiwaedog family, the farm was let to tenants. One of the first tenants was William Jones (1765-1840). He had an excellent reputation for his warm welcome. The Sasiwn (a preaching festival) was held at Bala every June and William Jones would always accommodate great numbers of people. It appears that twenty people lived at Rhiwaedog farm during William Jones’ lifetime