GWYN, alias BODVEL, Hugh (d.1611), of Bodvel, Llannor, Caern.
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Family and Education
J.p. Caern. from c.1573, escheator 1588-9, sheriff 1589-90, 1597-7.
Hugh Gwyn was the first of his family to use (frequently) as his surname the name of his place of residence, a practice followed by his descendants but not by his brothers. In 1576 he succeeded to an estate which was rated for subsidy six times as high as any other in his commote, and by marrying his second cousin he reunited two properties long separated. That it was some time before he began on the normal cursus honorum for a man of his standing may be attributed to his family’s Catholic past, and his own involvement in the opposition put up by the Gwynedd gentry to Leicester’s interference in North Wales. In 1578 he was in prison at Ludlow with several others of his neighbours who had fallen foul of Leicester. While he was in prison the bishop of Bangor and Dr. Ellis Price were ordered to search the houses of several known papists suspected to be in collusion with Hugh Owen of the neighbouring Plas Du, a servant of the Earl of Arundel who had fled to Spain and whose activities abroad were deeply suspect. Gwyn’s was among the houses searched, but nothing incriminating came to light. By 1581 he had apparently made his peace with Leicester, and, like most of his neighbours, had lived down suspicions of recusancy sufficiently to re-enter public life.1
It is not clear whether an echo of these troubles is to be found in the Star Chamber action brought in 1583 against Gwyn and 50 other defendants by the ex-sheriff, William Maurice, and his deputy, on charges of forcibly resisting a writ of distraint from Chancery, and in a lawsuit (this time in the court of Exchequer) of 1591, in which Gwyn and Thomas Madryn, one of his associates of 1578, were accused by an Oxfordshire man of interfering with his possession of the tithes of Aberdaron. Gwyn was involved in other Exchequer suits, concerning the town of Pwllheli, where his father had secured the farm of the tolls and of the town fields. A Londoner in 1587 accused him and six other defendants, including Madryn, of ‘intrusion’ into rights there which he claimed on the strength of a crown grant, and he evidently secured a favourable verdict; but eight years later Gwyn riposted with a counter-charge of intrusion against the previous plaintiff, claiming that he himself was not bound by the Exchequer decree since he had not been privy to it.2
He is not named in the parliamentary journals for 1589, but he may have attended the subsidy committee on 11 Feb. 1589 to which all knights of the shire were appointed.3
He was again suggested for sheriff in 1605, but nothing came of it; indeed, he faded into obscurity in his later years. He had made his will, as Hugh Gwyn of Bodvel, on 16 Apr. 1604, employing a devout (but not Catholic) preamble. There are references to his father ‘John Wyn’ and to his sons John, Robert and Henry ‘Bodvel’, apart from the main legatee, his eldest son ‘Thomas Bodvel’. The will was proved 28 Jan. 1612 (by the youngest son, Henry) and confirmed by sentence on 26 June. His descendants, inheriting Anglesey as well as Caernarvonshire lands, sustained the family prestige in local affairs until the male line died out with Thomas’s grandson, the Long Parliament Member and Royalist colonel, in 1663.4
Dwnn, Vis. Wales, ii. 174; E179/220/146; Griffith, Peds. 171; Harl. 594, ff. 39-40; Cal. Wynn Pprs. 58, 67, 70.
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. (1936), 9, 12, 13, 99, 107-8; SP12/123/1, 11; DWB, 697-8; A. J. Loomie, Spanish Elizabethans, 1963, pp. 53-4; Williams, Parl. Hist. Wales, 59.
- 2. Star Chamber, ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. i), 32; Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (same ser. iv), 52, 79.
- 3. D’Ewes, 431.
- 4. Cal. Wynn Pprs. 62-3; PCC 4, 57 Fenner; DWB, 781-2.