DONE (DONNE, DOUNE, DWNN), Gruffydd (by 1501-66 or later), of Ystrad Merthyr, nr. Kidwelly and Carmarthen, Carm.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1501, 2nd s. of Owen ap Robert Done of Ystrad Merthyr by Sioned, da. of Lewys Ryd. m. (1) by 1522, Ellen, da. of Henry ap John ap Henry of Rhydarwen, 4s; (2) by 1533, Gwenllian, da. of Lewis ap Thomas ap John 2s. 2da.2

Offices Held

Bailiff, Carmarthen 1535-6, alderman 1555, mayor 1549, 1556; j.p.q. Carm. 1543-58/59 or later; commr. subsidy 1544, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; sheriff 1546-7, 1555-6, 1559-60; escheator 1548-9; bailiff, Kidwelly c.1560.3


The election for Cardigan Boroughs in 1547 has been discussed in detail elsewhere, but without any decision as to which of the two candidates involved is to be regarded as the Member. The indenture made at the borough court of Cardigan on 24 Sept. records the election of John Cotton, whereas the election writ endorsed by the sheriff, Edward Herbert, at the county court held at Aberystwyth on 28 Sept. names the Member as Gruffydd Done. Among possible explanations of the discrepancy the sudden death of Cotton can be ruled out, for he was to live until the end of the century. (The annotator of the list of Members prepared for the fourth session in 1552 added to the confusion by appending ‘mortuus’ to Cotton’s name, but as he did the same, and with as little justification, to William Devereux’s, he was clearly in much confusion, and his testimony must be ignored.) In any case, if it had become necessary for any reason to hold a fresh election, the first indenture should have been cancelled and a new one have taken its place. The return into Chancery thus points to some irregularity to which the sheriff was party, and it was his failure to amend the indenture in the light of the endorsement which led to the discovery of the matter.4

The candidate elected, John Cotton, was the nephew, and perhaps already son-in-law as well, of (Sir) Thomas Jones, a leading figure in the locality with property of his own in the town and by 1553 a freeman there. Jones is not known to have attended either the meeting of the borough court or that of the county court, but in the interval between the two he procured his own election as knight for Pembrokeshire. As the sheriff of Cardiganshire came from a family well disposed to him Jones may have relied upon Herbert to ensure Cotton’s return, but if so his confidence was misplaced. Interests more powerful than kinship seem to have come into play by the time of the meeting at Aberystwyth. Unlike Cotton with his English upbringing, Done was no stranger to the area and in 1547 he was sheriff of Carmarthenshire which together with Cardiganshire made up the principality of South Wales. As sheriff he himself returned (Sir) Richard Devereux, the elder son of the chamberlain of South Wales, as knight for Carmarthenshire, while Herbert returned Devereux’s younger brother for Cardiganshire. It looks as though both sheriffs were complying with the wishes of the chamberlain, but if Done’s reward was his own supersession of Cotton, Herbert did not benefit similarly. Done’s claim could also have been promoted by Thomas Phaer, a neighbour of his, who was to sit three times for Cardigan but who in the Parliament of 1547 was returned for Carmarthen Boroughs. It is also possible that Cotton agreed to his own replacement by Done, who was his kinsman.

Done belonged to a cadet branch of a family at Kidwelly grown rich during the previous century from the profits of war and local administration. The main line died out in 1552 when its inheritance was divided between the daughters and other relatives of Sir Edward Done, including John Cotton and Sir Thomas Jones. Gruffydd Done followed in the family tradition of local service, but unlike his elder brother he is not known to have held a post in the Household. Nearly all that is known about his early life derives from notes made by him in the margins of a 15th-century manuscript of ‘The Holy Grail’ which he owned. In these jottings, written in Welsh, he records that the building of his house at Ystrad Merthyr began in 1518, that he and his wife Gwenllian first went to live there in 1533, and that in 1535 he started planting an orchard. Of his many children, several succumbed to epidemics: he lost three sons in 1533, another four years later and two daughters in 1545. During the 1540s he was twice accused of misusing his authority and in 1559 his intervention in the seizure of cargo from a Breton vessel at Carmarthen led to a spell in the Fleet prison. His modern fame, however, rests not upon his career in local administration but on his antiquarian interests and scholarship. He collected works mainly in Welsh, having about 64 volumes in his library in 1564, and his patronage of bards throughout Wales earned eulogies from them. Among his friends and visitors to Merthyr Ystrad were the King’s librarian, John Leland, and the translator of the New Testament into Welsh, William Salesbury. Done was still alive in 1566, when the poet William Cynwal accepted a commission from him, but after that date nothing more is heard of him.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. C219/19/143v.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from marriage. DWB; Dwnn, Vis. Wales, ii. 58, 59; G. H. Hughes, ‘Y Dwniaid (Cydweli)’, Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. (1941), 115-49.
  • 3. Principality of Wales; S. Wales (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies Hist. and Law ser. xxvi), 347; C193/12/1; 219/24/234; SP11/5/6; E179/220/96, 263/35; CPR, 1553, pp. 364, 419; NLW ms 5586B, p. 7; J. E. Lloyd, Carm. ii. 467; HMC Welsh, ii(2), 502.
  • 4. P. S. Edwards, ‘The mysterious parlty. election at Cardigan Boroughs in 1547’, Welsh Hist. Rev. viii. 172-87; C219/19/143-5; Hatfield 207.
  • 5. K. B. McFarlane, Hans Memling, 5-9, 53-57; Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. (1941), 115-49; Principality of Wales; S. Wales, 345-6; HMC Welsh, i(1), 275; ii(2), 50-52; St.Ch.2/26/303; C1/1174/9; E159/336, Easter 167; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, iii. 56.