Tydfil’s Siblings – part 1

One of the earliest posts on this blog was about St Tydfil. In that post it was stated that Brychan Brycheiniog, Tydfil’s father, had 24 sons and 25 daughters. As is usual with of this period of history, accounts vary, but  local historian Carl Llewellyn has provided a list of Brychan’s children based on the best sources available. We start with Brychan’s sons:

CYNOG. A saint of the Fifth Century, he was the reputed son of Brychan by Banadlwedd, the daughter of Banadle of Banadla Powis. Soon after his birth he was put in the care of a holy man named Gastayn. He was murdered by pagans on a mountain called the Van in Breconshire, where a church in memory of his martyrdom was erected over his grave and called Merthyr Cynog.

St Cynog. Courtesy of David Nash Ford. http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/cynog.html

CLEDWYN. He embraced a military life and distinguished himself by expelling the Scottish Picts who had taken possession of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Cledwyn succeeded his father governing Breconshire.

DINGAD. He founded the churches of Llandingad in Carmerthenshire and Monmouthshire (where he is buried).

ARTHEN. There was once a church dedicated to him in Gwaenllwg, Monmouthshire which was demolished by the Saxons. The hill near Llandovery called Cefnarthen is named after him. He is buried in the Isle of Man.

CYFLEFYR. He is recognised as a son of Brychan, but some sources say he is actually the son of Dingad, and therefore Brychan’s grandson. He was murdered by the Saxons at a place called Merthyr Cyfefyr.

RHAIN. He became a soldier and took over the eastern part of his father’s lands. He was murdered by the Saxons and was buried at Llanfaelog Fach near Brecon.

DYFNAN. He founded the church at Llanddyfnan in Anglesey and was buried there.

GERWYN. He settled in Cornwall and was killed in the Isle of Gerwyn.

CADOG. Some sources say he was actually the grandson of Brychan. He was the founder of several churches and died in 490AD in France.

MATHAIRN. He was buried in Ceredigion.

PASGEN. Son of Brychan by Peresgri of Spain. Lived and died in Spain.

NEFAI. As above

PABIALI. As above

LLECHAU. He founded the church of Llanlechau in Ewyas in Herefordshire.

CYNBRYD. He founded the church of Llandulas near Abergele. He was murdered by the Saxons at Blwch Cynbryd.

CYNFRAN. He was the founder of the church of Llysfraen in Caernarfonshire.

HYCHAN. He founded the church of Llancychan in Clwyd.

DYFRIG. (Also known as Dubricious) He founded a college at Henllan on the River Wye. He was consecrated in 470AD, and became Archbishop of Caerleon in 490. He founded a college at Caerleon, and in 519 he crowned King Arthur. Upon retirement he moved to a monastery in Bardsey where he died in 522. In 1120, his body was moved from Bardsey and re-buried at Llandaff Cathedral.

St Dyfrig. Courtesy of David Nash Ford. http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/dyfrig.html

CYNIN. He founded the church of Llangynin near St Clears, Carmarthenshire.

DOGFAN. He was murdered by the Saxons at Merthyr Dogfan in Pembrokeshire, and achurch was erected in his memory. He is also the patron saint of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant in Denbighshire.

RHAWIN. He settled in the Isle of Man where there was a church dedicated to him. He later returned to Wales and was murdered with his brother Rhun at Pontyrhun, Troedyrhiw by the group of Saxons who went on to murder Brychan and Tydfil.

RHUN. See above

St Rhun. Courtesy of David Nash Ford. http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/bios/rheindbg.html

CLEDOG. He founded the church of Clodock in Herefordshire where he was buried.

CAIAN. He was the founder of the church of Tregaian in Anglesey.

To be continued…..

The story of ‘Martyr’ Tydfil

If we are going to have a blog about the history of Merthyr Tydfil, it is perhaps natural to start with how Merthyr Tydfil got its name.

st-tydfil
Stained glass window of St Tydfil at Llandaff Cathedral courtesy of Llywelyn2000

The story starts with the legendary 5th Century king Brychan Brycheiniog. Brychan was allegedly the son of the Irish king Anlach, son of Coronac, and of Marchell ferch Dewdrig heiress of the Welsh kingdom of Garthmadrun, which the couple later inherited. Upon his father’s death, Brychan returned to Garthmadrun and changed its name to Brycheiniog. Brychan had four wives and several concubines and was said to have had 24 sons and 25 daughters. Tydfil was his 23rd daughter by his fourth wife. Most of Brychan’s children were well educated, girls and boys, at a school in Gwenddwr on the Wye and went on to live deeply religious lives.

Tydfil decided to make her home in the Taff Valley, sparsely populated by Celt farmers. She established an early Celtic monastic community, leading a small band of men and women. She built an enclosure around a small wattle and daub church, and she became known for her compassion and healing skills as she nursed both sick humans and animal.

In approximately 480AD, the aged Brychan decided to visit his children one last time. He took with him his son Rhun Dremrudd, his grandson Nefydd and his son along with several servants. They visited his third daughter, Tanglwstl, at her religious community at Hafod Tanglwstl, what is now known as the village of Aberfan, south of Merthyr Tydfil. Brychan wanted to stay with his daughters a little longer, so he sent most of his warriors and Nefydd on ahead, along the homeward journey. The king went on to Tydfil’s home while Rhun and Nefydd’s son were still at Hafod Tanglwstl.

At the time, Wales was experiencing raids from Scottish Picts who had settled in Radnorshire, and it was during Brychan’s journey from Hafod Tanglwstl that one of these raids occurred. Rhun was attacked by a raiding party, a mile from Hafod Tanglwstl and he died defending a bridge over the river at what is now the village of Troedyrhiw. With the bridge undefended, the marauding Picts were free to attack the King’s party. One group destroyed Hafod Tanglwstl, whilst the other attacked Brychan’s party which had reached Tydfil’s community. The party were all murdered, but whilst most ran away or fought, Tydfil knelt and prayed, but she too was cut down.

Tydfil was buried within the church she founded, and a Celtic cross was put up in a clearing near the Taff to mark the place where ‘Martyr’ Tydfil was slain and which became a site of pilgrimage. In the 13th century the cross and wattle and daub church were replaced by a stone church dedicated to Saint Tydfil the Martyr. This was in turn replaced in 1807, and rebuilt again in 1894.

Old St Tydfil’s Church courtesy of Old Merthyr Tydfil (http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/index.htm)
St Tydfil’s Church courtesy of Steve MT