Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fine Old Radnorshire Names

Bump into someone called Lleucu or Tangwystl and chances are that your average Radnorian is going to categorise them as someone outlandish, probably North Walian and possibly involved in burning down holiday cottages. The truth is, of course, that names like these are just as much a part of Radnorshire's cultural history as anywhere else in Wales.

Such names were once popular, even in that supposedly anglicised part of East Radnorshire that falls within the diocese of Hereford; and since Welsh marriage law caused apoplexy amongst the English churchmen, they are recorded in the Fifteenth Century Consistory Court records. Here we find Lleucu the wife of Gruffudd ap Richard shacking up with Deio Impton of Norton, while in Cascob a certain Gwerful's husband had moved in with his mistress. In Ednol Hywel ap Ieuan Du had kicked out his wife Gwenhwyfar, while Tanglwst verch Hywel of Presteigne had married a distant cousin and Ieuan ap Gwilym of New Radnor had illegally married his mistress Dyddgu. Scandalous.

It has to be admitted that by the 1580's such traditional names were falling out of favour, not just in Radnorshire but all over Wales. I once did a study of women's names in Radnorshire wills of the period and found just three Angharads, two Dyddgus and one Tangwystl. Gwenllian was still a very popular name though, as was Goley from Goleubryd. It also has to be said that Radnorians favoured the Welsh spellings of the popular French names - Elin, Catrin, Mallt and Anest rather than Elinor, Catherine, Maud or Agnes.

Traditional names continued here and there into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while Gwenllian never disappeared completely from Radnorshire.

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