Thursday, August 27, 2009


Looking at a sample of over a thousand Radnorshire wills from the 17C we find that a majority of folk from across the county are using traditional Welsh patronyms, Rees ap David of Gladestry (1660) for example, or Gwenllian vch Hugh of Aberedw (1671).

The new fangled surnames are certainly making headway, although a subtantial number of these are infact hidden patronyms. For instance it's highly unlikely that John David Bedo Mayn of Llanyre (1640) was actually a Mr Mayn!

Surnames that denote an English ethnic origin are absent from most parishes but in Llanddewi Ystradenni, Llangynllo and Llanbadarn Fynydd they make up between 20% and 25% of the population. Familiar names from in and around these parishes include Mason, Clark, Bufton, Payne, Hamer, Harding, Wilde, Ingram, Worthen and Mantle. These families soon inter-married with the local population and Buftons, Hamers and Ingrams etc are found in the last generation of native speakers of Radnorshire Welsh. At the same time they no doubt introduced a degree of bilingualism into North Radnorshire which would have been sustained by contact with the border towns of Knighton and Presteigne. It is this bilingualism that is the key to the later anglicisation of the county and it is the upper Ithon valley and the hill country of Maelienydd that is the conduit not the Wye valley as supposed by many.

My old chemistry teacher, Ll. Hooson Owen, in his thesis on the Welsh language in Radnorshire seemingly believed that it was a planted Cromwellian soldiery that introduced this English element into the county, but the names cited above are found before the Civil War. Perhaps they were settled on lands confiscated from the monks of Abbey Cwmhir, does anyone know?

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