Penmynydd - birthplace of royalty
Today Penmynydd is a quiet collection of houses strung out along the road from Menai Bridge to Llangefni (see this map and aerial photo). However in the past it was the base of one of the most powerful families on the island. It also gave rise to the royal dynasty of the House of Tudor, which included King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I of England.
The family's rise to power began with Ednyfed Fychan, who in the 13th century was lord steward to Llywelyn the Great. As a result of his service he was granted large tracts of land across North Wales, including Penmynydd. His sons (one of whom was named Tudor) also served the Princes of Gwynedd. The family later became loyal to the English king, Edward I, when he conquered Wales, thus retaining their power and influence.
Ednyfed's great-great grandson, Tudur ap Goronwy of Penmynydd, had five sons. One, Gronw Fychan became Forrester of Snowdonia in 1382, but unfortunately drowned a few days later, along with one of his brothers. He and his wife are buried in the church at Penmynydd under alabaster effigies. The remaining brothers supported Owain Glyndwr (a cousin of their's) in his rebellion against English rule in the early 1400s. As a result they lost their land in Penmynydd and some even lost their heads. Some of their descendants regained the estate later in the century, but they never regained the same level of local influence.
However, the son of one brother, Maredudd, did go on to greater things in England. Owain Tudor (an Anglicization of his Welsh name Owain ap Maredudd apTudur) joined Henry V's army. He distinguished himself and eventually became involved in the king's court, possibly as keeper of the household for Henry's queen, Katherine de Valois. Henry died at the age of 35, leaving his wife a widow and their young son the new king, Henry VI. Somehow Owain Tudor gained her favour and they were secretly married around 1429 and had three sons. This act gave the Tudor dynasty a somewhat tenuous claim to the throne of England.
Their grandson, Henry Tudor, exercised this claim. The second half of the 15th century saw much turbulence during the Wars of the Roses, when various claimants to the throne of England fought battles. Eventually Henry returned from exile in France, gathering an army along the way from his landing site in Wales. He fought against and defeated King Richard III at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, becoming the unchallenged King of England, Henry VII. Thus the Tudor dynasty, which originated in Penmynydd, began their period of rule that was to last over 100 years.
The Tudors in North Wales.
The house currently at Plas Penmynydd, the home of the Tudors on Anglesey, was built after these events, in 1576. It is presumed that the house was built on the same site as the one the Tudors occupied in their heyday. The house was rebuilt in the 17th century and was again refurbished extensively in recent years. The house is now a private dwelling.
The church at Penmynydd, where Gronw Fychan is buried, is dedicated to St. Gredifael, who founded a Celtic church here in the 6th century AD. A stone church was first built here in the 12th century. It is now gone, although some of its stones, with chevron markings, are thought to have been reused in the current building. This one dates from the 14th century, with restorations taking place in 1848 and 1969. The Tudor tomb is in a separate chapel (on the left side in the photo above).
This chapel also contains a stained glass window (shown at the top of this page) with the symbols of the Tudor family. The Tudor Rose is present along with the English royal crown and other Regalia. The motto reads UNDEB FEL RHOSYN YW AR LAN AFONYDD AC FEL TY DUR AR BEN Y MYNYDD, which translates from the Welsh as "Unity is like a rose on a river bank, and like a House of Steel on the top of a mountain". The phrase Ty Dur (House of Steel) refers to the name Tudur, and Ben y Mynydd (mountain top) is an alternative phrasing of Penmynydd.
View Churches and Chapels of Anglesey in a larger map
22 June 2007 - I'm sad to announce that a few days ago some vandals broke into St. Gredifael Church and destroyed the Tudor stained glass window, as well as three other windows with original glass dating to the Elizabethan period. This occurred just two weeks after the Prince Of Wales visited the church during a tour of Anglesey.
The Friends of St Gredifael, formed just a few weeks ago, sadly must turn their attention to raising funds to help repair and restore these windows. You can read a news item about the vandalism here.
12 November 2007 - The window has now been repaired. Read about it here. The picture to the left shows the new window, with the remnants of part of the old one displayed next to it. The roses in the middle of the window are the original glass, but the other parts are new copies of the original.
September 2014 - The Tudor tomb has recently been examined with 3D scanning technology by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, revealing details not normally seen. This is in preparation for a project to conserve and restore the tomb, after damage from a leaking skylight. Read more at the Church in Wales, Bangor site.