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GRUFFYDD AP NICHOLAS AND THE RISE OF THE HOUSE OF DINEFWR AT last a phenomenon of outstanding importance in the history of A later mediaeval Wales is receiving its merited attention: the rise of native gentry families. Some of the greater houses of sixteenth and seventeenth century North Wales have recently had their origins probed and examined, among them the Maurices of Clenennau, the Wynns of Gwydir, the Griffiths of Penrhyn, the Glyns of Glynllifon and, above all, the Tudors of Penmynydd.1 By comparison, the stories of equally successful families in South Wales are still largely untold, partly, it must be admitted, because the surviving materials are much less rich.2 The emergence of the Herberts of Raglan and the Vaughans of Breconshire dearly needs investigation, and so does that of the Dinefwr family, which produced, in Sir Rhys ap Thomas (d. 1525), the doyen among Henry Tudor's Welsh supporters, and, in Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd (d. 1531), a notable traitor to Henry VIII. For this West Wales house, it is possible to trace in shadowy form some of its later mediaeval representatives, culminating in the towering figure of Gruffydd ap Nicholas. Gruffydd's was a reputable line, several members of which had already served in the administration of the lordship of Kidwelly. With monumental energy, Lewis Dwnn, the Elizabethan antiquary, constructed the pedigrees of many a Welsh gentry family, and his efforts on behalf of that of Gruffydd ap Nicholas have proved so conscientious and accurate as to earn respect for his statement that the family descended ultimately from Goronwy ab Einion, ancient lord of Iscennen and Kidwelly.3 Gruffydd's grandfather, Philip ap Elidir Ddu, known to posterity as a knight of the Holy Sepulchre, had been one of the attorneys deputed by Sir Gilbert Talbot in 1362 to deliver Carreg Cennen castle and the commote of Iscennen to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster; by 1386 he had entered the duke's service, for in 1386-7 he received £ 50 from him and 100 marks in the following year, payments which must reflect Philip's retention for an important, possibly military, purpose.4 Of Gruffydd's father, Nicholas ap Philip, there is little trace, for he may have died quite young, shortly before Gruffydd ap Nicholas was born. He lived at Cryg, 'a simple howse' in the Carmarthenshire parish of Llandeilo, in which Dinefwr castle and the town of Newton were also situated.5 But the family's settlement there probably dates only from Nicholas' marriage to Jennet, daughter of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Foethus, an experienced officer in the adjacent commote of Maenordeilo in the mid-fourteenth century.6 More tangible is the career of Nicholas' brother, Gwilym ap Philip ab Elidir, who sat on an enquiry at Carmarthen into the tenure of the lordship of Llandovery on 6 September 1391,