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THE WYNN ESTATE OF GWYDIR: ASPECTS OF ITS GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT c. 1500-1580 ONE of the most remarkable success stories of the later years of the fifteenth century in Gwynedd was the settlement of Maredudd ab Ieuan ap Robert of the stock of Gruffudd Fychan ap Gruffudd ap Moreiddig Warwyn of Y Gesailgyfarch and Penyfed in Eifionydd, in the commote of Nanconwy.1 He moved with his young bride, Alice, the illegitimate daughter of William Gruffudd ap Robin of Cwchwillan and the step-daughter of Thomas Spicer, a burgess of Caernarfon, from Crug, a mansion in the vicinity of the town, to settle on bond vills in the township of Dolwyddelan in the Lledr Valley.2 This was a region largely inaccessible, desolate and sparsely populated. Spicer was, according to Wynn, reputed to be a landed gentleman of £ 50 a year: 'a great wealthie man', he added, and a member of a prominent family which 'dealt w'th trade of merchandise' in that borough in which it had settled in the fourteenth century.3 The marriage took place in 1480 when Maredudd was about twenty years of age, and it was apparent that his move- ment to Nanconwy was deliberate. In order to avoid the resentment of his blood- brothers who may well have been jealous of his advancement, he had decided not to return to Eifionydd. hi addition, like others of his genre, he had warily eyed vacant bond vills, especially in the remote uplands of Nanconwy.4 The township of Dolwyddelan was situated in the southernmost part of the commote and to the north lay the broader and more fertile Conwy valley which formed the frontier between the Principality and the Lordship of Denbigh. hi 1352, the township consisted of two bond gafaelion called Gafael Elidir and Gafael- y-Mynach.5 hi the commote, the townships of Dolwyddelan, Penmachno, Trewydir (usually known as Gwedir or Coed Gwedir) and Trefriw maintained between them forty-seven bond families.6 There were only two free townships, namely Cwm- llannerch and Betws,7 both of them, very soon after the Edwardian Settlement, having commuted old customary rents and services into cash, a charge of £ 7 having been raised to £ 20 by commuting the old labour services and food renders.9 The township of Penmachno contained one bond gafael valued at 44S. a year. hi Trewydir there were three gafaelion, each valued at 24s. 4d. a year. Betws also had three free gafaelion (valued at 23 s. each) and Cwmllannerch one free gafael (valued at 96s. a year).10 The effects of war and pestilence had depopulated the commote of its bond families, and arrears which could never be recovered were recorded in the accounts. Signs of encroachment upon bond land were in evidence in Dolwyddelan and Penmachno late in Richard II's reign;11 the gradual decline of bondmen having entailed a heavy loss of revenue to the Crown at a time when leading freeholders were casting a greedy eye upon areas such as these which had suffered considerably after the Glyndwr Revolt.12 Aggressive gentlemen, aware of the inhibitions they encountered in not being allowed freely to participate in land transactions according to English Common Law and eager to preserve their encroachments upon bond