Wynnstay Estate Records

Ystrad Marchell Charters

Although there are few visible remains today of the Cistercian abbey of Ystrad Marchell near Welshpool, the evidence of the charters reveals it to have been a religious house of some wealth and importance within medieval Powys. Following its foundation in the late twelfth century by Owain Cyfeiliog (d. 1197), prince of southern Powys, it acquired many gifts of land and grants of privilege. Original charters and copies of charters now missing, by which such benefactions were made, are found in various archives held by a number of repositories, the most important being a group of some thirty-five charters from Gwenwynwyn and other princely benefactors among the Wynnstay Estate Archives at the National Library of Wales.

The abbey's foundation

The Register and Chronicle of the Abbey of Aberconway records that Owain ap Gruffudd (ca. 1100-1170), prince of southern Powys and lord of Cyfeiliog, founded the abbey of Ystrad Marchell of the Cistercian Order in 1170. The site which he granted was on the western bank of the River Severn, some four kilometres north-east of Welshpool and was carved out of the commote of Ystrad Marchell or, in its Latin form, Strata Marcella. Following its foundation, the abbey acquired many grants of lands and rights within Powys and also in the English county of Shropshire.

Cataloguing the charters

The first serious attempt to use the charter evidence towards writing a history of the abbey was made by Morris Charles Jones in a series of articles in the early volumes of Montgomery Collections. Although valuable in bringing together for the first time documentary information concerning the abbey's history, Jones's work unfortunately suffers from the fact that he had no access to most of the original charters and was forced to rely on late transcripts and English translations. It was only after the main groups of original charters had been deposited in the National Library of Wales that they became available to scholars.

The historian and palaeographer J. Conway Davies made a calendar of the combined groups of charters from various repositories, which he published to accompany a paper on the abbey's records delivered by him to a meeting of the Powysland Club. Unfortunately, because his transcripts of Welsh personal and place-names are so riddled with errors, the value of the calendar is greatly diminished.

The Wynnstay group

Forty-nine original charters drawn up in favour of or issued by the abbey from the time of its foundation to its dissolution in 1536 have survived. By far the largest group is that of thirty-five charters preserved among the Wynnstay Estate Archives. This group comprises twelve charters granted by Gwenwynwyn, prince of southern Powys, one each by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, prince of Gwynedd, and his son Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, one by King John, six by members of the deposed princely line of Arwystli, one each by John de Cherleton, and Edward de Cherleton, lords of Powys, and six by other individuals; three documents relating to disputes over land; and three late fifteenth/early sixteenth-century conventual leases granted by the abbot and charter. One additional charter among the Wynnstay group is a grant by Owain ap Madog, prince of northern Powys, to the abbey of Valle Crucis of lands probably in the parish of Llangwm in the commote of Dinmael. As an archive containing original charters granted by native Welsh princes, the Wynnstay group has no equal; as an archive of surviving charters of a Welsh abbey, it is only surpassed by that of Margam Abbey, Glamorgan.

The Wynnstay group of charters relate mainly to the abbey's lands in the commote of Cyfeiliog and the hundred of Arwystli acquired after the dissolution by the Purcell family of Nantcriba, Worthen, and in the manor of Caereinion Uwch Coed acquired by the Vaughan family of Llwydiarth; these then passed through a succession of marriages into the possession of the Williams Wynn family of Wynnstay. However, there are thirteen charters which do not relate specifically to the lands acquired by the Purcells and the Vaughans. These comprise three grants of lands in Penllyn and Edeirnion, lands mostly acquired after the dissolution by Sir Rowland Hayward (died 1593), Lord Mayor of London in 1570; a grant of pasturage rights in the commote of Mochnant; a grant of the usufruct of lands near Old Montgomery; confirmations by King John and Edward de Cherleton of grants by previous grantors, and by John de Cherleton of the abbot's right to hold a court of his tenants, a right which had been denied a former abbot by John de Cherleton's grandfather; and one mandate of Anian II, bishop of St Asaph. There is also a ratification by Gwenwynwyn of two sales of the two moieties of land called Rhandir Gwion (Randir Gwiaun) situated in the township of Ystradelfeddan in the parish of Welshpool. At the time of the dissolution, this land was leased by the abbot and convent to Nicholas Purcell, a baker and burgess of Shrewsbury, but after the dissolution, it formed part of the grant of abbey lands by the Crown to Sir Rowland Hayward.

Other repositories

The other thirteen original documents are found dispersed among various archives in a number of different repositories. Three of them are Newborough Archives (Rug Section) XD2/1111, 1112, 1113 at Gwynedd Archives Service, Caernarfon, being grants to the abbey by Maredudd ap Hywel, Elisau ap Madog and Madog ap Gruffudd of lands in Penllyn and Edeirnion. Two other charters also probably relate to lands either in Penllyn or Edeirnion. The one, BL Addl. Charter 10637, is a grant by Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor of land called Ekal, and the other, SRR 322/2/18, found among the Corbet family of Acton Reynald Estate Archives at Shropshire Records and Research Service, Shrewsbury, is a grant to the abbey by Ieuaf Fychan ab Ieuaf ap Henri of lands called Grofft Adam and Cenau y Llymysten (Kenew elhemesten), the locations of which are unknown. The original foundation charter of Valle Crucis, being a grant from Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor to Ystrad Marchell of lands to found a daughter house in northern Powys, has resurfaced among the 1979 deposit of Wynnstay Estate Archives at Denbighshire Record Office, Ruthin (DD/WY/4202). Seven late fifteenth/early sixteenth-century documents comprise three bonds, BL Harley Charter 78 I 27, PRO, E210/6238, and Glamorgan Record Office, CL/ Deeds II/ Montgomeryshire Box 3, and four conventual leases, BL Addl. Charter 10654, NLW Castle Hill 2468, Glamorgan Record Office CL/ Deeds II/ Montgomeryshire Box 3 and Antony House, Cornwall, CP/BD/13/102.

Further reading

  • The charters of the Abbey of Ystrad Marchell. Edited by Graham C. G. Thomas. Aberystwyth : The National Library of Wales, 1997.
  • J. Conway Davies, 'The records of the abbey of Ystrad Marchell'. In Montgomery Collections, 51 (1949-1950), pp. 3-22. 'Strata Marcella documents'. In Montgomery Collections, 51 (1949-1950), pp. 164-187.
  • Morris C. Jones, 'The abbey of Ystrad Marchell (Strata Marcella) or Pola'. In Montgomery Collections, 4 (1871), pp. 1-34, pp. 293-322; 5 (1872), pp. 109-148; 6 (1873), pp. 347-386.
  • David H. Williams, 'The white monks in Powys II (Strata Marcella)'. In Cistercian Studies, 11 (1976), pp. 155-191)

No visible remains of Strata Marcella Abbey can be seen today. But this page contains illustrations of some of the tiles from they abbey found during an excavation undertaken at the end of the ninteenth century. The illustrations are taken from Montgomery Collections, vol. 25 (1891).

Confirmation of lands in the hundred of Penllyn and the commote of Dinmael by Elisse son of Madoc to the monks of Strata Marcella Abbey.

Confirmation of gift of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Gwenwynwyn son of Owain Cyfeiliog.

Confirmation of gift of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Gwenwynwyn son of Owain Cyfeiliog.

Confirmation of gift of lands and other property to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Elisau son of Madog.

Confirmation of gift and sale of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Cadwaladr ap Hywel.

Confirmation of gift of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Hywel ap Hywel.

Confirmation of sale of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Gwenwynwyn ap Owain Cyfeiliog.

Confirmation of gift of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Gwenwynwyn ap Owain Cyfeiliog.

Confirmation of gift of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Owain Cyfeiliog and Gwenwynwyn ap Owain Cyfeiliog. Gift also confirmed by King John.

Confirmation of gift of lands called Rhiw Caenesid to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Gwenwynwyn ap Owain Cyfeiliog.

Grant of pasturage rights in Cyfeiliog by Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Agreement between Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog and the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) concerning the fishery at Cyfeiliog.

Confirmation of gift of pasturage of the province of Mochnant by Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the sale of rights in lands by Cadwallon ap Hywel to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of sale of lands to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Gwenwynwyn ap Owain Cyfeiliog.

Confirmation of the gift of lands by Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the gift of lands by Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the sale of lands by Gruffudd Goch ap Gruffydd of Carno to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the gift of lands by Meilyr ap Nennau, Glasadain ap Nennau, Gruffudd ab Iorweth ap Cadwgon Gruffudd ab Elli? Cynig to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) and list of various concessions to donors by the abbey.

Confirmation by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, of lands given to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) by Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor.

Confirmation of the gift of right in lands by Dafydd ab Owain Brithdir, to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the gift of right in lands by Madoc ab Owain Brithdir, to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the gift of rights in lands adjacent to the town of Montgomery, to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Judgement of Maredudd ap Rhobert on the dispute concerning Deupiu (Pen Clun) and Hirard.

Judgement of Maredudd ap Rhobert on the dispute concerning Deupiu (Pen Clun) and Hirard.

Confirmation of grants of lands given to Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) abbey by Gwenwynwyn ab Owain Cyfeiliog in Cyfeiliog by Gruffudd ap Llywelyn.

Arbitration issued by Gauthier d'Ochles, abbot of Citeaux in a land-dispute between the monks of Pool (Strata Marcella) and Cwmhir.

Confirmation of the gift of rights in land called Caledffrwd by Madog ap Caswallon, to the abbey of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell).

Confirmation of the land of Bahcwilim which was sold by Ralph de Lahee to Ieuaf ap Gruffudd ab Iorwerth and which Ieuaf's maternal uncle, Madog ab Iorwerth and his son, and the sons of Ieuaf have sold to the abbey.

Decree by Anian, bishop of St Asaph defnding the land and property of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) abbey.

Confirmation by John de Cherleton, lord of Powis, of the right of William, abbot of Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) to hold a court of tenants.

Confirmation by Edward de Cherleton, lord of Powis, of the grants made to Strata Marcella (Ystrad Marchell) abbey by his ancestors, Owain Cyfeiliog and Gwenwynwyn.

Grant of lands by Owain ap Madog to the monks of Valle Crucis Abbey.

Full Catalogue

Owing to a system upgrade taking place after 18:30 tonight (Thursday 24/04/2014), it's possible that there will be a break in catalogue service (cat.llgc.org.uk) during this time.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Was this page useful?