Sir John Wynn, 1st Baronet

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18th century engraving of Sir John Wynn
The coat of arms of the Wynn of Gwydir Family were: Vert, three eagles displayed in fess Or

Sir John Wynn, 1st Baronet (1553 – 1 March 1627), was a Welsh baronet, Member of Parliament and antiquary.


He was the son of Morys Wynn ap John, who he succeeded in 1580, inheriting Gwydir Castle in Carnarvonshire. John was educated at All Souls College, Oxford (1570, awarded BA 1578) and studied law at Furnival's Inn (1572) and the Inner Temple (1576). He claimed to be directly descended from the princes of Gwynedd through Rhodri ab Owain son of Owain Gwynedd. The male line from his family died out in 1779 (see 'Legacy' section below) and the senior male line passed to the Anwyl of Tywyn family. However, this claim is disputed in a publication of 1884 entitled Gweithiau Gethin published by W. J. Roberts in Llanrwst.[citation needed]. His mother was Jane (Siận) Bulkeley, daughter of Sir Richard Bulkeley and his wife Catherine Griffith, and sister of Sir Richard Bulkeley, head of the Anglesey branch of a powerful landowning family, who originally came from Cheshire.

He was Member of Parliament for this county in 1586[1][2] and served as Sheriff of Caernarvonshire for 1587–88 and 1602–03 and Sheriff of Merionethshire for 1588–89 and 1600–01.[2] He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Caernarvonshire in 1587, a member of the Council of the Marches of Wales c.1603[2] and Custos Rotulorum of Caernarvonshire in 1618 (to 1627).

Despite his accumulation of dignities he was not popular. He was regarded as a bad neighbour, being quarrelsome, and even by the standards of the age, devoted to litigation. His lawsuits often went on for many years; some were against his own relatives like Sir Richard Bulkeley and the Griffiths of Penrhyn Castle. He became regarded as such a public nuisance that in 1615 the Council of the Marches of Wales, of which he was a former member, reprimanded him, fined him and briefly imprisoned him.

In 1606 he was made a knight and in 1611 became the first of the Wynn baronets.[2] He was interested in several mining ventures and also found time for antiquarian studies.[1]


He married Sidney, daughter of Sir William Gerard, Lord Chancellor of Ireland and his wife Dorothy Barton, by whom he had 10 sons and 2 daughters.[2] His successor was his second and eldest surviving son Richard.[2]


John Wynn as depicted in "History of the Gwydir Family"

Wynn's work The History of the Gwydir Family, which had a great reputation in North Wales,[1] was intended to assert his claim to royal ancestry. In a legal challenge to these claim Thomas Prys of Plas Iolyn brought a case against him and Sir John was forced to defend himself in court. He won the case and afterwards was recognised as the most prominent male heir of the House of Gwynedd. Under Welsh succession law the head of the Price of Esgairweddan family at the time, descended through Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd and Dafydd II, would lead the senior line and be de jure Princes of Gwynedd, however they died out in the male line in 1702 and the royal title would have passed there from to the Wynn Family of Gwydir at that time.[citation needed] John Wynn's book was first published by Daines Barrington in 1770, and in 1878 an edition was published at Oswestry. It is valuable as the only work which describes the state of society in North Wales in the 15th and the earlier part of the 16th century.[1][2]

  • Owain Gwynedd, Prince of Gwynedd (d. November 1170), married Cristina ferch Gronw ap Owain ap Edwin
  • Rhodri ab Owain Gwynedd, Lord of Anglesey (d.1195), married Annest ferch Rhys ap Gruffudd
  • Thomas ap Rhodri ab Owain Gwynedd, married Annest ferch Einion ap Seisyllt
  • Caradog ap Tomas, married Efa ferch Gwyn ap Gruffudd ap Beli
  • Gruffudd ap Caradog, married Lleuca ferch Llywarch Fychan ap Llywarch
  • Dafydd ap Gruffudd of Rhos, married Efa ferch Gruffudd Fychan
  • Hywel ap Dafydd, married Efa ferch Evan ap Hywel ap Maredudd
  • Maredudd ap Hywell (d. after 1353), married Morfydd verch Ieuan ap Dafydd ap Trahaern Goch
  • Robert ap Maredudd, married Angharad ferch Dafydd ap Llywelyn
  • Ifan ap Robert (b. 1438, d. 1469), married Catherine ferch Rhys ap Hywel Fychan
  • Maredudd ap Ifan (Ieuan) ap Robert (b. c. 1459, d. 18 March 1525), married Ales ferch William Gruffudd ap Robin
  • John "Wynn" ap Maredudd (d. 9 July 1559), married Ellen Lloyd ferch Morys ap John
  • Morys Wynn ap John (d.1580), married (1) Jane Bulkeley; (2) Ann Grevill; and (3) Katherine of Berain
  • Sir John Wynn ap Morys of Gwydir, later Sir John Wynn, 1st Baronet


At Llanrwst Wynn founded a hospital and endowed a school, now Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy. His estate of Gwydir came to Robert Bertie, first Duke of Ancaster, in the 17th century, by his marriage with the heiress of the Wynns. On the death of the last duke in 1779, Gwydir was inherited by his sister Priscilla, Baronness Willoughby de Eresby in her own right, whose husband was created Baron Gwydyr.[1]

Sion Rickard acting as Sir John Wynn at the Llanrwst Almshouse Festival 2010.

On the death of Alberic, Baron Willoughby de Eresby in 1870, this title (now merged in that of earl of Ancaster) fell into abeyance between his two daughters, while that of Baron Gwydir passed to his cousin and male heir. Gwydir itself was sold by the earl of Ancaster in 1895, the house and part of the estate being bought by Lord Carrington, who also claimed descent from Sir John Wynn.[1]

On 28 May 2010, Llanrwst celebrated the 400th anniversary of the almshouses there, which were built by Sir John Wynn to provide shelter for twelve poor older men of the parish. Today, those twelve rooms are used to show different periods of history.[3]

In this festival, Sir John Wynn was played by actor Sion Rickard, a student studying Performing Arts at Coleg Llandrillo, who arrived with his "wife" in the main square of Llanrwst by horse and carriage from Gwydir Castle, then answered questions from the local town crier, went inside the almshouse to check the standard of what he had built and delivered a speech to the people of Llanrwst.[citation needed]




Further reading[edit]

  • Wynn, Sir John (1990). Jones, J. Gwynfor, ed. History of the Gwydir family and memoirs. Llandysul: Gwasg Gomer. 
  • Jones, J. Gwynfor (1995). The Wynn family of Gwydir. Aberystwyth: Centre for Educational Studies. 
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Mostyn
Custos Rotulorum of Caernarvonshire
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Wynn
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Morys Wynn ap John
Head of the House of Aberffraw
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Wynn
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
New creation
(of Gwydir)
Succeeded by
Richard Wynn