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Abbots of Conwy

A list of the known abbots of Conwy (Aberconwy and Maenan)

Unnamed abbot: in 1216 an unnamed abbot of Aberconwy was excused from attending the annual General Chapter at Cîteaux given his infirmity.

Anian: occurs as abbot in June 1258.

Maredwt: occurs as abbot in July 1278 and September 1281.

David: occurs as abbot in 1284 and 1301.

Tudor: occurs as abbot in 1303.

Ieuan ap Rhys: occurs as abbot in a document of an uncertain date although this may be a misreading for John ap Rhys who presided over the abbey in the late fourteenth century (see below).

Clement: occurs as abbot in February 1344.

Cynfrig: occurs as abbot before 12 May 1343, in a matter regarding the debts of the abbey. In March 1353 he was a prisoner in Denbigh Castle. There are references to a 'Cynric' in 1356-7.

John (ap Rhys): occurs as Abbot John in 1378x79 and as Johan ap Rhys in 1383, when the monks of Strata Florida alleged that he came to their house with a band of armed men and archers and forcibly held the monastery for forty days, taking much of the monks' property. Abbot John is mentioned on various occasions until November 1390. The 1383 petition has previously been dated to 1428/9 or 1442/3, and Johan ap Rhys conflated with another abbot of that name, the abbot of Cymer who tried to make himself abbot of Strata Florida. However, Burton has recently argued that there are strong grounds for dating the Strata Florida incident to the sixth year of King Richard II.

Hywel ap Gwilym (Howell ap Guillim): is mentioned as a monk of Conwy in 1378-9 [View details] and in 1398; he should perhaps be identified with Hugh ap Gwilym, a monk of the house. In November 1406 Abbot Hywel was outlawed for siding with the rebel cause but in November 1409 was pardoned. He occurs as abbot in November 1413; an Abbot Hugh is mentioned in September 1415.

John ap Rhys (Rees, Rys): may now be removed from the abbatial list. According to Smith, Heads of Religious Houses 3, p. 284, John may have been the John ap Rys who was later abbot of Cymer and Strata Florida. The monks of Strata Florida claimed that Abbot John had come to their house in Lent 1428 with a band of armed men and archers and forcibly held the monastery for forty days, taking much of the monks' property. However, see above.

Dafydd (David): is mentioned as abbot of Conwy in January 1431.

Reginald ap Griff' ap LL' ap Gruff': is mentioned as abbot of the house in January 1458. In 1482 the Cistercian General Chapter appointed the abbots of Hailes and Stanley to investigate the yearly pension that Reginald's son, Dafydd, received, and the house that his mother had courtesy of the community. Reginald is described in this document as late abbot of Conwy. He may have had an illegitimate son named Ieuan.

David Winchcombe (Wynchcombe, Wynichercrub): 1482-?
David's appointment to the abbacy was confirmed in 1482 but in 1484 he was involved with David Lloyd (see below) in a tussle for the office. [Read more.] The house was temporarily granted to the prior of Conwy (May 1384). David was later abbot of Cymer and then of Strata Florida (from 1496).

David Lloyd (Lloid): David was engaged in a tussle for the abbacy with David Winchcombe (see above) in 1484 but appears as abbot of Conwy in November 1489. He may be the abbot of Conwy who allegedly died whilst falling from his horse in 1490 on his return to the abbey, and who evidently was responsible for the king prohibiting the abbot of Cîteaux to conduct a visitation of the Order's houses in the kingdom in 1490. However, as Smith, Heads of Religious Houses 3, p. 284, points out, this is far from certain and the evidence is problematic.
David is however mentioned as patron in three bardic poems - one, by Ieuan Deulwyn (fl. 1460-90) who makes several requests to the abbot and pays tribute to David's scholarship and learning - he studied canon and civil law at Oxford; and two by Tudur Aled (d. c. 1526) who praises the former Abbot David's great generosity.

Dafydd (David) (Lloyd? or ap Owain?): is mentioned as abbot in May 1491 and August 1501.

Dafydd (David) ap Owain (Owayn, Owen, Dafydd ab Owain): ?-1513.
David had previously officiated as abbot of Strata Marcella and is mentioned in 1485 and 1490. In December 1503 he was elevated to the see of St Asaph and given dispensation to hold the abbacy at Conwy in commendam. David is mentioned as abbot of Conwy on several occasions thereafter until October 1509. He died in February 1513 and was remembered for his learning and for his contribution to building at Conwy and also at St Asaph.

David Lloyd or Floyde:
A document of 1517 mentions that a David Floyde was elevated from the abbacy of Conwy to that of Cymer and then to Strata Marcella where he was presiding as abbot in 1517. Smith [Heads, III, p. 285] explains that he should perhaps be identified with the David Lloyd (above) but if this report is correct then he was abbot of Conwy c. 1513 until c. 1515.

Geoffrey Kyffin/ Kyffyn Geoffrey, who was nicknamed 'the red abbot', is mentioned as abbot of Conwy on various occasions from June 1515 until September 1526.

Huw ap Rhys Huw: (Pryce, Huw) 1526-8.
Huw died in July 1528 whilst studying at Cambridge [History of Abbots of Aberconway, pp. 139-40]. He was the brother of Richard Rice, the final abbot of Conwy (below); another brother, John, was abbot of Strata Marcella.

Geoffrey Johns: ?-1535.
Geoffrey is mentioned as abbot of the house on several occasions from November 1531 until 30 August 1535 when he resigned from office.

Richard Rice or Price (ap Robert ap Ryce, Rhys, Rhes, Ris): 1535-7.
Richard was a monk of Conwy and the brother of Huw Pryce who presided over the house from 1526-8 (see above). Another brother, John, was abbot of Strata Marcella. Richard was apparently unanimously elected to the abbacy by the monks in 1535 but at only twenty-four years of age he was under the canonical age limit; nevertheless his appointment was pushed through. Richard held office until the suppression of the house (before 25 March 1537) in and was given dispensation to hold a benefice with a change of habit.

Sites associated with this person

Aberconwy 1 Abbey, Conwy

Maenan Abbey, Conwy

Bibliographical sources

Printed sources

The Heads of Religious Houses in England and Wales, I, 940-1216, ed. D. Knowles, C. Brooke and V. London (London, 1972; 2001) p. 126

The Heads of Religious Houses in England and Wales, II, 1216-1377, ed. D. M. Smith and V. London (CUP: Cambridge, 2001) pp. 274-5

The Heads of Religious Houses in England and Wales, III, 1377-1540, ed. David M. Smith (CUP: Cambridge, 2008) pp. 283-5

Hays, R. W., The History of the Abbey of Aberconway, 1186-1537 (Cardiff, 1963)

Robinson, David M., The Cistercians in Wales: Architecture and Archaeology 1130-1540, Society of Antiquaries of London, Research Committee Report (London, 2006) p. 251