GWYNNE, John II (d.1574), of St. John's College, Cambridge; Paternoster Row, London and Maenan, Caern.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

5th s. of John Wynn ap Meredydd of Gwydir by Ellen, da. of Maurice ap John of Clenennau. educ. Queens’, Camb. 1545, BA 1547-8, MA (St. John’s) 1551, LLD 1560; adv. Doctors’ Commons 1560; I. Temple c.1561. unm.2

Offices Held

Fellow, St. John’s, Camb. from 1548, proctor 1555-6; prebendary, Bangor cathedral 1550-1, 1554-74; rector, Llanrhaeadr yng Nghinmeirch, Denb. 1556; ?j.p. Mont. 1564; commr. concealed lands in Wales by 1564; j.p. Caern. by 1574.3


Unlike his brothers and indeed most of the Gwydir family, this Member commonly used the form ‘Gwynne’ or ‘Gwynn’ in preference to ‘Wynn’. Like his brothers Robert Wynn and Griffith Wynn (who entered the service of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke), John sought his fortune in England, choosing an academic and legal career in preference to a military one. In London he was able to advance both his own career and the local prestige of his brothers. He is believed to have been responsible for the election to a subsizarship at his own college of William Morgan, the future translator of the Bible into Welsh.4

He appears to have taken minor orders under Mary, being described as ‘clericus’ in 1557, but apparently never proceeded to the priesthood, and he was reported by the bishop of Bangor in 1561 (or possibly 1567) as one of four lay civilians with livings in the diocese. His had been first presented to the prebend of Llanfair before he was a master of arts; he resigned the preferment to his brother Griffith in the following year, but was re-presented by his own father (who had obtained possession of the prebend under the chapter seal) after taking his master’s degree. Archbishop Parker challenged the legality of the transaction, but Gwynne had a friend at court in Dr. William Drury, who had been professor of civil law at Cambridge since 1559 and was to become master of the prerogative court of Canterbury. Through his good offices some composition was arranged which enabled the lay prebendary to retain the dignity for the rest of his life. The rectory of Llanrhaeadr, to which he was presented in Mary’s reign, was also in his father’s gift.5

Gwynne’s connexion with Caernarvonshire, which he represented once as knight of the shire, was close though he rarely resided there. In 1569 he and his brother Maurice were deputed by the chief justice of Chester circuit to examine the case of Chancellor Edmund Meyrick, brother of the late bishop of Bangor, one of whose household had been accused of robbery. What established his county status was his purchase of the township of Maenan, part of the demesne lands assigned to the former abbey of Aberconway when Edward I transplanted it from his new borough of Conway.6

Gwynne’s death in 1574 was the subject of an elegy by a Caernarvonshire bard, who lamented that the youngest and most learned of the five brothers should have died first. His nephew (Sir) John Wynn called him ‘a learned and a wise man and a bountiful housekeeper’ who ‘gathered a great estate’. In his will, dated 1 June 1574, he named his brother Griffith heir, subject to a rent charge of £40 on the Maenan lands for the support of three fellows and six scholars at St. John’s, with preference for local candidates. The will was contested by his eldest brother as heir at law, and was again called in question when the lands were sold by Griffith’s heir more than 80 years later, but without effect. The fellowships, whittled down to two by the executors for lack of means to support more, contributed to the education of several distinguished Caernarvonshire men before they were extinguished in 1650, and the scholarships (similarly reduced to three) remained useful to local grammar schools till the eighteenth century.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.H.D.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Griffith, Peds. 281; J. Wynn, Gwydir Fam. 74; Coote, Civilians, 45; Ath. Cant. i. 324.
  • 3. Al. Cant. i(1), p. 277; Williams, Parl. Hist. Wales, 36; A. I. Pryce, Diocese of Bangor in 16th Cent. 12, 14, 15, 16, 22; DWB; Le Neve, Fasti, i. 120; CPR, 1563-6, p. 30; Augmentations, ed. Lewis and Davies (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xiii), 204.
  • 4. Gwydir Fam. 67-71; Cal. Wynn Pprs. p. 7; W. Hughes, Bp. Morgan, 72.
  • 5. A. I. Pryce, pp. xxviii, 16, 22; DNB; Cal. Wynn Pprs. pp. 5-6, 297.
  • 6. Cal. Wynn Pprs. pp. 6, 9; Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. iv), 51.
  • 7. Cynfeirdd Lleyn, 94; Gwydir Fam. 74; Cal. Wynn Pprs. p. 8; NLW, Wynnstay mss; Baker, Hist. St. John’s Coll. i. 421-2; Barker and Lewis, Hist. Friars Sch. 170-3; Newcome, Gabriel Goodman, appendix; PCC 27 Martyn.