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Baker Gabb family and  Allt-yr-ynys

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During the convalescent period, after a severe illness in January 1902, Richard Baker Gabb of ‘The Chain’, Abergavenny, the writer of the subject memoir, employed his time in looking over, sorting and arranging a large number of family documents and memoranda which had lain for many years uncared for. As they appeared to be of interest, he resolved to endeavour to weave and connect them together; bringing the several subjects touched upon, down, where possible, to his present time and thus form a continuous narrative covering a period of over eight hundred years. He had these privately printed for distribution to family members under the title of “The Families of Baker of Bailey Baker and Baker Gabb of Abergavenny”
Chapter 2 of the book deals with the family’s connection with Allt-yr-ynys and is reproduced here. Much of the material had been culled from ancient documents and retains the archaic spelling. There has been some editing.

The Sitsylt or " Cecil" Family .

The family of Baker was a branch of the " Cecil" family, of which the Marquis of Exeter and the Marquis of Salisbury are so far as the writer knows, the present representatives, although they are descended from a younger branch, namely, from David the third son of Itichard Sitsylt, of Allt-yr-ynys, by his wife Margaret, the daughter of William Thomas Vaughan, of Tylegas Brecon. David Sitsylt migrated into Lincolnshire early in the 16th century and became the grandfather of Sir Wm. Cecil (Lord Burghley) and through him the ancestor of Lords Exeter and Salisbury. The name has undergone various alterations in its orthography, having been spelt in olden days " Sitsylt" or " Sissillt," afterwards " Seycil" or " Seisel" , and ultimately; " Cecil" . The ancient seat of the " Cecil" family was Allt-yr-ynys, in the parish of Walterstone (Walters Town) in the Manor of Ewyas Lacy and County of Hereford, about six miles from Abergavenny. A very minute survey of the house and ground was made in the year 1647 [?], by which it appears that the " great haule” was 30 feet long and 20 feet wide, having a communication at the upper end with the great parlour " a faier wainscot" room usually employed for a dining room. The situation of the " ancient Capital House" is accurately described as being " on the stream called Nant Cravell”, which runs close unto the wall of the house on the west side and into the river Monnow on the south side, within a few yards of the gatehouse; into which river Monnow cometh the River Hundy also, so that all three rivers mete close by the Manor House on the south side thereof, being a pleasant clear water full of trout’s, were there any order to preserve them from the annoyance of the otter and ill demeaning persons. The old house still retains some traces of its better days, notably a fine panelled ceiling, ornamented with the Tudor rose and portcullis, and with oak leaves and acorns. It also contained a stained glass window, bearing the arms of " Cecil" , but some years ago this was removed from the house and placed in the parish Church of Walterstone, where it now is. Dr. Powell in his History of Wales (hereinafter more fully referred to) states that " at that dai (1584) William Sitsylt, or Cecil, Esq., cosen german to the Lord Burghley, removed by one degree only, is possessed of the foresaid House of Haltereunes in Ewyas Land, as the heir male of the house of Sitsylt." Shortly after that date the estate was sold to a member of the Delahay family, who also owned the adjoining estate of Trewyn, and in that family it remained until the middle of the 18th century. Allt-yr-ynys is now the property, by a recent purchase, of Mr. Philip Barneby, and he being also the owner of Trewyn, the two estates are again united. The mansion of Trewyn (now the residence of Mr. Philip Barneby) is situated about half-a-mile from Allt-yr-ynys, and in the thane of the Delahay family an avenue of Scotch firs was planted from the one house to the other, part of which still remains.

The hamlet, or township of Trewyn is also within the Manor of Ewyas Lacy, and is held of the Lord of the Manor by suit of Court and other Manorial dues. The word " Ewyas" , or “Gwias" in the ancient British language, implies a place of battle, and justly describes the turbulence and warfare which long prevailed over the district, which formed part of the Marches, the disputed frontier between England and Wales. The word Lacy refers to Walter de Lacy, the first Norman Baron, who had his residence in the Castle of Clodock (or Longtown, as it is now called) and to whom the district was given at the Norman conquest. Walter de Lacy did homage to the king for these lands under the title of " Terra de Ewyas" .

Near to the above Estates lies, in a fold of the Black Mountains, the secluded hamlet or township of Ffawyddog [Fwthog] (in English, " Beech Tree" country) which also forms part of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy. It consists of a deep, narrow valley through which flows the river Grwyney vawr (called in olden times, the river " Gronwy" ). In this valley occurred an ancient tragedy, the following particulars of which are taken from Hoare's translation (1806) of Giraldus, being the account of Archbishop Baldwin's mission to preach the third Crusade through Wales in 1188. Richard, Earl of Clare, whose chief seat was at Tunbridge, but who was also Lord of Usk and had a castle in Cardiganshire was, shortly after the death of Henry I. (1135), passing from Abergavenny, where he had been entertained at the Castle by Brian Fitzcount the then Lord, into Wales. The road at that time into Wales did not pass by Crickhowell up the valley of the Usk - which was probably Wood and swamp - but went by the Bettws and Forest Coalpit (Forest of Moel), passing over the river Grwyney by the bridge called Pont Esgob, from whence it ascended the Grwyney Valle; and so over to Talgarth and Brecon. It was called " the Bai Pass of Coed Grono, or Gronwy”. Brian Fitzcount having accompanied the Earl of Clare to the mouth of the pass, there took leave of him, and the Earl, with a few attendants, proceeded on his way, when, as he arrived opposite a wood a short distance up the pass, he was attacked by Morgan ap Owen, the Welsh Lord of Caerleon, with a band of followers, who lay in ambush in the wood, and the Earl and his party were slain. The murder is said to have been prompted by private revenge.

Hoare in his comments on the Archbishop's journey from Talgarth to Abergavenny thus describes the road through " the bad pass of Coed Grono" . From Talgarth, climbing up a steep ascent, now called Rhiw Cwnstabl, or the Constable's Ascent, he crossed the Black Mountains to the source of the Gronwy-fawr river, which rises in that eminence and pursues its rapid course into the Vale of Usk. From thence a rugged and uneven track descends suddenly into a narrow glen, formed by the torrent of the Gronwy, between steep impending mountains; bleak and barren for the first four or five miles, but afterwards wooded to the very margin of the stream. A high ledge of grassy hills on the left hand, of which the principal is called the Bal, or Y Fal, divides this formidable pass from the Vale of Ewyas, in which stands the noble monastery of Llanthony, encircled by its mountains. The road at length emerging from this deep recess of Coed Grono, or Cwm Gronwy (the vale of the River Gronwy), crosses the river at a place called Pont Esgob. or the Bishop's Bridge  probably so called from this very circumstance of its having been now passed by the Archbishop and his suite, and is continued through the forest of Moel till it joins the Hereford road, about two miles from Abergavenny. This formidable defile is at least nine miles in length. And in his comments on the tragedy, Hoare says -" About a mile above Pont Esgob there is a wood called Coed Dias, or the Wood of Revenge”. Here by the modern name of the place we are enabled to fix the very spot on which Richard de Clare was murdered. The name Coed Dias, or the Wood of Revenge, the deep retirement and situation of the place, close upon the banks of Gronwy, and only one mile from the Forest of Moel, all conspire to point out this very wood as the lurking place from whence the assassins issued to complete their barbarous purpose. Hoare's translation of " Coed Bias" as " the Wood of Revenge" is not quite correct, as Coed Bias means the wood of " din” or clamour, " Bial" being Welsh for " revenge" but immediately above the wood, on the summit of the ridge, is a place called " Dial Careg," or the Revenge Stone, probably indicating the spot where a stone pillar was erected to commemorate the act of revenge.

Part of the Grwyney Valley, including " Coed Dias" and " Dial Careg" , is now the property of the writer, by purchase from, amongst others, the Marquis of Abergavenny, K.G., the present Lord of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy, and on the farm called " Coed Dias" , which comprises the wood, he has erected a small house as an occasional residence.

The following extracts from Dr. Powell's " History of Cambria" are here given, as they seem best to describe the early part of the “Sitsylt" or " Cecil" pedigree, up to and including Sir Baldwin Sitsylt, from whose marriage with Margery, the daughter of Sir Stephen Radnor, the Baker family is descended

That a portion of the information was furnished to Dr. Powell by Blanch Parry is a noticeable circumstance in this Memoir, from the fact that a grand -daughter of one of the last of the Parry family (Joshua Parry of Tretower) 200 years later became the wife of Baker Gabb, the elder, and grandmother of the writer. Further particulars of the Parry family and especially of Blanch Parry are hereinafter given, in the life of Baker Gabb the elder.

Dr. Powell's work is called " The Historie of Cambria, now called Wales, a part of the most famous Yland of Brytaine” written in the British language above two hundredth years past and translated into English by H. Lloyd, Gentleman; corrected, augmented and continued out of Records and best approved Authors by David Powell, Doctor in divinity.

The " Epistle Dedicatorie" is addressed " To the Right Worshipful Sir Philip Sydney, Knight" , and is dated " From my Lodging in London the 25th of March 1584" .

The extract relating to the conquest of Glamorgan, in which Robert Sitsylt, the ancestor of the family, took parte, is as follows:- " The Historie of the Winning of Glamorgan” is particularly set out in writing by some skilful and studious gentleman of that Country, wherein he continues not only the use and possession of the same Lordship in the Heirs of those Noble men which won it; but also showed their progenies and Issues even to our time. The copy whereof " being delivered unto me by the Right Worshipful Mistress Blanch Parry (one of the Gentlewomen of the Queen’s Majesties Privy Chamber, a singular well wilier and furtherer of the weale public of that country)” I thought good here to insert as following. In the year of our Lord 1091 and in the fourth year of the reign of King William Rufus, one Jestynn, the son of Gungant being Lord of the said Lordship of Glamorgan, Rees ap Theodor, Prince of South Wales, that is of Carmarthenshire, and Cardiganshire,  made war upon him. Whereupon the said Jestyn, understanding himself unable to withstand the said Rees without some aid otherwise sent one Eneon, a Gentleman of his, to England, to one Robertus Fitzhamon, a worthy man, and Knight of the Privy Chamber with the said King, to retain him for his succour The which Robert, being desirous to exercise himself in arts of war, agreed soon with him thereto for a salary to him granted for the same. Whereupon the said Robert Fitzhamon retained in his service for the said forney, twelve Knights and a competent number of soldiers, and went Wales, and going there with the power of the said Jestyn fought with the said Rees ap Theodor and killed him and one Conan his son. After which victory, the said Robert Fitzhamon, minding to return home again with his company demanded his salary to him due of the said Jestyn, according " to the covenants and promises agreed upon between him" the aforesaid Eneon, on the behalf of the said Jestyn, his Master. The which to perform in all points, the said Jestyn denied and thereupon they fell out, so that it came to be tried by battle. And forasmuch as the said Eneon saw his Master go from divers articles and promises, that he  willed him to conclude with the said Robert Fitzhamou, on his behalf, he forsook his Master and took part, he and his friends with the said Robert Fitzhamon. In the which conflict the said Jestyn with a great number of his men were slain: whereby the said Robert Fitzhamon won the peaceable possession of the whole Lordship of Glamorgan, with the members; of the which he gave certain castles and manors, in reward of service to the said twelve Knights and to other his gentlemen.

Here follow in great detail, the names of the twelve knights with particulars of the several lands given to them for their services, also " the portions that the Lord kept for himself and his heirs" and the " full Pedigrees" of the twelve knights showing " their progenies and Issues" with the following foot note:- " Thus for the copy of the winning of Glamorgan, as I received the same at the hands of Mistress Blanch Parry, collected by Sir Edward Stradling, Knight" . Sir Edward Stradling, who was a descendant of one of the twelve Knights (William le Esterling) had married Celia, a daughter of Walter Vaughan, of Pembrey, a relative of Blanch Parry.

The history then proceeds:- " There were besides with the said Robert Fitzhamon in this voyage divers other noble men and gentlemen, some out of England some out of Dyhet and other places in Wales, which came thither with the said Eneon against Rees ap Theodor, of whom Robert Sitsylt was one, who albeit he has no part of the said Lordship of Glamorgan (that I can read of) yet, nevertheless he was in service there, preferred to the marriage of an Inheritor of great possessions in the Land of Ewyas and the counties near adjoining”. Of which Robert Sitsylt I find this that follows recorded in a very ancient writing containing whole genealogy of 16 descents of heirs male lineally; which writing for the more credit of the history thought good here to insert as follows.

In the year of Christ, 1091, Robert Sitsylt came with Robert Fitzhamon to the conquest of the country of Glamorgan, and after wedded a lady, by whom he had Halterennes and other Lands in Hereford and Gloucestershire; he had a son called James Sitsylt.

James Sitsylt took part with Maud the Empresses against King Stephen and was slain at the siege of the Castle Wallingford (an: 4. Stephen), having then upon him a vest whereon was wrought in needlework his Arms or Ensign as they be made on the Tomb of Gerald Sitsylt in the Abbey of Dore (which are afterwards truly blazed in a judgement given by commission of King Edward the third the ancient right of the same Arms). This James had a son called John Sitsylt and four daughters.

John Sitsylt, the son of James was, after the death of his father, in the same war with Roger, Earle of Hereford and Constable of England, and being taken prisoner at the siege of Lincoln (Anno. 6. Stephen), he paid for his ransom 400 marks, and therefore sold his Lordship of Beauport and all his lands in the County of Gloucester. He took to wife a lady, called Maud de Frenes, and had issue Eustace.

Eustace Sitsylt, the son of John was wedded to Elean the daughter of Sir Walter Pembridge, Knight, and had by her Baldwin and John and four daughters.

Baldwin Sitsylt, the son of Eustace, was made Knight by Henry the second in the wars that the king had against the Welshmen. He was also killed in the same wars, at the siege of the Castle of Cardiff, his father being alive. He took to wife the daughter of Maurice de Brompton and had by her Gerald Sitsylt, Eustace Sitsylt, Henrie Sitsylt, John Sitsylt, and Walter Sitsylt and two daughters, Catherine and Eleanor.

Catherine was the wife of Hugh Muredake, and Eleanor was the wife of Walter Wallis. This Baldwin Sitsylt, Knight, took to his second wife Margerie, the daughter of Stephen Radnor, Knight, and had by her Stephen Sitsylt, Roger Sitsylt, Hugh Sitsylt and David Sitsylt, and three daughters; the first was Maud, and she was a nun; the second was Joan, and she was the wife of John de Solers; the third daughter, Anne, was the wife of Owen ap Meredith. This man gave certain lands in the township of Kingestone [parishes of Kingston and Dore] unto the Monks of Dore, and granted unto the same Monks freedom of common and pasture and other liberties in his woods.

Here follow the remaining descents to one, Richard Sitsylt, with the following note - These pedigrees and descents I gathered faithfully out of sundry ancient records and evidences, whereof the most part are confirmed with seals authentic thereunto appending manifestly declaring the antiquity and truth thereof, which remain at this present in the custody of the Right Honourable Sir William Cecil, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Lord Burghley and Lord High Treasurer of England, who is lineally descended from the said Richard Sitsylt, father to David Cecil, grandfather to the said Sir William Cecil, now Lord Burghley, and at this time William Sitsylt, or Cecil, Esquire, cozen germane to the said Lord Burghley, removed by one degree only, is possessed of the foresaid House of Halterennes in Ewyas Land as the heir male of the house of Sitsylt, and is descended Philip Cecil, elder brother to the said David.

The tomb of Gerald Sitsylt (eldest son of Sir Sitsylt, by his first wife), on which the arms of the family are carved, is no longer to be seen in the Abbey of Dore. The effigies of knights in chain armour, carrying shield and swords alone remain in the Abbey Church, and these are not on tombs having been moved from their original resting place, It is impossible to determine who the knights represented are, as arms on the shields have become obliterated, but they are popularly supposed to be Robert Lord of Ewyas Harold, and Roger de Clifford. Upon what (if any) evidence this belief rests is not known to the writer, but so far as can be ascertained: there seems to be no special evidence to show why those knights were selected in preference to Gerald Sitsylt, who was buried there in a tomb specially erected to his memory, and several members of whose family were, as stated by Dr. Powell intimately connected with the monastery and contributed largely to its support. The Cistercian Abbey of Dore (consecrated by Thomas de Cantelupe, Bishop of Hereford, in the latter end of the 13th century) was of considerable extent; and great beauty. The nave and monastic buildings have disappeared, but of the remains of the church, Sir Gilbert said, " Nothing could be more beautiful than the internal architecture. It represents just the interval which elapsed between the transitional work of Bishop de Vere and the building of the Lady Chapel at Hereford Cathedral and more beautiful than either" . At the Dissolution of Monasteries the buildings were granted to John Scudamore and soon fell into a ruinous state. One hundred years later the transepts and presbytery, which alone remained, were restored, and a tower was built by John Scudamore, as recorded on a tablet in the church, and the building so restored has since been used as the parish church, being the only Cistercian Abbey in England still used as a place of worship. The Abbey of Dore, or Abbey Dore, as it is commonly called, is situated in the Golden Valley, in the County of Hereford, about nine miles from " Allt-yr-ynys" and fifteen from Abergavenny


The Baker Gabbs’ of the 19th century were an Abergavenny family with connections with the Abergavenny firm of solicitors Walford & Gabb. In 1817 Richard Baker Gabb junior, son of Baker Gabb the elder (1756-1821), was Steward to the Court Baron of Ewyas Lacy, and Steward to the Barony of Abergavenny. He died in 1858. His fourth son Richard Baker Gabb, the writer of this memoir, was Steward of the Barony of Abergavenny from 1858 to 1900. His residence ‘The Chain’ is situated on high ground to the west of Abergavenny it derived from the Marquess of Abergavenny’s South Wales estate.

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