Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham the 'Lollard', imprisoned for heresy escaped
from the Tower of London in 1413 and fled into hiding with some Lollard friends
at Broniarth in Powys. When this became known in the area search would naturally
be made under the orders of Lord Powys. Sir Gruffydd and his brother discovered
his whereabouts and assisted in his capture.
The 'Lollard' was at Chapel Farm in Deerfold Forest when he was recaptured in 1417. This area of Meifod later became known as Cobhams' Garden.
In connection with Sir Gruffydds return to favour there are two very curious and important documents in existence: -
1. A charter passed on the 6th of July in the 7th year of Henry V (1420) and now in the possession of a descendant through the female line, one Richard Herbert Mytton of Garth which reads: - Edward de Cherleton, Lord of Powys, in consideration of the unremitting diligence shown by John ap Gruffydd ap John ap Madoc ap Gwenwys and Gruffydd Vechan his brother, in the capture of 'John Oldcastell, heretic, perverter of the Catholic faith and traitor to the King' .....pardoned them all felonies and misdemeanors, and ........ 'of his special grace and in consideration of the aforesaid good works and fidelity', granted and confirmed unto them all their lands in the Lordship of Strata Marcella, freed from all rents and services, reserving that 'they shall render annually, one barbed arrow at the Feast of St. John the Baptist'.
2. A formal acknowledgement by 'John and Gruffydd, gentlemen' of the agreement made with them by 'our said Lord of Powys' as to their portion of the King's bounty for the capture of the unfortunate Lord Cobham, the Lollard, is dated 4th March in the 8th year of Henry V.
Lord Cobham's Capture
In 1414 King Henry V issued a proclamation offering "500 marks ( £'s ) to be given to any persons who discovered the Lord Cobham, so that he might be taken and that he who apprehended him should be rewarded." and then in 1416 a second, "that Oldcastel, Lord Cobham, having refused to come in and throw himself upon the King's mercy, any person who apprehended him should have the reward of 1000 marks in money and 20 marks ( in the original £'s per year ) paid him during his life."
Edward de Cherleton of Powys (4th of the name) aspired to the glory of arresting him and in 1417, "being informed where he hid, he came with a strong guard to seize him." The two principal instruments of his capture were 'John ap Gruffydd ap John ap Madoc ap Gwennoys and his brother Gruffydd Vechan,' and the scene of the capture was situated in the township of Broniarth and is still called Cobham's Garden, now part of a farm called Pantmawr.
They were substantially rewarded by Edward de Cherleton with privileges, not a free gift, and addressed a letter to the King expressing their satisfaction in the following terms: "We, Jeuan and Gruffydd ap Gryffudd ap Jeuan ap Madoc ap Gwennoys of Powys Londe Hoel ap Gryffudd ap David ap Madoc and Dero ap Jevan ap Jorum ap Ada of the same londe, Zemen (yeomen), tenents of Sir Edward Cherleton, Knight, Lord of Powys and takers of Sir John Oldcastle that was miscreant and unbuxome to the law of God and traitor convict to our gracious Sovereign Lord and his, Henry, King of England after the conquest the 5th, thonken (thank) our said Sovereign Lord in as lowly wise and with as whole hert (heart) as we in our simple maners (manners) can deuyse (devise) that it hath liked him of his gracious goodnesse for to remembre his notarie Proclaimation made throughout his Roialme (realm) by his high commandment of the guerdon (guardian ?) and reward by his hie (high) discression appoynted (appointed) to him that might have that fortune and grace to be takers of the said Sir John Oldcastle; for the which guerdon and reward our said Lord of Powys, by the gracious governance and assent of our said Sovereign Lord, has compowned (compounded?) with us and finally accorded so that we and everych (every each?) of us, being fully satisfied and agreed after our own desire and plaisir (pleasure), in pleyn (plain) accomplisement (accomplishment) and excusation (execution) of the proclamation aforesaid of the which guerdon and reward we hold us finaly (finally) agrent (agreed) and content for evermore.
In witnessying wherof to this our present letter we have ysette (set) our seals in the hei (high) and noble presence of our said Sovereign Lord and also of the hei and mighty Prince, the Duke of Gloucester, brother unto our Sovereign Lord aforesaid and also of Umfray Erle (Earl) of Stafford, John Lord Furnyvall and of other mo (more) worthy and gret (great) of diverse degrees at that time, they being present.
Y made at Shrosebery the IIIJth (4th?) day of March, the year of our said Sovereign Lord, the VIIJth (8th).
This document is in the British Museum. Ref - Clause 88. Hen V. m24 dors MS Donat. Mus. Britt. 4602 art 129.
Sir Gruffydd was probably about 30 years old when he received his title and lands again. His mother was Maud, daughter of Griffyth ap Rhys Vongan who had married an heiress 4th in descent from Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys and may have been entitled to part of the Lordship of Powys. Three of Sir Gruffydd's sons and three of his daughters married and he became connected with some of the great families of Powys and no doubt played an important part in the local politics of that time.
Sir Gruffydd was well respected and liked by his neighbours, but in 1447 he was suspected of holding correspondence with adherents to the House of York and the then Queen, Margaret of Anjou, obtained a warrant from the treasury and sent to Henry Grey, Earl of Powys to have him arrested. Henry Grey was the son of Lord John Grey, Earl of Tankerville, who would have been at Agincourt with Sir Gruffydd and who died in 1421.
Sir Gruffydd was summoned to the castle at Pool, thought to have been named after the 'de la Pole’ family related to Gwenwynwyn and later to be changed to Welshpool, but refused to go at first as he had suspicions of the outcome. He then received what he thought was a 'safe conduct' promise and went, but on entering the courtyard was apprehended and 'beheaded on the spot without judge or jury' in the presence of Lord Grey of Powys. This execution of a warrior well advanced in years, about 60, was very likely the violent act of an unbridled youth who thought his dignity affronted and it has been suggested that Henry Grey thought that Sir Gruffydd had some right to the Lordship of Powys and was glad to get rid of him. He was buried under the Chancel in the Parish Church at Welshpool and his name is on the board near the main door of 'Important People Interred in the Church'.
Extract from a poem on Sir Gruffydd Vechan by the contemporary Bard, David Llwyd of Mathavaen, translated by Rev. Sylvan Evans.
"For the man with the golden collar whom I loved best, the breast is pining.
If Gruffydd Vechan, thou art alive and well why dost thou not kindle a fire?
If thou art, tall hero, unrecorded killed, may God avenge thy beauteous brow.
No man with wrathful hand could have slain thee unless he were a fiend inspired with jealousy.
My friend, I did not counsel reliance on the sign-manual of a Saxon!
Miserable remnants of Troy! For ages have we known the perfidy of the Saxons, were it not for our madness!
The head of the Prince of Wales in Buellt; the head of Gruffydd Vechan (whose long ruddy lance was like the lightening) the firm support of his country. A Knight with a brave hero's arm they cut off! A head that would not be sold for pounds:
A holy head like John (the baptist); a fair head even when it was made a present of;
A head that long gave law to Powys, a sacred head, the head of an illustrious chief.
A beautiful head until he was betrayed. Was not the 'safe conduct' execrable?
When this head was severed in violence it was struck off by the double tongued Earl,
Harry Grey! Long may he hang.