Select Griffiths Miscellany

Here are some Griffiths stories and accounts over the years:

The Griffiths of Penrhyn - from William to Piers

In 1485 the Penrhyn Griffiths were at the height of their powers.  Sir William Griffith was Chamberlain of North Wales and he had fought for his cousin Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field.

Just over a century later, Piers Griffith was in the process of bringing the family to ruin.  He was an adventurer.  He may or may not have fought with Drake against the Spanish Armada in 1588.  But he was involved in various other escapades against the Spanish in the early 1600's.  These activities saw him borrow heavily against his estate, threatening him at one time with debtor's prison, and in the end he was forced to sell Penrhyn.

Both Piers and his wife Margaret were buried in Westminster Abbey.  But they had no successors.  All eleven of their children died young.

The Griffiths of Penybenglog

The mansion of Penybenglog near Nevern in Pembrokeshire stood on a bluff above Afon Nantyfer, between the ancient fortifications of Castell Penybenglog and Castell Clwyd.   It functioned as a gentry seat from the Middle Ages until the end of the 18th century.

The commentator Fenton wrote in 1811:

"Penybenglog ranked with the first in its day - which, though it has long ceased to be inhabited by any of the descendants of its ancient possessors and has often changed masters, yet by having had the good fortune to find a succession of respectable tenants, it has been kept in a state of decent repair."

Rhys of Penybenglog had died in 1520 and his grandson Griffith inherited Penybenglog.  The house still contained a wooden lintel marked "WG and RS, dated 1523," which must have been his marriage stone.  When Griffith died in 1569, he was followed by five generations of his descendants who all bore the permanent surname of Griffith.

Of these the best known was George William Griffith, JP (born in 1584), noted scholar, historian, antiquary and genealogist.  During his time he did much to improve the property:

After the death of his father, he repaired the ruins of the decayed buildings, erected and bestowed charge upon fences, hedges, and mounds upon the demesne thereof, and for enlarging the same demesne purchased certain tenements and lands in Meliney and Nevarne, amounting to the value of 300 and upwards."
Bards from all over Wales were entertained at Penybenglog and he was one of the last landowners in Wales to patronize bards on any appreciable scale.

Griffith and Griffiths as Surnames

Griffith was the original English transcription.  Over time an "s" got added.  The table below shows the estimated number of Griffith and Griffiths around the world today.

Numbers (000's)
New Zealand

Griffith is still more popular in America, but elsewhere Griffiths prevails.

Catherine Griffiths of Llangunnor Parish

William Griffiths was a tenant farmer and he and his wife Catherine would have found it hard to make a living on the damp and marshy land that was their lot at their Penbontbren farm in the parish of Llangunnor, Carmarthenshire.  According to the evidence, Catherine could not sign her own name and used a cross on official documents.  She and the rest of her family were Welsh speakers.

In the spring of 1809, her husband William died at the age of thirty nine.  As was common in those days, Catherine was soon to remarry.  Within eighteen months she had met a young widower nine years her junior and they were married by license at Llangunnor church.  She bore him one child when she was forty five.  But tragedy struck again a few years later when her second husband died, also at the age of thirty nine.

Catherine went on to farm at Penddaulwyn Isaf with her sons William and John for another forty years.  She never hired help as such, but always employed her own kith and kin.  She died in 1859 at the age of eighty eight.  She was buried at Llangunnor where her gravestone still stands under the shade of the ancient yew tree near the western wall.

William Griffiths and the Startup of Bus Services Around Swansea

In 1924 the little coal-mining village of Craigcefnparc near Swansea knew no buses.  The country folk peacefully went about their daily tasks, never dreaming about a bus service for the village nor anything of the like. 

It was then that William Griffiths, a blacksmith in the Graigola Merthyr colliery, bought a Ford car.  A little later, he had opened a shop and had purchased a Ford lorry to take out the goods.  Seats were made to fit into the lorry by David John Morgan, the village carpenter, and when not in use for shop purposes, the lorry, which was able to carry fourteen seated passengers, was used for making trips or running a service now and again to Clydach.  Here, on a very small scale, was the startup of a bus service. 

The scheme proved successful and, at the beginning of 1925, Wiliam Griffiths purchased a real bus which held twenty passengers.  It was a Lancia saloon bus, painted red, and was called the Parc Eclipse.  Every Saturday a bus left Craigcefnparc at 12 noon and at 2.00 p.m. respectively "en route" for Swansea via Rhydypandy, Pontlasse, Morriston. 

By 1926 a real time-table was set up, with buses running week-days as well as Saturdays from the village to Swansea.  Soon Griffiths started to run a bus up to Graig Cwm and also over to Salem every Friday evening and Saturdays.  As new buses were added, an Eclipse service commenced to run over to Glais and soon the Eclipse Saloon Service was well known throughout the district. 

Griffiths' five sons by now were all working on the buses.

The Griffiths Family in Coal House at War

A former miner from Ammanford has been getting ready to go back underground and this time he will be watched by an audience of millions. 

Howell Griffiths now works as a driver with Carmarthenshire Council.  But the 56-year-old will not only be going back to his former role, but he will be going back in time as well.  He had worked in the old Ammanford colliery before being transferring to the Bettws mine and had survived a tough year and a day during the miners's strike.  "Luckily the family rallied round and we got through it," he said.

This time Howell will be taking his wife, daughter-in-law and grandchildren with him as well.

The Griffiths family will be one of three Welsh families taking part in Coal House at War, a four-part documentary that BBC Wales is screening.  These families will live life as it was in a mining community at the end of 1944.  They will spend four weeks in the tiny miners' cottages in Stack Square, Blaenavon, living under blackout regulations by night and managing their rations and work by day.  Digging for Victory in the vegetable plots will be as essential as digging at the coal face, as the families become self-sufficient.

Howell's wife Rose was looking forward to the experience.  She said:

"I've been brought up listening to the wartime stories.  And where I work I'm always hearing about it.  I remember sitting on my grandfather's knee and listening to his stories and about everything they had to go without.  But, despite that, there was also a great sense of comradeship. Everyone I speak to about it looks back with pride."

DW Griffith on His Family Background

When asked about his family background, the film director DW Griffith said the following:

"I have not bothered much about my ancestry.  It is likely though that I was impressed in my childhood with certain family traditions which had come down through the mist of former generations.  One was that ap Griffith, a Welsh Prince of Wales, was the founder on one side of the house and that a Lord Bravington who revolted with Monmouth and later emigrated under duress to Virginia was the founder of the other side of the American Griffiths.

I used to be told of a great grandfather in Virginia, a stormy, fierce old man who refused to allow the word England to be spoken in his presence and who, as far as he could, barred his door to anything English.  My grandfather was a Captain David Griffith who fought in 1812."

He himself was born the sixth of seven children of a cantankerous Confederate army war hero, "Roaring Jake" Griffith.  Having grown up poor on a rural Kentucky farm, Griffith gave up an education in order to help his family.  Even so, he read widely - immersing himself in a romantic vision of the prewar South, aided in part by the nostalgic stories of bitter relatives who were hampered by Reconstruction-era policies. 

When it came to the making of his film Birth of a Nation in 1915, these feelings were never far away from him.

The Princess of Wales in Patagonia

No one was quite sure why the Princess of Wales had come to Patagonia in 1995.  They preferred to play down her title and pretend that she was just another tourist.

"At least she is putting us on the map," said 73 year old Orwig Griffiths who joined Diana for tea and cakes in a typically Welsh tea house in Gaiman called Ty Te Caerdydd.  "Well, at least for half a cup of tea and no cake."  The Princess was offered a selection of 25 fresh cakes.  But she declined the offer.

"She didn't touch a thing," said the waitress who served her.   


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