Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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GRIFFITH , PIRS or PIERS ( 1568 - 1628 ), squire and adventurer ,

of Penrhyn, Caerns. , son of Sir Rhys Griffith (d. 1580 ) . On his father's death he came under the jurisdiction of the court of wards, which led to a particularly detailed ‘ousterlemain’ upon the Penrhyn lands and the return to Pirs of a considerable overcharge upon the estate by the officials of that court. He is reputed to have been in the Armada actions of 1588 , but J. K. Laughton in the D.N.B. has serious misgivings about the evidence, and these misgivings are rather deepened by the fact that Griffith was a minor at the time (a fact of which Laughton was unaware). He also discounts the romance attaching to Griffith 's piracies and adventures; he only admits, and that doubtfully, the Cork episode of 1603 ; but the Penrhyn private papers (no. 88) contain a definite commission from the Admiralty to the mayor of Caernarvon and other gentlemen to appraise a cargo of oil, olives, and silk found on the Spanish ship Speranza and brought in by Piers Griffith and his crew to Aber Cegin in 1600 . Possibly Griffith joined in the ventures of Thomas Prys of Plas Iolyn (q.v.) ; it is a fact that Prys appears in one of the Penrhyn documents (no. 119) . Whether his more or less irregular activities involved Pirs in crippling financial penalties is not clear, but there is no doubt that the years 1600-1612 saw him dissipating his estate by a series of heavy mortgages to London capitalists like the Myddeltons and the Batemans ; in Sept. 1614 , he mortgaged a large part of his Cororion lands to Henry Rowlands , bishop of Bangor . His affairs went to the court of chancery in 1616 ; it was reported that he was brought to the court in charge of the warden of Fleet prison ; by the end of that year it may be said that any effective control he had over the Penrhyn lands had disappeared. Eventually, by a complicated series of transactions, the whole estate became the property of Lord Keeper Williams , later archbishop (q.v.) , a member of the collateral house of Cochwillan . In 1622 Pirs is described as ‘late of Penrhyn ’; in 1623 , ‘of London .’ He d. in 1628 , and was buried in Westminster abbey . All his children d. before him. Curiously, though he is usually referred to as ‘ Pirs ’ or PyrsGruffudd , he himself almost invariably spelt his name ‘ Perys .’ [ See further the article Griffith of Penrhyn family. ]

Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • J. E. Griffith , Pedigrees of Anglesey and Carnarvonshire Families , 1914 , 106, 184-5;
  • Penrhyn Manuscripts at University College North Wales Library, Bangor (U.C.N.W.), 1-420:
  • panegyrics and elegies, e.g. Cardiff Manuscript 11/1/96, 20/194;
  • Llanstephan MSS. at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth 122/282 124 (239);
  • Mostyn MSS. at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth 1/159 (148, 467-92, 493-596).

Author:

Thomas Richards, D.Litt., (1878-1962), Bangor

Published date: 1959