Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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LEWIS , JOHN (d. 1616? ), of Llynwene , Llanfihangel Nant Melan, Rads. , barrister, and author of The History of Britain ,

b. in the parish of Pencraig ( Old Radnor ), son of Hugh Lewis and Sibyl , daughter of Roger ap Watcyn Fychan , Hergest . W. Rowlands ( Llyfryddiaeth , see under 1729 ) connects him, in error, with Maenor Owen, Pembs. , and describes him as a great-grandfather of Richard Fenton , the Pembrokeshire historian . He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn 28 Feb. 1562-3 ( Lincoln's Inn Admissions ) and called to the Bar after 4 June 1570 ( Black Book of Lincoln's Inn ). Pen. MS. 252 , which is a collection of papers which belonged to him, the greater part being in his hand, shows that Lewis was acquainted with Dr. John David Rhys (q.v.) and John Dee (q.v.) . Part of the MS. consists of portions of John Lewis 's own work, The History of Great Britain … which however, did not appear until over a century after the author's death, viz. in 1729 , in which year it was published (in London ) under the title of The History of Great Britain, … ‘till the Death of Cadwalader, Last King of the Britains; and of the Kings of Scotland to Eugene V. As also A Short Account of the Kings, Dukes, and Earls of Bretagne, 'till that Dukedom was united to the Crown of France … By John Lewis, Esq.; Barrester at Law. Now first published from his Original Manuscript To which is added, The Breviary of Britayne, written in Latin by Humfrey Lhuyd, of Denbigh … and lately Englished by Thomas Twine. … The book was no doubt written to defend the traditional history of Wales against such critics as Polydore Vergil , to correct some statements made by Camden , and to vindicate Geoffrey of Monmouth . The work was edited by Hugh Thomas (q.v.) , the Brecknock genealogist and historian , who made some ‘Additions’ to the original work; Thomas probably used B.M. Harl. MS. 4872 and not Pen. MS. 252 . B.M. Harl. MS. 6870 has the quarterings of John Lewis ‘of Lhuynweney ,’ co. Radnor . The following extract (quoted by Edward Owen in his Catalogue , named below) from the copy (in B.M. Harl. MS. 6840 ) of the will (dated 14 Sept. 1720 ) of Hugh Thomas is relevant: ‘ Whereas I have receiv'd several pounds towards printing my book now in ye press and begun by Mr. John Lewis of Llanwenny … ’ John Lewis d. at some time between 14 Feb. 1614-5 , when he dated his will, and 12 Feb. 1615-6 , when it was proved.

In addition to Pen. MS. 252 , John Lewis owned Pen. MSS. 54 (i), 55 and 60, 67 and 79 . (See also B.M. Add. MS. 6921 .)


  • Reports on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language (1898–1910) ;
  • The National Library of Wales Journal , i, 42-3;
  • note by Egerton Phillimore in Y Cymmrodor , vii, 106-7;
  • Edward Owen , A Catalogue of the Manuscripts relating to Wales in the British Museum (1900–22) (consult indexes);
  • F. G. Payne in Y Llenor , 1935 , 165-89;
  • Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society , i, 82;
  • Theophilus Jones , History of the County of Brecknock , i, 50;
  • Archaeologia Cambrensis , 1870 , 74-5, 86;
  • NLW MSS 174, 235;
  • Heraldic Visitations of Wales and Part of the Marches (1846) , i (introd.), ii, 98;
  • T. D. Kendrick , British Antiquity, etc. (London, 1950) , 1950.


Sir William Llewelyn Davies, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. (1887-1952), Aberystwyth

Corrections and additions:

LEWIS , JOHN (?- 1616 ; DWB , 554-5).

In the light of the detailed article by Ffransis G. Payne in Radnorshire Soc. Trans. , xxx (1960) the entry in DWB needs to be revised. It is unlikely that he is the John Lewis who entered Lincoln's Inn . It is more probable that he is the person who entered the Inner Temple , 20 Aug. 1568 . There is no certainty when he was called to the Bar . Like other members of his family, he was a Catholic recusant , and he was excommunicated by the Bishop of St. David's ( Exch. Proc. , 151/34/8, Jas. 1).


Published date: 1959