Pursuing an Outlaw – The Real Wild Humphrey Kynaston

by David Hamilton (June 2011)

The main features of Humphrey’s legend are collected in several books like Shropshire Folklore, by Charlotte S. Burnes (1895): ”On the steepest side of Nescliffe Hill, overlooking the high-road from Oswestry to Shrewsbury, is a large cave in the face of the rock, approached by a flight of steps, and divided into two rooms by a pillar or half-wall of rock. It is well-known in all the neighbourhood as Kynaston’s cave, once the dwelling of “Wild Humphrey Kynaston”, a veritable high-born outlaw of Henry VII's time, who is still remembered by the poor as a very clever man called Kinnyson, who robbed the rich to give to the poor, and sold his soul to the devil for a marvellous horse.” This cave is signposted to guide tourists to its door.

In Kynaston's time lots of people lived in caves. Dick Turpin is also said to have sojourned in a cave in Epping Forest!

A Noble Background

He was apparently descended from Welsh prince Bleddyn ap Cynfyn and born It refers to lands he owned but only those in the desmene of Knockin are named. It was dated 1st May 1534. He was sound of mind but sick in body.

He left nothing to his first wife Marion because her father William ap Griffin ap Robyn had never paid her dowry of thirty pounds sterling. His second wife was Isabella daughter Meredudd ap Hwyl ap Morys of Oswestry.

December the 23rd 1487

The Outlawry

The Act is in The Calendar of Close Rolls for 23rd December 1487.

The Murder of Sir Thomas Kyffin

There are two Star Chamber documents on the murder of Sir Thomas Kyffin, to cardinal Wolsey legate a latere Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England.

The language used in these documents is a great pleasure to read despite the variable spelling.

The Public Records Office has this killing dated as 1509 but Lord Arundel replaced Thomas Gryffin on his death in 1486 with one Thomas of Oswestry. (7)

The Battle of Oswestry

The King sent letters by privy seal to be read and shown to the Bailiff of Oswestry and all officers, liegeman and subjects charging them to capture Humphrey and Thomas with their adherents, accessories and partners.

Mereddud said he was a bailiff, and they gathered a great company and went to take the outlaws and during the skirmish Yevan was killed.

Mereddud claims he was a mile or more away from the scene. He also says he was sorry as they were near of kin while Humphrey and Thomas Kynaston were distressed and put to flight.

There are depositions of witnesses on behalf of Lord Arundel. One David Edmunds was chaplain and receiver to the lord. He was examined on the 6th of January, He swore that for 2 years last May the Constable of the Castle had been Roger ap Davyd till the lord dismissed him by writing which was delivered by Mereddud, and then Yevan was appointed. This was brought to the attention of William Corstlaker pursyvant to the lord with certain bonds.

This version is that ap Davyd refused to depart. It was that night that Mereddud and his followers besieged the castle with people in harness and would not allow meat or drink in. This also relates that an appointment was taken between Meredudd and Yevan until Tuesday next distent. This deponent and other came to town on a Friday where it was shown that the Lord Chamberlayne wold not sufer the appointment of truce. It is unclear from this statement how events unfolded but he says that a truce as agreed by Mereddud and Yevan till the next Tuesday. But the Lord Chamberlayne would not allow the truce and said he wold shortly charge (?) and Yevan should be put out of the castle again. Then Mereddud and his followers besieged again with scales and instruments of war.

John a Weston aged 70 a husbandman of Shrawardyne said that he was there with a William Baret at Aston and saw what William saw and heard but could not say more.

In his tours of 1540 John Leland described Stretton Dale, now known as Church Stretton, as belonging to Lord Arundel. Records at Loton Hall in “Copies of Deeds” page 31, states that John resided at Stretton-in the-Dale which is where the following “Laying in wait” took place.

Shrawardyn and Robert Hopton, labourer, late of Hopton in the parish of Nescliffe, in the county of Salop.

Robert Thornes, Sir Roger Kynaston and 34 others are accused of while knowing the 3 had committed the felony, feloniously received, comforted, lodged, fed and maintained them at Pontesbury, Shrewsbury and Nescliffe.

Outlaw gangs were run by someone higher up the social scale. As they were gentry themselves it is usually a Lord. Here, though we have only the father of the two principles actually named, yet we see a certain Jevan ap David Gethyn, late of Abberbury and Reginald ap David Gethyn of Maesbroc and these were also cited in the Battle of Oswestry documents. Jevan is the Constable murdered on his way to take up office in Oswestry.

Another bond in the Bonds of Statute Merchant collections at Shropshire Records and Research Centre shown his widowed mother, Lady Elizabeth Kynaston, as living in Welshpool and Humphrey in Nescliffe. It was recorded that from 1507 that Humphrey owned 10, High Street, Welshpool which passed to his direct descendents.

The Williamse MS in Shropshire Records Office reproduces deeds which show the high esteem in which the Lord held Humphrey. They are grants of villas. One grant reads: By the good service of our beloved cousin and appears to be another grant of land for good services.(43b)

The Montgomeryshire Collections on deeds of Lord Dudley shows him as Lieutenant of Powys. That is one who acts in place of or represents a superior, an assistant or deputy. He is witness to two deeds given by Edward Sutton, Lord Dudley, part owner of Powis lands. The first is on 5th August 3 Henry VIII (1511), at Welshpool, the second September 4 Henry VIII (1512) at Dudley.





(2) http://www.outlawsandhighwaymen.com/








(4) Transactions of Shropshire Archeological Society. The Last Will and Testament and a general pardon are in Series2, Vol.X(1898)



  1. http://ihr-history.blogspot.com/2009/03/calendar-of-close-rolls-now-complete.html
  1. (6) http://ihr-history.blogspot.com/2009/03/calendar-of-close-rolls-now-complete.html

    (8) Prince Arthur



    (9) A direct decendent of John Leighton, sir Michael, lives at Loton Hall, Alberbury today. He is married to the mother of Guy Ritchie, film director and former husband of Madonna.

    (11) This Pardon printed in Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry VII (1485-1494) P336, refers to him by place, Nescliffe


    (12) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Grey_of_Powis


    (13) This is in Letters and Papers: Foreign and Domestic. HenryVIII Vol.1(1509-14)P609. It is clearly attributed to Humphrey son of Sir Roger of Hordley in The Visitations of 1623.

    Several of these figures have been lauded by Welsh Bards in praise poetry. There is a translation of Meredudd by Lewis Glyn Cothi in Transactions, 2nd Series, Vol.VI.

    See Prof..E.A.Reese.




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