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Gawen Goodman of Ruthin (1526-1604)

BRITISH SCHOOL, 16th century

Gawen Goodman of Ruthin (1562-1604)

Date: 1582

Media: oil on panel

Size: 49.5 x 42.0 cm

Acquired: 1930; Bequest; The Hon. Mrs Lawrence Brodrick

Accession Number: NMW A 3453

Gawen Goodman of Ruthin is shown aged fifty-six, wearing a memorial ring.  The skull is a reminder of our own mortality. The inscriptions include the Christian reflections Deum timere (Fear God) and Iesus est amor meus (Jesus is my love). He is portrayed as a devout, respectable man, but the poet Thomas Prys wrote of him, 'If he once gets at the wines of a town, he'll not come home without tripping: well I know how he can drink his share; If there's sack to be had, he'll not put up with gruel. A generous and godly man is Gawain-when in his cups.’


Piers Goodman
20 August 2018, 15:24
Hi Heather

Gawen was my 10th x great grandfather, so I know a bit about him and the Goodman family.

Gawen Goodman was born in 1525 at Exmewe Hall in Ruthin, Denbighshire, Wales, the oldest son of Cicily Thelwall, aged 31, (daughter of Edward Thelwall of Plas-y-ward) and Edward "Redsleeves" Goodman, a mercer (cloth merchant), aged 49.

Gawen’s more famous younger brother Gabriel, was born in 1528. Gabriel went on to become Dean of Westminster Abbey for 40 years during the reign of Elizabeth 1st. Gabriel played a major role in the first known translation and editing of the Bible into the Welsh language in 1588. Gabriel established a hospital in Ruthin in 1590 and founded the first grammar school in Ruthin in 1595.

Gawen Goodman married twice. His first wife’s name was Ellen Griffith. Gawen’s eldest son by his first marriage was named Edward, and his other sons by this marriage were Godfrey, Thomas and Gabriel. Gawen’s second marriage was to Gaynor, daughter of Dr. Ellis Prýs of Plâs Iolyn about 1590, when Gawen was 64. They had three children. Dr. Ellis Prýs was descended from Marchweithian, who was the Founder of the Eleventh Noble Tribe of Wales, and from which line also came Edward III, King of England (1327-1377), and the Mortimers, the Earls of March. Gawen Goodman and his second wife Gaynor Prys had sons Ellis and John, and a daughter Francis. Thus, the descendants of Gawen and Gaynor (Prýs) Goodman were twice descended from Welsh nobility. Gawen died in Denbighshire on April 18th, 1604, at the age of 78.

Heather Swaine
28 February 2017, 20:11
Hello. I would be interested in knowing more about this painting and Gawen himself. I have read he was a Ruthin merchant and came from two good Welsh families. Were they minor aristocracy or gentry?
Thank you
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