The existence of a special land problem in Wales was recognized by the appointment in 1893 of the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire1 and was confirmed by the evidence given before that commission, but neither in the pages of the Commission’s Report nor elsewhere has the story of the development of the Welsh land system received the attention that is its due. Such an investigation, demanding, as it does, an intimate study of land and people, calls for the closest examination of the records of the past and a reconstruction of the social order at successive stages if the changing face of the land, with the accompanying decay of ancient habit and custom, is to yield its full message. it is with this object that the present series of Surveys are here made available. Compiled at the time when John Speed was making familiar to his contemporaries the landscape of Wales and when George Owen of Henllys was penning the description of his beloved Pembrokeshire, these Surveys reflect, in impersonal catalogue of tenure and assessment, the silent revolution that was proceeding in the society of the day. These were times of change alike in Wales as in England. Medieval ways of life were assuming more modern forms and the bond between tenant and lord, formerly the keystone in the feudal structure, was giving place to the wider allegiance of the subject to the Crown. Yet within the new and all-embracing State, as is revealed in the accompanying Surveys, feudal lordship and manor still remained an important element in the social framework.
The influence of land tenure as an agent of change in any society is of paramount importance and, as evidence of its operation, the Survey of a lordship provides an invaluable record. A Survey was an assessment of tenancy, a record of rents and services, of individual customs and community dues. Once compiled, it regulated the administration of the estate and, by its statement of existing custom, served to protect the tenants from abuse of the same. The framing of a Survey was a task to be undertaken only at infrequent intervals, and, in times of stability in agrarian affairs, long periods might elapse before revision became necessary. The Survey ensured continuity in manorial arrangements and it retained its validity as the official estate book until a new Survey was compiled. At Caldicot certain tenants who took part in the Survey of 1613, included in the present volume,recalled that their fathers had assisted some thirty-seven years earlier in the compilation of the Survey of 1576 and had also participated during their lifetime in two previous Surveys of the same lordship.
The Survey of a manor was not an arbitrary assessment imposed from above but was a statement or affidavit by the tenants, bond and free—or rather by the Jurors as their representatives—concerning existing tenancies and practices. It was compiled in a formal court of Survey in reply to official interrogatories or articles submitted by the presiding Steward or by an Official Surveyor of the lordship, and it is a tribute to the measure of freedom enjoyed by the tenants of manors in their internal affairs that jurors frequently adhered to a minority view in opposition to the lord or to their fellows, even to the extent of having it recorded on the roll. In this respect a Survey of the manor enshrined the memory of the folk and is thus a document of the greatest social value. It can serve as a most useful quarry for local historical material, whether of topographical or genealogical interest, but, more important, the apparently monotonous lists of tenants and their rents can by close scrutiny be made to yield much light on the ferment of change proceeding within the body social. The documents here appended have, however, special significance inasmuch as they include Surveys of various lordships, differing greatly in character and scattered over a wide region, embracing not only the more Anglicized manorial districts of the south and east of Wales, but also the upland regions of west Wales whose native folk were but emerging from tribal ways. In the present series, too, our study of these contrasting conditions is greatly facilitated by the fact that the Surveys were all compiled at the same time and by one and the same Surveyor. They therefore provide a valuable cross-section of Wales at this period, yielding much information on the question of land tenure and on the problems of social evolution in general.
The comparative simplicity and uniformity of land tenure in our own day must not be allowed to disguise the complex network of conditions which existed in Wales in medieval times. At root lay the system of Welsh landholding whether by freemen in their scattered homesteads sharing with their nearer relatives in the grazing and other proprietary rights arising from settlement and occupation, or by the different classes of the unfree in small village communities, answerable jointly for the entire dues and services of their bond ‘tref’. The link between the group—whether free or bond—and the central authority was a personal one, so that land tenure under pure Welsh conditions formed no essential feature of Welsh social life.
Into this society, in the late eleventh and the early twelfth century, intruded the land system of English and continental feudalism, when, after the Norman conquest of England, Norman lords undertook on their own initiative the conquest of further territory in Wales. The lordships of the March thus established were administered from the castles, and into the lowland parts of the lordships were introduced the agricultural methods of the English manor adjusted to the more restricted environment of the Welsh ‘field’ and to the climatic conditions of the west. Within the manorial framework was incorporated the native population of the lowland zone, both bond and free, their former status generally retained and their tribute and services adapted to the new manorial conditions. Strangers from the English estates of the lord or from among his followers also settled here, whether as tenants on the manor or as burgesses in the borough. This more favoured and accessible region within each lordship thus became the Englishry, and here the open-field system of agriculture, with free and customary tenure as the basis of the feudal nexus, was the characteristic feature, contrasting with the surrounding uplands where the old order was perpetuated in the Welshry. By the thirteenth century this intrusive manorial economy was well established in the border country of Wales and along the coastal plains of Gwent, Glamorgan, Gower, and south Pembroke. In the interior it obtained a footing only in certain favoured open valley sites, such as at Abergavenny and at Brecon. Throughout the more upland country of west Wales and of central and north Wales, English manorial economy found but little footing, but the tendency, especially after the final conquest of Wales by the Crown, was increasingly to interpret Welsh holding in terms of feudal tenure even while the Welsh arrangements continued in their essential features. Only along the main highways of the country, therefore, was the feudal order to stamp itself on Welsh society, and it is along these highways that Anglicization made its greatest headway. The process was already well advanced by the thirteenth century, by which time the regions of Welsh and of Anglo-Norman in influence respectively were clearly differentiated.
The House of Lancaster
Before proceeding to a consideration of the material contained in the Surveys here presented, we should, perhaps, review the circumstances which led to the accumulation of estates under the family title of Lancaster and especially the Welsh estates which came to be vested in that house. For this purpose we need cast our minds back no farther than 1267, to the time of the grant to Edmund, the second surviving son of Henry III, of the title Earl of Lancaster, a new title based on the shire which had replaced the former county palatine of Lancaster. This great honour had earlier formed part of the vast concentration of territories belonging to one of the most powerful of the medieval feudal barons, Ranulph, Earl of Chester. On his death in 1232, without direct heir, the estates had passed to various members of his family—Chester to his nephew, John le Scot; Lancashire to William Ferrers, Earl of Derby; the earldom of Lincoln (through his sister) to the family of Lacy and other estates to his sister, the Countess of Arundel. Before his death Ranulph had already ceded the earldom of Leicester to the sister of the last Earl of Leicester (Robert de Beaumont), whence in 1231 it fell to her son, Simon de Montfort. It was on the death of John le Scot without heir, in 1237, that the earldom of Chester returned to the Crown to be granted in 1254 with the Crown lands in Wales and the various outlying dependencies of the Crown to Edward, the king’s eldest son.
This great block of territories in the north Midlands figured prominently in the Montfort rebellion, Montfort, Earl of Leicester, taking over from Prince Edward, after the battle of Lewes, the earldom of Chester and from Robert de Ferrers the earldom of Derby and the Lancastrian lands. After the fall of Montfort in 1265 while Prince Edward recovered his earldom of Chester, it was his brother, Edmund, who was to reap the greatest benefit, receiving on 21 October 1265 the honour of Leicester and in June/July 1266 the honour of Derby. The award, therefore, on 30 June 1267 of the honour and county of Lancaster with the title of Earl rounded off his immense estates which now extended into the counties of Leicester, Derby, Lancaster, York, Rutland, Nottingham, Stafford, Norfolk, and Suffolk, and, by a supplementary charter of 22 April 1269, to all the lands and rights formerly held by Montfort.
The first of the Welsh lordships to fall to Edmund, as Earl of Lancaster under the charter of 1267, was the honour of Monmouth, which lordship in 1256 had been made over to Prince Edward by its lord, John de Monmouth, the last of the family of Monmouth in the male line, on the understanding that the king would allow Edward to hold the lordship after John’s death (d. 1257). Not until 1262 (6 June) was the lordship of Monmouth transferred to Edward together with all the lands of John de Monmouth, comprising the manors of Ashperton and Stretton in Herefordshire, Rodley, Minsterworth, and Tibberton in Gloucestershire.
Included also in the grant of 1267 were the lordships of Grosmont, Skenfrith, and White Castle, commonly termed the Three Castles. These in the late twelfth century had been in the hands of the Crown, but in 1205 they had been granted by King John to William de Braose, lord of Brecon, Buellt and Radnor. After the ejection of William from his estates in 1207, they were never recovered by the Braose family) and in the early part of the reign of Henry III (except for a brief interval) they were held by the justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, until his fall from power in 1232, when they passed to his rival, Peter des Rivaux. Two years later the lordships returned to the Crown and were granted with other Crown territory in February 1254 to Prince Edward who in 1267 made surrender of them to the Crown for re-grant to his brother. Henceforward the Three Castles, in close association with Monmouth, were to form that quadrangle of Lancastrian lordships in the south-east March of Wales. Each was an independent lordship of the March, having its separate castle, separate courts and franchises, and separate manorial and burghal organization. All four castles, directly involved as they were in the struggle between the Crown and certain of the great feudatories in the first half of the thirteenth century, were largely reconstructed in stone during that period. The struggle was in part fought on the question of the powers wielded by the Crown as exercised by the Justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, and it was doubtless during de Burgh’s tenure of the lordships that important additions were made to the defences at ‘White Castle, Grosmont, and Skenfrith. The works at Monmouth, too, were greatly strengthened and enlarged during this century and the castle became the main centre of the Lancastrian interest in south-east Wales. Later we hear mention of the great round tower, the great hall, the queen’s chamber, the chapel, and the seneschal’s hall near the round tower, all within the castle precincts. here under the shadow of the castle and at the point where the converging rivers, the Monnow and the Wye, offered a defensive site, a borough of considerable importance had grown up during the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, and by the early fourteenth century Monmouth had been converted into a walled town, special murage tolls being granted to the townsmen to meet the expenses of this work.
Monmouth was a chartered borough, administered on behalf of the community of burgesses by the Bailiff or Portreeve (first termed Mayor in the fifteenth century) who, assisted by his clerk and two sub-bailiffs, held the town courts, collected the town rents of one shilling annually from each burgage, also the brewing and other tolls, ‘the Castle towles’, rendering to the lord the fee farm rent for all privileges. During the two days in each week upon which these officials were specially engaged on town business they received an allowance for their food. Ordinarily the burgesses had a monopoly of trade within the borough, but at the weekly market and at the annual fairs the town was thrown open for street trading by the country folk and by pedlars and traders who travelled from fair to fair, paying tolls for the right of setting up stalls in the street. Small boroughs also existed at Grosmont, Skenfrith, and White Castle, their burgesses having similar rights of electing their officials and administering town affairs, each borough enjoying monopoly of trade within the bounds of its respective lordship. The trade, however, at Skenfrith and at White Castle (Llantilio Crossenny) was limited in amount and in course of time, with the decline in their burghal status, it tended to be concentrated at the more important boroughs of Grosmont and Monmouth.
By the thirteenth century, too, manors had grown up at all four centres, the demesnes at Monmouth being extensive, those at the Barton in Monmouth extending later to more than 300 acres and those at Fladnock to 400 acres. At Monmouth a fully developed open-field system obtained throughout the Middle Ages, the demesne being cultivated by the customary tenants, all classes of the community, Welsh as well as English, being brought within the closely-knit organization of the manor. The outline of this arrangement at Monmouth is still clearly reflected in our Survey at the opening of the seventeenth century. Outside the immediate limits of Monmouth, occasional Welsh holders would be found, pursuing in the main their native way of life and we hear of the payment of such characteristic Welsh rents as cylch (or circuit) by the bondmen at Rockfield and of the performance of certain Welsh agricultural services on the limited demesnes of the lord at Llanfaenor, Worthybrook, Rockfield, Osbaston, and Llangattock Vibon Avel by the Welsh bondmen of these outlying hamlets of the manor.2
Open-field agriculture is also found at Grosmont, Skenfrith, and White Castle (Llantilio), the demesnes being cultivated by the villein holders, but here, too, Welsh features were still well represented at the opening of the fourteenth century, certain Welsh tenants paying rents such as cylch (or circuit) and gwestfa (the feast due). The extent of the demesnes, too, is recorded in Welsh acres.
The vast estates of the honour of Lancaster were held by Edmund until his death on 5 June 1296, when the title and the main portion of the estates passed to his son and successor, Thomas of Lancaster, who, though a minor, entered into seisin in September 1298, assuming the family titles, Earl of Lancaster, of Leicester, and of Derby. Thomas, however, at no time held the Welsh estates, Monmouth and the Three Castles, which were granted to his younger brother, Henry of Lancaster.
In 1294 Thomas married Alice, daughter and heiress of Henry, Earl of Lincoln, to which earldom she succeeded on 5 February 1311, and on the death of her mother she inherited the earldom of Salisbury. This great accession of wealth and influence, however, was not to be fully enjoyed by Thomas, partly because of the estrangement which existed between him and his wife and partly because of his long-continued struggle with Edward II first as leader of the Lords Ordainers and later of the barons in their revolt against the Despensers. His defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 and his subsequent execution brought to a close a stormy career. He was succeeded by his younger brother, Henry, lord of Monmouth, who, though he had supported the Lords Ordainers and had joined the Marcher lords in their attack on the Young Despenser in 1321, had taken no active part in the revolt of his brother, Thomas, in 1322. He, therefore, succeeded to the family honour of Leicester in 1324 and he assumed the title Earl of Lancaster. In recognition of his support of the Queen and Mortimer in 1326, he was, on the fall of Edward II, fully secured in his rights and titles. He became a close friend of the young Edward III and later, in 1341, he was conceded the royal rights in his territories as enjoyed by his predecessors.
Henry had held the Welsh portion of the family estates throughout the period of the tenure of the earldom by his brother, Thomas, receiving on 20 March 1297 a grant of the honour of Monmouth, the Three Castles, and the lesser manors of Rodley, Tibberton, and Minsterworth. It was about the same time that Henry, by his marriage with Maud, the daughter and sole heiress of Patrick de Chaworth (II), acquired new estates in west Wales. Patrick had succeeded his brother, Payn, in 1279, but four years later during the second Welsh War, he met his death (1283), leaving his heiress but a child of seventeen months, the lordship thus reverting to the Crown. Before March 1297 Maud had been given in marriage to Henry of Lancaster who thereby acquired in her right the Chaworth lands in south Wales. These Chaworth estates comprised
(i) the extensive Marcher lordships of Kidwelly and Carnwallon, later held of the royal lordships of Carmarthen;
(ii) the mesne lordship of Ogmore including its Welshry of Glynogwr, held from the lord of Glamorgan;
(iii) the mesne lordship of Ebboth or Ebbwy (later known as Maesglas or Greenfield3) near Newport (Mon.) held of the lord of Gwynllwg by the service of one knight at Newport Castle.
This group of lordships had had their rise in the early years of Norman conquest in Wales when William de Londres, after the conquest of Glamorgan (c. 1091—93), probably received from Robert Fitzhamon a grant of the lordship of Ogmore, to be held by the service of four knights at Cardiff Castle. The castle of Ogmore, a stone structure of early date, may well have been the work of William, but whether the family was also established at Ebbwy at this early period is difficult to determine, though it is significant that a Norman mound marks the site.
William, on his death, was succeeded (c. 1126) by his better-known son, Maurice de Londres, the founder of Ewenny Priory (1141). It was about the same time that Maurice received at the hands of Henry I the lordships of Kidwelly and Carnwallon which Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, the King’s Justiciar, had established in these two Welsh commotes occupying the coastal belt between the river Loughor and the estuary of the Towy. It is not unlikely that Roger found himself unequal to the task of defending this frontier territory which, therefore, reverted to the Crown, to be granted, perhaps as early as 1128, to Maurice, who was certainly well established in Kidwelly by the year 1136.
During the century which followed, these family estates passed first to the son and later to the grandson of Maurice until, on the failure of the male line by the death of Thomas de Londres (c. 1223), the inheritance descended to his daughter Hadwisa de Londres. She married (c. 1244) Patrick de Chaworth (I) who, in defence of his own lordships and as seneschal of the king for the royal lordship of Carmarthen, was involved in frequent struggles with the Welsh of Deheubarth, finally meeting his death in a somewhat unchivalrous incident near Cardigan in 1258. Thereupon the inheritance passed to his wife’s custody and thence to his sons, Pain (d. 1279) and Patrick II(1279—83). Eventually it came to Maud, daughter of Patrick II, and her husband, Henry of Lancaster. Thus on Henry’s accession to the earldom of Lancaster at the end of Edward II’s reign, the two groups of estates, those of Kidwelly and of Monmouth, were incorporated into the honour of Lancaster.
The first castle at Kidwelly was the work of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, in the early twelfth century, and the borough which grew up adjacent to it was protected on this exposed site by an earthen embankment and palisade. Near at hand the bishop founded, as a cell of the abbey of Sherborne, a Benedictine house which also had its own small borough. These twin sites along the lower Gwendraeth formed the nucleus of a growing community which in time, with the outlying manor, was to develop into the ‘foreignry’ or Englishry of the lordship of Kidwelly, a relatively restricted zone in this preponderantly Welsh region. By the time of the Chaworths the strength of the Welsh attack compelled the reconstruction of the castle into a great concentric castle and by 1280 the borough had become a walled town. The wide upland expanse of the commote outside the immediate area of foreign settlement constituted the Welshry of the lordship, divided as of old into maenors or quarters, for the collection of the feast dues or, the cattle rent—the commorth rent of 40 cows, payable by the Welsh freemen, also other contributions formerly rendered in kind.
The Englishry of the adjoining lordship of Carnwallon was even more limited in extent than that of Kidwelly, being confined mainly to the castle of LIanelly and its immediate surroundings. LIanelly, its borough, was but a small town having less than forty burgages, and the yield from the weekly market and the annual fair indicates but limited trading activity which came to be diverted more and more to Kidwelly.
While in west Wales the country offered little scope for agricultural development, Ogmore, in the fertile plain of Glamorgan, was an important manor during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the demesne, scattered in the various hamlets, being cultivated by the customary tenants there. For the convenience of organization, the manor was divided into two parts, the tenantry of Ogmore, Old Castle, St. Brides, Pitcote, Seaton, North Down, and South Down being subject to the bailiff of the north and those of Broughton and Wick to the bailiff of the south. The Welshry of this manor lay in the hill district at Glynogwr, and here the Welsh bailiffs collected the rents of the freemen as well as those of the Welsh bondmen at Eglwys Keynor (Llangeinor) and Ynysnawdre.
It was towards the end of his life, viz., in 1340, that Henry acquired a further accession of territory in west Wales by the grant of the southernmost commote of Cantref Bychan, the commote of Is-cennen with its castle Carregcennen. Before the war of 1277 Is-cennen had formed part of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth and was held by Llywelyn, son of Rhys Fychan, who died while in the king’s custody. In 1283 the commote was granted to John Giffard of Brimfield, lord of the adjoining lordship of Llandovery (or Cantref Bychan) through his marriage with the daughter of Walter de Clifford. On the death of Giffard the inheritance derived through his wife passed to his daughters, but the lordship of Is-cennen descended to his son of a second marriage, John Giffard. It was, however, confiscated in 1321 , because of the participation of John in the revolt against Despenser and, for a brief period, it was granted to Despenser himself (November 1322), only to return to the Crown on the fall of Despenser. Later it was granted to Lord Ralph de Willington, who on 20 June 1340 was given licence to transfer the territory to Henry of Lancaster to hold from the king as lord of Carmarthen. From that date it was absorbed into the Lancastrian estates, its administration as in the case of Carnwallon being increasingly centred on Kidwelly Castle.
Is-cennen, unconquered until the last years of Welsh independence, retained its Welsh character to a greater extent than any other of the Lancastrian lordships in Wales, its organization remaining almost entirely unaffected by feudalizing tendencies. Here again the free element of the population was predominant, their holdings being assessed on the basis of their contribution to the old communal rents, the gwestfa or food dues, the dofraeth or renders of oats, the kysett or ‘keys-money’ for the upkeep of the commote police or cais, and the ringelsilver for the fee of the rhingyll or bailiff of the freemen. These ancient dues have little in common with the manorial rents paid on the manors, and in Is-cennen the only unfree tenants, the taeogion, were the few to be found on the lord’s maerdref or small home-farm, where they performed limited agricultural services under the direction of maer y biswail, the farm bailiff. These arrangements persisted in their main features into much later centuries, and we can still trace these in the pages of the Survey.
Henry of Lancaster died on 22 September 1345, when he was succeeded by his son, Henry of Grosmont, born at Grosmont in 1300. The father was afflicted with blindness during the last fifteen years of his tenure of the earldom and the younger Henry transacted much of the family business. As early as 1333 his father assigned to him the Welsh estates, not only Monmouth and the Three Castles but also Kidwelly and Ogmore, and four years later, with the assent of Parliament, he assumed the title Earl of Derby. On his father’s death he entered in the fullness of time into all the family possessions and titles, including the title Earl of LincoIn on the death in 1348 of his great-aunt, the Countess of Lincoln, wife of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. By reason of his wealth and influence and of his military prowess shown in many fields, he was in 1351, with the support of the king and with the consent of Parliament raised to the rank of Duke of Lancaster with the consent of Parliament, raised to the rank of Duke of Lancaster with full powers in his Duchy. But he was to enjoy his newly-won title for but a brief period, for in 1361 he succumbed to the plague leaving his vast possessions to his two daughters, Maud, the elder, aged 22 years, and Blanche, the younger, aged 14 years. The dukedom thus came to an end, but the two heiresses succeeded to the earldoms and to the family lands which were partitioned between them. Maud, the wife of William, Duke of Bavaria, was assigned the earldom of Leicester with the lordships of Kidwelly, Carnwallon, Is-cennen , Ogmore, and Ebbwy, also Monmouth and the Three Castles. Blanche, already since 1359 the wife of John of Gaunt, Earl of Richmond, fourth son of Edward III, received the earldom of Lancaster and the estates in Lancashire, Cheshire, and at Pontefract in Yorkshire. Maud returned from Bavaria in 1362 to take over her share, but she, too, fell a victim to the plague in April of that year. Her share was taken over by her sister, Blanche, and her husband, John of Gaunt. It was through John of Gaunt, therefore, that the whole of the estates of Lancaster came to be vested in the royal house. Later in the same year, on November 1362, John of Gaunt was created Duke of Lancaster, thus reviving the title but recently extinguished. His wife, however, was to suffer an early demise, for in 1369 she died, leaving an infant son, Henry, styled Earl of Derby, the future Henry IV. Henry, on marriage, secured yet another accession of territory for the Lancastrian branch of the royal house when, about 1381, he married Mary, the younger of the two heiresses of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton, Constable of England. Humphrey, son of William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton, had succeeded his uncle, Humphrey, Earl of Hereford (d. 15 October 1361), taking livery of his lands on 24 March 1363. Ten years later, on 16 January 1373, he died, leaving his estates to his two daughters, Eleanor the elder, aged 7, and Mary, aged 3. Both were under age, but their lands remained with the Crown pending the partition of the inheritance. Eleanor married Thomas of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward III, and, despite the nonage of his wife, Thomas seems to have been granted, on 3 April 1374, the earldom of Northampton and the earldom of Essex. In 1377 he was created Earl of Buckingham. There was some delay in the assigning of the estate in view of a counterclaim by a member of the Bohun family, also in view of a claim put forward that the lordship of Cantref Selyf was held direct from the Crown and not from the lordship of Brecon.4 Not until 10 February 1381, the age of Eleanor having been proved and her husband’s fealty taken, was the partition effected in the presence of both parties in the royal chancery. Mary, however, did not attain to her lawful age until 22 December 1384, and until that time her share was entrusted to her brother-in-law, Thomas of Woodstock, who continued to retain the fee of the earldom of Essex until his death in 1397, and it was further retained by his daughter, Anne.
Under the partition of 1381 the share of Eleanor and her husband in the Welsh estates of the Bohuns included the lordships of Huntington, Caldicot and Newton, also two fees of Cantref Selyf and one-third part of the lordship of Penkelly, the last two forming part of the lordship of Brecon. To Mary and her husband, Henry, son of John of Gaunt, were assigned the lordships of Brecon and Hay and the earldom of Hereford, and to these were added, on the death of John of Gaunt, the lands of the Duchy in Wales and on the border—Monmouth, the Three Castles, Minsterworth, Newnham, Rodley, Ebbwy, Ogmore, Kidwelly, Carnwallon, and Is-cennen. John of Gaunt died on 3 February 1399, and with Henry, his son, in exile, the whole of these estates were taken over by Richard II. Two years earlier Richard had foully put to death his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, the husband of Eleanor. The hand of Richard thus lay heavily on both branches of the family, and it was to avenge this that Henry returned from exile to enforce the abdication of Richard and to claim his father’s estates and the throne (30 September 1399). Upon his accession as Henry IV (15 October 1399), his estates were merged with those of the Crown. His wife, Mary de Bohun, had already died in 1394, and one of the early acts of his reign was to ordain that the lands of his wife’s inheritance should be regarded as held of the Duchy of Lancaster and the records of these lordships are during these years included among the Duchy muniments. The mesne lordships of Ogmore and Ebbwy, formerly held of the lords of Glamorgan and Gwynllwg respectively, now became independent Crown property. Shortly after Henry’s accession, his eldest son, Henry, by Mary of Bohun, was created Prince of Wales (October 1399) and Duke of Lancaster (10 November 1399), the estates pertaining to his mother being declared permanently attached to the Duchy of Lancaster.
Prince Henry ascended the throne as Henry V on 21 March 1413. He continued to hold the Crown lands in Wales, also the lands of the Duchy, including all the lands of his late mother, except the portion reserved as the dower of Joan, dowager Countess of Hereford and except for certain lands held in jointure, with reversion to Eleanor and her descendants. The share of Eleanor could be regarded as having been forfeited to the Crown in 1397 on the death of her husband, Thomas of Woodstock, and thus legally in Henry’s custody. The death of Eleanor two years later (3 October 1399), and of her only son in the same year complicated the question of the share of the former Bohun inheritance which might legitimately be claimed by her daughter, Anne, wife of Edward, Earl of Stafford. Anne, however, was granted by Henry on 20 June 1400 her mother’s share of the lands, which she continued to hold after the death of her husband at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Not until after the death of Joan, the dowager Countess, in 1419, did Anne petition Henry V for a partition of the Bohun estates as between herself and Henry as heirs; and she pursued the matter vigorously, even to the extent of following Henry to France. Her claim was conceded by Parliament on 2 May 1421, which gave sanction for the desired partition, the king to have the right of choice. Under this partition the lordships of Brecon, Hay, and Huntington passed to Anne, but the lordship of Caldicot was retained by the king, to remain henceforth as a member of the Duchy and to be included in the present Surveys. The partition, however, was not implemented at this time, and more than ten years later, in 1433, during the reign of Henry VI, a further appeal was made by Anne for the full restoration of her share of the Bohun estates, also for the accumulated revenue due to her and compensation for the losses she had suffered. As a result of this appeal the partition of 1421 was brought into operation and the lordships of Brecon, Hay, and Huntington were finally severed from the Duchy to descend to the son of Anne, viz. Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, created Duke of Buckingham, 14 September 1444. On his death at the battle of Northampton (1460), he was succeeded by his grandson, Henry, second Duke of Buckingham, beheaded at Salisbury in 1483 for his part in the conspiracy against Richard III. His son, Edward, however, was restored to his father’s honours by Henry VII in 1486, but met his death at the hands of Henry VIII in 1521, when the title became extinct.
By the end of the fifteenth century the territories of the Duchy of Lancaster in Wales had broadly assumed the extent which they occupied at the time of the Survey. Four main groups of estates had gone to their making, viz.
(i) Monmouth and the Three Castles;
(ii) the de Londres—Chaworth lands—Ogmore, Ebbwy, Kidwelly, Carnwallon;
(iv) the lordship of Caldicot as a member of the Bohun estates.
The Duchy estates, widely scattered about England and Wales, remained distinct from the lands of the Crown and enjoyed a special jurisdiction. For purposes of organization they had been divided into two administrative groupings, one to the north of the river Trent and the other to the south, the Duchy of the North Parts and the Duchy of the South Parts respectively. The Welsh estates were entirely contained in the South Parts. Each division had its own Chancery and Exchequer, its own system of high courts, the Duchy justices on circuit visiting the various lordships. A Receiver-General and Auditors were responsible for the financial arrangements, the latter visiting the local exchequers and examining the accounts. Each lordship in turn had its own staff of officials, the Steward and the Receiver responsible for the management of the estate and for the collection of the rents and dues, assisted by the various bailiffs and reeves. Communal payments, whether in money or in kind, often continued into much later days as obscure rents, the offices long since defunct and the origin of the payment forgotten. And while the story of the passing centuries is reflected in these changing forms, the basic outline of the old feudal lordships still remained framed in the social landscape as may be seen in the accompanying Surveys of the seventeenth century, though by that time the lord-ships had come to be incorporated in the framework of shire and hundred, witness of the newer system of public government introduced by the Act of Union (1536).
Social Developments—Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century
During the later Middle Ages, from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, the dual society established in Wales as a result of the conquest was subject to the impact of two main influences which were to modify profoundly the social order and to create the conditions precedent to the Surveys. First were the individualistic tendencies which set in with the opening of the fourteenth century, stimulating initiative and ultimately leading to the gradual disintegration of the medieval group, whether manorial or tribal. Second was the legislation of the years 1536 and 1542 which brought about the union of Wales with England and during the next hundred years helped to mould the new social pattern of the country. We can here but indicate the nature and trend of the forces at work and for a fuller treatment the reader is referred to other works bearing on the subject.5
Important among these tendencies was the rapid decline of demesne cultivation in the manors during the fourteenth century and the consequent replacement of the old-time works and dues by fixed money rents or quit-rents, thereby liberating the serf whether on the manors or in the Welshries. Not that these modernizing tendencies revealed themselves at one and the same time in all the manors, nor were they immediately applicable to all types of villein service, but they had proceeded far during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, especially with the dislocation of the system of serf labour by reason of the epidemics which swept the country during that period and as a result of the Welsh revolts, notably that of Glyndwr. Loss of tenants involved escheat to the lords of many of the customary holdings in the open fields, such holdings becoming available for letting without the render of service and at an economic rent. In this way, strips in the open fields could be combined for the convenience of working as a compact unit and tenants could acquire additional holdings often at an increased rent. Inequality in the size of holdings now became a common feature on the manor, and customary tenure, freed of its compulsory works, no longer carried the badge of servitude. A class of free customary tenants therefore emerged whose sole bond with their lord was the payment of rent. By process of exchange, too, the scattered strips of the open-field arable could be brought together into blocks, opening the way for inclosure, and we see the great open fields of the manor gradually being broken up into numerous separate holdings more or less compact, the manor-house, in the absence of its lord, becoming but one farm-stead among others.
Over large areas of the country, particularly in the north and west where mountainous conditions precluded the rise of manorial cultivation, the Welsh system of holding followed its own course of evolution, whether in the Welshries of the various lordships or in the lands of the Crown. Here the composite shares of the large family groups in land and common rights passed gradually to individual members of those communities. As on the manors, therefore, the group of earlier days was breaking up into the individual members which composed it, each the master of his own destiny in the new order which was arising. Both in the Anglo-Norman and in the more Welsh regions, these centuries saw the silent evolution towards a common social pattern in which the group was replaced by the individual, and the former marked contrast between English and Welsh landholding, as also that between bondman and freeman, passed away, the old-time relationships giving place to the new money economy. It was this which made possible and, indeed, helped forward, the union of England and Wales in 1536. That union, by its emphasis on a common citizenship within a wider realm and by its enforcement of uniform conditions between the different classes of tenants, bond and free, or between English and Welsh subjects of the Crown, was to prove a powerful influence in the shaping of modern Wales.
The Acts of Union
The main purport of the Union, as embodied in the Acts of 1536 and 1542, was to link Wales to the English realm and to bring it under a single governmental system. For this purpose, groups of Marcher lordships were combined to form shires and these in turn were divided into hundreds. Marcher lords were not deprived of their lordships or of their lordship rights over their tenants, who continued to render the accustomed rents and dues. The Crown, however, took over the royal rights formerly enjoyed by the lords, the right to try felonies perpetrated in the lordships and to take the profits of the same. All felonies were made triable only in the public courts of the Crown and by principles and procedure of English justice. Wales, too, was incorporated within the English parliamentary system and representatives from the Welsh shires and boroughs participated in the work of Parliament. Henceforth the legislative enactments of England were held to apply to Wales. The position was further defined in the Act of 1542 which established in each shire a Commission of the Peace and extended to Wales of the twelve shires the special system of high courts of Great Sessions hitherto in operation only in the Crown lands of west and north Wales. It was expressly provided, however, in the Act of 1542, that all liberties, franchises, and privileges of the Duchy of Lancaster were to continue undisturbed.
It is perhaps in its effect on the Welsh land system that the Act of Union is of interest for our immediate purpose. Before the Union, the free tenements within the boroughs and the manors of the various lordships were already held by English tenure and succession was in general by primogeniture, but in the Welsh lands of the same lordships the practice of equal division among all heirs male, commonly termed gavelkind, obtained. In the preamble to the Act of 1536, however, it was ordained that ‘manors, lands, tenements, . . . which shall descend in Wales shall be inheritable after the English tenure, without division or partition, and after the form of the laws of this realm of England, and, not after any tenure nor after the form of any Welsh laws or customs’. This decision may have been influenced by a petition of 1534 purporting to come from the inhabitants of the March in the welshry, requesting that land in Wales should not descend by gavelkind but to the eldest son or heir male, or in default, to be subdivided among issue female’. A decree involving so great a change, however, could hardly be enforced in respect of those extensive lands in the Welshries of the various lordships and in the lands of the Crown in west and north Wales which had ‘time out of mind by the laudable customs of the country been departed or departible among heirs male’, and we are not surprised to find that in a later clause of the same Act of 1536, inheritance by gavelkind was allowed to continue in such cases ‘as if the Act had never been made’. The whole question, indeed, of the retention of certain aspects of Welsh custom was, by a further clause in the same Act, made the subject of inquiry by a Commission, as a result of which ‘such laws, usages and customs as the king’s highness . . . shall think expedient . . . shall stand and be of full effect’.
Such was the position as prescribed by the Act of 1536. This measure of compromise, however, was opposed by Sir Richard Herbert and others, who petitioned the Crown that ‘all land held in gavelkind should in future be held in fee simple and be inheritable by the English common law’. It was possibly in response to this that a Bill was presented to Parliament on 28 April 1539 for the abolition of gavelkind tenure in Wales; and possibly as a result of this measure or in response to a further petition, a clause was introduced into the Act of 1542 which provided that all lands and tenements which, since 24 June 1541, had descended to any person or would descend in future, were to be held by English tenure and ‘not to be partible among heirs male after the custom of gavelkind as heretofore in divers parts of Wales hath been used and accustomed’. This rule was expressly held to apply within Monmouthshire and in those lordships recently annexed to the English border shires, but it seems also to have been intended to apply to all Wales. This clause is strengthened by the reaffirmation in one of the concluding clauses of the Act of 1542 that ‘all lands within the dominion of Wales shall descend to the heirs according to the course of the common laws of the realm of England’.
It would appear, therefore, that the several clauses relating to the tenure of land as laid down in the two Acts are not entirely consistent, and it was seemingly the intention of the Crown, while recognizing existing Welsh law, to bring about the transition of Welsh holdings to English tenure in socage upon the next change of inheritance after the date, 24 June 1541. Welsh holdings could also be sold or otherwise disposed of in fee simple, in fee tail, or by lease, or be given in mortgage provided all such transactions were conducted according to English law. Possibly all Welsh land, once it became subject to any process of law would thereafter be held according to the English system, so that by these gradual methods, upon change of ownership or when land came before the courts, Welsh principles of tenure would cease to operate. Certain it is that the various clauses on the subject in the Acts of Union offer no clear explanation for the continued existence of Welsh tenure on a large scale long after the Union. The question, indeed, is one for further investigation, and in such inquiry the evidence supplied from sources like the present Surveys, compiled within less than a century after the Union, can be of the greatest importance.
From the Surveys we learn that, even in the Anglicized border manor of Monmouth, the customary holdings of the one-time bond tenants were still, in the early seventeenth century, held in gavelkind, being divided equally among all the sons. In the event of the failure of the sons, however, all the daughters shared equally in the inheritance, but it was at the will of the father to exclude any of his sons from the succession. This contrasted with the position obtaining in the borough of Monmouth (including that portion of the manor lying within the borough boundaries), where succession of the eldest son was the rule. The more important boroughs in Wales were, throughout the Middle Ages, centres of Anglicizing influence, and in the Act of 1542 it was expressly stated that English law alone was to be administered in the boroughs of Wales. It may, perhaps, be deduced from this evidence that gavelkind, or equal division, continued only in respect of customary tenure and not of freehold or free socage, which had by the seventeenth century come to be based almost entirely on primogeniture. Customary holding could, perhaps, be regarded as in a special sense included among the manorial perquisites of a lord and, therefore, not subject to the land clauses of the Act, and it is possible that it was land of this tenure which escaped the clauses of the Act of Union. Certain it is that in the Duchy lordships where customary tenure continued to survive after the Union, customary tenants on disposing of their lands, whether as a whole or in part, went through the ceremony of submitting their land to the lord in his court, paying a fine and handing over a rod as a symbol. The rod was then passed by the Receiver to the new tenant in token of seisin. Such a ceremony continued to mark the occasion of the transfer of customary land both at Monmouth and at Grosmont at the time of the Survey, also in the lordship of Kidwelly, but in the manor of Caldicot the practice seems to have died out. Before the Act of Union this was also the recognized transfer of all Welsh free land, outside the boroughs and the Englishry, throughout the lordships of Kidwelly, Carnwallon and Is-cennen; a Welsh freeman, on surrendering a part or the whole of his tenement (or tyddyn), delivered seisin in open court by surrender of the rod to the Steward, paying a fine of 5s., the gobr estyn, for alienation of a part, and 10s. for the whole, the latter commonly known as the gwaglaw or empty hand. In the case of inheritance at death, it was the custom for the eldest son to pay a fine of 1d. and for the other sons to pay 5s. each.
After the Union the practice of delivering seisin by the rod ceased in the case of free tenants and all transfers of free land ultimately came to be effected by the method of conveyancing, i.e. by deed and release, under the common law. The ceremony of delivering the rod, however, still continued in the case of customary or bond land, though it was also open to a customary tenant to effect the transfer by means of conveyance if he so desired. Old inhabitants of the time of the Survey, some seventy years after the Union, recalled the picturesque details of handing over the rod, a ceremony they had themselves witnessed or in which they had in some cases participated. One witness was still holding her free tenement by virtue of such seisin made in the court of the lord before the Act of Union.
The evidence of the Surveys in this regard is further confirmed by George Owen of Henllys, who adds that the custom was generally known among the Welsh as ystyn yalen6 or cof llys,7 and that down to the time of the Act of Union it had been the common practice in the courts of those parts of Wales where Welsh law persisted, such as in the Welshries of the various lordships and in the late-conquered lands of the Crown in north and west Wales. Since that time it had continued to operate only in respect of copyhold tenure where such had survived, and he cites certain instances of this tenure even in the Anglicized lordship of Pembroke. In respect of Welsh free land, he states, ‘No deed is to be found of any land of that nature before 27 Henry VIII (1536)’. Such instruments were current in the courts of the Englishry especially in the boroughs and English towns, but since this time, the passing of land by conveyance at the common law was now extended throughout Wales in respect of free land.
The changes of the two preceding centuries, both in English and in Welsh methods of landholding in Wales, tended towards uniformity based on English legal principles and processes. The legal forms in which they were cast would naturally influence their development during the century that was to follow, reducing to a common mould what had hitherto been varied in type and by the emphasis on written form and on individual right, the last traces of tribal holding were slowly obliterated. Not that the written instruments or legal fictions—livery and seisin, fine and recovery, deed and release, indenture and atturnment—which reflected the various processes in a feudal age, could remain fixed for all time in face of the general relaxation of feudal hold and the extension of the power of the State and its courts over Wales during the sixteenth century, and George Owen refers to the discontinuance of certain practices in conveyancing which had fallen into disuse even by his own day.
The effects of the various changes as seen in the Welsh lordships of the Duchy within less than a century after the Union are clearly reflected in these Surveys, and the most cursory examination of the evidence will reveal the contrast which persisted between the communities as represented in the manors of Monmouth and Caldicot in south-east Wales and those of west Wales. In all the lordships the castles had fallen into decay, and with them had gone much of the power of the lords. The courts leet and courts baron continued to function, but they wielded but a shadow of their former power which had passed to the courts of the Crown, and on the site of the ruined castle at Monmouth had been built the Great Hall for the King’s Justices of Assize. In each lordship, trade, as in the past, was still reserved to the burgesses acting through their gilds, supplemented by street trading during the time of the weekly market and the annual fair, the town continuing to be administered under its charter. Monmouth, indeed, provides us with the best example of a borough of the Duchy in Wales, and, at the time of the Act of Union, it was accorded the status of the shire town of the new Monmouthshire. The Survey enumerates the holders of the burgages and describes in the greatest detail the layout of the streets, the information corroborating that provided by the contemporary plan of the town by John Speed. Within the borough, justice was administered by the Mayor and his two bailiffs in the weekly court of the town, and they further served as Justices for the Commission of the Peace.
In the neighbouring lordships of the Three Castles, the three former boroughs of medieval days had almost entirely lost their burghal status, though Grosmont, with its two markets weekly (on Mondays and Fridays) and its three fairs annually, continued as the market town for the three lordships; but the right to levy the tolls and collect the small payments of pickage and stallage for licence to set up stalls in the streets during the fair had been leased at the time of the Survey for thirty-one years for the annual payment of 15s. At Skenfrith and at White Castle (Llantilio Crosenny) all trade had ceased, though in all three centres a few burgages still survived scattered among the freeholdings, returning the old-established rent of one shilling each a year. On one such burgage plot at Skenfrith had been erected a house and a barn and to it had become attached 30 acres of land, the whole constituting a single holding in the village. By the Act of Union the Crown had been given the right to suppress boroughs where this was deemed expedient, but it would seem from the survival of burgage tenure in each of these centres that they still retained something of their status, though the trade had come to be concentrated at Grosmont and especially at Monmouth. It is difficult to explain why lords of Caldicot never exercised their prerogative to create a borough at Caldicot, situated as it was near the Severn ferries and adjacent to the main highway through south Wales. In this lordship alone among the lordships of the March do we find no trace of a borough during the Middle Ages.
In west Wales the only boroughs of the Duchy are those of Kidwelly, for the lordship of Kidwelly, and of LIanelly for the lordship of Carnwallon. The trade of the entire region tended to be concentrated more and more at Kidwelly, while Llanelly remained but a shadow borough with no special class of burgesses, though a weekly market and an annual fair (on 19 September) continued to be held for the collection of the tolls. The entire revenue of the town was now farmed for the small sum of £10 11s. 4d. The boundaries of the borough coincided with the Englishry of the lordship, and the fifty-eight freeholders who occupied the area alone represented the Englishry of this predominantly Welsh lordship.
Kidwelly, on the contrary, retained its full status as a borough, administered by the burgesses through its mayor and aldermen, the burgesses being still held liable for their various services, including military service at their own expense for one day upon summons in defence of the borough and lordship. The Survey gives a complete picture of the borough in the early seventeenth century. It was relatively small and, though two weekly markets were held and three fairs annually, the trade of the town had much decayed during the sixteenth century, partly as a result of the silting of the port with sand. The depressed conditions are reflected in empty burgages and plots, derelict sites and decayed rents, so that the total fee-farm rent of the borough had, by the consent of the court of the Duchy, been reduced almost to a half of the former amount. Only about 164 tenants remained in occupation, interspersed with the numerous cottagers who shared with the burgesses in the rights of common within the liberties. One burgage site in the town contained a decayed barn or sheephouse and another contained the racks of a dyer.
While, in general, the burgages were still held by their owner occupiers, we see indications of the accumulation of several burgages in single hands. In Kidwelly the one outstanding instance of such enterprise is the accumulated holding of Aubrey Bevans, who had acquired possession of thirty-two burgages as well as other property, possibly as a result of the depressed conditions in the town. Certain of the burgages were retained in his own hands doubtless for business purposes, but the majority were let to sub-tenants, though whether at an increased rent we have no means of knowing.
At Kidwelly there appears to have been no political motive in this accumulation of holdings in single hands as was the case at Monmouth, though the town does appear to have shared in the right of election of the borough member of the shire down to the election of 1604.8 At Monmouth the process of accumulating burgages in a few hands had been carried to great lengths, doubtless since the time when the Act of Union of 1536 vested the right of electing the borough member for Monmouthshire in the burgesses of Monmouth as the county town. Because of this privileged position enjoyed by Monmouth, the other boroughs of the shire—Abergavenny, Usk, Chepstow, Caerleon, and Newport—refused to subscribe to the expenses of the borough member as they were required to do under the Act. The matter was brought to a head in 1539, when the borough member, Edmund Knyllyn, a burgess of Monmouth, sued in Chancery the other boroughs for arrears of expenses. All burgage tenants at Monmouth, presumably burgesses holding by burgage tenure, had the right to vote at the election of the borough member. The burgages at the time of the Survey numbered some 266, but only about 24 seem to have been held by their owner occupiers. The majority of the holders were tenants of other burgesses,9 certain of whom were members of important landowning families in the neighbourhood who had acquired considerable property in the town, sometimes in blocks of adjoining houses. They were thus in a position to participate in the borough election and doubtless to bring considerable pressure to bear upon their tenant burgesses. The list of holders in the survey makes significant reading. Henry, Lord Herbert, held 16 burgages; the heirs of Henry Herbert, esquire, of Wonastow held 27; Sir Charles Somerset 9½; the heirs of William Gwillim 10; the heirs of William Powell of Llansoy 5¼; the heirs of Cecill 7½; Moore Waters 15; Hugh Mason, junior, 8; the heirs of Moore Gwillim 12¾; Thomas Ravenscroft 7½; Nicholas Arnold 8; Edward Bell 7. Some of these we may assume to be successful burgesses of the town, but others were among those who exercised considerable influence in the county constituencies.
We are told nothing of the trading arrangements of the borough nor of the working of the various crafts, nor, indeed, of the extent to which the guild system had survived. The profit from the rents and from the tolls on trade, including the tolls on all goods exposed for sale at the market and the fairs, also the profits of justice, passed into the town coffer to make up the farm rent of £27 paid annually to the lord by the borough officers. The toll on grain sold in the market, generally known as the quillage, and measured by the brazen toll dish of the town, was farmed separately for the sum of 8s. annually.
The distinction which had in earlier centuries had been so clearly marked between the borough of Monmouth and the manor seems by the seventeenth century somewhat blurred. The boundaries between the two were less sharply defined and the rents of many of the plots of both free and customary land lying within the town precincts, not forming part of the burgages, appear to have been paid into the manorial accounts. The separate contributions of both manor and borough were well known to the officials and they are clearly distinguishable, and while the burgesses voted in the election for the borough member to the Parliament, the non-burgesses, both free and customary, who were qualified to vote, voted for the two county members for the shire. It is in the manor of the Duchy, however, that the centuries preceding the Surveys brought the most revolutionary change, and especially was this the case in the more advanced manors, Monmouth and Caldicot. By the early seventeenth century the demesnes at Monmouth are hardly traceable amongst the numerous holdings of the customary tenants in the open fields, though certain of the functions of the lord of the manor, the right to hold the courts within the lordship and receive the perquisites of the same, also to hold the office of Escheator and Coroner in all the Duchy lands within the county of Monmouth, were being exercised by Sir Charles Somerset for a term of twenty-one years in consideration of a payment of £15 annually. The active participation of the lord in the cultivation of the arable land long ceased and the agricultural services of the customary tenants had been converted into money rents. While certain of their legal obligations still survived, they were freed from their burdensome weekworks and boons and from other restrictions associated with their bond status. They were also protected by the custom of the manor in the tenure of their customary holdings provided there had been no break in the succession and they had continued to hold the same by inheritance. On the occasion of some change in the basis of tenancy of a customary holding, whether by alienation or other circumstance, protection would rest upon the decision of the manorial court as recorded by the copy of the roll of the court, i.e. by copyhold. The practice of inducing a tenant to accept a lease of his tenement at fixed terms for a number of years or for the duration of three lives by copyhold is common, an arrangement which automatically brought the family right in the holding to a close at the end of the period in question. The Survey does not appear to record any instances of the conversion of customary tenants into rent-paying tenants at will or gavolmen with only a limited tenant right in their holding, a feature noted in certain other parts of Wales. Many tenements had in the course of time been surrendered to the lord because of failure in the succession or in the discharge of obligations, and thus they would be forfeit, to be merged with the demesne or let at a rent, or be retained as a holding intact on the same terms as formerly with the obligations devolving upon the new tenant. At Monmouth the retention of such holdings intact was very much in evidence, and we note the persistence of numerous copyhold tenements differing in size, held by the custom of the manor and at a prescribed rent in lieu of service, the tenants owing suit at the courts baron and courts leet and rendering to the lord at death or on the surrender of the entire holding a single heriot in the form of the second-best beast or double the rent. Many of the tenements were still held by right of inheritance and others by purchase or by marriage with the widow of a previous holder, though it was the rule at Monmouth that a tenement held by right of the wife could only be held during the lifetime of the wife unless there was lawful issue of the marriage. No labour services now attached to the holdings, nor was the stigma of bondage associated with the same, as is evidenced from the fact that persons of rank, gentlemen, esquires, and burgesses, are found holding customary tenements many of which were let on a sub-tenancy. Certain of the holdings at Monmouth persisted in their original form as scattered strips in the open fields—Leviatts field, Williams field, and Castle field. The tendency to accumulate plots and entire tenements, whether isolated or adjoining, is here most noticeable characteristic of such a larger grouping is that of Charles Coxe who had inherited from his father too acres of arable and pasture, to acres of meadow and 45 acres of woodland at Rockfield, while the farmstead of Ruthlin in the same hamlet amounted to 20 acres of copyhold land. This, at the time of the Survey, was held by a widow, and on her death the holding was to be divided among her six sons. Joint holding of this type was a common feature in the more outlying hamlets of the manor.
While changes in the demesne and the customary lands formed the main pivot round which the agricultural revolution of the later Middle Ages was to turn, parallel developments were taking place in the free lands of the manors, leading to the creation of large compact holdings built up by inheritance or marriage or acquired by indenture and lease. The process is well exemplified within the manor of Monmouth and helps us to understand the basis upon which the new middle class and the lesser gentry were to rise to wealth and power especially during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A class of freemen, generally limited in numbers, holders of a few or many acres, had usually been present among the tenantry of the manor in medieval days, their holdings fringing the open-field arrangement but not an essential part of it. The break-up of the manor as a unit facilitated the rise of freeholdings in the open-field or from vacant plots or even from the assorted land cleared from the waste. These were usually leased at a single rent or ‘farm’. After the Reformation, confiscated religious land also went to swell these acres.
The tendency towards fixity of rents for land, and especially the widespread practice of leasing for terms of years, proved, for those who could take advantage of the opportunities, a good speculation during inflationary times, and doubtless this element of security during a period of economic instability was a main factor in the building up of the wealth of the class of freemen. The rapid rise in the price of both corn and stock during the sixteenth century, though in itself a reflection of the very real inflationary tendencies in almost all commodities at this time, proved for the class of producers a great incentive for acquiring larger holdings, especially in view of the ever-widening market and the availability of a labour force for hire. This measure of prosperity may well explain the great activity in domestic building during the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, when well-designed houses in stone replaced the earlier and more primitive structures in wood, wattle, and thatch.10 Of the larger holdings in the lordship of Monmouth, Hadnock, held by copyhold by the widow of Charles Herbert at a rent of 38s., contained 200 acres of arable, and Trevor, held by John James of St. Maughans, contained 250 acres. At Llangattock, William James held 200 acres. Many of these holdings included both free and customary land, as in the case of Wonastow where the two daughters of Henry Herbert held property amounting to 600 acres of arable, 200 acres of pasture, 100 acres of meadow, and 60 acres of woodland, but so intermingled was the free and the customary land that the jurors giving evidence at the court of Survey were unable to differentiate between them. The lands in the manor acquired by indenture and lease are listed on pages 64—68. These were assessed at a true economic rent and, therefore, stand in marked contrast with all forms of customary holding.
Of the manors in the lordships of the Three Castles, we learn that the demesnes at the time of the Survey were leased for a term of years as a single large farm to a certain William Walter, at the rent of £13. The same person also held by indenture the greater part of the demesnes of Skenfrith, also the manor-house at Norton as well as other holdings, including St. Noyes, while the demesnes at Trevonny and Tonllwyd were being rented by a certain John Morgan. The demesnes at White Castle were ‘farmed’ for the sum of £9 by Edward, Earl of Worcester. In all three lordships, therefore, the demesnes had been disposed of in large units and the remaining lands were held almost entirely by free tenants holding tenements from but a few acres to as many as 50 or 100 acres. The farm at Penbiddle, though paying a small rent, contained 200 acres of arable, 40 acres of meadow, and 60 acres of wood, and similar large farms were to be found at Campston and Llantroy, but in general the freeholdings were small, yielding rents ranging from about 2s. to 10s. a year. The comparative absence of customary tenure is characteristic of all three lord-ships and reflects the persistence here of a strong Welsh element in the community. By the time of the Survey only about eight customary holders are to be found at Grosmont and two at White Castle, while at Skenfrith customary hold had completely vanished.
While in the Three Castles the manorial arrangements had largely faded into a background of free tenure, at Caldicot the main features of the manor are still clearly discernible, despite the fact that the manorial rights both at Caldicot and in its detached Welshry at Shire Newton were farmed to Edward, Earl of Worcester, at an inclusive rental of £52. 13s. 4d. During the Middle Ages, Caldicot had been one of the most completely Anglicised of the manors in Wales, with a large villein population and with extensive demesnes extending as far as the hamlet of Crick and to Caerwent. By the seventeenth century the court was still being held in the open air at the village cross and the great preponderance of the customary tenants in the manor was still very marked. The open fields of the manor, too, are clearly preserved under their former names, the Lower Field, the Lower South Field, the North Field, the Upfield (or Church Field), and the West Field, and many of the customary holdings were made up of scattered plots in these open fields. Such a holding was that of Thomas Holester, who held a cottage of which 3 acres lay in Upfield, 3 acres in one inclosure or croft near Upfield, 4 acres in North Field, 1 acre at Cleves in an inclosure there, 2 acres under Sharphill in an inclosure, 1 acre in South Field, 1½ acres in Lower South Field, while ½ acre of meadow lay in Wellmor, 1 acre of meadow in Wellrineke, and 3½ acres of meadow lay inclosed at Caerwent bridge. For this he paid a rent of 15s. 9d. The holding was held by copy of the court roll dated 1597 during the life of the grandfather of the present tenant. As in the case of the manor of Monmouth, the various customary lands were held in individual holdings and were not merged in the demesne. These, supplemented by plots of pasture and of meadow, possibly those originally attaching to the holding, were now entered in the court roll as a single tenement. Here, as at Monmouth, we see included not only hereditary holders, but also free and customary tenants who had taken up such holdings by copy of the court, including members of the class of gentry. The payment of heriot, the best ox or 5s., was still enforced at death, but at Caldicot the free tenant was not liable for this due. Instead the new tenant paid relief, to the extent of twice the rent, on entry into possession. All tenants participated in the right of common within the manor and could obtain from their common of Earlswood in Shire Newton the timber necessary for building houses, for making ploughs, or constructing fences. The customary tenant enjoyed security in his holding, though the rights of a female tenant lapsed at death. A tenant was free to lease his tenement from five years to five years up to a limit of sixty years, the land being surrendered through the court on payment of the accustomed fine.
While at Monmouth the customary tenement on the death of the father was divided equally among the sons, at Caldicot the custom of ‘junior right’ prevailed, the youngest son succeeding. In default of a son, the daughters shared equally. It was always open to the tenant, however, to pass the tenement to any one of his sons or to any of his daughters. In many of its main outlines, therefore, manorial organization continued at Caldicot, with tenant rights preserved but without demesne cultivation or collective agriculture, the new holdings incorporating their shares in meadow and pasture in severalty within an inclusive holding. The same customs seem also to have extended into the Welshry at Shire Newton, and here again we see persons of high and low degree taking up the customary holdings at rent. Such an example is that of William Blethin, gent., of Shire Newton, who rented the water-mill of Llandegelli with 40 acres of land lying between Troggybrook and the road leading from Shire Newton to Llanfair Discoed, incidentally testifying to the existence of a water-mill at this point near the foot of the nearby Llanmelin Hill.11
In west Wales the manor is but scantily represented, and the hamlet of St. Ishmaels in the Englishry of Kidwelly provides almost the sole example of unfree tenure in the lordship. The entire demesne of the lord at St. Ishmaels, comprising 138 acres. was ‘farmed’ with the right of levying the heriots and the marriage fees or leyrwyts, the whole at the fixed rental of £7. 11s. 0d. a year. The twenty-three customary tenants here were in the administrative charge of the Reaper, the Messor Patrie, who collected their rents, including the sum of 10½d. annually in lieu of ‘ancient service’ on the demesne. They formed a separate community, occupying at the time of the Survey about thirty tenements, each of a few acres, certain of them held jointly by members of the same family and yielding rents of but a few shillings. The tenants still suffered some of the old-time restrictions reminiscent of their former bond status. Each was subject to uncertain fine in the lord’s court and none could surrender his tenement without the leave of the lord, a heriot of the best beast being demanded. It was claimed, however, in the case of copyholds held for three lives that the heriot was not payable after the death of the first life. An heir to a holding could claim the first refusal at the court at I2d. less than any other prospective tenant would give.
Within the adjoining commotes of Carnwallon and Is-cennen, unfree, i.e. customary, tenure was by the seventeenth century a thing of the past and here, as in the Welsh lands generally, the freemen, living in their small farmsteads of a few limited inclosures but enjoying extensive rights of common, made up the main part of the population. While under the Welsh system their rents were fixed on a communal basis in accordance with their contribution to the dues of the commote, the tendency after the final conquest of Wales was for the same dues to be assessed on the holding as a direct rent, thus passing from the person to the land.
In this way the holding would tend to be increasingly identified with a tenure in free socage on the English model, and hardly distinguishable from it, and this in respect of the Kidwelly lands seems to have been made the official interpretation by decree of the Court of Queen’s Bench during the reign of Elizabeth. The commuted rent of earlier dues came to be regarded as the Chief Rent for the holding, often supplemented with lesser rents of a special character. By the time of the Survey, the Chief Rent had come to be assessed on the acreage of the holding, at the rate of 2d. an acre, but, as the surveyor observes, this was a practice of recent origin and the people tended to resist its adoption. In an illuminating passage he adds that throughout the Welshry of Kidwelly, and, indeed, in much of the Englishry of that lordship, the basis of this assessment was the Welsh acre, the acre of the Welsh laws, the Erw Hywel Dda, comprising four cyfars, each cyfar representing a day’s ploughing, an area somewhat smaller in amount than an English acre. From a further entry we gather that the erw was equivalent in this area to two English acres and was the unit of assessment in the Englishry of Kidwelly. Here, therefore, the cyfar contained half an English acre. The cyfar represented the share of the ploughed land due to each member of a plough team, and the Welsh laws laid down the scale of priority in such collective ploughing, viz., the first cyfar or share so ploughed went to the ploughman, the second to the owner of the plough, the third to the owner of the best ox, the fourth to the driver of the oxen, the remainder to the respective owners of the other oxen in the ploughteam. George Owen states that the Welsh of north Pembroke in his day commonly ploughed with two oxen and two horses, i.e. with the small plough team, but the English of south Pembrokeshire ploughed with the larger plough drawn by six oxen or by a full team of horses.
Outside the Englishry or foreignry of Kidwelly, that is throughout the Welsh lands of the commotes of Kidwelly, Carnwallon, and Is-cennen, the number of cyfars comprising the Welsh erw might contain 8, 12, 16, or even 24 cyfars or shares, wherefore the Welsh acre in these areas ranged in size from 4 to 6, 8, or even to 12 English acres. Throughout the commote of Is-cennen the erw was fixed at 6 or 24 cyfars, equivalent to 8 or 12 English acres respectively. It was on the arable as the unit of occupation that the Chief Rent was based rather than on the grazing of the waste. It had come to be attached to the holding and was payable on 2 May and 29 September in each year through the Beadle or Rhingyll of the commote who collected the rents of the freemen. It is difficult, however from the lists of tenants to determine the exact incidence of the Chief Rent, for we find that it was paid only by about one-half of the tenements, and of those, some were held by descent and others by marriage or by purchase.
Supplementary to the Chief Rent was the Great Commorth (Magna Commortha), the payment in lieu of the old-time cattle rent paid by the Welsh communities on May in every third year, commonly termed Commorth Calan Mai. It was paid by certain tenants, possibly in respect of grazing rights, as is sometimes indicated, and in regions where the Chief Rent was not payable, the main contribution of the free communities assumed this form, probably given in lieu of all their former dues commuted in terms of cattle. Only later was this payment of cattle converted into money. In the Welshry of Kidwelly, where the Chief Rent was the generally accepted payment, only certain of the tenants contributed to the Commorth, e.g. the number of tenants in Maynor Iscoed paying Commorth was about 30 per cent. of the total, but the method of recording the rents in the several maenors is not sufficiently uniform for us to obtain precise figures for all parts. The Great Commorth,12 however, as during the Middle Ages, continued to be assessed on the maenors in each commote, and in the case of Maenor Gunnor (Llangunnor), the maenor was still divided into four cow units, each yielding a money equivalent of 6s. 8d., the fixed price of a cow, to which the group of tenants in the unit subscribed. The amount from the entire maenor, therefore, was 26s. 8d., the equivalent of four cows.
In addition to the above, a payment known as the Little Commorth (Parva Commortha) was paid in many instances by those who also paid the Great Commorth, but we find many contributors to the Little Commorth who did not contribute to the Great Commorth. In the list of tenants for Maenor Iscoed all the various contributions are entered separately and in not a few cases we note that the amount of the contribution made by tenants to the Great Commorth is less than that paid by the same tenants to the Little Commorth. The origin of the Little Commorth is not clear, but it is explained in a thirteenth-century inquiry as the payment made by the co-parceners of the chief tenants.13 It did not include the Ceisad, with which it is closely associated in the Survey, as, like the Great Commorth, it was payable only every third year. Nor was it the same as the somewhat obscure rent known as Ced (keade) mentioned among the rents payable annually in the month of May by the freeholders of two of the districts of Carnwallon. This latter was based directly on the holding and amounted for the whole of that commote to the sum of £3. 13s. 4d. The rent paid towards the Great Commorth in all the Duchy lands in west Wales reached a total of £20. 10s. 10¾d.
Interesting among these community rents was the ceisad or keysett rendered in lieu of the maintenance of the Cais or serjeant, who carried out police duties in each maenor14 and who in medieval days had had the right to impose himself on the community during his tenure of the office, i.e., while on cylch or circuit. The money tribute was paid annually on 2 May, and by the seventeenth century it had cone to be levied by the Beadle on all cattle pasturing within the Welshries, whether they belonged to the freeholders there or to their tenants or to strangers. The ceisad payment also survived, under the name of potura satellitum (the food of the satellites), in the sub-lordship of Pembrey in Kidwelly, payable three times a year. From the entire Welshry of Kidwelly the amount levied was £12, viz., at the rate of £3 from each maenor and from the four maenors of the Welshry of Carnwallon£10, viz., £2. 10s. from each maenor. The ceisad does not seem to have been levied from the Commote of Is-cennen, but the two remaining commotes in the Duchy lands in west Wales yielded the sum of £22 from this source. The tenants of Carnwallon also paid towards a small rent of 6s. 8d. known as ‘bourows’ levied at the rate of 20d. from each maenor, possibly in commutation of a service for the carriage of millstones or ‘burrs’ to the local mill. It did not seem to offer exemption from suit of mill in the commote, for the tenants here were held equally with the Welsh of the other two commotes to render suit of mill and other services connected with the mill of the maenor to which they belonged. They were compelled to grind their corn at the local mill and, in the lordship of Kidwelly, they appointed the miller who received as a toll the fourth dishful of the corn ground. Each member of the community was also called upon to assist as a public duty in maintaining the mill in working order, keeping clear the millpond and the mill leat, hauling the timber and millstones for the repair of the mill when necessary, though the lord bore the cost of providing the millstones and the heavy constructional material. These services were also demanded in the Englishry of Kidwelly, every freeholder there being liable to find a man for three hours on one day in May in each year for the repair of the mill-pond, but here the tenant could grind at any of the mills in the Englishry.
In addition to the payment of the aforementioned dues, the Welsh freeholders in time of war, when summoned, were liable for military service in the army of the lordship under the lord’s command. Each household provided a footman at its own expense to defend the lordship for one day from sunrise to sunset within the boundaries of the lordship, but if the army passed beyond the boundaries of the lordship, the service was at the lord’s expense. Here we have a survival of the ancient Welsh system of military service adapted to the needs of the Norman lordship and now retained in the service of the Duchy. Freemen also attended the courts of the commote, the court leet held twice yearly and the court baron held monthly. On the first marriage of the daughter of a freeman a payment of 10s. was made to the lord as a fine or leyrwyte—a survival of the Welsh amobr—but in the case of the daughter of an unfree tenant the sum demanded was 2s. A similar fine was exacted in the case of a child born out of wedlock.
The total revenue yielded by all the Duchy lands in west Wales at the time of the Survey amounted to £216. 16s. 2½d. derived almost entirely from the old community dues. The maintenance of the individual holdings, each assessed on the basis of its contribution to the customary rents, helped to preserve the Welsh social order in its main outlines. The movement towards the creation of larger holdings, noted in south-east Wales, is here hardly apparent, nor do we find much evidence in the Welshries of the introduction of economic rent. Small holdings still predominated in west Wales and, in the absence of capital, agriculture still rested on a subsistence basis. But we can learn little from the pages of the Survey of the economy practised by the Welsh or of the general condition of Welsh agriculture at this time. For this we may turn to the contemporary description provided by George Owen concerning the Welsh lands of north Pembrokeshire, where he speaks of the contrast between the methods of cultivation in south Pembrokeshire and those in the Welsh parts of the shire, also of the influences which tended to militate against improvements in husbandry even where such would have been practicable. Gavelkind, the system of equal division among all the sons of a father, with its joint holding of even small tenements, had in the past checked inclosure, with the result that winter corn could not be grown because it was liable to be overrun by cattle in the growing season. Some improvement in this respect had resulted from the Act of Union which encouraged inclosure by the grouping of plots into larger parcels by exchange or by purchase, so that with the increase of hedging, more winter corn was being sown. Nevertheless, in the upland farms, the growing of oats as a short-term crop still made a strong appeal to the pastoral Welsh. Oats remained an important part of their diet and oaten straw was a valuable fodder enabling them to maintain their cattle over winter. For the growing of oats they adopted the method of folding their animals during the summer, ploughing the field in autumn, and sowing the seed in March. The field would then be sown for several successive years, thus resulting in exhaustion of the soil. Rye and barley, however, were beginning to be grown on specially prepared land, the surface turves being broken up and burnt and the ash ploughed back as a fertilizer. Some improvement, too, was effected by the increasing use of lime and marl, but agriculture made but slow progress in these upland regions for many generations to come.
The efforts of the Welsh farmer were primarily directed to pasturing, and his conduct was still largely governed by the code which had ruled the lives of his ancestors. His needs were few and tillage in itself was not a primary virtue. What food he grew, he grew first for the immediate needs of his family and only secondly for sale. His outlook was still largely non-material, his contacts with the market few, and at the time when the Surveys herein transcribed were being compiled we see him poised between the older peasant order of the past and the new economic society which was arising.
1 The Commission was appointed 27 March 1893. The
Report (Parliamentary Paper (1896), C.8221) was signed 26 August 1896.
2 For a map of the Lordships during the medieval period the reader should consult the "Map of S. Wales and the Border in the 14th Century" S.E. Sheet.
3 See "The Union of England and Wales", reprinted from Trans. Soc. Cymmrodorion, 1937, by Univ. of Wales Press p. 83 (Cardiff, 1848)
4 On the death of Humphrey the king seized the lordship of Cantref Selyf but by inquisition of 4 Rich. II it was declared that Humphrey de Bohun had died seised.
5 E.A. Lewis, "The Decay of Tribalism in North Wales", Transactions Hon. Soc. of Cymmrodorion, 19023. William Rees, "South Wales and the Marches 12841415, a social and Agrarian Survey" (Oxford, 1924); "The Union of England and Wales" (Univ. of Wales Press, parts ii and iii Cardiff, 1948).
6 i.e. "estyn y walen"delivery of the rod.
7 "Cof llysthe memory of the Court.
8 I am indebted for this information to Professor Glyn Roberts (Univ. College, Bangor ).
9 Among the tenants of a burgess was William Jones, esquire, probably the founder of Monmouth School about the time of the Survey. He occupied half a burgage in ...
10 See Sir Cyril Fox and Lord Raglan, "Monmouthshire Houses", Part I, "Medieval Houses", National Museum of Wales (Welsh Folk Museum) Publication (Cardiff, 1951).
11 Llanmelin, with its Iron Age fort, probably derives its name from this mill. The entry in the text (p. 167) confirms a view formerly expressed, based on other references to this site.
12 For a discussion of this subject see "South Wales and the Marches, 12841415", pp. 2302 (Oxford, 1924).
13 See "South Wales and the Marches" p. 232.
14 For a description of this office, see "South Wales and the Marches" p. 103.
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