State Papers Domestic: Introduction

Pages 343-346

Cardiff Records: Volume 1. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1898.

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State Papers, Domestic.

State Papers are perhaps the most directly interesting records in the custody of the Master of the Rolls. They consist of letters, reports and memoranda relating to a large variety of subjects, which from the reign of Henry VII. to that of George III. have been laid before the sovereign's Prime Minister or Secretary of State, for the information of the Government. The interest of these documents is enhanced by the fact that they were more or less secret or confidential communications, and have only in recent years been made accessible to the public. The papers are conveniently bound up together in volumes in chronological order.

The earliest of the series which relates particularly to Cardiff is to be found under the year 1565, circa. It is a memorandum, neither dated nor signed, summarizing certain articles objected against the Earl of Pembroke, who, it was alleged (under his grant of the Lordship of Cardiff Castle and certain other lordships in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire), was usurping the powers and privileges of the sovereign's Lordship of Glamorgan and Morganwg. This document is evidently part of the series comprised in the Margam Abbey muniments, which will be dealt with later in this work.

In 1576 and 1577 we have an interesting lot of papers relating to the pirates for whom Cardiff was notorious all through the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. The second paper of the series begins with a letter from Fabian Phillips to the Secretary of State. Phillips was the senior Commissioner appointed for investing and suppressing piracy in South Wales, and the letter contains his first report on the subject. It is ludicrously verbose, and I have cut it down considerably. The letter contains a hint that a confession might be extracted from the prisoners by torture, and ends by intimating that certain prominent officials at Cardiff were in league with the pirates. The enquiry was partly conducted before the Council of the Marches of Wales, at Ludlow.

Under the date of 1579 occurs a letter relating to the repair and maintenance of Cardiff bridge. It is signed by the second Earl of Pembroke at Remsbury, his seat in Wiltshire.

The document dated 30 May 1598 is an application by Edward Jurden for the post of Comptroller of the Port of Cardiff, vacant on the dismissal of John Millon, who had been fined, imprisoned and pilloried for participation in certain riots, by sentence of the Star Chamber. In the margin is a note signed by William, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth's Secretary of State.

Dated 5 April 1602 is a curious paper relating to a branch of the iron industry near Cardiff. The Government fear that Edmond Mathew (of Radyr), esquire, one of the principal ironfounders, is selling cannon to the King of Spain. The Privy Council therefore order that masters of iron furnaces shall bind themselves not to cast ordnance.

In 1609 we have an account presented to the Government by Edward Jordan, the above-mentioned Comptroller of Customs at Cardiff, for expenses by him incurred in resisting the claim of the Dowager Countess of Pembroke to certain Barbary hides seized in this port. Jordan suffered seriously in his contest with the Castle, for the Countess ordered or procured his incarceration in the Town Prison. It appears that she claimed the hides as an escheat incident to the Lordship of Cardiff Castle. Her son William, third Earl of Pembroke, was at that time an infant.

The letter from the Glamorganshire justices to the Privy Council, dated 29 July 1626, is an illustration of the difficulties attending King Charles the First's equipment of his navy. His Majesty had called upon this county to furnish a thirty ton barque or pinnace, with her crew and provisions. The magistrates report that not even Cardiff, the chief port, could supply a vessel of such burden; as the only five ships which came up to that standard, belonging to the Port of Cardiff, had been captured by Turkish pirates, to the great impoverishment of the town. The justices, however, loyally protest their willingness to comply with the King's demand, had it been possible to do so.

Under date 31 December 1635 occurs a Memorandum concerning a pass to foreign parts, applied for by Mr. Mathew of Llandaff, and Mr. Prichard of Llancaiach. The Earl of Salisbury allowed them to travel abroad for three years; but they were not to go to Rome—probably because Mr. Mathew was suspected of Catholic sympathies.

The reader should not fail to notice the petition, dated 7 April 1661, of the Cardiff Corporation to King Charles the Second, praying the suppression of Caerphilly fair, which they regarded as prejudicial to the interests of Cardiff. The King refers the matter to the Attorney General, who suggests the issuing of a writ of Quo warranto against the fair at Caerphilly, as an usurped franchise. Caerphilly is more than five English miles from Cardiff; so that either the three miles mentioned in the petition are Welsh miles, or Caerphilly fair was held at a spot somewhere on the Cefn range of hills.

The document of 1666 shows that the military authorities were alive to the necessity of sending a Welshman to recruit in the Principality, and that the Government was kept constantly informed of every event of the slightest importance happening at Cardiff.