Church goods of Llandaff cathedral and diocese (1558): Introduction

Pages 369-371

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

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Church Goods of Llandaff Cathedral and Diocese.

RECORDS of the Land Revenue at the State Paper Office supply a very interesting series of documents of about the year 1558, relating to the doings of the Reformers at Llandaff and in the neighbourhood. From these papers we learn how the Canons Residentiary, on hearing that King Henry VIII. had appropriated objects of intrinsic value in divers cathedrals and churches throughout the land, broke up and distributed among themselves the gold, jewels and other valuables which had been accumulated during so many centuries in Llandaff cathedral.

They stripped from the shrines of Saints Dyfrig, Teilo and Docheu the costly adornments wherewith generations of benefactors had encased the memorials of the three great bishops (especially that of Saint Teilo), and removed the crucifixes, images, pyxes, candlesticks, censers, &c. When these had been divided among them, they took away the vestments of the clergy and the coverings of the altars, and even went so far as to pull up the paving-stones to sell for what they would fetch. So far all went smoothly enough. But at length the Protestant Bishop, Robert Holgate, heard of what was being done (he did not reside at Llandaff, and rarely came there), and he informed Thomas Cromwell, the veteran soldier whom the King had appointed Vicar General to manage the ecclesiastical affairs of the realm. Cromwell ordered the Chancellor of the diocese, John Broxholme, to claim the stuff from the Canons Residentiary on behalf of the King. The Canons thereupon produced some silver plate, and pretended it was all they had. Broxholme suspected that they had hidden the remainder, but he gave them a receipt and took the plate to London to the Bishop, who sold it to a goldsmith in Cheapside and kept the proceeds. Broxholme was afterwards told that Henry Morgan, one of the Canons, had delivered the rest of the plate to Cromwell, to the use of the King. A quarrel happening to arise afterwards, between Morgan and the Bishop, Morgan informed Cromwell of the Bishop's share in the plunder, but no notice was taken of his complaint. Holgate, indeed, was soon afterwards made Archbishop of York. When Catholicism was restored on the accession of Mary Tudor, a petition was sent to the Queen by the inhabitants of Glamorgan, complaining of the spoliation and desecration of their cathedral, and praying that the offenders might be compelled to make restitution. The Grand Jury of the Hundred of Cardiff presented a detailed statement of the damage done, from which it appears that Henry Morgan himself had a part of the spoil. Accordingly the Queen appointed a Commission to enquire into the facts, whose finding is fully set out with the other documents in the case. Whatever was then done in the way of reparation at Llandaff was but temporary, for the final triumph of the Reformation under Elizabeth was followed by the almost total destruction of the cathedral fabric.

This lay a roofless ruin, until the revival of artistic sentiment led to its admirable restoration in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Note.—The record concerning Llandaff Cathedral was printed in the Archæologia Cambrensis, 1887, p. 225, by Mr. R. W. Griffith. Though his transcript was well done, a few errors crept in, which are here corrected from the originals. I have added a copy of the particulars as to objects carried off from the churches of various parishes in and near Cardiff, as set forth in the same roll.

The various ecclesiological terms made use of in these documents will be fully explained in the Glossary near the end of the last volume of this series.