Records of the Exchequer: Introduction

Pages 387-392

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

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Records of the Exchequer.

This class of records I have found it most convenient to arrange under one general title, though they might have been further classified under the heads of King's Remembrancer Memoranda Rolls, Exchequer Depositions by Commission, Exchequer Special Commissions, and Plea Rolls. Though originally confined to matters affecting the Royal finances, the now obsolete Court of Exchequer formed one of the Courts of Common Law, and had cognisance of all causes save actions in respect of real property. The rolls are legibly written in abbreviated Law Latin, and are many of them of enormous length and consequent bulk. The depositions are in English, in the difficult "secretary" hand. For purposes of local history these records are of the utmost importance.

The first is a Queen's Remembrancer's Roll of 1571, and records an action brought against the second Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Cardiff Castle and its dependencies, for alleged intrusion upon certain prerogatives appertaining to the Royal honour, seigniory and Lordship of Glamorgan and Morganwg. It was complained that the Earl had unlawfully appropriated the Shire Hall of Cardiff, a mise or tax of a thousand marks payable at the death of every successive sovereign of the realm, the ward silver of Glamorgan, and other royalties due to the Queen as Lady Marcher. This was the first trial of the question, how far did the Lords of Cardiff Castle succeed to the powers of the Lords Marcher of Glamorgan? It is probable that the issue was raised by the law officers of the Crown at the instance of the person who drew up the papers I have selected from the Margam Abbey muniments (see post) and the Domestic State Paper of circa 1565 (ante). It was contended on behalf of the Plaintiff that the Shire Hall of Cardiff, the place where anciently the Lord's Sheriff of Glamorgan and Morganwg, and later the Sovereign's Sheriff of Glamorganshire and the Judges of the South Wales Circuit, held their Courts of Justice, was of right the Queen's fee; and that the other hereditaments specified in the Writ, such as the mises and ward silver, must also belong to her Highness. The mises were paid by every householder in Glamorgan and Morganwg at the death of the Prince, and it was alleged that this tax could not be claimed by the Earl of Pembroke on the strength of his title as Lord of Cardiff Castle etc. So with regard to the ward silver, the Plaintiff considered it was due to the Queen, in that it was payable towards the maintenance of a castle whereof the Earl (though owner of the fee simple) was yet Constable for the sovereign. The other feudal incidents, the Earl's claim whereto was thus disputed, are most of them obsolete at the present day; but it is interesting to note that they comprised mines, and, by implication, coal mines—for, though coal is not specified by the complaint, this is only because its value was then unknown. Foreshore rights must also be understood to have been involved in this question as to the prerogatives of the Lord of Cardiff Castle, by the nature of the case. Lord Pembroke replied by appealing to the Royal grant of 1551, which, he contended, either explicitly or implicitly conferred upon his father all the hereditaments in dispute.

The Special Commission of 1573 makes inquisition concerning the property of Edward Vaughan, of Llandoch-super-Eley; who being guilty of the murder of one Philip Robin, had fled the country as an outlaw, leaving his property to be escheated for the felony.

In 1584 we have the sworn Depositions of witnesses examined before a Commission of the Exchequer, respecting what were termed "concealed lands"—i.e., tenements which, before the Reformation and the suppression of religious foundations, were charged with annual payments to some religious object. All such annuities were now forfeited to the Crown, and the holders of many tenements so charged had concealed the fact of their being liable for those payments, in the hope that it would be forgotten in the religious changes of the time. Commissions were therefore issued out of the Exchequer to examine into such cases and report to the Crown. The house mentioned in the deposition of Alderman Froud was called the Town House and stood on the south side of the Guildhall, in the middle of High Street, at its junction with St. Mary Street, Church Street and Quay Street. The building figures in Speed's map, 1610. It was charged with the yearly payment of 2s. 11d., to maintain a taper burning before some image, picture or shrine in one of the churches or chapels of Cardiff—probably St. John's, the Corporation church. This money charge had been concealed ever since the year 1542.

I have placed together four Exchequer Commissions relating to the customs of the port of Cardiff, dated 1573, 1584, 1585, and 1636. They show that such goods as butter, leather, corn, tallow or coal were not permitted to be shipped from Cardiff to an English port, except " by cocket and warrant" which bound the shipper, under a penalty, not to transport the same goods to foreign countries.

The Depositions of 1586 comprise a statement of the landed property of Sir William Herbert, Knight, in and around Cardiff. He owned (besides lands in other parts of Wales) the manors of Kibbor, Roath-Tewkesbury, the Friars, Llandough, and Cogan, with the mansion of Cogan Pill; also several burgages in the town of Cardiff, and the chapel of Roath; which last, it appears from this document, was sold by the Crown, at the Suppression, together with its tithes and revenues.

The record from the Plea Roll of 1604 is so important that I have deemed it necessary to set it out almost in full. William, third Earl of Pembroke (an infant), brought an action against Morgan Williams for words uttered in derogation of the Earl's title to the town of Cardiff. The words complained of were these:—"The town of Cardiff is the Queen's town, and not the Earl's nor Countess' of Pembroke; and neither of them has any right unto the town, but only the Queen. And neither my Lord nor my Lady of Pembroke is Lord or Lady of the Town and Castle of Cardiff, but only Constable of the Castle. And neither of them has any right to keep any Court there, for that the Earl and Countess have but one tenant in all the same town, and that all the rest of the tenants are the Queen's tenants; and that the burgage rents of the same town are not my Lord's nor my Lady's, but the Queen's." The Earl appealed to the Royal grant of 1551 as proof that the above statements were false, but the Defendant denied that such grant disproved them. The finding of the jury and the ruling of the judges appear to amount to this:—The Earl is Constable of the Castle of Cardiff, and not Lord thereof. He has no right to hold a Court within the town. The Earl is Lord of the Town of Cardiff. These apparently contradictory findings are all the less satisfactory from the fact that they are partly grounded on technicalities of legal procedure, and not wholly upon the merits of the matter in question. The judgment, in fact, left the long dispute between the Lord and the Burgesses pretty much where it was—as other judicial pronouncements have done, before and since.

In 1609 we have Depositions relative to the riotous behaviour of the men of Rumney, which end by stating that that neighbourhood suffered from absentee landlords.

Under the year 1611 occurs record of a suit in the Exchequer about the customs on wine at the "Port Town of Cardiff."

Depositions in an action respecting the tithes of Penarth will be found under date 1635. Disputes between parson and parishioners, on this subject, were very common all over the country at this period.

The Special Commission of 1638 was appointed to enquire as to the situation and extent of marshes and wastes in South Wales. I have extracted the portion which relates to the neighbourhood of Cardiff.

The Depositions of 1639 are a late instance of an inquisition as to concealed chantry-lands, namely, a house in St. John Street (now Church Street) and another in St. Mary Street.

In the document of 1641 occurs the earliest mention I have yet found of the name of a Town Clerk of Cardiff, Thomas Davies. There can be no doubt, however, that the office is of equal antiquity with those of the other chief officers of the Borough.

The Depositions of the year 1649 have reference to an action wherein one John Williams sued the fourth Earl of Pembroke for a house, a mill and the value of certain goods, which the Earl claimed as an escheat due to him on the Plaintiff's conviction for felony. Williams was the miller of Llystalybont, one of the Earl's manors.

In the same year 1649 we have some interesting Depositions in an action brought by the Dowager Countess of Pembroke (during the infancy of Philip, fifth Earl) against certain persons for withdrawing suit of mill from the Town Mills under the Castle. This document shews the popular revolt against one of the most oppressive incidents of feudalism which in this very year was to fall suddenly and for ever. The Defendants alleged that the Lord's mills were out of repair, and that the Countess had defrauded them with false measures; but it appears that some persons had wilfully damaged the machinery of the mills, and it is probable the difference between Lady Pembroke's toll-dish and that of the Bailiffs was owing to the latter having provided themselves with measures of a new pattern.

The tithes and Tithe Barn of Cardiff form the subject of the Depositions dated 1659. Cardiff Tithe Barn was situate in Wharton Street, and was probably identical with the messuage known before the Dissolution as the Prior's Grange.

The Depositions of 1673 supply particulars as to the customs of the Manor of Llystalybont, at that time still one of the most important lordships in the Cardiff district.

For the year 1695 we have some curious information respecting the treatment of persons confined in the Debtors' Prison at Cardiff. This, which was a department of the Town Gaol, stood in High Street as late as the first half of the nineteenth century. The document before us shews the imprisoned debtors were so loosely guarded, that it is no wonder they often escaped, as did other prisoners confined in the same gaol.

In 1669 occur Depositions relative to the little Manor of Beganston, near Leckwith, which belonged to Jesus College, Oxford. They throw some light upon the history of the tithes of Llandaff.

The Depositions of 1719 (Mich. 29) mention a spot called "Carreg Picka." Careg Pica, in English the Pye Rock, was the ancient name of the high ground in the south-eastern angle of the outer walls of Cardiff Castle, behind the Glove and Shears inn at the corner of Duke Street and North Road.

In the Depositions of 1726 occurs an interesting allusion to the sending of goods from Cardiff to London (via Gloucester) by the Monmouth carrier. About the middle of that century the practice was given up, as it was found more expeditious to forward things to the metropolis by the Bristol packet.