Patent Rolls: Introduction

Pages 444-449

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

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Patent Rolls.

Counterparts of Royal Letters Patent granting lands, titles, offices or emoluments to a subject, are termed Patent Rolls. They are bulky rolls of parchment, each consisting of about a score of membranes tacked lengthways one on to another.

The Patent of 1488 is the instrument whereby the Lordship of Glamorgan and Morganwg was conferred upon the King's uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford; at whose death without issue, the same reverted to the Crown.

That of 1530 is King Henry the Eighth's demise to Thomas Lichefeld' of the grange of Leckwith, and the Castle Mills at Cardiff, for twenty one years at a yearly rent. Lichefeld was one of the principal merchants of Cardiff; he owned considerable house property in the town, and was chosen Bailiff more than once.

The grant to James Gunter, in 1546, comprises the lately confiscated possessions of the Dominican and Franciscan Convents at Cardiff, known as the Black and Grey Friars, or Friars Preachers and Friars Minors, respectively. The house of the Dominicans was situate west of the Castle, near the eastern bank of the Taff; that of the Franciscans was at Crockherbtown, close to the grounds now called Cathays Park. The lands of these two Orders had been in their possession for centuries, having been given to them by the Lords of Glamorgan in ancient times. They constituted, it appears, two several manors, the Priory being in each case the capital mansion house, with "demesne and other lands in the town of Cardiff." On their suppression, ten years earlier, the Black Friars' premises had been leased to Thomas Lichefeld for 21 years, and those of the Grey Friars to John White for the like term. The properties were therefore sold to James Gunter subject to those leases. Edward Gostwyk, the King's Auditor, appends his note in English, to the effect that he is aware of no reason why the premises, as set forth in the Particulars on behalf of the intending purchaser, should not be granted.

In the same year 1546, Particulars were drawn up for a grant to James Gunter and William Lewis of parcel of the possessions of Margam Abbey, "suppressed by authority of Parliament." These Particulars contain some interesting details as to the property of that Cistercian monastery, in and around Cardiff but chiefly in the lordship of Roath. The Abbey had an independent manor there under the title "Manor of Cardiff and Roath," with freehold and customary tenants, manorial services, heriots and other incidents of feudal tenure, and a Bailiff. The monks had the appointment of the curate of Roath, and made him a yearly allowance.

Again in 1546, we have particulars for a grant to Sir Thomas Hennage, of the Manor of Kibbor and Cardiff, being other part of the late possessions of Margam Abbey in the lordship of Roath. It is a curious point, that an annual rent of twenty shillings was claimed as payable to this manor from Sir George Herbert, in respect of lands at Dinas Powys.

Under date 1547 I have placed a grant which, though only remotely concerning Cardiff, is important as being an early gift from the King to Sir William Herbert of lands in South Wales—a foretaste of the greater favours to come.

We now come to a most important grant, that of the Lordship of Cardiff Castle and its dependencies, applied for to the Crown by Sir William Herbert, knight, in his Particulars dated 10 April 1551. Sir William was an illegitimate scion of an ancient South Wales family and, having from the first supported the Reformation, was now in a fair way to attain honours, wealth and power as the reward of his services to the winning cause. The Particulars comprise lands and hereditaments in several Welsh and English counties; but though this grant included the Lordship of Cardiff Castle and its dependencies, together with a large portion of the South Wales possessions of the late Jasper Tudor, it is to be noted that it did not purport to be a concession of the Lordship of Glamorgan and Morganwg vested in the Crown on Jasper's death. This can be seen from the fact that neither the Patent nor the Particulars make any mention of the ancient Lordship. Nor have the Lords of Cardiff Castle since 1551 ever termed themselves or claimed to be Lords of Glamorgan and Morganwg. We are now touching on a question which has exercised the ingenuity of lawyers for nearly 350 years, and which yet seems as far as ever from being settled—the question, namely, to what extent Sir William Herbert's successors in title, since the Crown grant of 1551, have succeeded to the ancient overlordship of the De Clares and Despensers, especially with regard to the Borough of Cardiff. This is a difficulty which, fortunately, I need not grapple with, and upon which some of the records in these volumes will assist the student to form an opinion. The items of the Particulars are very interesting, and bring up to date our knowledge of the feudal history of Cardiff. We may note, for instance, the holders of various manorial offices under the King as Lord, including the Earl of Worcester, who (for the term of his life) was Chancellor of the Exchequer of Cardiff, Apparitor and Attorney for Glamorgan, Prevost of Roath and Leckwith (at a salary of 3d. a day), Gatekeeper of Cardiff Castle, Steward and Constable of Cardiff and Cowbridge, and Chancellor and Forester of Glamorgan and Morganwg. The reversion of these offices was to Sir William Herbert himself, the Earl of Worcester's kinsman.

The grant is dated 7 May 1551. It commences by stating that it is made to Sir William Herbert in consideration of his services in suppressing the rising of the Cornish and Devonshire men in 1549, when they took up arms for the restoration of the Catholic religion, In this revolt, which was put down by the aid of foreign troops, more than ten thousand of the Western peasantry and yeomanry were slain, besides a very large number executed as rebels after the war. The Letters Patent grant the lordships and manors of (inter alia) Higher and Lower Senghenydd, Whitchurch, Rudry, Roath, Leckwith, Newton Nottage, Radyr, Cardiff and Costinton. This has been erroneously appealed to as proof that Cardiff is a Manor of itself. There is a Manor of Kibbor and Cardiff; and there is a Manor of Cardiff and Roath, and Cardiff Castle is in the Manor of Roath Dogfield; but there is no "Manor of Cardiff," and never has been. The Queen Katherine alluded to in the Patent, to whom were assigned certain lands in the county of Monmouth, was Katherine Parr, the last of great Harry's matrimonial ventures. The terms of this grant were unknown to the public until quite recently, and at least three attempts had been ineffectually made to discover the counterpart at the Record Office. In 1895 1 was fortunate enough to find it among the Patent Rolls there, and made a full transcript. This was no easy task, as the document was covered with a thick coating of some brown pigment, rendering it all but illegible, and indeed almost invisible.

Under date 1557 occurs another Crown grant of Church property. It is a concession to William Morgan of Llantarnam, esquire, and another, of (inter alia) a house in the High Street of Cardiff, and another in Womanby, both belonging to Saint John's church; and the priest's house at Llanishen, with the tithe barns and other premises at Llanishen and Lisvane, which formerly belonged to Tewkesbury Abbey. Among the names of the tenants are John Roberts and John Bawdryck, both members of ancient and distinguished local families. Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, a Benedictine foundation, held large possessions in the neighbourhood of Roath, under the designation of the Manor of Roath Tewkesbury.

In the same year 1557 is a Patent granting to John Johnson, alias Anthony, and another (inter alia) ten parcels of chantry lands at Cardiff, which had originally been given for the support of priests to sing masses for the donors' souls in the two parish churches of the town—namely, for four chantries in Saint Mary's, and six in Saint John's. This is in the reign of Philip and Mary; but it will be remembered that Queen Mary, while restoring to the Church the ecclesiastical property which she found in the Crown's private ownership at her accession, had obtained from the Pope a dispensation permitting the retention of the alienated Church lands in general.

From the Patent dated 1560 we learn that the grange and some other premises at Llystalybont formerly belonged to the Cistercian house of Llantarnam.

The grant of 1563 conveys to William Morgan, esquire, and William Morris, gentleman, the possessions at Cardiff and Roath theretofore of the Benedictines of Keynsham, Somersetshire, which were known as the Manor of Roath Kensam. The schedule of their property in the town of Cardiff is very interesting, from its enumeration of the old names of streets and urban districts, most of which are still familiar. Sowdrey is referred to in this document; it was the southern suburb of Cardiff, just outside the South gate, and contained a great many houses.

The Patent of 1575 is another grant of Church lands at Cardiff and elsewhere. Note its mention of the High Cross, a structure of stone with a roof, which stood on the highest ground in High Street.

In 1576 we have yet another Patent granting ecclesiastical property to a private purchaser. This is a very lengthy document, and I have extracted only what refers to Cardiff. Amongst the subject-matter of the grant is the parsonage house which belonged to the parish priest of Saint Mary's. It is apparently identical with the messuage referred to in the previous grant by the name of the Myddle Pynom.

The grant of 1587 conveys to private purchasers a house and land at Ely, in the Manor of Llandaff, which Llewelyn ap Konowble, Vicar Choral of Llandaff cathedral, had given to pay the stipend of a chantry-priest who should celebrate four obits yearly for the donor's soul. Also two acres of land on Roath Moor, formerly belonging to the Cistercian Abbey of Neath.

In the Patents of 1589 and 1590 we have grants of the lands of two chantries erected in the parish churches of Saint John and Saint Mary respectively.

The Patent of 1596 gives a number of chantry lands in Cardiff, belonging to the two parish churches, to a person named Thomas Odingrells.

That of 1608 conveys to two individuals all the manors of Kibbor, and Kibbor and Cardiff, except chantry lands.

In 1610 a grant is made of a messuage by the Quay at Cardiff, and a piece of land at Roath, the whole being formerly ecclesiastical property.

The grant of Church lands dated 1615 includes land at the Splot, in the tenure of William Baudripp, formerly belonging to Saint Mary's.

That of 1616 gives away "the poor folks' house in Worton Street," the land which used to belong to the chapel on Cardiff bridge, a part of the Town Field, and other property, all which theretofore was parcel of the possessions of the two parish churches.

The general effect of the above documents is to confirm the view, already held by some writers of history, that the changes of the 16th century involved the enrichment of the sovereign and of a few favoured individuals, at the expense of the poor and of those who supposed they were leaving donations to pious uses in perpetuity.