Ministers' Accounts: Introduction

Pages 97-103

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

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Ministers' Accounts.

This class of documents is of special value to the student of local history, owing to the light which it throws upon the feudal organisation, with its elaborate system of customs and services, and upon the history of agriculture and commerce. The Ministers' Accounts are financial statements sent up to the Crown from the persons appointed to manage estates which had come into the King's hands on the death of the Lord without heir male, or under certain other circumstances. With these papers I have included two (1542–3) which, though they do not come under the description of Ministers' Accounts in the technical sense, are accounts supplied by Bailiffs of the Lord of Glamorgan at a time when the King himself was Lord of the same. The Ministers' Accounts are written, in Latin, on rolls of parchment, and are for the most part in fair preservation.

In the Account of 1263, supplied by Humphrey de Bohun, the Port of Cardiff already furnishes a share of the revenue of the Town. The Manor of Llantwit Major produced the considerable sum of £24 18s. 5¼d. in annual rents of assize to the Lord of Glamorgan, while only 59s. was derived from Cowbridge. Llantwit was in the immediate possession of the Lord. In this and succeeding Accounts the expression patria Walensium frequently occurs, and I have translated it "tribe-land of the Welsh." The term has reference to lands which were the hereditary tribal possessions of the various clans, and the tenure of which was at this time still vested in the chief, as representing the clan, subject only to the superior rights of the Lord of Glamorgan. As the clans gradually disintegrated, their ancient Celtic customs and community rights were suppressed or died out, and were forgotten; but the process of their extinction was slow.

The Account of Geoffrey Payn, in the year 1301, is for Rumney only; but that manor, though situate in the Lordship of Gwentllwg, in the sister county of Monmouth, was for a long time a portion of Glamorgan and Morganwg—or, at least, of the Honour of Gloucester, as held by the earliest Lords of Cardiff—and, from its close proximity to our Borough, is so intimately related to the Lordship of Cardiff Castle, that its interesting records could not well be omitted from this work. For an explanation of the Welsh rent called "Guest," or rather gwest, or gwestfa, reference should be made to Dr. F. Seebohm's "Tribal System in Wales," whereby it appears this was a food-rent anciently paid by Welsh clansmen to their chiefs. It would seem from this document to have been claimed by the Norman Lords. Mention is made of " David le Graunt," presumably a member of the ancient family which, though long extinct, has left its name to two farms in the Parish of Roath, called Llwyn-y-Grant Uchaf and Llwyn-y-Grant Isaf.

In Bartholomew de Badelesmere's Account for the year 1315, note the annual rent of assize paid in kind, viz., three pounds of cummin. Rents of cummin, and also of pepper, were usual at this time, such commodities being then highly valued. Here, also, we have mention of the lord's mills at Cardiff, in which, by a common feudal custom, the tenants were compelled to grind their corn at their own expense. One of these mills still stood, in the first half of the 19th century, under the west wall of Cardiff Castle, where may yet be seen a moat which was formerly the mill-leat. Note also the fair at Cardiff on Saints Peter and Paul's day (29 June), which is not named in the Charters. Probably the fair on Saint John Baptist's day (24 June), was substituted for it by the Charter of 1340. This Account makes mention of a yearly rent paid to the Abbot of Neath for certain tenements in or near that town. A similar entry appears in successive Accounts, right down to 1550; and it appears that the payment was in respect of burgages at Neath and Cardiff which had been the subject of an exchange between the Abbot and Earl Gilbert de Clare, some time before 1315. The two Bailiffs of Cardiff this year received one shilling each. (They are not named in the Charters until 1340.) Skilled labourers were paid at the rate of threepence a day, and ordinary labourers a penny. The Account for Roath supplies interesting particulars of the various kinds of agricultural labour performed in the Lord's demesne by his villein tenants, these services being the condition on which they held their tenements. At a later date such customary services were commuted for money payments, as may be seen by subsequent Accounts, and those tenements eventually became the copyholds of the present day. The lamprey fishery in the river Ely, in the Manor of Leckwith, is mentioned in this document. I have included certain entries relating to Llantrisant, Cardiff's sister borough; this year they refer to " the war waged by the Welsh immediately after the Earl's death," in which much damage was done to Llantrisant and Pentyrch by the insurgent Cymry under Llewelyn Bren. The Earl's house at Radyr had no tenant this year; but subsequently the Lord of the Manor of Radyr held immediately under the Lord of Glamorgan, paying a quit-rent only.

For the year 1316 we have three Accounts. The first, that of Bartholomew de Badelesmere, is a long one. Under the head of Farms, mention is made of the chensary (chense, or cense), a feudal impost in the nature of a poll-tax. The ports of Aberthaw, Barry and Ogmore, in the Manors of Llantwit and Ruthyn, produced a small income from their tolls. In this and other Accounts entries occur of sums received for meslin sold to the lord's servants. Meslin is a mixture (mixtilium) of different sorts of grain.

Gwenllian de Turberville's Account, in 1316, refers to depredations committed by Llewelyn Bren's followers, who were wicked enough to carry off the beans and hay from the Earl's manor of Rumney.

John Giffard de Brymmesfeld's Account, for the same year, records repairs to the tower of Cardiff Castle called Blaketour, the Black Tower, at the main or High Street entrance to the Castle.

For 1331 we have a bundle of Subsidiary Documents to the Ministers' Accounts. The first is the King's Writ, to John Giffard de Brymesfeld, Custodian of Glamorgan, directing him to receive and safely keep the sums of money which were to be collected by way of penal fines from those Welshmen within the Lordship who had supported Llewelyn Bren's revolt. The other documents are Acquittances in the form of Indentures executed by Robert de Prestebury, Lieutenant of the Custodian, and various Welshmen, testifying to Prestebury's having received from those Welshmen the sums paid by the natives of the different tribe-lands.

The Account of 1376, by Thomas Brown, Receiver of Glamorgan and Constable of Cardiff Castle, is very faint in its earlier portion. It supplies the names of the two Prevosts of Cardiff for that year, as well as those of the Prevosts of Llantrisant, Roath, Leckwith and Radyr, and that of the Bailiff of the County (comitatus) of Cardiff, &c. This earlier portion consists of a statement of moneys paid to the higher officials of the Lordship, in salaries and pensions. Roger Kyngot, Constable of Neath Castle, was presumably a relative of the Adam Kyngot who is named in the Municipal Charter of 1331 (page 17, ante). The Gate-keeper of Cardiff Castle received but twopence a day as his salary for that responsible office; though the same amount was paid to each of the watchmen, as appears by other Accounts. This year occurs mention, for the first time in these Accounts, of the thirty-five knight's fees and a half, which rendered 6s. 8d. each to the Castle of Cardiff. In later records this is headed "Castle Ward." The money was supposed to be applied for the defence of the Castle; and in time of siege each of these principal knight's fees, or manors, was represented in the stronghold by the knight himself, who was bound to defend one particular portion of the walls of Cardiff Castle and had a lodging within the same.

Roger Panter's Account, 1393, relates to the possessions of Tewkesbury Abbey, within the Lordship. This wealthy Benedictine foundation had received large grants of lands from the early Lords of Glamorgan—in particular the possessions known as the Manor of Roath-Tewkesbury, carved out of the original Manor of Roath and bestowed on this Abbey. The "Chapel of Roath" at a longsubsequent date became the parish church of Saint Margaret, on the site of which the present church stands. The "oblations on Saint Margaret's day" were the special offerings, in money and kind, made in honour of the patron saint at the celebration of Mass on her festival. The Manor of "Splot" is mentioned in this Account. "Walschmenhull" would seem to be identical with Pen-y-lan. It was perhaps the tribe-land of Cibwr, that is to say, the common hereditary territory of the original Welsh people of this district. "Nestelbon" is, of course, Llystalybont. "Lanvorda" (Llanforda) is the long-forgotten name of an ancient chapel at Coed-y-gores. Llanishen and Lisvaen were likewise at this date only chapels. As they belonged to Tewkesbury, the Abbey repaired them and also the chancels of Cardiff church (Saint Mary's), and Roath, as is minutely set forth in the Account. The Abbey also paid the salaries of the chaplains (curates) of Cardiff Castle and Saint Mary's church, and Roath chapel, besides providing all things necessary for the performance of divine service in those churches and chapels—as wine for Mass, and wax for the ceremonies of Candlemas Day.

Richard Crede's Account, 1401, is for Rumney only, which was then a manor of the Earl of Stafford—the Lordship of Wenlock (Gwentllwg) and the other estates lying east of the river Rhymny having by this time been severed from the Lordship of Cardiff Castle. "The Castle of Rumney" is here mentioned. It was situate near the church, and probably on the site of the farmhouse called Ty Mawr. The fishery of the river Rhymny is stated to have been between Rumney Bridge and the Lord's millpond, and it is probable that the manorial mill was situate where the present water-mill stands. Under the head of Capitage we have interesting examples of bond-tenants suing out their lord's license to dwell outside the manor.

The Account of 1492 is interesting for its mention of placenames familiar in the ears of the Cardiffians of to-day; such as Adamsdown, Portmanmoor, Whitmoor and Dobbinpits—though the two latter, being unfortunately not perpetuated in the designation of any modern thoroughfare, are fast fading from remembrance.

For the year 1493—by which time the King of England was Lord of Glamorgan—we have a long and interesting Account, full of curious information for the antiquary and historian. Allusion is made to the damages caused to Cardiff by the rising under Owain Glyndwr, the last champion of Welsh independence; to the pair of gilded spurs payable by the Burgesses of Cardiff to the Lord, under the Municipal Charter of 1331 (p. 17, ante); the hermit who kept the chapel on Cardiff Bridge; the lands lately known as Cooper's Fields (now a portion of the Castle Grounds); the private mill which the Lord's Council ordered to be pulled down; the alms anciently given by the Lords of Glamorgan to the nuns at Bristol, out of the profits of Cardiff Midsummer Fair; the Grange of the Prior of Cardiff; the hoop of corn paid weekly as wages to the Serjeants-atMace; the yearly sum claimed by the Burgesses as murage, but disputed by the Lord; the meadow called Hayward's Plot, which belonged to the Prevost by virtue of his office; the distraint made on certain tenants who had not paid their ward-silver; and the vicar's tithe from the agistment of cattle on the Moors. At Pentyrch tenants paid a customary rent-service called Cymorth Glanmai, probably field works, performed on May Day.

The account of 1530, by Matthew Cradok, gives a list of the Judges of the Court of Great Sessions held at Cardiff in the spring, at the head of which figure the Abbots of Neath and Margam. There are also some curious particulars as to certain prisoners hanged for felony.

Under the date 1538 appears a Ministers' Account of a new kind, being a schedule drawn up by Sir Rice Maunxell, of the possessions late of Margam Abbey, confiscated by King Henry VIII. It recites a Lease made by the Abbot to Lewis ap Richard, of the Grange near Cardiff, from which the modern Grangetown derives its name. Allusion is also made to the granges of Roath and Cardiff, wherein the Abbott collected his tithes in kind.

A highly interesting Account is that for the year 1542–3, furnished by the Bailiffs of Cardiff and the Prevost of Roath to the King as Lord of Glamorgan and Morganwg. The accountants set forth the various tenements in the two places, with the names of the holders, the amounts of rent, and the situation of the premises. The document thus virtually forms a directory of Cardiff and Roath for the middle of the sixteenth century, giving the names of the streets and of the principal inhabitants, and information with respect to the different chantries and their possessions. As will be seen from the abstract appended to this translation of the Cardiff Account, there were 269 burgage tenements in the town. Of these 105½ were held by the Church, and only 75 by lay burgage tenants. There are some particulars relating to Thomas Capper, who was burned for heresy in the previous year—whether for denying Transubstantiation or the Royal Supremacy does not appear. I am indebted to the kindness of John Stuart Corbett, Esq., Solicitor to the Marquess of Bute, for permission to copy and translate this interesting document.

Miles Mathew's Account, dated 1547, is annotated in the margin by the King's Receiver General. The notes made by this official are striking examples of the atrocious running-hand of the period, and are perhaps the most difficult pieces of caligraphy I have ever deciphered, though they are in English.

The Account of 1550 is the last furnished prior to the granting of the Lordship of Cardiff Castle to Sir William Herbert, who at this date was Constable of the Castle for the King.

Note.—Some of these Accounts are of great length, and refer to lands in other parts of England and Wales. I have indicated, by means of stars and points, omissions necessary to exclude extraneous matter and the needless repetition of details in themselves unimportant. The same process of selection has been employed with respect to other documents in these collections. Defects in the original records, owing to decay of parchment or paper, are duly noted. English and Welsh words employed by the Latin scribes are here exactly reproduced, within inverted commas. The original spelling of patronymics and place-names is preserved throughout this work.