The manors of Cardiff district: Introduction

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Cardiff Records: Volume 2. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1900.

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CHAPTER I. Notes on the Manors of the Cardiff District.

Before dealing with the Manors in the immediate neighbourhood of Cardiff, it appears desirable to offer a few general observations upon the history of Glamorgan, so far as it bears upon the subject, and to notice the way in which the various classes of manors in the County had their origin.

In medival times Glamorgan, part of the district over which the Lords of Glamorgan claimed authority (leaving out of consideration Morganwg, which had a much wider signification, explained by the late Mr. Clark in his Land of Morgan), extended only from the river Rhymny on the east to the Crymlyn brook, a short distance west of Neath. It, in fact, corresponded with that portion of the Diocese of Llandaff which is in Glamorganshire.

This district, again, was divided into the "body" of the County, and the "members"; which latter were not considered as forming part of the County until the passing of the Statute 27 Hen. VIII., cap. 26. Down to that time, the word "county," as used in Inquisitions, &c., ordinarily means what we now call the Vale; and not the whole of that, for Llanbleddian and Talavan (and perhaps also Llantwit), were "member" lordships, and Llandaff, the lordship of the Bishop, was not considered as forming part of the "body" of the County.

The member lordships were ten in number, viz., Senghenydd, Miscyn, Glynrhondda, Llanbleddian, Talavan, Ruthyn, Avan Wallia, Tir-y-iarll, Coyty and Neath.

Senghenydd was divided into Senghenydd Supra and Senghenydd Subtus, and Neath into Neath Citra and Neath Ultra.

In the Inquisition on the death of Gilbert de Clare, 8 Edw. II., the manor of Llantwit is treated with Ruthyn as forming a member, and it is included in the list of lordships to be added to the County in the Statute of Henry VIII.

Each of these members is stated, in the Inquisition just mentioned, to have "royal liberty of itself;" and the Courts of the members had jurisdiction even in matters of life and death.

The lordship of Glamorgan, as is well known, was obtained by conquest by Robert Fitzhamon, in the reign of William Rufus, from lestyn ap Gwrgan, Prince of Glamorgan and Morganwg; but many generations elapsed before it can be regarded as having been completely subdued.

The hill lordships, the boundaries of which no doubt corresponded with those of Welsh commotes, remained in the hands of Welsh chieftains, whose allegiance to the Lords of Glamorgan was of a very precarious character, and who frequently rose in rebellion. Senghenydd, Glynrhondda and Avan (or Baglan) were, at the date of an Extent attributed by Mr. Clark to the year 1262, in the hands of Welsh lords, who are recorded as owing no service save a heriot of a horse and arms at death. As to Miscyn, there is some doubt whether it was under a Welsh lord at that time. Morediht ap Griffith is stated (in the Extent referred to) to hold a commote in "Machhein," and it has not been ascertained with certainty whether this refers to Miscyn or Machen. But if Miscyn was not then in the hands of a Welsh lord, there seems to be no doubt that a part of it, at least, had been so up to a short time before. However, by the time of the death of Gilbert de Clare in 1295, the lordships of Senghenydd, Miscyn and Glynrhondda had all come into the immediate possession of the Lord of Glamorgan, and were administered by his officers; but they still retained their separate courts and, it seems, their old Welsh laws and customs. These great lordships, founded upon old Welsh territorial divisions, became the manors of those names. Of the member lordships, all but Coyty at one time or another passed to the chief Lord.

In the body of the County, as distinguished from the members, the Lord retained in his own hands Cardiff Castle (the seat of his government) and the manors of Roath and Leckwith, though the latter was at one time granted out to the Sandfords. He also continuously held the manor of Llantwit, which, as we have seen, perhaps ought to be regarded as a "member." The remainder of the Vale (except what was given to religious houses, and the Bishop's lordship) was granted to various persons to be held of the Lord by knight's service. The manors so formed were the "knight's fees" of the Inquisitions.

The Lords of these manors in some cases granted out portions to be held of them, thus forming sub-manors. The Bishops of Llandaff also made grants out of their lordship, which formed manors. Lastly, the Abbots of the various monasteries, in many instances, took to calling their scattered possessions "manors," and they became accepted as such.

The different classes of manors in Glamorgan may be shortly described as follows:—

(1) The old member lordships in the hill country, held, no doubt, in theory at least, of the chief Lord until they actually passed into his hands; but never held by military tenure, as in the body of the County. Such a manor was Senghenydd.

(2) Manors constituted by the chief Lord, probably for convenience of administration, but retained in his hands, as Roath Dogfield.

(3) The knight's fees or manors held of the chief Lord as of his Castle of Cardiff. Such a manor was Cogan.

(4) Sub-manors formed by grants out of the member lordships, as Radyr out of Miscyn.

(5) Sub-manors formed by grants made by the holders of the knight's fees, as Michaelston, held under Dinas Powis.

(6) The manors granted out of the lordship of the Bishop, as (probably) Caerau.

(7) The manors of the Abbeys, as Roath Keynsham.

It seems also that some separate manors were formed by subdivision of older manors, though the way in which this was effected is obscure.

In addition to the manors always recognised as such, the term "manor" is found to be occasionally applied to lands which, so far as is known, never really constituted distinct manors at all. In many instances this could be accounted for, but a discussion of the subject hardly comes within the scope of the present work.

The Lordship of Glamorgan, after the death of Fitzhamon, passed to Robert, "Consul," or Earl, of Gloucester; who was a natural son of Henry I., and married Mabel, a daughter of Fitzhamon. From her descendants the Lordship came by marriage to the de Clares, Earls of Gloucester and Hertford; then to the Despensers, Beauchamps and Nevills successively. Anne, daughter of Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury and Warwick, married Richard, Duke of Gloucester (afterwards King Richard III.), who was Lord of Glamorgan in her right. After his death the lordship came to Henry VII., who granted it to Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford. He dying without issue, it reverted to Henry VII., and descended from him to Henry VIII.; and from him to Edward VI., who in 1550 granted the Castle and Lordship of Cardiff to Sir William Herbert, afterwards Earl of Pembroke, and by this and a previous grant of 1547 conferred upon Sir William nearly the whole of the manors and estates in Glamorganshire of the old Lords of Glamorgan.

The Castle and Lordship of Cardiff, on the death of Philip, Earl of Pembroke, in 1683, passed to his daughter, Lady Charlotte Herbert; who married, as her second husband, Thomas, Viscount Windsor. Their son Herbert, Viscount Windsor, died in 1758 leaving a daughter, Charlotte Jane Windsor; who in 1766 married John, son of the Earl of Bute. He was created Marquess of Bute in 1796, and was the great-grandfather of the present Marquess.

The following notes of some ancient customs and payments may be of interest.

The custom of mises, which Strype says was derived from the Welsh princes, was paid at the death of Henry VIII., Edward VI. and Queen Mary. It is stated to have been originally an honorary payment of corn by each commote (cwmwd) to the prince on his accession. This was afterwards commuted for a fixed money payment; and, in the case of the member lordships of Glamorgan, at least, was not regarded as a sum due to the King as such, but to the Lord of the particular lordship.

In a Survey of the Lordship of Miscyn in 1638, occurs the following:—

"They (the jury) present and say that their custom is, and time out of mind hath been, that the sum of One Hundred and Twenty-three pounds, six Shillings and Eight Pence is due and payable upon the death of any Lord of this Manor to the succeeding Lord and Heir of this Manor, as Myses, upon the Inhabitants and Occupiers of Lands of this Manor, the Manor of Glynrhondda and the Manor of Pentyrch and Clunn; to be paid unto each succeeding Lord and Heir of this Manor in five years, by equal portions, the first payment thereof to begin at the first Saint Barnabee day that shall next be after demand thereof made by the Lord or his officers; to be divided and collected between the said Manors, according to to the ancient accustomed manner rateably."

Senghenydd and Glynrhondda Surveys of about the same date contain similar statements. The Senghenydd Survey adds that the Lord is to discharge all fines and amerciaments due in the lifetime of the former Lord.

It has been also stated that the grant of mises was in consideration of the seignorial or royal confirmation of the ancient free customs of the Welsh people. Mises were collected by the Lords of Cardiff subsequently to 1550 in all the old member lordships which were held by them, the last occasion being on the death of Lord Windsor in 1758. It is believed to have been proposed to levy mises early in the present century, but it was found that the difficulty of assessment and collection would be more than the sum to be raised was worth.

Other payments due to the Lord were the Ward-silver, payable by the holders of the knight's fees, who were formerly also bound to perform "Castle guard" at Cardiff Castle. These payments have gradually become obsolete. They were made in the time of Charles II. in respect of about a dozen manors.

The comortha was an "aid" of small amount, paid, in every alternate year, by the landowners in the member lordships. It was not charged upon those in the body of the County, and appears to have been a purely Welsh custom derived from the times of the early Welsh lords.

The chence, cense, or "towl" was paid both in the body of the County and in the members. It was a small annual payment by each freeholder. (Miscyn Survey.)

The rent of avowry, usually, if not always, 4d. per head, was paid by Welsh residents in a manor who held no land, or none directly of the Lord. Women as well as men paid it, but the exact circumstances which rendered a person liable to the payment have not been fully ascertained.

One of the duties of the inhabitants of Miscyn was to watch, when required, at certain beacons; and in the Survey of 1638 it is said that the "inhabitants of Llantrissent, Llantwitvairdre, Pentyrch and Radyr do use to watch at the Beacon of the Garth."

Rice Merrick, writing about 1578, describes the Courts of the member lordships, and says that in judging matters of life and death, the Steward was assisted by two tenants of the manor; and these tenants, not the Steward, passed sentence of death in this form:—

"Gwynt a gwydden a phen blaidd, a chrogi hyd marw," which may be Englished thus:

"The wind, and a tree, and a wolf's head, "And to hang by the neck till thou be dead."

It is added that on every wrongful judgment the tenants were fined. According to the Surveys, this privilege of sitting with the Steward was not confined to matters of life and death, but extended to other causes. In Miscyn, for instance, no Court can be formed without "affeerors" to sit with the Steward, "to see the ancient customs of this manor duly and truly observed."No person could be amerced without the consent of the affeerors.

These, and other customs referred to in the Surveys of the hill lordships, show that the retention of their ancient liberties by the inhabitants of these districts was no mere form.

By the customs of all the old member lordships, heriots are due on the death of freehold tenants. They usually consist of the best beast; but by the custom of some manors a money payment may be made instead, at the option of the tenant. At one time it was the practice in this neighbourhood to reserve heriots in leases for lives, and even in leases for terms of years, on the death of each tenant. Thus, in a lease granted by the Cardiff Corporation in 1675, of "two cotts and 1½ acre of land near the Dawpin Pitts" (Dobbinpits, just north of Crockherbtown), to William Thomas, for 94 years, there was reserved a rent of 11s. 8d. per annum, and a heriot of 5s. on the death of every tenant dying in possession.

In former times the manors in the neighbourhood of Cardiff mostly included some copyhold lands. It is stated by some authorities that according to the custom of Roath Dogfield, copyholds descended to the youngest son and, failing sons, to the youngest daughter. An early Survey, however, made 12th Eliz. and referring to another of 32 Hen. VIII., does not support this.

Copyhold tenure has now completely disappeared in the manors adjoining Cardiff. The nearest manor to Cardiff in which it exists is Pentyrch and Clun, a sub-manor or member of Miscyn.

Note.—In the following notes reference is frequently made to documents printed in the work of the late Mr. G. T. Clark, Cartae el alia munimenta quae ad Dominium de Glamorgan pertinent. In the references the word Cartae alone is used. The Glamorgan Genealogies collected and published by Mr. Clark are also referred to. It should, however, be explained for the information of those not acquainted with the latter work, that the statements contained in it have not the weight of Mr. Clark's great authority. The pedigrees were collected by him from various sources.