Margam Abbey muniments: Introduction

Pages 267-269

Cardiff Records: Volume 3. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1901.

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Margam Abbey Muníments.

SOON after the Cardiff Records Committee had commenced the collection of local documents for publication, they received permission from Miss Talbot, of Margam Abbey, to have copies made of such of her muniments as might be found to bear on the history of Cardiff; her only stipulation being that the copies should be made, at the Corporation's cost, by Dr. W. de Gray Birch, F.S.A., who had already published a descriptive catalogue of the Margam Abbey records. Dr. Birch accordingly made and forwarded to the Committee copies of certain documents selected by the Cardiff Archivist from the said catalogue. These are here printed in an abridged form. I have omitted from the English documents, Nos. 1096 and 1101, a few paragraphs which deal particularly with manors remote from Cardiff; and I have made an abstract of the lengthy set of Latin records numbered 1102.

These documents were drawn up about the year 1567, apparently by or at the instance of Edward Stradling and Anthony Mansel, with the object of calling the attention of the law officers of the Crown to the (as they contended) wrongful claims of the Earl of Pembroke.

It will be seen, on reference to other portions of the present work, and especially to the Remembrancer Roll of 1571 (Vol. I., pp. 388, 393), that there was constant controversy as to the full meaning and effect of the grant made in 1551 by King Edward VI. to Sir William Herbert. The papers composing the present chapter are items in that controversy. The Earl of Pembroke's legal advisers contended that the Lordship of Glamorgan and Morganwg had been extinguished by the grant of 1551 and succeeded by the Lordship of Cardiff Castle, and that the members of the lordship were each of them a lordship marcher. Stradling and Mansel opposed these contentions, and claimed that the Lordship of Glamorgan was still subsisting and vested in the Sovereign. In this they were probably correct, but they do not seem to have been right on the other points. The very fact that the Lordship of Glamorgan remained vested in the Crown was the reason why the territory granted by King Edward VI. to Sir William Herbert was thenceforth known after the name of the caput baroniae, as "the Lordship of Cardiff Castle and its dependencies." Stradling and Mansel were evidently not aware of the evidence which existed of the mercian character of the member lordships. If the reader will turn back to Vol. I., p. 278, he will see that in the year 1314 an Inquisition found that "each several member" had "royal liberty by itself." At the same time, if these small dominia were marcher lordships, it was in a somewhat different sense from that understood in the case of the superior lordship of Glamorgan; which, unlike its members, possessed not only a castle, but also a chancery, an exchequer and a sheriff's court, with jurisdiction over caput and members alike. Probably the whole difficulty arose from the unwillingness of the lawyers to recognise facts of history which they were not able to square with the theories laid down in their text books. The dominia of South Wales had been carved out by the conqueror's sword, had afterwards changed hands and undergone various modifications. There is evidence that their character was originally mercian in many respects; but it is equally plain that they were always lacking in some of the characteristics ascribed to marcher lordships by the books. The puzzle, therefore, as to whether the manors under Glamorgan were marches or not was one which perplexed the lawyers' brains as long as it continued to possess a practical value in six-and-eightpences.

The whole question, though full of interest for the student of local history, possesses no practical value at the present day; so it need not vex us that no satisfactory conclusion of the controversy has ever been arrived at. One may, however, cherish the pleasing surmise that a Lord of Glamorgan and Morganwg lives in the person of His Majesty King Edward the Seventh; who, when he was yet Prince of Wales, was enrolled a Freeman of the Borough of Cardiff, the capital of the ancient lordship.