Nov 16, 2018

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by Mary John


Containing Remarks Made During Many Excursions in the Principality of Wales… 2nd edition, London, Longman, Hurst, etc. 1813.

The title page of this book of some 1,500 pages tells us that the guide is ‘augmented by Extracts from the Best Writers’. Among these are gentlemen travellers such as Pennant, Malkin, Skrine, Wyndham and Fenton. Pembrokeshire is recorded in the alphabetical listings under Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Kilgerran, Milford, Narberth, Newport, Pembroke and Tenby and we find the accounts of these places ranging for some distance into surrounding areas. We are also told that the work covers ‘Bordering Districts’. So, unsurprisingly, we find here early 19th century descriptions of communities such as Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Chester and Worcester.

A wealth of detail, history, geography, myths, famous locals, flora and fauna, industry, etc. can be found here, much of which may no doubt be questioned two centuries later and evidently the writers were not constrained to the extent that tourist guides are today.

Upper and Lower Town of Fishguard. Drawn by H. Gastineau, engraved by H.Alard. 1830

Upper and Lower Town of Fishguard. Drawn by H. Gastineau, engraved by H.Alard. 1830

These tend to be ‘warts and all’ descriptions and Fishguard is perhaps the place which comes under the most negative scrutiny.

‘To no spot of equal extent in the whole county has history or tradition annexed fewer memorable events than to this parish, and consequently fewer relics to excite the attention of the traveller or the antiquary scarcely any where occur, presenting nothing to the curious eye above the dignity of a beacon.’

‘Of eminent men few places have been more unproductive than this. One generation of fishermen, mariners, and traders, have succeeded in an uninteresting series.’

‘Till the year 1785 no person lived in this parish of sufficient consequence and property to entitle him to supply the office of magistrate. Nor has there been a house fit for the residence of any man above the degree of yeoman.’

Thankfully all is not bad news about Fishguard. We learn that …

‘The air of this place is so remarkably salubrious that it can scarcely ever have been visited by an epidemical disorder…on this account it is a matter of surprise that during the fashion of sea-bathing, Fishguard has not been selected and preferred…To this advantage might be added the cheapness of its markets, and the variety and pleasantness of the country.’

The account continues with talk of local agriculture and shipping, with an extensive discussion on the prospects of building a pier to develop the port. Having dismissed the church as a ‘mean structure, without tower or spire, containing no dignified memorials of the dead’, the writer allows us some light relief.

A Wedding here exhibits a scene of uncommon gaiety. The vessels in the port display their colours, an old swivel is repeatedly discharged, the happy pair are preceded in their walk to church by a violin or bagpipe, and festivity succeeds.’

Our guide to Fishguard is soon back in critical mode.-, its ‘monotonous and mean buildings’, …‘proverbially bad’ streets,…‘repeated alarms from piratical visitors,…‘no manufactories’, …‘The schools existing are set up by pretenders who themselves need to be taught.’ and… ‘it wants a workhouse.’

Unsurprisingly a description of the landing of the French in1797 plays a big part here. An event in living memory at that time, there is naturally considerable detail which helps to enliven this account.

The interests of local antiquarian, Richard Fenton, would appear to get more than adequate coverage in this guide. However, his own account of Fishguard in his Historical Tour of Pembrokeshire is considerably more benign and one cannot help but suspect some ungentlemanly conduct in the sour details written by others in this Cambrian Traveller’s Guide.



By Mary John
The story of Quakers in Pembrokeshire has been told a number of times. Stephen Griffiths and David Salmon were among those who made us aware that there were in fact two significant phases in which the Religious Society of Friends, as they came formally to be known, featured in the county’s history.i We were reminded both of their exceedingly difficult times here in the seventeenth century and also of their more rewarding and successful settlement later in the town of Milford Haven, as whalers and business folk. Remarkably, what we find is Pembrokeshire Quaker families moving to America in the sixteen hundreds and American Quakers moving into Pembrokeshire a century or so later.
This article will focus on what can be discovered about a small group of Friends living in communities around the town of Narberth some three hundred and fifty years ago. The intention is to consider what drove them to leave Pembrokeshire and to investigate how they prospered in their new home in the New World.
Followers of the itinerant preacher George Fox, under whose influence the religious group known as Quakers came into being, arrived in Pembrokeshire in the 1650s and Fox himself visited Tenby in1657 where he held meetings and was welcomed by the mayor and his wife. Also about that time his friend John ap John, from Wrexham, went to the local ‘steeple house’ and was imprisoned for standing in the church with his hat on. Fox was later to have a rough time in Haverfordwest, ‘a wicked town and false’.ii These are some of the earliest records of the persecution of Quakers in Pembrokeshire for a number of offences, among them absence from church, standing in church, wearing a hat in church, non-payment of tithes, refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. The Quakers did not meet for set religious services with clergy in consecrated buildings and in 1664 their gatherings came to be considered illegal under the Conventicle Act.
It is important to remember how difficult people’s lives had already been in the early decades of the 17th century. Political and religious conflict, especially among the local gentry, would overwhelm society and the Civil War had considerable impact in and around Narberth and Redstone. In 1645 hundreds of fighting men, mounted and on foot, under Rowland Laugharne, together with a large body of seamen having sailed up the Eastern Cleddau, gathered at Canaston to march through local fields and communities to victory at the Battle of Colby Moor. With some 150 dead and 700 prisoners taken and many men fleeing, most likely in the direction of Narberth, things must have been very frightening. That same year nearby Picton Castle was attacked and renewal of hostilities in the Second Civil War would have seen distress and upheaval with the influx of troops gathering for Cromwell’s siege of Pembroke in 1648. To add to the turmoil in the county within a few years of the end of these hostilities plague broke out, causing deaths and the disruption to trade and the daily lives and movement of people.
It has been argued that the seeds of Quakerism were already planted in Pembrokeshire before the Civil War. A number of people brought before the Great Sessions in 1642 accused of attending an unlawful meeting in Haverfordwest, ‘under pretence of religious worship and evil principles’, would later be recognised as Quakers.iii
It would appear that Oliver Cromwell was generally sympathetic towards Quakers but things would get worse for them with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, with a harsher response from the authorities towards Nonconformity. Fines and imprisonment were handed out to men and women throughout the county but in spite of this by the late 1600s there were at least seven Quaker Meeting Houses in Pembrokeshire, one being at Redstone in the parish of Narberth North, where the first yearly Welsh Meeting was held in February1682. Redstone Meeting was evidently flourishing. Richard Davies when he visited found the meeting held out of doors, ‘…there being no house that I knew of that could contain the multitude of people.iv
The names of certain of its members feature regularly in this account. One of these was Lewis David of Trewern, now a mansion and estate between Llanddewi Velfrey and Whitland. There appears to be little evidence of Lewis David’s roll in 17th century Pembrokeshire society and he has been variously described as a gentleman and a yeoman but what is evident is that he was a man with money and a very committed and influential member of the Redstone group of Friends.

Map showing Redstone Meeting House, south of Redstone Cross on A40. (Pembrokeshire Record Office).

Map showing Redstone Meeting House, south of Redstone Cross on A40. (Pembrokeshire Record Office).

For refusing to keep away from meetings at Redstone in 1661 with his wife Susan, James Lewis, Alice Lewis, Evan John and William Thomas, all from Llanddewi Velfrey, Lewis David was imprisoned in Haverfordwest gaol, (The Cockhouse, a vaulted six roomed stone building, described as dirty and offensive, to the north of St Mary’s church). On release they continued their meetings and were soon re-committed to prison where they were treated very harshly and after enduring eighteen months, sharing cells with thugs and felons and two bitter winters with no heat and little food, they were discharged due to insufficient evidence. v

Friends in the communities around Redstone were to find themselves regularly pursued. In 1678 Lewis David, Henry Lewis of Narberth and others had their goods distrained for refusing to pay towards the County Militia. In subsequent years a number of Friends had corn, hay, cows, oxen, lambs and household goods such as cloth and tankards taken for non-payment of tithes. Lewis David had taken from him ‘by the servants of Evan Harris, Tithe-farmer, and Nicholas Roberts, priest, about a fifth part of all his corn. On another occasion, for not paying a 20/- fine, Lewis David ‘had his corn and hay seized to the value of 25/- and sold for 8/-, being all the effects he had in the county of Pembroke, but he having a house and land in Carmarthenshire, the justices sent a certificate thither, by which his cattle, corn, hay and bedding was seized to the value of 36/- more, which also sold for 8/-’.vi Henry Lewis of Narberth had taken from him ‘a bible and a shovel worth 6/2 for refusing to pay the customary assessments towards repairing the steeple houses.’vii
William Thomas of Llanddewi Velfrey, ‘being fined 5s was met on the Highway by the chief constable, a petty constable and an Informer, who demanded the horse he rode upon, he asking for their warrant was answered with “Sirrah, do you question the king’s power?” and at the same time was struck on the head and shoulders with a great staff and plucked from his horse…’ The horse was taken away for the 5s and later sold for £3:1s:4d.viii Income from goods sold cheaply was sometimes given to the poor. However, Besse tells us ‘they conscious of the Sufferers Innocence from whose charity they had often found Relief, refused to receive any of that Money when tendred (sic) them.’ix In spite of the Toleration Act of 1689 granted to protestant dissenters goods were still being seized from members of the Society of Friends well into the 18th century.x
Thomas Wilson in his journal described his travels in Wales in 1684 and how he received rough treatment from a constable and informer when he attempted to ‘Preach the Word of the Lord to the People’ in Redstone Meeting House.xi By then, however, several of the Friends were no longer in attendance. On the 6th of June 1682 in Pennsylvania, America, the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting was welcoming Lewis David, Henry Lewis and William Howell and accepting their certificate of introduction from the General Meeting at Redstone.

In 1681 the influential Quaker, William Penn, had been granted by his friend, Charles II of England, control of a considerable area of land in North America in which it was understood a colony would be established. That same year a number of Quakers from different parts of Wales travelled to London to meet with Penn who intended to offer them an opportunity to purchase 30,000 acres of this territory, divided into blocks of 5,000 acres. As it happened, seven purchasers came forward and they were granted land under what Penn considered the Dutch ‘patroon’ system, requiring them to look on him as their leader. In time the lack of legal documentation covering this agreement would come to haunt the Welsh purchasers, Lewis David of Llanddewi Velfrey being one, committing himself to 3,000 acres for the sum of £60.
Of the 3,000 acres conveyed to Lewis David by deed dated 2 March, 1682, 500 were taken by William Howell, yeoman, (of Castlebythe), 1,000 acres by Henry Lewis, yeoman, of Narberth, 500 by Rees Rothers, yeoman, (of Llanwenog), 250 by Evan Thomas, yeoman, (of Llanycefn). Lewis David retained 750 acres for himself. This group is described by Browning in his book, Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania, as Company No. 5.xii One can imagine an air of both excitement and trepidation in the Redstone community when these purchases became known. How many individuals took up the offer to leave Pembrokeshire for Pennsylvania is not clear but eventually the emigration of the Redstone members would be painfully felt. For some years there was movement back and forward between the Old Country and the New World and preachers returned to address the Friends. However, regular meetings at Redstone came to an end in 1766. Records of the Monthly Meeting in the early 1800s reveal that the Meeting House and the stable were ‘in a state of general decay, the roof being partly uncovered…The Meeting House is untenanted; one end of the stable affords shelter to the old woman who quitted the Meeting House when the roof fell in…’xiii Paul Starbuck was to report in 1822 that he had sold Redstone for £45 and Puncheston for £20.xiv By 1867 the Meeting House at Redstone was in ruins.xv
The Trewern home of Lewis David is no longer in evidence. An early 19th century mansion now occupies the land in Llanddewi Velfrey, some 3km north-west of Whitland. Close by on the hill above the A40 is the Quaker burial ground which would appear to have been acquired some time in the later 18th century because records from the early 1700s show Friends were being interred at East Hook, Lambston, west of Haverfordwest.

Map of the Trewern estate, Llanddewi Velfrey, showing the burial ground (top left)

Map of the Trewern estate, Llanddewi Velfrey, showing the burial ground (top left)


Plan of the burial ground (Pembrokeshire Record Office. DFC/F/3/1)

Plan of the burial ground (Pembrokeshire Record Office. DFC/F/3/1)


There are a number of accounts of the early journeys made from Wales to Pennsylvania by Quakers, many of them recorded by descendants of the early settlers. There appear to have been three main streams of emigrants, from the counties of Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire and Merionethshire. Browning tells us that in 1682-83 Welsh settlers crossed the seas to their new home in 23 ships.xvi They were heading across the Atlantic to the mouth of the Delaware River to settle in land north of Philadelphia and west of the Schuylkill River.
One ship, the William Galley, sailed from Carmarthen with Friends from Pembrokeshire and Radnorshire on board. For those over twelve years of age the charge was £5 and for children £2:10. Sucklings and furniture up to 20 tons were transported free. The ship’s surgeon required a payment of 5s from each family and 1s from each unmarried person, except servants. xvii Among the provisions on board ship were beer, water, and barrels of beef, butter cheese and oatmeal.xviii Thomas Glenn reported that in August 1682 the ‘good ship Lyon’ arrived in Delaware with 40 passengers.xix
We understand that the journey by sailing ship took a number of weeks, sometimes as long as four months. Indeed, some journeys gave time enough for Welsh speakers to learn English. The Bible of John George Eaton, a settler’s descendant, records that Friends left Llanddewi Velfrey on 1 August 1683 to go to a port in Milford Haven and they arrived in Philadelphia early in November. It is recorded that some travellers had very uncomfortable times in rough seas and ‘contrary winds’.xx There is also an account of people suffering from hunger due to ship’s damage and torn sales and having to seek shelter in the West Indies. xxi
Glenn records that during the next three decades Quaker Friends went to Pennsylvania from Redstone, Llanddewi Velfrey, Narberth, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Puncheston, Llandisilio, Castlebythe, Little Newcastle and Uzmaston.

The Welsh Tract

The Welsh Tract, by then some 40,000 acres, stretched northward along the south-west bank of the Schuylkill River and westward and south-westward over south-eastern Pennsylvania. In general it would cover within its borders eleven and one-half townships in Delaware, Chester and Montgomerie counties.
‘And the Welsh Friends were hardly forerunners even in the land, for the way had long been made clear for their peaceful entrance into their purchased lands, and many were able to be seated at the very first on old “Indian fields,” and on clearings made by their predecessors, the Swedes, Dutch and early English, who came up here from the old settlements on the lower Delaware.’xxii
Accounts of life for these early Welsh settlers make uncomfortable reading. It is understood that the first winters after their arrival in Pennsylvania were intensely cold. Landing their goods and finding shelter in territory only partly cleared, little in the way of roads, and much of it entire wilderness must have been traumatic. Many initially took cover under trees before building make-shift wooden huts, some moving into caves, dug along the Schuylkill River. Browning gives us a description of these:

‘First, a pit was dug, three feet deep, and twelve by fifteen feet in extent, in the river bank, well up from the water. The side towards the river was levelled and left open. The side walls were carried up from the ground to the height of the tallest man standing erect, with interlaced and thatched saplings, and the roof over all was also made this way.’xxiii

We are told these caves would be rented to generations of new settlers after their occupants had taken timber from the forests to build more substantial homes.

‘The finest log cabins were built of barked and hewn logs of equal thickness, with stairs, or a ladder on the outside to reach the upper chamber, the first floor was pounded earth, as was the floors of all the early meeting houses’ xxiv

Some of the original settlers brought servants with them, many given pieces of land after serving their time. Burial records indicate that it was not uncommon for Quakers to acquire black slaves and this practice went on for decades in Pennsylvania. Although there were fruits and wild creatures in the forests to supply some of their food there was a severe shortage of cows and other domesticated animals. Cows for milking, when they could be obtained, were shared among the settlers. However, by the end of the 17th century there was a much more plentiful supply of foodstuffs which included beef, pork, mutton, cheese and butter. Horses and cows could be readily acquired.

The native Indian people who had received them kindly and assisted them through their hardships on arrival continued to live peaceably alongside them although being generally itinerant hunters they must have been attracted by the new animal life brought in. Within a few years the Welsh settlers were complaining of being frightened by these hunters and “for ye Rapine and Destruction of their Hoggs” xxv

‘These first comers, after their arrival, soon cleared land enough to make way for a crop of Indian corn, in the succeeding spring, and in a year or two, they began upon wheat, and other grain. Thus they went improving until they got into a comfortable way of living.’xxvi

Browning concludes that in the early years settlers farmed for their own needs and not on a commercial scale. There were at that time no country stores and people were having to travel to Philadelphia for some necessities, often exchanging their produce for dry goods and groceries. xxvii They also expected quite naturally, coming from the farming communities of Wales, to set up their own water mills to deal with the harvest. One can imagine their dismay when on arrival they learned that William Penn had the monopoly on all kinds of milling. Private mills, whether for grist or timber, were forbidden. To have their grain ground the Welsh had to transport it many miles to the ‘Proprietors Mill’. Fortunately this problem appears to have been resolved for in 1700 we find Lewis David a part owner of a grist mill in Haverford. In fact grist mills, saw mills and fulling mills were to become plentiful in creeks along the boundaries of Haverford township well into the next century.

Another conflict between Penn and the Welsh Friends arose from their crossings of the River Schuylkill. Their custom was to pay a ferryman with a flat boat to carry them, their goods and their animals to fairs, markets and assemblies in Delaware but it was not long before Penn was demanding revenue from all crossings of the river and arranged a ferry in competition which he leased out. In spite of their difficulties, with the ferryman being imprisoned and the boat seized, the Welsh held out for a number of years and it was not until the early 1720s that Philadelphia recognised the need for a public ferry across the Schuylkill.xxviii

In spite of these difficulties a man called Oldmixon, writing in 1708, said of the Welsh Tract:

‘Tis very populous and the people are very industrious, by which means this country is better cleared than any other part of the country. The inhabitants have many fine plantations; they are looked upon to be as thriving and wealthy as any in the province…’xxix

As more and more settlers arrived communities banded together in townships and it was not many years before the townships of Merion, Haverford and Radnor were established to the west of the Schuylkill River. The Welsh Tract was beginning to take shape and naturally a priority was the building of Meeting Houses. We are told that the first meetings of the Welsh Friends were ‘…beneath the great trees of the primeval trees about them, in pleasant weather and otherwise, at the primitive home of a family, in their settlement, be it then a cave, tent or lean-to shelter…xxx

 (Illustration in Browning)

(Illustration in Browning)

 (Illustration in Browning)

(Illustration in Browning)

There being a number of Quakers in Philadelphia, monthly meetings were soon well established but the Welsh Tract townships were far apart and friends and neighbours from the old country met informally. In 1682 Haverford was made up of only four Pembrokeshire families, those of Lewis David, Henry Lewis, William Howell and George Painter. As more people arrived things got organised locally and by 1684 log houses for public meetings were erected in Merion and Haverford. Friends were required to produce the certificates they had brought from their Meeting Houses in Wales. Among these were Henry Lewis, Lewis David and William Howell from the Redstone Meeting in Pembrokeshire, their certificates dated 6 June, 1682. They became the founders of the Preparative Meeting of Haverford. More records of certificates from Redstone appear over the next few decades. At the Chester Monthly Meeting in Delaware in June 1711 Francis Jones produced a Redstone certificate for himself and his family, having come to Pembrokeshire from Ireland three years before.xxxi

Although the name of Lewis David of Trewern crops up on a number of occasions when religious and civil matters are mentioned in the early records of Quaker settlements in America, we are provided with very little personal information about the man and his family. We learn from the few surviving marriage records of the England and Wales Society of Friends that Susana, wife of Lewis David of Llanddewi Velfry was buried in Pembrokeshire on October 22, 1682. Lewis left some of his children in Wales when he travelled to Pennsylvania and it is later recorded that a Lewis David married Florence Jones at the Haverford Meeting in 1690. One could guess that he was something of a speculator. He appears to have bought and sold various sections of the Tract and as time went by he was to sell off much of the 750 acres he had originally retained for himself. This included 250 acres to Maurice Scourfield of Narberth and 260 acres in Haverford township to Peregrine Musgrove, the Haverfordwest clothier, who in 1674 had married his daughter Alice back in Redstone. Evidently he involved himself rigorously in the fight for the survival of the Welsh Tract. Lewis David died and was buried at the Merion Meeting January 2, 1708.

Henry Lewis, from near Narberth, a carpenter by trade, and his wife Margaret had a plantation of 250 acres in Haverford and he was to name his new home ‘Maencoch’ (Redstone). He was described as a benevolent man who having originally joined the Philadelphia Friends committed himself ‘to visit the poor and sick, and administer what they should judge convenient, at the expense of the Meeting.’ He held the office of ‘peacemaker’, and was foreman of the first Grand Jury for the county of Philadelphia.xxxii A founder member of the community, Henry did not have many years in Pennsylvania. He died in 1705.

The Welsh Tract would eventually cover what would become eleven and a half townships in what are now Delaware, Chester and Montgomery Counties, Merion and Radnor being named after the shires of the old country and Haverford after the town of Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. William Penn had determined when he sold this land to the Welsh that it would be considered a ‘Barony’ or State in what he retained as his province, “…within which all causes, quarrels, crimes and disputes might be tried and wholly determined by officers, magistrates, and juries of our language”.xxxiii In fact he sold this territory without giving information about locations, conditions or restrictions under which he made the conveyances. Added to this was the problem that the 62½ square miles were not surveyed for a further six years. It appears that this was to cause some confusion for people buying land subsequently, often direct from Penn, who found themselves involved in litigation or resurveys. Amongst these were John Burge, a clothier from Haverfordwest, and William Jenkins, an emasculator from Tenby.

The Welsh understood that their purchases would lie alongside each other in the Tract. They expected to control and govern their lives according to the customs and expectations they had brought with them from their native country. This was soon to be denied them by William Penn. He considered himself, having received his authority from the Crown, to be the sovereign of the state of Pennsylvania, with full power to form a government to suit his own ideas and according to the laws of England. He was to renege on his original verbal agreement, insisting that the first Welsh purchasers were only trustees. Having arranged a final survey of the Welsh Tract he planned to take back for himself what he considered unsettled lands which he then sold off to others, not necessarily Welsh. Then Penn divided the Tract into three parts, the townships of Merion, Radnor and Haverford and started up other towns and he did not allow the inhabitants to choose their own officers. These were appointed by the County Court although these Welsh Quaker townships continued to manage some level of control of their activities at their gatherings at the Meeting Houses. Sadly less than three years after its initial settlement the Welsh Tract began to fall apart. In 1685, without any notice to its inhabitants, it was decided by the Provincial Council that a large slice of the Welsh Tract should be cut off and a new boundary line drawn between the counties of Philadelphia and Chester. Nothing was done about this for three years until, using the questionable evidence of surveyor Thomas Holme’s Map of the Province of Pennsylvania, and after much debate, both legal and regarding the opinions of William Penn, Chester County Court, assumed regulation of both Haverford and Radnor. However, for some time many of the worthies of these townships continued to refuse to serve on Chester public bodies and the Haverford and Radnor Friends continued to attend meetings at Merion. The Welsh would continue to have problems in their Tract, with squatters and with English settlers taking land overlapping from Chester County. Penn was still anxious to profit from sale of their unsettled land and sent out his surveyors, claiming his right to a share in every township. xxxiv
By 1690 the Welsh Tract was seriously under threat from Land Commissioners set up by Penn who wished to sell off Tract land which they considered ‘not laid out, or not seated and Improved’. The Welsh in a desperate attempt to discourage encroachments upon the lines and boundaries of their Tract responded with a paper presented to the Commissioners in which they declared:-

‘…with an open face to God and man, that we Desired to be by ourselves for no other End, or purpose that we might live together as Civill Society, to endeavour to deside (sic) all controversies and debates among ourselves, in a Gospell order, and not to entangle ourselves with Laws in an unknown Tongue, as also to preserve our Language, that we might ever keep Correspondence with friends in the land of our Nativity.xxxv

The Commissioners were evidently on the side of William Penn. Complex legal arguments went on for many months but Penn, now in financial difficulties, was determined to open up parts of the Tract to purchasers of other nationalities and religions and also to some of his pressing creditors. The unoccupied land was put on the market and this signalled the end of the Welsh Tract.
We are used to places in the ‘New World’ being named after the ‘Old Country’. Haverford, Merion and Radnor do not surprise us. But what do we know of Narberth, a thriving town of about 5,000 people in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania? We are told that it is surrounded by the Township of Merion and is mostly residential ‘with leafy, picturesque suburbs with quaint Welsh names’.xxxvi Settled on a parcel of land originally deeded to Edward Rees who arrived in America in 1682 it was a Quaker friendly town originally called Elm, founded in 1881 by Edward Price. Not until 1893 did it change its name to Narberth. So, some two hundred years after the original settlement of the Welsh Tract was Redstone still in the minds of our Pennsylvania Friends?

i David, Salmon, The Quakers of Pembrokeshire, in West Wales Historical Records Vol IX.
Stephen, Griffiths, A History of Quakers in Pembrokeshire. (Gomer, 1995).
ii George Fox, Journal, 1694. ( Eveyrman’s Library Edition, 1924).
iii Francis Jones , Disaffection and Dissent in Pembrokeshire. In The Transactions of the
Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, (Sessions 1946-1947. London: 1948). 208.
iv Davies, Richard (1635-1708) An Account of the convincement, exercises, services and
travels of that ancient servant of the Lord Richard Davies. London: J.Sowle 1705.
v J. Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the people called Quakers for the Testimony of
a Good Conscience. (2 vols, London, 1753). 747-752.
vi J. Besse, 756.
vii J. Besse, 756

viii J. Besse, 752.
ix J. Besse, 752
x David, Salmon , Pembrokeshire Quakers Monthly Meeting. Carmarthen: Records of the
History Society of West Wales, (Volume XII (Spurrel, 1927).
xi Thomas ,Wilson, A Brief Journal of the Life, travels and labours of love, in the work of
the Ministry of that Eminent and Faithful Servant of Jesus Christ.( London, 1730).
xii Browning, 195.
xiii David, Salmon , Pembrokeshire Quakers Monthly Meeting. Carmarthen: Records of the
History Society of West Wales, (Volume XII, (Spurrel, 1927).7.
xiv Ibid.
xv T.M. Rees, History of Quakers in Wales. (Carmarthen: Spurrel, 1925). 119.
xvi Browning, 41.
xvii Stephen Griffiths, The History of Quakers in Pembrokeshire. (Milford Haven Preparative
Meeting of The Society of Friends, 1990) 40.
xviii T. A. Glenn, Welsh Founders of Pennsylvania. (Fox Jones and Co, Oxford: 1911).66
xix Ibid.
xx Ibid.
xxi P.W.Streets, Lewis Walker of Chester Valley and his descendents. (Punon Knaccuk, 1896).
xxii Browning, 17.
xxiii Browning, 315.
xxiv Browning, 307.
xxv Browning, 321.
xxvi Browning, 307.
xxvii Browning, 319.
xxviii Browning, 391.
xxix Browning, 318.
xxx Browning, 497.
xxxi Small, Samuel and Ann Cresson. Genealogical Records of George Small. (Andesite
Press, 2015)
xxxii Browning, 197.
xxxiii Browning, 26.
xxxiv Browning, 388.
xxxv Browning, 379. .
*I would like to thank The Lower Merion Historical Society for use of log cabin illustrations. (Celebrating William Penn’s Settlement in Lower Merion and Narberth 1682-2007

The St Davids Cathedral Elijah Painting


By Michael Eastham


Recently, I was asked to talk about the panel with a painting of Elijah and the ravens in the south Transept of St Davids cathedral. [Fig 1].    While standing in front of it in the cathedral waiting for the group who had asked me to talk to turn up I was dismayed to realise that my thoughts about it had undergone a change since I last tried to make sense of the contradictory aspects of its design.1  I had concluded earlier, and I remain convinced, that it is not an icon painted by a Greek Orthodox painter in the 17th century or at any other time, as has been asserted in little notices placed near it in the Cathedral.  For some time I have been constrained, by details of its appearance, to believe that originally it was painted to form the major element in the centre of an assemblage to be placed at the back of a Western European altar, a reredos.  I was also impelled to believe that it was of British late medieval and possibly south Welsh origin.  Talking about the painting while standing in front of the real thing on the wall it was disconcerting to realise that there are more ideas in it that might be derived from Byzantine sources than I had previously allowed and for some reason that is not immediately obvious, someone at some time had decided to convert a Catholic Gothic panel painting into an Orthodox icon of a Greek type.

The survival of such a painting is remarkable and not the least part of its fascination is that it can be shown to have been precious to a succession of owners who were essentially collectors rather than religious people living in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire and Nottinghamshire and then Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire again.  They owned it, for some of the time in secret, and each owner in his or her turn, must have cherished it for more than five hundred years in all. Then, when the last appreciative private owner could see no way to pass it on to another suitable private owner he gave it to the Dean and Chapter of St Davids Cathedral.2  It has ended up firmly fixed to the wall of the south transept, a place where it would never have survived if it had been placed there in the 16th century.

Fig.1. The Elijah panel in St Davids Cathedral

Fig.1. The Elijah panel in St Davids Cathedral

The Iconography

Five separate incidents in Elijah’s life are described on the panel.  The fifth, his reply to ‘the Lord’ after he had found a cave on ‘Horeb the mount of God’ recounted in 1st Kings 19:10 is written out on the scroll draped over him.  The incident of Elijah being fed by two ravens takes up most of the panel area.  The two inset panels represent Elijah parting the waters of Jordan so he could cross with dry feet, and also leaving his mantle to Elias while ascending to heaven drawn by two flying horses.  The restoration to life of the dead son of the widow of Zarapath is described in a small triangular shape half way down the right hand side and is readily missed unless the image is inspected very closely.  The images are all depictions of events described in 1st Kings chapter 17, verses 1 -24 and 2nd Kings chapter 2, 1-14 in the King James translation.  In other versions they are in 3rd and 4th Kings but the chapter and verse numbers are the same.   Calling down fire from heaven on idolatrous religious activity described in 2nd or 4th Kings 1:3-15 is not shown.

Byzantine panel and mural painting was undertaken within a well defined system of rules about the choice of subjects.  Only three out of the total of five subjects depicted on the St Davids Elijah panel are subjects recommended as appropriate to be painted for Orthodox purposes in the manuscripts that set out the canon.3    The image of the parting of the waters in the top left hand corner of the panel and the image of the widow of Zarapath are not listed in the Byzantine canon. They have a place in the typology of parallels between Old and New Testament events explored by western medieval theology after the 12th century but are not significant in any of the variations in Christian belief present in the Eastern Mediterranean.   The positions in which Byzantine saints were to be painted were also stipulated and though the seated Elijah is represented in a position that is almost appropriate his head, for instance,is not set in an approved fashion.4

In the Byzantine and subsequent Greek Orthodox canon Elijah is always shown in positions consistent with received ideas about the way divinity communicates with men.   This means fire descending from God to destroy evil when a seated Elijah requests it and ravens whispering God’s will in the ear of a standing Elijah.  An early 15th century icon in a church near Thessaloniki and some later Serbian copies, now in various collections, in which a seated Elijah is shown turning away from the raven’s blandishments are different both iconologically as well as in design.


The Materials

The Elijah panel is made up of two boards about fifty centimetres wide and a metre long.   It is a pity that when dendochronologists working for the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales were recently dating the oak in the cathedral they were unable to remove the panel from the wall to see the back.  They would have been able to make an incontrovertible identification of the timber.  The species can be identified from the side and end grain of a plank but the identification is not as certain as it is from its width.  Also, apart from being able to give a quite precise date for the felling of the tree from which the boards were cut the pattern of rings in oak can be used to identify the region in which it grew. However, even the observation that the panel is oak provides some information.

Poplar is the wood preferred by Mediterranean painters for panels and pendunculate oak boards are chosen by north Europeans.   Of the fifty nine paintings on boards by Netherlandish painters from the 15th century in the collection of the National Gallery in London all but two are on oak, mostly from the Baltic.  A pair of poplar panels in the collection were both painted about 1475 in Urbino by Justus of Ghent for a commission from the Duke.5  It is therefore very unlikely that the panel for the Elijah painting was initially painted in the Mediterranean area even if a painter sympathetic to Byzantine ideals contributed to it.

Documents listing subjects approved for Byzantine and Orthodox painters to paint were compiled from the 5th century onwards.  The documents were essentially for workshop use and are called ermhneia, which literally translated means ‘expounding’. Consequently they exist in several slightly different versions some of which can be dated back to the 11th century. Besides listing how Christ in various situations, apostles, and innumerable saints should be depicted, the ermhneia contain recipes for the various materials needed when painting on panels and on silk.   Some of the areas of the paint of the Elijah panel follow these instructions and some do not.   As before the early 15th century the accounts of paints and supports to be used in making paintings produced by western Catholic painters are the same as those in ermhneia, produced by eastern Orthodox painters, the materials used provide no basis for distinguishing between them though the intentions determining the way they are used are not the same.6

The paint on the Elijah panel is in three layers.   Against the wood is a layer of white pigment, a calcium carbonate powder, ground into a water soluble adhesive medium. On top of this is a thinner layer of gold leaf and opaque pigments of various hues, also ground into a water soluble adhesive.   Finally, there is an even thinner layer of varnish.  The white priming is of sufficient thickness for outlines to be incised and patterned embossing to be pressed into it. It is therefore not Byzantine or Greek Orthodox work. Orthodox priming is thin. It just fills the wood grain and does not take an inscribed line or embossing.

On much of the panel the pigments used are bound by some form of animal or vegetable glue thinned with water.  It is a medium called tempera by Italian painters and gouache by the French.  To stop it dripping off, dissolved in the damp of wet weather, the tempera is protected by a third layer, a varnish of polymerising resin or oil.  Stand oil, made from linseed or walnut oils partially polymerised by sunlight, was a varnish traditional in Byzantine painting but as it is difficult to remove when it becomes too hard, cracks and yellows,it is more likely that sandarac gum or a similar resins known from antiquity was preferred for the Elijah panel.

Oil bound paints in which the pigments have been ground into a polymerising oil can be identified in the repainting of the widow of Zarapath incident and the large depiction of Elijah in the lower half of the panel.   Oil paints are inevitably thick and sticky when first prepared and require thinning with additions of volatile oils such as turpentine if they are to spread as thinly and evenly as tempera.   Thinners became generally available in the west after the Flemish painters discovered their effect in the early 15th century.  Their use is not described in Byzantine and Orthodox documents, even in the ermhneia, cod. gr 708 in the State Public Library, St Petersburg,  written as late as the end of the 18th or the early 19th century.

While most of the pigments employed on the Elijah panel are substances available to painters who worked around the Mediterranean at any time after the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, there are pigments on the lower part of the panel that are anachronistic.  The blue of the hill behind Zarapath is one such.  It is typical of a ferrous ferricyanide pigment.  It is a different colour from the natural indigo, the only dark blue available before the 19th century.

The small triangular area of the depiction of Zarapath appears to have been painted at two different times and in two different ways. [Fig 2] The two strips down the side, one black and one golden yellow, indicate that the panel was mounted in first one and then another very much deeper and heavier frame than the one that surrounds it at present. The inner yellow strip that matches the yellow of the gold embossing, imperfectly conceals a bright painting of the walls of Zarapath that is a continuation of the sombre depiction currently intended to be visible. The black strip is continuous with the red lead strip elsewhere round the edge of the panel that would have been the adhesive used to fix it in its first frame. When the second inner framing was done is uncertain but it must have been after the widow of Zarapath incident was painted initially and before the glazing was done with a ferrous iron blue pigment. The crimson lake of Elijah’s robe has the colour reflectance of a precipitated aniline dyestuff. Aniline dyes were first made from coal tar in the 1830s and mauve, the first of the dyes reflecting some red, in 1858. The Byzantine or Greek Orthodox element in the panel was added after 1860.

Elijah detail

Fig.2 Elijah Panel, Zarapath with the widow greeting Elijah and Elijah raising her son from the dead

It can be concluded from a study of the materials used that a painter who worked on the lower half of the Elijah panel painted it in the tradition of the Byzantine canon but used materials that were only available towards the end of the 19th century and that there is a large area of paint across the top of the panel that was painted earlier

The Lettering

The lettering on the panel appears to be of Greek origin and is arranged in a layout consistent with a Byzantine icon.   There is lettering on either side of the head of the large depiction of Elijah; there is lettering on the scroll draped over him and there is no other lettering elsewhere on the panel[Fig. 3.]. This distribution of lettering is consistent with other Byzantine and Orthodox panels but there the resemblance stops.The letter order frequently does not refer to Greek, Serbian or Russian words and some of the letter shapes are inconsistent with any letter in Greek or Cyrillic alphabets.

The inscription oЃρoφitϊς  γλγης behind Elijah’s head, for instance, ought to translate something like  ‘The Prophet Elijah’ but does not.  The first letter is a demonstrative pronoun and the remainder of the letter group on the left hand side, with a remarkable number of elisions, manages in the limited space available to read as ‘prophet’ with a Greek ending.  In the second word the penultimate letter, which must be presumed to be an eta, is drawn reversed and two gammas separated by a lambda do not seem to represent any vocalisation that could be represented in English orthography as the initial three sounds of Elijah.



Fig.3 Elijah Panel. Head of large depiction and inscriptions

Fig.3 Elijah Panel. Head of large depiction and inscriptions

The writing on the scroll is equally intractable but with the application of imagination as to the identity of some of the letters it was translated as “I am zealous with zealousness for the Lord God.   For the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down your altars, slain your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left and they seek me to kill me.”7 Both inscriptions indicate that someone who was unfamiliar with Greek inscriptions painted them and as the remainder of the large image of Elijah is clearly the work of a competent craftsman it seems unlikely that he was a Greek but nothing in the script used or the information content presented provides any indication as to when or where the lettering was painted.


The intention of a picture is its structure.  It is created by the tension in its graphic lines, its rhythms and the projection that has been used in drawing or painting it onto a surface.  In a design that involves three dimensions it is the masses, their orientation to each other and their inter-penetration.  It is also the proportions, colour, texture and balance in both two and three dimensional representations.   It is the way marks are organised to represent what the artist believes he has perceived visually.

An arrangement of marks known as an orthogonal projection is used to draw the large depiction of the prophet in the Elijah panel.  It is drawn as though the object has been seen from multiple viewpoints and all the sight lines are therefore assumed to be at right angles to the surface of the support.  Orthogonal projections are a type of projection one form of which is used by architects depicting the facades of buildings since measurements of distances across a proposed facade can be calculated from the drawing.   It is also the projection that is used exclusively in the painting and mosaics of Byzantine and Orthodox masters. The Byzantine master’s usage differs slightly from the projection employed in modern architectural practice, however.  Some relief, some sense of solidity, is created, particularly in depictions of people, by contour shading.  Tonal gradation is not modelled continuously across the form but represents those surfaces, which are round the periphery of the visible part of an object and are turned sharply away from the viewer, They are shown as darker than the surfaces that are plane to the viewer’s line of sight.  There is therefore a tonal gradation round the boundary of each shape that is not present in an elevation from an architect’s office where it is the position of the occluding contour that is important. However, neither architect elevations nor Byzantine icons deploy so much tonal gradation on their drawings as does the draughtsman of the large drawing of Elijah on the St Davids panel.

The proportions of the panels used to support Byzantine and Orthodox paintings and mosaics remain fairly constant throughout the whole period.  For technical reasons due to methods of measurement for laying out buildings and parts of buildings inherited from Roman builders and surveyors and Egyptian builders before them, the proportions of panels and the positioning of the depictions of saints and other people for Orthodox ecclesiastical purposes are determined by one system of proportions.  It depends upon the way right angles were set to make a corner.  A rope with thirteen equidistant knots on it is used to make a 3:4:5 right angled scalene triangle.   The ratio between a side and the hypotenuse of a right angled equilateral triangle, approximately 1: 1.4142, was established from it and used to plan the foundations of a building that was slightly longer than wide and consequently had an internal orientation.  Extending these proportions to objects placed within the building results in the preferred height of Byzantine panel paintings being close to one and a half times the width.  Other measures on the panel are determined by progressions derived by the same means.

The proportions of the depictions of prophets, saints and other holy people appear to be random in the manuals, the ermhneia, but are assessed in relation to a set of proportions that are assumed to be perfect and the proportions of Jesus. The proportions differ from those of Jesus in so far as in life they fell short of his perfection.   The proportions of Jesus, seven head heights between the top of his head and his heels can only be achieved by a construction producing a progression based on the proportions of the sides of the equilateral right angled triangle to the hypotenuse.  This geometrical progression is the only way of dividing a measured length that is not determined by arithmetical division of feet and inches or some other standardised unit into seven more or less equal parts.   It may be that since seven is the third prime number – the first number divisible only by one and the number itself being three – Orthodox Trinitarianism and its study of the number theory of Greek Philosophers also played a part.8

The St Davids Elijah panel is square, an unusual proportion for an Orthodox panel and the painter uses a system of proportions that is difficult to quantify but throughout employs measures that are close to those of Orthodox practice. The intention of his draughtsmanship is comparable to the intention of Orthodox masters but it differs from that of the draughtsman of the two small panels inset at the top of the large one.

The prophets and the background in the ‘Parting of the waters’ image in the upper left hand corner of the St Davids Elijah panel [Fig 4a] and the prophets and the horses in the ‘Fiery chariot ascent’ in the right hand corner are different. [Fig 4b]. They are not projections on multiple parallel orthogonals like the large depiction of Elijah and the images made by Byzantine and Orthodox masters. In addition, the depictions of the prophets that are further from the viewer are drawn smaller and more indistinct than the same prophets in closer positions.  In each of them a separate picture space is created. Each of them is drawn on a single view point rudimentary perspective projection, not a multi view point orthogonal projection.   But it is in the way the solidity of the human forms is realised that the major difference from Byzantine intentions occurs.   The forms are not contour shaded.   They are lit from one side and the lighting is directional from the same single source in both inserts.

Fig.4b. Elijah dropping his mantle to Elias as he ascends in the fiery chariot.

Elijah dropping his mantle to Elias as he ascends in the fiery chariot.

Fig.4a. Elijah Panel, Elijah parting the waters of Jordan.

In 1140, Abbot Suger of St Denis, just to the north of the old city boundary of Paris, completed work that established an ethos and aesthetic in western European Christianity completely different from the eastern ethos, the Gothic. On the bronze doors at the west end of the nave of the Abbey church that he had extensively rebuilt he had a short sentence inscribed in Latin and it is still there. nobile claret opus, sed opus nobile claret clarificet mentes, ut eant per lumina vera ad verum lumen, uni christus  janua vera.  (The bright and noble work should brighten the minds, so they may travel through the true lights to the true light where Christ is the true door.)

The light which shone through the great windows of painted glass that he had installed was real but it was also divine.  By shining through the windows into previously dark and gloomy spaces it illuminated the story of the ministry of Jesus Christ the son of God on earth.  Light for Suger is real perceptible energy. For the Orthodox the divine message is the Gospel chanted by priests and occasionally explained by them in common speech.

It is necessarily inferred, from the use of light to unite the two small images and the other factors that constitute the intention of the whole work, that work on the Elijah painting was begun on the panel somewhere in north western Europe after the beginning of the 12th century.


The catalogue of Christie’s auction on 14th June 1937 listed paintings belonging to the Earl of Lincoln including the Elijah painting that is now at St Davids. The entry gives an accurate description and refers to a possible Byzantine origin. In the auctioneer’s copy is the information in pencil that it was sold to a dealer called Sutch for £11.9 Sutch was acting on behalf of Herbert Lloyd-Johnes of Dolaucothi. In a speech he gave at a meeting of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarians later in 1937 it is made quite clear that he believed the panel he bought was given into the care of the family living at Dolaucothi on the dissolution of nearby TalleyAbbey.10 In the 1960s he gave it back to the Church by donating it to the cathedral.

The family tradition that the Elijah panel was taken for safe keeping to Dolaucothi House in 1535-1537 is not supported by any existing contemporary documentation. All the surviving documents relating to Talley were burnt in a Carmarthen solicitor’s office in a conflagration resulting from an election night riot but the strong family tradition is substantiated by several 1ater written records. They all say that at the dissolution the last Abbot of the Premonstratensian abbey, the only one in Wales, took the panel, together with a silver chalice, to Dolaucothi House before retiring to Norfolk.11 He also took with him the only other important portable abbey possession, its Great Seal.  The seal was found in the latter part of the 20th century in a Norfolk graveyard and is now in Norwich Museum.12

The Premonstratensian abbey churches throughout western Europe were, normally dedicated to the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, presenters of Jesus to the world.  Elijah the Prophet was held to foretell the coming of Jesus and therefore a fit person to put beside them but because his contact with Jesus was less complete he was less sacred and could be represented pictorially in an otherwise austere abbey.

At the ruins of Talley today an unusual addition to the severely regular and austere cruciform plan normal in Premonstratensian abbey churches can be seen: the ruined outline of a large chapel extending eastwards from the north transept.   It was not built in either of the first two phases of building at the abbey in the 12th century.  It must have been inserted some time after the abbey church was completed and it seems likely that this chapel was part of a special gift. Rhys ap Thomas of Dinefwr was an ambitious and slightly unscrupulous magnate of some influence in south-west Wales in the second half of the 16th century. Throughout his career he called on the abbot and canons of Talley for assistance in writing politic letters.

Rhys needed the assistance.  His position in relation to both Richard III and Henry Tudur in the months before Henry landed at Dale was difficult.  A substantial donation to Talley after Henry’s success at Bosworth to repay the abbey for the help it gave him would certainly have been wise.  His will, proved on 5th December 1525, made bequests to practically every religious institution in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire with the exception of Talley so his repayments to them must have been made earlier and a picture with the ravens on his badge would have signalled from whom it came.  It was said by a descendant, probably exaggeratedly, that he lead as many as 8000 men, mounted lancers with esquires, half lancers or pike-men and archers to Henry Tudur’s assistance in the battle against Richard at Bosworth. If he managed anything like that number he must have obtained considerable help from somewhere.13

The choice of the Elijah panel for a reredos at the back of the altar in a chapel at Talley would have conformed to Rhys ap Thomas’s tastes as well as to his obligations. No other paintings are known to have been commissioned or purchased by Rhys ap Thomas. However, the carving on the Derwedd Bed, commissioned after he had given up soldiering on behalf of Henry VII from 1486 to 1497, and in France for Henry VIII in 1512 to 1513, and as a Garter Knight in 1505 had established himself at Carew Castle, is an example of his taste some twenty five years after he must have made a donation to Talley Abbey.

Fig.5. The Derwedd bed, now in the National Museum of Wales.

Fig.5. The Derwedd bed,
now in the
National Museum of Wales.

Carving on the Derwedd bed

Carving on the Derwedd bed

In the centre of the bed end is depicted the famous incident of Earl Stanley using his lance to dismount Richard III from a destrier that had lost a shoe and could not use its hooves as weapons. Behind him on foot is Rhys who is said to have engaged and killed the dismounted Richard. On the sides of the bed the friezes depict later victories of Rhys at the head of English and Welsh soldiers fighting in France.  It must have been made after 1513

The style of the Derwedd bed friezes is not unique to work commissioned by Rhys ap Thomas because it is also visible in occasional pieces of carving on woodwork and painting in 15th and early 16th century gentry houses in Wales and the Marches.14   It is a much less elegant design than for instance the design of most of the relatively few surviving British 15th century religious panel paintings and the illuminations in several English manuscripts of the 15th century including the illuminations of the Book of Hours that was found in the tent of Richard III after Bosworth.  There the people depicted are engaged in less vigorous action than in either the Derwedd bed or the two smaller insets in the Elijah panel and are acting more decoratively and with more refinement.

The comparability between the design of the Derwedd bed and the design of the St Davids Elijah does not of itself confirm any conclusion that Rhys ap Thomas commissioned the St Davids panel but it makes it very likely he purchased one that was available.

The subsequent history of the panel after it left Talley and went to Dolaucothi is better recorded. When Thomas Johnes built Hafod Uchtryd, Cwmystwyth, Ceredigion, in the last years of the 18th century he persuaded the member of his family living at Dolaucothi to let him add the Elijah panel to his collection.15 B. H. Malkin, a visitor to the house in 1803 and subsequently Professor of History at the recently instituted University College, London, described a treasured painting in the library that was dominated by an Elijah and Ravens image and included within the frame of the main image two separate images of Elijah parting the Jordan and Elijah, Elias and the Fiery Chariot.  It was undoubtedly the painting on the panel that is now in St Davids.16 He did not mention the widow of Zarapath but it is not conspicuous and is usually missed by all but the most intensive scrutiny. He was told by Thomas Johnes that the panel came from Talley and had been in the possession of the Johnes family since the dissolution.  Accepting this, he speculated on how an early Italian painting might have come to Wales.

The Hafod Uchtryd library was destroyed by fire in 1807.  The Elijah panel was not only saved, it was almost certainly saved without damage. A painting believed to be by ‘Rembrandt’, that today if verified would be considered of infinitely greater value than the Elijah panel on the art market, was also in the library and was destroyed.17 The Elijah panel cannot even have required restoration. Thomas Johnes of Hafod was a considerable scholar who read both Latin and Greek texts and would not have accepted the letter forms in the areas restored with 19th century paint systems.  Furthermore there is no mention of damage having been done to the Elijah panel in the accounts for repairs to the house.18

Thomas Johnes died in 1816 and his widow Jane lived at Hafod until her own death in 1833. The house and contents were then sold into the estate of the 4th Duke of Newcastle.19 At some time before the duchy resold the Hafod estate the Elijah panel was taken to Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. When that house caught fire in 1879 it was again saved but this time it must have been scorched sufficiently to require extensive restoration to the lower part of the paint surface.

A painter and manufacturer of stained glass who worked for the 7th Duke of Newcastle at the end of the 19th century is the most likely person to have undertaken the restoration work. C.E.Kempe (1834-1907), was an eclectic painter and incorporated motifs from Renaissance German and Flemish masters in paintings on glass such as the east window of St Mary’s, Pembroke, and the glass for the large gothic revival chapel dedicated to St Mary the Virgin that still stands close to the remains of the house at Clumber.20  He was therefore quite capable of making an accurate copy of a late Palaeologue or Cretan painting of a seated Saint and adapting it so that it represented Elijah looking over his shoulder towards one of the ravens. But in view of his other known work he might have been expected to give it a more gothic look so the Orthodox reference was an intentional choice.

The 7th Duke died unmarried.  The estate passed to the son of a daughter of the 6th Duke – the Earl of Lincoln.   He had the Elijah panel auctioned at Christie’s in 1937 along with other pictures from Clumber when the huge, rebuilt, 19th century house became too much of a burden to maintain and was pulled down.


The oak boards comprising the panel, the materials used on it, the draughtsmanship and its documented and reputed history all contribute to an inference that the St Davids Elijah panel was painted by a medieval British artist, possibly an artist from South Wales.   Modifications in the style of late Palaeologue Byzantine painting were added by a restorer to replace parts of the image in a fire damaged area. Since its known provenance and the wood used indicate that the panel has never been out of Britain or been worked upon by other than a British artist, the introduction of late Byzantine ideas must, therefore, have been for a purpose.

Elijah’s reply to God in 1 Kings 19:10 in the Septuagint version clearly seemed important to the 7th , and last, Duke of Newcastle.   It introduces verses 11 and 12 where it is shown that divine power destroys as well as creates and concludes with an indication that injunctions to man are a ‘still small voice’.   It is a demonstration of the characterization of divinity which the Orthodox Church recognised early and has subsequently sustained but is less compatible with the north-western European medieval militarist ideals that survive to the present day.

Photograph Credits.

The St Davids Elijah Panel, and The Derwedd Bed, in Derwedd House were all photographed by the author. The Elijah panel and details with the permission of the Dean of St Davids.  The Derwedd bed with the permission of Mrs Stepney Gulston.  The detail of the panel at the bottom of the bed is © The National Museum of Wales.


1.Eastham, Michael, 2005 ‘The Elijah Panel in St Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire and its Provenance’ Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol. 151 (2002) 19-40. In it I summarised conclusions that I had arrived at as much as ten years previously.

  1. Evans, Wyn. St Davids Cathedral, (Andover, Pitkin Press. 1991).
  2. Hetherington, Paul, The Painter’s Manual of Dionysius of Fourna,(London, Saggitarius. 1974).
  3. Winfield, June and David, Proportion and Structure of the human figure in Byzantine wall painting and mosaic.( Oxford BAR. 1982).
  4. Campbell, Lorna, The Fifteenth Century Netherlandish School, (London, National Gallery Publications, 1998).
  5. Holt,Elizabeth Gilmore, Literary Sources of Art History, (Princeton NJ., Princeton University Press 1947) and Helen Howard, Pigments of English Medieval Wall Painting, (London, Archetype Publications, 2003).
  6. Naydenov, Evgeniy.1996, I contacted several scholars who specialised in Greek and Cyrillic encoding but they were unable to translate the text. Naydenov was not only able to translate it but he showed me the mistakes in letter forms and identified its origin in distinctive versions of the Septuagint. He suggested that the scripts used on the St Davids panel were copies of texts inscribed on an Orthodox icon.  They were made by someone who was unfamiliar with the letter forms and without understanding of what they meant.   He was probably unable to read them as the Orthodox icon was in poor condition and he made a poor job of copying them in consequence.
  7. Browne, Charles Gordon and James Edward Swallow ed. and trans. ‘Select Orations of St Gregory Nazienzen: sometime Archbishop of Constantinople’, in a Select Library of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace,(Oxford and London, Parker and Company, 1898). Particularly paragraphs III and IV of ‘The Fifth Theological Oration, On the Holy Spirit’, p.318. See also Gervase Mathews 1963 Byzantine Aesthetics,( London, John Murray). 23-29.
  8. Christie’s Auctioneers, Catalogue of Old Pictures, the property of the Honourable the Earl of Lincoln, (London, Christie Manson and Woods,1937).
  9. Lloyd-Johnes, Herbert, ‘Presidential Address’, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society,1937.
  10. Owen E. ‘A Contribution to the History of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Talley, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 5th Series 10: 29-47,120-128, 226-237 and 309-325.(1898) and Price F.S. A History of Talley and Talley Abbey, ( Swansea.1936).
  11. Robinson, D.M. and C. Platt, The Abbeys of Strata Florida and Talley,(Cardiff, Cadw, 1992)
  12. Griffiths, Ralph A., Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Family, (Cardiff, University of Wales Press,1993).
  13. Bebb, Richard, Welsh Furniture,1250-1950, (Kidwelly, Saer Books,2007).

15.Vaughan, H.M. 1925, Some Letters of Thomas Johns of Hafod, (London Cymrodorian Society,1925).

  1. Malkin B.H., The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales, (2nd ed., London,1807).
  2. Meyrick, S.R., History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan, (London,1809-1810) and Rees, T., The Beauties of England and Wales, Vol. 18, (London, 1815).
  3. Johnes, Thomas, A Catalogue of the late Pesaro Library at Venice, (Hafod Uchtryd, Hafod Press,1807) and H.M.Vaughan, Some Letters of Thomas Johnes of Hafod, (London, Cymrodorian Society, 1925).
  4. Moore-Colyer R. ‘The Hafod Estate under Thomas Johnes, and Henry Pelham 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme’. Welsh History Review 8 (1976-1977), 285-297.
  5. Stamp, G. and A. Symondson, The Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, Clumber, Nottinghamshire, (London, National Trust, 1982).

Picture List.

Fig.1. The Elijah panel St Davids Cathedral.

Fig. 2.Elijah Panel, St Davids Cathedral, Zarapath, Elijah outside the gates greeting the widow and on top of the wall raising her son from the dead.

Fig.3. Elijah panel St Davids, Head of large depiction and inscriptions.

Fig.4a. Elijah panel, St Davids,  Elijah parting the waters of Jordan.

Fig.4b.Elijah panel St Davids, Elijah dropping his mantle to Elias as he ascends in the fiery chariot.

Fig.5.The Derwedd bed.  To the left in a bedroom in Derwedd House.  To the right a detail photographed by the National Museum of Wales prior to exhibition of the bed in St Fagans House.


Elijah Fig 1 (2)

William Paxton and Cold Blow, Pembrokeshire, in the early 19th Century


By Peter Stopp

Whilst researching stories of Sir William Paxton (1743-1824) as background for leading tours of his estate at the National Botanic Garden of Wales I came across a puzzling reference stating that he purchased the Inn at Cold Blow. I knew Cold Blow as a remote cluster of a few houses lying on a hill to the south of Narberth. What could have driven him to purchase its inn? The answer, I eventually found, lay in the fact that it was on a Turnpike Road.


An Act of 7 March 1763 established the Main Trust, the first of the Turnpikes in South Wales, through Carmarthenshire from Trecastle mountain west to Tavernspite on the Pembrokeshire border.[i] Tolls (fig.1) were extracted to repay the upkeep of the road, which simply followed the long-used byways uphill and down dale. Soon many more Turnpikes were to follow, including the Tavernspite Trust in 1771.

The road led from Tavernspite through Princes Gate, Cold Blow and Narberth Bridge through the town to Robeston Wathen and on to Haverfordwest (fig. 2).

Figure 2: The Turnpike route through Cold Blow

Figure 2: The Turnpike route through Cold Blow

By 1772 there were two main routes being used by mail coaches from London through to Carmarthen and on to Haverfordwest. By 1785 the mail coaches ran through to Hubberston via Narberth[i] – with a change of horses at the Noah’s Ark Inn, Blaengwaethno by Princes Gate. Fenton mentions, in 1810, that there had been an inn there.[ii]

By 1793 the town of Milford Haven  had been started and the terminus transferred there, at Hakin Point to meet the packet ships bound for Waterford,  Ireland.[iii]  The mail coach set off from London every evening at 7.15 p.m., at a pace requiring its four horses to be changed every 8 miles along the route, so inns with reliable stabling were needed at those staging posts. From Carmarthen a three-horse ‘unicorn’ team took over to reach the Irish packet at Milford Haven at 5.30 a.m. on the second day, thirty-four and a quarter hours after having left London. This route to Ireland was an important one, and by 1804/5 the mail service had been upgraded to a daily event[iv], passing through Narberth at 2 p.m.[v]

William Paxton

At the start of the nineteenth century travel to the Continent was hindered by Napoleon’s antics. Instead society looked to places in the U.K., especially to sea-bathing and spas then in fashion and William Paxton saw his opportunity to capitalise on that – by developing Tenby, which had by then become very run-down, with many neglected houses.

In 1802 Paxton purchased his first properties in Tenby and wrote to his friend David Williams:

“The Tenby lot pleases me most and if … it answers my expectations I may probably lay out thousands in building lodging houses etc which being much wanted, may be of some benefit to the place.”

 He continued with a few more details, writing…

“One great advantage of No. 2 is that it joins Green Hill, 2/3 of which I purchased at the Coomb Sale, and the remaining 1/3 I shall probably get when Sir Hugh Owen comes of age, about a twelvemonth hence.”[vi]

He built a house on the site of the Globe in Tudor Square, which is now the Tenby House Hotel.[vii] Edward Laws tells us…

‘He purchased two properties: one of which had previously belonged to the White family and another from Sir Roger Lort (and) ..the Stackpole Estate’. [viii]

The ruins of the former property, on the northwest side of Tenby Church were eventually presented in 1808 to the Corporation… ‘that they might be removed and so improve the High Street’.[ix]

In 1805 Paxton even went to Tenby for the summer. There he…

‘informed the Town Council of his plans for building a bath-house and was granted “a lease of two cellars and gardens lying in a street called Laston”[i] for that purpose.’

In the same year he apparently commissioned the Assembly Rooms. Paxton commissioned James Grier and Samuel Pepys Cockerell to design and build a fashionable bathing establishment….(and) work on the building began in the first week of July 1806.[ii]

The many developments in Tenby that Paxton made relied upon a tourist trade, so access to the town was critical to its success. For the very wealthy with their own coach travel that was less of a problem. The upper middle class could travel there individually by horse. But for many travel was by coach, including  the mail coach with its four outside seats. The nearest mail coach route was that which went through Narberth where the Receiving House transferred the packages of mail destined for Tenby residents onto saddle horse for delivery there by the postboy.[iii] If Paxton could connect Tenby by coach to the mail route it would enable passengers to transfer from mail coach to the local taxi route. But that journey from Narberth to Tenby entailed crossing Narberth ‘mountain’, a steep climb for coach-horses.

Mail Staging Posts

An early staging  post on the mail route had been the Noah’s Ark Inn at Blaengwaethno near Princes Gate[iv], nine miles from St Clears, but that had closed by 1810 when Richard Fenton made his travels. Fenton refered to Narberth town as  a ‘market and post-town.’[v] So a staging post was located there, probably in the White Hart Inn, which had existed since at least 1776[vi], but that was twelve miles from St Clears , half as far again as the ideal distance of seven to eight miles. Tavernspite had inns – the Old Tavernspite (later renamed the Coach and Horses) and the Plume of Feathers[vii] and the latter was certainly a Milford mail staging post in 1810, according to Fenton.[viii] That was 7 miles on from St Clears, so the next stage, to Narberth, would have been a short 5 miles.

Paxton would have been able to see  that Cold Blow offered advantages as a transfer point. It lay on the main mail route at a junction which led to Tenby, avoiding Narberth Mountain, and at just over 10 miles from St Clears made a slightly less demanding journey than going on to Narberth.  A staging post there could possibly replace both Tavernspite and Narberth. Did he gamble on that? We may never know. One account states that he built an inn at Cold Blow [ix] and that seems confirmed in the wording – ‘has been built’ – of a later  letter from the District Surveyor in 1814 referring to the inn there (see below).

In June 1812 David Hughes advertised (fig. 3) the inn at Cold Blow as having a Post Chaise and ‘careful drivers’.

Fig 3

Perhaps significantly he also advertised that he was ‘late guard of His Majesty’s Royal Mail’. If he was Paxton’s appointee that might have been a deliberate step on the way to attracting the staging post to Cold Blow. If so, it worked, for on 25 May, 1814, Samuel Woodcock, the District Surveyor of Posts, proposed to the Postmaster General (PMG) the establishment of a Receiving House at Cold Blow to serve Tenby and Pembroke…

‘since Tenby has become a fashionable resort for sea-bathing, and the number of visitors much increased, a very good inn has been built at a place called Cold Blow, which is a more convenient point of communication, both with Tenby and Pembroke as by that means a long steep hill called Narberth Mountain is avoided … I therefore propose that a Receiving House …shall be fixed at the Inn called the Windsor Castle in Cold Blow …(at) a small salary per annum of £4’.

The PMG, Sir Francis Freeling, confirmed the transfer in June, 1814.[i] What the residents of Narberth felt about this switch is not known. Their mail was now carried  on foot.

Hughes was succeeded as licensee  by David Philipps who reopened the inn after its facelift in 1820, and then in 1823 by William Small and his wife, Mary. By this time the inn possessed stabling for fifteen horses and standing for five carriages.[ii] A later recollection paints a picture of life here around this time:

‘Coldblow, at one time, was a post-village of considerable importance, and was well-known to all who frequented the western part of the island. An immense traffic flowed through it. It was on the highway to the south of Ireland, and the last place where relayes were kept. Two mail coaches daily changed horses at the door of the inn, and it was no unusual thing to see half a dozen travelling carriages at a time drawn up in the road’. [iii]

Figure 4: Cover sheet of letter sent from Cold Blow by J. Hensleigh Allen, M.P.

Figure 4: Cover sheet of letter sent from Cold Blow by J. Hensleigh Allen, M.P.

In or around 1824, the year that William Paxton died, the Receiving House gained a circular 254 mileage mark.[iv] The cover sheet (fig. 4) was sent by John Hensleigh Allen, M.P. for Pembroke Borough, via Cold Blow, to his solicitor in Haverfordwest, probably near the peak of its business life.

The Fall of the House of Windsor

In the following year William Small was thrown from his horse and he died, leaving his wife, Mary, to run the business. But the Receiving House was transferred to Narberth in 1827[1] and stayed there until 1836 when it was proposed to return it to Cold Blow.[2] Still in the hands of Mary until March, 1837 she auctioned off the fixtures and fittings, a process lasting two days, and retired to a cottage next to the inn. She sold the inn five years later as well suited ‘ for being converted into an excellent premises for maltsters’. [3] At that time the end was clearly in sight for the inn. A new road was being built by Thomas Telford from Red Roses through to Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock. That was opened in April, 1839 and became the new mail coach route for Ireland, but for little more than a decade, because then the railway took over.

The inn may have been closed long ago but its name lives on in a small close alongside the site, called ‘Windsor Gardens


Figure 5: The Windsor Castle, after its demise as an inn.



[1]   A.H.T. Lewis,  The Early effects of Carmarthenshire Turnpike Trusts 1760-1800 in The

    Carmarthenshire Historian  IV (1967), 41-54.

[1]   P. Reynolds,  The mail coaches of Wales: 1 in South Wales Welsh Philatelic Society

    newsletter No. 50 (December, 1988),  4-11.

[1]   R. Fenton,  A Historical Tour Through Pembrokeshire (London , 1811, reprinted 1903),


[1]   The London Gazette 6.4.1793.

[1]   Cambrian 28.1.1804.

[1]    D. Rhys-Phillips,  The Cold Blow Receiving House in The Welsh Philatelic Society

     Newsletter (September 1990),  55, 10-11.

[1]    NLW David Williams collection 1802 Letter from Wm Paxton to David Williams.

[1]    B. Price,  The Fortune of William Paxton in Pembrokeshire Life (November, 2011), 9-11.

[1]    E. Laws  The History of Little England beyond Wales (George Bell, Londodn1888) ,  395

[1]   E. Laws,  ibid.

[1]   W.G.J.Kuiters, William Paxton, 1744-1824: Middleton Hall and the adventures of a

      Scottish “Nabob” in Carmarthenshire (undated), 40. W.G.J.Kuiters MA dissertation for

Leiden University was translated and  published in 1992 in Bengal Past & Present

      (British Library, India Office Collection).

[1]    Kuiters Op cit, 40/41.

[1]    Return relating to Mail Coaches App 45 First Report of the Select Committee on Postage

HC 1837/8 xx (ii)  649. 4 April 1838, in Welsh Philatelic Society Newsletter,  41 (August

1985),  14-16.

[1]    K. Johnson, The pubs of Narberth, Saundersfoot and South East Pembrokeshire. (2004),


[1]    R. Fenton, op cit  (1903), 168.

[1]    K. Johnson, op cit, 115.

[1]    K. Johnson,  Historic Inns of Pembrokeshire: the rise and fall of the house of Windsor in

Pembrokeshire Life. (November 2002), 7.

[1]    R. Fenton, op cit, 261.

[1]    K. Johnson,  op cit , 64.

[1]    D. Rhys-Phillips, and H.B.Lee,  The Postal History of Tenby (1974) 5.

[1]    K. Johnson, op cit.

[1]    Anon, The Charm Doctor  (1857), 222.

[1]    D. Rhys-Phillips, op cit.

[1]    Anon – (?G. Scourfield) mimeo notes ‘Narberth Post Office’ held in Narberth Museum.

[1]    D. Rhys-Phillips & H. B. Lee, op cit.

[1]    K. Johnson, op cit.

























[i]    D. Rhys-Phillips, and H.B.Lee,  The Postal History of Tenby (1974) 5.

[ii]    K. Johnson, op cit.

[iii]    Anon, The Charm Doctor  (1857), 222.

[iv]    D. Rhys-Phillips, op cit.







[i]   W.G.J.Kuiters, William Paxton, 1744-1824: Middleton Hall and the adventures of a

      Scottish “Nabob” in Carmarthenshire (undated), 40. W.G.J.Kuiters MA dissertation for

Leiden University was translated and  published in 1992 in Bengal Past & Present

      (British Library, India Office Collection).

[ii]    Kuiters Op cit, 40/41.

[iii]    Return relating to Mail Coaches App 45 First Report of the Select Committee on Postage

HC 1837/8 xx (ii)  649. 4 April 1838, in Welsh Philatelic Society Newsletter,  41 (August

1985),  14-16.

[iv]    K. Johnson, The pubs of Narberth, Saundersfoot and South East Pembrokeshire. (2004),


[v]    R. Fenton, op cit  (1903), 168.

[vi]    K. Johnson, op cit, 115.

[vii]    K. Johnson,  Historic Inns of Pembrokeshire: the rise and fall of the house of Windsor in

Pembrokeshire Life. (November 2002), 7.

[viii]    R. Fenton, op cit, 261.

[ix]    K. Johnson,  op cit , 64.

[i]   P. Reynolds,  The mail coaches of Wales: 1 in South Wales Welsh Philatelic Society

    newsletter No. 50 (December, 1988),  4-11.

[ii]   R. Fenton,  A Historical Tour Through Pembrokeshire (London , 1811, reprinted 1903),


[iii]   The London Gazette 6.4.1793.

[iv]   Cambrian 28.1.1804.

[v]    D. Rhys-Phillips,  The Cold Blow Receiving House in The Welsh Philatelic Society

     Newsletter (September 1990),  55, 10-11.

[vi]    NLW David Williams collection 1802 Letter from Wm Paxton to David Williams.

[vii]    B. Price,  The Fortune of William Paxton in Pembrokeshire Life (November, 2011), 9-11.

[viii]    E. Laws  The History of Little England beyond Wales (George Bell, Londodn1888) ,  395

[ix]   E. Laws,  ibid.

[i]   A.H.T. Lewis,  The Early effects of Carmarthenshire Turnpike Trusts 1760-1800 in The

    Carmarthenshire Historian  IV (1967), 41-54.

Discovering the Lost Story of Sion House


By Douglas Fraser


In the 21st issue of this journal (2012) an article edited by Michael Eastham John Nash’s Houses in Pembrokeshire by I Wyn Jones (1928-2004) mentioned Sion House in Tenby.  This was built in 1790 for William Routh, a printer and publisher from Bristol, and Jones made the comment “It is difficult to imagine why Routh should come to such a remote place as Tenby which was then just recovering from an 18th century slump as a port and scarcely yet in the process of development as a holiday resort.”  The question is of more than passing interest since the building of a stylish Nash villa coupled with the promotion of Tenby in Routh’s publication, Sarah Farley’s Bristol Journal, may well have helped to secure Tenby’s development as a fashionable place of relaxation.

In this paper I intend to answer the question of why Routh came to Tenby by drawing upon recent research which suggests that William Routh did not choose Tenby but acquired an attractive plot there almost by accident.  Furthermore, that accident was probably a consequence of a dubious property deal involving one of Pembrokeshire’s oldest families.

A Disputed Sale

The familiar picture of Sion House from an 1840s lithograph probably produced in the mid 1840s to facilitate its sale.

The familiar picture of Sion House from an 1840s lithograph probably produced in the mid 1840s to facilitate its sale.

The person who first identified in modern times that there was something odd about the title of Sion House was Stella Pedersen, a direct descendant of Joseph Routh, a nephew of William.  This came to light as a result of researching the sale of Sion House to Sir Henry Mannix following the death of William Routh’s widow, Catherine.   These events were described in a family history1 and the principal source was The Letter Books of Jacob Richards (1774 – 1834) of Tenby.

William Routh died in 1800 leaving everything, without specifying any detail, to his wife, Catherine who survived him by nine years.  Her executor, the Haverfordwest solicitor, John Willy, put Sion House up for auction (November 1809) and the successful bidder, who offered £1450, was Jacob Richards, recently arrived in Tenby having made a fortune in India.  The sale did not go through (the reason is not clear but may be inferred from what happened subsequently) and Willy put the house up for auction a second time in July 1810, and again Richards was the highest bidder, at £1400.  Willy then wrote to Richards advising him that the title was not safe and he could not advise Richards to proceed until the “heir at law” (Catherine’s next-of-kin), John Davies, a mariner, had been traced.  Richards expressed concern over the deteriorating condition of the house and in correspondence with both Willy and Joseph Routh offered to accept the deficient title in return for a reduction in the price or an indemnity.

According to Richards, when Sion House first came on the market in 1809, Mannix called on him “under an appearance of friendship” and advised him not to bid too high. In the light of subsequent events one can speculate that even then Mannix was setting himself up to obtain the house on advantageous terms and may have known about the “problem” with the title.  On 24th January 1811 Richards wrote to Joseph Routh: “I was not a little surprised by the receipt of a letter from Mr Willy this evening stating that he had let the House to Sir H Mannix for 21 years.  I understand from Sir H precisely that he is to pay £65 and to keep the Premises in repair with an option to purchase at any time previous to the expiration of this period on your producing a title to his satisfaction.”  There followed a great deal of correspondence including threats of legal action and Richards asserting that he had bought the property and intended to have it.During all of this, Mannix put his men to work in the garden of Sion House and Richards brought in three constables to remove them. There were to be other incidents.  On March 10th 1811, Richards described one such in a letter to Joseph Routh:  “After I had been about an hour in the House Sir H Mannix and his people besieged me all round most completely, having got into the lower part of the House into the kitchen thro’ the arched Passage which I forgot to secure……I left my servants in the upper part of the House with a Constable to keep the Peace & went for more assistance.  While I was away one of his Servants got into the upper Storey by a Ladder thro’ the window, unbolted one of the Doors and let him and his people in……Mr Willy has since been here who declares he had authorized Sir Henry to take possession as a Tenant a Month ago.”

Although the blustering continued, Mannix had outwitted Richards and went on to purchase the house.  Subsequent events showed that Richard’s pride was very much hurt.  Indeed, the degree of embitterment was to extend to the next generation: Sir Henry Mannix’s illegitimate son, Henry Mannix and Jacob Richard’s son, William, fought a duel in 1839 over access rights to Sion House, in which William Richards was grievously injured.3

But what was the problem with the title that prevented John Willy selling to Jacob Richards but not to Henry Mannix?

Why Mannix?

The sale had become urgent because by 1810 Sion House was falling down.  On 14th August 1810 in a letter to Joseph Routh, Jacob Richards wrote: “I should not in the least wonder to see the ceiling of the drawing Room tumble in from the lodgement of Water which has insinuated itself thro’ the cracks of the Lead, and as I have no doubt seriously injured the beams.”  In December he wrote: “You no doubt know, it is now too much unroofed and the Rain has soaked into the lower Storey and seriously injured the intermediate woodwork.”  Although Richards was putting pressure on Routh, he could not have done so without cause – urgent maintenance was, undoubtedly, required.  Thus, the approach of granting Mannix a repairing lease and option on the property whilst resolving the issue of the title was an ingenious way of preventing any further deterioration.    But, if the lease were the right route, was it offered to Richards?  Unfortunately we have only Richards’ side of the correspondence but there is no letter referring to or rejecting an offer of a lease and Richard’s expressed surprise at the arrangement with Mannix suggests that he had received no such offer.

To understand why Mannix may have received an offer that Richards did not, it is necessary to look more closely at Sir Henry Mannix himself.  He was born at Richmont, County Cork in 1740.  In 1778, when the United Irishmen started attacking the property of the protestant gentry, Mannix (in common with many of his peers) formed a regiment of militia, the Glanmire Union.  Through this and as a magistrate, he became a scourge of the rebels.  Sir Henry Mannix was one of a number of individuals identified for assassination by the Whiteboys, a particularly militant branch of the United Irishmen.  In 1798 he was shot in the back by his gardener and initial reports suggested that he was dead, but Mannix recovered and retreated to Pembrokeshire, probably as a safe haven from which he could easily visit his properties in Ireland.  Sir Henry had married Elizabeth Parker in Ireland in 1764 but they had no issue.  He took a mistress, Mary Banks, and for the rest of his life ran two establishments.  Whilst Lady Mannix reigned at Sion House, Mary was established at Eastwood, near Narberth, with her three children by Mannix.

In 1807 Henry Mannix was living in Market Street, Tenby (roughly on the present site of the Natwest Bank), next door to a mariner, Thomas Maddox.  Maddox’s property had a rear passageway to Cresswell Street and Mannix decided that he would like to use it (Murray John who owns 2 Olive Buildings in St Mary Street, believes that Olive Buildings were initially built for the use of Mannix’s mistress, in which case Sir Henry may have wanted a more discreet means of visiting than via his front door).  Mannix had his mason break through his garden wall into the passage and, quite reasonably, Maddox tried to stop him.  This resulted in Mannix prosecuting Maddox for assaulting him and his mason and having Maddox imprisoned for two months.  The following year Mannix was waiting with his carriage for the ferry to cross to Pembroke from Neyland when, he asserted, John Griffiths and David Noot pushed ahead of him.  He prosecuted both for assault and had them put away for one month each.

Extract from Couling Map of Tenby (1811) showing the homes of Mannix and Maddock, and the passage broken into by Mannix. Source; Tenby Museum and Art

Extract from Couling Map of Tenby (1811) showing the homes of Mannix and Maddock, and the passage broken into by Mannix.
Source; Tenby Museum and Art

It may be concluded that Mannix’s combination of legal training and forcefulness would make it quite in character for him to have browbeaten Willy into a course of action which resulted in him, Mannix, achieving his objective with respect to the purchase of Sion House.  However, even that is unlikely to have succeeded unless Mannix knew something that could have embarrassed Willy and complicated the sale – did Mannix have prior knowledge of a problem with the title to Sion House that frustrated the sale to Richards?

Catherine Routh’s Trust

Catherine Routh’s will was proved early in 1810 and made no explicit mention of the house.  The estate was valued at less than £300, which is easily accounted for by the personal possessions listed and includes nothing for Sion House.  Joseph and Elizabeth Routh although the residual legatees, probably received little if anything under the will.  Whilst the controversy over the sale was raging, Jacob Richards wrote to Joseph Routh: “I really begin to think with you that this has been a pre-meditated conspiracy to deprive me of the House and you of the Sale.”  But far from a “pre-meditated conspiracy”, did the house even belong to the Rouths?

In 1781, very shortly before William Routh married Catherine Davies in Bristol, all of William Routh’s property was placed into a trust fund of which Catherine was the beneficiary and Michael Hodgson of London was the trustee.    In the deed setting up the trust it was stated that after the death of Catherine the beneficiaries were to be her “heirs and assigns”.  Since the purpose of a trust is to put the property outside the control of the beneficiary, this must mean that the heir-at-law – John Davies and then “Leonard of St Clears” (Mary Davies, Catherine’s aunt, had married Thomas Leonard in St Clears in 1746) – had a greater claim upon the proceeds of the sale of property contained in the trust than did her chosen heirs, Joseph and Elizabeth Routh.  As it happens, William Routh did not purchase the land upon which Sion House was built until 1784 but it would be reasonable to assume that property purchases made after the establishment of Catherine’s trust were added to it.  There is evidence in support of this in the modest value of Catherine’s personal estate.  The existence of a trust does not, however, provide a complete explanation for the problem with the title that prevented the sale to Richards in the first place, since the house could still have been sold by the trustees – even if the heirs-at-law rather than Joseph and Elizabeth received the proceeds.

Catherine Routh’s trust may have been no more than a form of marriage settlement but it seems odd that William put his property out of both his and Catherine’s reach, unless he feared some claim against it.  It is also of interest  that the transfer was in  the form of “lease and release”.  The process of lease and release was devised in the seventeenth century as a means of effecting a sale of property in secret (the vendor gave the purchaser a one year lease for a peppercorn and followed it up with a release of the freehold interest for a consideration – since neither transaction was of itself deemed to constitute a conveyance of the freehold no-one had to be told about the transfer).  However, by the late eighteenth century and until 1845 when property laws were modernised, lease and release was the most common form of conveyance, simply because it was cheap and easy; but it could also be used to hide the ownership of property.

Stella Pedersen also points to the odd fact that as late as 1825 the four cottages in “No Acre” adjoining Sion House were still described as belonging to Catherine Routh’s estate.  (These had been left by Catherine Routh to be sold and the interest on the proceeds given to four boys until the age of 18).  As these cottages, unlike Sion House, were explicitly mentioned in her will they must have belonged to her personally and not to her trust.  There appears to be no obvious reason why her wishes were not promptly executed unless there was a problem with the title other than relating to the trust, possibly a problem that encompassed both Sion House itself and all other property on the same plot.

So what was in this trust at the time of Catherine’s death?  The Rouths appear at certain times to have been considerable landowners* but at the time of Catherine’s death, the controversy over the sale of Sion House reported above, related purely to the house and associated properties.  There is also evidence that Catherine was financially pressed by 1805 – she had taken on the running of Sarah Farley’s Bristol Journal on the death of her husband and by 1805 her representatives were referring to  “a large sum immediately to be made up for Government Duties”; the Journal was sold a year later.  But even if Catherine were not able to utilise the capital tied up in a trust, if it held a lot of property there should have been a substantial income from it.  So what was in this trust and could it merely have been a device for putting property temporarily “out of sight”?

William Oliver – who really owned Sion House?

In April 1784, William Routh, then living in Bristol, obtained from “William Oliver formerly of Wotton Underedge, Co. Gloucester, but now of Bristol, gent.” under lease and release for £320 and an annuity of £100:

– messuages and lands called Grove Demesne, lands called Oxiands, Mileford, Castles and Sentences, messuages and lands called Chappel Hill, Templeton (lands in), cottages and gardens including Old Walls, Cold Blow House, Mountain Side, Petersfinger, Pitch, Roseside, messuages or tenements called Narberth Mountain and Molleston Back, lime kilns and quarries, tenements called Parrotts Walls, Newcastle, Longstone, Pensoed and Spring Garden, all in the parish of Ludchurch, tenements called Dinnaston, Middlehill, Martin Hill, the New Inn, Dinnaston Mountain Cam Mill, Islands, Ducks pool and Loveston, parish of Loveston, the demesne called Merrixon, tenements called Welch Gate, Camomile Back, New House, Stagger’s Hill, Hammonsford Bottom, lands called Row Park, Wells head, the Croft, Kilsaice, Closes and Hill, Hodge Moor, Upper Eighteen Acres, and Little Kiln Park, the tithes of the rectory of Amroth, parish of Amroth, a messuage in Tenby, messuages called Cilvachwennith and Nantagof Issa, parish of Landekeven, messuages and premises called Trenikol, parishes of Landeloy and Lanrythen; a meadow called Pembroke Meadow; lands called Queens Ditch and Doctors Close, a storehouse, etc., parish of St. Mary, Haverfordwest; messuages and lands called Broad Meadow and Jordans Close parish of St. Martin, Haverfordwest; a colliery called Merrixon; messuages called Parke and Talvan, and cottages, parish of Langan, of Carmarthen.4

This appears to be a very substantial part if not the whole of the inheritance of the Poyer family of Grove, near Narberth, including coal mines, and worth a great deal more than the sum  paid.  It also includes the “messuage in Tenby” which was to become the site of Sion House.  Yet in the rates records of Tenby for the last decade of the eighteenth century, Sion House is shown not in the ownership of William Routh but purely in his occupation: the ownership is shown as “late of Mr William Oliver”.  The lease and release mechanism did not require Routh and Oliver to tell anyone about the transfer of title but what did they have to gain by, in effect, hiding the ownership of Sion House?  Furthermore, it is only because we still have the rates records for Tenby in this period that we know that the ownership of Sion House was not declared.  Presumably the ownership of the other property listed was similarly suppressed. 5

In 1799 the transaction was reversed and the property returned to Oliver – all that is but “the premises situated in the parishes of St Mary and St Margaret, Haverfordwest”.  So, Routh retained Sion House (and property in Haverfordwest) and the records for 1800 are the first which show William  Routh as being the owner of Sion House.

The Poyers of Grove and the case in Chancery

The land transferred by William Oliver was that belonging to the Poyers of Grove, in Lampeter Velfrey, one of the old families of Pembrokeshire.  The then head of the family, John Poyer had died in 1737, leaving the administration of his estate to his wife Ann who neglected this charge and herself died intestate in 1781.  The eldest son, Daniel died in 1756 without leaving a wife or legitimate issue and the second son, John, died in 1784, leaving a wife, Margaret neé Lewis but no children.  There had been a total of nine children born to the older John and Ann but only two were alive by the end of 1784, Anne and Louisa.  Anne was married to William Callen and Louisa had married William Oliver in 1779.  By 1784 the affairs of the family were in a state of confusion which went back nearly 50 years.  There were three surviving claimants on the estate of the older John Poyer, Margaret, the widow of his son John,  and his daughters, Louisa Oliver and Anne Callan.


Poyer tree 002

Margaret Poyer remarried in 1786, to Thomas Mansell, a surgeon.  By that time, William Oliver had secretly transferred the estate to William Routh.  Mansell, acting on behalf of his wife challenged Callen and Oliver (acting on behalf of their wives) concerning the distribution of the estate and by the end of 1787 the case had gone to Chancery, the court concerned with wills and similar disputes.  This was often a long drawn out process but this case was devolved to a local court and resolved in principle the following year, although it took over ten years to unscramble everything.  Thomas and Margaret Mansell won the right to the bulk of the property but they were required to assign the leases of the valuable collieries at Coedrath (Stepaside and Saundersfoot), to Callen and Oliver.  However, Louisa Oliver died in 1792 and William Callen in 1793 so the Mansells actually assigned the property to Anne Callen.  It would certainly seem that the lease on this colliery was part of the parcel that Oliver had “sold” to Routh since in 1796 William Routh accepted £597.14.6d from Anne Callen in respect of compensation for investment that he had made in it.

An interesting twist to this tale is that although the court appears to have reversed the questionable land deal (William Routh was brought before it and was party to many of the “unscrambling” transactions) the land upon which Sion House was built remained with Routh.  Was this the intention of the court or did Routh manage to hang on to it unseen?

Thus William and Catherine Routh appear to have been conspiring with Oliver to hide the ownership of a substantial part of the Poyer estate with the intent of ensuring that Louisa Oliver and her sister retained a greater share of the whole than they were strictly entitled to.  Since the site of Sion House was part of this estate, the Mansells or Callans might well consider that they should have owned this land.  Was this the “problem with the title” to which Willy referred in his dealing with Richards?

The threat to John Willy

One of the questions raised above concerning the Sion House sale by John Willy, the Haverfordwest lawyer and executor of Catherine Routh, was why he preferred Sir Henry Mannix as a purchaser to Jacob Richards, although the latter may have been thought to have had a stronger claim.  The Willy family were from Lampeter Velfrey and it is quite likely that they had been aware of the Poyer dispute; indeed, it is quite possible that they had advised one of the parties.  Mannix was a lawyer and moved amongst the Pembrokeshire gentry. It is almost certain that he would have known the story. Did Mannix use his knowledge of the background to the title of Sion House as a means of putting pressure on Willy?  Could he have threatened to disrupt the sale by bringing the Callen and Mansell families into the transaction?  Indeed, if Willy or his family had set up the original deal, that might give Mannix an even more powerful hold over him, the threat of exposure.  As his previous history had demonstrated, we know that Sir Henry Mannix would have taken any steps that he thought might be effective in order to have his way.


Even if the above goes some way to answering some of the outstanding questions surrounding Sion House, it does not answer them all.  Henry Mannix did eventually buy the property but the purchase price does not appear to have gone to Joseph and Elizabeth Routh. Did it go to the “heirs-at-law”, or even to the Callens?  Catherine Routh appears before her marriage to have been a wealthy woman but we know that she was short of cash by the early nineteenth century.  Was her wealth absorbed by the various, possibly over ambitious ventures of her husband or was it hidden in trusts – in which case, what happened to it?

Sion House was probably the first grand house built following the decline of Tenby and thus contributed to the emergence of Tenby

during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a desirable resort.  Perhaps the most intriguing question of all is, could Tenby’s development as a fair and fashionable resort have been in part the side effect of a dubious series of property deals?

*    Catherine was the grand-daughter of Thomas, one of the Howells of Prinknash Park whose money came from Caribbean sugar, and was an heiress in her own right.  She lived in and met William Routh in Bristol.


  1. Pedersen S, More about Maria’s Family, Cydweli (2008)
  1. The National Library of Wales, Manuscripts 22870D and 22871D.

The whole letter book has since been transcribed by the late Brian Price of Tenby and provides a wealth of material about Jacob Richards, a significant figure in Tenby’s history.  Jacob Richards was a Carmarthenshire man of humble stock who had joined the army of the Honorable East India Company, rising to Sergeant-Major.  Tough and shrewd, he made a fortune in India and retired to Tenby in 1809 where he first became Mayor in 1812 and served as such on four further occasions.

Copies of the transcript are deposited in the Tenby Branch of Pembrokeshire County Library and in the Pembrokeshire County Record Office.


  1. Price, B.D. Two Tenby Duels and their Associations, Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society XIV (2005)


  1. Pembrokeshire County Record Office, The Eaton Evans and Williams Collection contains  much of the evidence drawn upon in this account including:

4502-27 Papers relating to the estate of John Poyer of Grove 1781-1790

3841-2 Lease and Release of properties of William Routh 1781

3902 Release of lands by William Oliver to William Routh 1784

1600-1 Lease and Release 1799

4398-4403 Letters from Routh concerning the settlement of the Grove estate. 1790

  1. Tenby Museum and Art Gallery Rates Records for Tenby 1790 to 1800.


Monkton Old Hall: a fifteenth-century manorial courthouse?


By Neil Ludlow

Monkton Old Hall is a late-medieval hall-house, prominently situated just southeast of the churchyard, and former priory precinct, at Monkton, Pembroke (Fig. 1).

Monkton fig 1

Fig. 1: Detail from OS 1:2500, Second Edition, Pembs. Sheet XL 9, 1908

(inset: detail from OS 1:500, First Edition, Pembs. Sheet XL 9.8, 1861)

There appears to be no record of either its construction or its purpose. An ‘end-hall’, it comprised a hall and two-storeyed service-wing over a rib-vaulted undercroft; a further wing formerly existed at the northwest end. A three-storeyed kitchen wing was added to the service wing in the post-medieval period, giving the current T-shaped plan. Ruinous by the late nineteenth century, the building has undergone several restorations.

No detailed study of the Old Hall has been published, despite its considerable interest and the uncertainty over its function. The numerous short accounts, sometimes conflicting, include descriptions by Joseph Cobb and Leonard Beddall-Smith, who restored the building in 1879-80 and 1979 respectively (Barnwell 1868, 70-3; Beddall-Smith 1982; Cobb 1880; Emery 2000, 681-2; Listed Building report; Lloyd et al. 2004, 298-300; Smith 1988, 22, 28-9 including cutaway drawing; Thomas 1962, 344-5; Turner 1853, 321-2).

Medieval work (Fig. 2)

The medieval work is clearly of two phases, distinguished externally by joints and differing facework. Original detail, though scanty, is however very similar in both phases: all external door surrounds are in chamfered local limestone, with slightly rounded two-centred heads. Very few original lights survive.

Phase 1

Phase 1 embraced the hall, undercroft and the northern part of the service wing, to form a rectangular block. They are of one build with facework, in uncoursed local limestone rubble, showing no sign of joints or breaks. The superstructure is a metre wider than the undercroft, while the internal divisions in the two do not closely correspond. This may suggest a slight change of plan during construction, dictated by the very wide cross-passage (see below). No time interval is necessarily implied; the superstructure overlies the undercroft side-walls, which are thicker, and the stair between the two is of one build with both levels.

The undercroft is a long chamber of three bays. It has a simple, quadripartite vault with plain, square-sectioned ribs and no ridge-rib (Fig. 4a). A contemporary stair in the north wall follows a loose arc up to the service rooms, and a similar stair (now blocked) led to the former northwest wing; both doorways have been altered (01 and 02). All other features are secondary insertions.

Fig. 2: Monkton Old Hall – plans and section

Fig. 2: Monkton Old Hall – plans and section

At ground-floor level, the Old Hall is divided equally, by an internal cross-wall, into a hall and cross-passage/service rooms. The three surviving ground-floor doorways (03, 04 and 05), all in the north wall, show diagonal chamfer-stops (Fig. 4b). Doorway 03 was the main entrance, giving on to the cross-passage; the presumed southern entry opposite was removed during Phase 2. The passage was always wide, to accommodate a second entry 04, to the undercroft stair, which shows Phase 1 detail but now has a square head. These access arrangements forced the passage beyond the cross-wall, instead of the normal location in the ‘low’ end bay of the hall, meaning that it lies beneath the first-floor chamber. The standard two-door arrangement in the cross-wall, between hall and service rooms, was therefore unnecessary and the two doorways here are not contemporary. One lies centrally, 06, and is likely to originate in Phase1, although later widened and given an elliptical head of post-medieval form (Fig. 4c).

The hall is open to its gabled roof. A third Phase 1 doorway 05, now blocked, led from the ‘high’ end to the former northwest wing. Few other original features survive, while the collar-rafter roof is from 1879-80.

The Phase 1 service end was the same width as the hall, beneath a continuous roof line. The internal layout has been lost, but services typically comprised a pantry and buttery; the present partitions are from 1879-80. In addition, the east wall has been much disturbed and rebuilt, including all windows. As in most end-halls of the period, the services appear to have been overlain by a residential chamber: at first-floor level, the cross-wall shows a doorway 07, with a segmental head, blocked to form a squint during Phase 2 (Fig. 4d), through which the chamber was presumably entered from a timber stair in the northeast corner of the hall – confirming that fireplace 15 here was a later insertion (see below).

Access arrangements show that the former northwest wing was contemporary with the hall and undercroft. It had gone before 1879 when a new wing was built (Cobb 1880, 249), apparently on the same foundations meaning that the earlier wing ran north-south with roughly the same dimensions as the present kitchen wing (Fig. 1). Its replacement was demolished in 1979 (Beddall-Smith 1982).

Fig. 3: Monkton Old Hall – photographs of exterior a: from east; b: from north.

Fig. 3: Monkton Old Hall – photographs of exterior
a: from east; b: from north.


Fig. 4: Monkton Old Hall – photographs of interior a: undercroft, facing west; b: main entry, diagonal chamfer-stop; c: hall, facing east; d: blocked first-floor doorway 07, from east.

Fig. 4: Monkton Old Hall – photographs of interior
a: undercroft, facing west; b: main entry, diagonal chamfer-stop; c: hall, facing east; d: blocked first-floor doorway 07, from east.

























Phase 2

This phase can be distinguished by the use of roughly squared and coursed limestone rubble. It represents the southward extension of the service end to form a cross-wing with the hall, and is clearly secondary: a full-height vertical joint can be seen in the east wall (Fig. 3a). The new wing formed an L-plan with the hall, projecting four metres from its south wall with an entry 08 in its west face, blocked in 1979. Phase 2 door surrounds are like those in Phase 1 but lack the chamfer-stops.

At undercroft level, the projecting annexe contains two low, barrel-vaulted chambers, the eastern of which is a passage from an entry in the new south wall (09); the vaulting shows two cut-outs for the door-leaves. Two slit-lights in the western chamber may be original. A deep, blind two-centred external arch in the south wall rises to the first floor, which is jettied out on a bold corbel-table (Fig. 5). Within the arch, at ground-floor level, are two small lights, 10 and 11, whose heads are of post-medieval form; a blocked window between them is also later, but possibly replacing a Phase 2 light


The cross-wall between hall and passage was given a very similar blind arch, which partly blocks the Phase 1 first-floor doorway (Fig. 4c). A relieving arch, it supported new side-walling above, confirming that the extended cross-wing was given a separate, north-south roof. The central doorway shown in the hall south wall, in Fig. 5, had a surround of Phase 2 form that, in 1950, was re-used as a window 13 in the west wall (Listed Building report).

The first-floor chamber is now entered from a post-medieval newel stair (see below), while internal divisions and windows are modern. Surviving from Phase 2 are the conversion of the hall entry 07 into a squint, and the insertion of a second 14 (Figs. 4c, 4d). Such squints are not uncommon in late-medieval chambers, from which activity in the hall could be supervised (Wood 1983, 55, 137; Emery 2006, 116, 579). The roof is now gabled to the north, but half-hipped to the south where a parapet, built 1879-80, was removed in 1979 (Beddall-Smith 1982).

Fig. 5: Monkton Old Hall from southwest, in c.1853 Fig. 5: Monkton Old Hall from southwest, in c.1853 Monkton Fig 5 (from Turner 1853, between pp. 320-1).

Fig. 5: Monkton Old Hall from southwest, in c.1853
Fig. 5: Monkton Old Hall from southwest, in c.1853
Monkton Fig 5 (from Turner 1853, between pp. 320-1).

Form and dating

Published dates span the fourteenth-fifteenth centuries, but form and detail suggest that both phases of the Old Hall belong to the early/mid-fifteenth century. Phase 1 detail is limited to the diagonal chamfer-stops which are comparable with those in the early/mid-fifteenth-century hall at Scotsborough, near Tenby (Davis 1990, 28, 31), and in domestic work from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries elsewhere in south Wales (see eg. RCAHMW 2000, 91, 329). Monkton’s vaulting is unusual in Pembrokeshire, which is a county of barrel-vaults; where present, rib-vaults are usually late medieval. There are exceptions: the similar rib-vaults in the castles at Carew and Newport are normally dated to c.1280-1300 (King and Perks 1964, 303; Browne and Percival 1992, 23, 31; Goodall 2011, 455). But the others are rather later, from the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including a rib-vault at Pembroke St Mary nearby (Lloyd et al. 2004, 45-6, 198; Scourfield 2002, 600-1). While undercrofts were widely used in late-medieval Pembrokeshire, they are unusual in end-halls like Monkton, cf. Scotsborough, Pricaston and Flimston (Davis 1990, 28-32; Parkinson 2002, 576 et al.), although they occur in the unwinged halls at nearby Angle Castle, St Deiniol’s (Penally) and Whitewell (St Davids).

Monkton’s Phase 1 hall was rectangular in plan with services of the same width, as at nearby Pricaston which has been dated to the fifteenth century (Lloyd et al. 2004, 164). However, the L-plan adopted during Phase 2 is more typical of the region, cf. Scotsborough (fifteenth-century: Davis 1990) and Flimston (late-fourteenth or fifteenth century: Parkinson 2002, 576; Lloyd et al. 2004, 54, 163-4); houses of this type continued to be built into the early sixteenth century (Emery 2000 and 2006, passim; Smith 1988, passim). Though the former northwest wing gives the Old Hall a more complex ‘reverse end-wing’ plan (Fig. 6), it derives from the pre-existing Phase 1 arrangement.

Fig. 6: Comparative Monkton Fig 6. sketch plans of Monkton Old Hall and Court House, East Meon.

Fig. 6: Comparative Monkton Fig 6. sketch plans of Monkton Old Hall and Court House, East Meon.

The Phase 2 entry to the cross-wing 08 is, unusually, at right-angles to the passage, and is a clue to the Old Hall’s function. An identical arrangement is seen at Court House, East Meon (Hants.), an end-hall which in many other respects is similar to the Old Hall (Fig. 6). It was built 1395-7 as a courthouse and lodging for the Bishop of Winchester’s manorial steward (Roberts 1993, 457, 463), and the cross-wing entry led onto a straight timber stair, to provide separate, external access to the manorial courthouse on the first floor (Emery 2006, 333-6). This arrangement was used elsewhere during the period (ibid. 107-8, 557-60) and appears to have existed at Monkton, where the services may have been extended to the south, with a lateral doorway 08, to house a similar straight stair. The Phase 2 chamber may then have been a courthouse, perhaps accessed solely from outside as at East Meon; the stair may not have communicated with the cross-passage so access to the hall, from the south, was perhaps now furnished by the doorway shown in Fig. 5. A shift towards a more administrative function is implied. As at East Meon, the Old Hall nevertheless retained a residential wing from the earlier phase (Fig. 6).

Doubts were cast, by Beddall-Smith (1982), on the antiquity of the blind arch in the cross-wing south wall, but it is suggested on John Speed’s plan of c.1610 and clearly shown in an early nineteenth-century drawing by Charles Norris (at Cardiff Central Library; and see Fig. 5). It appears deliberately to emulate a gatehouse – a ‘monumental’ arch facing the approach from Pembroke (Parkinson 2002, 553). The fashion for gatehouse mimicry began in the 1390s with the façades of Westminster Hall and Old Wardour Castle, Wilts. (Goodall 2012, 16), and was a feature of tower-house design in early fifteenth-century Co. Down, Ireland (Jope 1966, 120-1). The better-quality masonry around the Monkton arch, queried by Beddall-Smith, merely denotes that this was a ‘show’ front. Cobb suggested that it may originally have had a crenellated parapet, though no evidence is given (Cobb 1880, 250). Its corbel-tabling is characteristic of Pembrokeshire from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century and cannot be closely dated.

Hall fireplaces 15 and 16 are later insertions, and it may originally have been heated by a central hearth as at numerous fifteenth-century gentry houses including East Meon (Emery 2006, 334 and passim).

Post-medieval work (Fig. 2)

Monkton Old Hall, and priory, had been acquired by the Earls of Essex by the late sixteenth century (Owen 1897, 298 and n. 3, 305), under whom the kitchen wing was probably soon added. It is demonstrably a later addition, visibly butting against Phase 1 walling but in similar random rubble (Fig. 3a). Many houses of the fifteenth century lacked an integrated kitchen, including those of the highest status like East Meon (Roberts 1993, 478). They were not widely adopted in Wales until the seventeenth century (Smith 1988, 231), often as right-angled wings like Monkton, where the massive, square end-stack 24 is of late-fifteenth to seventeenth-century type (Turner 2000, 47); the similar kitchen wing at Scotsborough is regarded as sixteenth- or seventeenth-century (Davis 1990, 31). The Monkton wing’s upper storeys are accessed from a newel stair 25, contemporary with the wing and showing wide landings at the new floor levels; the entry to the medieval first-floor chamber 17, in contrast, straddles three risers and is roughly hacked through.

Blocked fireplace 15 in the hall north wall, and its bold lateral stack, may be contemporary, and skews the north wall somewhat: the cylindrical chimney is post-medieval (Parkinson 2002, 573). Also infilled is the adjoining lateral outshut 18. A common feature of ‘yeoman’ houses in sub-medieval Pembrokeshire where, though of uncertain function, they are normally associated with fireplaces (Smith 1988, 24), such outshuts imply a decline in status at Monkton. A second doorway 19 in the cross-wall has a four-centred surround of ‘Tudor’ character, entirely unlike the other entries at Monkton and suggesting change in the use of the service area; it is now partly blocked.

This change of use is also implicit in the large chimney-breast 20 which is visible externally, at ground-floor level, in the cross-wing east wall (Fig. 3a). It crosses the division between buttery and pantry, so belongs to a period when the two had become united as a single space. End-wall fireplaces were not characteristic of hall-houses in medieval Wales (Smith 1988, 67); the one at nearby Lydstep is unusual and may be a post-medieval insertion (Ludlow 1996, 18), as suggested at Monkton.

The Essex family retained ownership until 1814, during the course of which the building was leased to multiple tenants and divided into individual dwellings; stylistically, the smaller windows are of this period, and their random distribution reflects the new internal arrangements. New fireplaces were inserted in the southeast corner of the cross-wing (12), and the hall west wall.

Sold firstly to the Orielton Estate, and then to the Bush Estate in 1857, the Old Hall was in disrepair by 1879 when it was restored by Cobb. In private occupation until 1979, it has subsequently been managed by the Landmark Trust. Modern features include the undercroft windows which are from 1879-80. The western one 21 was adapted from a doorway shown in the

1850s-60s (Barnwell 1868, 70-1; Fig. 5); its triangular head is clearly post-medieval. Undercroft north wall fireplace 22 is also post-medieval, as is the narrow-splayed light 23 in the east wall which cuts through chimney-breast 20. The superstructure was also re-fenestrated by Cobb, often adapting existing openings.

In the hall west wall is a hooded fireplace 16, dated variously to the fourteenth or sixteenth century; the later date is favoured here. It was moved, in 1979, from the south wall of the first-floor chamber, to utilise a post-medieval chimney. It was noted at the time that the chamber walling was, at a little over half a metre, far too thin for the fireplace to have been an original feature and its chimney-stack was post-medieval (Beddall-Smith 1982), while a blocked window is shown here in Fig. 5. It may be that the fireplace was brought in from elsewhere, sometime before the early nineteenth century when the chimney in Fig. 5 was shown in Charles Norris’s drawing.

Discussion: function and patron

 Monkton Priory

The Old Hall is normally regarded as a guest-house belonging to Monkton Priory (Emery 2000, 681; Parkinson 2002, 553; et al.), which was founded in 1098 as an ‘alien’ daughter-house of the Benedictine abbey at Séez, in Normandy, and was also a parish church. Some of the 150 or so alien priories in England and Wales, by c.1300, were large, wealthy and influential. Many others, however, were relatively small and poorly-endowed, among them Monkton which had an annual revenue of £127, three-quarters of which came from its ‘spiritualties’ or dependent benefices (Caley et al. 1846, 321-2). It was the centre of an ecclesiastical manor of around 2,500 acres (Round 1899, 237-8).

Monastic guest-houses took two main forms: a communal guest-hall for lower-status visitors, or a more private lodging, for aristocratic guests, which could be ‘virtually indistinguishable from a secular manor house’ (Emery 2000, 40). However, as visitors were served primarily by the monastic community (Kerr 2001, 106-8), guest-houses normally – but not always – lacked the pantry and buttery suggested by the arrangements at Monkton. And Benedictine guest-houses invariably occupied the monastery itself, usually within or near the west range (Wood 1983, 23, 25, et al.), unlike the Old Hall which lies outside the precinct.

Nothing can now be seen of Monkton’s monastic buildings, which lay north of the priory church. But nineteenth century maps show a large, rectangular building on the west side of the presumed cloister (Fig. 1, inset); clearly ruinous, and not apparent in early prints, it was removed when the vicarage was built in 1893 (Fig. 1; see Lloyd et al. 2004, 297). Such a large building may have represented combined accommodation for the prior and guests, as in Benedictine west ranges at Battle Abbey (Sussex), Exeter Priory and many others (Emery 2006, 306-8, 463, 551-3). As hospitality was central to the Benedictine rule (Kerr 2001, 97), it may be assumed that provision was made for guests in all but the smallest, non-conventual houses. Some of the wealthy monasteries established hostelries outside their precincts, relieving pressure on their guest-houses. But, unlike Monkton Old Hall, these hostelries were arranged communally with numerous chambers, often grouped around a courtyard along with stabling (Pantin 1961, 166-91).

And Monkton Priory was not wealthy. Unlike many of the smaller alien houses (Graham 1948, 47-9), it does, however, appear to have been conventual: both a prior and sub-prior were recorded in 1284 (Martin 1885, 787-8) while further claustral buildings, to the northeast of the west range, were also lost in 1893 (Fig. 1, inset). The priory was moreover able, at some point, to finance a major building campaign in which its chancel was enlarged, presumably to provide more space for the choir monks. Restoration has made this work difficult to date – the fourteenth century is generally favoured (eg. Lloyd et al. 2004, 296; Listed Building report), based on the piscina, and a niche, which are in the Decorated style used by Henry Gower, Bishop of St Davids 1328-47 (Williams 1981, 10). While the scale of the chancel, and the size of its windows, would be consistent with this dating, the piscina and niche may be secondary insertions: the present window tracery, from 1887-95, is in a thirteenth-century Geometric style that may have been influenced by surviving detail.

In addition, as an alien priory paying an annual pension (or apport) to a French mother-house – from which its community predominantly came – Monkton’s assets were periodically seized by the Crown during the fourteenth-century wars with France, ostensibly as a security threat but in reality for financial purposes (MacHardy 1975, 133). The terms of these seizures became more severe through time and Monkton seems to have escaped the first, from 1295 to 1303, when the prior received several grants (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1330-34, 67-8). But the house was clearly in no position to pay the fine required to avoid seizure during 1324-7 when its apports, and ‘temporalities’ (lands and properties), were sequestered (Morgan 1941, 205; Cal. Close Rolls 1327-30, 1).

The terms of the third seizure, of 1339-60, were harsher still. The aliens’ spiritualities were also seized (Cal. Fine Rolls 1337-47, 176, 267), wiping out most of Monkton’s income, while smaller houses began to be committed to private custodians (Morgan 1941, 206). Monkton was an early victim of this measure, being farmed out in 1339 (Cal. Close Rolls 1339-41, 111), but the prior was soon re-appointed (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1338-40, 301).

Monkton, nevertheless, remained conventual, and monks are mentioned in 1339-40 (ibid.; Cal. Pat. Rolls 1340-43, 51). But the fourth, long seizure of 1369-99 saw restrictions placed on the arrival of new French monks (Morgan 1941, 206). It has been suggested that ‘the abbot of Séez cut his losses and withdrew [Monkton’s] small community’ (Cowley 2002, 351). But the priory instead seems to have struggled on, surviving an order, of 1377-8 (McHardy 1975, 137-8), that demanded the expulsion of all non-conventual communities. The preliminary valuation records that Monkton’s prior had retained custody including, unusually, its spiritualities, which were normally retained by the Crown (Caley et al. 1846, 321-2). Monks are not mentioned but, as at many other houses, chaplains had been appointed to augment the community.

The prior’s custody was confirmed in 1379 (Cal. Close Rolls 1377-81, 181), but in 1387 Monkton was relinquished to Sir William Beauchamp, custodian of Pembroke Castle and lordship (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1385-89, 350-1). Beauchamp was required to provide for the prior and chaplains and maintain the priory buildings, but his record at Pembroke Castle – which was allowed to fall into decay (Evans 1957, 198-200) – suggests the latter obligation was not fulfilled. A monk was recorded in 1381 (TNA, PRO E/179/21/9), but the prior died in around 1390 (Isaacson 1917a, 142-5) and Monkton was exempted from the 1395 levy on alien houses (Laws 1909, 199); this suggests that it was no longer regarded as monastic.

The 1380s-90s saw widespread disposal of alien priories (McHardy 1975, 139), while only the largest of them could afford the ‘charters of denization’ which permitted their survival as British houses (Morgan 1941, 206-7). The Lancastrian regime was initially more lenient: in 1399, with England and France at peace, King Henry IV ordered the restoration of many alien houses (Graham 1930, 115), including Monkton. Beauchamp was relieved of its custody, a prior from Séez was installed and the house was reconstituted, paying apports to the king, with the rider – common to all restorations – that it must be fully conventual (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1399-1401, 71). But its property suffered at the hands of Glyndŵr (Cal. Fine Rolls 1399-1405, 241) and then, at the close of 1403, it fell victim to a new seizure (Isaacson 1917a, 304-5), presumably because of French association with the rebellion. And so, in 1404, it was again granted to a private individual (TNA, PRO E/106/11/1) and this time ceased to be monastic, becoming a secular manor.

Humphrey Plantagenet, 1414-43

Its fourteenth century history suggests that a substantial building like the Old Hall is unlikely to have been built by Monkton Priory. The manor had reverted to direct Crown control by 1408 (Isaacson 1917b, 412-13), when it was granted to Henry IV’s knight Francis Court (Wylie 1894, 309 and n. 3). Court had already been granted Pembroke Castle and lordship, on condition that he was resident in the lordship and maintained its defences against Glyndŵr (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1401-05, 315). After his death in 1413, Pembroke and Monkton were granted to King Henry V’s brother, Humphrey (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1413-16, 170), soon to be created Duke of Gloucester and Earl of Pembroke.

A statute of 1414 decreed that the seizure of undenizened alien houses would be permanent (Morgan 1941, 209); about forty of the sixty-five or so that remained in England and Wales closed immediately (calculated from Knowles and Hadcock 1971), and Humphrey received full tenure of ‘the manor called la priorie of Pembroke’ (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1416-22, 129; Strachey 1771, 443-4). The aim of the statute was that the suppressed houses should endow other religious foundations and colleges (Morgan 1941, 210) and, although many remained under lay farmers for many years before this took place (Knowles and Hadcock 1971, passim), Humphrey’s full grant, for life and ‘in tail’ (ie. inheritable), was unusual.

In 1440, a commission was appointed to deal with alien houses still in lay custody. Humphrey, by this time, had fallen from favour and, although he held it by full grant, was pressured to donate Monkton to either Eton or King’s College, Cambridge (Riley 1872, 26-7, 70, 266). However, he instead chose St Albans Abbey, of which his close friend John Wheathamstead was abbot, intending that Monkton’s revenues should endow an obituary chantry and two priests for his soul (Caley et al. 1819, 202 and n.). Finally transferred in 1443 (Riley 1872, 47-50), Monkton was eventually re-founded (in 1471?) as a cell of St Albans (Riley 1873, 96-7, 211-12), under a new succession of priors, which survived until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 (Caley et al. 1846, 320).

This reconstitution was unusual, but we know little about the nature of Humphrey’s interests at Monkton – nor whether he had been granted it purely for its revenues. A religious presence had been maintained: Humphrey was to find ‘four chaplains to celebrate divine service every day in the said priory’ (Strachey 1771, 443-4). While this was a requirement for alien houses still in temporary lay custody, Monkton was under full tenure. So it is possible that Humphrey’s chaplains maintained a Lancastrian chantry, as at the alien Wilmington Priory in Sussex (Page 1973, 122-3). And there may have been other motives behind the 1443 grant. Humphrey had no heirs and was looking unlikely to produce any, and in the same year had been persuaded to make a reversionary grant of Pembroke in the event of his death (Owen 1918, 50-1); St Albans may therefore have received Monkton mainly by virtue of this process.

A disused deer-park was moreover recorded at Monkton in c.1600 (Owen 1897, 401 n. 1). Only the wealthier monasteries could maintain parks (Mileson 2009, 25, 65); the alien priory at Abergavenny is known to have had one (Caley et al. 1846, 613-7), but it was probably established after the house received a new British community, and considerable lay investment, in the mid-fourteenth century (see Graham 1930, 110, 117). No park is mentioned at Monkton in any documents relating to the priory (the Valor etc.), and I therefore suggest that it may have been laid out by Duke Humphrey; significantly, the Pembroke earls’ original park, at St Florence, had become disused by the 1380s (Evans 1957, 188-9). A ‘park’ place-name was recorded at Monkton in 1458 (Owen 1918, 263), but its precise location is unknown (see Pritchard et al. 2015); the priory demesne, 98 acres in extent (Caley et al. 1846, 321-2), seems, however, to have been located north of the priory where the park might be expected.

Like the priors before him, Humphrey employed a manorial steward; the steward’s court is mentioned in 1378 (Caley et al. 1846, 321-2). These courts were for the priory’s lay tenants and were held, accordingly, outside the monastic area, perhaps in the porch of the parochial church nave, which was built c.1200 (Thurlby 2006, 107) – perhaps accounting for its size – or even in the open air. Is it possible that Humphrey was responsible for Monkton Old Hall, as accommodation for his steward? The Phase 1 building was furnished with a first-floor chamber, while the northwest wing may have been reserved for Humphrey’s use as in the similar Court House, East Meon, where the private wing provided occasional accommodation for the bishop and chosen companions, as a rural retreat with hunting and hawking in his nearby parks (Roberts 1993, 478; see Fig. 6). The Old Hall’s prominent inter-visibility with Pembroke Castle, which is faced by its entrance front, may by itself imply a close relationship between the two. Humphrey had the resources to build a rib-vault, unusual in Pembrokeshire, while a stair from the northwest wing provided private access to the (wine)-cellar, as in Pembroke Castle’s solar (Day and Ludlow 2017, 74).

Humphrey is recorded in southwest Wales in the early 1440s, where he had recently been appointed Justiciar (Cal. Pat. Rolls 1436-41, 452). No other visits are certainly known, but he had by this time formed strong bonds with his Pembrokeshire tenants, many of whom appeared in his retinue (Turvey 2002, 381-2), implying an early interest if not a physical presence. And generally, an absence of recorded visits does not mean that no provision was made for them, while Humphrey undertook building projects at many of his other properties (Goodall 2011, 351, 360). His regional seat at Pembroke Castle had moreover become increasingly administrative and penal in character, its domestic accommodation neglected during a succession of minorities (Evans 1957, 198-200); similar circumstances at other castles during the late-medieval period saw a widespread movement, by nobles, into more agreeable residences nearby (Thompson 1987, 12; Mileson 2009, 88). These are possible contexts for the Old Hall’s construction.

The building was redesigned and apparently repurposed during Phase 2. The service wing was extended, probably to provide public access to the first-floor chamber from the throroughfare to the south (Fig. 6), suggesting that the chamber, as at East Meon, was used as a courthouse. The building was thereby turned around, with a new ‘show’ frontage to the street, and gatehouse mimicry that suggests the highest status – if not royal associations – rather than influence from Ireland where its distribution is restricted. Other detail is very similar to Phase 1, suggesting the two phases are close in date, and comparable to that at East Meon.

Unlike East Meon, however, there is no evidence at Monkton for either bedchamber or latrine in the Phase 2 chamber; unless they lay to the north, and were replaced by the kitchen wing, it may not have been fully residential. So the possibility exists that the steward took over the northwest wing. This may coincide with the erection of the winged ‘mansion-house’ that formerly lay within the outer ward at Pembroke Castle, away from the noise and bustle of the inner ward. Of mid-fifteenth-century form, at the earliest, it was perhaps built by Duke Humphrey (Day and Ludlow 2017, 104).


Monkton Old Hall was possibly built in the early fifteenth century by Humphrey Plantagenet, earl of Pembroke, as a lodging and then a courthouse for the steward of his manor of Monkton. A further apartment, now gone, may have been reserved for the earl and his closest companions. The former deer-park at Monkton, probably established by Humphrey, may provide a context for such accommodation, along with the bustle and neglect recorded at Pembroke Castle.


Thanks to the Landmark Trust, Richard Suggett (RCAHMW) and Roger Turvey for assistance and advice.


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