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By Simon Hancock

The Great Eastern is one of the most famous and instantly recognizable ships in British maritime history. In Pembrokeshire terms the main association is the twelve unhappy years spent in retirement at Milford Haven [1874-86] after her cable laying days were over. Two earlier visits to Neyland during 1860-62, noted for their feverish expectation of com­mercial development and unprecedented influx of day-trippers has been comparatively overlooked.

Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel [1806-59] and originally. conceived as the Leviathan, the Great Eastern’s keel was laid down on 1 May 1854 and boasted sail , paddle and screw propulsion. The behemoth displaced 22,500 tons and was 692 feet in length,1 making it much the largest ship ever built. It took months of agonizing effort to finally launch her from the yard at the Napier Yard, Milwall, an ordeal which seemed to typify the economic disappointment and shee r bad luck which dogged the Great Eastern ‘s 30 years of service. By the end of January 1858 the cost of construction stood at £732,000, double the original estimates. 2 The launch was eventually accomplished on 31 January 1858.

After surviving a serious internal explosion off Margate on 9 September 1859, [an event which apparently finished off an already gravely ill Brunel]3 and a ferocious eighteen hour storm off Holyhead ,4 the vessel was moved to Southampton for the Atlantic passenger route. The maiden voyage to New York began on 17 June 1860 with a complement of 418 crew but only 35 passengers. The voyage took 10 days and 19 hours. At New York the Great Eastern was hailed as the wonder of the modern age and perhaps a welcome diversion from the turbulent political storm clouds which were gathering that summer of 1860. When the price of admission to board and inspect the vessel was reduced to 50 cents an astonishing 143,764 sightseers visited in less than four weeks. 5 T he Great Eastern received the ultimate accolade when, on 23 August 1860 President James Buchanan and his staff spent two hours inspecting the ship.6

Even as the Great Eastern was being constructed at the Napier Yard, feverish speculation was being made regarding which port or locality in the United Kingdom would host the monster’s proposed Atlantic crossing route. A number of local commentators not surprisingly favoured the port of Milford and especially the newly-created ‘ port’ of Neyland. Doubtless much of this fancy rested upon Brunel’s knowledge of the capabilities of the Haven and his recorded visits to the locality. The great engineer surveyed the Haven on 16 October 1851 on board the Cambria steamer, seeking a site for the terminus of the South Wales Railway.7 During one of his later visits, I 9 July 1857, there was much speculation as to the object of his visit. Hopes were entertained ‘it had something to do with the Haven as to its being the place of arrival and departure for the Great Eastern. ‘ 8

Whatever the long-term intentions of the owners of the Great Eastern, a large measure of both expediency and commercial judgement underscored their negotiations with the South Wales Railway Company when it came to the ship’s return voyage to the United Kingdom in August 1860. 9 The railway company, mindful of their investment at Neyland [the railway had opened on 15 April 1856] offered berthing accommodation there. In their half-yearly report of the directors of the railway company, it was announced how ‘accommodation has been provided for enabling the process of cleans­ing her bottom to be proceeded with; and it is hoped that the selection of Milford Haven as the return port, on her first voyage, will benefit your traffic and provide a wise choice on the part of the owners of that vessel.’ 10

The accommodation in question was a huge wooden gridiron constructed on the foreshore at Neyland opposite the Pembroke Dockyard. The huge undertaking gave employment to 200 men for over two months . The beach was excavated to a distance of 550 feet and a wooden structure erected consisting principally of two huge grids, each 150 feet in length. Two ‘dolphins’ 30 feet in height were also built for the Great Eastern to li e against as wel1 as act as guides in the actual beaching operation. The grid­ iron was constructed by engineers of the South Wales Railway Company who also added a pier of loose stones to enable visitors to have a ready made access to the ship at any state of the tide. The gridiron cost nearly £1,000. 11 Doubtless the directors considered this a wise investment as they anticipated significant revenue from visitors anxious to view the world ‘s largest ship at Milford Haven. In early August 1860 the company were inviting tenders for the supply of refreshments for first and second class excursionists with contractors to sup ply all necessary plates, china, glasses and waiting-on staff.12

The Great Eastern left New York on 16 August 1860 with several score passengers including a ventriloquist and ‘improvisatore,’ the Wizard Jacobs and his brother the intriguingly-named ‘ Goblin Sprightly.’ 13 In mid­ Atlantic the ship’s screw shaft gave out 14 but after temporary repairs were carried out progress was resumed. The Great Eastern reached the mouth of Milford Haven on Sunday 26 August 1860. As though the arrival of the world ‘s biggest ship was not of enough attraction, the recent arrival of the eleven Royal Navy warships of the Channel Fleet made for further novelty and surprise. The 121-gun Royal Albert carried the flag of Vice-Admiral, Sir Charles Freemantle. 15 The presence of both fleet and largest com­mercial vessel on the globe clearly under scored the unrivalled port facilities of Milford Haven, a fact which contemporaries were quick to allude to.

The Great Eastern was met at St. Anne’s Head by one of the Neyland to Waterford steamers, the City of Paris , which manifested ‘an amount of enthusiasm for which we were hardly prepared … round after round of cheers, which our passengers returned much more heartily than they would have done had they known the demand that was soon to be made upon them for that exhaustive vocal performance.’ 16 As they rounded Stack Rock the Channel Fleet anchored in a double line. Passing at a rate of twelve knots an hour the Great Eastern was greeted with cheers from the crews in the rigging ‘and mounting with the activity of cats , were soon clustering on every yard , mast and spar to get a good sight of the great ship that was now dwarfing their own magnificent craft to the proportions of a cock boat.’ 17 Immense numbers of spectators lined every spot from Hazel­ beach to Neyland and Hobbs Point to Barrack Hill at Pembroke Dock. The Great Eastern moored a mile below the Dockyard and her 63 passengers were disembarked.18

On 28 August 1860 the leviathan was thrown open to the public where the steamers of Messrs Ford & Jackson [who operated the steam packets from Neyland to southern Ireland] conveyed visitors from Milford, Hobbs Point and Neyland. The fare and entrance fee were 2s.1’J The Great Eastern’ s seven months or so out of active service ironically proved to be highly remunerative for the long-suffering shareholders or the company, even if the sums expended on repairs proved to be rather substantial. Even before the vessel was floated up to the gridiron something of a frenzy of public interest manifested itself in the thousands of sightseers eager to see both Great Eastern and Channel Fleet.

By early September two special excursion trains arrived at Neyland, in addition to the well-patronised scheduled regular services. One train from Merthyr carried 1,100 visitors, the great majority of whom were obliged to stay out all night, there being no available beds at either Neyland or Pembroke Dock.20 Other excursionists came from London, Cheltenham and Gloucester. Some visitors arrived by sea on specially organised trips from llfracombe and Ireland. One correspondent remarked ‘Fancy the perpetuation for one month of the scenes of which Neyland has been the centre for the last three or four days; hundreds of visitors arriving by every train; refreshment rooms which used to be deserted are now crowded; vast masses lining all the approaches to the station.’ 21 For Neyland such interest was heaven sent. It was remarked how when such ships as the Great Eastern visited on a regular basis ‘that which now aspires to be the town of New Milford will have realised all that local enthusiasm anticipates as its brilliant destiny. At present it deserves attention principally as com­bining something of the rudeness of a new settlement with the comfort of a new hotel.’ 22

By early September around 2,000 people a day were visiting Neyland with passengers paying 1s. more than the usual fare from stations along the South Wales route. The company had speculated by building the gridiron and found itself handsomely rewarded with greatly increased passenger revenues. The owners of the Great Eastern likewise shared in the bonanza ‘and as the daily expenses of the ship are very trifling, the shareholders may congratulate themselves that she is earning something toward s a dividend. Evidently she will remain an object or curiosity wherever she may be, and her exhibition may be relied upon as a source or revenue .’ 23

The advent of sightseeing on this unprecedented scale was symptomatic of the development of recreational travel which started with the most prosperous in society and quickly moving down the social scale.’ 24 Above all it was the railway which made this new mobility in leisure possible with advice and reports regularly appearing in the local press testifying to the growing habit and ritual of annual holidays. 25 Despite the euphoria of the welcome given to the great ship the economic problems for the owners and shareholders were real enough. The crew of 403 was paid off over two days, a process complicated by disputes.26 There was no dry dock to receive the Great Eastern, only the gridiron and little by way of shoreline organisation.27 Once the coal on board had been discharged and every disposable weight had been sent off 28 by Captain Vine Hall, the difficult operation of beaching the ship could be contemplated. This task was duly accomplished on Sunday 16 September 1860, when, with the aid of a powerful tug, she was placed on the gridiron ‘with as much precision as a Thames steamer.’29 Those on the bridge included Captain Hall, Mr Brereton, Captain Thomas T. Jackson, the ship’s agent, Mr lvemey, the Queen’s harbour pilot and several other gentlemen. The Great Eastern was safely docked and was almost ‘a noble monument to the memory of I. K. Brunel, as he may be said to have given his own life to render his darling project a success.’ 30

The beaching was a success despite ‘blowing half a gale of wind.’31 With the Great Eastern on the gridiron visitors were able to walk entirely round the hull and afforded even greater opportunity for inspection. The South Wales Railway Company organised a number of special excursion trains, charging 4s.6d. a head to include entrance fee for the vessel. On I October 1860 one train with 39 carriages conveyed 2,700 passengers. Among them were the 17th division of Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers, raised and equip­ped by Mr Evan Evans of Neath. They marched into the ship preceded by their band playing a quick step.32 The visitors came from every social class, ‘from the merchant to the squire.’33 Despite the unprecedented number of visitors there was apparently little merchandising, merely a few trinkets, engraved shells and the like for purchase34 and there were repeated com­plaints concerning the lack of refreshments. Some enterprising Llangwm women saw their opportunity and offered to sell oysters to the hungry visitors.

Fig. 1: Photograph of the Great Eastern on the gridiron at Neyland (Courtesy of the Institute of Civil Engineers of Wales).

Fig. 1: Photograph of the Great Eastern on the gridiron at Neyland (Courtesy of the Institute of Civil Engineers of Wales).

Although visitor income was appreciated by both Great Ship Company and the railway company, there were significant repair and maintenance issues which brought the Great Eastern to Pembrokeshire. Concern was expressed at the state of the ship’s bottom. Consequently it was reported how 200 men would be employed to scrape and clean the weeds and barnacles after which McInnes copper paint would be applied. 35 Any sus­pected deterioration was soon demonstrated to have been greatly over­stated. Equipped with lanterns ‘and like so many disciples of Diogenes’:16 inspectors went wading through mud and the bars of the gridiron in search of marine algae. All that they found were a few small tufts of weed and a few limpets no more than half an inch in height. Nevertheless, the men were put to work and the weed and shells removed.

Whilst on the gridiron a new brush to the aftermost bearing of the main screws haft was introduced. A Board of Trade examination of 27 Sep­tember 1860 noted the screw shaft bearing being worn down in its bed to the extent of four inches at the outer end. It was further recommended that feed pumps be fitted to the screw engines. The surveyor’s report stated how new decks would be required costing in the region of £ 15,000. 37 Clearly any anticipation of the Great Eastern sailing to the United States on 17 October 1860 was impossible. Instead, the ship was put into a state of ‘permanent efficiency and . . . all current expenses be forthwith reduced to the minimum consistent with the safety and interest of the vessel.’ 38 The Great Eastern was to rest her bones on the gridiron at Neyland for the winter of 1860 – 61 although Captain Hall was quick to refute any claims that the damp climate of Milford Haven would be detrimental to the machinery and splendid hangings of the saloon.39

During the winter the Great Eastern was placed in the care of Captain Tho mas T. Jackson, the agent, two assistants and ten crew members includ­ in g an auxiliary engineer. Despite the inclement weather the ship remained open to visitors although the average fell to 25-30 a day, a far cry from the 19 ,000 excursionists who visited in September alone.40 The Great Eastern spent a quiet, undisturbed winter at Neyland ‘in calm, wondrous security .’ 41 During January 1861 various repairs were carried out under the super­ intendence of Captain Carnegie, so that she might leave as announced for New York in the Spring.42 The most formidable task was the replacing of the upper deck which had been constructed of unseasoned timber. Mr James Gaddarn [1822-90] a Neyland shipbuilder secured the contract and he employed a good number of hands to complete the work on time. 43

By mid- February 1861 a number of sailing and engineering officers had joined the ship in preparation for fitting her for sea.44 Such feverish activity renewed interest in the vessel which had lain at Neyland for six months. The date announced for her removal from the gridiron, 26 March 1861 was coincidentally the day before the launch of the 91-gun HMS Defiance from Pembroke Dockyard. The combination of these two note­ worthy maritime events, it was expected, would generate considerable public interest. To cater for the demand Edward Williams, manager of the South Wales Hotel, Neyland, endeavoured to lay on refreshment s of every description ‘at moderate charges.’ 45

Exactly six months and ten days after she was beached at Neyland, the Great Eastern was floated off the gridiron. Two small steamers towed her head southwardly and the paddle wheels were put into gentle motion and the mooring chains let go. The ship moored off Milford town to take on coal, cargo and passengers until her second voyage to Ne w Yor k. As anticipated, largenumbers of spectators assembled at every possible location to see these events including Neyland, Hobbs Point. the Signal Station and the fortified battery. 46 At nine o’ clock on the evening of 1 May 1861 the Great Eastern left Milford Haven bound for New York, the first time in the history ‘or this great and hitherto most unfortunate undertaking the directors have been able to keep faith with the public in the matter of punctuality of sailing .’ 47 Thus ended the Great Easte rn ‘s firsl sojourn in the Haven. It had been a memorable and impressive one, marred by tragic­ comic episodes of the litigation betwee n John Scott Russell and the owners of the Great Ship Company. Shortly after the appointment of Captain Carnegie RN to command the ship , the High Sheriff of Pembroke­shire boarded the vessel and placed an attachment on the ship under a court award of £24,000 to Russell for building costs and repairs.48 The Great Eastern’s second Atlantic voyage took nine days and thirteen hours, but given the war fever gripping the United States her arrival in New York went virtually unnoticed.

The highly visible presence of the world’s biggest and most celebrated vessel in their midst must have done much good for the economic prospects of the new community of Neyland. Ne wly-established inns like the Picton Castle Hotel, Lawrenny Castle Hotel and Mariners must have done a rare trade. Many were not slow to spot an economic opportunity. One indi­vidual, D. J. Olver, based at No. 2, Picton Terrace, Neyland, offered hair dressing services 49 to those visiting the Great Eastern. Later, the same individual offered photographs of the ship on the gridiron for 2s.7d. free of postage.50

The Neyland of the late 1850s and 1860s witnessed a large number of property transactions, especially leases from the principal landed estates, the Picton Castle and Lawrenny Castle Estates. One Jesse Evans, a native of Nolton, took leases of ground as early as May 1857  51 and more on 7 October 1859. 52 These were clearly pieces of ground on which dwelling houses and shops would be erected. Of particular interest was a memorandum of agreement between Thomas Evans of the Great Eastern Inn, Jesse Evans, mason and the Rev. J. H. A. Philipps or Picton Castle. The memorandum was dated 19 April 1862 .53 Clearly a public house bear­ing the sign of the famous ship was opened either in late 1860 or in 1861 . When the 1861 census was taken the only residents at home were Matilda and Mary J. Evans, aged fourteen and ten respectively, daughters of Jesse Evans. The latter kept another public house named the Traveller’s Rest at Parryville on the road to Honeyborough.54 Interestingly 3d. brass checks or tokens for use at the Great Eastern Inn or Hotel were issued by Jesse Evans and around five examples have been identified.

Fig. 2: Brass 3d. check of the Great Eastern Inn or Hotel.

Fig. 2: Brass 3d. check of the Great Eastern Inn or Hotel.

The most permanent record of the Great Eastern’s presence at Neyland in the early 1860s was the naming of a terrace of houses, actually being constructed at the time of the great ship’s arrival and a short distance from the location of the gridiron. The 1861 census records the course of erection or eight houses between Picton Terrace and Trafalgar Cottage. This row of dwellings was later named ‘ Great Eastern Terrace.’

After being chartered by the British Government to transport troops to Canada [June-July 1861] the Great Eastern’s third voyage to America began at Liverpool on 10 September 1861. On the second day she encoun­ tered a severe gale which caused the ship to roll heavily. The starboard paddle wheel was smashed to pieces and the vast iron rudder post was sheared off 2 feet above its collar. Ironically, the Great Eastern had left Liverpool with 400 passengers and freight ‘considerably larger, indeed than she has been favoured with on any previous voyage.’55 Temporary repairs were carried out at Queenstown , Ireland and on 6 October 1861 she set sail for Milford Haven where more permanent repairs would be carried out. On 7 October 1861 the Great Eastern lay off the town of Milford. The 5,000 tons of coal on board were advertised for sale 56 and the presence of the ship once again proved to be a considerable attraction.

During the latter months of 1861 repairs were carried out at Milford. These included the replacement of fittings and furniture demolished in the gale, while saloons and berths were rearranged and put in order.57 The principal repairs were new paddlewheels, rudder head and sailing gear. One of the principal contracts was awarded to James Gaddarn of Neyland that ‘spirited s hipbuilder’ 58 to build a large coffer-dam in order to facilitate repairs to the sternpost and rudder. This work required all the men in his employ.

On Sunday 16 February 1862 an attempt was made to berth the Great Eastern on the gridiron. The attempt ended in disaster. Assisted by three steam tugs, she rounded the Wear Point but during the operation the snapping of a hawser drew into the screw of the Great Eastern a boat containing men belonging to HMS Blenheim. Thirteen men threw themselves into the water, the remaining were ‘rapidly sucked into the maelstrom of waters formed by the screw revolution.’ 59 Two men were drowned, Thomas James of Milford and a boy named Kinston, a native of Ireland. To compound the horror, the Great Eastern struck HMS Blenheim carrying away her bow sprit, jib-boom and foreyard. The damage was estimated at £350.60 The 60-gun screw ship of 1,822 tons, guardship in the Haven and commanded by Lord Frederick Kerr had sustained considerable damage.

On Monday 17 February 1862 another attempt was made to put the Great Eastern off the gridiron. This time the manoeuvre was successfully accom­plished within an hour. This tragic incident added to the ships reputation as being a decidedly unlucky vessel. Later that day a number of men scraped the bottom of the ship and painted her. The public were permitted once again to inspect her.61 By early March the new after sternpost was being caulked watertight while a cracked plate was being attended to.62 On 16 April 1862 the Great Eastern left the gridiron for the second and last time and she sailed off for Milford without a mishap. The new paddle­ wheels had been fixed and the ship ‘rendered as perfect in all respects as money, experience and forethought can make her.’63 Improvements to the saloon and state rooms had turned the ship into a veritable floating hotel.64 One of the improvements, admittedly minor in nature, was the extra dial to the lobby clock, the work of Thomas Williams, watchmaker of Mariners Square, Haverford west.65

Fig. 3: Postcard of Great Eastern Terrace, Neyland.

Fig. 3: Postcard of Great Eastern Terrace, Neyland.

The remainder of the career of the Great Eastern was a continuation of the disappointments and misfortunes which had dogged her since her very inception, although she did much valuable work in laying transatlantic telegraph cable. After her lengthy retirement at Milford Haven she was sold and ended her days as a showboat at Liverpool before being broken up. For Neyland, memories of the Great Eastern ‘s visits soon faded. On 15 September 1862 the Great Eastern Inn was sold at public auction on the instructions of the Trustees of the Pembroke Dock No.2 Benefit Building Society66 and the premises eventually became a domestic dwelling known as New Milford House. The gridiron was removed in December 1864, according to the evidence of James Gaddarn, shipbuilder, when he gave testimony at the Pembrokeshire Spring Assizes of 1865.67 The action was taken by Francis Trewent against the Great Western Railway Company [which had incorporated the South Wales Railway Company] for damages for the use of the foreshore and trespass when the Great Eastern was beached at Neyland. The plaintiff was awarded £30 and the defendants were advised to pay another £30 if they wanted to avoid further action.

The Great Eastern never returned to Neyland although she was berthed at Milford Haven for over a decade. Her two visits to the new railway com­munity of Neyland represent most noteworthy and interesting occurrences and an example of the novelty of popular mass day-tripping, itself a product of the railway age.


    1. James Dugan, The Great Iron Ship (Stroud, 2003), 13.
    2. Patrick Beaver, The Big Ship (London, 1969), 45.
    3. T. C. Rolt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (London, 1957), 298.
    4. Dugan, The Great Iron Ship, 50.
    5. Francis Rowsome, ‘The Strange Story of the Great Eastern’ , Harpers Monthly Magazine, 178 (Dec. 1938-May 1939), 511.
    6. Daily News, 24 August 1860.
    7. Pembrokeshire Herald, 17 October 1851.
    8. Ibid., 24 July 1857.
    9. The National Archives, CRES. 58/854.
    10. The Times, 21 August 1860
    11. The Welshman, 24 August 1860.
    12. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph, 8 August 1860.
    13. Rowsome, op. cit., 507.
    14. Dugan, op. cit., 79.
    15. The Morning Chronicle, 25 August 1860.
    16. Pembrokeshire Herald, 31 August 1860 .
    17. Ibid.
    18. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph, 29 August 1860.
    19. Ibid.
    20. Ibid., 5 September 1860.
    21. Ibid.
    22. Pembrokeshire Herald, 7 September 1860.
    23. Daily News, 17 September 1860.
    24. Judith Flanders, Consuming Passions. Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain (London, 2006), 212.
    25. Peter Bailey, Leisure and Class in Victorian England (London, 1978), 60.
    26. Pembrokeshire Herald, 31 August 1860.
    27. Dugan, op. cit., 80.
    28. Daily News, 17 September 1860.
    29. The Morning Chronicle, 21 September 1860.
    30. The Times, 19 September 1860.
    31. Pembrokeshire Herald, 21 September 1860.
    32. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph, 3 October 1860.
    33. Pembrokeshire Herald, 19 October 1860.
    34. Ibid., 14 September 1860 .
    35. Daily News, 17 September 1860.
    36. The Morning Chronicle, 21 September 1860.
    37. Pembrokeshire Herald, 19 October 1860.
    38. Ibid.
    39. The Times, 16 October 1860.
    40. Ibid., 30 October 1860.
    41. The Morning Chronicle, 22 January 1861.
    42. Pembrokeshire Herald , 25 January 1861.
    43. Potter’s Electric News, 23 January 1861.
    44. Pembrokeshire Herald , 15 February 1861.
    45. Ibid., 15 March 1861.
    46. Potter‘s Electric News, 3 April 1861.
    47. The Times, 3 May 1861.
    48. Dugan, op. cit., 84.
    49. Pembrokeshire Herald, 19 October 1860.
    50. Ibid. , 21 December 1860.
    51. Pembrokeshire Record Office. O/RTP/Sir R. B. P. Philipps. 7/18.
    52. Ibid.
    53. Ibid
    54. 1861 Census returns for the Parish of Llanstadwell.
    55. The Mornin g Chronicle, 19 September 1861.
    56. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 27 October 1861.
    57. The Morning Chronicle, 19 December 1861.
    58. Tenby & Pembroke Dock Gazette, 23 January 1862 .
    59. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph , 19 February 1862.
    60. Dugan, op. cit., 83.
    61. Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph , 19 February 1862.
    62. Daily News , IO Mar c h 1862.
    63. Ibid ., 17 April 1862.
    64. Haverford west & Milford Haven Telegraph, 23 April 1862.
    65. Ibid., 7 May 1862.
    66. Ibid., l0 September 1862.
    67. Pembrokeshire Herald, 10 March 1865.



















Infectious Diseases in Pembrokeshire in the Nineteenth Century




By Ray Jones

In the nineteenth century, the people of Pembrokeshire, like those else­ where, lived under the permanent shadow of disease and death. Although there is a good deal of information on these conditions, it is impossible to record, classify and quantify every disease nineteenth century inhabitants may have suffered. Most ailments will have gone unrecorded and any consideration of nineteenth century disease is constrained by lack of diag­nostic accuracy and the fact that national recording of diseases did not begin until the establishment of the Registrar General’s office in 1837. Further, the registration of births and deaths was not made compulsory until 1874 and there was no requirement to list some important diseases for many years, in some cases not until the twentieth century.

Most feared were the infectious or contagious diseases (now know as communicable diseases) , especially cholera, typhus, typhoid, (both called ‘fever’,) influenza , diphtheria, scarlet fever and tuberculosis also known as the ‘white plague ‘ or phthisis. Smallpox was also endemic for much of the century. These diseases were feared because of their epidemic and endemic status; onset was often sudden, spread rapid and cause unknown. Morbidity and mortality were high. It was believed that diseases were caused by poisonous gases (miasma) from piles of filth, or by a particle (contagium) arising spontaneously which carried the ‘poison’ of the disease. It was also thought disease was a punishment for the ungodly and early in the century, that disease s were caused by spells cast by witches (maleficium). There was no concept of public health and it was generally thought that the State should not interfere with the ‘sanctity of the domestic hearth and the decent seclusion of private life ..   .’1   It was regarded as intolerable that the Government should meddle with ‘ individual liberty , personal dignity and social propriety” and this included the health of the populace . Public health measures ‘did not form a plank in any ministry’s platform and neither political party had developed a comprehensive ethic, or philosophy of public health.’ 2 However, this attitude began to change when it was realised that cholera was advancing across Europe and it was inevitable it would reach Britain. There were four major epidemics of cholera in Britain in the nineteenth century and it is generally agreed that the cholera epidemics were the greatest stimulus to the improvement of public   health and   limiting infectious  diseases  in the nineteenth century. This was despite the fact that notwithstanding its severity, death rates from cholera were fewer than death rates from the other infectious diseases. This emphasis, it is believed, was because cholera tended to attack all social classes whereas the other diseases tended principally to attack the poor or labouring classes. The detailed effects of cholera in Pembroke­ shire will be considered elsewhere.3 This paper will focus on the other diseases listed above.


Typhus was one of the major killing disease of the nineteenth century 4 although it was not clearly distinguishable from typhoid fever (often called enteric fever) until about 1866 (‘fever’ was also used, at that time, as a generic term for a number of pyrexial diseases, as early symptoms were similar). The disease is caused by a bacterium Ricke1sia prowazekkii; the bacteria live in infected humans and are transmitted from person to person by the human body louse Pediculus humanis. Undernutrition, close con­finement and unsanitary conditions are predisposing causes. These are thought to be the reasons the disease rarely affected the upper classes.5 There were eight major epidemics of typhus in the UK in the nineteenth century with Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil and Neath being the towns most effected in Wales.

Cases of typhus were supposed to be reported to the Registrar General’s office but it was not separately reported from typhoid until 1869. However, although typhoid can be fatal, most people recover and it is thus likely that the data before 1869 will only slightly over-estimate typhus deaths.

Chadwick considered that typhus was ‘the constant accompaniment to life in the courts, closes and wynds [and] an unerring index of destitution’ 6 and it caused a death rate of 14 per 1,000 living in the UK in 1846. 7 Although it is known deaths from typhus declined in the latter part of the nineteenth century, it is nevertheless surprising that there is little mention of typhus in the Pembrokeshire Medical Officer of Health (MoH) reports perused. Perhaps it was not reported because such a report would have drawn attention to poor living conditions, highlighting the deprived state of the dwellings and the need to spend money on improvements. It is also pos­sible, that as typhus tended principally to attack the poor, they did not seek medical attention and thus there is no record. Some death rates for typhus in Wales and Pembrokeshire are shown in Table One.


Year Wales Pemb rokeshire Source
1837 693 47 Annual Report of Registr ar General Vol. 3









1839 1,489 95
1840 ‘over 900’ 106 G. Penrhyn Jones.

‘ Y Teiffwys yng Nghymr u’

Y Traethodydd

Cyf. 3 (1959) ,





‘over 110’




‘about 1,100’

1870 123
1872 4  


Tenby Museum SE/24/4/5

1874 2
1 875 I
1877 I
1880 23 G. Penrhyn

op. c it.

Jo nes
1884 2 Tenby Museum SE /24/4/5

G. Penrhyn Jones

op. cit.





1897 2 Pembs .

Archive Office Annual Report: Sanitary Ins pector H west Rural 189 15

Table One: Deaths from Typhus in Wales and Pembrokeshire. (Blank S pace = No Data).


Typhoid, also known as enteric fever, is an infection of the intestinal system caused by bacteria of the Salmonella genus . It is transmitted by food or drinking water contaminated by the faeces of infected people or carriers. Recovery is natural but the disease can be fatal. T he re we re scattered cases of typhoid in Pembrokeshire throughout the century but most quantitative information comes from the last quarter. Some details are shown in Table Two. Haverfordwest, with a population of about 6,500 at this time, was badly affected and there is evidence that some data reported from the town council to central government shows fewer cases and deaths than actually occurred as indicated by local MO Hs reports to the local authority. This may have been an effort to show that Haver­fordwest was not badly affected – towns were often anxious not to let it be known that there were infectious diseases in their area.

Table Two: Some Typhoid Outbreaks in Pembrokeshire in the Nineteenth Century. (Blank Space = No Data).

Table Two: Some Typhoid Outbreaks in Pembrokeshire in the Nineteenth Century.
(Blank Space = No Data).













Following the 1880 outbreak in Haverfordwest, the Local Government Board called for a report on the prevalence of typhoid in the Borough. The report severely criticised the sanitary state of the town and its water supply and required the Sanitary Authority to ‘diligently exercise … the powers they possess [for the prevention of infectious disease] under the Public Health Act of 1875 … 8     The 1884 outbreak in Broad Haven, in which 48 residents of the population of 271 population were afflicted, was thought to be due to contamination of the village well. The village squire then kindly allowed the villagers to use the water from his private well. Unfortunately, this was found to be more contaminated than the village well!


The term influenza was not used in Great Britain until 1743. Some believe that ‘ague’ may have referred to influenza while others say ague described ‘malarial fever.’ Influenza is caused by a virus or viruses and is transmitted from person to person by aerosols in the breath. There was no requirement lo re port the disease until 1881 and it was not separately recorded by the Registrar General until 1891. However, it is known that there were seven e pide mics in the UK in the nineteenth century, the worst being in 1847 whe n deaths increased by 83% in children, doubled in adults and increased two and a half times in old age. Total deaths were about five times greater than deaths from cholera in 1849. 9

Influenza would have been particularly difficult to diagnose accurately and relatively little attention is paid to it in the Pembrokeshire MoH reports surveyed. Mention is made of a ‘recent epidemic’  in Fishguard in 1890 10 and the same report quotes a further outbreak, with no deaths, in December of 1890. A further case is reported 11 in 1891 and there were four deaths in 1895, all in Fishguard. 12 Of more significance is 93 deaths from influenza – a serious epidemic – in the Haverfordwest District of Haver­fordwest Rural Sanitary Authority in 1891 13 falling to four deaths in 1896. 14  St. David’s had an ‘influenza epidemic in early 1890 ‘ 15 without deaths but two deaths were recorded in 1889.16  In 1892, the disease was described as ‘prevalent’ in St. David’s with two persons dying.17 Haverfordwest Urban Sanitary Authority had one death from influe nza in 1890,18 one in 1896, five in 1897 , four in 1898 19 and seven in 1899. 20 Five people died from influenza in Tenby in 1895. 21


Smallpox, so called to distinguish it from the Great Pox (syphilis), is also a virus disease and has a high mortality rate. There are three forms of smallpox, two being comparatively minor, with the virus Variola major being the cause of the true virulent disease. An attack with one form can protect against infection with the other forms. Accurate figure s for the incidence of smallpox are only availab1e since 1884 when notification became compulsory but the disease has been known since ancient times . There were at least six epidemics in the eighteenth century with at least three in Haverfordwe st, in 1722, 1729 and 1731- 1732. 22 Over 200 people had the disease in Haverfordwest in 1722 with 52 deaths. 23  There were at least five epidemics in the UK in the nineteenth century with smallpox being responsib1e for about 11% of recorded deaths in the 1837-1840 out­ break.24 From about 1840, deaths declined with the last major outbreak being in Gloucester in the 1890s. 25

The first mention of smallpox in Pembrokeshire in the nineteenth century that could be traced, was in the Prison Surgeon’s Journal or 1831 – 23. 26 ‘ The patient was given treatment – ‘white bread and milk ‘ together with ‘… a little extra fire for every evening, and a small quantity or brandy daily for three days’ plus one extra blanket. 1838 saw ‘ virulent smallpox’ in Narberth 27and in 1857 there was an outbreak in Pembroke Dock, said lo have been brought in by a ‘swarthy tinker [who had] arrived overnight from Swan­sea.’ 27 The dockyard was closed and eight people died.28 One case of smallpox occurred in Milford Haven in 1872, but no further cases were reported from there until 1892 when there were two further cases.29 There was a plan to have a smallpox hospital at Milford but the inhabitants would not allow it because it would mean that suspected cases would have to travel through the town and fatal cases transported to the cemetery!

In 1887 there were three fatal cases, one each at Llanglydwen, Stepaside and East Williamston, all in the Narberth area. These were all attributed to the use of impure water. Nothing further occurred until a ‘suspected’ case at Narberth workhouse in 1890. 30 was reported this being the last mention of smallpox in that area that could be traced.

In 1882 a MOH Report to Pembroke Rural Sanitary Authority 31 described a case at Carew, said to be in a man from Pembroke Dock who had contracted the disease there. The Report added there had been an outbreak at Pembroke Dock and ‘… [smallpox] was on the increase not decrease.’ No evidence to substantiate this claim could be traced. One fatal case at Tenby, in 1872, was described, this being the only mention in Tenby MoH Reports.32 There was no further mention of smallpox in the documents studied until 1884, when Haverfordwest Rural Sanitary Authority received a report from their MOH33 saying there had been no deaths from smallpox in the district. A similar Report of 1891 again reported no deaths from smallpox.34 However, in 1892, the MOH of the Haverfordwest Urban Authority wrote of smallpox where ‘each outbreak had been brought in by the migratory population – Haverfordwest is constantly in danger of importing [infectious] disease … [and] there is a tendency to conceal cases.’ 35 He went on that there had been one case in an adjoining town (probably Pembroke Dock) and a ‘serious epidemic’ there in the last quarter. This is the last mention of smallpox in the local documents perused.

The incidence of smallpox was in decline in the last part of the century and this was one of the very few diseases contained by medical advances of that time. This was due to vaccination, the injection of the virus of cowpox into the skin; this gives protection against the virus of smallpox . and hence the disease. Also used was variolation, the injection of pus from a smallpox lesion, which usually gave a mild infection and thus immunity. However it occasionally gave severe or fatal attacks and the recipient was always highly contagious.

It is generally believed that smallpox vaccination was introduced by Jenner, but more recently the work of Jesty has been given more prominence. 36 Benjamin Jesty, a Dorset farmer used a stocking needle to inoculate pus from cowpox lesions into the arm of his wife and sons in 1774, 22 years before Jenner inoculated eight year old James Phipps. Variolation was introduced to Britain in 1717, when Lady Anne Wortly Montague, the wife of the Ambassador to Turkey and their two children were inoculated. However, there is evidence that variolation was used in Pembrokeshire at an earlier date. Letters dated 23 and 28 September 1722 in Philosophical Transactions from Perrot Williams MD, a physician at Haverfordwest stated ‘[variolation] has been practised since time immemorial in this part of Wales ‘ and that it was a ‘ very ancient custom.’ And there is a record of a woman from Milford Haven selling the pus from three smallpox pustules for one shilling for use in variolation before 1717.

It is believed variolation was successfully used to prevent the spread of the disease and reduce death rates in the several seventeenth and eighteenth century outbreaks and ‘a substantial proportion of the poor were im­munized .’37 However, there was strong opposition to its use, partly because of side effects and partly because it was thought illogical to deliberately infect people. With the success of vaccination, variolation was banned and vaccination made compulsory. Pembrokeshire did well in this programme with 86% of babies vaccinated by 1890. 38


Of all the diseases that attacked and killed the population in the nineteenth century, tuberculosis (TB), also known as consumption, phthisis and the ‘White Plague’ was probably the worst, perhaps accounting for one-third of all the deaths in this period, more than cholera and smallpox put together.39 It is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, conclusively shown by Robert Koch to be the cause of tuberculosis in 1886 – ‘ the final nail in the coffin of the miasmatists.40 Tuberculosis is principally a respi­ratory disease but the organism can attack every organ in the body including bones and glands, particularly the neck glands, this latter being known as scrofula and also King’s Disease or King’s Evil because it was believed it could be cured by the touch of the King of England or France. This was introduced in the days of Edward the Confessor (1003-1066) and lasted until it was stopped by George I (1714-1727) because he thought it was ‘ too catholic.’ Indeed there was a ritual for the ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer as late as 1633 and it is recorded Charles II touched 92,107 people. There is no record of how many were cured.

Tuberculosis was not a fully notifiable disease until 1912 but it was tabulated in Registrar General’s Reports in the nineteenth century. Deaths from tuber­ culosis were reported intermittently and for Pembrokeshire, no significant information could be traced until the last quarter of the century. This is shown in Table Three. However, because of relatively poor diagnostic tech­ niques and the ability of tuberculosis to mimic other diseases, especially in its early stages, such data should be treated with care. By 1898, when there were 20 deaths from tuberculosis in Haverfordwest, it was reported ‘it is thought that 20% of all milk cows in England and Wales carry tuber­ culosis.’ 41

Table 3: MoH Reported Deaths from Tuberculosis (all forms) in some Pembrokeshire Towns. (Blank Space = No data).

Table 3: MoH Reported Deaths from Tuberculosis (all forms) in some Pembrokeshire Towns. (Blank Space = No data).


Scarlatina or scarlet fever, these names being used interchangeably, is primarily a disease of children with 95% of cases being under the age of 1042 although it can also attack adults. It has been named and identified since 1749 although the exact cause was not established untill899. It was listed with fever and typhus in the Registrar General’s Report of 1838 and with diphtheria until 1860. Thus, earlier epidemics cannot be separately distinguished. Scarlatina can be caused by a number of bacteria now col­ lectively known as Group A streptococci and is transmitted by aerosols or direct contact. Initially there is a sore throat and headache with fever, vomiting and swollen neck glands but the bacteria can rapidly enter the blood stream causing septicaemia (blood poisoning).

The first record of the disease in Pembrokeshire traced, was in 1818-1819 when there was an ‘outbreak’ in Haverfordwest gaol.43 The gaoler requested six extra sheets and six extra mattresses so that the sick could be kept in one room and this was agreed. Little further was reported until several decades later when there were several severe outbreaks throughout the county. Some details of these are given in Table Four. As well as the data sampled above there were several reports of other outbreaks but without quantitative information although the reports noted cases occurred or were confined to one district.

Attempts were made to isolate sufferers and there were complaints about the lack of an isolation hospital. Houses and clothes were disinfected and an advice leaflet was printed. It was believed that not all cases were being reported and it was decided to prosecute infringements and in 1895, Joseph Challender of St. Thomas Green, Haverfordwest, was brought before magistrates for ‘default in notifying the existence of Scarlet Fever in his house and allowing his child to be exposed to the Public after notice was given by the Medical Officer of Health to isolate the boy.’ 44 In 1872 Tenby school s were closed for 16 weeks and Haverfordwest Urban schools were closed for 12 weeks in 1891. Also in 1891, schools were closed in Mathry, Hayscastle and Brawdy, cases isolated and houses disinfected as far as possible’ (Report’s italics).45 The 1896 outbreak in Haverfordwest Rural district were ‘spread throughout the year and district’ ; it was decided not to close the schools but the inhabitants of Keeston parish were banned from attendance for two years. However despite the outbreak, Pembrokeshire did not do so badly – the death rate from scarlatina in Haverfordwest for the period 1881-1890 was 1.67 per 1,000 living compared with 2.58 for the whole of England and Wales for the period 1848-1872.

Table Four: Some Scarlatina Outbreaks in Pembrokeshire (Blank Space = No Data).

Table Four: Some Scarlatina Outbreaks in Pembrokeshire (Blank Space = No Data).



























Table Five: Some Diphtheria Epidemics in Pembrokeshire. (Blank Space = No Data)

Table Five: Some Diphtheria Epidemics in Pembrokeshire. (Blank Space = No Data)


























Diphtheria is also caused by a bacterium Corynebacterium diptheriae there is sore throat, heart failure and septicaemia with a membrane grow­ ing across the trachea(windpipe) often to the point of asphyxiation. The disease has also been called ‘croup,’ ‘putrid sore throat,’ malignant sore throat’ and ‘ throat fever.’46 As with scarlatina, most of the information in the county comes from the latter part of the century and some details are given in Table Five. There were also deaths in 1877, 1878 and 1879 in Tenby.47

Unlike MoH reports on most other diseases, additional comments were often made on the incidence of diphtheria, for example, ‘ houses and family filthy’ 51, ‘ diphtheria has been hanging about the Western Cleddy [sic] and its branches for years’ 52 ‘all cases aged 1½ -18 years ,’53 ‘all in one family of eight’ 54 and ‘ in people assembled at marriage festival.’55 As with scarlatina, several schools were closed, for varying periods, up to one month and following the 1888 outbreak in Llandisssilio/Clunderwen, a ‘Local Report’ was made to the Local Government Board. There were critical comments on the state of the villages but no cause for the outbreak could be found. 56

In the nineteenth century, the diseases described were endemic in Pem­brokeshire, as they were among poor people in all parts of the UK. The bulk of the populace lived short, brutal lives in constant fear of the killer diseases described in this paper. The not untypical life of a labouring class family in the middle of the nineteenth century, surrounded by disease may be summarised by reference to the Merriman family of Begelly.57 Nearly all the family are thought to have died of tuberculosis.

John Merriman married Eliza Richards on August 15, 1844. They had ten children between 1845 and 1865.

Their first born Thomas born 1846 died in 1862 aged 17. The second son William born 1849 survived.

Baby born 1853 died of diarrhoea 1854 aged 11months.

George born 1860 died 1863 aged 3.

John born 1863 survived.

Mother Eliza died 1865. Eliza died 1867

Maria born 1851 died 1868 aged 17.

Thomas born 1865, died 1869 aged 4.

Jane born 1864 died 1872 aged 18.

Emma born 1859 died 1872 aged 13.

‘There was no medical attendant for all but one of the dead’.

The tragedy of this family truly encapsulates the effects of infectious diseases in Pembrokeshire in the nineteenth century. The marvel is that anyone survived to provide the heritage of good health enjoyed by so many today.


          1.  Anthony   S. Wohl, Endan gered   Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain (London, 198 3),   3 2 .
          2. Klaus -John Dodds, ‘Much Ado about Nothing? Cholera , Local Politics and Health in Nineteenth Century Reading ‘ , The Local Historian, Vo l 2 1.4 ( 19 9 1 ), 168-176.
          3. T. Jones , ‘ Cholera in Pembrokeshire in the Nineteenth Ce ntury’ , Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society, No. 20 (20 11 ). Forthcoming.
          4. Patrick Murray , Medical Microbiology (London, 1990), 128- 129.
          5. Pickstone, ‘ Death, Dirt and Fever Epidemics : Rewriting the History of British “Public Health” 1780 – 1850 ‘ , in T. Ranger and P. S la c k (eds.), Epidemics and Ideas: Essays on the Historical Perception of Pestilence (Cambridge, 199 2), 130.
          6. Edwin Chadwick , Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain, 1842 (ed.), M. W. Flinn (Edinburgh, 1965), 8-9.
          7. Ibid., 10.
          8. Pembrokeshire Record Office. Dr. Parsons’ Report to the Local Government Board on the Prevalence of Typhoid Fever in the Boro ug h of Haverfordwes April, 1881. HAR/HE/1/13.
          9. Creighton, o p. cit., 215-219.
          10. Pemb R.O. Clerk of the Peace . General Correspondence. PQ/ C/1/91.
          11. Pemb R.O. MOH Report Fishguard District. 1891. HAR/HE/ 1 /6
          12. Ibid., 1895. HAR/HE/1/7.
          13. Pembs. R.O. MOH Report Haverfordwest District. 1892 HAR/HE/1/10. 14.
          14. Ibid., 1896. HAR/HE/1/12.
          15. Ibid., MOH Report. St David’s District 1890. HAR/HE/1/2.
          16. Ibid., Clerk of Peace. General Correspondence. PQ/C/1/90.
          17. Ibid., MOH Report. St David’s District. 1891. HAR/HE/1/20.
          18. Ibid., Minutes, Corporation of Haverfordwest acting as Urban Sanitary Authority. 1880-90. HAM/SE/1/6.
          19. Ibid., 1891-1895. HAM/SE/1/6.
          20. Ibid., 1899-1908. HAM/SE/1/17.
          21. Ibid., Report of Tenby MOH 1895. TEM/HE/1/1.
          22. F. Cartwright, A Social History of Medicine (London, 1977) , 91.
          23. G. Penrhyn Jones, ‘Y Frech Wen yng Nghymru’ , YTraethodydd, Cyf. 3 (1959), 171-181.
          24. J. R. Smith, The Speckled Monster (Chelmsford, 1987), 14.
          25. Roy Porter, The Greatest fit to Mankind (London, 1999), 650-651.
          26. Pembs. R.O. Records of the Court of Sessions of the County of Pemb roke. Surgeon’s Journal 7. 1820-1835. PQ/AG/72.
          27. Ibid., Haverfordwest Board of Guardians Minute Books. SPU/HA/1/2/F62.
          28. Vernon Scott, Pembrokeshire Life (June 1997), I
          29. Pembs. R.O.  Milford Port Sanitary Authority Minute Book. 1874-1926 D/MPH/1/1.
          30. Pembs. R.O. Minutes Narberth Rural Sanitary Authority. NAR/SE/ 1/2.
          31. Pembs. R.O. Minute Book Pembroke Union Rural Sanitary Authority I 881- 1900. PER/SE/1/4.
          32. Tenby Museum. MOH Report to Tenby Board of Health, SE?24/4/5; see also TEM/SE Box
          33. Pembs. R.O. MOH Report. Haverfordwest Rural Sanitary Authority 1884. HAR/HE/ 1/9.
          34. Ibid., HAR/HE/1/10.
          35. Pembs. R.O. Minutes of the Corporation of Haverfordwest Acting as Urban Sanitary Authority. 1891-95. HAM/SE/l/6.
          36. See for example, Patrick J. Pead, Vaccination Rediscovered: New Light in the Dawn of Man’s Quest for Immunity (London, 2006).
          37. J. R. Smith , The Speckled Monster, 13.
          38. Pembs. R.O. HAM/SE/1/6.
          39. F. B. Smith, The Retreat of Tuberculosis I850-1950 (Lo ndo n, 1988), I.
          40. Galina Crawford, ‘A Short History of Bacteriology’, Biomedical Scientist, 3 (2005) ,
          41. Pembs. R.O. HAM/SE/1/16.
          42. Anthony S. Wohl, op cit., 279.
          43. Pembs. R.O. Surgeons Journal (No. 7). I 820-1835. PQ/AG/72
          44. Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, July 24, 1892.
          45. HAR/HE/1/20.
          46. Anthony S. Wohl, op cit., 131.
          47. Tenby Museum. MOH Report to Tenby Sanitary Authority (1884) SE/24/4/5.
          48. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Reports to the Local Government Board 1869-1902. Series Two (Brighton, 1979), Report No. 402. (1888) (Microfiche).
          49. Idem., Report No. 602. (1899).
          50. Idem., Report No. 642 (1901).
          51. Pembs. R.O. HAR/HE/1/14.
          52. Idem., HAR/HE/1/19.
          53. See note 48.
          54. Pembs. R.O. HAR/HE/1/7.
          55. Idem., HAR/HE/I 1.
          56. See note 48.
          57. Data slightly modified from: B. W. Richards, ‘The Merriman Family of Begelly’, Dyfed Family History Society, Vol. 4 ( 1992), 153-154. (Some diagnoses are slightly conjectural).


The Last of the Symmons of Llanstinan



By Roland Thorne

The last of many articles contributed by Francis Green to the West Wales Historical Records of which he was editor, was devoted, in 1929, to ‘The Symins of Martell and Llanstinan’. Despite the title, this seems to have been prompted chiefly by Green’s abiding interest in the Wogan family. Sir William Wogan of Llanstinan, a prosperous lawyer who died in 1710, left his estates to a young Symmons relative, his first cousin’s second son. The earlier evolution of the squires of Martell in Puncheston up to that point had presented Green with enough problems, and it was perhaps with some relief that he offered pride of place to a detailed terrier of Sir William’s estate in Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire. The acquisition of these properties, with some others in Radnorshire and English counties, transformed the status of Wogan’s heir and his family to an extent to which the article barely does justice; and it culminates abruptly in the sale of the estates and the exile to London of their owner, John Symmons junior, whose later life is passed over.1

Fig. 1: Llanstinan as it appeared in a sale catalogue of 1856.

Fig. 1: Llanstinan as it appeared in a sale catalogue of 1856.

John Symmons, the fortunate heir to Llanstinan, born on 12 Sept. 1701, was the fourth but second surviving son of John Symmons of Martell and Martha, nee Harries, of Tregwynt, Granston. His elder brother, Thomas, who went to Pennsylvania as a young man, did not reside at Martell on his return, but leased the Wogan property of   Llwyndyrys,  Cardiganshire. John, or his father John who had served as sheriff of the county in 1713 as of Llanstinan and had been disappointed not to be the actual heir to Wogan ‘s estate, presented a silver chalice to Puncheston church in 1725 , engraved quarterly with the Symmons arms, per fesse argent and sable three trefoils countercharged, and crest, a lion’s head erased. On 11 April 1729 John Symmons was at the head of 14 Pembrokeshire landowners who as a grand jury petitioned the justices in Great Sessions against the recruitment of emigrants to Pennsylvania among labourers in the county to the detriment of farmers at harvest time when they had in consequence to pay more for labour, and charge more for corn. On Thomas’s death , unmarried, in 1741, John, whose father’s death in 1730 had left him sole master of Llanstinan, was able to add Martell to his estate and soon after­wards acquired an entire set of 48 engravings made by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck of Welsh castles. That year he unsuccessfully contested the county seat for Pembrokeshire against John Campbell of Stackpole , a supporter of Walpole’s ministry, thereby costing Campbell dear. The con­test was close, but Symmons’ petition against the return was withdrawn as part of a compromise, 3 February 1743. Symmons was the Tory candidate ; his father had voted for the Tory Barlow in the 1710 county election. In 1742 a Llanstinan mare was mated with a stallion belonging to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the North Wales magnate, whose Toryism was supposed to be tinged with Jacobitism. When Symmons married it was to Maria , daughter of Charles Philipps of Sandyhaven, St lshmaels, Pembrokeshire, a fellow member of the Society of Sea Sergeants, the Tory association for south-west Wales, also allegedly Jacobite. Symmons was to act as co­ secretary at their Swansea meeting in 175 2. He was painted by Robert Taylor and placed in the Sergeants gallery in the hall of their erstwhile president at Taliaris, in a blue velvet coat, gold buttonhole and wig. Another portrait of him was in 1785 in the drawing room there, in fawn velvet, gold lace and white satin waistcoat, neckcloth and wig. There was also one of his brother George, who died unmarried in 1755.

John Symmons had entered parliament after a contest on a vacancy for Cardigan Boroughs, 20 March 1746. The seat was vacant on the death of Thomas Pryse of Gogerddan, whose heir was a child. It was supposed that Symmons, whose modest power base was the former Wogan property in Cardigan and district, might hold the seat until the heir John Pugh Pryse came of age, as long as he secured Gogerddan backing. He was accord­ingly returned unopposed in the 1747 and 1754 general elections, and in 1760 headed the list of Cardiganshire magistrates, but in 1761 Sir John Philipps of Picton Castle, who as a trustee of the estate had been his broker with Gogerddan, was powerless to prevent Herbert Lloyd of Peterwell from snatching the seat. Symmons had been a silent member of the Tory opposition in the Commons. Herbert Lloyd’s late brother John Lloyd had been the county member when, in 1748, he and Symmons became bene­factors of St Mary ‘s church, Cardigan, the recast bells of which pealed again at their expense, for the first time since 1705. 2

John Symmons senior was buried in Llanstinan on 5 Sept. 1764, nearly a year after his wife. His younger son Charles’s obituarist in 1826 described John senior as ‘an English gentleman of the old school’. As an MP he had a London residence, and when his heir John had matriculated from Jesus College, Oxford on 4 October 1762 aged 17, his address had been given as St James , Westminster. John junior claimed, on his deathbed, that St James was the parish of his birth, on 22 August 1744 . He later claimed Richard Philipps, the future Lord Milford, and John, heir to Sir Thomas Stepney, 7th Baronet of Llanelli, as two of his schoolfellows. The younger son Charles, born in 1749, was sent to Westminster School, Glasgow University and Lincolns Inn (1765). John graduated MA at Oxford on 30 May 1766. In 1802 he was to present a chased silver cup and cover weighing 128 ounces to Jesus College.3 He inherited an encumbered estate. His father had mortgaged Martell and Colston in Little Newcastle in 1745 to Thomas Tucker of Sealyham, in 1753 to Perrott Williams of Haverfordwest and London, and in 1763 to Peter Holford of London, the mortgage then standing at £2,500. John was due to enter on his estate on coming of age, and did so on 18 Feb. 1766 . He also inherited Longwood in Castlebythe with a moiety of Skyber, Letterston, which his father had purchased between 1757 and his death. When later he disposed of his estate, the moiety of Skyber was evidently sold to the cadet branch of the Symmons family associated with Colston, Little Newcastle. In December 1768, on the death of Pryse Campbell, MP for Cardigan Boroughs, Symmons, a mere voter in the Pembrokeshire county election that year, was interested in contesting the vacancy, but was discouraged by John Pugh Pryse of Gogerddan and Lord Lisburne, as not having sufficient support. By 1769 the mortgage charge had risen to £7,000. John seems a while before this to have been somewhat unhappy.

He had embarked on a visit to the Continent with John Stepney and Mr Lloyd of Cilgwyn, and was with them at Marseilles in February 1767. They planned to move on to Switzerland and thence to Florence. In view of Symmons’ low spirits, conveyed by letter to him in London, Maurice Morgann (originally Morris Morgan), a friend of the family, offered to fetch him home from France. Maurice’s elder brother William of Blaenbylan had been one of four trustees for the late John Symmons’ estate in a will of 9 July 1757 which never went to probate and had sojourned at Llanstinan when tormented by gout. Maurice Morgann conveyed the news of young John to Miss Martha Maria Lewes of Gelli­dywyll in Cenarth, whose turn it was to live at Llanstinan in the absence of her cousins the Symmons brothers. She was dismayed, but a subsequent letter from Morgann assured her that John had recovered his equilibrium and hoped to proceed to Florence. Miss ‘Molly’ Lewes died in 1782. When the brothers’ absence became permanent, the old house decayed steadily: John Stepney likewise abandoned Llanelli House. When John Symmons witnessed Morgann’s will in 1795, he was a Londoner like Morgano. ·In 1798 Morgann, who had been involved by Lord Shelburne sixteen years before in a mission to the rebellious colonies, presented his American papers to Symmons, who fortunately deposited them in the Royal Institution in 1804. It was as a friend of the late Morgano that William Cooke dedicated his didactic poem bearing the title ‘Conver­sations’ to John in 1807; and in 1815 he and his brother Charles were invited to provide proof, if they could, that Morgano had written poetry under the pseudonym of Malcolm MacGregor, and were asked, in 1816, whether Morgann had written the ‘heroic epistle to Sir William Chambers’, which Charles disclaimed. 4

Marriage to an heiress was an obvious solution for John Symmons. This took place at Bath Abbey on 27 March 1773, his bride being Ann, child­less widow of William Trevanion (1727-1767) of Caerhayes, Cornwall, Tory MP for Tregony, whom she had married in 1758. Ann was the only daughter and heir of George Barlow of Slebech (1717-1757), who had also been a Tory MP, suspected of Jacobitism. The marriage witnesses were Jane Gwynn and Maurice Morgann. It may be noted that from the time of Ann’s first marriage the manorial courts of Slebech, Minwear, Welsh Hook in St Lawrence and Skyber in Letterston were united, their court rolls being subsumed under Slebech. Caerhayes passed to her late husband’s sister, but she and John Symmons visited it in company with Maurice Morgann. Ann, whose birthday according to her mother fell on 8 June, was over seven years older than her second husband, having been baptised at St Mary’s Haverfordwest on 7 Nov. 1737 as Ann Blundell, daughter of Ann Blundell, ‘who affirms herself to be the wife of George Barlow of Slebech’. She died without issue before 18 April 1782, leaving John in command of Slebech. He had rather overreached himself by razing and rebuilding his wife’s home, which she had found irksomely uncom­fortable, on site. This was achieved in 1776 , the architect being Anthony Keck; not without some suggestions and drawings from Symmons. The castellated mansion had three storeys in front and four behind, and a new stable block. In 1779 John Calvert of Swansea , his site manager, won a court case against Symmons over expenses at Slebech Hall. In the same year his neighbour John Wogan of Wiston appointed Symmons one of the three trustees of his will, and later he was to be a trustee of Wogan’s daughter Susannah’s marriage to Thomas Stokes of Haverfordwest. Other­wise his role as squire of Slebech was somewhat inconspicuous. He had in 1774 been required to fence the churchyard. As lay patron of Llan­stinan, he had presented Rev. John Davies (1768), followed by Rev. William Williams to the rectory of Llanstinan. The latter he went on to appoint to Yerbeston and Minwear, and in 1781 to the perpetual curacy of Slebech. The year before, with John Bartlett Allen, he was a trustee for the sale of Sir John Stepney’s Pembrokeshire properties.5

The sale of his late wife’s, and his, local estates proceeded quite rapidly. The mortgage due to Peter Holford had risen to £13,000 by 1775, and in 1782 Symmons sold sufficient land in Cardiganshire to raise £14,452 to clear the mortgage. By June 1782 he sold Slebech for £70,000, and in 1783 Martell and Colston for £15,680, and soon afterwards Llanstinan, in each case to William Knox, until lately under secretary for the American colonies. Knox, who spent £90, 854 and five shillings in all, negotiated the sale of Slebech to Nathaniel Phillips in 1792. After Knox’s death in 1810 Llanstinan was bought by Sir John Owen of Orielton. In 1794 his mother­ in-law Ann Barlow appointed Symmons as her executor, entrusting to him her personalty, which included over £3,000 in cash and £1,100 in bond s. Since 1784 Symmons’s life had been based on London. He had written sagely and sardonically to his mother-in- law from Park Street on 1 May that year about the state of the Pembrokeshire county election; and from Grosvenor House on 14 November 1785 suggesting it was time that the fine Barlow family portraits, which had been exempted from the sale of Slebech, were moved to her house in Haverfordwest, else he was willing to take care of them. It seems that Mrs Barlow obtained them, as eleven of them are mentioned in her inventory at death. In 1788 he was still at Grosvenor House. Subsequently he seems to have looked out of town for a residence . In 1791 he acquired Richmond House, in King Street, Twicken­ham from the Hon. Thomas Fitzmaurice of Lleweni, but he sold it next year.6

Within a few years he acquired Paddington House, previously the property of Denis Chirac, south of Paddington Green. There he was a neighbour or Charles Francis Greville (1743-1809), who had lived there with his mistress Emma Hart before her marriage in 1791 to Greville’s uncle Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803). The latter had obtained the Milford Haven estate through his previous childless marriage to Catherine Barlow of Colby in Wiston, and Greville was his chosen heir. Catherine had been first cousin once removed to John Symmons’ late wife Ann. Symmons appears to have sent to Greville in 1793 an itinerary or a journey he had recently made through southern England. Symmons’ new home had three storeys, three chimneys and nine windows at the front or each storey, one being set in the front door of the ground floor. It might pass for a suburban villa version of Slebech Hall. An engraving of about 1796 shows five ornamental vases distributed on the roof, and The Ambulator in 1811 adds that there were four very fine bronzed antique figures in front of the house. Inside, mention was made of a hospitable table, and a museum which included an ancient dagger. There was a side entrance to the right, and a gate to the grounds on the left. Like his neighbour Greville, he imported plants for his garden.

He became a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1795, serving as a member of its council. In 1797 his nurseryman William Salisbury produced a cata­logue of the garden, published as Hortus Paddingtoniensis. Symmons had written the introduction to William Aiton’s Hortus Kewensis, an account of the royal gardens at Kew, in 1794, and acquired a property near Hampton later, but quickly disposed of it. While Greville went on to become a founder of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1804, Symmons’ plant col­lection, exotic and indigenous, and arranged according to the Linnean system, was by 1811 a memory, replaced by ‘common vegetation’. This lapse doubtless precluded this model garden from figuring in the later annals of gardening in this country. He appears in fact to have retreated from London life, taking a lease of Britwell House, Burnham, Bucking­hamshire in August 1797, and renewing it in July 1801. Britwell had for some time previously been associated with Roman Catholic families, and the lease was subsequently ceded to Lord Grenville, whose wife was a Catholic.7

It was with Britwell as her address that Martha Symmons, described as John’s daughter, married at Alcester, Warwickshire on 23 August 1800 Anthony Carlisle (1768-1840), a native of Stillington, county Durham, and from 1793 a distinguished surgeon, trained by John Hunter, at the Westminster hospital. Carlisle pioneered an effective amputating knife and was also interested in winged flying and a form of photography. With William Nicholson (1753-1815), he discovered electrolysis shortly before his marriage, decomposing water into hydrogen and oxygen by experi­menting with Alessandro Volta’s newly discovered chemical battery. This inspired Sir Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday in turn to further discoveries. Later knighted, Carlisle is said to have been the model for Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein; he was a friend of her father William Godwin, and had attended her mother Mary Wollstonecroft’s deathbed after giving birth to Mary. He and his wife lived in London where, after lecturing on anatomy in full court dress in his prime, he was latterly often observed near his Langham Place residence ‘with an old Welsh wig on that a hackney coachman would not wear’. A patron of artists, including Turner, he collected a gallery of paintings. His widow survived him, dying at Mitcham Green, Surrey, on 17 April 1842 aged 62. When his burial took place at Kensal Green, there were more friends than relatives: they appar­ently had no issue. 8

It seems that Symmons, having ‘a most ample fortune’, had foregone the joys of gardening for those of ‘a bibliomaniac and print collector’. On 11 Dec. 1795 he had bought by private contract, before their auction by Leigh and Sotheby, the most extensive collection of topographical drawings of England and Wales ever sold. On 23 April 1804 ten thousand of these prints were sold for him by King the auctioneer. In 1828, when it was sold, his library comprised 40,000 volumes ‘of very mixed character’. In 1814, already possessed of Hutchinson’s collection for Huntingdon­ shire, he purchased further heraldic items for the same county by Rev. Robert Smyth, and was reported to be seeking an editor for all these. Fail­ing to find one, he returned Hutchinson’s three volumes to their previous owner Lord Carysfort. His young librarian John Dillon was the author of a tragedy, ‘Retribution’, staged at Covent Garden Theatre on I January 1818. Another librarian of his earlier was a French emigre named Gauthier de Brecy. Spurred on perhaps by his brother, he had been one of a trio of patrons who put the Royal Literary Fund on a permanent basis in 1797. He was a patron of the Royal Institution to promote science, and readily subscribed to numerous new publications and to other charities. To Bishop Burgess of St David’s he presented illustrations from a French 16th century prayer book, now in Lampeter College Library. In 1805 he bought the lease of Chesterfield House, Blackheath, formerly the Earl of Chester­ field’s, but assigned it in 1807 to the Duchess of Brunswick.’)

There was to be a second Welsh interlude in Symmons’ life, this time in Carmarthenshire, not Pembrokeshire. In his ancestral county he had inherited an interest in industrial investment. His uncle Thomas Symmons had purchased the Llechryd iron forge in 1729, but his father went on to sell it in 1751 to Walter Lloyd of Coedmore. John himself joined Lord Milford and Henry Leach in partnership to work Llanfyrnach silver lead mine, let to them by his friend Maurice Morgann. In 1783 he sold his share to Lord Milford for £746 odd. On 26 May 1780 Symmons had let a slate quarry in Mynachlogddu to William Marsden for 11 years at six­ pence for every thousand slates. In Carmarthenshire he had purchased from Sir John Stepney, in the early 1790s, the property of Buwchllaeth­ wen in Llangennech, of which his father-in-law George Barlow had been tenant. He was the last of the gentry to live there, and according to his friend Fenton embellished the place. The block added has been attributed to William Jernegan ( 1750-1836, the London-born architect of Swansea. In 1804, as of Buwchllaethwen, Symmons served as highs heriff of Carmarthenshire. He also acquired with his residence collieries and tram­ works. By one account he had paid £30,000 or so for these and about eight years later sold for £70,000 to entrepreneurs, namely Charles Greville’s nephew the Earl of Warwick and John Vancouver, whom the Earl housed on site to superintend the mines Vancouver resided in what was now styled Llangennech Mansion, but the Earl had overspent and had to cede the estate back to Symmons in November 1 806 . A year later he resold the mines to Messrs Davenport, Morris and William Rees, the la t being Symmons’ agent, with an advance of money to spur the m o n. They failed in 1814, and Symmons resumed ownership. In 1 822, as lay patron, he presented Rev. John Thomas to the perpetual curacy of Llange nnech. This time he did not succeed in selling the works until 1 824 when Edward Rose Tunn o of London, with partners, worked the Spitty copperwork s started by the preceding trio. So ended the second Welsh phase of Symmons’ life. By   1823   his residence was Ewhurst Park, Hampshire.10

Fig. 2: Buwchllaethwen, Carmarthenshire (1789)

Fig. 2: Buwchllaethwen, Carmarthenshire (1789)

John Symmons gave the impre ssion that he had remarried at some point before 1804. His second wife, Elizabeth Mary, nee Session, if the spelling of her maiden surname in his Belgian death certificate is to be trusted, bore him two sons. Yet according to a marriage recorded in Edinburgh between John Symmons and Elizabeth Mary, her surname was Sessions, her father being named Richard Sessions. This marriage took place on 11 April 1811, long after their sons’ births. She died on 2 June 1813 ‘after a long and painful illness … an affectionate wife, a tender mother, and a sincere friend’. At a later stage he took a third wife, young enough to be his granddaughter. Her name was Charlotte, nee Evans. They had no children, and she survived him many years, dying of ‘natural decay certified’ at 16 Princess Terrace, Chalk Farm, London on 13 Jan. 1869 aged 77, described as ‘widow of John Symmons gentleman’. Her death was registered by Rebecca Linton of the same address six days later. There was apparently no will. Charlotte had been living at the Polygon, Somers Town, St. Pancras, at the time of her husband’s death on 20 August 1831. His death registration at Toumai, made on 22 August, which would have been his 87th birthday, stated that he died at IO p.m. at 48 Grande Place. This was attested by two of his neighbours in Grande Place, Philippe Depret and Pierre Vanwanbeke.

His will, dated 15 April 1828, in which he describes himself as ‘late of Paddington House’, had left all he had to his wife and younger son ‘George Symmons’. Possibly his library sale of 1828 had not raised enough to keep him in England. From Tournai, now situated in the new kingdom of Belgium where he had resided for ‘about a year’, he sent via Anthony Picquot, a friend travelling to England, an urgent memorandum to his attorney Robert Maugham of Chancery Lane about 27 July 1831 , when his death ‘might happen at any moment’ , desiring that his elder son, named as ‘Charles Symmons’, might be included in the partition of his estate. This, the sole evidence of Symmons’s wish to alter his will, was delivered to Maugham by Picquot on 30 July, but news of Symmons’ death arrived before Maugham could amend the will by adding the memorandum as a codicil or make a fresh will, options offered him by the deceased, to whom no confirmation could be sent before he died. An affidavit to this effect was dated 23 September, and sworn then by the widow and by another deponent, Richard Hodgson of Salisbury Street in the Strand, as also by Maugham on 29 September. They had all three confirmed that the memo­randum bore John Symmons’ usual handwriting and signature. It was the elder son who was granted administration of the will in London on 30 Sept. 1831, the widow and the other son renouncing probate. Symmons had died ‘suddenly without previous illness’.

His estate was valued at £450, a modest sum considering how much money had once passed through his hands. His simple will being confined to family members, there was no duty to pay on it. A curious and not entirely reliable account of his life was sketched from a conversation with Symmons’ banker and ‘very particular friend’ Chambers, brother-in-law to his brother Charles’s wife, in the Fleet Prison on 29 June 1837:

He married a very rich woman. He remembers he sold an estate in Wales which fetched £’120,000. At one time he was   worth £200,000. He died about 90 years of age in France, and could not command £100 at the time of his death. At the period of Mr Chambers’ bankruptcy Symmons owed him £27,000, for which he held security and the debt was paid off. He considers that Dr Charles Symmons received £100,000 from his brother, including interest, during a period of forty years. There was a regular allow­ ance of £700 a year which Mr Chambers contracted to pay to him on behalf of the brother, who nevertheless was always obtaining further sums from him, and borrowing from Mr Chambers what the brother was also obliged to pay. John had a library of 40,000 volumes. Jack, the son of Charles, was intended for the law but never practised. He died in Paris fully dependent on his uncle. John Symmons wrote on financial matters; in one of his brochures he referred to a friend who was Mr Chambers for information.

Regarding his generosity to Charles, a document found by Francis Green among the Colby muniments at Ffynone, Manordeifi indicates that John was born before his parents’ marriage. This discovery being made when he sold his Pembrokeshire estate, his brother Charles was induced to join with him in conveying properties to Thomas Knox, being his father’s legitimate heir. This document dated 30 Sept. 1804 was a case for counsel, submitted to Charles Butler, an eminent London barrister on behalf of a would be purchaser from Knox of the estate sold to him by the Symmons. This ‘case’ opened a can of worms. John had long promised Charles an estate in appreciation of his role in the sale, and in 1784 settled £200 a year on him and his wife, and provided £3,000 for their children. It also emerged that their father’s will could not be found, but that a deed of 2 March 1764 showed that their father was preparing to set aside his will of 1757 to set about disentailing and disposing of part of his Pembrokeshire property, in collusion with John Hensleigh of Panteg, Llanddewi Velfre and David Hughes of Harmeston, Steynton. Any prospective pur­chaser from Knox would need to use Charles again for the conveyance, and if Charles was given a full explanation of the reason for this, the two brothers might fall out. so the purchase was evidently suspended.

His two sons were:

Charles Augustus John Symmons, born 9 July 1804, and baptised at St James, Paddington on 6 August following. At the time of his charge of the inheritance in 1831 he lived at 22 Queen Street, Golden Square, London. He had married at St Pancras Old Church, 17 November 1825 Joanna Elliot of that parish. Of their three children, Ellen Mary Elizabeth was born 17 March 1826, and baptised on 28 April at Old St Pancras, and Herbert John George, sometimes known as George, was born in 1830 , also in London. In December 1839 this family arrived in Western Australia in the ‘Jean’. In March 1841 a second daughter Amy was born there, in Perth, where Ellen married an assistant surgeon to the 51st regiment named George Cunningham Meikleham on 8 August 1845 , and they lost an infant child in 1846. In 1855, aged 35, he was serving in the Crimean War. Meikleham subsequently transferred his services with the 70th regi­ment as surgeon, to Auckland, New Zealand, where he arrived from India in 1861. George Symmons, who played cricket for the gentlemen of Perth, died unmarried on 17 August 1857 aged 27, and was buried in East Perth cemetery. There his mother Joanna joined him after her death on 16 Sept. 1858 aged 58. Amy married on 10 November 1874 William Pearce Clifton (1816-1885), a pioneer settler and widower, and they had issue Edith Ellen, born 1878, Richard Symmons Clifton (1879-1942) and Brenda (1883-1963). Charles Symmons had been a civil servant for thirty years, starting as a Protector of Natives. He contributed to G. F. Moore’s dictionary of the Nyungar aborigines ‘ vocabulary in 1842, and wrote sym­pathetic annual reports on them. He was Immigration Agent in 1855; superintendent of police for a few months in 1858; and a resident magis­trate in 1866. He later became a J.P. in Fremantle and Vasse, and died in Bunbury on 18 Oct. 1887, He had spent three months in Engl

Fig. 3: Bookplates of Charles and John Symmons.

Fig. 3: Bookplates of Charles and John Symmons.

and in 1878, and had journeyed to Colombo the year before his death.


George Richard Edwardes Symmons was born in 1806. He matriculated from Queens College, Oxford, his third given name rendered ‘Edward ‘ , on 4 Dec. 1824 aged 18. He did not graduate. He died, apparently unmarried and intestate, at 28 Bidborough Street, off Grays Inn Lane, St Pancras, on 17 May 1850, aged 44. He was described as ‘ gentleman’, his third given name was then rendered ‘Edwards’ , and the cause of death was ‘consump­tion uncertain certified’. The registrar was informed by Maria Chapman, of the same address, three days later. 11

John Symmons’ brother Charles, a respectable clergyman and doctor of divinity well educated in the classics, withall a writer of poetry and bio­grapher of John Milton, had predeceased him, dying at Bath on 27 April 1826. Charles had five children with his wife Elizabeth, married in 1779, daughter of John Foley of Ridgeway, Pembrokeshire, and sister of Admiral Sir Thomas Foley (1757-1833), a favourite colleague of Lord Nelson’s. Elizabeth died at Penylan, Carmarthenshire, on 25 June 1830 aged 75, and was buried at Llangathen, the home parish of her mother Sarah, nee Herbert, of Court Henry. Only the two eldest children survived their father, John, who was to die without issue, and Fannia, wife since 1813 of Lt.­ Col. John William Mallett. The younger son Charles died at 21 and Caroline, a budding poet, aged 14. The youngest daughter Maria, Mrs Vernon of Hanbury, Worcestershire, left issue, inserting Foley, but not Symmons, into the Vernon nomenclature. Charles Symmons had befriended the future statesman William Windham of Felbrigg while at Glasgow University. In 1793 Windham, a former Foxite Whig, went over to Pitt’s government with the Portland Whigs, and accepted office. Charles’s avowed dissent from this conduct made it difficult for Windham to obtain Charles’s wish for the living of Lampeter Velfre to supplement that of Narberth, which he had held since 1778, but Windham succeeded in 1794. He was not so indulgent about further applications for patronage from Charles, who got John to write to Windham on his behalf, on 25 February 1798. John had put himself on a sounder footing with Windham by sending him on 14 Dec. 1797 a friend’s war funding plan. On 15 Sept. 1800 he further sent Windham a memorandum on the alarming shortage of provisions, which elicited an appreciative reply, and led to further correspondence between them that year, John enlarging on abuses arising from the current scarcity of bread.

Under the pseudonym of ‘an independent gentleman’, he published Thoughts on the present price of provisions as a pamphlet the same year. In the Register of National Archives index John Symmons, given the death date of 1832, is described as both horticulturalist and political reformer. He had been the former, but the latter needs qualification. He was in 1810 admittedly the author of ‘Reform without innovation or cursory thoughts on the only practicable reform of Parliament consistent with the existing laws, and the spirit of the constitution’, a 23-page pamphlet intended as a reproach to more radical reformers. Twelve years later he is credited with another effusion on the ’cause and cure of national distress addressed to all ranks of people’, under a pseudonym. This was no doubt the essay for which his banker Chambers provided information.

John Symmons’ other friendships for which written evidence survives suggest more interest in matters of general culture, scientific, artistic and antiquarian, than politics. Richard Fenton of Fishguard was a friend of his and his brother’s from their young days, and paid tribute to them in his published Tour through Pembrokeshire. The naturalist Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) received several letters from him – in April 1788 he sent Banks an Egyptian mummy case, its hieroglyphic inscription then undecipher­able. Ten years later he sent a journal kept by one of his gardeners, John Haxton, while in China in the retinue of Lord Macartney’s mission to the Chien Lung emperor, and given by Haxton to Charles Greville, for Banks’s inspection. When Banks approved of the journal, Symmons invited him to visit him and discuss Chinese plants. In 1799 he sent Banks his future son­ in-law Anthony Carlisle’s paper on the arterial system of a ‘tardigrade animal’ and the animal itself for display purposes.

From a letter dated 4 May 1804, it emerges that Symmons, a fellow of the Royal Society since 10 July 1794, was anxious to promote the election of Richard Duppa (1770-1831) to it. This bid was unsuccessful, whereupon he tried to rally Banks to Duppa’s cause, offering to send Duppa’s book, presumably his memoir about Richard Glover, thought by Duppa to be the author of the anonymous political letters of Junius. Banks at once declined to discuss Duppa’s rejection, and disclaimed qualification to judge Duppa’s book. In 1814 Symmons resumed advocacy, on behalf of the Prince Regent’s oculist Sir William Adams (1783-1827), having seen him cure a blind person, as Adams wished to become a fellow of the Royal Society. Two letters to Banks received two rebuffs, the second doubting whether Adams stood at the head of his profession, the first having pointed out that the Society played no role in professional promotion. Another friend of Symmons, the artist Joseph Farington, reported the farmer’s chagrin at his failure to secure Duppa’s election in l 804. Previous references to Sym­mons in Farington’s diary show that he was an FSA in 1797 and a member of the Dilettanti Society in 1799. In 1810 he was successful, with Sir Henry Charles Englefield, 7th and last Baronet, in promoting the election of John Buckler (1770-1851), a topographical artist, as a member of the Society of Antiquaries, Buckler having twice previously been blackballed. Between 1799 and 1814 he corresponded occasionally with the literary ex-diplomat Caleb Whitefoord and his widow Mary, afterwards Mrs Lee.

An undated letter to Symmons from Thomas Johnes of Hafod, Cardigan­shire, also survives, but is of little interest compared with one that Johnes wrote to James Edward Smith (1759-1828) , founder of the Linnean Society in London, on 26 December 1801 to say that he had not heard nor seen anything of Symmons since his own return to Wales, and supposed he had returned to London on account of the wet weather, leaving building work incomplete. He added that Symmons would probably sell the improved building, being incapable of remaining long in one place. This may well refer to his Llangennech residence. In a further letter of 22 September 1803 to Smith, Johnes adds that he owes a Chancery suit in which he is engaged entirely to his ‘friend’ Symmons. 12

The last good word on John Symmons was published by his former protege John Taylor in 1833:

a more liberal, elegant, and hospitable character never existed. He is still alive [sic], at a very advanced age, and with a reverse of fortune, which all who knew him must deeply regret, as it was chiefly the result of the generosity, I may say, the magnificence of his mind, his confidence in false friends, and an incautious disposal of his property. He found it necessary to leave England, and I fear is involved in the unhappy events which now overwhelm the Netherlands to which country he has retired, and where he intended to pass the remainder of his life.


 The writer is indebted to two friends interested in the history of the Symmons family, Mr Richard Davies of Little Newcastle and Mrs Jean O’Driscoll of Llanelli, for their encouragement and for advice on several points. I am particularly in­ debted to Mrs O’Driscoll for her discovery of John Symmons’ will of 1831, notice of his daughter Martha and the recent published material relating to his Llan­gennech estate. Madame Chantal Fleurquin, archivist at Tournai, kindly provided the details from his death certificate, the source for the maiden names of his second and third wives. Mr Thomas Lloyd kindly supplied architectural and other information and illustrations.


  1.  F. Green, ‘Symmins of Martell and Llanstinan’ , West Wales Historical Records, xiv, 207-233, particularly from page 220 onwards.
  2. NLW I8097C, Green mss 220, 403; J. T. Evans, Church Plate of Pembs (1905), 81; F. Jones, ‘Disaffection and dissent in Pembrokeshire’, Cymmro­dorion Transactions (1946-7), 222; NLW, 1710 poll book, mistakenly dated 1714; History of Parliament: The Commons 1715– 1754 (ed.), R. Sedgwick (1970), I, 373; II, 460, and The Commons 17541790 (ed.), Sir L. Namier and J.Brooke (1964), I, 462; III, 175; West Wales Historical Records, iii, 160, 177; P. D. G.Thomas, in Cardiganshire County History (ed., G. H. Jenkins and I. G. Jones, 1998), III, 352-7; D.W. Howell, Patriarchs and Parasites (Cardiff, 1986), 103, 123, 126-7 , 133; Bethan Phillips, Peterwell (Llandysul, 1983), 76, 134; NLW ms 13661; Francis Jones, ‘The Society of Sea Serjeants’, Cymm. Trans. (1967), 57-91, and ‘Portraits and pictures in ‘Old Carmarthenshire houses’, Carmarthen Historian, ed. V. Jones, (1968), v. 43; Dictionary of Welsh Biography sub Symmons family of Llanstinan, mistakenly giving him a death date in 1771. That article confines itself to John senior, his younger son Charles, and the latter’s son John.
  3. Gentlemans Magazine, 96 (1826), ii, 566; Carmarthen R.O., Stepney mss f. 66, J. Symmons to A. Goodeve, 26 Nov. 1811. Alumni Oxon (ed.), J. Foste sub Symmons, John; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), sub Symmons, Charles; E. G. Hardy, Jesus College (1899), 220.
  4. Green, op.cit. ; NLW, Eaton Evan s and Williams mss 33 10 , 3 374, 40 2 1, 11068, 11071-2; 1768 poll book; P. D. G. Thoma s, op.cit. p.360; NLW MS 6104, M. Morgano to M. M. Lewes , 3 Fe b. 1767 and ensuing letters to her ; Francis Jones, ‘Gellidywyll’, Ceredigion, vol. 8 (1979) , 387 and ‘Blaenbylan’ , ibid ., vol. 7, (1975), 321, 326, 329; WWHR , iv, 192; A New classified Catlogue of the Library of the Royal Institution (1857), 592; Gent. Mag. , vol. 77 (1807), 643; vol. 85 ( J815), ii, 486 ; vol. 86 ( 1816), I, 34.
  5. ‘Registers of Bath Abbey 1569-1800’ , Harleian Society, 27 (1900), 289; Facult y Office Marriage Licences Index 17511775 (Society of Genealogists, 1999 ), 826; Jones in Journal of the Historical Society of the Church in Wales, xix (1969) , 14 – 16; NLW, Slebech mss, 731 -2 and NLW ms 6104, Mrs. A. Barlow to Sir John Barlow, 16 Oct. I 756 , and further letters cited by F. Jones in ‘Some Slebech Notes’ , National Library of Wales Journal, vii, no. 3 (summer 1952), 5 et seq; The Buildings of Wales ( Pevsner), Pembrokeshire (ed.), Thomas Lloyd, J. Orbach and R. Scourfield (2004), 452-3; WW HR , ii , 258-9, 303; iv, 203-4, 249; vi, 226 , 228 ; NLW, Church in Wales deeds, SDCh 47 and Eaton Evans and Williams mss.
  6. F. Green, op. cit. ; NLW, Slebech mss, 750 , 752 and NLW ms 6 104 , J. Symmons to Mrs A. Barlow , 7 June 1782 and 14 Nov. 1785; The Banks Letters (ed.), W. R. Dawson (London, 1958), 802.
  7. British Library Mss, 4270 I , ff. 271-4 ; Victoria County History: Middlesex (1989) , ix, 186 ; Notes and Queries (1 2 th se r.), v, 265 ; vi, 192 ; The Mirror of Literature, Amusernent and Instruction (1 833 ), 40; J. T ho rne, Handbook to the Environs of Lond n (1876), 634; Topographical History of Surrey (ed.), E.W. Brayley (1841), 341 ; Centre for Bucks. Studies, Britwell leases, D 39/37-41.
  8. Gent. Mag., 1800 , ii , 69 1, which incorrectly dated the marria ge 8 July 1800, also 1840, ii, 660 and 1842, i, 565 ; The Medical Times (1841), 79.
  9. Notes and Queries (12th ser.), v, 265 ; vi, 298; Mag., vol. 84 (1814), ii, 445; W. C. Macready, Reminscences (187 5 ), i, 159; The Modern Language Review ( 1905) , 18 ; The Royal Literary Fund (I 866) , 8; D. Lysons, The Environs of London (1811), iii, 525.
  10. Michael Evans, ‘ Coedmore Forge, Llechryd ‘ in Carmarthenshire Studies (ed.), T. Barnes and N. Yates (1974), 186-195; D. W. Howell, op. cit. , 103 , citing Coedmore deeds of 22 Dec. 1729 and 24 Dec. 1751 in Cards. Record Office; 106, citing leas es in Picton ms 4077 , NLW; and 107, citing Pembs. Record Office, D/RTP/SLE; Alun Richards , The Slate Quarries of Pembrokeshir 176 cites the sale of Fforest, Cilgerran by John Symmons to Thomas Lloyd of Coedmore for £3 ,000 in 1790 ; F rancis Jones, Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families (Carmarthen, 1987) , 19 sub Bwlchllaethwen; NLW MS 2065E, Richard Fenton’s annotation sub Llangennech Park to Thomas Falconer’s mss Tour of Wales (with thanks to Mr Thomas Lloyd for this refer­ence); Robin S. Craig, R. Protheroe Jones and M. V. Symons, The Industrial and Maritime History of Llanelli and Burry Port 1750 to 2000, 31, 38, 75, 115, 560; Carmarthenshire Notes (ed., Arthur Mee, 1891), iii, 44. A Llangennech lease to which John Symmons is a signato ry, as of Paddingt on House, dated 21 Dec. 1826, is in the Clayton mss at Surrey History Centre; Joanna Baillie, A Collection of Poems (1823), subscribers’ list.
  11. Gent. Mag., vol. 83 (1813), i, 595; Family Records Centre, London, PROB 11/1788 , death cert. of Charlotte Symmons, 1869, and estate duty register, [R26/1273/82;   Archives   de   J’etat   Tournai,   death   registration;   Gent.   Mag., vol. 74 (1804), ii, 687 ; E. H. Barker, Literary Anecdotes and Contemporary Reminiscences (1852), 115-116 ; Haverfordwest County Library, F. Green mss, vol. 25, 360 (the much longer original is in NLW, Ffynone (Spence Colby) mss 2385, listing deeds otherwise available in   NLW, Eaton  Evans and Williams mss 33 05 , 3738 , 4220 , 4309; Latter Day Saints, IGI sub Charles Augustus John Symmons; Dictionary of Western Australians 1829- 1850 (ed.), P. S tatham, I, 328 , 1850 – 186 8, ed.   R. Erickson, ii.8 16 ; with additions from the Bicentenary edition of the same (ed.), R. Erickson; P. Conole, Wes tern Australian Police Commissioners, on line,  which shows a photograph   of  Charles Symmons; I. Gluckman, Touching on Death, a medical history of early Auckland , (2000), 277; Alumni Oxon s ub George R. E. Symmons and death cert. of the latter, 1850 , National Archives .
  12. Gent. Mag., vol. 75 (1805), i, 584 and 96 ( 182 6), i.565 -567 ; Elizabeth Symmons’ tablet in Llangathen church,  kindly  reported by Mr Thomas Lloyd; British Library, Add.   Mss,   3787 7, ff. 203, 272; 37879, ff. 223, 229, 235; 37880, f.9; British Library public catalogues sub Symmons, John FRS; Richard Fenton, Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire (l 8 10) , 342 , ( 1903 editio n), I 88-9; The Banks Letters, 802-3; Farington Diary (Yale, ed.), ii , 936; iv , 1195 ; vi, 2468; x, 3631; British Library, J. Symmons to Caleb Whitefoord and his widow Mary  in Add. Mss,   36593-6; Cambridge University   Library, Add. Mss,   8202/ 12 ; R. J. Moore-Colyer, A Land of Pure Delight (19 93), 159 and l77, citing Linn. Soc. (Smith),   16, ff.13 l, 146.
  13. J. Taylor, Records of My Life (l 833), 436.

Wives, Widows and Will-making in Tudor Pembrokeshire





By Roger Turvey

Women, whether they were wives, widows or spinsters, rarely wrote about themselves so that lives lived as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters often went unrecorded. This largely explains why we know virtually nothing from personal writing about the daily lives of all but the most extraordinary or wealthy of women. It is perhaps ironic that whereas in life the majority of women are observable only indirectly, often cited in impersonal legal documents or in genealogies, in death they are probably at their most visible. Will making served not only as a testament to the distribution of a person’s possessions and property but as proof positive of their existence. Yet even here in their desire to make their testamentary mark, women found themselves at a disadvantage when compared to men for of the 2 million wills which survive from the mid sixteenth to mid eighteenth century approximately 400,000 are by women and of these around 80 per cent were by widows.1 Liberated by the death of her hus­band the widow was largely free of the constraints imposed upon her by the legal framework and moral mores of contemporary society. Widow­hood was a period in a woman’s life when she was most clearly identi­fiable as an independent agent, in essence, a full legal person. Unlike a spinster who often remained financially dependent on the family, the widow had access to money and property that ensured a measure of financial independence.

Married women were precluded from making wills except with the con­sent and by special arrangement with their husbands. Only the most enlightened and liberal of the latter, of whom there were precious few, permitted their wives a free hand to dispose of their personal possessions.2 With this in mind it is perhaps no surprise to learn that married women were responsible for less than one per cent of wills drawn up in England between 1558 and 1700. 3 The wills cited and printed in Appendix II are examples drawn from widows and spinsters who lived their lives as part of Pembrokeshire’s landowning elite but, as will become clear, even within this privileged class there were variations in wealth and status. The fact that they are transcribed and published here for the first time adds to their value as documents that provide an extraordinary insight into an hitherto little explored area of gender-related history, namely, the lives, deaths and will-making activities of some of Tudor Pembrokeshire’s wives, widows and spinsters.

It has been calculated that the proportion of women who made wills in England and Wales during the sixteenth century was somewhere between 13 and 18 per cent. 4 In Pembrokeshire this figure falls to a little over 10 per cent for out of a total of 175 wills currently recorded as extant for the period between 1485 and 1603 only 19 were drawn up by women.5 The majority of Pembrokeshire women who made their wills were widows. Of the 19 female testators only two were clearly spinsters; twelve described themselves as widows or can be identified as such from their wills. The status of the remaining testators cannot be ascertained so easily but there can be little doubt that not a single one made their wills whilst they were married and their husbands lived.

Of the 175 Pembrokeshire wills the vast majority were made by minor landowners or people whose landed interests were confined to the county within the boundaries of the diocese of St. David’s. These landowners were subject to the authority and administration of the bishop and so had their wills recorded and probate granted in the diocesan court. On the other hand, the majority of the wealthier and more consequential land­ owners, often people who possessed property within and outside the diocesan boundary, had their wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London. The wills discussed here are mainly from women who are to be found in this latter group and range in date from 1504 to 1603.6 Geographically they are drawn from across the county being resident in large towns such as Haverfordwest and Tenby or in more rural areas like Llanfrynach and St. Dogwells when they died (see Fig. 1 ). Although it is likely that the majority were Welsh-speaking the wills are written in English, the language of law and government in Wales since the passing of the so-called Acts of Union between 1536 and 1543.7

Wills survive largely in register copies so we are dependant on the truthfulness and accuracy of the clerks responsible for their transcription. 8 Unfortunately for those testators who hailed from Wales the London­ based English clerks had great difficulty transcribing Welsh personal and place names so that some adjustment is often necessary to understand who, what and where was intended. That said it is clear from the St.David’s probate records held at the National Library of Wales that even some of the bishop’s own clerks sometimes exhibited a degree of tran­scriptive inaccuracy that border on the criminal. For example, Lleucu becomes Llyky and Katherine is transformed into Katterynge! Neverthe­less, if handled with care, and error aside, these documents are invaluable as evidence of the social, economic and religious lives of women who had the authority, influence and means to leave their mark on history.

Fig 1: Map of Pembrokeshire parishes showing the locations of the will-makers

Fig 1: Map of Pembrokeshire parishes showing the locations of the will-makers

The contents of wills must be approached with caution not only on account of the quality of the transcription but in terms of understanding the processes and pressures involved in will making. Wills were public documents framed and structured to a particular formula that were made typically in the presence of friends and family, hence the witness list at the end. In addition, they were legal documents that were transcribed by a clerk and probably read by the bishop or his officials to verify their con­ tents. Women, more than men, were subject to the influence of scribal opinion and the forces of compulsion, perhaps even coercion, which were brought to bear on the dying by those pressing around them. Unsurpris­ingly, given what was at stake in terms of property and possessions, some wills were subject to dispute and litigation. Although most disputes involved the disappointed challenging the validity of a will, rarely the sanity of the will-maker, some contested the appointment of executors. In such instances probate was usually delayed until the matter was resolved in court. In Pembrokeshire litigation was rare but not unheard of, for example, the will of Elizabeth Lougher of Tenby was subject to challenge with the court’s final judgement being given in the form of a sentence .9 Nuncupative wills, such as that by Elizabeth Green of Castlemartin, 10 were often carefully scrutinized by the authorities in case of abuse or in search of evidence that might hint at pressure being brought to bear on the testator.

It is generally agreed that most sixteenth-century wills exhibited highly conventional statements, most especially in the religious preamble, and that many of the apparently individual expressions were dictated by the scribe rather than to him by the testator. Nevertheless, their formulaic nature does not entirely undermine their usefulness as evidence because even conventional expressions were shaped by social custom, especially those determined by the gender of the will maker. Indeed, in late Tudor England and Wales distribution to charitable causes were marked by gender distinction: men’s wills more often gave to the poor-box or for general distribution at the discretion of the executors while women seemingly gave for specific needs such as the repair of hospitals , helping sick people, road improvement, helping maidens to marry (or in the period prior to the dissolution of the monasteries, encouraging them to become nuns) and making scholars of the poor by putting their young to school.

Examples of such generosity can be found aplenty in Pembrokeshire wills. For the ‘reparation’ of the almshouses in the town of Haverfordwest, Margaret ap Gwilym (d. 1556) left 20s. 11 Anne Jenkyns 12 (d. 1570) left the parish of Cilgerran a legacy of 40s. followed by a more specific gift to its poor of £6 8s. 4d. To her unmarried daughter, Elizabeth, she bequeathed the considerable sum of £100 along with a stock of cattle but only on condition she followed ‘the advyse and councell of my sonne Thomas Revell in bestowinge of her selfe in marriage’. This concern for helping maidens to marry also extended to her niece, Sage Walter, who would benefit to the tune of £6 8s. 4d. but only if she ‘do take a husband by the advyse consent and agreement of my Sayed sonne Thomas’. In an act more characteristic of her male counterparts Elin Cathern (d. 1568) donated the meagre sum of a shilling to the ‘poore menns boxe’ of the parish of St. Martin’s, Haverfordwest.13 In keeping with the greater generosity of her gender Winifred Brown (d. 1594), gave those of the parish poor of Carew who attended her funeral the sum of £5 and ‘ unto six maides that shall carry me to churche ffive shillings apiece’.14 In stark contrast is the will of Tangustl Welcock (d. 1549) who did not leave the poor of the parish of Llawhaden so much as a brass farthing let alone any donations in kind such as a jug of ale or free supper. Such uncharitable disregard for the needs of the poor or parish are rare but they did occur, though if current conventional Welsh wisdom is to be believed this was more likely to happen in Cardiganshire than in Pembrokeshire!

It has been calculated that women’s wills accounted for nearly one third of all charitable bequests suggesting that giving to charity was dispro­portionately led by them. Such gift giving on the deathbed plainly con­stituted a continuation of one’s life work to distribute alms to the poor and in so doing conveyed a sense of communal responsibility. In the opinion of J. S. W. Helt Tudor women drew their charitable inspiration from Christ’s injunctions in Matthew 25:35-37. 15

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 16

Helt rightly argued that traditional religion taught that money should be given to good causes but as to the crucial question of why women rather than men were more disposed to follow the precepts of the Bible or the extolling of pulpit preachers, there is no definitive answer.

Wills provide an insight into the role of women in memory that cannot be obtained from other sources. Testamentary gift-giving played a central role in the efforts of dying women to define their post-mortem identity and to secure their place in the folk memory of their respective communities. Their identity was an issue, apart from the spinster, because marriage involved moving to a new home, perhaps the adoption of a new family but certainly the assumption of a new surname. Multiple marriages, punctu­ated by periods of widowhood, led to frequent changes of name, family loyalties and obligations. It is interesting to note that some women, as widows, made their wills in their married name while others returned to using their maiden name. The reason for this is not altogether clear but it may have been a means by which women could re-assert their indepen­dence by recasting their identity . For example, within eighteen months of losing her husband, Sir William Perrot, Joanna, his widow, opted to make her will in her maiden name of Wogan.17 There is nothing to suggest the two had fallen out or were estranged but the fact remains Joanna had, bar one, an entirely different list of witnesses to those who attended her hus band at his death. It is perhaps ironic that those who chose to draft their wills in their married name could not have done so had they still been wed for although widows and single women had the right to leave personal property by will married women did not.

The majority of women maintained ties with and loyalty to the family of an earlier marriage while others ‘adopted or suffered from a kind of social amnesia’ 18 treating their current or last husband as the only one with whom they had spent part of their lives. Those women happy to acknowl­edge wider family ties were willing to perform what they saw as their duty by distributing legacies of lands and goods from previous marriages. Thrice married Anne Jenkyns left legacies not only to the children of her first and second marriages but to her brothe r’s daughter also. In a feat of familial unity she entrusted the care of her daughter from her second marriage, Elizabeth Phaer, to her eldest son of her first marriage, Thomas Revell. Family ties often influenced a woman’ s choice of executor, the majority were men, the eldest son, but occasionally a woman was appointed to manage the probate process and distribution of moneys and goods. There were exceptions to the rule as in the case of Margaret ap Gwilym who opted to appoint a husband and wife as joint executors of her will and estate. On the other hand, Elizabeth Lougher (d. 1595) chose to split the responsibility between her son, John, as executor and sister, Anne, as over­seer.19

Widows were entitled to a third of their husband’s estate. These portions, known as dower, were intended to provide widows, and any children not heirs to their father ‘s property, with the means to lead a comfortable life until their own deaths. As the chief marital entitlement the extent of the dower was often agreed and settled before the husband drew up his will. The possession of dower property was nearly always only held for the life of the widow and upon her death would revert back to the heir. Conse­quently the widow had no right to either sell or lease this property but this did not prevent her from acquiring additional property which she could dispose of as she wished. Thus was Anne Jenkyns able to bequeath to her youngest son not only ‘one hundrcth poundes’ but ‘my townhowse in … Kilgerran’ .20 Should a widow remarry and outlive her second (sometimes a third or even a fourth) husband she would be entitled to a third of his estate also. Thus dower made the widow very attractive in the “marriage market” but it also conferred on her a measure of social and economic independence which would be lost on remarriage. Indeed, in a world dominated by men women only truly enjoyed the freedom to conduct their personal lives as they wished  when they entered  what some historians have termed “free widowhood ” .21

Secure in the property rights and income that flowed from marriage the wealthy widow had the financial means to play a significant role in the local economy. Widows, along with single women, could not only hold property they could buy, lease or sell property, sue and be sued , borrow or lend money. Some widows were a force to be reckoned with, for example,

Elizabeth Lougher had in her possession a sum in excess of £2,300 to bequeath to family, friends and servants.22 The ability to dispose of such a huge sum of ready cash is rarely found in Pembrokeshire wills but in a thriving port and commercial centre like Tenby it may not have been unusual. The bequests to servants testify to the part played by women in the maintenance and employment of indivi duals and families in the locality. From the will of Anne Jenkyns we know that she employed at least three trusted servants along with an unknown number of ‘ household servantes ‘to whom she left the total sum of £14 ‘ to be destrybuted accord­inge to the discrecon of my executor.’ 23 Elizabeth Lougher was rather more generous leaving some £73 to be divided between six named servants, both male and female. 24

The will and testament was, in esse nce, the testator’s last act in life and the aim was nearly always to satisfy the needs and wants of the family. Daughters were almost always at the forefront of a testator’s thoughts whether they are male or female . If a father had not made provisio n for his daughter then this was left to the wife. In most cases the bequest involved money to be used as a dowry in order to attract a suitable husband. Among the most generous in respect of moneys left to her daughters was Elizabeth Lougher who bequea thed £2,000 to her three daughters: Lettice £800, Elizabeth £700 and Jane £500. For the majority of testators the sums bequeathed to daughters was rather more modest being on average between £50 and £100. The lowest sum bequeathed as dowry for a daughter was the £10 Ellen Scourfield (d. 1582 ) received from ‘my father Harry Skorfilde [sic] gave towards my marriage which sum is now in the hands of my brother John.’ 25 Unfortunately for Ellen she never lived long  nough to marry so that the dowry, alo ng with her worldly goods amounting to £7 2s. 8d., were left in he r will to her sister and executrix Jane.

The concern shown by a mother for her children is understandable but to be able to dispose of her assets according to her ‘free’ will was dependent on her status. Widows were, to a large extent, in charge of the ir own destinies and therefore free to do as they wished. In view of the freedom and inde­pendence that widowhood conferred it is perhaps surprising that so many women remarried. Of course one can but wonder what kind of moral and social pressure was brought to bear on women to either remarry (or marry if a spinster) or remain single but the loss of the testamentary capacity of married women involved not just interference with their ability to act inde­pendently but possible changes in the settlement of property or money.

In the opinion of Judith Jones the fascination of wills is that they are ‘the most human of the documents which survive in any quantity from the sixteenth century’.26 The truth of that statement is self evident and this article is but a modest example of what can be achieved when the spotlight is shifted away from the male majority to the will-making activities of the female minority. This is a subject that demands and fully deserves further investigation.27

Fig. 2: A copy of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Will Registers. The registered copy of the will of Anne Jenkyns is shown listed with others drawn from different parts of the country. (TNA: Crown Copyright)

Fig. 2: A copy of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Will Registers. The registered copy of the will of Anne Jenkyns is shown listed with others drawn from different parts of the country. (TNA: Crown Copyright)

Appendix I

List by date of the Wills and Testaments of Women in Tudor Pembrokeshire



Joanna Perrot of Haroldston (W) E.21 l/395(L) 1503
Elizabeth Newton (W) 1524 PROBl l/2l(L)
of Monkton
Tangustl Welcock (W) of Llawhaden 1549 PROBll/32
Margaret ap Gwilym (W) 1556 PROB I1/38
of Haverford west
Elin Cathern (W) of Haverfordwest 1568 PROB I l/50
Anne Jenkyns (W) of Cilgerran 1570 PROBll/52
Ellen Scourfield (S) of St. Dogwells 1582 SD/1582/9
Katherine Elliot (W) 1594 FG, Vol. 10, 170 28
Winifred Browne (S) of Carew 1594 PROBJ 1/84
Elizabeth Lougher (W) of Tenby 1595 PROBl l/85(L)

Saige Don (W) of Llanddewi Velfrey  1601                    SD/1601/15

Elizabeth Powell (W) of Newton North 1601                 SD/1601/52

Joanna Cod (W) of Warren 1601                                      SD/1601/70

Elizabeth Green of Castlemartin 1602                            SD/1602/l 3

Anne Rees (W) of Bletherston 1603                                SD/1603/5

Morfydd Thomas (W) of Llanfyrnach 1603                   SD/1603/62

Janet Harding (W) of Rudbaxton 1603                          SD/1603/102

Agnes Shepperd (W) of Talbenni 1603                          SD/1603/112

Gwenllian dau. of Llywelyn of Llangolman 1603         SD1603/l17


E             The National Archives, London, Exchequer documents Ancient Deeds Series.

PROB      The National Archives, London, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Will Registers.

SD           National Library of Wales, St. David’s Diocesan Records. FG     National Library of Wales, Francis Green Printed Records.


 Appendix II

Sample of Printed Wills


Tangustl Welcock of Llawhaden          29 Marcgh 1549                                

TNA,   PROBll/32

Drawn up: 16 February 1549.

Probate granted: 29 March 1549.

In dei nomine Amen the xvi daye of Ffebruary the yere of our lorde god a thousande five hundreth fourtie and eight the reigne of Edward the Sixte by the grace of god of England, Ffraunce and Ireland king defender of the faith, supreame hed of the churche of England and Ireland under god the thirde yere of his most gracious Reigne. I Tangluste Welcock of the parishe of Llawhaden wedowe in the deane[ary] of Dungledy and dioc[ese] of Seynt Davieth being hole in mynde and memorie fering the danger of deathe do make my testamente and last will as hereafter [… ]. In primis, I do bequeth my soule unto Almightie god my body to be buried in Cristen buriall. Item, I do give and bequeth to my sonne Richard Wilkyn my greate pann, coverled and a pewter dishe. Item, I bequeth to my sonne Henrey Wilkyn my greate crock[?] [… ] and oxen and vi shepe. Item, I bequeth to Anne Smith a blanyget. Item, I bequeth to D[avid] Ieuan his wife a smock. Item, I bequeth to Owen Shilde a growne shepe. Item, I bequeth to Lewis Wilcock his daughter a growne shepe. Item, I bequeth to evry of my godchildren iiid. And by this my last will I do declare all maner of wills or testaments that I have made or declared before the making herof to stoned as voyde and of none effecte but this my last will and testament to stoned in effecte. And if I may be able to ryde or to be carred in any wise my mynde ys to comm to Yeuan Butler and to Agnes Wilkyn my daughters [law] all thereof of my goodes there to remaine during my life with therein and to occupie my goodes at my pleasur during my life. And yf it please god I departe this transitory worlde before I comm to my sonne in lawe Yeuan Butler and to Agnes Wilkyn my daughte r. I do make and ordeyn Yeuan my sonne and Agnes my daughter to have, occupie and myore all the rest of my goodes not bequeathed and to receve all my debtes in whosovere his handes they be as hereafter[… ]. In primis D[avi]d M[ere]dith xx s., John ap Ieuan de Vayner xviii s., John Lloyde de Drewen iii s., John Vachan his wife de Pembr[oke] xxxiii s. iiiid., Thomas Smith de Daelbonne xx d., Richard Gelin de Dalebonte iii s., Ievan Moris v s., Henry Lloyd iiii s. viii d., Henry Maythew xi s. iiii d., Greffith Tailor viii s. iiii d., D[avi]d ll[ewelyn] [… ] Noxe [?] xx s., Arthur Berkby xiiii s., Lewis Lloyd iiii s., John Tailor vi s. viii d., Morgan Harry vii s., Phillip Bramhell v s., John Roblyn v s. xi d., R[ees] Fole vi s. viii d. This be the names of the witneses to whom I declared unto them this my last will and desired them to testifie the same at my tyme they be requisit so to do John Lloyd clerk curat of Llanhedeg, Thomas Gitto with others


Margaret ap Gwilym of Haverfordwest (W) 16 April 1556 

TNA, PROBll/38

Drawn up: 27 March 1551.

Probate granted: 16 April 1556.

In the name of God Amen the xxvii daie of the month of Marshe in the yeare of owre lorde god a thousande five hundred fyftye and one the fourthe yere of the raigne of owre most gracious sovereigne Larde Edwarde the sixte. I Margarete ap Gwyllim of the towne and countie of Haverforde West in Southe Wales widowe being in my goo d and hole minde and of a perfect remembrance [… wde] and praise be unto all­ mightie god make and ordaine this my presente testamente contenynge therin my last will of the disposition of a11 my goodes and cattells move­ able and unmoveable which that I have of any other to my use hathe within the realme of England or Wales and the dominion of the same in maner and forme followinge that is to witt. Ffirst I geve and bequeath my sowle unto the infinite mercy of allmightie god maker and redeemer of the same moste humbly bestowinge my saide rede[emer] and maker that he for his sonne Jesus Christes sake my mediator and advocate maie have mercy and pitie upon the same. And by his grace to provide that after the departure therof owt of my naturall body it maie be conveyed and directed towards the waye of everlastinge salvation. And my bodie to be buried in the parishe churche of owre Ladie within the towne and countie of Haverforde Weste aforsaide. Also I will that my executors herafter named and ordained as sone after my departure as they maye doe give to the poore people at my burial aswell two peces of fryses as also twoe poundes of money by penny dole amongst them to be devided. Also I geve and bequeathe to the reparation of the Almies house there xxs. Also I reserve out of this my laste will and testamente xii heades of Cattell and fortie shepe to be distributed divided and given by myne owne proper handes as shall thinke most mete, best and conveniente so for to doe. Also I will that all debtes sufficientlie proved to be due by me by any writinge or other­ wise to any personnes truelie contented and paide by myne executors herafter named and constituted in as conveniente time after my departure as it canne be broughte aboute. The residue of all my goodes and cattells moveable and unmoveable and debtes after any debtes paide my funeral expenses performed and theise my legacies in this my presente testamente and laste will subscribed I holye geve and bequeathe to William Aprice of the towne and countie of Haverforde aforesaide gentileman and to Elizabethe his wife whome I do make and ordeine and constitute to be whole executors. And I utterlie revoke and a[d]null all and everie former testamente or testaments, will or willes, legacies be[… ]stes executor or executors, overseer or overseers by me in anywise before this time made, named or caused to be made or named , willed and bequeathed or at any time herafter shall name and appointe to be myne executor or executors otherwise than is specified, mentioned and named in this presente testa­ mente and last will to be my executors. In witness wherof to this my presente and laste will I have putte my seale the daie and yere above written. In the presence of theise personnes whose names as subscribed John Sutton, Maior of Haverforde was presente at the sealinge herof Rice Morgan and Richarde Whithe, bailiffs of Haverforde.


Elin Cathern (W) TNA, PROBll/50   30 April 1568

Drawn up: 6 April 1568.

Probate granted: 30 April 1568.

In the name of God Amen. The sixt daye of Aprill anno domini 1568 et anno regni domine Elizabeth dei gratia Angliae, Frannie et Hibernie regne and ordained as sone after my departure as they maye doe give to the poore people at my burial aswell two peces of fryses as also twoe poundes of money by penny dole amongst them to be devided. Also I geve and bequeathe to the reparation of the Almies house there xxs. Also I reserve out of this my laste will and testamente xii heades of Cattell and fortie shepe to be distributed divided and given by myne owne proper handes as shall thinke most mete, best and conveniente so for to doe. Also I will that all debtes sufficientlie proved to be due by me by any writinge or other­ wise to any personnes truelie contented and paide by myne executors herafter named and constituted in as conveniente time after my departure as it canne be broughte aboute. The residue of all my goodes and cattells moveable and unmoveable and debtes after any debtes paide my funeral expenses performed and theise my legacies in this my presente testamente and laste will subscribed I holye geve and bequeathe to William Aprice of the towne and countie of Haverforde aforesaide gentileman and to Elizabethe his wife whome I do make and ordeine and constitute to be whole executors. And I utterlie revoke and a[d]null all and everie former testamente or testaments, will or willes, legacies be[… ]stes executor or executors, overseer or overseers by me in anywise before this time made, named or caused to be made or named, willed and bequeathed or at any time herafter shall name and appointe to be myne executor or executors otherwise than is specified, mentioned and named in this presente testa­ mente and last will to be my executors. In witness wherof to this my presente and laste will I have putte my seale the daie and yere above written. In the presence of theise personnes whose names as subscribed John Sutton, Maior of Haverforde was presente at the sealinge herof Rice Morgan and Richarde Whithe, bailiffs of Haverforde.


Elin Cathern (W) TNA, PROBll/50  30 April 1568

Drawn up: 6 April 1568.

Probate granted: 30 April 1568.

In the name of God Amen. The sixt daye of Aprill anno domini 1568 et anno regni domine Elizabeth <lei gratia Angliae, Frannie et Hibernie regne fidei defensoris est I Eline Chatherne alias William of the towne and countie of Haverford West widowe beinge hole of mynde and of good and perfect remembrance thankes be unto almightye god but sycke in bodie do make this my last will and testament in maner and forme folowinge that is to saye ffirst I bequeath my soule to almightye god my maker and redeemer my bodie to be buried in the parishe church of Seint Martynes in Haverford West aforesaid. Item, I give unto the poore menns boxe of the same parishe of Seint Martines twelve pennce. Item, I do give unto my brother Sir James William knyghte my rounde table of Cypress. Item, I do give unto my daughter Jane Chatheme a Spruce cheste the greatest that I have savinge one and the best fetherbed that I have savinge one with appurtenances. Item, I do give unto Jane Abowen her daughter one fether­ bed. Item, I give my sonne William Chatherne the fetherbed with the bed­ stead and all the appurtenances to the same belonginge whereon. Item, I do give unto Elizabeth Nethell half a dozen platters and a fether bed. Item, I do give guaranteed and by this my last will and testament I do freely and clearly confirm and bequeath my sonne John Chatharne all that my house tenement or bergage with a garden to the same annexed with all and singular thappurtenances to the same belonginge sett lyeng and beinge in the towne and countie of Haverford West adjoynynge to the churche yard of Seinte Martines abovesayed wherein I do now dwell together with all and singuler other my landes, tenements, mesuages, borgages, gardens, rentes, services, revicons and hereditamentes with all and singuler ther appurtenances whatsoever I have or of righte owght to have sett lynge and beinge in the towne and countie of Haverforde West or the proximate of the same or within the countie of Pembroke orelse where wheresoever to have and to holde all that my saide house, tenement or borgage, with the sayde garden and all other thappurtenances to the same belonginge wherein I do now dwell and all and singuler other my saide landes, tene­ ments, mesuages, borgages, rentes, services, revercons and heredittamentes with all and singuler ther appurtenances whatsoever to the saide John Chatherne his heires and assignes forever of the cheife landes of the [… ] by rentes and services thereon [delve] and of right heretofore accustomed and lykawise all the rest of my goodes moveable and unmoveable not geven or bequeathed I do give and bequeath unto the said John Chatharne whome I do make, ordaine and constitute my hole and sole executor to order and dispose the same as he shall thinke best and moste corvenient. In witnes whereof I have hereunto sett my seale the daye and yere above-written witnesses by her requested Richarde Ho[we]11, Meredeth apowell, Roger Mercroft, D[afyd]D Routh, Edmond Harrys, John Keney, Jankin Vane, William Johnes, Moris Canon, Thomas Wallyn, Robert Laye




 Anne Jenkyns of Cilgerran (W) 3 July 1570

TNA, PROBll/52

Drawn up: 7 October 1569.

Probate granted: 3 July 1570.

In the name of God Amen. The seventh daye of October in the yeare of our lord god a thousand five hundreth three score and nyne. I Anne Jenkyns of Kilgerran in the countye of Pembroche wydowe being sycke of bodie but whole of mynde doe make my last will and testamente in maner and forme followinge. Ffirst I bequeathe my soule unto allmyghte god my creatore and redeamer and my bodie to be buried in ye parishe churche of Killgerran. Item, I bequeath unto the parrishe of Kilgerran a xis. Item, I doe give and bequeath to the poore a vi iis . iiiid. to be destributed by the handes of myne executour. Item, I doe give and bequeath unto my sonne Thomas Revell all my righte and interest which I have in ye lease and patent of the demaynes and forrest of Kilgerran with ye house and furnyture as yt nowe remayneth. Item, I doe give and bequeath unto my sonne John one hundreth poundes and my townhowse in the towne of Kilgerran. Item, yf my daughter Elizabeth Phaer do take and followe the advyse and councell of my sonne Thomas Reve11 in bestowinge of her selfe in marriage then I give and bequeath unto the sayed Elizabeth ye some of one hundreth poundes and all the stocke of cattell nowe remayn­ inge upon the tenements of Owyn Geradd and moundyvye otherwise my sayd sonne Thomas to use his owne discrecion. Item, yf my nease Sage Walter do take a husband by the advyse consent and agreement of my Sayed sonne Thomas, then I bequethe unto her the some of a vil. xiiis. iiiid.. Item, I do give unto My servaunte Rhys ap Richard a v 1.. Item I do give unto John Morgan a xis. Item, I do give unto Owen Gwyn a xis. Item I do give and bequeth unto the resydew of my household servantes a v 1. to be destrybuted accordinge to the discrecon of my executor. Item, I do give unto Edward Rychard a xxs. Item, I do give towards the mendinge of the highe wayes abowte ye towne of Kilgerran a xxs. Item, I doe constitute and apointe my wellebelovyt sonne Thomas Revell my full and hole executor of this my last will and testament and Mr Barlowe of Slebech and Mr John Mortymer overeers of this my last will and testament, witnesses of the makinge of the forsayed testament Elizabeth Phaer, Re[es] ap Richard, John ap Morgan, Willyam Whyte, Owen ap Griffith, Willyam Barrett, Gryffith Rees, Sage Walter, Eva Richard, Margarett v[erch] Phe[llips] and others


 Winifred Browne of Carew (S) 13 November 1594

TNA, PROBll/84

Drawn up: No date.

Probate granted: 13 November 1594.

In the name of God Amen. I Winefriede Browne of Carewe etc (sic) make this my last will and testament in writing. Ffirst I bequeathe my sowle etc (sic). Item, I give unto Robert Browne and Armiger Browne my brothers either of them one hundreth marks to be paide within one yeare after my decease. Item, I give unto my sister Ffuther twenty poundes of good Englishe money and all my apparrell and jewels whatsoever excepte one aggett whiche I give unto M[istress] Bridgett Downes. Item, I give unto Mr. Robert Sapcote thirty poundes of good Englishe money. Item, I give unto Marie Jerningham my mother twenty poundes. Item , I give unto my cosen Edmond Billingforde tene poundes. Item, I will that ffive poundes shaJbe distributed and given upon my burial daye to the poore people there assembled and mett together. Item, I give unto six maides that shall carry me to churche ffive shillings apiece. Item, I give unto every of my mothers servanntes bothe men and maides twenty shillings apiece. Item, I give unto my keeper mother Clerke forty shillings. Item, I give towards the funeshing of my ffathers tombe in Walton Churche in Suff[olk] twenty poundes. All my other goods and money I give unto my brother John Browne. Item, I will and my minde is that all the legacies and somes of money before bequeathed shalbe paide within one yeare after my decease and I doe make my executor of this my last will Mr. William Sydner of Blunston Esquyer these being witnesses George Heball and Mrs Anne Jermingham.


  1. These figures apply to England and Wales. Amy Louise Erickson, Women and Property in Early Modern England (London, 1993),
  2. For a useful discuss ion of the legal rights of married women, see H. Helm­ holz, ‘Married Women’s Wills in Later Medieval England’ , in Sue Sheridan Walker (ed.), Wife and Widow in Medieval England (Michigan, 1993), 165-82.
  3. M. Prior, ‘Wives and Wills, 1558-1700’, in Chartres and D. Hey, eds., English Rural Society, I500-1800: Essays in Honour of Joan Thirsk (Cambridge, 1990), 208-10.
  4. Erickson, Women and Property, 204-5.
  5. Figures are drawn from and based on probate records held in the National Archives, Londo n, and the National Library of Wal This doe s not include the wills of those people who owned or disposed of land in the county but res ided elsewhere. If these wills were taken into account the number of surviv­ing probates connected with Pembrokeshire would rise significantly. See Appendix I for a list of the Pembrokeshire women who sought probate between 1503 and 1603 . See also Helen Chandler, ‘The Will in Medieval Wales to 1540’ (University of Wales, M.Phil. thesis, 1991).
  6. See Appendix
  7. The earliest wills, dating from before the mid to la te 1520s , we re written in Latin the language of the However, the Reformation contributed to the decline in the use of Latin as the medium of expression in will making.
  8. The single known exception is that of Joanna Perrot (nee Wogan) whose will is original and not a copy lodged in the PCC or Bis hop ‘s For a fuller dis­cussion of her will, see R. Turvey, ‘Until Death Do Us Part: The Last Wills and Testaments of a Husband and Wife in Early Sixteenth Century Pembrokeshire ‘ , JPHS, No. 18 (2009), 11-32.
  9. TNA, PROB11/85. The dispute involving the terms of Elizabeth Lougher ‘s will was bitter and protracted. I hope to return to this subject in a future
  10. NLW, SD/1602/13.
  11. See Appendix II,
  12. , II, IV.
  13. Ibid ., II,
  14. , II, V.
  15. S. W. Helt, ‘Women, memory and will-making in Elizabethan England’, in Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshal (eds.), The Place of Death: Death and Re­ membrance in Late Medieval and Rarly Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2000), 188-205.

16. Quoted from the King James Version. 17. Turvey, JPHS, N 18 (2009), 27-30.

17. Turvey, JPHS, No.18 (2009), 27-30

18. Joel T. Rosenthal, ‘Fifteenth-Century Widows and Widowhood: Bereavement, Reintegration, and Life Choices’, in Walker (ed.), Wife and Widow, 40.

19. TNA, PROBll/85.

20. Appendix II, IV.

21. See Sue Sheridan Walker, ‘Introduction’ , in Walker (ed.), Wife and Widow, 3.

22. TNA, PROB11/85.

23. Appendix II, IV. To her chief servant, Rhys ap Richard, Anne left £5. To John Morgan and Owen Gwyn she bequeathed £2 apiece. The sum of £5 was shared among the remaining unnamed servants.

24 TNA, PROB11/85.

25 National Library of Wales, SD/1582/9.

26. Judith Jones, Monmouthshire Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canter ­ bury, 1560-1601 (Cardiff, 1997) , 54.

27. For a useful discussion of women’s wills in the period after 1600 see Gerald Morgan, ‘Women’s Wills in West Wales, 1600-1750’ , Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1992), 95- 114. Pembrokeshire is only briefly touched on in this article.

28. Transcript only. The original will of Katherine Elliot has not been locate d.

A Plague Nurse at Haverfordwest in 1652-3


A Plague Nurse at Haverfordwest in 1652-3

 By Simon Hancock

For sixteenth and seventeenth-century urban dwellers experiencing the horrors of a plague outbreak were by no means uncommon. The dreadful visitation to London in 1665, which claimed many thousands of lives, remained in the public consciousness for generations. Nevertheless, between the two dreadful parameters of the Black Death and the plague of 1665, hardly a year went by without some community across Great Britain being ravaged by the plague.1 Outbreaks could devastate towns and villages. Colchester, for example, experienced outbreaks of plague in 1579, 1586, 1597, 1603, 1626, 1631, 1644 and 1665-66. During the latter outbreak around 4,500-5,000 people died. Plague did indeed say much about the nature and development of pre-industrial society.2

The plague, which broke out at Haverfordwest in 1652, has been ably described by both the Rev. J. R. Phillips [1895] 3 and much more recently by John Howells [1999]. 4 It is unnecessary to provide a complete narrative of the eight dreadful months of  1652 nevertheless, there are some inter­esting themes, which can be explored further.

The outbreak of plague in 1652 was certainly the most traumatic episode of its kind, but it was by no means unprecedented. In his analysis of the registers of St. Mary’s Church, Haverfordwest, the Rev. J. R. Phillips noted an unusually high mortality in 1613 with some 96 burials.5 Con­clusive evidence is lacking but this could well have been a plague year. Plague, if indeed it was, was no respecter of wealth or status. The victims of 1613 included members of the local elite like Jenken Vawer [brother of William Vawer, who established the charity bearing his name] down to ‘a little beggar boy of the Almshouse’ .6 The scale of the 1652 plague out­break easily exceeded anything experienced before.

According to the Rev. James Phillips, the plague reached Haverfordwest in October 1651, brought to the town, so tradition has it, on market day by sailors whose ships lay at anchor in Milford Haven.7 However, the earliest date when the plague reaches the pages of the corporation records is February 1652. On 18 February one person was sick and three or four houses were under surveillance.8 Thereafter events moved with terrifying rapidity as the numbers who succumbed to plague increased and there was social and economic dislocation as some of the more affluent members of society fled and the fairs were moved out of town. The common council wrote to Thomas Davids, mayor [who was in London, to lobby for Haverfordwest to be relieved from its onerous taxation], on 26 April 1652 indicating that seventeen people had died since he left town and another sixty were locked up within the gates of ‘the castle towne’.9

The council rented a large house in St. Martin’s Parish from Alderman William Williams, which they used as a pesthouse. 10 The ‘ tarrcoats’, or those men who cared for the sick and buried the dead used another building, described as ‘ Edwards Lloyd’s house’.11 Later, another house in Cokey Street [now City Road] was used for convalescents while Mr. Bate­man’s stable’ was used as a cleansing house.’2 Medical care was in the hands of two barber surgeons, Benjamin Price and James Sonnegon, between whom there was obvious tension and professional rivalry. James Phillips makes reference to the presence of ‘the strange woman’ at Edward Lloyd’s house. 13 This is the first enigmatic allusion to an unnamed woman who risked the perils of infection and provided comfort to the afflicted. ‘The woman’ thus rendered great public service alongside the much better known barber surgeons, the ‘tarrcoats’, and the Rev. Stephen Love, puritan vicar of St. Thomas’ Church.

We are only afforded fleeting glimpses of the nursing care provided by the woman. Nevertheless, her presence affords an opportunity to examine the wider role of women during periods of crisis induced by the plague.

It is debatable whether early modern sick nursing existed before the seven­teenth century, although the task was identified by contemporaries with the terrors of smallpox, typhus and plague. Although outbreaks of plague spelt economic disaster for many, it did represent opportunity for others. Local corporations required the services of searchers, people to identify signs of plague on corpses, and also nurses and nursekeepers, to care for the victims. Many of these individuals were women.

We will never know exactly what work the ‘strange woman’ did at Haver­fordwest. It must have involved distasteful and gruesome tasks. In Reading, Mary Jerome, widow, ‘was sworne to be a viewer and searcher of all the bodyes that shall dye within this boroughe, and truly to report and certifye to her knowledge of what disease they dyed’.14 Employing sick nurses during times of plague must have been commonplace during the seven­teenth century. In 1603, two women were appointed at Ipswich to attend the sick and act as undertakers. 15 Similarly, at Westminster Goodwife Wells was employed to destroy fleas with salt in the churchwarden’s pews.16

The remuneration paid to female sick nurses and searchers varied con­siderably but frequently seems not to have adequately repaid the loyalty and service displayed by these women in this most hazardous of medical employments. Cash was usually paid although clothes were sometimes accepted in part-payment. The substantial sum of 8 shillings a week was paid to a woman who treated a family at Sandwich. 17 Elsewhere, ‘Lanca­shire Bess’ was paid a mere 2s 6d for a week’s attendance upon victims .18 Duties varied but involved, in one instance, dressing meat, cleaning clothes and making the homes of victims inhabitable.

Mistrust, criticism and negative stereotyping of female nurses, usually at the hands of male detractors, was commonplace and arose from dislike of any form of female independence. According to black legend, they murdered patients, robbed the dead and exhibited a general callousness and lack of care. One contemporary wrote that ‘their judgement was as dim as their eyes ‘ .19 Thomas Dekker’s The shutting up of infected houses as it is practised in England soberly debated [1665] did much to raise the spectre of predatory, thieving nurses. His invective included the charge that they were ‘dirty, ugly and unwholesome Haggs, even a Hell in itself’. He deplored the plight of the afflicted ‘to lye at the mercy of a strange woman is sad: to leave wife, children, plate, jewels to the ingenuity of poverty is worse; but who can express the misery of being exposed to their rapine that have nothing of the woman left but shape?’

In a similar vein, Thomas Vincent’s God’s Terrible Voice In The City   [1667] alleged that the afflicted were more afraid of their nurses ‘than the plague itself’. Hodge’s Lomologia [1665] similarly accused female sick nurses of greed and other wicked practises. A slightly more positive contemporary image of nurses emerges in John Bel1’s London’s Remembrancer [1665]. He claimed that women searchers were generally fit for their office.

The Haverfordwest female plague nurse, if we may give her that title through her role rather than employment situation, seems to have been active early on during the outbreak. In the seventh week of the pestilence ‘the woman’ was paid £1 10s. 20 It is now possible to identify the woman as Joane Cheate and she was paid six shillings a week for her sadly un­specified nursing duties.

That Joane Cheate [to retain the contemporary spelling] was also the object of negative comment and gossiping from the townsfolk is clear. In a letter written by the absentee mayor, Thomas Davids from the Blacke Lyon on Fleete Bridge, London on 17 May 1652, to William Bowen, William Meyler and Jenkin Howell, we learn that criticism of Joane was circulating. The comments had obviously reached the mayor’s ear’s since he wrote: ‘Lett the visitor woman be encouraged and not be abused by idle people, as I heare she is [.. .] for I am sure that providense guided her thither and that shee under God has bene as instrument of good.’ 21

A week later, on 24 May 1652, William Bowen wrote to Thomas Davids alluding to the envy between Price and Sonneygon and he confessed he could not hear of any abuse done to ‘the woman’ .22 Abuse, as James Phillips observed, implied actual ill-treatment not just scurrilous langu­age: ‘a pathetic glimpse of Christian self-sacrifice of which these few words are the only record on earth’.23

Gradually the plague subsided and by 24 November 1652 only one person was left in the pesthouse.24 In March 1653 Joane Cheate was given the sum of ten shillings towards her charge, thus allowing her to ‘goe to her friends in England’.25 We will never know whether Joane Cheate was a plague nurse travelling between towns and villages so afflicted or whether she just happened to be in Haverfordwest when the plague struck. What­ ever the explanation it is clear that she was not a native of Haverfordwest and was very much an outsider, hence the description of ‘strange woman’. Joane was not the only female to provide valiant support for the sick. One Alice White appears in the mayoral accounts as being one who attended a sick family during the plague.26

Joane Cheate is one of an immense multitude of people whose lives largely, but not completely escaped the records of history. A shadowy figure labouring against both plague and prejudice during Haverford­west’s darkest days of the seventeenth century.


  1. Charles Mullett, ‘The Bubonic Plague in England: A problem in Public Health’ Bulletin q(the History of Medicine, 20 (1946), 299.
  2. G. Doolittle, ‘The effects of the plague on a provincial town in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’, Medical History, 19:4 (l 975), 333.
  3. J. Phillips, ‘The Plague at Haverfordwest 1651-2’, Archaeologia Cam­brensis, Fifth Series, Vol. XII, No. XLVI (1895), 81-95.
  4. John Howells, ‘ Haverfordwest and the Plague’. Dillwyn Miles [ed.] A History of Haverfordwest (Llandysul, 1999), 191-198.
  5. J. Phillips , ‘The Oldest Parish Registers in Pembrokeshire.’ Archaeologia Cambrensis, Sixth Series, Vol. HJ (1903), 311.
  6. Ibid. , 3 13 .
  7. J. Phillips, ‘The Plague at Haverfordwest’, op. cit., 81.
  8. Pembrokeshire Record Office [hereafter Pembs.RO], Haverfordwest Borough Records, No.286
  9. RO, Haverfordwest Borough Records, No. 293.
  10. John Howells , ‘Haverfordwest and the Plague’, cit., 196.
  11. Rev. J. Phillips, ‘The Plague at Haverfordwest’, op. cit., 87.
  12. John Howells, ‘ Haverfordwest and the Plague’, op. , 196.
  13. Rev. J. Phillip s, The Plague at Haverfordwest’, op. cit., 87.
  14. Alice Clark,   Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth   Century (London, 1982), 249-250.
  15. F. D. Shrewsbury, A History of the Bubonic Plague in the British Isles (Cam­bridge, 1970), 271.
  16. Ibid., 304.
  17. Paul Slack, The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England (London 1985), 289.
  18. F. D. Shrewsbury, A History of the Bubonic Plague , op. cit., 415.
  19. Sara Mendelson and Patricia Crawford, Women in Early Modern England 1550-1720 (Oxford, 1998),
  20. Pembs. RO., Haverfordwest Borough Records, No. 548.
  21. Pembs. RO ., Haverfordwest Borough Records, No. 299.
  22. Pembs. RO., Haverfordwest Borough Records, No. 301 [a].
  23. Rev. J. Phillips, ‘The Plague at Haverfordwes t’ , op. cit., 89.
  24. Pembs.RO., Haverfordwest Borough Records, Nos. 548; 557.
  25. Pembs.RO., Haverfordwest Borough Records, No. 83/3. ‘Accounts of William Walter, late maior, 1653.’
  26. Ibid.




by Philip Davies

In the summer of 1868 Mary Philipps, the eldest surviving daughter of Reverend James Philipps and his wife Mary Catherine married Charles Fisher of Spring Dale, Huddersfield. The following October the newly­ weds, accompanied by Reverend James and Lady Philipps, arrived in Haverfordwest. The Pembrokeshire Herald reported the ‘great rejoicing’ that greeted the return of the largest landowning family in the county.2 In the previous week five arches had been erected between the railway station and Picton House, the Philippses town residence. These were lavishly decorated and banners wishing the young newlyweds happiness and posterity hung along the route the carriage would take through the town. On the morning of their arrival a torrential downpour did little to dampen the carnival atmosphere. Well-wishers thronged the streets and those assembled in Castle Square were led to the station by a brass band. By the Herald’s account it was a jubilant procession that greeted the new heir to Picton Castle. However, it was the return of the lord of the Picton Estate and vicar of Saint Mary’s that produced the greatest reaction. J. W. Phillips, the town mayor, expressed the evident fondness of the crowd for James  Philipps  in an emotional  address,  congratulating  him on his restoration to health and welcoming him back to the county. Throughout the proceedings cannons were loosed in celebration as the bells of St. Mary’s rang out in honour of their returned incumbent.3

Such shows of enthusiasm for the local gentry were common enough in Pembrokeshire.4 As the owners of the Picton Castle estate the Philippses had deep roots in the county. Alongside the Scourfield family of William­ ton, the Owens of Orielton and the Cawdor family of Stackpole Court they were members of a ‘charmed circle ‘ of anglicised, Anglican and Tory landowners who had for centuries exercised tremendous political, social and economic influence over a11 aspects of local life.5 For generations these families had acted as philanthropists and supplied Pembrokeshire with sheriffs, justices of the peace, deputy lieutenants, lord lieutenants and members of Parliament. In the political realm there can be no better example of the level of control wielded by these families than the pact that was agreed between John Owen of Orielton and the Earl of Cawdor in 1812. Having won both the County seat and Pembroke Boroughs, Sir John, as he became in 1813 , chose to represent the County and placed the Boroughs in the safe-keeping of Sir Thomas Picton of Picton Castle.6 It had previously been agreed that that the County seat should be occupied by Viscount Emlyn, the title given to the heir of the Cawdor earldom. In 1817 the Earl produced an heir and an agreement was reached which stated that Sir John would continue to represent the County until 1838 , the year Viscount Emlyn would come of age. E. S. Price has commented that such compacts could be made and adhered to ‘was a testimony to landed power in Pembrokeshire.’ 7 From the landed perspective all must have seemed well in the deferential, arguably paternalistic, 8 garden that tied the gentry and their tenants to the land. However, throughout Wales increasing pressure of poverty, overpopulation and land hunger were intensified from the mid century by the rift that had developed between the over­whelmingly Tory landowners and their Nonconformist, predominantly Welsh speaking and politically Liberal tenantry.9 A booming cheap newspaper press conspired with the Nonconformist preachers to stir discussion and bring politics to the people. 10 The alienation of the ‘ native squire­archy’ 11 would eventually lead to the erosion of the in fluence the land­ owners held over Wels h life.

The 1868 Election in Wales became for some the starting point of this process and the symbol of a new era. The Election was fought on one policy, the disestablishment of the Irish Church; an emotive issue for an apparent ‘natio n of Nonconformists’.12 The Reform Act of the previous year had dramatically increased the Welsh electorate, from 61,575 e lectors in 1865 to 126,571 in 1868 , with the borough constituencies gaining the most from the reforms. 13 Following a lengthy period of campaigning twenty-three of the thirty-three Welsh constituencies returned a Liberal to Westminster.14 This number included the noted radical pacifist Henry Richard who was elected at Merthyr Tydfil. It was Richard who first described the Welsh as a ‘nation of Nonconformists’ in a series of influ­ential letters on the unique social and political conditions of Wales . To Henry Richard the majority of the Welsh gentry class were ‘ Tories of the purest water, who have clung […] to the dismal creed which ma kes the safety of society depend upon putting the utmost restriction upon every form of liberty, whether liberty of speech, or conscience, or worship, or trade, or voting’.15 Received tradition has it that the 1868 Election – following the swelling of the Welsh electorate with men who had their intellectual roots firmly planted in the chapel-Liberal orthodox 16 – was the decisive thrust away from the traditional political authority of the landowners. While the importance of 1868 to the overall Welsh Liberal cause can be debated, with the Welsh Liberal MPs having little to show for their efforts in the 1868-1874 parliamentary session,17 the triumph of a Nonconformist agenda indicated that the traditional bonds of deference that had long served the old order could no longer be relied upon. In Haverfordwest the Irish Question forced Reverend Philipps to break Picton’s traditional ties with the Edwardes family of Williamston, 18 and throw his support behind the Conservatives. This brought defeat in a constituency that had traditionally been a political fiefdom of Picton Castle.

Historically Pembrokeshire had long been something of a political curiosity as between the years 1545 to 1885 it held three constituencies, the County seat, Pembroke Boroughs and Haverfordwest Boroughs. These constituency boundaries were preceded by a far older division betwee n the south and north of the county. The Lansker line – originally a defensive line of castles running through the middle of Pembrokeshire which had separat­ ing the Norman south of the county from the Welsh north – had become an imaginary border that marked the cultural and linguistic differences between the communities of the north and south.19 The villages and towns in the north of the county were more in tune culturally with a Welsh Liberalism that had rapidly become the self-proclaimed champion of Y Werin – the Welsh speak ing, Nonconformist and middle class populace who had long felt neglected by Westminster. 20 In contrast south Pembrokeshire witnessed greater economic development than the north in the nineteenth century. This occurred most noticeably around the Cleddau estuary with the establishment of the Royal Naval Dockyard at the village of Paterchurch in 18 14 , and the development of a commercial port at Milford Haven.21 The steady stream of trades-people and   dockyard artisans into ‘Little England Beyond Wales’ 22 strengthened the cultural differences between those living above and below the Landsker. By 1868 the political differences between the north and south is perhaps best demonstrated by the strong enclave of working-class support for the Tories in the south. 23 In religious terms Anglicanism was far stronger in the Pembroke District than in the Haverfordwest or Narberth Districts and well above the national average.24

Of the three Pembrokeshire constituencies only Haverfordwest returned a Liberal to Westminster in 1868. The County seat passed, uncontested, into the hands of John Scourfield, the retiring M.P. for Haverfordwest.25 A disgruntled correspondent to the radical Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph concluded that Scourfield’s transfer was the result of the new registration that ensured the superiority of the Liberals in the boroughs. With this in mind Scourfield’s friends had ‘strongly urged him to retire to the county where he may rest in peace’.26 Even the Pembroke­shire Herald, always keen to play down the Liberal gains, had to concede that the increased electorate in the Haverfordwest Boroughs had given ‘a few Liberals in this neighbourhood [Narberth] a little territorial influence as the owners of sundry cottages tenanted by working men’.27 When it became apparent that John Scourfield’s transfer would be unchallenged the Telegraph printed the view that ‘no county in South Wales contributes less to the cause of Liberal politics than Pembrokeshire. Mr. Scourfield, [they claimed] is both a Tory and a bigot’. 28 A staunch protector of landed interests, Scourfield would later oppose Watkin Williams’ Welsh Disestab­lishment Bill on the grounds that it would lead to increased agitation between Churchmen and Dissenters. 29 In 1876 John Scourfield was awarded a baronetcy by Disraeli, he died shortly thereafter.30

In the Pembroke Boroughs the long reign of Orielton ended with the election of the Conservative Thomas Meyrick of the Bush estate 31 over Sir Hugh Owen – a politician with a thoroughly undistinguished parlia­mentary career. Having inherited the seat from his father in 1861 Sir Hugh’s most noticeable contribution appears to have been missing a Commons debate on the future of Naval Dockyards.32 Having switched his allegiance to the Liberals Owen was defeated by the emphasis Meyrick placed on local issues. With the future of the Dockyard, and therefore the town, in question 33 Pembroke Boroughs bucked the national trend in that local issues outweighed the Irish Question. 34 A Pembroke correspondent to the Carmarthen Journal succinctly expressed this by remarking that ‘local interests ought to be the first in preference , because they effect […] our “bread and cheese” most particularly.’ 35 This sentiment was echoed hy Mr. Churchward, Chairman of the Pembroke Dock Conservatives and Chief Engineer of the Government Dockyards, who commented ‘our dis­endowment will follow dockyard disestablishment’ .36

A member of the Owen family had represented Pembroke Boroug hs since the Restoration.37   However, by 1868 Thomas   Meyrick   was   firmly   in control of the Dockyard vote which, following the reforms of the previous year, now far outstripped the other boroughs of Milford, Tenby and Wiston.38 Meyrick’s supporters put great emphasis on his obvious connec­tion with the local com munity, a claim Hugh Owen could no longer make following the sale of Orielton to Colonel Morgan Saurin in 1857.39 The owner of the Bush estate could also count on the support of influential dockyard officers. Liberal suspicions of foul play had been aroused by the involvement of a number of these men with Meyrick’ s campaign. Mr. Fincham, the Master Shipwright and Mr. Chevalier, the Storekeeper, were active in the Conservative campaign. Both had contemplated joining Mr Churchward on Meyrick’s electioneering committee .40   S ir Hugh’s supporters also accused Meyrick of using his position as a landlord to intimidate his tenants.41 It was all to no avail and following the withdrawal of his petition against Meyrick’s delayed appointment Sir Hugh was forced to face the terrible debt that had amounted against his family, much of which was the result of his family’s costly electioneering .42 The downfall of this once influential family was complete with Hugh Owen’s death as a ‘ public beggar by subscription’ in 1891. 43

In the Haverfordwest Boroughs it was left to Colonel William Edwardes of Williamston to try and gain a victory for the Liberals following sixteen years of representation by John Scourfield. His opponent was Captain Samuel Pitman, an old friend of Reverend Philipps and staunch supporter of Anglicanism in Ireland .44 The retirement of Scourfield to the County seat and the unwillingness of any of the local landowners to put their names forward had forced the Haverfordwest Conservatives to seek the help of this gentle man from Norfolk .45 A trustee of Picton Castle, Pitman had been approached as a possible candidate by the newlywed Charles Fisher.46 His appointment was greeted with incredulity by the Haverford­west Liberals with the minister of Tabernacle, Reverend Long, particularly keen to know more about this stranger’s relationship to the biggest landowners in the constituency.47 The inability of the local Conservative contingent to muster a candidate from their own numbers suggests that the Telegraph had not been wrong in the assertion that the previous year’s reforms had shifted power away from its traditional holders.48 It also indicated the confusion Scourfield’s retirement, combined with Reverend Philipps’s relapse into ill health, had caused . Indeed, Philipps’s failing health appears to have been an important factor in Captain Pitman accept­ing the invitation. His correspondence with Charles Fisher, shortly before his decision to stand, showed his great concern for his ‘poor dear friend ‘ 49 and hinted at how serious matters had become behind the closed doors of Philipps’s ‘ horrid town house ‘.50 He wrote:


I can’t alter my opinion that his [Philipps] brain is affected by his illness and time alone can show to what extent, it will not surprise me if when he reaches town his London M.O. does not take a similar view against all preaching […] he seems to take no lasting interest in anything sayed [sic ] or person, a sort of childishness best conveys this view of his mental power.51


Without the aid of Philipps or Scourfield the Haverfordwest Conservative campaign was left rudderless, the weakness of their position without strong leadership from the local nobility was plain for all to see.

In contrast the Haverfordwest Liberals approached the coming election with confidence. In 1 857 the Baptist businessman William Rees had come within two votes or defeating Scourfield .52 ln 1865 the Liberals were able to mount another stiff challenge, this time it was the turn or William Edwardes to narrowly lose out. 53   Despite his good showing in 1865 , Colonel Edwardes, an old Etonian and a captain in the Coldstream Guards, 54 was still required to compete to lead the next Liberal offensive. He faced the aspirations of William Walters and William Owen of Withy­bush. Joint proprietors of the Telegraph, Owen was also a notable land ­ owner, holding 2,332 acres in the county.55 The three hopefuls submitted their claims and agreed to be bound over by the decision or the local Libcrals.56 Edwardes proved to be the c hoice of ‘ a party caucus ‘ that would later become the Pembrokeshire Liberal Association- . 7 It is likely that Edwardes’s standing in local society, with an estate of 6,537 acres in Pembrokeshire, 58 he lped to sway the decision in his favour.  Certainly the Colonel, a Churchman, was the least radical of  the three . ” His support for the abolition of Church rates and the disestablishment of the Irish Church was tempered by his opposition in 1865 towards the prospect of a secret ballot. 60 The Herald eagerly asserted that Edwardes’s military career rendered him an unsuitable candidate.61 In truth his local standing, in a ‘constituency which has ever manifested the strongest regard and affection for local ties and old associations ‘ ,62 gave him a great advantage over his earnest but unknown opponent.

Accusations of corruption were a constant feature throughout the electioneering in Haverfordwest. In early August the Telegraph predicted that during the coming election, ‘we will hear of landlords […l threaten­ing to turn men out of their homes, whose only fault is that they entertain different political opinions than their landlords ‘.63   Throughout the course of the campaigning the Telegraph repeated such accusations, frequently levelling them against the alleged ‘political influence’ exerted by Picton on behalf of a Conservative candidate who acted as a trustee for the Castle. 64 An outcry against the ‘ Picton screw’ and later the ‘ tradesmen screw’ reverberated throughout the local Liberal press.65 However, the allegation that Picton, through the threat of withholding trade, was able to bully the Haverfordwest tradesmen must be seen in comparison to the overwhelming victory of the Liberal candidates in the municipal elections which occurred less than two weeks before the parliamentary election.66 T he Telegraph trumpeted the outcome as evidence of the courage of the town’s tradesmen in the face of political coercion in this ‘preliminary trial of strength  between the political parties  now contending for the parliamentary representation of the Boroughs’ .67

Mathew Cragoe has stated that, following the political reforms of the second half of the nineteenth century, ‘religious principle was the chief determinant of voting behaviour’.68 The local Conservative press certainly feared that this was the case, countering accusations against landed influence by decrying the in fluence of the ministers – the ‘Dissenters’ screw’ . Following this line the Carmarthen Journal commented that the grip Welsh ministers held over the political conscience of their congre­gation was ‘a far tighter one than that of the Roman Catholic priests in Ireland’.69   The involvement of both the Anglican and Nonconformist clergy was certainly a feature in the Haverfordwest Boroughs election, with Reverend Thomas Davies D. of Bethesda chapel becoming in­volved in a war of words with Thomas Ault, the curate of Saint Mary’s.

The influence exerted by dissenting ministers in the name of Liberalism is a subject that has received some comment in recent Welsh historiog­raphy.70 However, Cragoe’s suggestion that the Anglican clergy ‘tended to shrink from contact with the electoral process itself’ 71 is not borne out by Ault’s passionate involvement on behalf of the local Conservatives. The battle between Ault and Davies dominated the local press throughout the election contest, with Pitman commenting that both Bethesda and Tabernacle had been converted into ‘a political conventicle in the Liberal interest’ .72 The Irish Church question provided the perfect debate over which the Haverfordwest Baptist College 73 could draw swords with Saint Mary’s.

Dr. Davies had accepted the position as the Principal of the College in the autumn of 1856 . 74 A noted firebrand he had cut his teeth at Merthyr Tydfil. It seems that his time serving the Baptist community in this hotbed of emerging Welsh Liberalism had provided him with a zeal for political preaching. His war of words with Ault obliterated any line that may have separated religious adherence to the political issues of the day. The battle between the head of the strongest denomination in the Haverfordwest District 75 and Reverend Philipps’s curate raged in the press. Local emotions boiled over with the vandalism of St. Mary’s church. Although no  evidence tied this ‘outrageous act’ to the political debates the churchwardens, Richard James and T. Rule Owen, condemned what they believed to be ‘a most wanton and premeditated action’ 76 on behalf of the town’s Liberal contingent.

Whilst the Baptists and Anglicans battled over the Irish Church, Captain Pitman continued to run a very traditional campaign. In Fishguard he courted Sir James Hamilton. Although a respected and influential land­ owner, Hamilton’s potential influence must be seen in comparison to John Scourfield’s confession that throughout his sixteen years as the Boroughs representative the town of Fishguard always presented an uphill struggle for the Conservatives. 77 Scourfield felt that the distinction between poli ­tical and religious matters was particularly muddied in Fishguard, com­menting in the Herald : ‘I do regret myself that matters or religion are made the subjects of political discussions, and particularly a struggle between parties’.78

Electioneering in Fishguard was undoubtedly challenging for Captain Pitman, but it was little in comparison to the hostility he faced in Narberth. On the last day of August Pitman took his campaign to the Rutzen Arms to deliver his second political address in the town.79 Met with a barrage of noise any attempts to introduce Pitman were shouted down and on stand­ing to speak the Conservative candidate was defeated by cries of ‘where are you from?’ 80 The increasingly restless crowd were only prepared to allow Reverend Chandler, a local landowner, to address the meeting.81 Chandler conceded that Narberth was a Liberal town but suggested that as the Liberals had turned their backs ‘upon constitutional principles’ those present would vote with the Church as a matter of ‘conscientious neces­sity’.82 The uproar that greeted Pitman’s further efforts to speak defeated him and the meeting concluded to the sounds of a fight that had broken out between rival supporters and an example of the Captain exhibiting what had become acknowledged to be his customary mild manners whilst being pelted with eggs.81 The axle bolt was later removed from his car­riage, causing the Herald to opine that such outrages could only weaken the Liberal cause, for above all things ‘Pembrokeshire men value fair play and no mean cowardice’.84 Ignoring this incident the Telegraph blamed Pitman’s supporters for a number of windows that were broken in the town during the night.85

Captain Pitman’s disastrous canvassing in Fishguard and Narberth and the Haverfordwest town Conservatives’ failure to secure the municipal elections were a sure indication of how far Conservatism had slipped in the Boroughs. On the 25th November the Telegraph printed the results of the Haverfordwest Boroughs election. After sixteen years of Tory dom­inance it was no surprise that the Liberals had carried the day.


Colonel Edwardes Mr. Pitman Majo
Haverfordwest 439 388 -51
Fishguard 98 61 3- 7
Narberth 101 48 5- 3
Total 638 I41


The local Conservatives had been outmanoeuvred by a new kind of electoral politics. The cohesion of Edwardes’s campaign combined with his support for Irish Church disestablishment had secured a historic victory for the Liberals. This defeat marked the end of Picton as the traditional centre of political authority in the Boroughs. William Edwardes, Baron Kensington as he became, would hold the seat until 1885 when Haver­fordwest was merged into the Pembroke Boroughs. From 1880 to 1892 Charles Philipps (Fisher) stood for the Conservatives in the Pembroke­shire constituency and was defeated on every occasion.87

When looking at the Haverfordwest Boroughs election of 1868 there is a resonance to loan Matthews’s warning that the ‘heroic version’ of 1868 in Wales – with its ‘mythical connotations associated with the ‘cracking of the ice’ 88 – should be tempered by the realisation that some of the results simply reflected the changed composition of individual electorates, par­ticularly in borough seats.89 The reforms of 1867 saw the Haverfordwest Boroughs electorate swell dramatically from 669 voters in 1865 to 1,135 in 1868. 90 The franchise reforms benefited the Liberals as they most notice­ ably increased the electorates of Narberth and Fishguard, which had both been introduced as contributory boroughs in 1832. 91 The political sym­pathies of these communities, predominantly Welsh speaking and Non­ conformist, lay with a Welsh Liberalism that had tapped into the sense or misrepresentation that had been fermenting throughout Wales. The question of Irish Church disestablishment was the perfect issue on which the newly enfranchised could make their voices heard. As far as the influence or the ‘Picton Screw’ or the ‘Dissenter Screw’ over the electorate are concerned, the changes in the franchise, combined with the cohesion or the Liberal offensive in the face of a weak Conservative effort, provides us with a more realistic explanation or the result than we would find by looking for examples of bullying or coercion from landowners or ministers.

In comparison to the rest of Wales the election of a landowning Liberal at Haverfordwest was far from remarkable.   K. O. Morgan has commented that twenty-four of the thirty-three Welsh MPs returned in 1868 were landowners with the majority of the Liberals returned undeniably Whiggish.92 Although the least radical of the three candidates Edwardes went on to prove his Liberal credentials, finding himself in the company or leading  liberationists such as Henry Richard (Merthyr Tydfil) and John Bright (Manchester) when in 1870 he voted in favour of Watkin Williams’s Welsh Church disestablishment bill.93 In the session 1874 to 1880 Lord Kensington would continue to show his commitment by supporting bills of a specific interest to Welsh Liberalism, including both of Osborne Morgan’s burial bills.94

The inscription found on the Picton Castle Coat of Arms  translates  as ‘Love of My Country Leads Me’.95 The battle for the Established Church, first in Ireland and then in Wales, rendered this sentiment at odds with the political Nonconformity that swept through Wales in the second half of the nineteenth century. The loved country spoken of in the inscription could not have been less in accordance with a Wales whose identity became remodelled by the political representatives of Welsh Nonconformity. For families such as the Philippses the love of their country and its institutions led them to oppose Church disestablishment. In the decades following 1868 the Welsh Liberals, concentrating their efforts on the Welsh Church as opposed to the total disestablishment of the Church of England, effectively boxed the Welsh landowners into assuming the position as the deniers of a Welsh nationhood that had been fashioned by Welsh Liberalism.96 This stance taken by the Welsh gentry in the face of the in creased franchise greatly contributed to their political decline.   In Pembrokeshire the traditional sense of deference to the old order would continue long after the dust of 1868 had settled. 97 Although Picton may have rescinded its grip over Haverfordwest’s  parliamentary representa­tion, it would continue as the focus of local social and cultural life into the first decades of the following century.


  1. Let your motto be, ” civil and religious liberty throughout the world” .’ Cor­respondence signed D. T. Philips, discussing the importance of the coming election for the newly enfranchised in Haverfordwest. Haverfordwest and Millord Haven Telegraph, 8 July 18 68 .
  2. In 1876 the Philippses owned 19,745 acres in Pembrokeshire, 23,105 acres overall. The Cawdor family of Stackpole Court owned 101 ,657 acres but only 17,735 of these were in Pembrokeshire. John Bateman, The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland (1876: reprinted with introduction by D. Spring, Leicester. 1971).
  3.   Account of the return of the Philipps family to Haverfordwest taken from the Pembrokeshire Herald, 16 October 1868.
  4. The bond that existed between a landowner and the community was strength­ ened by the practice of the gentry of providing a degree of charitable For example, Rev. Philipps provided support through traditional means such as the Christmas Bounty. ‘The Rev. J. H. Philipps, of Picton Castle, caused a very large amount of beef to be distributed amongst the poor of the town on Friday. A number of half-crowns were likewise given to poor women by the same gentleman.’ Potter’s Electric News, 28 December 1859.
  5. Rowland Thorne, ‘Pembrokeshire in National Politics, 1815-1974’, in D. Howell (ed.), Modern Pembrokeshire (Haverfordwest, 1993), 227.
  6. E.S. Price, ‘Elections and Electioneering in the Pembroke Boroughs 1865- 1874’ (University of Wales, Aberystwyth, M.A. thesis, 1977), 2-3.
  7. E.S. Price, Thesis, 3.
  8. D. Howell comments that it is necessary to recognise that certain estates in Pembrokeshire ‘were veritable miniature welfare states’. ‘Editor’s Preface ‘ , Modern Pembrokeshire (Haverfordwest, 1993), viii.
  9. David Howell, Land and People in Nineteenth Century Wales (London, 1977), xiii.
  10. Henry Richard remarks on the work of the cheap press in ‘Cause of Anomalies in the Political Representation – Influence of the Clergy’, Letters on the Social and Political Condition of the Principality lWales (London, 1866), 86.
  11.  David Howell, Land and People in Nineteenth Century Wales (London, 1977) xiii.
  12. Henry Richard, ‘The Past Religious and Moral Condition of Wales’ , Letters on the Social and Political Condition of Wales (London, 1866),
  13. loan Matthews, ‘Disturbing the Peace of the County’: The Cannarthenshire General Election of 1868′, Welsh History Review, 19, 3 (1999), 454.
  14. K.O. Morgan, Rebirth of a Nation: A History of Modern Wales (Oxford, 1981), 12.
  15. Henry Richard, Letters on the Social and Political Condition of the Principality of Wales (London, 1866), 93.
  16. K.O. Morgan, Rebirth (1981), 9-12. See also Ieuan Gwynedd Jones , ‘The Elections of 1865 and 1868 in Wales with special reference to Cardiganshire and Merthyr Tydfil’, The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmro­dorion, 1, (1964), 41-68.
  17. K.O. Morgan, Rebirth (1981), 12.
  18. Rowland Thorne has remarked that 1747 was the year that William Edwardes represented the Borough, the first of his family to do so he had been made a burgess of the Picton Castle interest in I737 and was therefore ‘clearly acceptable to Sir John Philipps, 6th Baronet’. It was here that the tradition of Picton supporting the Baron Kensingtons began. R. Thorne, ‘The Political scene at Haverfordwest 1660-1918’ in Dillwyn Miles (ed.) A History of the Town and County of Haverfordwest (Llandysul, 1999) , 202.
  19. For a discussion on the enduring linguistic significance of the Landsker see Brian John, ‘The Linguistic Significance of the Pembrokeshire Landsker’ , The Pembrokeshire Historian, no.4 (1972), 7-28.
  20. For a discussion on the make up of th gwerin of rural Wales see Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, Explorations and Explanations: Essays in the Social History of Victorian Wales (Llandysul, 1981), ch. 8, 269-299.
  21. See Ann Day, ‘ ” Driven from Home” : The Closure of Pembroke Dockyard and the Impact on it’s Community ‘ , Llafur, 7, 1. And E. S. Price, Thesis (see note 6).
  22. Contemporary A. Findlay attributed this appellation to the influx of outside trades people into Pembroke Dock in the nineteenth century. See J. A. Findlay, A Handbook of Pembroke Dock ( Haverfordwest, 1875). In truth the name has a much older history and is linked to the long anglicisation of south Pembrokeshire following the establishment of an Anglo-Norman lordship in the cantref of Penfro in 1093. See I. W. Rowlands , ‘Conquest and Survival’, in F. Walker (ed.), Pembrokeshire County History,Vol. II, Medieval Pembroke­shire (Haverfordwest, 2002), 1- 20.
  23. loan Matthews, ‘Pembrokeshire County Politics , 1860 – 1880 ‘, The Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society, 9 (2000), 39.
  24. The 1851 Religious Census suggests that the National Average for Angli­canism in a Welsh district was 20%. In the Pembroke District it was recorded at 3%, 27.2% in the Narberth District and 20.4% in Haverfordwest. All statistical evidence taken from Dot Jones, Statistical Evidence relating to the Welsh Language 180 119 11 (Cardiff, 1998), 425-34.
  25. loan Matthews, ‘ Pembrokeshire County Politics, 1860- 1880 ‘ , The Journal of the Pembrokeshire   Historical Society, 9 (2000),Par Debt., 3rd Series, vol. CCI, co l. 1303-1304 (1870).
  26. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 8 July 1868.
  27. Pembrokeshire Herald, 21 August 1868
  28. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 8 July 1868
  29. Parl. Debt., 3rd Series, vol CCI, col. 1303-1304 (1870)
  30. Times, 1 February 1876 . Times, 9 August 1876.
  31. In 1876 Meyrick owned 8,164 acres in Wales, 4,253 of which were in Pem­brokeshire. His land had a grand annual value of £30,105.00. John Bateman, The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland (reprint, 1971). See also Muriel Bowen Evans, ‘The Land and its People, 1815 -1974’ , in D. Howell (ed.) , Modern Pembrokeshire (Haverfordwest, 1993), 14-15.
  32. E. S. Price (1977), 73.
  33. E. S. Price (1977), 72.
  34. E. S. Price (1977) , 73.
  35. Camarthen Journal, 30 October 1868.
  36. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 29 July 1868.
  37. E. S. Price (1977), 1.
  38. E. S. Price (1977), 74.
  39. Dillwyn Miles, ‘Lord of Orielton, 1781-1859’, The Journal of the Pembroke- shire Historical Society, 14 (2005), 22.
  40. E. S. Price (1977), 77.
  41. E. S. Price (1977), 77, 86.
  42. For example, in 1841 Sir John Owen and Hugh Owen contested each other for the Pembroke Boroughs. A. J. James and J. E. Thomas, Wales at Westminster: a History of the Parliamentary Representation of Wales 1800-1979 (Llandysul, 1981), 45. See also Henry Owen, Old Pembroke Families in the Ancient County Palatine of Pembroke (London, 1902), 114-115.
  43. Rowland Thorne, ‘Pembrokeshire in National Politics’, in D. Howell (ed.) Modern Pemhmkeshire (1993), 245.
  44. Pitman described himself as ‘a Conservative entertaining liberal views towards all good measures’ and ‘decidedly opposed to disestablishment in Ireland’. Haverfordwest and Mi(ford Haven Telegraph, 19August
  45. In reply to the constant queries about his relationship to Haverfordwest and, more tellingly, Picton Castle, Captain Pitman cited an extract from ‘the Book of the County Families of England’ which described him as a gentleman from Norfolk and a one time JP for Somerset. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 7 October
  46. NLW Picton Castle MS Letter from Picton Castle to Charles Edward Gregg Fishe r, 27 August 1868. Pembrokeshire Herald, 7 August 1868.
  47. Reverend Long was a repeated critic of Pitman, both from the pulpit and in the Liberal See Haverfordwest and Mi(ford Haven Telegraph, 30 September 1868 for a typical example.
  48. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 8 July
  49. NLW Picton Castle MS 615, Pitman to Fisher, 30 April
  50. NLW Picton Castle MS 615, Pitman to Fisher, 17 February
  51. NLW Picton Castle MS 615. Pitman to Fisher, 12 July
  52. loan Matthews, JPHS (2000), 39.
  53. loan Matthews, JPHS (2000), 47.
  54. Rowland Thome in D. Howell (ed.) (1993),
  55. Rowland Thome in D. Howell (ed.) (1993), pp. 244-245. John Bateman (D. Spring, 1971).
  56. Rowland Thorne in D. Howell (ed.) (1993),
  57.  Ibid
  58. John Bateman (D. Spring, 1971).
  59. Rowland Thorne describes him as ‘a restrained Liberal’. R. Thome in Miles (ed.), A History of the Town and County of Haverfordwest (Llandysul, 1999), 215.
  60. Printed notes of Edwardes’s electioneering policies, Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 8 July 1868. Col. Edwardes admits, during the ‘second public meeting of Edwardes’ supporters’ in the Market Hall, Haverfordwest, that in 1865 he did not support the idea of the vote by ballot, but would be prepared to support it if elected in 1868. Telegraph, 9 September 1868.
  61. Pembrokeshire Herald, 7 August 1868
  62. Pembrokeshire Herald, 20 November
  63. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 5 August 1868.
  64. For example, when discussing Samuel Pitman’s role as a trustee of Picton Castle the Telegraph concluded that ‘the martyr hosts of Conservative can­ vassers are led to the stake by the managing representatives of that property’. Haverfordwest and Mi{f’ord Haven Telegraph, 5 August
  65. The first reference to the ‘Picton screw’ appears in an article entitled ‘Mr. Pitman and his probable resignation’, Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 5 August See also letter by ‘A. Looker-on’, Telegraph , 12 August 1868. In early October ‘A Brother Tradesman’ accuses Picton of attempting to ‘interfere with the tradesmen of this town with regard to their conscientious views in public matters’. Telegra ph , 21 October 1868.
  66. CONSERVATIVES: W. Philips, 262 votes, R. Williams, 266 votes, w. Y. James 267 votes, John Davies, 304 votes. LIBERALS: John Lewis, 392 votes, Joseph Thomas, 390 votes, W. Williams, 381 votes, A. Beynon, 373 votes. Hav erford­ west and Mi(ford Haven Telegraph, 4 November 1868.
  67. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 4 November
  68. Matthew Cragoe, ‘Conscience or Coercion? Clerical Influence at the General Election of I 868 in Wales’, Past and Present, 149 (1995),
  69. The CJ was responding to an inflammatory letter that first appeared in ‘Y Dydd’ that was attributed to an organization called the Liverpool Welsh reform Association. Carmarthen Journal, 30 October 1868.
  70. See Matthew Cragoe, ‘Conscience or Coercion? Clerical Influence at the General Election of 1868 in Wales’, in Past and Present, 149 (1995), 140- 169.
  71. Matthew Craogoe (1995), I
  72. Pembrokeshire Herald, 9 October
  73. Established in Haverfordwest in Rev. R. C. Roberts, Baptist Historical Sketches in Pembrokeshire (Pembroke Dock, 1907),107.
    1. Rev. R. C. Roberts (1907), 108.
  74. The Baptists claimed 29.4 percent of attendance in the Haverfordwest District on Census Sunday 1851, their national average was 17.4 percent. Statistics taken from Dot Jones (1998), 425-3
  75. Pembrokeshire Herald, 9 October
  76. Pembrokes hire Herald, 6 November





By Ray Jones

On March 30, 1851 an official survey and count of capacity and atten­dance at places of worship in Great Britain was held. This religious Census was controversial and heavily criticised both before and after it was held but remains ‘ . . . unrivalled as a nationwide source of religious practice in the mid-nineteenth century.’1 The Returns from this Religious Census are held in the Public Record Office but a definitive book – The Religious Census of 1851: A Calendar of Returns Relating to Wales, Volume 1 South Wales, by Ieuan Gwynedd Jones and David Williams 2 (hereinafter referred to and referenced as the ‘Calendar’) provides invalu­able collated and tabulated Religious Census data for south Wales together with related information from the Incorporated Church Building Society (Grants Made to Welsh Parishes Between 1818 and 1851i), Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1848 edn.), Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the Ecclesiastical Revenues of England and Wales [PP 1850 XLII (4)] and Returns of the Names and Residencies of Curates and the Stipends of Each [PP 1850 XLII (226)]. The volume also incorporates parish populations, original spellings from the Returns and several ‘Remarks.’

The Whig Government of Lord John Russell had scheduled a decennial ensus in Britain for March 31, 1851. The Census Act empowered the Secretary of State to issue questions about any further particulars that might seem advisable and George Lewis, MP for Herefordshire and an Under-secretary at the Home Office, using this clause, decided it would be desirable to discover some religious statistics.3   Hence, questions on religion were put in the Census form, thus allowing for a penalty for fail­ing to answer.

This caused something of a furore in both Houses of Parliament particu­larly from Anglican bishops although no interventions from the Welsh dioceses could be traced (Welsh dioceses were part of the Church of England at this time). The legality and value of these religious questions was doubted and there were complaints that the questions were vague and impossible to answer and unwarranted because they sought information on people’s income. ie endowments.

In the event, the questions about endowments were withdrawn and the religious questions separated from the Decennial Census forms. The Registrar General senl a letter to clergy requesting them to co-operate 4 and very few Anglican clergy failed to respond. interestingly this letter was dated March 13, 1851, before the exchanges in Parliament. It can only be described as sycophantic in tone.

The criticisms in Parliament did not receive much publicity and none of the Welsh language newspapers and magazines referred to them. The exchanges in the House of Lords were principally objections from the Bishops. However it is possible to interpret these complaints as a pre­ emptive move. Should the returns be unfavourable to the Church of England, this would have been pointed out as fallacious prior to the data being known, rather than as post-event justification.

As an official part of the decennial Census, the Religious Census was the responsibility of the Registrar General. The topography of the Religious Census was exactly that of the ‘ordinary’ Census. The country was divided into Registration Divisions and some cut across county boundaries. Thus, some Pembrokeshire parishes are in Carmarthen Registration Districts. However, the Calendar records their geographical county. Three of the parishes under review [Kilrhedin (sic), Clydey (sic) and Llanfallteg] are partly in Pembrokeshire and partly in Carmarthenshire. The population of the Pembrokeshire component of these parishes is given separately in the Calendar, but the attendance figures cannot be differentiated. With a total of three parish churches and six Nonconformist chapels, these may slightly distort data given later.

The Registrar General delegated responsibility for the Religious Census to a senior official in the Census Office, Horace Mann. The brief was to determine ‘how far the means of Religious Instruction provided in Great Britain during the last fifty years have kept pace with the rise in population in the same period and to what extent these means are adequate to meet the spiritual needs of the increased population of 1851.’ 5

Two forms were used, one for Nonconformists and one for the Church of England. Only English versions were produced. They were distributed to the residences of the officiating minister, deacon or churchwarden by the (Census) Enumerators on March 29, 1851. The census was taken on March 30 and collected on March 31. Any omissions were to be completed by Enumerators by April 8 and forms, after checking and completion by Registrars if necessary, returned to London by April 22. Any further omissions were completed by correspondence with ministers by use of an ‘Informants Form’. This worked satisfactorily and there was a good return from Pembrokeshire as shown in Table l.

No. of Returns Informant Returns Registrar Returns No Return Parish Missing Parish not Listed


321 5 6 5 2

TablI: Religious Census Returns for Pembrokeshire. Source: Calendar.

One Independent Chapel Minister in Pembrokeshire complained of not having received the form in time 6 (although it appears to have been completed). All Informant returns were from North Pembrokeshire. Five of the Registrar returns appeared to be from military establishments at or near to Pembroke Dock. Four of the Informant and four of the Registrar returns were from the Church of England. All but one of the returns from Pembrokeshire shows below average attendances although it is not clear how these averages were derived. David Williams, writing about Cardi­ganshire,7 claims that the below average attendances reported were a sign of proof of reliability. It may equally be taken as a sign of exaggeration of the averages. Two Pembrokeshire chapels had attendances exactly equal to their quoted averages, a somewhat unlikely occurrence given the wide range of reported attendances. Many responders used the bad weather of the day as a reason for relatively poor attendances although Pickering reports ‘average to fine weather on the day of the Census.’ 8 Absence at sea and the demands of agricultural work were also given as reasons for low attendance and some claimed that servants could not attend as they would be visiting their families it being mid-Lenten Sunday. 9

Some Church of England responders did not fully complete the forms because, for example, they claimed not to know the nature and/or amount of endowment while others were not willing to give this information. The vicar of Whitchurch did give the information, but regarded the question as ‘impertinent’ .10 The vicar of Manordivy (sic) added to his return ‘a greater fallacy can barely be entertained than for anyone to suppose they will receive accurate information upon the several returns made under these enquiries’. The Calendar adds ‘. . . [he himself gave] information of questionable accuracy’.11 A Registrar, who was curate of the parish, notes for Cresselly Primitive Methodists (Jefferston Parish), ‘from my own knowledge Congregationalists seldom exceed 15 and there are only three persons in the parish who call themselves Primitive Methodists’.12 The returned response had given an attendance of 30-50.

A number of returns gave information that was clearly inaccurate, although no special comment appears to have been made. For example , St Mary’s Parish Church in Angle gives its capacity as 31 but its morning attendance as 50-100 and in the afternoon 100-120 plus 42 scholars, while Horeb Baptist Chapel in Henry’s Moat had a capacity of 39 and an attendance of 200. These data emphasise the apparent difficulties of interpreting the question which asked for information on ‘space available· for public worship;’ ‘free ‘ and ‘other’ and also asking for ‘Free Space or Standing Room.’ Several returns reflect these difficulties. A deacon of Bethabara at Pontyglasier reports ‘Gallery plus 26′ whereas Ebenezer, Llanfair­ Nantgwyn says ’34 plus gallery’. Carmel, Clarbeston Road, is ‘ all free’ and Llanllawer Parish Church was ‘ large enough’ (these. data all from Calendar).

 As stated, Horace Mann was given charge of the Census and reported in 1853. 13 In order to calculate attendance, he used a formula of counting all those who attended morning service plus half who attended afternoon service and a third of those who attended evening service. There appeared to be no rationale for this and presumably was done to reduce the effect of ‘double’ attendances. The formula has been criticised on the basis that it favoured the Church of England where most services were held in the morning unlike Nonconformists who often attended more than one service. Nonconformists were also alleged to have ‘packed out’ chapels on the dayl4 although this is not confirmed by the ‘below average’ atten­ dances reported.

Mann defended his calculations on the basis there was ‘no other collection of statistical material for comparing varying practice from place to place and from denomination to denomination’ 15 and it compensated for those who went to church in the morning and chapel in the evening. In a lecture to the Statistical Society he added ‘I am really unable to arrive at any other conclusion that the general facts are substantially correct . . . [any] errors [are] distributed equally over the country’ .16 On the other hand, he also said, when referring to the adjusted data, ‘these figures are mainly conjectural’ .17 Mann claimed he had had ‘the hearty cooperation of the clergy and ministers of all denominations’18 and this certainly seemed to be the case in Pembrokeshire.

Following the report, there was further criticism in the House of Lords, including claims that the data were ‘tainted with fraud ‘ and that errors were committed because ‘ … [Nonconformist] ministers were not often in the same rank of life as the Clergy of the Established Church’ .19 The then bishop of St. David’s, Connop Thirlwall, supported this claim.20 This may have specifically mentioned Pembrokeshire but unfortunately bishop Thirlwall’s exact contribution could not be traced.

A further criticism of the data was that varying ways of reporting children in Sunday schools were used. In some cases they are included in attendances but in others listed separately. It should also be noted that many adults attended Sunday schools and may have been listed as Sunday Scholars. This would have added to the inaccuracy and perhaps favoured Nonconformists. However the Times described the Census as ‘accurate and trustworthy’ and the Christian Remembrance says ‘… on the whole the Church of England may accept the general result as a not very untrue picture’ (quoted in Pickering). 21 There were other criticisms of the Reli­gious Census and its Report both at the time of the Census and afterwards some alleging that it favoured the Church of England and others Noncon­formists. These criticisms both contemporaneous and modem appear to be largely general in nature and no specific criticism of the Pembrokeshire returns could be found.

Horace Mann used his invented formula in an effort to eliminate potential misrepresentations in the Census Returns. More recently, other formulae have been used for this purpose including the best attended service of the day as a percentage of the population.22 Ieuan Gwynedd Jones in his introduction to the Calendar 23 reports using an ‘Index of Attendance’ in his studies of religious observance in Swansea, Caernarfonshire and Brecon and Radnor. It involves adding together the attendances at every service held at an individual church or chapel and expressing this as a percentage of the total population of the parish. This is used to compare the relative attendances of the chosen area. However Vickers 24 argues the most objective figure for comparisons is the total attendance. Therefore in the summary of data that follows (Table 2), both these sets of figures are given.

It should be noted that the figures are likely to be skewed by a number of factors. These include: errors in original data and transcription; missing or non-returns – these have been omitted from calculations; churches or chapels with no service on Census day – but where a return has been made this has been included; variations in including Sunday school scholars as attendees – where these are separately identified in the Calendar they are not included; some parishes are partly in other counties – in these instances Pembrokeshire population has been used but total attendances for calcu­lation. These would include attendees from other counties not included in the Pembrokeshire population quoted; some parishes are detached, e.g. Caldey Island – their (small) populations are included in total population but not in religious returns.

There are discrepancies in total population figures for Pembrokeshire viz Parliamentary Paper LXXXIV gives 84,472 and in a different place 94,140.25 Volume II of the Calendar based on Registration Districts gives 87,672.26 This figure agrees with that in Calendar, Volume 1. The com­puted figure from the returns in the Calendar is 89,285. This figure is used to calculate percentage attendances.

There are a few discrepancies in these data compared with the Census Report. For example, there are no Moravians in the Report but one in the data above, no Latter Day Saints above but one in the Report. There are also four ‘undefined’ denominations in the Report. Other discrepancies may largely be accounted for by the use of Pembrokeshire in Table Two, but the Registration districts in the Report.

Denomination No . of Places

of Worship

No. of


Total Attendance Index of


Church of England  








Baptist* 63 103 19917 22.3%
Independent** 52 75 12633 14 .1%
Calvinistic Methodist***  








Independent Congregational  







3. 1%

(Wesleyan) Methodis t****  








Unitarian I None
Mixed***** I 1 60 0.06%
Roman Catho lic 2 2 1 60 0. 18%
Brethren in Christ l l 60 0.06%
Quakers I 1 5 0.005%
United Brethren (Moravian)  








Total 323 460 62020 69.5%
Total Nonconformists  








Table 2: Attendances at Places of Worship in Pembrokeshire, March 30, 1851; computed from Calendar data·.

* Includes 12 ‘Particular,’ 3 ‘Peculiar’ and I ‘Unitarian free ‘

** Includes 4 ‘Independent Dissenters’ and l ‘Dissenter.’

*** Includes 1 ‘Welsh Methodist’ and 3 ‘Primitive’ Methodists

**** Nine places stated ‘ Wesleyan Methodists.

***** Seaman’s Chapel.

It is difficult to exactly compare the Pembrokeshire figures with evalua­tions of census data by other writers who do not usually state which method they use and comparisons may be distorted because of the Welsh­ speaking north of the county and the strong bias to English south of the Landsker. John Davies 27 gives 80% Nonconformists and 20% Church of England for the whole of Wales using ‘attendances’. In Wales there were 25% Calvinistic Methodists, 23% Independents, 21% Anglican, 18% Baptists and 13% Wesleyans using the attendances at the largest congregation in the denominations. Anglicans were the strongest single denomi­nation in Pembrokeshire.27 In St. David’s diocese, the following ‘attendance figures’ have been given:28


Church of England – 14 % Independent – 17.8%

Calvinistic Methodist – 12.4% Baptist –   l I .1%

Wesleyan – 3.1%

Primitive Methodists – 2.3% Unitarian – 0.4%

Roman Catholic – 0.05%

In fact, very little notice of the Report and results of the Census were taken in Pembrokeshire, or indeed in the whole of Wales.29 There was something of a rekindling of interest in the data by the Liberationists in their campaign for Disestablishment a few years after the Report and that was virtually all. However, the contemporaneous opposition to the Census was successful in preventing further formal and official religious Censuses and questions on religion in subsequent years. The 1851 effort remains the only example of its kind in the UK.

There has been more enthusiasm about the religious census by twentieth century writers. Many have criticised its methodology and accuracy and some argue that ‘its results were sufficiently inaccurate as to damn the census as worthless’ while at the same time saying ‘the [Census] Report is of value to sociologists as well as historians’.30 The Census has been called a ‘useless experiment’ .31 It is difficult to share the view that it was an experiment, as there is no evidence that it was a trial for anything more elaborate or that any hypotheses were being tested, the usual prerequisites for experiments. It merely seems to be part of the development of social statistics, surveys and parliamentary reports dealing with many aspects of national life during the mid-nineteenth century.

Ieuan Gwynedd Jones in his introduction to the Calendar regards the Census as a major source for the study of the history of religion in Wales but bemoans the omission of a question about the language in which services were conducted. He also believes that some chapel officials might have had some difficulty in understanding the questions because there was no Welsh version, 32 and regards the ‘ remarks’ column as often providing important and interesting information about particular congregations and regions, some being long and detailed statements.

The general view of historians seems to be that despite its faults, the Census data do a great service. No other document , before or since , has revealed the demographic state of religion at a particular and specific time. And regarding religion in Pembrokeshire on March 30, 1851 , this writer can do no better than slightly modify Ieuan Gwyn Jones, writing in 1976. 33 The Census, if it has any significance at all, is eloquent of the fact that by the 1850s the pattern of religious adherence in Pembrokeshire (and indeed in Wales) which was to survive in its main characteristics for over a hundred years, had already been established.


 The research work on which this paper is based was originally developed as part of assessment for the MA in Local History Course at Trinity College, Carmarthen.

  1. J. Vickers, The 1851 Religious Census (London: The Historical Associa­tion, 1995), 2.

2. Ieuan Gwynedd Jones and David Williams, The Religious Census of 1851: A Calendar of Returns Relating to Wales, Volume 1: South Wales (Cardiff, 1976).

3. Owen Chadwick, The Victorian Church (London, 1966),

4. Parliamentary Papers, 1851 , Vo XLVIII (1339), 41.

5. Unpublished Notes. MA Local History, Trinity College, Carmarthen,

6. Calendar, cit., xvi.

7. David Williams, ‘The Census of Religious Worship of 1851 in Cardiganshire,’ Ceredigion, IV. 2 ( 1961) , 116.

8.    W. S. F. Pickering. ‘The 1851 Religious Census – a Useless Experiment?’ British Journal of Sociology, XVIII, 4 (1967), 38

9.    David Thompson. ‘The 1851 Religious Census: Problems and Possibilities,’ Victorian Studies, XII (1967), 94

10. Calendar, op. cit., xvi.

11. Idem.

12. Calendar, op. cit., xix.

13. Parliamentary Papers, 1852-1853, XXXXIX (1690).

14. J. A. Vickers, op. cit., 4.

15. Horace Mann, Journal of the Statistical Society, XIII (1855), 147 quoted in David Thompson, op. cit., 91.

16. Owen Chadwick, op. cit., 365.

17. Census of Great Britain 1851 Religious Worship (Abridged Version), London, 1853, 2.

18. W. S. F. Pickering, op. cit., 389-390.

19. Hansard, 3rd Series 185I, CXXXV 1851, 35.

20. Hansard, 1860 CLIX 1717 quoted in Owen Chadwick, op. cit.

21. W. S. F. Pickering, op. cit., 387.

22. Idem., 396

23. Calendar, xviii.

24. J. A. Vickers, op. cit ., 3.

25. Parliamentary Papers, LXXXIV, xviii and xxiii.

26. leuan Gwynedd Jones and David Williams, The Religious Census of 1851: A Calendar of Returns Relating to Wales, Volume 2: North Wales (Cardiff, 1981) (Un-numbered frontispiece).

27. John Davies, A History of Wales (Harmondsworth, 1994), 422.

28. Unpublished Notes. MA Local History, Trinity College, Carmarthen, 2004.

29. Calendar, xxxiii.

30. W. S. F. Pickering , op. cit ., 382-383.

31.   Idem., 406.

32. Calendar, xxxiii.

33. Idem, XXV





By  Simon Hancock

Although not tied to any particular denomination or institution, Evangelic­alism was an extremely important variety of Protestant Christianity. Evangelicalism emerged during the 1730s and exerted a powerful influ­ence on society and culture during subsequent decades. This dynamic · religious and ideological movement changed over time but is generally accepted as having four defining theological characteristics. Conver­sionism; [acceptance of Christ as one’s saviour] Activism; [efforts to bring about the conversion of others] Biblicism [the source of all spiritual truth] and Crucicentrism, the latter being ‘the most compelling testimony both to the power of sin and to the sacrificial  love of God ‘.1 Individualism  was also a pronounced tendency of Evangelicals.

One of the most compelling reasons for studying Evangelicalism in the nineteenth century is the variety of consequences caused by its diffusion throughout society. The capacity of Evangelicalism to facilitate community building, or in extending the role of women in a general sense, is well attested. Evangelicals often played  major roles in the  major social  issues  of the nineteenth century. Without doubt the greatest of these, in the early 1830s was the campaign for the abolition of slavery which still existed in  the British Empire. The  abolitionist  crusade  had already  been  successful in ending slavery  within  the British  Isles in 1807.

Most traditional accounts of the abolitionist movement dutifully rehearse the liturgy of dates and illustrious roll call of names, which rightfully punctuate the successes of their earlier campaigns. The giant of the move­ment, William Wilberforce, the epitome of Christian social engagement, declared ‘God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the sup­pression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners’ .2 He and the ‘Clapham Sect’ of socially conscious Anglicans worked tirelessly on a range of causes, and together with the Quaker-inspired Society for the Abolition of Slavery [founded in 1787] succeeded in getting the British Parliament to legislate for its abolition on 25 March 1807.3

Traditional accounts of the anti-slavery campaign continually emphasise the importance of Evangelical-inspired Christians throughout these decades. Some accounts have stressed the popular, radical anti-slavery movement, which flourished in the 1790s, and also the Quakers who supplied money, / manpower  and ideas before Evangelicals  became actively  involved. Yet
it is surely right to conclude that ‘Evangelicals were central to the whole enterprise’ .4 Individuals like Clarkson, Newton, Macaulay, Thomas Powell, Buxton, James Stephen et al, economic boycotts against slave-grown sugar, tracts by the hundreds of thousands and parliamentary lobbying, were signs of a new and sensitive activism and moral ascendancy which bore fruit in the first decades of the nineteenth century. The anti-slavery movement had many threads of which religious Evangelicalism was prominent. Evangelicals were ‘entirely in harmony with the spirit of the age that set benevolence among its highest value’.5

This assumption, together with their moral philosophy, was given an extraordinary and positive dynamic of their own by Evangelicals who transformed them into a religious key.6 Traditionally, the abolitionist movement has always been represented as the apogee of Evangelical humanitarianism; the triumph of the doctrine of social responsibility. The vitality of British Protestantism accounted for a large part of the success of the British anti-slavery movement 7 laying the foundation for Christian reform action.8 but it perhaps more accurate to say that the movement was delineated along the lines of religious morality rather than humanitar­ianism. This narrow orthodoxy left little room for concern ‘with the plight of any other points of human suffering’ .9 Thus nonconformists were often ambivalent concerning other social issues and did not share an equal enthusiasm for the working classes, or workhouse inmates as they did for slaves.

Perhaps the dramatic and exotic excited greater feeling than the more subtle forms of domestic inequalities. This humanitarianism did not lead to a fundamental reordering of the social and economic hierarchy.10 Missionary movements were established across the country, including Pembrokeshire. On 7 June 1832 a well-attended meeting at the Guildhall, Haverfordwest was held for the purpose of establishing a Church of England Missionary Society. The Revs. Hazlewood, Adams, Austin, Byers, Brigstocke and Turner advocated the cause and ‘a  liberal collection was made for the support of the society’.11 The Haverfordwest Wesleyan Methodists  seem  to  have  possessed  a  vibrant  Missionary  Society.  On 19 October 1834 a public meeting attended by ministers of other denomi­nations and chaired by W. H. Scourfield Esq. saw the chapel packed to excess. The collection amounted  to £22.12

The core theological beliefs of Evangelicalism receive ample attention in the context of British anti-slavery. After all, anti-slavery thought could not in any way be divorced from the general body of Protestant theology in which it was rooted.13 At the very centre of their beliefs, and the doctrine that propelled so much of their activism was the concept of redemption. Through the redemptive work of Christ came that unutterable assurance that sins were forgiven.14 When applied to the world it involved an almost physical release from bondage, 15 which the West Indian slaves  so palpably, lacked. For Evangelicals, the journey from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the children of God was fundamental to their experiences.16

Evangelicals viewed the world from a theological perspective. Since their own concepts also incorporated reason, they were able  to attract  many well read and educated individuals. 17 There was a clear spiritual impera­tive to strike down slavery, which constituted the greatest of all social evils. The anti-slavery stance has been highlighted as typical of  these years, dubbed the ‘years of conscience’, when moral imperatives dictated policy, rather than political calculation.18 Belief in an ideology, which carried the revealed word of God, was a powerful motivational factor and one, which certainly galvanised the collective consciences of such a large number of British Protestants.19 Dissenters, especially, were powerful leaders in British politics during these decades and they were usually staunch advocates of both liberal  and humanitarian reforms.20

Nothing short of immediate emancipation would do although the govern­ment’s proposed scheme of apprenticeship for slaves and grant of £20 million for the planters and slave-owners excited much controversy [such recompense was seen as rewarding the criminal for the loss of his stolen property].21 The Emancipation Bill became law on 29 August 1833, with slavery officially abolished on 1 August 1834. The six years of apprentice­ ship which some slaves were to serve was seen as a more subtle form of slavery which thus officially ended in 1838.

Fig. I: Bronze/copper medal, probably by Halliday, commemorating the passing of The Abolition of Slavery Act 1833 . The obverse depicts King William IV seated beneath a canopy attended by four statesmen. The reverse shows seven freed slaves dancing around a palm tree. (Published courtesy of the British Museum. Ref. No . M622).

Fig. I: Bronze/copper medal, probably by Halliday, commemorating the passing of The Abolition of Slavery Act 1833 . The obverse depicts King William IV seated beneath a canopy attended by four statesmen.
The reverse shows seven freed slaves dancing around a palm tree.
(Published courtesy of the British Museum. Ref. No . M622).

The most fundamental aspect of Evangelical objection to slavery was the argument that it was criminal in the sight of God. This was the most com­pelling theological and moral reason they gave and one, which was widely encountered. The moment slavery was identified with sin; it could no longer be tolerated .22 The leading Evangelical abolitionist, Sir George Stephen, put it succinctly: ‘It was self-evident that if the religious world could be induced to enter upon the subject … and viewing it simply as a question between God and man, the battle was won.’ 23

This view is amply demonstrated in the columns of two early Welsh news­ papers, The Cambrian [published in Swansea from 1804] and The Welsh­ man, a Carmarthen-based newspaper established in 1832. Pembrokeshire Evangelicals  were not tardy in the anti-slavery agitation. On 12 January 1826 a meeting was held at the Guildhall, Haverfordwest, when petitions to both Houses of Parliament were prepared and signed. The meeting was chaired by John Frederick Campbell [1790-1860] who was created Earl Cawdor in 1827. The audience, which packed the fine neo-classical build­ing with its handsome gates and piers called upon the government to ‘adopt those just and necessary improvements in the condition of so large and wretched a portion of the human family’ .24

On Tuesday 24 May 1832 a meeting of the burgesses and inhabitants of Carmarthen took place at their Guildhall to hear the Rev. J. Thomas, the resident Wesleyan Methodist minister in that town argue that slavery was an evil ‘to which the tyrannical passions of men gave birth’. Moreover, he stressed the starkness of the issue:  ‘slavery  and Christianity  are as much at variance as light and darkness, as Christ and Belial.’ 25 Similar arguments were being advanced across Wales. At Wrexham Town Hall in September 1832 a Mr Baldwin stated that since he based his anti-slavery arguments on eternal truth, they must command universal assent. Slavery, he asserted, was against the feelings of humanity and against the laws of God.

That the abolition of colonial slavery was an important political question was manifest, when on 10 December 1832 the election to return a mem­ber to the reformed Parliament for Haverfordwest took place. Sir Richard Bulkeley Philipps Philipps [1801-1857] had held the seat since 1826. He arrived at Haverfordwest in his carriage, preceded by a band of musicians and a banner-carrying crowd. The Guildhall was packed with electors, one of whom, William  Thomas,  enquired  of  the  titled  candidate  whether he would pledge to put an end to oppressive measures which he listed as the Corn Laws, tithes and ‘the abominable system of slavery in the colonies’.26 In his reply Sir Richard alluded to the support which he had given for a proposed enquiry into slavery which had been voted down. His publicly stated support for this measure an obvious attempt  to highlight his humanitarian credentials. Sir Richard Bulkeley Philipps Philipps was successfully returned as member for the Town and County of Haverford­ west and he served two terms, 1826-1835 and 1837-1847. 27

The 1832-1833 Campaign against colonial slavery had clear political and economic consequences. It is held that Evangelicals exercised consider­ able influence during the General Election in that year of reform, 1832. The Agency  Committee  published  lists  of  parliamentary  candidates as either ‘pledged’ [for abolition] or ‘irredeemable’.28 Local anti-slavery associations would only support candidates who would vote for emanci­pation, regardless of their political persuasion. In one celebrated incident, no fewer than sixty-six members of Parliament appeared on a public platform and promised to vote as they were directed.29

The ability of Evangelicalism to demonstrate political potency is illustrated in an advertisement addressed to the independent electors of Carmarthen from E. H. Adams Esq. of Middleton Hall. He specifically mentioned his staunch support for the abolitionist campaign.30 Politics of party were always important although to many Evangelicals they were secondary to discharging their Christian obligations. Nor were Evangelicals tolerant of political inconsistency. The Rev. Jabez Bunting, President of the Methodist Conference, earned scorn and derision by voting for an anti-abolitionist candidate whilst at the same time calling for abolition.3 1

Even more explicitly  Christian  arguments  against slavery  were advanced in 1833 as  the Evangelical  tempo reached fever pitch. At a  public meeting at Haverfordwest on I 5 January I 833, nearly all the speakers invoked the argument that slavery was incompatible with Christianity. John Lewis maintained ‘according to the precepts of the  Christian  religion  we  are called upon to blot out this damned spot of slavery from our national escutcheon’ .32 He subsequently supported the resolution  that  British colonial slavery was irreconcilable with Christianity. 33 The Rev. Samuel Fenton, vicar of Fishguard, commented that slavery was contrary to both reason and revelation, whilst the Rev. David Davies, in a statement which hammers home the scholarly views on Evangelicalism already cited, pro­claimed ‘Christians are under  the greatest obligation.  Emancipated  from the bondage of sin you must feel for the double slavery of the Negro, both of  body  and soul’.34

One of the most significant stances taken by Evangelicals  in  1832-1833 was the adoption of what has been called immediatism. 35 Only  immediate and unconditional abolition would do, with no amelioration or halfway house of compromise possible. Since slavery represented the powers of darkness no compromise or gradual settlement was feasible. This  impor­tant  tenet  of  Evangelical  convictions  has  been  traced  to  Mrs Elizabeth Heyrick’ s work entitled Immediate Not Gradual Abolition, in which she argued that slavery should be ‘immediately and for ever abolished’ .36 The immediatist phase of the abolitionist campaign is usually taken as having started  with the Rev. Andrew Thomson’s  sermon in October 1829.37

Fig. 2: Drawing of the Guildhall at the top of High Street, Haverfordwest [probably drawn by Thomas Ellis of Short Row School in the 1820s], the venue for several anti-slavery meetings.

Fig. 2: Drawing of the Guildhall at the top of High Street, Haverfordwest [probably drawn by Thomas Ellis of Short Row School in the 1820s], the venue for several anti-slavery meetings.

The demand for immediate emancipation was a  truly  Evangelical  one.  James Stephen fuelled the radical shift to immediatism in  his two  volumes The Slavery in the British West Indies Delineated [1824-1830].38 In July 1832 the Wesleyan Methodists committed themselves to immediate emancipation. Uncompromising, absolute language was used: abolish, extinguish, destroy and annihilate were the words regularly use d by Evangelicals  who  were  stimulated  by  deep  religious  faith  and  conscious of what they thought  was right. One group of  ladies  were  in  no doubt of  the necessity of abolishing  ‘immediately  and  entirely’  slavery  in  the colonies. 39 The efforts of the Anti-Slavery Agency Committee and Anti­ Slavery Reporter did much to popularise immediatism in the Evangelical campaigns, maintaining that it only required the steam of public opinion [employing the language of technology and progress] to ‘annihilate colonial slavery  in  one  majestic stroke’.40

At a Carmarthen meeting in May 1832 the Rev. Thomas stated that the business of their meeting was about the speedy and entire abolition of colonial slavery.4 1 At another meeting the Rev. W. Powell pointed to the inefficiency of measures to improve the conditions of the slaves. The meeting went on to move the resolution: ‘That the history of all past attempts to ameliorate the condition  of slaves, sufficiently  demonstrates on the one hand, that slavery cannot be made compatible either with the welfare of society or the claims of religion .’ 42

The important issue of immediatism was especially prominent at the Haverfordwest anti-slavery meeting in January 1833, which was  held in the Guildhall at the top of High Street, near St. Mary’s Church. David Davies expressed his relief that the meeting was not going to propose amelioration or mitigation, ‘which would be only to prolong the monster’s life ‘. 43 Rather, he asserted, to loud cheers, he under stood the meeting to be about slavery’s ‘utter extinction, its entire annihilation’.44 Equally, John Lewis invoked historical parallels in mocking those who advocated slow improvement.  Talk  of  gradual  improvement  for  slaves  would  be like recommending toleration ‘to a set of Spanish Inquisitors or Grecian liberty to a Turkish Divan’.45 The Rev. John Bulmer of Haverfordwest called for immediate emancipation : ‘if emancipation be not speedily effected, I am determined  to preach for it on all proper occasions.’ 46

Although Evangelicals campaigned for immediate emancipation primarily on theological grounds, social, economic and commercial factors were sometimes also cite d. When Mr George Pilkington addressed an anti­ slavery meeting at the Nelson Hotel, Milford Haven in January 1833 he reassured his audience that immediate release from slavery would be advantageous, safe and practical.47

That immediatism was a powerful weapon is clea r, especially because of its emphasis on moral imperatives. In their letter of Instructions issued to their agents, the Agency Committee explicitly stated that the principle ought to be that slavery should be ‘immediately and for ever abolished ‘.48 A distinctive feature of Evangelicalism was its stern moral absolutism whose demands were ‘immutable, sacrosanct and certainly not open to negotiation’.49

The anti-slavery campaign witnessed an unprecedented pet1t10ning of legislators. The point has been well made that these petitions were no mere aggregate of signatures but rather the end product of expenditures of energy, money and resources. Almost all the petitions resulted from public meetings called for abolition. 50 They were an accurate reflection of public opinion on that issue and were a potent symbol of an Evangelical ‘people mobilised ‘.51 Gathering petitions required quite complex social and religious networking sometimes over large geographical areas.

The coverage reached by Evangelical-inspired anti-slavery petitions was truly staggering. One in five British people over the age of 15 in 1833 and some ninety per cent of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion ‘ s membership signed these petitions, which were sent to Westminster.52 Only the later Chartist petitions came anywhere near in approaching this level of public participation. The anti-slavery petitions achieved speedy and impressive political results. In May 1833 the Government sponsored an Emancipation Bill only a matter of a few months after the King’ s Speech neglected even to mention colonial slavery.53  Newspapers, local and  national, contained almost daily accounts of anti-slavery petitions being delivered to Parlia­ment. On 11 June 1830 petitions praying for the abolition of Negro slavery, containing 30,000  names from  three denominations of Protestant Dissenters within  12 miles  of London  were  handed into the House of Commons.54

Around 4,000  petitions  were  presented in  the session of  1833, of which 229,426 were Methodist.55 This was often achieved by following the Protestant  Congregationalist   community’s    organisational pattern, with staggering results. In February and March 1833 no more than  21  petitions had been received by Parliament in any one day. However, on 3 April  1833
55 petitions arrived and 200 more followed on 26 April. Another 200 were handed in on 13 May and an astounding 500 on 14 May.56 It has been estimated that one and a half million people signed anti-slavery petitions, an  impressive  tally  for  a movement  in   which  Evangelicals  were prominent.

Petitions demonstrated the penetration of anti-slavery sentiment through­out all levels of British society . Sometimes the language was steeped in the political vernacular of what has been termed artisan radicalism, but the prominence  of  the  Evangelical  message   was   clear  enough.  On 18 February 1833 Earl Cawdor presented two petitions praying  for  the abolition of colonial slavery from Haverfordwest and Milford Haven to the House of Lords.57

The anti-s la very petitions were doubtless circulated to each local church and chapel. In the Haverfordwest Circuit of the Wesleyan Methodist Church the  accounts  for 1830  record the  sum  of 6s 3d  for  paper for petitions and an even larger sum, 8s 3d expended for the same purpose in 1833. 58 On 8 November 1830  the House of Lords received anti-slavery petitions from ‘Members of a society and congregation of Wesleyan Methodists  worshipping  at  Pembroke,  “Southern Pitts”,  Haking, Waters­ton, Merlin’s Bridge, Milford, Spittal, Roach, Hearson Mountain, Carew, Jefferson,  Narberth,  Pembroke  Doc k and Redberth’ .59 T hat same  day a petition calling for the abolition of slavery was submitted by Wesleyan Methodists worshipping at their chapel in the Town and County of Haver­fordwest.60 Three days later [11  November 1830]  the members of  the Calvinistic Methodist persuasion ‘ worshipping in the Tabernacle ‘ at Haverfordwest sent in a petition.61 On 18 November 1 830  the minister and members of the Particular Baptist denomination at Haverfordwest, the Independents of Narberth and the Baptists of Milford Haven submitted similar petitions.62 It is with good reason that Roland Thorne has described petitioning Parliament in the early nineteenth century as reaching a crescendo. 63

The difference in the balance of public opinion as expressed in petitions was truly startling. The Welshman of 12 July 1833 reported how, up to that time, 4,603 petitions had been sent to Westminster, containing 1,209,355 names urging abolition, whilst only one petition, containing a mere 391 signatures, called upon Parliament to resist immediate emancipation.

The burning theological priority of preaching the gospel was one of the fruits of Evangelical conversion as was a sign of activism. This ensured that Evangelicals were particularly receptive to the plight of Christian missionaries in the British West Indies, especially after the brutal sup­pression of the Jamaican slave rebellion of 1831. Slavery was widely perceived to be a barrier to the missionary progress of the gospel in the Caribbean, hence the comment of John Dyer, secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, ‘either Christianity or slavery must fall’.64 The per­secution which slave owners and planters inflicted on missionaries suspected of fermenting slave rebellion stoked Evangelical indignation. Sometimes missionaries suffered on account of the abolitionist statements of their home churches. To this Methodist missionaries were particularly vulnerable.65 The news of imprisoned ministers and Baptist chapels razed to the ground raised the temperature of the anti-slavery campaign. Those who suffered at the hands of the planters attracted a certain martyrdom. When Henry Whiteley, a missionary, published an account of his expe­ riences, his book sold 200,000 copies in just a fortnight.66

At Haverfordwest the Rev. Daniel Davies referred to the deliberate policy of the planters in seeking to banish Methodist missionaries from Jamaica since ‘Methodism in every  form, whether under a surplice or black coat, is equally offensive to them and their trade’.67 We are in no doubt that Christian missionaries were seen from an Evangelical perspective as bringing light, hope and the message of a saving gospel to the slaves. Interference or persecution of that mission was singled out as being especially wicked.

There is very little evidence of women’s activism or even attendance at these anti-slavery meetings. It may be that their presence was just not recorded. At a Carmarthen meeting all ten speakers were male 68 and there is no reference to women heing in the audience. In Pembrokeshire the requisition to call the anti-slavery meeting was signed by seventy-seven men.69 When Daniel Davies chaired the Haverfordwest meeting he opened with the words ‘gentlemen’ .70 Perhaps the undoubted involvement of women, which certainly took place nationally, was more pronounced in an urban, metropolitan context that in rural areas like west Wales.

The degree of public interest in, and attendance at anti-slavery meetings has been widely asserted ‘ with a pattern of crammed halls, overspill audiences, throngs travelling great distances – of all classes and sexes – waiting patiently for and during the lectures’.71 Such statements are sub­stantiated by articles in local newspapers. The Carmarthen meeting was ‘more numerous and respectable’ than on previous occasions. 72 At Haver­fordwest the chairman was gratified to see ‘so large and respectable an audience.’ 73

We can learn much about the Evangelical influences in this area of social concern by examining the balance of leadership and engagement between Anglicanism and Nonconformity. Secondary literature seems to suggest a general correlation between the growing British anti-slavery movement and the rise of Evangelical nonconformity.74 However, the campaign reached well beyond the confines of organised nonconformity and was often communally rather than denominationally based, initially at least. That said, anti-slavery societies did establish particularly strong links with the Wesleyan Methodists and Baptists in 1831-1833. 75 Although some bishops might have feared that if slavery was abolished tithes might be next; many Anglicans were active in anti-slavery ranks.

The ecumenical nature of anti-slavery is clearly demonstrated. The de­nominations of many who spoke at the meetings are sometimes difficult  or impossible to detect, although when denominations are given they often represented a wide spectrum of Christian allegiance. In Pembrokeshire there is no evidence of Roman Catholic involvement [at Abergavenny a Catholic priest, the Rev. J. W. Henderson spoke]. 76 The Haverfordwest meeting  saw  prominent contributions from the Rev. John  Bulmer, pastor of Albany Congregational Church [1813-1839] and from the Rev. Samuel Fenton, vicar of Fishguard [18 25-1852].77

Determining the balance of religious and secular leadership in a local context is very challenging . Communal-based organisations, sometimes with popular, radical support, also made vigorous efforts in the abolitionist campaign. Religious denominations accounted for 56% of anti-slavery petitions in 1833 but rather less than 27% of actual signat ures. 78 The often middle-class nature of Evangelicalism could blunt its appeal to the wider population. The number of signatures mobilised against granting Roman Catholics political rights attracted nowhere near this level of support. It might be reasonable to conclude that the anti-slavery campaign of 1832-1833 represented the confluence of religious and secular influences, although the religious aspect remained far more important than most other influences.

At Haverfordwest the main movers behind the anti-slavery meeting were from both secular and clerical worlds. The former  included  the  county gentry, including J. H. Allen of  Cresselly;  a  local  medical  practitioner, John Howell MD; an elected politician, Sir John Owen MP and a secular high-ranking official, the High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire.79 After the royal assent to the Emancipation Bill on 29 August 1833,  further  agitation followed regarding the thorny issue of  the ‘ apprenticeship  ‘  provisions for the freed slaves. As well as freeing some 800,000 black slaves,  the cam­paign  had  tangible consequences for  increased  optimism  in society and in a  teleological  belief  in progress in the human  condition .

The synthesis of religious and political action ‘had profound implications for middle class optimism and the idea of progress’80 and represented a shining light that religious principle could indeed triumph over com­mercial considerations. It is asserted that the world benefited morally from the abolition of slavery within the British Empire and provided a dynamic thrust forward to the notion of a universal God alive in the world.

This was Evangelicalism active in society. It was an activism born of conversion of assurance that individual sins were forgiven , and a commit­ment to serious religious principle and practice. The anti-slavery campaign across Great Britain, of which the activity of Evangelicals  in Pembrokeshire comprised a minute part, met with glorious success in 1833 and showed the short shrift, which they gave to superficial Christian pro­fession.81


I. John Wolffe, ‘Evangelicals, Women and Community in Nineteenth-century Britain’ (Milton  Keynes, 2000), 18.
2. Ernest Marshall Howse, Saints in Politics, the ‘Clapham Sect’ and the growth of Freedom (London, 1952), 32.
3. Oliver Warner, William Wilberforce and His Times (London, 1962), 103.
4. D. W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism , in Modern Britain.  A  history  from  the 1730s to the 1980s (London, 1989)  , 71.
5.  I bid., 71.
6. Howse, Saints in Politics, op. cit. 7.
7. Edith F. Hurwit z, Politics and the Public Conscience. Slave Emancipation and the Abolitionist Movement in Britain (Lo ndon, 1973)  ,  I 5.
8.  Ibid., 17.
9.  Ibid., 42.
10 . John S. Galbraith,  ‘Myths of  the  ‘ Little England  Era’, A. G.  L. Shaw  l ed. I,
Great Britain and the Colonies,  /8 /5 – /865   ( Londo n, 1970), 40.
11 . The Cambrian,  15 June 1832.
12. The Cambrian, 24 October  1834.
13. Hurwilz, Politics and the Public Conscience, op. cit., 44.
14. Roger Anstey, ‘The pattern of British abolitionism in  the eighteenth  and  nine­ teenth centuries,’  Christine Bolt and Seymour Drescher [eds.], Anti-Slavery, Religion and Reform: Essays in Memory of Roger Anstey (Folkestone, 19 80)  , 21.
15. Ibid.
16. Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition 1760- 1810 (Lon­ don, 1975),  190.
17 . Ibid., 168.
18. D. W. Bebbington, The Nonconformist Conscience. Chapel and Politics 1870- 1914  (London,  1982), 16.
19. Hurwitz, Politics and the Public Conscience, op. cit., 22.
20. R. G. Cowherd, ‘The Politics of English Dissent, 1832-1848’, Church History (Vol. 23, No. 2, 1954), 136.
21. Howard Temperley, British Anti-Slavery 1833-1870 (London,  1972), 271.
22. D. W. Bebbington, The Nonconformist Conscience, op. cit., 14.
23. Sir George Stephen, Anti-Slavery Recollections in A Series of  Letters  Addres­sed to Mrs Beecher Stowe [1854]  , (London, 1971), 160.

24. The Cambrian, 3 February 1826.
25. The Welshman, 11 May 1832.
26. The Welshman,  14 December 1832.
27. Roland Thorne, ‘The Political Scene in Haverfordwest 1600-1974’, D. Miles [ed.], A History of Haverfordwest (Llandysul, 1999), 219.
28. Anstey, Anti-Slavery, Religion and  Reform, op. cit., 28.
29. Howse, Saints in Politics, op. cit., 163.
30. The Welshman, 2  November 1832.
31. The Welshman, 11  May 1832.
32. The Welshman, 25 January 1833.
33. Ibid.
34. Ibid.
35. D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Mod ern Britain, op. cit., 72.
36. Anstey, Anti-Slavery, Religion and Reform , op. cit., 27.
37. Louis Billington and Rosamund  Billington,  ‘A  Burning  Zeal  for  Righteous­ness: Women in the Anti-Slavery Movement 1820-1860’,  Jane  Rendall  [ed.], Equal or Different? Women’s Politics 1800-1914 (London,  1914) , 90.
38. Hurwitz, Politics and the Public Conscience, op. cit., 36. 39.  Ibid., 144.
40. James  Walvin,  ‘The  rise  of  British  popular  sentiment  for   abolition,   1787- 1832  ‘ , Anti-Slavery , Religion and Reform, 158.
41. The Welshman, 11 May 1832.
42. The Welshman, 21  December 1832.
43. The Welshman, 25 January 1833.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibid.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid.
48. Report of the Agency Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society (1832), 3.
49. D.W. Bebbington,  Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, op. cit., 136.
50. Seymour Drescher, ‘Public Opinion and the destruction of British Colonial Slavery’, James Walvin [ed.], Slavery and British Society 1776-1846 (London, 1982), 25.
51. Ibid.
52. D. W. Bebbington,  Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, op. cit., 72.
53. S. Drescher,  ‘Public Opinion  and the destruction of British Colonial Slavery’,
op. cit., 41.
54. The Times, 12 June 1830.
55. Seymour Drescher, ‘Two variants of Anti-Slavery: Religious Organisation  and Social Mobilisation  in Britain  and  France  1780-1870’ , Anti-Slavery, Religion and  Reform, 48.
56. Hurwitz,  Politics and the Public Conscience, op. cit., 62.

57. The Cambrian, 23 February 1833.
58. Pembrokeshire Record  Office.   Haverfordwest   Methodist Circuit  accounts, 182 1- 18 3 7 . DFC/M/9/1.
59. House of Lords Journal, Vol. 63. 8 November 1830.
60. Ibid .
61. House of  Lords Journal, Vol. 63.  l l  November 1830.
62. House of Lords Jou rnal, Vol. 63. 18 November 1830.
63. Roland Thorne,  ‘The Political Scene’ , History of  Haverfordwes t, op. cit., 216.
64. D. W. Bebbing ton, Evangelicalism in Mode rn Britain, op. cit., 133.
65. Michael Crafton, ‘Slave Culture, Resistance and the Achieve ment of Emanci­pation in the British West Indies 1783- 1838’ , Slavery and British Society, I 0 8.
66. C. Duncan Rice, ‘ The Missionary Context of the British Anti-Slavery Movement’, ibid., 15 9.
67. The Welshman, 25 January  183 3.
68. The Welshman , 11 May 1 832.
69. The Welshman,  11 January 1833.
70. The Welshman, 25 January  1833 .
71. Walvin, Slavery and British Society, op. cit., 54.
72. The Welshman, 11 Ma y 1832.
7 3. The Welshman, 25 January 1833 .
74. S.  Drescher,  Slavery and  British Society, 34.
75. Anstey , Anti-Slavery, Religion and Reform, op. cit., 27.
76. The Welshman, 21 December  1832 .
77. The Welshman , 25 January 1833.
78 . S.  Drescher, Slavery and British Society, op. cit ., 36 .
79. The Welshman, 18 January  183 2.
80. David  Brion David, ‘Slavery and Progress’ , Anti-Slavery,  Religion and  Reform, 352.
81. Andrew Walls, ‘The Evangelical Revival, The Miss ionary Movement and Africa’. Mark A. Noll, David W. Bebbington and George A. Rawlk [eds.], Evangelicalism. Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, The British Isles and Beyond 1700-1900 (Oxford, 1994), 313.




By Roger Turvey

What is a Gentleman without the true Faith of Christ in his heart, and the holy fruits thereof in his life, but a mere Gentilman without Christ, an alien from the common-wealth of Israel, and a stranger from the Covenant of promise, without hope and without God.1

Probate records are a key source for historians of the late medieval and early modern period and can be used to shed light upon a wide range of economic, social and religious issues. Indeed, in some respects wills and testaments are the most complex and interesting of all local records since they combine information about individuals and their families, their wealth, property, religion, literacy, interpersonal relationships and a number of other related topics. The aim of this paper is to investigate significant aspects of the lives and deaths of two of the most prominent members of Pembrokeshire’s landowning elite, namely, Sir William Perrot and  his wife Joanna Wogan. This study will focus on their wills and testaments, printed here for the first time since 1867, which while not unique they do have some unique features that are worthy of note. 2 Perhaps the most important feature of the documents printed here is the fact that they are original wills and not enrolled copies from a court register. The vast majority of the wills that survive today are copies made by clerks working either in the local consistory or bishop’s court of the diocese in which the testators lived or, if they owned property in more than one diocese, in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The survival of wills drawn up and lodged in a family’s private archive is quite rare the more so in these two instances since the enrolled copies have been lost. 3 That these wills were drawn up by a husband and wife who died less than eighteen months apart is also unusual as is the fact that they employed the services of separate household priests.

Originally the will and testament were separate legal documents which gradually  merged  so that by the early  sixteenth  century  the terms ‘will’ and ‘ testament ‘ had become interchange able. Strictly speaking, the  will was simply a written statement by dying property-owners in which they expressed their wishes about the disposition of land  and property  subject to the precepts of the common law. A testament was often drawn up beforehand in order to dispose of personal goods, deal with debts and, of course, burial. The executor, appointed by the testator,  was  given  the respon­sibility of carrying out the provisions made in the will/testament. As soon as possible after the death of the testator the will had to be verified in a church court as being the genuine last wishes of the deceased before the executor could carry out the provisions of the will. If someone died without a will a letter of administration had to be obtained. Once the will was proved the original copy was filed and a probate copy given to the executors, which noted where and when probate was approved  and  to whom probate was given. The original will was signed and/or a wax seal appended by the testator and witnessed  by family, neighbours or friends. It was then submitted to the appropriate ecclesiastical court with the power to grant probate where the  witnesses to the will  testified  that it was a true reflection of the deceased’s intention. Once the will was accepted as valid it was copied into the court ‘ s will- register, annotated as proved before the court and filed  with the court’s other records.

It is important to remember that only a minority of persons left wills , mainly those with sufficient property and wealth to bequeath. The will maker had to be over the age of 14 if male and 12 if female but there were restrictions imposed on the latter. The very poor rarely had anything of value to leave their kin and whole classes of people were excluded from making legally valid wills, including children, lunatics, prisoners, married women, traitors and heretics. Married women could only make a will with their husband ‘s permission, otherwise it was void :  a  wife ‘s  property belonging to her husband. Widows and spinsters could make wills but these make up only  a fraction of  the testamentary  records still extant.

If today the  will is mainly concerned with the inheritance  of  property such as the family home this was not the case in  the early  sixteenth  century. Strict rules governed the inheritance of land so that a clear distinction was  made  between  real  and  personal  property.   Personal  property  consisted of moveable goods and chattels both animate and inanimate, and  might include remaining years on any outstanding  leaseholds. Real property or realty (real estate) consisted of freehold or copyhold land and buildings. Wills, will making and probate were governed by church law but the descent, transmission and inheritance of land came within the jurisdiction of common law and manorial custom. The church authorities had no power to regulate the bestowal of property let alone resolve any disputes that might arise as a result. This is not to suggest that canon law had no interest in the will beyond proving its veracity, on the contrary, since wills had to be proved in the ecclesiastical court they were looked at very closely to ensure that the church got its full entitlement. Among the fees charged by the church courts were for validating, copying and preserving wills and probate inventories, and also for mortuaries. It is not known how much the church charged the executors of Sir William Perrot and Joanna Wogan but by an act of 1529 the fees were fixed at 3s. 6d. for goods valued at between £5 and £40 and for personal estates worth over £40 it was 5s.: 4 the Perrots fell into the latter category. The mortuary fees were set according to a sliding scale and were determined by the value of the testator’s moveable goods after the cost of his or her debts had been deducted.

Under the law property usually descended to the eldest son or his assigns and a will was only likely to be made if the testator wished to provide for his wife, younger children, relatives and friends. Indeed, the writing of a will was never essential for anyone who wanted to dispose of real estate according to the prevailing property laws. Various means were therefore found to get around the strict codes of law. This was usually achieved by enfeoffment, i.e. the testator enfeoffed his land to feoffees, who were entrusted to use the lands as the testator wished. Common law regarded the feoffees as the beneficial owners but they were unable to use the land for their own purposes. Enfeoffement could take place months or even years before a landowner’s death and once deceased the land would be granted to the testator’s heir. This legal device had become widely used during the fifteenth century with the Perrots very much in the vanguard in Pembrokeshire.

It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that besides being a legal document concerned with property and possessions, the will  and  testa­ment was also a personal and spiritual  record of a  person’s  last thoughts and  wishes.  In an age of faith  religious  belief, concerns  about  mortality and the destination of the soul were, for many testators, matters of great moment. The fact that wills and  testaments  almost invariably  began with a religious preamble in which the testator’s soul was committed to God, followed by the invoking of various saints before stating where, and sometimes why, the body was to be bequeathed for  burial  has been held up as evidence of deep-seated religious faith. However, where once it was considered to be a straightforward process to infer the depth and sincerity of a testator’s religious faith from will preambles, it is no longer the case. The fact that the majority of wills follow a standard format has caused some historians to question their value as evidence of widespread and deep-seated piety. Some historians have gone so far as to deny they possess any meaning at all but this is not shared by the majority who give them at least qualified credence. Whether these pious preambles are ‘ more depen­dent on the choices made by the cleric or scribe drafting a deathbed document than on the personal views of the testator’, is open to question .5 True a ‘man lying on his death bed must have been much  in the hands of the scribe writing his will’ 6 but what cannot easily be disputed is the fact that documents that displayed no religious content whatsoever  were extremely rare which suggests that, at the very least , the average testator would have expressed some concern if their scribes had omitted the preamble altogether. With regard to the motive that lay behind the making of wills the late Sir Glanmor Williams expressed  his opinion thus

If  it would be invincibly cynical  to doubt that sincere devotion was a primary and compelling force, it would be blissfully unsuspect­ing to suppose it was the only one.7

If the preamble is under attack so too is the display of charity and gener­ous giving that lay at the heart of the majority of wills. This generosity was usually expressed in the form of cash-donations for specific purposes such as repairing the fabric of a church , or it might be given in kind such as in garments for the priest  or food for the poor.  Some testators  went further by endowing schools and financing community projects such as bridge building or even an almshouse. However, many historians share Sir Glanmor Williams’s opinion that ‘When men left money for the churches in their wills they were moved by fear as well as fervour, by pride no less than piety ‘ .8 As men of means and as a way to underline their status and premier position in society there  was an expectation that they would use their wealth to enrich and endow. Contemporary commentators no less than modern historians were ‘ not without misgivings about the “pomp and pride of this world”, which impelled men to spend lavishly on churches’.9 One might argue that the generosity displayed in wills is more likely to yield information about the personality of the testator than his or her piety.

In the final analysis it is probably best to steer a middle course between these competing schools of historical thought and regard the will preamble, no less than the testamentary dispositions, as ‘an idiosyncratic mixture of formula and personal expression’ .10 The truth is that without additional evidence to root out a testator’s personal beliefs we are left to ponder the truth in a vacuum of ignorance. Fortunately, as will become clear, there is sufficient circumstantial evidence available to at least sug­gest whether Sir William and Joanna were conventionally or since rely religious.

The Testators

The Husband:  Sir William  Perrot (d.1503) of Haroldston 11
William was born, according to best estimates, sometime in the mid to late 1440s probably at Eastington. He was the son of Thomas Perrot esquire (d.1474) and grandson of the first of the family to be knighted, Sir Thomas (d.1461).The latter had been a participant in and casualty of the so-called Wars of the Roses, dying in Bristol from wounds sustained two months earlier in the battle of Mortimer ‘s Cross (February 1461).12 His son wisely kept out of the conflict as did William being more concerned with running the family estates. William succeeded his father in July 1474 and in so doing inherited a considerably larger estate than that enjoyed by his grandfather. By virtue of his father’s activity in the land market which included purchases, leases and exchanges, the Perrot estates had grown to such an extent that there were few parishes in the county that could claim no interest in the family’s fortunes. The centre of the Perrot estates was Haroldston, the family seat, and a manor house of some antiquity dating back to the late thirteenth century. There is evidence to suggest that William was actively involved in refurbishing the house and was quite possibly the man responsible for building the so-called Steward’s Tower (Fig I). By cementing the family’s landholdings William was securing a place in the


Stewards Tower 001









Fig. 1: The Steward’s Tower, Haroldston House. Drawn in 1860 and published  in Barnwell’s Perrot Notes (1867).

county’s social and political elite. This was underlined by his marriage to Joanna, the daughter of Sir Henry Wogan of Wiston. Wogan was un­doubtedly one of the most powerful men in Pembrokeshire at that time and his kinship through marriage with William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, is a good indication of how high he had risen both socially and politically.

William Perrot was only marginally less active in the local administration than he was in the land market. His first known appointment was recorded in September 1475 when  he served an annual  term as bailiff of the town of Pembroke. This was followed in April 1496 by his appointment for life as sheriff of the town and county of Haverford. This office may have provided William with his entrée into the ruling council of the earldom, a position his grandfather, Sir Thomas, had enjoyed under Jasper Tudor. Appointed in the name of the five-year old Prince Henry (later to become Henry VIII), who had been given the earldom of Pembroke and lordship  of Haverford on the death of his uncle, Jasper Tudor, in December 1495, William had evidently caught the eye of some powerful men. These men moved in royal circles and prominent among them, and the man  most likely responsible for William’s appointment, was Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Dinefwr.

Unlike Sir Rhys, a prominent participant at the battle of Bosworth, William appears to have resisted the temptation to pursue a life in the military. He does not appear to have been among those Pembrokeshire gentlemen, who were few in number, who personally welcomed Henry Tudor as he landed at Dale in August 1485. Whether William declared his support for the Tudor pretender to the throne as he swept in and out of Haverfordwest in a day is not certainly known. He did not oppose the Tudor-led invasion nor did he join the rebel force as it made its way through mid-Wales and on to Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. On the other hand, what is certain is that William was no Yorkist nor did he actively support King Richard III, and his apparent indifference to the Lancastrian cause, for whom his grandfather had died in 1461, did not harm his prospects of employment in the royal service once Henry Tudor was crowned king.

Succeeding Jasper Tudor in almost all his offices, Sir Rhys became the Tudor Crown’s viceroy in south Wales. As a Pembrokeshire landowner, by virtue of his possession of the lordships of Carew and Narberth, Sir Rhys was probably well acquainted with William Perrot. It is perhaps no coincidence that when the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon took place in SL Paul’s Cathedral in November 150I, William was among the 3000 invited guests. Although one among many, to be invited to attend the marriage of the king’s eldest son and heir was a conspicuous honour made more significant by his knighting. Sir William was one among a select group of three Pembrokeshire gentry knighted at the ceremony, the other two being his brother-in-law, John Wogan of Wiston, and James ab Owen of Pentre Ifan. As age sought to overtake him, Sir William was mindful of the fact that certain preparations had to be undertaken in order to ensure the smooth transmission of his properties to his son and heir. Consequently, in March 1501 he was busy enfeoffing his brother-in-law, John Wogan, and his son-in-law, William Adams, with property in and around Tenby. In the event of his death they were entrusted with the task of passing on these properties to Owen, Sir William’s eldest son and heir. The series of enfeoffements that were arranged at this time, indeed, some as early as the 1480s, is indicative of the fact that when Sir William came to make his last will and testament his properties had already been disposed of.

The Wife: Joanna Wogan (d.1504) of Wiston 13
Joanna was the daughter of Sir Henry Wogan of Wiston 14 and Margaret, the daughter of Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan Castle in Gwent. Joanna came from wealthy and influential stock; her father and brother, Sir John, were men of consequence in Pembrokeshire while her uncle, the Yorkist William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, was perhaps the most powerful man in south Wales during the 1460s. 15 The ties that bound the Wogans and the Herberts together were close and strong. While Herbert devoted himself to the rulership of much of mid and south Wales – among the more important of the many offices he held were the justiciarship and chamberlainship of the Principality of South Wales – he depended on men like Sir Henry Wogan to govern Pembrokeshire on his behalf.

Working alongside Wogan was the earl’s illegitimate brother, also called William Herbert, who was appointed treasurer of the earldom of Pem­broke. In a distinguished career lasting over forty years Wogan had served both kings and earls of Pembroke in both peace and war. He had certainly come to the attention of the Welsh poets who praised his achievements and celebrated his longevity with the epithet Hir Hen . Following his war service in France under Henry V, Wogan moved into local administration serving as deputy-justiciar of the Principality of South Wales for periods in the 1440s and 50s, as well as steward of the lordships of Pembroke, Haverford and Pebidiog. Unfortunately, kinship and war were to claim his son and heir, Sir John, who died fighting in support of his uncle Earl William. The earl and his younger brother, Sir Richard Herbert, were executed following their defeat at the battle of Edgecote in 1469, another of the battles that marked the continuation of the Wars of the Roses, and among their companions in death was a cousin of Sir William Perrot, namely, Jankyn Perrot of Scotsborough near Tenby.

That the Perrots drew closer to the Wogans is no surprise given the latter’s political pre-eminence in the county but the fact that their overtures of friendship were reciprocated and cemented in marriage is perhaps evidence of the Perrot family’s increasing prominence and growing economic strength. The marriage between William and Joanna was most likely arranged sometime in the 1460s by Thomas Perrot esquire and Sir Henry Wogan, when the latter’s power was at its height. Wogan was a realist and political pragmatist who served, prior to the Wars of the Roses, Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s regime as earl, and after the conflict began both Lancastrian (Jasper Tudor) as well as Yorkist (William Herbert) earls of Pembroke.  However,  if his tomb effigy is taken as evidence of  his true loyalty during the Wars of the Roses then he was a Yorkist at  heart. He died on 24 May 1475 and was buried alongside his wife in Slebech church in a finely carved tomb sporting their sculptured effigies. Close exami­nation of Sir Henry’s effigy reveals a Collar of the Order of Sun and Roses carved around its neck , an order established by the Yorkist king Edward IV (Fig. 2).16

Perrot effigies 001



Fig. 2: The tomb effigies of Sir Henry Wogan and his wife Margaret in Slebech Church. The effigies were drawn in November 1809 and published in Fenton’ s Tour through Pembrokeshire, facing page 294.

Sadly, apart from her will and brief notices in one or two genealogies, there is no evidence to suggest that Sir Henry’s daughter, Joanna, had ever existed. Only in death it seems did she make her mark on recorded history. Unlike her father she has no prominent tomb let alone and effigy to appreciate since it, alongside that of her husband, has been lost. The wills make clear that both husband and wife wished to be buried beside each other in the chancel of Haverfordwest priory before the image or statue of Saint Salvator. The fact that at least four generations of Perrots, and their wives, chose to be buried in the Priory of St. Thomas the Martyr, suggests that a family mausoleum had been established within the monastery (Fig. 3). Unfortunately for the Perrots, and Sir William and Joanna in particular, the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s witnessed the closure of the priory. So thorough had the destruction and plunder of the priory church been that, even after extensive excavation by archaeologists, no trace of their burial, let alone any stone sarcophagi, has ever been found.17











St Thomas Priory 001













 Fig. 3: The Priory of St. Thomas the Martyr, Haverfordwest. The ruins are depicted in a drawing by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and published in Fenton’s Tour through Pembrokeshire, facing page 207.

The best that can be done in relation to uncovering the living, breathing Joanna is to infer from the limited evidence available. For example, the Wogans were subject to the attention of the native bards who addressed poetry in their honour . This suggests that they may have been patrons of the bardic order and, if so, Welsh-speaking.18 It is instructive that for the first time in the history of the Perrot family the male children  of  Sir William and Joanna sported distinctly Welsh christian names; Owen and Jankyn. This, in turn, suggests that Joanna may well have exercised con­siderable influence within the household, and thus, was a strong character. Indeed, few women made wills in the late fifteenth and first quarter of the sixteenth century but the fact that Joanna is prominent among them  is further evidence of her individuality. It is fortunate for us  that  she expressed such a strong desire to make her wishes known  because  we would have no knowledge of the fact that she had her own priest, Thomas Harry, in addition to the household chaplain employed by her husband’s family, namely John Arnold.19 Tentative though the evidence is it is suffi­cient to suggest that Joanna Wogan, a mother of nine children and mistress of a large household, was likely a remarkable woman.

The Wills and Testaments

The number of surviving wills in Wales, and in  Pembrokeshire  in  par­ticular, may represent only a fraction of those that were drawn up during the sixteenth century. Many have been lost , mainly through neglect but also on account of accidents such as fire, which may explain why some Welsh counties have much higher ratios of wills to population than do others. Tudor Pembrokeshire can boast well over five hundred surviving wills of persons residing or owning property in the county between 1485 and  1603. The  vast  majority  of  these testamentary  records are housed in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, with the remainder lodged in the  National  Archives  in  Kew,  London. 20 For  the  most  part  the  latter represent the wills of  the very  wealthy, the landowning elite who, because they owned property in more than one diocese, were required to seek probate in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. For the vast majority of landowners, both gentry and non-gentry including the two testators refer­ red to in this article, whose property was located within the diocese in which  they lived, the bishop ‘s consistory court would have been sufficient to meet their needs . The only test demanded by the church court was that they have either goods or income to the value of £5 per annum in which case they  were classed as bona notabilia.

The consistory court was the chief court in the diocese and was almost always located and fixed within the cathedral church itself, or if not, then certainly within its precincts. It transacted most of the business of the diocese and represented the power of the bishop dealing with such matters as the discipline of the clergy, the licensing of teachers and preachers, the non-payment of tithes, matrimonial disputes, sexual misconduct and, of course, the proving of wills. Pembrokeshire lay at the heart of the diocese of St. David’s, the largest and most important see in Wales. Due  to its size and for administrative convenience the diocese was sub-divided into four archdeaconries, namely, Pembroke, Cardigan, Carmarthen and Brecon. Each archdeaconry was served by its own court, the lowest level of ecclesiastical court, with jurisdictions approximately the size of counties. In Pembrokeshire, as in a number of other sees in both Wales and England, the archdeacon’s court was peripatetic meeting in various parish churches throughout the shire such as in Dale, Pembroke, Tenby, Fish­guard and Haverfordwest. These courts would not normally be invested with the power to grant probate unless delegated to do so by the bishop, but given the sheer size of the diocese it seems that in St. David’s at least, this was the norm and not the exception. Consequently, whereas Sir William’s will was proved in the consistory court in St. David’s his wife’s will appears to have been proved in a court held in St. Mary’s church, Haverfordwest, before the bishop’s vicar-general Phillip Hywel. 21 Unfortunately, the probate records of the bishop’s consistory court dealing with Pembrokeshire, have largely been lost for the period before the mid sixteenth century.

According to the terms of an act of parliament passed in 1529 testators were obliged to satisfy the law in four key respects: they were required to ensure the ‘payment of their debts’ , the ‘necessary and convenient finding of their wives’, the ‘virtuous bringing up and advancement of their chil­dren to marriage’, and ‘charitable deeds … for the health of their souls’.22 Prior to the passing of this act custom and clerical advice, not to mention a degree of common sense, were the only guides available to the majority of testators in the construction of their wills. For the most part the wills of Sir William and Joanna would easily have satisfied the precepts of the law as defined in one of the first statutes enacted in Henry VIII’s so-called Reformation  Parliament.

Sir William and his wife were typical  testators in the sense  that both were ill and in imminent fear of death when they made their wills. Indeed, the majority of testators drew up wills when they were, to use  the standard phrase ‘ sick in body’ , and often well within a month of their deaths. However, the testator was always careful to include a  reference  to the fact he or she was, to quote Sir William, of sanus mente ac bone memorie [sound mind and good memory] when the will was drawn up otherwise it could either be challenged or declared invalid. Besides close family perhaps the most important person attending the deathbed was the priest whose job it was to offer comfort and to see to the dying testator’s  spiritual  welfare. Equally important was the priest’s  role as the scribe charged  with the task of drawing up the will to the testator’s satisfaction.  Curiously,  although John Arnold was employed as the family ‘s household chaplain it seems that the cleric most likely responsible for drafting Sir William’s will was Thomas Withe, Prior of the mile- distant monastery of St. Thomas the Martyr. Arnold figures quite prominently in Joanna ‘s will he being one of the witnesses and gifted 6s.  8d. for the saying of  prayers for her soul.

In addition to the household chaplain some families erected private chapels within their homes so that they could attend services  without having to attend the local church. There is no evidence to suggest that Haroldston possessed such a chapel especially given the fact that the local parish church lay less than a mile south of the house.23 Nevertheless, it is clear that the family took its spiritual welfare seriously since Joanna had her own personal house hold priest, patri meo spirituali, a man called Thomas Harry who was most likely entrusted with the task of drawing up her will. In fact of the seven witnesses listed  in the  respective  wills,  the law required at least two witnesses, all but two are identified as men of the cloth. Interestingly, only one person, David John Litt, appeared  as  a witness for  both husband  and wife.

It was customary for testators to make bequests to the church and in this respect Sir William and Joanna were especially generous. Indeed, patron­ age of church buildings was regarded by the more consequential gentry as one of the obligations of rank. Between them, Sir William and his wife left 16s. 8d. to repair the fabric of the cathedral church of St. David’s and £11 to the prior and priory of St. Thomas the Martyr. The latter sum represented about a tenth of the priory’s normal annual income .24 Gener­ally speaking, it was only those gentry with wealth to spare or who opted to be buried within the walls of a monastery that left money to the monks. Out of 153 Welsh wills examined in the period before the dissolution (ie pre- 1536) only nineteen contain legacies for monasteries. Given the existence of a Perrot family chapel within the priory the generosity shown by Sir William and Joanna is understandable. The testators were rather less generous to the Dominican Friary of St. Saviours located in the town of Haverfordwest to whom they bequeathed a combined sum of 10s. No doubt the preaching friars did not complain being grateful for anything the local gentry might leave them. Their most generous patron proved to be Sir Rhys ap Thomas who left them the princely sum of 40s. in his will of February 1525. 25

Interestingly, neither Sir William nor his wife left money for charity, make any bequests to the poor or to the community at large. So if, as has been suggested , evidence of ostentatious piety and generosity on the death bed ‘reveals as much about guilt for a misspent life as about spiritual intensity’,26 it is reasonably safe to assume that the Perrots were likely inclined towards the latter. It must be remembered that wills reflect the most pious sentiments their makers could muster in the face of death so that their testamentary dispositions reveal what was important to them at that point in time. Certainly, Sir William was mindful of the fact that he may well have forgotten to pay his tithe hence his bequest to the parish priest of Haroldston St. Issels 6s. 8d. along with his best velvet gown. Joanna too left the same priest 6s. 8d. but unlike her husband, who apparently was content to die without either mass or prayers being said for his soul, she left instructions to the effect that the monks of the priory in which she was to be buried, were to be paid the considerable sum of 30s. for a month ‘s worth of prayers. Evidently, between the prayers of the half dozen monks and those of John Arnold, Joanna hoped to avoid purgatory and speed her soul to heaven.

One gains the impression that of the two Joanna was far more inclined towards sincere religion than her husband. Sir William was a pragmatist and, above all, a businessman. Sir William and others of his class were in the business of wealth creation and in this respect his relationship with the church was as much commercial as spiritual. Even before the Reformation the church had been subject to the increasing encroachment of secular authority and secular interests. As far as the gentry were concerned those interests extended into the ecclesiastical property market in which benefices were traded and patronage transacted. Sir William was typical of his class in having the patronage or advowson of Pembrokeshire churches within his control. Certainly the churches of Castlebythe, Robeston West and quite possibly Walwyn’s Castle, together with their attendant glebes and other property, were in the hands of the Perrot family by the second half of the fifteenth century.27

Lay impropriation was rife in Pembrokeshire as it was elsewhere in Wales. For example, of the one hundred and fifty parishes that existed in Pembrokeshire at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the bishop of St. David’s held the advowson of no more than twenty-six . As the virtual owners of two, possibly three churches, Sir William had the legal right to appoint priests to these livings, a fact that even the bishop had to accept. Cases where the bishop refused to induct a priest presented to a particular benefice was quite rare, and the Perrots certainly suffered no such injury to their pride and power. In fact, one of the witnesses to Sir William’s will was a priest, Robert Welshman, he had appointed to Robeston West church as recently as January 1503. 28 Thus, Sir William appears to have been utterly conventional in his piety, in his attitude to the church and in his exploitation of it. If he was inclined to be a little more cynical than his wife then his dealings with the church and its clerics, some of whom he employed, may have been responsible for it. One might even be tempted to go so far as to claim that if religious piety interfered with secular interest, then secular interest would win.29

Those secular interests manifest themselves in Sir William’s will in which he made careful provision for his presumably, and as yet, unmarried daughters. Indeed, in the opinion of Judith Jones, ‘one of the main reasons for making a will was to provide dowries for unmarried daughters’ .30 If this is so then Sir William was not found wanting, since he bequeathed a grand total of £160, a considerable sum but one that was intended to attract the very  best suitors. The  variation  in  the amounts given to each daughter –  Alicia  received  £60,  Margaret £50,  Isabelle  £40  and Anne £10 – was a reflection of their different ages and potential for marriage. Having already settled cash sums on his eldest daughters, Maud, Jane and Joyce, all of  whom  were married by the time of their father’s death, it  is perhaps  not surprising  to learn  that the payment  of dowries could  put a strain  on a  testator ‘s  resources. As far as  his youngest  son,  Jankyn, was concerned it seems he had been enfeoffed with property in northern Pembrokeshire centering on the manor of Caerforiog situated roughly half way between Brawdy and St. David’s. Sir William and Joanna left no legacies to either friend or servant an omission that was a little unusual but not overly so. Faithful retainers were often rewarded with money or clothes, sometimes even with a plot of land, but the Perrots evidently felt disinclined to be so generous. On the other hand , their friends and servants may have received their reward personally from the testators prior to the making of any will. The fact that both wills are relatively short suggest that the testators were quite ill when they were made and so had little time with which to deal with matters of small moment.

Once they had drawn up their wills the task of discharging their provisions as requested by the testators was left to the executor[s]. It was the duty of the executor to see to the testator’s burial , distribute his goods, pay and collect his debts, and, if necessary , to be responsible for the upbringing of any children. Sir William did not depart from custom here when he appointed his son and heir, Owen, and his widow, Joanna, as executors. Eighteen months later Owen was again called upon to be the executor of his mother’s will. Ironically, Owen’s will, and that of his wife Katherine Poyntz, has been lost so we have no way of knowing how he disposed of the family’s wealth and  possessions.  From the  will of his son and  heir, Thomas, we know that Owen requested to be buried in the family mausoleum in Haverfordwest prior y. Thomas too was buried there, next to his father and grandfather, when he passed away in October 1531. 31 Thomas was the last head of the family to be buried in the priory before its dissolution in 1536.

In 1540 the government enacted the Statute of Wills  which  stated  that, henceforth, real and personal goods and property, moveable and unmove­able, could be devised in one legal document entitled the ‘will and testa­ment ‘ . This had the effect of  bringing together all the dispositions made by the testator which, had it been the law at the time of Sir William’s death would have yielded valuable information on the  nature,  extent  and location of the family’s landholdings. For this information prior to 1540 historians must turn to the Inquisitions Post Mortem, which unfortunately for Sir William, have been lost.32

Wills are undoubtedly a rich historical source that can yield significant amounts of information if used carefully and in conjunction with other evidence. Their survival is largely down to chance but with the general increase in record keeping from  the  mid-sixteenth  century  greater numbers of wills have been preserved. Pembrokeshire is fortunate in that  so many have survived post-1550 so that it should be possible to do what Judith Jones has done for Monmouthshire by calendaring, printing and editing for publication the 154 wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury that have survived for  that county between  1560 and 160I. It  is a mammoth  task but one well worth the effort.

The Last Will and Testament of Sir William Perrot. TNA, E.211/397.
Drawn  up: 20 May 1503.
Probate granted: 8 June  1503.

In Dei nomine Amen. Vicesimo die mensis Maii anno Domini millesimo quingentesimo tertio. Ego Willielmus Perrot de Haroldiston miles Men­ evensis dioceses sanus mente ac bone memorie videns periculum mortis meae mihi imminere condo testamentum meum in hunc modum. In primis do et lego animam meam deo patri omnipotenti ac corpus meum ad seppelliendum in Ecclesia Prioratus Sancti Thomae Martyris Haverford coram ymagine Sancti Salvatoris ibidem in cancello. Item do et lego fabricae Ecclesiae Cathedralis Menevensis decem solidos. Item do et lego Priori et Conventui Domus et Ecclesiae Sancti Thomae Martyris Haver­ford xli. Item do et lego parochiali Ecclesiae meae Sancti Ismaelis juxta Haverford meam optimam togam de velvet. Item do et lego fratribus Praedicatoribus Domus et Ecclesiae Sancti Salvatoris Haverford praedicti vs. Item do et lego rectori meo Eccldesiae Sancti Ismaelis praedictae pro decimis meis oblates vis. viiid. Item do et lego Anne filiae meae xli. Item

Fig . 4: A photograph of Sir William Perrot's will.  (Crown Copyright: The National Archives).

Fig . 4: A photograph of Sir William Perrot’s will.
(Crown Copyright: The National Archives).

do et lego Aliciae filiae meae lxli. Item do et lego Margarete filieae meae 1li. Item do et lego Isabelle filiae meae xlli. Ad earum honores maritandas et dotandas. Residuum vero omnium  bonorum meorum non legatorum do et lego Oweno filio meo et heredi meo et Joanne uxori meae quos ordino facio et constituo meos veros et legittimos executores ut ipsi ordinant et disponant pro salute animae meae proficere. Hiis testibus Thoma With Priore Domus et Ecclesiae Sancti Thomae Martyris Haverford antedicti, Domino Roberto Walsheman rectore Ecclesiae Sancti Andrea Apostoli de Roberston in Roos, Willielmo Leya rectore Ecclesiae de Langeme, David John Litt, et multis aliis ad tune ibidem praesentibus rogatis et specialiter vocatis.

Probatum fuit infra scriptum testamentum coram nobis Johanne per­ missione divina Menevens is Episcopo ac per nos approbatum insumatum ac legittime pronunciatum pro valore eiusdem administrationem omnium et singulorum bonorum debitorum et catallorum retroscriptum  testatorem et eius testamentum concernentium executoribus infranomin atis in forma jusisjurati commisimus per praesentes. Datum sub nos tro magno sigillo viii die mens is Junii anno Domini millesimo quingentesimo tertio et nostrae consecrationis anno septimo.


The Last Will and Testament of Joanna Perrot (nee Wogan) TNA, E.211/395.33
Drawn  up: 11 November  1504 .
Probate granted: 4 December  1504  .

In Dei Nomine Amen. Anno Domini millesimo quinge ntesi mo quarto undecimo vero die me nsis Novembris. Ego Johanna Wogan de Haroldis­ ton prope Haverford compos mentis tamen aeger in corpore videns pericilum mortis meae mihi imminere condo testamentum meum in hunc modum. In primis do et lego amimam meam Deo patri omnipotenti ac corpus meum ad sepelliendum in Ecclesia Prioratus Sancti Thomae Martiris Haverford coram ymagine Sancti Salvatoris ibidem in cancello. Item do et lego fabricae ecclesiae Cathedralis Menevensis vi s. et octo denarios. Item do et lego parochiali ecclesiae meae Sancti Ismaelis juxta Haverford praedictum vi s. et octo denarios. Item do et lego Priori et Conventui Domus et Ecclesiae Sancti Thomae Martiris Haverford praedicti viginti solidos. Item do et lego fratribus praedicato ribus Domus  et Ecclesiae  Sancti  Salvatoris  Haverford  praedicti  quinque  solidos .  Item  do et lego canonicis Domu s et Ec cle siae Sancti Tho mae Martiris Haverford praedicti ad cust odi endum placebo et dirige pro anim a  mea  per  spatium unius mensis triginta solidos. Item do  et  lego  Johanni  Arnold  de  Harold­ iston praedicto capellano ad orandum pro anima mea sex solidos  et  octo denario s. Residuum  vero  omnium  bonorum  meo rum  no n lega torum  do et
]ego Oweno Perrot Armigero  filio  meo quern ordino,  facio   et  constituo me um verum executorem ut ipse ordinat et  dis ponet  pro  salute  animae meae prout ei melius videbitur expedire Deo placere  et  animae suae proficere. Hiis testibus Domino Thoma Harry patri meo spirituli Domino Johanne Arnold, Rollando Tanner, David John Litt et multis aliis adtunc ibidem praesentibus rogatis et specialiter vocatis.

Probatum approbatum  et  insumatum  fuit  presens  testamentum  coram nobis Philippo Howell in legibus bacallario vicario generali ac custode spiritu alium Episcopatus Menevensis quarto videlicet die mensis Decem­bris anno Domini millesimo quinquentesimo iiii pro tribunali ibidem sedente in ecclesia Beatae Mariae Virgini s Haverford ipsoque testamento pro legittimo demonstrato et pronuntiato ejusdem testamenti executio fuit commissa  executori infra scripto in forma jurisjurati examinato diligenter et  per  nos   admissio.  In  cuius  rei  testimonium  sigillum   nostri  officii apposuimus die mensis et anno Domini  ut  supra. Postea  venit  et com­putavit cum officiario et ab omni ulteriori compoto seu ratiocinio salvo jure cuiuscumque dimisus est.
1. William Hinde, A  Faithfull Remonstrance of the Holy Life and  Happy  Death of  John  Bruen (1641), 4-5.
2. E. L.Barnwell, Perrot Notes (London, 1867), 146,  15 2-3 . I
3 .  The  documents  that  make  up  the  Perrot family  archive  lie  scattered among different classes of records held in the National Archives, London. The archive also contains an hitherto unknown original will drawn up by Henry Perrot (d.1491),  uncle  to Sir William . T[he] N[ational] A[ rchives] , E.210/   5025 .
4 . 2 1 Henry VIII, c.5: Act concerning fines and sums of money to be taken by the ministers of bishops and other ordinaries of Holy Church for the probate of Testaments ( 1529).

5. Felicity  Heal  and  Clive  Holmes, The Gentry in  England  and Wales 1500 – /700
(London,  1994), 350.
6. Tom Arkell et al. (eds.), When Death Do Us Part. Understanding and Interpreting  the Probate  Reco rds of  Early Modern England (Oxford,  2000),
. 146.
7. Glanmor Williams, The Welsh Church  From Conquest  to  Reformation  (Rev. ed n., Cardiff,  1976), 461.
8. Ibid ., 46 l.
9. Ibid., 462.
10. Arkell et al. (eds.), When Death Do Us Part, 55.
11. For  information  on Sir William and the Perrot Family  refer to Roger Turvey, ‘ The Perrot Family and their Circle in South-West Wales During the Later Middle Ages’ (University  of Wales, Swansea, Ph.D. Thesis, 1988).
I 2. The civil  war known  as the Wars of  the Roses  was a dynastic struggle between the noble houses of Lancaster and York. It consisted of a sequence of plots, rebellions and batt le s that took place in England and Wales between 1455 and 1485/7. Generally speaking the  conflict  did  not  have a  significant  impact  on the lives of the ordinary people  but  landowning  families  suc h  as  the  Perrots and Wogans found themselves  pressurized  into supporting  either  one side  or the other.
13. For the most complete history of the Wogan family, see Francis Green, ‘The Wogans of Pembrokeshire ‘ , W[est] W[ales ] H[istor cal] R[ecords], VI, 169- 232;  VII, 1-26.
14. For the most recent and detailed account of Wogan’s life and caree r, see R. A. Griffiths, The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages, I, South Wales, 1277-1536 (Cardiff,  1972), 150-1.
15. For the  Herberts, see  R. A. Griffiths , ibid., 155-6   ,  186 .
16 . Richard Fenton, A Historical  Tour  Through  Pembrokeshire  (London ,  18 I 0). Had  the  Perrot  tombs  survived  the  dissolution  one  wonders  how  they  might have compared to the  finely  carved  tomb-effigies  of  Sir  Henry  Wogan  and  his wife  Margaret  (wrongly  ascribed    by  Fenton   to  Roger  Barlow  and  his wife).
17. Sian Rees,  ‘The Augustinian  Priory’, in Dillwyn Miles (ed.), A History <l the
Town and County of  Haverfordwest  (Landysul, 1999), 55-78.
18. For the Wogan family’s relationship with the Welsh bards, see E. J. Evans, ‘Noddwyr y Beirdd  yn Sir Benfro’ (University of Wales,  A berystwyt h, M.A . T hesis , 1972), xiii-xviv.
19. Arnold was admitted to the priesthood as a novice in 1490. His reward for faithful service was his presentation to the parish of Castlebythe in which he was still inc umb ent as late as 1535. Francis Green and T. W. Barker, ‘Pem­ brokes hire Parsons’, WWHR, II, 266.
20. A full list of the St. David ‘s Probate Records, 1556-1858, can be found in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. The records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are stored in the National Arc hives in Kew, London and can be consulted and purchased online .
21. Phillip Hywel may be identified as the same man who was listed as vicar of Brawdy in 1503 (as Phillip  ap  Hywel)  and  rector  of  Narberth  in  1511.  Green and Barker, ‘ Pembrokes hire  Parsons’ , WWH R, l, 250; III, 212.
22. Arkell et al. (eds.), When Death  Do  Us  Part, 24.
23. In May 1450 a cousin of Sir William, John Perrot  of  Warren,  success full y petitioned the Papal Curia for a portable altar. Calendar of the Pa pal Registers, 1447-55, 488.
24. The priory’ s regular annual income was  said  to  be £ 133  in 1535  so  there  is every reason to believe that  it may  have  been a little less  thirty  years earlier at the  time  of  Sir  William’s death.
25. Glanmor Williams,  The Welsh Church, 566.
26. Heal and Holmes,  The  Gentry, 352.
27. Roger Turvey, ‘ Priest and Patron: A Study of a Gentry  Family’s  Patronage  o f the Church in south-wes t Wales in the later middle ages’ , Journal of Welsh Ecclesiastical Hi story, Vo l. 8 ( 19 9 1), 7-1 9.
28. Green and Barker, ‘ Pembrokeshire Parso ns’ , WW HR, Il l, 26 1.
29. lt is possible that I have done Sir William Perrot a disservice here given his possession and regular use of  the so -called Haroldston Calendar.  Described as a book containing prayers, written in latin on expensive vellum, to God, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, followed by the penitential Psalms and Litany, the calendar is more than simply a prayer book. It combines the attributes of a book of hours, a religious calendar and a family bible . T he prayers are orna­mented  with  rough coloured  drawings,  some  of  which  are  later additions, of saints  and of scenes  from the  life of Christ. Much of the  writing  is in  Sir William ‘s own hand and it is clear the Haroldston Calendar was a much­ treasured possession. l am c urrently working on an edition of the Calendar which is  housed  in  the  British Library, Add. MSS  22720.
30. Judith Jones, Monmouthshire Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canter­bury, 1560-160 I  (Cardiff,  1997  ), 27.
3 1 . It is interesting to note that Thomas Harry also acted as a witness  to, and may have been  the  scribe  responsible  for,  the  will  of Thomas  Perrot  in  1531.  His service in the Wogan and Perrot households extended over a period of  at least thirty years. TNA, Prob. 11/ 24 /8 .
32 . T he IPM of Sir Owen Perrot (d.1521) and that of his son Thomas (d.1531) are still extant.
33. Unfortunately, the will of Joanna Wogan is currently listed as ‘ missing’ . Appar­ently, this happens occasionally especially if documents have been returned to the wrong place or put with another document. I should like to thank Vanessa Smith of the Record Copying D epartment at Kew for her efforts to locate the document on my behalf.







By  Andrew Breeze

Pembrokeshire is above all the land of St David; so it is excellent for the county that studies on him flourish.1 This note adds to them by looking at a problem in early lives of the saint. It deals with the location of litoninancan in the Welsh life, which the Latin life by Rhygyfarch had explained, a little obscurely, as the monastery of Maucannus or Depositi monasterium. Nora Chadwick wrote long ago that this place ‘has not been certainly identified ‘ , though she commented further (after G. H. Doble) that Rhygyfarch and the anonymous Welsh hagiographer apparently used a common source.2  This is a significant point and we shall return to it.

Rhygyfarch’s eleventh-century account begins with a dream of David’s father, King Sanctus of Ceredigion. An angel tells him to go hunting by the river, where he will find a stag, fish, and a hive of bees. Food from these is to be sent to the monastery of Maucannus to be kept for the king’s unborn son. A later gloss says the spot ‘to this day is called the Monastery of the Deposit (Depositi monasterium)’. The gifts are symbolic of the quali­ties David will have. Honey shows wisdom; fish, abstinence from liquor; and the stag, victory over the Devil (because stags were believed to kill and eat snakes, thereby providing a Christian emblem).3

The same story is told in the Welsh life of St David, preserved in the Book of the Anchorite, which was written in 1346 at Llanddewibrefi in Ceredigion, but is now in Oxford. In this version the angel tells the king how he will come across stag, fish, and bees by the river Teifi, and that the places Lin Henllan and Liton Mancan will belong to St David until Doomsday. The first is easily recognized as Henllan (SN 3540), three miles east of Newcastle Emlyn. Yet the whereabouts of the second has been perplexing. The question was discussed as follows by Simon Evans.4

Evans noted that the manuscript reading is litoninancan. It is easy to take the last part as Maucan (Modern Welsh Meugan), the ‘Maucannus’ of the Latin life. But what is liton, and how does it relate to ‘Deposit’? Evans believed that, since the Welsh  for  ‘deposit’  is adneu, the  place  would be the Llann adneu mentioned in a twelfth-century poem on David by Gwynfardd Brycheiniog. This Llannadneu has been taken as Llanarthne, in the Vale of Tywi eight miles east of Carmarthen.5  Evans thought  that satisfying. Yet there are five objections to it. Llanarthne has no association with St Meugan; it does not explain litoninancan; it is far from  the Teifi; it is not etymologically linked with adneu; and there seems no other evidence for its having an early monastery. 6

More to the point is Evans’s identification of litoninancan or (better) Liton Maucan with Llanfeugan in north-east Pembrokeshire, a suggestion first made by A. W. Wade-Evans. Evidence for this survives on the modern map, where Pistyllmeugan, Penlanfeugan, and Dyffrynmeugan are all marked within the parish of Llanfair Nant-gwyn (SN 1637), five miles south of Cardigan. This makes far better sense as the place mentioned in the Latin and Welsh lives. It is near the Teifi, and so where a king of Ceredigion might exercise power. It was also the centre of Meugan’s cult, which remained strong even in the sixteenth century. It had a chapel of  St Meugan that was pulled down in 1592 by order of the Privy Council, since it was a centre of Recusant pilgrimages.7 It is hence the obvious place for the clas or early monastery of St Meugan mentioned in accounts of David.

Yet that leaves liton unexplained. Evans listed  various attempts  to solve the crux. The American scholar Slover thought it was a corruption of Irish liath ‘grey’, Meugan being the Irish saint Mancan. This is not probable. Evans himself proposed links with Old Welsh litu, Modern Welsh llydw, ‘host, household , community’. But to take this as meaning ‘ monastery ‘ strains the sense. Still less convincing  is Lloyd-Jones’s  suggestion that it represents Old Welsh liton ‘servant, captive, community’ and thus ‘monastery’. A new approach seems called for, based on elements known to occur in Welsh toponyms.

Let us look again at Llanfeugan as represented by modern  ‘Penlanfeugan’. It should offer a clue as regards Liton Maucan . Yet Liton could  hardly  be a corruption of so obvious a place-name element as llan. However, llwyn ‘grove ‘ , which in Old Welsh was luin, is another matter. Llwyn has been corrupted to llan at various places in Wales. Llangwaran, a small place in Pembrokeshire, used to be ‘Llwyngwaran’; Llanliddan  or  St  Lythans  in the Vale of Glamorgan was once ‘Llwyn Eliddon’.8 This allows an answer for Liton Maucan. If Liton were a corruption of Old Welsh luin ‘grove’ or perhaps luyn by way of luon, it would solve various problems. Here llwyn has the advantage of being common  in Welsh  place-names, especially in Pembrokeshire, as with Llwyncelyn ‘holly grove’ near Cilgerran, Llwyn­gwair ‘hay grove’ (or ‘bent grove’?) near Nevern, and Llwyn-yr-hwrdd ‘ram’s grove’ five miles from Llanfeugan.9 So there are grounds for emending the Book of the Anchorite’s litoninancan to Luin Maucan or Luyn Maucan ‘ Meugan’s grove’, now Llanfeugan. If so, that confirms the identification made by Wade-Evans and Simon Evans, suiting a location not far from the Teifi, where a king might present gifts acquired while hunting, giving rise by whatever means to this place’s other name from the depositum or ‘entrusted gift’ passed on by Sanctus.

Since the above was written, a new volume on St David has come to hand, which mentions Meugan ‘s monastery of the ‘Deposit’, but does not say where it was. 10 So there is reason to stress that the evidence suggests it was Llanfeugan, in the parish of Llanfair Nant-gwyn, some twelve miles west of Henllan, by the Teifi. It may be added to the pre-Norman monasteries in Wales shown in John Koch’s recent atlas. 1 1

If the above reasoning is sound, it has various implications. It means we can identify without hesitation a reference to Llanfeugan in both the Latin and Welsh lives of St David. (Llanarthne on the Tywi can be ruled out as a red herring.) It provides evidence for a monastery in north Pembroke­shire which was of early importance and was thought to predate David himself, though it later came into the hands of the St Davids community. Bridell, which adjoins Llanfair Nant-gwyn and shared the cult of St Meugan, has a church dedicated to David, suggesting an ancient link. This proposed solution of two long-standing cruxes, if it has substance, would therefore strengthen St David’s Pembrokeshire associations.

It also casts light on Meugan, a much less familiar figure. The contradictory accounts of him by hagiographers, especially on his dates, imply they knew as little of him as we do, although even in the seventeenth century his feast day (25 September) was celebrated by Catholics and Protestants alike.12 The cult of Meugan extended far in space as well as time, being more widespread than that of any other Welsh pilgrim saint. There are churches dedicated to him in Anglesey, Denbighshire, Brecknock, Somerset, Cornwall, and north Brittany.13 Simon Evans quoted Canon Doble on Meugan as ‘an abbot, probably an abbot-bishop, of an important monastery in Demetia’, who shared in a great missionary effort beginnjng in the sixth century that by its completion had  ‘covered Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany with churches and monasteries’ .14 If so, small wonder that his memory was treasured at Llanfair Nant-gwyn, and perhaps further at the mysterious Rosnat mentioned in the lives of Irish saints who studied there (which was not Whithorn in Galloway, despite what has been said). 15 The effects of his cult appear on the map of Cornwall, where the villages of Mawgan-in-Meneage (near Helston) and Mawgan-in-Pydar (near New­ quay) are called after him. 16 It  may also  be that Geoffrey  of  Monmouth (d. 1155) took his name and  his reputation  as a sage resolver of disputes for his own Maugantius, who encourages Vortigern to believe the strange story of Merlin’s conception  and  who ends up as Bishop of Silchester.1 7

We  may go further. Meugan has been identified as the author of prayers, scriptural in their language, in London, British Library, MS Royal 2.A.xx, of the later eighth century .18 If this ascription is genuine , they will be a rare ‘ text from the British Church of the early sixth century, predating St David. If they were written at Llanfeugan, they will be the oldest literary text to survive from what is  now  Pembrokeshire.  However,  dedications to Meugan  in Cornwall  also attest his  influence  there. Lives of  Irish  saints, as already noted, mention their studying at a British monastery called ‘Rosnat’, ruled by a certain ‘ Maucennus ‘ (=  St Meugan). 19  Recent discus­sion enables us to identify this place as Old Kea,  on  a  creek  of  Truro River.20 Llanfeugan in Pembrokeshire may thus be linked with Old Kea in Cornwall as sites significant  in  the  sixth -century  British  Church.  These links  are  strengthened  again  by  identification  of  ‘ (Wincdi-)lantquendi’ (which is obviously corrupt),  where the youthful St  Dayid  studied.21 There are ground s to take this as likewise being Old Kea, which is recorded in Domesday Book as Landighe ‘Church of Kea ‘ , a form lurking behind the ‘lantquendi’ of David ‘s Latin life. So it can be seen that Llanfeugan  had far-flung  contacts.

If, then,  litoninancan in  the Welsh  life of  St  David  is  correctly  identified as Llanfeugan, it provides evidence for a Dyfed clas that predated David himself, and was the focus of an international missionary effort. It would have had a seminary and centre of studies that looked to Old Kea in Cornwall, as well as Brittany. There would have been a coming and going there of visitors from British lands beyond Wales. Yet David was to eclipse the fame of Meugan, so much so that (even though his  cult  persisted into Elizabethan times) the fame of his shrine had faded in Norman times, being recognized only in the 1930s by such scholars as A. W. Wade-Evans and Canon Doble. Thanks to their efforts, it seems possible to see once again at Llanfeugan a major centre of Christianity in sixth-century Pem­brokeshire, one in its day as influential as St Davids itself.


I. 0. N. Dumville, Saint David of Wales (Cambridge,  2001).
2. Nora Chadwick, ‘ Intellectual Life in West Wales in the Last Days of the Celtic Church’, in Studies in the Early British Church , ed.  Nora  Chadwick  (Cam­bridge, 1958), 12 1-82,   at 136.
3. Vitae Sanctorum  Britanniae, ed. A. W.  Wade-Evan s (Cardiff, 1944) , 150 .
4. The Welsh  Life of St  David, ed.  D. Simon  Evans (Cardiff,  1988), 22.
5. Hen  Cerddi Crefyddol, ed. Henry  Lewis (Caerdydd,  1931 ), 190.
6. J. E. Lloyd, A History (d.Wales (2 vols., London, 1911),  I, 158 n.165, 268.
7. Francis Jones, The  Holy  Wells of Wales  (Cardiff,  1954) , 209.
8. R. J. T homas,  Enwau Afonydd a Nent ydd Cymru (Caerdydd, 19 38), 50.
9. B.  G.  Charles, The Place-Names of Pembrokeshire (Aberystwyth, 199 2).
10. Richard Sharpe and John Reuben Davies,  ‘ Rhygyfarch’s Life of St David’ , in St David of Wales, ed. J. Wyn Evans and J.M. Woodin g (Woodbridge, 2007) , I07-55.
11. J. T. Koch ,  An  Atlas for Celtic Studies (Oxford, 2007), map 22.
12. John Hughes, Allwedd neu Ago riad Paradwys i’r Cymry, ed. John Fisher (Caerdydd, 1929) ,  C   I ; Y  Llyfr  Plygain  1612 (Caerdydd , 1931), 25.
13. E.G. Bowen, The Settlements of the Celtic Saints in Wales (Cardiff, 1954)   , 90-1.
14. G. H. Doble, Lives of the Welsh Saints, ed. D. Simon Evans (Cardiff, 1971), 52-3.
15. John  Morris, The Age of Arthur (London,  1973) , 357.
16. 0. J. Padel, A Popular Dictionary of Cornish Place -Names (Penzance, 1988), 117-18; The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, ed. Victor Watts (Cambridge,  2004), 404.
17. Catherine Daniel , Les propheties de Merlin et la culture politique (Turnhout, 2006), 18.
18 . David Howlett, ‘ Orationes Moucani: Early Cambro-Latin Prayers’ , Cambridge Medieval  Celtic  Studies,  xxiv  (1992) , 55-74.
19. D. N. Dumville et al., Saint Patrick (Woodbridge, 199 3),  142-3 n. 63.
20. Bewnans Ke: The Life of St Kea , ed. Graham Thomas and Nicholas Williams (Exeter,  2007),  xxxviii.
2 1.  Rhigyfarch’s  Life  of St David, ed. J. W. James (Cardiff,  1967), 7, 32 .