Category Archives: Wales

Who owned Wales?

There’s a great opportunity to help make a fantastic digital resource relating to land in Wales in the mid-19th century. Using tithe maps, the Cynefin Project is creating a picture of land ownership, occupation and use, as well as the increasingly unpopular tithing system, across the country. The documents are not too difficult to read, and there is a wealth of fascinating material here – about who did what, and who owned what. Once it is all done, this will be a really valuable resource, for those interested in particular individuals, places, industries. I have already noticed some interesting material on how much land was held on trust, and concentrations of ownership in particular individuals (and, in one I’ve just done, Eton College). Feeling more than a little Rebecca-Rioty about it all!

Find the project at: http://cynefin.archiveswales.org.uk/en/ and do a few pages!

[22/06/2016] Working my way through some parts of Monmouthshire. Fascinating material on use of Welsh and English in this border area. Mostly English personal names, but still a lot of Welsh names for fields. There’s a Ph.D. in there for somebody.

 

 

‘Friends and enemies: ‘suffragette’ incidents in Abergavenny, 1913’

Gwen Seabourne, ‘Friends and enemies: ‘suffragette’ incidents in Abergavenny, 1913’

(abstract of a paper given at the University of Bristol Law School, June 2014)  

The National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in Abergavenny in August 2013, and, leading up to it, there seemed to be particular reasons to suspect trouble: the militant suffragettes’ arson campaign was at its height. Wales, Abergavenny and the Eisteddfod had been targeted in the recent past, and two suffragette hate-figures, Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary (and north Monmouthshire MP) and Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, were expected. An anonymous Welshman threatened, in a letter to the press, to shoot any suffragette attempting to disrupt the Eisteddfod. Extra police were hired and other security precautions taken.

 

There was, in fact,  no direct attack on the Eisteddfod. Suffragettes were, however, reportedly present, leafleting. There was some apparently genuine destruction by ‘militant suffragettes’ in Abergavenny (the burning of a cricked pavilion and a hayrick), and also an case of a young man from Abergavenny creating a hoax ‘suffragette’ incident in nearby Llangattock shortly afterwards.

 

Until comparatively recently, there was an accepted narrative that suffrage campaigning, and particularly militant violence, was largely not acceptable to liberal, nonconformist Wales. It was not, however, entirely true, and it bears some reconsideration: see the painstaking work of Beddoe, Masson, Johns and Wallace,

 

The Abergavenny cases are good correctives to a too simple view of Wales as not interested or hostile to ‘the cause’ and the WSPU militants in particular as disruptive middle class English imperialists trampling all over cherished Welsh cultural institutions. It is worth considering why setting up this opposition was and has remained attractive.

 

‘Welshness’ is not and was not, in any case, an unproblematic thing, so that it is unrealistic to expect (or construct) a single ‘Welsh’ response to, or view of, suffragettes. And if Welshness in general is problematic, it is particularly so in Monmouthshire in general, and Abergavenny in particular: one only has to look at the Abergavenny Chronicle’s reports of wrangling over the holding and financing of the Eisteddfod there to see that that is true.

 

It is interesting to note, by way of postscript, that the version of Welshness of the Eisteddfod, with its emphasis on the language would have its own ‘militant’ phase, half a century and more later.

[I plan to publish a full – length paper on this topic in due course. For further reading, see, in particular, A.V. John, ‘Run like blazes: the suffragettes and Welshness’; and R Wallace, The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales, 1866-1928 (Cardiff, 2009).]

Recent read: D. Beddoe, Out of the Shadows

Not a new book, but one I’ve just got around to reading, Deirdre Beddoe’s Out of the Shadows: a History of Women in Twentieth-Century Wales (Cardiff, 2000) is well worth tracking down. A sweeping treatment of 100 years of women’s history, and discussion of the distinctive Welsh experience. I spent a fair bit of time nodding in agreement, and noting echoes of the life of my own grandmother – particularly in references to the iconic figure of the Welsh Mam.

11/4/2014.

Recent read: R Wallace, The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales 1866-1928 (Cardiff, 2009)

DRAFT

Yes, I know it’s not new, but I have just getting around to reading this. It was a pleasure to read something outside my usual historical period, to broaden out rather than going into ever greater detail. The book itself is clear, thorough and unquestionably filled a need. It is surprising, really, that the Welsh aspects of the suffrage campaign had not been treated in sustained form like this before 2009. Given the targeting of Lloyd George and McKenna (a Monmouthshire MP) by the WPSU and the complex interaction between nationalism, the language, trade unionism, nonconformity and the campaign for votes for women, it is a fascinating area. The chapter on anti-suffrage campaigning was particularly good, and, having seen many bone-headedly misogynist newspaper articles (and some truly Vogon-level anti- suffrage poetry) from Wales in this period, it was a revelation to me to learn about the enlightened pro-suffrage line of the Cambrian News.

GCS

13/3/2014

A Hereford hanging: lynching, lack of due process or lawful?

The Easter 1457 record and report of a Hereford appeal make intriguing reading.  I will be examining several aspects of this case in my forthcoming book on women in the medieval common law. It is also of great interest for the history of Herefordshire and the Welsh marches in this troubled period, for the history of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ and for the history of  subjects’ rights and due process of law. The case is Agnes Glover v Walter Devereux, William Herbert and others, YB Pasch. 35 Hen. VI f. 57b-58b; Seipp 1457.022. I identify this with KB 27/784 m. 85 (AALT image 180).

Agnes brought an appeal against Walter and several others (thirteen others are named in the plea roll) for the felonious homicide of her husband, John Glover, dyer.

The accused defended themselves by saying that the dead man had been convicted. at a session of the peace held at Hereford, of aiding and abetting ‘J.W.’, the murderer of one ‘J Vowant’, (who might, I speculate, be a Vaughan, connected with, or to be identified with Watkin Vaughan, killed in 1456). JW and the deceased husband were, they said, arrested tried, pleaded not guilty but convicted and hanged. The accused said that they were ready to show this and that they were not guilty of felony.

The Year Book dwells on the argument as to whether this was correct pleading, or whether they should just have pleaded ‘not guilty’. Were things different when someone in authority, as opposed to some stranger, had executed a man, and his widow claimed that this was done without proper process or warrant? There are some interesting discussions of the rights of widows and heirs of felons more widely, and of the scope of orders for execution.

The report gives more information about the accused – prominent men many of whom seem connected to the Herbert/Vaughan families. It also sets out Agnes’s case. She or her lawyer made the hanging of John Glover sound as much as possible like a lynching.

Most of the accused did not turn up. Matters dragged on and in the end, Agnes appears to have given up (or settled the case informally) and the accused were acquitted. We cannot know whether John Glover was indeed guilty, but, even if so, Agnes probably had little chance against the combined influence of the men she had tried to take on.

Gwen Seabourne

11/1/2014

Postscript

The case took a few more twists and turns as I pursued it backwards in the King’s Bench Plea Rolls. There are relevant entries on KB 27/781 Rex mm. 1d and 26d (AALT images 592 and 650) and KB 27/782 Rex m.22 (AALT image 299). The homicide in question was indeed that of Walter Vaughan. The part of Agnes in proceedings becomes more interesting – she was initially herself on trial as an accessory, but was acquitted because the indictment was insufficiently specific. There may have been some confusion about her husband’s name as well – some records call him John Dyer, others John Glover, Dyer. But he was accused as a principal not an accessory = the year Book report is confused on that point, perhaps because there were other accessory accusations in the case – with regard to Agnes, and with regard to the large group involved in John Glover’s hanging.

St David’s Day thoughts

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant hapus!

In celebration of St David’s day, I had a bit of a search for Cambrian-themed entries in the Old Bailey archives.

The archives give much evidence of the presence of a large and Welsh-speaking Welsh community in eighteenth and nineteenth century London. There are several early eighteenth century adverts for Welsh Books, particularly religious works. (e.g. OA17041220), evidence of Welsh charitable activity and organisations like schools and chapels (e.g. t17310428-16, t17910413-27, see also http://www.cymmrodorion.org/our-history). Community cohesion only went so far, however, and when a Welsh woman pleaded in Welsh for another Welsh woman to save her from being taken up for theft – she was unsiccessful (t17940219-31,)

There are numerous examples of individuals speaking Welsh only or having limited command of English. A prisoner might have to have an interpreter at his trial (t18890204-246). In one case, a man’s inability to speak English seems to have slowed down medical assistance, after he had been stabbed (t17381286-38). In 1746, Jane Evans’s lack of English told against her when she tried to argue that she had planned to buy the two English-language books (including Milton’s Paradise Lost) which she was accused of stealing (t17460226-17). Others were disbelieved when they claimed not to be able to speak English (see, e.g. t17800112-23 and t17870912-48, in which a rape complainant struggles with English and seems to be mocked or put down by Garrow).

Mockery and insult of the Welsh is not hard to find. The old Welsh woman murder victim in t17340227-51 seems to have been mocked by the murderer, and being Welsh was used as an insult or a matter for teasing in several cases (e.g. t17660514-25, t18210718-76, t18410614-1705). The barbarous nature of the Welsh was assumed by those buying Bibles to ‘make the Welsh and highlanders Christians’ (OA17450726). Even in 1910, we see being Welsh equated with being a liar (t19100718-35). Useful and often commercially successful as they were, the Welsh had much to put up with in the alien world of Llundain.