Category Archives: Wales

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.


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


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.



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



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 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.