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Help and advice for Pembrokeshire Farming circa 1580-1620

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Pembrokeshire Farming circa 1580-1620

B E Howells, National Library of Wales journal, 1955, Winter. Volume IX/2 pp 239-250

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is the first part of three, including some tables, extracted by Gareth Hicks, Dec 2002.

See also Part 2

See also Part 3


One of the most disturbing aspects of the present state of Welsh historical studies is the general lack of attention paid to agrarian history, and the almost complete absence of detailed local studies, which alone can provide a firm foundation for the creation of a general survey of Welsh social development. In this series of articles an attempt will be made to modify the position so far as one Welsh county is concerned, and to outline the salient characteristics of Pembrokeshire farming in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries---the relative importance of livestock and crop farming, the economic, social, and legal position of the yeoman and husbandmen, and the physical appearance of the land they exploited.

Throughout it will be necessary to bear in mind the blurred though significant division of the county into Welshry and Englishry, which may be related, with some reservations, to the distinct difference in topography between the northern hundreds, with their extensive tracts of rough pasture, and the lush, fertile, lowland hundreds of the south. This 'Landsker' was never quite a simple and straightforward line of demarcation between the English and Welsh parts of the shire, even during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, the heyday of Anglo-Norman colonisation in South Wales. During favourable phases in that period of expansion, the invaders established settlements in what was by George Owen's time regarded as the 'Welshry' of Pembrokeshire, and even in southern Ceredigion, though these areas, geographically unsuited to the imposition of traditional English methods of farming upon the landscape, and open to Welsh influences and attacks from the north-east, proved resilient and virile enough to crack the thin veneer of English influence imposed by the Anglo-Norman conquests, so that the old Welsh way of life survived the waves of English colonisation in Dewsland, Cemais, Cilgerran, and part of Narberth hundred, and held its own to a large degree until the opening of the twentieth century.

By Elizabeth's reign when, for the first time, numerous records illustrate the life of this rural society---even the towns were rustic in nature---, landowners of Welsh origin held large tracts in South Pembrokeshire, and farmers bearing Welsh names frequently occupied the farms of Castlemartin, Roose, and Deugleddy, while the reverse process was taking place, possibly on a smaller scale, in the north. The two societies, English and Welsh, were interacting and fusing, and in the process the Welshman, though possibly not the Welsh language, was fending well for himself. So far as the purely material aspects of life go, something of a Welsh Renaissance may be discerned in the life of the county, with the Owens of Orielton, the Meyricks, and the Bowens of Trefloyne standing at the apex of local social life, and merchants such as William Gwyn of Haverford and John Gronowe of Tenby playing a key role in the commercial life of the shire.

The vast majority of men in Elizabethan Pembrokeshire lived close to the land : either they farmed themselves, or else, much less commonly, they traded in the agricultural products raised locally, loading the small barks from the creeks of Milford with goods which were carried generally to Bristol or some other western port. Nevertheless, despite the modest but significant growth of trade, and the importance assigned to coal export in the contemporary port books of Milford, the society of Elizabethan Pembrokeshire was moulded largely by the demands of the land, and of the farmers and labourers who worked upon it.

The most fruitful source of detailed information concerning the nature of farming in the period under review is undoubtedly the large collection of probate records relating to the diocese of St. David's, which is now housed in the National Library of Wales. The inventories attached to these wills were drawn up almost immediately after the funeral by a few friends or neighbours, 1   and they contain a list of  'all and singular the goods' of the deceased---the household furniture and equipment, the implements of agriculture, the livestock, and all the crops in the ground. The wills most frequently encountered are those of yeomen and rich husbandmen, though more rarely the testaments of squires whose lands were concentrated within the county, and even those of a few poor labourers, may be found.

From the standpoint of the agrarian historian, the inventories attached to wills emanating from the hundreds of Cemais and Cilgerran are inferior to those of the rest of Pembrokeshire, because they do not state in detail the types of crops which had been sown, as wills from other parts of the county do. In this respect a clearly-marked local usage comes to light, for the compilers of inventories in these two hundreds never stated whether the testator had planted wheat, oats, rye, beans or peas: they simply glossed over the subject by valuing collectively all the 'crops in the field'. It is evident, too, that a detailed picture of the arable farming of the testator can be obtained only when the inventory of his goods was made between February and August when the crops were in the soil, for in winter only wheat and rye would be planted, while in the autumn the harvests would be garnered safely into the bulging 'haggards'   2  of the farmers, and the land would be bare of corn.


Pembrokeshire farmers of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries usually had more money invested in livestock than in crops, and this was, perhaps unexpectedly, even true of Castlemartin, famed in pre-Conquest days for its crops 3  as well as of the Welsh hundreds of the north with their wide expanses of..................

  • 1. W. G. Hoskins, Essays in Leicestershire History (Liverpool, 1950), p. 182. Most of the data from which this article has been constructed have been culled from the wills and inventories noted above, and where individual farmers are mentioned, it may be assumed that their wills furnish the information which is quoted, unless specific reference is made to a different source. Apart from these wills, the writings of George Owen of Henllys remain almost the sole source of information for Pembrokeshire farming at this period, and an attempt is made here to test the strength of his statements in the light of alternative evidence. On a number of points, however, he remains almost the sole authority, and his conclusions are incorporated freely in the present article at certain points for the sake of preserving a balanced view of the subject.
  • 2.  'Haggard' is the word used in Pembrokeshire dialect to denote the enclosed space near the farmhouse where hayricks are usually erected. Usually the stacks of corn are built within it also.
  • 3.  'Amhynny y diharhebir o heid llonyon' (Pen. MS. 12-Heng. MS. 202). This reference is taken from J. E. Lloyd, A History of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest, vol. 1, 2nd ed. (London, 1912), p. 265, n. 212.

 ....................... waste. John Gibbon of St. Florence, for instance, who probably farmed about fifty-two customary acres, had less than twenty acres under crops when he died in May 1605. His wheat, oats, peas, beans, and barley were collectively worth only £7  3s. 8d., whereas his livestock were valued at more than £26, more than half his total wealth of just under £47. Few Castlemartin farmers had less than a third of their wealth walking on four legs, and it is unusual to come across a farmer whose crops were valued at a higher rate than his animals. This characteristic was, as might be expected, even more true of Dewsland, Cemais, and Cilgerran than of the southern parts of the shire, for here a combination of racial tradition and geographical conditions conspired to put an even heavier premium on livestock. In going through inventories relating to Cilgerran, one can find a number of farmers who appear to have planted no crops, probably because their farms occupied hill country only. This was exceptional, for in this fairly isolated county, each farmer tried to be as self-sufficient as possible, so that specialisation never went so far as in regions closer to large centres of population, such as the midland counties of England.

Another fact which emerges from a close analysis of the data provided by these inventories is that in all parts of the county farmers were investing as much money in sheep as in cattle; hence the importance of wool exports in the economy of the county at this period should not be underestimated. Thus Lewis Poyer's seventy sheep at Lamphey were worth more than his thirteen cattle, while in the neighbouring parish of St. Mary's, Pembroke, Richard Froyen had invested £4 in sheep and      £3 5s. 4d. in cattle. Richard Webb of Prendergast owned sheep to the value of £5  6s. 8d., whereas his cattle were valued only at £4  13s. 4d. This situation existed in the north of the county as well, for at Letterston John David Philip Henry had £13  10s. 0d. invested in sheep as against £9  6s. 8d. tied up in cattle, while in Cemais the eighty sheep of David Thomas ap Ievan of Nevern were worth almost four times as much as his four cattle. The same was true of Cilgerran hundred, and examples to illustrate the importance of sheep rearing within the mixed farming economy practised in all parts of the shire might be multiplied scores of times.

The local sheep were small, producing the coarse wool which gave such a bad reputation to Welsh woollens, though they were still an important source of revenue to the county, the wool selling at from 8s. to 10s. a stone   1 : moreover, the poor quality of their wool was, to some extent, offset by the proverbial sweetness of their flesh. A notable expansion in sheep raising and wool production had taken place during the sixteenth century, despite repetitive murrains, though this trend was accompanied by a decline in local weaving and a corresponding increase in the export of raw or unworked wool.   2  This period saw the virtual death of the export trade in local freizes which had been such a notable feature of South Wales commerce since at least the fourteenth century, for gradually, throughout Elizabeth's reign, traders from Bristol, Barnstaple, and Somerset nosed their way into the southern................

  • 1. George Owen, The Description of Penbrokeshire (Cymmrodorion Record Series, No. 1), part i, p. 56.
  • 2. E. A. Lewis (ed.), The Welsh Port Books (1550-1603) (Cymmrodorion Record Series, No. XII), p. xxxiii. of the shire, sailing over twice a year to buy the wool, while the farmers of the north drove their wool to the weekly market at Cardigan, where middlemen bought it for conversion into 'white clothes', which would be purchased then by Shrewsbury merchants.   1

This development caused a good deal of concern locally, as may be seen from the writings of George Owen, 2  and from the following quotation from an order by the local justices of the peace, which was issued in 1607 in pursuance of a reply by the Privy Council to a petition from the Pembrokeshire towns:

Their lips have taken knowleidge that the decaie of the said toune of Tenbye as of other townes in thies partes hath chiefelie growen by the losse and discontinuence of the trade of clothinge which proceedeth speciallye because the woll which bath usually heretofore bin publiquelie soulde in the open markettes and faires is now by sinister practizes carried and conveyed into secreate and obscure places and there uttered and soulde underhand unto strangers who carrie and convaye away the same oute of the countrye so as the people and inhabitantes thereof and the townes therein are not imployed or sett on worcke therewithall as in former tymes they have bin, to the hindrance and decaie of the said townes.   3

To remedy this state of affairs, the justices directed that wool should be sold only in the market towns of Haverfordwest, Pembroke, and Tenby, so that the 'clothiers of the lande' should have opportunities to buy the raw materials they needed. Only Troy weights were to be used for the weighing of wool, and these were to be kept in the possession of the mayors of the three towns or of their deputies. 4   Large-scale producers of wool were exempted from this order, for clothiers and others were permitted to 'buy the wolles of gentlemen and others the inhabitantes of this countie that have greate quantities of woll to be soulde ... exceeding the nomber of twentie stones at every sheare, at the dwelling houses of the said gentlemen and inhabitantes'.  Nevertheless, despite this decay in local cloth production, it is evident from inventories that a good deal of rough handwoven cloth was still being produced locally for home consumption.

Turning from sheep to cattle farming, attention may first be drawn to George Owen's discussion of the rearing of 'cattell as oxen, steeres, bullockes, heiffers and kine of the countrie breed, which of late yeares is greatlie encreased more then in tymes past; as a comoditie that (particularly) yealdeth proffitt with lesse chardge to the owner, but generallie not soe comodiouse for the commonwealth as the tillage, by reason it procureth depopulation and mantayneth lesse people at worke: this trade of breeding cattell is used much in all partes of the shere but most in the Welshe partes and neere the mountaines ...'    5

In a rural society still chained to the certainty of lean times or famine whenever a poor harvest was brought on by unseasonable weather or ill-comprehended animal or crop diseases, all possible sources of food were exploited, and hardy,..................

  • 1. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, p. 57.  
  • 2. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, p. 148.
  • 3. Poyston MS. 58.
  • 4. Many references to the keeping of the standard weights and measures of the town occur in the Haverfordwest Corporation Records of this period, now housed in the National Library of Wales. The Privy Council was, throughout the later sixteenth century, striving to replace Welsh customary weights by standard units.
  • 5. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, p. 56,

 .............. dual-purpose cattle were to be found on most farms. The Castlemartin Black, a modern development of the traditional county breed, is today regarded as one of the finest dual-purpose animals, while Charles Hassall wrote at the end of the eighteenth century that 'the cow of this district is very fine-boned, with a clean light neck and head, small yellow horns inclining upwards, good chine and loin, round long barrel, thin thigh, and short light leg ... There is not perhaps in the kingdom, a breed of cattle more profitable to the grazier, or that prove better in the scales of a butcher'. 1  Generally speaking, most farmers seem to have kept more dual-pupose than beef animals. Taking a few examples at random, we may observe how in  1601  Lewis Stock of St. Elvis had four kine and heiffers and two steers, while in 1603 David Griffith of New Moat had twelve kine and heiffers and ten steers. When John Gibbon of St. Florence died in 1605, he had thirteen kine and heiffers and seven steers, while seven years later John Hellier 'the elder' of Lamphey had nine kine and heiffers and seven steers in his stalls.

Still, many of the cattle on the Pembrokeshire farms of this period were specifically beef cattle which were sold, usually at the summer fairs, to middlemen and drovers, the first steps down tbe muddy, unkempt, Pembrokeshire lanes beginning a journey which ended usually in the slaughterhouse of an English city butcher. The absence of weekly cattle markets within the shire was often turned to good account by unscrupulous landlords, 'for the poore man wantinge money and having cattle to spare cannot have money for the same till the summer faires come, which beginne not before the 16th of June and end in November ... and by this meanes the ritche man eateth up the wealth of the poore man'.  2

The large summer cattle fairs were of great importance in the life of the farming communities of Elizabethan Pembrokeshire, for they would be attended not only by the folk of the countryside, but by some eight or ten shrewd drovers from North Wales, as well as butchers and skinners from the towns of south-west Wales. Looking at the great fair of Eglwyswrw between 1599 and 1602,   3 f or instance, we may observe how Elys ap Lewis, a drover from Llanelltyd in Merioneth, was coming down from the north with a considerable number of cattle. In 1600 he drove as many as thirty-four cattle to the fair, and other Merioneth drovers were doing the same, the most prominent of them being Hugh Goch of Llangelynin, David ap Hoell David ap Robert of Llanfachreth, David Lloid William of Trawsfynydd, and Rice Griffith of Llanelltyd. Robert John ap Robert of Bodferin in Caernarvonshire came to the fair in 1600 with seven cattle, while a few other drovers made the journey from Montgomeryshire. Dealers from Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire were, of course, much more numerous. The internal trafficking of the drovers within Wales is a subject which deserves attention almost as much as the cattle trade between England and Wales.

  • 1. C. Hassall, A general view of the agriculture of the county of Pembroke (London, 1794) p. 45.
  • 2. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, p. 141.
  • 3. E. A. Lewis, 'The Toll Books of some North Pembrokeshire Fairs (1599-1603)', The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, vol. vii, part iii, November, 1934.

William Thomas, Lewis John, and other butchers from Carmarthen were always prominent among the milling crowds, and so were the merchants of Tenby and Haverford, who bought up hides which were processed in their tanyards before being loaded in the little boats which carried them across the channel to Bristol or some other western port.

Frequently Elizabethan farmers would hire out their cattle instead of raising them on their own land, and this practice is frequently alluded to in their wills. When William Somer of Haverford made his will in 1603, he left his wife, inter alia, 'two kyne wch remaneth now in the custodie of William Gybmyn of the parish of Camrose', while when John Heiller of Whitwell's goods were prized in 1612 it was found that John Thomas owed him 11s. for the 'hire of kyne'. Progressive farmers disliked the practice, for although it meant a steady income, much larger profits could be made if the cattle were retained by the farmer on his own land. George Owen reckoned that forty cattle, worth perhaps some £63, would yield an annual profit of £58  3s. 4d. on the farmer's own land, but only £10 if they were hired out, and estimated that four hundred sheep worth £66  13s. 4d. would yield £33  16s. 8d. at home, and less than a third of that sum if they were leased out. 1 With his over-tidy lawyer's mind, he was always fond of such precise calculations. He also concluded that it was more advantageous to set sheep to rent rather than cattle, for whereas the owner was guaranteed the return of his flock of sheep by the lessee at the end of the year, this was not so when cattle were leased from him. Moreover cattle brought in a much greater profit if raised at home than sheep did. Owen, a practical farmer who kept accounts religiously, knew what he was talking about: £50 of the £58  3s. 4d. profit likely to be made from keeping the forty cattle at home would, he thought, accrue from the sale of cheese and butter, so that dairy farming was evidently considered a paying business locally. The butter was sent usually to Bristol, while Pembrokeshire cheeses were generally sold in the neighbouring counties or sent to Ireland for the provision of the Queen's garrisons there.   2

On most of the Elizabethan farms of Pembrokeshire, horses were far more numerous than oxen, though affers were still used frequently to pull the carts and draw the ploughs through the thick Pembrokeshire mud. Horses and oxen frequently pulled the plough together, the Welshmen frequently using two oxen with two horses pulling before them, while in the Englishry both horse teams and mixed teams were common, six animals being used for the purpose. 3  Welsh tillage was regarded as shallow and light, and perhaps the ploughing of the Englishry was not much better, for two centuries later Hassall observes

The Welsh plough is in common use in Pembrokeshire, and perhaps a more awkward unmeaning tool is not to be found in any civilised country. It is not calculated to cut a furrow but to tear it open by main force. The share is like a large wedge, the coulter comes before the point of the share sometimes and sometimes stands above it. The earth board is a thing never thought...............

  • 1. George Owen, The Taylors Cussion. Ed. E. M. Pritchard. London, 1906, part i, ff. 34d-35d.
  • 2. E. A. Lewis, Welsh Port Books, p. xxv, and Owen, Pembrokeshire, part i, p. 57.
  • 3. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, pp. 62-3.

................. of, but a stick (a hedge stake or any thing) is fastened from the right side of the heel of the share, and extends to the hind part of the plough. This is intended to turn the furrow, which it sometimes performs, sometimes not, so that a field ploughed with this machine looks as if a drove of swine had been moiling it. 1

On the average the prices of oxen were much higher than those of horses, though many of the latter seem to have been imported. The horses bred locally were hardy though not elegant, short-jointed nags of just over fourteen hands and very serviceable on the roads if not overweighted, so it is hardly surprising that the struggle between the horse and the ox was not decided finally until well into the nineteenth century---only a century or so before the tractor came to clear the Pembrokeshire stables. For centuries men were undecided whether it was more economical to use horses or oxen for farm work,   2 and most Pembrokeshire farmers compromised by keeping both. More patient and stronger than the horse, the ox was also more resistant to disease and needed less expensive harness, while when its best working days were over it could be sold to a drover or cattle dealer, who would frequently shoe it and walk it into England. On the other hand, although the horse ate more oats and had to be shod, a large number of agricultural writers favoured its use because it was much faster---an important consideration in an area of changeable and turbulent weather---and it was much better on stony ground.

Apart from these animals, the Welsh farmers of the north would often keep a few goats, while in all parts they kept more swine than they needed for domestic consumption, the surplus animals being driven the long miles eastward to the English plains. The drovers' cavalcades, never very orderly at the best of times, must often have presented a motley appearance to the travellers who passed them on the roads, and their progress was extremely slow. 3  Apart from the animals, most farmers kept a few poultry prying around the yards, 'haggards', and barns, and geese were prominent though turkeys were conspicuously absent .   4   Behind the farmhouse, and sheltered from the north and north-east in the garden or orchard, a few beehives would be placed to fertilise the fruit trees and provide a welcome store of honey and wax. 5


It may be permissible to stress, once more, that the Pembrokeshire farmer of the late sixteenth century was not first and foremost a producer of crops, though occasionally, here and there, a few specialists like Moris Walter would cater for the ....................

  • 1. Hassall, p. 18.
  • 2. J. H. Clapham and E. Power, (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe from the decline of the Roman Empire, vol. i, Cambridge, 1941, pp. 132-5.
  • 3. See C. Skeel, 'The cattle trade between Wales and England from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries', T.R.H.S., fourth series, volume ix, 1924.
  • 4. The turkey was first discovered by the Spaniards in Mexico in 1518, and it seems to have been introduced into Britain some twenty years later.
  • 5. See Thomas Tusser, Five hundred points of good husbandry, ed. W. Payne and S. Heertage, London, 1878, for Tudor views on bee-keeping.

 .................. export market. 1  Nevertheless, arable farming was important because the area still had to provide most of its own food : the basic requirements of the county had to be met locally, so a necessary minimum of the land was kept under the plough.

On the other hand, George Owen definitely states that corn was the chief commodity for bringing money into the shire, which to his mind was a county more suitable for tillage than for pastoral farming, though it may be suspected that he overestimated the importance of grain exports as a result of his predilection for tillage as opposed to cattle raising. 'Amonge the cheefest and greatest comoditie that this sheere uttereth', he said, 'I take corne to be a comoditie that of all other deserveth most to be cherished, and the procurer thereof most to be favoured, for that tillage above all other the trades of England maintaineth most people and requireth most handes to labor'.  2  His assertion concerning grain exports is, however, not fully borne out by the port books of Milford for the period 1559-1603, though it is true that around the turn of the century substantial quantities of grain were being exported to Ireland, presumably to feed the English armies engaged in suppressing Tyrone's rebellion. Owen's statement may give rise to even greater doubts when it is remembered that the importance of pastoral farming in the economy of Pembrokeshire was but palely reflected in the port books, for many of the animals sold at the local fairs made their way overland to the English markets. Moreover the large quantities of wool, cloth, skins, and dairy produce which were exported by sea should serve as a warning against an over-ready acceptance of Owen's generalisation.

In all parts of the county, oats was the most important single crop, and even in Castlemartin he was an exceptional farmer who had a larger acreage under any other crop. In this hundred, wheat was sown almost as extensively as oats, while barley came a fairly close third. Rye was much less important --- few farmers sowed more than half an acre---though peas and beans were frequently grown. The same order of priority may be observed in Roose so far as the three principal crops of oats, wheat, and barley were concerned, and it is noticeable that here peas and beans were much less common than rye: the same was true of Deugleddy. There was a tendency in Narberth for barley to replace wheat as the second most important crop in the Welsh parts of the hundred, and here again peas and beans were rarely planted. The only hundred in North Pembrokeshire for which detailed evidence is available, Dewsland, had a preponderance of oats, with barley coming second, followed closely by wheat : once more peas and beans were frequently cropped, and they may have been sown as extensively as rye.

Both rye and wheat were sown in autumn on land which had lain fallow for a year, and this helps to explain why the latter was less important than in South Pembrokeshire, for here the survival of a good deal of open-field agriculture went hand in hand with a traditional pattern of crop cultivation in which winter corn found no place. Partly because oats had always played a more important part in their domestic economy, and partly because the practice of allowing cattle to graze...........

  • 1. P.R.O. Exchequer Proceedings (Equity) concerning Wales, E 112/62/2 and E 112/62/10.
  • 2. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, p. 54.

.................. over all the open fields after the harvesting of the crops precluded the sowing of winter corn, few Welshmen had sown rye and winter wheat in the earlier part of the century while, as cattle breeders, they valued oaten straw greatly as winter fodder. 1  Nevertheless, the sowing of winter corn was becoming more common in Owen's day as the enclosure movement gathered momentum in North Pembrokeshire. Earlier a spring wheat called 'Holie Wheat' had been grown in the Welsh parts, though it was somewhat delicate. Barley was formerly sown on a larger scale in the north than it was by the end of the sixteenth century: it was usually sown in May after three ploughings and was regarded as a difficult crop to grow, 'for there is but little lande that will delite this grayne', though it was also exceptionally profitable. Peas and beans were sown in the stubble of former crops after a single ploughing, and were favoured by Owen because they yielded 'great profit and encrease beside that it bettereth the soile'.

Elizabethan farmers were fully aware of the problems of soil exhaustion and fertility renewal, and a proverb of the day ran that 'a man doth sande for himself, lyme for his sonne, and marle for his grand child',   2  this referring to three of the principal methods used to refertilise the soil. Limestone was found in many southern parishes, and most of them had kilns where it was burnt down ready for use on the land. Often, to judge by later usage, the limestone would be transported coastwise to the little creeks of North Pembrokeshire, where it would be converted into lime in little kilns sited near the beaches before being carted inland, with great effort, to the little farmsteads scattered over the acid land. Sand was carried inland by packhorses from suitable beaches like Newport and Dinas where it was left uncovered in large quantities by the ebb tides, though it was with an air of astonishment that George Owen noted how the farmers of Castlemartin were digging sand from the dry land burrows of Freshwater East, adding with an air of pious scepticism, 'God send it good success'.

Marling, practised at Llangwm as early as the thirteenth century, 3  occupies a good deal of Owen's attention. He declares that there were two types of marl, namely stone marl, which was dug mainly from quarries in Deugleddy 'and casteth yerely a fleece of sande', and the clay marl of Cemais and Emlyn, which was cast on fallow land in summer. In addition, the farmers living close to the rocky inlets would gather seaweed for their fields, while the ubiquitous method of keeping cattle by night in moveable folds, at all times of the year save midwinter, was practised more especially in the north, though Owen deplored the practice because it produced only about a third of the quantity of manure which would be obtained if the animals were kept in permanent folds and yards upon straw or some other bedding. These methods, together with 'denshiring', 4 were used to restore the.................

  • 1. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, pp. 61-2.        
  • 2. Owen, Penbrokeshire, part i, p. 75.
  • 3. See B. G. Charles 'The second book of George Owen's "Description of Pembrokeshire" ', The National Library of Wales journal, Vol. V, No. 4, Winter, 1948, p. 276, for the traditional account of the introduction of marling into Cemais, and Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series II, Vol. III, 1852, pp. 262-4.
  • 4. 'Denshiring' or 'Devonshiring' was the name generally given to the process of beating and burning which was used widely in Elizabethan Pembrokeshire. Documentary evidence for its use in Devon goes back well into the thirteenth century. See W. G. Hoskins and H. P. R. Finberg, Devonshire Studies (London, 1952), pp. 319, 330.

......................... fertility of the land, which was oftened plundered badly by farmers seeking quick returns, this undesirable tendency being one of the inevitable corollaries of the prevalance of short-term leases and high entry fines which will be examined at a later stage.

( to be continued)

B E Howells


NAME                                                 PARISH                   YEAR            WHEAT-OATS -PEAS AND BEANS-BARLEY-RYE -ACRES SOWN


Andrew Owen Thomas           Penally                1602              5         6                 -                   -         1/2        11 1/2

Lewis Poyer                          Lamphey               1603              5          -                1 1/2              6          -        12 1/2

Richard Froyen            St. Mary's, Pembroke     1603              3         7                    1/2               -          -        10 1/2

John Gibbon                      St. Florence              1605              6         6                  1 1/2               6          -        19 1/2     

Griffith Philip                      Manorbier              1612              4         6                    -                 -           -        10

NAME                                                 PARISH                   YEAR            WHEAT-OATS -PEAS AND BEANS-BARLEY-RYE -ACRES SOWN


Thomas Fortune                Robeston West          1582             2         4                   -                 2          -            8

Howell ap Rees                    Camrose                1600             1         1 1/2              -                 3/4             -            3 1/4

John Crowther                   Llanstadwell             1602             2         3                   -                 -           -            5

John Griffith, clerk              Treffgarne               1603             1         4                   -                 -           1            6

William Johnes                   Haverford                1604             3       10                   -                2            1/2           15 1/2

NAME                                               PARISH                     YEAR            WHEAT-OATS -PEAS AND BEANS-BARLEY-RYE -ACRES SOWN


Richard Webb                   Prendergast              1582             4 1/2     3                 1/2                  6          1/2              14 1/2

Richard Adye                     Boulston                 1582               4       15                 -                    2      1 1/2          22 1/2

Lewis Gibbon                   Uzmaston                 1601               3         3                 -                    2         -               8

Griffith Robin                  Clarbeston                 1604              1         6                  -                    2         1/4               9 1/4

Marie Eynon                     Bletherston               1606               1/4       4 1/8              1/8                  1/4        1/8             4 7/8

NAME                                             PARISH                      YEAR            WHEAT-OATS -PEAS AND BEANS-BARLEY-RYE -ACRES SOWN


Thomas Botterell               Lawrenny                 1601              2        3                   -               1 1/2     1/2              7

Thomas Chapell                 Begelly                    1604            1 1/2      -                   -                -           1/2              2

Robert Smart                     Narberth                   1605              -         2                   -                -           -                2

Mathew White                  Crunwear                  1609            1 1/2    11 1/2                  -                3           1/4            16 1/4

David Lewis Robert    Lampeter Velfrey           1610            1 1/2    20                   -              12           -             33 1/2

NAME                                            PARISH                      YEAR            WHEAT-OATS -PEAS AND BEANS-BARLEY-RYE -ACRES SOWN


Ievan ap William                Mathry                  1603             3 n2     10                  1/4              1 1/2        -             14 3/4

John David Philip Henry   Letterston               1605              3/4        8                  -               2          1 1/2          12 1/4

Lewis John ap Jevan      St. David's                 1605           1 1/2        3                 3               6            -              13 1/2

David Thomas ap Jevan    Granston                 1606           1 1/2      10                 1/4                2           1              14 3/4

Hugh Price, clerk                Mathry                  1606            1 1/2         3                 1/4               2            1/4              7 

  • 1.The following examples have been selected, not necessarily to support points made in the article, but to illustrate the type of material which is available in the inventories attached to Elizabethan and Jacobean wills. It must be remembered that all the acreages referred to are customary acreages. The customary acre of Castlemartin was equal to 1.19 statute acres, while in Roose and Deugleddy a customary acre equivalent to 1.77 statute acres was in use. In the Englishry of Narberth, the customary acre was intermediate in size, being 1.46 statute acres, while throughout the whole of North Pembrokeshire the customary acre was extremely large, containing 2.11 statute acres.
  • 2. In this instance, the acreage quoted is that of wheat and rye sown together in undefined proportions: probably most of it was wheat.


This table is far too detailed for copying here, I have only  included the table headings and names of the farmers involved with their separate Inventory Totals

To illustrate the detailed contents from the first entry;

Griffith Philip had 3 horses worth £3; 11 cattle worth £8; 16 sheep worth £1.6s.;  5 pigs worth 10s.; Inventory Total £31.15s.2d.


  • Manorbier: Griffith Philip, 1602. £31.15s.2d
  • Lamphey: Lewis Poyer, 1603. £42.0s.7d
  • Pembroke, St. Mary's: Richard Froyer, 1603. £28.12s.10d.
  • St. Florence: John Gibbon, 1605. £46.19s.2d.
  • ROOSE.
  • Talbenny: Robert Roche, 1601. £7.13s.0d.
  • Treffgarne: John Griffith, clerk, 1603. £42.7s.2d.
  • Clarbeston: Griffith Robin, 1604. £37.6s.0d.
  • Bletherston: Marie Eynon, 1606. £19.12s.9d.
  • Martletwy: Morgan Picton, 1604. £69.9s.9d.
  • Lampeter Velfrey: David Lewis Robert,  1610. £176.18s.3d.
  • St. David's: Lewis John ap Ievan, 1605. £16.18s.1d.
  • Letterston: John David Philip Henry, 1605. £51.4s.7d.
  • Nevern: Thomas ap Jevan, 1610. £16.0s.0d.
  • Moylgrove: Owen Gwyn, 1611. £30.12s.2d.
  • Clydey: David Thomas ap Jevan, 1605. £74.12s.2d.
  • Bridell: William ap Richard, 1611. £19.4s.0d.

Note ;

1. For each item, the number of animals or poultry is given first, and underneath it their value is indicated. It may be observed that occasionally the total value of the livestock does not tally with the sum given in the column headed 'livestock value', usually because goats and bees have been included in the latter total.