West Glamorgan Farming, circa 1580-1620
F V Emery, National Library of Wales journal. 1956, Winter. Volume IX/4 & 1957 Summer. Volume X/1
Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales
These are complete extracts of these articles (Gareth Hicks 2002)
In the first part of a paper called 'Pembrokeshire Farming circa 1580-1620' 1 Mr. B. E. Howells points out the scarcity of detailed local studies in Welsh agrarian history. Quite unknown to him the present writer was using much the same source material in studying historical geography in the Swansea region, particularly the probate records housed in the National Library of Wales. 2 Wills and the inventories accompanying them are just as fruitful a source of information about farming in the Deanery of Gower as they are for Pembrokeshire. Fortunately wills from two dozen parishes in west Glamorgan, an outlier of St. David's in the hundreds of Swansea and Llangyfelach, found their way to the diocesan registry and now are available for study at Aberystwyth. They furnish a comparative account of agrarian conditions in this central region in South Wales, along lines set out by Mr. Howells for Pembrokeshire. But such an account demands one or two modifications in planning.
First of all, west Glamorgan has to make do without the foundation-stone of a George Owen. Mr. Howells acknowledges his debt to Owen, whose writings give such a graphic picture of Pembrokeshire in the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, the sort of keen observing done by Owen and his companion chorographers (such as Richard Carew in Cornwall, or Tristram Risdon in Devon) is not found in Rees Merrick, their Glamorgan counterpart. He was interested rather in the conventions of what Gough later called 'the progress of descents or revolutions of property' ; the structure and practice of his county's economy took up very little space in his pages. Moreover, Merrick's notes for the western hundreds of Glamorgan have been masqueraded for nearly half a century as part of the replies to Edward Lhwyd's parochial queries, a hundred years out of context. So there is a real need to fill the descriptive gap resulting from Merrick's omissions---from the agrarian standpoint they make him a mere shadow of Owen. The first thing to be done, then, is to try and fill the gap in setting the scene of Elizabethan Gower, to recapture the nature of the land and provide a background for the farming story. National Library documents make this possible, especially estate collections like the Penrice and Margam MSS. Through them we get a fair idea of the opportunities and limitations of the place before moving on to the second stage, where a farming community makes its entrance through wills and inventories. They were mainly self-sufficient, so what is more natural than to start studying their ways of living by seeing which crops Tudor and early Jacobean farmers grew in their Gower fields, in what proportion, and how?
- 1. The National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. IX, No. 2, Winter 1955, p. 239.
- 2. I gratefully acknowledge help from the Research Fund at University College, Swansea, enabling me to do this.
The west Glamorgan hundreds for which wills are available at Aberystwyth together make up the lands of Gower, one of the medieval Marcher Lordships in South Wales. Extending from the foothills of the Black Mountains in the north for thirty miles down to the Bristol Channel on its south coast, Gower reproduces in miniature the geography of Pembrokeshire. It falls into the same two regions of an upland north and a coastal plateau in the south. Inland from a line running diagonally across the neck of peninsular Gower the countryside lies higher, rising through ridges at five hundred feet to more than one thousand feet on broad summits like Mynydd y Gwair and the other mountains. Here the land surface is more broken, whether in the deeply-cut higher valleys like Cwm Dulais or in the wider troughs of streams entering the Burry estuary---which has always been to Gower what the Haven is to Pembrokeshire. This dissected surface rests on sandstones, grits and shales but its rocks are often masked by spreads of heavy, stiff boulder-clay. As a result, natural drainage is impeded and the relatively high rainfall poses a constant problem (except in high summer) of water-logged ground. Pastures have to be carefully farmed or else they become the 'rushy meadows' so common in the records. In earliest times most of this region was thickly forested with damp-oakwood, degenerating to alder scrub in the wetter pockets: traces of prehistoric settlement occur only at high levels on what is now the vast open moorland. Where soils are dry and warm enough for the plough they do not yield a notably rich reward, and over any long period of cultivation they demand lime. All in all the upland hundred of Llangyfelach is naturally better suited to pastoral farming.
The southern remainder of Gower, on the other hand, is good arable land. Peninsular Gower---the hundred of Swansea--- falls into place alongside the Vale of Glamorgan and Castlemartin as one of the low coastal plateaux of South Wales. Most of it presents a strikingly flat skyline at two hundred feet and moreover these plateau levels are underlain by limestone. Its drift deposits are lighter and more tractable than the usual boulder-clay. So the primary conditions for tillage are found here---easy working surfaces, freely drained soils with an intermediate loamy texture; a local climate without extremes, sunny and dry. Partly in response to these qualities of site, prehistoric settlement was very close there, and due to long habitation the natural woodland (perhaps thin at the start because of exposure) was cleared practically out of existence. But not all the peninsula can be described as limestone plateau : the general level is broken by a very important series of sandstone hills rising to six hundred feet. Their slopes are covered with rough grasses and have always been used as open pastures, for the hills follow a looping line through Gower and so most places on the plateau have easy access to them. Therefore almost every 'justment' common in the manors---their 'moors'---reached either on to these hills or lower, damper heathlands in east Gower. Common of pasture was also claimed in a cliff-top margin of varying width, where thin soil becomes even thinner and limestones push too near the surface. Special conditions recur round the Gower coasts generally, at Oxwich saltmarsh on the south and on a larger scale between Llanmadoc and Loughor on the north. Here the..........
............... saltings and bordering meadows were valuable farming resources, 'marsh' to supplement the 'moors'. Tracts of more-or-less fixed sand-dunes or 'burrows' also offered something in earlier times and a different economic context, in grazing, fodder or bedding.
All these natural features add up to make west Glamorgan, in upland and coastal Gower, a replica of eastern Pembrokeshire. O.S. maps at one-inch-to-the mile showing peninsular Gower and Castlemartin, for instance, resemble each other very closely when placed side by side. The likeness has come about because their common geographical foundations were built on by the same sequence of people. They were both anglicized by conquest at an early medieval date. In Glamorgan just as much as in Pembrokeshire we must remember a traditional division of the county into Welshry and Englishry. This can be traced at least partly to a clear contrast in geography between the northern hundreds, with so much rough pasture, and the lowland hundreds with their varied resources for mixed farming. Like the 'Landsker' it was not an exact line of separation between Welsh and English parts of the shire, even at the first impact of Anglo-Norman entry and appropriation after 1100. Gerald noted an English colony on the plains of Gower but it could and did make itself felt in parts of what gradually became the Welshry, geographically unsuited to an agrarian economy along English lines. Open to Welsh influences from farther north in the uplands, the old Welsh way of living survived there, despite imposed alien tenures. Anglicisation did not materially change the population or the landscape in Llangyfelach hundred, nor extend very far into the Welshry from the fortified boroughs of Swansea and Loughor. Consequently a Welsh-English divide in Gower was stablised along the no-man's land of common pastures reaching from Llanrhidian to Clyne, marking off upland from plateau.
When records multiply in the sixteenth century, and the farming community becomes something more than a shadowy outline, Welshmen were re-asserting themselves even in the heart of the Englishry. Their names crop up in surveys, leases and wills on an equal footing with established English ones like Baldwin, Browning, Cleypitt, Lamphey or Tovey (many of which are extinct now). Just one document, a survey of the fees of Kittle c. 1550, illustrates both this feature and the types of land farmed then in South Gower. 1 Half of Kittle was held by seven freeholders, two of them named Gronow and Hopkin, two of them Perkin and Franklin. There were fifteen customary holdings, at an average of eighteen acres apiece; among them Thomas ap Morgan ap Harry farmed twenty-four acres, and Thomas Taylor a tenement of eighteen and a half acres. Proportionally the various types of land in Kittle sum up very well the natural resources of lowland Gower, and how they all found a place in farm structure. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the total customary acreage (one hundred and ninety-six out of two hundred and seventy) was arable land, where the Kittle men worked good, well-drained soils on the limestone level. Next in importance were their meadows, ...............
- 1. Badminton MS. 5533.
.......... 11% of the whole, located on the lower valley-slopes of small streams draining off the moorland. Where such streams leave the bare commons and begin cutting across limestone country, they enter steep-sided gorges : these inland cliffs are sheltered and wooded, so full use was made of them as grazing and sources of timber---twenty acres of 'groves', 8% of the whole in 1550. Pasture (5%) and 'fursie land' (4%) were so alike in acreage that the pastures were probably quite late enclosures along the moorland margins, not yet improved enough for arable 'a close at ye moore calld ye wild pke'. 1 Gower graziers relied heavily on the open commons, and their farm acreages were overwhelmingly arable: a Horton lease (1551) including fifteen acres of arable land with thirteen of rough ground 2 was nothing unusual, while another (1572) caused the man to render four days 'earringe', four days carrying, a day reaping corn and a day's work in hay yearly, or pay 16d. 3 Customary services such as these point back to an earlier medieval condition of arable subsistence in coastal Gower. To match the Kittle record, a survey of Cwrt-y-Carne fee taken in 1575 4 shows both the Welshness of its farmers and a rather more pastoral mode of living inland in west Glamorgan. The property had passed from Neath Abbey and was gradually taken up by the Pryces, a Welsh family who, with others like the Seyses of Swansea, were starting to challenge older feudal families---Mansels, Herberts, Lucases---in terms of local power. Because of Cistercian colonising of the waste there, however, clearing and transforming much more extensively than was usual in the Welshry, the 1575 survey was not altogether typical. It had more arable than the small farmers who made up the bulk of the Welsh population, living in less favoured spots and untouched by alien stimuli like the Grange of St. Michael. Its one hundred and sixty Welsh acres of arable represented 59% of the total copy-holdings, offset by meadowland to the extent of 24%, and marsh, waste or wood to 17%: different proportions from those in Kittle. And what is more, only one of twenty-three tenants had an English name.
It would be wrong to leave this background of the picture without touching on coal-mining. As in Pembrokeshire, Elizabeth's reign saw a growing export trade in coal from the Swansea region. This sea-coal came from workings sited as closely as possible to tidal water, small pits which multiplied around Swansea Bay and in upper Llanrhidian and Loughor parishes in the west. There an industrial vocabulary---'works', 'colliers', 'pits'---appeared early in the leases, 5 and in wills or inventories as well. One Llanrhidian farmer died (1609) possessed of £5 in 'coales above the gound alredy wrought', and 'one Vayne of coles where upon there is two pitts open'. This corner of the Welshry was starting to benefit from its coal-seams, which could enrich the local population and attract immigrants.
- 1. Widespread enclosure of the wastes took place in this part of Glamorgan after 1550, but as part of the farming story it belongs rather to livestock and grazing.
- 2. Penrice MS. 3039.
- 3. Penrice MS. 3035. The Horton hay meadows were two miles distant near Oxwich marsh.
- 4. W. C. Rogers: The Swansea and Glamorgan Calendar, part I, Vol. 2, p. 138. Cwrt-y-Carne lies just over a mile to the north of the borough of Loughor, and adjoins the tidal marsh.
- 5. Penrice MSS. 3135, 4815. 5047.
But it was still a farming society in Elizabethan west Glamorgan. Everyone knew a fairly direct dependence upon the land and its produce, either cultivating or grazing it on their own farms, or marketing goods elsewhere in South Wales or in the West Country. Boats plied regularly from Gower harbours and inlets, small barks owned jointly by a number of farmers, but even those doing most of the carrying trade---like the Porteynon man whose quarter share in the 'Grace' was worth £4, who was owed £20 by local producers, and who often sailed to Ilfracombe or Barnstaple---owned their farm stock, worth another £20 in this case. The wills and inventories from which such specific quotations can be made are a rich source for agrarian history and geography. As in other parts of the country, those for west Glamorgan throw light on a wide range of middle people, from thriftier labourers (like John Knoile of Llanrhidian, leaving an estate of £5 in 1613, forgoing to his 'mayster 7s. which is behinde of my wages'), to wealthy yeomen such as Thomas Gammon of Bishopston who died worth over £260.
The average run of husbandmen aimed firstly at farming for their own needs in food or clothing. What do the inventories reveal, then, about their cultivation of the staple crops? Before attempting an answer two qualifications must be made. As Mr. Howells discovered in Pembrokeshire, the inventories give much more detailed information about crops in coastal lowland Gower than they do for upland parishes in Llangyfelach hundred. Some Welshry farmers were not credited with any crops, and where they are mentioned they hide under a collective term 'all the corn', or 'corn in house and ground'. In the Englishry, on the other hand, crops are often named separately and their acreage stated. Again, many inventories were put together in one or other of the winter months, when old farmers died through sickness or weakness. Those were slack times on the land, so only details of their winter sowing can be expected in the records, nothing like the completed cropping of July or August. Instead the harvest was stored as so much corn in their barns, in ricks in the fields, in the rick-yard ('haggard') and about the farmhouse.
West Gower had something of a name as a corn-growing region in the sixteenth century. Camden wrote of it as 'more noted for Corn than Towns', 1 and his Glamorgan friends were reliable correspondents. His remark is coloured and supported by an account of the Welsh coastlands made in 1562: there it was recorded against Gower---'the Countrey full of corne', just as around Milford Haven it was 'frutefull of corne and all good provision as Englande'. 2 Again, Camden's contemporary Rees Merrick referred in his Gower material to a remarkable concentration of corn mills along the Burry stream in West Gower--- 'upon burry ar 7 ..............
- 1. Britannia (Gibson's edn., 1695), p. 742.
- 2. 'Anglia Wallia', Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol. II (6th ser.), 1911, p. 425.
................. grist mills builded within a mile space', 1 though the density also reflected a relative scarcity of surface water on the limestone plateau. In view of these pointers, then, we might expect to find crops holding a leading place in farmers' inventories of that time.
Such is not the case. To start with, the Glamorgan wills altogether accord with Dr. Hoskins's finding that farm goods (crops, livestock and implements) account for six-sevenths of the total inventory, and the farmers' household goods for the small remainder. 2 But only very rarely did grain crops (whether in customary acres or in bushels) amount to more than a third of their total estate. Naturally these exceptions (where corn accounted for 35 or 40 per cent. of the whole) came from among the smaller farmers who were bound to stake out their self-sufficiency in vital provisions. But for most, particularly those worth between £20 and £50, corn made up a fifth of the whole; wealthier men generally had as little as 15% tied up in crops. Only three crops were outstanding in west Glamorgan then: as one Tudor will introduced them---'he shall sowe of all grain, namli wheate, otes, barli'. That, too, was their order of importance. Wheat and oats were most grown, seeming to have been cropped on more or less an equal basis: for present purposes detailed cropping can be worked out for a total of three hundred and sixty-nine and a half customary acres, all of them in lowland Gower:
Farmers' personal estate
Beans and Peas
Total sown acreage
# i.e., wheat acreages taken from inventories dated before March.
Clearly the smaller farmer cropped fairly evenly between the three grains, firstly securing his wheat either for bettering his barley bread or for sale : the middling men paid less attention to barley; while the most prosperous grew rather more oats for their stock, with barley far behind the two main crops. All this provides a starting-point for agrarian comparison, only the widest of which can be suggested here---e.g. differences in kind from farming elsewhere in Britain, as in open-field Midland counties like Leicestershire at that time, 3 or differences in degree from later cropping in South Wales itself, as in growing barley for malting on a very large scale in Gower. 4 The only way to see the areal extent of arable land at the .......
- 1. This is the correct reading from Peniarth MS. 120, fo. 496, at the National Library. A confused version is given in 'Parochialia', part III, Arch. Camb., 1911, p. 147. The course between Burry Head and Cheriton, along which the mills stood, is more like 3 statute miles.
- 2. 'The Leicestershire Farmer in the Sixteenth Century', Essays in Leicestershire History, 1950, p. 124.
- 3. Hoskins, op. cit., pp. 166-173.
- 4. Two centuries later the same lowlands had 1,841 acres of barley and 887 of oats: 'The Acreage Returns of 1801 for Wales', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, Vol. XIV, Part II, 1951,p.139.
...................... time of the inventories is to trace individual farmers, establish them in their tenurial place, see what proportion of their holdings was cropped and with what, and where or how their fields lay. 1 The range of acres cropped for different scales of farming 1580-1620 was as follows:
Farmers personal estate
Number of farms
Total sown acreage
Range of acres under crops
Rye is not mentioned in any of the Gower wills at the National Library, although it was grown in Pembrokeshire then. This is all the more surprising because field-names suggest that it had been grown in the past. Its place in winter cropping is hinted at by a medieval reference from Penmaen, where a grant c. 1320 included two and a half acres 'in Ricrofte'. 2 A three-acre field, 'rye close', adjoined Lunnon Moor in a 1583 survey' 3 and there was a half-acre 'Rye land' in Nicholaston, 1632 4 ; an old four-acre close, 'the Rye parke', in Stembridge, 1632 5; and a couple of acres known as 'the Rye lands' in Reynoldston, 1665. 6 Every one of these field-names occurs on the margin of cultivation in Gower; four are on the lower slopes of the sandstone hills, between the arable fields below and the rough open pasture above. In this they call to mind George Owen's remark about rye, for such is the soil where they occur. 7 Probably they record medieval encroachment on the waste (also suggested by field-names like 'beat' and 'breach') 8 where rye was grown as a hardy first crop. All the same, old farmers today speak of their 'rye patches' grown particularly for thatching straw, despite the absence of rye from the 1801 crop figures.
Peas and beans, too, were frequently sown in Castlemartin during this same period, but they were a quite unimportant crop in Gower. Only one or two farmers grew them in small patches as a minute fraction of their total acreage. But again there is room for thinking that peas and beans had figured more regularly in medieval Gower farming, within some kind of open-field rotation. They were recorded in granary and field in 1308 and 1326, 9 and there is field-name evidence besides. 10
- 1. Manorial surveys of the 1630s provide the surest means for doing so, with post-1620 inventories. A start made along these lines suggests that at least the middling husbandmen cropped the arable parts of their farms fairly completely.
- 2. G. T. Clark: Cartae et alia munimenta de Glamorgan, Part IV, 1893, p. 231.
- 3. C. Baker and G. G. Francis (eds.): Surveys of Gower, (Arch. Camb. Supp.), 1870, p. 309.
- 4. Ibid., p. 227.
- 5. Penrice MS. 1715.
- 6. Surveys of Gower, p. 268.
- 7. Sown in 'the shallowest and most gravellie grounde': The Description of Penbrokeshire (Cymmrodorion Record Series, No. I), Part I, p. 59.
- 8. Beat-burning or 'Denshiring' is mentioned by G. F. Fussell, 'Crop Nutrition in Tudor and Early Stuart England', Agricultural History Review, III, Part II, 1955, p. 98.
- 9. Wm. Rees: History of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in Wales, 1947, p. 54; The Black Book of St. David's, ed. J. Willis Bund, 1902, p. 289.
- 10. Penrice MS. 3039, 'the benehay' (1551). Just 40 acres of peas and beans were grown in the lowland parishes in 1801,
Then a number of farmers in Tudor and early Jacobean times had garden-sized plots of hemp and flax supplying raw materials for their wheels and looms, and occurring in their inventories as so many pounds of linen yarn or hemp alongside the more usual wool or woollen yarn. Finally, the Rector of Ilston's estate of nearly £l00 (December 1605) included --- presumably as part of his small tithes --- a half-bushel of hops, worth a shilling. Hops were relatively new in England, though grown in widely separated regions : here, anyway, from the Gower brewing-vats, comes an early reference to their flavouring South Wales beer.
Sometimes crops (for animal feeding) were mixed and sown together. Philip Clement of Porteynon in 1605 willed 'one acre of barly and oats that lieth in the feeld called the hill land'. The implications of this come out only on finding that another Clement died the following year renting 'a half acre of ground in the hill land' and 'an acre of ground in the middle fielde'. Such names imply an open-field system, and in fact it is safe to say that sixteenth century Gower had many remnants of such medieval cultivation, since disappeared. Close to most of the villages or hamlets that had been manorial nuclei, open lands survived in the form of relatively small fields (more in keeping with the West Country furlong than the Midland field) within which unhedged acres and their fractions lay side by side. So it is not surprising to find on the Porteynon Tithe map (1846) 'Middle Field' appearing as a composite piece of arable containing eight separate landshare strips, each of roughly one acre. But of 'the feeld called the hill land' the Tithe map gives no comparable picture; instead, a couple of long closes run obliquely to the two-hundred foot contour and the softened plateau edge, north of Porteynon village. Here lay Philip Clement's acre of mixed corn, and this location of the Hill-land gives some meaning to the name 'Middle' Field, as well as showing how partial the Tithe evidence is for field study unless reinforced with older sources. Other examples of mixed spring corn grown in landshares can be given. Small arable parcels of this kind were repeatedly cropped and limed, being so well suited to it, although enclosure was reducing their numbers and extent.
If natural conditions offered something to sweeten their ground, to improve and sustain their fields, Elizabethan farmers were not slow to accept. Wherever the limestone outcropped in peninsular Gower it was quarried and burnt down for lime. Liming is a traditional part of the farming scene there, of the first importance in keeping so much land in good heart through the centuries. Certainly most farmers in 1580-1620 could supply themselves with lime' mixing it with earth to make 'marl'. A rent-roll (temp. Henry VIII) has a Horton tenant renting 'a kill-place', 1 the customary term used in coastal South Wales---'every ffarmor hath a quarrie & Lime-kill uppon his own Land'. 2 The Oxwich jurors wrote in 1632 it was their right 'to digge lime-stones for to repaire ... and to burn lime' 3 while at Landimore (1639) 'there be Quarries of Limestones where Tenants time out of ..................
- 1 Penrice MS. 3004
- 2. This was said by Edward Lhwyd's correspondent in St. Twinnell's, on the Pembrokeshire limestone, c. 1697: Parochialia, 1911, p. 25.
- 3. Surveys of Gower, p. 128.
.......................... mind have used to burn their Lime for the composting of their lands'. 1 Nor were these benefits confined to the stone outcrop. As in Pembrokeshire, it was shipped from quarries along the north Gower coast to districts where the ground really needed lime: borne by lighters along shallow reaches and pills in the Burry estuary, it reached the bordering shores of both Carmarthen and Glamorgan. A Loughor inventory (1603) has debts for 'boate plancks and lyme stones', and we must look back as far as this for kilns perched on the edge of the marshes, which were to multiply later and lie in ruin today. On the southern side, Oystermouth quarries sent stone across Swansea Bay to Neath and the opposite shore, there to be burnt and carted far among the small sloping fields, damp, shaded and often acid-soiled, to Welsh farms in the 'blaenau' foothills. Further, despite a general belief that the convertible farmers of Devonshire and elsewhere began liming about 1600, it can be shown that in North Devon at least kilns were burning Glamorgan limestone in the mid-sixteenth century. It was exported from places like Porteynon in Gower with a story of cross-Channel trade in stone right through to the 1870s.
There seems to be no evidence for the use of sea-sand as an improver on Gower farms of this period. 2 Probably this method, followed in parts of Pembrokeshire and the West Country, was needless on soils that by the sixteenth century were light and open enough in texture. But sea-weed was used as a manure. 'Oar weed' was cut traditionally both on the south side where it grew thickly on a rocky foreshore 3 and on the shallow, muddier north coast near Penclawdd'. 4 'A common of Oar growing in the sea' was recorded in 1673 at Bishopston, 5 its cutting and carting carefully regulated, and sea-weed was cut there almost to within living memory.
F. V. EMERY.
University College, Swansea.
(to be concluded)
- 1. Penrice MS. 6527.
- 2. Cf. what the Rector of Porteynon noted in 1801: 'Seaweed in great plenty, which is used for wheat and barley, but though a great part of the upper land is a stiff loam and clay, sea-sand is never used as a manure'. The upper fields he had in mind did not exist in 1600, but were still part of unenclosed Porteynon Moor.
- 3. Penrice MS. 2404 (Porteynon, 1707).
- 4. Surveys of Gower, p. 219 (1688); Penrice MS. 2666 (1732).
- 5. Surveys of Gower, p. 154.
The first part of this paper attempted to outline the nature of the land in Gower and introduce the farmers who used its resources in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Geography causes us to recognize two distinct regions in western Glamorgan : upland Gower lying on coal measures, and the coastal plateau, mainly limestone, that retains its name in everyday use as 'the Gower peninsula'. Discussing the crops grown by Tudor farmers in each of these countrysides, it was found that there were certain likenesses and other contrasts between them. The separate aspects of land and its cultivation are brought together now in the problem of units of measurement used at that time. The customary acres of Pembrokeshire are known in terms of statutory measure, 1 but their equivalents in Glamorgan need illustrating.
A start can be made by reading Walter Davies, who stated that 'the greatest varieties of provincial acres obtain in the counties of Pembroke and Glamorgan; counties early subjugated by Norman, Flemish, or other foreign invaders; who introduced the hide of land, ox-land, forest pole, etc., into their respective baronies.' 2 In lowland Gower, first of all, manorial lands were marked out with a pole nine feet in length, giving eighteen feet in the perch and a customary acre equal to 1.19 statute acres: Arthur Young encountered it in the Vale of Glamorgan, 3 and it was used in Castlemartin hundred in Pembrokeshire---all three regions have fertile arable soils and were intensively anglicised in the twelfth century. The other 'English acre' so often listed in Tudor farmers' inventories was based on an eleven-foot pole, giving a customary acre of 1.77 statute acres. It corresponded to that found in the Flemish-settled districts of Pembrokeshire. In Gower it occurred in the large manor of Landimore, occupying an intermediate situation between Englishry and Welshry (like Deugleddy and Roose), and undergoing secondary colonisation in medieval times. For instance, a grant of freehold lands at Wynfroyd (Wenffrwd) in 1315 was measured 'by the free rod of 22 feet of the King's feet', and was to be held in Englishry. In the same year and place a lease for two lives was made on several tenements of arable, meadow, grove and waste lands, at 16d. rent 'for each acre measured by the Landymor perch of 22 feet' ; the tenants undertook to reside on the land, and had rights of pre-emption for improved lands. 4
Gower wills and inventories sometimes refer to so many 'Welsh acres' of crops. This third measurement was also mentioned in a survey of Cwrt-y-Carne manor (1575), and indeed its distribution is restricted to the slightly anglicized uplands: Llanrhidian Higher and Loughor (1583); Caegurwen (1610); Llangyfelach (1641) ;................
- 1. B. E. Howells, 'Pembrokeshire Farming circa 1580-1620': The National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. IX, No. 3, Summer 1956, p. 318.
- 2. General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales, Vol. II, 1815, p. 502.
- 3. A Six Weeks Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales, 2nd ed., 1769, p. 157.
- 4. Penrice MSS. 306, 308.
................... St. John's (1641); Kilvey (1686). 1 In similar districts adjoining Welsh Gower, the 'Welsh measure' was used throughout Neath Ultra and Cilybebill manors (1633-8). 2 Cromwell's surveyor, working in the fastnesses of Cwm Clydach (1650), gives a pointer to the size of the Welsh acre by noting a farm 'containinge about 8 acres, which I conceive to be 16 English acres'. 3 His words remind us of the large customary acre of Welsh Pembrokeshire, derived from a twelve-foot pole and equal to 2.11 statute acres. This is verified by Walter Davies's remark that in Glamorgan it was called 'erw Llan Giwg', from a parish situated in the traditional Welshry of northern Gower.
The close similarity between Gower and Pembrokeshire in their English and Welsh customary acres has an important bearing on the nature of early colonisation in both regions.
'Gower, owing to its deficiency of water, is better adapted for tillage than for breeding or dairying, but the contrary is the most General practice' : so wrote Walter Davies during his visit to the western part of Glamorgan in 1802. 4 He could have reached the same conclusion two centuries earlier, at the end of Tudor times. Farmers' wills and inventories of that period show that livestock accounted for the greater portion of their wealth. Compared with the rather fragmentary evidence for their arable farming, the pastoral aspect of things is fully recorded. It is possible to draw a detailed picture of the number and kind of livestock kept by Gower famrers in the late sixteenth century.
The method followed was this : a hundred and fifty-six inventories were complete enough to analyse, and were arranged in groups according to the value of each man's personal estate. They were grouped as follows:
Number of farmers
0 - 10
11 - 20
21 - 30
31 - 40
41 - 50
51 - 60
61 - 70
71 - 80
81 - 90
91 - 100
101 - 120
121 - 175
- 1. C. Baker and G. G. Francis (eds.), Surveys of Gower (Arch. Camb. Supp.), 1870, pp. 111-112, 188, 288, 294. 351 et seq. (This work is given as Surveys in later footnotes.)
- 2. Photostats of a later MS. copy of the 1633 and 1638 Surveys were made available by the kindness of Mr. Harry Green, Cardiff.
- 3. Surveys, p. 36.
- 4 N.L.W. MS. 1760A, Itinerary 12.
There were also two very wealthy farmers worth £260 and £320, though in the latter case the man was also a merchant in the town of Swansea. As a matter of principle, it should be made clear that the analysed inventories are strictly those of farmers; men whose money came partly from business or a trade are not included. Such, for example, were John William Morgan of Swansea who left over £80 (1601), of which £40 were 'for wares in the Shopp' ; or Jenkin Taylor of Llandimore village, whose estate of £5 11s 10d. (1614) included 'One Anveill, 6d. 8d.; One Sledge, one Hamber, one paere of bellowes, and a Couple of Tonges, 3s. 6d.'
Within this framework, the inventories in each group were put together and all the livestock entries separated into the main classes: dairy cows; heifers and calves; young cattle; oxen, sheep and lambs; horses, mares and colts; pigs and poultry. A series of eight diagrams was then drawn, one for each kind of livestock, showing two values : (i) the average (median) number of cows or sheep or horses kept in each farming group, and (ii) the percentage of farmers in each group who stocked such animals on their land. One could then read off, for instance, the average-sized flock of sheep kept by farmers worth between £41 and £50, and whether it was usual for most farmers at that level to graze sheep. The method permits a measure of precision when trying to trace the emphasis in Tudor mixed farming. It goes to the root of agrarian change, and whether we study the economics of engrossing and enclosure or their significance for field patterns, its findings are relevant.
'Mylke Kyne' were easily the most consistently and widely kept livestock on Gower farms. Eighty-five and ninety per cent of the smallest men had them, and everyone in the £20-and-over groups. The numbers kept by each group rose steadily from an average of three at one extreme, through nine head at £51-60 to herds of twenty-four at £l00. Clearly the series of remarks made by George Owen about specialization in dairy-farming throughout Pembrokeshire also apply to west Glamorgan. In The Taylors Cussion, for example, Owen demonstrated that the profits of forty milch cows kept on enclosed land exceeded those of four hundred sheep by £24 6s. 8d. yearly. Dairying called for comparatively high standards of stock-breeding and well regulated grazing. If high yields were to be kept up, careful management was needed, and in this respect dairy cows were a very strong incentive to enclose pastures, whether from older open holdings or afresh from the commons. The probate material often illuminates this source of wealth: Thomas Rees of Llandilo-talybont, gentleman, left valuable property in Swansea town and the countryside round about (1603) as well as goods worth nearly £60. He had a herd of twelve cows, and bequeathed to his children 'as much cheese and butter as cometh unto me from a dayryman that I have at the wick'. The Old English word for a dairyfarm (wic) often occurs in Gower place-names, in localities where good grazing was used in far earlier times. Oxwich was one of the first knight's fees in the Lordship, and some of its early spellings suggest a 'wick' origin; the higher parts of Llanrhidian parish contained the farm-names 'Leastonwicke' (1583), 'le Wicke' (1583), 1 and Berwick (1744) 2 ; the Welshry of ......................
- 1. Surveys, pp. 110 and 115.
- 2. Badminton MS. 2613.
................Bishopston had its 'Kae lloyne ar Ewick' (1608), 1 and in Swansea parish there was 'the lowerwicke' (1600). 2
Apart from their value in breeding young cattle the dairy herds yielded a handsome profit in cheese and butter. Many had enough dairy produce to bequeath it carefully in their wills: at the height of the season (in June 1611) William David Morgan of Loughor left his daughter 'all my chees and butter which I have in my house or shalbe due unto me between this and All Saynts next'. Some idea of the amount of tithe cheese rendered by the farmers of Ilston, an average-sized parish, can be had from the deceased Rector's inventory (December 1605), which states that he owned forty stones of cheese. Dairy produce was shipped to the West Country from Swansea and particularly from smaller ports in Gower, like Oxwich and Porteynon, whose mariners' accounts often refer to butter and cheese. It was quality produce, too: according to Walter Davies, when the cheese was well made in the old Glamorgan method it was a medium between the Gloucester and Cheshire cheeses in thickness and flavour.; At the same time Glamorgan butter was 'as celebrated as that of Epping Forest with the London epicures.' 4
Cows were often hired out by the wealthier Tudor farmers. Jenet Somner of Nicholaston (worth £41 at her death in 1608) was owed nearly £40, and most of it due from men who had hired cows and sheep from her. A Llanddewi husbandman (1576) had 'fower oxen out at rent for iiii li' ; a Swansea man had three cows worth 26s.8d. apiece, and 'for the rentes and profittes of the said kyne for one yeare' he received 20s. (1611). This practice must have been a dangerous weapon in the hands of less scrupulous yeomen: if they determined to enlarge their lands at the expense of smaller men, they could with-hold stock from them. On the other hand, it was a boon to some farmers of limited means, like John Seward (worth £4 17s. 7d. in 1618) who had bought a holding at Horton, hiring four cows and owing '10s. at All Saints' next for two, and 7s. each for two more then.'
In general, heifers and calves can be considered as supplementary to the dairy herds, but their ownership through the various farming groups was different. They were not important with farmers of less than £40: half of those with up to £110 kept four or five heifers and calves. This suggests their purpose was replenishing the dairy herd, and that a great number of the small farmers had to hire their cows. Nearly all the wealthier men had five or six beasts, and 'Calves Croft' is a common field-name in the estate papers, surviving today on many farms for a dry, sheltered enclosure near the house.
From the viewpoint of cattle breeding, the probate evidence is surprising: eight bulls are recorded in estates worth more than £40, where one would expect them, but seven occur in estates between £10 and £40. The reason may lie in the direction of quality and the breeds of cattle that can be identified on Tudor...................
- 1. Penrice MS. 4531.
- 2. W. C. Rogers: The Swansea and Glamorgan Calendar, part III, p. 58. The many farm animals were an invaluable source of the 'dung' or 'soile' referred to in inventories, earefully eollected from stall, yard and lane and consistently applied to the land.
- 3. N.L.W. MS. 1760A, Itinerary 11.
- 4. Rev. J. Evans: Letters written during a Tour through South Wales in 1803, p. 192
......................... and Stuart farms. Occasional references to heifers or oxen of certain colours are hidden away in the wills. Two breeds occur most frequently. First of all come the reds, belonging to a persistent strain noted by Walter Davies in Gower : 'a very pretty breed of red cattle, in shape like the Glamorgan browns but not so large, like the Devon breed, if not the same'. Then there were the blacks, that native Gower breed referred to as 'our old blacks' by farmers in the early nineteenth century. Both breeds were often kept on the same farm : on David ap Richard's farm close to Swansea (1602) there was a herd of eleven dairy cows and heifers, in which three were red, two black, and two brown; two others were white-faced reds, another a white-faced black, and the last---a description that caused the patient scribe to make several errors---with a speckled head, white belly and black back. Cross breeding---in fact the process that eventually gave the Glamorgan Brown---certainly went on, and the wills refer to brown, brindled or 'bragged', spotted and yellow cows. Pure reds tend to occur in the wills of wealthier farmers, who would have the few but valuable bulls of that breed. Their livestock is frequently given a much higher value, too: a Cwrt-y-Carne yeoman of £36 (1629) had eight cows, some cross-bred, and a bull, all worth £8 13s. 4d., whereas Elizabeth Pryce of Gelli-hir (one of a powerful family, dying at the same time worth £250), left thirteen cows priced at £17, and 'a bull and cow with John Lloyd, £2 10s. 0d.'
Inventories often yield details such as these : 'ten young head of Cattell, steers and bullocks of one and two years' (Owen Knathe, Ilston, 1613), 'three steers of three years old, five young beasts of two years, seven yearling bullocks' (Thomas Gammon, Bishopston, 1614). Young store cattle such as these, reared for sale to graziers and butchers, were found chiefly on the larger farms. Indeed, they provide a useful means of distinguishing the farmer striving to supply his family's needs and pay his rent from the large-scale market supplier of beef, hides and tallow. A third of those with under £10 kept a couple of young cattle, but more than threequorters of those with over £41 had large herds (e.g. £61-70, an average of twelve head, £121 and over, twenty-one head). When the three-year olds were ready for sale, they were either driven from Gower by road to Swansea (if their owners wanted to meet the drovers at Neath market, they had to ferry across the river Tawe), or shipped direct to the West Country 1 (see later). Swansea then was a growing town of roughly a thousand people, and like those Midland towns in a countryside where cattle-farming was also important, it had many tanners. 2 It was confirmed in 1532 that the Portreeve appoints two burgesses to inspect the quality of all leather tanned or sold in the town. 3 Leather and woollen cloth were among Swansea's chief products : of twenty-two wills from the borough before 1620 indicating the man's trade or profession, there were six farmers, four tanners, three shopkeepers or general merchants, and two mercers; there was a shoemaker, .......................
- 1. Vale of Glamorgan cattle and farm produce went the same way: Moelwyn I. Williams, 'A Contribution to the Commercial History of Glamorgan, 1666-1735': The National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. IX, No. 2, Winter 1955, p. 188.
- 2. 'The rise of the butchers and tanners is the most marked change in the town': W. G. Hoskins, `An Elizabethan Provincial Town-Leicester': Studies in Social History (ed. J. H. Plumb), 1955, p. 59.
- 3. W. de Gray Birch: A History of Neath Abbey, 1902 p. 259.
............... a maltster, a mariner, a tiler and a carpenter, a tucker and a dyer (whose will named other weavers, tuckers, and tailors). Harry Roberts (1611) was a tanner who owned pastures near the town and three farms in outlying districts at Pontardulais and Llangyfelach, besides a half interest in the corn-mill at Pontlliw. His town house was better furnished than most, but the tanner's stock-in-trade was his main source of wealth : his seventy hides in the vats and in the lime were worth £24, more than everything else put together. The raw materials of tanning listed in his inventory were all readily available in Swansea. Oak-bark for their bark-mills was abundant in the woods that then grew thickly around the town; lime was burned in kilns on the town strand, charged with limestone shipped across from Oystermouth and burning culm from coal-pits near at hand; bars of Biscay salt came to Swansea as return cargo in the coal-ships trading to France. Their customers, too, figure in tanners' inventories---cobblers, joiners (using leather for seating the newly fashionable joined chairs and stools), and glovers who wanted calfskins and who were then so numerous in the town that St. Mary's Church had its Glovers' Chapel. 1
The incidence of oxen on the different sizes of farm was practically the same as with young cattle. They were characteristic of farmers worth more than £40, though in smaller numbers---anything above six oxen is rare in the records. Their insignificance with smaller farmers reflects a restricted arable acreage and a minor part in the cattle trade, for oxen were both draught animals and (to a lesser extent) beef-stock. Most people owned a plough and harrow, though some had to share the traditional payment of 'Ferry Corn' to the Lord of Gower was levied as a peck of oats yearly for every plough in a parish, contributed equally when a plough was shared by several men. A typical set of gear consisted of 'plough irons, harrows, shovel, spade, pickax, hatchet and such like, priced 6s. 8d.' (John Goffe, Ilston, 1594). In many cases the ploughs are called by the dialect word 'sull', e.g. in the inventory of Evan Watkin (Manselfield, 1613). 2 Now and then the richer man had better equipment, such as Denys Tayllor of Nicholaston (worth over £l00, 1611) with 'ii Iron plowes and ii pair harrows, iii Iron streathes, xs'. ('Streathe' must be a dialect form of 'stretcher' used as the bar or cross-piece between the handles of a plough.) Harrows made of iron were owned by some, though according to Dr. Hoskins they were unknown in Leicestershire at that time.
An important subject on which the probate material sheds some light is the use of carts, or indeed of any wheeled vehicle. Extending the study to 1630, through well over two hundred west Glamorgan manuscripts, only thirteen such references can be traced---nine are simply for wheels (e.g. 'one payre of Carthweeles bound with iron, xvis', Manselfield, 1613). Presumably these were fixed on the ancient sledges known as slide-cars (Arthur Young gave a drawing of one), converting them into truckle-cars or 'Irish cars': a photograph of an example from Gower .................
- 1. W. F. L. Morgan: Antiquarian Survey of East Gower, 1899, p. 113.
- 2. Wills and inventories are interesting sources for dialect words and a means of assessing their use in everyday Gower speech, e.g., 'lype', a straw basket for seed-corn when sowing (Elizabeth Pryce, Ilston, 1629), 'mort' for lard (Jenkin Richard, Llanrhidian, 1621, sixpence in 'pigges mourt'). It is worth noting too that several Tudor yeomen in West Gower had their Bibles 'in English'.
............................. appears in Dr. Peate's paper. 1 Such were the low carts or wheeled cars described by the first Board of Agriculture reporters in West Wales. Wheel-less sledges or 'slide butts' were used in the Gower limestone quarries until the close of the last century, and slide cars were working quite recently in the sloping fields of certain West Gower farms. The few wheeled vehicles in the inventories were called 'Cartwaine', 'one waine or carte', and perhaps were forms of the small heavy Welsh cart drawn by two oxen and two horses abreast. Certainly wheels and carts were owned mainly by the wealthier farmers, becoming more frequent in later records: seven date from 1602-17, and six from 1623-7. One of the Bydders of Penard (died 1640, estate of £370) owned 'two waines', which could easily mean waggons of the old Glamorgan type, copying West Country models.
Far more farmers had horses, mares and colts, e.g., three-quarters of those with less than £20, rising from an average of three to seven animals. They were the mainstay of all farm-work throughout the year---'two labouringe horses, three mares and a colt' (Llandilo-talybont, 1603). In addition there was a growing demand for them in the pack trains carrying coal from newly-sunk pits to the shipping banks. They were bred for sale in West Gower and shipped across the Channel; fair-sized herds of 'wild' horses, too, still have the running of the commons there. Traditionally both horses and oxen worked side by side in the fields: in 1840 a Gower farmer recorded in his journal that his spring ploughing was done by 'four Cattle and two Horses in one plow, and six cattle and a horse in the other' .
Though considered late in the livestock order here, sheep and lambs ranked next in importance to dairy cows and horses on the Glamorgan farms. Threequarters of all farmers, from the peasant living close to the margins of subsistence to the rising freeholder with a hand in the corn and cattle markets, had their flocks.
Value of farmers' estate
Percentage of farms with sheep
Average (median) size of their flocks
- 1. C. Peate, 'Some aspects of agricultural transport in Wales': Arch. Camb., 90, 1935, p. 235. Two kinds of solid wooden cartwheels from Gower are shown in this paper, both of them bound with iron.
Specialization in sheep is evident with farmers worth £50 and more: they were the sheep-masters and their farms were located particularly in West Gower (see later). Sheep-farming was well-rooted there : the Neath Abbey manors were wellstocked (1291), 1 and the Bishop of St. David's had a good flock at Llanddewi a generation later. There were fulling mills at Burry and Llanrhidian, while leases often refer to sheepfolds among the farm-buildings and list field-names pointing in the same direction, e.g. a piece of arable called 'the longe acre beneath the Shephowese', and 'two acres in Shippen Parke' at Walterston (1566). 2
Some of the wool was used locally in the farmhouses. Spinning-wheels ('turns') and looms are common items in the inventories, with occasionally a more ambitious place: David William (Llanrhidian, 1619) left 'ii Tucker Sheares wth. other certeine tooles and Reckes, xvis.', willing to his son 'my Reckes Shoppe'. 3 As the change to supplying raw wool to the West Country established itself, less freize was made for export. The change-over met with some opposition, because his tenants in Gower in 1532 asked that 'no restraint of Wolles be made' by the Earl of Worcester through his steward and officers there. They claimed the right (after paying custom) to sell to any of the King's subjects, also 'to convey and cari awey ther woll to England and to all shires and lordeschappe in Walis without lett or interrupcon'. 4 At Oystermouth (then a small fishing village and harbour in its own right) there was manorial custom of a halfpenny for every stone of wool laden or unladen. 5 Coast Books for places along the coasts of Somerset and Devon record inward cargoes from Glamorgan; e.g., a Barnstaple book (1653) mentions six ships from Porteynon (four wool, two wheat) and two ships from Oxwich (both wool). 6
The native breed of Glamorgan Down sheep was small but of high quality. Those kept on open grazings circa 1800 weighed from 10 lbs. to 14 lbs. a quarter of excellent mutton : fed on enclosed pasture in Gower they yielded 14 lbs. to 18 lbs. a quarter. Their wool was fine and of the short clothing kind, fetching 25s. per stone, or double the price of the Vale long wool. Small wonder Walter Davies wrote 'Sheep is the most favourite stock of the farmers in Gower' 7 : their Elizabethan fore-runners also profited by them.
Surprisingly few of the poorer farmers had pigs, and neither were they numerous in the wealthier groups, but farmers worth from £40 to £70 nearly always had six or seven rooting in their yards. Some supplied the farmer with bacon (flitches often occur in the inventories), others were sold across in the West Country. Poultry again was most plentiful on and typical of farms in the middle value range, ...............
- 1. Birch, op. cit., p. 87.
- 2. Penrice MS. 3010.
- 3. Racks are meant here. In West Country dialect 'rack' is still used for the long upright frame on which woollen cloth is stretched while drying. A tucker or fuller finished and dressed cloth; wool had to be oily before it could be spun, and when woven would not take dye unless cleansed of its oil.
- 4. Birch, op. cit., p. 259.
- 5. Surveys, p. 68 (1650).
- 6. P.R.O., Exch. K.R. Customs Accounts, 230.
- 7. op. cit., Vol. II, p. 281.
............................ where an average of five shillings' worth of birds were kept. Hens and cockerels were priced at threepence apiece, geese and ducks were mentioned separately and worth more: e.g., Richard Angell of Cheriton (1604, estate £41 3s. 4d.) owned eight geese, four ducks, three hens, a cockerel and a capon, all worth 5s. Lastly, small flocks of four or five goats occur in a few inventories, chiefly in the Welshry.
Livestock held a central place in the farming economy of Gower, the pastoral side of mixed farming ranging from dairying to sheep-grazing and rearing store cattle. In trying to understand how the Elizabethan farms came to be so well-stocked---the lists of farm animals, recorded in faithful detail, are a striking feature of the inventories---one has to remember the qualities that give Gower its regional character. Two geographical factors, one external and relative, the other intrinsic, had a most decisive bearing on agrarian practice: firstly, the countryside enjoyed a maritime situation, and secondly within Gower there was a distinctive blend of natural resources through different sorts of land.
The maritime situation of this part of Glamorgan brought advantages in coastal trade and marketing by sea. Wherever the steep limestone cliffs gave place to sandy shores, especially along the south Gower coast, prehistoric and Dark Age shipping places had persisted through medieval times. As its name implies, Porteynon had this ancient function, and the village clusters round its church of St. Cadoc at the west of the bay, where Porteynon Point offers some degree of shelter from up-Channel winds. It is shallow, however, even at high water, and in 1562 Porteynon was dismissed from the reckoning as a haven or road, but it had a pier and 'comen passage into Cornewall and Devon with cattall and other things.' 1 The pier was renewed at that same early Elizabethan date, for Rees Merrick noted at Porteynon 'a new Kay lately builded by Sir Edward Mansel and ye aid of ye country of Gowyr'. 2 New quays and piers were being constructed at a number of places on both sides of the Bristol Channel: on the precipitous North Devon coastline Clovelly came into being as a harbour, and not far away Hartland Quay was built in 1566. They were indicative of the expanding coastal trade in farm produce, centred on Bristol and supported by other West Country ports such as Bridgewater and Barnstaple, and stimulating South Wales agriculture in the later sixteenth century.
The site of this new quay at Porteynon can be located, because a survey of 1632 mentioned 'one house near Porteinons key, commonly called the Salt house' ; 3 this house was inhabited until the late nineteenth century, and its ruin lies in the shadow of the quarried Point at Crowder's Quay, beyond the perches-pools, workshops and forge that served the oyster fleet long after Sir Edward's enterprise was forgotten. A pier was needed at Porteynon for ships to bestrand themselves alongside it: before the next flood-tide livestock had to be driven along the quay and put.................
- 1. 'Anglia Wallia': Arch. Camb., Vol. II (6th ser.), 1911, p. 425.
- 2. 'Parochialia': Arch. Camb. Supp. Vol., 1911, p. 143. Sir Edward died in 1585.
- 3 Penrice MS. 1632.
.............. aboard, while bales or sacks could be easily loaded without lifting. Most of these carriers had their home ports in the West Country, but some were from Porteynon itself: one of them, the 'Luck' of eight tons, carried wines from Waterford to Carmarthen (1567). 1 Others appear in the probate records : 'the grace . . . Phillip Jeffrey nowe mr under god in her' (1605). A wealthy farmer, Morgan Lewis of Horton, willed his part of a bark called the 'Speedwell' (1614) ; Hugh Turbett had a third part of 'a Small Barke', worth £3, was indebted to men in 'Ilfardcoombe' and Barnstaple and was owed a third of the profits of a voyage with the bark (1620).
Not only Porteynon served as harbour and outlet for farm produce. Two miles to the east along the coast Oxwich lay sheltered behind its headland. Oxwich Point afforded more complete protection from south-westerlies, and there was deeper water than at Porteynon, advantages noted in 1562: 'Oxwyche is a good roade of iiii ffadome by shore and deepe enough a see bourde for all shipps and all wynds saving easterly'. 2 On the other hand, Porteynon enjoyed easier and more direct contact inland with the farming parishes of West Gower, so that livestock, dairy produce, corn and other goods could be brought to it along any one of several converging 'highways'. Both places, however, were vital to the Gower countryside. The Oxwich jurors made this perfectly clear in their Court of Survey (1632): besides 'some lymestones digged and transported thence', there was a steady traffic in livestock. Every ship grounding had to pay twopence keelage and another twopence for its cock-boat. Then for every horse put aboard for shipment there was twopence custom; for every beast (i.e. cattle of any kind) one penny; for every hog, a halfpenny; and for every sheep, a farthing. Evidently the Bennetts of Pitt (who farmed them) kept full records of the Gower customs at Oxwich and Porteynon, for 'the marks and colours of all horses, cattle and sheepe have been accustomedly kept in writteing ... with the names of those who transported them, the name of the boate and master thereof, wherhence it is and the tyme when they were transported'. 3
Had they survived, these papers could give us an outline of the export trade in Gower cattle. Unfortunately they are not in the Penrice MSS. and we have to go on to the very end of the century for anything resembling them. Assuming the persistence of such trading contacts even these later records are relevant to conditions as they were circa 1600. Thus a typical series of three cargoes carried from Gower in the summer of 1699 consisted of nine oxen, five cows and a horse; four oxen, six cows, one horse; three oxen and one cow, respectively---all were shipped 'to Coom'. 4 The full account of the Porteynon customs for 1721 included four hundred cattle and thirty-six horses shipped off. 5 It is certain that a traditional cross-Channel link had grown up between Gower and Ilfracombe, then a very busy place. Defoe saw it as a market 'of good trade, populous and rich ... having a very ...................
- 1. E. A. Lewis: The Welsh Port Books, 1550-1603, 1927, p. 216.
- 2. 'Anglia Wallia', p. 425.
- 3. Surveys, p. 142.
- 4. Penrice MS. 7619.
- 5. Penrice MS. 7175.
............................. good harbour, which causes the merchants at Barnstaple to do much of their business at this port'. 1 It enjoyed a weekly Monday market, a three-day fair at Holy Trinity, and two cattle fairs in April and late August. 2 Some of the cattle were sold there direct to graziers, others to dealers who then drove them to markets such as South Molton, where they were seen by graziers from the Somerset pasture-lands.
A second geographical factor of the greatest significance for the pastoral side of farming was the abundant rough pasture in west Glamorgan. The open grazings were of various kinds. More than half the thirty or so 'waste grounds' on which tenants of Gower Anglicana claimed 'common sans number with all kinds of cattle' lay in the high northern plateaux; they were hill pastures like Graig Fawr, Blaen Llyw and Mynydd Gellionen, rising to well over eight hundred feet above sea level . 3 With increasing height their thin soils developed on coal measures sandstone became acid and deficient in lime, brown heavy loams of the Neath series on yellow sub-soil. Today these wind-swept commons are still open : rough grazing accounts for 880 acres of Llandilo-talybont parish, 1,000 acres in Llangyfelach and 1,420 acres in Mawr. Lower wastes occurred in the river-valleys of the Llwchwr, Lliw and Tawe, where glacial drift is spread over shales, its peaty uncultivated surface covering grey, rusty loams. Similar to these heavy, badly-drained lands were the large commons running diagonally across the base of peninsular Gower from north-west to south-east---Welsh Moor, Pengwern (or Lunnon Moor), Fairwood Moor, Clyne Moor. Several manors with their agrarian basis in the good arable soils of the limestone plateau extended beyond them to include part of the waste, with its coarse juncus grasses.
Another distinct kind of common grazing lay on the low sandstone hills intruding through the general level of the arable plateau. Their bracken-covered slopes offered a drier, richer fescue pasture than the others, and the boundaries of manors adjoining them invariably include a tract of heathland---to the tenants of Gower Anglicana (a scattered manor, not territorially compact) they were 'Rosilley down, Keven brynn, Broad moor, Ryery down'. Where villages lay too far from these coveted moors (as they do between Porteynon and Penrice), their founders had provided rough pasture by avoiding the more exposed parts of the low plateau: Porteynon Moor (now totally enclosed) was of the same kind of land as their fields, but met this special need. Further, coastal manors had additional pasture along their cliffs, where thinner rocky soils could not be ploughed. In certain places there were sand dunes or 'burrows' yielding many useful materials for the farmer with livestock. Ideally the manor included common of grazing on both inland and coastal sites, as at Oystermouth, where they claimed in 'Clyn moor, Mumble Clifft, west Clifft, Summer Clifft, and Norton burroughes'. 4 The tidal marshes, too, figured in this: it was allowed in 1583, for instance, that tenants of any Gower manor might depasture on the wide saltings of Llanrhidian Marsh. 5 In fact, every ........................
- 1. A Tour through England and Wales, (Everyman edn.), Vol. I, p. 263.
- 2. D. and S. Lysons: Magna Britannia, Vol. VI, 1822, p. 289.
- 3. Surveys, p. 17 (1583).
- 4. Ibid., p. 68 (1650).
- 5. Ibid., p. 116.
............................. survey of Tudor and Jacobean times contains details of its right of inter-common and its particular wastes : this is true from Caegurwen in the far north, with mountain pastures at Garn Vredydd and Gwaun Caegurwen (1610), to Priorston in the south, where they grazed Coyty Green, Hardings Down and Tankey-lake Moor on the margins of the low sandstone hills.
Wealthy freehold farmers with large dairy-herds and flocks are frequently met with in the probate records for West Gower parishes. Their occurrence there is a reflection of its blend of good arable land with abundant open grazing of high quality. The inventory of Nicholas Long of Llanmadoc (1607) came to over £120 : in the Penrice papers he is called 'yeoman' and 'gentleman'. He owned thirty-eight kine and a bull, three hundred and twenty sheep, thirty-two young cattle and calves, six oxen and eight horses. His own house and lands at Cwm Ivy (about thirty acres) had easy access to the adjoining salt-marsh, part of which lay protected behind a sea-wall and had long been improved. This 'Lanmadocke Marsh' had by 1667 become subject to the controlled depasturing of a stint, no doubt because of over-grazing by men like Long, enterprisingly 'on the make', and favoured by rising prices.' In addition he leased a large parcel of lands bordering one of the sandstone hills, and on which as a freeholder he enjoyed 'free common sans number on Lanmadoc Down'. 2 Quite apart from the extent of such grazing there was its excellent quality: according to Walter Davies, the low hills produced 'the sweetest herbage imaginable, and the sheep grazing thereon are remarkable for the fineness of their wool and the excellency of their mutton. This superior herbage consists mostly of white clover, with an admixture of sweet-scented vernal grass, smooth meadow grass, sheep's fescue. Many of these wastes are as valuable to sheep farmers as any old pastures'. 3
The map shows how large a percentage of the customary holdings in Gower manors fell into the categories of arable land (fields traditionally given over to tillage) or 'arable and pasture' (later enclosures ploughed only at long intervals). Pasture, meadow, rough ground or 'groves' were a slight fraction of the customary area. The typical leasehold farm had a structure like that of John Howell's twelve acres at Oxwich, which he held by an indenture of 1623, consisting of nine acres of arable, an acre of marsh, half an acre of meadow, an acre and a half of furze. 4 As to the scale of cropping the more substantial men can be represented by Nicholas Hoskin, who farmed at Oxwich. He was given as 'husbandman' in his inventory (1616), which showed his total estate to be £62 17s. 10d., of which £51 8s. 6d. was tied up in land, stock and crops. By a lease for three lives (1599) he held two customary tenements, thirty-one acres in all, of which twenty-two and a half were arable, two meadow, two and a half marsh, and four acres of waste. For these he paid 25s. rent each year, with 3s. each for custom and agistment; in ......................
- 1. The Swansea and Glamorgan Calendar, part I, Vol. 2, p. 223, 'Account of Justments sett in Lanmadocke Marsh, 1667'; thirty-nine people paid £35 13s. 9d. The scale of payment was ten shillings for an ox or cow, 6s. 8d. for two-year-olds, 5s. for a bullock, and 3s. 4d. for yearlings.
- 2. Ibid., Presentments of the Grand Jury, Llanmadoc Manor, 1615.
- 3. op. cit., Vol. II, p. 83.
- 4. Surveys, p. 130.
........................ addition he had an expensive short-term lease of seven acres of land for three years for which he paid £2 6s. 0d. His farm accordingly came to thirty-eight acres at his death in mid-April no less than nineteen acres---almost all his customary arable---were under crops, five acres with wheat and the rest barley and oats. Together with the remnant of last year's harvest his corn was worth £14 2s. 4d. This sum was completely overshadowed by his livestock which came to £37 6s. 2d., including eight oxen, eleven cows, nine young cattle, ten horses and forty-seven sheep. At the most Hoskin had nineteen acres of enclosed pasture, some of it very indifferent, so it is evident that he relied heavily on grazing the open common of Porteynon Moor.
At the other extreme at Oxwich, Thomas Gwither leased half as much land (eighteen acres) and was worth £ 19 6s. 4d., £15 of which was in livestock (1609). By late March he had sown only one acre each of wheat, barley and oats, less than a quarter of his arable. Where they were some distance from the commons, however, even the relatively well-to-do farmers had to reduce their cropping. Thus John Grove was the largest copyholder at Paviland, paying 17s. 1d. yearly rent for his thirty-five acres, but only four and one-sixth acres carried corn at his death in August, 1619 (total estate, £24 12s. 4d.).
If their arable acreage meant that farmers relied heavily on the commons for pasture, the relatively small size of their farms emphasised that dependence. Despite the tendency toward unequal holdings, traces of the traditional customary tenement had managed to survive. In the anglicized manors of peninsular Gower there were many farms of from five to fifteen acres, vestiges of virgate holdings, and others between fifteen and twenty-five which were the result of successful engrossing, often by farmers of the medieval demesne. The sequence of customary holdings in Porteynon was as follows : 15, 20, 13 1/2 , 18, 22, 14, 14 1/2, 17, 21, 15, 19 1/2, 18 3/4, 15, 20, 24, 20, 15, 9 1/2, 10, 10 and 9 acres 1 . Customary tenants were numerous in West Gower (e.g. at Horton there were twelve, and two freeholders), 2 while freeholders predominated in the Welshry : Gower Anglicana (scattered farms lying in Welsh parishes) had a hundred and fifty-five freeholders, thirty-six subtenants, and four holding by indenture., 3 Many of these larger freeholders with farms of fifty acres and more were quick to enclose fields from the adjoining commons : it was claimed that over three thousand acres were taken from the waste in this part of Gower between 1550 and 1590. 4 The larger man could enlarge his estate and bring pressure on small farmers by reducing his open pasture. Particularly flagrant cases of enclosure provoked riots at Millwod (1570), and Cwrt-y-Carne (1577, 1584).
It would be useful to have precise information of how farmers faced the problem of winter feeding, especially for their larger animals. There is little to suggest the large-scale slaughter of animals before winter set in. But the regularity and size of Gower farmers' hay crop should be known. References to hay are few and far between in the probate records (fourteen from nearly two hundred inventories ..........................
- 1. Penrice MS. 1632.
- 2. Penrice MS. 1630 (1632).
- 3 .Surveys, pp. 97-114.
- 4. PRO., C.2 /W11/61 (Earl of Worcester's Chancery Proceedings).
........................ between 1580 and 1620). Luckily they come equally from the drier limestone plateau---where meadow was scarce, confined to narrow valley-floors or the margins of coastal marsh---and the countryside to the north. There in the ridge-and-vale countryside meadows were by no means rare, e.g. the demesne meadow of twenty-four and thirty-three acres respectively in Loughor and Swansea parishes. 1 Neither do the hay references come from only one class of farmer or from any one season, but from August (when the crop was untouched in the rick) to February, when it was fed to the beasts. Those who did have hay did not have any great quantity. A 'carload' or 'carfull' of hay was worth sixpence; the same unit was used in the Tithe Terrier for Loughor (1559) where those parcels of the parish nearest the church payed 'One Carload of Hay or Sixpence'. 2 The average slide car could carry five hundredweight with ease, but not more than half-a-ton : on this reckoning farmers had from eighteenpence-worth of hay (three-quarters of a ton) to twenty shillings for 'two stagges of hay' (Llanrhidian, February 1619), i.e. ten tons, or an average (median) quantity of five tons. The crop of hay on a quarter-acre of meadow was worth two shillings (shortly before mowing), which puts into perspective the value of their small quillets of meadow. 3
The slight provision of hay at that time suggests the winter livestock were rarely stall-fed, remaining on the commons or more especially in fogged pastures close to the farm-buildings, from which straw, crushed furze or reed (all of which are mentioned in inventories) could be fed to them in severe weather. Fogging must have been practised by farmers on dry land with little natural meadow, particularly when they were distant from the open hill pastures. As farming intensified, the difficulty of securing enough fodder was solved finally by introducing clover, circa 1700---a great landmark in Gower farming. Walter Davies has the story of this in his notebook, and it is worth quoting: 'Old Mr. Lucas of Stouthall from 80 to l00 years ago introduced Clover into Gower. He was a good Agriculturist of what may be called the old school. He cultivated clover by itself at first and had much better crops than can be obtained by sowing it with corn, and it would last longer. Many others followed his example, and some within the memory of persons now living cultivated clover by itself and found their account well in it. Mr. Lucas always fallowed for wheat, if April and May turned out so dry that there was no prospect of a crop of hay sufficient for the ensuing winter he would on as much of his fallows as he thought necessary sow oats, barley, rye, lentils, clover &c. and just as these came into ear he would Mow and harvest them for hay. Clover sown by itself on fallow of dung and lime succeeded well lasted 3.4.5. years, grazed 1st. year mown 2nd. the winter of 1739-40 killed all such, next spring it was sown with oats and barley, never succeeds better with any corn than with wheat.' 4
- 1. Surveys, pp. 3 and 51 (1650).
- 2. N.L.W. MS. 4276D.
- 3. This particular crop of several tons to the acre was at Bishopston on good meadow land in the valley-floor, and of a higher yield or quality than the average for peninsular Gower.
- 4. A variant of this appears in the printed work ( General View, Vol. I, p. 576), where Edward Williams cites the great frost of the winter of 1716 as the cause of changing from autumn sowing of clover on its own.
The Lucases of Stouthall, one of whom brought clover to Gower, were an ideal example of the rising yeomen: wealthy farmers in Elizabethan times, they became squires in the following century and a family of considerable standing among the Georgian gentry, with their new mansion built in 1764. Similar progress can be traced in several other families, and Gower would seem to conform more closely than Pembrokeshire to general trends of that kind. Certain families had become gentry before the Civil Wars, playing a forceful (if not always scrupulous) part in the farming response to economic opportunity. Finally, a peculiarity of the Gower evidence must be noted : of eighteen farmers described as yeomen in their wills, no less than sixteen were worth less than £40 with a median value of £24 4s. 9d.; the other two yeomen being the median to £71 13s. 1d. (a third less than his Leicestershire counterpart). But it is remarkable that only six out of fifteen 'husbandmen' were worth less than £40. and the median value of a Gower husbandman's estate was as high as £70 4s. 6d., in close rivalry with that of the yeoman. The titles were given irrespective of tenure or mode of living. Perhaps a more reliable index of the substantial farmer by Gower standards is the group worth between £50 and £60: all the livestock data show that farmers worth more than £60 were operating on a distinctly larger scale than those with less.
Gower is a compact region in extent and source material; it is possible to evaluate its social groups and assess their scale of farming (particularly the degree of cropping), to depict their living conditions and the houses in which they lived. This paper tries to establish the main features in their farming landscape, together with the limits or possibilities of its geographical foundation.
The two sets of figures that follow are meant to illustrate some of the findings about Gower farming. The first set deals with crops. Two farmers' inventories are used for each £10 of personal wealth, from the poorest to the richest men. All the examples come from parishes on the limestone plateau in west and south Gower, because inventories give full acreage details only for such arable lands in the Englishry. Customary acres are used (see back), and in each case the selected inventories were compiled in the late spring or summer months (in or after April), when all the season's sowing was complete.
The second set of figures tries to summarise a number of typical farms. Again the inventories are ranged in pairs from farmers worth up to £10, between £11 and £20, and so on. Of each pair, the first is selected from one of the Welsh parishes in the coal-measures ridge-and-vale region of West Glamorgan (except in two cases, marked with an asterisk # where that was impossible). The other inventory in each pair is taken from the coastal lowland of the Englishry. Particular notice is given to the livestock side of farming, and the inventories given here approximate as nearly as can be to the average (median) numbers of stock kept by each class ...............
............... of farmer in Gower. In some cases the value of crops and livestock (as distinct from that of implements and household goods) should include other items---stocks of bees, or unexpired terms of leases. Debts of all kinds have been left out of the inventory totals.
F. V. EMERY.
School of Geography, Oxford.
Table (I) SOME EXAMPLES OF THE DATA RELATING TO CROPS
PEAS & BEANS
Personal estate worth
Table (2) Some Representative Farmers' Inventories : Showing Details of Livestock, Crop Value, and Goods
This second Table has not been fully extracted, only the list of the Farmers' Names, Parish, Date. The Headings not extracted are; Inventory Total; Dairy Cows; Heifers & Calves; Young Cattle; Oxen; Sheep & Lambs; Horses,Mares, Colts; Pigs; Poultry; Crop Value; Implements & Household Goods- these are all expressed as £. s. d.
PARISH, NAME, YEAR
- Llangyfelach; Richard Lloid, yeoman, 1601
- Reynoldston; Harry Bydder, 1607
- Loughor; Morgan Bennett, gent., 1601
- Porteynon; Jenkin Phillip, 1596
- Llangyfelach; Morgan John William, 1602
- Rhosilli; Nicholas William, 1600
- Llangyfelach; Morgan Rees, yeoman, 1605
- Porteynon; John Button, 1608
- Llandilo talybont; Edward Robert, gent., 1612
- Nicholaston; Jenet Somner, 1608
- Llandilo talybont; Thomas Rees, gent., 1603
- Llanddewi; John Curteys, 1597
- #Oxwich; Nicholas Hoskin, husb., 1616
- Rhosilli; John Taylor, husb., 1609
- Llandilo talybont; Ievan ap Rees, 1610
- Llanddewi; John Beynon, husb., 1576
- Oystermouth; Rees Lloyd, gent., 1604
- Llanddewi; David Beynon, 1603
- #Llangennith; Richard Batcocke, yeoman, 1600
- Reynoldston; Harry Lucas, 1612
- Oystermouth; John Ffrancklen, 1617
- Llanmadoc; Nicholas Long, 1607
- Penard; John Bowen, 1609