Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Averse to acknowledge any Lord

In the early 1630s a strapped-for-cash King Charles sold the crown estate of Maelienydd to some rogues or other, much to the consternation of the citizenry of Radnorshire. Their solution was to make a collection, they raised £741 12s, which they then gave to the king as a gift, with the helpful suggestion that he might like to use the windfall to buy back what he had so recently sold. Charles did indeed re-purchase the lordship of Maelienydd but was soon in negotiation with Thomas Harley of Brampton Bryan to lease out the land. Harley's plan was to charge rent to the many hundreds of squatters on the commons. This caused such a kerfuffle that the plan was abandoned, although the Harleys were able to get their paws on the lordship during Cromwell's dictatorship.

Moving on to 1758 and King George leased out the wastes and commons of the lordship of Maelienydd - a substantial portion of the parishes of Llanddewi, Llanbister, Bugeildy, Heyop, Llanbadarn Fynydd, Llananno, Llanfihangel Rhydeithon, Llangynllo, Gladestry, Colfa, St Harmon, Cwmteuddwr and Nantmel. Again the plan was to squeeze the hundreds of squatter families by charging them rent. Such was the opposition both physical and legal, that the scheme was abandoned, the crown agent, John Lewis of Harpton, complaining of "'the natural dispositions of people being averse to turn tenants and acknowledge any Lord."

Of course the resistance of the cottagers to enclosure was to be a feature of 19C Radnorshire, just as it had been in the previous two centuries. Radnorshire had a larger percentage of freeholders than in some Welsh counties and these, together with the squatters, meant that there were a substantial number of folk who were indeed "averse to turn tenants and acknowledge any Lord." I wonder if they were the descendants of the troublesome class called manwyr in the works of the bard Sion Ceri, poor folk with a pedigree, the younger sons of younger sons. They certainly seem ready to use the law and even physical force to uphold their rights.

Perhaps these independently minded folk were responsible for the very rapid process of language shift in Radnorshire. Firstly they lived in proximity to England and so had the possiblity of picking up the English language through everyday discourse. Secondly they had every reason to learn English in order to protect themselves from men who would be their masters.

A 150 years before Saunders Lewis' lecture Tynged yr Iaith the Radnorshire historian Jonathan Williams discussed language shift in the border parish of Bugeildy. His analysis of why this had occured seems very modern:

"An increased intercourse with England, a more general interchange of the commodities and produce of these two countries respectively, and, above all, the introduction of that jurisprudence with which the inhabitants of Wales found it necessary to be familiarized, as well as the diction in which all legal pleadings, deeds, conveyances, processes, &c., are executed, soon undermined that predilection for their mother tongue which was before their distinguishing character, and rendered the study and acquisition of the English language necessary, not only as an accomplishment, but also as a matter of indispensable interest."


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff. Thanks!

Mary Parkinson said...

Analogous with the story of the convicted criminal who studies for their law degree in order to prove that they were in fact innocent.

Knowledge is indeed power.

Anonymous said...

Maelienydd rhydd a Gwrtheyrnion rhydd ?