Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Herefordshire Will

While wilfing around some Herefordshire sites, this one in particular, I saw a brief reference to the case of Lewis Powell of Craswall who in 1749 had left what property he had to his wife Mary.  The will was disputed by Lewis's brother William and this led to an enquiry into the circumstances under which the will was made.  It was written and witnessed by 42 year old Thomas Price and also witnessed by 49 year old Ann Griffiths.   Both witnesses told the same story. In Ann's statement we read: "... immediately after drawing the same, the said Thomas Price read over the said will to the said testor in English and immediately afterwards began to explain the contents and substance in Welsh to him .."

You can find the will and the various statements here, courtesy of the National Library and I think we can agree that Thomas Price was bilingual and that Lewis Powell, if he was not a monoglot Welsh speaker was at least far more familiar with that language than he was with English.  Ann Griffiths too must have had sufficient grasp of Welsh to know that Price was explaining the contents of the will to Powell. 

This ties in with other evidence for the survival of Herefordshire Welsh into the 18C.  According to those who have examined the relevant records, of nine defamation cases in and around Craswall/Clodock between 1712 and 1774, eight were in Welsh.  While in a 1757 court case a 19 year old  from Michaelchurch Escley, one Lewis Jenkins, was said to be "a strainger to the English tongue able to speak or understand but very few words."  The last Welsh-speaking native of Clodock is said to have died in 1883.

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