Brecon Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer


1553 (Mar.)?EDWARD GAMES 2
1553 (Oct.)EDWARD GAMES 3
1555(not known)

Main Article

Situated at the confluence of the rivers Honddu and Usk, Brecon was a prosperous market town with five craft guilds or companies, the administrative centre for the region and after the Union the county town of Breconshire. Although burgesses are mentioned in a deed of 1100, the first recorded charter dates from 1276. This was confirmed and modified throughout the middle ages and again in 1517 by the 3rd Duke of Buckingham as owner of the lordship. On Buckingham’s fall the borough and castle escheated with the lordship to the crown. Until its incorporation by Queen Mary in 1556 the borough was governed by a bailiff and a council known as the Twenty-Four, ‘elected and chosen annually by ... the whole town and commonalty’. The Marian charter was obtained by the 1st Earl of Pembroke, presumably at the request of Sir John Price, the secretary of the council in the marches, who lived in the town. After restoring privileges ‘extinguished’ at the Union and reducing the fee-farm from £120 a year to £20, it incorporated Brecon as the bailiff, two aldermen and 12 other (capital) burgesses, who made up a common council with a ‘house’ in the guildhall. The bailiff was assisted by several municipal officers, including a common clerk and prothonotary, in 1556 Thomas Kerry, and a recorder, in 1557 Edward Games. The township of Llywel lying some 11 miles due west formed part of the borough. Following the Dissolution the bishop of St. David’s and other benefactors founded Christ’s college to serve as a school for the locality and Price leased the property and site of St. John’s priory. The Act of Union provided for a chancery and exchequer to be housed in the castle, the 2nd Earl of Worcester and the Earl of Pembroke being successive chancellors and constables. None of the other ‘ancient boroughs’ was able to compete with Brecon: Builth, Crickhowel, Hay and Talgarth were poor places, Builth alone possessing a charter.5

The bailiff of Brecon supervised the elections, said to have been made by ‘the greater part of the whole community of the ... town’. Indentures survive for the last two Henrician Parliaments and for the two held in 1553, all save the one for 1545 being in Latin. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Breconshire and the bailiff and commonalty of Brecon, or the bailiff and about 30 named burgesses of the town: in September 1553 the name of Sir Roger Vaughan, the brother-in-law of Edward Games, heads the list of electors. There is nothing to suggest that the other boroughs in the county took part in elections earlier than 1597. The list of Members for the third Marian Parliament notes that the return for ‘Breknok’ had been delivered into Chancery by the 12th Earl of Arundel: neither the return for the Boroughs nor that for the shire is extant, but presumably they were sewn together by the sheriff according to custom.6

After Sir John Price the leading figure in Brecon during the 1540s and 1550s was John Games who sat at least once for the shire: Games’s sons, Edward and Meredydd, and their kin more or less monopolized the representation of the Boroughs throughout the century. John Havard, returned in 1545 while Price was bailiff and Thomas Havard sheriff, could have been a relative of the Games family. The civilian William Aubrey was the only Member returned before the accession of Elizabeth not known to have been domiciled in Brecon, but he was of local origin and had been educated there: he also had the patronage of Pembroke. Brecon was included in the Act of 1544 for urban renewal (35 Hen. VIII, c.4).


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Only the christian name survives on the indenture, C219/20/177.
  • 3. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 4. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 5. M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages, 535-7; Bull. Bd. of Celtic Studies, ii. 244; Trans. Cymmrod. Soc. 1915-16, pp. 212-16; Jones, Brec. 182-4; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, iii. 105; Poole, Brec. 27, 32; Boroughs in Med. Wales, ed. Griffith, 47-70; CPR, 1555-7, pp. 76-81.
  • 6. C219/18B/119; 18C/165, 20/177, 21/217.