Cardiff Boroughs


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


1545(not known)
1553 (Mar.)?DAVID EVANS
1553 (Oct.)DAVID EVANS
1554 (Apr.)DAVID EVANS
1555(not known)

Main Article

Cardiff was the shire town of Glamorgan, the chief market for the region and a thriving port with about 260 burgage tenements. Almost certainly of Norman foundation it had received a charter early in the 12th century which had been confirmed and modified repeatedly until 1497. It was governed by the constable of the castle as ex officio mayor assisted by two bailiffs and 12 aldermen. Borough records are extant for the period. On the eve of the Union Henry VIII made the courtier William Herbert I clerk chancellor of the lordship and in 1550 Edward VI granted him the lordship, manor and borough, together with the constableship of the castle. He was ennobled in 1551 as Baron Herbert of Cardiff and a day later as Earl of Pembroke. In addition to Cardiff there were seven ‘ancient boroughs’ in Glamorganshire: Aberavon, Cowbridge, Kenfig, Llantrisant, Neath and Swansea possessed charters, but Loughor did not. The most prosperous of them, Swansea, was nearly as large as the shire town and belonged to Herbert’s kinsmen the earls of Worcester; it had a reeve and 12 aldermen. The other town in the Gower peninsula, Loughor, had a castle guarding a ferry to Carmarthenshire, all owned by the earls of Worcester. At the Union the remaining boroughs were in the hands of the crown. Herbert acquired the manors and lordships of Llantrisant and Neath in 1546, that of Cowbridge in 1550, and those of Aberavon and Kenfig in 1551.2

There is no certainty as to how often the burgesses of out-boroughs in Glamorganshire were called on to vote or how many, if any, of the boroughs took part in the elections at Cardiff. Some of the surviving indentures, four of them in Latin, are in poor condition, but it appears that in 1542 and 1547 only the burgesses of Cardiff voted; that in January 1553 all the contributory boroughs took part except Cowbridge, which however joined them at the next election; that in November 1554 electors from Cardiff and Cowbridge alone were present, and that this was the procedure again in 1558. Although the sheriff of Glamorganshire is invariably one of the contracting parties, the description of the second varies: sometimes it is simply a number of named burgesses, but on the indenture of September 1553 it is the bailiffs, reeves, aldermen and burgesses of all the boroughs and in November 1554 the two bailiffs of Cardiff ‘in the absence of the mayor’ and about 15 aldermen and burgesses of Cardiff and Cowbridge.3

The first Member, John Bassett, presumably owed his election as much to his own affiliations as to Herbert: he was joint attorney-general of Glamorgan with a home near Cowbridge and kin in the neighbourhood of Cardiff. By 1547 when Bassett was chosen for the shire he was an adviser to Queen Catherine Parr, and another member of her council, John Cock II, was returned for the Boroughs: Cock was also elected for Calne and on his decision to sit there his place at Cardiff was taken by Sir Philip Hoby, another of the Queen’s servants. David Evans from Neath was an associate of Herbert and Bassett’s eventual successor as attorney-general, and Leisian Price, also from Neath and with property in Cardiff, was perhaps already Evans’s son-in-law when returned. William Colchester was the only townsman from Cardiff with municipal experience to be chosen, and in the absence of any known link between him and Herbert his election can perhaps be seen as complying with Mary’s request for resident Members. Cardiff, Cowbridge and Swansea are included in an Act of 1544 for towns with ‘decayed’ houses (35 Hen. VIII, c.4).

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages, 552-7; Boroughs in Med. Wales, ed. Griffith, 103-28, 263-86; W. Rees, Cardiff, 70; LP Hen. VIII, viii. g. 149 (8, 9); CPR, 1550-3, pp. 31-32; Cardiff Recs. ed. Mathews, passim; Breviat of Glamorgan, (S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc.), iii. 112 seq; L. Dillwyn, Swansea, 14-15; Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), xiii. 44; (ser. 4), ix. 127.
  • 3. C219/18B/130, 19/152, 20/205, 21/236, 23/201, 25/155.