HERBERT, William I (c.1539-1609), of Plas Newydd, Swansea and Grey Friars, Cardiff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1539, 1st s. of Matthew Herbert of Cogan Pill, Glam. and bro. of John and Nicholas. m. (1) Catherine, da. and coh. of Edward Griffith of Penrhyn, Caern., s.p. suc. gd.-fa. 2 Sept. 1570. Kntd. 1576.1

Offices Held

J.p. Glam. from c.1561, q. from 1586, commr. piracy 1565; sheriff, Caern. 1565-6; escheator, Glam. 1568-70, 1573-4; constable, Cardiff castle, mayor 1573-4; dep. lt. Glam. 1576, 1587; j.p. Anglesey from c. 1579, q. 1586; member, council in the marches of Wales 1590; dep. lt. Pemb. 1590; sheriff, Glam. 1591-2; j.p. Herefs., Salop, Worcs. from c.1596, q.1601.2


Herbert’s marriage to the coheiress of one of the great estates of North Wales accounts for his offices there, but from 1572 he began to divest himself of the Penrhyn properties. Herbert was elected knight of the shire for the first Parliament of the new reign while he was still under age, and in the lifetime of his father and grandfather. He is not mentioned in the extant parliamentary journals of that year.3

Herbert’s father died owing the Crown some £3,000 in respect of his office of receiver, and in 1576 a judgment was entered against his heirs and executors to answer for this sum. Herbert denied that he had inherited any lands from his father, and petitioned for release on a legal quibble—with unknown results. In succeeding to the family estates and influence in Glamorgan, Herbert succeeded also to the usual feuds. In 1576 he had to appear before the council in the marches in connexion with a brawl between his servants and those of William Bassett I of Beaupré and William Carne—both inveterate foes of the Herberts—in which a petty constable was ‘grievously hurt’. In the same year an appeal was made to him as a piracy commissioner to rescue a foreign victim of pirates under the protection of his powerful kinsman, Sir John Perrot, but he declined to intervene.4

In the year of his Glamorgan shrievalty two actions were brought against Herbert in the Star Chamber, each alleging that he had contravened crown grants by disposing of property. More serious was his quarrel with the town of Cardiff. In a previous dispute between borough and county over the building of Cardiff bridge in 1577-87, the Herbert influence had been thrown on the side of Cardiff; but in 1596 the bailiffs of the town sued him in the Star Chamber on charges of rescuing his servants from Cardiff gaol, procuring by intimidation a partial coroner’s verdict on a townsman who was killed, and threatening to have the borough charter annulled. The dispute flared up again the following year in another Star Chamber action in which he was accused of using 400 of the posse comitatus to overawe the town and to rescue a kinsman, leaving the bailiffs helpless, the town in an uproar, and peaceful citizens afraid to stir abroad. In the end, he was fined 1,000 marks, but he retained his seat on the council in the marches.5

In other respects Herbert continued to flourish. He had a London residence when he first sat in Parliament: by 1578 he had built on the site of the Grey Friars at Cardiff a ‘sumptuous house’ known as Friars. This became the chief residence of the family until it died out in 1723. In 1569 Herbert took a 21-year lease of coal mines in the manor of Millwood in Gower, and further leases were added in 1577.6 Herbert died in 1609, leaving no legitimate children.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.H.D.


  • 1. Clark, Limbus, 286-7; Griffith, Peds. 57; Arch. Comb. (ser. 1), iv. (ser. 4), xii. 80; C142/324/170, 160/1; E150/1217/4; Cardiff Recs. ed. Matthews, iii. 67.
  • 2. Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 126, 142; APC, vii. 257; xix. 290; Clark, Cartae de Glam. vi. 2121; Lansd. 35, f. 138; 1218, f. 93v; St. Ch. 5/M25/32; NLW, Dinas Powys mss; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 248; HMC Foljambe, 26; Cardiff Recs. v. 513.
  • 3. Clark, Limbus, 283; S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. Pub. ii. 129 et seq.; iii. 14-15, 120-2; Clark, Cartae, vi. 2146-8; Cardiff Recs. i. 401-2; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 357; Trans. Anglesey Antiq. Soc. 1928, 43; E150/1217/4; C142/160/1.
  • 4. Exchequer, ed. E. G. Jones (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. iv), 222; Cardiff Recs. iii. 66; Morgannwg, ii. 38-46; Col. Penrice and Margan mss, ed. Birch, iv(2), p. 125; Arch. Camb. (ser. 5), xv. 304.
  • 5. Star Chamber, ed. Edwards (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. i), 77, 80, 86; Morgannwg, ii. 38-46; S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. Pub. i. 68, 98-113; P. H. Williams, Council in the Marches of Wales, 308.
  • 6. CPR, 1558-60, p. 207; S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc. Pub. iii. 14-15, 120 and n.; Augmentations, ed. Lewis and Davies (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xiii), 416-17; Arch. Camb. (ser. 3), xii. 478.
  • 7. C142/324/170; Wards 7/35/180.