New Radnor Boroughs
Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen of New Radnor, Cefnllys, Knighton, Knucklas (Cnwclas), Rhayader, ?Presteigne, ?Painscastle and ?Norton
|c. Mar. 1604||SIR ROBERT HARLEY|
|c. Mar. 1614||ROWLAND MEYRICK|
|28 Dec. 16201||CHARLES PRICE|
|3 Feb. 16242||CHARLES PRICE|
|26 Apr. 16253||CHARLES PRICE|
|c. Jan. 1626||CHARLES PRICE|
|c. Feb. 1628||CHARLES PRICE|
The English plantation borough of New Radnor had taken over the mantle of its declining neighbour, Old Radnor, in the thirteenth century. It suffered badly during the Glynd?r rebellion, and did not receive a full charter until 1562, when the townsmen apparently joined with the Anglesey borough of Beaumaris to lobby for incorporation. The charter provided for a council of 25 capital burgesses, from which a bailiff and two aldermen were selected annually. The borough’s jurisdiction included the neighbouring parishes of Old and New Radnor and Llanfihangel Nant Melan, along with parts of Cascob and Llandegley, an area which encompassed about a fifth of the shire. New Radnor was not a flourishing settlement, however: the charter referred to its dwindling market, and the situation does not appear to have improved subsequently.4 This was partly because of the prosperity of nearby Presteigne, the population of which, at around 600, was over twice that of New Radnor.5 Camden noted that Prestigne had ‘now grown to be so great a market town and fair withal that at this day it dammereth and dimmeth the light of Radnor’, while a petition from 1641 noted that the quarter sessions rarely met at New Radnor, having presumably been drawn to its thriving neighbour.6 An Exchequer deposition of 1622 claimed that the corporation of New Radnor was ‘dissolved’ or ‘suspended’ around 1618, which suggests serious disruption within the borough’s elite, although the complete loss of corporation records makes this impossible to ascertain.7
Under the terms of the Henrician union legislation, a substantial number of out-boroughs were allowed to participate in parliamentary elections. The indentures testify that ‘all bailiffs of all boroughs and shire towns … which be contributory to the payment of the burgess’ wages’ were summoned to vote at election times, but the surviving returns are in such a poor condition that it is difficult to ascertain whether this was for form’s sake only. The 1620 and 1625 elections suggest that the electors were drawn from New Radnor and its vicinity. The contracting parties on these occasions included John Bull of Old Radnor; Thomas Howell of New Radnor; William Knill of Womaston, Evenjobb, a hamlet located between New Radnor and Presteigne and within the capacious boundaries of the corporation; and Richard Jones* and his son and namesake who, residing in Llanfihangel Nant Melan, were also within the territorial ambit of the borough liberties, as were Hugh Lewis of Harpton Court and his son Charles.8 However, the presence of Hugh Lewis, who lived at Dolley (Discoed) in the parish of Presteigne in 1620, and James Duppa of Whitney, Herefordshire, who held land in Painscastle in 1625, suggests that some participation by the contributory boroughs may have occurred.9 The role of these out-boroughs was hotly contested in elections later in the seventeenth century, but even then their number and rights were confused and disputed.10 From the fragmentary evidence of the Jacobean and Caroline elections, it seems that that for the most part it was the burgesses of Radnor who attended, with the bailiff acting as the returning officer.
The 1604 Member, Sir Robert Harley, resided just across the English border at Brampton Bryan, around 13 miles from New Radnor. His influence certainly extended into Radnorshire: he served as sheriff in 1606-7; and was later described as ‘a man largely estated’ in the county,11 while his father leased the manor of Gladestry, a mere four miles south of New Radnor, after the attainder of (Sir) Gelly Meyrick† in 1601. Harley was perhaps more closely associated with Prestigne than with Radnor itself, however, buying the rectory in 1619 in order to convey it to the puritan feoffees of impropriations, and assisting the town during a severe outbreak of the plague in 1636-7.12 He also appears as a witness in a land transaction involving the Bradshaw family of Presteigne, associates and kinsmen of the powerful Price dynasty of Mynachdy, who held the county seat in 1604.13
Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex, had cultivated a considerable following in Radnorshire. His steward, Sir Gelly Meyrick, had obtained the Gladestry estate after marrying into the powerful Lewis family, and while his estates were still under attainder in 1604, his son and heir, Rowland Meyrick, obtained restitution by a private Act in 1606. The latter probably mobilised the considerable remnant of Essex’s local affinity (the earl had been constable of Radnor castle) to secure his return for the borough in 1614.14
The borough Member throughout the 1620s was Charles Price of Pilleth, brother of the knight of the shire between 1624 and 1626. The family’s influence over the shire seat, principally by the parent branch at Mynachdy, reached back into the Elizabethan period, but after the collapse of James Price I’s political and financial power in the latter part of James’s reign, the Pilleth family emerged as the dominant force in Radnorshire politics. Charles Price was a military man involved with the war effort of the 1620s, and was probably returned in absentia on several occasions. The surviving indentures for 1624 and 1625 indicate that local figures associated with the Mynachdy supremacy, including Charles Price’s brother-in-law, Richard Jones* of Trewern, were important in securing his return.15 It may also be significant that Price acted as deputy steward for the 3rd earl of Pembroke in the lordship of Maelienydd throughout the 1620s.16 The constableship of Radnor Castle, and influence over several of the contributory boroughs which lay within the lordship, came with the stewardship, so Price probably enjoyed some control over the admission of burgesses. The relationship between Price and Pembroke should not be overstated, however, for Price emerged as a vocal Buckingham supporter and showed few signs of any close attachment to Pembroke’s circle in the later 1620s.
None of New Radnor’s representatives pressed local legislative business in the House, although Charles Price did concern himself with measures relating to the Welsh wool trade, important for the market centres of the county. Additionally, Rowland Meyrick’s restitution bill of 1606 seems to have been supported by a circle of old Essex associates, but neither the borough nor the shire Member appear to have been involved.
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. C219/37/369.
- 2. C219/38/340.
- 3. C219/39/281; Add. 70109, no. 59.
- 4. SP12/21/2; CPR, 1560-3, pp. 343-6; STAC 5/D11/3; I. Soulsby, Towns of Medieval Wales, 206-8.
- 5. N. Powell, Urban Hist. xxxii. 50, 52.
- 6. W. Camden, Britannia (1610), p. 623; Add. 70003, f. 136.
- 7. E178/5136.
- 8. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 262, 264-5; NLW, James Coleman Deeds, D.D. 952-3.
- 9. PROB 11/98, f. 19v.
- 10. CJ, x. 87b-88a, 469a; Harl. 6846, ff. 294-7; HP Commons 1660-90, i. 521-2; HP Commons 1690-1715, ii. 820-2.
- 11. Add. 70003, f. 132v.
- 12. Brampton Bryan, ms 8/34/1; Add. 70002, ff. 122-4, 127, 135.
- 13. NLW, James Coleman Deeds, D.D. 954.
- 14. M. Gray, ‘Castles and patronage in sixteenth century Wales’, WHR, xv. 489- 93.
- 15. C219/30/340; Add. 70109, no. 59.
- 16. K. Parker, Hist. Presteigne, 65.