LEWIS, John (1580/1-1655/6), of Plâs Abernantbychan (Plâs Glynarthen), Penbryn, Card.
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Family and Education
b. 1580/1,1 2nd s. of James Lewis (d.1599) of Abernantbychan, being 1st s. with his 2nd w. Anne, da. of John Wogan of Wiston, Pemb.2 educ. Jesus, Oxf. 1598 aged 17; I. Temple 1599.3 m. 1601, Bridget (d.1643), da. of Sir Richard Price* of Gogerddan, Card., 3s. (1 d.v.p.), 3da.4 kntd. 4 July 1604.5 d. 1655/6.6 sig. John Lewes.
J.p. Card. 1599-1626 (custos rot. 1623-6),7 sheriff 1608-9, 1633-4,8 commr. subsidy 1608, 1621-2, 1624,9 dep. lt. by 1609-at least 1642,10 commr. piracy, Carm., Pemb., Card. 1609, 1617, 1623,11 Welsh money for Irish levy, Card. 1626,12 defence of Milford Haven 1627-8,13 knighthood fines 1630-1,14 exacted fees, principality of South Wales 1635.15
In 1589 and 1609 the herald-poet Lewys Dwnn called at Abernantbychan, and compiled detailed pedigrees which traced the Lewes family to Ednowain ab Bradwen, lord of Merioneth and founder of one of the native royal tribes of Gwynedd in the twelfth century.16 The Member’s paternal grandfather, Lewes Dafydd Meredydd, built up the family estates in the area of Penbryn, southern Cardiganshire, and appeared on the county’s first commission of the peace in 1542, later acquiring armigerous status.17 In 1571 the Member’s father, James Lewis, was the first of the family to become sheriff, and he was said by Dwnn to have been a local steward of the 2nd earl of Essex.18 James was the key figure in establishing the Lewes family and extending its landed estate in the late sixteenth century, as he acquired a number of leases from the Crown in the 1580s and 1590s in addition to making purchases from local squires.
Lewis himself was a product of James’s second marriage, and thus was established as a junior branch, with the Leweses of Gellidywyll representing the senior line.19 However, Abernantbychan became the more prominent and powerful house in the early seventeenth century, partly because John was favoured by his father and received the lion’s share of the Cardiganshire estate at his death in 1599. The Member also added to the estate in the early 1600s, borrowing to extend his landed portfolio. However, the family’s prominence was in no small measure due to John’s marriage in 1601 into the county’s leading political family, the Prices of Gogerddan. As a result of this match, Lewis was returned for the county in 1604, when his father-in-law, (Sir) Richard Price, was sheriff. The Price connection probably also explains how Lewes came by a knighthood shortly after the election. Once at Westminster, Lewis did not prove to be an active Member. Indeed, his only appointment throughout the entire Parliament was to be added on 20 Apr. 1604 to those Members who were to attend the king regarding the proposed Union.20
County politics was dominated by the Price-Lewis axis for the whole of the early Stuart period, and on his death in 1623 Lewis succeeded Sir Richard Price as chairman of the bench. However, in 1626 Lewis stepped down as custos and seems to have withdrawn from the commission of the peace altogether, perhaps out of a wish to turn over such public business to his son, James*. He nevertheless continued to serve as a deputy lieutenant, helping to impress men for service in Ireland during the 1620s.21 In June 1625 he informed the Privy Council that he had not had time to levy the requisite coat and conduct money for conveying the county’s 50 soldiers to their conductor, and so had defrayed the costs out of the third subsidy voted in 1624.22 Lewis served as sheriff of Cardiganshire in 1633-4. In September 1635, following the issue of the first Ship Money writs, he headed the list of Cardiganshire men who petitioned his successor to complain about the unequal rating of the county relative to Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.23
Lewis consolidated his family’s estates. A key moment was his purchase of Rowland Mortimer of Coedmor’s wardship in 1613.24 Lewis’s sister married the young heir, and in 1617 Lewis exchanged his Castell-llwyd estate in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, together with a payment of £200, for the Coedmor land, which would in later generations become the family’s principal residence. Along with his son James, Lewis also purchased the manors and boroughs of Aberystwyth and Cardigan in 1633, and in February 1641 he obtained a 25 year lease on 11 north Cardiganshire chapels and rectories: the annual rent on this lease alone was £500.25 Lewis lent money to, or stood as surety for, several notable figures in this period, including Sir James Perrot*, Sir Thomas Canon* and Rowland Meyrick*, which suggests a political network among former associates of his father’s old patron, the 2nd earl of Essex.26
No evidence has survived of Lewis’s allegiance in the Civil War, by which time he was over 60 and perhaps incapable of playing an active role. However, his eldest son was initially a royalist. Towards the end of his life, some of the debts Lewis had run up to fund his earlier property deals began to catch up with him. In 1640 he was judged at law to owe £2,000, while his son’s estate was extended in 1663 to recover debts his father had owed to a London creditor.27 He died intestate in 1655 or 1656, and was probably buried in the family crypt beneath the chancel at Penbryn Church, with his wife and a younger son.28 He was succeeded by James, who represented Cardiganshire in the Parliaments of 1624-8, the Short Parliament of 1640 and in the 1656 assembly.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to university.
- 2. Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, i. 40; W. Wales Hist. Recs. i. 13; NLW, Noyadd Trefawr, 438.
- 3. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
- 4. Dwnn, i. 40; W. Wales Hist. Recs. i. 13; D. Huws, ‘The Lewes Fam. of Abernantbychan’, Ceredigion, vi. 156, and ped. opp. p. 164.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 134 (mistakenly described as ‘of Glam.’).
- 6. Huws, 156.
- 7. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 189-94.
- 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 242.
- 9. C212/22/21-3; SP14/31/1.
- 10. Cheshire Archives, DNE16; HEHL, EL7443.
- 11. C181/2, ff. 95v, 276; 181/3, f. 97v.
- 12. APC, 1626, p. 114.
- 13. Huws, 154; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 387.
- 14. E178/7154, f. 142; 178/5938, f. 5; SO1/2, f. 65.
- 15. C181/5, f. 16.
- 16. Dwnn, i. 39; P. Yorke, Roy. Tribes of Wales, 206-9.
- 17. JPs in Wales and Monm. 185.
- 18. Dwnn, i. 40. See also Lansd. 53, f. 182.
- 19. F. Jones, ‘Gellidywyll’, Ceredigion, viii. 374-81.
- 20. CJ, i. 180a.
- 21. SP16/1/49.
- 22. SP16/3/92.
- 23. SP16/298/32; PC2/45, p. 161.
- 24. WARD 9/162, f. 15. The Cardigan Member of 1604, William Bradshaw, stood surety for this transaction.
- 25. NLW, Cwrtmawr 1644, 207; Noyadd Trefawr 18; Huws, 154-5.
- 26. NLW, Noyadd Trefawr 104, 278, 296, 408-9.
- 27. Ibid. 191; Huws, 154, 158-9.
- 28. Huws, 156.