PUGH, Rowland (c.1579-1644), of Mathafarn, Llanwrin, Mont.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. c.1579,1 1st s. of Richard Pugh (d.1588) of Mathafarn and Gaynor, da. of Rees Thomas of Caernarvon, Caern.2 educ. Shrewsbury sch. 1590, Jesus, Oxf. 1597, aged 18; Clement’s Inn; I. Temple 1599.3 m. (1) by 1597, Elizabeth (d.1627), da. of Sir Richard Price* of Gogerddan, Card., 2da.; (2) Oct. 1628, Mary (d.1669), da. of James Lewis of Coedmor, Card., wid. of Thomas Jones of Llanbadarn Fawr, Card., 1s.4 suc. grandfa. Rowland Pugh† by 1602. d. 26 Dec. 1644.5 sig. Row[land] Pughe.

Offices Held

Steward, Cyfeiliog, Mont. 1602;6 j.p. Mont. 1605-30, 1632-?d., Card. 1628-d.;7 sheriff, Mont. 1608-9, 1625-6, Merion. 1630-1;8 commr. subsidy, Mont. 1609-10, 1621-2, 1624,9 i.p.m. Richard Pugh 1633;10 dep. lt., Mont. by 1631-42;11 commr. sewers, Merion. and Mont. 1637;12 collector, St. Paul’s Cathedral repair, Mont. 1639;13 commr. Poll Tax 1641,14 array 1642-d.15


The Pugh (ap Hugh) family were traced by the bards to Einion ap Sesyll, lord of Merioneth, who held Mathafarn in the twelfth century. More fanciful pedigrees charted the family history back to Dyfnwal Moelmud and Brutus.16 Their lands, which straddled the River Dyfi above Machynlleth, comprised one of the larger estates in Montgomeryshire, being valued at £1,000 p.a. at the Restoration. Rowland Pugh’s paternal grandfather and namesake sat for Montgomery Boroughs in 1572 and 1589. The Member’s father, Richard, died prematurely in 1588, when Pugh was only nine.17 Pugh was almost certainly then placed in the care of his grandfather, who sent him to school in Shrewsbury. On the latter’s death in around 1602 the family estates devolved on Pugh. By this time, having acquired some legal training at Clement’s Inn and the Inner Temple, he was acting as steward of the lordship of Cyfeiliog (which included Mathafarn) for Sir Henry Townsend*, chief justice of Chester and one of the justices on the Chester circuit.18 Pugh became sheriff of Montgomeryshire in 1608, having been on the local bench for three years.

Pugh’s status as putative heir to the Mathafarn patrimony after 1588 made him an attractive marriage prospect even before his grandfather’s demise, which accounts for his marriage by 1597 to a daughter of Sir Richard Price of Gogerddan, the most powerful figure in Cardiganshire society, who also owned extensive property in Montgomeryshire. Pugh was party to one of Price’s land transactions in January 1606, and was named as co-defendant with Price in an Exchequer case of 1616 over the Montgomeryshire manor of Carno.19 Along with a fellow Montgomeryshire j.p., Rowland Owen, Pugh and others were accused in Star Chamber in 1618 of being involved in the attempted murder of John Lloyd of Ynyshir at Machynlleth in revenge for the murder of one Edward Owen by Lloyd’s kinsman.20 Nothing seems to have come of the suit, but it might be worthy of note that Owen’s murder took place at Llanbadarn Fawr, which included the Price home of Gogerddan.

With the Montgomeryshire county and borough seats dominated by the Herbert families of Powis Castle and Montgomery Castle, Pugh was obliged to look for a parliamentary seat elsewhere. His return for Cardigan Boroughs in 1624 and 1625 occurred after his father-in-law’s death, but it seems likely that Pugh was acceptable to Sir Richard’s grandson and heir, James Lewis* of Abernantbychan, Cardiganshire. This would explain why (Sir) John Wynn* wrote to (Sir) Richard’s widow in October 1623 asking her to approach her son-in-law, ‘the foremost man in Llanwrin’, on behalf of an acquaintance recently presented to a parsonage there.21 Despite Price’s death, Pugh was of a piece with several of his recent predecessors in the borough seat in having a legal background and coming from outside Cardiganshire itself. That this was an arrangement reached with the Gogerddan interest seems likely, as in January 1624 Pugh’s name appears to have been inserted into a blank return, which also suggests that Pugh was not present at the election itself.22

Neither Pugh nor his constituency had any significant agenda, and his parliamentary activity was accordingly minimal. This was despite Pugh’s reputation (according to the praise poets) for eloquence in public speaking and for having ‘[y] maint iawn i’r parliament’ (‘the right capacity for the Parliament’).23 He presented Cardiganshire as having no recusant officeholders on 27 Apr. 1624, which suggests that the county Member, James Lewis, who should have made the report, was not in the House.24 Pugh also attended, on 16 Apr., a meeting of the committee scrutinizing the bill for the Edwards family estate at Chirk, Denbighshire.25 Given that he was approached over a matter of patronage by the Wynns of Gwydir in 1623, it is somewhat surprising that Pugh signed during this Parliament the petition against Sir Richard Wynn* for obtaining the lease of the greenwax fines in Wales.26 Pugh was disabled from seeking re-election in 1626 as he was once more serving as sheriff for Montgomeryshire, and he does not seemed to have harboured parliamentary ambitions thereafter.

Over the next decade Pugh picked up some local offices in Montgomeryshire, Cardiganshire and Merioneth, including the prestigious position of deputy lieutenant in Montgomeryshire. He compounded for knighthood at London in 1631, paying £20, although he had initially claimed that as sheriff in 1626 he was required to remain in Montgomeryshire and thus could not have been present at Charles’s coronation.27 His first wife having died in 1627, Pugh remarried, taking as his second wife Mary, daughter of James Lewis of Coedmor and widow of Thomas Jones of Llanbadarn Fawr, a scion of the powerful Joneses of Abermarlais, Carmarthenshire. In 1636 the couple brought an Exchequer suit against one James Evans over rights in her former home of Llanbadarn Fawr.28

The issue which brought Pugh onto the public stage in the 1630s was his involvement with Sir Thomas Myddelton I* and his son, Sir Thomas II*, over the purchase of the Crown lordships of Arwystli and Cyfeiliog in Montgomeryshire. Sir Thomas I* purchased the lordships in 1628 for £1,000 despite rumblings of opposition from some tenants. Then, in February 1635, Sir Thomas II* sold Cyfeiliog (which contained Mathafarn) to Pugh, and Arwystli to Sir Edward Lloyd of Berthllwyd, for a combined price of £4,208, with Pugh paying the lion’s share of £3,355.29 It seems that Pugh borrowed heavily to fund the purchase, as Sir Thomas Myddelton I’s widow, Lady Anne, brought a case against him in Chancery in February 1636 which detailed how he had borrowed £1,500 from her through a mortgage on Mathafarn that was encumbered with debts he had failed to disclose.30

The sale of these lordships to Pugh and Lloyd initiated a succession of lawsuits which made it clear that there had been intense competition between several major freeholders to acquire the lands. There was also disquiet among the tenants as to the level of composition the purchasers would demand for their encroachments on wastes. The tenants seem to have been behind the attorney-general’s allegation in the Exchequer that Pugh and others had been parties to a conspiracy to defraud the Crown by purchasing the lordships at a reduced value.31 Francis Herbert of Dolguog, Montgomeryshire, was one of those who had competed unsuccessfully for the original purchase, and played a guiding role in organizing the legal opposition to the sale.32 Pugh retaliated with his own Exchequer lawsuits, accusing Herbert of intrusion and encroachment in the lordship.33 In March 1637 and December 1638, Pugh and Lloyd also petitioned the king, identifying Herbert’s orchestration of the opposition and requesting an end to the legal campaign.34 Pugh’s enmity with Herbert had some history, for in 1615 Pugh had written to Herbert’s mother about Herbert’s wardship, alleging that the family’s lands in Cyfeiliog were held in free socage not in capite as they claimed, and they had encroached on lands by claiming spurious rights of common pasture.35 A correspondent informed Herbert in February 1640 that Pugh was in London and ‘very confident’ of obtaining a successful decision in the lawsuit. He also noted that Pugh had brought his wife and daughters ‘great bravery’ (fine clothes) at Christmas, new liveries for his men, and had spent £300 on lands in Llanbrynmair, a parish which formed part of the Cyfeiliog grant.36 The protracted dispute was overtaken by events in the 1640s but was settled by Pugh and Herbert’s respective heirs in 1656.37

Pugh was involved in a controversy over Catholic influence in Montgomeryshire in the summer of 1641, when he was one of those local justices (another was Sir Edward Lloyd) who obstructed a Commons order requiring recusants to appear at the quarter sessions in August.38 He became a commissioner of array in 1642, and turned his house into a local garrison. In December 1644 Sir Thomas Myddleton II, the parliamentarian commander for mid-Wales, informed the Commons that he had defeated Pugh’s force of 1,000 royalists near Machynlleth. Pugh’s house fell into parliamentarian hands and was burned to the ground, an act remembered in a politically charged Welsh lament by the Montgomeryshire poet James Dwnn.39 Pugh, who may have been wounded at Machynlleth, fled north, dying at Conway, Caernarvonshire, on 26 Dec. 1644.40 Letters of administration were issued to his wife on 1 Jan. 1646.41 In his lifetime, Pugh was a patron of Welsh bardic culture, and had praise poems addressed to him by figures such as Gruffudd Hafren, James Dwnn and SiĆ“n Cain, although no marwnad (elegy) is now extant.42 His great-grandson, John, sat for Cardiganshire between 1705 and 1708, and for Montgomery Boroughs between 1708 and 1727.

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. 272; Mont. Colls. v. 493; NLW, SA/1588/R4, f. 479v.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; Shrewsbury Sch. Regestum Scholarium comp. E. Calvert, 124; I. Temple database of admiss.
  • 4. Dwnn, i. 44; Mont. Colls. v. 493; xvi. 48; NLW, ms 11986, ff. 215-18; Peniarth 117, f. 469; E112/271/20; Prerogative Ct. of Canterbury, Wills, Sentences and Probate Acts, 1661-1670 ed. J.H. Morrison, 199; E134/12&13Chas.I/Hi1.4.
  • 5. Mont. Colls. xv. 410.
  • 6. Ibid. xvi. 48.
  • 7. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 134-43, 194-6.
  • 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 263, 261.
  • 9. E179/222/387; C212/22/21-3.
  • 10. C142/500/39.
  • 11. NLW, Chirk Castle F10689; HEHL, EL7443.
  • 12. C181/5, f. 151v.
  • 13. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 108.
  • 14. SR, v. 158.
  • 15. CSP Dom. 1644, p. 181.
  • 16. NLW, Esgair and Pantperthog A1, p. 30; J. Rhydderch, Peds. Mont. ed. Sir T. Phillipps, 69.
  • 17. A marwnad (elegy) was composed for him by the bard Owain Gwynedd: NLW, Llanstephan 118, f. 664.
  • 18. Mont. Colls. v. 493.
  • 19. E112/150/72; NLW, Peniarth Estate NA26. cf. C2/Jas.I/P1/44.
  • 20. STAC 8/194/15.
  • 21. NLW, ms 9059E/1155.
  • 22. C219/38/317.
  • 23. Astudiaeth o Fywyd a Gwaith Siâms Dwnn (c.1570-c.1660), Cywyddwr o Fetws Cedewain yn Sir Drefaldwyn ed. D.H. Evans, ii. 128; NLW, Peniarth 116, f. 212.
  • 24. CJ, i. 776b.
  • 25. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 204.
  • 26. NLW, ms 9059E/1217. See also Pugh’s letters to (Sir) John Wynn† in 1626, in which he addresses him as ‘kinsman’: NLW, 467E/1398; 9061E/1408.
  • 27. E401/1918; 178/7320.
  • 28. E112/271/20; 134/12&13Chas.I/Hil.14.
  • 29. C54/3055/1; E112/276/34; 178/5926; NLW, Ness Strange 84; Misc. ms 184; Chirk F1150-3.
  • 30. C2/Chas.I/M7/48. See also NLW, Wynnstay L25 for Myddleton’s lending to Pugh.
  • 31. E112/276/34; NLW, Wynnstay L1-54; Chirk F14061; Powis Castle 11378; Mont. Colls. iii. 42-5.
  • 32. CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 483.
  • 33. E112/276/17; E134/13Chas.I/Mich.54; 134/13&14Chas.I/Hil.39; 134/14Chas.I/East.19; NLW, Wynnstay L66, L74, L603-4.
  • 34. CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 483; 1638-9, pp. 165-6.
  • 35. NLW, Wynnstay L168.
  • 36. Herbert Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Bd. of Celtic Studs. Hist. and Law Ser., xxi), 106.
  • 37. Mont. Colls. iii. 45.
  • 38. Harl. 479, f. 156; Bodl., Nalson ms XIII, f. 61.
  • 39. CSP Dom. 1644, p. 181; Perfect Passages, ix. (11-18 Dec. 1644), p. 68; Astudiaeth o Fywyd a Gwaith Siâms Dwnn, ii. 414-17.
  • 40. Mont. Colls. xvi. 410.
  • 41. Index to Admons. in the Prerogative Ct. of Canterbury ed. M. Fitch, vi. 338; Mont. Colls. xxii. 253.
  • 42. NLW, ms 6494, f. 29; Peniarth 116, ff. 209-13; Peniarth 117, ff. 467-8; Astudiaeth o Fywyd a Gwaith Siâms Dwnn, ii. 124-30.