Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where Are the Court Rolls for the Borough of English Hay on the border of the former counties of Brecon, Radnor, and Herefordshire?

Hay Castle, Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales, August 21, 2010, Now a bookstore. Who could ask for more?
Note the War Memorial prominent center right.
I get more traffic with my LDS General Conference postings than anything else - even a handful of hits from Britain. So, I'm taking advantage to throw this out there in an attempt to find a record that has to exist somewhere but has so far alluded us as well as our Welsh researcher. Maybe someone will be intrigued by the mystery and offer good suggestions or clues. Maybe somebody actually has this record or at least knows where it is.

I have already blogged about our near breakthrough in finding the father of my direct, paternal-line ancestor - illegitimate as he was, the originator of my surname (from his mother), John Vaughan 1789-1851. We are doing well in tracking down his mother's family - Vaughans from Glasbury, Breconshire. And we have that glimmer of information from our researcher found in the Vestry Minutes of Hay Parish:
12/6/1789     That Roger Vaughan and daughter be allow’d 9d [pence] p. week towards the maintaining of her bastard child on account of the tailor who is now in gaol.
We are finding some possible candidates for the tailor. We have the names of three tailors in Hay mentioned contemporaneously in the records. We also have two from neighboring Glasbury, a parish without a jail that would have sent anyone requiring some incarceration time to Hay. One Glasbury tailor named Bradshaw had an illegitimate child in 1782, which is intriguing except that he later married the mother in 1785, and the other, a Reese Price, shows up in the Glasbury Overseers Account and Poor Rate Book in the critical year of John Vaughan's birth:
Return Rees Price eight assessments  [This is abbreviated and should read Return Rees Price in arrears for eight assessments]  It does not say what the assessments are for.
Our researcher is checking this out with other experts as to what all this means and whether it could have resulted in being sent to gaol [jail].

But the major question remains, who was the tailor in Hay jail on June 12, 1789, when Roger Vaughan and daughter petitioned the Hay Vestry for maintenance? And for heaven's sake, why didn't they name him? There has to be a list of prisoners somewhere. And we have good reason to believe there is, we just don't know where it is.

The reason why we believe it exists is because it appears as a reference in a footnote. The definitive history of the Town of Hay, now Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales, UK, is A History of the Hay: The story of Hay-on-Wye, by Geoffrey L. Fairs (Phillimore, London and Chichester 1972). There is a chapter on "the Law" with reference to the various courts and the sometimes confusing (for an American lawyer) variety of jurisdictions. We've checked them all as best we can. These include the County Quarter Sessions Order Books for all three counties that come together at Hay [no petition for maintenance in bastardy found], the excellent database of the National Library of Wales listing prisoners in the county gaols [jails], and the religious Consistory Court indices, which are on-line and now downloaded onto my computer for the Diocese of St. David's. Fairs explains about the Manorial Courts at Hay which continued into the 19th Century. He gives some tantalizing examples from those records which he footnotes with this reference on page 158, footnote 34:
Court Rolls Borough of English Hay (1773-1852)
But he doesn't tell where that source is located!!

Fairs is unfortunately deceased. We may have to commission a search at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth to see if his papers reveal anything more. That was one stop we failed to make last summer.

We have searched the catalogues of  Hereford and Powys Counties. We have searched online at the British Archives and the National Library of Wales (all wonderful repositories, by the way. We made personal visits to Powys and Hereford County Archives last summer). We have made endless internet searches with all kinds of variations of the name of the record (which at least came up with those Consistory Court indices).

We have a wonderful researcher in Wales whom I have previously mentioned. As she is advertised on the website of the National Library of Wales for family history research, I don't suppose she would mind another plug here. Jennifer Lewis at has great knowledge, skills, reasonable rates, and undertakes well-targeted research challenges. She has made inquiries about our situation at the Brecon Museum and Brecon Family History Library and she has regular access to the Powys County Archives with her employment.

As it was a record of a Court Leet or Baron, meaning under the authority of the Lord of the Manor of Hay, the document may very well be in private hands and not yet in a proper, public archive. It could also be in an archive and not yet properly cataloged.

What we do know from Fairs's book is that up until 1810, prisoners in Hay were jailed in the ancient keep (dungeon) of Hay Castle. As you can see from the picture at top, much of the castle is in ruin and was already by 1789 - at least the ancient portion where the medieval dungeon was. The tailor probably did not have a very pleasant time of it in that dungeon. The scoundrel may very well have deserved his time there. But it is more than time for the captives to be set free. Isn't that what being a savior on Mount Zion is all about?

Besides, I want to know who I am.

Any leads or ideas are certainly welcome.

June 15, 2013

With further research and thought, while there could be a list of gaol inmates from Hay prison in some record of Hay Manor, it could also be that it was a Court Leet of Welsh Hay that sent "the tailor" there. Welsh Hay or "Haya Wallensis" is essentially the parish of Llanigon or Glynbwch Manor - bordering Glasbury, and encompasses all the area to the south and west of Hay up to the mountain peaks (south) and the Wye River (west) (including Blaendigedi Fawr where we stayed on our adventure). In ancient times, Welsh law applied to the Welsh outside the town wall within Welsh Hay, and English law applied to the residents of "English Hay" inside the town wall.

I've been searching on-line indices of archives at Kew, NWL, Powys, and Hereford for anything relating to a court leet for Welsh Hay. It's also interesting that the 13th Viscount Hereford, George Devereux, maintained his seat at Tregoyd next to Llanigon and Glasbury. He was the big Lord at the time, Peer of the Realm, owning property all throughout west England and south Wales. The estate held courts leet later in the 19th Century that included Llanigon (Welsh Hay), Tregoyd, and Glasbury. The Steward of the estate in 1789 was John Morgan. I have not yet found any reference to a court leet for 1789 when someone put "the tailor" in Hay gaol. But the truth is out there . . . . The quest continues.

of June 15, 2013

I should mention that we sent a researcher to review Fairs's notes in the NLW with no luck as to his sources. We are also gathering a bit more information on the Price Family of tailors (and inn-keepers) in Felindre, Glasbury.


  1. I shared this post with my researcher, Jennifer, who replied that Igot it down pretty well. She reminded me of the reasons why someone like Rees Price would show up owing money to the Parish Overseers.

    1. They would have to support a child born out of wedlock

    2. They would have to support their wife if they abandoned her

    3. They would have to support wife and children if they are abandoned

    4. Lastly they were supposed to support their elderly parents

    There are actually two Rees Price's (great) in Glasbury Parish Registers who are likely candidates. A bit more research may link up who may be the most likely - one of them, at least, also is identified as a tailor. I have to match up all the other data on wives and children, etc. But we're still putting pieces of the puzzle together for a circumstantial case. I'd sure like to find that list of prisoners!

  2. Hi there - I was wondering if you ever got anywhere with your search for the Manor Court Rolls or names of prisoners? I work at Hay Castle and it would be great to chat. x

    1. Thank you! We have yet found any court rolls or lists of prisoners. My addenda above pretty much sum up our additional research and conclusions. If you would like to discuss more, you can email me at grant[dot]vaughn[at]gmail[dot]com.

      Oh, and we were in Hay July 2016 and had a couple of good visits to the castle including a tour. We love the improvements and ongoing restoration! (Even though we all miss the old book store in the castle!) We are considering a trip in 2018.


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