A Further Contribution to the Commercial History of Glamorgan


Moelwyn I Williams, National Library of Wales journal, Winter, 1960 , Vol XI/4 pp 330-360

This complete article was provided by Stephen Keates, it is the first part of a series of four parts, see below.

There are also included the Appendixes and some name indexes from the several shipping Tables

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales



In A Booke of Glamorganshires Antiquities 1 written circa 1578, Rice Merrick, the sixteenth century historian and genealogist of Cottrell, St. Nicholas, gives a list of all the 'ports, havens and crickes' situated at various points along the Glamorgan coast between 'Rompney' (Rumney) in the east and 'Loughour' in the west. Six of the thirteen 'ports' enumerated were situated within the more limited coastal fringe of the Vale of Glamorgan; these were: 'Eley, Sully, Barry, Aberthawe, Ogmor, Newton'. In fact, two other 'havens' not mentioned by Merrick, but which are referred to in other 16th century sources, should also be noted as belonging to this more limited stretch of coastline: these were Penarth, and Col-hugh situated at the head of Cwm Col-hugh, near Llantwit Major.

Unfortunately, the extent to which goods or merchandize were shipped out of and into these small 'ports' before the middle of the sixteenth century is a matter for conjecture for there are no official records that would enable one to assess the volume of trade conducted through the Glamorgan ports before the Elizabethan period. The 'almost complete dearth of returns' specifying the commercial activity along the Glamorgan coastline before the middle of the sixteenth century may be attributed mainly to the ports being 'baronial foundations' and being, therefore, 'denied the prestige of the status of the staple towns'. Consequently the extant medieval documents tell us more of the royal ports of Carmarthen and Carnarvon than they do of the baronial ports of Cardiff and Swansea. 2 But, despite the paucity of the evidence available, it is fairly certain that the inhabitants of the rich agricultural lowlands of the Vale of Glamorgan and of the adjacent upland regions had, long before the sixteenth century, enjoyed an economy which was partly sustained by the commercial advantages that accrued from the close proximity of the small ports 3 and the easy access they afforded them to the fairs and markets of the West of England.

In the year 1558/59, 4 the commercial activities of Wales were brought under the unified direction of the Elizabethan administration in accordance with a policy that aimed at establishing a stricter control over the customs revenue of the country as a whole. In pursuance of this policy, the coastline of Wales was divided into three sectors with three corresponding head ports at Cardiff, Milford, and Chester.............................

1 Rice Merrick: A Booke of Glamorganshires Antiquities. Edit. by J. A. Corbett. London, 1887, p. 112.

2 E. A. Lewis: 'A contribution to the Commercial history of Medieval Wales'. Y Cymmrodor, vol. 24, 1913, p. 100, Cf. William Rees: 'Port Books for the port of Cardiff and its members for the Year 1606 - 1610'. S. Wales and Mon. Rec. Soc., Publications No. 3, 1954. p. 69.

3 See Appendix A.

4 E. A. Lewis: The Welsh Port Books (1550-1603), London, 1927, p. ix.

....................respectively. The Exchequer despatched annually to each of the head ports a number of blank parchment books, and under this arrangement the head port of Cardiff received three separate series of books of which one was allocated to the head port itself and one to each of the two sub-ports of Chepstow and Swansea. It has been noted elsewhere 1 that the sector that came under the control of the head port of Cardiff extended from Chepstow to Swansea and so embraced the creeks of Penarth, Barry, Sully, Aberthaw and Newton. The records of trade out of and into these creeks will, therefore, be found in either the Cardiff books or in those for Swansea & Neath. In 1685, however, Swansea was raised to the position of a 'Member' of the head port of Cardiff and thus became practically independent of Cardiff and henceforth exercised jurisdiction over the creeks of Newton, Neath and South Burry. 2 The 'blank books' were returned annually to London from the head ports, and those which have survived the passage of years are today generally known as the 'port books'.

In passing, it should be noted that the object of the 'port books' was to ensure, as far as possible, that the Crown received its full revenue from the customs. That is to say, they were not intended to furnish trade or shipping statistics, but rather to operate as an instrument 'to prevent the evasion of customs duty'. For that reason we must not expect to find in the Welsh port books a detailed record of all the goods shipped out of, or into, Welsh ports during any particular period. What will be found, however, is a record of the shipment of those goods which required the authority of a coast-cocquet or transire or lett pass before they could officially be carried forth to the open sea from any port or creek and landed at any other place of the realm. 3

Most of the trade from the 'creeks' of Glamorgan was coastal, and as coastwise traffic generally was not subject to customs duties, it was invariably authorised by the issue of cocquets, transires or lett passes. For instance, when The Blessing of Aberthaw left Minehead on 11 March, 1692, with a cargo consisting of '8 peices of cloath', a £100 bond was 'entered into'. 4 This meant that the merchant or shipper gave security to the value of £100 that the cloth would be landed at the port specified in the cocket --- that is, Aberthaw. When he later produced proof that the cloth had reached its declared destination the bond was released. Yet when The William of Aberthaw sailed from Minehead to Aberthaw on 5 Sept., 1692, with a cargo of '100yards [of] freez, :2 cwtt. Candle tallow , (for which their Ma'ties duties were here [at Minehead] paid), 400 sheep's leather and a parcell of house-hold goods', a lett pass was granted. 5 The shipment of most commodities from the Glamorgan creeks was authorised per cocquet and as long as goods were exported coastwise in this way, they would be recorded in the appropriate..................

1 Nat. Lib. Wales J., vol. ix, p. 196-197.

2 Cardiff Records, vol. 11, p. 363.

3 Cf. J. H. Andrews: 'Two problems in the interpretation of the port books'. Econ. Hist. Rev., IX No. i (1956) p. 119.

4 P.R.O. E.190/1095/2/4.

5 Ibid.

.................... port books. But at times there seems to have been some doubt about the necessity of recording let passes or transires. Consequently the recording of out-shipments of certain goods would become somewhat irregular and eventually they would be omitted altogether from the port books. Therefore, it would be incorrect to assume that the various entries in the port books constitute a full account of the entire cargoes to which they refer.

The same element of doubt or uncertainty (which again led to inconsistencies in the records) prevailed with regard to the necessity of recording the coast-shipment of 'goods of low custom value'. 1 For instance, on 14 July 1680 The Richard and John of Newton sailed from Newton to Bristol with '3 tons of freestones' as part of its cargo, 2 but there were only two entries in the relevant port book for the same year which referred to the transportation of freestone (or any other stone) across the channel from Newton. Indeed, there are but few entries referring to shipments of 'stone' to be found throughout the whole corpus of port books we have examined. This is rather surprising, especially as it is recorded in another source that 'vessels from the opposite coasts of Somerset and Devon carry from hence (Newton) large quantities of stone for lime'. 3 Again we find that Magness, a mineral said to be a principal ingredient in the finest sorts of glass, 'is dug here in great plenty . . . '. 4 Why is it, then, that we find no record in the port books of this mineral being exported to the Bristol glass houses, more especially as large quantities of 'kelp' were exported to Bristol from Aberthaw for 'use in ye glasshouses' 5 in the manufacture of coarse glass bottles? These and similar questions, which must remain unanswered, serve as a positive warning against the error of regarding the Welsh port books as comprehensive accounts or statistical records of the state of maritime trade in Wales during any particular period which they cover. Indeed they form but very imperfect records and must be used with the utmost caution. Nevertheless, the information the port books contain enables us to determine the general character of the Welsh coastal trade if not its volume.


The observations which follow are intended to throw some additional light on the economic and social life of Glamorgan during the seventeenth century, and they are based on the results of a further study of the Welsh port books and of the extant port books of Minehead a port which came under the jurisdiction of the head port of Bridgwater. The latter books cover a period extending from 1615 to 1701, and they include, inter alia, a record of the merchandize imported at Minehead from the Glamorgan creeks of Aberthaw and Newton and also of the reciprocal trade from Minehead to the same Glamorgan creeks for certain.......................................

1 cf. J. H. Andrews: op. cit., p. 120.

2 P.R.O. E 190/1280/21.

3 Gentleman's Mag., 1789, p. 603-4.

4. Ibid.

5 E. Lhuyd: 'Parochialia' in Arch. Camb., (1909-11), pt. 111, p. 45.


.................................... years during that period. It is highly gratifying to find that the Minehead port books contain a fuller record of the seventeenth century coastal trade of Glamorgan than the extant Welsh port books provide. Some of the Minehead books cover the same years as the Glamorgan books, thus furnishing a limited means of observing clerical discrepancies, if any, on the part of the Customs officials on either side of the Channel. Moreover, the data which have been extracted from the Minehead series of port books provide evidence which, indirectly, throws some light on the procedure followed in compiling the official port books at the head port of Cardiff in respect of the coasting activities of its several creeks.

In a previous study, 1 reference was made to a collection of manuscripts in the National Library of Wales which were described as 'the notes, records, or memoranda' that were kept by the customs officer at Aberthaw during the years 1693 to 1735. It was contended that those documents probably constituted the only extant record of the trading activities at Aberthaw for that period, because the surviving Welsh port books for the corresponding period did not include a record of the cargoes therein recorded. An examination of the appropriate English port books has now revealed that some of the data contained in what we have described as the 'unofficial' Glamorgan records is in fact accounted for as 'imports' in the port books of Bridgwater. If, then, the 'blank books' were despatched to the head ports and member ports only, how were the trade returns for the Welsh creeks recorded before they were finally entered in the official port books or 'blank books' which, as we have seen, were kept at the head port of Cardiff?

The customs officials were expected to make their entries in the port books direct from the cockets, which were small parchment receipts for the payment of export duties or of bonds, and these were subsequently affixed to the certificates confirming that the specified goods had reached the designated port. When these were presented to the customs officials the bonds were released. 2 The port books would then be made up from these documents. But the NLW. MSS. show that as far as Aberthaw was concerned there was an intermediate stage between the creek and the head port, beyond which some records failed to pass. In the light of this new evidence, it may be argued with confidence that the note book of which the NLW. MSS. formed a part constituted the notes or daily ledger kept by the customs officers at Aberthaw which were intended ultimately to be despatched to Cardiff and their contents copied into the official port books of either Cardiff or Swansea. 3

The record of the trading activities of Aberthaw and Newton as indicated in the Tables which follow reveals more clearly the economic significance of the observations made by numerous antiquaries, travellers, and geographers about the Vale of Glamorgan and the adjacent regions of the blaenau during the pre-industrial era. Describing the 'Vale' in 1568, Rice Merrick wrote, 'This part.........................

1 See M. 1. Williams: A contribution to the commercial history of Glamorgan (1666-1735). Nat. Lib. Wales J. vol. ix, p.188-215, 334-353.

2 supra. p. 331.

3 Ibid. p.188-9. For an excellent discussion on the port books in general see R. W. K. Hinton: 'The port books of Boston, 1601-1640', (being vol. 50 of The Publications. of the Lincoln Record Society), pp. xiii-xliii.

..................................of the Country was allwayes renowned, as well for the fertility of the Soyle and abundance of all things serving to the necessity or pleasure of man'. Whereas in the blaenau there was 'allwayes great breeding of Cattell, Horses, and Sheepe . . . In this part be many great hills and high mountaynes ... wherein there is plenty of pasture and meadow'. 1 Two centuries later, Defoe described this region of Glamorgan 'as very populous' and the low grounds 'stocked with cattle' and supplying Bristol with great quantities of butter in much the same way 'as Suffolk does the city of London'. 2 Another observer in the late eighteenth century referred to the Glamorgan hills as being 'covered over with sheep and small black cattle'. 3 On the whole the evidence we find in the port books indicates that the inhabitants of the agricultural and pastoral regions of the southern parts of Glamorgan were able to produce goods both for the local markets and for the Bristol and the more accessible of the Somerset markets. It does not follow, however, that such production resulted in large profits for the small farmers. The probability is that all except the large farmers normally depended on the immediate sale of their goods in the weekly markets in order to obtain ready money for the discharge of their ordinary everyday transactions, and it may be said that as in many parts of the country so it was in Glamorgan, 'Production was largely for subsistence and only small surpluses were brought to the local market towns for sale. Yet, these small surpluses converted into rent and tithe formed the economic basis of the ruling class and the support of the Established Church'. 4 Access to the English markets not only provided additional chances and opportunities to dispose of the surplus goods that came from the Welsh countryside but kept prices above the level that would have prevailed if demand had been limited to that of the home market alone.


The information which the following Tables provide shows that throughout the greater part of the seventeenth century the first commodity in the lists of exports from the Vale of Glamorgan was wool. Although the nature of the organisation of the Glamorgan wool trade is somewhat vague the 'port books' show fairly clearly that there was a considerable demand for the renowned Glamorgan wool in the West Country. Newton Down was famous for a small breed of sheep whose fleeces were said to be the finest in Wales, and equal to the finest in England. Equally famous were the fleeces of the sheep that dotted the Ogmore Downs, the Golden Mile, near Bridgend, St Mary Hill and Stalling Down, near Cowbridge.

However, from what little evidence we have, it may be deduced that the Glamorgan wool was marketed through two closely related media. First, a proportion of the annual wool crop was obviously sold in the local fairs and markets.................

1 Rice Merrick: op. cit. p. 9-11.

2 Defoe: A tour through England and Wales (Everyman's ed.), London, 1928, Vol.11, p. 55.

3 Gentleman's Mag., loc. cit.

4 The New Cambridge Modern History. Ed. by J O Li ndsay. Cambridge, 1957, vol. vii, p. 243.

......................... directly to local consumers small farmers, cottagers, and probably full time weavers The wool would then be converted into articles of clothing for personal and domestic use, and into stockings and flannel for subsequent sale at the fairs and markets, the proceeds of such sales often representing the 'real' wages (or at least part of them) of the small producers. Unfortunately, we know very little about the position of the local weavers and allied craftsmen and the way they functioned from the initial stage of obtaining their raw material to the final process of disposing of their finished products. Neither do we know what were the Glamorgan weavers' standards of cloth making, but in the absence of evidence to the contrary it may be safely assumed that as in the case of Wales generally it could be said of Glamorgan that 'They (the weavers) were content to work in the traditional fashion and were little affected by the improvements introduced into the English cloth industry'. 1 Consequently the quality and worth of Welsh cloth is said to have been coarse, poorly made up and expensive. 2

Secondly, the wool that remained surplus to local requirements probably reached the English market through the farmer dealer merchant link. In this way Glamorgan wool reached such centres as Bristol, Colston, Milverton, Minehead and Exeter. It is also possible that the wool was sent direct from the farmer to English clothiers. For example, on 11 October 1616, The Harte of Aberthaw sailed to Minehead with '30 stones of Welsh wool' for a merchant Thomas Chilcott of Milverton, a 'clothier'. 3 The tables further show that 'pieces' and 'rolls' of flannel or 'flannen' (as it was sometimes termed) were frequently exported from Aberthaw and Newton to Minehead and Bristol. In addition considerable quantities of stockings were shipped to the same Bristol Channel ports. As the woollen industry developed in the counties of Somerset and Devon during the seventeenth century 'new draperies' were introduced. This led to increased local specialisation which created additional demands for different types of wool beyond those grown locally. These new demands must have made some impact on the Welsh woollen trade. Similarly in the more specialised manufacture of shoemakers' thread, as in Combe Martin in north Devon where we are told 'weekly supplies of various kinds of wool poured in from Gloucester ... as well as from Wales . . . '. 4

Unfortunately there is no evidence to indicate what proportion of the total wool production of the county was represented by the various quantities exported. For instance, when in 1635 approximately 41,688 lb. of wool were sent from Aberthaw to Minehead, it is impossible to estimate what proportion of the total wool clip that quantity represented. It certainly did not represent the total yield for any one particular region of the Vale. The following table has been compiled...................

1 cf. C. Skeel: 'The Welsh woollen industry in the 16th and 17th centuries': Arch Camb., 1922, p. 223-4.

2 T. C. Mendenhall: The Shrewsbury Drapers and the Welsh wool trade in the XVI and XVII centuries. Oxford, 1953, p. 21 et seq.

3 P.R.O. E 190/1086/2.

4 W. T. MacCaffrey: Exeter, 1540-1640... Cambridge (Mass.), 1958, p. 161-2.


.............................. to show the total quantities of wool exported from both Aberthaw and Newton as indicated in the port books:

Quantities of wool exported from the creeks of Newton and Aberthaw
for various years between 1615 and 1700

      Year             lb

  • 1615 ------40,528
  • 1635 ------41,688
  • 1640 ------32,844
  • 1661 ------9,132
  • 1662 ------28,332
  • 1667------19,760
  • 1676 ------9,432
  • 1693 ------41,989 (6 months only)
  • 1694------23,952
  • 1695 ------41,022
  • 1696 ------26,871
  • 1697 ------33,801
  • 1698 ------33,725
  • 1699------30,984
  • 1700------44,958

It must be admitted that these figures are meaningless as they stand, except in so far as they may be used to estimate the number of sheep which would have been reared to produce this quantity of wool. For example, if we take 2lb. 1 to be an average weight of a fleece in 1615, then at least 20,264 sheep were required for the production of 40,528 lb. of wool.


Next in importance to the wool trade was the trade in butter. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries large quantities of butter were shipped regularly from the creeks of Glamorgan to Bristol and Somersetshire. But at the beginning of the seventeenth century transportation of Welsh butter was largely regulated by licence or letters patent. The export of butter was generally forbidden by statute, but licences were granted under certain conditions permitting the export of limited quantities. In 1619 it appears that the Society of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol obtained a share in a patent by virtue of which the Society had 'libertie and aucthoritie to buy within the dominions of Wales the twae third parts of Fower thousand eighte hundred kinterkins of Welshe butter yeerely and to exporte the same any where beyond the seas from the Portes of Bristoll and Barnstable with the members thereof, Cardiffe and Chepstowe, or any other portes in South Wales'. 2

1 cf. K.J. Allison. 'Flock Management in the sixteenth and seventeenth Centuries'. Econ. Hist. Rev., vol. XI, No. 1, p. 98-112.

2 P. MacGrath: 'Records relating to the Society of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol in the 17th century'. Bristol Rec. Soc. Publ., vol. 17, 1951, p. 120.


Moreover, on 20 February 1619, Richard Williams and David Lewys, both Bristol merchants, were granted authority 'to buy 3000 barrels of butter in Wales and transport it from any part in South Wales, from Bristol or Barnstable to any part oversea paying to the king 2s. customs on every barrel and no other customs'. This was tantamount to a monopoly, for it was stipulated that 'no one else is to ship Welsh butter without licence from pattentees; the penalty, to forfeit the butter, halfe to the king and half to the patentees . . . If ever the price of butter exceeds 3d per pound in summer or 4d in winter, they are not to transport it upon pain of forfeiting the butter'. The grant was to last for ten years. 1

Despite this monopoly enjoyed by the Bristol merchants, it appears that they were prepared to share, within limits, in the export of butter. For instance, it seems that William Herbert of Cogan Pill, Glamorganshire, had a share in the patent granted to Richard Williams and Davyd Lewis, as well as in patents held by other Bristol merchants. 2 Early in the year 1619/20, Herbert wrote the following letter 3 to a number of Bristol merchants concerning the transportation of Welsh butter:


I thought fitte to acquainte you before the time for transportation of Welshe Butter that our Pattent theron is nowe in Forces [sic]. Wherefore I require you by virtue thereof as you will answer the controry that neyther you nor any of your Company or Factors, doe buy any Welshe Butter to bee transported out of any of ye Welshe Portes, or the Portes of Bristolle and Barstable [sic] by Couler of any acte of mine made formerly unto you: and thus I rest.

Your loving fri[end]

From Cogan Pill

This 16 of March


London merchants were also anxious to secure an interest in the Welsh butter trade. For example, the aforementioned Herbert of Cogan Pill seems to have had some patent with regard to the butter trade in respect of which he had granted certain rights in the buying and transporting of Welsh butter to John Pennington of London. A bond was entered into for the surrender of those rights to William..........................

1 Pat. Rolls. 16 Jac. 1, pt 14.

2 P. McGrath: op. cit., p. 119, note 3.

3 N.L.W. Bute MS. 132/A/13. Note. This letter was sent to the following Bristol merchants: John Barker, Humphrey Browne, William Jones, John Locke 'or eyther of them at Bristolle'. The above is a transcription of a 'Trewe Coppy' of the original letter. It should be noted here that a small number of Bristol merchants invested in the early industrial undertakings in South Wales. For instance, Walter Sandy, the son of Edward Sandy of Cadoxton, Glamorgan, who was apprenticed as a merchant to Wm Challoner, merchant of Bristol on 26 July 1611, was one of the founders of Ynysypenllwch Iron Works in the Swansea Valley. Other merchants such as John Gonning and John Taylor were interested parties in the Forest of Dean. (See Deposition Books of Bristol, 1643-1647 --- Bristol Rec. Soc. Publication, vol. vi, p. 254.)


................................... Herbert. The condition of the obligation was such that 'if ... John Pennington . . . shall and will reconvey and reassure within one year next ensuing the date hereof unto the saide Williarn Herbert ... all such interest, power, and authority as the saide William Herbert formerly gave and granted unto the saide John Pennington ... concerning the buying and transportation of Welsh butter for certain years yet enduring in case the saide Will'm Herbert ... [?] the meane space within one yere next ensewing the date hereof [shall] paye or cause to be paide unto the saide John Pennington the full some of three hundred and twenty pounds ... that then the present obligacion shall be voide or else shall stand remain and abide with full force, strength and vertue. 1

The export of butter from Glamorgan during the early part of the seventeenth century must be viewed in relation to the monopolies which the Bristol merchants exercised in this field of economic activity. They certainly conducted their affairs with thoroughness and their sphere of interest in Wales was well supervised, for 'Att a generall meetinge of the whole Society and Company of Merchantes Adventurers of the citty of Bristoll' held on 11 May 1639 'the Adventurers for transportacion of butter by vertue of his maiesties letters patentes in that behalfe graunted did agree and allott vnto euery adventurer what proporcion and parte euery of them should deale in ... And then for that yeere were appoynted Roger Williams and Thomas Younge of Newport, Robert Ragland, Thomas Kimborne and Richard Jones of Cardiffe, Ellis Price of Swansey and Atwell Tayler of Carmarthen to bee buyers of butter for the saide Adventurers and each buyer to have a deputacion from the undertakers soe to doe'. In addition four Bristol coopers were appointed 'to visite search and allowe of the goodness of the said butter, and the sufficiency of Coopinge and tryming the Caske'. 2

It is almost certain, however, that although the Glamorgan butter trade was engrossed by a ring of Bristol and other merchants, some of the butter was transported across the channel to Bristol and Somerset without licence. In 1620 it is recorded that between 700 and 800 kilderkins of butter were shipped 'from Aberthaw, vnto Minehead and Barnstable by port Cockett and from thence transported into forraigne parts which is a way they have devised to deceave the king and the pattentees between' . 3 It is interesting to note also that for the same year only 1152 kilderkins of butter were transported out of 'Glamorgan sheire' by virtue of the patent. If the figures quoted are reliable, then the total quantity of butter sent out of Glamorgan in 1620 was between 1852 and 1952 kilderkins. The quantity exported from Aberthaw alone during the same period would, therefore, represent between 60 and 70 per cent of the total shipments of butter from the whole county. Unfortunately the port book for 1620 has not survived, and consequently we are unable to verify these figures with the official customs records. However, for purposes of comparison with the year 1620, the quantity...............

1 N.L.W. Bute MS. 132/A/12/.

2 P. McGrath: op. cit., p. 125.

3 Ibid. p. 122.


..................... of butter exported from both Aberthaw and Newton for the five years between 1615 and 1640 for which port books have survived is tabulated below:

       Year   No. of kilderkins#   No. of lb.
  • 1615... ... ... 212 ... ... ... 23,744
  • 1616 ... ... ... 187 ... ... ... 20,944
  • 1634 ... ... ... 383 ... ... ... 42,896
  • 1635 ... ... ... 407 ... ... ... 45,584
  • 1640 ... ... ... 240 ... ... ... 26,880

#Kilderkin --- a cask of 112 lb.

Assuming again that these figures present a true picture, then the year 1620 must have been an exceptional one in the business of exporting butter from the Vale. However, until further information about the butter trade of Glamorgan is available, it would be unwise to draw any final conclusions from the statistical data provided here. However, it is worth noting that the patent which was granted to the Bristol Merchant Venturers for the buying and transportation of Welsh butter lapsed at the Restoration. 1


It will be seen that throughout the seventeenth century numerous 'packs' and 'fardles' of stockings were shipped regularly across the Channel from the Vale to Minehead. In these commodities we see, undoubtedly, the products of the 'domestic industry', the material results of the combined efforts of the children and womenfolk of the Vale of Glamorgan (and beyond) who, by their endeavours, helped to supplement the small incomes or profits of farm or smallholding.

Another activity which must be associated with the domestic industry was that of mat-making. Unfortunately it is difficult to trace any information about mat-making operations in Glamorgan during the seventeenth century or even later. But from the evidence we have it seems quite probable that the Glamorgan mats were made up from the waste material collected after weaving operations and sometimes referred to as 'pinions', 'thrums', and 'screeds'. Indeed large quantities of these waste ends of cloth were frequently sent direct across the channel to Minehead and Bristol. It may be that small quantities of Glamorgan mats were made of rushes in the same way as the rush mats made at Newborough in Anglesey. 2

The wide range of goods included in the cargoes sent from Glamorgan to Somersetshire is partly mirrored in the seventeenth century schedule of sums..................................

1 P. McGrath. op. cit., p. 118.

2 The nature of rush-mat making has been amply described in connection with the Newborough mat-making industry in Arch. Camb., 1846, p. 134; Anglesey Antiq. Soc. Trans., 1923, p. 62-64.


............................... of money or 'antient acknowledgements' payable to the lord of the Manor of Minehead in respect of the 'Old Key duties'. Among the articles scheduled for toll charges were the following:

  • For every pack or fardle from Wales -----------2d.
  • For every bullock to or from Wales ------------1d.
  • For every score sheep from Wales -------------3d.
  • For every horse beast from Wales --------------2d.
  • For every pigg from Wales --------------------- 1/2d
  • For every kilderkin of butter from Wales ------1d.
  • For every pedlar's pack to or from Wales ------1d.
  • For every bundle of mats to or from Wales----- 1/2d

These tolls and duties were still being imposed at Minehead in 1741. A similar list of tolls was issued at Porlock in 1723 by Mr. Wm. Blathwayt, then lord of the Manor of Porlock. 1

The Tables further show that throughout the greater part of the seventeenth century sheep and lambs, steers and heifers, were sent coastwise in varying numbers to Minehead, Bristol and elsewhere, from Sully, Aberthaw and Newton. As early as 24 July 1661, we find that The Little Thomas of Aberthaw sailed for Minehead with '19 steers and heiffers' as part of her cargo. 2 In 1666, 306 sheep and 1,160 oxen were shipped from Sully to Uphill, a creek in the port of Bristol. 3 In 1695 the number of sheep transported by sea from Aberthaw to Minehead was approximately 4,544. 4 It was undoubtedly more profitable to buy sheep and cattle alive so that the buyers would have the use of the hides, offal and other by-products in addition to the carcase meat. The demand for carcase meat in Bristol and some of the Somerset towns, such as Bridgwater, was probably much greater than it was in the pre-industrial Glamorgan towns of Cardiff, Bridgend, Cowbridge and Llantrisant, but the export of raw hides, tanned hides, pelts, calf skins and tallow, not to mention salted meat, surely testifies to an extensive degree of local slaughtering. Moreover, skins of all kinds were sent across the Bristol Channel, including 'deere skins', rabbit skins or 'cony skins' and even 'dogg skins'.

Although it is true to say that the bro and blaenau of Glamorgan were at this time preponderantly agricultural, yet the out-going cargoes from Newton often included 'chaldrons of coales' and small quantities of lead-ore. The coals must have represented the products of small scale local ventures probably undertaken by landlords and small freeholders with sufficient capital to work the coal on their estates for sea sale. 5 The coal which was exported from Newton, as well as that shipped contemporaneously in larger quantities from Neath and Swansea..................................

1 C. E. H. Chadwyck-Healey: History of Part of West Somerset ...London, 1901.

2 P.R.O. E 190/1277/3.

3 P.R.O. E 190/1277/7.

4 P.R.O. E 190/1095/15; E 190/1096/1.

5 A. H. John: The industrial development of S. Wales, 1750-1850. Cardiff, 1950, p. 9.


................................... was used partly for lime burning and other agricultural purposes in Somersetshire. However, the small-scale coal mining activities had little, if any, effect on what was still an agricultural pastoral social and economic framework in seventeenth century Glamorgan.

In passing, it is interesting to note that relatively large sums of money were included among the various items of goods shipped across the Channel from the Vale. For instance, it is recorded that on 10 July 1675 The Anne of Newton had £1300 in money on board when she sailed from Newton to Minehead. 1 Again, on 23 July 1683 The William of Aberthaw sailed to Bristol with £500 in money on board, 2 and, on 10 November 1679, The Elizabeth of Aberthaw crossed to Minehead with '2 baggs of mony cont(aining) £90' entered as part of the cargo. 3 Probably these sums were in discharge of debts to West of England merchants, and in this connection we are reminded of the sums of money which were entrusted to the Welsh cattle drovers for transmission to London for private or for public purposes. 4 Masters of the many ships plying between Glamorgan and the West of England, like the drovers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, may also have acted at times as agents to private individuals for the transmission of money to Bristol and other ports along the Bristol Channel coast.


The commodities imported into the Vale from Bristol and Minehead were of a wide variety. Incoming cargoes always included some or all of the following goods: broadcloth, serges, kerseys, canvas, mercery ware, brandy, Spanish wine, sacke, cider, tobacco, tobacco pipes, powders, perfumes, apothecary wares, barley, beans, 'evir' seed, clover seed, oil, pitch, rozen, grocery, oxbows, reap-hooks, shovels, cart-wheels, sieves, 'tapping leather', sheeps pelts, earthenware, chairs, candles, candle-wicks, salt, soap. In these multifarious items may be seen the domestic, occupational and personal needs of the different classes of the population. Perfumes and powders, which were held in high esteem in the seventeenth century, may have represented some of the personal requirements of the more well to do section of the community, as did such items as brandy, 'sacke', Spanish wine 5 and tobacco. Similarly,woollen cloths of varying qualities (bays, Dunsters, Barnstables, Bridgewaters, serges, kerseys) probably indicated the needs of the rising middle classes in the matter of dress and costume.

It has been suggested that it was the gentry and the well to do who obtained 'every article of consumption both in and out of the house' from Bristol, the 'Welsh metropolis'. 6 But the importation of 'lockrams', 'dowlas' and 'Vittry canvas' indicates that the poorer classes also benefited from the close commercial................................

1 P.R.O. E1190/1091/6.

2 P.R.O. E 190/1281/14.

3 P.R.O. E 190/1092/5.

4 A. H. Dodd: Studies in Stuart Wales. Cardiff, 1952, p. 23.

5 In the late eighteenth century Thomas Wyndham of Dunraven Castle still had his port wine shipped from Bristol to Newton and carted there to Dunraven Castle. (H. J. Randall: Bridgend. Newport, 1955, p. 9n.)

6 A. H. John: 'Iron and Coal on a Glamorgan estate 1700-1740'. Econ. Hist. Rev. Vol. IV, 1951, p. 98.


............................... contacts with the Bristol and West of England markets. 'Lockrams', for instance, were pieces of coarse, loosely wooven, linen fabrics of various qualities used for making shirts, neck wear, etc., of the poorer classes. 'Dowlas' (in the seventeenth century) was also a coarse linen fabric used by the poorer classes in the making of shirts, aprons, etc. 1 Other items of clothing, such as shoes and hats, were also imported from time to time. Further, the supplies of 'tapping' leather that were sometimes shipped into Aberthaw may have represented the needs of local shoemakers, whereas the importation of various quantities of sheep's pelts and tanned hides may have reflected the demands of local shoe-makers, glovers and leather workers. Among the more specific local occupational requirements were to be found such items as 'ox bowes' (i.e. yokes), cart wheels, reap-hooks and shovels.

It may be said that throughout the century the coastal trade, and the inevitable social intercourse that followed in its wake, brought to the Vale of Glamorgan new tastes, habits, and customs. By the beginning of the nineteenth century these social influences. had been so completely absorbed into the social pattern that according to one observer 'The dress in Glamorganshire is not so strongly marked as in most other counties ... This cleanliness and decency in dress, as well as in general habits, under whatever depression of poverty they may labour is a genuine characteristic of true civilization'. 2 It may be said that articles of fashion made in Bristol and its neighbourhood were brought within the reach of all except perhaps the very poorest members of the community.

A fact worth noting is that on 3 March 1694 The Elizabeth of Aberthaw carried 50 bushells of 'evir' seeds as part of her cargo from Minehead, and on 3 April in the same year The Blessing of Aberthaw brought back from Minehead '50 bushells evir seeds, and 3 cwt. of clover seeds'. 3 We do not know when Welsh farmers began to grow grass and clover as a crop. It is true that George Owen refers to the 'hearbe called Trifolium' in 1603, and describes how the land in Pembrokeshire was covered in summer with both white and red clover whose flowers yielded a most pleasant and sweet smell . 4 But it was not until the middle of the seventeenth century that we hear of such men as Sir Richard Weston, Sutton Court, Surrey, and Andrew Yarranton of Ashby, Worcestershire, who carried out much pioneer work in England between 1620 and 1697. By his untiring efforts between 1653 and 1677, Andrew Yarranton 'spread the growth of clover in his own county and the adjoining districts'. It is not without some significance, therefore, that clover seeds were being imported into Glamorgan from Somersetshire in 1694, and probably earlier. The pioneers who grew clover and ryegrass before 1700 must have been few and far between, for this date is given by many writers as the time when these crops became relatively common. This was to be expected as only the richer farmers and landowners had the knowledge or the capital necessary for trying new methods of cultivation.

1 C. W. and P. Cunnington: Handbook of English Costume in the 16th century. London, 1954, p. 199.

2 B. H. Malkin: The scenery, antiquities and biography of S. Wales. London, 1807, Vol.1, p. 105-6.

3 It was reckoned that 300 lb of clover seed was sufficient for sowing about 30 acres.

4 George Owen: The description of Pembrokeshire. London, 1892, Vol.I, p. 72.


It may be argued, despite the slenderness of the evidence, that the importation of evir seeds and clover seeds to the Vale of Glamorgan at the close of the seventeenth century 1 suggests a progressive outlook on the part of some of the farmers in this part of the county, in contrast to the 'bigotry' and 'prejudice' against new methods of husbandry which, according to some observers in the eighteenth century, was the attitude displayed by most Glamorgan farmers. There were, undoubtedly, in the Vale of Glamorgan during the second half of the seventeenth century farmers who were alive to the 'improved methods' of the time and were prepared to pioneer in the same way, albeit on a smaller scale, as did their English counterparts.


Behind the movements of the ships which took part in the coastal trade between Glamorgan and the West of England were to be found the different classes of men who, taken collectively, formed an integral part of an organisation which served the economic interests of a large section of the population of the agricultural and pastoral hinterland of the bro or Vale and the blaenau or hill districts of Glamorgan. Many masters of ships and their crews of two or three were obviously men who combined seafaring with agricultural work and were often the owners, or part owners, of the ships they handled. For instance, Arthur Spencer (? -1640) 'the elder' of St. Athan who was described as a 'mariner', managed a small farm and owned a 'fourth part of a barque called The Robert of Aberthaw', together 'with the fourth part of all appurtenances thereto belonging.' Later in the same century another Arthur Spencer of St. Athan (?-1700), whose name appeared over a long period of years as 'master' (and sometimes as 'merchant') of the ship The Blessing of Aberthaw, was also engaged in farming activities, and owned half of the 'two Barks called Ye Four Sisters and Ye Blessing'. 2 Undoubtedly, many of the other masters of ships at Aberthaw and Newton derived part of their livelihood from maritime activities and part from direct participation in agricultural work.

The port books show that the masters of the Glamorgan ships were invariably local men, and in all probability were English speaking. 3 For example, in 1616 the following operated as masters of ships sailing from Aberthaw and Newton: 'Richard Joyner from Newton'; 'John Wood from Barrie'; 'Arthur Spencer from Aberthawe'; 'Edward Apbowen from Newton'. By 1634, new names appear as masters: 'Thomas Graunt from Abberthaw; 'William Sweet from Aberthaw'; 'Myles David from Aberthaw': 'John Joanes from Newton' and 'John Rowland from Aberthaw'; 'John Spencer from Abberthaw' and 'Edward White from Newton'. Throughout the century additional names appear in the 'Master's name' column of the Tables.

1 In an interview with John Spencer (a farmer of St. Athan) in 1796, 'Iolo Morganwg' was told that 'clover is about 100 years standing' in the Vale 'and that Trefoil and Rye-grass were introduced about 1720'. (N.L.W. MS. 13,147A, 437) These remarks are highly suggestive.

2 Wills and Inventories N.L.W.

3 By an Act of 1660, the owners, masters, and three quarters of the sailors of coasters had to be English. See T. S. Willan: The English coasting trade, 1600-1750. Manchester, 1938, p. 17.


Except when specific information is provided, it is not as easy to determine the locality to which the merchants belonged as in the case of the masters. The name of the merchant is of no help at all. For example, on 28 July 1616 The Peter of Minehead (12 tons) had 'Edward Apbowen from Newton' registered as her master, and Thomas Apevan as the merchant in respect of a cargo of 100 stones of Welsh wool. To assume that Apevan, the merchant, lived in Wales would be incorrect, for there were many 'Ap's' even in Bristol in the seventeenth century. Among the merchants who traded in Glamorgan wool and butter in 1616 were such men as Lewis Mathewe of Colston, Thomas Chilcott, a clothier of Milverton, Jenkin Thomas of Watchett, Thomas Tirrell of Exeter, and John Davie of Beyline(?). The entries in the port books for the second half of the seventeenth century are not as informative as those which have survived from the first half of that century. Nevertheless, it is fairly obvious that a good number of the merchants were Englishmen or Welshmen living in the West of England although it is particularly noticeable that 'master' and 'merchant' appeared more frequently toward the end of the century as the same individual. This development may have signified that native masters of ships were at times acting as factors for English merchants.


It is difficult to determine the social status of the seventeenth century master-merchants or the farmer-mariners of the Vale of Glamorgan, but it is fairly obvious that they ranked equal to the 'yeoman' class. We have already shown that in addition to being masters of ships they were often farmers and part owners of the vessels they handled. They therefore owned capital in the form of their small sailing vessels, and by virtue of that ownership they may be regarded as small capitalist farmers. Indeed, the status of the yeoman class in general was somewhat ambiguous, for the income of the various members of that class conformed to no fixed standards. Writing in 1608 William Vaughan states that 'A yeoman is he that tilleth the groud, getteth his living by selling of corne in Markets, and can dispend yearly fortie shillings sterling'.' 1 Of others the proverb ran: 'A yeoman of Kent with one year's rent could buy out a gentleman of Wales ... ' 2 This is not very difficult to understand for when Arthur Spencer of Penmark, described as 'yeoman', died in 1728, his entire 'goods, chattells & creditts' were valued at £31.14.0. When Arthur Spencer of St. Athan died in 1700, his estate was valued at £132.1.10., which included 'one moety or halfe of the two Barks Ye Four Sisters & Ye Blessing valued at £60. 3 If it could be said that the archers who had 'conquered a kingdom on the plains of France' were recruited from the ranks of the yeoman class of England,' it can also be said that the farmer-mariners of the Vale of Glamorgan had over the years earned for themselves the reputation of being good seamen 'fit for H. M. Service'. 5

1 W. Vaughan: The Golden Grove ... Bk iii, ch. 23. London, 1608.

2 E. Lipson: The growth of English Society.4th ed London, 1959, p. 133.

3 Wills and Inventories N.L.W.

4 E. Lipson: op cit.. p. 132.

5 Cardiff Central Library MS. 2. 111 (4/11).


Finally, if we are able to account for some of the merchants and masters of the ships that plied between the Vale and Somerset during the seventeenth century, what information have we about the ships themselves? For example, where were they built? Although some of the ships were built by English builders, it is fairly certain that others were built locally. Some degree of shipbuilding was carried on during the seventeenth century at the Booth and March House at Aberthaw, where the work was in the hands of local merchants such as the Hollands, Cottons, Powels and Walters of West Aberthaw, as well as the Batsleys and the Spencers.' 1 These merchants in turn must have employed local shipwrights, men like Edward Plaisted of Flemingston, who died in 1719 leaving as part of his 'goods and chattels' a quantity of 'timber and planks' to the value of £20. 2 It is also possiblethat John Jones, a shipwright living at Bonvilstone, contributed at one time to the building of some of the Aberthaw coasters. He was certainly a recognised craftsman, for on 12 February 1747 he was paid a sum of 3s. 'for coming from Bonvilstone (to Pennarth) to view the K's (King's) boat' which had become 'so leaky' and 'to give his judgment thereon'. 3

From time to time the port book entries include the 'burthen' 4 of the coasters sailing to and from Aberthaw, Newton and Sully. In 1616 the largest vessel employed at Aberthaw was The Elizabeth of 30 tons burden, whilst the smallest was The Harte of 18 tons burden. Throughout the century the average size of the Aberthaw coasters, as far as can be ascertained, remained at about 22 tons burden. At Sully the average size of the coasters was 20 tons, whereas at Newton the average was 22.3 tons. Appendix B contains a list of the vessels which traded from the creeks of Aberthaw, Sully and Newton during the seventeenth century.

An interesting sidelight on the Glamorgan coasters is provided in an inventory of the goods and chattels of Arthur Spencer of St. Athan wherein it is indicated that one half share of the two 'barks' The Four Sisters and The Blessing of Aberthaw was valued at £60. . 5 Assuming, therefore, that the two barks were of 20 tons each, then it may be concluded that each was worth about £60.

In the foregoing paragraphs an attempt has been made to interpret the data incorporated below in terms of the many sided human activities which they indubitably represent and to which they must be related before they can possibly assume any real historical significance. In so doing, the omissions and limitations of the sources, the Exchequer King's Remembrancer Port books, have been constantly borne in mind. It must be added. however, that further research in this field might compel the writer to modify some of the conclusions arrived at here. Nevertheless, the general evidence which is submitted certainly adds weight to the thesis that throughout the seventeenth century, when Glamorgan was still..............................

1 N.L.W. MS. 13147 A, 457. Note. There is also some evidence of shipbuilding on the river Ogmore---See 'The Storie of the Lower Borowes of Merthyrmawr', by John Stradling (1598-1601). Ed. by H. J. Randall and William Rees, in S. Wales & Mon. Rec. Soc. Publications vol. 1, p. 58.

2 Wills and Inventories N.L.W.

3 Cardiff Records, Vol. 11.

4 i.e. the capacity of the ship and not its weight.

5 supra p. 344.


................................. an agricultural pastoral region, when human life there in all its aspects was moulded by the fluctuating demands of agricultural and pastoral occupations and their ancillary crafts, the general economic and social condition of its population was certainly enriched by the various chances and opportunities that were provided in the West Country and, more particularly, in the fairs and markets of Bristol and Somersetshire.





An extract from Anglia Wallia [A transcript from Queen's Remembrancer Roll, 4 Eliz] containing a description of the havens, roads and creeks of Glamorgan.

'Kardyff from Newporte xii miles a proper towne walled where is a drie haven and withoute the same is a rode in Severne called Pennarth very good for shippes at iii ffadome lowe water it lieth agenst Asshewater and Bridgwater in Somerset all westerlye and southerly wynds brings in The townes of Kardyffe and Cowbridge adjoynaunte repleny[s]hed with corne and all maner vitills and of this porte and towne with a goodly stronge castell at Cardyff is lorde and possessioner now the erle of Pembroke whose officers claymeth the coketts and lycence.

Memorand' at this towne was wonte to lye a sercher of the Kings to restrayne all things prohibit which sercher did sometyme make coketts himselfe and some tyme did suffer the lords to geve lycence and the last sercher that was there was one Cole whome your Lordshipp knewe

Sylley a creke for small boats also belongyng to the saide erle of Pembroke and in the like governmente ...

Barry from Cardyff rode vi miles a good roade at iiii ffadome lowe water and a drie haven to come into with sotherly and westerly wynds it lyeth agenste Mynet and Bridgewater in Somersetshere. The country in state aforesaid under the sayde erle of Pembroke and the like order of lycence and transpartynge

Aberthaw from Barry iiii miles a drie Haven for small vessells and daily passage to Mynet and Douster. The Contrie uppon the Coaste somewhat bare but within lande plentie as aforesaid unde the said Erle of Pembroke

Memorand' in all this Coaste of Kardyff and Glamorgan shier is grete ladyng of butter and cheese and other provysion partely into other shiers of Wales where lacke is thereof and partely into Devon and Cornewall and other places. And here goeth awaye much lether and tallowe to the shippes of Bristoll and so fourthe over seas withoute searche or any controllment for they receave it in uppon Severne without lycence or coquet.

Newton Notage a creke for small vessells being also in the rule of the saide erle of Pembroke

Neethe a pill within a baye for small boats where is a myne and trade of Coles and this Creke is under the port rieff as they clayme it a metely good soyle and full of provision of victualls the port riffe geveth licence and coquett.

Mombles from Aberthawe xxiii myles is a rode for small shippes at ii fradome lowe water to serve in necessitie at all wynds saving esterly wynds it lieth agenst hangman hill in Devon iii mile from Combe ...

The Towne of Swanseye and countrey very plenteous And at Swanesey lieth Sir George Herberte Kt. Stewarde and deputie to therle of Worcester being chieff lord of all that coaste and countrey and the porte is under the lords customer that gevethe licence and cockette

Portynon from thense two miles No haven but a pyer and comen passage from Wales into Cornewall and Devon with Cattell and other things And this is also under the erle of Worcester and his officers.

It is to be noted that all the said coast from Chepstowe along Severne the right honorable therle of Penbrok and therle of Worcester be oweners in maner of all the ports and pills up unto Burrey being within xii miles of Carmarthen which is in length lxx miles and upwards . . .'

[Taken from Arch. Camb, 1911, vol. ii, pp. 423-424]


Names of Ships trading, between Aberthaw, Newton, and Sully, and Minehead and Bristol in the 17th Century.



  • The Blessing
  • The Bush
  • The Edward (18 tons)
  • The Elizabeth (30 tons)
  • The Elizabeth & Jane (16 tons)
  • The Endeavour
  • The Four Sisters
  • The Gileston Merchant
  • The Harry
  • The Harte (18 tons)
  • The Jane (16 tons)
  • The John and Thomas
  • The Lambe
  • The Little Thomas (16 tons)
  • The Marie(y) (16 tons)
  • The Robert (20 tons)
  • The Thomas (20 tons)
  • The Three Brothers
  • The Speedwell (18 tons)
  • The William


  • The Ann
  • The Blessing
  • The Dove
  • The Falcon
  • The Flower
  • The Five Brothers (30 tons)
  • The John (20 tons)
  • The John & Catherine
  • The Mayflower
  • The Margaret (26 tons)
  • The Patience
  • The Providence
  • The Richard and John
  • The Speedwell (18 tons)


  • The Anne (20 tons)
  • The Happy Entrance (20 tons)
  • The Mayflower (20 tons)
  • The Stirling



The article, on p349-360, contains Extracts as described below; these have not been copied here in detail but personal name indexes have been compiled from them - the ships' names are already shown above.

1. Details of the Shipments of Goods into and out of SULLY, a Creek of the Port of Cardiff, for the year 1666. Transcribed from the Exchequer King's Remembrancer Port Books.

Extracts from the Swansea and Neath Port Book (Customer and Controller) P.R.O E190/1277/7



Jones, Christopher

Lewis, John

Tanner, Rice


David, Thomas

Dunford, Christopher

Edwards, Morgan

Edwards, Theophilus

Forde, Alexander

George, Josuah

Greene, Nichl.

James, Edward

Jones, Henry

Lewis, John

Mathew, William

Mathews, Anthony

Merchant, George

Phillip, Howell

Richards, David

Thomas, William

Thurloe, Edmund

Waters, Morgan

2. Extracts from the Swansea and Neath Port Books P.R.O. E190/1278/12 et al

NEWTON --- 1672; 1673/4; 1676; 1680; 1683


?, Edward

Bowen, Daniel

Bowen, David

Chradock, Lewis

Cradock(e), Lewis

David, Griffith

Griffith, Walter

Hamer, Mathew

Harewood, Mathew

Hatherby, Nathaniel

Hill, David

Hobhouse, John

Hopkins, Thomas

Lewis, Hopkin

Leyson, William

Leyshon, John

Leyshon, Joseph

Leyshon, Thomas

Leyson, John

Leyson, Thomas

Leyson, Wm.

Lyson, John

Lyson, Joseph

Marcome, Robert

Mash, James

Mills, John

Morris, John

Phillipp, Robert

Rice, Edward

Richard, Thomas

Richards, Thomas

Rise ?, Edward

Smith, John

Walker, William

Washer, William

Webber, Amos

Weler ?, Wm.

Wms, Edward



The above schedules were signed by;

  • Rich. Gwynn. Customer
  • Chas. Collins. Comptroller

The Merchant name columns were blank.