Cardigan Boroughs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

No name known for 1542


1553 (Oct.)JOHN GWYN
1554 (Apr.)JOHN POWELL
1554 (Nov.)JOHN GWYN 2

Main Article

The castle and borough of Cardigan, situated in the south-west of the county, belonged to the crown. A document of 1199, sometimes said to be a borough charter, was a release from various dues for four years: this was renewed in 1230. The first extant charter, that of 1284, was confirmed and amplified throughout the middle ages and again in 1527. By the 16th century authority was vested in a mayor and two bailiffs assisted by a common council and several municipal officers: the coroner for the town was appointed by the chamberlain of South Wales. In 1395 Richard II had made it the meeting place for the petty sessions for the county but left the great sessions to meet at the discretion of the justice for South Wales. Cardigan had no authority to call itself the shire town, and until the Act of 1553 making it the venue for the county court in alternation with Aberystwyth the court rarely met there. Aberystwyth, which was more conveniently situated for most of the families in the county, was larger and wealthier, with a castle in reasonable repair: from 1543 William Herbert, later 1st Earl of Pembroke, was constable of the castle and a year later a kinsman Edward Herbert became his deputy there. Aberystwyth possessed a series of charters, but the other ‘ancient boroughs’ in the county, Adpar, Lampeter, Llanddewibrefi, Talsarn and Tregaron, had none: Adpar and Llanddewibrefi belonged to the bishop of St. David’s and Talsarn to the principality of South Wales.3

Two indentures written in Latin survive from the period and those for the elections of the knights of the shire in 1545 and September 1553 provide the name of the Member for the Boroughs and some details of the process. Neither indenture is in good condition. Both in 1547 and 1555 the contracting parties seem to have been the sheriff of Cardiganshire and the mayor of Cardigan. Representatives from Aberystwyth and Talsarn attended the election in 1545, from Talsarn and Tregaron in September 1553, and from ‘all other boroughs contributory to the payment of the ... fees or wages within the said county’ in 1555. The election of 1547 furnishes evidence of irregularity: in September one John Cotton from Gloucestershire was chosen Member, and it was his name which was inserted in a different hand on the indenture, but four days later the sheriff gave Gruffydd Done from Carmarthenshire as the Member when endorsing the writ for the shire. Done’s replacement of Cotton was presumably the work of the chamberlain of South Wales, for as sheriff of Carmarthenshire Done returned the chamberlain’s elder son for that county while the younger was returned with Done for Cardiganshire, perhaps with Cotton’s consent. Apart from Done, all the Members lived in Cardigan or had ties with the town. John Powell was a yeoman of the guard and Thomas Phaer solicitor to the council in the marches. John Gwyn, with a domicile nearer to Aberystwyth than to Cardigan, was factor to Powell.4

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C219/19/143v.
  • 2. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 3. M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages, 537-9; The King’s Works, i. 299-308; ii. 590-1; iii. 171, 173; Boroughs in Med. Wales, ed. Griffith, 19-45.
  • 4. C219/18C/167, 19/143v, 145, 20/184v, 21/215, 218v, 24/230.