If you know the pub; the Plough and Harrow or if you are familiar with the Wick and Monknash area you will love this 10 minute potted history. Stories of ship wreckers and pirates, and a fascinating reconstruction of how Monknash Grange might have looked when it was in its prime. You also get to see how some of the Grange’s traditions are still being observed to this day. Even if purely by chance.
This video is an accompaniment to the book “Historic pubs of Wales” by Graham Loveluck-Edwards, It is available on Amazon and all good book shops.
With characters like the notorious mass murderer, Cap Coch lurking in our local history, it comes as no surprise that many dark deeds were committed in the Vale of Glamorgan. Many we know about are bathed in the murky waters of hear-say, legend and folklore. Like the story that the white lady who haunts ‘The Old Place’ in Llantwit Major is the ghost of a woman whose husband starved her to death there. Great murder story, but nothing much in the way of evidence.
So, for today’s blog I have strayed into the world of the ‘Glamorgan Plea Rolls’ which were the official records kept by the Court of Great Sessions from 1542. I am delighted to say that many crimes we have actual records for are every bit as dark and weird as the accounts we hear through the ramblings of the bards. And some of the details which were captured in these records are if anything, even more weird. Let me give you an example to illustrate.
The court heard how Lawrence Wick; a labourer from Somerset murdered Katherine David of St Nicholas on the stroke of midnight on the night of 30th March 1566. He killed her by beating her about the head “with a hook of the value of two pence”. He inflicted “a mortal wound of which she incontinently died”. Then, he and an accomplice by the name of David Jevan Dyo set fire to her body and her house to try and cover it all up.
The conclusion of the court was that Dyo should be hung, but there is no record of any punishment being put the way of Wick, so the murderer appears to have got away Scott free. Which seems strange to say the least, but for me, that is not the weirdest thing about this record. Firstly, why do we need to know that the hook he used to murder poor Katherine was only worth 2 pence? Would the crime have been taken more seriously if he had used something more expensive? Secondly the word “incontinently” used to describe how she died – the word means ‘without reasonable restraint’. So, is the judge here saying that she should have made more of an effort to stay alive?
My first quandary is a little easier to answer than the second. Putting a monetary value on a murder weapon dates to early Anglo-Saxon times when it was traditional after a murder trial to sell the murder weapon (referred to as a deodand) so that it might raise some money to be put to a good cause. That way, at least some good might come of the act. As for Katherine’s frankly unconvincing attempts to stay alive on being beaten across the head with a billhook – we will never know.
Often, the punishment meted out by the establishment of the day was every bit as grisly as the crime itself. Traditionally men were hung for murder and women were drowned. Both methods are gruesome, but some justices felt a little more was required of executing someone than simply ending their lives.
For example, the court heard how on the 5th of February 1574, David ap Hopkyn strangled his wife, Matilda, at their Cardiff home with a towel. A heinous crime I am sure you will agree. But what really wound up the judge hearing the trial was not so much what he stood accused of, but that he refused to speak a word throughout his trial. It pushed him to such a peak that in passing sentence he said (and I quote):
“David ap Hopkyn is to be put naked on the ground except his breeches and a hole made under his head and his head put into it and as much stone and iron put upon his body as it will carry and more and he is to be fed on bread and water of the worst kind, bread one day and water another, so kept alive until he dies”.
Given his name, there is every possibility he didn’t say anything as he only spoke Welsh. In the 16th century the Vale was very divided in the language of common people. For example, the townsfolk of Cowbridge all spoke English but the traders in the market stalls who came from surrounding villages like St Hilary, Bonvilston or Colwinston all spoke Welsh. Henry VIII decreed that the only languages permissible in Welsh courts were Latin and English. If ap Hopkyn spoke neither then he probably did not know what was going on. To make matters worse he may even have been innocent but as he was unable to offer an alibi or make a case we will never know. All of which makes the sentence doled out to him even more abhorrent. But that is easy to say looking back with eyes clouded by modern day liberalism.
In the Tudor period, the crime that had all the male judges and magistrates quivering in their boots the most was when a wife rid herself of an unwanted husband by poisoning him. That was considered so serious that it was not classified simply as a murder but as petty treason. In 1564, Gwenllian Morgan of Cowbridge and Johanna Thomas of Eglwysbrewis were found guilty of killing Gwenllian’s husband; Maurice Dee, by feeding him ‘Ratsbane’ concealed in a pudding. In passing sentence, the judge instructed that that they “shall be burned to ashes”.
The Robin Hood Inn is claimed to be the oldest pub in Monmouth, and the Tudor arched doorway built in dressed stone suggests that this claim is not without merit. When I investigate the history of old pubs like this one I am always amazed by two things which keep cropping up. The first is that there is an intrinsic link in Wales between pubs and the church. The second being that pubs have always been prominent in the country’s storied history of rebels, outlaws and underdogs. Never was this truer than in the case of the Robin Hood.
In the sixteenth century, Britain was wrestling with the ramifications of the Reformation. Being a practising Catholic became a very risky business. It was viewed as seditious, and followers were persecuted.
Despite the great personal risk, the landlord of the Robin Hood allowed the inn’s upper room to be used as a safe space for Monmouth’s Catholic community. There is even evidence that it was used to celebrate Mass in secret and remnants of religious paintings where discovered when an area was replastered in the latter part of the 20th century.
Had he been caught he would have instantly been shut down and imprisoned, possibly executed. However, there is no doubt that these secret gatherings continued for more than 100 years, because by 1778 religious tensions had cooled sufficiently for parliament to pass the Catholic Relief Act, in which places of Catholic worship were given licenses to exist. It took the council in Monmouth fifteen years to act on this reform, but when they finally did, they granted the Robin Hood Inn a license to act as a ‘Publick Catholic Chapel’.
It was a condition of the license that the building could not be made to look like a place of worship and that worshippers could not enter from the main street. Once the restriction on Catholic worship was lifted, a lot more people felt comfortable turning up to Mass, and the upper room of the Robin Hood Inn quickly became inadequate to support their numbers. Instead, the landlord of the Robin Hood at the time, a man called Michael Watkins, financed the building of a purpose-built chapel.
This exert is taken from a new book called “Historic Pubs of Wales” by Welsh author and historian; Graham Loveluck-Edwardsand published by Candy Jar Books (Cardiff) LTD.
The book charts the amazing haul of history tied up in 89 historic pubs from right across Wales including 21 from the Monmouthshire/Gwent area. It isavailable in WH Smith and other good book shops and on Amazon or at a £2 discount on the author’s own website at http://grahamloveluckedwards.co.uk
THE medieval town of Ruthin has a turbulent past. But did you know that there are phrases in common use in the English language today that originate from one of the town’s gorier traditions?
As much as the thought of a public hanging might turn our stomachs today, back in the 18th century they were considered good, clean, family entertainment.
In Ruthin, the gallows stood in the medieval market square at the top of the hill that leads up from the town’s old gaol. The route between the two places back then is as short and direct as it is today.
However, Ruthin continued a tradition that was echoed in towns across the country. The condemned man was never taken directly. Instead, it was customary for the condemned man to be placed in a cart or wagon and be taken on a zig zag route throughout the entire town, stopping at every pub in the town on his way.
The journey would begin at the gaol and the condemned man would travel in this wagon with an entourage of guards, a chaplain, and the executioner himself. Every time they stopped, the condemned man and his guards would dismount, go in the pub, have a few drinks, and then stumble back out to move on to the next one.
The only people who could not join them were the two men who still had a job to do, namely the executioner and the chaplain. So, if you ever offer to buy someone a drink and they reply, ‘Not for me, thanks. I’m on the wagon,’ now you know the tradition they’re referencing. It’s these two abstaining souls who could not join in the revelry.
And that is not the full extent of language that is derived from this tradition.
On its journey, the wagon transporting the condemned man used to start and stop so often that the lunging motion of the horses’ jerking the wheels into rotation earned the nickname ‘the lurch’. So, when the executioner and chaplain remained on the cart, while everyone else went into a pub, they were ‘left in the lurch’.
There are even suggestions that the term ‘pub crawl’ refers to the pace of the cart moving along the streets. Meanwhile, having ‘one for the road’ is another, self-explanatory reference.
This and many other fascinating revelations like it come from a new book which has just been published by Candy Jar Books, called “Historic Pubs of Wales” by Welsh author and historian; Graham Loveluck-Edwards.
Graham said: “When it comes to history, the humble pub has always punched well above its weight. Some of these wonderful old buildings have been at the heart of some very significant history as well as colourful events and imaginative folklore down the centuries. Yet when it comes to reading about local history, as much as there is no end of books about castles, stately homes, churches, and cathedrals, there is precious little about our pubs. They are so often overlooked. And that is something I am keen to put right”
“I have always loved old pubs. I am one of those people who cannot pass by an old and decrepit-looking pub without popping in for a pint and asking the landlord, ‘What’s the story behind this place then?’ This book is the fruit of a good 30 years of such conversations.”
The book charts the amazing haul of history tied up in 89 historic pubs from right across Wales. Capturing the history, the stories, and the folklore. Nineteen of the 89 are pubs are in North Wales and they include the Morning Star in Ruthin (at the heart of the tradition we were just looking at), the Ty Mawr in Gwyddelwern, The King’s Head in Llanrhaeadr and the Guildhall in Denbigh.
Historic Pubs of Wales is available from the author’s website just click here.
Today in Rhoose, local author: Graham Loveluck-Edwards announced the release of his new book “Historic Pubs of Wales” to follow up the regional best seller Legends and Folklore of Bridgend and the Vale which came out last year. “I was overwhelmed by the demand for my first book” said Graham. “Over 2,000 copies sold in the first three months of release alone and I was inundated with messages asking when the next one would be out”.
Graham is best known for writing historical non-fiction but with a tongue-in-cheek view of some of the more ridiculous aspects of it. As such he has earned himself the nickname of “the Bill Bryson of history books”. He relishes in some of the more colourful myths, legends and stories from Wales’ ancient past, and this latest book, about Wales’ oldest pubs, is crammed with fascinating, historically based stories and facts.
“I have always loved old pubs, and we are blessed to have so many belters here in Wales. There are many amazing stories associated with them. For example, the pub which claims to have an elephant buried under its beer garden, or the pub where funeral parties take a short cut to the cemetery through the bar to keep an ancient right of access alive, or the pub that claims to have invented pancake day and so many more. In all, I’ve compiled over 100 incredible stories based around 89 amazing old pubs. Is there any truth in them? Some for sure, but this book captures them and puts them in the context of history so you can be the judge. And what about the age-old question of which is the oldest pub in Wales? We have eight different establishments all claiming it’s them, so which one is right?”
The book also contains a travel guide so readers can go on a tour around Wales and visit all the pubs in the book. They will then be able to check out all the secret passage ways, smugglers’ hides, priest holes and ghosts for themselves.
As you can imagine for such a book, the research was relentless and thorough… And a lot of fun.
Pubs have had such a tough time in the last year with us going in and out of lock downs and with the introduction of social distancing measures. Sixteenth century inns are usually a warren of tiny rooms so being two metres apart has made opening and trading near impossible for many. So, a book which celebrates all that is great about our old pubs, which tells people their history, where to find them and what to expect when you get there (with full colour pictures) has been welcomed by all the landlords Graham spoke to when doing his research.
Historic Pubs of Wales is published by Candy Jar Books (Cardiff) on ISBN 978-1-913637-75 and is available to buy direct from the author today on his website for the discounted price of £12 plus P&P. Just type www.talesfromhistoricpubsofwales.co.uk into your web browser. It will also be available on Amazon and in most good, independent bookshops from Friday 17th September 2021 but at the cover price of £15 (plus P&P if bought online).
My new book “Legends and Folklore of Bridgend and the Vale” has now been out for one whole week.
As a new author I got to taste some of the more trying issues around the launch of a new book. The first print run had already been done when a spelling mistake was spotted on the back cover so the whole lot had to be re-done. That pushed launch back nearly two weeks. By the time the books finally arrived last Friday, I had already started receiving polite but concerned emails from people who had placed pre-orders as a result of the newspaper articles in the Barry and District News and The Penarth Times enquiring what the delay was, and when they could expect their delivery.
I dearly would have loved to have written a blog back then; about the emotional roll-a-coaster of finally seeing my books after the disappointment of the delay; the excitement of stuffing them into envelopes; the frustration at having to drive for miles to find a post office to send them from, as all the ones near me no longer open on Saturdays as apparently Coronavirus is more virulent on Saturdays than other days of the week.
The reason I didn’t get to write that blog is because my feet have not touched the ground since. The book is selling at a rate commensurate with how my dog gobbled up a rasher of bacon my stepson dropped on the kitchen floor this morning. It was gone in a flash, probably micro-seconds after sliding off the plate, let alone before anyone could retrieve it from him.
260 books have gone out in a week.
As I am juggling order fulfilment with a full-time job, that would normally have been really challenging. In the strangest of ways however, I have been saved by the Vale of Glamorgan being put into local lockdown. A total nuisance for everyone, but for me, a shrouded blessing. If I had been commuting to Bristol everyday as I would be under normal circumstances, I don’t think I could have coped.
What is really humbling however, is that the people who received the first copies have now read them and are starting to post reviews about it. I could not be more proud of the comments I have seen.
If you have not yet bought yourself a copy (or got it as a present for someone you love for Christmas) I would be more than pleased to be rushed off my feet a bit more in future weeks too.
Just visit the book’s website at https://bridgendvale.co.uk for all the information you need. It is also available from Amazon (although they charge £12.99 + P&P and I only charge £10 + P&P).