Gwent Record Office
Dispute over Land at Longtown Castle: Legal papers from Herefordshire Summer Assizes
Ewyas Lacy, Longtown
The case of Penry [plaintiff] versus Gwillim and Parry [defendants] at the King’s Bench revolved around the legal status and ownership of part of the castle green and moat at Longtown Castle. Thomas Penry claimed possession of the land [granted by Lord Abergavenny from his moiety of the manor of Ewyas Lacy]. William Gwillim and James Parry [adjacent tenants], on the other hand, claimed that the land in question was in fact common land over which they held commoners rights, and that furthermore it was the public site of an annual Fair.
It was alleged that Gwillim and Parry had, in February 1828 and on various dates thereafter, forcibly broken into this land, destroyed fences and hedges, trampled down the grass herbage, subverted and injured the earth soil, cut down standing timber with axes and destroyed 20 acres of the underwood. In all some 50 Oak, 150 Ash, 150 Elm, 1000 Larch, 1000 Firs, 1000 other trees and 1000 saplings were alleged to have been destroyed along with 500 hurdles, 150 perches of hedge and 150 perches of fence. Over 200 cartloads of timber and other material were taken and carried away by the defendants, to a total value put at £500. This was obviously a major clearance operation, not some minor spat over boundaries.
Photographs of the original documents held at Gwent Record Office can be seen by downloading PDF files using the following links:
- The Brief for the Barrister representing the Plaintiff, setting out the nature of the case to be tried by special jury, ‘five of which have viewed the land in question’, together with summaries of witness statements and various observations about aspects of both sides of the case,
- A map of Longtown Castle showing the land in question and the neighbouring areas,
- A formal report by Henry William Hewlett [probably compiled on behalf of Lord Abergavenny to protect his interests] on the results of a very detailed search of public records concerning the early history, descent and ownership of Longtown Castle and its surrounds, and
- Notes on ‘further considerations’ prepared by the solicitors T & J Gabb
There are three manuscript copies of the Hewlett report in the GRO bundle, one signed by the author and two unsigned clerk’s copies. The latter two duplicates have been omitted from the digital images collection. The report throws considerable light on both the descent of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy and of the Castle from Norman times, quoting numerous original medieval source documents that are no longer easily accessible [if at all]. It appears to demonstrate that the castle and environs always formed part of the moiety of the manor descended to the Abergaveny line, and did not pass with the other moiety of the same manor ‘now belonging to Mrs Dehany’.