Research paper: The origin and decline of the Borough of Longtown




The origin and decline of the Borough of Longtown
Nina Wedell

January 2016


The borough of Longtown was mapped in the 1840s, showing it to be a village and fields straddling a road between the rivers Olchon and Monnow, with a hinterland of fields on the slopes of the hill Mynydd Merddin. It was surrounded by the wider area of the ‘township’ of Longtown.  Both the township and the borough belonged to the parish of Clodock with its church in a neighbouring hamlet south of the borough.


Figure 1: Tithe map of the borough of Longtown in the township of Longtown [1]

The borough had been founded in the 13th century, probably at around 1216 by Walter de Lacy who was the then Lord of Ewyas Lacy, originating as a new market town associated with Longtown castle, with a stone keep which from architectural evidence was built at about 1200. Documentary reference to ‘Nova Villa’ in 1232 confirms the borough’s existence by then, as one of eventually some 36 newly founded boroughs in Herefordshire and 138 in Wales [2] , initiated in the wake of the Norman conquest and many of which were associated with a castle. A very few evolved into prosperous focal market towns, while many others failing to develop dwindled into villages or hamlets or disappeared altogether. From its high point in the early 14th century, the borough of Longtown had fallen into decline by the mid 15th century, continuing thereafter to be a remote decayed village.

The photographs below show the present-day village, aptly named for its linear form along a rise between the rivers Olchon and Monnow.  



Figure 2: The setting of Longtown village
Above: viewed towards the northwest with Hatterall Hill in the background
Below: viewed towards the east across the river Olchon
 with Mynydd Merddin in the background

The local topography is likely to have played a major part in the fortunes of Longtown. Hatterall Hill is a formidable barrier to Wales on the west [3] , and hilly country on the east makes access difficult from the Golden Valley.  A route to the north rises to the escarpment of the Black Mountains before a steep decent to the Wye valley. To the south the Monnow valley is a fairly open corridor though subject to flooding. As a trading centre, Longtown was effectively out of the way from all directions, though inaccessibility may have protected it from the worst devastations of border conflict.  Over the centuries, focal points of warfare skirted the Black Mountains along corridors of the rivers Usk, lower Monnow and middle Wye. The military role of the castle appears to have been less significant than difficulties of entry and exit for contending armies, as no attack on the castle is known to have occurred and it was reportedly in ruins by 1328 [4] .

The outline of the borough shown in Figure 1 is the earliest known mapping of its boundary, marked out in the Tithe Survey of the 1840s which identified and evaluated all landholdings for the obligatory payment of tithes. The ‘Borough of Longtown’ was delineated for the sole purpose of identifying this as an area with a differential tithe payment. As the map shows, the borough was an enclave within a larger area, the ‘Township of Longtown’. What distinguished the borough as a separate area was that residents within the borough paid tithes only to the vicar of Clodock, whereas residents in the township paid tithes to a lay tithe owner (almost entirely to Sir Velters Cornewall), as well as to the vicar of Clodock. The history of local tithe claims thus becomes a clue to reconstructing the area belonging to the borough at its founding. The tithe evidence suggests that the 1840s tithe map shows substantially the same shape as the 13th century borough.

Specifically, the reconstruction in this paper sets out to explore two questions:



·       What factors may have influenced the location and extent of the borough when it was founded?

·       Why did the borough fail to develop as a successful market town?


Emphasis in this study will be given to the Normans and their successors as colonisers. Despite their ruthless pursuit of domination, the invaders as colonisers faced a need for social stability; in part achieved by the feudal ordering of society with its clearly defined hierarchies of obligation, and in part by initiating market towns to attract new settlers, promote trade and stimulate specialist skills. Settlers were offered various inducements to live in nucleated settlements where a market was held, usually weekly, and usually also a fair once or twice a year. In one pattern of ‘plantation’, a castle was surrounded by a town, typically laid out in a grid of streets with burgages (standard sized plots) for housing or workshop, a market place, a church and some peripheral land. However, some towns were founded without a castle, and some pre-Norman hamlets or villages formed the nucleus of new towns.

Of three boroughs founded by the de Lacys in the Welsh Marches, Longtown can be compared with Weobley in Herefordshire and Ludlow in Shropshire
[5] . Weobley as recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 was already a small Saxon settlement with lands including a ‘park’ (scrub and rough pasture) and woodland. By the late 13th century it was a substantial village with a market, fair and shops and continued as a successful market town until its decline in the late 17th century. At Ludlow, a castle was built soon after 1086 with an associated settlement recorded as a borough in the 12th century. Ludlow castle became a major regional fortress and the borough a prosperous market town. Developments in the medieval period include a stone town wall, a thriving industry and export of wool and cloth, guilds for a number of trades and in 1472 the setting up in Ludlow of regional government through the Council of Wales and the Marches. By contrast, the borough of Longtown was governed by the feudal overlord as part of the Lordship of Ewyas Lacy, that is, as part of a ‘seigniorial manor’ focused on rural landholdings.

The term ‘borough’ includes market towns recorded as such in a charter or other ancient document. More significantly, borough status can be recognised by freehold tenure of burgage property which was disposable by inheritance or sale. The most successful boroughs gained further independence from the feudal overlord through rights of self-government, such as trade and craft guilds, a borough court independent from that of the feudal lord, and appointment of a borough mayor or reeve [6] . Although Longtown had no charter, it was noted in 1271 as ‘the borough of Ewyas’ [7] .  

In considering the questions posed above, we can begin with looking at the borough boundary mapped in the Tithe Survey for possible clues to its initial layout.

The borough boundary

Some explanation is needed for the ‘township’ surrounding the borough, which did not signify an urban area but a geographical area attached to a parish. Townships reflect an extended role from a mother church to a wider community, often with a dependent ‘chapel of ease’ in the township where church services were held but not all the sacraments were performed. In this case, the township of Longtown was attached to the parish church of St Clydawg at Clodock, and a dependent chapel of ease, St Peter’s, was built close to the castle in the 13th century to serve the new borough. (Other townships belonging to Clodock parish were Craswall, Llanveynoe and Newton.) A striking feature of the 1840s map, however, is that Clodock church itself is geographically surrounded by its dependent township of Longtown. The ambiguous relationship between the borough, township and Clodock church reflect changes in the political landscape and settlement history of Ewyas Lacy after the Norman conquest.

At the time of the conquest the several townships of Clodock were not identified as distinct areas. The Domesday Survey of 1086 notes ‘a ‘land called Ewias within the boundary of Ewias. This land does not belong to the castlery nor to the hundred. From this land Roger has 15 sesters of honey, 15 pigs when the men are there, and (administers) justice over them’
[8] .  This entry shows that part of the former Welsh territory (or commote) of Ewyas was not yet fully under Norman control, and the record further implies a contrast with the ‘castlery’ of Ewyas Harold which had been split off and assimilated into a regional ‘hundred’ of Herefordshire. Indeed, Ewyas Harold reflects a process of English colonisation south of the Wye prior to the conquest, which apparently stopped at high ground west of the river Dore. Domesday’s ‘land called Ewias’, held by the Norman overlord Roger de Lacy, was still frontier country: although a system of Norman administration had been introduced, for ‘justice’ and tax collecting (at that time dues of pigs and honey), this remnant of Ewyas continued to be ruled, nominally at least, by a subservient Welsh prince, Rhydderch ap Caradog, until his death in 1076 [9] .

Domesday makes no mention of a settlement at Clodock whereas it is known from other records that a church had long been established as the focus of an 8th century estate (a term of convenience for a territorial claim)
[10] . What land uses or size of population this represents is unknown, but a settlement of some sort can be assumed, whether near the church or dispersed across the estate. There may have been a transhumant economy with seasonal movement between upland and lowland (the Welsh pattern of ‘hafod’ and ‘hendre’ for summer and winter pasture).

A description of the Clodock estate boundary as it was in about 740 provides clear evidence that it lay south of the area chosen for the new borough. Figure 3 shows that the later borough boundary abutted the Clodock boundary: following a stream called the Nant Trineint , the Clodock boundary continued downstream along the Olchon, bypassing an area called Ynys Alarun . After crossing the Monnow the boundary continued along a wooded valley called Nant Cwm Cinreith ; although the name is lost, the local topography strongly suggests the same stream and valley as the later borough boundary.  At the ridge of Mynydd Merddin the borough boundary turned north and the Clodock boundary turned south towards a stream called the Hilin which has not been identified but formed a southeastern boundary of the Clodock estate. In the mid 8th century, the place called Ynys Alarun lay east of the Olchon and outside the estate, and this was the general area later selected for a new castle and borough.




Figure 3: West and south boundaries of the borough of Longtown
A shared boundary with the Clodock estate ran along the river Olchon and the valley Nant Cwm Cinreith . The area called Ynys Alarun was not part of the Clodock estate.  [Source: tithe map and Wedell
[11] ]
The thick black line shows the shared boundary; lost names are shown in italics.


The juxtaposition of the two boundaries - certain along the Olchon and probable along the Nant Cwm Cinreith - gives reasonably clear evidence that the borough avoided land already claimed by the Clodock estate. In his seminal study New Towns of the Middle Ages , Maurice Beresford notes that ‘The planted borough...can now be seen as most typical when it lay on the edge of a rural parish
[12] ’, and goes on to cite examples of the benefits of extending development into new land, one reason being to make use of undeveloped land while retaining the existing fields and agrarian economy.

In the case of Clodock the move may also have been politically astute. Just as the Normans apparently tolerated a Welsh princeling in the aftermath of conquest, they may have sought to placate local landholders as a means of controlling the frontier. Alternatively, even if properties were instead handed over to Norman retainers, the siting of the new borough beyond the Clodock estate can plausibly be interpreted as a political accommodation whereby the layout and uses of local landholdings remained intact. A possible objection to this view is the siting of a motte and bailey castle at Pont Hendre within the Clodock estate about ¼ mile from Clodock church. It is generally thought that this was an early makeshift fortification, abandoned and replaced by the stronghold at Longtown on higher ground and with a stone keep. While the change may have been made for improved defences, it is also possible that a new site for a new borough was politically expedient.

About Ynys Alarun , the 8th century record suggests that it was not virgin land; landmarks noted are a standing stone (Maen Tyllog , meaning stone with holes) and two ‘crugs’. The significance of these landmarks is not understood. No prehistoric occupation has been found at Longtown, and a long held theory that the castle site made use of a former Roman camp, based on an unusual rectangular shape of the Longtown castle bailey, has not so far been substantiated by excavation. Judging from the 8th century record, the land at Ynys Alarun seems to have been notable for relic monuments, without mention of a resident population, and most significantly, was in any case not claimed by Clodock.

Other sections of the borough boundary shown in Figure 4 suggest a similar avoidance of established landholdings. On the north the borough boundary excludes an area called Pen Pwll Sond. This appears to be an ancient name, as indicated in a lease to Sibile Miles, widow, in 1669 referring to the ‘lane leading from Longtown to Penpull sound’
[13] . No existing old property has this name.  It seems to have been an area name, and is marked as such on various OS maps near a junction of lanes at SO 3130. How large an area it covered is unknown, but the name Pen Pwll Sond is probably associated with a former pool, now a bog, on the west side of the main village road where three roads converge [14] . Elements of the name are derived from the Welsh ‘pen’ = top or end; ‘pwll’ = pool; ‘sond = unknown but speculatively a corruption of ‘sant’ = saint. If the ‘sond’ element indeed refers to a saint the area would almost certainly have held religious significance in a native Welsh context before the Norman conquest. These few hints suggest that Pen Pwll Sond may have been a separate pre-existing community or property when the borough was founded, and was avoided for this reason. Archaeological evidence would be needed to test this possibility.




Figure 4: North and east boundaries of the borough of Longtown
Possible pre-Norman landholdings are indicated by existing place names outside the borough boundary. [Source: tithe map]
The thick black line shows the boundary.


It would appear, therefore, that the borough may have been sandwiched between two established indigenous landholdings or communities at Clodock and Pen Pwll Sond. A similar explanation may apply to the irregular shape elsewhere at the north of the borough map: to avoid entrenched landholdings in the vicinity of properties later known as Llanwonog, The Groves and Old Court, as shown in Figure 4.

Two caveats to this general picture can be noted (both can be seen on tithe map sections on the Ewyas Lacy Study Group website, as referenced). One concerns a block of eight fields at the north of the village adjoining the village road, shown in Figure 5
[15] .




Figure 5: The area north of Longtown castle

Eight fields outside the borough include an earthen bank relating to the castle. See text for discrepancy between the tithe map and apportionment concerning these fields. [Source: tithe map and apportionment]
Dotted lines show the borough boundary; dashes show the fields (and some cottage plots); thick black line the earthen bank (not indicated in tithe map or apportionment.


The tithe map excludes these fields from the borough, showing the boundary as following the road itself. Since one of the fields contains an earthen bank as part of the borough defences, it seems inconceivable that this would be outside the borough. However, the tithe map is inconsistent with the tithe property inventory - the apportionment - which shows that the eight fields (and some cottages bordering them at the roadside) were included in the same tithe arrangements as other properties defining the borough, that is, all tithes were payable to the vicar of Clodock and none to Sir Velters Cornewall or any other lay owner. The reason for this discrepancy between the tithe map and tithe inventory is not known, but it seems reasonable to think that these fields always belonged to the borough, and that the 1840s discrepancy between the tithe map and apportionment awaits further research.

The other caveat concerns land at Pont Hendre
[16] . Here, the borough includes an ‘apron’ of land east of the motte at Pont Hendre at the confluence of the Olchon and Monnow rivers, as shown in Figure 6.




Figure 6: Extension of the borough into land formerly belonging to the Clodock estate
The added land lay south of the Olchon/Monnow confluence. [Source: tithe map]

Dotted lines show the borough boundary.


The ancient Clodock boundary clearly crossed the Monnow north of this river junction, which strongly suggests that the borough appropriated a small piece of land from the native estate (though, interestingly, the motte at Pont Hendre itself stood outside the borough).  A possible explanation for the additional land is that it provided a strategic advantage of control over the river junction and crossing [17] .

Lastly, the bulge at the eastern side of the borough on the slopes of Mynydd Merddin was apparently a hinterland. Here again the borough excluded land belonging to the Clodock estate, though sharing the same boundary along a wooded valley to the top of Mynydd Merddin. In the legend of St Clydawg
[18] , Mynydd Merddin was a royal hunting ground, which would have been a ‘forest’ of woodland and scrub. That part of the hillside not claimed by the Clodock estate may have been taken into the borough in the 13th century because it was available and undisputed. Parallels are suggested by Maurice Beresford’s discussion of borough size elsewhere: ‘The largest territories attached to English plantations are found where there was abundant land locally, and no clash of interest between new town and older village’. Again, Beresford notes that ‘...a small number of planted towns did have extensive fields of their own, together with rights over common pasture and surrounding woodland. These are symptoms of towns that had invaded no one’s territory; of towns whose inhabitants were conducting all the local reclamation, being set where there were as yet no villages and fields’ [19] . Whether these general findings apply to Longtown is speculative, but they would account both for fields near the village and the requisition of Mynydd Merddin as undeveloped land.

In sum, the configuration of the borough suggests an astute reckoning of costs and benefits between the invaders and subjected population at local level whereby the local landholdings were not entirely disregarded in the allocation of land for the borough.

The evidence from tithes

The Tithe Survey plays a crucial role in reconstructing the ancient borough boundary because it provides a field-by-field map of properties in which the route of the boundary is marked according to differential tithe payments. Tithe obligations were assessed on the value of each landholding in order to set a standardised rate of payment, which by the 1840s had become a money payment replacing the ancient tithe of produce.  Two separate sums were levied: one was the ‘vicarial’ or ‘small’ tithe which provided the vicar with income, and the other was the ‘rectorial’  or ‘great’ tithe, a tax based on the price of the most valuable produce including corn and grain which might be either in Church or lay (‘impropriate’) ownership. The tithe apportionment is a schedule of properties listing all the fields or plots within each landholding, and depending on the size and use of the land an amount of tithe chargeable on each field was assessed in two separate sums for small and great tithes, expressed for Longtown as ‘to the vicar’ and ‘to the impropriate owner’ respectively. Nearly all landholders in the surrounding township paid the great tithe to Sir Velters Cornewall of Moccas Court in Herefordshire, the major impropriate owner (though three local
landholders owned great tithes for a handful of fields in their own right) [20] .

The background to this preferential allocation in the borough
emerges from records of local consultations carried out by the Tithe Commission in the run-up to assessing the charges due.  Minutes of a meeting held by Charles Pym, the Assistant Tithe Commissioner conducting the proceedings [21] , report ‘numerous complaints’ about the assessments for ‘that part of the township called the borough’. It seems that landholders had been mistakenly held liable for paying great tithes to an impropriate owner which had never been paid as a separate amount, all tithes being paid to the vicar. The correction then made was duly noted in the tithe apportionment:



...And it is further alleged that the said Impropriator and Receiver are not entitled to any of the Tithes of Corn Grain Lamb or wool accruing upon any of the Lands within that part of the said Township called the Borough well known by meres and bounds and containing by estimation twelve hundred and eight acres the whole of the Tithes accruing upon which are payable to the Vicar of the said Parish of Clodock and the value of which Tithes is included in the amount of Rent Charge assigned by the said Agreement to the said Vicar and nothing was added to the Rent Charge assigned by the said Agreement to the said Thomas Frankland Lewis Samuel Peploe and Gilbert Frankland Lewis [receivers for Sir Velters Cornewall, a minor]. [22]


St Peter’s church in Longtown, dated to the 13th century, was designated a ‘chapelry’ of Clodock church, for many centuries a curacy dependent on the vicar of Clodock, and the income from borough tithes would have contributed to income for a curate. In addition to tithes, the vicar received an income or ‘living’ from the patron of Clodock church who owned the ‘advowson’ or right to appoint the priest. In 1919 the Reverend Llewellin, then vicar, traced the history of patronage at Clodock church:



‘...[T]he patronage of this ancient benefice once in the gift of the de Laci family, and given by them in accordance with a usual custom in the thirteenth century to the leading monastery of the district, seems to have changed hands to a “Reece family, then to the Vaughans, later to a Wilkins family” [quotation from J Duncumbe] and later to the de Winton family, of Maesllwch Castle, Glasbury, the present representative being Major Walter de Winton, of the Coldstream Guards. Quite recently the Advowson was purchased by Charles E Dransfield, Esq, of Liverpool, and presented as a gift to the writer... [23]  


Llewellin reports the names of the vicars of Clodock from 1560, the earliest date known to him. Several vicars seem to have been absentees, appointing curates to be in charge presumably at Clodock as well as the townships. From 1814, John Rogers, a resident vicar, ‘appointed the Curate of Clodock to be Perpetual-Curate (with the courtesy title of “Vicar”) of St Peter’s, Longtown’ [24] .

While the vicar of Clodock had income both from tithes and from the patron, he did not have the status of ‘rector’ which elsewhere gave entitlement to great tithes throughout a parish, and for priests with more than one rectory could provide a substantial income (the rector of Cusop being a case in point, whose income also included the rectory of Stanton St John’s in Oxfordshire)
[25] . As a ‘vicarage’ only, Clodock remained a relatively poor parish.

Although Clodock church was renovated in the 1660s, its upkeep apparently fell into persistent neglect thereafter. Llewellin emphasises the patrons’ lack of interest over a considerable time, perhaps many generations, when he notes that after the restoration of 1916, carried out under his watch, his intention as the new patron is to hand the church patronage over to an Evangelical Trust in order


.’.. to save Clodock Church for future time against a repetition of the conditions obtaining prior to the year 1916. Few who see the renovated church will ever believe the dilapidated state the old edifice was in with its broken seats, broken floor, or worse again, in some places, no pavement at all. The church was a refuge for birds and bats...’ [26]


The picture emerging is of a poor rural parish whose clergy would have depended substantially on additional income from the borough great tithes. Table 1 clearly illustrates the benefit, as borough income provided 47% of the total allocation to the vicar.


Table 1: Tithe charges in the borough and township of Longtown as established in the tithe apportionment


Tithe charge


To Vicar

To impropriate owner







Township outside Borough



- Sir Velters Cornewall



- Three other impropriators










The fact that Borough residents paid both classes of tithes only to the vicar of Clodock is a tantalising hint of an early arrangement – perhaps providing a windfall for the local clergy when the borough was founded? Perhaps allocated to the local clergy by the manorial overlord rather than going to Llanthony Priory, which otherwise had rights to great tithes in much of Ewyas Lacy?  However, the documentary record of tithes granted to Llanthony Priory is unclear.

Llanthony Priory, founded in about 1108, was granted tithe rights across large swathes of Ewyas Lacy in the 12th century which were later confirmed by Walter de Lacy
[27] . In line with accepted practice, the Priory was entitled to the great tithes for its own use, and the small tithes would have been allocated to income for the local clergy.  Following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monastery in 1538, the tithe rights were granted to a courtier Nicholas Arnold. An inventory of Llanthony’s property made in 1539-40 lists (among other things) the great and vicarial tithes in various parts of Ewyas Lacy [28] . One entry reads ‘Longa Villa in Ewyas Lacy – Portio xm £2.6.8’ (the xm referring to the notional rate of a tenth). Successive owners across several generations of the Arnold family were followed by sales to the Harley family and later the Cornewall family. Inventories of their tithe holdings refer to Longtown, but in ambiguous terms which do not distinguish between the township and the borough: in 1628 to ‘tithes of corn, hay and grain and other tithes’ in ‘Lingavilla’ [sic]; in 1720 to tithes in Longtown: in 1804 to ‘tithes of corn, grain, wood and lands’ in Longtown [29] . Might this mean that the borough great tithes had been absorbed in sales to new lay owners? This seems an unlikely scenario, because in the 1840s the borough’s tithes were separate from the township’s.

Furthermore, there is no evidence of a separate sale of borough great tithes in any earlier transactions, nor a chain of ownership by successive purchasers up to the 1840s Tithe Survey which provides proof that the Cornewall family did not own great tithes in the borough. It therefore seems at least possible that the ambiguous reference to Longa Villa and Longtown in the inventories was a loose term for the township without a qualification that the borough was excluded. (Indeed, the sellers might well have been motivated to avoid mentioning this detail.)  Another way of looking at the issue is to consider whether the clergy of Clodock might have been granted the great tithes at some other time than when the borough was founded in the early 13th century. Before the dissolution of Llanthony this would be most improbable, given the priory’s precarious hold on survival until it eventually succumbed to merger with a sister foundation in Gloucester, Llanthony Secunda. At the dissolution, when Llanthony’s great tithes first went to lay owners, it is possible that Nicholas Arnold made a magnanimous gift to the local clergy. However, in that case the borough would doubtless have been an established entity with a boundary recognised over several centuries since its founding. No subsequent lay owner of great tithes in the Harley or Cornewall families is known to have made such an altruistic gesture.

The view taken here, subject to further research, is that the grant of great as well as small tithes in the borough to the vicar of Clodock probably originated when the borough was founded and continued thereafter to the 19th century, when the Tithe Survey of properties coincidently provided a boundary marker for the initial borough lands. This concession would clearly have been to the advantage of Clodock clergy, who had additional responsibility for ministry at St Peter’s.

The function of the borough

The borough of Longtown was founded as a ‘seigniorial’ borough, meaning that it was established and administered by a manorial overlord, and not by the monarch nor endorsed with a royal charter. (In the absence of a written charter, the term ‘prescriptive’ borough is also used
[30] .) Walter de Lacy, a powerful Marcher baron who held the Lordship of Ewyas Lacy, would have had sole authority for management of the borough as part of the lordship, with the market, courts and castle under his own control. However, after Walter’s death in 1241, his inheritance was divided between two granddaughters, Margery and Maud, each of whom held a ‘moiety’, or equal share, of the lordship of Ewyas Lacy (among his other possessions). Margery’s share, which included the castle as the then seat of military and manorial power, devolved over generations to the Neville family, Lords of Abergavenny, with whom it remained from the 15th century until a sale of the estate in 1920. Maud’s share devolved to the Mortimer family from whom it passed by right of inheritance to the monarch from Edward IV to Elizabeth I. Elizabeth granted her moiety to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Dudley soon sold this moiety, which eventually devolved to John Jeffreys in around 1700 [31] . The two moieties will here be referred to as the Abergavenny and the Dudley/Jeffreys moieties. The division of the lordship after Walter’s death almost certainly had a drastic impact on the fortunes of the borough thereafter, as will be seen below.

First, though, we can look at the ground plan of the medieval village at the heart of the borough of Longtown
[32] . Figure 4 shows the castle, surrounding defences, church, market place and grid of streets which are still existing or identifiable as remnants, houses within the enclosures, and burgage plots further south. Each of these features is typical of a planted medieval borough, though with a great deal of local variation. The market place in Longtown was an open triangular space fronting St Peter’s where a weekly market was held on Thursdays [33] . An annual fair was also held on All Saint’s Day. In Longtown, the castle, church, market area and housing were enclosed by an earthen bank in three sections; the south, central and north enclosures, the central one being the castle precinct. Houses are thought to have been built in all three sections.



Figure 7: Reconstruction of the medieval village in the borough of Longtown


Documentary evidence of burgages survives from several sources. In 1310, one hundred burgages were reported [34] , representing a population of about five hundred. A comparison with the number of burgages elsewhere suggests that Longtown just reached the low end of an estimated average size (100-250 burgages) of boroughs in Wales at about the same time. From available records, larger towns (270-360 burgages) included Chepstow and Usk, while those smaller included Painscastle (50) and Lampeter (26) [35] .  However, the meaning of ‘burgage’ in Longtown is far from clear, as will be discussed below and the figure of one hundred is not supported by LIDAR photographs which total some thirty outlines of characteristic burgage plots concentrated on the east side of the village road [36]

Manorial surveys in the early 18th century list borough properties separately from other areas in the township. A survey for Lord Abergavenny in 1701 heads a section of ‘Burgage rents’ from 25 properties
[37] , and a survey for John Jeffreys in 1705 lists 27 properties under ‘Burrow of Longtown’ [38] . Both suggest that the concept of the borough was very much alive at that time, though without any indication of where the properties lay. The 1840s Tithe Survey names 46 property owners and 54 occupiers in the borough (the larger figure representing tenants as well as owner-occupiers). This survey shows, for the first time, the geographical layout of the borough, at least as it was understood then for purposes of tithe assessments, including village properties and outlying farms.

Although the borough survived notionally, a decline of properties is noted from the 14th century onwards. The castle was an early casualty, from report in 1328 of ‘a castle with a close, which is of no value being in ruins’. A vivid commentary on conditions in the borough in 1566 goes some way towards explaining its particular history as well as its decline. The extracts below come from a manorial survey for the co-sharing lord of the manor at that time, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. It provides many insights into distinctive features of the borough.  



[following a description of Walterstone] ...’there is within the said manor [of Ewyas Lacy] an other house of stone in the Long Town now in great decay which hath been heretofore used for the keeping of the Lord’s courts, of the part which now appertaineth to the said Earl of Leicester, and did contain a prison for the executing and punishment appertaining to the same which is worth nothing at this present nor meet for the use aforesaid without reparation to the value of £10 which be all the castles and manor house belonging to the said Lordship’...

...’This manor is a great circuit and very good ground divided between the Lord of Burguany and your Lordship both in Rent & ground There is no manor house belonging to the same except a small house which was called the court house and now in great decay To the other part of the Lord of Burguanys portion there is an old castle standing in the upper end of the town of Ewias Lacy called the Long town in utter ruin The said town is a very long town being but one street in it, old houses and no inns nor lodging in it, the most part of all my Lord of Burguany’s houses are kept in good reparations, the rest being now your Lordship’s portion utterly in decay, and many house and burgages that have yielded rent now hath waste not possible to be re-edified again because there is no man (if they were built again) that would take them to dwell in for that there is no manner of ground belonging to them, but the very plot where the house stood. The parish church standeth in the lowest part of the town [39] . The parsonage Sir Nicholas Arnold hath purchased and hath the gift of the vicarage’....

...’If your Lordship be forced to keep this lordship in your own hands, it were good that your Lordship and my Lord of Aburgany should agree upon a joint Survey for the division of the Lordship that each part might be known from the other for the tenants do not now know...which is your Lordship’s ground or which is the other part by which great commodity in time would be made to you both...for that in every case when commodity is to be made the tenants excuse that they cannot tell which is the one part nor which is the other’... [40]


This description can serve to introduce a more detailed picture of the borough under the headings of the castle, the manor, the court, and borough properties, which will be considered in turn.

The Castle

Whether Longtown was a target for attack is open to question. The sacking and burning of towns in border warfare including Hay and Brecon, and other atrocities such as the massacre of Welsh princes at Abergavenny castle, apparently by-pased Longtown [41] .

Some major conflicts illustrate its fringe position.

Henry III came to inspect the defences in 1233, on his way south from Hay to Usk to quell a major rebellion by the Marcher lord Richard Marshall and his Welsh allies under Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.  The stone keep of Longtown castle had been built some 30 years previously and the borough would have been a newly established frontier settlement. A garrison presumably waited in readiness for the royal visit. However, there is no evidence that Longtown castle was attacked in that rebellion
[42] , which in regions beyond Ewyas Lacy was focused on the Lower Monnow and Usk river corridors.

In 1324, Richard Wroth, his daughter Alice and others were indicted for murder among other crimes; they had also ‘received and maintained thieves and felons in the parts of Ewyas, and adhere to Roger de Mortuo Mari [Mortimer] “le neveu” the king’s enemy and rebel, and afforded him aid and counsel in many ways’
[43] . Although the castle was reported to be in ruins in 1328 [44] , it was apparently still usable as a prison when in 1359 the king granted a pardon to Roger Mortimer for freeing prisoners at the castle ‘whereby many felons escaped from the land of Ewyas to his castle of Radnor’; this writ was followed by another denying Roger use of the castle prison, ‘as he has no castle in the land and lordship of Ewyas’ [45] .

Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion (1400-1415) brought intense fighting to Grosmont and Brecon and devastation to churches in the Golden Valley. At this time there is evidence of local allegiance with the Welsh rebels. In 1403-4, common cause with Owain Glyndwr is recorded in a writ giving the king’s pardon to ‘Gruff ap Henri of Ewias Lacy, who lately rose against the king in the company of Owyn Glydourdy and other Welsh rebels’: the pardon was granted at the supplication of Joan de Beauchamp ‘lady of Bergavenny’, suggesting that Gruff ap Henri held high status and possibly was a leader of local resistance. Joan de Beauchamp was then awarded all the lands of Gruff ap Henri ‘forfeited by reason of rebellion’
[46] . The picture emerging is of strong currents of intrigue and disaffection at local level, but not reaching a threshold for attack from outside.

The Civil War (1642-51), fiercely centred on Hereford, brought plundering to Ewyas Harold
[47] , but there is no contemporary record of military action in Longtown. However, folk tradition in Longtown tells of troops sheltering and stabling their horses in Clodock church. There is also hearsay evidence of cannon balls found in the vicinity of the castle (though no actual specimens) suggesting an attack, which could potentially be substantiated by other finds at or near the ground surface.

In sum, the absence of evidence so far does not rule out the possibility that Longtown castle was an active defensive site, but difficulties of access suggest otherwise. It seems more likely that it served primarily as a deterrent symbol of power. Further research may help to clarify the conundrum it poses.

The Manor

The report that there was no ‘manor house’ alludes to absentee lords and thus to management of the lordship by a steward, bailiff or other official appointed by one or other of the co-sharing lords. Who were these officials, and how was management of the lordship divided between them?  It is difficult to get a clear picture, owing to the sparsity of records for the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety in contrast to a large collection for the Abergavenny moiety, giving a distinctly one-sided view of management which would have included the whole Lordship as well as the borough. Manorial surveys give ample evidence of rivalry, such as the claims by the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety to particular geographical areas including the ‘forest of Olphon’, Middle Maescoed, ‘Keven Bach’ and ‘Coed Gravel’ [48] . As the extract above shows, the borough also appears to have been divided between them into specific allocations of property.

Table 2 gives the names and remit of officials so far identified. Can this list help to establish those who were acting for one or other lord, or even both of them? If so, a plausible reconstruction of how the divided lordship was managed may emerge, as discussed below.


Table 2: Officials to the Lordship and Manor of Ewyas Lacy[49]
[Officials  indicated in bold : some certainly and others probably represented the interests of the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety]




Remit from



William Herbert
Henry ap Griffith


Lordship of Ewyas Lacy
Lordship of Ewyas Lacy

Patent Rolls, Henry VI, 554




William Cicillar [Cecil]
Lewis Gilbert

William Baker
Watkin Harry
Abraham Powell
Richard Davis



Clerk of court
Deputy steward

Ewyas Lacy with Walterstone lordships

Manorial accounts 1594-1600


Six nominated trustees


Act of Parliament

Sale of Manors of Ewyas Lacy, Walterstone & Trewaylan

1661, & 66

Richard Crofts



2 grants of copyhold


Henry Delahay


Lord Abergavenny

17th century court rolls


Richard Crofts

By ‘special warrant’

Sir Trevor Williams

Manorial survey

1661, 1681&82

Rowland Jennings



3 grants of copyhold


Richard Crofts


Lord Abergavenny

Manorial survey


?Henry Symonds


Lord Abergavenny

Terrier of holdings in Ewyas Lacy


Bennett Delahay
Rowland Jennings


John Jeffreys

Manorial survey


Walter Roberts

Chief steward

Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Upper Maescoed


John Day
John Gilbert


Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Forest Hene

1758 & 1777

John Gilbert


Lord Abergavenny

2 leases, Clodock


Lewis Osborne

Deputy steward

Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Newton


Robert Morgan Kinsey


Lord Abergavenny

Lease Michaelchurch Escley


Robert Morgan Kinsey
Lewis Osborne

Chief Steward
Deputy steward

Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Longtown & Newton


Robert Morgan Kinsey


Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Lower Maescoed


Lewis Osborne

Deputy steward

Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Newton


Baker Gabb the younger

Deputy steward

Lord Abergavenny

Lease, Newton


Richard Baker Gabb junior


Lord Abergavenny

Research paper;
& various Court Roll entries


John Gabb

Deputy steward

Lord Abergavenny

Court Roll


The officials indicated in bold are key figures for inferring something of the local allegiances to one or other moiety of the lordship; for some by an association with particular properties.

- William Cecil took part in a review of manorial accounts from 1594 -1600 where revenues from the lordship were equally divided. William Cecil owned Alltyrynys at Walterstone
[50] , an area claimed by the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety. Indeed, the remit for this review specifies Walterstone, and it seems possible (or even likely) that William Cecil was representing the interests of that moiety.

- Lewis Gilbert, bailiff 1594-97, may be the ancestor of a Lewis Gilbert of Old Court named in deeds of 1638
[51] . Old Court is strongly associated with the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety; in the Dudley survey it is given a prominence far outstripping other properties and it was certainly owned by John Jeffreys. Parts of the house are dated from the 14th century [52] .

- Six trustees appointed by Parliament in 1653 conducted a manorial survey in the interregnum after the Civil War when Parliament appropriated and then ‘sold’ the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety to one Thomas Harrison for a notional payment of five shillings
[53] . The survey specified sale of the ‘Manors of Ewyas Lacy, Walterstone & Trewaylan’, again an indication that the survey was focused on particular claims of that moiety [54] .

- Richard Crofts was given the title ‘steward’ in leases to his own properties in Michaelchurch Escley in 1661 and 1666, but with no indication of stewardship for whom.  However, in 1667 he conducted a manorial survey for Sir Trevor Williams, inheritor of the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety after the restoration of the monarchy when lands that had been appropriated by Parliament were reinstated. Here Crofts was styled ‘steward and surveyor of the said manor by virtue of a special warrant or commission’, implying that management of the lordship was somewhat in limbo and this may have been an ad hoc arrangement at the time. Interestingly, Richard Crofts also conducted a manorial survey for Lord Abergavenny in 1687. So far as known from current researches, Crofts is the only official who acted for both lords of the manor, though with an interval of twenty years between the surveys he conducted.

- Bennett Delahay was a later owner of Alltyrynys, and like William Cecil before him would probably have been closely aligned with the interests of the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety, particularly at Walterstone. Delahay was named as steward in the manorial survey for John Jeffreys when the latter acquired this share of the lordship in about 1701. (It may be noted that Henry Delahay, possibly an uncle, who acted for Lord Abergavenny in 1663-65 was not associated with Alltyrynys.)

- Rowland Jennings was titled ‘steward’ in leases granted to him in 1661, 1681 and 1682 for a property called Lyndee by the river Escley where he had a tanning mill. This landholding abutted Old Court - as noted above, a prestigious property which had long association with the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety. Rowland Jennings co-officiated with Bennett Delahay in the Jeffreys survey where he was styled ‘recorder’, and both apparently worked together in other contexts, such as drawing up wills.

From these details, it seems that different officials managed the manorial business for each moiety of the lordship. On the Dudley/Jeffreys side, there are hints of a nexus of influence associated with two properties: Alltyrynys in Walterstone and Old Court in Longtown.

It should be borne in mind that manorial business included properties in the township of Longtown as well as other townships belonging to Clodock parish (Craswall, Llanveynoe and Newton) and further afield other parishes belonging to the constellation of Ewyas Lacy. The manorial surveys and other records noted above refer to various taxes and revenues which apply generally to all areas belonging to the manor. The borough, where it is mentioned specifically, is only one element in the manorial interests. The inclusion of the borough within general administration strongly emphasises a seigniorial management of the manor as a whole

The court

The importance of a borough court is emphasised by Aldolphus Ballard in his classic study of British borough charters: ‘If examination be made of all the charters by which boroughs were governed, these two features, and as far as I can see, these two features alone – the grant of burgage tenure and the creation of a borough court – were common to all the boroughs – from the most rudimentary to the most developed...’
[55] . Although this view has been challenged as an overstatement, it does indicate a strong correlation between borough courts and borough development and goes some way towards explaining the apparent stagnation of Longtown.

The court premises were originally in the castle precinct.  From the Dudley survey we learn that a courthouse in Longtown had served that moiety but was then (in 1566) ‘not meet for use without reparation’. The house was apparently still standing in 1692 as an ‘aunchint house’, leased to John Watkins, a cooper, with right of use as a court by Lord Abergavenny
[56] . Putting these two records together it seems that the same premises were used by both moieties, but this does not necessarily mean that they met together on all occasions. The building is shown on a plan of the castle precinct in 1718 as being in the southwest corner of the castle bailey [57] . In 1701 the court appears to have moved to another venue, an inn close to the castle precinct called ‘The Court House’ leased to Richard Tranter by the Dudley/Jeffreys moiety [58] .  It is likely that both moieties met here for at least some joint business, such as the court leet dealing with law and order issues.

A writ of 1369 notes ‘a court and a halmote held every three weeks, a moiety of a hundred-court held every two weeks’
[59] . The court and halmote refer to manorial courts concerned with property transactions and law and order issues - the court baron and court leet respectively. The hundred court suggests a power of criminal jurisdiction, a role consistent with the status of Ewyas Lacy at that time as a Marcher lordship with many autonomous legal powers. (Before 1535 a hundred court in Ewyas Lacy would have been under the authority of the seigniorial lord, as Marcher lordships were outside the system of county jurisdiction.) 

 What is significant here is that there is no mention of a court specifically for borough management. Successful boroughs developed a degree of urban self government with a framework of trade and craft guilds headed by an elected mayor. Such urbanisation ran counter to the manorial system of management derived from feudal dues and services as the prerogative of the lord of the manor.  The absence of a borough court in Longtown indicates that this level of independence from manorial control was not reached.  Court premises in Longtown thus signify meeting places for manorial business for the whole lordship.

As noted, the whole lordship of Ewyas Lacy included a number of other townships and parishes. Whether courts met in these areas at alternative venues is not clear; some properties with the attribution of ‘court’ pose the question of possible court meetings at local level in specific areas, such as Olchon Court, Craswall Court, and Michaelchurch Court, although ‘court’ could also be a term adopted by the gentry to reflect high status. Various sub-manors in Ewyas Lacy referred to as ‘barony’ or ‘manor’ are recorded up to the 18th century, which apparently in the remote past owed feudal dues and services to the overlord and may have had court functions. In peripheral areas some sub-manors appear to have been hived off from lands initially granted to the de Lacy overlords, such as the Barony of Rowlestone and Llancillo which was administered by the Scudamores of Kentchurch, and the Manor of Clothy Hopkin in Michaelchurch administered by the overlord of Snodhill. Changing allegiances implied by these shifts in administration are complex and outside the scope of this study, other than indicating that they arise.

The point here is that the borough did not have a court separate from that of the Manor of Ewyas Lacy. Records of the court baron and court leet give an insight into the composition and workings of the manorial court, where representatives of the local landholders were required to serve as a ‘jury’ in a system of obligatory medieval governance known as ‘frankpledge’. The role of the court baron in manorial surveys gives a full picture of this system, where the jury were required to give evidence under oath to a range of land uses, rights, and property interests of the lord of the manor. Two surveys give ample evidence that the court baron functioned for the whole lordship. A survey for Trevor Williams in 1667 lists 15 jurors under locational headings of Michaelchurch Escley (1 name), Llanveynoe (7), Craswall (2), Longtown (2) and Fwthog (3); and a survey for John Jeffreys in 1705 names 16 jurors, noted as 8 gentlemen and 8 yeomen, and although no locations are indicated the personal names can be correlated with properties spread across the lordship
[60] .

From this evidence there can be no doubt that the borough was always under seigniorial management, and a range of dues and taxes called ‘customs’, variously based on land, produce or feudal obligation throughout the lordship would presumably have included borough residents.  However, there is some mention of the borough’s specific contribution to manorial interests.  A writ of 1271 refers to ‘toll of the borough’, and another dated 1328 to ‘tolls of fairs and markets’
[61] . Tolls charged for market traders were a significant source of revenue for manorial lords, though in some boroughs tolls were waived for burgesses as an inducement to new settlers. It is not known if burgesses in Longtown enjoyed this exemption. An item in 1594-1600 was ‘Fee Farm of the Burgesses’, the fee farm being a fixed annual sum agreed between the burgesses and the seigniorial lord for petty charges. This system of payment was more convenient than a collection of variable amounts each year, and the total could be adjusted from time to time. The fee farm implies at least a limited extent of corporate organisation by burgesses, though it apparently never developed in other areas of self-government.

Borough properties



In the village


No obvious traces of burgage plots show above ground in Longtown, though archaeological evidence as well as LIDAR photographs confirm the characteristic layout: long narrow adjoining strips of land, typically with the house on a street frontage and behind it land for a garden, workshop or a few animals. These lay mainly on the east side of the village road south of the medieval defences [62] . A possible implication is that some, perhaps many, burgages were not of standard layout and that the term ‘burgage’ was used loosely in Longtown for dwellings within a nucleated settlement. Here it is worth noting Ian Soulsby’s comment that ‘the burgage in Wales was not of uniform size with standard dimensions, but varied considerably not only from town to town, but even within towns’ [63] ; examples cited include those 200ft long by 26ft wide and 24ft long by 20 ft wide.

Such variation may apply particularly to small burgages. The Dudley survey says that ‘there is no manner of ground belonging to them, but the very plot where the house stood’.  Some may be represented on the Longtown tithe map in a series of small house plots on the west side of the village road, stretching southwards from the church
[64] . Many of these plots back on to fields, without a yard or garden at the back of the house.

The Dudley survey also notes that some burgesses held land separated from their dwelling, ranging from 1½ to 6 acres. Others held multiple burgages and land, such as Gwillimus Parry Lewis holding ‘4 burgages whereof one is built besides 12 English acres of land’. These details
[65] suggest that farming within or close to the village was possible for village dwellers, with the further implication that burgage plots were interspersed with fields fronting the road (similar to the linear layout of the village since)

A gloomy picture is given of ‘old houses’ falling into ruin. This report tends to be confirmed by the absence today of houses in Longtown village that would have been old in the late 16th century. Indeed, apart from the castle and St Peter’s church, only two existing buildings are thought to date before the 17th century (Old Greyhound and Tanhouse, both dated in part to the 16th century)
[66] . Severe depopulation may have been due to episodes of the Black Death in the 14th century, when a death toll of between a third and half the population has been estimated in the country as a whole. Arriving in the south-eastern Marches in 1348, the plague was particularly hard in Monmouthshire and was followed by a ‘Second Pestilence’ in 1369.  How Longtown fared is unknown, but depopulation from either or both epidemics can be assumed [67] .

The report of ‘no inns or lodgings’ is a telling clue that the raison d’être of Longtown’s existence as a market town had failed. In a thriving market town, a constant flow of people as traders or purchasers would be expected; some coming in for the day from the surrounding countryside on market days, and some needing accommodation for longer stays. Geographical isolation and difficulties of access were possibly the most significant factors.

The Dudley survey contrasts the condition of houses belonging to each moiety: ‘the most part of all my Lord of Burguany’s houses are kept in good reparations, the rest being now your Lordship’s portion utterly in decay’. If this statement refers to burgage plots it would be a most surprising departure from accepted practice for burgage tenure since it implies some kind of management for the upkeep of houses on the part of each lord. A fixed ‘rent’ for burgages was expected, the standard payment being one shilling a year. However, this was notionally for the land, and did not affect freehold ownership of burgages with rights of inheritance or sale of the property which, as noted above, has been regarded as a defining feature of boroughs. The Dudley survey quote suggests that some houses were leased, and different terms for leases or rents would perhaps account for the difference in their state of repair. Further research is needed to investigate this issue: might the houses in good repair have stood within the castle enclosures, that is, within the Abergavenny moiety?  That might also help to explain why Longtown failed to develop a strong burgess base.

The Jeffreys survey of 1705 lists 22 landholders in the borough, some with a burgage only, some with a burgage and land and some with land only. Rents noted range from a few pence to several of more than five pounds. An additional comment reports that


‘The above menconed Burgages and parcells of lands are the moiety of the said Burrough and have been holden from the time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary of the said Lord and others his predecessors Lords of the sd Mannor at the yearly rents before menconed ...’




Outlying lands


More than half the borough acreage bulged out on the slopes of Mynydd Merddin, perhaps initially as undeveloped land intended as a resource for fuel, building timber and foraging.  In the Tithe Survey several substantial farms show that over the centuries the land had been brought into agricultural use.  Apart from the Tithe Survey no documentary source yet known indicates that this area was part of the borough, and it is impossible to tell if anyone other than the clergy and the tithe payers in that area regarded it as such.  Elsewhere, between the Olchon and Monnow rivers, modest farms and scattered fields in the borough were owned or leased by villagers, as can be seen by consulting the tithe map and apportionment together [68]

Table 3 below gives a breakdown of property size throughout the borough, showing that in the 1840s nearly half the 54 landholdings in the borough were less than 1 acre.


Table 3: Size of borough properties[69]

Number of acres

Number of properties





Under 1 acre



1 acre/under 5



5 acres/under 10



10 acres/under 20



20 acres/under 50


Pontannis, Penydre

50 acres/under 100


Tanhouse, Ty Kennel

Over 100 acres


Brooks,  Upper Bryn, Lower Bryn


Total 54



Landholdings in the 1840s were on the whole either inside or outside the borough, with only 10 properties overlapping the boundary. As shown in Table 4 below, only one farm, Penydre, had a substantial overlap of fields, Groves farm had 21% and all the others had less than a 10% overlap. The reason for this long enduring integrity may partly be due to natural boundaries; the rivers Olchon, Monnow and Escley, and a stream leading to the top of Mynydd Merddin.  Other sections of the boundary follow roads and paths which arguably represent ancient tracks between landholdings as old as the borough or even older. Even today, much of the borough boundary can be walked along rights of way marked on Ordnance Survey maps.


Table 4: Properties overlapping the borough boundary in the tithe map[70]

Name of property


Number of acres in rounded figures

(Number of fields in brackets)

% acres overlapping


In borough

Outside borough:

In Longtown township unless specified







37 acres (9);

22 acres (7) in Llanveynoe



14 acres (6)

68 acres (24)



71 acres (16)

7 acres (1)


Lower Pont Hendre

7 acres (8)

70 acres (20)


Money Farthing [Mynnyd Merddin]

10 acres (1)

145 acres (20)



160 acres (34)

9 acres (2)


Old Court

12 acres (1)

199 acres (21)


Middle Turnant

2 acres (1)

1 acre (1); and

114 acres (52) in Llanveynoe



3 acres (3)

145 acres (39)



2 acres (1)

319 acres (47)




As very scant evidence of the borough of Longtown has survived from the medieval period, the reconstruction of its history is largely inferred from indirect sources. The original borough boundary has been extrapolated from the earliest (and only) known map drawn for the 1840s Tithe Survey, in part by comparing the borough boundary with documentary evidence of the early medieval Clodock Estate boundary and other local landmarks, particularly in the area once known as Ynys Alarun . Information about tithes is a key element, by which it is possible to reconstruct the sequence of tithe ownership from the dissolution of Llanthony Priory to the 19th century Tithe Survey, and reasons why the borough had a special arrangement.  While archaeology and documentary evidence confirm various features of a Norman borough, a reconstruction of its history relies a great deal on studies of boroughs elsewhere to provide comparisons with the circumstances at Longtown. The picture presented here, therefore, essentially depends on consistency between varied sources of information. Its validity can be tested by continuing research from documentary sources and archaeology, including further investigation into the role of the castles at Pont Hendre and Longtown in relation to Clodock and the fortunes of the borough. The Longtown Castles Project with a three year research programme from 2016 provides such an opportunity
[71] .

To answer the two questions put at the beginning of this study, the founding of the borough and its decline must be interpreted in a wider context of colonisation following the Norman conquest. While the castle represents a perceived military need, the borough was an attempt to create a stable and prosperous settlement, one instance in a massive impetus to create new market towns. Its location and extent plausibly suggest some negotiation between the overlord and indigenous landholders: the land allocation clearly took landscape features such as streams and tracks into account, and may have intentionally preserved longstanding property boundaries. A hinterland beyond the market settlement was possibly unclaimed land available for such needs as timber and foraging. The eventual failure of the borough was probably due to the geographical isolation of an upland area with difficult routes of access, which probably accounts too for decline of the castle. Depopulation from the Black Death and its long term effects on the economy can be assumed. A highly significant factor is the absence of a borough court separate from the manorial court, thereby preventing the evolution of self-government by the burgesses independently from the seigniorial overlord.  

The sequel

The restructuring of local government by Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 abolished small rural boroughs and townships by creating rural district councils and civil parishes. Manorial land tenure was abolished by the Law of Property Act of 1925, and compulsory tithes were abolished by the Tithe Act of 1936.  The context of ordinary assumptions once held about community and governance has therefore been transformed out of all recognition and local memory of the borough boundary has been lost.

A hope for the future of the borough by the jury of the Jeffreys manorial survey of 1705 was wide of the mark. Allowing themselves a nostalgic look at the past and a recommendation for better times, they added a postscript to their report where they say in ‘A Supplement to the Former Presentment’



And the said Jury do lastly present and say that they do find by ye antient Records of ye said Manor that ye Borrough of Longtown hath been an Ancient Markett Town & ye said Jury do conceive yt ye restoring of a Markett to the said Burrough may be a great advantage to the Lord of this Mannor & the Tenants and also to the Country adjacent the said Borrough being seven or eight miles distant from any Markett town and lying very convenient for maintaining a Commerce & Trade between the Counties of Hereff, Monmouth, Brecon & Radnor.’ [72]


While their vision has not been fulfilled, what has happened since?

A weekly market has probably not been held since the medieval period. Occasional livestock markets, usually four times a year
[73] , were held into the 20th century for private buying and selling between farmers, taking place on land between the church and castle. From about 1947 there was an auction – the ‘Ewe Sale’ – held once a year in mid-September, which was cancelled during the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 and not resumed thereafter [74] .  In 1810 the west end of St Peter’s church was partitioned to make a schoolroom and in the late 19th century a primary school was built adjacent to the castle ruins; three sections for infants, boys and girls were eventually converted into  three adjoined cottages after a new primary school was built in the 1970s. In the late 20th century St Peter’s was sold and converted into a private residence. The inn serving as a courthouse from the early 18th century, also once known as the New Inn, is now the Longtown Outdoor Education Centre. Among several public houses still recalled locally – the Sun Inn, the Anchor, the Greyhound and the Bear – only the Crown built in 1751 still remains. This pub, the village hall, and the village shop and post office are at the hub of community life. The linear form of the village is largely retained, with some 70 houses fronting or close to the village road, which now stretch from Pen Pwll Sond to the Olchon bridge at Pont Hendre. About 25 of these are new houses built since the late 1990s, mostly in three clustered housing developments. The slopes of Mynnyd Merddin are farmland, almost entirely for livestock of sheep and cattle, with some relic woodland. The settlement at Clodock is a hamlet where the Cornewall Arms overlooks the churchyard, and St Clydawg’s with its massive medieval tower remains the parish church of Longtown village.



Ballard, Adolphus (ed) (1913)

British Borough Charters 1042-1216 . Cambridge University Press

Ballard, Adolphus and James Tait (eds) (1923)

British Borough Charters 1216-1307 . Cambridge University Press

Beresford, Maurice (1988)

New Towns of the Middle Ages: town plantations in England, Wales and Gascony . Alan Sutton

Buteux , Victoria

Archaeological Assessment of Longtown . Central Marches Historic Towns Survey (1992-1996). click here to see


Butler , Lawrence (1985)

‘Planned Anglo-Norman Towns in Wales 950-1250’, in Clarke, HB and A Simms (eds) The Comparative History of Urban Origins in Non-Roman Europe . British Archaeological Report, International Series 255, Oxford

Dalwood, Hal

Archaeological Assessment of Weobley .  Central Marches Historic Towns Survey (1992-1996). click here to see

Dalwood, Hal

Archaeological Assessment of Ludlow .  Central Marches Historic Towns Survey (1992-1996). click here to see

Ewyas Lacy Study Group [ELSG]

The History of Ewyas Lacy .  Website compendium of local history including digital images of manuscripts, transcriptions and research. Many of the references below can be accessed online at http://www.ewyaslacy.org.uk/

Gwent Archives

A major resource for primary documents relating to interests of Lords of Abergavenny in the former Manor of Ewyas Lacy

Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre

A major resource for primary documents relating to Ewyas Lacy history, including the tithe map and apportionment for Longtown.

Hillaby, Joe (1997)

Ledbury: A Medieval Borough . Logaston Press

Letters, Samantha (2003)

Online Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516, Centre for Metropolitan History. click here to see

Lloyd, David (2008)

The Origins of Ludlow . Logaston Press

Noble, F (1964)

‘Medieval Boroughs of West Herefordshire’, Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club Vol 38, 62-70

O’Donnell, Jean (1971)

‘Market Centres in Herefordshire 1200-1400: some factors influencing development’, Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club Vol 40, 186-194

Ray, Keith (2001)

Medieval towns in Herefordshire: a management review , Herefordshire Archaeology Report No 20, Herefordshire Council

Salt, AEW (1953)

The Borough and Honour of Weobley , Jakeman

Smith, Nicky (2003)

Longtown Herefordshire: a medieval castle and borough. Archaeological report for English Heritage. click here to see

Soulsby, Ian (1983)

The Towns of Medieval Wales: a study of their history, archaeology and early topography . Phillimore

Walker, David (1970)

‘Hereford and the Laws of Breteuil’, Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club Vol XL, 55-65

[1] Base map drawn by Geoff Gwatkin and reproduced with his permission. See

[2] Figures derived from Letters Online Gazetteer referenced above.

[3] Hatterall ridge is some 7 miles long at a height between 521 – 677 metres. The steep rise from Clodock and Longtown can be seen on Ordnance Survey maps of the area (eg OS Explorer Map OL13).

[4] Inquisitions Post Mortem Edward III (V11, 83) 1328, ELSG: nw_ewy_2052

[5] For historical studies of Weobley and Ludlow see Salt and Lloyd referenced above.  Dalwood’s archaeological reports on Weobley and Ludlow are available online, as referenced above.

[6] For more on market towns and boroughs in Herefordshire see Hillaby, O’Donnell, Noble, Ray and Walker referenced above. Hillaby’s study of Ledbury gives a detailed account of the burgage system and the economic and social context of a successful medieval town; O’Donnell’s emphasis is on the trading potential of market towns while Noble’s study is focussed on the historical context of west Herefordshire towns; Ray provides an overview of medieval towns in Herefordshire in a synthesis of historical and archaeological contexts; and Walker examines the privileges offered to burgesses in Hereford modelled on the ‘laws of Breteuil’ in Normandy.

[7] Inquisitions Post Mortem 55 Henry III (I,767) 1271. ELSG: nw_ewy_2045

[8] Translation by F Thorn and C Thorn (1963) Domesday Book: Herefordshire , p184a (10.2). Philimore, Chichester. This edition gives the Latin original and translation. The wording here differs in one crucial detail: the original refers to a land called Ewias, not Longtown (as in the translation) which did not then exist.

[9] Evans, JG and J Rhys (eds) (1893)..The Text of the Book of Llan Dav , Oxford, p280.

[10] See Wedell, N (2008) ‘Early Medieval Boundary of the Clodock Estate’. ELSG: nw_clo_3002

[11] Wedell, N (2008) ‘Early Medieval Boundary of the Clodock Estate’. ELSG: nw_clo_3002

[12] Beresford, Maurice (1988) New Towns of the Middle Ages p133-4. Alan Sutton, Gloucester

[13] See Survey for John Jeffreys 1705. ELSG: nw_ewy_2103 .   ‘Penpull sound’ is named in Section 14 under the name of leaseholder Sible Miles.

[14] Longtown tithe map field numbers 1158 and 1356. ELSG: “Some Landowners in the Borough of Longtown, Map 14”: gc_lon_3014    

[15]   Longtown tithe map. ELSG references: field number 1131 [with a section of the borough defences] owned by a representative of Rev Benjamin Lawrence, and 1140-42 owned by Henry Jones: gc_lon_3015 ; 1120 & 1132a owned by Philip Powell, and  1143-44 owned by Benjamin Lloyd: gc_lon_3013

[16] Longtown tithe map. ELSG: field numbers 921-23, 930-36 (coloured brown and blue): gc_lon_3025

[17] Current investigation is looking for the site of a former corn mill at Pont Hendre, potentially to locate a ‘castle mill’, a candidate for one of three mills claimed by manorial overlords in documents dating from 1327 and as yet unidentified.

[18] See ‘Legends and land grant relating to Clodock church’. ELSG: nw_clo_5001

[19] Beresford p222 and p79

[20] See Wedell, N (2009) ‘Tithe owners in Ewyas Lacy’. ELSG: nw_ewy_3007

[21] Tithe File for Longtown, National Archives IR 18/3098

[22] Articles of agreement, Longtown tithe apportionment, Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre

[23] Llewellin, FG (1919) The History of Saint Clodock: British King and Martyr p90-91. John Haywood Ltd, Manchester. ELSG: rs_clo_0307

[24] Llewellin, p180 ELSG: rs_clo_0313

[25] See ‘Ecclesiastical duties and revenues in Ewyas Lacy parishes’: ELSG: nw_ewy_5006

[26] Llewellin p91 ELSG: rs_clo_0307

[27] See ‘Notes on Llanthony Priory’. ELSG: nw_lty_3003

[28] See extracts from Roberts, G (1847) ‘Some Account of Llanthony Priory’. ELSG: gc_ewy_3045

[29] See ‘Property of the Harley Family in Ewyas Lacy’ under the date headings of 1628, 1720 and 1804. ELSG: nw_ewy_0001

[30] See Letters Online Gazetteer referenced above, and select the glossary of terms.

[31] See ‘The Lordship of Ewyas Lacy from Norman times to the present day’. ELSG: rs_ewy_0200

[32] See Buteux referenced above for a detailed report on the archaeology of Longtown.

[33] Inquisitions Post Mortem 43 Edward III (XII, 322) 1369. ELSG: nw_ewy_2055

[34] Burgage numbers in Longtown are reported by Beresford p451, citing National Archives reference C134/14/19

[35] Butler p476-7

[36] Aerial photographs obtained from Historic England, using LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) to trace the ancient buried topography in Longtown and Clodock are held by the Longtown Castles Project. See note 71 below for details of the project.


[37] ‘Manor of Ewyas Lacy, survey for Lord Abergavenny 1701’, ELSG: nw_ewy_1101 Section 1. 

[38] ‘Manor of Ewyas Lacy, survey for John Jeffreys 1705’, ELSG: nw_ewy_2103 Section 10

[39] ‘in the lowest part of the town’ probably refers to St Clydawg’s rather than St Peter’s which is on high ground close to the castle, and suggests that the urban area was perceived as stretching southwards towards Clodock.

[40] ‘Rental of Ewyas Lacy on the behalf of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester KG’ (1566), Longleat DU/volxvii: Extracts from the transcription by Dewi Bowen Williams BA, reproduced with permission.

[41] See ‘War and Rebellion in Wales and the Marches’, ELSG: rs_ewy_0025

[42] See JE Lloyd A History of Wales (1911),  Vol II, pp 673-681

[43] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward II (1324-37), 64, ELSG: nw_ewy_2018

[44] Inquisitions Post Mortem Edward III (V11, 83) 1328. ELSG: nw_ewy_2052

[45] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward III (1358-61), 202, ELSG: nw_ewy_2013

[46] Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry IV (1401-1405) 261 & 267, ELSG: nw_ewy_2023

[47] See Bannister, AT (1902).  A History of Ewyas Harold , Jakeman and Carver.

[48] ‘Articles of Inquiry, Manorial survey by Trevor Williams and others’, Article 6, ELSG: nw_ewy_1102 . For the full survey see rs_ewy_0024_DIC

[49] Sources for the stewards specified can be found on the ELSG website by using a name as a search term.

[50] Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Herefordshire Vol 1; Alltyrynys, ELSG: rs_wal_0031

[51] See ‘Papers relating to messuages etc between Cae-y-Park & Monnow’: ELSG tg_lon_0014

[52] Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Herefordshire Vol 1; Old Court:, ELSG: rs_lon_0074

[53] See ‘Ewyas Lacy in the English Civil War’, ELSG: rs­_ewy_0202

[54] Survey for Trevor Williams, op cit ref 46 above, ELSG: nw_ewy_1102

[55] Ballard (1913) p xc

[56] Lease for Lives, Longtown Castle, ELSG: nw_lon_1001

[57] British Library: Maps 2820 (3). Illustrated in Brian Smith (2004) Herefordshire Maps 1577-1800 , Logaston Press, Almley

[58] Survey for John Jeffreys op cit ref 38 above:, section 14 ELSG:  nw_ewy_2103

[59] Inquisitions Post Mortem, 43 Edward III (XII, 322) ELSG: nw_ewy_2055

[60] Survey for Trevor Williams op cit ref 46 above: nw_ewy_1102 ;  and Survey for John Jeffreys op cit ref 38 above: nw_ewy_2103 . The names of jurors are given at the beginning of each survey.

[61] Inquisitions Post Mortem 55 Henry III (I,767) 1271, ELSG: nw_ewy_2045 ;  Inquisitions Post Mortem Edward III (V11, 83) 1328, nw_ewy_2052

[62] See Herefordshire Sites and Monuments Record 4580 and 19478 for two sites.  See also the discussion of tenements in Buteux.

[63] Soulsby, p39-40

[64] A selection of small house plots can be seen on tithe map, ELSG: gc_lon_3022

[65] Reported in the Survey for Robert Dudley, Longleat ref 41 above

[66] Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Herefordshire Vol 1. ELSG : The Greyhound Inn rs_lon_0062 ,  Tanhouse Farm rs_lon_0079 .

[67] Rees, William (1920) ‘The Black Death in Wales’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Fourth Series) 3: 115-135. See pp117-8 and 124 for local incidence.

[68] For properties in the village of Longtown, see tithe map sections on the ELSG website, mainly sections 20, 21 and 22: ELSG nw_lon_3000 .

[69] Acreages are taken from the Longtown tithe apportionment: ELSG nw_lon_3000 .

[70] As the Longtown tithe apportionment gives separate lists for properties in the Township and the Borough, the full extent of properties overlapping the boundary between these two areas becomes obvious by cross-referencing the names of landholders in both lists with contiguous fields held by the same persons.

[71] The Longtown Castles Project, initiated by the Longtown and District Historical Society with funding from the Heritage Lottery fund, aims to research the archaeology and history of Pont Hendre and Longtown castles. A three year programme will also provide opportunities for insights into the archaeology and history of the borough of Longtown.

[72] Survey for John Jeffreys, op cit ref 38 above, ELSG: nw_ewy_2103 section 20.

[73] The log book of Longtown School makes reference to Fairs held up to four times a year. Noted in ‘Self portrait of a village school, Longtown school log books 1873-1920’: ELSG nw_lon_1219 in section on ‘Visitors and Special Occasions’

[74] Personal communication: George Watkins, Muriel Watkins and John Games.

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