We are aware that this post may offend the sensibilities of some readers on two counts. Firstly it shows a member of the clergy in an unflattering light and secondly it contains a suggestion of ‘strong language’ in today’s parlance. However unpalatable you may find the content, you cannot argue with the provenance, which is a real historical document in the Wynnstay estate records .
The tale concerns Edmund Hall, rector of Llansanffraid in Montgomeryshire. In 1647 he was the subject of a case brought before Edward Vaughan and his fellow JPs at ‘The Red Castle’ (Powis Castle). Statements asserted that Edmund Hall was A quarelous person, a lewd liver and producer of causeles (causeless) suits amongste his neighboures as appeareth by these articles following….
Mr Hall was said to have commenced a lawsuit in the Court of the Exchequer against Walter Griffithes, following a persecution campaign for the non-payment of tithes which he had imposed unfairly on his hapless neighbour. In addition, he disregarded his legal and moral obligation to observe every fast day and insteade of preaching upon the last day in August last 1647, hee the said Mr Hall tooke his recreacion by playing most of the said day att Chiffleboarde (shuffleboard) in the house of Edward Harry in the said parish.
On the next fast day, instead of preaching, he was found to be drinking at an alehouse and was confronted by one of his parishioners:
One John Powell of the said parish, demanding of the said Mr Hall att the said alehouse whether hee would preach that day, hee the said Mr Hall in a drunken humor said to the said Powell that if hee would not hould his tounge that hee would whipp his... [you can guess!].
Likewise, on the next fast day, the rector was playing bowls. It was alleged that upon the previous Whitsuntide he was very drunke att the house of one Richard Ashley in Dythur insomuch that he could not substancially stand to make water in a chamber pott but reeled about the roome.
At Welshpool in the house of Maurice Lloyd, far into the night he was desperatly bent (beinge farr in drinke) and allegedly he challenged one of the company to a fight, offering five shillings to anyone who would duel with him.
Intriguingly, the statement is accompanied by another document, signed by several respectable citizens of the rector’s previous parish at Montgomery, a testament to his blameless life, sober, worthy [of] his calling, free from scandal….laborious in preaching his doctrine, being sound, orthodox, free from heresy….
Which story was true? Did the rector of Llansanffraid really behave in such a disgraceful manner? Or was the case fabricated by someone who held a deeply-felt grudge against him? It raises the question of how legal cases were constructed and presented to the magistrates’ courts in the seventeenth century. Such is the perennial fascination of our work.
Reference: Wynnstay estate records JA1/3
[Post updated 21 October 2019]