Walter Meredith, C. 1558-1607: Scrivener of Radnorshire and London
In asserting that the early modern Welsh diaspora is ‘a huge and fascinating subject’, Professor Sir Glanmor Williams noted in particular that ‘the outflux of men and women of humbler origin [from Wales to England and beyond] is more significant in terms of numbers involved than the most dazzling of Welsh luminaries’.1
This theme was explored at the Colwyn Bay Eisteddfod in 1947, in Robert Owen’s prize-winning essay entitled Migration from Wales to London and the History of the Welsh in London up to 1815. Available only in Welsh, it has been described as ‘a huge source to be quarried, full of raw material about important facets of life in the capital city.’2 Owen estimated that approximately one per cent of the population of mid-Tudor London was Welsh, but he did not locate the home parish of the ‘middling sort’ who were his subjects. Thus we do not know where in Wales their London journey began. In his more recent work on the topic, W. P. Griffith also did not examine the regional origins of his selection of London’s Welsh population, but he estimated that, by 1541, 2.4 per cent of the city’s inhabitants were Welsh.3 We have frustratingly little knowledge about them because of the paucity of primary sources concerning ‘the middling sort’ that remain to us. Not being owners of large Welsh estates, they left behind no papers for the assiduous archivist to investigate. Fortunately, information about the lives that a small number of the successful Welsh ‘middling sort’ led in the English capital can be obtained from family wills and, in some cases, early Chancery proceedings for the Tudor period. These documents can also add detail to our understanding of migrants’ relationships with their kinsmen back in Wales.