One of Britain’s early diarists, Walter Powell, was born 430 years ago this day. He appears to have been a reasonably successful businessman, acting as a steward for the Earl of Worcester, among other occupations. Though his diary - which covers half a century - is little more than a list of events, these are often surprisingly interesting, as when Powell records, during the Civil War, ‘Trowps deuouring my hay’.
Walter Powell was born on born 25 March 1581, into a Welsh family that claimed to be of Norman origin. He married Margaret Evans in 1604, and initially they lived in Llanarth but then moved to Llantilio in 1611. Powell worked as a steward for the Earl of Worcester, and for some other estates. He also leased a mill, it seems, for at least two decades.
Powell died in 1655 (or 1656 according to the modern dating system), and is remembered largely because he left behind a diary. This was edited by Joseph Bradney and published by John Wright, Bristol, in 1907 as The Diary of Walter Powell of Llantilio, Crossenny in the County of Monmouth, Gentleman, 1603-1654. It is largely made up of single line entries recording events, but does provide information on his family, farming and estate work, and makes brief references to the effects of the Civil War. The full text is available at Internet Archive.
In his introduction Bradney says: ‘It might be wished that [Powell] had said more about the Civil Wars, and, in particular, the siege of Raglan. On the 25th of May, 1646, a few days before the siege began, he was committed to prison in Raglan Castle for an offence he does not name. The siege began on the 3rd of June, and on the 8th of June, on account of his age, he was allowed by Lord Worcester to depart, the besiegers also permitting him to go home. . . During his absence his house in Penrhos had been plundered by the Parliamentary forces. Safe at home again he settled down to business as though no disturbances were taking place in the kingdom, his diary containing the usual notes as to lending money, collecting rents, and attending sessions.’
Bradney also makes this comment: ‘It is worthy of note that his daughter Anne, who was bom at the vicarage 23 May, 1611, married her husband John Watkins 11 June, 1621, she being therefore only slightly over 10 years of age. Her husband was baptized 2 June, 1609, so that he was but a trifle over 12 years old, both younge as the Diarist observes.’
Here are a few verbatim entries from Powell’s diary, from 1611, being exactly four centuries ago, and from 1645-1646, during the Civil War.
‘I removed from lanarth to the viccarage of lantilio gressenny to dwell 27 Apr.
and I had a graunt from mr Sterrell of the ffarme for 21 yeares 13 Maij.
My father fell sicke 5 Junij, & died 19 Junij
Sould the house & lands late Rosser d’d wayth to Wm Sr Hughe for 1ooli ijs 23 Jan’ij.
John Evans & my sister his wief came to liue togeather as man & wief 24 Jan’ij.’
‘this was the greatest yeare of ffruite that eu’ i saw. I made 50 hogsheades of sider of the tieth of both p’ishes.’
‘4 Apr’, Prince Rupert at Bergeveny
6 Apr’, received the sacram’t at lanarth
5 May, mr John Powell’s testam’t
15 May, Jo: Charles & Jane Wms maried.
24 May, Moore Jones was buried, Conisbye’s trowps deuouring my hay meadowes.
3 July, King Charles at Raglan & 10 July at Cardiff
18 July, the affray wth Grossem’t men for Stedda’s
19 July, I brought present to the kinge at Raglan
21 Julij, Howell Jones wief died & my children removed to lanvapley
2 Aug:, tieth demised to Rich: tho: d’d, & Phe’ d’d John.
1 Sept’, Rendevous at Perlleny, I was not there
2 sept’, siedge at hereff’ removed after 6 weekes
7 sept’. The king at Raglan againe
10 sept’, Bristow taken by the p’liam’t lost by Prince Rupert.
24 sept’, Edward John James Watkin died
2 octobr’, leeches vsed p’ Bray to me, & Chepstow was taken p’ p’hament.
13 & 14 octobr’, Washington at Bergeveny
20 octob’, my sonne Richard went to Bristow & 8 die was imprisoned at langely coming back.
24, my daughter margaret brought to bedd of her first sonne.
3 Novemb’, m’ris Bray at my house.
7 Novemb’, I myself removed to lyve in Penrose.
9 Novembr’, my daughter Blaunch died.
12 Novemb’, Elenor James widow buried
23 Novemb’, John Evans & An Young hurt at tregare
27, the p’liamt army at my house, Collonell Morgan coming from Gloucester towards Bergeveny.
12 decembr’, my wief removed to Penros to dwell.
18 decemb’, hereff’ taken p’ p’lam’t by Coll: Morgan.
19 decemb’, Valentine Jones lewis prison’ to Raglan.
17 Jan’ij, Tho: lewis my man’s father slayne.
16 m’cij, at Vske w’th maghen
14 m’cij, Collonell Charles P’ger2 at lanvapley to burne my hay.
19 m’che, I payd 28s at Raglan p’ muskett
23 m’cij, m’ris Nelson’s oxen plundered.
26 m’cij, hay burnt at lantilio by the souldiers of Monmoth.’
‘29 M’cij, I & my wief rec’ sacram’t at lanarth
1 Apr’, Tho: & Besse my serv’ts maried.
18, my sonne Richard abused at Grossemount by Bissley & Tho: Chr’; do’r Bray died.
10 May, Lucas hurt by Tho: James Jo: Howell.
17 May, I received the sacram’t at lanarth.
25 May, I was comitted prison’ at Raglan to the marshall of the Garison, where I remayned close till 8 Junij p’xo.
29 May, my house was plundered at Penros by the p’liament forces.
3 Junij, the siedge at Raglan began. Raglan yealded vpp 19 Augusti p’xo.
8 Junij, I was suffered to come out throughe the leaguer.
9 et 10 Julij, Wm loup at my house, & he allowed contribuc’on & quartering to Andr’ lewis & his sone.
sould black horse to Rich: Band 5li
21 Julij, at Vske contra g’ll’m p’ le taxac’ons
30 Julij, Goodrich castle taken for ye p’liamt
6 Aug., Gen’all ffayrfax came to the leaguer.
19 Aug:, Raglan Castle yealded vpp.
21 sept’, Charles came from Bristow to my house.
24 Sept’, I was at Sadlebow hill.’