Mar 17, 2017

Earliest Leigh in Wales

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Earliest Leigh in Wales by 1597

2. RALPH LEIGH (est 1560 - aft May 1614) of Carmarthen, mercer. Father: 1.RICHARD LEIGH
md ELIZABETH NASH (est 1565 - ?aft 1597), dau of RICHARD NASH, mercer of Carmarthen and ELIZABETH BOWEN of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

5. James LEIGH (before 1608 - ?) died young?
6. Harri LEIGH (before 1608 - ?) died young?


We give here RALPH’s four children listed by Lewys Dwnn, though we found nothing more on two of them and those two may have been forgotten by the family, as they are not listed in the second pedigree. The later Herald David Edwardes recorded the LEIGH pedigree while both the LEIGH family and his own Edwardes family were active in Carmarthen borough government, and the two families must have been acquainted. Edwardes’ surviving manuscripts are cataloged as the Bodleian Additional Manuscripts C177,178,179 at Oxford University, and we did not view them directly but used them in two formats: Film no.230630 from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the transcription in the Golden Grove Books on microfilm no.104351, where they are identified as the Bodleian collection with almost identical pagination and cross references. In Edwardes’ pedigree, RALPH’s daughter ELNOR was changed to HONORA and given a spouse, and the son RICHARD  was given a spouse and five children, then six grandchildren, which we treat in the next three generations along with available church records.

The pedigrees are supported by historical documentation. RALPH was a newcomer in Carmarthen, but he quickly assumed a fairly substantial position. He did not appear on the Lay Subsidy Tax lists for 1590/1, but in 1597-8 "Rauffe Leighe" was assessed for property in King Street ward in Carmarthen, at a time when only 49 names were returned on the tax lists from a population of about 2,100. In 1600 he was elected by the town burgesses as one of the two bailiffs (later called sheriffs) of Carmarthen, which required a three-year residency, so he must have arrived in Carmarthen before 1597. His family escaped the plague ravaging the town in 1603-05, and in 1608 Lewys Dwnn added RALPH’s four children. Derek Williams found a new reference in letters dated 1 May 1614 between two Carmarthen attorneys about one Rees James in debtors’ prison, because RALPH LEIGH would not agree to accept part payment owed to him, although the man's other debtors accepted less repayment (NLW website). By 1625 RALPH may have died, for he does not appear on the Lay Subsidy levy for that year, as searched by Derek Williams.

ELIZABETH NASH doubtless helped RALPH LEIGH’s career by her merchant father's prominence. RICHARD NASH was active against Portuguese and Spanish trade boycotts and embargoes, and he was said by Lewys Dwnn to have sailed with Sir Francis Drake on his Portuguese expedition a year after the great battle and defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. We used Dwnn’s pedigree of the NASH family, which shows ELIZABETH’S marriage to RALPH. For details, see the NASH ancestry chart.

The church that our people attended was the still-standing and still beautiful old stone church of St Peter's, not far from King Street where RALPH LEIGH owned property. Our christenings, marriages, and burials took place there for at least two hundred years, though the parish records have survived only since 1671. Fortunately these records of St Peter’s church in Carmarthen were collated alphabetically in a very clear hand in the early 19thcentury (see "Collocation of Names" which is item 3, Film no.104504). From that date on, we need not depend upon pedigrees alone, and can often confirm them with church records.

St. Peters Parish Church, Carmarthen
Click for larger view

Sources: Lewys Dwnn I, 201 (Leighs), I, 202 (Nashes); David Edwardes, C178, Carmarthenshire Book, p.198 on Film no.230630 and also GGB, Advenae Carms. (Film no.104351). Evidence of RALPH'S activity comes from the research of Derek Williams with the Lay Subsidy Tax lists at the PRO, with MS 12366D on Carmarthen sheriffs and mayors at the NLW, and at the NLW website, for the correspondence of 1614, Edwinsford (Part 2 of Schedule) 2871(a) and (b).

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