George Owen of Henllys on

land measures of Pembrokeshire, Wales

To the industry of George Owen (1552 – 1613) we owe one of the fullest and most interesting accounts of Wales. His manuscript is dated 1603, but was only published in full in 1892. The modern version quoted below was edited and annotated by Dillwyn Miles, and issued by the Gomer Press in 1994.


Of the usual measure of land in Pembrokeshire and how the same differs in the sundry parts thereof
Chapter 17

The usual measure of land used in this shire much differs from the statute acre, for it differs altogether in summing up, as also in the land pole, being the original of all the measures of ground. For whereas the statute about the measuring of land appoints the pole to be 16½ feet, and that four of these in breadth and forty in length make the acre, which being summed show the acre to contain of planimetry 160 of these poles in length and breadth. In Pembrokeshire the pole differs almost in every hundred of the shire from other, for in some place the pole is but nine feet, and in some place twelve feet and so differing between both, as shall appear. And this seems to be first so devised according to the goodness of the ground, for in the best soil is used the least measure, and so of the contrary. The pole being known, they differ altogether in summing of the acre from that of the statute, but do agree therein among themselves, which is as follows: 8 poles in breadth and 20 in length, or 4 in breadth and 40 in length, make a stang, which is just in account (though not in measure) with the statute acre, and the difference is only in the length of the landpole. And four of those stangs make the Pembrokeshire acre, so that in account the Pembrokeshire acre is four English acres, but by reason the pole of Pembrokeshire is lesser than that by statute, the acre of Pembrokeshire is so much less than four English acres, and this must be proportioned according to the difference of the pole, for where the pole is found to be twelve feet long, there the Pembrokeshire acre is somewhat less than three English acres, that is to say, by so much as the half foot in the statute pole does yield in surplusage, for if the English pole were sixteen feet, then should the acre of twelve feet to the pole have been just three statute acres. And for the true knowledge of the length of the landpoles throughout all Pembrokeshire, I have reduced the same briefly into a table here following, where is shewn how the pole differs in every part of every hundred through the shire by every half foot, from nine feet, the shortest, until twelve feet, being the longest landpole, where in if I shall seem to miss in some particular hamlet or townred, which perchance of late have altered, yet for the generality the same is nearest to the usual measures observed throughout the shire.

Cemais   12 foot
Rhos in Rhos
Pembrokeshire 11 foot
Daugleddau Anglicana
Wallicana 12 foot
Narberth Wallicana
Anglicana 10 foot
Castlemartin   9 foot

Of the acres are made oxlands, of oxlands are made ploughlands, of ploughlands, knights' fees, and of knights' fees some parts of the shire are made into baronies, which is the uttermost and greatest land measure that this county yields, which for the better view and ease of the reader I have reduced in tablewise as follows showing also how many acres each of these contain of the county measure:

8 acres make an oxland    
8 oxlands make a ploughland, being   64 acres
10 ploughlands make a knight’s fee, being   640 acres
20 knight's fees held of the king }make a barony 12,800 acres
5 knight’s fees held of the earldom of Pembroke 3000 acres

There is also a quantity of land measure called a yard of land, in Latin virgata terrae, the knowledge of whereof rather serves to understand the ancient writings than for anything else, and this yard of land contains four poles of land.

And this much shall suffice for the land measure of Pembrokeshire in this place, only adding this, that I find by experience that about twenty or twenty-four of these knights' fees do make an ancient cantref in Wales, which most commonly contains three commots or a hundred townreds.

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