Walter Davies on
Land Measures of Wales

Walter Davies.
General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of North Wales; Containing the Counties of Anglesey, Flint, Caernarvon, Meirionydd, Denbigh, Montgomery. Drawn up and published by order of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement.
London: Printed for Richard Phillips, Bridge Street; Sold by Poole & Broster, etc. 1810.

Pages 468 - 470.

Land-Measure, &c.

The vulgar notion of a Welsh mile is both extravagant and indefinite. By reference to the Welsh Laws, new modelled by Howel in the tenth century, the definition of a mile is there attributed to Dyfnwal, before the birth of Christ; and said to be as followeth: three barleycorns in an inch; three inches in a handsbreadth; three handbreadths in a foot; three feet in a pace; three paces in a leap; three leaps in a ridge of land; and one thousand ridges of land in a mile:—hence the term milldir, or a thousand ridges. By the foregoing definition, a Welsh mile is equal to three miles six furlongs twenty-seven poles and 15 yards English.

The Welsh acre has been variously represented. Some say it was equal to two of our present statute acres; but no such an acre to be found, either in use or upon record. The measure which directed the size of the acre was a rod or pole, equal in length with the long yoke of 12 English feet, which was to be held by the driver in one hand, his arms fully extended, and his other hand upon the middle knob or staple of the yoke of the fore-oxen. This done on the right hand as well as the left, constituted the breadth of the erw; and could not well exceed 36 feet. A question may arise as to the length of the erw, whether it was to be 30 times the length of the long yoke, 360 feet; or 30 times the whole breadth of the erw, 1080 feet. In the former case, which Wotton adopted in his translation of the Laws of Howel*, the erw was only 1440 square yards; a quantity too small for a day's ploughing, even of a Welsh team: in the latter case it would amount to thrice as much, or 4320 yards, which seems to be the true Welsh acre; and three-fourth parts of it, or 3240 square yards, is to this day in common use by paring and burning, and is called a 'stang. The present denominations of the subdivisions of a 'stang, are four square yards and a half to a pole, provincially called a quart; and 160 quarts to a 'stang; being somewhat above two-thirds of a statute acre. The cyvar, or small acre, now in common use in the agricultural phrase of Meirionyddshire, and the western part of Montgomeryshire, &c. like the 'stang, consists or 4½ yards square to the quart, and 120 (instead of 160) quarts to the cyvar; being 2430 square yards, or 10 yards above half a statute acre. By this cyvar, tbe common farmers regulate their sowing, liming, &c. in those parts. The Anglesey and Caernarvonshire acre is of equal quantity with the 'stang but differently denominated. There, 4½ yards square make a paladr, or perch; 30 perches a llathen, and 5 1/3 llathen a cyvar, or acre, of 3240 square yards.

Hedging, ditching, draining, and such work, when done by task, is generally by the rood of eight yards.

*Leges Wal. p. 280. [Probably Gulielmus Wottonus. Cyfreithjeu Hywel Dda ac Eraill, seu, Leges Wallicae… London, 1730.]

Walter Davies.
General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales; Containing the Counties of Brecon, Glamorgan, Caermarthen, Pembroke, Cardigan, Radnor. Drawn up for the consideration of the Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement. Vol. 2.
London: Printed by B. McMillan, Bow-Street, Covent-Garden: For Sherwood, Nerly & Jones, Paternoster Row, 1815.

Pages 502 - 506.

5. Land-measure, owing to its almost infinite varieties, is still more perplexing than the corn measure. The greatest varieties of provincial acres obtain in the counties of Pembroke and Glamorgan; countries early subjugated by Norman, Flemish, or other foreign invaders; who introduced the hide of land (called in Pembrokeshire plough-land), ox-land, forest pole, wood or fen pole, &c. into their respective baronies, knight's-fees, &c.

A plough-land, by which the parochial rates are levied in many parts of Pembrokeshire, consists of eight ox-lands, and each ox-land of eight customary acres, and those varying almost in every hundred, according to the length of the pole, perch, rod, or bat, adopted in each.

The customary perch, &c. is the basis from which the quantity of each acre is respectively raised; the perch varying from 9 feet to 13½ feet, the ascending denominations, or multipliers, are uniformly the same, excepting in one instance; as will appear by the following statement.

[Material in brackets has been added for the convenience of modern readers, who are not accustomed to thinking of yards as a unit of area. The rightmost column is also an addition.—ed.]

Roods [square]
[total in square
1 9 feet square to the perch — 40 perches [=] 1 quarter, and 4 quarters [=] 1 stangell, being 1440 square yards, or of statute measure 0 1 7 18¼ 1440
4 stangell [=] 1 erw, 5760 square yards, or
1 0 30 12½ 5760
This is the customary measure of the hundred of Castle Martin in Pembrokeshire, and of some parts in the west of Glamorgan. This erw is equal to the Cornish Acre.          
2 10½ feet [square, that is 12¼ square yards][=] 1 quart—4 quarts [=] 1 llath— 40 llath [=] 1 stangell, or 1960 [square] yards, being 0 1 24 24 1960
4 stangell [=] 1 erw, or 7840 [square] yards, being 1 2 19 7840
This is the customary acre of the hundred of Rhos (Rowse) in Pembrokeshire; it obtains also, under different denominations in Glamorganshire, in the Vale of Miskin, Llasntrisant, &c. where it is thus defined:          
“10½ trocdfedd ir llath, 40 llath, ir cwarter, a 4 cwarter ir cyfar, a 4 cyfar ir erw;” amounting, as before, to
This erw is equal to the Lancashire acre.
1 2 19 5 ¼ 7840
3 11 feet [square, see below] to the bat × 40 × 4 = 2346 [square] yards, or 1 'stang 0 1 37 16¼ 2346
[There is an error in the above statement. The bat must be 11½ feet square to reach 2346 sq. yds. Taking the bat at 11 feet amounts to] [0] [1] [31] [3 1/12] 2151
4 'stang [=] 1 erw = 9364 [square] yards, or 1 3 30 9364
This is the customary acre of the hundred of Dau-Gledden in Pembrokeshire. The perch of 11 feet is that called llath Eglwys Ilan in Glamorganshire, but with the anomaly of computing 48 instead of 40 perches to the rood, by which the erw of Eglwys Ilan amounts to 2 1 12 11 11,264
4 11½ feet to the llath, and 48 llath (as in the last instance) to the quarter, and 4 quarters to the cyvar or small acre, being 2821 [square] yards, or 0 2 13 2821
And 4 cyvar to the erw, being 2 1 13 ½ 11,284
This is the customary measure of the north of Glamorganshire, and is there called erw Ferthyr Tudful, erw Llan Vabon, &c.          
5 12 feet [square, that is 16 square yards] to the quart, 4 quarts to the llath, 40 llath [=] 1 'stangell of 2560 [square] yards, or 0 2 4 19 2560
4 'stangell [=] 1 erw of 10,240 [square] yards, or 2 0 18 15½ 10,240
This is the customary measure in the hundreds of Dewi's Land, Kemmaes, and Kilgaron, in Pembrokeshire; the south of Cardiganshire, parts of Caermarthenshire, and Glamorganshire. In the latter it is called erw Llan Giwg. By parers and burners the rod of this measure is called pren wyth. This erw is the same quantity as the Staffordshire acre.          
6 13½ feet [square, that is, 20¼ square yards]  [=] 1 quart, and eight score quarts [=] 1 'stang of 3240 square yards, or 0 2 27 3240
This 'stang is three-fourths of the erw of Howel Dda in the Welsh laws published by Dr. Wotton. This rod in paring and burning is called pren naw, for the same reason as the 12 feet rod is called pren wyth. This 'stang of Powys land and the north of Cardiganshire, is the same quantity as the cyvar of Anglesey and Caenarvonshire — the cyvar or plough-acre of Radnorshire—and of Brecknockshire to the southern extremity of the Vale of Usk, where the measures Nos. 2 and 4 are in common use. We are not informed that this 'stang has been quadrupled into an erw measure, like the preceding five minor measures.          

The Roman jugerum contained 28,800 square feet. “Actus quadratus undique finitur pedibus CXX: hoc duplicatum facit jugerum” —Columella. The Roman foot, according to Dr. Arbuthnot, was 11.604 English inches. This makes the jugerum to be 26930·56 English square feet. The nearest in quantity of the preceding Welsh measures to the jugerum, are the following:

  R[oods] [Square]P[oles] [Square]
The cyvar Merthyr Tudful, (No. 4) 2 13
The Roman jugerum 2 18 27¾
Had the Roman and English foot been equal, the jugerum would have been 2 25 23¾
The cyvar Brycheiniog, &c. (No. 6) 1 27
The 'stang of Dau-gledden in Pembrokeshire (3) is 1 37 16¾
Taking the jugerum at 28,800 Roman feet, and reducing them to Welsh feet of 9 inches English, the jugerum would have been nearly equal, or 1 39 10¼

By doubling the length of the perch or rod, as given above in the measures numbered 1, 2, 3, 5, (No.4 being anomalous), then squaring it, and multiplying the product by 160, according to the rule of calculating the statute acre; the quantity of each erw will be the same as stated above.

1. 18 5760 = to the Cornish acre
2 21 7840 Lancashire, and the Irish plantation acre
3. 22 9384  
5 24 10,240 Staffordshire acre.
6. 27 12,960 This erw is not now in use in Wales.
  16½ 4840 statute acre

In some parishes there are no less than three several land measures in use: this, with a similar variety of corn measure, precludes, in a great degree, the attainment of information as to quantity of seed sown per acre, or the produce thereof. A stranger, in asking such questions, will not be more edified, in many parts of South Wales, than if his enquiries hod been made in any part of Africa.

The "chain acre"-the "cyvar y Brenin" (the King's plough acre), as the statute measure is called by the common farmers, is, however, coming gradually more into use: most of the tenantry take their farms by it; the Agricultural Societies regulate their premiums by it; and most gentlemen set task-work, mowing and reaping, by it; as well as thrashing by the Winchester measure.

The perch or rod (erroneously termed rood in some places), whereby labourers perform task-work, in making roads, draining, fencing, &c., is 6 yards in the north of Pembrokeshire; in other places, Brecknockshire, &c. 7 yards; in Cardiganshire 8 yards, which is the measure adopted by the Agricultural Societies in general.

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