John Abrahall was the patron of a poem requesting a cuirass, attributed to a poet called gutto o bywys (poem 120). For a discussion of the attribution, see the explanatory notes for the poem. John Abrahall was apparently the man referred to as Abrel by Lewys Glyn Cothi in a praise poem for Ieuan ap Phylib of Cefn-llys near Llandrindod (GLGC 170.25).
Though John Abrahall’s lineage is not found in Welsh manuscript sources, he is mentioned three times on account of other members of his family. According to WG1 ‘Godwin’ 8, he married the unnamed daughter of one of Guto’s patrons, Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan, and he is connected with Tretire a little to the south of Gillow, near to which there remains to this day a farm called Aberhall. He is associated with Gillow in another source which names his daughter, Marged, in relation to her husband, Gwilym ap Tomas of Llangatwg (Llangattock) in the Usk valley (ibid. ‘Bleddyn ap Maenyrch’ 19; WG2 ‘Bleddyn ap Maenyrch’ 19C). Another of his daughters is mentioned in WG1 ‘Wynston’ 1, this time without being named; she married Gilbert ap John Wynston of Tre-wyn in Monmouthshire. Her daughter in turn, another Marged or Margaret, married a man called Thomas Cecil of Allt-yr-ynys near Abergavenny.
Taylor (1997: 97) suspects that John Abrahall was of Welsh ancestry, a suspicion which is strengthened by Guto Powys’s poem. It is not possible on the basis of the surviving evidence to confirm the relationship between Abrahall and Guto Powys which is given in the poem, where the poet calls himself a nephew of his patron (for more, see 120.22n (explanatory)).
John Abrahall or Aburhale was a Herefordshire gentleman. He lived at Gillow (Y Gilwch in Welsh) in the parish of Hentland (Taylor 1997: 98–9). He died in 1443. The fact that Guto Powys refers to Gillow shows that the poem cannot be addressed to Abrahall’s nephew, also called John Abrahall, since the house passed to another branch of the family after the elder Abrahall’s death in 1443 (ibid. 104–5).
John Abrahall is frequently mentioned in sources of the time. The information is summarized below (unless otherwise stated, all the references within brackets are to pages in Herbert 1978; there is also discussion in Herbert 1981 and Taylor 1997).
|1409||Abrahall was accused of attacking William Ham of Holme Lacy. His accomplices were Philpot Skidmore and his two sons, George and John, and also a certain Thomas Skidmore (CAP 310).|
|1413 (October)||He assisted John Talbot, Lord Furnival, in his quarrel with Thomas, earl of Arundel, in Shropshire (48, 54).|
|1413 onwards||He was a feoffee of Richard, Lord Gray, of Wilton (48).|
|1414 (April)||Accused of murdering John Ploudon in Lydbury, Shropshire (45, 54).|
|1417||Appointed escheator of Herefordshire (45).|
|1418 (February)||He was forbidden, along with John Dewall and others, to make illegal assemblies nor to plague others with his heretical ideas connected with Lollardy in Herefordshire (Rees 1975: 476). The same source connects him with Dewchurch.|
|1418 (?March)||A legal action brought by Sir Thomas Barre against Abrahall and others (including Dafydd ap Rhys) regarding several unnamed offences (ibid.).|
|1418 (November)||Wiliam ap Hywel was apparently murdered by Abrahall, his father and another man (54).|
|1419||Elected member of parliament for the city of Hereford (45).|
|1419 (late)||Thomas Barre was accused of committing offences against Abrahall, including the theft of hay from Siôn ap Huw in Dewsall in July 1418 and kidnapping a ward of his in March 1418 (55).|
|1419 (December)||An order in Chancery to restore the manor of Strangford to Dafydd ap Rhys, from Abrahall’s possession (55).|
|1420 (January)||Legal action by Abrahall against Thomas Barre. About the same time Barre complained in Chancery that John had raided his estate in Dewsall and stolen twenty pounds’ worth of crops and taken the goods to Archenfield (55). |
Dafydd ap Rhys was accused of attempting to murder John Abrahall and of receiving from him goods stolen in 1418 (55).
|1421 (by then)||Receiver general of Beatrice, Lady Talbot, widow of Gilbert Talbod, who was the elder brother of John Talbot, Lord Furnival (48).|
|1421 (June)||Attacked John Hamme (55).|
|1421 (March)||John and Richard Abrahall go bail in Hereford, promising to keep the peace towards Alice, Barre’s widow, and her brother, William Talbot, younger brother of John Talbot, Lord Furnival (55: the date of 1422 given there is an error, as the rest of the paragraph shows).|
|1422||He was dismissed as receiver by John Talbot, Lord Furnival (48). There was a violent dispute between the two from now on.|
|1422–3||Various crimes against Talbot and his supporters (56).|
|1423–4||Petition in parliament complaining about Talbot’s ravages in Wormelow (Ergyng) (56).|
|1437||Made justice of the peace in Herefordshire, an office which he held until his death (45).|
|1439||Appointed steward of Brecknock and Bronllys by Humphrey, earl of Stafford (48).|
|1439–40||Escheator of Herefordshire (45).|
|1442||Received a yearly payment of twenty pounds from the earl of Stafford (48).|
|1443 (September)||An inquest was held at Weobley into Abrahall’s lands (58).|
As Herbert (45–58) argues, these events reveal a clear pattern. Up until c.1422 John Abrahall flourished under the protection of John Talbot, Lord Furnival, a man of power in the Marches. After quarrelling with other men among Talbot’s favourites, Dafydd ap Rhys and Thomas Barre (cf. the events of 1419), Abrahall lost Talbot’s favour for a long period. It can be seen that he held no office from 1422 to 1437, when he was reconciled with Talbot. At about the same time he found favour also with Humphrey, earl of Stafford. He was a rich man when he died (Taylor 1997: 104).
Herbert, A.E. (1978), ‘Public Order and Private Violence in Herefordshire, 1413–61’, (M.A. Wales [Swansea])
Herbert, A.E. (1981), ‘Herefordshire, 1413–61: Some Aspects of Society and Public Order’, R.A. Griffiths (ed.), Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Gloucester), 103–21
Rees, W. (1975), Calendar of Ancient Petitions Relating to Wales (Cardiff)
Taylor, E. (1997), Kings Caple – Archenfield (Little Logaston)