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A DEN OF THIEVES AND MURDERERS? MAGOR IN THE 1530S by DINA KENNEDY A letter written by the Lord President of the Council in the Marches of Wales, Bishop Rowland Lee, to Thomas Cromwell has frequently been cited as evidence for the general contempt for law and order shown by the Welsh gentry during the reign of Henry VIII. Written probably not long after Lee's appointment in 1534, it lists 43 men, 23 of them murderers and 20 thieves (this is my calculation, others have reached different totals), who were allegedly being protected by 'Water Herbart, steward under the eorle of Worcettour' in 'the kynges lordschip of Magour'. I have not been able to trace the original of the letter; all the citations of it that I have seen refer to the transcript in T. Wright's History of Ludlow published in 1852 (pages 383-385, reprinted here as Appendix 1.). Sir Joseph Bradney refers to it and gives his source as the book by Wright; his reference which was published in 1932 is the earliest I have found. The letter does not seem to have been included in the Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII (ed Brewer et al. 1862-1932) although some other letters quoted by Wright are there. The following quotations are fairly representative of the way in which it has been used; Thus Marcher lords were able to maintain private armies or retinues for illegal purposes. It was reported in 1534 for example that in the small lordship of Magor in Gwent as many as 48 disreputable persons were protected in this fashion. (J Gwynfor Jones, Wales and the Tudor State 1534-1603). The royal lordship of Magor became a sanctuary for criminals, all protected by Walter Herbert of Magor, who was Worcester's deputy steward there: this small lordship harboured twenty murderers, of whom three were members of the Herbert family and ten were Walter's servants, besides at least ten thieves and outlaws. (Ben Howell, Law and disorder in Tudor Monmouthshire). Other members of the Herbert family, notorious for its unprincipled pursuit of power and profit, had turned the lordship of Magor into a veritable sanctuary for criminals. No fewer than twenty-three murderers and twentyfive notorious thieves and outlaws lurked there under the protection of the deputy steward Walter Herbert. (Glanmor Williams, Renewal and Reformation, Wales cl415 1642). This conjures up a wonderful picture of a cross between Fagin's London and Al Capone's Chicago, but Magor can never have been a very large place and seems an unlikely resort for criminals who have always tended to prefer the anonymity of towns or cities. Moreover, since the disorder was widespread, there seems to be no reason why Magor should have suffered any more than other places, but by devoting the whole of a letter to this one person and place, the bishop appears to imply that he thought them exceptional. Henry VIII and his chief advisor Thomas Cromwell were certainly concerned that the crime and disorder of the March should be brought under control, and it was