THE GAMES FAMILY VERSUS THE BOROUGH OF BRECON, 1589-1606 Violence and lawlessness were common in Wales and the Marches in the sixteenth century. Not only were many violent crimes committed-murder, rape, burglary and house-burning being some of them-but the perpetrators could escape punishment if they had friends in the right places. Court officials were often corrupt, perjury was common and juries were suborned. The Acts of Union between England and Wales (1536-43) sought to rectify this by imposing a new system of justice based on English law. Malpractices were not eliminated merely by a change of system; the new sheriffs, justices of the peace and other officials often abused their power for the benefit of themselves and their friends. But the Acts also gave the Welsh access to the English Court of Star Chamber, which acted as an appeal court. During Queen Elizabeth's reign this court heard many complaints about the misuse of office by local officials, including a number from Breconshire.2 There were also complaints of assaults, affrays and other disorders, and from Brecon town seven cases over a period of three years (1589- 92) are recorded, all concerned with violent disturbances within the town and the way these were dealt with by the borough officials. Members of the Games family were alleged to be the cause of the trouble. The Games were a long-established and locally important gentry family who owned houses and estates in the vicinity of Brecon. Their main seat, Newton, was just across the river from the town. During the sixteenth century many of its members held official positions in the county. Three were Members of Parlia- ment, the office of Sheriff was held nine times by family members and the name of one or more Games appears in every list of justices of the peace. Edward Games was credited with being influential in obtaining Brecon's charter of 1556, for which service and others the grateful townspeople gave him the hospice of St. Catherine, with its chapel. He was the first Recorder, Member of Parliament for the county in 1545 and Sheriff in 1558. His son John Games of Newton held office as Sheriff and justice of the peace but-according to Star Chamber evidence-he and some other family members had quite a different reputation. Various Gameses were required to face charges of misusing office, extorting money, refusing to punish offenders, suborning juries and so on. An instance of their methods is given by William Goch of Talgarth in 1579. In the court room of quarter sessions appeared 'Christopher Games, Water Games, Roger Games and many others armed with swords and bucklers and other weapons some stepping up on to the bench, some upon the forms near the bench, some on the lower form where the clerk of the peace did sit, with their weapons ready 5 Against this background it is not surprising to find that the Games played a considerable part in the violent incidents in Brecon between 1589 and 1592. What was this violence about? The evidence comes from the complainants' and defendants' statements to the Court of Star Chamber, and from other towns- people questioned in the course of the court's enquiries. Parts of these statements are of local interest for the incidental glimpses they give of life in the town, but it