Prior to the union of England and Wales, Welsh land law had existed alongside English land law. The property portfolios of landowners in Wales, therefore, often included land which was regulated solely by the Welsh law and land regulated solely by the English law. However, a wealth of evidence is now emerging from the archival material relating to the Penrhyn Estate which demonstrates that principles of Welsh land law survived both prior to and after the Acts of Union 1536-43. In this respect, the research impinges on a broader debate concerning the Anglicisation of the Welsh gentry: we shall see how the Penrhyn Estate was innovative in off-setting the harshness of the sole heir inheritance principle of the English common law (primogeniture) which was introduced by the Normans. As we shall see, certain members of the Griffith family of Penrhyn attempted to do this by adopting principles of native Welsh law (to offset primogeniture) which were accommodated within the framework of the English common law.
New evidence is coming to light concerning certain settlement patterns in terms of both English and native Welsh law. As will be explained, there is new evidence which shows that settlement patterns in the Penrhyn Estate, and beyond, while outwardly conforming to English land law principles, appear upon closer examination to mimic some of the principles of native Welsh land law. The article will also consider new evidence which the authors have brought to light following research at The National Archives concerning the experimentation which was going on in this Estate concerning the development of the use (the precursor of the trust) in the years leading up to the Statute of Uses 1536. This research fills a gap in existing knowledge by showing that principles of Welsh law and English law existed side by side in the Crown lands of north-west Wales even following the Acts of Union 1536-43; and demonstrates, by reference to new evidence, certain features in connection with uses, and settlement patterns in these Crown lands of north- west Wales.