Owen, George (1552-1613) (DNB00)
OWEN, GEORGE (1552–1613), county historian, born in 1552 at Henllys, near Newport, Pembrokeshire, was the eldest son of William Owen (1469–1574) [q. v.], by Elizabeth Herbert, a descendant of William, first earl of Pembroke of the Herbert line. On the attainment of his majority, Newport Castle and the baronial rights of the lordship of Kemes were delivered to him by his father, and for twenty years of his life he was in conflict with the council of the marches as to his possession of ‘jura regalia’ within the barony. Commissions sat at Newport in 1588 and 1589 to take evidence on the point, and it appears that Owen was at one time placed under arrest in his own castle of Newport. In 1573 he was admitted member of Barnard's Inn, but appears to have always resided in Pembrokeshire, where he held the office of vice-admiral for the counties of Pembroke and Cardigan, and was sheriff for the former county in 1587 and in 1602. In his capacity as magistrate of a maritime county he was active in the time of the Spanish scare, and letters addressed by him and some colleagues to the council are still preserved (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 30 July and 28 Oct. 1599; cf. Spurrell, Carmarthen, p. 115). In 1592, on the attainder of Sir John Perrott [q. v.], Owen was one of the commissioners appointed by the crown to survey Perrott's property (Owen, Pembrokeshire, pp. 136 n. 2, 191). He died in 1613. Owen's chief literary work was the ‘Description of Pembrokeshire,’ dated 18 May 1603, which was indifferently edited, with some important omissions, for the ‘Cambrian Register’ (vols. i. and ii.) in 1795–6 by Richard Fenton. The copy used by Fenton subsequently belonged to Sir Thomas Phillipps [q. v.] (Phillipps MS. 13474). The original manuscript in the British Museum (Harleian MS. 6250) has been faithfully reproduced by a descendant of the author, Mr. Henry Owen of Withybush, under the title of Owen's ‘Pembrokeshire’ (Cymmrodorion Record Ser., No. 1, London, 1892, 8vo). Another autograph manuscript has since been discovered in the Marquis of Bute's collection (Arch. Cambr. 5th ser. ix. 330); and a transcript of Harleian MS. 6250, made by Bishop Burgess, is now in the library of St. David's College, Lampeter. In design the work is similar to Carew's ‘Survey of Cornwall,’ and presents a valuable picture of country life in the Elizabethan age. But it also contains so remarkably accurate an account of the geology of South Wales that Owen has been styled ‘the patriarch of English geologists’ (see Edinburgh Review, April 1841, lxxiii. 3; cf. Conybeare, Outlines of Geology, ed. Phillips, 1822, Introduction, p. xl).
Among Owen's other works are the following: 1. ‘The Description of Wales,’ written in 1602, and printed in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (1823, pt. ii.) from an inaccurate transcript (Phillipps MS. 6359) of the original autograph manuscript now preserved at the Bodleian Library (Gough MS. Wales, No. 3; see its history in Gough, British Topography, 2nd ed. 1780, ii. 495). [See Harry, George Owen, to whom it is ascribed in error.] 2. ‘The Description of Milford Havon,’ written in 1595, probably with the view of inducing the government to fortify the haven. There is an autograph copy in the Phillipps Library, MS. 14445 (see Penruddock Wyndham, Tour through Wales, 1781 edit. p. 70), and a transcript among the Additional MSS. in the British Museum (No. 22623). 3. ‘A Cataloge and Genelogie of the Lordes of Kemes,’ being Rawlinson MS. B. 469 in the Bodleian. The foregoing three works are printed (from the originals) in the appendix to Owen's ‘Pembrokeshire.’ 4. ‘Baronia de Kemes,’ being a treatise on the position of Kemes as a lordship-marcher, together with charters and documents relating to the barony, collected by Owen, and preserved at Bronwydd, near Cardigan. These, with some other shorter tracts, were published by the Cambrian Archæological Association in 1861–2 (London, 8vo). Seven of the charters, with Owen's notes, had been previously published in 1841 by Sir Thomas Phillipps at the Middlehill Press under the title of ‘Cartæ Baroniæ de Kemes ex MSS. Georgii de Carewe arm. de Crowcombe in Com. Somerset.’ 5. ‘A Treatise of the Government of Wales,’ printed in Clive's ‘History of Ludlow’ (pp. 97–146) from Lansdowne MS. No. 215, art. 1, in the British Museum, which appears to be in part a copy of the Harleian MS. 141, art. 1, which is given in the appendix to Owen's ‘Pembrokeshire,’ and was previously printed incorrectly in Lloyd's ‘History of Powys Fadog,’ ii. 1. A summary of this tract is also given in Pennant's ‘Tours in Wales’ (ed. Rhys, iii. 265).
Besides the above, Owen left a considerable quantity of short treatises, many of which fell into the hands of Fenton, who at one time intended publishing them (see his Pembrokeshire, p. 403), but several of them were subsequently sold by his son in 1858 to Sir Thomas Phillipps. Among those not already enumerated are Owen's commonplace book, called ‘The Taylor's Cushion’ (Phillipps MS. 14427), which is referred to in Rees's ‘Beauties of England and Wales’ (vol. xviii. under ‘South Wales,’ sub fine), and a collection of Welsh pedigrees is attributed to him. Another volume of pedigrees, written mostly in Owen's hand, and in part printed in Lewis Dwnn's ‘Heraldic Visitations’ (ii. 293–364), where Owen is erroneously identified by the editor with his son, George Owen, York herald (cf. also i. 7, 8, and Introduction, p. xxvii, where an englyn by Dwnn in honour of Owen is printed), is preserved in the British Museum (Egerton MS. 2586), while Harleian MS. 6068 also contains some legal tracts by him. An extensive manuscript, known as the ‘Vairdre Book,’ containing inter alia a survey of the barony of Kemes, made in 1594, is preserved at Bronwydd. Another topographical work in Owen's hand, entitled ‘Pembrock and Kemes,’ came into the possession of Mr. Henry Owen of Withybush. A similar manuscript (now lost) is summarised in Browne Willis's ‘Survey of the Cathedral Church of St. Davids’ (pp. 38–73), London, 1717, 8vo, and is there assumed (cf. Gough, British Topography, ii. 515) to have been written by Owen for the use of Camden in preparing probably the sixth edition of the ‘Britannia’ (1607, fol.). To that work Owen also supplied a map of Pembrokeshire (pp. 508–9), a facsimile of which is prefixed to Owen's ‘Pembrokeshire’ (ed. 1892). Other short pieces by Owen have been printed in ‘Archæologia Cambrensis’ (3rd ser. viii. 14– 18, 226–7, xiii. 132–5; see also Philosophical Transactions, No. 208, p. 48). Camden acknowledges Owen's assistance, and speaks of him as ‘venerandæ antiquitatis cultor eximius,’ and Dineley, in the ‘Beaufort Progress,’ ed. 1888 (p. 256), where a drawing of Owen's arms is exhibited, refers to him as ‘a singular lover and industrious collector of antiquities.’
Owen was twice married: first, about 1573, to Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of William Philipps of Picton, in Pembrokeshire, by whom he had ten children, the eldest son being Alban Owen, who succeeded his father as lord of Kemes in 1608, and took a prominent part in county affairs during the civil wars (Laws, Little England beyond Wales, pp. 321–3; Philipps, Civil Wars in Wales and the Marches, ii. 4, 85). A collection of the arms of the London City companies, by Alban Owen, with his signature attached, is preserved in the Phillipps Library at Cheltenham (MS. 13140, No. 106).
Owen's second wife, according to a manuscript alleged to be by himself, and printed by Fenton (Pembrokeshire, p. 563), was Ann, daughter of John Gwillim, ‘a French gentleman of antient descent in Normandy.’ But, according to a pedigree signed by Owen himself (see a facsimile of this signature, No. 5 on frontispiece to Dwnn, Heraldic Visitations, vol. ii.; cf. i. 151), she was ‘Ankred [i.e. Angharad], daughter of William Obiled of Caermarthen, gent.’ Obiled is, however, described as ‘a tinker’ in a pedigree of the Henllys family by David Edwardes of Rhyd y Gors, near Carmarthen (1677), preserved at the College of Arms (Prothero MSS. v. 86). According to Edwardes's pedigree, Owen had by his second wife seven children (according to Dwnn twelve). Among the sons were George Owen (d. 1665) [q. v.], York herald, and Evan (1599–1662). The latter matriculated from Jesus College, Oxford, 9 Nov. 1622, and proceeded B.A. same day, M.A. 21 June 1625, B.D. 31 Aug. 1636, and D.D. 12 April 1643; he was appointed rector of Newport 1622, of Llanychllwydog 1626, and of Walwyn's Castle (all in Pembrokeshire) 1638, and was chancellor of St. David's from 1644 until his death, 30 Dec. 1662 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.); a mural tablet was placed to his memory in the chancel of Llawhaden Church (see copy of inscription in Fenton, op. cit. p. 318).
[The chief authority is the Introduction to Owen's Pembrokeshire (referred to above), where practically everything known about Owen's life is collected, and the numerous errors of former biographies set right.]