Cardiff Records: Volume 2. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1900.
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THE old tin box in the Town Clerk's safe contains a mass of miscellaneous documents, on paper and parchment, the bulk of which seem incapable of more definite classification than that adopted above. Nor is it an easy matter to arrange these heterogeneous papers in a satisfactory order. The sequence in which they are here set out appears to be the only one practicable, though it is not strictly chronological. I begin this chapter with a note of nine Bonds in security for moneys payable to the Corporation for the relief of the poor. The dates range from 1687 to 1701.
Next we have a notice dated 1734, to the Cardiff Churchwardens and Overseers, concerning funds bequeathed to the poor of Cardiff by Captain John Price, R.N. This matter was, many years later, the subject of a suit in Chancery. Under date 1767 comes another notice relating to the Price charity.
The muniments of Fonmon Castle, which have been kindly submitted by Oliver H. Jones, Esq., J.P., furnish (besides other records which will be hereafter cited) an interesting appointment, by the Town Council, of two gentlemen to act as collectors of voluntary contributions towards the building of a new Town Hall at Cardiff. It is of the year 1741. (fn. 1)
For 1811, 1813 and 1837 I have given an example of some papers connected with the procedure in the old Town Court, of which obsolete tribunal more will be said at a later stage of this work. The papers are an Entry of Action, and a Warrant of arrest for Debt, with the Process.
We now come to a most interesting and amusing series of small papers, viz., a selection from the Vouchers or receipts for payments made on behalf of the Corporation, 1789–1803. They abound in allusions to curious byegone customs and obsolete institutions, and also in touches of unconscious humour. Among them we have such minutiae as repairs to the Town Hall and its clock, the stocks and the pillory, the maces, the Corporation pews in Saint John's church, etc. Not the least interesting are the vouchers in connection with the celebration of occasions of public rejoicing, viz., Christmas, Royal anniversaries, national victories, the Peace of 1801, the perambulation of the bounds, and the arrival of the Judges. Similar proceedings attended the marriage of Lord Mountstuart in 1792, and the birth of his son in the following year. Such celebrations were marked by the ringing of Saint John's church bells, and, on days of special solemnity, by the illumination of the Town Hall, the holding of banquets, and free drinks in public houses—all paid for by the Corporation. This was, indeed, the era of feasting in general, and of rum punch in particular, and the loyal Cardiff burgesses thoroughly imbibed the spirit of their age. In 1792 the Cardiffians burned an effigy of Tom Paine, the Deistic and Republican writer, who had incurred the dislike of Britons by his active sympathy with the French Revolution. The effigy was fully dressed, it was hanged and burnt, and the auto dà fé seems to have been publicly announced three days beforehand. In 1796 the Corporation subscribed five guineas to the Cardiff Races, a payment' which was regularly made for many years.
Previous to the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, the finances of Cardiff Borough were managed by two officials known as the Common Attornies, who were chosen annually with the other elective officers—though in practice they often continued in office over successive years. The old papers in the Town Clerk's safe comprise the Accounts of the Common Attornies from 1783 to 1822. The matters of interest most frequently referred to in these accounts are the annual chief-rent paid to the Lord, the Bailiffs' charities, Corporation rents, repair of the gates and bridges, weights and measures, the Water Bailiff's receipts, conviviality, and the Town Pump—which last occupied quite an undue share of public attention at this period. From an entry under the date 1 June 1786, we learn that there was a Record Room at the Guildhall. Considerable sums were from time to time paid to the landlord of the Cardiff Arms, that being the hostelry patronised by the Corporation for purposes of public festivity.
There are some Bills of Costs paid by the Corporation to their Town Clerk, from 1789 to 1825. They contain many curious particulars relative to such matters as Elections, wherein we may mark the intimate connection which then existed between Cardiff and her "contributory boroughs." We see also how a compliance with the Test Act, as a guarantee against Popish opinions, was indispensable to every candidate or nominee for public office. The Serjeants-at-Mace, no less than the Bailiffs, had to receive the Sacrament in the Established Church before they could validly hold their several offices.
The oldest book of the Town Court commences 1729, and continues to the year 1732; but these earliest entries are made in the volume which is mainly taken up with Minutes of Council, and which will hereafter be printed under the heading "Minutes of Council, Vol. II." Later Town Court Books extend from 1774 to 1818, but their contents are of a nature so purely formal and uninteresting, that I need not extract from them more than may serve for an illustration. The actions are all for small debts, and call for no particular dissertation. Debtors arrested by process out of this Court were detained in the custody of the Serjeants-at-Mace.