Cardiff Records: Volume 4. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1903.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Amid all the bustle and clangour of modern urban life, the spirit voices of Cardiff's past are still audible and articulate, in records which time and the spoiler have spared to these latter days, and the continued existence of which has been secured by the printer's art. In the twentieth century, Edwardo Septimo feliciter regnante, the burgess of Cardiff (who is now nearly every householder) can close his ears to the shrieking of locomotives, the whirr and clatter of electric cars and the whizzing of telephone-bells, and transport himself back into the quiet Welsh county town whose citizens are sleeping in Saint John's churchyard. Nay, he can lose himself in the paulopost-Arthurian haze which envelopes the dim heroic forms of Robert Fitzhamon and Iestyn ab Gwrgan, and take sides with either the Clans or the Feudal System. As the reader follows the history of the long struggle between Celtic tribesman and Teutonic settler, his sympathies will be irresistibly drawn to one or the other and will, perhaps, be determined by what he knows as to his own nationality. Cardiff, indeed, is as cosmopolitan as any meeting-place of the nations. Specimens of the aboriginal Welsh-speaking Cardiffian may still be met with, here and there, and there has, of course, been a large influx into the town from this and the adjacent counties; but commonest is the immigrant from Gloucestershire and Somersetshire, it is said—especially the latter. The English spoken at Cardiff by the average passer-by no longer betrays any suspicion of Welsh accent, but smacks strongly of the West Saxon spoken on the opposite Severn shore, which bids fair to form the basis of a new dialect for this town and district. In one walk from the Hayes bridge to the Pier Head, it is easy to hear a dozen languages, to say nothing of dialects. All the principal European nationalities are represented among the wellestablished merchants and tradesmen of the town and port. A Cardiffborn Polish noble carries on the business of a watchmaker; an Austrian of aristocratic lineage keeps a small public house; and a Welshman, who descends from the two most ancient families in Glamorgan, works as a master mason. Never was such a confusion of races and conditions. At Cardiff may be found the issue of marriages between persons of widely-distant nationalities, as Italian-Welsh, Greek-Irish, (fn. 1) MalteseEnglish, Scottish-Welsh—one might ring the changes indefinitely. Bearing in mind an axiom of physiology, one expects the future inhabitants of Cardiff to be a gifted people. To give another illustration of our cosmopolitanism, sermons have lately been preached in English, Irish and Pomeranian, in Saint David's Catholic church, the priest in charge of which is a Dutchman. The services of the Orthodox Greeks in this town, a few years ago, were conducted by a priest who was an Englishman, and a clerk who was a Welsh-speaking Welshman from Russia! The top-hat and frock coat of London civilisation are hardly a more familiar sight to Cardiffian eyes than the wide hat, with pendant ribands, of the Breton peasant, the brimless headgear and curled shoes of the Indian lascar, or the Chinaman's pigtail. Add such foreign elements to the early fusion of the manifold, unknown races which have formed the Cymric nation—and one wonders what will be the racial composition of our future citizens.
To leave such speculations and hark back to the 14th century: How much we should like to have on the shelves of our Free Library those eight books (fn. 2) which belonged to Llewelyn Bren; three of which were in Welsh, and one in French, the Roman de la Rose! The old record gives no hint as to what became of these captured treasures of the unfortunate Welsh patriot, or of his bright-red ridingcoat and silver spoons. The lawless state of Cardiff in Henry the Eighth's reign is strikingly illustrated by the tale of wanton murder and civic incompetence which Mistress Katherine Watts unfolded to the Star Chamber. (fn. 3) The unlawful exactions of William Herbert in 1558 aroused the effective resentment of the townsfolk, as appears by their complaint in the same Court. In 1645, during the Civil War, Cardiff Castle was described as "a place of singular concernment as any in Wales" (p. 149.) It received a great deal of attention from both Cavaliers and Roundheads, and was held now by one party, now by the other. In 1648 mediæval South Wales may be said to have vanished for ever, amid the smoke and blood of the battle of Saint Fagan's; (fn. 4) and from her ashes arose, slowly but surely, the new race, Puritan and democratic before all things. A mile west of Cardiff Bridge, near the bridge which spans the river Ely, is a hamlet of old thatched cottages bearing the significant name Pwll Coch (the Red Pool). This appelation is said to bear allusion to the colour of the water as it carried to the sea the grim refuse of that terrible carnage which, more, perhaps, than any other event in history, changed the face and shaped the destinies of Wales. Of the army of Welshmen then taken prisoners by the Parliamentarian forces, 240 (being bachelors) were shipped to Barbadoes as slaves, and three were "shot to death at Cardiff." No one will grudge Wales the glory earned for her by these gallant adherents of a lost cause.
The latter and larger half of the present volume is taken up with a continuous series of extracts from the formal transactions of civic business, especially the Minutes of Council; and it may be well to say a word as to the method which has been used in the selection. I have aimed at extracting everything of permanent interest or utility to the public. In some cases this interest lies in the picture of old local life and manners; or the utility in the legal bearing which a given ancient document may be likely to have, some time or other, upon current municipal questions. In other cases, the interest of the extracted document may consist in its connecting our Borough with the history of the Kingdom as a whole; or its utility in the fresh light incidentally supplied to historical students in general, apart from merely local research. The public may rest assured that nothing worthy of perpetuation has been allowed to slip through the editorial hands; nor, I think, will the careful student deem anything worthless which has been here retained. The value of some items may not be apparent at the first glance, but upon consideration the reader will probably see how they fall distinctly under one or other of the two categories named. It is often the humblest fragment of a record which conveys most knowledge to the studious utiliser of such collections as these.
The present volume differs from its predecessors in being ornamented with head and tail pieces, initials and capitals drawn by myself. This has been done not without diffidence on my part, as a mere penman, at continuing the work so skilfully performed by Mr. Fowler, Mr. Ward, Mr. Sant and Mr. T. H. Thomas in the previous volumes. I hope it may be held that the artistic shortcomings of the present set of head and tail pieces are atoned for by correctness of heraldic arrangement in the former; and, in the sketches of old buildings, by a minuteness of detail which, though it may not satisfy artists, will at least be appreciated by antiquaries. The large initials to the chapters, and the ornamental capitals inserted in the text, have been copied by me in pen and ink, from an illuminated Book of Hours in my possession, written on vellum and executed in Flanders for an Augustinian Canoness, about the year 1425. The manuscript is an exceptionally fine production of the Flemish school of limners.