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)
From 1739 to 1818 I have given some notes of apprentices
indentured at Cardiff.
In 1792 appears a notice to the Constables concerning the
licensing of inns in the Borough, to which is appended a list of
the licensed houses of Cardiff.
In 1771 appears, as a single sample of such a record, a Warrant
in a bastardy case.
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.