Once more Villa Cardiff gives to her citizens, and to the world,
an instalment of her ancient records. The Corporation have not
undertaken this work of book-making for the sake of acquiring either
literary fame or an increase of their revenue, but in order to secure
permanence for their official muniments of past ages and to collect
into a handy form, for purposes of reference, documents which
illustrate the history of the Borough. It is, however, encouraging to
the Records Committee and their Archivist to know that the
"Cardiff Records" are so acceptable to all classes of readers, as the
many public and private expressions of approval indisputably show.
In preparing the Third Volume of the series, I have endeavoured to
maintain the quality of the work, both in point of historical value and
popular interest—difficult as it is to combine these two qualifications
—and it is hoped that the effort has been successful. If the general
reader finds such chapters as those on the Augmentation Proceedings
and the Survey of Llystalybont deficient in entertaining matter, he is
asked to leave them to the antiquary (to whom they will be very
useful), and to turn his attention to the Wills, the Quarter Sessions
Files and the Vestry Books, which in a hundred various ways will
appeal to his imagination and gratify his sense of humour. It may
not be very interesting to learn how many acres were given by pious
Welshmen to Margam Abbey in the 12th century, (fn. 1) or what the
copyholders of Llystalybont had to do if they lost their copies of
Court Roll; (fn. 2) but there are touches of unconscious humour in Robert
Yorath's bequest of a "black cow her name is Blacky"; (fn. 3) in Mistress
David's gift to her niece of "all ye Bees that is between She and
I"; (fn. 4) and in Mrs. Morgan's disposal of her body in "christal burial,"
and her bequest of a hatband and gloves "to the gentleman that
buries me." (fn. 5) The sore affliction long time borne by the Vestrymen
of Saint John's in regard to the post of parish organist, is as funny as
anything in the annals of vestrydom. From 1731, when they consented to continue "Dick Leigh" as their organist, on condition that
he "Behave himself with Civillity & Sobriety," down to 1786, when
his successor, George Whatley, was brought to book "for not
teaching the Boys to Sing," the authorities were constantly realising
the sad fact that all is not harmonious which has to do with music.
The reader will note, also, the duties assigned to the Sexton in 1801;
who, for eight guineas a year, was not only to dig the graves, but
also to blow the bellows, wind the clock, clean the church, chime the
bells, act as verger at Sunday service, ring the curfew, and keep the
churchyard in order. We are not told whether he wrote the sermons
in his spare time.
The documents referring to the insurrection which was headed
by Llewelyn Bren ap Rhys, early in the 14th century, (fn. 6) will be found
a useful addition to the materials for a history of that Welsh national
revolt. The Charter of King Henry VII. to the Boroughs of Cardiff,
Usk, Caerleon, Newport, Cowbridge, Neath and Kenfig preserves
this traditional and unvaried order of the above place-names, and
causes us to wonder whether such order is owing simply to a continuous adherence to that observed in the first Royal grant (of
Edward II., in 1324), (fn. 7) or whether it points to the relative rank and
precedence of those towns. At the granting of the Charters, Cardiff
was certainly the most important of the seven boroughs, though
there had been a time when Caerleon was her superior in dignity.
The city of King Arthur's mystic Court long ago yielded up her
civic honours in favour of Newport; and if Neath has her share in
the modern prosperity of South East Wales, Usk, Cowbridge and
Kenfig are picturesque ghosts of their former selves. Cardiff alone
remains a borough of the first rank, and has only divested herself of
feudal trappings to don the serviceable garb of commercial progress.
I would invite the special attention of antiquaries to the muniments of that curious survival, the Cardiff Company of Cordwainers
and Glovers, which extend from a Charter of King Edward II. to
the extinction of the company at the beginning of the 19th century.
I may be allowed also to express the hope that genealogists will
appreciate my extracts from the Parish Registers, and copies of
tombstone inscriptions. The latter have been rescued, in the nick of
time, from Decay and Oblivion, ever following close in the wake of
The illustrations have been arranged, as before, by Mr. Ballinger,
the Cardiff Librarian. The initials, with the head and tail pieces, are
due to the skill and care of Mr. Thomas Henry Thomas, R.C.A.,
("Arlunydd Penygarn"), whose devotion to Welsh antiquity is as
profound and notorious as are his love and knowledge of art in
general. The letters are Celtic in spirit and design, and the other
drawings also are intensely Welsh and antiquarian.
JOHN HOBSON MATTHEWS,
Cardiff, August 20th, 1901.