Chapter 1. The Llandaff Act Books.
OF the muniments belonging to the
Dean of Llandaff, the most important are the Act Books, which
contain Minutes of the official
business of the Bishop, Dean or
Archdeacon and Chapter of a
diocese. The Act Books of the
Diocese of Llandaff are in the
custody of the Chapter Clerk, Mr. J. E. Gladstone,
Solicitor, and are preserved in the offices of his firm,
Messrs. Williams & Gladstone, Great Western Approach, Cardiff.
I must express my acknowledgments to the Very Rev. The Dean, for
his kindness in allowing me free access to the records of his Chapter,
and to the Clerk for the courtesy with which he facilitated my
research. (fn. 1)
The Acts of this diocese are written in a series of folio paper
books, bound in calf, the first of which comprises the years 1573–1721. The earlier portion is only a copy, however; for in the year
1664 the old Act Books were found to be so worn out, that the
Chapter ordered their contents to be transcribed into a new book.
This was done before Midsummer 1666, when it was decreed that the
transcript should be examined. A few leaves of the original are still
preserved with the other records.
At the commencement of the first volume, the business of the
Chapter is entirely in Latin; but the use of that language was already
on the decline, and it becomes rarer and rarer, until, towards the
middle of the 17th century, English is employed for all but the most
formal entries. Latin hardly occurs at all after 1663.
These records relate practically to every parish in the counties of
Glamorgan and Monmouth, but I have extracted only what has
reference to the Cardiff district. The town of Monmouth (north-east
of the river Monnow) with the parish of Dixton in that county, was
at this time in the diocese of Hereford; but Newland in Gloucestershire, on the left bank of the Wye, belonged to Llandaff. The
business comprises the election of the Bishop, the appointment of the
Prebendaries and other office-holders, the granting of Chapter leases,
the repair of the Cathedral, the appointment to livings in the
Chapter's gift, the oaths taken by ecclesiastical dignitaries, the
correction of misdemeanant clerks, the licensing of chapels, the
custody of the Cathedral library, the conduct of divine worship, the
preaching of sermons, the relief of poor persons, the "entertainment"
of the Chapter, &c.
In 1573 we find the name of William Evans as Treasurer of
Llandaff Cathedral. (See Vol. IV., p. 52.)
Not the least interesting of the matters dealt with by the Acts is
the repair of the Cathedral fabric. In 1592 a firm of Bristol plumbers
were granted an annuity of six pounds, to keep in repair the leads of
the roof. In 1594 the Chapter lament the "ruinous and decayed
state" of their Cathedral, which they describe as being "more like a
desolate and profane place than like a house of prayer and holy
exercises." Mr. Mathew of Llandaff in that year undertook to pave,
repair and maintain the east end of the north aisle (formerly the
Chapel of Saint Dubricius) in which his ancestors lay buried, upon
the condition that no one should in future be there interred but
members of his family. All this marks a pleasing revival of reverence
for the unfortunate Cathedral, which reforming prelates and avaricious
Canons had reduced to such a lamentable condition of dilapidation.
As the 17th century advanced, this return to the older order
became still more marked, and in 1630 it was decreed that the
Prebends should attend Chapter in gown, hood and surplice, and not
in secular attire, while a certain salary was assigned for choristers.
In the following year arrangements were made for the repair, maintenance and regular use of the bells. In 1638 the windows were
ordered to be again glazed.
The Civil War was approaching, however, and devastation was
once again to be the fate of Llandaff Cathedral. After the Restoration, some regulations were made for the orderly performance of
public worship in the ancient building. Thus in 1662 a man was
employed to keep dogs out of the church, a gown was bought for the
clerk or sexton, and order was taken for the daily reading of prayers
by the Vicars Choral in their surplices, and for the performance of
"high service" in the choir on Sundays.
Towards the end of the 17th century this temporary revival
waned. Mr. Mathew had neglected to repair the north aisle, and
apparently the whole Cathedral was in a bad state. In 1691 the
choir-singers were discharged, and their salaries discontinued; and
instead of the choir, the schoolmaster was appointed a deacon "to
give the singing-psalms" for four pounds a year. About this time
various important parishioners were allowed to erect private pews in
the choir. The great bell fell down in the steeple, but was afterwards
put up again and the clock restored. New corbels for the roof were
ordered to be made out of the old roof-timber in 1697. In the same
year the Clerk drew an appointment of an organist, "to play with the
psalm and to give the usual voluntary"; but the Chapter struck this
out, and would only continue the office of a man to "give the psalms."
However, in 1699, "being capitularly congregated," their reverences
appointed a Mrs. Gyles to sweep the church and keep it "clean and
It would, indeed, have been unreasonable to expect the Chapter
to lay out considerable sums of money in repairing the Cathedral of a
diocese the greater part of whose revenues had been appropriated by
its Bishops. Even the slender funds which remained were drawn
upon for other than ecclesiastical purposes. In 1610 the Chapter
granted to Sir John Herbert a life "pension" of ten pounds per
annum, which had previously been enjoyed by Sir William Herbert,
deceased, "for so long a time as the same church shall have means
sufficient and be able to pay the same," and a similar pension of
£6. 13s. 4d. to the Earl of Northampton. Advowsons and rectories
had to be granted, and leaseholds demised, to the relatives of the
Bishop and Prebendaries, on easy terms. There was thus little or
no money to be dissipated in repairing stone walls and maintaining
These records are rich in place-names. A curious instance is
the acre of land at Canton called Petty Callys (Little Calais). It
would be interesting to know the origin of this name. In the early
part of the 17th century lands (in such cases known as "concealed
lands") were still from time to time found to have been anciently
granted to religious uses, and were consequently forfeited to the
King and from him purchased at a low price by the Chapter. Often
the first lease of them was made to the discoverer, provided he would
be at the cost of proving them to be "concealed."
The books in the Chapter Library were sometimes lent to the
Prebends, on their giving a written undertaking for their safe return.
The most noteworthy volume in that collection was the Llyfr Teilo
(Saint Teilo's Book) or Book of Llandaff. This famous manuscript,
the ancient register and cartulary of the see, had fortunately survived
the Reformation, and long remained in the custody of the Chapter.
For an account of its valuable contents and its later history,
the reader is referred to the admirable edition lately published
at Oxford; (fn. 2) which contains also an account of another MS.
anciently belonging to Llandaff Cathedral, viz., the Book of Saint
Chad. The Llyfr Teilo was occasionally lent, and in 1619 the Bishop
had a difficulty in getting it back from Mr. Robotham, one of the
Prebendaries; but this seems to have been because of some dispute
in the Chapter.
In 1626 the Chapter resolved that the rectory of Eglwysilan,
"being the chiefest support of the church and prebends," should, at
the approaching expiration of the lease, be converted to the "best use
and most valuable advantage of the said church," without taking any
fine. In virtue of that self-denying ordinance, they hope that God
will bless their design "and that posterity shall see here the face of
a Church." Curiously, they conclude with the ancient preReformation Latin formula: "He who keepeth it, let him keep it;
he who violates it, let him be anathema"—a sentiment which had
been dormant for nearly a century of plunder and sacrilege.
In 1662 reference is made to the Welsh service in the Lady
Chapel, which was continued weekly down to the last quarter of the
19th century. The Lady Chapel of the Cathedral is the parish
church. This is the earliest allusion to a Welsh service at Llandaff.
The second volume of the Acts extends from 1722 to 1816, and
is hardly less interesting than the former. In 1726 the Chapter
invested in a State Lottery ticket, and measures were taken to raise a
fund for the repair of the Cathedral. They themselves agreed to
subscribe £200, but afterwards rescinded the resolution. In 1732
the well-known John Wood, of Bath, makes his appearance in the
Acts. He was the architect of the egregious classical temple which
eventually arose amid the Cathedral's dismal ruins. In 1738 we find
the name of Thomas Omar, the intelligent carpenter whose acute
observations on the remains of antiquity in the Cathedral may be
read in Bishop Ollivant's account of the fabric, (fn. 3) where (p. 24) Omar
records the discovery of the entombed remains of Saint Teilo. It is so
rarely that the work of a joiner in a church merits more praise than
than that of a bull in a china-shop, that tribute should be paid to the
memory of good Thomas Omar.
Antiquaries will appreciate the few notes on the older documents
belonging to the Cathedral of Llandaff, which conclude the present
N.B.—The reader may be referred to the "History and Survey of the Cathedral
Church of Llandaff," by John H. James, M.S.A. (Cardiff, 1898), for particulars
concerning the architecture of this ancient church.