Councill minutes, 1835–1880.
Entering upon the period of modern
municipal government, we pass
through an interesting series of
Minutes which record the inauguration of a new epoch in urban affairs.
The last remnants of feudalism were
abolished by one Parliamentary
enactment; and, from a borough of
the mediaeval type, Cardiff suddenly
became a municipality in the modern
sense— with an extended franchise, a freely-elected Council and
an enlarged executive. Henceforth the Lord's dominum over
the Borough as a whole was little more than a legal fiction, consisting for the most part in his scarcely tangible ownership of the
soil, or in a few shadowy and rarely-exercised manorial rights.
From this time onwards, the influence exercised by the Castle over
the Town lay no longer in a Constableship, or in a Mayor as representing the Lord, but in the genuine interest constantly taken
by the Crichton Stuarts in the progress and welfare of a place so
long and so intimately associated with the fortunes of their house.
It is to elected representatives, in the first place, that the Burgesses
now look for the protection of their liberties and for the advancement
of the public weal; but the antiquary may be pardoned for looking
fondly back to the quaint, poetic town life which vanished at the
dawning of Municipal Reform.
On the last day of 1835 the old Council hold their final Meeting.
They elect a Chairman in the person of Walter Coffin, and choose six
Aldermen for the new Chamber. After a vote of thanks to their
Chairman, they adjourn.
On the first day of January 1836 the Municipal Corporations
Act comes into force, and the new Council assemble at the Guildhall.
They appoint Richard Wyndham Williams as Chairman, and designate Thomas Revel Guest to be the first civil and elective Mayor (fn. 1) of
Cardiff; who thereupon takes the Chair in place of Mr. Williams.
Next it is resolved that the Mayor be the Judge of the Borough
Court of Record, and then that the Council shall meet quarterly to
transact the public business of the town. They also appoint
temporary Committees to consider the questions of the Police and
of the conservancy of the River Taff.
A fortnight later, the Council meet again and appoint a Finance
and Property Committee, a Watch Committee, and two Common
Attorneys. They also order payment of the Lord's yearly fee farm
rent of £5. 13. 7½.
On 1 February 1836, they appoint a Water Bailiff; and, on
1 March [Town Clerk Nicholl Wood having died], they nominate
Edward Priest Richards his successor— a notable appointment of a
remarkable man, as may be gathered from the history of his tenure of
that office. Another important nomination was that of Jeremiah Box
Stockdale, the organiser of the Cardiff Police force which, none too
soon, supplanted the old watchmen. In the following month a
Borough Treasurer was for the first time added to the permanent
A token that the old state of things had not been rudely
broken off is to be seen in the Resolution of June 23, that the
Corporation are to attend Saint John's church in state one Sunday
in each month.
In 1837 some steps were taken to assert the rights of the
Burgesses in and to the waste ground on the Canal banks in the
parish of Saint Mary. It does not seem that the claim was ever
enforced, though it has several times been raised since then.
In 1838 the Corporation very properly required a knowledge of
the Welsh language in the person who was to be appointed Clerk of
the Markets. At that date Welsh was still spoken by a large proportion of the natives of Cardiff, though the time was at hand when the
sudden and, at first, purely material and utilitarian development of
this town was to swamp the old nationality and obliterate all the
native picturesqueness of the place. The next generation was to
begin to readjust matters in this respect.
In 1839 the Town Clerk was directed to recover possession of
those parts of the ancient Town Wall which were in danger of
becoming by prescription the private property of lessees. This was,
however, the prelude to the destruction of the Wall; which soon
shared the fate of the Town Gates and disappeared.
That Welsh interests, even now, were not totally neglected,
appears from the meetings of a Cymreigyddion Society which took
place at the Town Hall.
This year there were great apprehensions of a Chartist rising,
and much calling out and swearing in of Special Constables. Other
apprehensions soon followed— of the Chartists' persons— and Cardiff
voted thanks to Newport for the manner in which the rebels had been
suppressed in the latter borough when they rose in open revolt.
The formation of the Bute Docks, and the consequent development of the Port of Cardiff, necessitated the emancipation of Cardiff
pilots from the control of the Bristol authorities, who had the
appointment and governance of them. It was not long before the
efforts of the Cardiff Council succeeded in securing to itself the
management of the local pilotage.
The continuation of the Great Western Railway from Cirencester
to Gloucester, and the formation of the South Wales Railway, from
Gloucester through Chepstow, Newport and Cardiff to the west,
completed the revolution which was now being effected in the
commerce of this town and neighbourhood, by placing Cardiff in
direct and rapid communication with London.
Another important event which took place at the middle of the
19th century was the diversion of the Taff from Canton bridge to
the river's mouth. Then it was that the old-world epoch in the
local history, when salmon were caught at Cardiff by fishermen in
ancient British coracles, finally gave place to the present era of
a straightened river, whose muddy waves plash around the iron
piers of a railway-bridge.
It would be both impracticable and unnecessary for the Editor to
call attention, in a dissertation, to the very numerous points of
historical interest which occur in the course of these Minutes. The
reader will find that the task of looking through the following pages
will be well repaid.
This section of the records of Council Meetings brings us down
to 1879, from which year onwards the Minutes have been printed and
published by the Corporation.