Glamorgan County Records: Introduction

Pages 188-190

Cardiff Records: Volume 3. Originally published by Cardiff Records Committee, Cardiff, 1901.

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Glamorgan County Records.

ALL but two of these muniments are in the custody of T. Mansel Franklen, Esq., Clerk of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan. The exceptions are very short documents. The first is an assessment of Ship Money, about 1635, on the parishes in the Hundred of Dinas Powys. Each entry gives only the names of the collectors and the sums of money. I have extracted the entries for Saint Fagan's, Leckwith, Penarth, Lavernock and Cogan. This document is preserved in the Cardiff Museum.

The second is at the Record Office. It is a list of Popish Recusants convicted in 1717, with a statement of their landed property. The principal person therein named is George Mathew junior, of Thurles in Ireland, esq., who was descended from Mathew of Radyr and owned Llandaff Castle and Manor. He was ancestor to the Mathew of Thomastown, Earls of Landaff.

The Files of Records of the Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan commence 1727, and I have examined them down to 1753, from about which date they are devoid of special interest.

In 1727 occurs a very curious case in which Miles Evans of Llandaff, gentleman, is charged with libelling the Bishop and certain other ecclesiastical dignitaries of that see, by means of an abusive set of verses, which is set out in full. It imitates the style of "Hudibras," displays much rancour, and some wit.

For 1729 is given a specimen of the Certificates required under the Test Act. Before a man could take any public appointment, however insignificant, he had to produce a certificate that he had "received the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the usage of the Church of England, immediately after Divine Service and Sermon read and preached." The principal object of this enactment was to exclude Catholics from positions of authority.

Some of the most interesting documents to be found among the Quarter Sessions Files are the receipted bills of the Keepers of the County Gaol. Thus, under the year 1731, will be found a note of the Gaoler's "Expences in going with Joseph Avery to be executed." Avery was a notorious pirate or smuggler, and was hanged in chains at Oystermouth. The man who set up the gibbet had a difficulty in getting paid, afterwards. The same accounts comprise curious particulars respecting the transportation of felons. It appears they were usually contracted to Bristol merchants, who made large profits by selling them as slaves in the colonies.

Under the same year 1731 we give a copy of the much-used Oath of Allegiance, whereby (in addition to the requirements of the Test Act, above referred to), applicants for any public post had to swear fidelity to the House of Hanover and the Protestant Succession, repudiate the Pope's spiritual authority, and abjure the Stuart Dynasty. Along with this extensive declaration of beliefs and disbeliefs, another Test Oath had to be sworn, in testimony of the applicant's rejection of the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

In the nature of their contents the Quarter Sessions Files largely resemble the Great Sessions Gaol Files; but the former include some additional matters of interest, as, for instance, the stocks, the duckingstool, the prisoners' fetters, and the treatment of vagrants and bastard children.

The ducking-stool, or cucking-stool, was new made in 1739, and was probably erected on the east bank of the Taff, near the north side of Canton bridge. It was a chair, fixed to a movable beam, in which a woman was tied, and so ducked in the water several times. This was the punishment awarded by the magistrates to women whose virulent tongues or outrageous conduct rendered them specially obnoxious to their neighbours. It will be seen that the ducking-stool was employed in 1739 for "cucking" Elizabeth Jones.

A woman was flogged at Cardiff as late as 1753.

The Cardiff Quarter Sessions Order Books, from 1730 to 1770, have some interesting entries about such matters as the registration of Nonconformist places of worship, the whipping of misdemeanants, the repair of bridges, &c.

The Cardiff Quarter Sessions Presentments, 1779 to 1810, record the manifold public nuisances complained of and "presented" by the Grand Jury. The Corporation itself was frequently presented for permitting nuisances. As the same presentments in some cases recur year after year, it does not seem that the offender was necessarily "one penny the worse" for the formality. In 1810 a hundred persons were presented for trading in Cardiff without having taken up the freedom of the Borough. Eleven of them only were fined, and it must have been soon after this that the restriction of trade to freemen fell into disuetude.

The Cardiff District Order Books, containing the Minutes of the County Road Commissioners for the latter half of the 18th century and early years of the 19th, call for no very detailed notice in this place. It appears that, in 1788, the Commissioners' attention was called to the popular practice of fording the Taff at Llandaff, thereby avoiding payment at the toll-gate. In the following year James Harry was prosecuted for so doing, and suffered execution to be levied upon his goods, taking advantage of the Insolvent Debtors' Act. The County had to defray the expenses of the prosecution in consequence. These books contain a great deal of curious information with respect to the highways, canals, toll-bars &c.