Ave Atque Vale
A Brief Review of the History of the Quarter Sessions in Carmarthenshire
By Major Francis Jones
, C.V.O., T.D., F.S.A.,
Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary
So far as Wales is concerned the year 1535 is the start point of the history of Justices of the Peace. They were introduced by the act of 27 Henry VIII, c.5 (1535) which provided for the appointment under the Great Seal of Justices of the Peace, Justices of the Quorum, and Justices of Gaol Delivery, who were to act within the Crown lands in Wales. The next stage was the Act of 27 Henry VIII, c.26, usually referred to as the 'Act of Union' whereby Wales was united to England, and the separate jurisdictions — lordships marcher and Crown lands — abolished, and the country formed into shires along the English pattern. The final stage was the act of 34-5 Henry VIII, c.26 (1542), which contained a section (54) stating that Justices of the Peace for the whole of Wales were to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor on the advice of the President and Council of Wales and the Justices of the Great Sessions, or by any three justices of whom the President had to be one. At the same time the Quarter Sessions and the Great Sessions were established for Wales. The latter functioned until July 1830 when they were abolished, but the former continued to function until the end of 1971, a period of four hundred and twenty nine years. The Quarter Sessions were abolished by The Courts Act 1971, which established with effect from I January 1972 a new court, The Crown Court, to try indictments and to exercise other jurisdiction previously exercised by courts of Quarter Sessions.
From 1542 the number of Justices of the Peace to each county was statutorily limited to eight, but this proved unrealistic, and the maximum limit was never observed, so that in 1581, for instance, Carmarthenshire had as many as twenty-five. The seventeenth century saw a further increase in their number, and in 1693 the King was empowered to appoint as many Justices of the Peace as he pleased. In the eighteenth century, the heyday of the squires, their numbers swelled considerably, so that in many counties, including Carmarthenshire, they eventually numbered over one hundred.
The Quarter Sessions met four times yearly, and in addition to their Judicial functions, the civil administration of the country was in
their hands. It is true to say that the rulers of Wales, from this time onwards were the Justices of the Peace operating collectively through the Quarter Sessions. Edicts of central government could not be implemented without the co-operation of these unpaid administrators, and examples exist where they rendered totally ineffective certain acts of parliament which they felt were not in the interests of the inhabitants of counties in which they lived. It was a form of "Home Rule", when the Welsh were ruled by the class best qualified to do so, namely the old landed gentry, from whom the overwhelming bulk of the Justices came.
Maitland's dictum that the office of Justice of the Peace is "the most distinctively English part of all our government institutions" is one with which no informed person will disagree. The work of Justices as individuals is important, but more important still was their work as a combined body within each shire. It is through the co-operation of the Justices of the Peace that the Quarter Sessions became the effective instrument of the judicature throughout the land of Britain.
I wish to emphasise again the Quarter Sessions had two distinct functions. Judicial and administrative matters were dealt with separately. Firstly, the Sessions dealt with criminal and civil cases, in other words, it had a purely judicial function; this aspect of its work continued until it was superseded by the introduction of Crown Courts. Secondly, the Sessions dealt with the civil administration of the county, and, a glance at the records of Quarter Sessions will show that this was undoubtedly the greater part of their duties, a situation which continued until the Local Government Act of 1888 placed administration in the hands of the County Council elected exclusively to undertake that duty.
Few people today appreciate the important part that the justices played in the history of the county from 1542 onwards. Commenting on the introduction of Justices of the Peace in Wales, Trevelyan writes in his History of England,
"supported by the strong arm of the central Government the Justices of the Peace were able to rule in the wild hill regions where feudalism and brutalism had run riot for centuries. These magistrates, under the system inaugurated by Henry VIII, were not Englishmen imported to hold down the natives, but Welsh gentlemen who were the natural leaders of the people".
Before the end of the Elizabethan age, the Justices of the Peace were an essential part of governmental machinery, and gradually became the rulers of Wales. The competence of their main court, the Quarter Sessions, was wide and vague. They could and did exercise "general authority". Their powers were not confined to criminal cases, but extended to adjudicating on certain civil cases. They were ministerial and executive officers as well as judicial, made their own regulations and enforced them. By the reign of James I the affairs of the shire were wholly in the hands of the Quarter Sessions, the supreme authority. Between 1688 and 1835 the Quarter Sessions assumed a legislative authority, enjoying complete autonomy. The Justices acted in three ways — as individual magistrates sitting alone (sometimes in their own parlours); jointly with a few colleagues in a division of the county; and collectively in general Quarter Sessions. It was a case of "Home Rule for Wales", where the land was governed and administered by Welshmen who lived on their own freeholds among their own folk, fully aware of local conditions, and, on the whole, a humane and responsible body of men. We must remember too, that there were very few "professionals" to help them, there was no organised bureaucracy, so that the Justice was no mere figurehead. He was hard-worked and hard-working.
Selection and Number of Justices
For many centuries property ownership was a requirement for election to the Bench, originally land worth £20 annually (a large sum in Tudor times), and although in Wales this figure was lowered, land ownership remained the basic qualification. George Owen, the Pembrokeshire historian (died 1614) tells us that in his time "the Justices and the chiefest gentlemen in every shyre that beare that office, with som learned in the laws", adding, doubtless thinking of those with the lower landed qualifications, "dyvers men lyving are climbd upp to the bench by whom as the sayd statute sayeth the people will not be ruled". Thus it became the preserve of the landed gentry, but from the early sixteenth century industrialists, manufacturers, and well-to-do tradesmen were added, but these always formed a minority. From the early part of the eighteenth century clergymen were added to the Bench. In the nineteenth century, and particularly in the twentieth, the field of selection was considerably widened, so that by today the Justices are representative of all sections of the community. So deeply entrenched was the notion of property-owning, that when the Justices of the Quarter Sessions were discussing the provisions of the proposed Local Government Bill, they resolved (26 April 1888) "That the County of Carmarthen recommends that the qualification for County Councillors whether elected or selected be the ownership of property or residence within the County". That "ownership of property" is placed first in these requirements is a significant indication of their way of thinking.
Those appointed to be Justices had to take statutory oaths in open court, and to present certificates that they had taken Holy Communion in the parish church according to the rites of the Established Church. In 1802 William Paxton, esquire, took the oaths as a magistrate; in 1803 there was a spate of new magistrates — David Heron Pugh. William McClary, Howell Price, Jenkin Davies, the Revd. Lewis Lewis, the Revd. Daniel Bowen, R. I. Starke, Herbert Evans, the Revd. Evan Holliday, Evan Jones of Dolwilym, William Skyrme, Llewellyn Parry of Gernos (Cards), and Lord Kensington; in 1825, Sir William Champion de Crespigny Bt., of Rhosduon Fawr, Pencarreg, took the oath as a landowner of £100 per annum, in 1836 the Revd. Llewelyn Lewellin, D.C.L., Principal of St. Davids College, Lampeter, and in 1864, a ram avis,
Henry Ridgard Bagshaw took the oath as required from him as a Roman Catholic to enable him to act as a magistrate for Carmarthenshire.
At the accession of a new monarch, the Justices again subscribed to the customary oaths. At the Quarter Sessions held on 14 July 1830, it was ordered that all magistrates were to take oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, to His Majesty King William IV. Their loyalty was further expressed in numerous congratulatory addresses to the sovereign and other members of the Royal Family. In 1837 they sent an address of congratulation to Queen Victoria on her accession to the Throne, and an address of condolence to the Queen Dowager on the death of his late Majesty. In 1842 they sent loyal messages to the Queen, Prince Albert, and the Duchess of Kent, on the occasion of an attempt on the Queen's life by one John Francis (a man with no Carmarthenshire connections, by the way). In 1862 they sent an address of condolence to the Queen on the death of The Prince Consort. A more felicitous occasion was the marriage of The Prince of Wales, which drew from the justices in Quarter Sessions assembled the following address on 9 April 1863:
"Most Gracious Sovereign. We your Majesty's Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions assembled, approach your Majesty with sentiments of affectionate loyalty requesting that your Majesty will be pleased to accept our sincere congratulations upon the occasion of the marriage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales with a Princess of the Royal Line of Denmark. We offer up our heartfelt prayers that the mutual affection which was the germ of that happy union may daily increase and that the guardianship of heaven may shield their Royal Highnesses from all events which may have ever a tendency to disturb their future happiness. We fully anticipate that the happiness which we fervently hope may ever attend their Royal Highnesses' path through life may shed a beneficial influence over the sorrow of which your Majesty has been so heavily afflicted and that the affectionate efforts of their Royal Highnesses will ever be directed to aid and support your Majesty in the conduct of the arduous affairs of State and to afford comfort and solace to the hours of leisure, relieved from the duties of the elevated position in which your Majesty's wishes have been so successfully realised by exertions to promote the welfare and happiness of your people throughout your Majesty's extensive dominions".
In January 1879 an address was forwarded to condole with Her Majesty upon the death of the Princess Alice. In April 1864 they sent addresses of congratulations on the birth of Prince Albert Victor to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and a similar address to the Queen. The fiftieth anniversary of the Queen's reign in 1887 provided a further occasion for a congratulatory address.
From medieval times to our own, the Justice of the Peace would sit with his fellow-Justices in general Quarter Sessions for his native shire. In theory all Justices were entitled, indeed expected, to attend, so that when fully assembled, the Court of Quarter Sessions with its Bench of Justices, juries, officials, clerks, lawyers, and prisoners, may have numbered a hundred or more. During the last century the number of Justices who attended the Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions numbered between 6 and 35. In 1863 for instance, the Chairman sat at Carmarthen flanked by 33 Justices. The accommodating of such number inevitably created a problem, and the Carmarthenshire records often mention extensions having to be made to the Shire Hall. During the nineteenth century the work of the Sessions increased rapidly, with the result that it became necessary to appoint numerous committees to deal with matters in detail and report their findings to the General Quarter Sessions, where they were either confirmed or referred back. Some Justices failed to attend as regularly as they might, whereupon the Clerk of the Peace placed an asterisk opposite the names of defaulting members when he prepared the minutes. This custom annoyed some of the Justices, none more so than Mr. Richard Jennings of Gellideg. Accordingly at the Quarter Sessions held on 7 April 1881, Mr. Jennings got on his feet and gave notice that at the next Sessions he would move that the custom of placing stars opposite the names of gentlemen who failed to attend committees be discontinued. The Clerk of the Peace gravely entered the notice of motion in the records of the court. The next Sessions were held on 24 June 1881, and how the Clerk must have chuckled when he entered this minute — "Mr. Jennings's motion to discontinue placing stars opposite the names of gentlemen who failed to attend committees was not moved, because Mr. Jennings was not present".
In well-organised Sessions, the first day was taken up in reading a proclamation of recent statutes, and charges read to the jurors and officials. The hearing of presentments and trial of cases would follow on the succeeding days. A case would normally be tried on the day following the indictment, sometimes not until the next Sessions. However, the administration of county matters, what would be called local government today, occupied most of the time of the Sessions.
The meetings were usually held at the shire halls in Carmarthen and Llandeilo, alternately. But they were by no means always held in these towns or in shire halls in the earlier days. For instance on 1 February 1740 the meeting was held at the Old Plough Inn in Llandovery, when James Price of Cilgwyn the newly elected Clerk of the Peace subscribed to the customary oaths. At the end of that Sessions it was decided that the next Quarter Sessions be held in the inn kept by the widow Chapman in St. Clears, and in the autumn of 1749 they were held at The Red Lion, Llandeilo, when the innkeeper received 40 shillings "for the use of his house to hold the Quarter Sessions"; and in the summer of 1752 they were held at Llandeilo in the house of one Thomas Beynon who received two guineas "for the use of his room to hold this Sessions". The Winter Sessions of 1801 were held in a house in Spilman Street, Carmarthen, and the Spring Sessions of the following year at the Bear Inn, Llandeilo, and the Summer Sessions of 1802 at the house of Vaughan Horton, J.P., in King Street, Carmarthen. During the nineteenth century they were held in the shire halls of Carmarthen and Llandeilo.
All manner of cases came before the Quarter Sessions, the most important ones being sent on to the Court of Great Sessions (which operated from 1542 to 1830) or to the Assizes. They included homicide, assaults and violence (particularly numerous), burglary and theft (there seems to have been a high percentage of nimble-fingered folk in the county), riots, theft from wrecks, forgery, and so on. When an offence merited heavier punishment, the cases were sent to the superior court, that of the Great Sessions. Thus on July 1809 a writ of certiorari
was produced for removing to the Great Sessions the indictment found against eighteen men for unlawful assembly, riot, and demolishing two limekilns in Pendine parish; and in January 1812 a similar writ removed the indictment against Rees Goring Thomas for failing to repair the churchyard wall of the parish church of Llannon, to the superior court.
Some of the punishments may seem harsh to us today, but doubtless "fitted the crime" in a somewhat rough age — imprisonment with hard labour, transportation, "sent to the hulks", whipping, fines, and so on. Thus in 1749 Daniel James, gaoler, was paid £1 for whipping Enoch Charles, a convicted felon. The gaoler himself was no angel, for in the Spring Sessions of 1750 he was fined £5 "for his Insolent Behaviour to the Court now sitting". In 1752 Morgan William a shoemaker of Llangadog was fined half-a-crown for "keeping a Disorderly House". In 1797, nine men were indicted for "a Riot and Disturbance at Llanon, against the authority of the Magistrates there assembled, and the hindrance of justice and in 1801 the Quarter Sessions offered a reward of 20 guineas for discovering the author of a "Threatening Handbill" sent to magistrates in the Laugharne and St. Clears districts. A writ of certiorari
was produced in the Summer Sessions of 1811 in respect of one Thomas Richards of Llandingat "for disquieting and disturbing the congregation assembled at a Meeting house" [place of worship] and for an assault. A more serious case was that of William Prosser who in 1821 was committed for contempt of court and tampering with the Grand Jury. In the Spring Sessions of 1797 it was ordered that the High Sheriff apprehend five men for plundering the wreck of the Swedish vessel, Hedevig Charlotta,
on the coast of Laugharne. Some officials were not beyond reproach, particularly Richard Penry, a constable of Llanedy parish, who was prosecuted in 1797 for forgery, namely altering the figure 6d to 18d, in a pass granted to a vagrant by Nathaniel Morgan, J.P. Men were also fined for failing to attend for jury service after having been summoned to do so; thus in 1834 Thomas Rees of Abercover and William Yalden of Vauxhall were each fined 40 shillings for not appearing to serve on the Grand Jury.
Local officials were punished for failing to attend the Sessions, such as Morgan David, chief constable of the upper division of Cayo, and Samuel Charles, constable of Kidwelly, who were fined 40 shillings apiece in 1751 for non-attendance. Where good reason was shown the names of certain men qualified to be jurors were struck off the list by order of the magistrates. In 1750 Peter Rutherch of Llandeilofawr, and in 1794 John Zacharias of Conwil Elfed, gentleman, were excused further service as they were over 70 years of age and infirm. In 1801, David Jones of Bailybedw, Llanllwni, was excused, "being deaf", and in 1825 William Hancock of Moche, Llanstephan, was granted a writ of ease, "he being liable to fits".
In the Summer Sessions of 1801, Mary Price of Llangunnor was found guilty of stealing a blue, red and white striped petty coat, a check linen apron, and a spotted shawl handkerchief, of the total value of 4s 2d, and sentenced to 6 months in a solitary cell in the House of Correction, and kept to hard labour. For stealing a silver tea spoon valued at 10 pence, in 1801, David John of Cilrhedyn, yeoman, was ordered to be delivered to Sergeant Lewis of the 46th Regiment of Foot to be conveyed immediately to the said regiment then in Ireland, and in the same sessions Priscilla John of Llanarthney was sentenced to 12 months solitary confinement with hard labour for stealing two ducks.
Another form of punishment awaited William Davies, convicted for theft, who was conveyed from Carmarthen Gaol to Portsmouth harbour to he delivered on board the "Lyon" hulk in 1800; and in the following year Hannah Williams, similarly convicted, was conveyed to the hulk "Nile" lying at Spithead. Harry Lloyd, a labourer of Llanfairarybryn having been found guilty of stealing articles valued at 14 shillings in 1821, was sentenced to transportation for 14 years to one of His Majesty's Dominions beyond seas.
On the other hand, a curiously modern ring is provided by an order in the Sessions of 1822 when the Court ordered that a stove be obtained for the lock-up at Llandovery, "necessary for the comfort of those that may be confined therein". In 1795 the County Treasurer was authorised to spend £5 to provide coals for "the poor prisoners now confined in the County Gaol". Neither were the spiritual needs of prisoners overlooked, and in 1810 it was ordered that "six or eight Godly books" be provided for them.
Numerous references are found to Rebecca rioters, and in 1840 the gaoler was authorised "to purchase a caravan for the conveyance of Prisoners" — forerunner of the Black Maria. On 31 March 1840 the Justices authorised the payment of £1 7. 6. to James James, constable for keeping prisoners in custody and attending them before magistrates "on suspicion of destroying the gate and toll house at Evelwen". This was the first tollgate to be destroyed by the apostles of violence who became known as Rebecca rioters. The situation deteriorated so much that on 4 January 1843 the Quarter Sessions decided to apply to the Secretary of State for the Home Department for a military force of 50 men to be sent from Brecon to St. Clears and neighbourhood and to be under the direction of the local magistrate; and 50 special constables to be selected at the Petty Sessions at St. Clears from the farmers of that neighbourhood, and placed under the Inspector of Police; that 30 of the most effective Pensioners in western Carmarthenshire be sworn as special constables, and placed under such command as the magistrates at the St. Clears Petty Sessions should appoint; and finally, that the Secretary of State for the Home Department issue a free pardon to any accomplice or accomplices "in the late outrage, who will give evidence to conviction against the perpetrators of such outrage". The cost of combating the Rebecca rioters, partly borne by the county, proved heavy, and in October 1843 the Quarter Sessions agreed that on account of the distressed state of the ratepayers, the Vice Lieutenant be requested to represent to the Government that the Government should bear the expense of the Metropolitan policemen sent to Carmarthenshire "during the outrages and disturbances and the destruction and demolition of turnpike gates and toll houses by incendiarism".
An echo of the landing of the French at Fishguard occurs in the January sessions of 1798, when the gaoler received 3 guineas for his "trouble and attendance for three weeks watching the French prisoners in the County Gaol".
Movements of paupers and "strollers" to their home parishes was vigorously enforced as they were a charge upon the rates if allowed to remain. Sometimes punishment accompanied the order, as in 1805 when Elizabeth Banner of the parish of Mathry, Pembrokeshire, and her infant male child turned up in Carmarthenshire without means of subsistence. She was brought before the Quarter Sessions who ordered that she be kept in the House of Correction to hard labour for seven days, and afterwards, together with her child, to be conveyed to her parish of settlement, Mathry. Bastardy matters also came before the Justices. In 1820 and 1822, two randy schoolmasters, David Jones of Brechfa and William Evans of Llangathen, were sworn as putative fathers and to be responsible for financial provision for the infants, and in 1826 two persons from Cilycwm parish with the splendid classical names of Sil Silvanus and Mary Augustus, who had loved not wisely but too well found themselves facing a grave Bench anxious to keep the rates down. Such illicit joyousness could be expensive, as John Theophilus of Llanfynydd, adjudged father of Dinah Davies's twins, found in 1796 when he was ordered to pay to the churchwardens of Llanfynydd £9 for Dinah's lying-in, and 3 shillings towards the maintenance of the infants. What tragedy lies behind the following entry in 1836 — "Pay Rebecca Lewis, sexton of Llangadock, 5 shillings for disinterring the body of John Thomas, an illegitimate child supposed to have been poisoned".
We now turn to a more happy side of the Quarter Sessions, namely administration of the county. This touched practically every aspect of life — the levying of rates, care of public buildings, the constabulary, recruiting for the armed services, militia affairs, appointment of officials, licencing of inns, registering of Nonconformist Meeting Houses, weights and measures, prices and wages, care of records, enclosures, Judge's lodgings, bankruptcies, and so on. The following examples illustrate the variety of subjects that exercised the Justices in Quarter Sessions.
First of all, let us look at the officials. By far the most important was the Clerk of the Peace. He was appointed by the Custos Rotulorum, and most of the routine work of arranging the Quarter Sessions fell on him, such as drawing up indictments, arraigning prisoners, making out warrants and orders, keeping lists of jurors, and recording judgements of the Court. He kept the records but that duty he sometimes delegated to a Deputy-Clerk where such existed. The salary he received was derisory, but it must be remembered that the office carried fees, and normally the Clerk carried on a private legal practice as well.
On his appointment he had to appear before the Justices in Sessions to take the necessary oaths. On 1 February 1749 James Price of Cilgwyn, Myddfai parish, having been appointed Clerk of the Peace, before the Justices of the Quarter Sessions held at the Old Plough Inn, Llandovery, took the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, the Test and other oaths, and produced evidence that he had taken the sacrament on Sunday after divine service and sermon, according to the several Acts of Parliament. On 28 December 1834, the Court record reads "Edward Jones of Llandovery, gentleman, produced his Appointment of Clerk of this County under the hand and seal of the Rt. Hon. George Talbot Rice, Lord Dynevor, Custos Rotulorum of the said county, and it was ordered that he should take the oath of office and also the oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration, and he took the same accordingly in open Court". As I have said, the Clerk of the Peace was allowed to carry on a private practice, and received the normal legal fees for work carried out on behalf of the Quarter Sessions which were often considerable. As time went on the tendency was to raise the Clerk's salary and to limit or "peg" his legal fees. In 1829 the Sessions resolved that in future the Clerk be allowed £200 a year "in lieu of fees from this county, money orders excepted", instead of £100 a year as had been agreed in 1799. In 1835 they resolved that he be allowed £270 yearly in lieu of fees, but exclusive of expenses incurred by him in bringing actions pursuant to the order of the Justices, and he was to receive a further £80 yearly for expenses and trouble imposed on him by the Reform Act in respect of registration of electors, and they resolved further that he should be recompensed for any extraordinary work undertaken by him pursuant to any future act of parliament. In January 1853 the Sessions revised the scale, and resolved that £350 yearly "was a fair and proper sum to be paid to the Clerk of the Peace for his salary", exclusive of fees on prosecutions and other legal business transacted on behalf of the county, or stamp duties, fees to counsel, or costs in relation to the Rural Police.
The Justices kept a wary eye on salaries, over which they exercised rigid control. Their attitude is exemplified in a resolution made in 1830, which read, "Ordered that no salary now payable to any person out of County Rates and under the Control of the Magistrates, be from henceforth increased without notice given of such intended increase at the Quarter Sessions previous to the Session in which such increase shall be proposed, and no such notice or increase to be made at any adjourned Sessions, and that notice be inserted in the newspaper belonging to the County". Previous Clerks had not fared so well. In 1795 it was laid down that the salary of Richard Jones Llwyd, then Clerk of the Peace, be £100 per annum; and his successor in office, Charles Morgan, had to be content with a similar sum on his appointment in October 1799.
The County Treasurer, appointed by the Quarter Sessions, was less well off. In 1823 Thomas Jones was appointed (vice
David William Stephenson, deceased) at £40 yearly, and providing sureties in £2000 for due performance of the office. When Richard Rees took up the post in 1836, his yearly salary was the same; and in 1850 Charles Henry Hughes, attorney at law, was appointed County Treasurer at £50 yearly, and also Treasurer of the Police Rate at £30 yearly, he providing a bond with sureties in the sum of £3000; in 1825 the County Solicitor received a yearly salary of £80, and in 1840 his successor was appointed at a salary of £105.
There were other officials who became more numerous as the work of the Sessions increased, ultimately leading to the establishment of a full-time bureaucracy. Among them were the County Gaoler who received £60 in 1794, the Governor of the House of Correction at £105 in 1806, the Court Crier at £15 in 1809, the Surgeon of the County Gaol at £30 in 1812, the schoolmaster at the Gaol at £20 in 1837, the Hall-keeper at £10 in 1823, Bridge-master for the county at £30 in 1812, "upon giving up all other employment", and an Inspector of Weights and Measures in 1846 with a salary of £70, and to receive a moiety of all fines levied, and ten per centum of the fees. Pensions were granted to those who retired. A pension of £50 was granted in 1825 to Benjamin Waugh on his retirement as Gaoler and Master of the House of Correction, and in the following year John Moses was "discharged from the situation of Turnkey in consequence of old age and infirmities attendant thereon, and allowed a pension of £15 p.a." Care of bridges had long been an amateur and part-time concern, but the increase in trade, and subsequently communications, demanded a more professional attention, and in 1848 Richard Kyrke Penson of Oswestry, Salop, Civil Engineer, was appointed full-time Bridge Surveyor for the whole of Carmarthenshire (he engaging to resign a similar appointment for Cardiganshire) at a salary of £150 p.a. including travelling expenses.
Other officials not directly under the Justices were obliged to qualify themselves for their posts by taking statutory oaths and delivering sacramental certificates to the Quarter Sessions. From 1807 onwards the Portreeves of Laugharne and of St. Clears regularly qualified themselves in this manner. In April 1808 William Lloyd of Laques, esquire, took the oaths as High Sheriff of the county. In 1831 the Revd. Joshua Davies took the oaths to qualify himself. In 1808 Thomas Williams qualified himself as an officer of excise, and Hector Rees as Waiter and Searcher at the port of Llanelly. In 1853 Hugh Williams, esquire, duly qualified himself as "Recorder of the Borough of St. Clears".
A large number of clergymen similarly took oaths and made the declarations to qualify themselves for ecclesiastical appointments. In 1831 the Revd, Joshua Davies took the oaths to qualify himself as Prebendary of Llandygwydd, Cards.; in 1833 the Revd. Rice Rees, M.A., Professor of Welsh in St. Davids College, Lampeter, as rector of the sinecure rectory of Llanddewi Felfre, Pems.; in 1838 the Revd. David Lloyd Herbert Thackery Griffies Williams of Llwynhelig, as rector of Penboyr and perpetual curate of Llanfihangel Aberbythych; the Revd. William Harries of Abersannan as vicar of Llanfynydd, and the Revd. John William Pugh of Greenhill as vicar of Llandeilofawr; in 1841 the Revd. John Jones as perpetual curate of Llanreithan, Pembs. and the Revd. Richard Bowen Jones, B.A., as rector of Cilymaenllwyd cum capella
Castle Dwyrhan; and in 1850 the Revd. Samuel Jones as perpetual curate of Eglwysfair-Glyntaf.
Deputations of gamekeepers, usually men of standing, were also recorded in the Sessions. In 1750, the Revd. William Harries of Laugharne, clerk was appointed by Sir John Philipps, Bart., lord of the manor of Llanddowror, and William Plowden of Plowden Hall, Salop, lord of the manor of Oysterlowe Grange, to be gamekeeper within the said manors.
Records of Court
A matter that greatly exercised the mind of the Clerk of the Peace was the care and preservation of Court records. The person responsible for the records was the Custos Rotulorum, usually appointed from the most prominent Justices, but he normally delegated the work to the Clerk, who ensured that they were kept safely and would be produced when necessary. These were statutory papers, and apart from the legal necessity for their conservation, were required for precedents and references to help in current administration. From the historian's point of view, they are invaluable, and a satisfactory history of a county cannot be written without consulting them. In 1794 the Quarter Sessions papers include a payment of £13 2. 6. to David Rees, Deputy Prothonotary, "being his bill for a room to keep the records of the County for twelve years and a half at the rate of £1 1. O. a year", and £2 12. 6. for a deal chest to keep the documents. In 1796 the Clerk of the Peace was ordered "to enquire for a fit and proper place to erect a Record Room and that he enter into a negotiation for the purchase of such place", and in the following year it was laid down that the cost of building such a room should not exceed £160. Accordingly the room was built within the Shire Hall, and in 1798 David Rees was paid £7 7. O. for "his trouble in removing the records from the old record room to the new one", and £5 towards "keeping fire in the record room for the preservation of the County records", and "two old presses" in the Shire Hall were allocated for their reception. Apparently they were not enough and in 1801 the Clerk received ten guineas to procure new presses "for keeping and preserving the records of this Court".
It was decided to build a record room in the shire hall at Llandeilo as well, and in 1802 the Quarter Sessions accepted a plan by the famous architect, William Jernegan of Swansea, for such a building at the cost of £1200. Jernegan completed the work in 1804, and Court ordered the payment of £30 to Thomas Harry, mason, "for facing the Record Room of the Shire Hall in Llandeilo with fine stone work".
In 1836 the Quarter Sessions gave directions "for placing an Iron Chest in the Shire Hall in Carmarthen to keep the records of the County". An entry in the Minute Book, for the Sessions held on 30 June 1887, read, "The Clerk of the Peace drew the attention of the Court to the dilapidated condition as to binding and otherwise of the Books containing the Minutes of the Court from the year 1748 (the most ancient among the Records of the Court) to 1878, and he was instructed to obtain an estimate for binding and indexing the same". On 20 October following an estimate for the work from Messrs. Hadden, Best & Co., was submitted to the Justices and accepted. These volumes, including that of 1748, are now preserved in the County Record Office. It is pleasant to be able to say that in 1959 a proper Record Office was established with two large strong rooms for the reception of documents, and which has been appointed by the Lord Chancellor as the official repository for statutory and other documents in Carmarthenshire.
The Shire Hall at Carmarthen, and its amenities (or rather, the lack of them), often exercised the minds of the Justices, and the Quarter Sessions records contain numerous references to the matter. In 1808 the Justices ordered that the seats of the Jury Box be raised, presumably for the benefit of minute jurors, and at the same time that "Brass hooks for hanging the Magistrates' Hats on, be procured and put up", and that a stove and ventilators be placed in the hall. Ventilation was still unsatisfactory in 1810, when it was ordered that the Deputy Prothonotary "do provide a Presbyterian for the Hall chimney at the Expense of this County". Lest some Nonconformists wilt at this order, I must add that a 'presbyterian' in this context was a kind of iron hood designed to make the chimney `draw'. Problems of accommodation afflicted our forebears no less than they do us today. As the business of the Sessions increased, a cry for more space arose. On one side of the Shire Hall was an inn that rejoiced in the sinister name of "Devil's Tavern", kept by one David Morris. In October 1820, the Justices decided to buy the premises for £570, and to incorporate it with the shire hall, which was done accordingly, and the Grand Jury room was built on its site. In 1828, another tavern, called "The Falcon" near the Shire Hall was acquired for similar incorporation. A third tavern, the "Plume of Feathers" escaped cannibalization and continues to assuage the thirst of burgesses. To pay for these extensions and improvements, the Justices borrowed £2500 in 1828, and made a contract with David Morgan of Carmarthen, architect, for carrying out the projected works. Gas lighting was beginning to come to west Wales, and in 1822 the Justices ordered that a gas light be placed "in front of the Hall" and another "at the foot of the steps". The Shire Hall was completely rebuilt and enlarged in 1829. Some of the basements, and the kitchen remained unoccupied for some time, until some enterprising burgesses "squatted" there, apparently without the knowledge of the Justices. When they discovered this in March 1838 they ordered the "the persons living in the kitchen of the County Hall be immediately sent away".
The problem of space continued to vex the Justices, and in 1861 they undertook further improvements. Not everyone approved of this project, and on 4 November 1861, Rees Goring Thomas, J.P., gave notice that he would propose at the next Quarter Sessions that the improvements going on at the Shire Hall be abandoned, and a new Shire Hall and Judges' Lodgings erected on the Castle Green (i.e. just in front of the present County Hall), a site which had been offered by the Earl Cawdor. However, nothing came of this proposal.
The Shire Hall at Llandeilo is of much later date. In August 1800 the Court studied plans of premises in that town which they proposed to buy for the purpose of "erecting a County Hall and a market place therein for the use and at the expense of the County"; but influenced by the incidence of taxes and rates, the Justices decided not to proceed in the matter until "a reduction in the Militia of the County" had taken place. However, in 1802 the Justices approved of a plan for building a shire hall on a site presented by Lord Dynevor, and an adjoining stable presented by Thomas Stepney, esquire. The building was to include provision for keeping the records, and also for securing prisoners for trial. The hall was eventually built. In 1848 it was put to a use not foreseen by the builders, and a minute of the Sessions held on 6 January of that year reads, "Ordered that the use of the Llandilo hall be granted for the performance of Divine Service therein during the time the church at Llandilo is being built". Several improvements were made to the building later in the century. The Justices were enemies to all forms of waste, as the unconsciously humorous entry in 1858 indicates — they ordered that "the useless stove" in the Llandeilo hall be removed for use in the county gaol.
Mention of Judge's Lodgings directs our attention to another aspect of the administrative work of the Quarter Sessions, for the County officials were responsible for looking after visiting Judges of Assize. All aspects of the comfort of such legal luminaries were studied. In 1820 for example David Morgan, carpenter, received £10 for constructing water closets for the judges. In 1829 the Clerk of the Peace was instructed to agree with Thomas Jones and William Moss of Carmarthen, for furnished lodgings, for 21 years at the allowance of £20 for each Quarter Sessions. But this arrangement did not last long. Complaints about such accommodation are evidently nothing new. In April 1833 the Justices in Quarter Sessions considered that the Judge's Lodgings were "Inconveniently small, of which repeated complaints have been made", and ordered five magistrates, John Jones, John George Philipps, Grismond Philipps, John Lloyd Davies, and Thomas Morris, "to select the most commodious and best calculated appartments that can be found in Carmarthen for that purpose". In July 1834, as a result of the recommendation, the Justices agreed to use the house of Richard Spurrell in King Street for the Judge, at £40 per annum, and any further sum that the Government might allow. In 1839 the rent was increased to £50, and Spurrell's house remained the Judge's Lodgings for many years.
The Walls of Carmarthen Castle
The walls of the ruined castle of Carmarthen often engaged their attention, particularly as they were occasionally considered a threat to life and property. There had been some complaints in 1802, and in the Epiphany Quarter Sessions the Justices ordered Richard Owen, mason, to survey the castle walls and repair them "at the expense of this county". In 1804 an order was made to build "a depot" in a tower of the castle. In 1811, the condition of the walls again caused concern, and two Justices were ordered to inspect them and to repair defects. As a result of their report, a committee of Justices was formed in the following year, empowered to make contracts for necessary repairs, while the damages "occasioned by the falling of the said wall" were to be settled by the committee and compensation paid by the County Treasurer. Among the sums paid out was £73 to one George Richards for damage caused to houses by the falling of the wall.
In 1789, the year the Bastille fell, the rulers of Carmarthenshire erected their own "Bastille" in the form of a Gaol within the area of Carmarthen castle, entered through a fine entrance designed by no less than John Nash
. References occur in the Quarter Sessions records to subsequent repairs and extensions made to it. The development of industry and rapid growth of population, alas, increased the criminal work of the Courts, and the Goal became a "full house". In 1867 large extensions were made, and the adjoining ground, part of the site of the old castle enclosure known as Castle Green, on which stood a smithy and six cottages, bought from Lord Cawdor for £1300.
There are numerous references to the administration of the gaol, extensions, improvements to the fabric, appointments of officials, payments, etc. A few examples must suffice to indicate what went on. In 1795 the County Treasurer was ordered to pay up to £1 10. 0. to buy necessaries for "old Gwen Owen" and David Evans, two prisoners in the gaol and also to provide oakum "or other proper article to set the prisoners in the House of Correction to work". New hinges and locks, the latter "of best construction", — for doors were continually being bought. In 1849 the Sessions ordered that the menu for Class I convicted prisoners should consist of a pint of gruel for breakfast, a pound of bread for dinner, and a pint of gruel for supper.
On an old plan
of the gaol an area is marked as "Trebanda", the meaning of which escapes my comprehension. In 1831 the Clerk
of the Peace contracted with George Howell, mason, for repairing "the Trebanda" in the county gaol, and keeping it in repair for seven years, at the cost of £40 8. 0., the work to be "certified workmanlike" by David Morgan, architect. Less mysterious was the treadmill, and contracts for the building of such a fabric "with one pair of stones and two boxes for prisoners" were invited in 1832. Numerous orders were issued in 1839, namely that boards should be placed in front of the treadmill to prevent prisoners seeing passers-by, but to be placed "so as to admit air"; that one or more tin or copper ventilators be placed at the sides of the mill; that convicts were not to receive letters or visits from friends during the first six months of imprisonment except "under peculiar and pressing circumstances"; that a dark cell be fitted up for the punishment of "refractory prisoners"; and that boards be placed on the outside of windows in the female debtors ward "as may prevent them seeing males walking in the yard". In 1844, £90 was paid for enlarging the treadmill. More ominous was the work undertaken in 1845 by James Griffiths, smith for "making new oak doors for the gaol, and flagging under the drop".
Other buildings for which the Quarter Sessions were responsible were the House of Correction, alongside the gaol, and the lunatic asylum kept for some time in a building against the inner walls of the old castle.1
New accommodation for these unfortunates was arranged in due course. In 1839 a committee of magistrates was formed to discuss with similar committees from Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire the possibility of erecting a Lunatic Asylum for the three counties, which later was brought to fruition. The building became too small to accommodate the patients satisfactorily, and in April 1876 it was ordered that £278 17. 0. be granted towards furnishing the mansion of Job's Well for the reception of pauper lunatics. In October 1878 the Sessions ordered that the Committee in Lunacy be authorised to rent Rhydygors mansion for 3 years at a rent not exceeding £100 and rates and taxes of which Carmarthenshire should pay a due proportion with the other counties, and two years later Lord Emlyn gave notice that at the Next Quarter Sessions he would ask the Court's sanction to be given to the Joint Counties Lunatic Asylum for taking Rhydygors for 21 years at £100 per annum.
The building of lock-ups, especially after the establishment of the Constabulary, became an additional duty of the Sessions. Of course they were in existence before this, for in 1794 we read that the burgesses of Llandovery were presented in the Sessions "for not keeping a public gaol commonly called a Lock up house
for confining, securing, and keeping in safe custody all offenders and prisoners taken up in the said borough". There were numerous lock-up houses in the county with an official in charge of each. In 1830 one Thomas William was appointed keeper of the lock-up at Llangadock, at a salary of £3 p.a.
Militia matters, recruiting for the armed services, gazetting of volunteer officers, payment of allowances to wives of militia-men, stores, accommodation, etc, also came under the Sessions. In 1795 the Justices ordered the Treasurer to make payments to High Constables of the Hundreds, and the clerk of the Petty Sessions for "raising men for the service of His Majesty's Navy". In January 1799, the Treasurer was ordered to pay £2 8. 0. to the Clerk of the Peace for inserting in the Gazette the appointments of Lord Cawdor as Colonel of the Carmarthenshire Militia, Major Williams, and other officers of the unit. They paid for the conveyance of baggage of both regular and militia units in the county, and this formed a recurring item until about 1875. In 1795, the Justices ordered that 16s. 6d. be paid to a carter for carrying the baggage of a troop of the Somerset Fencible Cavalry from Carmarthen to the Breconshire border, and 8s for carrying the baggage of a troop of the 38th Dragoons from Carmarthen to the Pembrokeshire border, and 12s 9d for carrying the baggage of the Carmarthenshire Militia from Carmarthen to Llanelly. They were responsible for building the barracks, and a magazine for the storage of gunpowder. These were heavy charges on the county, and finally the Government took over all military responsibilities, and on 5 January 1877 the Quarter Sessions transferred the Carmarthen Barracks and the acre of land on which it stood, to the Secretary of State of the War Department.
One of the most important aspects of Quarter Sessions work was the levying and collecting of rates. The Treasurer advised the Justices on the total sum required. The Clerk and Treasurer then drew up a list of the hundreds and parishes, and, based on population, calculated how much money each parish should contribute. The actual extraction was carried out by the Overseers of each parish, who handed the money over to the High Constables of the hundreds, and they, in turn, handed it to the County Treasurer.
In addition to a general rate, certain areas were ordered to pay a specific rate as and when necessary. In 1750 the Justices ordered that a rate of 4 pence in the pound be assessed on the inhabitants of Llanon for repairing highways within that parish. In 1794 they ordered the Clerk of the Peace to issue a warrant to raise a rate of 9 pence in the pound on the inhabitants of Glyn in Llangyndeyrn, towards repairing a road in the hamlet and also to reimburse the surveyor for purchasing land to widen the road, and they nominated Daniel Jones of Gwndwnbach to be assessor, collector, and treasurer for the rate.
The general rate contained a good deal of information concerning the rateable value of each parish. For instance in 1822 the Clerk of the Peace issued his warrant to every chief constable of each hundred and commote to raise £600 for a county stock. This sum was then subdivided down to parish level, according to the order of the court, by five Justices — John Jones, Lord Dynevor, the Hon. George Rice, John Edward Saunders, and Robert Waters — as follows: Kidwelly commote (7 parishes), £65 13. 4 1/2.; Iscennen commote (6 parishes) £39 1. 6. ; Carnawllon commote (4 parishes), £37 5. 6.; Cathinog hundred (9 parishes, and part of a parish) £68 18. 9.; Cayo hundred (6 parishes and part of 3 parishes) £80 O. 9.); Perfeth hundred (6 parishes and part of two parishes) £79 11. 6.; Elfed hundred (13 parishes and part of one parish) £82 12. 9; and Derllys hundred (24 parishes and part of one parish) £148 15. 10 1/2. Although retaining their identity as ecclesiastical parishes, by today, several of them have been absorbed administratively into the larger civil parishes.
The justices in Quarter Sessions were responsible for licensing dissenting ministers and also registering houses wherein Dissenters could worship. The large number of entries in the second half of the eighteenth century onwards indicates the growth of Nonconformity in Carmarthenshire. A few must suffice. In 1749 six houses were registered as "meeting houses for dissenting Protestants", namely Argoed in Bettws parish, a house in the village of Llanfairarybryn, Llwynwhilog in Llanelly parish, Cilygell Ganol in Pencarreg, a house in Laugharne, Bwlchgwynt in Ciffig. The Chairman of the Justices who granted these applications was Griffith Philipps of Cwmgwili, a landowner well-known for his humane and liberal tendencies. Maurice Griffith attended the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions in 1750, when he made his Declaration and subscribed his Assent to the 39 Articles of Religion, except the 34th, 35th, 36th, and part of the 20th, in order to qualify as a Protestant Dissenting Teacher, and took the Oaths and subscribed the Declaration against Transubstantiation. This formula was applied in all such cases. In 1752 "the new house lately built near the Strand" in Laugharne, was registered as a place of worship for dissenting Protestants; in 1797, Ty'r Bont at Llangendeirn was registered; in 1801 a room and stable adjoining, in Llandovery, was registered in favour of Dissenters of the Baptist denomination. The formula was invariably the same in these cases; for instance, in 1799 a meeting house erected on the tenement of Alltddu in Llandilofawr parish "for preaching the Gospel and administering the sacrament by a certain sett of people calling themselves Protestant Dissenters be registered by the name of Salem Chappel". Sometimes the name of the denomination is given, such as, in 1803, Trefach in the chapelry of Eglwysfair a Churig (Independents), in 1806 Conwyl Elfet [t? -- ChrisJones
] Meeting House (Independents), Cwmsarnddu in Cilycwm (Baptists), and Llanpumpsant Meeting House (Methodists), in 1809 Philadelphia in Llangunnor (Presbyterian). Some of these meeting places were built as chapels, others were held in houses, such as "a certain house in the village of Mydrim called the Poorhouse" registered as "a place fit for religious worship" in 1811. Only one case of rejection has been found. The Session for October 1801, records: "Forasmuch as it appears to this Court that the House called Bremenda in the parish of Llanarthney is a Farmhouse, it is therefore ordered that the motion for registering the same as a place for Divine Worship, be rejected". A case where cattle and corn came before prayers and hymns.
Roads and Bridges
The care and maintenance of roads, bridges, and footpaths — extremely important in a rural economy — proved to be one of the heaviest of the duties of the Justices of the Quarter Sessions. In addition to receiving reports and presentments, and issuing orders for repairs, the Justices made contracts and carried out inspections. They often paid for repairs out of their own pockets, and were reimbursed by the County Treasurer after the sum had been approved in Quarter Sessions. In 1749 the Justices ordered that 14s be paid to Thomas Lloyd of Wenallt, J.P., expended by him in repairing Cowin Bridge. Several payments were made in 1794, inter alia,
£4 6. 0. to Morgan John for "gravelling" the New Bridge by Llandovery, and £5 5. 0. to Thomas Vaughan for "repairing the battlements" of Pontantwn bridge. Presentments were made against parishioners or the county for failing to see that bridges and roads were maintained, and many of them refer to bridges on the boundaries with neighbouring counties. At the July Sessions of 1790 a presentment was made against the inhabitants of the county for failing to repair the one-half part of the Carmarthenshire side of Ponteglwysfair bridge over the river Taf which was on the boundary with Pembrokeshire, but this was discharged in the autumn sessions of 1794, the repairs having been effected. In 1833 the parishioners of Egremont were presented for not repairing the road from Maenclochog (Pems.) to Narberth, from the road which crosses the river Cleddef called Feidir Dwr ending at Egremont bridge, being 902 yards long and 10 feet wide. The illogical zig-zag boundary between the two counties at this spot was productive of much trouble to the administrators. This topographical lunacy still exists. In 1795, John Thomas, Bridgemaster for the county, submitted an estimate of £9 15. 6., for repairing Spydders Bridge, and "the long walls from the bridge to the Ladies Arch" and the magistrates ordered that John Rees of Cilymaenllwyd, J.P. be requested to employ persons to undertake the work; and later in that year the inhabitants of Llandurry were presented (and acquitted) for not repairing the high-road from Nantygro on the confines of Llangyndeyrn and Pembre to the junction with the Kidwelly turnpike road "adjacent to the south end of Pont Rees Spwdwr. This would seem to explain the strange name 'Spudder's Bridge — Pont Rees Pwdwr (the bridge of idle Rees). Some landowners magnanimously gave lands so that bridges could be made and roads improved; in 1801, Sir Watkin Lewes gave land so that a new bridge could be built over the river Cowin on the highroad from Carmarthen to St. Clears.
In 1825 the sum of £12 was given to Thomas Howell of Glaspant, J.P. (ancestor of Mr. Harry Howell, J.P.) to be laid out, under his inspection, for repairs to bridges at Cwmcych, Pontedwst, and Cwm Morgan. The Justices stood for no nonsense in the matter of upkeep of roads. In 1807, when the parishioners of Llanelly neglected to repair a road 3 miles long and 12 feet broad, from Llandaven to the river Loughor, they were fined £100, and Charles Nevill, gentleman, was ordered to see that repairs were properly carried out. Footpaths were as much of a headache to the Justices then as they are to the County Council today. Rights of way were jealously guarded. For instance in 1800, Ann Griffith spinster and John David yeoman, both of Llanddeusant parish, were presented for "stopping up and placing a certain dead hedge" across an ancient common and public footway from the market town of Llangadock towards Brecon and through a close of land called Ca Evan Saer being part of the tenement of Aberllechach in the hamlet of Maesffynnon. On this occasion the Justices were either somnolent or merciful, for they only fined them 6d each. The outcome proved different for the parishioners of Cilycwm and Llanfairarybryn, guilty of not repairing "a common and ancient foot bridge", over the river Towy near Glanrhyd, in 1807. They were fined £60, which sum was to be applied to the repair of the neglected bridge. Finger-posts claimed attention in 1806 when Mr. Thomas Bishop was ordered to procure "Directing Posts" to be put up for the new road near Llandovery ford. The Justices were responsible, too, for the only drawbridge in the county, near the mouth of the river Loughor, a responsibility they shared with the Glamorgan Justices. In 1846 the Carmarthenshire Justices paid 3s 6d a week to one John Jones "for opening and shutting a Draw Bridge at Loughor", and scraping and repairing its surface.
Use of Welsh Language
In view of what is happening today, it is interesting to note that Carmarthenshire was a pioneer in bilingualism for official purposes, and the records provide numerous examples of the implementation of this policy. In 1796 the Justices ordered that the Revd. Thomas Price be paid £6 6. O. for translating Form of Prayers into the Welsh language for the use of prisoners in the county gaol, and for printing several dozens of such forms. In August 1804 the Sessions ordered that 200 copies of the Salmon Fishery Act be printed in Welsh and English and distributed over the county. In April 1806 they ordered that regulations concerning the driving of carriages should be printed in both languages and posted in public places. In 1822 they ordered that the fifth clause of the new Turnpike Act be printed in both languages, and ten years later ordered the County Printer to print 400 copies of "Caution to the drivers of Carts" in Welsh and English. In 1834 they ordered that 1000 handbills in Welsh and 1000 in English be prepared by the Clerk, setting forth the material clauses from the Act of 4 and 5 William IV, cap 49, concerning weights and measures, to be handed to the Chief Constables of the Hundreds who, in turn, were to pass them to clergymen and petty constables. In January 1836 the Justices appointed Samuel Evans, a Carmarthen printer, to be "Interpreter of the Court and to be engaged in all matters unless the parties agree to the contrary". In 1840, the Court ordered that Lord Normanby's letter addressed to the Lord Lieutenant, concerning "Blasphemous Publications" should be translated into Welsh, printed as handbills, and circulated by the clerks of the different Petty Sessions. In 1841 the Justices ordered that 12s be sent to the District Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, to buy Welsh testaments for use in the county gaol, and the following year paid 19s 4d to provide Welsh and English Common Prayer Books. In 1866 they ordered copies of an Order in Council to be printed in both languages.
Of this attitude towards the language by our former administrators, the squires of Carmarthenshire, we may be truly proud. Perhaps that ebullient pop-singer, Mr. D. Iwan might like to set this bilingual record to music.
The Justices were not indifferent to cultural matters. In July 1867, they resolved "That the promoters of the next Carmarthen Eisteddfod be authorised to use the Shire Hall at Carmarthen for the purposes of Social Science and meetings", and in the following October decreed "That the Shire Hall in Carmarthen be at the service of the Penny Reading Society, until countermanded, provided no damage is done thereby to the hall". There is no indication that permission was ever withdrawn. In 1875 they authorised the Cambrian Archaeological Society to open "a bricked-up doorway in the old castle at Carmarthen", and having carried out an examination, they were to close the doorway up again. The Justices had acquired several pictures, mainly portraits, to hang in the shire hall, and took good care of them, so that they have survived to our day in excellent condition. In the minutes for 11 October 1829 we read: "That the Thanks of the County are peculiarly due to the Reverend Edward Picton, Clerk, for his very handsome present to the Subscribers to the Column in Memory of his Brother, the late Sir Thomas Picton, and particularly to the Lord Lieutenant and Magistracy of the County for a full length Portrait of that lamented Hero . . . That every care be adopted to preserve to future Ages this splendid likeness of the form and features of a Man the Memory of whose heroic deeds will live for Ever in the recollection of his grateful Countrymen and whose praise so justly merited will always excite the pride and Emulation of Britons in general and Welshmen in particular". In 1881 the Justices accepted the County Surveyor's recommendation that pictures in the Carmarthen Shire Hall should be cleaned and varnished, and ordered accordingly.
Other activities, somewhat less cultural, took place in the hall on occasions. Dinners were held there, but these were discontinued by order of the Justices. In 1867 they granted permission to the Revd. D. Archard Williams, Archdeacon of Carmarthen, who had applied to hold a bazaar for three days in the basement of the Shire Hall, but added that no bazaars should be held there after that. The fact that the Archdeacon was a Justice of the Peace himself may have had some bearing on the success of his application.
A large number of these useful organizations sprang up in Carmarthenshire from 1750 onwards. They were required by law to be registered with the Clerk of the Peace and entered among the records of Quarter Sessions. They were mainly run by men for men, and did a lot of good, especially in alleviating difficulties when people were suffering from ill-health. However, Carmarthenshire seems to have led the way in "Women's Lib", as shown by the Quarter Sessions order of 16 January 1798 — "That articles of a Friendly Society held at the Sign of the Nags Head in the town of Llandovery, called 'The Female Society', be filed; and on 9 October 1799 "the Articles of a Friendly Society held in Llangadock called The Reputable Female Society be filed". Among the men's friendly societies were "The Gomerian Society" meeting at the Red Lion in Llandybie, "The Llanelly Brotherly Society" meeting at the Barley Mow, Llanelly, and "The British Faithful and Friendly Society" meeting at the sign of The Cross Hands at Llannon — all of which were in existence in 1846. There were Ancient Britons, Loyal Britons, Royal Britons, True Britons, Cambrian Union, Cambrian Benefit Society, Llanelly Brotherly Society, Loyal and Liberal Society, the United Brethren, the Welfare Society, and many more.
The administering of the constabulary became an important aspect of the work of the Sessions. The first reference to the establishing of a force in Carmarthenshire occurs in a resolution of the Quarter Sessions held on 10 April 1839, and is worth quoting in full since it illustrates the attitude of the Justices, landowners to a man, to its control. It reads as follows: "The Court having taken into consideration a communication from Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department as to the establishment of an efficient constabulary force appointed and controlled by the Magistrates of each county, would afford much better means than now exists to allay every disturbance that might possibly occur, but they view with alarm any intention of vesting in any other body the right of appointing such force, as taking from them the only effective means of acting as conservators of the Public Peace and imposing upon them and their Tenantry the costs of maintaining an establishment without giving them a voice in its formation". In the event, the Constabulary, its recruits, direction, and administration, remained in the hands of the squires, and, it may be said, a very good job they made of it. On 25 July 1843, the Justices resolved: "That a Rural Police be appointed for this county under the Provisions of the Act 2 & 3 Victoria, cap. 93, and that, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, to appoint one Chief Constable, 6 Superintendants, and 50 Constables", at the following rates of pay :
— £300 p.a., plus £150 allowance for 2 horses, house rent, and travelling expenses.
— £120 p.a., plus £34 for a horse and travelling expenses.
— £1 2. 0. a week.
1st Class £1 a week, and 2nd Class 18s a week.
The money for the first three months of the Force's existence was to be raised by a rate of one penny in the £ upon the sum of £324,100, which was the annual rateable value of the county at that time.
On 28 June 1843, Captain Richard Andrew Scott was appointed Chief Constable, and on 4 March 1845 Major Kenneth Alexander de Koven was appointed Deputy Chief Constable.
The administration of the constabulary took up a great deal of the time of the Sessions, and the new organisation developed into an effective force. Its numbers increased, new lock-ups were built, and the incidence of crime was kept down. The Chief Constable suffered a shock in 1850 when his salary was reduced to £250. After that the wages increased, but somewhat tardily. In 1866 the Chief Constable's salary was increased to £350, in 1873 to £400. On 8 April 1875 Superintendent William Philipps (kinsman of our late Lord Lieutenant Sir Grismond Philipps) was appointed Chief Constable, vice R. A. Scott, deceased, and his salary fixed at £400 inclusive of travelling expenses.
Chairman of Quarter Sessions
Originally, the Custos Rotulorum (appointed by the Lord Chancellor) was presumed to preside over his fellow justices, although the law made no provision for a chairman. It became customary for the Chairman to be appointed by the Justices from among themselves, and generally speaking he was no more than the spokesman for the Bench. But where the Chairman enjoyed a great local prestige, and was particularly active in the discharge of his duties, and possessed a strong personality, it was possible for him to impose his views on his fellows. Carmarthenshire was fortunate in the quality of its chairmen, who regularly attended at Sessions and took a prominent part in county life. Among these was John Johnes of Dolau Cothi who resigned in 1873, having been Chairman for nearly 20 years. He was a much loved figure, owner of an extensive estate, Welsh-speaking, and thoroughly conversant with all aspects of country life. He was followed by an Anglo-Saxon, Hardinge Stanley Gifford, Q.C., M.P. for Launceston, an Inner Templer, one of the most distinguished lawyers the country has produced. He resigned the chairmanship of the Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions in 1885 when he was created Baron Halsbury, and went on to higher appointments — Solicitor General 1875-80, Lord Chancellor in 1885-92 and 1895-1905. He became a Privy Councillor, and in 1898 was advanced to the dignity of an earldom.
Much more could be told of the Quarter Sessions and its work. How it conducted itself during the Rebecca Riots, how it combated the great cattle plagues in 1751 and 1865-67, how it opposed the Government's plan to impose a toll on lime (much used by Carmarthenshire farmers), how it governed prices and wages, and administered the county generally.
In this essay I have emphasised the administrative aspect because the Municipal Corporation Act of 1835, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1854, and particularly the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 which created County, Parish, and District Councils, resulted in the elimination of most of the powers and duties of Quarter Sessions in the administrative field. Since 1888 their functions have been almost wholly concerned with the dispensation of justice, and their judicial powers expanded steadily with the increase of the number of offences summarily punishable. Accordingly, we are apt to forget that it was once an all-purpose instrument without which the country could not have been governed adequately from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Queen Victoria. I am not exaggerating when I say that the most important single influence on the lives of the people of Carmarthenshire in post-medieval times was the Justice of the Peace.