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The Borough of Llanelly

Its Growth and Local Government

Glyndwr Rebellion—a Turning Point.
The legacy of stagnation inherited by the Borough following the Owain Glyndwr rebellion had not only camouflaged its economic significance in the Mediaeval period, but had also eclipsed its antiquity, and consequently, the period may be regarded as a watershed separating the old order from that phase in which the town developed into a highly industrialised centre. In its emergence from its quiescent condition in a slough of inactivity, the Borough became revitalized by the irrepressible and resurgent forces of the national movement towards industrialism which had its sequel in the rapid growth of the town, whose local government exhibited such great divergencies in its evolution from a most corrupt and selfish administration to a corporate authority elected on democratic principles. Towards the attainment of this oligarchic corporation, the Court Leet had upheld and enforced privilege as the deciding factor within the fabric of local administration since acceptance by the Steward and the jurors was the dominant element in the admission of a freeholder to the status of a legal burgess. Co-existing with the Court Leet after the Enclosure Act of 1807, was the newly-constituted statutory authority of thirteen burgesses, known as Trustees, who had been delegated with well-defined and limited powers to carry on the functions of local administration. Thus, there followed some degree of overlapping in jurisdiction between these two authorities, one based on tradition and the other crated by statute, but this juxtaposition was adjusted about 1813, when the jurisdictional activities of the Court Leet became concentrated on the parishes of the Hundred. Unfortunately, the Trustees abused their authority, and their maladministration evoked a scathing criticism from the Commissioner who presented a most illuminating and comprehensive report in 1835. The apathy and ineptitude of this administrative body in a rapidly increasing centre caused consternation and despair among responsible inhabitants whose grievances were ventilated at the Commission of Inquiry, 1843, although these grievances exercised no influence on the Rebecca outbreaks. An outcome of the intense dissatisfaction with local government was another inquiry by a government commissioner, and as a result, a Local Board of Health superseded the “do nothing” Trustees in 1850. The industrial prosperity of the town gathered momentum with the introduction of the tinplate and allied industries, and accompanying these developments was the tremendous increase in the population of the town, whose administration experienced many vicissitudes, culminating in the bestowal of burghal status in 1913.

Increasing Economic Activity.
The “Borough“ was of very small proportions during the Tudor period, and this testimony is maintained in a document of 15661 , which refers to it as a village of twelve households, but Bromley in his Survey of 16092 gives the names of fiftynine freeholders resident within the Borough. Unquestionably, there had been, during the 17th century, a gradual incursion of rural immigrants to the neighbourhood due to early beginnings in the working of coal, since the movement would be stimulated by the rapid growth of this economic activity. The observations of tourists who passed through the town during the 17th and 18th centuries are similar in character, and are conclusive evidence that Llanelly was a small port and market centre where a good trade in coal, cattle, etc., was carried on. Again, some significance was attached to the town’s geographical position as the centre where the Court Leet for the Commote of Carnwyllion was held; this may be illustrated in the Court Leet held at the dwellinghouse of Alice Daniel on the 14th October, 1687, while another example was that convened at the dwellinghouse of John Morgan of Llanelly on the 9th May, 1701 before Griffith Lloyd and Charles Dalton, Stewards to the Right Hon. John, Earl of Carbery. Although Llanelly was described “as a tolerably good town”3 in 1727, a tourist4 who travelled from Pontardulais in 1795 described the “miserable village of Llanelly as being close to the coast and famous for nothing but a deserted seat of the Stepney family.” But, this view is diametrically opposed to the opinion expressed by another traveller in 1796, that it was “a sea-port town with a good trade in coal ... the coal trade makes the population increase and multiply. Old cottages have only a ground floor—many new ones that daily strews this part of the country are built in a better manner.”5 This year (1796) marked the beginning of great industrial changes, so that the increase in population may be confirmed by the reference that "Llanelly House was divided into three messuages-an accommodation much wanted from the increase of population in the neighbourhood."6 But an eminent traveller7 who passed through the town about the same time merely states, “LIanelly is a small town of 51 houses, and governed by a Portreeve,” while “the parish is 7 miles long from Kaslwchwr to Pontyberem, and about 3 miles broad, from Lliedi River to Llannon." The establishment of the Copperworks in the following year (1805) initiated that industrial movement which obliterated most traces of a rural and agricultural economy within the town during the 19th century when the population had increased from 2,621 in 1821, to 23,805 in 1891, and this is corroborated by the description given in 1830, that it was “a thriving market and Borough town—lately undergone considerable improvements, and its trade, its population, and the respectability of its ranks among commercial towns greatly augmented.”8

New Market Places 1828.
Due recognition of the town’s traditional signiflcance as a market centre, and of its increasing industrial importance was displayed by the Trustees when they resolved9 in 1821 to erect a Town Hall for the inhabitants of the town with a lock-up house and Marketplace underneath, on a piece of ground leased from David Lewis of Stradey, for a period of 500 years at a nominal rental of 5/- per annum. The erection of this composite building was carried out in conformity with the Trusts declared by the lease, which was enrolled in Chancery. For centuries the Market had been held around the churchyard and in different parts of the town, but with the succession of William Chambers to the Stepney Estates as tenant for life after the Marquis of Cholmondeley in 1827, two other market places were set up under peculiar circumstances. William Chambers took up residence at the Mansion House (Llanelly House), which had not been occupied by the Estate owner for thirty or forty years, but had been parcelled out into different holdings, and as shops, and otherwise, while a portion of the gardens had been occupied by Robert Rees, a butcher, as a market place which he had underlet to others engaged in the trade. Anxious to restore the Mansion House, the grounds, and the gardens to their original condition, the owner decided to build another place on the estate where people could resort to, before taking away the holding of Robert Rees, and consequently, he erected a Market place in a field adjoining the principal, and then the only street (Water Street) in the town, where “the opening of this new Market place on the 2nd October, 1828, presented a scene of great mirth and festivity..."10 Robert Rees was immediately dispossessed of his holding, and ventilated his determined and embittered opposition to the above project by entering into an agreement with David Lewis of Stradey to erect a market place, opposite to the Town Hall built by the Trustees in 1821, at an outlay of £500, for which he (Robert Rees) agreed to pay 7½% per annum. These two markets were in progress simultaneously, were rival markets and both were opened to the public on the same day; this implies that the construction of both market places was contemporaneous, and this is corroborated by the reference that, “ a market had been erected by Mr. Chambers (who is lord of the layerage of the Port of Llanelly and a very large landed proprietor residing within the town) about the same time that the market place of Mr. Lewis was constructed.”10A

Robert Rees lost heavily on his improvident speculation, since almost all the butchers and people showed a preference for the Market erected by William Chambers. it was feared by the Trustees of the Town that it was the intention of William Chambers to demand tolls for the use of the market, and “a conveyance was made to Mr. (David) Lewis of two pieces of land comprising about ten acres, in exchange for the market place in the town belonging to him, in order that the inhabitants might have the advantage of a market place without the payment of a toll.” It has been maintained that Robert Rees, who was a Trustee of the Burgesses, had persuaded and influenced his fellow Trustees to effect this exchange so as to prevent William Chambers from receiving any remunerative return for his outlay. The imposition of tolls was apparently a very important question before this, according to a petition sent by Ebenezer Morris, Vicar of Llanelly, Morgan Thomas Davies, and Henry Child to the Churchwardens of LIanelly Parish on the 2nd February, 1827, when the latter were requested to call a meeting of the Parishioners “to consider the propriety of opposing a toll which has this week been imposed on corn and other commodities sold in the Market House which has recently been built by the Trustees of the Burgesses for and in the improvement of the Town and Port of Llanelly.”11A This market place had been converted into a Corn Market after the acquisition of the other market in 1829, and was free from the imposition of tolls. William Chambers had never attempted to levy tolls at his market place, but occasionally received from persons using his stalls sufficient rents to defray the expenses of keeping the market place in order and repair. These markets continued to function for some years after the radical changes in local government had been carried out in 1850.

The Court Leet.
According to a government report issued in 1835, LIanelly was described as a “Borough by prescription, there is no charter in existence,” while in the House of Commons on the 5th July, 1835, it was mentioned as one of the towns to be incorporated, but as the proposal did not find favour with the local burgesses, the Government was compelled to withdraw the name of Llanelly before the Bill was submitted to a Committee of the House. The opposition of the Burgesses was inexplicable in view of the circumstances presented in the Report. The members of the Corporation included the Portreeve, and an undefined number of Burgesses, from whom the Jury was elected at the traditional Court Leet held twice a year, in the spring and autumn respectively, by the Steward; there is evidence that the election was carried out by ballot at some meetings. This corporation of Burgesses did not exercise any jurisdiction as a collective body; in fact, it was only those Burgesses who had been sworn and impannelled as elected members of the Jury who did so, and it was only in so far as its constitution varied from one session to another, can the Corporation be described as exercising any administrative powers within the Borough. Thus, administrative functions were discharged by the Court Leet and from an examination of the minutes of these proceedings, there is conclusive evidence that their powers were varied and fairly comprehensive.

At each of these Court Leet meetings, the jury safeguarded their privileges in the commons of the Borough by a presentment that these were “the free liberty and common pasture of the Burgesses of the Borough of Lianelly and none else.”11 It is apparent that their rights of jurisdiction over these commons were absolute since they insisted that, “no consent to build, work, or make use of any part of the Rights of Common be given to rent whatsoever to any person or persons for grazing or any other waste without the same be made at the Leet Court every half yearly meeting when the Jury at such Leet shall be present.”12 The election of officials, such as the Portreeve and Constables was carried out at the spring meeting; the duties of the Portreeve, who paid 6/6 on being sworn in at the meeting, have been described except that he was in virtue of his office a Trustee under the Enclosure Act of 1807. Apparently, there appeared to exist a great deal of apathy among the jurors towards the acceptance of this office, and the retention of the same juror as Portreeve for more than one year was a common occurrence, but a change was effected in these conditions in 1809, when it was decided that “The Portreeve be changed annually in future.”13 Another very interesting feature of these proceedings was the admission of individuals to be freeholders at these Sessions on the payment of 2/6 to the Lord of the Manor, and were thus eligible to become Burgesses.

Other items which were illustrative of their powers of jurisdiction included presentments relating to the Stocks and the Winchester Measure belonging to the market. In October, 1801, the Stocks were reported to be out of repair, and the Churchwardens of the Parish together with the Overseers of the Poor of the Parish were authorised to renew them before the 1st December. Again, the Market’s Winchester Measure was reported to be under 8 gallons, “which is the Statute Winton Measure, to be illegal, and that application be made by the present Portreeve for a proper stamped Winchester Measure at the expense of the Borough,”14 but how the expense could be defrayed by the Borough is difficult to suggest. Even the “Pound,” which was used in common by the Borough and Parish of Llanelly was being presented as being “greatly out of repair and ought to be repaired by the Borough and Parish of Llanelly, and that the same be put in proper repair within one calender month, or be amerced in the sum of £5.”15 Two houses adjoining the Pound were nuisances as they were in a dangerous condition and likely to fall into the Pound, so the proprietors were instructed to put them in a state of safety or “ be amerced in the sum of 40/-." The Court also exercised the right of surveillance over the condition of the local roads, as is shown in the presentment that, “the Gutter before the dwellinghouse of David Rees (Mercer) to be a nuisance and that the same be drained by Mrs. Mary Ball within the space of 14 days or be amerced in the sum of 40/-.” This evidence may be amplified by a presentment for the same session, in which it was necessary to appoint Scavengers for the keeping of the streets of the Town of Llanelly clean, and in consequence, William Child and William Rees, Maesarddafen were presented as ”Scavengers for the ensuing year, they causing the same to be done at their own expense.”16 Unquestionably, the condition of the roads was a matter of great concern, and one such example is furnished in the case of a certain road or common King’s Highway leading from the town to the seashore, which was ruinous and out of repair, and the inhabitants of the Borough were ordered to put the same in good and sufficient repair within three months or be amerced in the sum of £10. Another bridge crossing from Llanelly Mill to the Wern coal works on the road leading from Llanelly to Swansea was stated to be in a dangerous state, and instructions were issued to Messrs. Daniell and Co., (Copperworks), that they should enlarge the same and put it in a proper state of repair, or be amerced in the sum of £20. This same company was also presented at the same sessions of the Court because, “the smoke issuing from the Copper Works has materially affected the vegetation of a considerable part of Morfa Bychan.”17

Functions of Trustees.
These traditional functions were duplicated with the statutory creation of the Trustees as an administrative body, endowed with defined powers and authorised to carry out the provisions of the Act in 1807. They were given the right to appoint a clerk and treasurer, and to keep a record of their Acts, orders and proceedings. In addition to the revenue received from rents after enclosure, money which was to be judiciously and honourably expended in the improvement of the town and harbour of Llanelly, they were given limited powers to borrow money for the same purpose and any residue after the payment of interest, expenses, and expenditure in improvements was to be equally shared among the burgesses on the 25th December, probably as compensation for the loss of their customary rights in the commons. It is manifest from the evidence already presented that there would be a certain degree of overlapping in the functions of the Court Lent and the Trustees, since in the presentments after 1807, the Court Leet presented “Morfa Mawr, Morfa Bach, Morfa Du, Morfa yr Ynis, and Gwern Caeswddy except such parts as have been lately sold by the Commissioners under the Act for inclosing lands, etc. to be the free liberty of the Burgesses of Llanelly and none else.”18 They also presented the Dock lately constructed by Messrs. Bowen and Roderick as an encroachment on that part of the Burgesses’ property called Morfa Du by about 30 yards in length, and that “the representative of Messrs. Roderick and Bowen be served with notice to pay 15/ a year for the same.”19 Again it is apparent that the Court Leet endeavoured to claim authority in precedence of the Trustees because they presented “the new cut for carrying the River Dafen through Morfa Mawr to be too shallow whereby the water flows over the said cut and lodges on the neighbouring lands, and thereby prove a great nuisance and detriment to the adjoining farmers and overflow their lands and thereby injure their grass and herbage and that the evil be remedied by Mr. Neville who undertook the cut for the Commissioners under the Llanelly Enclosure Act within the space of one month, otherwise we amerce such person in the sum of £50.”20 Again, this may be corroborated from another presentment in which it is claimed that ”the waters of the River Lliedi diverted from its old course across the Turnpike road to the Wern and Copperworks Dock to be an encroachment upon the rights of the Burgesses and the Inhabitants of the said Borough, and that the same ought to be turned to its old course, which course runs through the Town of Llanelly.”21 There appear to be no further records available of Court Leet presentments for the Borough after 1813, so that it is feasible to suggest that the anomalous position created by the duplication of administrative functions had terminated at this date or shortly afterwards, thus leaving the Trustees as the sole authority responsible for the administration of Llanelly. This arrangement was inevitable owing to the inherent weakness of a system where representation for the two bodies was drawn from the same source. Therefore, the independence of Llanelly from the Lordship of Kidwelly, which had been initiated with the Enclosure Act, 1807, was virtually complete, and the town may be said to function administratively as a separate territorial entity shortly after 1813.

The Burgesses.
The privileges of the Burgesses had been enhanced by the Enclosure Act, 1807, and their complement of 156 in the latter year had decreased to 34 in 1835. It is obvious that the number of admissions to their ranks had been considerably curtailed; in fact only selections were made between 1807 and 1832, viz. 2 in 1817, 2 in 1821, and 1 in 1831, thereby reversing the policy of generous admissions in previous years. The reason for this diminution was the unwillingness of the Steward to admit any new burgesses, and he was probably influenced by the greater financial benefits accruing from the distribution of the residue among a reduced number of burgesses. It is recorded that22 in 1827, £100 had been distributed between 50 burgesses; in 1828, £192 between 48 burgesses; in 1829, £138 between 46 burgesses; in 1830, £220 between 44 burgesses; in 1831, £220 l0s. between 42 burgesses, and in 1832, £222 between 37 burgesses. According to the instructions in the 1807 Act, the Accounts were to be placed before the Trustees on the first Thursday in July annually, or at the first meeting of the Trustees next following “in order that they may be audited, and passed if approved of.” But the Accounts appeared to be very irregularly kept; in fact, “they have never been balanced since the appointment of the present Clerk to the Trustees, which took place about six years ago (1826).” It was stated to be the practice on the occasion of the annual distribution among the burgesses to have about £100 in the hands of the bankers, and to divide what appeared to be the balance in hand after making provision for all the current engagements of the year. This was stated to be done on a rough estimate, and without any settlement of accounts. No accounts were ever produced to the burgesses. The financial position in 1832 may be gathered from the following:—

23 £ s d
Annual Rent of Land £425 11 8
Cash in Hand of Treasurer £144 0 0
Due for arrears of Rent £300 0 0
Due for Llanelly Dock and Railways £100 0 0
Due from other quarters £100 0 0
Mortgage owing by Trustees £500 0 0
  at 5%

Expenditure in 1832:

Dinners at Court Leet £35 0 0
Contribution to Board of Health for prevention of Cholera £10 10 0
Repair of Embankment £52 0 0
Repair and fittings of Town Hall, and in other repairs and expenses of a public nature £52 0 0

The residue of £222 was shared between the 32 burgesses.

According to the evidence of the 1835 Report, it was stated that the number of houses in 1830 with a rateable value of £10 and over, but under £20 was 48, and those at £20 and over 8. Again, under the Highway Act, 5 and 6 William IV, Cap.50 (1835-36), a Highway Board of twelve members was elected annually for the Borough Hamlet, while a serjeant and two policemen as part of the County police were resident in town. The town’s political association with Carmarthen after a severance of over three hundred years, was renewed under the Reform Act of 1832, when both Boroughs returned one Member of Parliament between them, the population of Llanelly at the time being registered as 4,250 and Carmarthen 9,955. It was also in 1835 that an Act for lighting the town and neighbourhood came into operation. This project had been under consideration since 1833, as well as plans for paving the town and providing it with sufficient water since it was developing at a rapid rate in wealth and population. The promoter of the Gas Company, incorporated by private Act (5 William IV, 1835) was William Chambers, who was instrumental in promoting the scheme after arrangements had been completed with the Trustees.

Local Government continued in the hands of Trustees until 1850, when, owing to the new conditions created by industrial developments, the inhabitants urged upon them the necessity for having a plentiful supply of water and an efficient drainage. Their efforts failed to move the effete governing body, who continued to share the rents, except for a small payment for gas lighting. Written notices were served upon the Trustees, who were informed that in the event of their refusal to comply with the request of the inhabitants, an application was to be made to the Court of Chancery on the grounds of abuse of their trust. This had the effect of terminating the annual distribution of the residue of rents, but no immediate improvements were undertaken, because the money was spent in the payment of tavern bills. Their maladministration had incurred the bitter opposition of the Chamber of Commerce and had created such intense resentment and abhorrent antipathy amongst the inhabitants of the town that it became the subject of a serious complaint before the Commission of Inquiry in 1843. But the real significance of this action must be assessed from the fact that it provided a channel for the ventilation and vindication of an injustice towards society. One of the witnesses maintained that, “there is another grievance in this town—can it be called Municipal when there is no Corporation; it is a town of great importance, 10,000 population in the town and immediate neighbourhood, it is a contributory Borough of Carmarthen, and the property of the town is vested in the hands of Trustees under an Act of Parliament, 1807. There is no local government, the Port has a Portreeve, but he is not a magistrate. There are five magistrates within a radius of five miles. Petty Sessions are held once a week on Saturday— the Magistrates deserve credit for regularity of attendance.”24 The second witness25 continued in a similar strain: “The property vested in the Trustees brings in £500 a year. A large portion of the Trustees have died off, they divide the money among themselves, and we see a great deal of drunkenness in our streets as the result of it. They are allowed to do so— divide the property among themselves. The property is vested for improving the town and it is not so applied. They are their own auditors.” The number of burgesses had been reduced from 156 in 1807 to 25 in 1849, when "the population had increased from under 2,000 to 8,187, and the value of the property within the Borough in nearly as great a proportion.”26 The Trustees were elected for life, their only qualification was that of being burgesses, for which pecuniary circumstances were not a condition. While the majority of the 25 burgesses were resident ratepayers, others were residents, but excused rates, and the remainder were neither residents nor ratepayers. In applying this classification to the 13 Trustees, it was learnt that 8 were ratepayers, residing in the Borough, 2 were resident but excused rates, and the remaining three were neither residents nor ratepayers.

The Inquiry of 1849.
In response to a petition from the inhabitants of Llanelly, the General Board of Health directed G. T. Clarke, a Superintending Inspector to visit the town, and examine witnesses as to sewerage, drainage and water supply etc. The Inquiry was held at the Town Hall, Hall Street, Llanelly, on the forenoons of the 7th, 8th and 9th November, 1849, when the Inspector was supported by R. J. Nevill and C. W. Nevill, proprietors of the Copperworks; William Chambers; G. Harris, Surveyor to the Highway Board; Dr. Benjamin Thomas, Surgeon to the Union; D. A. Davies, Registrar of Burials; F. L. Brown; Rhys Jones, Secretary to the Chamber of Commerce; R. T. Howell and B. Jones, Clerk to the Harbour Commissioners. Also actively interested in the Inquiry was the Chamber of Commerce, a voluntary organisation, which, “in the absence of an efficient local government, has been supported by the community, upon which in turn, it has conferred essential benefits.”27 This organisation had contributed to the amenities of the town through its support of a Reading Room and the Mechanic’s Institute, and in promoting an improvement in the sanitary arrangements of the town, while on the outbreak of cholera, they printed a valuable report and took successful steps in minimising the virulence of the disease. The general scope of the Inquiry may be gleaned from a summary of the statement, submitted by F. L. Brown, on behalf of several influential inhabitants, complaining of:—

1. The misappropriation of the Trust Fund.
2. The inadequacy of expenditure for the benefit of the town.
3. The necessity for a plentiful supply of water.
4. The need for an efficient drainage, as well as the provision of better facilities for the health and comfort of the inhabitants.

Further information is available in the Report on the rateable value of property in the Borough Hamlet in October, 1848, when it was assessed at £11,209, while the only rates were the Highway Rate at 1/- in the £ producing £546, and a Poor Rate yielding £1,829. The latter included a County Rate of 6¼d. in the £, and a Police Rate of 2¼d. in the £, so that the whole burden falling on the ratepayers was an annual rate of 4/3 in the £, returning £2,375, and “if the trust had been properly administered, its funds amounting to about £500 per annum, ought to have been applied in reduction of the preceding amount.”28 There was included also the following details with regard to houses.

According to the Rate Book:-

The No. of houses in the Town proper 652
The No. of houses on the Seaside 452
The No. of houses on the Wern 448
Total 1552

These were rated as follows:

Above £10 per annum 143
At £10 and above £5 per annum 152
At or below £5 1239
Vacant 18
Total 1552

There were also in the Borough 64 Alehouses and 25 Beer-shops, making a total of 89.

As a contrast, the number of houses in 1831 802
No. of inhabited houses in 1841 1358
No. of empty houses in 1841 67
Total 1425

This Inquiry disclosed the beneficent influence of the Chamber of Commerce in the town. In its endeavours to promote the well-being of the inhabitants, a committee of five medical practitioners were appointed to prepare a report on the unsatisfactory condition of local sanitation, and their observations were presented to magistrates in 1847, just prior to a fresh outbreak of cholera. These comments referred to the neglected state of the town’s drains, the complete absence of house drainage, the quantities of putrefying matter lying openly exposed in various parts of the district, and the large number of pools of stagnant water and open gutters, evils which were deleterious to health. They deprecated, “the offensive custom of holding a pig market in the centre of the town, as well as the obnoxious and injurious custom of permitting the washing of putrid skins in different parts of the town—to the rendering of tallow and the existence of tan-pits amidst the dwellings.”29 Although this Committee refrained from recommending any specific remedies, they expressed a hope that, "poorer part of the inhabitants should be made aware of the importance of individual cleanliness in their own persons and the interior of their homes.”30 Again, in 1849, Benjamin Thomas, Medical Officer of the district was deputed by the Chamber of Commerce to investigate the sanitary conditions, and his report was submitted to the Inspector on 9th November, 1849.

He maintained that these conditions were extremely bad in Llanelly, although its geographical situation rendered it “capable of becoming a healthy and salubrious residence, under proper sanitary surveillance.”31 But to the south and south-east were marshy lands which were not drained, and as these “suffered from a constant decomposition of humus,”32 the winds from such directions were responsible for the prevalence of diseases; in fact, “the cholera, which broke out here on the 20th August last, was accompanied by these winds which continued to prevail during the prevalence of cholera.”33 Again, while the suburbs suffered very much from “intermittent fevers,” the town experienced “remittent and continued fevers of a low or mild typhoid type “;34 the mortality from these fevers is slight, but the miasma producing them must have a depressing effect upon the general health.” Other sources, to which the Medical Officer attributed ill-health were “the existence of several ponds of stagnant water, two skinner’s yards, a tan yard, several slaughterhouses, or rather slaughter stables, a numerous array of pigsties, the insufficiency of the street paving, or street drainage and of scavenging operations.”35 He complained also that houses and public buildings, which were built without regard to ventilation, were wet and damp, while the roads had been badly constructed and lacked a solid foundation. In addition to inadequate supplies, the water was not really suitable for drinking or domestic needs, and for these purposes had to be carried considerable distances or purchased from water carriers at a halfpenny per jug of two gallons.

Further evidence of the strict vigilance exercised by the Chamber of Commerce was exhibited in a report prepared by a committee of the foregoing body, who gave an illuminating description of the various streets or groups of houses in the three main divisions in the town. In view of the significance of this report, the Inspector carried out an inspection of the town, and was accompanied by William Chambers, F. L. Brown, Rhys Jones and numerous other inhabitants. The inclusion of some excerpts from the detailed account corroborates and justifies the scathing criticism of the sanitary arrangements in the two previous reports:—

1. “The lane leading from Hall Street to Vauxhall Road is in a very dirty state, with heaps of filth along side of it... at the Forge and Caemain, the cottages are very dirty...

The Forge is a group of 40 to 50 cottages on the south-west suburb of the town. Their rents are from 9d. to 1/- a week. They are built close, back to back without any back premises . . . water is brought from a spring nearly half a mile distant. The cholera was present here with great severity. Chancery Lane contains a detached group of 10 cottages. The rent of each is £5 per annum. They have upper storeys and back premises. Cil Heol is a narrow, ill-paved, and partially drained street, or alley in a filthy state, and containing a slaughterhouse.”

2. "The Seaside contains a cottage population of about 2,000 persons. The houses are for the most part built on a copper slag bank, which forms a dry foundation, and raises the general above high-water mark. Custom House Bank stands on sand. The roads are unpaved and uncleansed, and the water collects in pools in the gutters. St. Davids Row is well built and in pretty good order; several houses in this quarter of the Borough stand little, if at all above high-water mark.”

3. “The Wern form a detached group of 448 cottages, built partly in a bottom, and partly upon a hill side above damp, the drainage is very partial, and the lands above drain upon the cottages. The whole district is very ill-supplied with water and for the most part dirty. The natural drainage is very bad.”

The description of the Market is as follows:

“The Burgesses Market—an oblong enclosure, with sheds round and within it. The floor is badly pitched, the drainage imperfect and there is no water supply. This market was erected by the “Trustees“ and is toll free. Near it is a large tan-yard. The Meat Market is dark and badly drained. At the junction of Thomas and Wine Streets, a pig market is held weekly. The road is unpaved, and the pigs trespass upon the footways in front of the houses and are allowed to go loose about the road. The nuisance caused by the market is considerable and much complained of.” Not only were the roads and streets in a bad condition, but the general arrangements of the streets were extremely unsatisfactory and this is very aptly illustrated in the street between the boundary wall of the Church and Llanelly House, being described as “a passage,” while the streets to the north of the church were “narrow and intricate.” There was also a great need for extending some of the roads to the growing suburbs of Seaside and New Dock, according to the evidence of H. Brodie, a Surveyor, who stated, “There is not a carriage or cart-road from the town to the east side of Seaside or New Dock without going round Capel Als; if new roads were carried out, the distance would be shortened by more than a quarter of a mile.” Apparently the delay in the construction of these roads was caused by the unwillingness of landed proprietors to co-operate in the provision of these arterial links because the above witness said, “It is to be hoped that the landed proprietors who are still averse to the carrying out of so great a boon to the public, will give the matter a second thought, and look to the benefits that will arise from the property which is at present agricultural land, and let at an average rent of £2 per acre, but would then be let for building purposes at an average of £20 per acre.”

Roads and Water Supplies.
The filthy conditions of the roads may be attributed to the stubborn and parsimonious policy of the Trustees in minimising expenditure for the improvement of the town, since scavenging operations were inefficiently performed by eight old and infirm men, who were employed at an average weekly wage of 8/- per week. The artificial lighting of these roads was provided by 45 public lamps, lighted on 179 nights of the year from dusk to daylight, according to an agreement between the Llanelly Gas Co., and the Trustees, who paid £94.10.0 annually at the rate of £2.2.0 per lamp. In September 1848 this service was discontinued owing to the refusal of the Trustees to honour their agreement, but in a new arrangement, the Trustees agreed to pay £65 for these lamps to provide light for 135 nights in the year from dusk to midnight.

The momentous question of adequate water supplies had been delegated to the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, who, in his address to the General Board, stated that “the supply of water to a population of 7,000 people, who are almost wholly without that of a wholesome nature which may be considered fit for domestic purposes, leaving water for personal use totally out of the question, is a matter of great anxiety.” Water for drinking purposes was obtained from the following seven springs: (1) Capel Als, which is near and below a crowded burial ground, is said to be occasionally tainted; (2) Bres Well—behind Llanelly House; (3) Furnace Well—very distant; (4) Waunlle Well—conveniently siltuated; (5) Ty-isha Well—distant from houses and water bad; (6) Llanerch Well—distant and dry in summer;; (7) Kille Well- distant. On the other hand, the supply for other purposes was drawn from the River Lliedi, and other water courses more or less contaminated. During the summer months, water was carried through the streets and sold to the public at prices varying from an average of 3¼d. paid weekly by the cottage tenant to 2/- expended by persons living in more highly rated houses.

On the last day of the Inquiry, 9th November, 1849, the Inspector gave notice of his intention to examine the accounts of the Trustees who were also in session at their meeting on this day. During the course of the Inquiry, they had become aware of the nature and provisions of the Public Health Act, and in anticipation of the Inspector’s proceedings decided to relinquish their claims to the administration of the trust fund, when the following decision was conveyed to the Inspector by the Portreeve:

“We, the undersigned, trustees for the Burgesses of the Borough of Llanelly, being possessed of certain lands and property within the Borough, in trust, for the improvement of the town and the said lands, agree hereby to transfer the rents and profits of the aforesaid land and property from this date to the Board of Public Health, to be applied under the provisions of the Public Health Act, upon condition that all the present liabilities be taken as they now stand.

Dated this 9th day of November, 1849.

Alexander Raby, Portreeve; William Rees (Maesydafen); John Morgan; David Morgan; William Morgan; William Chambers, Jun.; Henry Rees; W. Chambers.”

The receipt of this communication terminated the Inquiry and although the request for a statement of accounts was reiterated, the Trustees refused to carry out this obligation. In the Report issued on the 18th March, 1850, the following excerpts illustrate not only the effects of misrule, but also serve as an example of the haphazard development of towns in South Wales consequent upon the Industrial Revolution:- “LIanelly does not materially differ from the ordinary condition of those towns in South Wales which have sprung up rapidly in the vicinity of collieries and mineral works. Streets are badly arranged, houses built in low, damp situations, floors often below road level, windows small and not made to open, rooms low, dark and damp and back premises either very small or close. Llanelly is, in fact, deficient in almost everything that is usually considered necessary for the good government of a town and the health and comfort of its inhabitants. It has a worse government than that of an ordinary rural parish, since those who administer its funds are irresponsible.” After referring to other defects, such as bad roads, ill-paved streets, indifferent lighting and crowded burial grounds, G. T. Clarke maintained that the application of the Public Health Act would go far to remedy these, since the Act would provide an elective local government, invested with authority to carry out a proper system of drainage and water supply.

For the provision of a more adequate supply of water, the Inspector suggested two alternative sources, viz. (1) The Lliedi River, and (2) the Furnace Pool Brook, and of these two, preference was given to the latter. Some years previously, the valley through which this brook flowed was dammed up, and a Pool of about an acre in extent and known as the Forge Pool was formed to supply the Forge, built by A. Raby. Although the Pool was in a neglected condition, it could be easily cleansed and converted into a reservoir, with a capacity of about two and a quarter million gallons of water. But at a distance of about 250 yards higher up the valley was another pool, which could easily supply the needs of the town, and give a constant supply of water by natural pressure, although “to obtain the storage, it would be necessary to enlarge, cleanse, and raise the embankment of the upper pool.” It was maintained that the arrangements required for this conversion “would be simple, and compared with the result gained, by no means expensive.” The adoption of this suggestion resulted in the construction of Llanelly’s first reservoir in 1854 under the title of Trebeddod Reservoir, which, “consists of an earth dam with a clay puddle core. The depth of water is 24 feet, and the area of the top water 3 acres.” Its capacity is approximately five million gallons.

The Results of the Inquiry.
In a summary of the results of this Inquiry, the Inspector(1) emphasises (1) the higher rate of mortality in the Borough of Llanelly than in the surrounding district; (2) that this mortality together with heavy and frequent epidemic disease are to be attributed to the damp and undrained condition of the town and to the great want of pure water, and (3) that these evils could be remedied at a public charge, amounting to about 3d. per week on each average house, with a private charge of about another 1d. In consequence, he recommended that (1) the Public Health Act, with the exception of sections 50 and 96 be applied to the petitioning borough-hamlet, or Parliamentary Borough of Llanelly. The General Board of Health issued a Provisional Order on the 31st July, 1850, authorising the formation of the Llanelly Board of Health. The Order directed that (1) the Local Board should consist of 12 persons; (2) the entire number should be elected for the whole of the district, and (3) one third (i.e. those who received the lowest number of votes) should go out of office on the day next after the expiration of one year. At the end of the following year, the next four in proportion to the number of votes would cease to be representatives, and at the termination of the third year, the remaining four of the original body were to go out of office. The first chairman of the Local Board was to be William Chambers, Junr., and in the event of his death before taking office, Charles William Nevill. The qualification for membership of the Local Board was that a member should be seised of or possessed of real or personal estate of £500 and rated for poor relief upon the annual value of not less than £14. Fourteen days’ notice of qualification was to be given by owners of property who were entitled to vote. All the powers, authorities and duties of the Trustees were to cease on the appointment of this Local Board of Health, who were to take over all lands, buildings, works, &c., originally vested in the Trustees on the day after the election, which was held on the 25th September, 1850. The town was becoming unified, because previous to 1850, suburbs were rapidly growing at the Wern and Seaside, and it was maintained by G. T. Clarke that “each of these three divisions is increasing, and the whole will probably, at no very distant period, become one large town.” Improvements were also carried out in the sanitary arrangements through the insistent advocacy of Dr. Benjamin Thomas, who was a member of the Local Board.

Public Health Act, 1848.
When the Public Health Act of 1848 was applied to Llanelly in 1850, the Local Board of Health took possession of all the properties of the Trustees, including their two market places. The third market place continued to function under the ownership of William Chambers, who retained possession of the estate until the accession of Sir John Cowell-Stepney (1791-1877)(2) or Colonel Stepney to the property as tenant for life under the will of Sir John Stepney. The new tenant immediately set about enlarging the market, and in 1860 rented the stalls by auction at weekly rents, which amounted to a considerable sum.

After the adoption of the Local Government Act of 1858 the Local Board of Health took measures to establish a public market under the provisions of that Act, and for that purpose began negotiations with Colonel Stepney for the acquisition of land in the centre of the town. Colonel Stepney refused to sell the suggested site by agreement under the Land Clauses Consolidated Act of 1845, on the ground that he held only a life estate, but he proposed under the terms of this Act to enforce the purchase by the Board of his alleged prescriptive rights to this intended market place, together with the tolls, dues and rents in respect of this. He valued these rights at the maximum sum of £3,000, but agreed that the ultimate amount was to be settled by arbitration in the usual manner under the provisions of that Act. On the other hand, the Local Board contended that no such rights existed at Llanelly, or at all events were not vested in Col. Stepney, and that in the establishment of their Market place under the provisions of the Local Government Act of 1858, the rents received for the use of their stalls were merely voluntary payments and would soon become extinguished. Consequently, they declined to recognise these rights or to leave them to valuation; in fact, the attitude of the Local Board may be summed up in the words of one of the members of the Local Board at one of its monthly meetings that “without disrespect to the Colonel, I consider it an act of usurpation to say that the estate hold the right of the public market—the right ought to belong to the Municipality.”

The obstinate refusal of the Board to acknowledge the validity of the alleged prescriptive rights of the Estate tenant influenced its members to make an application for the compulsory purchase of lands, &c., and at a meeting of the Local Board on the 10th November, 1862, it was agreed that Draft notices should be prepared of the Board’s intention to petition the Secretary of State for powers to take lands, embracing the following, (1) Llanelly Park, upper end near Park Street, (2) Vauxhall and lands adjoining Hall Street market, (3) The Corn Market place and Town Hall, (4) Caebont and lands, (5) Lower Wern and lands adjoining, (6) Upper Wern behind the Pottery and Gasworks, (7) The Pig Market. All the lands specified above, were to be utilised for the holding of Markets and Fairs. Again, it was decided at the same meeting that notices should also be given of their intention to apply to Parliament for an Act for the same purposes as were included in their petition to the Secretary of State.

The Llanelly Market and Fairs Act 1863.
There ensued from these long-drawn deliberations and negotiations the Llanelly Market and Fairs Act, 1863, culminating in the establishment of a public Market place in 1864 at a cost of £13,000. The Hall inside the Market was built in 1887 at a cost of £1,400, and the Pavilion in 1894 at a cost of £4,697. The foresight of its founders was amply rewarded by the revenue the Local Authority had derived from this source of municipal enterprise, and this may be verified for 1912, when after the payment of all expenses, including contributions to the Sinking Fund, instalments and interest on loans, there was a surplus of £1,200.

The Cwmlliedi Reservoir 1878.
Commensurate with municipal progress had been the industrial development, and so rapid had been the growth of the town that the reservoir at Trebeddrod was insufficient to cater for the needs of an increasing population and industrial requirements. The Local Board of Health, therefore, applied for parliamentary powers to construct a reservoir in the Lliedi Valley, and in 1865, this authority was secured in the Llanelly Water Act, “which empowered the Board to develop, enter, and impound in their intended works the water of the River Lliedi.” Although the Act was not implemented immediately, the Board continued to abstract water from the River Lliedi by means of a small intake in pursuance of a practice initiated before 1865. However, the urgent need for water owing to the incursion of rural immigrants to this rapidly-increasing industrial centre necessitated shortly after 1870, the inception of constructional work on the Cwmlliedi Reservoir, which, with a storage of 200 million gallons of water from a catchment area of 4,025 acres, was completed in 1878.

The Llanelly Local Board Act 1888.
In view of the great industrial development, which was reflected in the remarkable growth of the town, it was deemed necessary to seek powers to alter the constitution of the Local Governing body by increasing the number of representatives and dividing the towns into wards. The Provisional Order was granted on the 22nd May, 1884, and the previous Provisional Orders were altered so as to provide that the number of members of the Local Board should be increased from 12 to 18, and the district be divided into three wards. It was ordered that six members of the Local Board should be elected for each division, and the election of 18 representatives was to take place on the 7th April, 1885. The new Board was to take office on the 16th April, 1885, when the members of the old Governing Authority were to cease holding office unless re-elected.

Greater powers were conferred upon the Local Board by the Llanelly Local Board Act of 1888, which provided that (1) power be given to the Local Board to charge a District Rate as collateral security for mortgages created by the Harbour Commissioners, (2) certain lands and buildings (Memorial Hall) should become vested in the Local Board upon trust that the said building should be used (a) Saving’s Banks, (b) Benefit Societies, and (c) accommodation of classes, etc., and on the failure of any or all of the said purposes, should be used for such public purposes as the Local Board shall from time to time direct, (3) a certain Hall or building known as Llanelly Athenaeum (built in 1857) should become vested in the Local Board, to be used for the purpose of a literary and scientific institution called and known as the Llanelly Athenaeum. There are other clauses in this Act which refer to (4) Public property undertakings, (5) the Water Rate, (6) Gas Works purchase, but the first three clauses have been quoted in full because the first refers to the relationship between the Harbour Commissioners and the Local Board, especially to the obligation of the former authority to the latter for financial resources, while the second and third clauses demonstrate how the building known as the Llanelly Athenaeum came into the possession of the Local Authority.

Upper Lliedi Reservoir.
The correlation between municipal progress and industrial growth between 1875 and 1889 had been based upon an adequate supply of water when consumption had risen from 100 million gallons to 400 million gallons per annum. From this increased demand emerged the necessity for the provision of further supplies, which were secured by the Local Board in the Parliamentary powers granted in the Llanelly Water Act of 1891. Thus, the local Authority were enabled “to make and maintain a storage and service reservoir“ in the same valley as the Cwmlleidi Reservoir, known as the Upper Lliedi Reservoir which with a storage capacity of 200 million gallons, was opened in 1905. Further parliamentary powers were obtained in the Llanelly Water Act of 1909, to construct Slow Sand Filters at Felinfoel, and to lay down new mains in the town, where the Upper Lliedi Reservoir was reserved to supply water for domestic purposes, and the Cwmlliedi Reservoir retained to meet the demands of industry.

The 1st “Charter Mayor”
The Local Board of Health continued to function until 1894, when it was superseded by the Llanelly Urban District Council, but the constitution of the new governing authority was identical with the Local Board, while the boundaries of the wards had remained unchanged. The prescriptive Borough of the 14th century had suffered many vicissitudes in its chequered history, but with the maintenance of its development, a higher civic status was attained when the Charter of Incorporation was proclaimed at the Llanelly Town Hall on the 30th August, 1913, with its motto of “Ymlaen,” symbolic of its progress, especially since the 17th century, and with Sir Stafford Howard as its first “Charter Mayor.”


  Rateable Value Assessable Value
1848 £11,209 0 0      
1854 £15,916 0 0 £13,964 5 0
1860 £19,593 10 0 £17,412 16 8
1870 £44,614 2 1 £33,571 2 10
1880 £53,702 0 0 £42,868 0 0
1890 £67,834 15 0 £54,381 13 9
1910 £100,182 5 0 £85,828 3 9


1821 2,621
1831 4,173
1841 6,846
1851 8,566
1861 11,084
1871 13,698
1881 19,655
1891 23,805
1901 25,617
1911 32,071


Ward No. 1 534 acres
Ward No. 2 733 acres
Ward No. 3 802 acres
Total area 2069 acres


Births and Deaths registered in the District of Llanelly, year commencing 1st July and ending 30th June 1837-1849.

  1837-38 1838-39 1839-40 1840-41 1841-42 1842-43 1843-44 1844-45 1845-46 1846-47 1847-1848 1848-49 Total
BIRTHS     355 367 389 408 409 371 410 395 373 399 3,876
DEATHS 156 189 188 214 179 205 155 196 262 218 221 145 2,328

The following return supplied by William Rees, Superintending Registrar, relates to the Borough of Llanelly (po. 1841+7095). Year from Ist April - 31st March.

  1843 1844 1845 1846 1847 1848 1849
Births 308 308 288 320 292 275 302
Deaths 152 142 137 197 169 202 120

Mortality in Llanelly for 1841 was little over 23 per 1,000.
Mortality in the Hamlets of Hengroed and Westfa for 1841 was 16 per 1,000.
Mortality in the District of Llannon was 14 per 1,000.
From Report of Benjamin Thomas, Medical Officer of the District.

An Illustration of the Expenses of the Trustees, 1823
From an actual receipt.

June 11th. £ s. d. £ s. d.
43 dinners for Jury, Burgesses, etc at 2/- 4 6 0      
Ale £2.3.0 Wine and Grogs 4 3 0      
Paper 4d. Cryer 1/- Waiter 5/-   6 4      
Paid John Roberts, Constable for summoning the new constable to attend and be sworn before the Steward   3 0      
        8 18 4
Nov. 21.            
35 dinners for Jury, Burgesses at 2/- 3 10 0      
Ale, Grogs 1 12 3      
Paper 4d. Waiter 5/-   5 4      
        5 7 7
Expenses of the room for Meeting 2 15 0      
Sundry expenses of Tenants, &c. 4 14 2      
One Year's Salary as Clerk 10 0 0      
      Total £31 15 1

Received the 2nd day of Februrary, 1824, of the Trustees of the Burgesses of Llanelly the sum of £31 15s. 1d. being the amounts of the annexed accounts as particularised underneath.

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