Modes and Manners in Another Age
By T. L. EVANS,
B.A., Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys, Carmarthen.
RESEARCH into the history of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School involved perusal of the Carmarthen Journal
files and I found it impossible to ignore interesting items which were not relevant to my special field of enquiry. As a result I made copious notes on various facets of life in Carmarthen and district which present a picture, albeit incomplete, of life during the period from 1811 to 1835.
The Napoleonic Wars were a period of great stress and there was an appeal for money to buy barley for the poor. Four years later, in 1816, the Corporation subscribed £20 towards reducing the price of barley to the poor. Conditions had not basically improved by 1823, when the news was reported that a Carmarthen woman who had left her baby at home for a short while at Fountain Hall returned to find the child's head in the mouth of a half starved pig kept by neighbours. The child died in agony the following day and there was an outcry against the number of ravenous pigs in the town.
Poverty may have encouraged crime even though the penalties were severe, as illustrated by the sentences handed out by the Great Sessions in Carmarthen in 1819: Thomas Jenkins, stealing two horses — sentenced to death; John Rees, stealing clothes — death; Thomas Jones, stealing from a shop — transportation for seven years; David Evans, stealing sheets and blankets — death, but the sentence was expected to be commuted to transportation for life. There were more heinous crimes, for the resurrection men were busy in Laugharne in 1828 when they robbed the grave of the body of a crew member of the Emma, wrecked on Cefn Sidan. As Carmarthen was a busy seaport it is not surprising to find evidence of an ancient trade being practised, for in 1830 Charlotte Jones, one of the 'fair Cyprians' of the town preferred a complaint against William Brown one of her 'fancy men', for a violent assault.
Pistols for Two
The affluent had a much more comfortable time. County families had their town houses in Quay Street, King Street and Spilman Street for the winter season. According to a contemporary, the Rev. D. Archard Williams, it was to attract the support of the gentry that the political parties started two Hunts, the Red Coat Hunt, the hounds being kept in what became known as Red Street, and the Blue Coat Hunt, the hounds of which gave their name to Blue Street. Winter balls were held in the larger hostelries like the White Hart in Queen Street, tickets costing 7s. 6d., equal to a week's wage for a labourer. A pointer to the social importance of Carmarthen was an advertisement in the Carmarthen Journal
in 1819 by the famous portrait painter Romney
,(TODO: George Romney? Romney died in 1802, but the advertisement Evans refers to is dated 1819? -- ChrisJones
) whose price for painting a miniature on ivory was one guinea. He must have had great response, for he extended his stay by another week. That the gentry were au fait
with manners as well as modes is illustrated by the account in 1819 of a duel
; 'in consequence of a dispute Col. Gwynne of Glanbran Park in this County and Capt. Holford of the 1st Guards, a meeting took place on Thursday, 29th, when after an exchange of shots the seconds interfered and the parties shook hands'.
While there was the theatre to visit, a rarer occasion was the display of 'Chinese Fireworks' by Signor de Motram (from Vauxhall) held at the Waterloo Tennis Court on the Quay, prices of admission being two shillings for a box and one shilling for the pit. By 1821 there is evidence of a Reading Room; among the papers available were The Courier, Star, Chester Chronicle, The Observer, Bath & Gloucester Journal, Bell's Weekly Messenger, John Bull, North Wales Gazette, True Briton, St. James Chronicle, Hereford Journal, Cheltenham Chronicle, The Cambrian
(Swansea), Bristol Observer
and Bristol Mercury.
According to the Rev. Archard Williams, the Council, about 1826, followed the custom of beating the bounds and holding pie poudre1
courts at regular intervals, including one at Llanllwch bridge, where several baskets of apples were tilted into the stream for the urchins. Other Common Council activities were not always commendable, for it was a time when the Council sold off Corporate property and treated themselves to banquets. During the period there were frequent advertisements of the sale of municipal property, which was extensive on a Carmarthen map of 1785. According to Archard Williams, the outgoing Mayor, Capt. Davies, handed over a balance of fourpence when the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 came into operation. A sum of £2000 was spent on building a Dry Dock which was never used because the entrance was blocked by the constant accumulation of mud. Much money appears to have been squandered in civic and partisan litigation. On the credit side, however, public works included the extension of the Quay, widening of the Bridge, and the building of a Borough gaol, slaughterhouse and workhouse.
In this period Carmarthen was a busy port, mainly concerned with the coasting trade with the major and many of the minor ports of Scotland, Ireland and England. During the week in which the Battle of Waterloo was fought on the 16th and 17th June, 1815, arrivals included one from Gloucester with salt, one from Swansea (sundries), two from Bristol, an important connection (sundries), one from Tenby (coal), one from Llanelly (coal), four from Kidwelly (coal). Departures included one for Newport, one for Cardigan, one for Kidwelly, one for St. Ives, one for Llanelly and eight for Bristol, among the cargoes being oats, timber and tinplates. Road transport was slow, uncomfortable and expensive. A single fare to London on the outside of the coach in the 1830s cost £1. 16. 0.; inside it cost £3. 12. 0. In 1834 the Paul Pry
departed at 5 a.m. and reached Cheltenham at 7 p.m. for an overnight stop for London passengers. The Picton
departed at 2 p.m. every day for Swansea via Kidwelly; the Regulator
for Tenby and Haverfordwest every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 1.30 p.m.; the Collegian
for Lampeter and Aberystwyth on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1.30 p.m.; the Collegian
for Brecon, Hereford, Worcester and Birmingham on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1.30 p.m. All these coaches started at the Ivy Bush. Goods were often transported by wagon. The great impact on transport did not come until 1852, when the South Wales Railway was opened, one of its effects being the anglicising influence on the lower and middle classes who were Welsh-speaking or 'Cymro uniaith' as the editor of the Carmarthen Journal
The Post Office in 1822 was in Spilman Street. Two mails for London left every night at 9 o'clock, one through Swansea and the other through Brecon. Mails for Milford and Ireland left every morning at 4 o'clock. A horsepost left for Cardigan on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 4.30, returning the same evening. Go-slow postmen were severely punished, as this 1819 report shows: 'On Saturday Sennight2
the Postman conveying the mail from Aberystwyth to Aberayron was committed to the House of Correction for one month for loitering on the road and not performing his ride within the limited time.'
There is much information to be gleaned about education, though I shall refrain from quoting references to my own special field of study, the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, which requires an article all to itself. In the primary sector it was decided on the 19th February, 1813 to form a Lancastrian School (I think boys of the present Pentrepoeth School were called 'Lankier' in the 1930s), but the Royal Free School of the British and Foreign Schools Society had already been established and was teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. The young ladies had their own seminaries and were taught French, music, dancing and drawing. An interesting advertisement was that of M. W. Johns, who had a Classical, Commercial & Mathematical Academy in King Street in 1825. The subjects taught were: elocution, rhetoric, logic, versification and theme writing, orthography, mathematics, book-keeping, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Oriental languages, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. A formidable list, but I cannot vouch for the standard.
There are many interesting references to local industries. In November 1827 there appeared an advertisement which offered to let the Tin Mills, Charcoal Iron Furnace, Forge, Bar Iron & Rolling Mill, the 'country abounding in Ironstone, Cordwood and never failing supply of water (via Pondside from the Gwili)'. On the same mill leet and contiguous to the Tin Mills was an ancient water corn grist mill, with four pairs of stones fully employed. Exaggerated claims were made for the quality of slates quarried in the neighbour-hood; geologically, they were semi-slates. An advertisement of the period refers to the Pant-y-glien Slate Quarry (largest slates 24" x 12") within quarter of a mile of Whitemill and on the Turnpike.
Among many random jottings reference may be made to the Bittern, span 3ft. 3ins., shot in Pembrey Woods; and finally to an account of a poet who had imbibed too much wine. Returning from a fair, he fell into a ditch and could not get out. He called for help and when asked who was there he replied impromptu:
Twm o'r Nant mae cant yn fy ngalw
Ond Thomas Edwards yw fy enw
Y brandy goch a laddwys gant
Rocs godwn teg i Twm o'r Nant.
A neat effort, considering his state and predicament.