Cowbridge - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
COWBRIDGE, a borough and market-town (having exclusive jurisdiction), and, jointly with Bridgend, the head of a union, locally in the hundred of Cowbridge, county of Glamorgan, South Wales, 12 miles (W.) from Cardiff, and 170 (W.) from London, on the main western road through the county; containing 1080 inhabitants. The Welsh name of this place is Pont-Vaen, a corruption of Pont-yV�n, of which latter the English name is a literal translation. The town is supposed to have been originally an appendage to the castle and lordship of St. Quentin; and was surrounded, in 1090, by Robert St. Quentin, one of Fitz-Hamon's knights, with a stone wall, having three gates, which in Leland's time were all entire, but of which only the south gate now remains. Its situation, though low, is salubrious, and its appearance prepossessing. The town consists principally of one spacious street, extending for nearly half a mile along the turnpikeroad; the houses are in general well built, and several of them are handsome. It is neither paved nor lighted, but well supplied with water from springs, and from the small river Ddaw, which passes through the centre of Cowbridge. The old townhall, shambles, and market-house, which stood in the centre of the principal street, obstructing the thoroughfare, have been removed, and the old county bridewell, situated at this place, has been converted, chiefly by subscription, into a neat town-hall, with jury-rooms and other apartments. The market days are Tuesday and Saturday; the market on the latter is chiefly for butchers' meat and other provisions. Fairs, principally for cattle, are held on the first Tuesday in February, the Tuesday before March 25th, on May 4th, June 24th, and September 29th: there are also two great markets on the first Tuesdays in August and December.
The government of the town is regulated by a charter of incorporation, which was confirmed in the 33rd of Charles II., whose charter recites that the burgesses had enjoyed divers liberties, franchises, and immunities, as well by means of grants of former kings of England and lords of Glamorgan as by prescription, and bestows upon the corporation all privileges, fairs, tolls, and lands which they then held, or had previously enjoyed, by virtue of any charter or by prescription. The control is vested in the constable of the castle of St. Quentin, two bailiffs, twelve aldermen, and twelve capital burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk, a treasurer, two serjeants-atmace, two clerks of the market and shambles, and six constables. Of these, the constable, commonly called mayor, is appointed by the Stuart family, Marquesses of Bute. The bailiffs are annually chosen, on Michaelmas eve, from among the aldermen, of whom four are nominated for that purpose by the burgesses, out of which number the mayor selects two; the aldermen are elected from the burgesses, by a majority of their own body, as vacancies occur. The capital burgesses are elected out of the body of burgesses, by the bailiffs, aldermen, and capital burgesses, in their corporate capacity as the common council and governing body of the borough. The town-clerk is appointed by the Stuart family, the treasurer by the common-council, and the remaining officers by the bailiffs.
Cowbridge was formerly one of the eight contributory boroughs within the county, which returned a member to parliament, the right of election being in the burgesses at large, in number between seventy and eighty, of whom about one-half were resident. It is now, by the act of 1832, for "Amending the Representation of the People," contributory with Cardiff and Llantrissent in the return of a member; and the right of election is vested in the old resident burgesses only, if duly registered according to the provisions of the act, and in every male person of full age occupying, either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than �10, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs. The present number of houses of this value, situated within the limits of the borough, which comprise an area of little more than thirty-three acres, and were not altered by the late boundary act, is about eighty. The bailiffs make a return for Cowbridge to the mayor of Cardiff, who is the returning officer for the three boroughs.
The freedom is acquired by an apprenticeship of seven years to a resident freeman, inherited by birth by all sons of freemen born after their father's admission, or obtained by marriage with a freeman's daughter, or by gift of the common-council, who may confer the privilege on whomsoever they please. All persons who have thus become burgesses, possess the right of exemption from toll within the borough. The revenues of the corporation amount to about �130 per annum, of which about a third is derived from houses and land, and the remainder from the tolls of the markets and fairs, with the exception of an inconsiderable item composed of fines on the admission of freemen. The mayor and bailiffs are justices of the peace, exercising exclusive jurisdiction, and having, according to the charter, power to inquire of all "delays, defects, and articles," within the town, as justices of the peace in England, provided they do not proceed "to the inquiry, trial, and determination of any treason, misprision of treason, murder, felony, or any other thing, touching the loss of life or limb." No general or quarter sessions, however, seem to have taken place since the year 1812, and even for some time prior to that date they appear to have been seldom and very irregularly held. The bailiffs may also hold a court of record every Thursday in every third week, for the trial of actions under �5, in as ample a manner as in any other court of record in England; but this court has like the other fallen completely into disuse, the last summoning of it having taken place on the 30th of August, 1777. Nor are petty-sessions for the borough regularly held, the magistrates merely assembling from time to time for the despatch of business as occasion requires. The petty-sessions for the hundred take place here every Tuesday, and the Easter quarter-sessions for the county are held here.
Cowbridge is commonly reputed a parish, but, like many other parishes, has no distinct incumbency: the church, which was originally a chapel of ease to the church of Llanblethian, is still served by the vicar of that parish, who performs morning service at the one, and evening service at the other, alternately every Sunday. The tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of �17. 3., payable to the incumbent. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient and venerable structure, and contains several handsome monuments of modern erection, and two of more ancient date, one to the memory of the Carnes, of Nash, and the other to that of the Jenkins family, of Hensol, near Cowbridge. The windows and some other parts of the building have been lately restored. There are places of worship for Baptists, Wesleyans, and Calvinistic Methodists.
The free grammar school, which is of considerable repute, is supposed by some to have grown out of the ruins of an ancient establishment at Lantwit-Major, and to have been removed to this place in the reign of Elizabeth. It is under the superintendence of the Principal and Fellows of Jesus' College, Oxford, who appoint the master. The endowment was granted by Sir Leoline Jenkins, Knt, Judge of the Admiralty in the reign of Charles II., who was educated in the school, and died in 1685, founding by will in Jesus' College two fellowships to supply clergymen for the navy and foreign plantations, two scholarships, and one exhibition, which are limited to natives of the dioceses of Llandaf and St. David's, with a preference c�teris paribus for those educated at this establishment. After devising to the Principal, Fellows, and Scholars, certain lands and tenements, and also "the free school and school-house," he charged the property with the payment of �70 per annum, for the following uses, viz., �20, with the schoolhouse, orchards, &c., to be given to the schoolmaster, for instructing gratis ten youths of the town and neighbouring parishes, and five pensioners (now named monitors), the latter to be paid �6 each for four years; after that period, three out of the five to be sent to Jesus' College, and have an exhibition of �10 each for four succeeding years; and two of these last to be regarded as scholars on Sir Leoline's foundation, and to have the preference c�teris paribus in the selection of the two fellowships he had founded in the college. For the purpose of carrying the intentions of the benefactor into effect, the college transmits to the master annually �50 for himself and the monitors; together with �20 assigned by Sir Leoline, for apprenticing poor children born in the parishes of Llantrissent and Llanblethian, the town of Cowbridge, and the parish of Ystrad-Owen, or for clothing aged poor people in the same places. The two fellowships are now worth about �300 a year, and the scholarships �20. The five pensions, which do not appear to be limited to Cowbridge or its neighbourhood, have been constantly filled up; but there is only one other free boy: the number of scholars not on the foundation is considerable. The school is very flourishing as a classical academy for pay-scholars, under the superintendence of the Rev. Hugo Daniel Harper, Fellow of Jesus' College, assisted by two other masters, and a drawing and French master. The premises have been recently rebuilt by the college in a handsome manner and on a larger scale. Vice-Chancellor Sir J. L. Knight Bruce, Knt., was educated in this establishment. A National school, commenced here in 1839, for the benefit of Cowbridge, Llanblethian, and Llantrissent, is supported by subscription, aided by the produce of a bequest of �200 left by John Fraunceis Gwyn, Esq., of Ford Abbey, Devon, by will dated 1845, to be invested in the funds, for the use of "the National school of the three consolidated parishes." There are also several Sunday schools.
Some charitable benefactions to the town are respectively managed by the corporation, and by the parochial authorities. Among the former is a grant of two acres of land, situated south of the East-gate, devised by Mary Wilcox, and now yielding a rent of �8. 8. per annum, subject to a small payment for land-tax and repairs. A rent-charge of �4 on land called the Paddocks, was devised by Walter Williams in 1796: this bequest was void under the statute of Mortmain; but the owner generously purchased stock in the three per cents., and invested it in the name of trustees to secure the amount of the gift, and carry it into execution. The produce of these two bequests is distributed in small sums, by the bailiffs, among poor parishioners. Of the charities under the management of the parochial officers, is a bequest by Catherine Williams in 1682 of �100, the interest to be applied to clothe six of the poorest and most aged parishioners; the amount is in the hands of the corporation, who pay interest at five per cent. Rebecca Wyndham bequeathed a similar sum, with which, and the accumulated interest, a moiety of a tenement and some land, called Pencoed, in the parish of Llanilid, was purchased, now yielding �20 per annum, which sum is applied in apprenticing poor children as directed by the donor. Other sums arising from trifling rent-charges on houses in different parts of the town, and a charge of 12s. on a field in the parish of Llanblethian, the gift of William Thomas in 1710, producing altogether �2. 8. per annum, are distributed in bread to the poor. Daniel Jones, Esq., of Beau Pr�, in the parish of St. Hilary, by will dated 1840, gave �10 per annum, the dividends of stock in consols, for the benefit of the poor of Cowbridge for ever, to be distributed in money, or in clothing, bedding, or firing, by the minister. The aged poor, also, of the town, regularly receive �20 in clothing every fourth year from the master of the grammar school, under Sir Leoline Jenkins' grant above-mentioned.
Some Roman coins have been discovered at this place: one, which was of brass, bore the inscription C�sar Traianvs; the reverse, Pont Max . . . . sii; the exergue, Britanni. At the distance of about two miles, in a field that adjoins the road from London to Haverfordwest, on the southern side, and close to the common called the Golden Mile, is a square intrenched camp of small dimensions, supposed to be Roman; and on the south side of that common are vestiges of a similar work, both probably indicating the course of the Roman road called the Via Julia Maritima.