1647 – A petition was completed on 23rd January from the burgesses of the town, calling for the provision of a free school for Cardigan.
1653 – Cardigan Free Grammar School opened – the sixth established Grammar School in Wales. It was founded by the new Cardigan Borough Council to provide for “…eight poor Boys taught to read, write and cast accounts, the school built on a spot of ground purchased by the parishioners…” Roger or Richard Owens became the first schoolmaster, assisted by an usher named Owen Picton.
1654 – Owen Picton had temporary charge of the school and an increase in salary, implying that R Owens had already left.
1660 – The annual sum of £60 paid by the Commissioners for the Propogation of the Gospel in Wales ‘…out of pity and goodness…’ since 1653 ceased to be paid. The expense was then shouldered by Cardigan Borough Council.
1662 – Rev. James Davies came to Cardigan and became the Master, succeeding Rev. Charles Price. Both were Nonconformist preachers.
1664 – Mr Ryland was the Master.
1686 – The school may have been extended using materials from the Town Walls.
1688 – On 6th August Bishop Thomas of St. David’s granted a license permitting Rev. David Jenkins, clerk, of Bridell, to become the Master of the school.
1704 – Reference was made to “…a pair of old walls…” given by John Laugharne of St. Brides and his wife, Anne, presumably for extensions to the school.
1723 – On 29th April Rev. James Price was appointed the Master.
1730 – James Price was replaced on 5th October by Owen Picton (a descendant of the former usher and master?).
1731 – Lady Laetitia Cornwallis gave an endowment to the school, which was not received until 1784. It amounted to £717.
1732 – On 2nd October Richard Lee was appointed the Schoolmaster.
1734 – By 30th September Joshua Evans was the master.
1735 – According to the minutes of Cardigan Borough Council, Joshua Evans “…contrary to expectations and without our privity and consent, quitted the said school in a very unhandsome and ungracious manner…”
1739 – On 1st October Rev. David Jones, the Curate of Cardigan, succeeded David Davies as Master.
1741 – On 5th October Thomas Lloyd, the Mayor, appointed Richard Watkins as the Master of the school until 1747.
1747 – On 5th October Rev. John Davies was appointed the new Master.
1751 – On 22nd October Thomas Watts became the new Schoolmaster.
1774 – The school was without a master following “…the resignation of Mr Meyrick, the late master…” He was succeeded on 3rd October by Rev. Charles Harries.
1786 – On 2nd October the Letitia Cornwallis bequest was granted towards the running of the school.
1787 – Rev. John Rice was the Master.
1791 – On 6th April an advertisement was issued seeking contractors for rebuilding the schoolhouse at the same time as the new Cardigan Gaol.
1806 – On May 7th Rev. Thomas Morgan wrote to the Cardigan Borough Council to offer his services as Master of the Free Grammar School. His application was successful. A piece of land was added to the school to serve as a playground.
1811 – The S. P. C. K. praised David Jenkin Morgan, the Singing Master at Cardigan Grammar School, who had taught 34 pupils – more than any other school in the region.
1813 – On 2nd July Rev. Thomas Morgan, Master of the school, died aged 34. He had also been the Curate of St. Mary’s Church and the Rector of Bridell. By November he had been succeeded by Rev. George Griffith, Curate of St. Mary’s Church.
1815 – Rev. William Richards became the Master of the Free School, but resigned before the end of the year. From August until January 1817 there was no headmaster at the school.
1818 – In July John Jones, the Master, died.
1821 – Rev. Thomas Watkin William Thomas was the Master until 1823.
1824 – On 13th September Rev. David Evans, Curate of Llangoedmor, became the Master until 1839.
1830 – There were six supported pupils and twenty paying scholars.
1834 – It was marked on J Wood’s map.
1835 – The school comprised of one room.
1839 – On 12th July the Cardigan Corporation Minute Book noted that Rev. David Evans had resigned as Master. On that date, Daniel Thomas was chosen to succeed him. Evan, son of Evan Evans, Gaoler at Cardigan Gaol, was removed as a pupil – having been subsidised there for more than four years, and John, son of David Roberts, auctioneer, was admitted. That December, proposals for a new market hall were considered.
1843 – On 9th August Cardigan Borough Council referred to Rev. John Griffiths, Master of the school, and requested that he “…return immediately to superintend the school himself or to send his resignation in writing to the mayor…” The position was advertised soon afterwards. Plans were drawn up for building a new market hall in Cardigan, but were shelved after opposition from P J Miles, owner of the Priory estate, resulted in a failed Bill in Parliament. They remained “shelved” until 1850.
1844 – On 11th July Rev. Evan Lewis, Curate of Llangoedmor, became the Master of the school, succeeding Thomas Morgan.
1845 – John Thomas, son of the Sexton of Cardigan, became the new Headmaster. In late November Mr Lee was appointed Master of the Free Grammar School.
1847 – There were six pupils and the standard of teaching and of the buildings was good according to the report on the State of Education in Wales.
1848 – Rev. Richard Lee Lewis, Curate of St. Mary’s Church, was the Master.
1850 – Until 1852 P O James was the Master.
1854 – On 10th September William Griffith George, Mayor of Cardigan, and his council, instigated the idea of a new market house for the town.
1855 – Free School Bank was chosen as the site of the new markets and hall.
1856 – On November 11th the Borough Council minutes record: “…It is ordered that Mr Withers be requested to make out the plans and specifications for a Market House in detail and forwarded to the Town Clerk without delay…” On May 8th the plans were approved. R J Withers, architect, received an initial payment of £59.8s.10d.
1857 – On 13th July the “Cardigan Markets and Improvements Act” was approved by Parliament. The new complex was to be built on the site of the Free School, where John Davies was the Master and the Librarian of the Divinity Library. The site also included a forecourt, yard, outbuildings and garden of the school, a garden with house, forecourt and offices tenanted to Abraham Morgan and a coach-house and forecourt tenanted to David Davies of ‘The Ship’, No. 1 Pendre. The architect employed for the new Guildhall and Markets complex was R J Withers. The revolutionary design was the first municipal building in the British Isles to use the Ruskinian Gothic architectural style. The successful tender was that of builders David Jenkins, John Davies and John Thomas, priced at £2174.15s.0d. for the Market Hall and £1880.5s.8d. for the Grammar School and Guildhall. Demolition of the Grammar School commenced that year. In August Cardigan Borough Council fell out with R J Withers over his fees, and he was temporarily dismissed, but was reinstated before the end of the month.
1858 – On March 6th R J Withers wrote to Cardigan Borough Council and referred to their suggestion that the new markets were “…totally inadequate to the wants of the town…” He had since provided amended plans and requested further payment. The foundation stone was laid by Richard David Jenkins, the Mayor, on 8th July.
1859 – On 24th May Cardigan Borough Council decided to lengthen the Guildhall by 11ft. by building over the market arch. On 16th September an illustration and plan of the building appeared.
1860 – On 5th July the ladies of Tivyside held a ball here, a few days prior to the official opening. The Market was officially opened at 6 a.m. on 9th July. The Guildhall was officially opened the following day. On 14th July calico had to be hung from the ceiling of the market to keep the sunlight off the meat.
1865 – On 17th January the surveyor reported to Cardigan Borough Council that the walls of the Guildhall were cracking and on the point of collapse.
1866 – The part of the building used by the Mechanics Institute began to collapse and had to be rebuilt. Decorative iron ties were added and the chimney stack opposite College Row was rebuilt. The architect was Mr. Parker of Thrapston.
1868 – Until 1871 Rev. Rees Williams was the Master of the Free Grammar School.
1871 – On 26th May the Russian Field Gun was moved from the dirt and weeds of the old market yard and placed on the Guildhall steps, where Alderman Thomas Davies of Parkypratt supplied new wheels and mounting on 23rd October. Some alterations may have been conducted to the building that year. Edward Hughes was the honorary secretary of the Mechanics’ Institute.
1874 – David M Palmer became the Headmaster of the Grammar School until 1884, having formerly run the “Cardigan Academy” at Quay Street. In December the Mayor of Cardigan, Levi James, commented on the bulging state of the front of the building. Cllr. William Woodward stated that unless the front of the building was “stayed” to the back, it would collapse.
1875 – In February four iron bolts were fixed from east to west in the walls of the Guildhall, with pillars and girders to support the joints and decorative cast iron plates to the tie-rods. The Mechanics’ Institute was described as “flourishing” that year.
1881 – The steward of the Tivyside Race Meeting complained that the Guildhall was a disgrace to the town and was not in a fit state to be used as a ballroom. He offered to contribute towards the cost of improvements and, as a result, the council spent £15.18s.6d. on redecoration and ornamentation of the rooms concerned.
1890 – On 14th November the new Mayor, David Davies, Stanley House, donated an illuminated clock to the town.
1891 – On 13th November, after his re-election as Mayor, David Davies offered to erect a clock-turret here at his own expense.
1892 – On 31st August the official presentation of the clock and turret by David Davies, Stanley House, took place and the new clock, by Midland Clock Works, Derby, was set going. Richard Thomas, architect, of Roseleigh, Pendre, designed the clock turret. The builders were J Richards of St. Dogmaels, carpenter, and John Evans, mason of Church Street, Cardigan.
1895 – On 26th July it was complained that children with catapults had made two holes in the face of the clock. The new Cardigan Intermediate School was temporarily housed in the old Grammar School. The rooms were cleared in readiness on 11th October and re-opened on 4th November as “The Intermediate School for Boys”, with David M Palmer as Headmaster, Charles Owen his deputy, and Miss Gladish. D M Palmer resigned in December. In November tenders were sought for building a lobby at the Guildhall.
1896 – In January Charles Owen, M A, became the Headmaster of Cardigan Intermediate School and Miss Bessie M Davies, the Mistress. On 22nd May the Mayor of Cardigan, Benjamin James, proposed replacing the “…grand arches our forefathers were so foolish enough to build…” in the market, with cast iron pillars. On 14th September Dr. Daniel Rees, M. A. was confirmed as the new Cardigan Intermediate School Headmaster. Charles Owen and Miss Gladish resigned. Miss Dora Lewis became the Senior Mistress.
1897 – Cardigan Intermediate School moved to the new building.
1898 – On 8th July it was proposed that the chimney of the old Grammar School be rebuilt as it was dangerous. In August Velograph Moving Pictures were shown here, depicting the Spanish-American Civil War and the funeral of W E Gladstone.
1899 – On 24th March ownership of the Grammar School rooms was disputed, with the managers of Cardigan County Secondary School making an unsuccessful claim to it.
1902 – On 18th March a fire caused damage to the Council Chamber and the Old Grammar School rooms. On 18th April, in a bid to provide a large meeting hall in the town, removal of the market pillars and arches was again considered.
1903 – On 9th December a marble Scroll of Honour was unveiled here, in recognition of the Cardigan Volunteers of the Boer War, by Mrs. Davies-Evans of Highmead, Llanybydder.
1905 – On 11th September the Council Chambers were moved to the former Mechanics’ Institute rooms.
1907 – On 4th January tenders were sought for renting the Lower Market as a warehouse. On 5th February Cardigan Borough Council resolved to use it as a store for traps.
1911 – On 17th March it was proposed to alter the Upper Market by removing the stone flags and laying timber, removing the arches, installing new windows, and covering over the courtyard. This was approved, but support for the plans rapidly dwindled and nothing came of the scheme.
1914 – Caleb Luke was the inspector and Daniel Owen Thomas was the collector for the markets. Henry David James was the Honorary Secretary of the Mechanics Institute. On 14th August the building was put at the disposal of the Red Cross. Three days later there was a call for men over 30 to volunteer for the War and to sign up here.
1918 – On 22nd March the library and reading room were taken over for use as the Town Clerk’s offices.
1926 – D John Rotie was the hall keeper.
1937 – On 12th March Cardigan Borough Council considered selling the public buildings. In April they decided to scrap a German gun stored in the Lower Market. On 18th June it was decided that all the rubbish should be cleared out of the Lower Market as it was “…a breeding place for rats…”
1940 – On 16th August the ironwork of the Borough of Cardigan was being claimed as “salvage”. It was granted that, in view of its’ sterling efforts, the Borough could, for the time being, retain the Russian Field Gun.
1941 – On 22nd August Cllr. Jimmy Davies and Cllr. Rosina Davies, No. 38 High Street, proposed that the Russian Field Gun should be scrapped for salvage for the War effort. The proposal was made again on 17th April 1942.
1943 – By 12th February the Cardigan Petty Sessions had been removed to the Priory Street courthouse.
1946 – In November Cllr. Dan Williams, Y Bwthyn, proposed the demolition of the Guildhall to make way for a new memorial hall. He asked “Is an 80-year old jerry-built structure in stone with trussed walls worth preserving?”
1950 – Cardigan Library opened here on 5th February. On 30th June, former Mayor of Cardigan Cllr. Rosina Davies resigned from Cardigan Borough Council in protest at their decision to allow a boxing match to be held in the market.
1952 – On 11th January Cardigan Chamber of Trade called for the Guildhall market to be replaced by a parking ground.
1961 – The Guildhall and Markets complex was ‘listed’. On 23rd November Cllr. R C Vernon Smith suggested converting Cardigan Market into a shopping centre.
1963 – On 8th March Cardigan officials firmly rejected proposals for the demolition of the Guildhall, although conversion into a precinct was considered. On 13th September the new Guildhall Shopping Arcade proposals were unveiled and supported by the Cardigan Borough Council. By 15th November Cardigan traders were voicing their protests at the scheme. Plans were later dropped.
1966 – On 14th January it was declared that Cardigan’s municipal offices were “…below standard…” and that new offices were needed. On 29th April Cardigan Borough Council elected to move their offices to the corner of Priory Street and Morgan Street.
1967 – By 3rd March the Guildhall was being considered for use as a police station, and, just one week later, demolition was proposed again. On 24th May Cllr. Ivor J C Radley of Pendre became the Mayor of Cardigan again, and launched a project to use former offices here as a Centre For the Aged.
1968 – On 21st May the Senior Citizen’s Centre opened here. On 28th June, the Guildhall was said to be running at a loss of £1000 per annum.
1969 – On 17th January it was proposed to open up the Lower Market in a £7000 scheme. Major renovations included a new staircase, new ceilings and asbestos walls.
1976 – By 9th January, 60 mph gales had damaged the roof.
1991 – Alterations were conducted to the steps at the front of the Guildhall and a chimney stack was removed.
1994 – The library was removed.
1995 – By 2nd March work had begun on restoring the Upper Market – removing the asbestos panels and false ceilings and exposing the original structure.
1996 – On 21st November 1996 Ceredigion Training moved into the former library rooms.
2003 – Repairs began in April. There were proposals by Menter Aberteifi to replace the Upper Market with the Town Library, to add a tower containing a lift to the NW angle of the Market Hall, to block the existing market arch and open up two of the centre arches from Pendre, and to add an extra storey above the former school rooms to the south.
2004 – In May it was announced that the building was to be leased to Menter Aberteifi. A plaque commemorating the anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade was added to the Russian Field Gun and unveiled on 25th October.
2006 – In January 2006 work began on a refurbishment and strengthening of the floors.
2007 – In August work began on a new lift shaft and other alterations.
2008 – In late October work began on re-opening the two centre arches to serve as doors.
2009 – In July a gallery occupied the former Corn Market, Cardigan Town Council occupied the former Council Chambers, and Menter Aberteifi moved into the former caretaker’s office.
2010 – The newly-refurbished complex was fully operational.
© Glen K Johnson 2012