by  • June 11, 2013 • Cardigan, Ceredigion, Church, Medieval, Modern, Period, Post-Medieval, Public Building • 2 Comments


    A parish church was probably established on the site circa 1110. Before 1158, and possibly as late as 1487 this lost church, on the site of the present Shire Hall, was the parish church of Cardigan. In 1165 Lord Rhys granted it to Chertsey Abbey, along with a carrucate of land adjoining it – a refuge. It was referred to in an extent of 1268 as “Christchurch“, but was already defunct as a place of worship by this date, the site being used for other purposes. In 1299 “Llanduw” was listed as being farmed out for the King’s rent. In 1303 it was leased to the sons and heirs of Anian ap Welym. In 1352 it was still in the King’s hands due to the long-running dispute of ownership between the Abbeys of Gloucester and Chertsey. Reference was made to “..intricacies arising from the church of Cardigan…” in 1409. The property seems to have ceased to exist as a separate entity about the year 1428. A probably spurious reference was made in 1684 to “…The Well of St. Trinity, Cardigan…”, perhaps near the site of the old church. The following item, perhaps referring to graves related to the aforementioned church, appeared in the ‘Cardigan Observer‘ on 19/06/1880:

    DISCOVERY OF HUMAN REMAINS IN QUAY-STREET.—While excavating in Quay-street, for the purpose of opening a drain, the water inspector, Mr. Thomas Evans, came across a quantity of human bones, at a short depth beneath the surface. There were three skulls, one of which was in a good state of preservation, and, a number of leg and arm bones, of large size. It is conjectured that as the old moat of the castle was somewhere in this locality that the remains are those of soldiers who were killed in some of the later wars, and thrown into the moat, and this supposition is supported by the fact that a clean cut, as of a sword, appears on one of the skulls…”

    Human bones were allegedly discovered during the excavation of cellars in the early 19th Century at Nos. 25 & 26 Quay Street, probably pertaining to the early cemetery of Holy Trinity Church. In 2012 further human bones were discovered behind No. 23 during building works.

    (I would like to acknowledge the work of Rev. Seamus Cunnane, who first put forward the theory, now generally accepted, that the Shire Hall occupies the site of the former Holy Trinity Church.)


    Pipe Roll 29, Edw I, No. E372, 146 in R. O. Catalogue;

    Cartulary of Chertsey Abbey 1409

    Progress of the Duke of Beaufort… T Dineley, London 1888

    Cardigan Priory in the Olden Days, Emily M Pritchard 1904

    Ministers Accounts For West Wales 1277-1306, Myfanwy Rhys 1936

    Welsh Saints & Shrines No 2: Our Lady of Cardigan, Rev. Silas M Harris 1964

    The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages, R A Griffiths 1972

    Conquerors & Conquered in Medieval Wales, Ralph A Griffiths 1994.

    Carmarthenshire and Beyond: Studies in History and Archaeology in Memory of Terry James, ed. Heather James & Patricia Moore, 2009: ‘The Topography of Medieval Cardigan’ by Seamus Cunnane.



    The Great Sessions were held in Cardigan from 1487 in a hall hired from Eleanor Blakeney for 13s. 4d. per annum. The site was used as a courthouse for the next four hundred years. Eight pence was paid to clean the ‘Sherehall‘ in 1487. The name ‘Sherehall‘ was used again in 1489. On 21st November 1563 an award was made by Edward ap Howel of Cardigan and Phillipp William of Aberystwyth, following a dispute between Nicholas William Maderer of Cardigan, saddler, and Elizabeth William John of Cardigan, widow. They awarded Nicholas William Maderer ¾ of a burgage over the market house.  The Shire Hall was recorded in a deed of 1566 as “…the guild hall…” On 24th May 1586 the “…town hall…” of Cardigan was mentioned. In 1652 the building was referred to as the ‘Sheere Hall’. On 15th October 1691 a dispute regarding rectoral tithes at St. Dogmaels, was heard “…at the towne Hall of Cardigan…” On 17th January 1712 at the County Sessions, it was enacted that:

    Henry Davies, Esq., mayor of Cardigan, has liberty to lay timber and other materials upon the shire hall at Cardigan for the adjoining and more convenient settling of his house to the said shire hall. The said Henry Davies to be desired to take upon himself the ordering of a proper burning place and matters thereto belonging for burning malefactors in the said hall…” Endorsed: “…a grant to Mr Henry Davis from the Corporation of Cardigan Respecting the Liberties of his house…”

    On 16th August 1730 Cardigan constables Timothy David and James Parry were prosecuted by James Evans, J. P., for refusing or neglecting to execute a warrant to arrest Lazarus Jones of Cardigan for an assault on James Evan Gilbert of Cilgerran, weaver. On 17th August 1730 Anne Parry, Cardigan spinster, was prosecuted by Elinor Richards of Cardigan, widow, on an assault charge. The prosecutor was then prosecuted by the defendant on the same date. On 1st March 1731 Hector Jones, gent., of Llangoedmor, was accused of assault on John Thomas William of Cardigan, tiler. On 25th March 1732 John Jenkins and Jonathan Jenkins, gent., Llangoedmor, were accused of assaulting Thomas Phillips. On 25th December 1734 John Thomas William of Cardigan, tiler, was accused of assaulting Thomas Edwards, carpenter. On 30th October 1735 three sailors named Francis Andrew, Angelo Ffooger and William Roberts, were prosecuted by Thomas Bengough of Winchester, merchant. He accused them of the theft of salt from the ship ‘Windsor‘ of Winchester. On 1st November 1735 George Finch of Cardigan, corviser, was accused of a Breach of the Peace and Assault on Hugh Griffith at St. Dogmaels while returning from Cilgerran Fair. No action was brought.

    On 1st August 1737 Jacob Rice, Gentleman, was accused of assault upon Lewis Howell of Cardigan. On 21st May 1738 John Thomas alias Johnson, mariner, and Thomas Willis, glazier, were accused of riot, but no prosecution was brought. On 11th June 1740 Lewis Howells of Cardigan, felt-maker, was accused of throwing stones and large quantities of rubbish on a common way leading to the Quay, Cardigan, with others unknown. He was prosecuted by John Morgan. He was also accused of throwing stones and rubbish into the Mwldan near the Hatter’s workhouse, hindering navigation. On 12th September 1740 George Jones, Gentleman, was accused of assault, and of cutting and wounding Owen Evans, Gent. On 15th June 1741 Griffith Evan Griffith and Nicholas Morgan, both tailors, were accused of assault on Jenkin James and were prosecuted by Charles Thomas. On 11th July 1741 Thomas Evan, yeoman, was accused of assault and of carrying away two loafs of bread. The prosecutor was Jane James spinster. On 1st March 1742 John Bowen, mariner; William John, ship’s carpenter; Joshua Lewis, joiner; George Lloyd, mariner; David William Morris, yeoman; Thomas William, yeoman; and John Rowland, carpenter, all of St. Dogmaels, were accused of food riot and destroying the sails of mariner William Owen’s ship ‘Blessing‘ at Cardigan. On 10th June 1742 felt-maker Lewis Howells was accused of damaging glass windows at the ‘Grapes‘ inn. A single woman, Elinor Morris of Cardigan was the prosecutor.

    On 7th March 1743 Margaret David, a married woman, and two yeomen named Griffith Sais and Thomas Sais, were accused of sacrilege and the theft of bell metal from the church steeple. George Thomas and Thomas David brought the prosecution. They were found not guilty. On 4th April 1744 persons unknown were sought for the murders of Dominigo de Zioneto – a Spanish prisoner of war, and John Hughes, saddler, Cardigan. On 28th April 1744 Hugh Morris, Excise Officer, was accused of the manslaughter of Owen Evans by a blow to the head with a gauging stick. The prosecutor was John Evans. Morris was found not guilty. On 1st July 1745 John David, yeoman, aged under 14, was accused of shoplifting cloth valued at £1. 1s. 1d. Mary Mathias; John Phillips, gent.; Mary Eynon; Elizabeth Thomas aged under 12; Rebecca Hurst; and William Hurst, soldier, all of Cardigan, were bound over to appear for buying stolen goods, but not prosecuted. Charles Thomas, gaoler, was later committed to close custody in contempt for not carrying out the sentence. Widow Mary Price was the prosecutor. John David was found guilty to the sum of 11d. His punishment was to be whipped.

    On 20th March 1746 Lewis Howells, hatter, was accused of assault on James Mathias and his wife, Lettice. He was fined 6d. on each count. On 29th December 1747 mariners William David and George George were accused by William Vaughan of riot with other persons unknown. The case was dismissed. On 21st October 1749 Samuel John (alias George; Page) was accused of burglary at the house of John Mathias, corviser. He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty and was sentenced to death. On 1st April 1751 David Francis and John Francis (or Frank), cordwainers, were both accused of nuisance through laying 20 cartloads of furze into ricks at Cardigan market place. William Morris was the prosecutor. On 8th April 1754 John Mathias, ale-house keeper, was accused of nuisance through allowing two hogs to feed on the road. William Morgan was the prosecutor. On 6th June 1754 James James, mason, was accused of an assault on Elizabeth Thomas, widow, and Mary Howells the wife of Lewis Howells. Lewis Howells, hatter, was accused of assault by James James. Both cases were dismissed. On 1st April 1756 Mary Pryce, widow, was accused of causing a nuisance by unlawfully erecting a lime-kiln on a piece of ground called the Strand, where a fair was annually held on December 19th. John Morris prosecuted, but no charge was brought. In December 1758 John Jones, labourer, Ferwig, was accused of obstructing the passage of waste water from a Llangoedmor mill by David Jenkin, miller.

    The Shire Hall was briefly mentioned as “…a goodly structure…” in 1759 by Andrew Brice. On 20th February 1759 William Evan, tailor, was accused of assaulting Morgan Thomas. In 1760 a local assize judge complained to John Lloyd, the Mayor, about his mediaeval quarters and the Shire Hall itself, which he deemed to be “…filthy, ruinous and quite unfit to hold the assizes…” On 13th September 1760 Anne Francis, widow, was accused of receiving stolen goods. James Harries of Cardigan, mercer, was the prosecutor. A verdict of not guilty was declared. Elinor Lloyd was accused of the same offence at the same court, with the same result. On 12th April 1761 David Phillips, gent., was accused of assaulting John Richards. In 1762 John Lloyd set up a fund towards rebuilding the Shire Hall. In May 1763 it was proposed “…that Cardigan Guild Hall be pulled down and rebuilt at a cost of £590…” Building work commenced that year. It was completed in 1764 and opened by John Lloyd of Coedmore, Llechryd.

    Stucco dome ceiling of 1764, The Shire Hall, May 2001 (c) Glen K Johnson

    Stucco dome ceiling of 1764, The Shire Hall, May 2001 (c) Glen K Johnson

    In November 1765 John Watts, schoolmaster, was accused of unlawful entry into the room of shoemaker David Thomas, and assault. On 17th July 1773 William Laugharne was accused of inciting a prisoner “…to fight a battle against him…” The prosecution by David Lloyd Morgan was dropped. On 16th April 1775 Mary Eynon of Cardigan was sentenced by Rev. Dr. Powell: –

    “…You are to be stripped from the waist upwards and whipped in the porch of the common gaol, till your body be bloody, by the Master of the House of Correction…”

    At the last Great Sessions for the county that year, Charles Thomas, the Master of the House of Correction was paid 10s.6d. for branding Jane Morgan on the hand, and 2s. for her food while she was in gaol and another 3s. for maintaining another inmate named Diana for two weeks. In 1777 Elizabeth Davies of Llangoedmor, for stealing “…a piece of brown cloth of the value of 6d. from William Evans, farmer…”, was sentenced to be stripped naked from the waist up and whipped publicly in Aberystwyth, “…until the blood flows upon her back…” At the same court, Thomas Davies of Llangoedmor was found guilty of stealing “…a waistcoat Breeches Hatt Shirt and Stockings…” to the value of 11d., and was sentenced to the same treatment, not only in Aberystwyth, but also to be whipped a second time in Cardigan “…from the North Turnpike Gate to Church Yard…” – probably along Feidrfair. The same year, Margaret Lewis was stripped and flogged and then placed into the public stocks in front of the Gaol.

    In 1779 Ann Caskiff was sentenced to be “…whipped from the Gaol at Cardigan to the Bridge so that the blood…shall appear…”, and was to be confined to gaol until the next Quarter Session. In 1782 George David and David George were transported for seven years for petty larceny, whilst William Jones, John Evans and John Morgan, three felons in Cardigan Gaol, were transported to America. On 4th April 1783 David Edwards, saddler, was accused of assault on David Griffith, bailiff, in the execution of his duty, and was fined 1s. On 26th November 1785 Mary Roach, a married woman, was accused of theft from a shop of cloth and handkerchiefs. John Makeig was the prosecutor. She pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty to the value of 113s. 4d. She was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment in the House of Correction. On 21st April 1788 Griffith Thomas Griffith was accused of forcible ejectment – the prosecutor being Elizabeth Jones, widow. The verdict was quashed as was the same against Jenkin Thomas Griffith, David James and Jane Lewis. On 4th July 1788 Maria Abraham, spinster, was accused of burgling John Bowen’s house and stealing a looking glass and wearing apparell. She was found guilty to the value of 11d. She was sentenced to be whipped and to one years imprisonment. On 24th October 1789 John Morgan Walter, Gent., was accused of aiding and abetting Daniel Rees of Cellan – a labourer suspected of horse-stealing – to escape from prison by unfastening the iron chains on his legs and helping him over a wall. The prisoner had been in gaol for debt. The prosecution, brought by David Griffith, was rejected. In January 1792 Sarah Davies was convicted of petty larceny and was ordered to be brought from the Gaol on two successive Saturdays:

    “…stript from the waist upwards and that the said Gaoler do whip the said Sarah Davies on the said Two Successive Market Days…between the Hours of Twelve and Two…from the Town Hall to the said Common Gaol and that until the Blood flows from her back. And that afterwards the said Sarah Davies be discharged on paying the Gaol Fees…”

    On 19th May 1794 William Jonathan and John Jones, labourers, were accused of the theft of money from the Poor Box in the parish church.  Thomas Phillip, a servant boy, was implicated but not indicted. A second charge of stealing money from persons unknown was, like the first, prosecuted by Rev. John Evans, Vicar. On 6th May 1796 Evan Davies, Gent., and John Davies were accused of assaulting Thomas Jenkins. In 1797 a major renovation of the building was completed. On 1st November 1799 Gaoler William Langdon was accused of neglect of duty in allowing the escape from Gaol of Thomas Thomas, accused, though not indicted, of forging a bank-note. The case was dismissed. On 10th December 1802 David Davies, merchant, was accused of libel against Thomas Davies, merchant, in the form of a letter purported to have been written by William John, mariner, Cardigan, to the master of Lloyd’s Coffee House, London, hinting at the dishonest trade perpetrated by the prosecutor and Captain Harry Winter concerning the ship ‘Caroline‘ of Arundel, bound from Dublin to London with beef and butter. There was no prosecution brought. At a second hearing the same day, however, the prisoner, aged 55, was found guilty, was sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment and fined £100.

    On 26th February 1810 Anne Williams, a single woman, was accused of the theft of poultry from Elizabeth Bowen, spinster. The case was rejected. On 26th December 1811 Thomas Evans, labourer, was accused of issuing a counterfeit five shilling note and was prosecuted by John Gibbs. The back of the building appears in an 1812 illustration by J Wood. On 27th July 1813 fines for non-burgesses grazing their animals on Cardigan Common were meted out to 23 people, including Rev. John Herring, minister of Bethania Baptist Chapel, Pendre. On 15th November 1813 Thomas Davies of Bridge House was summoned by the Court Leet:

    “…for an encroachment and nuisance in digging and carrying away into Pembrokeshire Gravel from Netpool Bank, being an infringement upon the rights and privileges of the Burgesses of the Town and Corporation of Cardigan…”

    In September 1817 at the Great Sessions, a 17-year old youth was found guilty of stealing goods worth 5s and was sentenced to 7 years transportation by Justice Haywood. On 27th March 1819 Mary Jones, a married woman, was accused of uttering a counterfeit shilling to Eleanor Evans and Elizabeth James. She was found not guilty. On 23rd September 1821 John Herring, yeoman, was accused of assault upon Sarah Evans with intent to rape. The case was dismissed. On 3rd October 1821 William James aged 29 was publicly hanged after being found guilty of housebreaking and theft. His was the last such public hanging in Cardigan, though executions continued in the Gaol for some years. On 25th July 1822 Thomas George, gent., was accused of assault upon James Jones. On 2nd September 1822 Eleanor James, 24, was charged with the theft of a handkerchief, gown, shawl, petticoat and apron. Said to have been a thief since childhood, she was sentenced at a court held here, to transportation to Australia.

    On 13th February 1823 Elizabeth Gordon, a married woman, was accused of the theft of skins, knives, razors, cloth and handkerchiefs. She was found not guilty. There was also an inquest on her suckling infant, William Gordon, who died in Gaol of natural causes. The prosecution was brought by George Morris. David Lewis was accused of receiving stolen goods in the same case. On 27th March 1824 John Lewis, labourer, was accused of the theft of wearing apparrell belonging to Benjamin and Anne Esau. He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty and was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment. He was also accused of being in possession of counterfeit coins. On 28th January 1825 John Jenkins, mason, was paid £5.18s. for installing new steps for the Shire Hall. On 20th March 1826 David Lewis, labourer, was accused of the manslaughter of Thomas Lloyd by strangulation with a neck-cloth. Jane Lloyd was the prosecutor. The case was rejected. On 4th April 1827 a vagrant named William Andrews was accused of stealing some very old clothes from a house in Aberporth. He admitted his guilt, but pointed out that the stolen articles were fit only for a tramp. He was found guilty, sentenced to death and hanged in Cardigan Gaol a few days later. On 15th June 1827 Richard Evans and John Morris were paid £100 for erecting grand and petit jury rooms. David Evans was paid £5.11s. for providing plans and specifications for converting part of the market place under the Shire Hall for that purpose.

    On 11th March 1828 William Jones, labourer, was accused of stealing horses belonging to John Bartlett Bevan and John Gwyther, and riding gear belonging to Bevan. He pleaded not guilty, was found guilty, and was sentenced to death. On 5th September 1828 Richard Evans and John Morris were paid £1.16s. for plans and specifications for repairing the building. On 20th February 1829 the work was under way. John Miles and William Jenkins were paid £127.10s. for their work on enlarging the building. Daniel Evans received £1.17s. for the plans. On 18th July 1829 Mary Michael, 27, a married woman, was accused of the theft of cloth from the shop of Thomas Mitchell, draper. She pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment. On 24th January 1830 David Evans and John Evans were paid £1.11s. for inspecting the building following the repairs.

    The 1844 Shire Hall clock, 21/12/2012 (c) Glen K Johnson

    The 1844 Shire Hall clock, 21/12/2012 (c) Glen K Johnson

    The building is marked “Town Hall” on J Wood’s 1834 map of Cardigan. William Finch was then the hall keeper. In 1839-40 theatrical entertainments and concerts were held here. On 22nd November 1843 the building was undergoing repair, a considerable portion of the north wall having collapsed after being accidentally undermined during the digging of footings for a new house. Work was completed in 1844 including a new façade and clock dated “1844”. On 2nd February 1844 the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:

    “…CARDIGANSHIRE ASSIZES. These assizes commenced at Cardigan, on Thursday, the 14th inst., before Sir William Henry Maule, Knt., one of the justices of her Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas. His lordship arrived in Cardigan about 3 o’clock, escorted by the high sheriff for the county, John Philipps Allen Lloyd Philipps, Esq., and his javelin-men, and proceeded immediately to the shire-hall, to open the commission. After which, his lordship adjourned the court until 10 o’clock the next day. At 4 o’clock his lordship attended divine service at St. Mary’s Church; when the service was most impressively read by the Rev. Griffith Thomas, vicar, and the assize sermon preached by the Rev. Thomas James, rector of Manordeivy, the high sheriff’s chaplain. The Rev. gent. selected for his text the appropriate words recorded in the 19th chap. of the 2nd book of Chronicles, and the 5th and 6th verses: “And he set judges in the land, throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city and said to the judges, Take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord who is with you in the judgement”.

    FRIDAY. At 10 o’clock this morning, his lordship took his seat on the bench, and proceeded to swear in the grand jury. GRAND JURORS:—John William Lewis, of Lanairon, Esq., foreman James Bowen, of Troedvraur; John Lloyd Davies, of Alltyrodin; David Davies, of Castle Green; G. W. Griffith, of Pantgwyn; John Griffith, of Llwvnderris; Henry William Howell, of Glaspant; J. T. W. James, of Pantsaison; J. B. LI. Philipps, of Mabws; C. H. Longcroft, of Llanwrna; Thomas Lloyd, of Bronwydd; Thomas E. Lloyd, of Coedmore; T. G. Nugent, of Cardigan; C. A. Pritchard, ofTyIlwyd; Pryse Pryse, of Ledge Park; F. D. Saunders, of Tymawr; and E. Ll. Williams, of Gwernant, Esquires. His lordship very briefly addressed the grand jury, and dismissed them to their rooms…

    …D. Winton and others v. Marsden. Which was an action brought by the plaintiffs, bankers in this town, against the defendant, who is a respectable tanner residing at Pontvane, in the county of Pembroke, to recover the sum of £80, lent on the joint I. 0. U. of defendant and one Jacob Morris, since deceased. The payment of the money to defendant and Morris was proved by Mr. Patrick Brown, the then manager of the bank. Mr. E. V. Williams addressed the jury for the defendant, but called no witnesses. His lordship having summed up, the jury found a verdict for the plaintiffs— £ 80. Counsel for plaintiffs, Meesrs. Chilton, Q.C., and Richards; attorneys, Messrs. Evans and Morgan, Cardigan. Counsel for defendant, Mr. V. Williams attorney, Mr. T. George…”

    On 2nd August 1844 the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:

    “…CARDIGANSHIRE SUMMER ASSIZES. These Assizes commenced on Wednesday last, before Baron Rolfe…  BREACH OF PROMISE OF MARRIAGE. SPECIAL JURY CASE. ROBERTS v. VAUGHAN.—This case which excited great interest in the town and neighbourhood, came on at about 7 o’clock, and lusted 7 ½ hours. There was not a case of the sort ever tried at Cardigan before. The court was crowded to excess, particularly with the fair sex, who were anxious no doubt to know the result of the trial as well as to hear the amorous epistles written by defendant to plaintiff. Mr. V. Williams opened the pleadings, and Mr. Chilton, Q.C., addressed the jury. The following gentlemen were on the special jury:— John Nathaniel Evans, Pengarreg; David Evans, merchant, Aberayron; Thomas Hughes, Castell-du; David James, merchant, Alltlwyd; Thomas Lloyd, Coedmore; James Pringle, Adpar, near Newcasle-Emlyn; Francis David Saunders Davies, Tymawr; Richard Roberts, merchant, Bridge-street, Aberystwyth; Griffith Griffiths, Allt-ucha; John Jones; William Conetart, Aberystwyth; Ebenezer Lewis. Mr. Chilton rose to address the jury amidst the most profound silence. At the commencement of his address the learned gentleman seemed completely overpowered by his feelings, and shed tears.

    The plaintiff, Miss Eliza Roberts, is now about twenty six or twenty-seven years of age. She and her family are natives of Glamorganshire. Two of her brothers are ministers of the gospel—one a clergyman of the established church, the other a dissenting clergyman. She lived at the time of the first commencement of her acquaintance with the defendant with her brother, Mr. David Roberts, who may be known to some of you in this town. He, gentlemen, I believe, I may fearlessly say, is a man of high respectability and acknowledged worth. He has had his misfortunes, as many men in business in these times have, in which sudden changes and reveries take place, without any fault of his own. With him she resided. The defendant is about the same age—within a year certainly. If there is any difference, he is rather the younger of the two. He is the son of Mr. Vaughan, who is a wealthy, and, I believe, a highly respectable merchant, carrying on business in the ports of Fishguard and Newport. He first let his son see a little of the world in some of the Arguses which he sends forth; he afterwards apprenticed him to a most respectable iron- monger in this town. In the year 1836 or 1837, he visited the family of Mr. Roberts. An intimacy began between the plaintiff and himself, which terminated in a courtship, of which it will be necessary for me to say little or nothing, for the letters which passed between them will speak for themselves. He showed all attention to her—all the usual attentions of a lover, and when he left began a correspondence, one side of which [holding up a brief containing about a ream of paper, and letting it fall heavily on the table,] I am about to disclose to you. And, really, 1 think it is almost impossible to estimate what would be a sufficient sum for reading and writing answers to all these letters, unless a real and fervent affection made the task a very light one. Now, gentlemen, I do not propose to carry you through all this correspondence: that would be trying your patience a little too severely but I shall select from the whole of the correspondence some of the letters, and their contents will, I feel satisfied, leave no doubt whatever on your minds as to issues which I am to prove—for certainly I ought to have told you that the defendant has thought proper to plead two pleas, contradicting each other, and being both of them equally false. He first pleads that he made no promise to marry Miss Roberts. I am to prove that he did. In his second plea he says that Miss Roberts absolved him from the performance of any such promise. That my learned friend is to prove to your satisfaction, and I defy him to do it. He may prove, gentlemen, that some little tiffs have occasionally occurred— for when, as long as the world was wagged, has the course of true love ran smoothly? Gentlemen, it is not the nature of things. There may have been some little bickerings between the lovers in this courtship, which has lasted almost as long as the siege of Troy, I admit. It could not have existed otherwise, gentlemen nothing further. But now, gentlemen, it is necessary for me to draw your attention, particularly to this man’s conduct. Mind, gentlemen, I do not charge him with having seduced more than the affections of the lady, but a case of great atrocity, devoid of that higher moral guilt which involves disregard of decency and moral law, I think it is impossible to conceive. And, gentlemen, he has saved me from the necessity of making any remarks upon it, for by anticipation, he has applied such appropriate language to his own conduct, that I confess it is utterly out of my power to vie with him…”

    “…A detailed account of the progress of the courtship was then given from which it appeared that the defendant had sent all the plaintiff’s letters to her—that he made various demands for his – that at the time he was preparing for his marriage with another, he continued making the most ardent professions of attachment to the plaintiff—that he attributed his “breach of promise” to his father’s urgent request and not to change in his own sentiments and inclinations—and that after various messages, conferences, quarrels, &c., he ultimately married his present wife, sometime in the year 1843.

    After the reading of numerous letters, the defence stated: “…

    “…Gentlemen…a boy coming here in 1835 at the age of 16, to be apprenticed to Mr. Lloyd, the ironmonger. He became acquainted with this young woman, who served in an earthenware shop. He became acquainted with her—she being his senior four years—and he, like all other foolish boys, became quite infatuated with this girl. There is no doubt that under ordinary circumstances a woman of 21 or 20 is no match for a boy of 16, or indeed for a man of 20, because women acquire the sharpness of their faculties much sooner than men and Miss Roberts is no inconsiderable artist. She caught him securely, and got him to write, and my friend to read, its many foolish letters as ever were produced since those actions were commenced. The intimacy…continued until 1840, at which time defendant’s father took him from Cardigan before his term of apprenticeship had expired, and the defendant then went to Neath, in Glamorganshire. His correspondence with the plaintiff then assumed a regular form he wrote a great number of letters to her, copies of which they had seen and there could be no doubt but that he intended to marry her…”

    “…The learned judge summed up in a very lucid manner, and said that the inquiry was but a very short one, whether there was a breach on the part of the defendant of a promise of marriage there is no doubt hut that there was a contract, and the single question was whether the contract was mutually broken by the consent of both parties: The jury retired for a few minutes and brought in a verdict for the plaintiff,—damages £100: The verdict appeared to give satisfaction, for some demonstration of it would have taken part in court had they not been timely checked. This closed the business of the assizes and the judge left Cardigan on Saturday morning to open the commission at Brecon…”

    On 3rd January 1845 the following appeared in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:

    “…CARDIGANSHIRE QUARTER SESSIONS. The above sessions took place at the shire-hall, Cardigan, on Tuesday last, before D. S. Davies, Esq., M.P., chairman, and the fullest bench of Magistrates we ever witnessed, amongst whom we noticed Col. Powell, M.P. for the county; the Rev the Dean of St. David s; John Lloyd Davies, Esq., Blaendvffin; Thomas Lloyd, Esq., Coedmore; G. W. Griffith, Esq., Pantgwyn; Dr. Jones, Llancych; H. W. Howell, Esq., Glaspant; the Rev. Augustus Bngstocke; G. B. J. Jordan, Esq., Pigeonsford; James Bowen, Esq., Troedyraur; Rees Goring Thomas, Esq., Llysnewydd; W. O. Brigstocke, Esq., Blaenpant; Edward Lloyd Williams, Esq., Gwemant Park; Geo. W. Parry, Esq., Llidiarde; Capt. Lewes, Llanllear; F. D. Saunders, Esq., Tymawr; T. Hughes, Esq., Alltlwyd; &c. The following gentlemen were called and sworn in on the Grand Jury:— Mr. Benjamin Evans, Quay-street, foreman; James Seaborn Evans, High-street; S. J. Evans, merchant; John Hazleby, Bridge House; John Jones, Cross; John James Jones, Bridge Parade; Thomas Thomas, Red Lion; William Thomas, Bank; William Lewis, High-street; John Phillips, Bridge-street; William Jones, High-street; John Havard, Pendre; Thomas Griffiths, Cross; J. M. Thomas, High-street. After the proclamation against vice, profaneness, and immorality had been read by the clerk of the court, Mr Roberts, Esq., the learned chairman briefly addressed them. He regretted that the number of cases that would be brought before them were more numerous than usual; yet, they were of such an ordinary nature, that they did not require any comment from him…”

    On 29th October 1845 Thomas Davies of Nantygof, Llangoedmor, applied for the post of Assize Trumpeter of Cardigan, with the support of Thomas Evans, Curate of Llangoedmor; Thomas Lloyd of Coedmore, Llechryd; Herbert Vaughan of Llangoedmor Place; G W Griffiths of Pantgwyn, Llangoedmor; David Davies, merchant, Castle Green (Cardigan Castle); Thomas Morgan, solicitor, Cardigan and I Jenkins of Cilbronne, Llangoedmor. On 15th January 1847 the following case, heard here, was reported in the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘:

    “…William Price, a tramp, pleaded guilty to the charge of stealing nine handkerchiefs, the property of Mr. Levi Phillips of Cardigan. The goods were exposed for sale at the shop door, and the prisoner was seen running away with the handkerchiefs, and was immediately pursued and apprehended. The Chairman made some appropriate remarks on the impropriety of shopkeepers exposing their goods outside, and at the doors of their shops, and thereby holding out such a strong temptation to persons of the prisoner’s character. Sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour…”

    On 7th July 1848 the ‘Pembrokeshire Herald‘ reported the following case:

    “…A true bill having been found against James James for riot and tumult, the prisoner surrendered in discharge of his bail, and pleaded not guilty. Mr. Lascelles stated the case to the jury. On the evening of the 26th of May last, the prosecutor, David Jones, P. O., stationed at Cardigan, received intimation of an intended ceffyl pren procession, and being armed with authority from the mayor, met the mob on Cardigan bridge, and succeeded for the time in turning them back. Shortly afterwards, however, he found the mob re-assembled to the number of five hundred at least, in the centre of the town, opposite to the Black Lion Hotel, many of them carrying torches and sticks. The prosecutor, assisted by P. C. Kelly and others, succeeded in seizing the prisoner, who was dressed in female attire, and rode astride the wooden horse (which was carried by four men), and took him into the hotel. The mob violently assaulted the, police constable, and had it not been for Mr. Parker, of the Black Lion, who admitted the officers with their prisoners into the house, murder would probably have been committed. After the capture of the prisoners the rioters broke the windows of the hotel, and became so violent, that the mayor thought it his duty to apply for the assistance of the military, and with the aid of a serjeant’s guard the prisoner was ultimately lodged in gaol. The learned counsel concluded by observing that the present were not times to pass over such riotous proceedings with impunity. Evidence having been produced, the learned chairman in summing up to the jury, observed that there were two points for their consideration, 1st, whether there was a riot? 2nd, whether the prisoner was one of the rioters? After explaining the law of the case, and recapitulating the evidence, he said he thought they could have little doubt on either point. The prisoner in defence wished to make it appear that he was carried on the wooden horse against his will, it was for them to say whether he was a willing or an unwilling party; but being disguised in female attire, it was for the jury to judge whether that did not show premeditation…”

    In 1849 Miss Morgan, sister to Thomas Morgan, solicitor and Town Clerk of Cardigan, presented an engraved silver cup from the local gentry to Captain George Bowen of Plas Newydd, St. Dogmaels. This was in recognition of his heroic rescue of two crewmen from the “Agnes Lee” brig, which foundered on Cardigan Bar on 11th January 1849. Ca1849 Samuel Lewis described the Shire Hall:

    The assizes for Cardiganshire are held here, as the county town: the powers of the county debt-court of Cardigan, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Cardigan. The knight of the shire, also, is elected here. The shire-hall was built in 1764, and enlarged in 1829 by the addition of a room for the grand jury, and a retiring-room for the petit jury: the court is commodiously arranged, and contains a bust of the late Thomas Johnes, Esq., lord-lieutenant and parliamentary representative of the county, sculptured by Chantrey, at the expense of the county magistrates…”

    In 1852 William Finch was the Hall Keeper. Part of the facade appeared in an 1853 illustration by Rock & Co. A poetical and musical entertainment was held here on 20th June 1859. The Spring Assizes of 1860 included among the jurors: Thomas Davies, High Street; John Davies, St. Mary Street; and Samuel Jones Evans, Albion Terrace. The Guildhall opened on 10th July 1860 depriving the building of many of its’ functions.

    On 14th June 1866 at the Spring Assizes, Mrs Gower of Castle Malgwyn, Cilgerran, prosecuted James Stephens of Glanolmarch, Llechryd, for dumping quarry waste into the Teifi, causing the silting of the estuary. He was found guilty. In 1868 J. R. Bagshawe was the judge, John P. Howell was the High Bailiff, William W. Smith was the registrar and William George the bailiff of the County Court. On 30th April 1869 discussion was under way following an announcement of proposals to remove both Assizes and Gaol from Cardigan. In 1871 Thomas Hull Terrell was the judge of the County Court. By 9th June 1871 the unkempt state of the building was attracting comment. On 22nd October 1875 the building was undergoing redecoration, at a cost of £202, to plans drawn up by James Szlumper before 2nd July.

    On 27th July 1882 Justice Watkins Williams questioned the validity of holding the Assizes at Cardigan. At the Assizes in January 1883, Eleanor Jones of Llandysul was charged with stealing 24 sheets of notepaper and a packet of envelopes. She pleaded guilty, and gave as an excuse that she had drunk too much beer. The judge sentenced her to 18 months hard labour. The defendant protested that it would kill her, but the judge was unmoved and warned her that if she came before him again he would sentence her to penal servitude. He also made the comment that it might be a good thing if she did die in gaol. In 1884 William Beresford was the judge of the courts. On 15th June 1888 attempts were made to remove the Assizes to Lampeter or Aberystwyth, and they were finally removed to Lampeter on 1st February 1889. On 2nd February 1889 the following appeared in the ‘Cardigan Observer‘:

    THE ASSIZES REMOVED. The petition in favour of removing the assizes from Cardigan to Lampeter has just been granted, and the county assizes will be held there next month. The matter has been for a considerable time under the consideration of the Lord Chancellor and the Privy Council, and their decision has been made known. The proposed change, which was stoutly opposed by residents in and near Aberystwyth and Cardigan, was supported by the Lord-Lieutenant of Cardiganshire, the majority of the magistrates, and by the entire South Wales Bar, headed by Mr. B. Francis Williams, Q.C. Aberystwyth and Cardigan can take back seats now. Lampeter seems to get everything…”

    In September 1892 the local electoral register was being compiled here. In May 1894 there were complaints because the Town Council had stopped winding the clock, as it cost £1 per annum to run. The clock was returned to service soon afterwards. The sale of the Shire Hall on 30th June 1894 was called off due to lack of interest. In July 1894 it was sold to Thomas Watkins of Rocklands, together with the Police Station (Gaol) at Pendre, for £600. By 14th October 1898 the building was used by the Swansea Old Brewery as a warehouse. It was disused in 1901. On 13th December 1901 Cardigan Borough Council considered cleaning up the clock. Replacement of the façade was suggested on 16th December 1904. On 23rd February 1906 Swansea Old Brewery were renovating the building as their new warehouse, which was here from 1906-24. Cardigan Borough Council continued to maintain the clock at least until 1915. The building was unsold at a grand auction by Swansea Old Brewery on 30th May 1924.

    Shire Hall as S T Jones' garage, ca1925 (D. V. T. Davies Collection)

    Shire Hall as S T Jones’ garage, ca1925 (D. V. T. Davies Collection)

    By February 1926 Shire Hall was S. T. Jones’ motor garage, trading as such in 1926-47. On 4th April 1940 Mrs. S. T. Jones died aged 57. S. T. Jones’ son Leo Jones married later that year. In 1943 Leo Jones ran the garage. On 27th February 1948 the building was sold to George Leonard Vernon Smith. On 25th March 1948 there was a sale of hardware goods here. On 2nd October 1948 G. L. Vernon-Smith opened his furniture shop here. G. L. Vernon Smith traded here in 1948-60. On 1st January 1960 George Leonard Vernon Smith died aged 79. The premises passed to Reg. C. Vernon Smith. The building was ‘listed’ in 1961. In 1960-95 ‘Vernon Smith’s’ traded here. On 31st July 1992 Reg Vernon Smith died.

    On 20th June 1996 the property, then vacant and advertised for sale, was suggested as the venue for a new library. On 2nd April 1996 it was suggested as a new venue for the Tourist Information Office. On 15th April 1998 the building was suggested as a National Eisteddfod Centre. There were further calls for the building to be acquired for public use. It was still advertised for sale in 1998. By 27th January 1999 Nick Laing had acquired the property. In 2000 a congregation met here briefly. Shire Hall became ‘Bookend’ book shop, which traded in 2000-05. In December 2001 plans were approved for a major refurbishment. The work began in early 2003 and in March a new cupola was placed on the roof. In April 2004 the shop frontage was upgraded. ‘Bookend‘ closed on 17th September 2005. In late September 2005 Steve & April Greenhalgh took over the lease and the shop became ‘The Shire’. It opened in April 2006 and traded in 2006-08. Glen K. Johnson was a manager there. It closed at the end of March 2008. During September 2008 the library was temporarily housed here. An exhibition of paintings was housed here briefly in October 2008 and another that December.

    In November 2009 a ‘bargains’ shop was opened here by Tracy Osinga, formerly of No. 39 High Street and traded here as ‘Fancy That’ in 2009-13. The lease was advertised in September 2012. The shop closed in March 2013.


    The building was described by CADW in 1992:

    W end of the Shire Hall, June 2001 (c) Glen K Johnson

    W end of the Shire Hall, June 2001 (c) Glen K Johnson

    …EXTERIOR – Long narrow 2-storey building in blue lias rubble with painted blue lias ashlar street front and slate roofs, hipped behind front parapet. Early photographs show a bell-turret on roof hip. Street front has 2-storey arch, presumably originally open, now with C20 infill, plain raised imposts to side piers voussoirs with raised outer arch and raised keystone horizontally ribbed. Above is low attic storey with sill course, pair of centre windows in rectangular recess, modern windows but recessed stone voussoirs probably original, plain frieze, cornice and parapet. Short return to north, facing down High Street with ground floor arch over pavement, blank first floor and attic level painted clock face, dated 1844. Long side walls partly revealed on south side by demolition of No 2 High Street and 2-storey west end, canted 3-sided with arched ground floor windows in arched recesses and 12-pane sashes above. Lower windows with radiating glazing bars. This part is illustrated in 1812 engraving.

    INTERIOR – Former Corn Market has plain ceiling with timber cross beams. Steps up at west end to raised part with 6 heavy painted Roman Doric Columns supporting stuccoed lateral beams under upper floor. Modern seventh column to support beam cut for C20 stair. Upper floor has 2 main rooms the larger, over Corn Market, has plaster shallow barrel vault and modillion cornice. Three 12-pane sashes to north, 3 6-pane upper windows on south side. East end has three arches, timber panelled piers and fielded panelling in arches, the centre arch giving access to stairs to attic front room. At east end in handsome octagonal room, 3 sides open to main room, with 2 free-standing Roman Doric columns and 2 attached to wall. Entablature, modillion cornice and octagonal shallow plastered dome with centre rose…”

    ADDITIONAL (2001) – The clock mechanism for the clock survives, and is stamped ‘Thomas Evans, Cardigan’. (2007) – Re-instated cupola to apex of roof near façade.


    Minister’s Account 1222/2 m2; 1306/5 m4

    NLW Noyadd Trefawr MS 413

    NLW Kyle MS 51

    Cardigan (illus.), J Wood 1812

    A Topographical Dictionary of Wales, Samuel Lewis 1829

    Map of Cardigan, J Wood 1834

    Poster – A Night With Tal & Alaw, Town-Hall, Cardigan 20/06/1859

    Slater’s Directory 1852; 1868

    Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1869; 1871; 1875; 1882; 1888-89; 1894; 1898; 1901; 1904; 1906-08

    1912-15; 1918; 1921; 1924; 1926-27; 1929; 1932-35; 1937-41; 1943; 1945-49; 1954; 1960; 1985

    1992; 1996-99; 2003; 2008

    Post Office Directory 1871

    Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1884

    O. S. Map 1887 etc.

    A Guide to Cardigan & District, William Edward Yerward James 1899

    Census Returns 1901

    Walks & Wanderings in County Cardigan, E Horsfall-Turner 1902

    The History of St. Dogmaels Abbey, Emily M Pritchard 1907

    Headed Paper – S T Jones’ Garage 1932; 1935-37

    Post Office Telephone Directory 1950; 1955

    Exchequer Proceedings Concerning Wales, T I Jeffreys Jones

    The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages, Ralph A Griffiths 1972

    Official Programme – National Eisteddfod, Cardigan 1976

    Ceredigion 1978

    A Guide to Cardigan 1989

    The Gateway to Wales, W J Lewis 1990

    The History of the Cardigan Lifeboats, Donald Davies 1990

    The 1992 Cardigan Guide

    Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest – Cardigan, CADW 1992

    The 1993 Guide to Cardigan

    The Cardigan Guide 1994

    Cardigan ‘95 1995

    Cardigan Annual Show Catalogue 02/08/1995

    Sale Particulars – Shire Hall, J J Morris 1996

    The Cardigan Guide 1996; 1997

    The Official Cardigan Guide 1998; 1999

    Cardigan Town Trail incl. Shire Hall, Geoff Scott 1998

    Caring For Cardigan 1998

    The Cardigan Guide 2000; 2001

    © Glen K Johnson 10/06/2013


    2 Responses to OLD SHIRE HALL, HIGH STREET

    1. Stephen Banks
      May 27, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      I have recently started working at the British red cross shop which is in the shire hall and I was very interested in your historical research about the building.

      • glen
        May 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm

        Thanks Steven. There was a shop called ‘The Shire’ in the building from 2006-08, and I was a department manager there, so I know it very well. Glad you enjoyed reading the research. Kind Regards, Glen

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