Henry Owen and the Guild of Handicraft
By David Ellis
To those who are familiar with Pembrokeshire’s rich history Henry Owen needs no introduction but for those unfamiliar with his sterling work as a local historian need look no further than to the late Dillwyn Miles’ summary of his life, career and achievements in the second article of this Journal.1
Besides soliciting on behalf of the law while resident in London, Henry Owen gave his spare time to charitable work mainly connected with hospitals. He was a member of the management committee of the Samaritan Hospitals in Marylebone Road and Honorary Secretary of the Lying In Hospital in York Road, Lambeth . It was in the latter hospital in the early 1870s that Henry Owen met Dr. John Williams (later Sir John Williams GCVO) and the two became life-long friends. It was Dr. Williams who persuaded him to lecture to the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion on the life and writings of Gerald of Wales, but who afterwards told him that it was the worst delivered address he had ever listened to, at the same time advising him to extend his account into a book. This he did in 1889 and it gave hi m immediate recognition, not just of h is gifts of literary expression, but also of a keen sense of humour.
In his Memoirs of a Literary Bloke,2 H . M . Vaughan recounts his visits to Dr. Owen at Poyston in winter as being uncomfortable because:
Henry Owen detested warmth fully as much as I desired and required it. Now and again I was forced to wearing an overcoat, scarf and hat in the chilly dining room, which my host seemed to think effeminate though excusable on my part
Vaughan describes how he:
was fond of him and consequently was only amused by his eccentric and sometimes rather alarming manners, although many people who met Dr. Owen were liable to be upset by his brusqueness and even sudden explosions of anger, assumed rather than genuine, I aways suspected.
Interesting too, that:
Dr. Owen had a perfect mania for displaying the white boar chained to a holly bush , which is the coat of arms of the Owen family, in every guise at Poyston. It decorated the entrance gates of the drive, it appeared on candlesticks and Sheriff ‘s banners, and it occupied a large portion of the specially woven carpet of the parlour. Some of us used irreverently to allude to these heraldic figures as “The Poyston Pigs”.
There is a connection too with Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936), a noted medieval scholar and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University ( 1 913-15), perhaps best known as the author of some of the greatest ghost stories in the English language. He had met Dr. Owen when they both sat on the Royal Commission on Public Records in 1912-3. In ‘A View from a Hill’ , published in 1926, James modelled Squire Richards on Dr. Owen:
. . . the two of them had met on an official inquiry in town, had found that they had many tastes and habits in common, and liked each other, and the result was an invitation from Squire Henry Richards to Mr. Fanshawe.
It is perhaps surprising to learn that Henry Owen had a close association with the Arts and Craft movement of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and was friendly with Charles Robert Ashbee, the driving force behind the Guild of Handicraft. A highly significant figure in British artistic and cultural life in the early twentieth century, Ashbee’s philosophy was influenced by the Romantic anti-industrialism of William Morris and John Ruskin. He started the Guild of Handicraft as a small craft workshop in the east end of London in 1888 before moving it to the small Cotswold town of Chipping Campden in 1902. A man of great energy and passion, part socialist, part imperialist, his interests included architecture, the history of architecture in relation to political and social factors, the medieval craft tradition, printing and publishing, town planning and social reform.
Born in 1863 Ashbee grew up in Bloomsbury in a comfortable middle class home. His father, Henry Spencer Ashbee, had married well and was senior partner in an export firm. His wealth enabled him to establish himself as a bibliophile and scholar. Curiously, under the pseudonym of Pisanus Fraxi he compiled Cantena Librorum Tacendorum (London, 1 885), a bibliography of erotica. In 1898 C. R. Ashbee married twenty year-old Janet Forbes, the daughter of a prosperous stockbroker who had been a supporter of the Guild of Handicraft for many years. In one way this was a curious partnership as for many years she had found him ridiculous, ‘clouded with his own conceit’, whilst he had always, as he told her in a letter, felt a ‘coldness to her sex’, preferring the affections of men.
A connection between Henry Owen and C. R. Ashbee has long been known, and the writing desk made for Henry Owen by the Guild of Handi craft in 1892 and currently on display at Scolton is evidence of this. Further information came to light in 2004 when Graham Peel of Tenbury Wells, a researcher working on the life and career of Alec Miller (1879- 1961 ), a Glasgow-born sculptor, found reference to a pair of cast lead heraldic boars apparently made in 1906 and installed on gateposts at the entrance to a house belonging to a Dr. Owen in Haverfordwest. This, of course, was Poyston. Normally working in wood and stone, and mainly for ecclesiastical clients, Alec Miller’s boars were, for him, an unusual commission. From 1 902 he worked with C. R. Ashbee and the Guild of Handicraft at Ch i ppi ng Campden, although eventually he emigrated to the United States.
The relationship between Henry Owen and C. R. Ashbee appears to have come about through his being the family solicitor to Janet Forbes’ family. By 1904 Owen had visited Campden and in August of that year Ashbee stayed at Poyston. Two quotes from Ashbee’s journal relate to these two events which seem to show a degree of affection, perhaps greater than that usual between solicitor and client:
The family lawyer has been with us. A dear frowsty old thing, very human and very shrewd, who smokes like a chimney, balances his gold eye glasses on the bridge of his nose and blows up his moustache like a walrus. To us he is inseparably connected with a stuffy little office in Old Jewry, where he sits among deeds and papers, where he draws up family documents and never by any means sends out a full bill of charges. It is his most charming trait to firmly believe that legal charges are always too high and should be reduced whenever possible. This is what he appears to Janet and me, in reality he is the great Dr. Owen of Owen’s Pembrokeshire, historian, antiquary, JP, mayor of Pembroke, Lord High Sheriff of the County, fur and tipstaves, pomp and antique dignity . . .
Poyston . . . is a delightful stretch of wild woods and lakeland in the Owen Withybush estate and he is nursing it for his retirement in his old age.
Henry Owen was also involved in amending the rules of the Guild of Handicraft and in 1910 was advising Janet Ashbee about a possible move to the Norman chapel at Broad Campden. This was a building that Ashbee had surveyed in 1903 when it was derelict and for which he had prepared plans for its reconstruction and enlargement, in 1905-7, for a Singhalese scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy and his wife Ethel. By 1910, with Janet Ashbee pregnant with their first child, the Coomaraswamys were giving up the tenancy of the Norman Chapel and the opportunity therefore arose
for the Ashbees to live there, which they did, moving in in the summer of 1911.
It is likely that Henry Owen had also been a trustee to the marriage settlement of C.R. and Janet Ashbee. In July 1914 Janet Ashbee stayed at Poyston and her journal includes a picture of the gates captioned ‘The Gates (with lead boars) designed by CRA (modelled by Alec Miller)’. The actual making of the gates was undertaken by two members of the Guild, Bill Thornton and Charley Downer, described as ‘truculent but inseparable’, and a photograph exists showing the partly assembled gates in the blacksmiths’ workshop at Campden.3 In August 1907 a photograph of them was used in an advertisement for the Guild of Handicraft in The Archi tectural Review.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s Henry Owen extended and remodelled Poyston with the help of architect D. E. Thomas, embellishing it with several decorative details with a strong Arts and Crafts flavour. As well as the gates i t is likely that the plaster fireplace overmantel commemorating General Sir Thomas Picton’s battles is a Guild of Handicraft product utilising the Tree motif that features in many of the designs listed in the Guild Workshop Record Book in the library of the Victorian and Albert Museum. It is seen also on the library book case ends at Madresfield Court, Worcestershire. At Poyston the library fireplace overmantel is a sophisticated exercise in wood, repousse brass and ivory incorporating Henry Owen’s initials. It is known that Alec Miller carved an overmantel based on the story of The Jackdaw of Reims for a house near Ledbury, and that he was commissioned for a sizeable work in plaster for the Coronation Hall in Ulverston.
The editor wishes to thank Kath Woolcock, Senior Library Assistant, Pembroke shire County Libraries, for supplying the photograph of Henry Owen.
1. See also the notice of Henry Owen printed in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.
2. H. M. Vaughan, Memoirs of a Literary Bloke (Privately printed, 1941).
3. A. Crawford, C. R. Ashbee (London, 2005), 142.
THE PEMBROKESHIRE GENERAL ELECTION OF 1970
By J. Graham Jones
Desmond Louis Donnelly entered the House of Commons in the general election of February 1950 as the first Labour MP for the highly marginal Pembrokeshire constituency. 1 At just 29 years of age, he was the youngest Labour MP in the new House of Commons. From the outset he was widely viewed as something of a political maverick and was initially seen as an avid follower of Aneurin Bevan before in 1954 veering sharply to the right within the Labour Party and becoming a supporter of the new party leader Hugh Gaitskell who had succeeded Clement Attlee in December 1955. He also forged a close friendship with George Brown who became the deputy leader of the Labour Party. Throughout these years Donnelly was seen within the Labour Party as a rather dubious, unreliable character, ever liable to defect to another political party and one who could never really be relied upon to toe the party line. When Gaitskell died very suddenly in January 1963, and an intensely fought contest for the party leadership ensued with Harold Wilson and George Brown as the forerunners, Donnelly became one of Brown’s leading campaign managers. But it was of course Wilson who succeeded Hugh Gaitskell as party leader and indeed became Labour Prime Minister in October 1964. Although Donnelly’s position within Pembrokeshire seemed very secure – he had a substantial majority of 8586 votes there in the 1964 general election – he was predictably not offered even junior ministerial office by Wilson and subsequently became something of a backbench rebel constantly sniping at many aspects of governmental conduct and policies.
During 1965 Desmond Donnelly and his close political associate Woodrow Wyatt, the equally maverick Labour MP for the Bosworth division of Leicestershire, were a particular thorn in the government’s flesh over its plans to nationalise the British steel industry. In his memoirs, Wyatt wrote at length about his associate and his political activities, ‘Desmond Donnelly was a large, lumpy man with an ugly but not repulsive face. He had ability and energy and was a good, unpolished speaker. He had strong enthusiasms, sometimes sustained and sometimes not. . . . He had courage and verve but was not assiduous in studying details, so his writings and speeches lacked content. He became a strong adherent of Hugh [Gaitskell]’s, always in attendance. He was an encouraging friend to have around’. Eventually, on 6 May 1965, the day of the crucial debate on steel nationalisation in the House of Commons (when the government’s defeat had seemed a very real possibility), last-minute concessions from George Brown persuaded Donnelly and Wyatt to vote with the Labour government, support which gave it a majority of just four votes in the House (310 votes to 306). In the course of an impassioned speech during the debate, Michael Foot (fully sensitive to the many problems facing the Ebbw Yale steelworks within his constituency) had actually referred to Donnelly as ‘a compulsive traitor’, while Donnelly had retorted by dismissing Foot’s remarks as ‘Restoration comedy’. (One of Foot’s biographers has described Desmond Donnelly as ‘one of the few men in public life for whom Michael [Foot] entertained a positive loathing’).2 But, although their MP had finally come into line at the eleventh hour, rumbles of discontent persisted in his Pembrokeshire constituency for several months, while at Bosworth there was a concerted attempt to unseat Woodrow Wyatt. Donnelly’s personal relations with the Prime Minister reached an all-time low, a deep-rooted personal animosity increased still further by Donnelly’s advocacy of a ‘Lib-Lab’ alliance and his friendship with the Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond. Wilson’s biographer has recorded that, by the early months of 1966, the Prime Minister was most anxious to sack George Brown, but admitted to Barbara Castle that, if he did, Brown ‘would only make cause with Wyatt and Donnelly to destroy us’ . When Harold Wilson eventually decided to go to the country in the spring of 1966 mainly because of his party’s very small overall majority in the Commons, four Labour Party delegates from Pembroke Dock formally opposed Donnelly’s re-nomination and even set in motion moves to nominate a rival Labour candidate. In the event, time was against the dissident delegates, and Desmond Donnelly was again re elected to parliament with a somewhat reduced majority of 5931 votes after a keenly fought four-cornered contest. In July Donnelly launched a vitriolic attack on the Labour government during a further debate on steel nationalisation and, together with Woodrow Wyatt, he abstained in the ensuing vote in the House so that both were then formally ‘reprimanded’ by Joh n Silkin, the government chief whip.3
Desmond Donnelly remained a real thorn in the flesh of the Wilson government, especially in relation to its patently half-hearted attitude towards British entry into the EEC, Rhodesia, and steel nationalisation, and he provocatively advocated the establishment of a coalition government between Labour and the Liberals, an idea which he discussed with the Liberal Party leader Jo Grimond . By the summer of 1967 he was openly advocating the abolition of the Westminster parliament and the traditional local government structure in favour of a national network of regional assemblies, including an elected council for Wales with its own prime minister.4 By the autumn Donnelly was even anticipating the election of a
Conservative government under Ted Heath as in the best interests of the nation. His political opponents within Pembrokeshire observed closely his highly ambivalent standpoints and his inconsistent voting records in the House of Commons. Research by the opposition whips’ office at West minster revealed that, during the parliamentary session 1966-67, the MP for Pembrokeshire had voted on just 129 occasions out of a possible 428 divisions in the House, that he had failed to vote on the Iron and Steel Bill and that he had voted with the Labour government at the end of the economic debate on the devaluation of the pound on 22 November 1967. 5 Yet, during the devaluation debate, he had launched a devastating attack
on his own government’s economic and industrial policies and on the Prime Minister personally. 6
On 18 January 1968, following a heated debate on substantial cuts in government spending, twenty-five backbench Labour MPs chose to vote against the government, twenty-two of these in protest against the reduction in the social services budget, two demanding a tougher line with left wing rebels, and Sir Dingle Foot, the former Solicitor-General, because of the withdrawal east of Suez. It was also the withdrawal east of Suez which convinced Desmond Donnelly that he must resign the Labour whip as he sharply denounced the government ‘s action – ‘Mr. Wilson. should resign and leave public life. He is a transitory phenomenon of limited significance’. Amplifying the reasons for his dramatic decision, Donnelly asserted that he had resolved to resign his party whip because of his ‘patriotism and principle . . . . I believe that Socialism in thirty years has given a higher standard of living and a fairer life for the British workman. The withdrawal from the Orient will strike directly at the British workman in exactly the same way as the refusal to see arms to South Africa’. He went further, contrasting the government’s decision to pull out of Singapore with Neville Chamberlain’s weak-kneed abandonment of Czechoslovakia shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Donnelly declared that he felt sure that his local constituency party would ‘approve’ of his resigning the party whip, further protesting that his dramatic action as ‘only the beginning of the campaign’ to remove Harold Wilson as Prime Minister.7 His resignation had taken place five years to the very day since the death of the previous party leader Hugh Gaitskell. Initially it seemed that the Pembrokeshire Labour Party was prepared to rally behind their renegade, unpredictable MP. When the party met on 10 February, general support was voiced for Donnelly’s action, local agent Glyn Rees, a close personal friend and supporter of the MP, reporting ‘tremendous support for Mr Donnelly. . . . I have not had one word of criticism so far’ .8
This intriguing course of events moved along with some rapidity as Desmond Donnelly’s stand was evidently contributing substantially the growing anti-Harold Wilson bandwagon within the Labour Party. Writing in The Times on 1 February, Ian Trethowan detected that Donnelly enjoyed ‘a very special relationship with his local party’, but anticipated ‘a difficult local meeting’ due to take place ten days later. If their MP was still being denied the party whip at the time of the next general election, anticipated Trethowan, ‘the local party will either have to pick someone else more acceptable in Smith Square [the Labour Party headquarters], or else risk being disaffiliated and seeing a new local party created’ .9 Trethowan’s predictions were remarkably close to the mark. When the Pembrokeshire Labour Party’s county management committee met on 10 February, a motion instructing Donnelly to re-apply for restoration of the Labour whip was lost by 40 votes to 24.10 But the wayward MP for Pembrokeshire certainly had his enemies too, both at Westminster and in his constituency, especially at Pembroke Dock where twelve local trades union branches resolved to withhold their affiliation fees to the Labour Party ‘until a new candidate has been nominated’ instead of Donnelly to stand at the next general election .11 Action was also taken against him centrally where an attempt by the Labour Party NEC to expel Donnelly from the party, at the instigation of Harold Wilson , failed, ruled out-of order by the Labour Party chairman Alice Bacon. But it was resolved that a disciplinary panel comprising three prominent trades union leaders should investigate and report back to the Labour Party. Barbara Castle recorded these traumatic events in her diary: ‘The day started with an NEC meeting in which we had an illuminating discussion on the future of Mr. Desmond Donnelly. Nobody could hate him more than the left wing, but with an eye on their own fates [Ian] Mikardo and others were all for letting his misdemeanours ride for a bit. Jo Gormley and the right wing were thirsting for his immediate blood. Finally they were headed off by Alice Bacon’s suggestion that we ought to go through the usual routine of interviewing him first. The next argument was about who should interview him, and the general view was that it ought to be the Organization Sub Committee’. Desmond Donnelly defended himself vigorously, asserting his heartfelt belief that, since the October 1964 general election, many of the policies implemented by the Wilson government had been, in his view, ‘mistaken and would eventually bring the Labour Party into disrepute with the working man’. It was widely feared that, if Donnelly adamantly stuck to his guns and continued to receive the backing of his local party, eventually this ‘could mean both being cut adrift’. Eventually, the Labour Party would have no alternative, it was thought, but to ‘reconstitute’ the local party in Pembrokeshire ‘with loyal members’ .12
But there was to be no backing down. Donnelly met the disciplinary panel on 20 March, but refused to retract a single word of his previous attacks on the party and the Prime Minister, telling journalists immediately after the fraught meeting, ‘I don’t scare easily. I have retracted none of my views . I am doing what I consider right for my country, my county and my party. I shall not give in – never ‘. He claimed that four prominent Conservative politicians, two of them MPs and two former MPs, had voluntarily agreed to finance his next general election campaign in Pembrokeshire and to address his campaign meetings in the now quite likely event of his expulsion from the Labour Party – ‘I cannot say who they are but one of them is very well known’. Within a week the Labour Party NEC had indeed agreed, by an ‘overwhelming’ majority, to expel Desmond Donnelly from the party. Tremendous pressure had been exerted for Donnelly ‘s expulsion by prominent trades union leaders like Jo Gormley and Frank Chapple. He had no right of appeal against the decision of the party NEC, and it seemed highly unlikely that Harold Wilson would allow him the right to address the party’s annual conference in the autumn. Appearing gaily and confidently on radio and television programmes in the wake of these events, the MP for Pembrokeshire reacted defiantly, still pouring scorn on Harold Wilson , and anticipating the publication of his own monograph entitled Gadarene ’68, a harsh diatribe on the Wilson governments, due to appear on 29 April. 1 1 The next hurdle for him to face was a meeting of the Pembrokeshire Labour Party scheduled t o take place on 29 March when Donnelly again characteristically stubbornly refused to give an undertaking that he would apply in due course for the restoration of the Labour Party whip. (It was pointed out that, ever since the end of the Second World War, every single Labour M P who had been deprived of the party whip had eventually re-gained it before the next general election.) At a meeting of the party management committee, there was widespread support for Donnelly’s standpoint, local party agent Glyn Rees
asserting, ‘I cannot see anything being done to get rid of him from the local Labour Party. He has served us well for seventeen years!’ 14 It was notable that Pembroke Dock remained the bedrock of opposition to the MP; Cledwyn Nicholls, one of the Pembroke Dock delegates, described Donnelly’ s expulsion from the Labour Party as ‘the best thing that could have happened . We might as well have a Conservative to represent us’.15 Donnelly, a shrewd political operator, knew full-well that his retention of most Labour support within the constituency would be guaranteed if the county Labour Party resolved to disaffiliate from Transport House, and was delighted when a motion introduced at the 29 March meeting by the delegates from Transport House demanding that Donnelly re-apply for the Labour Party whip was rejected by 44 votes to 24. 16
As this bizarre course of events unfolded, the Pembrokeshire Conservative Party turned to the pressing task of choosing its parliamentary candidate for the next general election. Their choice soon fell on Roger Nicholas Edwards, a 34-year-old married man with two children , educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he had graduated BA in history. Descended from a notable family of Welsh Anglicans (the first archbishop of Wales, A. G. Edwards, was his great-great uncle, as was Dean Edwards of Bangor) , he had served on national service with the Royal Welch Fusiliers from 1952 until 1954 when he had undertaken some of his military training at Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire. He also had family links within the county. At the time of his selection Edwards was the managing director of W. Brandt’s Sons and Co. (Insurance) Ltd and he was also a director of three other subsidiary companies as well as a member of Lloyds. He had travelled widely and had visited the USA, New Zealand , Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia as well as a large number of European countries. Nicholas Edwards had already taken a substantial part in parliamentary and local government elections and had played a prominent role in study groups responsible for the formulation of Conservative Party policies, especially on monopolies and restrictive practices. He was also heavily involved in educational matters as an experienced school manager and governor. 1 7
At his adoption meeting at Haverfordwest on 16 March 1 968, Nicholas Edwards hit out at Desmond Donnelly in a personal attack full of biting invective. Noting that Donnelly had recently attended a Monday Club meeting in the company of Duncan Sandys, Julian Amery and Patrick Wall – ‘strange bed-fellow s for a Socialist’ – he went on:
We can acknowledge that it was brave, but it revealed the great flaw in his position. While attacking the Government for its foreign and defence policy, Mr. Donnelly said: ‘I do not take back a single Socialist principle’ . Minutes before Mr. Sandys had declared to a thunderous applause that it was our duty ‘to cut the canker of Socialism right out of our system’; and in the speech that followed, Mr. Amery told us that there was a clear alternative to the Wilson foreign policy for Britain, and that was provided by the Conservative Party.
Here is a man who proclaim s his Socialism, but repudiates the policies of a Socialist Government. Here is a man who is blind to the fact that socialism has failed on the three occasions it has been tried , under three different leaders, because the system is wrong, and not the personality at its head . Here is a man who says he is a Socialist while putting forward the declared policies of hi s political opponents. Here is a man who, for all the words he has uttered , has for more than three years sustained the Government by his presence in the Labour Party, and by his failure to pass through the Opposition lobbies. For all his words he has not changed Government pol icy, and he will not change it. M r. Donnelly can not dodge the central dilemma: politics is about power and government.
During the same impassioned speech, Edwards assailed his rival as ‘an intellectual fence sitter who asks the people of Pembrokeshire to believe that a Cabinet of Donnelly’s will solve all Britain ‘s problems’. Concerning the Liberal Party he was equally dismissive – ‘all that is left are the pathetic lamentation s of a lost people ‘ – while Plaid Cymru, in his view, had become ‘inspired by hatred of the English rather than by love of Wales, and from that hatred springs its negative, inward looking character.
. . . How are they to attract capital when all they have to offer are snide remarks about the companies that have established here [ in Pembrokeshire] the nucleus of our prosperity ?’.18 Letters appeared in the local press in response to Nicholas Edwards’s powerful speech. Some or these at least, it is now clear, were drafted by Donnelly himself and published under false names. One such communication read as follows :
In the belief that Pembrokeshire should always be hospitable to newcomers, I read the report of Mr. Nicholas Edwards’ Conservative adoption meeting with great interest. However, I became more and more disappointed as I read on. At first I thought ‘Me1hi11ks he doth protest too much ‘. Then when h e came lo hi s wild attacks on Mr. Desmond Donnelly M P. I was astonished that this London gentleman should be so abusive and impertinent about someone who has served Pembrokeshire people of all parties so well and for so long. Why cannot he stick to his own policies’! By this time l had decided the local Tories had got another Farey-Jones but then Mr. Farey-Jones , for all his wild speeches, had a sense of humour. Mr. Edwards may have one but he has yet to show it.”,
On 6 April at its annual general meeting at Willie Jenkins House at Haverfordwest the Pembrokeshire Labour Party voted by 69 votes to one to disaffiliate from the Labour Party and thus effectively declared UDI and set out to establish its own organisation and membership structure. At around the same time Desmond Donnelly’s long anticipated volume Gadarene ’68, sub-titled The Crimes, Follies and Misfortunes of the Wilson Government, finally saw the light of day and immediately enjoyed impressive sales and publicity throughout the country. The renegade MP at once ebulliently announced a nationwide crusade ‘from John o’Groats to Land ‘s End’ to effect a transformation in government policy, and he appealed to other constituency associations to follow the bold lead of Pembrokeshire. It was anticipated that the Labour Party would soon take steps to establish a new Pembrokeshire DLP, and it was widely believed that a legal tussle over the local Labour headquarters and the local party’s funds, estimated to approach some £60,000, lay in prospect. Within days it was revealed that senior party mandarins had taken steps to attempt to freeze the bank accounts of the local Labour Party. 20 A week later Desmond Donnelly announced the setting up of a national campaign committee as a prelude to the eventual establ ishment of a new political party, the campaign to be launched in Scotland at the end of May on the lines of an American primary, then to hold meetings at all the big cities in England and Wales, concluding with a huge public demonstration at Harold Wilson’s Huyton constituency – ‘This could be a breakaway party from the Labour Party, and could embrace radical Conservatives and practical Liberals. . . . Many Labour supporters, middle-of-the-road people, and “open-minded Tories” were thinking as he was’. On 24 April the Labour Party NEC resolved lo suspend the local constituency organisation, re-establi sh ‘a local group loyal to the national party’ and set in train moves to select a new Labour cand idate for the next general election . Sara Barker, the Labour Party’s nation a l agent and acting general secretary, circulated all branches of affiliated trades unions within Pembrokeshire notifying them of their M P’s suspension from the Labour Party and the required reconstruction .21
There was a general welcome in Pembrokeshire for Nicholas Edwards’s candidalure. As one correspondent wrote in the local press, ‘The Conservatives have my full support. We must never forget that Mr. Donnelly is a dangerous Socialist. Even if it means splitting the vote and pulling in the Welsh Nationalist , the Pembrokeshire Conservatives are right to put party before else. The country must come second’ .22 Such sentiments were evidently widely shared throughout the county. The new Conservative candidate delivered a number of impressive public speeches, speaking on such issues as transport, race and immigration , industrial development, tourism, and subsidies to the fishing industry.23 Enoch Powell, the shadow minister for defence, spoke at a coffee reception at Haverfordwest arranged by the county Conservative Association at the end of March . He was highly critical of the Labour government’s Transport Bill , which was designed to force bulk transport off the roads to the advantage of the railways, and promised a new maritime forces set-up under a future Conservative govern ment.24
On 17 May the funds of the Pembrokeshire Labour Party were frozen in the High Court (apart from routine administrative outgoi ngs) pending hearing of legal proceedings over the party’s future. It was announced that the party would be reconstituted at a meeting of delegates on 22 J une.25 During the middle of May significant numbers of local Labour Party members went over to the new local Labour Party set up by the party ‘s NEC. Much to Donnelly’s chagrin, there were large numbers of defectors at Fishguard, St Davids, Pembroke, N eyland , Haverfordwest and Tenby. Transport House began to send individual communications to Labour Party members i n the county as a means of winning over their support and demanding conformity to the constitution of the Labour Party, while on the last day of the month in the local press, Desmond Donnelly published the manifesto of his embryonic new party. Just days later, speaking at Col chester, Donnelly savaged the Prime Minister’s policy towards Rhodesia which, he asserted, had ‘deservedly earned him the “political dunce’s” cap for 1968’.26 A long, unpleasant legal battle seemed in prospect during the high summer of 1 968 as Labour Party national organisers continued their efforts to reconstitute the local party in Pembrokeshire, and, at the meeting which took place on 22 June, which about 100 delegates attended (all of these opposed to Desmond Donnelly), Cecil John, an elderly local school master, was confirmed as the president of the new Pembrokeshire CLP and a completely new executive committee was chosen. At this meeting
Cecil John noted that thirteen local parties had been reconstituted , seventeen local trades union branches had pledged their full support to the new party, and that the party had the backing of about 3000 Pembroke shire people.27
At the hearing which took place at the High Court in London from 10 July, Mr Justice Megarry was told by Mr Charles Sparrow QC, representing Cecil John, the former president of the Pembrokeshire CLP, that Desmond Donnelly was a ‘self-proclaimed rebel of the Labour Party who started a country-wide crusade to start a new opposition party. His idea seems to have been to harness to the crusade funds contributed by the Pembrokeshire people to the Labour Party. The funds were to become the war chest of the new one-man party. Mr. Donnelly announced that he had decided to declare his own UDI’. Cecil John meanwhile was ‘one of [the local Labour Party’s] elder senators and keeper of the party’s conscience’. Sparrow described to the court in some detail the uproar which had ensued at the infamous local party meeting on 6 April and lengthy exchanges ensued with passions rising on both sides. When Donnelly’s wife Mrs Rosemary Donnelly returned home after attending court, she found a telegram summoning her to appear before a special committee of the Labour Party to explain her apparent refusal to make a declaration of loyalty to the party. She commented, ‘Behind it they were trying to get me to agree not to support my husband any longer. I wrote back and said I wished to give my support to my husband’. Two days later she responded angrily to an apparent threat by the party NEC to expel her and a further thirty of her husband’s supporters unless they signed an undertaking of loyalty to the Labour Party – ‘How can one be a member of a radical party, a party of change, if one is asked to sign a declaration representative of stagnation?’. Donnelly’s local agent Glyn Rees dismissed the imperious attitude of Transport House as ‘taking things right back to the days of the jackboot’ . All thirty Donnelly supporters were soon to receive a registered letter warning them bluntly of the threat to expel them forthwith from the party.28
As this dramatic course of events unfolded , both at London and in Pembrokeshire , there were criticisms in some quarters that Nicholas Edwards was not participating actively in the life of the county where he was to stand for parliament. In July, however, he revealed the results of the detailed study which he had taken into the question of the unemployed in Pembrokeshire. His conclusion was that some of those without work were ‘genuine victims’ of unkind circumstances, but that there were others whom he labelled ‘the phoneys – people who prefer to live on a combination of casual labour and their unemployment benefits’ , and he rightly castigated those ‘idle men living off the backs of those who work’ .29 During the same month Edwards won general commendation for putting in an appearance at the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells (where he turned up in the company of party leader Ted Heath, David Gibson-Watt, the Tory spokesman on Welsh affairs, and Sir Raymond Gower, the Conservative MP for Barry) and visited the stands of the NFU and the FUW on the showground. He also spoke out repeatedly against the proposal that Pembrokeshire should me submerged into the huge county of Dyfed at the time of local government reorganisation . The proposed new county gave ‘every sign of having been invented in the minds of politicians and bureaucrats who [had] never been closer to West Wales than a small scale map’. During the high summer of 1968 Nicholas Edwards (possibly responding to repeated criticism that he had rarely been seen in the county since his nomination in March) adopted a notably high profile within the constituency, visiting many areas, fulfilling an array of official engagements, and turning up at many old people’s homes, hospitals and schools throughout Pembrokeshire. He also threw his weight behind the preservation of Withybush Hospital at Haverfordwest, protesting that seriously ill folk could not tolerate the long journey to Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen and were currently having to endure an exceptionally long wait before being seen by a consultant. Edwards also pressed for improved transport links in Wales and welcomed warmly the recent reduction in the voting age to eighteen.’30
During October it was announced that party leader Ted Heath was likely to visit Pembrokeshire, probably speaking at Haverford west, and other south Wales venues at the end of November. It was widely assumed that the Conservatives now sensed the scent of victory in the county as a result of Desmond Donnelly’s expulsion from the Labour Party and his subsequent formation of a new political party. They saw Donnelly as ‘a tough nut to crack’, and it was anticipated that ‘the star men of both major parties’ would visit Pembrokeshire ‘to try and unseat the dauntless Desmond. Our county will become the cock-pit of the country’ .31 There were some who forecast that Donnelly might well himself stand as a Conservative candidate at some point in the future – following his likely defeat in Pembrokeshire at the next general election (a prediction uncannily close to the mark). But it was by no means certain that Donnelly would be defeated in the county where he clearly enjoyed a substantial personal following and potentially a strong personal vote. At the 6 April meeting Glyn Rees had spoken out – ‘A fact that must now be realised is that the votes cast for Labour at each general election in Pembrokeshire are not really Labour votes, but Donnelly votes. The seat in Pembrokeshire has been retained for Labour against very strong opposition largely, if not entirely, through Mr Donnelly’s personal hard work and triumph and the help of a small group of hardworking supporters. It is estimated today through public opinion that Mr Donnelly holds a personal following of anything between 15,000 to 20,000 supporters’ .32 During the summer the Western Telegraph conducted a detailed opinion poll of 1,000 individuals throughout Pembroke shire, a poll which suggested that Donnelly was likely to be re-elected in the county with a majority of some 7000 votes. The detailed figures were: Donnelly 40.2 per cent; Conservative 27.4 per cent; Labour 13.4 per cent; Plaid Cymru 12.3 per cent; Liberal 4.1 per cent; and ‘undecided ‘ 2.6 per cent. In the report detailed figures were given for each part of the county. The official Labour Party was apparently being dismissed by many in the county as ‘Transport House Socialists’.” Donnelly himself, with his customary bravado, publicly forecast that he would easily hold Pembroke shire at the general election with a majority of 10,000 votes.34
There was considerable consternation within the Pembrokeshire Conservative Association in September when it was discovered that Desmond Donnelly had received and accepted an invitation to address a meeting of the Barry Conservative Association. Representations were made by the Pembrokeshire group, but were simply ignored. As the local secretary wrote to the party’s central office in Wales, ‘. . . Knowing the way the “guest speaker” works, I am sure Pembrokeshire will suffer – not only will a press report of the speech appear (probably stating what a rapturous reception he received from Conservatives) in our local press, but our supporters will be hurt in one sense and furious in another ‘ . He enclosed a press cutting of a Young Conservative meeting which Donnelly had recently addressed at Chelsea – ‘It is not what he says that matters so much as the impression he creates that he is “well in” with the Conservatives’. Donnelly ‘s conduct was clearly causing the Pembrokeshire Conservative Association considerable discomfiture and embarrassment , and it was known that Nicholas Edwards had appealed to his associates at Barry not to invite Donnelly. ”
In October the Donnelly camp received a welcome boost with the high court judgement that the officers elected by the Donnelly party at its meeting on 6 April had been properly chosen. Further, it was ruled that the funds and possessions of the party belonged to the Donnelly group.36 This rather unexpected outcome caused attitudes to harden on all sides. When George Thomas, formerly a close personal friend of Desmond Donnelly’s, now the recently appointed Secretary of State for Wales, spoke at Haverfordwest at the end of October, he launched a sharp attack on Donnelly’s ‘wild outbursts’ and vigorously defended Harold Wilson .37 As the autumn ran its course, Nick Edwards and the Conservative Party machine clearly stepped up its campaign in Pembrokeshire. At the party conference convened at Blackpool in October, Edwards delivered an important, widely reported speech on the problems of the constituency and the urgent need for the government to devote resources to the development of an improved transport system: ‘The old industries are fading away and the employment prospects of many depended upon Government establishments that are threatened with closure. We now have the greatest oil port in the United Kingdom [in Milford Haven], but it is highly automated and employs few. The industrial complex that should go with it will remain a dream until we have a government which will recognise that the greatest single contribution they can make to the prosperity of many of the development areas is an adequate transport system ‘. In this speech he drew attention to the unusually high unemployment levels within Pembrokeshire and the very poor prospects of future employment – unless the government acted.38 Shortly afterwards, the Conservative candidate pressed government departments for an assurance that the projected concorde test flights over west Wales would not pose a threat to historic buildings like the St David ‘s Cathedral.
A major political meeting was then convened at the Fishguard Bay Hotel on 9 November – to be addressed by Nick Edwards, David Gibson-Watt (as the Conservative spokesman on Welsh affairs) and David George (the Conservative candidate for Cardiganshire). Gibson-Watt, who experienced severe difficulties with the local railway service in reaching the remote constituency (eventually arriving at Pembroke Dock instead of Haverford west as originally planned!), urged caution over further devolutionary concessions for Wales: ‘The future well-being of Wales stands or falls on whether the United Kingdom as a whole can surmount its difficulties ‘. In response to current government plans to give the Secretary of State for Wales responsibility for health and agriculture within the principality, Gibson-Watt spoke out, ‘Let nobody blind himself to where all this may eventually lead us in Wales. The Welsh Nationalists want a Welsh Parliament and economic separation’. At the same conference Edwards under lined his party’s commitment to increasing the defence budget.39 On 13 November the prospective candidate addressed the Pembrokeshire Young Farmers on the difficulties facing agricultural communities and in support of the decision that the voting age in parliamentary elections should be reduced to eighteen years. Party leader Ted Heath visited the county on 29 November, travelling there by overnight sleeper from London, and attending functions at Milford Haven and Haverfordwest before departing for Carmarthen in the afternoon. To an audience exceeding four hundred of the party faithful who nibbled chicken legs and sipped white wine at the Market Hall, Haverfordwest, the Tory leader declared that the county would certainly fall to the Conservatives at the next general election, along with many other Welsh seats – ‘As the result of research we have come to the conclusion that there is now an opportunity, as never before, to gain almost half the votes of the people of Wales at the next election . We now have new voters ready to turn to our cause when the general election comes’ . Heath also spoke out against the growing swirl of devolutionary demands: ‘The prosperity of Wales will always depend upon the prosperity of the United Kingdom as a whole. We can none of us cut ourselves off from the others without damaging each other, and this applies to all parts of the United Kingdom . The first task of any Government must be to produce good government for the whole of Britain’ . The day after the visit to the county, the Tory leader wrote to Nick Edwards, ‘I shall look forward to seeing you in the next House of Commons’ .40
The Conservative pre-election campaign in Pembrokeshire rapidly gathered momentum. Within a week of Ted Heath’s visit, a party rally and bazaar at Haverfordwest was addressed by Sir Ted Leather, the party’s vice chairman, well-known nationally as a regular panellist on the BBC radio programme ‘Any Questions’ .41 It was agreed on all sides that the result of the next general election remained wide-open partly as a result of the ‘massive floating vote’ within the county and the unknown impact of the split Labour vote there. There remained, it was thought, a substantial body of ‘undecided Socialists who have still to decide whether to back the breakaway Desmond Donnelly or the pro-Wilson Transport House Brigade’. A further poll undertaken by Western Telegraph reporters at the end of the year revealed a quite dramatic change in the voting intentions of the county’s electorate: Conservatives 36.1 per cent; Desmond Donnelly 28 per cent; Official Labour 1 2.5 per cent; Plaid Cymru 7.8 per cent ; Liberal Party 5.7 per cent; and ‘Don ‘t know ‘, 9.9 per cent. At the time opinion polls conducted throughout the UK were revealing a dramatic swing of some 20 per cent to the Conservatives. Within Pembrokeshire the swing was rather less, but still significant, while Desmond Donnelly still enjoyed ‘an amazing personal following’ within the county whose impact was very much an unknown quantity.42 Right at the end of this extraordinary year, Desmond Donnelly did make an attempt to reach some kind of agreement with the Labour Party nationally, but his tentative olive branch was contemptuously swept aside by Transport House which doggedly resolved to press on with its investigation into the affairs of the constituency Labour Party. On 9 January 1969 the secretaries of all the local Labour Parties in Pembrokeshire were informed by Sara Barker that they were to be summoned before the party’s NEC individually for questioning and the possibility that they might well then be expelled from the Labour Party. Rosemary Donnelly was indeed expelled from the party at the beginning of February, and she then lost her Goodwick seat at the subsequent local government elections.43
But the Desmond Donnelly crusade attracted a considerable amount of interest and publicity across the globe – even in such remote places as Hong Kong and New Zealand where newspapers carried reports on his activities and progress.44 He clearly enjoyed a fair measure of sympathy and support, but many spoke out against hi m too. There were some in Pembrokeshire who, with some justification, depicted Donnelly as an MP who ‘had no mandate ‘ from his constituents to remain in the House of Commons. One correspondent noted in the columns of the local press, ‘A continuation of abusive remarks which have now reached the border of scurrility will not improve the image of our M.P. in his attacks on Mr. Wilson. On the contrary, it is a serious blow to the prestige and popularity he has had in the County for many years’ .45 The reformed county Labour Party was in very serious difficulties. Early in 1969 Glyn Rees, the local party agent, had written to Sara Barker to inform her that the party had an overdraft of over £2000 at Lloyds Bank, Haverfordwest, and that there were further debts owed to the Midland Bank, Milford Haven which was pressing for repayment. Such was the severity of the local party’s finances that it seriously considered disposing of its headquarters Wille Jenkins House at 61 and 62 Dew Street, Haverfordwest, a suggestion which provoked an angry reaction from the local party membership. Further indignation was caused by the fact that both Glyn Rees and his nominated deputy had failed to turn up at party meetings convened early in the new year, and by the ongoing proceedings of the NEC investigating committee. At a meeting in January, one of the delegates present asserted, ‘There was a lot of money in the party up to the time of the split, and it was often said that there were sufficient funds for Desmond Donnelly to finance an election every six months. What has happened to it all now ?’. It was noted that the party ‘s balance sheet for the year 1967 had shown an excess of income over expenditure of £600 ‘which was quite healthy ‘.46
It was widely anticipated that, in consequence of this course of events, Nicholas Edwards stood a very good chance of capturing the Pembroke shire constituency. By March it seemed that at least five candidates would contest the next general election in Pembrokeshire as the county Liberal Party announced the adoption of Alan Coulthard, a 45-year-old Swansea
barrister who had already stood in the county in the October 1 964 general election when he had polled a fairly impressive total of 9679 votes.47 Wynne Samuel, the Plaid Cymru aspirant, had already been adopted some months earlier and had been nursing the constituency assiduously in the meantime, and the Labour Party, too, had chosen Gordon Parry to stand in the constituency. In the middle of March, Donnelly wrote a little glumly to his friend Sir Roy Welensky , the former Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland , ‘I am feeling a little grim at the moment. The Liberals have now gone and adopted a candidate against me in Pembroke as well, which is not good. This means we shall have Conservative, Labour, Welsh Nationalist , Liberals and me. If I can beat that lot, I can climb Mount Everest’.48 Possibly he sensed that his fate was scaled by the decision of the Liberals (which whom he had had genuine hopes of forming some kind of electoral alliance in the county and possibly beyond) to put up a candidate against hi m. Meanwhile Desmond Donnelly ‘s own behaviour was growing increasingly bizarre and indeed unpredictable. At the Brighton Pavilion by-election , due to take place on 24 March, he gave his full backing to Julian Amery, the Conservative candidate, with whom he had apparently formed a very close bond of fnendsh1p. Shortly afterwards, he gave an impassioned address to a packed meeting of the Chelsea Conservative Political Centre during the course of which a man at the back of the hall demanded, ‘Why are you not a Tory?’ , to which Donnelly relied at once, ‘Because my duty is to the ordinary common people of Pembrokeshire and to Britain as a whole, not to a sall group of Home Guard colonels’, a response which surprisingly gave rise to loud cheers from the Tory faithful present at the meeting. Within the Labour Party he was now regarded as an outright traitor. Before the end of the month, amidst recurrent rumours that the wayward MP was on the point of .setting up his own independent political party, he suffered a real body-blow when fourteen prominent members of the Milford Haven Labour Party, previously among Donnelly’s staunchest supporters, announced their resignations and readiness to back the party’s NEC and national constitution.49 By this time it was rumoured that, although the Pembrokeshire CLP had some £50,000 worth of material assets, it was still in debt to the tune of about £14,000.50
On the first day of the month the three officials – the president, secretary and treasurer – of the Pembrokeshire Labour Party which supported Desmond Donnelly had announced their resignations from the Labour Party, as did fourteen members of the twenty-four strong committee, among them Rosemary Donnelly. One of their number was Glyn Rees, who had been secretary and agent to the party ever since 1955 and was extremely well-known in political circles throughout the county. In the words of the local press, ‘What started as a small crack in the surface unity of the local Labour party has gradually widened to become a major split … and now, finally, a complete division’ .51 It was now abundantly clear that there could never be any real reconciliation between Desmond Donnelly and the official Labour Party. Donnelly’s new party was indeed launched at a Haverfordwest hotel (significantly a location within the Pembrokeshire constituency rather than at Westminster) on 8 April 1969 to a large gathering of national journalists and television cameras. From the outset, although it was agreed that the timing of the launch and the delivery of Desmond Donnelly’s inaugural speech were auspicious, it was widely felt that the new party had but little prospect of making any significant long-term impression upon ·the course of British political life and that the new Donnelly party did not have a distinguishable enough political platform and policies. To a large extent his political standpoint seemed remarkably close to that of the Conservatives, and an Edwards victory now seemed ever more likely in Pembrokeshire. Donnelly was himself also stirring the political waters with his articles in the News of the World which claimed that a general election was likely in the autumn as was a change of party leader.52 In an impressive speech at the AGM of the Pembrokeshire Conservative Association in April 1969, Nick Edwards assailed each of the other candidates in turn, reserving the following attack for Desmond Donnelly: ‘We have been told that soon Mr. Donnelly is going to tell us his plans for the future and what he stands for. I know what it will be – an attempt to retain Socialist votes with Conservative principles. Recently Mr. Donnelly wrote about the sensitivity of certain politicians to TV and press criticism; basically it stems from a desire to pull their own publicity strings and present themselves as big men – well the cap fits ‘. Alan Coulthard regarded Edwards’s peroration and claims of assured victory as ‘a little pathetic’ , and asserted that there were, in reality, now two Conservative candidates standing in Pembrokeshire. Desmond Donnelly, Coulthard described as ‘that new pillar of the right ‘, who had openly supported the candidature and policies of Julian Amery – a figure notoriously on the extreme right wing of the Conservative Party. and a man already spoken of as a successor to the hapless Mr. Heath ‘ 53
But Donnelly pressed ahead with the development of his n new party, by now christened the United Democrats, holding a formal foundation conference, again at Haverfordwest, at the end of May, and proclaiming ambitious plans to put up some thirty -six party candidates at the forthcoming general election , seven of these in Welsh seats, while each of the three three party leaders was to be opposed by Donnelly candidates and a candidate was also to be put up at the pending by-election at Newcastle-under-Lyme due to be held in the autumn . Donnelly announced with characteristic bravado at the Haverforwest launch conference, ‘Some fifty people have come forward as parliamentary candidates. Our greatest needs are money and time. If we have enough time, and Mr Wilson does not run out on his job, we hope to put something like thirty to forty candidates in different parts of Britain ‘. Warming to his theme, he went on, ‘Our challenge is to bring about a new alignment altogether in British politics. Our appeal is to all those who may have voted Tory, Liberal or Labour in the past, but who now see our nation is in rapid decline’. He underlined the fact repeatedly that it was the new party’s firm intention to put up a candidate against the Prime Minister in his Huyton constituency
– ‘We have a retired judge who is a very distinguished man of great dignity to fight there, and he may well have to don his black cap for M r. Wilson’ .54 (This was presumably a reference to Mr Gerald Sparrow, the former Bangkok judge, who was then 66 years of age.)
The published manifesto of the new party advocated the near-abolition of the welfare state, a massive reduction in public spending of some 75 per cent over the next quinquennium , substantial tax cuts, the denationalisation of British industries, a major reduction in the scope of the civil service, the removal of governmental controls on prices and incomes (thus allowing substantial increases in the cost of basic commodities), and a reduction in the number of MPs from 630 to 250. As the functions of central govern ment were thus much curtailed, the role of local councils would be considerably enhanced to carry a substantial additional work-load . Donnelly’ s avowed objectives were to transform a constituency organisation into a national movement by forming new constituency parties at the rate of two per month , and to amass a political war-chest in excess of £1 million within the next five years. Most political commentators responded by doubting the prospects of success for the new party, but in the Sunday Teleraph eminent historian and writer Robert Skidelsky hailed Desmond Donnelly as ‘a brave man who has made a brave dash for freedom . . . . We should not despise the logic that drove him to it’ .55 Nicholas Edwards was predictably far less charitable towards his political rival. Within a week of the official launch meeting of the new party at Haverfordwest, Edwards stood on the very same platform and compared Donnelly ‘s ill-fated efforts to win power with those of Winnie the Pooh to reach the ‘honey ‘: ‘The Labour Party will be with us long after Mr. Donnelly ‘s vainglorious escapade is forgotten, because for all its shortcomings it represents ideals und common interests which are not to be found among Donnelly ‘s casual collection of political dropouts or in his extraordinary and entirely artificial mixture of ideas from opposite ends of the political spectrum. United and Democratic? We shall see!’. Edwards was clearly especially well informed about the Democratic Party foundation conference, stating that of the 212 chairs placed in the Masonic Hall for the potentially high profile occasion, only about 150 had been taken, out of which only some 100 were Pembrokeshire folk prepared to turn out to salute ‘their hero’, while the proceedings overall, claimed Edwards, had been characterised by a profound ‘sense of anti-climax’ – ‘The most remarkable thing about the meeting was not the poor attendance, but the complete absence – even of a verbal message – from a single figure of national distinction from our political and public life’. He continued:
Over a year after announcing his intention of forming a new party, after an unparalleled campaign of self-advertisement, in spite of an enormous public relations exercise, this was all that Mr. Donnelly could offer. A year ago we were told that three well-k n own – but nameless – politicians were about lo declare their support for Mr. Donnelly. We have heard nothing of them since. Now a retired – but, or course, nameless – High Court Judge is apparently to devote his old age to this noble cause. Thirty-eight – but faceless – candidates are to offer themselves as a sacrifice on the altar of Mr. Donnelly’s ambition, after being vetted – and how appropriately – by a former member of the Secret Service. In the shadows, we are told, a large, but anonymous part of the Parliamentary Labour Party is merely biding its time before declaring itself ready to abolish the Welfare State.56
By August it was clear that an intensive five candidate election campaign lay in prospect in Pembrokeshire, a feature widely noted in the national press.57 On 20 September, at a very enthusiastic meeting convened at Willie Jenkins House, the county Labour Party considered an impressive short-list of six potential candidates of whom the favourite – Gordon Parry, a 43-year-old schoolmaster from Neyland – was eventually chosen by an overwhelming majority of the delegates as candidate, In previous years Parry had been a staunch supporter of Desmond Donnelly’s in the county; now, perversely, they were to be electoral opponents.58 Although in his heart of hearts Desmond Donnelly must have known that his prospects of electoral success were inevitably remote in a five cornered contest, in public his optimism continued: ‘Our aim in the next general election is 27-28,000 votes’, he told the September quarterly meeting of the Democrats at the Mariners Hotel, Haverfordwest, ‘The Liberal candidate will lose his deposit, with ignominy. The Welsh Nationalist will do likewise. And the Wilsonite Labour man will either just save or just lose his deposit. I am not minimising the task ahead. But we can beat the lot put together. And we have one advantage, one priceless advantage – the Conservative candidate himself (loud laughter and applause)’. He then went on to discuss at length the serious unemployment problem facing Pembrokeshire and anticipated keenly the impending by-election at Newcastle-under-Lyne where a Democrat candidate was to stand for the first time – ‘The Newcastle-under-Lyne by-election is the first test and the Common Market will be an issue. Never mind the polls, this is the first time that people will have the chance actually to vote for a candidate who is not pledged to be lobby fodder for the Common Market like the other three’. He boldly anticipated that Democrat divisional parties were about to be formed in constituencies throughout the country, and welcomed to the meeting delegations from Birmingham and Coventry who, he claimed, sought to emulate the example of Pembrokeshire. 59
Donnelly’s optimism in relation to Newcastle-under-Lyne was misplaced as David Parker, the Democrat candidate, polled just 1699 votes, about three per cent of those cast, and, at another by-election in the Louth division of Lincolnshire a little later the Democrat polled no more than 1225 votes (4.3 per cent). Both candidates easily lost their deposits, but at least some interest in the cause had been created, and the campaign in Pembrokeshire continued.60 Gordon Parry alleged that Donnelly had even received a message wishing him well from Ted Heath, while Donnelly himself liked to boast that his new party was receiving generous donations from Conservative, Liberal and Labour supporters, including from Sir John Wedgwood, the former deputy chairman of Josiah Wedgwood Ltd.61 The Young Conservative group at Haverfordwest even invited Desmond Donnelly to elucidate his policies at a public meeting – until the county Conservative Association got wind of the invitation and it was promptly withdrawn. 62 The Labour campaign in Pembrokeshire was clearly gathering momentum too. At the Labour Party annual conference in October Gordon Parry was given a very warm reception. As he walked to the microphone to address the conference, Jim Callaghan, the home secretary, called out, ‘Come on, Gordon, you can win Pembroke!’. In a cogent address to the delegates, Parry told them that, during the previous two years, ‘Pembrokeshire had been engaged in fighting off a bid for personal power’ .63
On the last day of 1969 one local newspaper hailed the recent formation of ‘a new political party with positive, identifiable and attractive policies appealing to the mass of the uncommitted middle class’ and anticipated that Donnelly’s Democratic party might well make some impact at the next general election.64 But, as 1970 dawned, Desmond Donnelly himself clearly realised that his prospects even of retaining Pembrokeshire were slim indeed. The pro-Labour vote would inevitably be split in Pembroke shire, possibly allowing a Conservative victory at the polls. Nicholas Edwards had proved himself a doughty campaigner in the county ever since his nomination, making lavish promises to rescue the county’s rail links and to being new jobs to the area, and consistently making vitriolic personal attacks on Desmond Donnelly in his many public speeches. He had also become actively involved in the local campaign to save the naval air base at Brawdy.65 Moreover, Donnelly’s good name was inevitably somewhat tarnished by the civil war which had waged throughout the previous two years. Intense speculation ensued on the precise date of the next general election as The Times asserted at the end of February that Donnelly’s spirited bid to retain Pembrokeshire had ‘all the markings of first class, and fierce, farce’ .66 There was conjecture that Donnelly had offered to withdraw the Democrat candidate at Newcastle-under-Lyme in return for an undertaking that Nichola s Edwards might stand down in Pembrokeshire. Bill Weale, the Conservative agent in Pembrokeshire, commented, ‘Needless to say, this last-ditch effort to save his own skin was as fruitless as all his other ventures to prove he is God’s gift to the luckless electors. He is obviously a worried man ‘.67 Talk of possible electoral pacts and deals between the Conservatives and the Democrats persisted for months, and there was even conjecture about direct talks between Desmond Donnelly and Ted Heath on such matters . Donnelly’s close friendship with right-wing Conservative MP J ulian Amery was often mentioned (both shared very similar anti-Labour and indeed anti-Wilson viewpoints), and it was widely known that Desmond Donnelly was well acquainted with two former Conservative Prime Mini sters Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan. At a University of Wales Air Squadron dinner held at St Athan in mid-M arch, Julian Amery, the secretary of state for air in the last Conservative government and the son-i n-l aw of Harold Macmillan , had lavished praise on Donnelly, ‘I want to say what a privilege it is to share this table with my friend and colleague Desmond Donnelly. It is very rare in public life that a political figure has the courage to stand for principle and nation before any thought of personal self interest, and I am privileged to be here with Mr. Desmond Donnelly because of what he had done and is seeking to do for the defences of Britain (applause) . We have been on opposite sides of the House in the past, but we have always been friends and colleagues’. It was generally agreed that, by speaking out in this way, Amery, viewed as ‘one of Britain ‘s leading Conservatives’ , had deliberately ‘cold-shouldered ‘ Nicholas Edwards, his own party ‘s candidate in Pembrokeshire, as he went on: ‘It is a well known fact and I make it no secret that I can not understand why my political party should be opposing Mr. Donnelly in his constituency and I know how I would vote if l were an elector in Pembrokeshire’. 68
On 16 February the Democratic Party published a detailed sixteen-page policy statement – ‘The objective is to save a sinking nation ‘. A mong its many proposals were a tough stance on ‘permissiveness ‘ – ‘Rome fell because of its permissive society. Britain’s permi ssive society is rotting the soul of the nation’. It consequently advocated raising the moral standards of television and radio programmes and newspaper s, a harder line on drug taking , and a rigorous review of the laws on abortion, homosexuality and divorce. Other policies included heavier penalties for convicted criminals, a re-assessment of capital punishment, and consideration of the introduction of corporal punishment. Income tax was to be cut to a flat rate of five shillings in the pound , while those earning less than £2000 per annum were to be exempt from the payment of income tax . An added-value tax was to be introduced , support for industry, and a clamp down on the trades unions and on immigration, together with a slimming-down of the civil service, and an increase in Britain’s defence commitments. 69 It was a notably right-wing agenda which immediately did have its supporters, indeed admirers, but it was also widely felt that there was also an element of ‘something for everyone’ in its contents. Most commentators agreed that the manifesto presented ‘a picture of an Utopia which the Democrats will never be given the chance to provide’. The proposals concerning taxation were considered bizarre and incapable of implementation , while surprise was voiced at the failure to discuss Britain and the EEC, a burning i ssue in 1970. 70 The same month – Feb ruary 1 970 – saw a widely reported political meeting at Haverfordwest addressed by Jim Callaghan, the home secretary, at a ti me of major dis enchantment among the county ‘s farming communities. Other political big guns, too, came to the remote constituency, including Michael Heseltine, the Conservative spokesman on transport, Edward Short, Cledwyn Hughes (a former secretary of state for Wales), and Mrs Barbara Castle, the secretary of state for employment and productivity. Mrs Castle told a Labour Party meeting at Haverfordwest that Donnelly ‘fell by the wayside when the going got tough. He should be repudiated for repudiating Socialism ‘. At a Democratic Party conference at Saundersfoot a week later, Desmond Donnelly retaliated sharply by asserting that Barbara Castle had ‘lied and cringed’ over trades union legislation the previous year.71 At the same conference he warned his followers against setting their sights too high. Early bravado about putting up a large number of Democrat Party candidates at the general election had by now largely dis appeared: ‘I would rather run ten candidates well than twenty indifferently. We have too many action stations. We have got to decide what constituencies we are going to fight. Do not let us set our sights too high ‘.72 The influx of Labour heavweight politicians into the constituency during the. re-elect10n and elect10n campaigns was often commented upon in political columns. Commentators attributed their anxiety to visit Pembrokeshire to the fact that Transport House now considered the seat ‘winnable’ and to Donnelly’s general lack of popularity among his former colleagues in the Labour fold.
An enterprising opinion poll conducted by the Western Telegraph in ten areas of Pembrokeshire at the end of March revealed the following trend: Labour 30.9 per cent, Conservative 29.3 per cent, and Democrat 24.7 per cent.73 Desmond Donnelly’s own predictions were predictably more favourable to the Democrat cause. During April there was a great deal of speculat10n about other Democrat election candidates in various parts of the country. Peter Hancock , the president of the Democratic Party in Pembrokeshire, announced that he would seek the nomination for Carmarthenshire, but this eventually came to nothing .74 Noel Armstrong, a Norwich solicitor, announced that he would stand at Norwich South as a Democratic Party candidate rather than as an independent as he had originally intended.75 Press columnists noted that Desmond Donnelly’s close rapport with Woodrow Wyatt, the Labour MP for the Bosworth division and previously a political soul-mate, had conspicuously come to an abrupt end since Donnelly had been expelled from the Labour Party.76 In his own diary entry in the middle of the month Donnelly himself wrote, ‘I think Heath will win. Some do not. The public do not like him enough’ .77 He was convinced that a general election was imminent, even though the Labour government did not have to go to the country until the spring of 1971. As Donnelly wrote to his friend Dean Acheson, a former secretary of state in the United States, ‘The clue is Harold Wilson’s indiscreet remark, “Always remember I am still young enough to be P.M. for another five years after 1974-75” ‘.78 Just ten days later he wrote to Acheson again, ‘I am sitting writing this in bed at 7.30 am in a hotel in Reading – where I am a conference of Democratic Party candidates. In the last week I have spent three nights on trains, driving myself about 650 miles on British roads – and can confirm Chesterton’s rolling English roads! And made several – I cannot remember how many – speeches. There are easier ways of earning a living’ . Anticipating the likely date of the general election, he went on, ‘I am pretty sure we will hold in Pembroke. I have one or two other startling possibilities. When and if they are nearer to fruition, I will tell you’. In an addendum to this very long letter, Donnelly wrote, ‘An opinion poll with 1,000 sample in a 70,000 electorate in Pembrokeshire says: DD 20,500; Labour 19,800 (cannot be right); Tory 18,800 (about right); Nationalist 2,500 (I’d say a little more drawn from Lab); Liberals 1,650 (man now packed up). Rosemary [Donnelly, his wife], Glyn Rees (my agent) and Peter Hancock (my President) all returned unopposed to the Pembrokeshire County Council. Six other Democrat gains locally’ .79
During the June 1970 election campaign Desmond Donnelly gave priority to transport issues, law and order, welfare questions and defence. He caused ripples at Westminster at the beginning of May when he summoned a press conference at the House of Commons to demand the appointment of a new editor of The Times to replace William Rees-Mogg on the grounds that, during recent months, the newspaper ‘had pursued policies contrary to the British national interest ‘. It soon emerged that the real reason for Donnelly’s grouse was that the paper had refused to publish an advertisement for the Democratic Party on 15 April without some amendment of its contents – ‘I think that the editor was imposing censorship, and that this was impertinent’ .80 At around the same time he wrote to Sir Roy Welensky :
Since I wrote life has been one hell of a mad rush. On March 14, when I was speaking at the University of Wales Air Squadron Dinner at St. Athan, I was dragged out to be told by my Intelligence that the General Election was July 2 or 9. And bang on! Since then everything has had to go by the board, including friendships, almost. . . . I have been getting up at 2, 3 or 4 am. This letter is being written at 6 a.m. Anyway the situation is as follows. I shall hold Pembroke. The tide has turned, definitely. It is my eighth general election as a candidate and ninth if I throw in a by-election too. And I sense it without false optimism. In the country it is going to be a damn close run thing. Wilson could win. Repeat: he may win. The public do not like Heath.81
Before the end of the month, Welensky, clearly aware of the very real danger that Donnelly might reduce his chances of success in Pembroke shire by giving overmuch support to the other Democrat candidates scattered across the country, warned him kindly, ‘. . . I sincerely hope you will take my advice and concentrate on winning your own seat. You will of course help your candidates, but remember that, if you are defeated, it will be the end of the Party and I think, if this can be avoided, it is vital that it should be’ .82 Soon it was announced that the general election was to take place on 18 June 1970, and the local press i n Pembrokeshire revealed that the local contest was ‘neck and neck’ and published the following odds on the outcome of the election: Desmond Donnelly 5 to 2; Nicholas Edwards 4 to 5 favourite; Gordon Parry 5 to 4; and Wynne Samuel the 100 to 1 outsider. As it was widely felt that the traditional Liberal vote in the constituency had simply disintegrated, those with Liberal sympathies were encouraged to vote for their second choice candidate. At the eleventh hour there was a switch in the Liberal candidate.83 Following the withdrawal of Alan Coulthard, the county Liberal Association first announced that it would not be putting up a candidate at the general election, but then stated that they had found a new aspirant in Wynford Thomas, a 22-year-old native of Loughor near Swansea who was a law student at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Nationally the election was a presidential style campaign with the personalities of Harold Wilson and Ted Heath looming large throughout, and the opinion polls generally suggested that the Labour Party would be returned to government with an overall majority of about twenty seats. The pre election campaign in remote Pembrokeshire had probably lasted longer than in any other constituency – ever since Desmond Donnelly had resigned the Labour whip, been expelled from the party and then formed his own Democratic Party, a series of events which threw the Labour Party organisation in the county into ‘disarray, confusion and consternation’. When Peter Walker, the shadow minister for housing and local government, spoke at the Masonic Hall, Haverfordwest on 15 May, shortly after the general election had been called, he anticipated ‘one of the dirtiest fought elections in history’ .84 Surprisingly, Desmond Donnelly rarely featured in news bulletins broadcast from London during the election campaign, and was just occasionally mentioned in passing as ‘a departed comrade from the Labour Party’. This may be explained by his absence from London as he campaigned hard within Pembrokeshire and in the other five constituencies where Democratic Party candidates were standing.
Late in the campaign Desmond Donnelly characteristically threw a spanner into the works by announcing dramatically at an election press conference that he had received a letter of support from Edward du Cann, a former chairman of the Conservative Party, a ploy which deeply angered local Tories and forced du Cann into making a public denial. A little later Donnelly claimed at a Haverfordwest press conference that he had also received a ‘good wishes’ message for his electoral success there from Edward Heath, a claim which compelled the Conservative leader to interrupt an election tour of the West Country in order to send a communication to the local press in Pembrokeshire – ‘I have not, at any time – wished Mr. Donnelly success in the election campaign in Pembrokeshire’. When pressed further, Donnelly retorted that the message had been hand-written by Heath on the back of a menu for a rugby dinner – ‘It was given to a third party whom I am not prepared to name at this stage. When the chips are down, I will produce the man . . . . It’s perfectly true. It’s in his own handwriting’. Following the publication of this story in the local press, a writ alleging libel was served by Desmond Donnelly on the publishers of the Western Telegraph and a further writ alleging slander was served on Nicholas Edwards by Donnelly.85
At around the same time the Democratic Party published its election manifesto which had as its centre-piece a radical overhaul of the system of personal taxation and the restitution of some form of national service extending for eighteen months to all young people. A separate Welsh manifesto was devolutionist in tone, advocating ‘far less government from London’ for the Welsh people. 86 Donnelly offered himself for re-election to the electors of Pembrokeshire as a ‘tried and trusted representative for twenty years’ who had played a major role in the establishment and expans on of the new county general hospital. Throughout the frenzied campaign he continued to assail Harold Wilson for the massive increase in the national debt, the recent increases in personal taxation, and his failed policies on Rhodesia, South Africa and defence.87
As is well known, the Labour Party lost the June 1970 general election against all the odds, a severe personal rebuff for Harold Wilson who, totally nonplussed and unprepared, soon had to vacate 10 Downing Street at just a few hours’ notice. As Desmond Donnelly had often predicted during the run-up to the election, the next government was to be led by, Edward H eath, who hecame Conservati ve Prime Minister for the first and only time. One of the Conservative gains in the election was Pembrokeshire where Nick Edwards won with a relatively small majority of 1231 votes, and the county reverted to the Tories for the first time since 1929. It was precisely the kind of highly marginal constituency which the Conservatives had needed to win in order to form a government in 1970. Although Donnelly won no fewer than 11,824 votes, a substantial total, he was still beaten into third place behind Gordon Parry and was predictably at once accused of having split the Labour vote in the marginal seat and of thus allowing a Conservative victory. 88 None of the other five Democrat candidates in the election had polled a creditable total poll, and it was widely felt that a bold experiment had come to an end with Donnelly’s personal defeat in Pembrokeshire. It could well be argued that Donnelly’s near obsession with bringing down Harold Wilson had meant the end of his own potentially promising political career. Whereas Wilson was, how ever, to return to government as Prime Minister in February and October 1974, eventually announcing a sudden retirement from the premiership in March 1976, Desmond Donnelly ‘s subsequent fate was especially sad. Not surprisingly, he realised that his defeat at Pembrokeshire in June 1970 heralded the effective end of his Democratic Party and, as widely anti cipated, he made overtures to the Conservative Party. He formally joined the Conservatives, where he had a number of friends, in April 1971, but sadly failed to secure adoption as a prospective parliamentary candidate for the party. Eventually, an intense feeling of political failure, coupled with financial and business pressures, saw him commit suicide on 4 April 1974. Although Nicholas Edwards’s initial return to parliament in June 1970 could perhaps be attributed primarily to the split Labour vote in Pembrokeshire, he subsequently held the constituency until his retirement from parliament in 1987, serving as the secretary of state for Wales during the first two Thatcher administrations. 89
1. See J. Graham Jones, ‘Desmond Donnelly and Pembrokeshire politics, 1964- 70’, Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society, No. 12 (2003), 67-102; and the fuller account available in Allen Layne, ‘Desmond Donnelly ‘, unpublished University of Miami Ph.D. thesis, 2004 .
2. W. Wyatt, Confessions of an Optimist (London, 1985), 295; H. Wilson, The Labour Government, 1964-1970: a personal record (London, 1971), 102;
B. Pimlott, Harold Wilson (London, 1992), 357-58; K. 0. Morgan , Michael Foot : a Life (London , 2007), 239; M. Jones, Michael Foot (London, 1994), 288 . See also J . Grimond, Memoirs (London , 1979), 218-19.
3. P. Ziegler, Wilson: the authorized life of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx (London, 1 993), 2 1 5; The Times, 26 July 1966.
4. Western Telegraph, 29 June 1967.
5. N ational Library of Wales (hereafter NLW), Pembrokeshire Conservative Assoc i ation Records, file 74, W. E. Austen , Opposition Whips’ Office, House of Commons, to W. V. Weale, Pembrokeshire Con servative and Unionist Association , Haverfordwest, 27 November 1967.
6. House of Commons Debates, 5th series, vol. 754, cc. 1196-1201 (21 November 1967).
7 . The Times, 19 and 29 January 1968. Donnelly ‘s resignation letter to John Silkin , the government chief whip, dated 18 January 1 968, was publish in full in The Times, 9 January 1 968.
8. The Times , 20 January 1968. See also ‘Stormy petrel Donnelly is so popular ‘, Western. Mail, 20 January 1968, for a sympathetic evaluation of Donnelly’s local popularity.
9. The Times, 1 February 1 968.
10. The Times, 1 2 February 1968.
11. Western Mail, 9 March 1968.
12. The Times, 22 February and 21 March 1968; Manchester Guardian, 18 March 1968; B. Castle, The Castle Diaries, 1964-70 (London , 1984), 376-77, diary
entry for 21 February 1968.
13. The Times, 21 and 23 March 1968.
14. Minutes of meeting of the Pembrokeshire Constituency Labour Party, 29 March 1 968, cited in Layne, op. cit., p. 334.
16. bid .
17. Western Telegraph , 28 February and 14 March 1 968.
18. Western Telegraph, 2 1 March 1968.
19. . NLW, Pembrokeshire Conservative Association Records, file 74, draft of letter in the hand of Desmond Donnelly to local newspapers [March l 968]. At the close of the campaign Nicholas Edwards was able to prove that some of the letters printed in the local press attacking him and supporting Donnelly were in fact penned by Donnelly and published under false names.
20. The Times, 8 and 10 April 1968.
21. The Times, 18, 25 and 30 April 1968; West Wales Guardian, 1 8 April 1968.·
22. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1 , scrapbook I, unlabelled press cutting from a local newspaper, letter from Colonel I. M. Fogbound, late 1st Battalion, Pembrokeshire Airborne Regiment.
23. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1, scrapbook I, unlabelled press cuttings.
24. West Wales Guardian, 5 April 1968. ·
25. The Times, 18 May 1968; NLW, Labour Party Wales Archives, vol. 12, execu- tive committee minutes, 17 J une 1 968.
26. West Wales Guardian, 3 and 31 May 1968; Western Mail, 5 June 1968.
27. The Times, 24 June 1968.
28. The Times, 1 1 , 13 and 15 July 1 968.
29. Western Telegraph, 4 July 1968.
30. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/ I, scrapbook I, unlabelled press cuttings.
31. West Wales Guardian, II October 1 968.
32. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers, file B22, Report of Secretary & Agent to the AGM of the Pembrokeshire Labour Party, 6 April 1 968
33. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1, scrapbook 1, unlabelled press cutting from the Western Telegraph.
34. West Wales Guardian, 6 September 1968.
35. NLW, Pembrokeshire Conservative Association Records, file 74, W. V. Weale, Pembrokeshire Conservative and Unionist Association, Haverfordwest, to
L. Wolstenholme, 23 September 1968 (copy); Wolstenholme to Weale, 25 Sep tember 1968.
36. The outcome of the court case was widely reported in the national press. See the reports in The Times, 18 October 1 968, Manchester Guardian, 19 October 1968, Daily Telegraph, 19 October 1968, and the Western Mail, 18 October 1968.
37. Western Telegraph, 3 October 1968.
38. Western Telegraph, 1 7 October 1968.
39. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1 , scrapbook I, unlabelled press cuttings.
40. Western Telegraph, 21 November 1 968; West Wales Guardian, 22 and 29 November and 6 December 1 968; Western Mail, 30 November 1968; NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1, scrapbook I, letter from Edward Heath to Nicholas Edwards , 30 November 1 968.
41. Western Telegraph, 12 December 1 968. 42. Western Telegraph, 26 December 1 968.
43. West Wales Guardian, 20 December 1968. See also the Western Mail, 24 October 1968, and Layne, op. cit., pp. 349-51 .
44. See the column entitled ‘Echoes’ in the Tenby Observer, 14 February 1969. 45. Letter from F. D. Worvell , Llanychaer, Fishguard, to the Western Telegraph,
23 January 1969.
46. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1, scrapbook 2, unlabelled press cuttings.
47. Western Telegraph, 6 March 1969; West Wales Guardian, 7 March 1969.
48. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers, file A 1041, Donnelly to Sir Roy Welensky, 15 March 1969 (copy).
49. Layne, op. cit., pp. 352-53.
50. West Wales Guardian, 4 April 1969.
51. The Times, 1 April 1969; Western Telegraph, 3 April 1969.
52. The Times, 9 April 1969; Western Telegraph, 10 April 1969; Western Mail, 19 April 1969; R. Crossman, The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, Vol. 3: Secretary
of State for Social Services, 1968-70 (London, 1977), 447, diary entry for 20 April 1969.
53. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1, scrapbook 2, unlabelled press cutting.
54. The Times, 28 May 1969; Western Telegraph, 8 June 1969; South Wales Evening Post, 2 June 1969; Layne, op. cit., p. 354.
55. Robert Skidelsky, ‘Any chance for Donnelly?’, Sunday Telegraph, 8 June 1 969.
56. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers, file F63, unlabelled press cutting from the West Wales Guardian, [June 1969]; Western Telegraph, 12 June 1969.
57. Daily Telegraph, 28 August 1969
58. Noted in The Times, 22 September 1969.
59. West Wales Guardian, 19 September 1969.
60. See ‘Donnelly satisfied with Democratic vote’ , West Wales Guardian, 31 October 1 969.
61 . West Wales Guardian, I O October 1969; Sentinel , 23 October 1969.
62. Western Telegraph, 23 October 1969.
63. NLW, Lord Crickhowell Papers 4/1 , scrapbook 3, unlabelled press cutting.
64. Derby Evening Telegraph, 31 December 1969. See also the interesting article by ‘Radar’ in the Lincolnshire Echo, 2 January 1970 – ‘1970 target for Donnelly the Democrat’.
65. West Wales Guardian, 9 January 1970.
66. The Times, 27 February 1970.
67. Ibid. See also the report in the West Wales Guardian, 27 February 1 970, and the article by David Rosser in the Western Mail, 27 February 1 970.
68. Western Telegraph, 19 March 1970; West Wales Guardian, 20 March 1 970.
69. See the summary in the Daily Mail, 1 6 February 1 970. There are references, too, in a number of many other newspapers and journals.
70. West Wales Guardian, 20 February 1970.
71. Western Telegraph, 19 March 1970.
72. Western Mail, 16 March 1970.
73. Noted in The Times, 4 April 1970.
74. Western Telegraph, 16 April 1970.
75. Norwich Mercury, 24 April 1 970.
76. See the ‘Cross-bencher’ column i n the Sunday Express, 26 April 1970.
77. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers C7, Donnelly’s diary entry, 1 6 April 1970, ‘The British General Election’.
78. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers file A 1040, no. 47, Donnelly to Dean Acheson, 16 April  (copy).
79. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers file A 1040, no. 49, Donnelly to Dean Acheson , 26 April 1 970 (copy).
80. The Times, 6 May 1 970. Also reported in the South Wales Argus, 6 May 1970.
81. NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers, file A l 041 , no. 50, Donnelly to Sir Roy Welensky, 5 May 1970 (copy).
82. Ibid. no. 52, Welensky to Donnelly, 20 May 1 970 (‘Dictated 17.5.70’).
83. Western Telegraph, 2 l May 1970.
85. Western Telegraph, 4 June 1970. The letter was quoted in full in the West Wales Guardian, 5 June 1970. Western Telegraph, 11 and 18 June 1970.
86. The Times, I June 1970; West Wales Guardian, 12 June 1970.
87. Ibid . and further press cuttings in the NLW, Desmond Donnelly Papers, file F70.
88. See D. Butler and M. Pinto-Duschinsky, The British General Election of 1970 (London, 1971), 412.
89. See the reflections in N. Crickhowell, Westminster, Wales and Water (Cardiff, 1999).
PUBLIC HEALTH INSPECTIONS IN PEMBROKESHIRE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
By Ray Jones
At the start of the ni neteenth century, there was little or no significant concept of disease prevention or ‘public health ‘. ln l805 the Privy Council established a Board of Health because it was concerned about the potential spread of yellow fever, then endemic in Spain and Gibraltar. This threat did not materialise and the Board met until 1806 when it was disbanded.1 The cholera epidemic of 1831 led to the formation of another central Board and as a result about 1 ,200 Local Boards were formed. As the epidemic receded, Local Boards disappeared and the central Board was dissolved in l832. From 1834-1847 public health and sanitation became the concern of the Poor Law Commission.
Following the report of the Royal Commission on the Health of Towns, the Public Health Act was passed in 1 848. This established the General Board of Health which enabled the formation of Local Board s of Health (after an inspection by the General Board). These inspections could be carried out following a petition by at least one-tenth of the ratepayers of any place having a defined boundary, by the General Board itself where local death rates exceeded 23 per 1 ,000 living for seven years or following a request by a ‘prominent person’ .2 However, Local Boards were voluntary and unpopular. They were thought to be expensive and represented national control over local matters.
As well as Local Boards, such bodies as Registration authorities, parish vestries, Boards of Guardians, highway boards and various Commissioners had input into public health. The 1871 Local Government Board Act together with the Public Health Acts of 1872 and 1875 consolidated public health matters. It established rural and urban sanitary authorities and made compulsory the appointment of medical officers of health (MOH). County Councils, with their own MOH, were set up in 1888 and in 1894 urban and rural district councils were designated health administrators. In Pembrokeshire, these were Tenby Urban Sanitary Authority, Pembroke Rural and Pembroke Urban Authorities , Haverford west Rural and Haverfordwest Urban Authorities and Narberth Rural Authority together with Milford Port Sanitary Authority. However, Narberth Authority had the same membership as Narberth Union Board of Guardians and others, for example Tenby, Pembroke Urban and Haverfordwest U1:b n, were t he Town Counci ls ‘meeting as the Sanitary Authority’. Milford Port A uthority was princpally made up of representatives of the nearby Urban and Rural Authorities. Some Authorities, e.g. Pembroke Urban appointed ‘Sanitary Committees’ and later ‘Ward Sanitary Committees which appeared to act as sub-committees of the main Council. 3
These Sanitary Authorities appointed Inspectors of Nuisances and MOHs as required by the Act, but the MOH was always part-time and salaries were low. Most MOHs appeared diligent, reporting to their Authorities, in some cases every three months, with statistics of diseases and complaints abou t percei ved sanitary problems. Sanitary Authority Minute books surviving show that in most cases, the MOH Reports were merely ‘received’ or ‘noted’. Despite this, most of the Authorities conscientiously pursued nuisances, cleaned streams, closed suspect wells, sunk others, ordered privies, drains and water to be supplied to houses and improved sewerage and water supplies. On the other hand , a few Authorities were rebuked by the Local Government Board. For example, a letter from the Local Government Board to Haverfordwest Urban Sanitary Authority dated March 9, 1885 stated ‘. . . the Town Council will incur a serious responsibility if they do not proceed with the Works of Sewerage which are required for the Borough ‘.4
From 1848-1857, a total of 399 reports were made by the General Board of Health covering some 414 town s and villages in 49 counties. Of these,
35 were in Wales but only one in Pembrokeshire, Tenby. This was the ‘Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage, and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary Conditions of the Inhabitants of the Parish of St. Mary, w1thin the Borough of Tenby in the County of Pembroke’. The author was George T. Clarke, a sanitary engineer and one of the General Board’s
Principal Inspectors. A public meeting was held and the Report was published in 1 850. 5
The Report followed the general pattern of such reports. There was a map and a general description of the town – ‘a pleasant, well-ordered and clean wateri n g place . . . [with] various rows of new and commodious houses built upon the several sea-fronts ‘.6 There followed a description of the corporation with extracts from financial affairs and details of debts.
Mortality figures gave a death rate of 22.3 per 1 ,000 living for Tenby. This was above the death rate in the Pembroke Union which was 20 per 1 ,000. Inspection of areas described as ‘of the poorer classes’ showed an ‘accumulation of rubbish and filth’ with open sewers and a ‘vast accumulation of decayed animal and vegetable matter’ at the south sands. In one row there were 26 houses with 173 inhabitants with one house holding 18 individuals. The next row had 23 houses with 159 inhabitants. There was no drainage in any of the houses and a total of II privies with cesspools. One tap supplied water for the whole of the row. Several drains were described as ‘most offensive’ as were the smells emanating from pigsties and the drains from the fish market. The lockup was described as the ‘worst . . . in the Principality’. Houses were described as ‘poor, ill-built, undrained, very damp . . . and rarely provided with privies’. Sewers were also inspected and found to be ill-regulated and inefficient with numerous private drains discharging into the fields and seashore. Some streets were kept in good order; others were filthy and ill-paved . The burial ground was said to be ‘insufficient for the needs of the inhabitants and should be closed’ and the sands were ‘disfigured’.
There are three pages of suggested remedies including that the Public Health Act be applied. Tenby was said to be in need of ‘water, sewerage, [and] a proper burial ground . . . there is a great want of privies . . . pigsties are a common nuisance . . . and the gardens within the town are receptacles for damp and decayed vegetable matter’. The population of Ten by at this ti me was about 3,000 (2,803 at the 1 841 census) with about 570 houses and the inspection was made following a petition by the ratepayers of the parish. As a result of the report, Tenby petitioned the General Board of Health to establish a Local Board of Health 7 and a motion to carry out the provisions of the Act was passed on November 15, 1851. This Local Board first met on November 21, 1851. 8 The November 15 motion was rescinded on December 22, 1851 but this December motion was over turned on January 12, 1852 and the Act was adopted.
During 1852 Tenby enacted a number of byelaws concerning Lodging Houses and Slaughter Houses and a Surveyor, Clerk, Treasurer and Inspector of Nuisances were appointed.9 Appointment of an MOH was also discussed but nothing was done until 1872 when an appointment was made at a salary of £10 per annum pl us £3 expenses .10 Over the years there was no mention of infectious diseases in the Minutes of this Board but the local Gas Works was taken over and Byelaws concerning sea-bathing, boating and cabs were instituted. Drainage was established and a number of houses were ordered to install privies. 11 The Tenby Board of Health continued in this vein until 1894 when it became a Sanitary Committee.
As well as the Local Reports referred to above, a further series of reports, also termed Local Reports, was made to the Local Government Board. 12 Between 1869 and 1 908, a total of 799 were made. Many were specific investigations of outbreaks of disease on various parts of the country and were often made by temporary medical inspectors from the London Hospital appointed for this purpose. A number were done in Pembroke shire when local outbreaks of disease were investigated.
One of the earliest such investigations in Pembrokeshire was when Dr Parsons reported to the Local Government Board on typhoid fever and the sanitary state of Haverfordwest in April 1881 .13 This rather scathing 11 page report begins by giving the actual number of deaths from typhoid and fever, it ‘having been stated that before the [present] epidemic . . . typhoid fever had not often been prevalent in Haverfordwest ‘.14 The report went on to state that:
‘. . . opportunities for the dissemination of the infection . . . abound throughout the town. Badly made and foul sewers, defective and untrapped house drains. Ill contrived waterclosets, large privy middens, and other depositories of filth poison the air. . . . The public water supply is, or has been till lately, liable to dangerous pollution, . . . and has been shown to be . . . seriously contaminated; and the shallow wells and other subsidiary sources are in no better case.’ 15
The report continued with details of the various water supplies and likely sources of contamination and includes Professor Wanklyn’s analyses of the local water where two samples were said to be ‘bad,’ one ‘contaminated’ and one of ‘fair average organic purity’ .16 There is also a detailed description of ‘the sewers in the principal streets’. The report recommended a better system of excrement disposal should be adopted, sewers and drains be improved , nuisances be abated and pig-keeping be given ‘due attention’. Better death returns should be kept and bye-laws promulgated to regulate new streets and houses . There was need for overcrowding to be repressed and unfit houses closed. Further recommendations were that the water supply should be increased and purified and additional sources secured and that the Sanitary Authority should ‘diligently exercise . . . the powers which they posses under the Public Health Act of 1875 for the prevention of infectious disease’.17
The next report concerned an outbreak of diphtheria in Clunderwen and Llandissilio in 1888 and was prepared by Mr Spears. 18 Mr Spears reported that most, but not all cases had been in contact with one another but:
‘No incidence upon the consumers of any special food-stuff could be discovered; nor did such an influence appear to be probable . What little milk was used was from several sources; the water supplies, too, were various. No evidence of infection from domestic animals could in these cases be obtained.’ 19
The home of one set of sufferers was ‘an ancient cottage: damp, dilapidated ill-ventilated . . . dirty, without privy accommodation, and surrounded by solid and liquid refuse of various kinds’.20
‘The houses are mostly small, ill-ventilated and often damp and dilapidated . . . cleanliness is . . . unsatisfactory . . . overcrowding is not uncommon.
In the long straggling village foul sewage deposits meet one on
either hand . Privy accommodation is occasionally altogether absent and . . . is generally of the most objectionable kind.’ 21
Clunderwen was thought to be a bit better but there and at other nearby villages visited by the Inspector, ‘homes were damp and dilapidated ‘ and ‘the means of sewage disposal inadequate’ .22
Pembroke Rural Sanitary Authority was inspected in 1890 following several earlier outbreaks of diphtheria in its Districts. The report 23 reminded the Board that in 1885, the Authority had been prompted to exercise their powers under the Publ ic Health Act more efficiently, to protect water supplies against surface pollution, to provide apparatus for disinfection and to provide some means of isolation. In 1887 the Local Government Board had authorised a large loan to the Rural District Council but after much vacillation the Council decided, in 1890, not to take up this loan. The report went on to say that there was no drainage at Llanstadwell and that privies were ‘dangerously near ‘ water supplies. At Angle there were 12 drains and 6 cess pits choked and there was no sewage in new houses. Neyland needed a better water supply and throughout the area there was a ‘general state of filthiness’ .
Apart from the 1890 report above, Pembroke and Pembroke Dock were the subject of several ‘general ‘ reports, that is not related to an outbreak of a particular disease. Reports of 1878, 1884, 1885 and 1893 together with the 1890 report were summarised in a further report dated 1895 24 reiterating comments in the earlier reports. The water supply was inadequate and a better method than privy and pit was needed. Nuisances should be strictly repressed, slaughtering prohibited in the town , sewerage improved and byelaws introduced to control building of houses, laying of drains and similar improvements. Finally the report commented on the ‘imperfect degree in which the majority of the Town Council appear to realise their responsibilities as the Local Sanitary Authority . . .’ .25
In 1899 there was a ‘general’ report on the St Dogmells (sic) Rural District.26 It was inspected because of the ‘plurality of Medical Officers’ and the fact that the District was divided among two medical officers who ‘rarely confer with each other or give concurred advice regarding the district as a whole.’ The report noted that Dr Havard, the MOH for Newport (Pembs) was unpopular with the (local) Authority as his 1896 Annual Report had criticised sanitary arrangements. However, he was formally thanked for his 1897 report which was ‘of a brief and meagre nature’. There had been outbreaks of Enteric fever (typhoid) in St Dogmaels and Cilgerran and the water supply was defective and prone to pollution. There was no proper provision for disposal of excrement, ashes and house refuse and no proper sewerage. ‘Privy vaults’ were still found and the author recalls a smallholding at St Dogmaels in the early nineteen fifties where the sanitary arrangements were built on a ‘pier ‘ over a stream and the excrement dropped directly into the water! A better class of houses, more in accordance with modern sanitary requirements had recently been constructed at Newport and Llanfihangel but most cottages were old and dilapidated, a few thatched. ‘Proper drainage, with few exceptions is absent.’ The report added that the 1890 Infectious Diseases Act had not been adopted and that there was no provision for isolation of infected patients. Details of cases and deaths from diphtheria for 1894-1897 were given but without commentary.
Diphtheria was also a problem at Fishguard in the late nineteenth century. There were no deaths from the disease in 1897 and l 898 but an epidemic struck i n early 1899 and continued in 1900. The outbreak was investigated and a report made to the Local Government Board i n 1 901 .27 There was a total of 83 cases with 12 deaths. The disease had started at the National School which was found to have blocked drains and ‘several years’ accum ulation of sewage’. The subsoil around the school was ·sodden wi th filth’. Although the schools had been closed for three weeks there was no isolation of victims and no disinfection . No true records of infectious diseases were bei ng kept and Publ ic Health duties were not being carried out. It was recom mended that sewerage at Fishguard be i mproved and sewers constructed at Goodwick. Isolation accommodation should be provided for victi ms of infectious diseases and apparatus for disi nfecting bedding and clothes supplied. This inspection found that sanitary administration had been much neglected and following this, a further report, to Haverfordwest Rural District was issued in 1904.28 This found that the Council’s arrangements for public health were in disarray and needed to be re-organised. This was perhaps the most prescri ptive report of those perused and required four ful l-time MOHs to be employed together with two i nspectors of nui sances, isolation accommodation and disinfect ing apparatus. Water supplies and sewerage needed to be attended to, scavenging systems put in place and unhealthy houses and those unfit for human habitation closed.
The totality of these reports, spread across Pembrokeshire, confirm that living conditions and sanitary measures in both urban and rural areas were of a very low standard even for the times. Further, there was reluctance by local government to accept both that these conditions existed and to implement the remedies recommended. Similar reports 29 on other areas of south-west Wales and other regions show that this was by no means unique to this County.
1. National Archives. Catalogue Research Guides. Leaflet ID = 117. 2002.
2. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Series One: Local Reports to the General Board of Health, 1848-1857. Brighton. Harvester Press. 1979 (Microfiche).
3. Pembs.R.0. Minutes Pembroke Sanitary Authority. 1892-1900. PEM/SE/2/3.
4. Pembs .R.O. Minutes Haverfordwest Corporation acting as Urban Sanitary Authority 1874-1891. HAM/SE/ l/5
5. George T. Clarke, Preliminary Inquiry into the Sewerage, Drainage, and Supply of Water, and the Sanitary conditions of the inhabitants of the parish of St. Mary, within the Borough of Tenby in the County of Pembroke (London, 1 850).
6. Ibid ., 4
7. Tenby Museum. Minutes Tenby Local Health Board 1851. TEM/BOOKS/ 12/3.
8. Tenby Museum . Minutes Tenby Local Health Board 1852-1872. TEM/BOOKS/ 3/6/I/I.
9. Tenby Museum . Minutes Tenby Local Health Board 1872-1894 . SE/24/ 12/1/3.
11. Idem .
12. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Series Two: Reports to the Local Government Board, 1869 – 1908 (Brighton, 1979) Microfiche .
13. Pembs.R.O. Dr Parson’s Report to the Local Government Board on the Prevalence of Typhoid Fever in the Borough of Haverfordwest, and on the General Sanitary Condition of the Borough (April, 1888). HQ/7/1881.
14. Ibid., 1.
15. Ibid., 3.
16. Ibid., 5.
17. Ibid., 11.
18. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain, Report No. 402. Mr Spear’s Report on the Outbreak of Diphtheria in Clynderwen and Llandisilio in March 1888.
19. Ibid., 2.
21. Ibid .,
23. Report on Pembroke Rural Sanitary Authority . Urban and Rural Social Con ditions in Industrial Britain. Report s to the Local Government Board 1869- 1902. Series Two. Report No. 462. 1890.
24. Report on Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Reports to the Local Government Board 1869-1902. Series Two. Report No. 549. 1895.
25. Ibid ., 12.
26. Report on the St Dogmells District Rural Sanitary Authority. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Reports to the Local Government Board 1869-1902. Series Two. Report No. 602. 1899.
27. Report on the Diphtheria Outbreak at Fishguard and Goodwick in 1899. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Reports to the Local Government Board 1869-1902. Series Two. Report No.642.1901.
28. Report on the Sanitary State of Haverfordwest Rural District Council. Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Reports to the Local Govern ment Board / 869-1902 . Series Two. Report No. 685. 1904.
29. See for example the reports on Carmarthen (Report 71), Llandeilo Fawr ( 199) and Llangadock (20 I). Urban and Rural Social Conditions in Industrial Britain. Series One: Local Reports to the General Board of Health, 1848- 1857.
ASPECTS OF THE OLD POOR LAW IN PEMBROKESHIRE
By Simon Hancock
At a meeting of the parish vestry for Steynton, Milford Haven, Pembroke shire, in February 1820, the public-spirited magistrate and collector of customs for the port of Milford Haven, Henry Leach , made the chilling prediction that unless checked, poor relief was ‘an evil which must other wise overwhelm us and shake thefoundations of civil society’ .1 Leach was referring to the system of parochial poor relief financed from local taxation, and although his comments were among the more sensational, the Old Poor Law was, and remained, bitterly contested historical ground. No analysis of the efficacy of the Old Poor Law system can ignore the fundamental question of who the poor were and how widely experienced was poverty by the population of south-west Wales.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that in the overwhel mingly rural agricultural parishes poverty was all too real a personal experience for a high percentage of people. Much of this was ‘life-cycle’ poverty, the consequence of child-birth , accidents, illness, old age and unemployment and thus difficult to avoid.2 The causes were indeed cumulative.3 In the social world of the old poor law the majority of working men would be described as ‘the labouring poor’ which was quite distinct from the demeaning epithet of ‘pauper ‘4 with its later connotations. Poverty was a shifting concept and concepts and perceptions relating to it shifted over time. Percentages of those in receipt of poor relief from parishes or unions are difficult to measure. Marshall puts the figure at 8.6 per cent for England and Wales in 1803, rising to 12.7 per cent in 1813 and 13.2 per cent in 1818. 5 In 1802-3 1,040,716 people were in receipt of relief with children accounting for nearly a third and the old or infirm 16.0 per cent.6 Naturally this was reflected in a sharply curtailed life expectancy for the poor which was rather less than 50 years and with high infant mortality.7
We should be mindful that any analysis of the Old Poor Law must acknowledge the demographic and economic context of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in which it operated . The period 1795-1834 saw unprecedented social and economic pressures to which existing poor relief methods had to respond accordingly.8 Important factors included a rising population, inflation , agricultural depression and structural unemployment which resulted in virtual ‘starvation years’ of the mid-1790s.9 The population of Wales rocketed from 587,245 in 1801 to 904,400 just thirty years later.10 The Old Poor Laws were an astonishingly resilient body of legislation which stood the test of time over two hundred years. Enacted in 1601, they made each parish responsible for its own poor with poor houses to be erected for those who were unable to support themselves. The ‘able bodied’ were to be provided with work and all of this was to be financed by a poor rate based on local property values. Each parish had to appoint Overseers of the Poor who assessed and collected rates and actually arranged for the direct relief of the poor either in cash or kind or sometimes both . They were appointed by the parish vestry, representatives of ratepayers who were ultimately accountable to justices of the peace for the enactment of the poor law provision . Localism was the cornerstone of the regime, which was, in reality, a collection of expedients blessed by Acts of Parliament. The main principles of the 1601 act remained unaltered although there were significant modifications to the Old Poor Laws, such as Gilbert’s Act, to meet changing circumstances.
No aspect of the Old Poor Law was more controversial or aroused such passionate debate than the financial cost borne by ratepayers. Poor rates were merely one of a number of charges levied on property owners in pre income tax days. Tithes, church rates, highway rates and land taxes all made a charge on people’s purses and their complaints of excessive impositions were loud indeed. 11 Taxpayers pointed out that whereas poor rates had raised £2 million in 1784, the figure rose to £5.3 million in 1802/3 and in 1817-8 was £9.3 million. 12 Over the 85-year period from 1748/50 to 1832/4 real per capita expenditure on poor relief increased at an average rate of 1 per cent per annum. 13 On a per capita basis the increases appeared even more alarming, rising from 2s 10d per head in 1750 to 16s 8d in 1812. 14 This amounted to 1.9 per cent of national income in 1802/3,15 miniscule in our time of nationalized welfare services. In fact, poor rates rather mirrored economic and social conditions rather than rising exponentially.
In 1828 Pembrokeshire raised some £28,211 6s in poor rates, an increase of two per cent on the previous year. 16 However, an analysis of parochial accounts paints a picture alien to the notion of ever spiralling costs which detractors of the status quo claimed. For the parish of St. Mary’s, Tenby, a major sea port and rapidly developing seaside resort, some £344 14s 6d was spent on poor relief around the turn of the century. In 1815 the figure was £419 18s 9d, falling to £367 7s in 1 818 and only £218 8s Od in 1830-1 .17 This hardly represented the annihilation of property. Gumfreston parish near Tenby saw its annual expenditure decline from £65 11s 6d in 1 828-29 to £63 3s in 1831-2.18 The Old Poor records of Carew parish are exceptionally well-preserved and from them we glean that poor relief expenditures there reached a peak of £575 14s 8d in 1802 before falling to £553 1s 2d in 1817.19 In 1822-3 St. Mary’s parish, Pembroke spent £650 9s 3d 20 on poor relief although the parish did contain the royal dockyard at Pater with a rapidly rising population .
Concerns over perceived risng poor law costs found legislative expression in the 1818 and 1819 Sturges Bourne Acts which created ‘closed’ or
‘select’ vestries of prominent ratepayers to specialize in poor law policy 21 and with the power to appoint a salaried assistant overseer.22 This standing committee virtually appropriated all policy matters which had previously been discussed in public vestries. 23 At Steynton , a twenty-strong committee ‘to watch over the expenditures of the poor rates’ 24 was appointed to meet twice a month. By 1828 there were 29 select vestries in the county of Pembrokeshire. 25 Carew parish appointed a select vestry on 11 August 1819 ‘to inspect from time to time and audit the poor accounts, to employ the poor and manage the funds of the said parish’.26
They decided to employ a permanent overseer with the handsome salary of £30 per annum. He was one of twelve assistant overseers in Pembroke shire,27 collecting money, collecting settlement certificates , obtaining
bonds of affiliation and other varied duties.28 Enacting the poor law statute to ‘take order for setting to work all such persons as have no means to maintain and use any ordinary or daily trade ’29 parishes frequently found work for unemployed people and it invariably involved road mending. 30 At Llanstadwell, when David Thomas applied to the select vestry for either money or work, he was put to work on the roads3 1 . Steynton parish seems to have been more stringent in extracting work for relief. On 21 July 1820 Edward Wallace was offered 5s a week to be employed by the surveyor of highways, or 2s a week ‘upon his own exertions ‘.32
The Settlement legislation which allowed for the removal of paupers back lo the parish of their birth if they were considered ‘likely to be chargeable’ was another matter for the overseers and the inter-parish litigation as to who was responsible for support of such poor persons was ‘a very fruitful source of parish expense to which the poor rate is applicable’ .33 Pre-1834 Wales must have seen a constant migration of paupers compelled to travel long distances before they found relief. Sometimes people were sent relief by one parish even though they lived considerable physical distances away. In 1822 the Llanstadwell overseer sent Margaret Lewis, who was living in Herefordshire, £2 on account of her weekly allowance.34 Sometimes the settlement of an individual could be both complex and time consuming. In 1833 Richard Mathias of Hayston, Llanstadwell, was allowed his expenses in trying to secure the settlement of Mary Esmond in London. 35 When a clear settlement could not be obtained then removal orders were issued for the pauper to be ordered to move on. On 21 February 1 817 Elizabeth Jenkin, widow, and her five sons, aged nine years to six weeks, were adjudged by the overseers of Llandeloy pari sh to be chargeable to the ‘Parish of Stainton’.36 Settlement examination documents are fascinating and we can learn m uch from them. I n 1 806 Hester Gibbs of Jeffreystone claimed settlement in St. Mary’s Parish , Pembroke on account of being employed there for 18 months on wages of one pound
and five shillings per annu m.37 Employment was on e of the criteria where by settlement could be claimed.
One important aspect of the Old Poor Law was the attitude of parishes to pauper children. Crompton points out that the apprenticing of pauper children was highly useful in rural areas,38 dominated by agriculture . At Mydrim, Carmarthenshire, in 1817, all parish apprentices went to farmers who were paid a premium of £2 10s each.39 At Llanstadwell all persons rated over £ 100 per annum in poor rates were to draw lots to take apprentices. A number were bound , along with the payment of two guineas for those who took them.40 At Carew, in 1820 some twenty-two parish apprentices were bound at £2 2s each costing the poor fund £46 4s, a very considerable outlay.41 Those pauper children who suffered any form of disability were clearly less easy to apprentice. On 21 January 1831 the Carew accounts recorded the cost of apprenticing ‘the clubfoot boy’ at no less than £7.42 In coastal parishes pauper children were far more likely to be apprenticed to mariners and fishermen than farmers. On 5 April 1804 Benjamin Thomas aged 15, was apprenticed to Captain William Reed in Tenby 43 and two weeks later Captain George Williams of the same town also took an apprentice.
In rural parishes the birth of an illegitimate child was far from being a rare occurrence, but one which, nevertheless, had important implications for the Old Poor Laws. Often a couple were forced to marry by parochial authorities before the birth of the child . In other cases the expectant mother would be examined and if the father could be identified then an order was issued for both the delivery of the child and its future mainten ance.44 These bastardy bonds could either be a lump sum, or far more likely, a weekly sum paid by the father until the child reached the age of 14. The actual frequency of illegitimacy i s not always easy to ascertain. Nevertheless the rector of Roch parish , seething with moral indignation noted the baptism of 52 bastards in his parish between 1763 and 1789. 45
Parishes meticulously recorded all the costs associated with pregnancy and were at pains to receive full recompense from the father for their pains. At Tenby, in 1831, Mary Edwards was delivered of a female child. The costs amounted to £5 17s 11d and included 6s 9d for clothing, £3 pay [for 30 weeks] and 13s for constables to travel to Druidston and Roch to serve notices on the father. The costs also involved 4s for a coffin and 2s for a grave for the child who sadly expired shortly after birth.46 At Gumfreston the overseers paid £3 l ls 3d for taking Charles Edwards and for paying for his bond .47 Bastardy bonds demonstrate the determination of parishes to avoid future expenses for illegitimate children. In Llangan in 1 807 William David was unable to pay the full costs of his child begotten on the body of Esther Morris, but was ‘willing to contribute the utmost he can’.48 More usual was the recording of a precise figure for maintenance. In 1819 in Llandeloy, Lewis Williams ‘did beget the said bastard child on the body of the said Margaret Morris ‘and agreed to pay
1s 9d per week.49
Parish poorhouses were perhaps the most physical reminder of the old poor law legislation, although they only accommodated a tiny fraction of the total numbers in relief. In 1803 some 60 Welsh parishes maintained all, or part of their poor in workhouses. 50 Parliamentary returns for 1776-7 listed the operation of almost 2000 parish workhouses. 51 Images of old poor law work houses invoke George Crabbe’s memorable description in The Village  with its walls of mud and broken door.52 In fact, as Oxley reminds us, conditions inside these workhouses are exceedingly poorly documented and were ‘outstanding neither for its squalor and indiscipline nor its exemplary efficiency‘ 53 Work was often supplied for the inmates. spinning or weaving. Pembrokeshire ‘s Old Poor Law work houses are very poorly documented indeed with only fleeting mentions in overseers’ account books and the references to the Johnston and Llawhaden Poor Houses in 1800 and 1787 respectively. Records usually relate to the provision of items for the building, like culm for the Llanstadwell poorhouse in June 1821. 54 We can be sure that running costs were kept to an absolute minimum. On 23 April 1823 the Llanstadwel select vestry ordered that no more than one fire be allowed in the poor house.55
Nevertheless, they later ordered ‘necessary utensils for the house, a small bucket and a small table for making bread’ .56 Most poor houses were either a cottage or row of cottages which could be rented cheaply. On 19 March 1828 the Llanstadwell select vestry rented a cottage on Cant’s Hill from Lady Day 1828 for £2 10s a year.57 Even sparsely populated parishes had their poor houses. In 1822 the Hodgeston Overseer paid 1s for mending the bed there.58 Others paid for renewing the thatch roof of their workhouse. 59 The actual relief granted to individuals and families was entirely discretionary to the vestry and overseer and ‘was based not on a fixed scale but rather on individual needs’ .60 Most outdoor relief went out as small weekly sums,61 paid either weekly, fortnightly or monthly. It was at least flexible and could be increased or decreased to reflect changing cirumstances. 62 Other help could be in kind or cash sums for specific articles. There doe not seem to have been much difference in the help given to the poor m either rural or urban parishes. In August 1821 the Llanstadwell vestry ordered the overseers to provide Ann Williams with a flannel petticoat and two shifts 63 whilst Griffith Twynning was ordered tohave a hat and pair of stockings on 19 December 1821. 64 Sometimes food stuffs were provided directly. On 4 February 1824 Margaret Lewis was given ‘a strike of potatoes’ .65 On another occasion the vestry gave one applicant 7s i n settlement of debts.66 The Hodgeston vestry gave Thomas Evans a strike of barley in 1815 67 and Carew gave John Eynon half aWinchester of barley in 1822 costing 1s 6d. 68
A portion of relief under the Old Poor Law went to recipients to enable them to earn their own livings, in other words to promote self employment. Old poor law accounts have numerous references to people being supplied with the means of generating their own income. In 1803 Mary Rees of Sychpant was provided with a spinning wheel by the authorities at Llanfihangel-ar-Arth.69 In October 1821 John Child of Llanstadwell was given £3 to buy a cow 70 whilst William Briant, a fisherman, was given 20s to help repair his boat.71 Similarly, on 28 April 1830Martha Hart was given £1 so that she could buy a donkey and sell culm.72 In 1818 William Harris was given 4s 6d by the Gumfreston Overseers to buy a plough.13 The usually niggardly Steynton vestry gave Benjamin Edwards of Pill, aged over 80 years of age, £1 so that he could repair his boat which had been ‘injured in bad weather ‘.74
Many entries in the Old Poor Law accounts are concerned with medical
matters; payments for nursing, surgery and for sickness, even though the 1601 legislation made no specific mention of the sick.75 Nevertheless,
medical treatment became an essential part of the overseers’ duties, often
with successful results. In smaller parishes there was a greater chance of individual attention .76 Thomas is of the opinion that parish authorities were generally sympathetic and generous in their approach to medical care, a fact not emphasised enough in studies of poor law adm1nistration. 77
Parishes whether rural or urban, spent significant sums on salaries of doctors and surgeons. Tenby paid Doctor Gower £20 for his annual salary 78 whilst a rural parish with far fewer people like Llanstadwell, paid George Williams, surgeon, £8.79 In 1825 Carew parish paid Doctor Paynter £15. 80 Urban Pembroke remunerated Thomas Mansel to the tune of £25 4s per annum. 81 Parishes seem to have gone to some length to ensure that practitioners were suitably qualified. In 1821 the Steynton vestry received an application from William Folland for £3 to allow him to pay John Hughes, ‘the Blackbridge Doctor’ for curing his daughter’s leg of a white swellmg. The parish refused ‘as the parish employs a surgeon and will not pay an ignorant pretender to the cost’ .82
Most medical expenses involved the birth of children, treating fevers, abscesses and healing broken bones. The Old Poor Law rendered relief in the shape of repairs to the homes of paupers and in the payment of rents. Since the parish often paid rents, paupers could be seen as eligible or eve desirable tenants.83 David Howell has noted how the payment of cottage rents out or the rates was a comm on form or relief to labourers in Wales.84 Numerous Pembrokeshire parishes provided relief with rents. The Hodgeston Overseer allowed Rebecca Rees 10 s ‘for rent’ .85 Carew advanced ‘Widdow Jinkings’ 15s for her half-yearl y rent.86 William Simmond got two guineas from the usu a l l y parsimonious Steynton vestry for a years rent, perhaps on account of his ‘weakly condition’ .87 Board and lodging were also paid. David Harries received 4s for such hospitality which he meted out to ‘a black man’ at Tenby in 1801 .88
Even if it is stretchi ng the facts to represent the Old Poor Laws as a cradle to grave regime, it did often assist with funeral and burial expenses for those without the means to pay for them . Tenby paid 6s 6d for the funeral expenses for George Hughes 89 whilst John Jenkins of Llanstadwell was given assistance to bury his wife. Carew paid the comparatively large sum of £1 3s 2d for Thomas Kendry ‘s funeral 91 and later a coffin for William Jones cost 15s.92 Parish authorities were not always sympathetic . At Steynton in 1 821, Bella Samuel applied on behalf of William Griffiths, a pauper of this parish ‘now a corpse’ 93 for beer and candles at his funeral. The vestry flatly refused, disapproving ‘of the continuance of such customs for the burial of paupers’ .94
The 1601 legislation had expressed the dichotomy between deserving and non-deserving poor and the old poor law, involving as it did an intimate social exchange,95 occasionally invoked moral reproach upon recipients. There was a strong link between morality and the right to poor relief. This often went beyond mere paternalism of looking after one’s own poor.96 In January 1833 the Llanstadwell vestry immediately stopped the relief it was paying to Joseph Child on account of ‘his idle and drunken habits ‘.97 Occasionally recipients were admonished for their temerity in asking for help. In September l820 the wife of David Lewis of Milford who had left his family looking for work was told in no uncertain terms to look to her husband ‘as she will receive no more’ .98 It was the same parish, which in 1823 started making written notes in the vestry minute book on the characters of recipients. When John Thomas, who was ill with small pox was given 10s, the vestry clerk commented ‘a very hard working man but his wife good for nothing’ .99 At the same meeting Elizabeth Phillips was described as ‘a beggar I fancy’ 100 and Elizabeth Williams elicited the heady praise of ‘tolerable good’ .101 In a number of parishes there was the further indignity of paupers having to wear special badges alluding to their status.
The Old Poor Law was the major mean s of support for the poor before 1834, but we should never ignore the contributions made towards poor relief which came from charitable giving and friendly or benefit societies. The great virtue of voluntary charitable giving was that it preserved existing social hierarchies and could not be taken for granted by the recipients.102 Charity came in a variety of guises, either in cash or kind. 103 It is significant that in 1788 charitable income, many founded to assist the poor, reached £258,700. 104 Friendly or benefit societies were another means of preventing destitution and were a defensive reaction to heightened life-cycle risks. 105 In fact it was a collectivist approach to poverty. The payment of small sums each week would insure against sickness, unemployment or bereavement. This notion of self-help provided an alternative to the poor law and helped to keep rates down.!06
Some clubs acquired large cash funds. In 1844 the St. George’s Friendl y Society in Milford had £1101 5s 2d in the bank despite having paid out £250 9s in sickness benefits. 107 Such beneficiaries were not considered eligible for parish relief. In 1 832 Martha Codd of Llanstadwell was refused help since she had recently received £27 on the death of her husband ‘from the club‘. 108 It can be seen that the Old Poor Law was nothing if flexible and although costs could rise, they generally reflected the wider economic and commercial health of communities. Nevertheless, from around 1815 the system came under savage and sustained criticism. Irate correspondents wrote to newspapers calling for economy in poor relief ‘and the reduction of the great costs incurred‘ .109 It is not surprising that the Whig Government, in the spirit of the 1 832 Reform Act, set up a Royal Commi ssion to inquire into the working on the poor laws, especially their costs and alleged corruption . The nine commissioners included lawyers Edwin Chadwick and Nassau Senior, the former a fanatical Benthamite who was driven by a hatred of waste and inefficiency. 110 Their results, nine folio volumes running to almost 5,000 pages, 111 savaged the old poor law regime and ultimately ushered in the Poor Law Amendment Act of l834.
A complex picture emerges from any serious analysis of the Old Poor Laws. There was undoubtedly a wide-ranging paternalism or look i n g after ones own, and yet that sense did not prevent nilateral harshness , as in 1822 when the Llanstadwell vestry curtly cut those receiving weekly allowances without reason or explanation being given. 112 On the positive side the Old Poor Law seems to have been applied in parishes across Pembrokeshire with surprising uniformity, regardless of urban or rural contexts. Costs were in fact not out of control and indeed, in many costs were actually declining. Flexibility and adaptability were key features of the pre-1834 poor relief system 113 combined with personal attention from overseers whom recipients would know. However, there was conversely infinite danger in giving inordinate power to local elites and rural tyrants and inconsistency of approach to similar circumstances. There was the cruel and unedifying spectacle of pregnant women being carted off to thei r place of Settlement, the often cruel treatment meted out to parish apprentices and the treatment of pauper ‘idiots’ . Whim and caprice were not acceptable and critics made the most of this. Nevertheless, flexibility and sensitivity to human need , adjustment to local circumstances, comprehensiveness and local participation counted for much . Marshall thi nks that we can learn as much from the Old Poor Law as we can from the New. 114
1. E. J. R. Morgan, ‘The Ad ministration of the Poor Laws i n Pembrokeshi re, 1780-1870.’ Ph.D. thesis, University of Wales, Swansea.
2. ‘The Old Poor Law’ , Notes provid ed by M A Tutors at Trinity College, Carmarthen [hereafter Trinity College Notes].
3. Edward Royle, Modern Britain. A Social History 1 750- 1985 (London, 1985), 162.
4. G. E. Mingay, Land and Society in England 1750-1980 (London, 1994), 93.
5. J. D. Marshall, The Old Poor Law 1795-1834 (London, 1985), 35.
6. M. J. Daunton , Progress and Poverty. An Economic and Social History of Britain 1700-1850 (Oxford, 1995), 449.
7. E. D.Evans, A History of Wales 1660-1815 (Cardiff , 1 993), 193.
8. J. D. Marshall , The Old Poor Law , 13.
9. David W. Howell, The Rural Poor in Eighteenth-Century Wales (Cardiff, 2000), 93.
10. Russell Davies, Hope and Heartbreak. A Social History of Wales and the Welsh 1776-1871 (Cardiff, 2005), 35.
11. ‘The Old Poor Law’, Trinity College Notes.
12. Edward Royle, Modern Britain , 174.
13. George R. Boyer, ‘The Economic Role of the English Poor Law 1780-1834’ Journal of Economic History, Vol. 45, No. 2 (1985), 451.
14. G. E. Mingay, Land and Society in England, 97.
1 5. Paul Slack, The English Poor Law 1531-1782 (London , 1990), 30.
16. The Cambrian, 29 March 1828.
1 7. Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1765-1836. St. Mary’s Parish, Tenby. Tenby Museum Archives [hereafter TMA, TEM/Box 5]
18. Overseers of th e Poor Accounts 18-9-1946. Gumfreston Parish. Pembrokeshire Record Office [hereafter PembsRO] HPR177/ 30.
1 9. Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1 815- 1 837. Carew Pari sh PembsRO HDX/ 935/1 .
20. Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1 820-1828. St. Mary ‘s Parish , Pembroke PembsRO, HPR/24/6.
2 1 . Peter Murray, Poverty and Welfare 1815-1850 (London , 2006), 22. 22. ‘Poor Laws’, Trinity College Notes, 5.
21. David Eastwood , ‘Government and Community in the English Provinces 1 700-1970′. Trinity College Notes, I .
24. The Cambrian, 1 8 December 1819.
25. Ibid ., 29 March 1 828.
26. Carew Parish Overseers Accounts, Pem bsRO, H DX/935/1, op. cit.
27. The Cambrian, 29 March 1828.
28. Geoffrey W. Oxley, Poor Relief’ in Eng land and Wales /601-1834 (London 1 974), 46.
29. John Burnett, Idle Hands. The Exeriences of Unemployment, 1790-1990 (London, 1 994), 16.
30. Geoffrey W. Oxley, Poor Relief in Eng land and Wales, 1 1 7.
31. Minute book of Llanstadwell Select Vestry 1 821-1894. Pem bsRO, HPR/1 31/add I.
32. Minute book of Steynton Select Vestry 1820-1824. PembsRO, HPRJ3/28.
33. Times, 11 February I819.
34. Llan stadwell Select Vestry PembsRO, HPR/131/addl.
35 . Ibid.
36. Removal Orders 1 817-1825. Llandeloy Parish PembsRO, HPR/82/20.
37. Overseers of the Poor Account s, St. Mary ‘s Parish, Pembroke , PembsRO., I I PR/24/6, op. cit.
38. Frank Crompton , Workhouse Children (Stroud, 1997), 16.
39. Parish Apprentice Book, Mydrim Parish. Carmarthenshire Record Office.
40. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/131/addl.
41.. Overseers of the Poor Accounts, Carew Parish. PembsRO, HDX/935/ I, op. cit.
43. Overseers of the Poor Accounts. St. Mary’s Parish. TM A .TEM/Box 5, op. cit.
44. ‘Poor Laws 1601 – 1834’. Trinity College Notes, 3.
45. David W. Howell, ‘Society, 1660- 1 793’, Brian Howells Pembrokeshire County History Vol. Ill Early M odern Pembrokeshire. 1536- 1815 (Haverfordwest, 1987), 284.
46. Overseers of the Poor Accounts, St. Mary ‘s Parish, Tenby. TMA, TEM/Box 5.
47. Overseers of the Poor Accounts, Gumfreston Parish PembsRO, HPR/77/30.
48. Bastardy Bonds, Llangan Parish, PembsRO, HPR/67/10.
49. Bastardy Orders, Llandeloy parish 1819-1821. PembsRO, HPR/82/21.
50. David W. Howell, The Rural Poor, 105. 5 1 . ‘Poor Laws’, Trinity College Notes, 4.
52. Ronald B. Hatch, ‘George Crabbe and the Workhouses of the Suffolk Incorporations.’ Philological Quarterly, 54:3 (1975), 690.
53. Geoffrey W. Oxley, Poor Relief in England and Wales, 93.
54. Llanstadw ell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/131/addl.
58. Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1813-1837. Hodgeston Parish, PembsRO,
59. Overseers of the Poor Accou nts. Carew Parish , PembsRO, HDX/935/1.
60. David W. Howell, Land and People in Nine 1een1h-ce111u1·y Wales (London, 1977), 103.
61. Paul Slack, The English Poor Law. 27.
62. Geoffrey W. Oxley, Poor Relief in England and Wales, 63.
63. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/131/add l.
67. Overseers of the Poor Accounts. Hodgeston pari sh, PembsRO, HPR/70/8.
68. Overseers of the Poor Accou nts. Carew Parish, PembsRO, HDX/935/1.
69. ‘The Poor Law’, Trinity College Notes, 7.
70. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/1 31/add l. 71. Ibid.
73. Overseers of the Poor Accounts. Gumfreston Parish, PembsRO, HPR/77/30.
74. Minutes of the Steynton Select Vestry 1820-1824. PembsRO, HPR3/28.
75. Edward Royle, Modern Britain, 173.
76. E.G. Thomas, ‘The Old Poor Law and Medicine’, Medical History, Vol. 24, 2 ( 1980).
77. Ibid., 3.
78. Overseers of the Poor Accounts, St. Mary’s Parish, Tenby. TMA TEM/Box 5
79. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/ 131 /addl.
80. Overseers of the Poor Accounts. Carew Parish, PembsRO, HDX/ 935/l.
81 . Overseers of the Poor Accou nts. St. Mary’s Parish Pembroke. PembsRO HPR/24/6.
82. Steynton Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/3/28 .
83. E. D. Evan s, A H istory of Wales, 194.
84. David W. Howell, Land and People, 103.
85. Overseers of the Poor Accounts. Hodgeston Parish, PembsRO, HPR/70/8.
86. Overseers of the Poor Accounts. Carew Parish, PembsRO, HDX/935/1.
87. Steynton Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/3/28.
88. Overseers of the Poor Accounts, St. Mary ‘s Parish Tenby. TMA, TEM/Box 5.
89. Ibid. ·
90. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/1 3 1/addl.
9 1 . Overseers of the Poor Accounts. Carew Parish Pembs RO HDX/935/1
93. Steynton Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/3/28.
95. ‘Poor Laws before 1 834’, Trinity College Notes, I .
96. Trinity College Tutorial, 7 February 2007.
97. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/3/28.
98. Steynton Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/3/28.
99. Ibid .
100. Ibid .
101. Ibid .
102. M. J. Daunton , Poverty and Progress, 448.
103. John Broad, ‘Parish Economies of Welfare 1 650- 1 834’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 42, No. 4 ( 1999), 987.
104. Paul Slack, The English Poor Law, 52.
105. Martin Gorsky, ‘The growth and distribution of English friendly societies in the early nineteenth century’, Economic History Review, No. 3 ( 1998), 489.
106. The Poor Law System: An Overview’, Trinity College Notes, 23.
107. Pembrokeshire Herald, 26 Apri l 1844.
108. Llanstadwell Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/ 131/addl.
109. The Cambrian, 6 July 181 6.
110. ‘The Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, 1832-1834’, Trinity College Notes, I.
111. Mark Blaug, ‘The Poor Law Report Re-examined’, Journal of Economic Htstory, Vol. 24, No. 2 ( 1 964), 230.
112. Llanstad well Select Vestry. PembsRO, HPR/131 /add I.
113. M. J. Daunton, Poverty and Progress, 1 1 3. 1 14. J. D. Marshall, The Old Poor Law, 50.
By Dillwyn Miles
Pembrokeshire has a long recorded history. He who carved a name on a stone at Nevern a millennium and a half ago wanted to inform posterity in ogham and in Latin that there lived in those parts at that time a person of eminence with Irish connections by the name of Maglicunus son of Clutorius. An unknown poet ‘s lamentation in the ninth century at the death of the lord of the sea-girt fortress at Tenby revealed that here reposed ‘the writings of Britain ‘. From the quill of Gerald de Barri, or Giraldus Cambrensis as he chose to be known , there came a portrait of life as it was lived at the end of the twelfth century in that most western peninsula of Wales that was to become known as Pembrokeshire.
Giraldus Cambrensis was born c.1 146, the youngest son of William de Barri of Manorbier, and Angharad, daughter of Gerald de Windsor, the royal custodian of Pembroke, by his wife Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, whom he had judiciousl y married not only for her alluring beauty. Giraldus, therefore, was the son of an Anglo-Norman knight, the great-grandson of a king of Deheubarth , a nephew of Prince Rhys ap Gruffudd (The Lord Rhys) and of Bishop David Fitzgerald of St David ‘s, a kinsman of the Geraldine invaders of Ireland and of the Flemish lords of Haverford, 1 and of most of the Welsh princely families. ‘I am sprung from the princes of Wales and from the barons of the March ,’ he once said, ‘and when I see injustice in either nation , I hate it’. His Cambro-Norman origins, however, did not always stand him in good stead. When the king wanted a bilingual emissary or diplomat, he sent for Giraldus, but he also made it known that ‘were Giraldus not a Welshman he would be worthy of high honour ‘.
At an early age Giraldus came under the tutelage of his uncle, Bishop David , who arranged for hi m to be sent to the Benedictine Abbey of St Peter’s at Gloucester where he acquired a mastery of Latin that made him arguably the finest Latin writer ever known in Wales. In August 1165 he entered the University of Paris where he remained for the next ten years. On his return to Wales Giraldus was given the livings of Llanwnda, Angle and Tenby and the ‘golden prebend ‘ of Mathry, together with the benefice or Chesterton in Oxfordshire. He was also made a prebendary of Hereford and a canon of St David ‘s. His reforming zeal became evident when he in formed Archbishop Richard of Canterbury that there were people in the diocese of St Dav id ‘s who had not paid the tithes of wool and cheese. The Archbishop appointed him legate whereupon Giraldus lost no time in bringing any defaulters to justice. He charged the sheriff of Pembroke with having removed eight yoke of oxen from Pembroke Priory and brought him to Llawhaden Castle where he was beaten with rods in the presence of the bishop. He also had the elderly Archdeacon of Brecon suspended for concubinage and had himself appointed archdeacon in his place.
Giraldus’s one ambition in life was to be the bishop of St David’s: he declined offers of the bishoprics of Bangor and of Llandaff , and of Ferns and of Leighlin in Ireland. He wanted to establish or, as he claimed restore, the metropolitan status of St David ‘s on the grounds that St David had been archbishop of Wales owing no allegiance to Canterbury. When his uncle died in 1 176, he was nominated to succeed hi m by the Chapter and by the Arch bishop of Canterbury but the Ki ng, aware of his ambitions, would not hear of it and appointed Peter de Leia, prior of Wenlock, to the see. Giraldus returned to Paris to pursue his studies, but when it was found that the new bishop was at loggerheads with the Chapter, the Archbishop appointed Giraldus as administrator of the diocese, an office that he held from 1179 to 1182.
When Peter de Leia died in 1198 Giraldus was again nominated but after a prolonged dispute, which culminated in a dispute between the Pope, Innocent III, and the king, he was rejected and Geoffrey of Henlaw, prior of Llanthony, was consecrated bi shop in November 1 203. Giraldus accepted the situation and gave up hi s metropolitan ambitions. He resigned the archdeaconry of Brecon and secured it for his nephew Giraldus, son of Philip de Barri, whose ingratitude and treachery was later to cause him deep concern.
In 1184 Henry II made Giraldus a royal clerk in which capacity he acted as a contact with the Welsh princes. His blood relationship to the Anglo Norman conquerors of Ireland led to his appointment as chaplain and adviser to Prince John, newly made Lord of Ireland, and he accompanied him on his visit to that country in 1185. John behaved badly and had to return home but Giraldus remained in Dublin until the spring of 1187 and during that time he gathered material for his books, Topographica Hibemica (The Topography of Ireland) and Expugnatio Hibernica (The Conquest of Ireland) which appeared in 1188.
When the Patriarch of Jerusalem came to seek the king’s help to recover the Holy City from the Saracens, Henry sent Baldwin, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to Wales to preach the Cross and raise recruits for the Third Crusade. Baldwin chose as his companions the archdeacon of Bangor, who acted as interpreter, and Giraldus, whom he had previously known, not only for his Welsh connections but also for his entertaining compay. Giraldus presented hi m with a copy of his Topographia Hibernica which the Archbishop read , or had read to him mostly by Giraldus, each day.
The party set out from Hereford on 4 March 1188 and the Archbishop preached his first sermon at Radnor where Giraldus threw himself at his feet and became the first person in Wales to take the Cross. The Journey lasted seven weeks, ten days of which were spent in Pembrokeshire. They reached Whitland Abbey on Monday, 21 March , and stayed at Haverfordwest, St David’s and St Dogmael’s. Although they did not go to Pembroke, Giraldus wrote at some length about its conquest by the Montgomerys and could not resist referring to the ‘ingenious stratagem’ employed by his grandfather, Gerald de Windsor, to be rid of the Welsh beleaguer in 1096. He recalled the Manorbier of his happy childhood with its turrets and ramparts, its deep fishpond, the beautiful orchard and high hazel groves, standing over the Severn Sea, and proclaimed it ‘the most pleasant place in the whole of Wales’, naively seeking to be forgiven for lavishing such praise upon it, as it was the place where he was born.
At Haverfordwest, after the Archbishop had delivered a sermon, Giraldus, now describing himself as the Archdeacon of St David’s, preached ‘with some eloquence’ in Latin and then in French and ‘those who could not understand a word of either language were just as moved to tears as the others, rushing forward in equal numbers to receive the sign of the Cross’. His knowledge of Welsh was limited and he hardly ever spoke English . He embellished his account of the visit with strange tales and dwelt on the folk customs of the Flemings, to whom he was related , and he revealed that Flemish was still spoken in Pembrokeshire in the early part of the thirteenth century.2
The party spent three days at St David’ s where Baldwin took advantage of t he occasion to establish his authority in Wales by celebrating Mass at the high altar in the cathedral. He then departed to meet Rhys ap Gruffudd at Cardigan, leaving Giraldus to preach to the people. Many ran to take the Cross, but ‘when his words were interpreted they recoiled from the vow they had taken 3 and, instead , they were ordered to ‘bestow their labour and aid ‘ upon the building of the cathedral.4 While passing through Nevern, Giraldus recalled the evil deed of Rhys ap Gruffudd who had broken a solemn oath by evicting his son-in-law William Martin, lord of Cemais, from Nevern Castle and reckoned that ‘God took vengeance on hi m in the most apposite way’ when he was disgraced and discountenanced by being made a prisoner in the very same castle by his own sons.
The party was comfortably lodged at the monastery at St Dogmael ‘s and the next morning they proceeded to Cardigan where they were entertained by the Lord Rhys at his castle. A large crowd including Rhys and his sons, Maelgwn and Gruffudd , had assembled on the Cemais side of the river Teifi and, once more, many were persuaded to take the Cross. The sick came to be healed and miracles were performed , but Giraldus stated that he had no time to tell about them. He may have been too anxious to dwell on another matter. Giraldus regarded himself as ‘a careful investigator of natural history’ and he was quick to observe that ‘the noble river Teifi’ was not only ‘better stocked with the finest salmon than any other stream in Wales’ but that it had ‘another remarkable peculiarity’ in that it was the only river, south of the Humber, where there were beavers. He then proceeded to describe the life history of the animal, adding the legend that in the East the creature would save itself from hunters by self-castration.
Giraldus kept notes from day to day along the journey which enabled him to produce his ltinerarium Kambriae (Journey through Wales) giving a description of incidents that occurred along the journey, providing contemporary glimpses of everyday life in the latter part of the twelfth century, and an account of the role played by the Archbishop and by himself in preaching the Cross. The work was enlivened by digressions, sometimes in the form of folk tales with some of which, no doubt, he had regaled his fellow travellers in the manner of the professional story-teller, the cyfarwydd , at the courts of the Welsh nobility. There were tales of evil spirits, such as the one who came in the form of a red-haired steward to the house of Elidyr of Stackpole, and onomastic tales to explain place names, as in the case of Seisyllt Esgairhir (Cecil Longshank s) who was devoured by toads at Trellyffaint (Toad ‘s-town) in the parish of Nevern. There were miracles like the one that happened at Haverfordwest when a blind old woman had her sight restored as a piece of turf upon which the Archbishop had stood was applied to her eyes. He also wrote about things that he saw and heard, and about a people still reeling from the Norman occupation and now having to suffer the hostility of the planted Flemings.He gave of his own experience of the political and ecclesiastical events of the time. He made ordinary happenings interesting and sprinkled his narrative with anecdotes while, at the same time, providing the most important source history of the period. The first edition of ltinerarium Kambriae appeared in 1191 , a second version in 1197 and a third , some what extended, version in 1214. It was followed by his Descriptio Kambriae (The Description of Wales) in which he gave ‘a broader and more philosophical survey of the country and the people taken from the Olympian height of a scholar’s lofty seclusion’ .5
Giraldus was a prolific writer, his work s including Vita Sancti Davidis (The Life of St David) in 1194 and a ‘Life of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York’ in 1 1 95 as well as ‘Lives’ of St Remi and St Hugh. His Gemma Ecclesiastica (The Jewel of the Church) that appeared in 1197 was a handbook of moral exhortation for the clergy of St David ‘s, De Rebus a
Se Gestis, an autobiography, in 1 208, De lnvectionibus (A Book of Invectives) and Speculum Duorum (A Mirror of Two Men), a personal controversy arising out of the betrayal and ingratitude of his nephew to whom he had given the archdeaconry of Brecon, both in 1 216, De Jure at Statu Menevensis Ecclesiae (The Rights and Status of St David’s) and De Principis lnstructione (The Instruction of a Prince) , a denunciation of the Plantagenet kings, in 1218, and Speculum Ecclesiae (The Mirror of the Church) in 1220.
The last twenty years of his life were spent mostly at Lincoln. He visited his relatives in Ireland i n 1 204 and in 1206 he set out on a spiritual pilgrimmage to Rome, and made three short visits to Wales. He died in 1 223, probably at Lincoln where he is believed to have been buried.
George Owen of Henllys, 6 ‘the exquisite antiquary’ ,7 was ranked among ‘the four best-known antiquaries of sixteenth century Wales’ .8 He was, besides, a cartographer, a geographer, a geologist, an armorist, a farmer, a lawyer, a social commentator and a patron of literature and of the bards.
His roots lay among the freeholders of the lordship of Cemais, tracing Lo Philip Fychan of Henllys Uchaf in 1 273 and his wife, Llywelydd, daughter of Gruffudd Hirsais, son of Sir William Cantington of Trewilym in the parish of Eglwyswrw . His ancestors found wives among the leading local families until Rhys ab Owen married Jane, daughter of Philip Elliott of Earwere. They had a son , William , who was admitted at the Middle Temple in 1 514 and ‘was among the first Welshmen in London to make a significant name for themselves in the English common law as a recog nised commentator’ .9 In 1 518 he met John Touchet, Lord Audley of Heleigh and lord of Cemais, who appoi nted him his legal adviser and clerk of the courts of the lordship of Cemais. He was married in 1 521 to Margaret Swyllyngton of the parish of St Clement Danes and it is possible that her dowry enabled him to establish himself as a lawyer at Pembroke in 1524, where he was mayor in 1527, and also to set up a practice at Bristol. There was no issue of the marriage but Owen became the father of nine illegitimate children during that period.
Lord Audley, having been impoverished following his father’s execution for treason, was able to borrow money from Owen and, in 1543, he conveyed to him the barony of Cemais in settlement and ordered his tenantry henceforth to regard William Owen as their rightful lord.
In 1551, when he was sixty-three years of age, William Owen married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Herbert of Swansea and niece of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Their only son, George, was born at Henllys i n 1 552 and he is believed to have received his early education at home wi th his father, now in retirement, providing hi m with tuition in the law and in estate management. Nothing is known of his early life until February 1 572 when he was i nvolved in a fracas that took place at Haver ford west between the supporters of Sir John Perrot and the anti-Perrot faction, led by William Phi l i pps of Picton, to which Owen belonged. 10 He was admitted at Barnard’s Inn in 1 573 and in the same year he married Elizabeth, daughter of William Philipps of Picton by his wife, Janet, daughter of Thomas Perrot of Haroldston and sister of Sir John Perrot. Having borne him eleven children, Elizabeth died in 1606 and he then married his mistress, Anne Obiled, by whom he already had seven illegiti mate children, among whom were Evan Owen, Chancellor of St David’s, and George Owen, York Herald. Anne produced six more children after marriage.
Owen’s main interest lay in the land and in improving its quality. He advocated the spreading of lime to counter the natural acidity of the soil, but first the limestone had to be burnt in a lime kiln fired by culm (anthracite dust), both of which had to be brought from south Pembrokeshire, where Owen traced the carboniferous limestone outcrops and observed that they ran in close parallel with the veins of anthracite coal. He parlicularly advocated the use of clay marl, his description of which in his Treatise of Marle 11 enabled it to be recognised as glacial till deposited by the Irish Sea glacier, though he subscribed to the popular belief that it was the deposit of Noah ‘s Flood. His contribution to geological study led to him being described as ‘the patriarch of English geologists’ .12
Owen was regarded as a cartographer second only to Humphrey Llwyd. When Christopher Saxton’s Atlas of England and Wales was published in 1579, showing for the first time the county boundaries, Owen complained that ‘Pembrokeshire seemeth to be one of the biggest and largest shires of Wales, haveinge the roome and place of a whole sheete of paper allowed to it selfe’, while other counties were shown two or more on the same page. He was concerned that this exaggerated appearance would cause heavier demands to be made on the county, already overstrained, in the provision of men for foreign service. In 1602 he made his own map of Pembrokeshire that was well executed except that the north-western part of the cou nty had an exaggerated southward trend. It is decorated with the emblazoned coats-of-arms of the Earls of Pembroke in a border and those of t wenty-eight of the Pembrokeshire gentry laid out above the map. H e made a similar map i n 1603 but this time with the arms of fifty-six families. In each case, Owen ‘made and contryved’ the map and a fair copy was drawn by his amanuensis John Browne. 13 When Camden published maps of the counties in his 1607 edition of Britannia , most of them by Saxton, he invited Owen to provide the map of Pembrokeshire .
Ow en took his public duties and responsibilities seriously. He was placed on the commission for the peace in 1584 and in 1587 he and Thomas Perrot were appointed the first deputy lieutenants of the county of Pem broke . He was sheriff of the county in 1587 and again in 1602 when he had the unpleasant duty of arranging the execution of two of his wife’s kinsmen, John and Hugh Bowen of Llwyngwair, who had killed their cousin, Robert Young of Tredrysi at Eglwyswrw fair. He was deputy vice ad miral of the counties of Pembroke and Cardigan and on 1 November 1 595 the Earl of Pembroke wrote to ‘my very loving cozen George Owen esquier’ stating that he had long expected to have received from him a map of Milford Haven that he could show to the Queen who was concerned about coastal defence against a Spanish invasion. Owen sent him the map together with ‘a pamphelett conteinginge the description of Mylford Havon’ with proposals for its defence. 1 4
Owen was fortunate in having lived at a ti me when there was an awakening of interest in Welsh antiquities and although he resided in a remote part of Wales, he had a well-stocked library at Henllys. He had also gathered arou nd him a coterie of antiquaries including George Owen Harry, vicar of Whitechurch, and George William Griffith of Penybenglog, and he maintained contact with others, such as Thomas Jones, Fountain Gate. He employed scribes and research assistants at Henllys.
He endeavoured to prove that Cemais was a lordship marcher, although he was aware that marcher lordships had been abolished by the Act of Union of 1 543, and he was not averse to extending his ancestry in an effort to prove that he was lord thereof by descent from the Martin conq ueror of Cemais. Even so he was regarded as a reputable genealogist and had among his friends Lewys Dwnn, the Deputy Herald, and William Camden, Clarenceux Ki ng of Arms, whom he visited at the College of Arms, where his son, George, was to become York Herald of Arms.
In 1594 Owen wrote ‘A Treatise of Lordshipps Marchers in Wales’, 15 which is still regarded as a standard work on the subject, and a ‘Catalogue and Genealogy of the Lords of the Barony of Kernes’. His ‘Prooffes that the Lordshipp of Kernes is a Lordshippe Marcher’ and a transcript of ‘A Register Book of the Baronye of Kemeys’ appeared as a supplement to Archaeologia Cambrensis in 1861 and was then publ ished by the Cambrian Archaeological Association as a volume entitled Baronia de Kemeys. Owen’s common place book, The Taylor’s Cussion, was reproduced in facsimile by Emily Pritchard in 1 906. More than seventy manuscri pts of his works and notes on antiquarian, historical, topographical, genealogical and heraldic subjects, have been traced. 16
His most important work was The Description of Penbrokshire which may have been inspired by the publication of Richard Carew’s Survey of Cornwall that appeared in May 1602. Owen started work on his book in December of that year. He was familiar with the works of chroniclers like Holinshed and Polydore Vergil, and copies of the printed works of Humphrey Llwyd, Sir John Price, Rice Merrick and David Powel were to be found in his library. 17 He may have been influenced by John Leland and certainly by William Camden, whose Britannia first appeared i n 1586. He relied much on David Powel’s Historie of Cambria and on his translation, in 1585, of Girald us Cambrensis’s ltinerarium Kambriae.
There are two manuscript copies extant of Owen’s ‘First Booke of the description of Penbrokshire in generall’, both written in the hand of one of his scribes. The earlier, at the National Library of Wales (NLW MS 13212 ), is inscribed 13 December 1 602-18 May 1603, and the other, in the British Li brary (Harleian 6250), is dated 18 May 1603 at the end. Owen began to write a ‘Second Booke’ of the Description of Penbrokshire, which was the first attempt to write a history of a county parish by parish but he made little progress. The surviving fragments were published in 1948. 18
None of Owen’s work appeared in pri nt until Richard Fenton published, in The Cambrian Register for the Year 1795, a chapter giving an ‘account of an ancient Game [cnapan ] formerly used in Pembrokeshire, South Wales (and not till of late years entirely disused in some parts of it), from a Manuscript in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth by one of that Country, who had himself been often an Actor in it’ .19 It had been taken from the earlier copy of the manuscript of George Owen’s ‘First Booke’ that was in the possession of John Lewis, Manorowen. Fenton published the remainder of the manuscript in the Cambrian Register for the Year 1796 as ‘A History or Pembrokeshire from a MSS of George Owen , Esq., of Henllys, Lord of K emes’. Lewis passed the manuscript to Fen ton at whose death it was sold by his son to Sir Thomas Phillipps of Middle Hill and, by 1892, it was in the possession of the Marquis of Bute from whose descendant it was acquired by the National Library of Wales. The later version of the manuscript was purchased from the bookseller Thomas Osborne by William Oldys for Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, at whose death in 1 753 it was purchased by Parliament and placed in the British Museum and is now in the British Library.
The Description of Penbrokshire first appeared in book form when it was pu blished by the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion in its ‘Cymmro dorion Record Series’, edited by Henry Owen of Poyston, in 1892. The Society later publ ished another three volumes of Owen ‘s papers under this title as Parts II-I V. Part II appeared in 1 897 containing collections of documents relating to the county and to the barony of Cemais, accounts of suits in the Star Chamber, the inquisitiones post mortem of William and George Owen and the ‘Description of Milford Haven’. Part III, in 1906, is largely taken up with ‘A Dialogue of the Present Government of Wales’ which provides an early example of the Socratic method of writing in the form of question and answer that Owen may have seen employed by the Tenby-born mathematician Robert Recorde, together with a summary of ‘Cruell Laws against Welshmen following the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dwr’, ‘A Treatise of Lordshipps Marchers in Wales’ and the first half of ‘The Descri ption of Wales’, covering five counties in south Wales. Part IV, dealing with the remaining counties, was not published until 1936 when it appeared under the editorship of Llywelyn Wyn Griffith. The Description of Penbrokshire did not appear in print again until 1994. 20
Owen suffered from childhood with an infirmity in his right leg and, from middle age, with gout in both legs, and yet this did not prevent him from travelling in pursu it of his researches. In the end, he had to be carried from his bed and lifted on to his horse and thus travelled to Ludlow and to London .
As his parents had done before him , he provided the traditional hospitality towards the itinerant bards who came to Henllys. Elegaic poems were written when his father died and his mother ‘s death was mourned by no less than seven poets. Poems of praise were sung to him by Sion Mawddwy, Dafydd Llwyd Mathe, Ieuan Tew Brydydd , Dafydd Emlyn, Gwilym Hafren and Robert Dyfi during his l ifetime but no elegies survive. The high regard i n which he was held by the bards is indicated in a cywydd addressed to hi m by Sion Mawdwy with a request that he should use his influence with the Queen and ask her to commission an eisteddfod at Henllys, as she had done at Caerwys in 1 568, to sort out ‘the vagrant and idle persons naming themselfes minstrelles Rithmers and Bards’ from the ‘expert minstrelles and musicians in tongue and coning’. He was described as the brave, wise and generous lord of Cemais, the guardian of the bardic tradition, the protector of the Welsh language, and ‘keeper of the silver harp of Henllys’.
At his death the greater part of his collection of manuscripts passed to his neighbour and colleague George William Griffith of Penybenglog, though some went to his illegitimate son, George Owen, York Herald , and some to John Lloyd of Vardre. They then passed through various hands before t hey were purchased by Edward Protheroe, of Over Court, Gloucester, who sold them, in 1828, to the College of Arms where they remain as the Protheroe MSS XVI and XVII. 21
Owen died at Haverfordwest on 26 August 1613 at the house of his daughter and her husband , William Davids, who was mayor that year. His body was taken to Henllys and he was buried in Nevern church.
George Owen Harry (c. 1553-1614), a native of Llanelli , was presented to the l ivi n g of Whitechurch in 1584 by George Owen , lord of Cemais, w i t h whom he worked closely on historical and genealogical research for t h e next thirty years. His Wellspringe of True Nobilitie was too substantial a book to find a publisher and a shortened version , under the title of The Genealogy of the High and Mighty M onarch, James . . . King of great Brittayne, &c., appeared i n London in 1604. The ‘Short Pedigrees of Diver Noblemen , Knights, Esquires and Gentlemen & Women of Pembrokeshire, &c.’ forming an appendix to Edward Laws’ Little England beyond Wales, is believed to be the work of George Owen Harry.22
George William Griffith (1584-1655) of Penybenglog in the parish of Meline, was an attorney, appeari ng at the manorial courts of Cemais, and a magistrate. He spent m uch ti me from an early age at nearby Henllys assisting George Owen with his work. When Owen died most of his papers came into Griffith’s hands and he carried on with hi s historical and genealogical research so diligently that ‘of all the early genealogists he is the only one who has given authorities for his statements, and may thus be truly described as a pioneer of modern scientific research’ .23
John Lewis of Manorowen, a prosperous farmer, a magistrate and mayor of Fishguard eleven times, did much to promote the development of Lower Fishguard as a port. He had in his possession one of the manuscript copies of George Owen’s First Book e of the Description of Penbrokshire, and also of a remnant of the Second Booke, both of which came into the hands of his great-grandson Richard Fenton who described him as ‘an antiquary of no mean note in his day, the friend of Bishop Gibson and Edward Lhuyd’. Lhuyd, in his notes for Edmund Gibson’s new edition of Camden ‘s Britannia ( 1695), stated that he had taken his account of Pentre lfan cromlech ‘out of Mr George Owen ‘s Manuscript History communicated to me by the worshipful John Lewis of Maenor Nawen, Esquire’ .24
Richard Fenton was born at Rhosson in the parish of St David ‘s and was baptised on 20 February 1747, ‘being then a month old’.25 He was educated at the Cathedral School and at the Haverfordwest Grammar School and, it is said, at Magdalene College, Oxford, but there is no evidence of his matriculation. He became a civil servant and was employed at the Custom House in London until he ruffled his superiors by holding them to ridicule in satirical verse. He then turned to the Law and was admitted at the Middle Temple on 24 August 1774. He was called to the Bar i n 1783 and, for a number of years he practised on the Welsh circuit.
Little is known of his early l ife beyond that wri tten by his grandson, Ferrar Fenton 26, who claimed that his grandfather was ‘on the male side the descendant and direct representative of an energetic Baron and Lord of Wi l l iam the Conq ueror named Ricard, surnamed Le Fentone’; that the family had come to Pembrokeshire with Sir William Fenton, Bart., an officer on the staff of Oliver Cromwell, and that he had ‘ancestral connection wi th Strongbow and with Martin , the conqueror of Cemais, and with the martyred Bishop of St David ‘s, Robert Ferrar’, none of which claims can be substantiated. His paternal lineage can be traced no further than hi s grandfather, Richard Fenton of Fishguard who married Diana Lewis, daughter of John Lewis of Manorowen , and had a son, Richard Fenton of Rhosson who, by his wife, Martha Wilkins, was the historian ‘s father. Fenton was said to have spoken of his ancestors as ‘ancient Welsh princes’ 27 but he does not give the pedigree. He may, or may not, have been aware that, through his maternal grandfather, John Lewis, he could claim descent from Gwynfardd Dyfed.
Ferrar Fenton referred to the Middle Temple as ‘the headquarters of the cultured aristocracy and genius of Britain’ and made the improbable claim that his grandfather, while at Oxford, ‘became intimate with Oliver Goldsmith , Edmund Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Fox, Owen Pughe and Samuel Johnson ‘ and stated that he belonged to one of Dr Sam Johnson’s Clubs’. Fenton himself recalled that he ‘had once the pleasure of passing a day in company with the great moralist’ whom he found ‘affable, communicative, and not at all dictatorial ‘. This was when he visited Johnson’s blind protege Anna Williams or Rosemarket who, ‘finding that I was a Welshman , she increased her attentions; but when she traced me to Pembrokeshire, she drew her chair closer, took me familiarly by the hand, as if kindred blood tingled at her finger ends, talked of past times, and dwelt with rapture on Ros Market’ .28
Fenton married Eloise, daughter of the Baron Pillet de Moudon, a Swiss a ristocrat who had been a Colonel in the French Army and had settled i n En g land . They had three sons: John ,29 Richard Charles, who became a clergyman in Li ncolnshire and was the father of Ferrar Fenton, and Samuel, vicar of Fishguard from 1 825 to 1 852.
During his time in London Fenton became a member of the Gwyneddig ion Society and of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion and got to k now some of the leading London Welshmen , and when Owain Myfyr and Wi ll i am Owen Pughe decided to pu blish The Myvyrian Archaiology, they invited hi m to assist them. Owai n Myfyr referred to him as a poet, ‘fond of Welsh and of its poetry,’ and expressed the view that ‘as he is a zestful a nd talented scholar, it will not be long before he masters the language’. To what extent he succeeded is not clear, but he is said to have translated a chain of englynion by the twelfth century poet-prince of Powys, Owain Cyfeiliog. Richard Morris, writing to Thomas Pennant in August 1779, referred to ‘my friend Fenton, of the Custom House’ as ‘a good English poet and a great Scholar,’ and stated that he was ‘endeavouring to make him a good Welshman : born in Pembrokeshire , he is deficient that way, but comes on bravely ‘.30 Fenton had published , in London in 1773, a volume of his poetical works which was re-published in 1790 in two volumes dedicated to John Campbell, Lord Cawdor. He was regarded as a good linguist and ‘a Greek, Latin and French scholar’, having translated Deipnosophistae (the Banq uet of the Learned), a collection of anecdotes and extracts from the works of the Greek grammarian, Athenaeus.
By 1 788 Fenton was living near Machynlleth where he had taken a house so as ‘to facilitate his studies of Welsh records and literature’, but also for convenience in pursuing his legal work on the Welsh circuit, and during this period he travelled extensively in north Wales. In 1792 he went to Dublin in connection with the trials following the Emmet rebellion after which he decided to withdraw from his professional practice, except for conveyancing, and devote himself to literature. He left Machynlleth in 1793 and returned to Fishguard, taking a house at the top of The Slade so as to be near his uncle, Lieutenant Samuel Fenton. Samuel Fenton had sailed under Admiral Vaughan of Trecwn, and when he retired from the Royal Navy he set up a lucrative business exporting herrings to Mediterranean countries and to the Baltic. When he died in 1796 he left a part of his estate to his nephew Richard who, meanwhile, was building himself a gentleman’s residence on the meadow below Carn y Gath in Lower Fishguard. By blasting into the cliff-face, he made a large recess in which to build a house which he called Glynamel , a word having no known meaning that locally became known as ‘Glynymel ‘.
Fenton published ‘A History of Pembrokeshi re from a MSS of George Owen, Esq ., of Henllys, Lord of Kernes,’ i n the Cambrian Register.for the Year 1795, ‘with Additions and Observation s by John Lewis, Esq., of Manarnawan’ .3 1 In a footnote he warned the reader that:
as the vast mass of supplementary matter collected by my ancestor was never meant to meet the public eye in the state I found it, and as it was very richly interlarded with personal invective and private anecdotes of families which, from respect to their descendants, men of high honour and character, I could not with any degree of delicacy suffer to go abroad. I have been able to make use of but a very small portion of his collection which, if ever I have leisure thoroughly to garble and methodize, may serve not only to eluci date the history of Pembrokeshire in particular, but to enrich the general flock of antiquarian knowledge.
Fenton was negligent in editing the work, omitting paragraphs and one whole chapter, and adding or rearranging words and phrases at will. He misread ‘Giraldus Cambrensis’ as ‘Gerard Mercator’ and Lewis compounded the error by observing in his additional notes that:
Here Mercator, with all deference to that great Cosmographer, talks lik e an old woman, and with a bigotry unworthy of a true philosopher. That Ireland is so blessed as to number venomous creatures amongst its wants, may still require confirmation , and seems a popular error engendered by pious fraud and propagated without examination, unless, as I heard a witty lady observe of that island , it would be overcharging it with the ills of Pandora’ s box to give it any other noxious animals than its inhabitants of the human species.32
Fenton had intended publishing an extended edition of Thomas Pennant’ s Tour of Wales ( 1778-83) with illustration s by Sir Richard Hoare but Pennant ‘s son would not give his permission and he then turned to pro d u c i n g a comprehensive History of Wales, county by county, in preparation for which he kept notes on his journey s through various parts of the Pri n ci pal i ty. The first to be completed was A Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire which he finished on 20 October 1810 and had published in London the same and the following years so that some title pages are dated 1810 and others 1811 . The book comprises twelve itineraries, with t he author sometimes redoubling his tracks in order to give the county a fair coverage.
Fenton dedicated the book to Sir Richard Colt Hoare,33 stating that it had been written at Sir Richard’s suggestion , and that its ‘chief embellishments were the result of his ‘fine taste in the application of the pencil’. Of the thirty illustrations in the book , fourteen were drawn by Hoare, eight by his friend John Carter, and six by Fenton’s son, John. It is not known to what extent he was accompanied by Sir Richard on the Pembrokeshire lour as he refers to his presence only on two occasion s, when they visited Caldey and, when they set out, on 28 June 1808, from Archdeacon Davies’s house at St David’s to ‘explore the neighbourhood of Porthmawr for the station [of Menapia]’ . They had first met on 13 June 1793 when Sir ichard called at Fishguard , on his way to St David ‘s, carrying a letter from his friend Captain, later Admiral, Thomas Lewis of Gellidywyll that ‘procured me the acquaintance of Counsellor Fenton from whom I gained much information respecting my tour, no one being more versed in the ancient history and records of hi s native county’ .34 On 4 July I 802, whilst travelling from St David’s to Fishguard, Sir Richard found that his ‘friend Mr Fenton has built a neat house in a romantic situation under some ragged rocks’, but he had stayed at ‘a decent inn (Captai n Laugharne’s – no sign)’ which had afforded him ‘a good bed and dinner but no wine’. 35 Fenton visited Sir Richard’s home, Stourhead , where his portrait by Samuel Woodforde that appears in A Historical Tour still hangs . He stated that he regarded Sir Richard as ‘the friend of my fortunes and of my life’ ,36 and in his will he left him a mourning ring.
Fenton made considerable use of George Owen’s First Booke of the description of Penbrokshire in his Historical Tour, and admitted that ‘by some, perhaps, I may be thought to have been too liberal of my quotations from the old Pembrokeshire antiquary ; yet I trust , the greater part of my readers who are told that they are the only original and faithful records of the facts they relate to will easily forgive me, and may regret that I have not oftener enriched my coarse work with his curious inlay’ .37
He had planned a second edition of the book but this was not done until 1 903 when Edwin Davies of Brecon , who had re-published Theophilus Jones’s History qf’ Brecknockshire, was persuaded to reprint Fenton. The additional notes made by Fenton and by his son, John, for a second edition, were included as Addenda and Ferrar Fenton’s ‘Life of Richard Fenton ‘ appeared in the form of an introductory chapter. The plates engraved for the original work had been lost but the ill ustrations were reproduced by The Western Mail. This edition was reprinted by the Haverfordwest Library in 1995.
Fenton’s papers, including the notes he had made for his county series of histories, were sold by his son, the Rev Samuel Fenton, to Sir Thomas Phillipps of Middle Hill, in 1858 and in 1896 they were purchased by the Cardiff Free Library where they remain as the Fenton MSS comprising some sixty volumes . Some of the notes were edited and published by John Fisher, Secretary of the Cambrian Archaeological Association, in 1917, ‘as compensation to members for the unavoidable postponement of their annual excursions on account of the war’, under the title Tours in Wales 1804-1813. On some of the journeys in north Wales Fenton was accompanied by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, whom he visited at Fach Ddeiliog, his cottage on the shores of Lake Bala.
In 1811 Fenton also published A Tour in Quest of Genealogy through several parts of Wales, Somersetshire and Wiltshire in a series of Letters to a friend in Dublin interspersed with a description qf’ Stourhead and Stonehenge . . . by a Barrister, and in 1815 a humorous anecdotal book appeared , again anonymously, as Memoirs of an Old Wig, which contains passages concerning south-west Wales. The latter was made rare by a rumour at the time of publication that the author was the poet and connoisseur Samuel Rogers who bought up and suppressed as many copies as he could find.
‘A gentleman who knew him well described Fenton as a man of indefatigable industry, of a fine poetical fancy, of a very cheerful disposition, of particularly gentlemanly and fascinating manners, and the person of best information on almost every subject.’ 38 Fenton was a descriptive writer and his book is a pannier vade-mecum to his native county. He has also been described as ‘an iconoclastic gourmet who went through the land breaking up barrows and cracking cromlech s’,39 and some evidence of this is provided in his own accounts of h s excavations.
Fenton died suddenly at Glynymel in November 1821, in his seventy-fifth yea r, and he was buried at Manorowen. The site of his grave is lost but his grand son , Ferrar Fenton, placed a memorial tablet in the shape of a coffin on the wall inside the church bearing the inscription Richard Fenton KC FAS. Historian of Pembrokeshire.
Joseph Allen, of the parish of St Michael in Pembroke, a teacher of mathematics, was engaged by William Wilmot, who had settled in Pem broke in 1 784 and had established himself as a printer and bookseller, to produce ‘a work entitled A History of the County of Pembroke, originally com piled by George Owen, with additions; a New Map of the said County, a Chart of Milford Haven, both on a large scale, with five other plates,’ for which he was to receive £61. 5s. 5d in payment, the work to be ‘delivered finished within the space of six months from the 1st day of Jaunauary 1 792’. Wilmot had paid £10 to the British Museum for a transcript of George Owen’s manuscript and £5 for a drawing of the map and chart, and had expended other amounts in preparing for publication. He had also written some notes in three small books, which Henry Owen bought at the sale of Sir Thomas Phillipps ‘ papers, with which Allen was to annotate the work. A notice was prepared advertisi ng the book as A Tour thro’ Pembrokeshire, compiled by William Wilmot, ‘most humbly inscribed to the Nobility and Gentry of Pembrokeshire ‘. Nothing further is known about the proposal but Edward Laws observed that ‘possibly its sad fate was not to be regretted , for had Wilmot published a History of Pembrokeshire based on a transcript of George Owen ‘s work in 1798, Fenton might have been discouraged in 1811 and the grand edition of the Description of Pembrokeshire , issued by Henry Owen in 1892, might never have seen light’. 40
James Allen (1802-97), the son of David Bird Allen , vicar of Burton, was educated at Westminster and Charterhouse before proceeding to Trinity College, Cam bridge. He was vicar of Castlemartin from 1839 to 1 875 and dean of St David’s from 1878 to 1 895 when he devoted much time and money to the restoration of the Cathedral by Sir Gilbert Scott. He began to compile a l ist of the sheriffs of the county of Pembroke from 1541 but got no further than 1740 when he died and the work was completed by his friends, Henry Mathias, Edward Laws and Henry Owen and published in 1900.4 1 A proposal to publish a list of the Sheriffs of Pembrokeshire by J. P. Ord of Tenby advertised by R. Mason, publisher, Tenby, in the Cambrian Journal in 1864, does not appear to have materialised.
Edward Laws, born at Lamphey in 1837, was the son of Rear-Admiral John Milligen Laws of Binfield, Berkshire, by his wife Mary, daughter of Charles Delamotte Mathias of Lamphey Court. He was educated at Rugby and at Wadham College, Oxford, where he matriculated in 1856. He held a commission in the 35th (Royal Sussex) Regiment until he was wounded, when he decided to settle in Tenby and teach himself archaeology, architecture and botany among other subjects. He was a magistrate, sheriff of the county of Pembroke i n 1 899 and mayor of Tenby in 1900. In 1887, i n col laboration with his adopted daughter, Emily Hewlett Edwards, he published A Short History of the Civil War as it affected Tenby and its Neighbourhood , and they jointly contributed a number of articles on monumental effigies to Archaeologia Cambrensis. In 1888 he published his History of Little England Beyond Wales and the Non-Kymric Colony settled in Pembrokeshire , covering the parts of the county that he knew best. He made references, however, to the ‘Kymric’ areas, in particular Dewisland and St David’s, and even Cemais, when it suited his purpose. I n 1907 he published The Church Book of St Mary the Virgin, Tenby. With Dr Henry Owen , he undertook an Archaeological Survey of Pembrokeshire that was completed in 1908, and he was chairman of the Association for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments i n Pembrokeshire. He died following a road accident on 25 July 1 913.
Gilbert Nicholas Smith, the rector of Gumfreston from 1835 unti l he died in 1 877, havi ng found the remains of extinct Pleistocene and geologically recent animals in Eel Point Cave, Caldey, went on to ex amine Hoyle’s Mouth and Longbury and other caves and formed an archaeological collection that became the nucleus of the Tenby Museum . He published several papers, letters and notes in Archaeologia Cambrensis between 1849 and 1872. 42
Henry Owen was born in 1844, the son of William Owen JP, DL, of Withy bush, the noted architect and cabinet-maker of Haverfordwest. He was educated at Cowbridge Grammar School before proceeding to Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1862-66), where he graduated BA (1866) and BCL (1869) and proceeded to DCL in 1900. He joined a firm of London sol icitors – Jenkinson, Owen and Co. – of which he became principal before he retired to Pembrokeshire in 1914 and settled at Poyston , near Haverfordwest , where he built a fine library and devoted his leisure to antiquarian and historical studies. He was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on Public Records in 1910 and of the Royal Com mission on Ancient Monuments of Wales in 1914, and he was chairman of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion and the first treasurer of the National Library of Wales. He was high-sheriff in 1902, a magistrate and vice-chairman of the Pembrokeshire Quarter Sessions. The University of Wales honoured him with the degree of D.Litt. in 1916. In 1889 he published Gerald the Welshman and there followed Old Pembrokeshire Families (1902). With the assistance of Egerton Pillimore he edited George Owen’s Description of Penbrokshire (1892) and, aided by Dr E. A. Lewis, A Calendar of Public Records relating to Pembrokeshire (1911- 14). When he died in 1919 he bequeathed a selection of his boks to the National Library of Wales and the remainder to the Pembrokeshire County Library, Haverfordwest (In January 2007 these books too were donated to the National Library). His manuscript collection was bequeathed to the National Library (NLW MSS I 341 -1453) as was his marble bust by Sir Goscombe John RA. Owen’s portrait by Streatfield was donated to Haverfordwest Library.
John Roland Phillips, born at Cilgerran in 1 844, entered a solicitor’s office in Cardigan prior to being admitted at Lincoln’s Inn in l867. He was called to the bar in 1870 and in 1 881 he became the first stipendary magistrate for West Ham. He confessed to ‘an early addiction to the study of antiquities ‘ and he was awarded the prize at an eisteddfod held at
Cardigan in August 1866 for the ‘History of Cilgerran, including the Topography of the Parish , an Account of the Churches, Castle, Slate Quarries and Tinworks with Transcriptions of charters, &c’. Phillips enlarged upon this essay and it was published in London in 1867 as The History of Cilgerran, using real photographs to illustrate the book. This was followed by a List of the Sheriffs of Cardiganshire (1868) and An Attempt at a Concise History of Glamorgan (1879). In 1874 he published his two-volume Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches and, in 1886, Memoirs of the Owen Family of Orielton. He had a history of Wales in preparat10n when he died in 1887.
John Romilly Allen, though born in London in 1847, was the son of George Bough Allen of Cilrhiw in the parish of Lampeter Velfrey, a member of the Allen family of Cresselly. He was educated at Rugby and at King’s College, London, and qualified as a civil engineer. He gained eminence in that field and became a lecturer at University College Lon don. He developed an interest in archaeology and as a member of the Cambrian Archaeological Association he contributed regularly to Archaeologia Cambrensis from 1873 onward. He was
appointed its co-editor in 1888 and editor i n 1891 . In 1873 he wrote an article to the jou rnal that resulted in a meeting being held at Shrewsbury to devise a scheme for an ethnographical survey of Wa les, which led to the Archaeological Survey of Pembrokeshire 1896-1907. Wi th Sir John Rhys, he carried out a survey of early-i nscribed stones in Wales . He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1 885.
James Phillips, born at Haverfordwest in 1 847, was the son of James Phillips who was of Quaker stock and was mayor of the town i n 1 871 . He was educated ata private school on St Thomas Green, Haverfordwest , and although he stammered, h e was in demand as a local preacher with the Wesleyans . In his middle age he entered the Congregational College at Bristol and in 1889 he was ordained minister at the Tabernacle Congregational Church , Little H aven. He was a member of the local education committee and an alderman of the Pembrokeshire County Council. He wrote numerous articles for A rchaeologia Cambrensis dealing mainly with Elizabethan Haverfordwest. He died in 1907 without completing his History of Pembrokeshire, hav i n g got as far as the evangelical revival of the eighteenth century. The u n fi nished volume was published posthumously in 1909.
Francis Green, the son of Francis Green of Carmarthen and his wife Elizabeth Harries of Trefcwn, was born in 1854. He was educated at the Moravi an school at Pendine, the Chapter School at St David’s and at Shrewsbury, and studied Law in London. From 1 878 he spent some ti me farming in Canada before returning to London to work for The Financial
Times. He retired to St David’s in 1907 where he spent the remainder of his life in historical and antiquarian research. He was editor of West Wales Historical Records, contributing valuably to its columns, as well as to Y Cymmrodor, the Transactions of the Honourable Cymmrodorion Society and Archaeologia Cambrensis. He calendared The Coleman Deeds (1921), The Crosswood Deeds (1927) and The Hawarden Deeds (1927) in the National Library of Wales, but his calendar of the Peniarth Deeds remains unpublished. He died in 1942 and his manuscripts are a treasured possession of the Pembrokeshire County Library.
Egerton Grenville Bagot Phillimore was born in London in 1856 and was educated at Westminster School and at Christ Church College, Oxford, and was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1877. His interest in Wales was awakened while at Oxford and he soon learned the language thoroughly. He settled at Corris in 1 903 and devoted his time to Welsh studies. He wrote articles for Archaeologia Cambrensis and for Y Cymmrodor, of which he was editor from 1889 to 1901, but his most valuable contribution is to be found in the notes that he prepared for Henry Owen’s edition of George Owen’s Description of Penbrokeshire. His manuscripts were purchased by Sir John Williams in 1894 and are deposited at the National Library of Wales. Phillimore died on 3 June 1937 and was buried at Carris.
Arthur Leonard Leach, born in 1869, the son of John Leach, a printer with the Tenby Observer who established his own printing works in the town. He was educated at Tenby and at Trinity College, Carmarthen, and was employed as a teacher in London but he returned to Tenby whenever possible and, in 1898, he published Leach’s Guide to Tenby. He contributed to the Proceedings of the Geological Association and to Archaeologia Cambrenesis with reference to discoveries made during the geological exploration of the cliffs of south Pembrokeshire. His History of the Civil War ( 1642-1649) in Pembrokeshire and on its Borders published in 1937 remains a definitive work. He settled at Tenby in 1940 and became honorary curator of Tenby Museum. He died in 1957 and was buried at Tenby.
Herbert Millingchamp Vaughan was born at Penmorfa , Llangoedmor in 1870, and he was educated at Clifton College and Keble College, Oxford. His private means enabled him to pursue his interests as a European historian and antiquary. From 1 899 to 1910 he lived i n Naples and Florence studying Italian history and topography, and in 1912 he went to Australia for a year where he wrote An Australian Wander Year. On his return to this country he lived at Plas Llangoedmor and moved to Tenby in 1924 where he published his best known work, The South Wales Squires. He contributed to the West Wales Historical Records and to Archaeologia Cambrensis.
Sir Frederick Rees was born at Milford in 1 883. He was educated locally until he entered the University College at Cardiff and then went to Lincoln College, Oxford. He was lecturer at Bangor, Belfast and Edinburgh before he became Professor of Commerce at Birmingham. He was appointed Principal of the University College at Cardiff in 1929 and he remained in that position for twenty years. In 1953 he went to Ceylon as visiting Professor in Economics and remained there until 1958 when he was appointed head the department of Economic History at Edinburgh. He was knighted in 1945 and was sheriff of his native county in 1955. He was president of the Cambrian Archaeological Association in 1956-7, and was the first president of the Pembrokeshire Local History Society. He was the author of a number of books including Studies in Welsh History (1847) and The Story of Milford (1954). He died at Cardiff in 1987.
William Francis Grimes was born at Pembroke in 1905. He was educated at Pembroke County School and at University College, Cardiff, where he specialised in Roman Britain. He joined the staff at the National Museum of Wales in 1 926 as assistant keeper of Archaeology and in 1 938 he was appointed assistant archaeology officer at the Ordnance Survey. In 1 945 he succeeded Sir Mortimer Wheeler as director of the London Museum, at the same time excavating in the bomb shattered city of London making many important discoveries that were overshadowed by the much-publicised find of the temple of Mi thras. He was appointed CBE in 1955. In 1 956 he became director of the Institute of Archaeology and Professor of Archaeology at the University of London. There were few institutions concerned with archaeology in which he did not take an active, and often leading, part including the Cambrian Archaeological Association of which he was president in 1963-4. His published works included the Guide to the Collection Illustrating the Prehistory of Wales (l939) that was republished as The Prehistory of Wales in 1951, and he wrote innumerable papers to the journals of learned societies. He died in 1988 in Swansea.
Bertie George Charles was born at Penparc, near Trefin, in February 1908 and educated at the St David’s and Fishguard County Schools, the University College at Aberystwyth and University College, London . He graduated BA and MA with distinction following hi s research work on ‘The Viking Influence i n Wales ‘ which led to the pu blication of his Old Norse Relations with Wales in 1934. He was award ed the degree of Ph.D. at the U n i versity of London for his research on Pembrokeshire place-names. He worked at the National Library at Aberystwyth all his life and contributed regularly to the National library of Wales Journal. He published Non-Celtic Place-Names in Wales in 1938, Calendar of the Records of the Borough of Haverfordwest 1539-1660 ( 1 967), George Owen of Henllys: A Welsh Elizabethan (1973) and Pembrokeshire Place-N ames (1992), a work of two volumes and the first of its kind for a county in Wales.
Francis Jones was born at Trefin in 1908 and was educated at Fishguard County School. In 1936 he was appointed an assistant in the Manuscripts Department at the National Library of Wales where he remained until the outbreak of war i n 1939. After the war he worked in the Historical Section of the Cabinet Office until 1958 when he was appointed the first County Archivist for Carmarthen shire. In 1963 he became Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary and was appointed CVO. He was president of the Cambrian Archaeological Association in
1985-6 and of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society from 1988 to 1994. His published works include The Holy Wells of Wales (1954), The Princes and Principality of Wales (1969) and Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families ( 1987). His Historic Houses of Pembrokeshire, Historic Cardiganshire Houses and ITreasury of Historic Pembrokeshire were published by members of his family after his death. Most of his work, however, appeared in learned journals, including The Pembroke shire Historian, one volume of which was dedicated to his work.
These, the antiquarians of the past, are being followed by living historians, many of whom have contributed to the pages of this journal.
Dillwyn Miles completed this paper on 18 May 2004. In choosing his title ‘Pembrokeshire Antiquarians’, Dillwyn seized the opportunity to catalogue the lives and major works of those antiquarians born in Pembrokeshire who wrote about their native county, as well as a smaller number of antiquarians from other regions who chose to write about Pembrokeshire. Dillwyn’s brief, like his scholarship, was expansive, covering the period from the twelfth century to the late twentieth century. This paper is a fitting testament to Dillwyn ‘s scholarship and his love of Pembrokeshi re history.
I . Giraldus’s aunt , Gwen l l ian, was married to Tancred, the first Flemish castellan of Haverford, whi lst his brother, Philip, lord of Manorbier, married a daughter of Richard F1tzTancred. Lauran Toorians, ‘Wi zo Flandrensis and the Flemish Settlement in Pembrokeshire ‘, in Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, 20 ( 1990) 1 1 2. ‘
2. A Flemish knight Ernaldus Rheti ng had spoken in Flemish to Giraldus’s brother, Philip de Barri, while comparing the character of a man with the nature of the cloth made at Haverforclwest as having ‘too much grey wool, and too little native black wool’. Yves Lefevre and R. B. C. Huygens (ed.), Giraldus Cambrensis: Speculum Duorum (Cardiff , 1 974), 37-39.
3. Thomas Jones, ‘Gerald the Welshman’s ‘Itinerary through Wales’ and ‘Description of Wales’ in The National Library of Wales Journal, VI ( 1949), 128.
4. Charles Kightly, A Mirror of Medieval Wales (Cardiff, 1986), 78.
5. Sir John Edward Lloyd , A History of Wales (London, 1912), 564.
6. In the parish of Nevern the foundations of the original house have recently been discovered.
7. William Camden, Britannia , ed. E. Gibson (London, 1722), 757.
8. The others bei ng Wi lliam Salesbury, Humphrey Llwyd and David Powel , according to ir Glanmor Williams in his Renewal and Reformation Wales, 1415-1642 (Oxford, 1 993), 245.
9. W. P. Griffi th, ‘Tudor Prelude’ in Emrys Jones (ed .), The Welsh in London 1500-2000 (Cardiff , 2001), 15.
10. Archaeologia Cambrensis ( 1 896), 193ff.
1 1 . Henry Owen (ed.), The Description of Penbrokshire, I (London, 1892), 71-5.
1 2 . Edinburg h Review, 73 (1841), 3.
14. Henry Owen, op. cit., 99-107, 173-4
13. B. G. Charles, The National Library of Wales Journal, XXIII (1983), 37-40. 1 4. Henry Owen, op. cit., II, 531-2.
1 5. Ibid., III 127-205.
1 6. B. G. Charles, George Owen of Henllys: A Welsh Elizabethan (Aberystwyth, 1 973), 1 93- 9.
1 7. B. G. Charles, op. cit., 99- l07, 173-4.
1 8. B. G. Charles, The National Library of Wales Journal, V (1948), 266-85.
1 9. The Cambrian Register for the Year 1795 (London, 1 796), 1 68-1 77.
20. Dillwyn Miles (ed.), The Description of Pembrokeshire: George Owen (Llan dysu l , 1 994).
2 1 . Francis Jones, A Catalogue of Welsh Manuscripts in the College f Arms
( 1 988), 1 3-6.
22 . E. D. Jones, ‘George Owen Harry’ , in The Pembrokeshire Historian, 6 ( 1 979), 72.
2 3. Francis Jones, ‘Griffith of Penybenglog’ in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1938), 1 37-149.
24. William Camden, op. cit., 1 89-90.
25. Richard Fenton, A Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire (2nd edn., Breck nock , 1 903), reprinted by the Haverford west Library ( 1995), xi.
26. I bid., ‘Life of Richard Fenton, KC, FAS, The Historian, Archaeologist, Poet a nd Scholar’ by Ferrar Fenton , FRAS, MCAA , his grandson, ix-xxxi i.
27. Archaeologia Cambrensis (1858), 380. 28. R ichard Fenton, op. cit., 1 1 1 .
29. John Fenton wrote the last paragraphs of the Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire and a number of the illustrations were his. In 1814 he married Elen , daughter of William Owen Pughe, through whom he came under the influence of the fanatic Joanna Southcott and this alienated him from his father to the extent that he disinherited him.
30. E. D. Jones, ‘More Morris Letters’ , The National Library of Wales Journal, VI
( 1 949), 193.
31 . The Cambrian Register for the Year I 796 (London, 1799), 53-230.
32. Ibid ., 59-60 .
33 . R ichard Fenton , op. cit., vi.
34. M. W. Thomson (eel.), The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare (Alan Sutton, 1 993), 8.
35 . Ibid. , 45.
36. Pers. comm., Thomas Lloyd to whom I am grateful for this and other useful suggestions.
37. Richard Fenton, op. cit., 309.
38. The Dictionary of National Biograph y.
39. Archaeologia Cambrensis ( 1895), 159.
40. Archaeologia Cambrensis ( 1 906), 35-46
4 1. Dillwyn Miles, The Sheriff · of the County of Pembroke: l 541-1974 (Haver fordwest, 1978), 6.
42. Archaeologia Cambrensis ( 1 945), 248-50.
TRIBUTE TO DILLWYN MILES
By Judith Graham Jones et al.
Introduction: Judith Graham Jones
Tributes to Dillwyn Miles given at the service in celebration of his life and achievements on Friday, 26th October 2007, in St Martin’s Church, Haverford west.
Dillwyn was a unique man, often known as ‘Mr Pembrokeshire’. He was a man of letters and organisations, a workaholic – not only busy at week ends but even on Christmas and Boxing days. He believed that everyone should fulfil their potential and not waste their time in trivial pursuits. The public face was evidenced in the books – over twenty that he wrote and the last posthumously.
Fewer people perhaps are aware of the numerous organisations that he instigated and for which he worked, starting with the Welsh Society that he founded in Jerusalem during World War II. The tributes included here are a selection from representatives of a small number of the organisations that he served to demonstrate the wide spectrum of Dillwyn’s interests.
It was my good fortune to be Dillwyn’s companion and soul-mate for the last twenty-five years. But it all began in Pembrokeshire where he was born and lived until the out break of World War II, when he volunteered for the army and served in Palestine before returning to Newport in 1945.
Robin Evans, Alderman of the Barony of Cemais
and Vice-Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council
Dillwyn was born in Newport in May 1916. He was educated at New port Primary School and Fishguard High School, where he blossomed academically, thence to the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth. An important factor in his education was Sunday School and, unusually, he was given the choice of attending Tabernacle Chapel or St Mary’s Church. He chose Tabernacle.
The war found Dillwyn a British army officer posted to the Middle East. He was closely involved with the peace accord signed with the Vichy French in Lebanon – an imperative at the time given the French defeat to Germany in 1940. He typed the document and kept the pen . Commissioned, he became a ‘hirings officer’ with the duty to find land and buildings for training purposes, airfields and accommodation. I was enthralled on reading the chapter in his autobiography A Mingled Yarn to learn how he related the places he visited to his biblical knowledge . He was in a way biblical himself given that his ‘patch’ in what was then known as the Near East took in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Trans-Jordan and Mesopotamia.
He met Joyce out there and they were married on 2nd February 1944 at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem. Not long after the war, Dillwyn returned to Newport with his young family, Anthony and Marilyn. He had left Wales as an undergraduate and teacher and returned a man. The family took up residence in Newport Castle, a place with a panoramic view over the old town, over the river Nevern, Newport bay and Penmorfa. Well might he have thought that he was Lord of all he surveyed – he had every right to think so – he had done his duty in the war and, besides, he knew well the workings of the town, having been clerk to the Parish Council while still a schoolboy and become a Burgess, while still under age.
During his time as Mayor, occurred the only royal visit in living memory, when HRH the Duchess of Kent came to Newport. By all accounts it was a great success and Dillwyn and Joyce would have been admirable hosts. Later, Dillwyn wrote the Official Newport Guide that had a photo of him with the Duchess. Ever since, every revised and reprinted edition has had a similar photo: very Dillwyn that.
I came to Newport in 1971. I can recall the time well as the currency was decimalised on 1st March. A year the following November, I was made a Bu rgess of the Court Leet. About ten years later, I had my first confrontation with Dillwyn. We met in Long Street. He said, ‘You are a Burgess, we a re looking for a Mayor and you are just the sort of man we need’. I started to mumble excuses but he would have none of it.
Joan and I did our duty for two years and shortly after I had left the office of Mayor, I was appointed the Mayor’s Secretary, a post I held for 20 years. The duties are mainly administrative and I must have made some adjustments in procedure that did not accord with the views of the senior alderman, Dillwyn Miles. The phone would ring and I would be quietly reprimanded. As the new boy on the block, I would put my case forward and he would explain the historical significance of the matter. Later I realised he was right. He was always right!
The last book he gave me was The Mariners of Newport. Later, on going through the book , I was surprised and delighted to find that he had included my father. He had been a master mariner who was lost with all his crew in the Indian Ocean during the war. He had no obvious connection with Newport. I rang Dillwyn and said how pleased I was to find him mentioned in the book but it was a very tenuous connection. There was a pause, and then he reminded me that my mother had retired to Newport. So that was it.
Finally in 1947, on returning to Newport , Dillwyn became a member of Pembrokeshire County Council, representing Nevern. He served for 16 years. Latterly, I visited Dillwyn in St Anthony’s Way. On my last visit, Judith warned me that he was very frail. I found him as usual in the study and we talked briefly. A few days later, Anthony phoned to say his father had died.
Peter MacGregor, Vice President of the National Association of Local Councils
Dillwyn Miles’ local government career began before the Second World War when , aged 16, he became Clerk to the Parish council of Newport, Pembrokeshire; he was therefore the youngest Clerk ever to be appointed to a Parish Council. After the war during the 1950’s, he became Secretary of the Pembrokeshire Association of Parish Councils. In 1974, upon the reorganisation of Local Government, he became Secretary of the Dyfed Association of Local Councils.
During this period, he had served as a distinguished member of the Rural District Council, chairing a number of committees in particular the Libraries and Museums committee. He was Chairman of this association from 1975 until in 1987 I succeeded him. During that time he led the association successfully through the big changes that devolved from the Local Government act of 1972: the change of Welsh parishes to Com munity Councils, the creation of some 400 new Parish Councils and Community Councils in the old Municipal Boroughs and Urban Districts. A Forum of the larger Local Councils was also established under his guidance.
He represented the NALC abroad on several occasions at international local government conferences, notably at the Hague in 1979, in Columbus, Ohio in 1981 and in Strasbourg in 1986. After stepping down from the chairmanship Dillwyn became a Vice-President and served in that post until his death.
He was mayor of the Ancient Borough of Newport several times, in 1950, 1960 and 1979 and in 1961 became Mayor of Haverford west and, thereby, Admiral of the Port of Haverfordwest, an ancient custom that he had revived.
James Nicholas, former Archdruid and Recorder of the Gorsedd of Bards,·Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales
It was as a schoolboy at Ysgol Dewi Sant in St Davids that James Nicholas first became acquainted with Dillwyn, who was teaching at the school. Aged 22 Mr. Miles was remembered by Nicholas as a stern disciplinarian. Dillwyn at that time had already entered the Gorsedd of the Bards of Britain to which he had been appointed at the age of 20 in 1936, when for the first time the Eisteddfod visited Fishguard. He remained in office for 60 years, until his retirement in 1996 at the Eisteddfod in Llandeilo and for many of these years he served as Grand Sword Bearer. At the Investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales in July 1969, it was Dillwyn as Herald Bard who led the procession through the Watergate into Caernarfon Castle and later, welcomed His Royal Highness to the National Eisteddfod at Flint. Between 1964 and 1972, by virtue of his office, he was on the Council of the National Eisteddfod and did much to ensure that established protocol was followed in its proceedings.
Poem by Dillwyn Miles, written on his fourth St David’s Day in exile in Cairo.
St David’s Day, 1944.
As read by his daughter Marilyn Mason
I’m home in thought tonight, under the scowl of Carn Llidi
Walking the steely slopes at the coming of night,
In the cathedral church of purple stone.
Apart from the croaking of the frogs on the ditch
There is no sound in the Vale of Roses,
Nor dying embers on the hearth of Ty Gwyn.
The godless Boia’s sword is a lump of rust
And the pirates’ ships are now one with the seaweed.
Where there was conflict, nothing but the murmur of a brook,
And only a red rose to remember the blood.
As I stroll back there tonight with the Saint
You cannot hear even the sound of our feet.
Colonel David Davies, High Sheriff of Dyfed
My first knowledge of Captain Dillwyn Miles was hearing my father, who was a policeman in St Dogmaels, talking about him and all his positions of authority – as my father used to say, ‘a very important man!’
My own first contact with Dillwyn was during the middle to late 1950’s when , as a teenager, I was very interested in history, especially Local History and my main point of interest was St Dogmaels Abbey. At that time Dillwyn was Secretary of the Pembrokeshire Local History Society based at 4 Victoria Place, Haverfordwest and we corresponded on several occasions about the Abbey and its surroundings. As a result, I joined the Society and still possess volumes 1, 2, and 3 of the journal, The Pembroke shire Historian, edited by Dillwyn and produced by Pembrokeshire County Council.
To me he was very helpful over the years and a very impressive Gentleman. I was more than delighted, indeed greatly honoured, when in March of this year he accepted with Judith my invitation to witness my Declaration of Office as High sheriff of Dyfed in the Council Chamber of Pembrokeshire County Council.
Dillwyn has done and achieved so much over the years, especially in his public life. He was a fount of knowledge especially i n local and Welsh history, with such a desire to serve the community and country in which he lived. It has been a great privilege to have known hi m and to have been in his company. He enhanced the lives of those like myself, who met and knew him over the years and his autobiography A Mingled Yarn records some of what he achieved. I shall remember him with respect and admiration.
Tom Lloyd, Antiquarian and Member of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society
I knew Dillwyn for 25 years – from when I was quite young and Dillwyn already of retirement age – but he had known members of my family all his life, from their connections with the Barony of Cemais and with Newport, the town he loved and knew so well and where he did so much to help people rediscover the proud roots of the place. I always enjoyed listening to his memories of the curious governance of the town and its ceremonies, several of which Dillwyn had helped to revive and of some of the old characters and their antics, best not set down in print.
Others here have told of his dedicated career in local government. I will confine myself to his achievements with local history and to the tireless and valuable products of his pen, mindful always, that for much of the time, he was also writi ng about the landscape and natural history of the county with equal output and understanding.
Dillwyn was a born writer. As you have heard, while serving in the Middle Fast, he contributed to journals in between the fighting and founded the Welsh Society in Jerusalem – which must have been a hoot! After coming home to Wales, he lectured for the Extra Mural Department of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, both on the Middle East and local history.
Remarkably at this period, Pembrokeshire, county of so many notable historians, had no historical society – the only Welsh county without one. It took much trouble and discussion that he wrote up for the Society ‘s Journal a few years ago. Dillwyn was a key player in establishing it, becoming its first secretary from 1954. From 1971 to 1979 he was its assiduous editor, his attention to detail is clearly evident, and from 1994, in succession to the late Major Francis Jones, he was our distinguished President. In recent years, volumes of the Journal have rarely been with out a valuable essay by Dillwyn, wide ranging in subject and deep in their research . The Society and I had the honour to be its Chairman for a period under Dillwyn ‘s attentive leadership.
Another key achievement was the foundation of the Pembrokeshire County History Trust in 1973, with the aim of producing a definitive history of the county. Today, three out of the four volumes are on the shelf large, handsome and authoritative. A monument to the county’s past. Having myself been appointed a trustee some years ago, it has been a revelation to see the determination that Dillwyn brought to the task of getting the volumes fashioned, parcelled out to experts and written. It takes patience loo: 35 years on and not finished yet!
He was, as we have heard , a meticulous organiser. But he was never too self-assured to take the opinion of others. This gave great integrity to his scholarship that shines through in his books. He wrote or edited twenty two of them, quite a record: I was quite astonished when I was asked to write the entry for Dillwyn in the New Companion to the Literature of Wales, a few years ago. It was a humbling experience for one who is trying to be a writer and imagines he works quite hard. Besides those on natural history and Eisteddfod subjects there are a great many on local history to which we all refer constantly.
But I will close with mention of what was perhaps his finest work of scholarship, his edition of George Owen’s Description of Penbrokeshire of 1603, published in the Welsh Classics series in 1994. I had the pleasure of discussing it soon after with the late Sir Glanmor Williams. Glanmor was warm in its praise, deeply impressed by the qualities of Dillwyn’s learned commentary. He reviewed the work for the Historical Society Journal, so let me end with words of that review from one far greater than I, that sum up Dillwyn so finely.
“What a splendid edition it is! Edited, introduced and annotated with the greatest care by Dillwyn Miles and also with genuine affection and enthusiasm. Nothing could be more heart warming for his readers than qualities like these. It would be difficult to draft a prescription for the ideal editor of George Owen and come up with a better fulfilment than Dillwyn Miles. Born in Cemais, a Welsh speaker and a man who has lived virtually all his life in the county, he knows Pembrokeshire from the inside, as few others could claim to do. An ardent local and Welsh patriot, he has a genuine feel for the cultural and artistic life of Pembrokeshire and Wales. He is also someone who has the same innate sense of duty to his county that George Owen had, and that is a characteristic that is becoming even rarer these days. In producing this edition, he has fulfilled a cherished and long standing ambition. By doing so, he has placed deeply in his debt all those who have an interest in the history and culture of Pembrokeshire and of Wales ‘beyond little England’.”
Lyn Hughes, Author and Publisher
I never, I hope for obvious reasons, knew the young Dillwyn Miles: a dashing, conspicuous and gregarious fellow by all accounts, famously described by Dylan Thomas as ‘Mr Pembrokeshire’ .
We first met in the late seventies when he was nearing retirement from official public life. I, as a book publisher, had had the temerity to edit his books The Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales and A Pembrokeshire Anthology: I must have come up to scratch for, thereafter we became firm friends. He later contributed his masterly George Owen of Henllys to my Welsh Classics series for Gomer Press. Despite the age difference, we were always soul-mate friends, sharing the same interests in life and literature, politics and people – and the same sense of humour. He knew, or had known, everyone in Wales worth knowing – and many who were not! – and was at his best when telling their story. Dillwyn was a delicious – but never malicious – gossip.
But, I am here to talk about his contribution to wild life conservation. Dillwyn met Ronald Lockley in 1958, and assisted him with seal ringing. Lockley soon persuaded him to become Honorary Secretary of the then West Wales Field Society – previously The Pembrokeshire Bird Protection Society that had been founded in 1938 – a position he held until 1976, by which time it was known as the West Wales Naturalists Trust.
From 1 971 he was managing editor of Nature in Wales, that demised ignominiously when he was obliged to let go the reins in 1980. In 1973 Dillwyn founded the Association of Trusts for Nature Conservation in Wales. All these were major undertakings and splendid achievements. One day, he bestowed on me a bound copy in three volumes of his Nature in
Wales. Beautifully produced, it is a treasure-trove of curious and scholarly information, and one of my most precious possessions.
It cannot be said that Dillwyn was a field naturalist, not a man that got his boots muddy very often, but as an administrator, organiser and leader of men he was without doubt unique. And an indefatigable hard worker.
After the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park had been designated and accepted by the Countryside Council for Wales in the early fifties, Dillwyn, Ronald Lockley, William Condry, H.R.H. Vaughan and others conceived the idea of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. After Lockley had surveyed the route’. Dillwyn was involved in painstakingly negotiating rights-of-way over its – then – 167 mile length. Many were the tales of his convoluted dealings with the many different land-holders. During his term of office, he was also involved in the leasing of Cardigan Marsh, the purchase of Cardigan Island and Skomer, and he lived to see Skokholm taken into care. These were adventurous ambitions, all realised, though not always without mishap: he recalled having to deal with a goat, destined for Skomer, stranded on Haverfordwest station that ate all the luggage labels; ridding Cardigan Island of rats and finding decoy puffins; and the ignomy of falling into the sea on one occasion while landing on Skomer, and wandering about the island swathed in a bath towel while his clothes dried out.
It is on Skokholm island that my mental image of Dillwyn endures. I was producing and narrating a film for S4C on the life and times of R. M. Lockley – who had not revisited the island since he was forced to quit in 1 939 by Herr Hitler. A veteran radio broadcaster and TV front man , Dillwyn was involved and in hi s element. We had flown the 90-year-old Lock ley over from N ew Zealand for the filming – he stayed for three months, a guest of Dillwyn and Judith ‘s generosity.
It was the ideal May day;
Blue sky, blue-green sea,
Bluebells, red campion
And sea pinks.
Little, white-haired Ronald
And tall, dark Dillwyn stood.
Leaning on their sticks
Looking out to sea –
A Kyffin Williams cameo.
They were reminiscing and laughing
In a squawking, crying
Blizzard of sea birds.
Simon Hancock, Curator, Haverfordwest Town Museum
The contribution of Dillwyn Miles to museum developments in Pembrokeshi re i s an aspect of his long and distinguished life which should not be overlooked. During the 1950s and 1960s he was a member of the nascent Museum s and Libraries Committee of the original Pembrokeshire County Council which hoped to use Foley House as a museum. Sadly the project never came to fruition and only a few cabinets containing artefacts in the library on St. Thomas’ Green could be achieved.
Nevertheless, he was an ardent supporter of local museums and he was scathing of the decision by Dyfed County Council to close the Haverfordwest Castle Museum after 27 years in 1994. When the opportunity ca me to take a lease of Castle House, the old prison governor ‘s house as a home for the proposed new Haverfordwest Town Museum, he assisted the project in many ways. Dillwyn attended many early meetings of the Trust, provided many useful suggestions regarding themes and displays and he assisted with Welsh Language translation of the museum’s interpretive panels. When I met him at the official opening of the museum in May 1996 he was very pleased with the end result. Dillwyn continued to attend meetings of the museum’s research committee well into his 80s offering words of advice and encouragement to future plans and displays.