Sunday, October 24, 2010

Surely Not

While perusing Ian Mortimer's latest page-turner 1415 Henry V's Year of Glory, I came across the aforementioned king's pardon of one Llywelyn ap Madoc Ddu:

"For all treasons, rapes, murders, rebellions, insurrections, felonies, conspiracies, trespasses, offences, negligencies, extortions, misprisions, ignorances, contempts, concealments and deceptions committed by him."

The pardon claims that Llywelyn was from Builth but hang on a minute, does that really sound like an inhabitant of that peaceful little land beside the Wye?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Musical Interlude

Tales from the Riverbank

It's 58 years to the day since a group of intrepid militants, presumably from the Welsh Republican Movement although no-one was ever convicted, exploded a bomb on that little seen Radnorshire landmark, the Fron aqueduct (see postcard view of its construction.)

A couple of days later the Queen opened the Claerwen reservoir. Somewhere or other I've got some newspaper clippings of your blogger waving the Union Jack outside the W. H. Smith shop in Llandod's Station Crescent. If they turn-up I'll post them!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Home Front

During the Second World War the elegant Radnorshire Spa town of Llandrindod was seen as something of a safe haven, remote from the bombed cities of England and Wales.

The number of well-to-do folk seeking refuge in the town provided a few local landlords with the opportunity for a spot of war-time profiteering. One local Alderman, for example, bought and furnished a house for £850, which he then let out for the princely sum of 10 guineas a week - the house having previously been let, unfurnished, for 7/6*.

Now there were strict wartime regulations against such profiteering and the Alderman soon found himself before the local bench, of which he was himself a senior member. Unsurprisingly the town's magistrates found him not guilty, a verdict which seemed par for the course for cases of rent racketeering in which they sat in judgement.

Having perhaps given up on the local magistrates, the authorities moved one well-publicised case of black marketeering to a Cardiganshire bench. This involved a retired naval officer who had come to Llandrindod to sit out the war and was receiving groceries from a local shop without being registered to do so. The Commander's wife did not help her husband's cause when she complained to the investigating officer that, "We are not nobodies. We are gentry, and during this war the gentry have had to put up with a lot of rudeness."

Unmoved by the good lady's heartfelt analysis of contemporary social trends the Cardiganshire magistrates fined her husband an eye-watering £380 with £21 costs ..... the grocer got away with a tenner.

* I apologize to any younger readers confused by the terminology of proper money, blame Ted Heath Harold Wilson.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Slow News Day

Somehow I can't see Llandrindod High School's Sports Day featuring in the London papers any time soon. Back in 1929 it made the pages of the Mirror.

Old News

An ex-soldier must have had quite a shock when his 22 year old girlfriend Emelia turned up on his Rhayader doorstep in the summer of 1946. The enterprising young lady having somehow managed to smuggle herself into the country from her native Italy. Local magistrates took pity on the girl and she avoided a prison sentence, although they did recommend deportation, doubtless to the relief of the ex-soldier's wife.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Winter Assizes of 1897

Something not in short supply in late 19C Radnorshire were explosives - the Birmingham waterworks provided a ready souce of pilferred gelignite and detonators for those intent on causing a bang. One such was a tramp, George Jones, who decided to blow the safe at the New Radnor railway station. Having successfully relieved the Great Western Railway Company of £5 and a bottle of ink, Jones made the common mistake of heading for the pub rather than making good his escape - verdict: eight months with hard labour.

The GWR were also the victims in the next case where three local men - Weaver, Clarke and Powell, were charged with stealing twelve bottles of wine and a quantity of onions from Presteigne railway station. Constable Hitchman, who had secured two of the accused in the cells, reported that Clarke had shouted out, "Stand true, Weaver." To which Weaver, no doubt anxious to prove false Radnorshire's reputation of being a land without poets, replied, "Like a bell of brass which never cracks." - Verdict: Powell and Clarke, four months with hard labour; Weaver, three months.

How would these cases be treated today? Well the safe cracker would surely have been looking at a far longer sentence, while the wine thieves would be looking at community service.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Radnorshire Trivia

The old wooden bridge across the Wye at Newbridge didn't look too solid. In 1911 it was replaced in reinforced concrete, designed and built by the same people responsible for the banking at the Brooklands motor racing circuit.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Popular Insurrection

Radnorshire Rebeccaites on the Edw, December 1932.

If the rapid retreat of Welsh in 19C Radnorshire is reminiscent of language shift in Ireland, then the London press were also quick to draw Irish comparisons when reporting the activities of the county's Rebeccaites. Throughout the Victorian period and beyond this body openly challenged the authorities with acts of public lawbreaking, armed marching gangs, intimidations and pranks. Not just in respect of the fisheries but also against profiteering shopkeepers and the like.

Much to the disgust of outsiders the Radnorshire magistrates were loath to hand out heavy fines or even convictions to the handful of rioters brought before the courts. After all the local landlords knew that the Rebeccaites had widespread public support. In most respect Radnorshire was one of the most law-abiding districts in the kingdom - during its 90 year plus existence the Radnorshire Constabulary only investigated four murders for example. But where there was perceived injustice the populace turned to Rebecca.

As far as I know the best account of these activities is "The Second Rebecca Riots: A Study of Poaching on the Upper Wye" by historian David Jones. It was published in the journal Llafur, volume 2 no. 1 - spring 1976. A more recent account can be found in the Keith Parker book Parties, Poll and Riots - Politics in 19C Radnorshire. There is plenty in the contemporary press of course - much of which can be accessed online via our National Library.

NOTE: It should be noted that far from being mere ruthless exploiters of salmon stocks the Victorian Rebeccaites were campaigning against the commercial night-netting activities of landowners such as the Duke of Beaufort, who were taking 6000 fish a season from the Wye between Ross and Hereford.