Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

3 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



GREATER SWANSEA. Our Charter Granted. GROWTH OF A HUGE CITY. I The Birth of Our Civic Rights. (Special to the "Leader.") Wit- This is one of the great days in Swan- sea's history; not the greatest day, but the greatest thus far. We have advanced far, but we do not intend to call a halt. <■ Bather than the ultimate destiny of the town, the granting of our new charter of gieatness marks but the dawn of a new epoch. We have now to go on from 6tage to 6tage, evolving a new Swansea from the old; not destroying that we may make Mew, but altering that we may make better. August 8th, 1918, is indeed a great day ,—a day on which grave responsibilities were put into the hands of the towns- people. It behoves each or us, humble or mighty, poor or rich, employed or em ploying, to see that we fail not. On u& and on our sons, depends the kind of Swansea that shall be generations hence. We shall be better able to see our duties is we re- view past stages of Swansea's growth, profiting by a knowledge of old errors, guided by the example of those who saw the right path and trud 4t. Our birthright as Swanscaites is no n:.ean one. We inherit a town whose his. tory began with the history of these Islee. a town which has always occupied a place in the order of towns to be Peck- oned with; a town built where Nature kas lavishly bestowed her gifts of beauty and utility. History—authentic and apocryphal- evidence—substantial and circumstantial —records human life here from countless age.s past. Looking down the corridors of time, we dimly see the procession of raciis in the march westward; ever westward. There are marks of the footprints of the equat, dark Ibernian of the New Stone Age; the dark-haired Neolithic man; the flaxen-haired Celt; all before the legions of Rome set foot on tlip,e western shores. And when the tide of time had rolled the Roman wave back, came the Brython race. He took to wife the earlier Celtic woman, stamped his imprint on the race, and left to future generations his lan- guage-progenitôr of the Cymric tongue that, thank God, still holds sway here. TjCft it. despite the ravages of invasion upOTi invasion; left it unsullied through the nightmare of Norse freebooters and Saxon overlords. The Norseman Sweyn, it is true, has left the ancient town its name of Sweyn's-ey "-name which :re-¡ mains, after vicissitudes of RpeUing (an- cient documents give the word a score of renderings) and, a host of changes. IN NORMAN DAYS. First Authentic record of our town, apart from Roman scroll, begins with the coming of the Norman. Fair Gowerland (Gwyr was the old rendering) fell fee to the Earl of Warwick, but what his pat- ronymic was the historians cannot agree, and Tf' inheritors, care tittle The' 1; ?rlii ?? among, no cub-1 ?'?6n.-s?? e lot; the men of Sweyn? Ey d' jere fighters then, even as their sons to- day are in the wars and in the arts of peaceful development. Warwick, there- fore, built him a castle on Tawe's bank. having first dispossessed the old lords, and so it came that Feudalism ousted the patriarchal system here. The fighting quality of the old stock demonstrated it- self in 1113 and 1192, and Warwick's Castle was besieged in both years. More than once the chieftains of B-hvs ap Gruff- ydd, Llewellyn the Great, Ehys Grug, Rhys ap Meredith, and others laid waste the battlements in those years and in the succeeding century, and even as late as ? the.15th century de Moway (which had at' this time succeeded the de Breosa dynasty) saw his castle shattered by Owen Glen- dower. But meantime, and in the years that fol- lowed, the civic power of Swansea was being built up. Over a period of half a thousand years, Swansea received pro- bably ten charters from the sovereign heads of Britain. Of these, seven original charters remain, together with a certified copy of another. But let it not be thought that our ancestors got their charters easily. Even as to-day we celebrate a new Parliamentary Act, giving us ex- tended boundaries, that has been WTung- from the Government by much effort, and which has cost much money, so in thoee .^daya aleo the gaining of a charter was a hard matter, and cost much money. But there is this difference: -To-diy's Act has cost money spent in legal process; the ancient ones were gotten by the gentle process of bribing kings and counsellors. OUR MANY CHARTERS. Our first charter (or it may have been the second; if there was an earlier one it' is lost in antiquity,) was granted bv de Breosa in 1210. lie Breosa. hadaeized the lordship during the minority of the then Earl of Warwick, and there is every in- dIcation that his charter was given, not of goodness of heart, but with a view of I propitiating the people whose overlord he I ,.had made himself. The believers in a J law of compensation may find solace in the fact that de Breosa died in exile, though they may regret that the 8ins of .the father fell algo on his wife and grand- children, who were destined to starve in a roval prison. KING JOHN'S CONCESSIONS. I Only five years later, on May áth, 1215, the very year of Magna Charta, King John granted to us privileges which pro- claimed TOAII and sundry: Know ye that we Cive grinted, and by this our charter has confirmed, to our burgesses of Swayne-hIe. that they xnay go and come through all our land with their merchandise, buying and dialling and trading. well and in peace and that they be quit of toll passage, pontage, stallage, and lastage. ,&!ld all other customs, saving in all things the liberties of our city of Lon- doQ." This was a charter of no little impor- tance to a trading community, granted at qL time when iniquitous toll systems .were -levied at every place through which the sjfcrade might pass. Needless to My. Swan- £ 63, paid tlle ",benevolent king his price; '-and. it, is interesting to add. this is the 'charter long since lost, but of which the -town possesses a certified copy. Henry HI., on March 8th. 1234, at Northampton, and Edward I. on Septem- ber 20th, 1278. at Wvnrlesore," confirmed these privileges, though one doubts not that eaoh ill turn exacted his considera- tion. A TYHANFS PLEDGES. I The next charter was that of William Hi' Breosa, the then overlord, granted Wader somewhat differnt circumstances in 1305. He seems to aave inherited all the gentle qualities of his forbear of v.hom :o.e have heard; aud so high handed were i:, his acts that his subjects, the- burgesses of Swansea, took their troubles to the King (Edward 1.) Not least among the com plainants was William de Langton, of Kilvrough (then spelt lvilvrock), who al- leged unlawful imprisonment at Oyster- meure (we recognise Oystermouth here) until he gave a deed in writing to with- draw legal action against the overlord. The King was saved the necessity of ac- tion, for the startled de Prco-ton Tiift- day. the Feast of St. Mathias the Apostle, 1305." pledges himself to an act of oblivion towards the authors of the exposure, and assures them of his former grace and love." Then there are concessions of a more material character—dead wood for fuel, oad wood for house building and re- pairs, timber for great ships and for smaller craft, and the right to cut free turves or peat for household uses from supplies underlying the beacli. Of special interest, too, is the concession to dig for coal in the pit at Bvllawasta. Not only these concessions were granted, however, for we find that the burgesses are given power to elect two burgesses yearly to act as Provost (or Portreeve). These are given exemption from blackmail, and the right of sanctuary at St. Mary's Church. They are also promised a Court of Chancery at Gohir (we recognise Gowe.r in a strange guise here), with the promise of speedy justice thereat, and also the promise of the abolition of "tr-verg and tasters of beer." Alas! Have we not even to-day our beer tasters of Court u-et But none complaineth of oppression! Good honest justice, too, was assured by de Breos4: Neither will we sell justice nor deny it to auy man." He further' declared that all manner of usurpations, extortions, and exactions hitherto introduced contrary to the form of the said liberties, laws. customs, or grants, shall from henceforth be quashed, annulled, and hereafter accounted of no effect." De Breosa does not end there. He at* taches penal clauses that are to operate against himself in the event of his viola- tion of his pledged word. As often soever as he breaks, or attempts to break, his pledges, he undertakes to pay to the King 500 marks of pure silver and to the burgesses 500 marks of silver. TO REBUILD OUR WALLS. Edward II. in 1312 re-aifirmed the I charters granted by his predecessors,— and doubtless he too received his quid pro quo. But five years later he grants the town of Sweyn6eye a more substantial charter—one that entitled the city fathers to levy a (ustoms duty of a farthing on every 5s. value of mercantile commodities for ten years, for the repair of the walls of the town and the repairing of its streets. • We pass on to 1332, when Edward III., after the manner of his predecessors, gave another confirmation charter for the cus- tomary fee, and in 1338 the same monarch granted another charter entitling the Corporation to again levy customs for murage and. pavage." These two "murage" charters, by the way, are the only evidence of Swansea ever having 'I" been a wall city Swansea's progress in the Middle Ages is loet sight of amid the clamour of 13aroilial war and bloody revolution. We I hear of such incidents as the crash of Swansea Castle before the all-conquering j Owen C-Klelydower, of changes in the Lord- ship. but little that interests us in this review of the growth of civic Swansea. In the reign of Henry VIII. the combined boroughs of Glamorgan, including Swan- sea, became entitled to a joint member of Parliament, this being the first time in history for the burgesses of Swansea to have a direct interest in Parliamentary procedure. CROMWELL'S MUNIFICENCE. I The Swansea of those days was a modest town compared with the great borough that is now ours. Even as late as 1563 we find that the parish of Swansea (note the spelling!) contained 180 households, and the parish of St. Johns in the same town 77 households. Taking the average basis of calculation, the population then could have been little over 1,250. When the poor rate of 1663 was levied, it was found that there were 151 habitations in the town's round dozen streets. But even then we had our poor in Swansea, and a benevolence was taken at St. Mary's every Sunday, among the contributors being Sir George Herbert, Plas House, who gave a shilling, and the portreeve, who gave ) sixpence. The rates for that year are not available, but in 1630 the Corporation's income was otIS Is. tld. We find that we had distinguished visitors in those days, and Oliver Cromwell came to the town in Hi48, the minutr -book of the Corporation for May 9th of that year recording the visit and tlio fact that lie gave CIO for the poor of the town. When the great Protector came later he was entertained by the portreeve at his house in Itigh- ^trcct, and the cost of .£16 8s. was, charged to the borough funds. Col. Phil- lip Jones, the governor of the town, and himself a native, also entertained the Protector in High-street, and the borough agaipi paid the bill-this time < £ 10. But of greater interest are the charters granted by Cromwell to the town—one in lw5. the other in 1658. I SWANSEA A GREAT TOWN. We find t.hat, according to the former 1 of these charters:— Our town of Sirans(,y-is an ancient port town and populous—and time out of mind hath been a Town Corporate. And in view or this, he confirms past-11 charter-, grants the head of the Corpora- i tion the higher title of Mayor (hitherto it was Portreeve), ex- tends powers and privileges, giv- ing powers to tax for walls, bulwarks and sea banks, the right to elect its own magistrates, .institutes Courts Baron and j Courts of Pleas, and other courts. There were to be two market days—Tuesday and Saturdays. The town's trade was pre- served to townspeople by the prohibition of trading by aliens or strangers without special license with no abatement of Swanseaites" powers to trade throughout, the Kingdom. Truly we were on a par with London in those days! ] The second Cromwellian charter, granted at the borough's request, gavoj Swansea the distinction of sending its own representative to Parliament. But alaq I Our new-won greatness was of short duration. With the restoration of the Stuart dynasty, the Corporation failed to get a confirmation of Cromwell's- charter. Instead, after considerable ex- penditure, it found its liberties gone. King James II. appointed his new nomi- nee as mayor—Sir Edward Mansell—and so restricted were t'heir powers that Swan- sea burgesses could hardly have regretted the advent of William and Mary to the Throne. Little remains to add of these early days. Here and there we see a sidelight on municipal finance, as for instance in 1656, when 3s. 4d. was spent on mending the bull collar, and 7s. 4d. for repairing the ducking stool; or on morality, as in I 1769, when bull baiting was conducted at the Corporation expense! Indeed, it was an offence punishable by fine to slaughter a bull in Swansea in those days until it had first been baited. And finance and morality seem mixed up in the accounts for 1717, when we found the Corporation income totalled e 13 6s. lid. (the popula- tion was about. 1,500), of which sum A:18 146. 3d. wis spent in wines, spirits, and other liquid refreshments, and S5 8s. 6d. on other modes of entertaining. We have seen how Swansea returned its member in CromwelPs time. That right, lost with the Restoration, was not re- gained until the Reform, Act of 1832. Thereafter, until 18S5. the town combined with Loughor, Neath, A beravOn, and Kenfig in electing a joint member! At this time the united boroughs returned to Parliament Mr. J. H. Vivian. J This review would be incomplete without some reference to the two great events of the 19th century. In 1835, with the passing of the Municipal Reform Act. came Swansea into its own. Up to that time the Corporation was an oligarchy -the preserve of the freeman." Now all ratepayers were given the franchise. And it -was a case of the, clean sweep." The election took place on Boxing Day of 1835, the town being divided into tw wards—upper and lower. NToteworthar election this. for all the candidates wer- of one party-all Reformers! The nii,,p of Tory stank in the nostrils of the bur- gesses to such a degree that not a single Tory issued into the light of day to filc- t-he ordeal of the ballot box. The ei ah teen councillors elected their own six aldermen from among their number, and the vacan- cies for six councillors were filled a few weeks later. The Cambrian," Swansea's vigour of light and learning in those far- off-days, is worthy of quotation here. Tf- opens with a due note, of jubilation at the rout of the municipal Tories from tlu- strong holds of corruption," and proceeds. The Reformers have now the materiel of sood municjpal government in their own hands; therefore, let them combine all their endeavours to carry into affect the objects contemplated by the legislative; let them exercise their *Sgained power in a calm, rational and Uianified spirit of impartiality, so that we may obtain the blessings of peace and prosperity. We shall now, we hope. reap the fruit of our labours in the -stuse of reform, by the expenditure of the borough revenues in the improvement -at our town; the Corporation purse will not now be available to pension off an electioneering retainer, nor will the por- treeve be able to bribe the corrupt and degraded freeman with the spoils of the Corporation chest." The scribe of 1835 calls to us from ae. ross the mist, for some of his messag.s applies to the New Swansea. To the ele". torate. send the best men forward, fur there is great work for them; to the elected, do the task set with aU yIr might, and with c-Jpan hands! One more reference, and we close. By 18S9 the borough had outgrown itg bounds, and the Corporation sought ex- tension. They were net so successful os thev have been on this occasion; but they took in outlying areas, chiefly parts of the Parliamentary borough that were outside the borough in the municipal sense. The acreage was increased faoni 5.633 acres to Ii.:?:) acres; the population from some 7S.000 to 93,000; rateable value from i'256.700 to £ 276.000. At the same time many vexatious tolls and customs were abolished. The new powers given to Swansea mean much it is now for the people of Swan- sea to deserve them. All we have gained, great as it is. is the empty "husk of the mil we have to see to it that in the fullness of time the kernel develops. S. R. W.