I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen and the office of the Constable for the County of Glamorgan: The Formation of the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1841

The Glamorgan Constabulary celebrates the 175th anniversary of its formation in 2016. Many of the papers related to the establishment of the force and its long history are held at Glamorgan Archives. The records provide a detailed insight into the formation and development of the force since 1841, and a window on life in south Wales in the latter half of the 19th century and the 20th century.

It is a moot point as to when the constabulary was first formed. Arguably it dates from the appointment of the first Chief Constable, Charles Frederick Napier, on 11 August 1841. More realistically the force was formed with the swearing in of the initial batch of recruits at Bridgend Town Hall on the 23 October 1841. The original documentation used at the swearing in ceremony is held at Glamorgan Archives. It was used to both administer the oath and to record the signatures of the recruits. The ceremony was overseen by the Chief Constable, Capt. Charles Napier, the four recently appointed Superintendents and local magistrates. The document would have been handed to each man who was then required to take the oath, inserting his name in the first line.


I … do swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen and the office of the Constable for the County of Glamorgan according to the best of my skill and knowledge. So keep me God [ref.: DCON/Box26b].

Each man then signed the record. Although Napier had secured funding for 34 Sergeants and Constables only 30 were present on that day and the force was brought up to strength through further recruits sworn in and recorded on the same document over the following weeks. All the recruits signed their name suggesting that, rather than simply using a mark, a common practice in this period, they had basic skills in reading and writing. The record has also been signed by Napier and the four superintendents, Lewis, Davies, Leveson- Gower and Peake, probably on 19 October, 4 days before the Bridgend ceremony.

It is thought that there are no surviving photographs of the ceremony. However, it is reasonable to assume that the 30 men would have been an impressive group given that recruitment drew, primarily, from ex-servicemen well versed in military drill.  Glamorgan Archives holds a number of photographs of members of the Glamorgan Constabulary in this period [ref.: DXDG4-6] and it is possible that one of the photographs, of Police Constable Thomas Thomas, may well be the same Thomas Thomas who took the oath and signed his name on 23 October [ref.: DXDG4].


The photograph shows Thomas wearing a blue, belted, swallow tail jacket with silver embossed buttons. The jacket also had a high collar, embroidered with constable’s number in silver. Thomas is pictured holding the standard issue stove pipe top hat reinforced with metal stays to provide protection. Although not shown in the photograph, he would have worn navy blue trousers and boots in winter and white trousers in the summer. This uniform was the standard issue for the Glamorgan Constabulary for the next decade until the swallow tail coat, which provided a useful concealed pocket in the tail for the constable’s truncheon, was replaced by a frock coat.

It is just possible that the exception on that day in October 1841 might have been the six men, led by Superintendent Thomas Morgan Lewis, formerly of the force put in place to police the Caerphilly Lower and Miskin Lower Hundreds. Lewis had served in the Coldstream Guards and had based the uniform provided for his men on military designs. It is possible, therefore, that he and his men were still using the original uniforms introduced by Lewis and described as:

…swallow tail coats … of bright pilot blue, while the turned back sleeve cuffs and the embroidered crown and number on each side of the deep colour were a vivid scarlet [E R Baker, The Beginnings of the Glamorgan County Police Force, The Glamorgan Historian, Vol.2, pp.40-52].

October 23rd was a landmark day for the Chief Constable, although it was almost a month before he was satisfied that his men were suitably trained and equipped to take up their duties across the county.

The details of Napier’s appointment and the plans for the deployment of the Glamorgan Constabulary are set out in the records of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorganshire.

Captain Charles Frederick Napier, now of the Rifle Brigade, after a consideration of the Testimonials of the several Candidates having been unanimously selected by them, as the most eligible person  to be appointed Chief Constable of this County – be elected to that Office [General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan held at Pyle Inn on Wednesday the Eleventh day of August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

This may not have been an easy decision, for almost certainly Thomas Morgan Lewis had thrown his hat into the ring and several prominent former army officers had very publicly applied for the post. In one sense the decision to create a county force was a natural development of the powers provided in County Police Act 1839 to set up and fund such a force. However, the decision also needs to be set against the rapid increase in population in parts of south Wales, driven by the need for men in the new industries and, in particular, the rapidly expanding iron and coal industries. At the time, policing was the overall responsibility of the local magistrates and managed through decisions made by the county magistrates at the General Quarter Session of the Peace. The magistrates appreciated that a police force was needed to keep basic law and order in areas such as Merthyr, where the population was increasing at an unprecedented rate. They were also deeply concerned by the potential for unrest and challenge to the established order posed by new movements and, in particular, the Chartists, seeking basic rights for the working man.

There is no doubt that the Chartist movement was seen in this period as a very real threat in south Wales. For example, a record of a meeting of the magistrates at Merthyr Tydfil on October 12 1840 underlined the concern felt at the Chartist threat and urged that a Board of Magistrates be formed:

…for the purpose of communicating with the Lord Lieutenant and through him the Government upon the subject of the preservation of the peace of this place and for the adoption of such measures as circumstances may require for the suppression of Chartism.

There was particular concern that the Chartist cause was being promoted at secret meetings being held throughout the area and through pamphlets being distributed to local people:

Deputies, delegates from the North occasionally are attending these meetings and are believed to be at present in this neighbourhood and Duke’sTown. Meetings are held nightly. That unstamped periodicals are circulating to considerable extent and that it is desirable that the matter contained in them should be brought under the consideration of the Government as it is the opinion of the Board that the statements therein are highly mischievous and dangerous to the public peace [Meeting of the Magistrates at Merthyr Tydfil at the Castle Inn, Merthyr Tydfil, October 12th 1840, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

By the mid-1830s many areas, including Merthyr, Bridgend and Aberavon had begun to appoint their own police forces. This was a recognition that, faced with such pressures, the traditional patterns of policing based on the annual appointment of a man from each parish as an unpaid local constable were no longer sufficient to deal with the strains on society brought about by industrialisation and the movement of labour. To fund the new force the County Magistrates had agreed that …a Police Rate of £800 be raised within the several Districts of the County for the purpose of the Police. Nevertheless, despite the recognised need for a dedicated police force, this would have been quite a contentious issue given the general reluctance to impose new taxes. In particular, the rural areas saw this as a tax imposed on them to fund the policing of the new and rapidly expanding towns. As might be imagined, Napier saw the sum proposed as the absolute minimum given the need to establish and equip a new force. He was also keen to ensure that he had a free hand in the day to day running of the force. On this subject, it was agreed that:

…the value and usefulness of the Force, must necessarily depend on the cordial co-operation of the Magistrates, with, and their full confidence in the Chief Constable; their total abstinence from all interference in recommending the appointment or dismissal of Individuals as Constables – his selection of the places as which they shall be fixed – his internal arrangement, or any other matter which the Legislature has committed to his charge [General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan held at the Pyle Inn on Wednesday Eleventh day of August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

After conducting a tour of the county, Napier presented his first report to the General Quarter Sessions, on 30 August 1841:

I propose the force be divided into three Classes viz Sergeants or First Class at 22s; Second Class at 20s: Third Class at 18s; the numbers would be Sergeants, Eleven; Second Class, Eleven; Third Class, Twelve [General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan held at the Pyle Inn on Monday the Thirtieth day of August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

The creation of two classes of constable was a measure introduced by Napier specifically to stretch the budget and increase the number of men at his disposal. In addition, Napier proposed that the county be divided into four districts – Merthyr, Newbridge, Swansea and Ogmore. There is no doubt that he was very aware of where his force faced its greatest challenge and the Merthyr district was allocated 12 of his 34 men, leaving the other districts thinly policed. He also underlined the poor state and, in some cases, complete absence of suitable accommodation for his men. A central part of his proposals dealt, therefore, with the need for the construction of a station house and cells in each district.

The proposals for each of the districts provide a useful insight into the ad hoc state of the arrangements for policing that Napier inherited, and the challenge that the new Glamorgan Constabulary faced. For example, with regard to Merthyr, he informed the General Quarter Sessions:

I have inspected the Cells at present in use in Merthyr and found them totally unfit for the reception of Prisoners, indeed so much so, that Magistrates find it necessary to place prisoners at Public Houses, in charge of a Constable, at a considerable additional expense to the County [General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan held at the Pyle Inn on Monday, Thirtieth day of August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

There was a similar situation in the Newbridge area:

In erecting a station house I would advise that apartments be provided for the Constable there stationed, with three Cells for Prisoners. At present there is no lock up house at this place. I consider Cells necessary for the security of Prisoners, as there is considerable risk in the present method of confining them at the private dwelling of the Constable.

I would recommend the erection of suitable lock up houses at Llantrisant and Caerphilly – the present Cells at these places are of the worst possible descriptions.

His proposals for Swansea illustrated just how far he was required to stretch his resources. Only a Superintendent, sergeant and 5 officers could be made available for this district, with priority being given to the most lawless areas and building partnerships with other police forces in the area:

I think Pontardawe the most central part for the Residence of the Superintendent. The force allotted to this District, I consider small. I have placed the Constables where crime is most to be apprehended; and to the neglect of the Western Agricultural portion of the District, to which I should have assigned another Constable had the number permitted.

On visiting Ystradgunlais my attention was drawn to the Twrch Valley where are located a considerable population reported to be of lawless character.

I should suggest that an arrangement should be entered into with the Magistrates of the County of Brecon, in order that the whole of the Vale of Twrch, may be under the charge of the constable stationed in that quarter – the County boundary affording facilities for the escape of delinquents.

The only lock up houses in the district are at Aberavon and Cwmavon which have been erected by private subscription and I have no doubt would be given up for the purposes of the Force….

I would recommend that a suitable Station house be erected at Pontardawe.

I find that there is a Police Force established along the line of the Swansea Canal who are paid by the Committee of Traders. I think it highly desirable that this force should co-operate with the men under my charge, and by doing so, a mutual advantage would be derived [General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan held at the Pyle Inn on Monday, Thirtieth day of August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

The fact that his proposals on numbers of men and the construction of new station houses were accepted without amendment underlined the extent to which the magistrates saw the new force as essential in a period of rapid industrialisation. After the swearing in ceremony was complete the new force was housed at the Bridgend Workhouse and provided with a period of basic training. It was, therefore, not until the latter half of November 1841 that the new Glamorgan Constabulary took up its district responsibilities, no doubt operating from existing or temporary premises while the new buildings were put in place. However, all in all, it was a remarkable achievement to create and deploy the new force in a matter of months, and the Glamorgan Constabulary was soon attracting national attention for its success in solving several high profile cases.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Belgian Refugees in Glamorgan

When the First World War began in August 1914, one of the first groups of people to be affected were the citizens of Belgium. Fearing persecution by the invading German army, some 250,000 decided to leave the country and relocated to the United Kingdom, the largest influx of refugees in British history. Some of those found new homes in the South Wales valleys.

The local parishes and chapels had a part to play with regards to helping the refugees:

Proposed by Councillor D. Bayliss that the council should recommend to the Public Meeting that as many persons as possible in the Parish should subscribe a certain sum weekly, to maintain a family of Refugees during the period of War. Carried. St Brides Minor Parish Council (P78)

It was proposed by Councillor D Lewis that they allow rates to be free on the Belgian Refugee House. Carried. St Brides Minor Parish Council (P78)

Mr Brown gave particulars of the offered apartments in Albany Road & after consideration Mr Roberts proposed and Mrs Farrar seconded that the house in Albany Road be taken subject to the Belgian Relief Committee agreeing to furnish same. Carried. Roath Park United Reformed Church (D601/7)

The local authorities would take ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the refugees. They would have to deal with a variety of issues. One area to be dealt with was the health of the refugees:

He reported that he had received a warning from the Authorities that a case of small pox had occurred at the Earls Court Refugee Camp for Belgians and he had therefore visited the refugees from that camp who were at Angelton Cottage and found a child there with suspicious symptoms. He had called on the Medical Officer who had instructed him to report on the case on Monday next.  It was moved by Mr R. John seconded by Mr W.A. Howell and Resolved that, if the case proves to be small pox, the Clerk be instructed to give twenty four hours notice to the Hospital Committee to clear the Small Pox Hospital ready for its reception. Penybont Rural District Council (RDPB/C/14)


Letter from the War Refugees Committee asking that the recent Belgian refugees be treated locally and free of charge, as many were sick, convalescent and suffering from nervous shock, infectious disease etc. and were, in the most, entirely without means. Resolved that the council are prepared to deal with local cases in their Accident and Surgical Hospital and Infectious Diseases HospitalBarry Urban District Council (BB/C/1/20)

Most local authorities tried to help the refugees by reducing or completely removing the cost of accomodation and other expenses:

…that the Collectors be instructed not to collect rates from premises occupied by Belgian Refugees…  Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre Rural District Council (RDLL/C/13)

Resolved that the Belgian Refugees in Penarth be allowed to use the Baths free of charge. Penarth Urban District Council (UDPE/C/1/4)

There were also other ways that the authorities tried to help the refugees, either themselves or through voluntary groups:

The Chairman submitted a letter he had received from the Central Committee asking the Council to organize another Christmas Day collection for the relief of the Belgian Children.  Resolved that the Council support the movement and that the following members be requested to make the necessary arrangements for their respective wards…  Ogmore and Garw Urban District Council (UDOG/C/1/11)

The Deputy Clerk reported that arrangements had been made for a visit of the Belgian Artistes to Porthcawl on Friday next and that the use of the Pavilion had been granted free of charge by Mr Conrad. Porthcawl Urban District Council (UDPC/C/1/10)

That public meetings be held in the various parts of the District with a view to making arrangements for housing and for providing for the comfort and maintenance of the Belgian Refugees. Mountain Ash Urban District Council (UDMA/C/4/12)


The Librarian stated that Mr H Stanley Jevons had sent a number of French books on loan for the use of the Belgian Refugees. Cardiff Borough Council (BC/C/6/50)

A letter was read from Mrs Marychurch, applying for work for a Belgian Refugee as Book Repairer or Binder. Cardiff Borough Council (BC/C/6/50)

One task for the local authorities was to help the Registrar’s office document Belgian and other refugees. By early 1915 the local authorities had ascertained the following numbers of Belgian refugees in the whole of Glamorgan:

Male over 16 – 408; Female over 16 – 505; Male children – 212; Female children – 202; Total – 1327.  Glamorgan County Council War Distress Relief Committee (GC/WD/1)

It is worth noting that not every Belgian left for the UK; many stayed, and some charity work in the UK was for the benefit of those who were still in Belgium:

The National Committee…have for some time been £30,000 short each week of the amount necessary to provide the irreducible minimum of one meal per day…may I beg that you will give this appeal your most sympathetic consideration. Cardiff Incorporated Chamber of Commerce (DCOMC/1/8/18)

Within a year of the war ending in November 1918, 90% of the Belgian refugees in Britain had returned home. Those who stayed became part of British society, disappearing from the nation’s view, and so the story of the Belgian refugees was soon forgotten.

Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant

Registers of Electors

Registers of Electors appear as the 75th accession on five occasions between 1975 and 1992. These records list those who are eligible to vote in local government and parliamentary elections. At Glamorgan Archives, Registers of Electors are often used by local and family historians who wish to discover how long a family was resident at an address and to locate missing individuals.

The Representation of the People Act, 1832 restricted eligibility to vote to males over the age of 21 who owned property worth at least two pounds a year. Subsequent changes in legislation increased male enfranchisement during the nineteenth century.

It was not until 1918 that women were permitted to vote for the first time in Parliamentary elections, however the voting age was set at 30 and women had to wait a further decade before enjoying the same voting rights as men. Nevertheless, some women do appear in Registers of Electors from the late-19th century, as women who owned property were granted the right to vote in local elections under the terms of the Local Government Act 1894. During 1969 the voting age for all – men and women – was reduced to 18 years.

With their wide coverage and ease of use Registers of Electors are a valuable tool for family and local historians especially when used in conjunction with other resources such as trade directories and census returns.

The earliest register held by Glamorgan Archives runs from 1832 and with the exception of some gaps that include most of the First and Second World Wars these records run to the present.

Glamorgan Register of Electors, 1845

Glamorgan Register of Electors, 1845

A complete list of Registers held by Glamorgan Archives is available on Canfod our online catalogue and a research guide can be found on our website at http://www.glamarchives.gov.uk/content.asp?nav=2,19&parent_directory_id=1


Thomas Harry of Glamorgan and Patagonia

Our 75th accession in 2005 was the papers of Thomas Harry of Patagonia (ref.: D376).

Thomas Harry was the son of David Harry of Tranch, near Laleston, Bridgend. He lived briefly in Mountain Ash before emigrating to Patagonia in about 1865.

A Welsh settlement, known as ‘Y Wladfa’, was established in Patagonia during the mid-19th century. The first Welsh settlers, 153 in number, set sail for Patagonia in 1865 on board the clipper Mimosa. Today there are some 50,000 Patagonians of Welsh descent, a small number of whom are still Welsh speakers.

By 1876, Thomas Harry had established a new life in Patagonia as the farmer of 200 acres in ‘Chupat Colony’, otherwise known as Chubut. His papers comprise one letter, in which he asks for news of his family back home in Wales. He writes to Anne Jenkins, ‘ever since I came to this place about 11 years ago I have not heard a word from any of my relations’.


Thomas Harry's letter, p1

Thomas Harry’s letter, p1

Thomas Harry's letter, p2

Thomas Harry’s letter, p2

The letter also gives details of Thomas Harry’s new life in Patagonia, where he lived at Tan y Castell, still a single man, the owner of 30 head of cattle – 9 of which were milking, 6 horses, and 40 acres of corn. Despite his apparent success, he writes that ‘I have lived here four years and have not received the reward for my labour yet…’ and states that ‘If my brothers should feel like coming out I should not advise them to come…’

It seems that life was hard in Patagonia for those early Welsh settlers. We have no further details of Thomas Harry here at Glamorgan Archives; we don’t know if he stayed and thrived in his adopted country or whether he returned to Wales. If anyone does know what became of him, we would very much like to find out.


Seventy Five Seventy Fives

Glamorgan Archives is 75 this year.  We share seniority in Wales with our neighbour, Gwent: they were the first to set up an archive service (1938) but we were the first to appoint an archivist (1939).  The county showed impeccable timing with the result that our anniversary year will also be shared with two world wars and one national strike to name but a few of the major commemorations we will also be marking in 2014.

Glamorgan Archives

The first County Archivist, Emyr Gwynne Jones, soon moved on, becoming Bangor University’s Librarian in 1946.  He has had only 4 successors and this continuity of senior staff is reflected in the continuity of the service’s core function, defined by Madeleine Elsas in 1959 as: the task of preserving records, restoring them, collecting additional material about the geographical county, and making these records freely available.”

To celebrate our 75 years of care for the documents of Glamorgan we have trawled the lists of accessions and extracted the 75th deposit received in each year.  Some of them have been transferred, some have been removed from the Collection.  Some years fewer than 75 accessions were received.  All illustrate something about the history and development of local authority archive services in general and Glamorgan Archives in particular.  Archive staff will be blogging about the 75s throughout the year, either as single items or as categories. 

We hope you’ll enjoy reading our blog and we look forward to receiving your comments.