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Historical Notes






Sheriffs, Constables and Justices of the Peace


1 Sheriffs. The only local connections with the dignity of the High Sheriff are associations of the Mathews family.


Edward Mathews of Aberaman High Sheriff


William Mathews of Aberaman High Sheriff


William Mathews of Aberaman High Sheriff


Edward Mathews of Aberaman High Sheriff


Miscellena of the Exchequer 11-35, 22-24 Henry VIII 1528-33 concerning an incident in 1530 sequel to an Aberdare Felony:—
“Thome Treharan and Thome Bach of Glyn Rhotheni were hanged for Felony whose goods were valued by ye homage at £5 the whiche money was paid to ye hands of Morga Mathewe farsid beyng Lt. then of ye said Lordship and nothyng of it used to ye Kings behove wherefore ye said Morga ought as well to be compelled to pay ye said £5 and as well be punished for his concealing of ye sum.”
The second son of Robert Mathew of Castell Mynach and his second son James was 1st of Aberaman branch of the Mathew family.


2 Constables were of two kinds.


a Parish Constable or Petty Constable appointed by each Parish at the Annual Vestry
b High Constable appointed by the Justices of the Peace within the Hundred. The Hundred of Miskin originally comprised the Parishes of Aberdare including Rhigos, Llanwonno, Llantrisant, Llantwit Fardre and Pentyrch.


It was divided into Upper and Lower Miskin for purposes of Petty Sessions. Aberdare was included in the Upper or, as it came to be known, Miskin Higher.


Edward I deals with the appointment of 2 officers for each hundred.


This reinforced by 34-33 Henry VIII.
The Justices of the Peace shall appoint and name in every Hundred two substantial gentlemen or yeomen to be chief constables of the hundred where they inhabit, which two constables in every hundred shall have a special regard to the conservation of the King’s Peace. According to further enactment, High Constables were to be appointed “by such Justices as may be present at the special sessions held for the purpose of hearing appeals against the rates of the several parishes in such division”. This system was reinforced by further enactments 1836 Parochial Assessments Act, 1834 County Act Sect 8.


Earliest available Calendar for lists of High Constables.

Duties of High Constables
1 Maintaining of the Peace
2 Apprehending and detaining of offenders for Trial
3 Lodging of impotent poor
4 Apprenticing of poor children
5 Control of Hire of Labourers
6 Supervision of Ale Houses
7 Inspection and Maintenance of Roads and Bridges under supervision and at the behest of the Bench of Magistrates and Justices of the Peace.

During the 19th century, there were great changes in the Law and Government. Local Government came more and more into the hands of the Parish Vestries, Local Boards of Health and then to Local District Councils at the end of the century and, in like manner, enforcement of the Law changed hands.


Sir Robert Peel’s Act was passed and the old London Watch was remodelled and formed into the London Police Force.


2-3 Vic. Cap. 93 appointed Police Constables throughout the country and made duties of Petty Constables nominal.


2-3 Vic. Sect. 92 made unnecessary the appointment of Petty Constables. With continued diminution of the duties of Petty Constables, duties of the High Constables also became nominal except that for some time High Constables had charge of the Jury Lists and Tithe List.


32-33Vic.Cap 47 Magistrates were prohibited from filling vacancies for High Constable. This did not apply where the High Constable was the Returning or Registration Officer for Local or Parliamentary Elections. Rees Hopcyn Rhys pleaded for the retention of the office on the grounds that it was a means of calling public meetings and this was granted but two Acts that gave the final blow to legal status were


The Representation of the People Act which excluded High Constables from being Returning Officers and


The Rating and Valuation Act, which abolished Special Sessions of Magistrates to hear appeals against the rates as established by the Parochial Assessments Act of 1836.






No.27 Henry VIII Sect 5. This made the first appointments of Justices of the Peace in Wales.


34-35 Henry VIII Sect.6


There were 14 Justices in Glamorgan. The “Book of Glamorgan Antiquities” by Rice Merrick published 1570 for list of Justices commissioned since 1542. The position was not salaried or professional but the eagerness with which leading families sought appointment argues a lucrative element. Some Glamorgan families sat on the bench year after year and thus the County Government fell into the hands of small groups of families. As a rule, Quarter Sessions were held at Cowbridge, Cardiff and Neath. The County Gaol was at Cardiff, and the 18th Century House of Correction also known as the Bridewell was at Cowbridge.

1819 Feb 10

Re Bridewell. At the Parish Meeting it was resolved that “as several young women now with child in this Parish is become so burdensome so as to come an heavy expense it is resolved as soon as they are well after being lying in that the overseer do get an order and take them to the Bridewell and punish them as the law directs”. The mark X of David Morgan Churchwarden.


The local Magistrates acting were:—

John Bruce

Dyffryn, Aberdare

J. J. Guest

Dowlais House, Merthyr

William Thomas

Cwrt, Merthyr

William Williams


Rhys Williams


The clerk was John Malkin Mayber of Merthyr.


The Petty Session for the Hundred of Miskin was held at Llantrisant and the Clerk was William John of Llantrisant.



1st full Wednesday after December 28th



1st full Wednesday after March 31st



1st full Wednesday after June 24th

After 1854


1st full Wednesday after October 11th.

Early in the 19th century, Aberdare’s parish Constables included Dafydd Hopkin, a local shoemaker, and Walter Conker.


By this year, the Police Force had been established. The Police Station was in Windsor Street. The Sergeant in Charge was William Parsons, the Police Court was held at the Boot Hotel and an occasional Court at the Mountain Ash Inn.

1843 June

Merthyr Tydfil’s Stipendiary Magistrate’s Bill received the Royal Assent. The Queen was empowered to appoint a barrister of not less than 7 years standing to be a Justice of the Peace within the limits of the Act comprising the Parishes of Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and the Hamlets of Brithdir in the Parish of Gelligaer, and Rhigos in the Parish of Ystradyfodwg at a salary of £600 per annum. The Justice was required to reside within the Parish of Merthyr Tydfil and to attend within such Parish 3 days at least weekly and 1 day in the Parish of Aberdare or the Hamlet of Brithdir. The Justice was further empowered to appoint a clerk at a salary of £150 per annum.


George Overton the son of the ironmaster was elected Coroner for North Glamorgan. The election was decided by all the freeholders of the district. (He died aged 70 in 1883.)


The County Court established at Aberdare and its first meeting was on June 26th before Judge Falconer. The first County Court Registrar was Isaac D. Rees.


‘Haunted House’ incident at Abernant. The account of this contains a reference to an Inspector Matthews who had been in charge of the Police in Aberdare for 11 years. Shortly after the incident, he was promoted Superintendent and moved to Swansea. In September, he was presented with a Gold Watch on his departure. He was followed by Inspector Howlett. Petty Sessions were held at the Police Station on Tuesdays. The Stipendiary Magistrate was John Coke Fowler. The County Court was held at the Temperance Hall, (built 1856). John Coke Fowler won an Essay Prize value £60 at the 1867 Carmarthen National Eisteddfod on the subject, “The Advantages of Milford Haven as a Natural Commercial Harbour”.


The current Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr. Albert de Ruytzen, was appointed to the London Police Court. His successor was John Bishop, Barrister at Law. A local newspaper commented at the time, “The choice of a Welsh speaking Magistrate will be hailed with great satisfaction, though within a year or two such a consideration will hardly be calculated”.


The Chief Constable of Glamorgan was Colonel Lindsay. The Deputy C.C. was Superintendent Thomas of Merthyr.

Local names in the Police hierarchy included Inspector Rees at Aberdare, Sgt. Rodman at Mountain Ash, Sgt. Johns at Trecynon, Sgt. Jenkins at Dowlais. There were 70 men in the Merthyr-Aberdare Division.


James Thorney appointed Inspector of Police to follow Inspector Rees. He remained the local Inspector until March 1890 when he became Superintendent in Neath.


A new County Court Room was built at the Temperance Hall. A well-known Court Bailiff during the closing years of the 19th century was “Pasha” Rees, an ex Master at Arms in the Marines.


The County Police Force at Aberdare consisted of the following: 2 Inspectors, 3 Sergeants, 4 Acting Sergeants and 35 Police Constables. In addition, there were Works Police consisting of an Inspector, 3 Sergeants and 2 Constables. Sir T. Marchant Williams, born in 1845 at Gadlys Aberdare, entered Bangor Normal College in 1864, after which he taught successively at Amlwch, Bangor and in Yorkshire. Subsequently he returned to Wales to enter the newly formed University College at Aberystwyth. In 1874, he obtained a B.A. (London). Appointed Inspector under the London School Board and in 1885 called to the Bar. He practised on the Southern Circuit and in 1900, was appointed Stipendiary Magistrate for Aberdare-Merthyr. He held this position until his death in May 1914. He was knighted in 1904.

1916 Jan

The Police Court in Market Street was formally opened by Sir T. Marchant Williams’ successor Mr. R.A. Griffith who expressed the hope, “that the Legal Champions would be happy in their new Cockpit”.

1963 May 18

Aberdare Leader: “Those Other Days”, May 1903, “The purchase of the old Armoury, Market Street, Aberdare has been completed and the premises have been acquired by the County Council authorities for the erection of the New Police Court for Aberdare”.






The chief offences were drunkenness and petty theft. Occasional cases of manslaughter and murder. Penalties were very severe.

1844 July

A number of Aberdare youths were charged with stealing apples from the orchard of John Prosser, a local victualler. Two of the youths were committed to 14 days hard labour in the Cardiff House of Correction.

1845 Oct

At the Glamorgan Quarter Sessions, Thomas Lewis an Aberdare mason aged 18 years was accused of stealing a moleskin jacket valued at 10/-. He was sentenced to two calendar months imprisonment in the Swansea House of Correction with hard labour. The first three days and the last three days to be spent in solitude.


At Aberdare Police Court, Thomas Williams was accused of stealing coal valued at 4d. Found guilty and sentenced to 1 month’s hard labour. Another case was that of a man who stole 3/- worth of oats, sentenced to 6 weeks hard labour.


A man charged with stealing a blanket from the Bruce Arms was sentenced to 6 weeks imprisonment.


A girl of 12 was sentenced to 6 months for stealing £8..12..0d

1871 June

Martha Jenkins was charged for the 15th time for soliciting as a common prostitute. Sent for trial to Merthyr she was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.


Thomas Jones licensee was fined £20 and his licence suspended for allowing his premises to be used as a brothel.


Two men fined 40/- each for poaching on Abernant Mountain.

1844 Aug

Mary Longstrap, Margaret Thomas and Jane Edwards, “three well known nymphs of the pavement”, were charged by Thomas Jenkins a bricklayer of Aberdare with having stolen his watch at the Merthyr Cellars, “a notorious den of debauchery” in the early 40s.


Finally, there is the record of £1 fine being imposed for furious driving of a horse and cart down Abernant Hill at 10 m.p.h.