Presteigne / Llanandras

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

PRESTEIGN (LLANANDRAS), a parish, and head of the union of PRESTEIGN, partly in the hundred of WIGMORE, county of HEREFORD, and partly in the hundred and county of RADNOR, SOUTH WALES, in which latter portion it comprises the township of Presteign (including the market and assize town of that name), and the chapelry of Discoed, 8 miles (E.N.W.) from New Radnor, and 152 (W.N.W.) from London: the whole contains 2217 inhabitants, there being in that part of it in the county of Radnor 1522, of whom 1407 are in the township of Presteign, which includes the whole of the town, together with an extensive tract of land surrounding it on the east, south, and west. This PLACE, of which the Welsh name is derived from the dedication of its church to St. Andrew, appears to have remained in obscurity till towards the close of the thirteenth century, and to have first risen into importance during the prelacy of David Martin, Bishop of St. David's, who was raised to that see in the year 1293.

This prelate, who continued to preside over the diocese till 1328, was a munificent benefactor to it, having obtained from the inhabitants the privilege of holding a weekly market, which, according to Leland, was in his time celebrated for its corn, and frequented by the people of the cantrev of Maelienydd, the central and northern portion of the county. Either from its retired situation, or its want of local importance, it appears to have been altogether unconnected with any of the military events that so often disturbed the internal tranquillity of the principality, or made the marches the scene of havoc and slaughter.

Daring the parliamentary war in the reign of Charles I., that monarch, retreating before Cromwell, then in the neighbourhood of Hereford, appears, from an entry in an old parish register, to have passed two nights at the house of Nicholas Taylor, Esq., who lived at the Lower Heath, near "the King's Turning", probably so called from the circumstance of the king having turned thence over the hills to Newtown, in Montgomeryshire, from which place he proceeded to Chester.

The TOWN, which is now the principal one in the county of Radnor, is pleasantly situated in the western end of a fertile vale, surrounded by hills, of which some are richly wooded; and is separated from that part of the parish in Herefordshire only by the river Lug, which here forms a boundary between the two counties, and is crossed by an ancient bridge of three small arches. It consists of one main thoroughfare, called High-street, leading north-westward through the town from Leominster towards Knighton and Rhaiadr; from which two smaller streets, named Broad-street and St. David's-street, diverge north-eastern nearly at right angles, and parallel with each other, in a direction towards the river; the more southern of the two leading over the bridge towards Ludlow through Wigmore.

Though of an irregular form, it has an air of neatness and respectability superior to most of the towns in this part of the principality; and the houses, though in general small, are well built and of neat appearance, and are interspersed with several of larger size, inhabited by respectable families and professional individuals. The streets are partially paved, though not lighted; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water, by means of pumps and open wells. The surrounding scenery is finely varied, and in many points highly picturesque; and from the hills by which the vale is surrounded are some interesting and extensive views over the country adjacent.

A low eminence called Warden, a little to the west of the town, formerly the site of an ancient castle, of which there are no remains, was presented to the inhabitants by the Earl of Oxford, and has been laid out in agreeable walks, forming a pleasant promenade, which is a favourite resort of the inhabitants; it commands a very delightful prospect, embracing a fine tract of highly cultivated country, embellished with pleasingly diversified scenery, and enlivened with numerous gentlemen's seats, among which Boultibrook and Norton House, elegant mansions situated in beautifully disposed grounds, form conspicuous objects. The river Lug is celebrated for its trout and graylings, which are taken here of superior quality.

A woollen manufacture was once carried on, but it has been for some time abandoned, and the town has now no branch of manufacture: the trade is principally in malt, of which a great quantity is made, the soil in the neighbourhood being favourable to the growth of barley; and some business is also transacted in timber, which is brought from the counties of Hereford and Radnor, and in coal, conveyed by land-carriage from the Clee Hill, in Shropshire, and also from Monmouthshire, by a railroad to Kington, in Herefordshire, and thence by land-carriage to this town. A portion of traffic arises also from its situation on the turnpike-roads leading from New Radnor to Leominster, and from Knighton to Kington; and the neighbourhood for five miles round is chiefly supplied with grocery, drapery, iron-work, and shop goods in general, from this place, which has become a central depot for those articles.

The market was until lately on Saturday, but in May 1841, the time was altered to Tuesday; and fairs are held on February 8th, May 9th, June 20th, October 13th, and December 1 1 th: a fair was some years ago attempted to be established, but without success, on the 20th of June, being the day on which a celebrated wake occurs upon the neighbouring eminence of Warden. This place is a BOROUGH by prescription; and there is a crown manor, styled "the Lordship, Manor, and Borough of Presteign", comprising the township of Presteign and the chapelry of Discoed. It has a bailiff and two constables, the former appointed annually at the court leet of the crown, but exercising no magisterial authority. The township is divided into the wards of High- street, St. David's-street, Broad-street, and Hereford-street, of which the two first and the two last collect their poor's rates jointly, and the whole are united for the maintenance of the poor.

The borough formerly demanded to be contributory to New Radnor, in the return of a member to parliament; but this claim to exercise the elective franchise was rejected by the House of Commons, in 1690, on the assertion of the right, from which, according to the prevailing tradition among the inhabitants, they had been previously excluded, on refusing to assist in supporting their representative. But under the "Reform Act" of 1832, the township of Presteign, and the chapelry of Discoed, comprehending all that part of the parish situated within the county of Radnor, together with a small tract of the Herefordshire portion of it, on the banks of the Lug, immediately opposite the town, of which it contains a small suburb, called Frog-street, form a contributory borough with those of Kevenlleece, Knighton, Cnwclas, and Rhaiadr, in returning a member for the town of Radnor.

There being no freemen, the right of election is vested exclusively in every person of full age, occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs: the limits of the borough are minutely defined in the Appendix; the number of voters within the Radnorshire portion is a hundred and forty. In the 35th and 86th of Henry VIII. a statute was passed, ordaining that the county courts, which had been previously held alternately at New Radnor and at Rhaiadr, should be thereafter held alternately at New Radnor and at Presteign, in consequence of a sheriff having been resisted in the execution of his duty, and killed in a tumult at Rhaiadr; and it was subsequently arranged that the courts of assize should be held invariably at this place, where also the quarter-sessions are held.

The sheriff's courts are held here alternately with New Radnor. Presteign is likewise, by the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., c. 64, constituted a polling-station for the election of the county representative. The shire-hall, erected in 1829, at an expense of £5000, defrayed by the county, is a handsome and commodious edifice of brick and stone, with a stuccoed front; and consists of a centre and two wings, the former ornamented with four equidistant pilasters of the Tuscan order, supporting an entablature and cornice, and the latter having each a receding portico, supported by three Tuscan columns. The centre comprises the court for holding the assizes and sessions, which is conveniently arranged; the north wing contains an apartment for the grand jury, a withdrawing-room for the petty jury, offices for the clerk of the peace, and apartments for the housekeeper; and the south wing includes a suite of apartments intended for the accommodation of the judges, consisting of two bed-rooms, with dressing-rooms attached, a dining-room and a drawing-room, each thirty feet long, twenty wide, and sixteen in height. But the recent alteration in the Welsh judicature has rendered these preparations less necessary, as the judges seldom protract their stay in the town beyond two days, and the apartments, which have not been yet furnished, are not likely to be occupied for that purpose.

The county gaol, comprising also the house of correction for the county, was built in 1820, on the east side of the town, at an expense of £3500, and contains three wards for the classification of prisoners, and, including the apartments for debtors, thirty-five sleeping cells, four day-rooms, and four airing-yards; the prisoners sentenced to hard labour are employed in breaking stones, there being no tread-wheel; the whole is inclosed within a wall eighteen feet high, and the entrance is between two massive three- quarter columns, supporting an entablature.

The LIVING is a rectory, with the chapelry of Discoed annexed, rated in the king's books at £20; present net income, £795, with a glebe- house; patron, Earl of Oxford. The impropriate tithes having been forfeited to the crown by the feoffees of St. Antholine's, London, in the 15th of Charles I., in consequence of their purchasing impropriations for the purpose of maintaining "factious and seditious lectures", were granted by that monarch to the Rev. John Scull, B.D., rector of this parish, and to his successors for ever; the gift was revoked after the decapitation of that sovereign, but was confirmed by Charles II., in the first year of his reign. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is a spacious and handsome structure, partly in the decorated, and partly in the later style of English architecture, with a square western tower, strengthened with buttresses at the angles, and surmounted by a turret at one of them, and by pinnacles at the other three.

The interior consists of a nave, chancel, and two aisles, the south aisle extending the whole length of the building, and forming a second chancel, which is claimed by the parishioners as their property; the nave is separated from the aisles by a series of six pointed arches on each side, resting upon octagonal pillars. The altar-piece is embellished with some fine tapestry, representing the entry of our Saviour into Jerusalem, the colours of which, though not vivid, harmonize well, and the whole is in a state of good preservation; above it is an inscription, recording the name of the donor, Richard de Brampton Parva, in hac parochia Arm., 1737; this was Richard Owen, who also gave two silver salvers, to hold the bread at the communion. There are four small galleries, and in that at the west end is an organ, presented, in 1819, by the late Robert Edwards, of the town. In the chancel are some handsome monuments to the memory of several deceased members of the families of Owen, Price, and Davies. There are places of worship for Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists.

The Free grammar school was founded in 1565, in the reign of Elizabeth, by John Beddoes, formerly a clothier of the town, who endowed it with some houses, and with seventy- seven acres of land, in the township of Presteign, now producing £130 per annum, and vested in trustees. The school-house is situated in David's street, and capable of containing above 60 children, that number being at present instructed; and to the rear is a piece of ground occupied, with other portions of the charity land, by the master, who has the whole proceeds and management of the property. There are four day schools, containing about 75 children, instructed at their parents' expense; and in two Sunday schools, supported by subscription, about 108 males and females are taught.

Numerous charitable donations and bequests for the relief of the poor, and for various other purposes, exist, of which the following are the principal. Nicholas Taylor, Sen., Esq., gave £30 for apprenticing a boy or girl, to which £20 were afterwards added by his son, who also bequeathed £30 to buy clothing for the poor. Ambrose Meredith, of Napleton, in 1640, gave one-half of two parcels of land, and a cottage with a garden, for apprenticing children, and the other half to the poor generally; but this charity has been lost. Sir Thomas Street, of Worcestershire, one of the judges on the circuit, gave £20, forfeited by William Whitcomb, high sheriff of Radnorshire, for his non-appearance at the assizes, towards apprenticing seven children. Margaret Price, of Pilleth, left £36. 18. 6., in 1667, the interest for apprenticing a boy, and for purchasing clothing to be given to two poor people annually; and this sum, together with bequests of £50 by Mary Lewis; £30, in 1775, by Richard Carter; £50, in 1774, by Edward Price, Esq., of Aylesbury; and £20, in 1800, by the Rev. James Bull; has been invested in the Radnorshire turnpike trust, producing £9. 8. 5. per annum, which is distributed about Easter in bread or money among the poor generally.

Ellen Harris, of London, in 1630, left the yearly sum of £4, of which four marks were to be paid for four sermons, one mark to be distributed among the poor on the days those sermons were delivered, and one mark to the churchwardens of the parish, who, however, bestow their share upon the poor. John Matthews, of Clerkenwell, London, bequeathed £50 to be lent without interest, for two years, to five or six tradesmen; £2. 12. per annum to be given in bread to the poor; and a fund for the distribution of six coats and six Bibles to children: the loan fund has been lost, but the other charities, charged upon nine freehold houses in Clerkenwell Close, and amounting to £5, are equally divided between the Radnor and Hereford districts of the parish. John Eccleston, Esq., of the town, gave £50 for the erection of some small houses, as rent-free residences for the poor.

Thomas Cornwall, Baron Burford, and lord of Stapleton and Lugharnes, gave several sums of money forfeited to him as lord of the manor, and amounting to £8. 12.; and Nicholas Scarlet, of the town, gave a rent-charge of £2 to the poor. Jane Price, in 1774, bequeathed a rent-charge of £10. 8., which, according to her directions, is expended in distributing 24 twopenny loaves of bread every Sunday morning among as many indigent women. Littleton. Powell, Esq., of Stanage, one of the six clerks in Chancery, gave a large silver flagon for holding the sacramental wine, weighing seventy-four ounces three drachms, and valued at £25, to the church. Giles Whitehall, Esq., of the Moor, gave to the township of Presteign an engine with twelve leathern buckets, for extinguishing fires in the town; and also, in 1736, a rent-charge of £3, of which £1 was to be paid to the minister for preaching a sermon on every 31st of March, and the residue expended in bread among such poor as attended; but the whole is now disposed of in that manner, the minister declining to take any portion.

The poor law union, of which this town is the head, was formed November 8th, 1836, and comprises the following 16 parishes and townships; namely, Presteign, Discoed, part of Cascob, Whitton, Norton, and Pilleth, in the county of Radnor; and Coombe, Litton with part of Cascob, Rod with Nash and Little Brampton, Stapleton with Frog-street, Willey, Byton, Lingen, Knill, and Upper and Lower Kin-sham, in the county of Hereford: it is under the superintendence of 17 guardians, and the Radnorshire portion contains a population of 2837. Dr. Richard Lucas, master of the free grammar school at Abergavenny, and subsequently vicar of St. Stephen's, Coleman-street, London, and lecturer of St. Olave's, Southwark, a popular preacher of his time, was born in this town. A curious custom pre- veils here on Shrove-Tuesday, which is observed by one party pulling a rope upwards, and another downwards, to the river, the successful party retaining the rope in token of victory; and it is predicted, that if the party pulling the rope upward prevail, grain will be cheap that year, but, if it go down, it will be dear.

BRAMPTON (LITTLE), a township, joint with Rod and Nash, in that part of the parish of PRESTEIGNE which is in the hundred of WIGMORE, county of HEREFORD. The population is returned with Rod.

COOMBE, a township in that part of the parish of PRESTEIGNE which is in the hundred of WIGMORE, county of HEREFORD, 2 miles (E.S.E.) from Presteigne, containing 67 inhabitants.

NASH, a township, joint with Rod and Little Brampton, in that part of the parish of PRESTEIGNE which is in the hundred of WIGMORE, county of HEREFORD, 2 miles (S. by W.) from Presteigne. The population is returned with Rod.

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