Importance of Public records Office - Nov. 19, 1959

Raglan Local History Group Lecture. 1959

Anyone who thinks the preservation of records a dull subject should have attended the lecture at Raglan on Thursday last, when Mr. Baker, county archivist, had an audience of 24. Keeping in mind the group’s ambition to produce a district history, he related nearly all he said to the Raglan area.

Record offices are modern institutions and even the Public Record Office has ony existed 130 years, though records have been kept since Norman times. Just before the last war, the Monmouthshire County Council established the Record Office at Newport, and Mr. Baker recalled some amusing mistakes, an archivist being confused with an anarchist; a visitor asking if she could buy long -playing records.

He explained the functions of his office, which were not only the housing of documents but their restoration from the depredations of damp and insects which are very partial to a paper diet. From time to time they have to be exhibited to the public, lectures have to be arranged to societies like the Raglan group, calendars or catalogues produced. Such a guide has just been brought out and the group was presented with a copy.

Perhaps the most interesting document Mr. Baker displayed was a photostat of “An Extent of the Manor of Raglan” of the year 1354. It tells the kind of rent exacted by the lord; one leech from Walter Bloet of Rhiwlas and six collars for grey hounds. Another Bloet was let off on payment of a mere chaplet of roses. Then there was a Process Book covering the years 1720 to 1780, and this contained an insight into local behaviour. A man in Llandenny was put ‘in process’ for keeping an unlicensed tippling house; another at Bryngwyn for pursuing the drover’s trade without a licence.

It appears that licences were required for most everyday affairs. Profaning the Sabbath by playing bowls or throwing ball when the culprit should have been in church, was a serious matter; likewise keeping goats on the highway, stopping a water course and moving the village stocks.

Mr. Baker mentioned reports on highways, the vital concern of everyone in a parish. The proceedings of Friendly Societies, which came into being in 1794, give a great insight into parish administration. It grew clear that none could properly study local history unless they availed themselves of the knowledge stored at the Record Office.

Mrs. Blake spoke for everyone in a particularly happy vote of thanks. As always, this lecture was arranged in co-opeation with University College, Cardiff.

C Morgan 2014