Sully U3A members learn about Llantrisant’s history

Friday, 20 April 2018

– Local People

by Contributed ItemContributed Item

On Thursday, April 12, Sully U3A were fortunate enough to be entertained by Dean Powell about Llantrisant, an historic hilltop town, which boasts a remarkable history filled with many traditions, fascinating tales and eccentric characters.

Commanding an outstanding view from the crest of two hills, like a dominant city from Biblical times, Llantrisant tells an incredible story dating back more than 1,400 years.

Crowned by its ruined Norman castle and fine parish church, with a seat of power at the medieval Guildhall, Llantrisant consists of quaint houses and shops that cluster proudly throughout charming, cobbled streets.

The town’s Charter of 1346 and the role its Freemen played as trained longbowmen in the victorious Battle of Crecy, under the command of the Black Prince, underpin the legendary tales behind Llantrisant’s reputation as the home of the Black Army.

Throughout the centuries, the old town has been home to a plethora of notorious characters, from a Lord Mayor of London to the world’s shortest man. As a prison for King Edward II, and the place where Dr William Price’s escapades led to the passing of the Cremation Act, Llantrisant is firmly secured in the annals of British history.

Today, Llantrisant is becoming one of the most visited tourist attractions in Wales, offering fine boutiques, eateries, family-fun activities and a flourishing social scene and is well worth a visit to this historic hilltop town.

Llantrisant Castle was fortified in 1246 by Richard de Clare on the site of an earlier motte and timber construction, and was developed into the administrative centre of the annexed Welsh lands that he had secured in 1243.

However, over a period of time, the castle was damaged during uprisings and further damage was suffered during the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr in 1404.

In 1767, the estate came into the ownership of John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute and in 1833, the tower was dismantled and local houses were built or repaired with its stone, while sections were transported and used to build Cardiff Castle.

The original Romanesque-style church dates from the end of the 11th century, shortly after Robert Fitzhamon’s conquering of Glamorgan.

In around 1490, the tower was erected creating an even more visible landmark on the skyline and by the 17th century, the tithes of Llantrisant were leased by the Bassett family of Beaupre.

Many of them became vicars and in 1718, a peal of six bells were cast in the church and hung in the tower, and a final two bells followed in 1926.

In 1873, when the church was being restored, a new stained-glass window by Edward Burne-Jones was introduced over the altar, depicting Christ without a beard – one of very few examples in the world.

The Freemen of Llantrisant have played an invaluable role in the history of the town for centuries, and the Charter of 1346 created a corporation for Freemen whose privileges included grazing rights, their own courts of law, control over markets and fairs, and a right to vote.

The passing of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1883, saw the borough’s powers stopped and the corporation was no more. The Llantrisant Town Trust was formed in an order sealed on 17/12/1889 by the Board of Charity Commissioners.

Every year, new Freemen are enrolled in the Court Leet and there are more than 2,000 Freemen around the world today. To remind younger boys, who would eventually become Freemen, where the boundaries lay, they would be ‘bounced’ on their buttocks upon two boundary stones.

The Guildhall was the seat of immense power and prestige, largely responsible for administering the Charter’s ‘Bill of Rights’ for the Freemen. However, with the dissolution of the borough in 1883, the Guildhall fell into a period of redundancy, but with the establishment of Llantrisant Town Trust, it enjoyed a new lease of life.

Magistrates Courts were still held until 1956,when the Trust purchased the building, and it has since been used by a variety of organisations, from nursery schools to spiritualist churches.

In 2017, the building underwent a £1.1 million refurbishment to become a heritage and visitors centre.

After questions, Dean Powell was thanked very much for his very interesting talk and I confirm our next presentation is on May 10 at the Old School in Sully, and we look forward to seeing you then.

Mike Birnage

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