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Comisiwn Frenhinol ar Dir yng Nghymru a Mynwy, 1894

Cofnodion Tystiolaeth


Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire, 1894

Minutes of Evidence

Gwnaeth y Comiswn ymholiadau helaeth i mewn i gyflwr perchnogaeth a thenantiaeth tir. Gweithiodd a derbyn tystiolaeth drwy Gymru i gyd am misoedd. Fe ddaeth y tystiolaeth o berchnogion tir a'r ffermwyr bach ill ddau. Cyhoeddwyd cofnodion manwl y tystiolaeth fel rhan o'r Adrodd ac mae'n swynol i'w darllen! Rhoddodd tystiolaeth gan dau ffermwyr o'r plwyf: yn gyntaf, Richard Phillips, Erglodd, a siaradodd am fferm Blaenclettwrfach. Yr ail, David Jenkins, Cerrigcaranau, a siaradodd am brofiadau ei deulu yn Cwm-meurig Uchaf, plwyf Gwnnws.  

The Commission made extensive enquiries into the state of land ownership and tenancy. It sat and took evidence throughout Wales for many months. The evidence came from both the landowners and the small farmers. The detailed minutes of evidence were then published as part of the report and make fascinating reading! Two inhabitants of the parish gave evidence: the first, Richard Phillips of Erglodd, spoke about Blaenclettwrfach farm. The second, David Jenkins of Cerrigcaranau, spoke about his family's experience in Cwm-meurig Uchaf in the parish of Gwnnws.

Fifty-seventh Day
Town Hall, Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire
Saturday 28th April 1894

Present: Lord Kenyon (in the chair), Sir John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn, Professor Rhys, Mr John Morgan Griffiths, Mr Edwin Grove, Mr Richard Jones, Mr Frederick Seebohm, Mr Cecil E Owen, Asst. Secretary.


48,980. Do you wish the statement of your evidence read ?—If you please, my Lord.
[The following statement was then read.]
Evidence of Richard Phillips, Erglodd. In 1888 I took Blaenclettwrfach from Mr. Vaughan Davies at 22l. a year. At that time the prices of farm produce were going down. The dwelling-house and outbuildings at Blaenclettwrfach were in a ruinous slate, but I had to pay Mr. Davies 2/. more rent than the previous tenant did. His solicitors gave me the agreement produced, but I objected to sign, the buildings were so bad, and the agreement would compel me to repair them. I was allowed to go in without signing the agreement, and Mr. Davies promised either to repair the old buildings or build new ones. In September 1889, however, I received the letter now producted from his solicitors, threatening to turn me out if I did not sign the agreement. The buildings were then, to all appearances, nearly tumbling down, and, in addition to that, Mr. Davies was very anxious to sell the place. If he did so I should, of course, have had to turn out, however much I spent on the buildings. When I took the place there was a man, with his wife and family, living in the house, and he kept six or seven head of cattle, and he paid me 71. 5s. a year, the same as he paid to Mrs. Jones before me. "Whenever I paid my rent, I always asked Mr. Davies to repair or rebuild, and he always promised to do so, but he never did. By 1892 my tenant was obliged to leave, the dwelling-house and outbuildings having become too dangerous for any man or animal to live in them. After that I tried to get Mr. Davies to make an abatement in the rent on account of the buildings, but he refused to do so, and told me I might give it up if I liked, that he had plenty to take it. However, I have kept on, hoping prices would go up, so that I could clear out to better advantage. Even when he promised to build he made it a condition that I should do all the carrying, which would be a very serious item, as the place is far up the mountain, five or six miles from the nearest railway station. The agreement produced also contained a clause that if the place was sold before July in any year I should have to leave the following September without any notice.
48.981. You say Mr. Davies promised to repair the old building ?—Yes.
48.982. But he never did anything of the kind ?—Nothing at all.
48.983. Have you got any promise in writing ? —No.
48.984. Did you go to see him ?—Yes.
48,985 How many times did you go to see him ?—When I paid rent.
48.986. Every time you paid the rent ?—Yes ; half-yearly.
48.987. Have you got a copy of your agreement ?—Yes (handing same).
48.988. You did sign this agreement ?—No.
48.989. Were you aware that the clause as to notice was void under the Agricultural Holdings Act ?—I know nothing about the Act.
48.990. Six months' notice is all that is allowed under the Act; did you not know that, either 12 or six months ?—No, I did not know that.
48.991. The buildings were very bad, were they ? —Yes, they are falling now.
48.992. What sort of roof; was it a thatched roof ?—No, tiles.
48.993. Does the rain come through ?—The outhouses have fallen into a heap.
48.994. Where did you put your cattle ?— The tenant had left before they had fallen in ; the tenant left in 1891.
48.995. I do not quite understand this. ls the place you are referring to a place you sublet; did you sublet the whole of it ?—Yes, a part of it.
48.996. Sublet the whole of it? -A part of the land with the house.
48.997. Then had you another house of your own ?—Yes.
48.998. Under Mr. Vaughan Davies, too ?— No.
48.999. You kept a certain portion of the land sublet and this house, and another certain portion of land, is that it ?—Yes, that was it. It is a sheep walk I hold now.
Mr. Richard Jones
49.000. Did Mr. Vaughan Davies ever complain to you that you sublet a portion of the place ?—The sub-tenant was there when the farm was taken from Mr. Davies.
Lord Kenyon.
49.001. Mr. Vaughan Davies did not object to your sub-letting ?—The sub-tenant held this land before that.
49.002. I understand that; but Mr. Vaughan Davies never said anything or never allowed you to think that he objected at all ?—No, he did not.
Mr. Richard Jones.
49.003. Did you take the farm subject to having to repair the house yourself ?—The agreement said so. I knew that.
49.004. So that you really went to the farm before you signed the agreement ?—Yes.
49.005. And Mr. Davies threatened to turn you out because you were not complying with the terms of the agreement; is that so?—Mr. Davies threatened to turn me out because it was not signed. Here is the letter (handing same) :
Corporation Solicitor's Office,
September 18th, 1889.
Mr. Phillips, Erglodd.
Dear Sir,
Mr. Vaughan Davies, on his return home has called upon us, and is very much surprised to find that you have not signed the agreement of tenancy of the Sheepwalk taken by you from him, and unless you call here on Monday next to sign the agreement we shall give you notice and take possession of the Sheepwalk and re'et it.
Yours truly,
Griffith Jones & Co.

The witness withdrew

Report, Volume III, London, 1885, p 706-707

48,423. Where do you live Mr. Jenkins?—At Cerrigcaranau.
[The following statement of the witness was read.]
My father, David Jenkins, held a farm, called Cwm-meurig Uchaf. in the parish of Gwnnws, on Lord Lisburne's estate. My ancestors had lived on the place for many generations. I can trace them back for four or five generations. I have heard my grandfather say that the rent asked at one time was 31. a year. This was afterwards raised to 41., when the tenant threatened to leave, fearing he would not be able to pay the advance, but the agent persuaded him to attempt it, and promised not to be hard on him. By the year 1797 the rent had been raised to 8l. I have a receipt for 41., a half-year's rent, dated the 23rd of March of that year. Jenkin Morgan Jenkins was the tenant at that time. He was the firt to plough the land with horses. Before that time the ploughing was done by oxen and a wooden plough, which they could carry on their shoulders from one place to another. This, however, was good enough for their purpose, as there were no fields on the farm. The place was a desert, without hedges or fences, and without any but natural boundaries. In the year 1826, Jenkin Morgan Jenkins' rent was advanced to 211. He held the farm until his death in 1838. He was succeeded by my grandfather, William Jenkins. At that time the buildings were miserably poor. The dwelling-house, if worthy of the name, was a one-roomed mud cottage with a thatched roof, and the only mediums for light were the door and the chimney. Under the chimney-piece there was a strong pillar, which presumably bore the weight of the whole building, and this was also used for hanging bacon. This was the house my grandfather had to live in or build another. This he did the following year, in 1839, entirely at his own expense. He also made many improvements on the farm by fencing, draining, manuring, and liming the land. To put lime on the land at this time meant great trouble and expense. It had to be carted from Aberystwith, a distance of 15 miles. The carts had to be started on the evening of one day, in order to be early at the lime kiln on the following morning. After bringing that load home, they rested the following day, starting again the next evening. In this way they could only procure about three loads in a week. In the year 1848, he further built a stable and cow-house at his own expense, excepting only the timber, which was supplied by the landlord. In 1858 the rent was raised from 211. to 281. In 1859 he built a house on the farm entirely at his own expense, intending to live there the remainder of his days. When he removed into this house, my father became tenant of the farm, and occupied the farm-house. He at once set about improving the farm, but in the very next year, 1860, the rent was again advanced by a new agent, named William Burman, from 281. to 311. In 1861, a barn and cart-house were built, probably on the same terms as the previous buildings, although I have no direct proof of the fact. The greater part of the improvements on the farm were effected during his tenancy. He brought the farm to such a condition that it was a model of what a farm on such high land ought to be. In 1875 the rent was again raised by the present agent; Mr. Gardiner, from 31i. to 46l. making an increase in 17 years of about 120 per cent, and in 80 years of nearly 600 per cent., and this entirely on the tenants' improvements. In this year, 1875, my father and a neighbour were looking at a swede crop, which was being destroyed by hares and rabbits. His neighbour advised my father to set a few traps to catch them, and he did so. When he went to look at the traps the following morning, he was met by two of Lord Lisburne's gamekeepers, who at once reported the matter to his lordship. This happened at the beginning of the year. On the 20th of the following March he received notice to quit, and, although he and my grandfather went several times, both to the agent and landlord, to beg to be allowed to continue in the farm, he was compelled to leave in the following autumn. The sin was an unpardonable one, being an offence against one of the most sacred laws of the estate. Thus, my grandfather was turned out of his own house, where he had intended spending his declining years, and my father out of the farm where he had spent the best years of his life, working hard for its improvement, and upon which he had spent hundreds of pounds, to fare as best he might with his family of seven children, the eldest only 13 years of age, without a penny piece of compensation ; but Providence took care of him and his family. He obtained a farm which had been well cultivated, but upon which there was room for several improvements. I often tried to persuade him to undertake this work, but to no purpose. The cruel and inhuman conduct of his former landlord had effectually killed every desire for improvements. I state this to show the effect produced on his after life as a farmer, and the effect which such unworthy conduct must have on agriculture generally. I believe agriculture cannot be prosperous in Wales until we have a Land Act which will deal justly with landlord and tenant, will provide fair rent, security of tenure, and compensation for improvements to the tenant. The law should also secure to the tenant the right to please himself with respect to game. As he pays rent for the farm, the produce should be secured to him ; but, since the landlord requires a portion of the crops for his game, he should be made to bear a part also of the rent, tithes, and taxes. Mr. Seebohm
48.424. What date was it when the wooden plough was in use ?—That was before the year 1797.
48.425. And the style of cottage with the pillar on which the bacon was hung—was that at the same time ?—Before the new one was built, in 1839.
48.426. Was the fire-place in those old cottages against the pillar or at the end of the cottage?— -Against the pillar.
48.427. The fire-place ?—Yes, against it.
48.428. It is an interesting survival of the very old style cottage which is mentioned in the early documents ?—Yes, it is.
Mr. Richard Jones,
48.429. Did your grandfather apply to the landlord or the agent to erect a house for him ? —Yes, but that was of no use.
48.430. Before building the house did he try to obtain from the landlord or the agent a promise that he would not be disturbed in his tenancy ?—I am not quite sure on that point.
48.431. Is the Ground Game Act utilised now by the tenants on the estate ?—No, I do not think so.
48.432. Do the tenants know that they have the right of killing the ground game '.—I dare say that they know, but they are afraid to do so.
48.433. Has the agent or the landlord discouraged the tenants in any way in making use of it, by threats or otherwise ?—I think they have on some estates.
48.434. You speak of Lord Lisburne's estate, do you not ?—Yes, of that estate.
48.435. They do make use of the Ground Game Act ?—No, they do not make use of the Act.
48.436. Are the tenants troubled by ground game? - Yes, very much.
48.437. Do they not kill any of the rabbits or the hares ?—No, only very few. I know a farm where the game spoil the whole crop.
48.438. Have they applied to the agent to allow the gamekeepers to kill them?—I think they have done so.
48.439. Have the gamekeepers done anything to keep them down? —Very little.
48.440. You really think that it is from fear that the tenants do not make any use of the Act ? Yes it is from fear, I believe
48441. Are you on Lord Lisburne's estate now ?—No.
48.442. Are you a tenant farmer now ?—Yes, on the Cwrt-mawr estate.
48.443. Have you anything to complain of in your present holding ?—No.
48.444. With regard to the rabbits on Lord Lisburne's estate, you say the gamekeepers do not kill them, and the tenants do not kill them. Does anyone kill them ?—The landlord kills a few of them.
48.445. They ought to swarm if no one kills them ?—Yes, so they are.
48.446. Do you mean seriously to say that the tenants never kill rabbits at all ?—Some tenants kill them but the others are afraid to do so.
48.447. What do you think of those who are afraid to do so ; are they not rather foolish ?— Well, I should think they are.
48.448. It is not much encouragement to pass laws for the sake of the tenant if he is afraid to make use of them ?—No, in some way it is not.
Mr. Richard Jones.
48.449. I understand your contention is this, that the tenant is afraid to incur the landlord's displeasure by making use of the Act ?—Yes, he is afraid that the landlord might show some displeasure towards him further on.

The witness withdrew

Report, Volume III, London, 1885, p 676-678


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