The Scandalous History of Penarth’s Parsons!

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The second in the series of autumn events ‘The Scandalous History of Penarth’s Parsons!’  took place on 30th September 2021 in the Parish Hall.

About 40 people enjoyed a talk by Chris Riley on the early Vicars and Rectors of Penarth from the 1540s to the 1860s.

In the twelfth century the parish was owned by St Augustine’s Abbey and in the 16th century by the Bristol Cathedral.  It was then given to the Herbert family then the Lewis family and finally the Windsor family.

Until 1616 the vicars were Welshmen but after that the incumbents were predominantly from England.  The most ‘colourful’ of the vicars was Edward Alpert or Alport.  He held multiple parishes and took legal action against many of his parishioners who objected to him using land he regarded as his, and objected to paying their tithes.

The appointed cleric was very often absent and paid a curate to serve the parish.  They were poorly paid and at least one supplemented his income by smuggling.

Following the Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the parish of Penarth was said to be the poorest in the land.  No Welshman had been appointed as Bishop of Llandaff for over 200 years.  The people were mainly Welsh speaking and turned to the non-conformist churches as serving them better and in their own language.

The early part of the eighteenth century saw three Welshmen appointed but they may not have actually been living in the area.  They were all chaplains to the Lewis family and may have served the family’s household while appointing curates to look after the parish.

The population before the building of the docks and the coming of the railway was small. In 1763 there were 12 families in Penarth and 7 in Lavernock.  There were no non-conformists or chapels, no schools or almshouses and no parsonage.  The vicar at that time, James Martin, lived in Gloucestershire.  James Evans, rector from 1820 to 1862 lived at the Rectory in Llandough.






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