"COWBRIDGE, a borough and market town, having exclusive jurisdiction, in the parish of LLANBLETHIAN, locally in the hundred of Cowbridge, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 12 miles (W.) from Cardiff; and 170 (W.) from London, on the main western road through the county, containing 1097 inhabitants.
The Welsh name of this place is Pont vaen, a corruption of Pont y von, of which last the English name is a literal translation. The town is supposed to have been originally an appendage to the castle and lordship of St. Quentin ; and was surrounded, in 1090, by Robert St. Quentin, one of Fitz-Hamon's knights, with a stone wall, having three gates, which, in Leland's time, were all entire, but of which only the south gate now remains.
Its situation, though low, is salubrious, and its appearance prepossessing : the town consists principally of one spacious street, extending for nearly half a mile along the turnpike road ; the houses are in general well built, and several of them are handsome : it is neither paved nor lighted, but well supplied with water from springs, and from the small river Ddaw, which passes through the centre of it. The old town-hall, shambles, and market-house, which stood in the centre of the principal street, obstructing the thoroughfare, have been removed, and the old county bridewell, situated at this place, has been recently converted, chiefly by subscription, into a neat town-hall, with jury-rooms and other apartments. The market days are Tuesday and Saturday; the market on the latter is chiefly for butchers' meat and other provisions : the fairs, principally for cattle, are on the first Tuesday in February, the Tuesday before March 25th, May 4th, June 24th, and September 29th: there are also two great markets on the first Tuesdays in August and December.
The government of the town, by charter of incorporation confirmed in the 33rd of Charles II., is vested in a mayor, who is deputy constable of the castle of St. Quentin, two bailiffs, twelve aldermen, and twelve capital burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk, two serjeants at mace, six constables, an ale-taster, and other officers. The deputy constable is appointed by the Marquis of Bute : the bailiffs are annually chosen, on Michaelmas eve, from among the aldermen, of whom four are nominated for that purpose by the burgesses, out of which number the mayor selects two : the aldermen are elected from the capital burgesses, by a majority of their own body, as vacancies occur ; and the capital burgesses are elected in the same manner, by the aldermen and a majority of their own body, from the burgesses : the town-clerk is also appointed by the Marquis of Bute, and the other officers by the corporation.
Cowbridge was formerly one of the eight contributory boroughs within the county, which returned one member to parliament, the right of election having been in the burgesses at large, in number between seventy and eighty, of whom about one half are resident : it is now, by the late act for amending the representation of the people, contributory with Cardiff and Llantrissent in the return of a member : the right of election is vested in the resident burgesses only, if duly qualified according to the provisions of the act, and in every male 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 present number of houses of this value, situated within the limits of the borough, which comprise an area of little more than thirty-three acres, and were not altered by the late boundary act, is seventy-nine: the bailiffs of Cardiff, at which place the elections are held, are the returning officers. The freedom is acquired by an apprenticeship of seven years to a resident freeman, inherited by birth by all the children of freemen, or obtained by marriage with a freeman's daughter, or by gift of the corporation. The mayor and bailiffs are justices of the peace, exercising exclusive jurisdiction within the borough : they have power to hold a court of record, every three weeks, for the recovery of debts under £5, but for many years have not exercised that privilege. The petty sessions for the hundred are held here every Tuesday, and the Easter quarter sessions for the county.
Cowbridge is commonly reputed a parish, but it has no distinct incumbency : the chapel, which was originally a chapel of ease to the church of Llanblethian, is still served by the vicar of that parish, who performs morning service at one, and evening service at the other, alternately every Sunday. The chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient and venerable structure, and contains several handsome monuments of modern erection, and two of more ancient date, one to the memory of the Carnes, of Nash, and the other to that of the family of Jenkins, of Hensol, near Cowbridge. There are places of worship for Baptists and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists.
The free grammar school is of uncertain foundation : it is of considerable repute, and is supposed by some to have grown out of the ruins of an ancient establishment at Lantwit Major, and to have been removed to this place in the reign of Elizabeth. It is under the superintendence of the Principal and Fellows of Jesus' College, Oxford, who appoint the master, with a salary of £20 per annum, a large dwelling-house in Church-street, and two gardens. The endowment was augmented by Sir Leoline Jenkins, Knt., Judge of the Admiralty in the reign of Charles II., who was educated in this school, and who founded two fellowships, two scholarships, and one exhibition, in Jesus' College, which are limited exclusively to natives of the principality educated at this school. Sir Leoline also assigned a fund for clothing poor persons every fourth year, which is regularly appropriated in that manner by the master of the school. There are divers other charitable bequests for the benefit of the poor, among which are, one of £225, since laid out in land, by Rebecca Wyndham, for apprenticing poor children; one of £ 100 by Catherine Williams, in 1682, for apprenticing children and for clothing poor aged men and women; and various minor sums to be expended in bread for the poor, the principal of which is a rent-charge of £4. 10., by Mary Wilcox, subject to the payment of land-tax, chief-rent, and repairs.
Some Roman coins have been discovered at this place : one, which was of brass, bore the incription CAESAR TRAIANUS; the reverse, PONT MAX .... S11; the exergue, BRITANNI. At the distance of about two miles, in a field adjoining the road from London to Haverfordwest, on the southern side, and close to the common called the Golden Mile, is a square intrenched camp of small dimensions, supposed to be Roman ; and on the south side of that common are vestiges of a similar work, both probably indicating the course of the Via Julia Maritima.
The poor are supported by an average annual expenditure amounting to £361. 6."