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Welsh History Review

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Vol. 1, nos. 1-4 1960

Guide to the Monmouthshire record office. Book review.

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the Middle Ages as he did in The Cowbridge Story, and the Rev. E. O.
Lewis describes the churches of Llanblethian and Cowbridge, of which
parish he is vicar.
A most pleasing feature of the book is the series of photographs, which
are uniformly of excellent quality. Those of Fonmon Castle are especially
interesting as they can never have been seen before.
H. J. RANDALL.
Bridgend.
GUIDE TO THE MONMOUTHSHIRE RECORD OFFICE. By W. H. Baker.
Monmouthshire Archives Committee, Newport, 1959. Pp. 126. 5s.
Mr. W. H. Baker, the county archivist of Monmouthshire, is to be
congratulated upon the way in which he has discharged his task of pro-
viding for historian and layman a brief guide to the records he has in his
custody. His Guide bears witness to the transformation which has taken
place in the care of local archives. Monmouthshire was actually among
the first counties in England and Wales to move towards the establishment
of a county record office. Even so, when Dr. Conway Davies presented
his first report following his appointment as consultant archivist in 1938,
he had to tell the committee that he had found the county records in
'a deplorable state of confusion, neglect and dirt'. The Guide now reveals
these same records, together with many others added to them, to be
systematically arranged and put into order. Monmouthshire is fortunate
too, in having brought about an arrangement with respect to the
administration of its Record Office which is by no means usual and could
well be emulated by other counties. The County Council and the Newport
County Borough Council have joined together to maintain and administer
the Record Office.
Thus has the county of Monmouth made its amende honorable for past
neglect of its archives. Mr. Baker's history of the county records in the
past makes sad reading, as indeed does that of most counties. For while
Monmouthshire has taken spasmodic interest in its records, brief spells
of active interest were followed by prolonged periods of torpor and
neglect. The chief trouble seems to have been not so much the absence of
a repository as of a person 'specially interested with the care of records'.
There has also been an understandable failure to appreciate the historical
value of county administrative records: as recently as 1902 the clerk of
the peace commented that 'there were no arrangements in existence for
the custody of documents as we do not possess any of historical interest'.
Inevitably there have been serious losses, though it would appear that
the early Quarter Sessions records had already been lost before 1800.
In a note on the Court of Quarter Sessions, Mr. Baker mentions that
cases tried at Monmouthshire Quarter Sessions are referred to in docu-
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