Administratively and politically the question of Penallt – as part of Monmouthshire – being in Wales or England was not finally settled until 1976. There was a time when men of Monmouthshire could refuse to be tried by a Welsh Court but on the whole, since the days of Owain Glyndwr, people of the parish got on with their own work and did not trouble overmuch whether they were designated Welsh or English; men of Monmouthshire were what they were and perhaps they would have liked to have declared U.D.I. – especially if it could have been arranged tax-free! Now, as in ancient times, they are men of Gwent.
With the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, the Border churches seem to have had some measure of choice as to whether they should join in with the Church in Wales (the decision in Penallt) or England, as with Dixton. Even with the Rev Rhys, Welsh speaker and scholar, we did not have Welsh services, and now in 1988 there seems to be only one Welsh speaker in the Parish, though a delightful sprinkling of Welsh Christian names. Luckily the forms, etc. are printed in Welsh and English, and there is only a faint folk memory of Border differences! Interest in Welsh culture grows, however, appreciated particularly by new inhabitants, who frequently give their newly-built houses Welsh names.
The structure of local government created at the end of the nineteenth century survived, with much criticism, for seventy years. It was the subject of several commissions of enquiry concerned with the size and population and the difference between the urban and rural pattern. Reorganisation of the structure by the Acts of 1972 and 1973 replaced the two-tier system by a three-tier system under the main authorities. As a result, the old Parish Council for the area was replaced by the Community Council. The number of members is regulated by the population; Penallt, with a population of 443 at the last census, qualified for two. At the moment our two are Frances Gleed (farmer’s wife) and John Baldwin (welder/blacksmith) – both from long resident families. Members tend automatically to be re-appointed and elections every three years are not always called for; vacancies are not contested. The aim of the Community Council is to articulate local opinion and to exert certain consultative rights concerning building applications. On its own it has no authority.
The Council has a responsibility for the village green (ours is rather tucked away behind the village “street” but in front of the Bush). The Council keeps a watch on the condition of the local roadways and the rights of way; it supported the provision of street lights in the village. Out of its financial resources – a percentage of the rates – various grants have been given to improve the amenities of the village, i.e. the Tennis and Cricket Clubs, the Pelham Hall renovation, the War Memorial restoration and a contribution towards the upkeep of the churchyard.
In earlier years the administration must have been concerned with poverty in the parish. At one time there were three “parish poor houses”, two at the Quab (now Pine Tops) and one now ruined in the field beyond where people fallen upon even harder times than other parishioners could have a roof over their heads. There is a tale of three old people turned out of their cottage, which was burnt down, who were the last people to go “on the parish”. They went to one of the houses at the Quab.
The charities helped with smaller needs. However, “vagabonds” were passed on from parish to parish, and usually well whipped! The stocks were said to be under the old chestnut tree outside the Parish Church but no trace of the whipping post has been found, though it is mentioned in records referring to parcels of land. As late as 1745, according to Major Probert’s research, St Briavels paid 7 s. for a new whipping post. Perhaps Penallt could not afford to renew theirs!
Major Probert, also in his booklet, gives information on the various charities. In the 17th century the Rev Zachary Babington made considerable endowments (in land) to the schools of Penallt and Trellech, and he quotes the Trellech records in this respect.
He also writes:
“The Hoskyns Charity for the Parish Church amounts to £4.11 annually from £376 16s. 11d., now vested in the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. The original gift was made in land and details are given in the tablet in the church.
Henry Probert in the early 18th century left the Charity for the Poor of Penallt, now invested in £558 15s. 0d. Metropolitan Corporation Stock. Originally part of this was invested in a house in Wyesham. A pew in Dixton Church which went with this house is marked “Poor of Penalt” on a plan of the seating dated about 1820.”
In 1981 Mrs Davies wrote regarding the Penallt and Trellech Charity that she:
“felt parishioners might be interested to know the position of this very ancient charity, the small distribution from which the trustees still endeavour to make annually. The 1980 meeting was held on Dec 13th, Mr L Spencer, Mr I Gleed and Mrs D E Davies being present. It was decided to distribute £8. The receipts for the year amounted to £17.34 and the balance at the bank was £83.88, the proposal being that if these interest payments could be allowed to accumulate, the money could be invested in a more lucrative holding than the original funds vested under the aegis of the Charity Commissioners, for the similar benefit of the Parish and Parishioners, and this matter is being gone into.”
In 1987 the Vicar reported on the matter of the school building and fields:
“The Government Statutory Instrument No 1197 of 1984 directs that “all land and hereditaments belonging to or held in trust for the school are hereby vested in the Diocesan Trust”, which Trust is authorised to sell the same, and use the proceeds “towards the purchase of a site or building for, or the erection, repair, improvement or enlargement of, the premises of any school which is, or is to be, maintained as a voluntary school in the Diocese of Monmouth in which religious instruction in accordance with the tenets of the Church in Wales is, or is to be, given”.
This instrument presumably covers the three School Charity fields. A request has been forwarded to the Diocesan Trust to consider the retention by the village of the former school playing field as a recreation ground; but at the time of writing it is not clear whether the deeds of the Diocesan Trust (which exists to provide church schools in the diocese) allow such use; if not, the field would have to be purchased from the Diocesan Trust on behalf of the village. Does anyone know of possible sources of funds for local recreation grounds?”
In 1988 this matter was taken up by the Parish Community Council and we all await a “sorting out”.
[from: Penallt – A Village Miscellany]