"PRESTEIGNE, (or Llan-andras Of The Welsh) a parish, post and market town, and parliamentary borough, the parish being partly situated in the hundred and county of Radnor, and partly in the hundred of Wigmore, county Hereford. It is the county town of the county of Radnor, 6 miles E. by N. of Radnor, and 151 N.W. of London. The parish, which is of large extent, containing 7,780 acres, includes, besides the town of Presteign, the chapelry of Discoed, and the townships of Combe, Willey, and four others. It is situated in a valley on the Lug, a river celebrated for trout and grayling, and which here separates the counties of Radnor and Hereford.
The town of Presteign is small, and a borough by prescription, contributing, under the Reform Act, to New Radnor in returning one member to parliament. It first rose into importance under the patronage of Martin, Bishop of St. David's, who procured for it the grant of a market and many privileges about the close of the 13th century, and as New Radnor subsequently declined Presteign became the capital of the county. During the civil war of the 17th century Charles I. stayed with the Taylors at Lower Heath, near the King's Turning, when flying from Cromwell.
It contains a shire hall, situated in Broad-street, and built in 1829, the county gaol, built in 1820, a townhall, commercial bank, a good hotel, and a bridge of three arches. The population of the parliamentary borough in 1851 was 1,617, inhabiting 345 houses, which had increased in 1861 to 1743 persons, and 378 houses. To the W. of the town is a public promenade, called the Warden, occupying an eminence formerly the site of the castle of Presteign, but presented to the inhabitants by Lord Oxford, and now laid out in walks.
In the neighbourhood are many seats, the principal of which are Boultibrooke, on the Knighton road, belonging to Sir H. Brydges, Bart., Evenjobb, the residence of Mrs. Harley, and between Presteign and Radnor, Knill Court, the seat of Sir J. Walsh, in the grounds of which is the ivy-grown church of Knill, where Sir Samuel Romilly lies buried. The assizes and quarter sessions are held in Presteign, and the county courts here and at New Radnor alternately. It is also the headquarters of the county militia, the seat of a Poor-law Union, comprising 4 parishes in Radnorshire and 5 in Herefordshire, and the head of a superintendent registry district. Races take place occasionally in the vicinity of the town, on a flat course of seven-eighths of a mile.
The living is a rectory* with the curacy of Discoed annexed, in the diocese of Hereford, value £1,380. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is an ancient structure with a square embattled tower, and bearing an inscription over the great chancel window on the exterior, "M. P. L., 1244". It contains a stained-glass window, a brass, and some monuments and tablets to the families of Owen, Price, Davies, and Parsons, also a piece of tapestry, in good preservation, representing Christ's entry into Jerusalem, said to have been worked by some ladies of the name of Taylor, then residing at Little Brampton, near Presteign. There are two places of worship for Protestant Dissenters, also a free school, founded by John Beddoes in the reign of Elizabeth, which has an endowment of £150 per annum.
The principal antiquities are Offa's Dyke, which runs close by, crossing the wooded hills of Herrock and Knill Garraway, and about 3 miles to the S.E. of the town is Wapley encampment, a Roman fortification occupying a towering eminence 1,100 feet above the level of the sea. Between Knill and Presteign is the rock of Nash Scar, formed of the Woolhope limestone, but subsequently fused into one sub-crystalline mass of igneous rock. Market day is on Saturday. Fairs are hold on the Saturday before 13th February, on 9th May, 20th June, 13th and 14th October, and 11th December."
"CASCOB, a township partly in the parish of Cascob, and partly in the parish of Presteigne, hundred and county of Radnor, South Wales, 2 miles to the W. of Presteign."
"DISCOYD, (or Discoed), a township in the parish of Presteigne, hundred of Radnor, in the county of Radnor, 23 miles W. of Presteign. It is situated on the river Lug and Offa's Dyke. The living is a curacy in the diocese of Hereford, annexed to the rectory* of Presteign. The church is dedicated to St. Michael."
"LITTON, a township in the parish of Presteigne, hundred and county of Radnor, 3 miles N.W. of Presteign, and 7 N.E. of Radnor. It is situated near the river Lug, and is joined with Cascob."
PRESTEIGN, otherwise LLANANDRAS, a parish, partly in the hundred of WIGMORE, county of HEREFORD, and partly in the hundred and county of RADNOR, SOUTH WALES, in which latter it comprises the township of Presteign (including the market and assize town of that name), and the chapelry of Discoed, which separately support their own poor, 8 miles (E. N. E.) from New Radnor, and 152 (W. N. W.) from London; the whole parish contains 3282 inhabitants, there being in that part of it which is in the county of Radnor 1629, of which number, 1513 are in the township of Presteign, which includes the whole of the town, together with an extensive tract of land surrounding it on the east, south, and west. This place, of which the latter name is derived from the dedication of its church to St. Andrew, appears to have remained in obscurity till towards the close of the thirteenth century, and to have first risen into importance during the prelacy of David Martin, Bishop of St. David's, who was raised to that see in the year 1293. This prelate, who continued to preside over the see till 1328, was a munificent benefactor to it, having obtained for the inhabitants the privilege of holding a weekly market, which, according to Leland, was in his time celebrated for its corn, and frequented by the people of the cantrev of Maelienydd. Either from its retired situation or its want of local importance, it appears to have been altogether unconnected with any of the military events that so often disturbed the internal tranquillity of the principality, or made the marches the scene of havoc and slaughter. During the parliamentary war in the reign of Charles I., that monarch, retreating before Cromwell, then in the neighbourhood of Hereford, appears from an entry in an old parish register to have passed two nights at the house of Nicholas Taylor, Esq., who lived in this parish,. at a place called the Lower Heath, near what is now called " the King's Turning," probably from the circumstance of the king having turned thence over the hills to Newtown in Montgomeryshire, from which place he proceeded to Chester.
The town, which is now the chief town in the county of Radnor, is pleasantly situated in the midst of a fertile vale surrounded by hills, of which some are richly wooded, and is separated from that part of the parish which is in Herefordshire only by the small river Lug, which here forms a boundary between the two counties, and is crossed by an ancient bridge of three small arches. It consists of one principal thoroughfare, from which two smaller streets diverge nearly at right angles, and parallel with each other, in a direction towards the river. Though of an irregular form, it has an air of neatness and respectability superior to most of the towns in this part of the principality : the houses, though in general small, are well built and of neat appearance, and are interspersed with several of larger size, inhabited by respectable families of independent fortune, and professional individuals. The streets are partially paved, though not lighted ; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water by means of pumps and open wells. The surrounding scenery is finely varied, and in many points highly picturesque ; and from the hills by which the vale is surrounded are some interesting and extensive views over the country adjacent. An eminence called Warden, a little to the west of the town, supposed to have been the site of an ancient castle, of which there are no remains, was presented to the inhabitants by the Earl of Oxford, and has been laid out in agreeable walks, forming a pleasant promenade, which is a favourite resort of the inhabitants : it commands a very delightful prospect, embracing a fine tract of highly cultivated country, embellished with pleasingly diversified scenery, and enlivened with numerous gentlemen's seats, among which Boultibrook, the seat of Sir Harford Jones Brydges, Bart., an elegant mansion situated in beautifully disposed grounds, forms a conspicuous object. The river Lug is celebrated for its trout and graylings, which are taken here of superior quality. A woollen manufacture was formerly carried on, but it has been for some time abandoned, and the town has now no branch of manufacture : the trade is principally in malt, of which a great quantity is made, the soil in the neighbourhood being favourable to the growth of barley. Some trade is also carried on in timber, which is brought from the counties of Hereford and Radnor, and in coal, brought by land carriage from the Clee Hill in Shropshire, and also from Monmouthshire, by a rail-road to Kington, in Herefordshire, and thence by land carriage to this town. A portion of traffic arises also from its situation on the turnpike roads leading from New Radnor to Leominster, and from Knighton to Kington ; and the neighbourhood for five miles round is principally supplied with grocery, drapery, iron work, and shop goods in general, from this place, which has become a central depot for those articles of trade. The market is on Saturday : the principal fairs are now held annually on May 9th and October 13th, of which the former is also a statute fair for the hiring of servants ; and there is a smaller fair on December 11th. A fair formerly held on the 20th of June has been superseded by a celebrated wake, called Warden Wake, now annually held on that day upon the eminence called Warden.
This place is a borough by prescription; and there is a crown manor, styled "the Lordship, Manor, and Borough of Presteign," comprising the township of Presteign and the chapelry of Discoed. It has a bailiff and two constables, the former appointed annually at the court leet of the crown, but exercising no magisterial authority. The township is divided into the four wards of High-street, St. David's-street, Broad-street, and Hereford-street, of which the two former and the two latter collect their poor's rates jointly, and the whole are united for the maintenance of the poor. The borough formerly claimed to be contributory to New Radnor, in the return of a member to parliament ; but this claim of the inhabitants to exercise the elective franchise was rejected by the House of Commons, in 1690, on the assertion of the right, from which, according to the prevailing tradition among the inhabitants; they had been previously excluded, on refusing to contribute towards the expense of supporting their representative. But, under the recent act to amend the representation, the township of Presteign, and the chapelry of Discoed, comprehending all that part of the parish which is situated within the county of Radnor, together with a small tract of the Herefordshire portion of it, on the banks of the Lug, immediately opposite the town, of which it contains a small suburb, form a contributory borough with those of Kevenlleece, Knighton, Cnwclas, and Rhaiadr, in returning one member to parliament for the borough of Radnor. There being no former freemen, the right of election is vested 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 limits of the borough are minutely defined in the Appendix ; the number of tenements of the above value, comprised within the Radnorshire portion of the borough, is one hundred and thirty-seven. In the 35th and 36th of Henry VIII. a statute was passed, ordaining that the county courts, which had been previously held alternately at New Radnor and at Rhaiadr, should be thereafter held alternately at New Radnor and at Presteign, in consequence of a sheriff having been resisted in the execution of his duty, and killed in a tumult at Rhaiadr ; and it was subsequently arranged that the courts of assize should be held invariably at this place; where also the quarter sessions are held. The sheriff's courts are held here alternately with New Radnor. Presteign is likewise, by the 2nd and 3rd of William IV., c. 64, constituted a polling-place for the election of the county representative. The shire-hall, erected in 1829, at an expense of £ 5000, defrayed by the county, is a handsome and commodious. edifice of brick and stone, with a stuccoed front : it consists of a centre and two wings, the former ornamented with four equidistant pilasters of the Tuscan order, supporting an entablature and cornice, and the latter having each a receding portico, supported by three Tuscan columns : the centre comprises the court for holding the assizes and sessions, which is conveniently arranged : the north wing contains an apartment for the grand jury, a withdrawing-room for the petty jury, offices for the clerk of the peace, and apartments for the housekeeper ; and the south wing comprises a suite of apartments intended for the accommodation of the judges, consisting of two bedrooms, with dressing-rooms attached, a dining-room and a drawing-room, each thirty feet long, twenty feet wide; and sixteen feet in height. But the recent alteration in the Welsh judicature has rendered these preparations less necessary, as the judges seldom protract their stay in the town beyond two days, and the apartments which have not been yet furnished, are not likely to be occupied for that purpose. The county gaol, including also the house of correction for the county, was built in 1820, at an expense of £ 3500: it is situated on the east side of the town, and comprises three wards for the classification of prisoners, and, including the apartment for debtors, contains thirty-five sleeping cells, four day rooms, and four airing-yards : the prisoners sentenced to hard labour are employed in breaking, stones, there being no tread-wheel at present in the prison : the whole is enclosed within a wall eighteen feet high, and the entrance is between two massive three-quarter columns supporting an entablature.
The living is a rectory, with the chapelry of Discoed annexed, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Hereford; rated in the king's books at £20, and in the patronage of the Earl of Oxford. The impropriate tithes of this parish having been forfeited to the crown by the feoffees of the parish of St. Antholine, in the city of London, in the 15th of Charles I., in consequence of their purchasing impropriations for the purpose of maintaining " factious and seditious lectures," were granted by that monarch to the Rev. John Scull, B.D., rector of this parish, and to his successors for ever : this grant was revoked after the decapitation of that sovereign, but was restored by Charles II., in the first year of his reign. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is a spacious and handsome structure, partly in the decorated, and partly in the later style of English architecture, with a square western tower, strengthened with buttresses at the angles, and surmounted by a turret at one of them, and by pinnacles at the other three. The interior consists of a nave, chancel, and two aisles, the south aisle extending the whole length of the building, and forming a second chancel, which is claimed by the parishioners as their property : the nave is separated from the aisles by series of six pointed arches, resting upon octagonal pillars. The altar-piece is embellished with some fine tapestry, representing the entry of our Saviour into Jerusalem, the colours of which, though not vivid, harmonize well, and the whole is in a state of excellent preservation : above it is the following inscription, recording the name of the donor, - "Richard de Brampton Parva, in hac parochia, Arm., 1737." This was Richard Owen, who also gave two silver salvers, to hold the bread at the communion. There are four small galleries, and in that at the west end is a good organ, presented to the parish, in 1819, by the late Robert Edwards, of this town. In the chancel are some handsome monuments to the memory of several deceased members of the families of Owen, Price, and Davies. There are places of worship for Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists. The free grammar school was founded in the reign of Elizabeth, by John Beddowes, formerly a clothier of this town, who endowed it with some houses, and with seventy-seven acres of land, in the township of Presteign, now producing £ 150 per annum, and vested in eleven trustees : the present number of trustees is seven, who have power to fill up vacancies. There are also numerous charitable donations and bequests for the relief of the poor, and for various other purposes, of which the following are the principal; Nicholas Taylor, Sen., Esq., gave £30 for apprenticing one poor boy or girl of the parish, to which £20 was afterwards added by his son, who also bequeathed £30 to buy clothing for the poor; Ambrose Meredith, of Napleton, gave one-half of two parcels of land, and one cottage with a garden, for apprenticing children, and the other half to the poor generally; Sir Thomas Street, of Worcestershire, one of the judges on the circuit, gave £20, forfeited by William Whitcomb, high sheriff of Radnorshire, for his non-appearance at the assizes, towards apprenticing seven children ; and Margaret Price, of Pillith, left £ 50 for apprenticing one poor boy, and ten pounds for clothing to be given to two poor people annually. Ellen Harris, of London, in 1630, bequeathed the yearly sum of £ 4, of which four marks were to be paid for four sermons, one mark to be distributed among the poor on the days those sermons were delivered, and one mark to the churchwardens of the parish for ever. John Matthews, of Clerkenwell; London, bequeathed £50 to be lent without interest for two years to five or six poor tradesmen of this parish, and £2.12. per annum to be distributed in bread to the poor : he also bequeathed a fund for the distribution of six coats and six bibles to poor children. John Eccleston, Esq., of this town, gave £50 for the erection of some small houses, as rent-free residences for the poor. Edward Price, Esq., of Aylesbury, in the county of Bucks, bequeathed £ 50, now secured on the Radnorshire turnpike trust, the interest to be distributed in bread to the poor. Thomas Cornwall, Baron Burford, and lord of Stapleton and Lugharnest, gave several sums of money forfeited to him as lord of the manor, and amounting to £ 8. 12. ; and Nicholas Scarlet, of this town, gave £2 per annum, to the poor. Littleton Powell, Esq., of Stannage, one of the six clerks in Chancery, gave a large silver flagon for holding the sacramental wine, weighing seventy-four ounces three drachms, and valued at £25, to the church; and Giles Whitehall, Esq., of the Moor, gave to the township of Presteign an engine with twelve leather buckets, for extinguishing fires in the town. Dr. Richard Lucas, master of the free grammar school at Abergavenny, and subsequently vicar of St. Stephen's, Coleman - street, London, and lecturer of St. Olave's, Southwark, a popular preacher of his time, was born in this town. A curious custom prevails here on Shrove-Tuesday, which is observed by one party pulling a rope upwards, and another downwards to the river, the successful party retaining the rope in token of victory; and it is popularly predicted that, if the party pulling the rope upwards prevails, grain will be cheap that year, but, if it goes down, it will be dear. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor of the township of Presteign amounts to £422. 7., and of the chapelry of Discoed to £ 17. 7.