James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Mundane Duties

The requirements for parish relief in Montgomeryshire were less strict than in surrounding counties, which led to a greater numbers of vagrants and an increase in crime. For some years, farm fires were all too frequent, sometimes caused accidentally by tramps but often the result of arson. In the latter case, some of the miscreants deliberately acted so as to be put in the overcrowded Montgomery Gaol, hoping to be transported to Australia. Had they appreciated the horrors of the sea voyage alone, they might have been less enthusiastic.

The Peddlers Act of 1870, which required tramps who sold trinkets from door to door to take out a peddler′s certificate, brought about some temporary control over the problem. James and his colleagues were responsible for issuing the certificates. However, the cost rose from 6d in the first year to 5/– in the second so the number of those who bothered to get a certificate fell from 230 to only 129.

There were other mundane duties the constables were called upon to perform, not only because they could do them more efficiently but, more importantly, because it would cost less than recruiting others to do them.

Following the passing of the Common Lodging Houses Act (1851), James was the Inspector of Common Lodging Houses (1852). He was later the Inspector of Nuisances (1855–1864) and, as such, his duties were to inspect the sanitary state of the town, particularly at spring–cleaning time. A guidebook, Beauties of England and Wales, published in 1812 had said of Llanidloes, The width of the streets … which in most places is deemed a great advantage, here becomes an abominable nuisance; from the custom inhabitants have of accumulating their ashes, &c. in large heaps before their respective doors. This was the sort of thing James had to prevent as Inspector of Nuisances.

Of course James regularly had to attend the Montgomeryshire Quarter Sessions to give evidence, as constable Jones recorded:

January 8th (Return from duty 5 am) – Nothing more to report this day
(On duty 10 am) On duty in the town. Const. Owen Absent at Quarter Sessions Montgomery.