Churchwardens Accounts

St Cybi’s has church records going back to 1737, including details of the Churchwarden’s accounts.

Churches are administered by a committee. This committee is appointed at an annual Vestry meeting, so called because originally it met in the church Vestry or Sacristy.

The vestry committees were not established by any law, but they evolved independently in each parish according to local needs from their roots in medieval parochial governance.

Through Custom and Legislationthis Vestry acquired secular responsibilities in addition to its ecclesiastical responsibilities.

From 1536 provisions for the relief of the poor started to be introduced with this relief being administered by the parish and from 1555 parishes became involved in the upkeep of the highway.

Over time further responsibilities were passed to the vestry and, as the Wikipedia website explains:

“Eventually, the vestry assumed a variety of tasks. It became responsible for appointing parish officials, such as the parish clerk, overseers of the poor, sextons and scavengers, constables and night-watchmen.

“At the high point of their powers, just prior to removal of Poor Law responsibilities in 1834, the vestries spent not far short of one-fifth of the budget of the national government itself.

“Parish vestries looked after their own: churches and burial grounds, parish cottages and workhouses, endowed charities, market crosses, pumps, pounds, whipping posts, stocks, cages, watch houses, weights and scales, clocks and fire engines. Or to put it another way: the maintenance of the church and its services, the keeping of the peace, the repression of vagrancy, the relief of destitution, the mending of roads, the suppression of nuisances, the destruction of vermin, the furnishing of soldiers and sailors, even to some extent the enforcement of religious and moral discipline. These were among the multitudinous duties imposed on the parish and its officers, that is to say the vestry and its organisation, by the law of the land, and by local custom and practice as the situation demanded.

“This level of activity had resulted in an increasing sophistication of administration. The decisions and accounts of the vestry committee would be administered by the parish clerk, and records of parish business would be stored in a “parish chest” kept in the church and provided for security with three different locks, the individual keys to which would be held by such as the parish priest and churchwardens.”

We do not know how many of these responsibilities fell on St Cybi’s or if St Cybi’s had such a ‘parish chest’, but the churchwarden’s accounts for the period between 1737 and 1828 do tell us that St Cybi’s had several of the responsibilities referred to.

The accounts give values in pre-decimal currency when there were 12 pennies (d) to a shilling (s) and twenty shillings to a pound. So there were 240 pennies to a pound compared to the decimal currency of 100 pence to a pound. One shilling is equivalent to 5 decimal pence.

Church affairs


Item by Bread for 7 sacrament Sundays – £1. 2. 0d
By Bread at Easter – £1. 6. 0d
By Bread Low Easter (the first Sunday after Easter) – £0. 0. 6d
Two pounds of candles @ 6d. per lb. – £0. 1. 0d
By Beesom (a broom made of a bundle of twigs) – £0. 0. 6d
By wash and clean linen – £0. 3. 6d


For a Church Bible – £2. 2. 0d

This shows the high cost of books at the time. The Bank of England Inflation Calculator calculates in 2018 the price would have been £421.90


Item by 26 bottles of wine at several times for the sacrament – £1. 19. 0d
By Bread at Whitsuntide – £0. 0. 6d
To Thomas Edwards for a pair of Dog’s Tongs – £0. 3. 0d

Dog tongs, or pincers, were strange and important instruments in use in the past centuries. They were constructed either from hard toughened oak or iron. Their purpose was to take hold of and restrain dogs that followed their owners to church. Responsibility for the use of the pincers rested with the Churchwarden as part of his duty in maintaining order during the church service.

Many of these instruments can still be seen in the older churches of Anglesey. For example, there is a pair of iron tongs in Penmynydd church and Bangor Cathedral also has a pair.

The pincers closed round the neck of the dog and from whose grip there was no chance for the animal to escape. Its special design and length prevented the restrained dog from attacking the person who had captured it.


A pair of dog tongs at Clynnog Fawr church, said to be dated 1815.


Bottle of wine to the succeeding Wardens – £0. 1. 6d
For candles – £0. 6. 5d
Bottle of Wine for sick – £0. 1. 6d


Janet Lyon for washing ye reading desk and Pulpit – £0. 0. 6d
Alice Edwards for washing ye vestments – £0. 5. 0d
For whitewashing a little about ye Church against the Bishop’s coming – £0. 1. 9d


For a book to keep ye Marriages – £0. 8. 0d


Paid at Christmas Day for Ale to treat ye Church Singers – £0. 4. 0d


15lbs of candles for Christmas day – £0. 7. 6d


For 18 pounds of Candles at Christmas day – £0. 8. 3d


Pd for a Boks to ye use of babteising – £0. 1. 0d


For writing the whole accounts in this book – £0. 1. 0d


1 and half yards of blue cloth for a cushion – £0. 10. 6d
To silk thread and cord – £0. 0. 8d
To 2 Tafols 5 yds of lacing. (Tafol is the Welsh for a set of scales) – £0. 8. 0d
A man’s trouble buying these in Dublin – £0. 1. 0d

This entry shows how such items were not available locally and how travel to Dublin was easier from Holyhead than overland to a centre of trade elsewhere in Wales or England.

To Wm Hughes Tailor for making ye cushion – £0. 2. 6d

Whilst we do not know the purpose of this cushion it must have been special given the time, cost and effort put into the making.

To mending ye Welsh Common Prayer – £0. 1. 0d
To Ale for the singers on the Plygain £0. 2. 6d

Plygain is a traditional Welsh Christmas service which takes place in church between three and six o’clock in the morning,traditionally on Christmas morning.


By a treat to ye Singers Christmas morning – £0. 5. 0d

Church Maintenance and other matters


By cash for two thousand and a half slates and carriage from Caernarvon – £1. 15. 0d
By Do. for the carriage of them to thechurchyard £0. 2. 0d


For 2 loads of clay – £0. 0. 2d
Nails to the Stipple (Steeple, ie Tower) -£0. 1. 8d
lathen nails to Do. – £0. 0 6d
10 Peggots of Lyme @ 20d p. peg – £0. 18. 8d
400 laths – £0. 2. 0d
3 pounds of Haire – £0. 1. 6d
To Richard Griffith for 1 day’s work at the Stipple – £0. 1. 0d
For slating the Stipple – £1. 3. 0d
To Richard Griffith for 1 day more at the stipple – £0. 1. 0d
For a basket t to clean the church – £0. 0. 2d
To Griffith David for a day’s work – £0. 0. 9d
To Richard Williams for timber to erect the steeple – £0. 16. 3d
Carrying of the lime from Pickihernos – £0. 1. 3d
Carrying the laths – £0. 0. 1d
Carriage of 6 loads of Gravel – £0. 0. 9d
Staple and Hinges to the steeple door – £0. 0. 6d
Paid the Glazier – £0. 2. 3d
Richard Williams carpenter 5 days at ye steeple – £0. 5. 10d
To the mason for mending the Church door – £0. 0. 10d
To Thomas Edwards Do – £0. 1. 6d

Detail from a 1742 engraving of the church compared with a modern photograph shows the “Steeple” had a much more prominent roof when the work referred to above was being carried out, which makes the tower look more like a ‘Steeple’ and explains the need for so many slates.


Carrying of the lead by sea – £0. 13. 0d
Carrying of the lead to the church – £0. 3. 6d


For mending the weather cock – £0. 2. 6d
8 deal boards to make the North Door – £0. 10. 0d
For several sorts of nails – £0. 7. 6d
Hinges to the door – £0. 6. 4d
For several ingredients to paint the door – £0. 6. 2d
Mane for glue – £0. 0. 2d
To Carpenter 5 days and a half making ye door – £0. 6. 5d


Mending ye school windows – £0. 10. 1d
Nails and carpenter’s work on ye other window – £0. 0. 6d


By Da Jones am roi morter angylch gŵydir -£0. 0. 3d


Pd William Jones for mending ye stone seats in ye churchyard – £0. 1. 10d
For mending and gravelling ye church floor – £0. 5. 0d

This entry, together with the previous entry about the delivery of 6 loads of gravel, tells us that at this time there was no proper floor in the church, just earth covered in gravel.


For cleansing ye little house (Ty Bach) – £0. 0. 6d


For repairing the necessary house – £0. 2. 10d


Pd for a lock to the school in ye churchyard to Mr Taylor – £0. 0. 10d


Lime stones for whitewashing ye church -£0. 1. 8d
For carrying the stones from Garreglŵyd – £0. 3. 0d
Pd to Rowland Wms Slater for whitewashingye church – £1. 1. 0d
Pd for whitewashing ye outside window pillars of ye church – £0. 3. d For cleaning ye church windows and plaistering about ye lead -£0. 3. 0d For cleaning the church after ye slater – £0. 2. 6d


For a lock to ye necessary – £0. 2. 6d


Pd Owen Owen for cleaning ye churchyard – £0. 7. 0d
Pd Owen Owen for cleaning about ye church – £0. 1. 0d
Pd Owen Owen for driving dogs from the churchyard – £0. 2. 6
Pd Owen Owen for attendance at Christmas – £0. 1. 0d


Pd Sexton for cleaning ye walk – £0. 1. 0d
Do. for proclaiming on Sunday occasions – £0. 0. 11d


3 books gold leaf for the weather cock – £0. 6. 6d
Placing it on Do. – £0. 2. 6d
Paint and oil – £0. 4. 6d


Cash paid for putting a flag on the steeple when King George the 4thvisited our island – £0. 3. 6d


Pd for Bazil to mend the bellows of the organ – £1. 7. 0d



Paid the Sexton for burying a Poor Child -£0. 0. 7d
Paid towards the maintenance of two poor infants – £0. 6. 6d
and for their passages to Ireland – 0. 5. 0d
to Janett Lyon for nourishing and lodging a sick passenger – £0. 1. 0d


For carrying a poor orphan to Llanerchymedd – £0. 1. 6d


For burying an Irish pauper – £0. 3. 2d


A winding sheet for a stranger at Janet Lyon’s – £0. 1. 6d
Do. for one at Margaret eich Richd Hughes – £0. 1. 6d
Pd ye Clarke for burying ye sd. two strangers – £0. 2. 6d
Pd towards burying a strange woman – £0. 0. 9d


Towards a winding sheet for an Irishman – £0. 0. 10d
To ye Clarke for burying him – £0. 1. 3d
For looking after an Irishman – £0. 1. 0d


Pd ye clark for burying an Irs man – £0. 0. 6d


For burying a strange child to ye clark -£0. 0. 7d


For a sheet to bury a sailor’s corpse in – £0. 1. 9d


Bread and Suppings for about 45 Irish vagrants in great distress – £0. 9. 3d
The funeral expenses of a poor Irish woman – £0. 3. 5d


For two coffings – £1. 0. 0d
Pd to Wm Thomas for bury Catherine Roberts – £0. 2. 6d
Pd to Wm Thos for bury Mary – £0. 1. 0d
Pd to Wm Thos for bury a poor old man dyed at Brynwrath – £0. 1. 0d
Paid for coffin for Mary Roberts – £0. 10. 0d Pd for coffin to ye said Mary Roberts son’s child – £0. 3. 0d
Pd for candles the burying night of this child – £0. 0. 4d
Pd the clark for burying the said child – £0. 1. 6d
Pd to Thos Clark burying Mary Robts £0. 1. 3d
Pd to Mr Jones Curate for bury ye above said child – £0. 6. 8d


Pd John Pritchard one quarter for the maintenance of Robt Pritchard an Idiot – £1. 8. 10d

Secular responsibilities for the highways and justice


Item. Half the reward for killing seven foxes to Phillip Lewis – £0. 3. 6d


By cash paid to Phil. Lewis for killing 4 foxes – £0. 3. 6d


To David Jones and Ptnrs for repairing the Highways – £1. 9. 0d
To Rbt Owen for repairing part of Do. – £1. 0. 3
To Hugh Williams for repairing part of Do. – £0. 15. 10
To Evan Jn Thomas for repairing part of Do. – £0. 6. 6d
To Thomas Jones for killing 4 foxes – £0. 4. 0d


Mending the stocks – £0. 3. 11d


Lock to the stocks – £0. 0. 6d


Pd Hughes and Partners for mending roads – £1. 10.


For making ye stocks – £0. 10. 6d
For nails – £0. 0. 2d
For painting ye stocks – £0. 1. 9d
For ironwork for ye stocks – £0. 1. 0d


Money laid out on account of the roads To Wm Jones 10 pounds powder and tow – £0. 15. 11d
To Hugh Roberts for powder and steel – £0. 2. 1d
To Jane Wilson for Powder and Tow – £0. 5. 8d


For a lock for the stocks – £0. 0. 9d


By Thomas Jones for killing a fox – £0. 2. 0d
By Rowld. Manuel for Do. 2 – £0. 4. 0d
By Robt. Prichd. for Do. 1 – £0. 2. 0d


For mending and pitching the stock – £0. 5. 3d


For mending ye Black Bridge – £1. 5. 6d
For making a pavement near Llanfawr – £0. 7. 4d


Pd for fixing of ye stocks in its place – £0. 2. 0d
Pd for a new lox for Do. – £0. 0. 8d


June 2ndfor Commitment to send Wm. Hughes to prison – £0. 2. 0
For journey with ye same man to Beaumaris – £0. 5. 0d


Pd an Attorney drawing Recognizance for Rich Owen’s appearance at the Quarter. Sessions for Bastardy – £0. 1. 0d
Pd Do. for moving that the said Richd Owen might stand Committee for not indemnifying the Parish for maintenance of the child – £0. 3. 6d

These last two entries show how social acceptance of illegitimate children has changed in recent times. In 2017 48.1% of live births in the United Kingdom were to mothers who were not married or in a civil partnership, a clear indication that today there is no stigma attached to illegitimacy.

This was not always so. An Act of 1576 enabled Justices to imprison the parents of an illegitimate child. Another, of 1610, allowed the mother to be sent to prison unless she could give securities for her future good behaviour. An Act of 1733 obliged the mother to declare that she was pregnant with an illegitimate child, and to reveal the father’s name.

Under the terms of the Poor Law Act 1601 the churchwardens and two or more substantial landowners should act as Overseers of the poor and collect the poor rate. So, it was the Parish officials’ job to attempt to obtain maintenance from the father.

This is why, in 1778, Richard Owen finds himself having to appear in a criminal court for allegedly fathering a child, and why the church is paying the legal costs.