By Quentin R. H, Dodd.
In this day and age it is unreal to think of any club or association from Rotary to Working Men’s Clubs who do not have a charitable instinct. Supporting good causes comes very naturally to society now. However, in the early part of the eighteenth century, although it was possible to find individuals, such as Owen Jones of Northop, who set up personal charities, collective concern for the poor by those who were well off was much rarer. Add a large dose of morality and the Lions Club of Mold verges on the unique. We have a minute book covering 1726 to c. 1742 that survives in the Cardiff Archives.
On 24 January 1726, a meeting was held in Mold that established a gentleman’s club where they did drink but for which the original nine members laid down clear rules to regulate behaviour and give them a reason to exist. The original members included Dr Thomas Griffiths of Rhual, John Wynne of the Tower, John Wynne of Leeswood, John Lloyd junior of Pentrehobyn Four clergymen were present, namely: Ben Conway, Vicar of Northop, Hugh Lloyd, Vicar of Mold, Hugh Jones Rector of Llanferres and William Roberts, Curate of Treuddyn. The last member of this inaugural gathering was Ben Rawlins, Mold’s Officer of Excise, who moved to Wrexham eighteen months later. His successors feature in the club records several times, showing the importance of this post in the community.
Within two months, the original nine had been joined by six more – George Wynne of Leeswood, Owen Coetmor of Plas Onn, John Hughes of Northop, Edward Foulkes of Plas Isa, Edward Jones of Colomendy and Hugh Lewis , Curate of Nercwys. In the fourteen years under review, there were fifty-eight recorded members.
The thirteen original rules are set out in clear unequivocal language and are not intended to be flexible or capable of being misinterpreted. The opening sentence explains why the members adopted the name of ‘Lions.’
Articles of a club to be held in the town of Mold at the houses following: viz The Red, White and Black Lyons commencing the 24th day of January 1726
1. Each member is to meet every Tuesday from Michaelmas to Ladyday at two of the clock and to break up at six, and from Ladyday to Michaelmas at three and break up at seven: obliged to spend each time sixpence, which sum must never be exceeded and to forfeit one penny if he comes an hour too late.
2. Each member is to be chosen steward in his turn, in that order wherein they subscribed, who is to act for one month and no longer excepting as hereafter excepted and in case he be absent the next in turn stands obliged to supply his place.
3. Each member shall be subject to the following forfeiture; viz for every oath one penny, but if a steward two pence, for talking loudly three pence or three bumpers, for proposing cards, dice or any other game two shillings and sixpence.
4. All controversies and disputes are to be decided by the majority of the company then present and in case of an equality the steward has a casting vote and if any high words and blows ensue the aggressor shall forfeit half a crown and ask the company’s pardon, which if he refuses to submit to, to be expelled.
5. All forfeitures are to be lodged in the hands of the steward and at his resignation he must account for the same to his successor
6. Each member is obliged to drink what he fills and allowed to fill what he will and if he calls for wine and eatables he must pay for it.
7. Each member who shall absent himself on club day shall forfeit sixpence but if the steward is absent one shilling.
8. Any member that brings in a person not of the club must treat him
9. When the forfeitures lying in the steward’s hands amount to the sum of four pounds, the same shall be laid out in apprenticing a poor boy.
10. Every two members have a right of nomination of one boy in their turns in that order in which they have subscribed and. if such two members cannot agree in the said nomination they shall throw dice for the choice.
11. The steward or the next in turn present shall be obliged before the breaking up of each club to appoint the house for the following on forfeiture of sixpence.
12. Any member disposed to leave the club shall be obliged to lay down ten shillings to treat the company.
13. Any member that shall happen to be steward for the last month of the quarter shall continue to act as steward the thirteenth week at which time there shall be always a quarterly dinner the ordinary twelve pence.
The office of steward was one where the holder was expected to set a standard of personal behaviour: if he erred, his penalty was doubled.
The minute book does not identify the secretary or clarify who was the driving force behind the creation of the Club. The banning of cards and dice would take away an important Georgian pastime. Drinking to excess was to be limited and coarse behaviour deterred.
After two years the Club undertook a major review of its rules, but their thrust remained the same.
On 7 January 1728, the house of John Price is added as a meeting place and Hugh Lloyd, Vicar of Mold, is acknowledged as Treasurer. In 1730, the Golden Lion is added and, in 1734, so are the dwellings of John Jones, parish clerk, and Peter Price, barber.
In 1735, the house of John Birch is added to the other club houses, followed in 1738 by Blue Bell (Widow Jones) and the Coach and Horses (John Birch). In 1740, the house of John Lloyd joins the list.
The Dolphin had been added at sometime but it is not clear when: it was probably one of the houses previously referred to. The Club Rules were applied. Richard Coetmore had joined on 17 November 1730. Some relation of his had been a very early member but had died on 1 April 1727. The club minutes explain his offence.
Whereas Mr Richard Coetmore a member of this club has declared in the presence of Mr Richard Williams and Mr Thomas Lewis (as the said Thomas Lewis openly affirms both members of this club that Mr John Hughes member of this club lately deceased spoke in the company presence and hearing of Mr George Parry, Mr William Thomas and Mr John Totty, all of Holywell, That the gentlemen of the club had drunk damnation and confusion to Mr Roger Mostyn and other words to this effect and whereas the aforesaid Mr George Parry, Mr William Thomas and Mr John Totty severally under their hands had declared and certified that no such words or any words to that effect or meaning were spoken in their company or hearing it plainly appears Mr Richard Coetmore was the sole inventor and publisher of this scandal and for that reason it is resolved this 6th day of April 1731 being quarter day (upon which day Mr Coetmore had notice given him by the steward Mr Edward Lloyd to appear to which notice the said Mr Coetmore did not think fit to comply but has absented himself) it is resolved that the said Richard Coetmore be expelled this club as a person dangerous to be continued in this society and so it is ordered that his name be erased out of this book.
It does seem that the club’s lawyer had drafted this entry with great diligence to show proper care and consideration had been given to the issue and that this had not been a ‘kangaroo court’- what a lovely use of the word dangerous in the penultimate line!
At the same meeting, the membership’s human side is shown.
April 6 th 1731: Resolved (being quarter day) that Mr John Jones late curate of Treuddyn but now of Llanfynydd being at too great a distance to attend the club be struck out of this book “
The members probably saw this as an act of kindness since curates in those days were very poorly paid. The club rules certainly did not bar anyone due to the distance they would have to travel to meetings. Indeed, Dr.Hezekiah Hall of Chester was already a member at this time, so also Dr. John Jones of Ruthin, It wasn’t long before the name of a Thomas Beech of Wrexham appeared on the list, followed by others, amongst them Simon Yorke of Erddig, Richard Lewis of St. Asaph and one Joseph Whitmore of Thurstaton, Wirral.
As one would expect, the vast majority of poor boys associated with the Club’s apprenticeship scheme came from within the Parish of Mold. However, there were exceptions and one suspects that some individuals were taking advantage of their membership in order to assist the needy of their own district.
Aquila Wyke of Llwynegrin, who was originally from Marchwiel, is likely to have put forward the names of three boys of that place. Similarly, the previously mentioned Dr. Jones probably recommended two youngsters from Ruthin who were awarded assistance, while in 1735 we come across Edward Kendrick of Thurstaton being apprenticed for seven years to a Parkgate boat-builder. No doubt sponsored by Joseph Whitmore. It should perhaps be added that the local Parish Council also promoted apprenticeships at this time but its budget is unlikely to have been anywhere near that of the Club’s. As well as a regular number of clergymen, the professions were represented by several excise officers and Mold’s two apothecaries Walter Cahoun and Henry Williamson.
What about the grand design – the apprentices? We must remember that Indentures of Apprenticeship attracted Stamp Duty of £4, which was a significant sum and one that the Club sought to pay. Between 1726 and 1740, the minutes reveal that the club helped fifty-four apprentices. Many of these were orphans who would not otherwise have been able to acquire a trade.
A particularly deserving case is minuted for September 1727.
“Three pounds by the order of the club was given and delivered (Mr George Wynne being Steward) to Thomas Griffiths ( who had been in Apprentice to a tailor but disabled having had his right hand cut off by reason of a mortification ) towards setting him up as a stockin Merchfant.”
The parish, by an act of the vestry, gave him a further forty shillings (£2).
The last case recorded in 1740 involves Robert, the son of William Andrew of Nant, Flint, a cooper who, for seven years, was apprenticed to John Wright of Holywell as a ‘Peruke Maker.’ This is the only reference to this trade: wig (periwig) making is not a trade you would anticipate for Holywell.
Another interesting case is that of Joseph White (12) of Llangynog ( Montgomeryshire?) whose father had died and who became apprenticed to a Jane Parry, barber of Mold, for seven years.
Others were apprenticed to : tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, coopers, wheelwrights, felt-makers, masons, butchers, joiners, carpenters and gardeners. Thus, a club where swearing and gambling were banned – and which indulged in limited drinking, serious discussion and comradeship – was able to help and support the poor to acquire skills and a trade. Was this behaviour that was a norm for this time or were the members ahead of their time and Mold a caring oasis? Is this the earliest indication of the calvinistic trend that was to develop in Mold in years to come?
Mold had a Lions Club almost two hundred years before Lions Clubs International was founded in Chicago in 1917!
References & Notes
1. ‘Minutes of Club Meetings, Mold, 1726-71742/ Cardiff City Library, Flintshire MS. 4/406; Flintshire Record Office, MF/404/1.
2. This is mentioned in Dr. Thomas Griffiths of’Rhual’s diary, viz., ‘went to the first meeting of our Club at the Red Lyon in Mold,’ where they subscribed to the Articles. Flintshire R.O., D/HE/433.
3. This was Richard Coytmore’s father. On 2 April 1727 an entry in the above diary reads :
‘Poor Mr Owen Coitmore of Place Onn was found dead in the road by Llwynegrin. He had been the day before at Flint with George Moseley of Tythyn coming home they stayd at Northop & poor Coitmore going home by himself in that Condition is thot to have fain asleep off his Horse & be[en] smotherd.’ Ed.
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