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Peter Price (1824-1892) 12th President

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Peter Price was the 12th President of the Society. In terms of contributions to Cardiff's development it was noted in the Cardiff Librarian, John Ballinger's book the Cardiff Free Libraries published in 1895 that: -

The honour of first suggesting that Cardiff should adopt the Public Libraries Act belongs to the late Mr. Peter Price, whose many years of patient hard work will be remembered as long as the Library records endure.

Ballinger 1895

Ballinger 1895

He was born in Builth, in Brecknockshire, in 1824, and was the youngest of a family of ten. Left fatherless at the age of seven, to be brought up by a widowed mother on straitened means, his regular education was limited to a few years at the school kept by the parson of the parish. He displayed marvellous aptitude for the acquirement of knowledge, and set about educating himself, and he continued his education up to the very last year of his life.

Frontspiece from Ballinger 1895

Frontspiece from Ballinger 1895

The Mechanics' Institute at Worcester first gave Mr. Price systematic help in his self-education. He was engaged in that town in the drawing office of an engineering firm. In 1851 he came to Cardiff, and set up in business as a master builder/contractor, in partnership with his brother-in-law W P James and was responsible for the design of the Royal Arcade Cardiff in 1858. The Partnership was dissolved in 1967 when Price began practising as an Architect. (Note, W P James would later be in partnership with Edward Seward who would become the 21st president), and in 1870 Price was not describing himself as an Architect as in this advertisement where he is in a business relationship with George E Robinson who had been the 10th President)

The Cardiff Times 11th June 1870

The Cardiff Times 11th June 1870

Within a "few years" of arriving in cardiff according to Ballinger, he was engaged advocating the adoption of the Public Libraries Act for the town. And after the adoption of the Act he acted as honorary secretary for thirteen years. When he relinquished this office he still continued a member of the Committee, and was ultimately made vice-chairman, and during the last three years of his life he was chairman. The success of this is noted in an award documented in the Cardiff Times of 19th October 1866

In 1884 Peter Price was the Cardiff Naturalists Society delegate along with T. H. Thomas to the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Canada. During which trip he was very interested in the latest trends in architecture. He visited Ottawa and Toronto which he noted: -

Throws even Cardiff into the shade. Everything has been accomplished there during the last fifty years. in that time they have built magnificent University buildings which are situated in their own extensive grounds, a splendidly fitted Normal school, handsome Courts of Justice and a large public park

The book The History and Architecture of Cardiff Civic Centre: Black Gold, White City by John B. Hilling notes the influence that these visits must have had on him and in the Cardiff Council minutes on June 27 1892 it is noted that: -

Town Clerk read correspondence between Mr. Peter Price, Chairman of the Cardiff Free Library and Museum, and Sir William T. Lewis, Lord Bute's Agent, with regard to the purchase of a site for a new Museum and Art Gallery. Mr. Price asks whether Sir William would advise Lord Bute to sell to the Corporation a site in Park Place adjoining the premises of the Iron and Steel Institute, and adds a suggestion that "Lord Bute may be induced to sell the whole or a part of Cathays Park to the Corporation for public uses only. We are sadly in need of land for a new Town Hall, Assize Courts, Municipal Offices, Technical Schools, Intermediate Schools and new University College. These could be arranged around a Central Park. If Lord Bute found it his pleasure to sell this land for a moderate sum .... we could make Cardiff one of the most beautiful towns in the country."

Sir William replies that any official proposition made by the Cardiff Corporation for a carefully prepared scheme, will receive his best consideration.

On the occasion of the opening of the then new library building in 1882 a portrait of Mr. Price was painted by Mr. B. S. Marks, R.C.A., and presented by him to the Libraries Committee. Ballinger noted that: - This portrait will in future hang on the wall of the main staircase leading to the Reference Library. He remained an active member of the society and in the Western Mail of 6th April 1883 it was noted that he had been in correspondence with Charles Darwin : -

Western Mail of 6th April 1883

Western Mail of 6th April 1883

He died October 4th, 1892 and an announcement made in the Evening Express of the 5th which gives a wonderful summary of his life and shows how much he contributed to Cardiff. The heading is given here and the detailed text below

Evening Express of the 5 Oct 1892

Evening Express of the 5 Oct 1892

Death Of Mr. Peter Price, J.P., Cardiff.

It is with regret that we have to announce the death of Mr. Peter Price, J.P., which took place at his residence, No. 12, Windsor Place, Cardiff, at a quarter past one on Tuesday afternoon.

The deceased gentleman had been suffering for a long time, and a few days ago his illness took a more severe turn, terminating fatally as stated. The news of Mr. Price's demise will be greatly regretted. During his residence in the town he achieved for himself a prominent position, and on all sides hv was admired for his singleness of purpose, business energy, and undoubted ability. Mr. Price was born at Builth in the year 1825 Mr. Isaac Price, a leading elder in the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist body, was his father, and Bishop Price, the first bishop-president of the Free Church of England, his elder brother.

He was descended from two old Welsh families. His education was obtained at an ordinary school in his birthplace, and at the conclusion of his scholastic career he was apprenticed to a Mr. Griffiths, a builder, at Tredegar, and when his term expired he accepted an appointment with a Mr. Wood at Worcester, and subsequently worked at Liverpool. In the latter city he became n regular student at the Mechanics' Institute, where he doubtless acquired a great deal of the knowledge which formed the foundation of his subsequent intellectual progress. Having gained the necessary experience, he returned to his native town and started in business as a master builder.

During his stay there one of the most prominent of his public acts was the establishment of a mechanics' institute and reading-room, and, no doubt, the success which attended his first effort, in this direction was the incentive to his determined advocacy in later years of the adoption of the Free. Libraries Act at Cardiff. His advent to the latter place took place nearly 40 years ago, when he joined his brother-in-law, the late Mr. W. P. James, in the business of builder and contractor.

During this connection several important works were carried out, and they soon became recognised as one of the leading building firms in the neighbourhood. About 25 years ago this partnership was dissolved. and Mr. Price adopted the profession of an architect, afterwards supplementing his labours by taking up the secretaryship of one of the most successful building societies in the town. During his architect's career he designed several public and business premises which stand is monuments to his skill and his claim to rank among the leading members of the profession in the district.

As a public man Mr. Price's individuality was stamped by the steps he took to procure the adoption of the Free Libraries Act in Cardiff. With the free library of the town his name will ever be identified. His labours in this cause alone entitle him to a niche in the local temple of fame.

The idea of establishing a free library originated with him, and he first called the attention of the public of Cardiff to the matter in a letter published in the press in 1858. The project was strongly opposed by many of the ratepayers. The objections then raised were two-fold first, that it was too expensive, and secondly, that it was wrong to support an educational institution by taxation. Subsequently, the then mayor (Mr. Alderman Alexander) Suggested that, as an experiment, a reading-room and lending library should be opened and supported by voluntary contributions.

Mr. Peter Price accepted the position of honorary secretary, and acted in that capacity for many years, during which time, his untiring efforts contributed more than any other cause to the success of the institution. The success which attended this experiment induced the committee to bring the matter once again before the ratepayers, and in twelve months after the starting of this voluntary effort public feeling began to show signs of change, and in 1862 the Public Libraries Act was adopted in Cardiff.

There can be little doubt that the active part taken by Mr. Price in this matter made him exceedingly unpopular for a time. After this, in conjunction with the library committee, Mr. Price secured the establishment of the science and art schools, an institution which has done an immense amount of useful work, and which reckons among its past scholars many of the most eminent men of the town. Mr. Price's services in connection with these schools received a graceful recognition at the hand of the students a few years ago. Spontaneously and with the utmost secrecy, they collected among themselves a sufficient sum to purchase for his acceptance a very valuable binocular microscope, which they presented to him at an annual distribution of the school prizes.

The Cardiff Naturalist Society, which has developed into one of the most important societies of its kind in the provinces, was also pioneered by him. He was elected president, and in that capacity he attended, in company with Mr. T. H. Thomas, of Cardiff, the meetings of the British Association in Canada.

As a public acknowledgment of Mr. Price's services to the town he was presented with a valuable portrait of himself, painted by M). B. S. Marks, and which now adorns the wall of the reference department of the free library. On tho establishment of the school board in Cardiff Mr. Price was elected a member, and retained that position for five years, when he retired through professional necessity. Another public position of importance which he held was that of governor of the South Wales College, in the establishment of which at Cardiff he took a prominent part. He was also a member of the technical instruction committee, chairman of the Charity Organisation Society, and a governor of Wells' Charity. A few years since he was added to the list of borough magistrates.

Although a staunch Liberal, he was a Churchman, and attended St. John's Church. The proceedings in connection with what were known as the Cardiff Building Society frauds enabled the public to see the high moral character of the deceased gentleman.

His confidential clerk embezzled large sums of money deposited with the society, and, although under no liability, Mr. Price succeeded, by sacrificing the major portion of his savings, in inducing the others connected with the management of the society to make good the loss, between 8,000 and 10,000 in order to ensure that no loss should fall upon the depositors.

Mr. Price was married in 1857 to a daughter of Mr. John Hyde, a London merchant, and he leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters. By his death vacancy is caused in the Cathays Ward of the town council.

In Twentieth Century Accounting Thinkers (RLE Accounting) edited by J. R. Edwards some explanation of the fraud was described.

The fraud was a simple one a clerk with access to cash was altering account balances and altering them back again. in this work it states that the total value was 8600 and Peter Price contributed half of that sum giving up almost all of his property to do so

Frontspiece from CNS Archive

Frontspiece from CNS Archive

Update 2022 regarding Darwin letters

In 2022 it came to light that Peter Price had been in letter correspondence with Professor Charles Lapworth and also Charles Darwin. This information arrived just before the May 2022 Newsletter arrived and at that time only a simple information block was able to be added.

Since then an article about the letter contents was published in the Sep 2022 Newsletter in which it mentions that the letters have some parts that have not as yet been deciphered, and that if anyone is able to read those words then the author would be very pleased to hear what those adjustments are.

The Files necessary for anyone to try and decipher the handwriting are linked here. There is a PDF document which is the transcription that has been managed to date, and JPG files of the letter pages. These will open in new tabs to make it easier to download them. The File references are those given to these letters by the Lapworth Museum who have kindly given permission for CNS to use them in the newsletter and online.


Letter K11 Page 1 ; Letter K11 Page 2 ; Letter K11 Page 3 ; Letter K11 Page 4 ; Letter K13 ; Letter K15 Page 1 ; Letter K15 Page 2 ; Letter K15 Page 3 ; Letter K15 Page 4 ;

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