Edward Priest Richards was born in 1791, and was orphaned at the age of 11. Our group found the will of his mother, Elizabeth Richards. This left him and his two older sisters to the guardianship of four individuals, although they found a later document stating that of the four, only one, William Tait, had accepted the charge. William Tait was the Richards childrens’ uncle.
Tait placed the young Edward in a Commercial and Professional school run by Reverend Samuel Catlow in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Our group found some of his school reports and expenses amongst a collection of family papers. These record that Edward performed well in his subjects, and in one of his reports Catlow states that ‘his present talents give a presage of the future respectability of his character...’ The choice of school and the subjects studied by the young Edward show that his guardian meant him to enter commercial life, and this is supported by an early report from Rev. Catlow: ‘As his former pursuits have been chiefly classical, I have thought it necessary to open a new field to him preparatory to commercial life, for which, I understand, he is intended.’
After leaving school, it appears that Richards began an apprenticeship with John and William Powell, a firm of solicitors in Brecon. Our group found receipts for his board and lodgings, paid for by his uncle.
Edward Priest Richards must have done exceptionally well for himself early in his career, as in 1810, aged just 19, he became agent to the Bute estate. In 1816 he was appointed Clerk of Lieutenancy. Our group found the document appointing him to this role.
They also found evidence that just a year later he became embroiled in a legal case. Find out more by reading excerpts from the case. This early political controversy does not seem to have harmed his future career however. In addition to serving as agent to the Bute Estate and Clerk of Lieutenancy, he was made an Alderman in 1818 and served as Town Clerk from 1836 until 1857.
As the agent of the marquess of Bute, Richards was heavily involved in the process of getting the required Acts of Parliament passed. He was one of the witnesses who gave evidence to the Opposed Bill Committee investigating the Bute Ship Canal Bill. This became the first Act of Parliament to give Bute powers to build docks in Cardiff. It was not used, and in 1834, an amending Act was passed enabling docks to be built to a different plan.