Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Radnorshire Names

A minor celeb - I think a pit lane reporter for Radio Five still counts as minor - got engaged last week to someone called Walbyoff - a Russian mafia boss perhaps or a Polish plumber? No, Walbyoff and Walbeoff are Welsh names, as Welsh as Evans or Lloyd. They are found mainly in southern Breconshire and Monmouthshire and if you go back nearly a thousand years originated with a Norman French settler in the old kingdom of Brycheiniog.

I don't know if the Walbeoff's ever made it into Radnorshire, but other Cambro-Norman families certainly did: the Havards, the Baskervilles, the Gunters, the Aubreys and even an occasional Turberville. There were others who although Norman in origin took the name of their possessions in the March, such as the Cliffords and the Whitneys. Indeed Whitney was the most common "English" surname in Radnorshire at the time of the 1670 Hearth Tax.

Of course Radnorshire had far fewer such names than the more French influenced counties of South East Wales. It's also true that some families became so Cymricised that they forgot their original surname and adopted the patronymic system.

The Welsh bards detailed these people in their genealogies, many of them being upholders of the traditional bardic culture. In addition they reveal other surnames that at first glance give an impression of being English rather than Welsh. The digitization of the Bartrum collection of these bardic genealogies can be found here. Radnorshire families listed who fall or seem to fall outside the traditional patronymic naming system include names such as Baskerville, Bull, Gunter, Havard, Hergest, Hoby, Holl, Knyll, Philpot, Sollers and Whitney.


Despite the occasional success of the bloggers Private Eye remains head and shoulders above the rest of the media in exposing the greed and corruption of looters of the public purse. At the same time I have to doubt the authenticity of this letter to the Surrey Advertiser highlighted in this fortnight's copy of the magazine. Would any Radnorian deliberately leave perfectly serviceable items of underwear in a tree? An Incomer perhaps, but a native Radnorian, surely not?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Radnorshire Jury

"The only thing that can save that hare is a Radnorshire jury" a judge is supposed to have remarked when watching the creature coursed by two greyhounds. And indeed Radnorian applauds the determination of 19C Radnorshire juries to sometimes make a stand for common-sense against the directions of their betters.

An example came with the death of the spinster sister of the rector of Llanbadarn Fawr in September 1872, a Miss Mary Morgan. The rector, a native of the Vale of Glamorgan, convinced himself that his sister had been poisoned by her maidservant Mary Ann Davies. The girl was arrested and the dead woman's stomach and part of her intestine, together with her medication and samples of a jelly she had been served, were taken in two glass jars by Chief Constable Penry Lloyd to Guys Hospital for testing.

A fortnight later the Coroner's jury reconvened to consider the report from London. No poison was found. Two local doctors who attended Miss Morgan both considered that she had died of natural causes while her brother continued to insist she had been poisoned. The Coroner, Mr Cheese, advised the jury to record an open verdict, but after a few minutes they returned with a unanimous verdict of death by natural causes, adding that there was no cause of suspicion against Mary Ann Davies whatever and that they regretted that she had been held in custody for so long.

The Rev Morgan fumed against the verdict and accused the maid of being a thief. The country, however, was against him and one wonders how he fared in the twenty or more years he continued to serve the parishioners of Llanbadarn.

So Mary Davies was relieved of suspicion and the toxicology tests which had "yielded reaction which raised a suspicion of the presence of antimony" were filed away to gather dust.

Miss Hathaway

A contemporary newspaper illustration purporting to show the murder of Mary Ann Hathaway at Nantmel in 1884. I blogged about it here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Big Enders, Little Enders

The cities may burn, capitalism collapses but the good citizens of one Radnorshire parish have weightier things on their minds. What to do with the bell from the old village school.

Should the bell be placed outside the village hall or outside the village church? A minor issue you might think, but one that has divided the parish into two opposing camps. Petitions are drawn up, friendships are reportedly ended and the community council seeks the opinion of residents in an online poll.

Now Radnorian is unable to give a ringing endorsement to either side in the dispute. A bell in the middle of a village would seem to invite disturbance in the early hours and a wishing well in a churchyard? Isn't that a bit pagan?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Musical Interlude

Twilight Zone

Photo leak from a parallel universe where peacekeeping forces from Dyfed and Powys have just entered the streets of a London torn apart by civil war..

Oh hang on .....ditch the parallel universe bit.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

East of the Border

Regular readers will know that Radnorian has a passing interest in the continuing use of the Welsh language in parts of Shropshire. It's a subject I don't know a great deal about and I was surprised to read a comment concerning the last day at the Ifton colliery in 1968 and a young man's failure to hold back the last two tubs of coal to come out of the pit for the press photographers:

"They were going mad because, to be fair, they had written instructions on the side in Welsh to leave the tubs alone but I hadn't seen them."

The Ifton Colliery was in St Martins, Shropshire.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Radnorshire's Brainy Brides

In 1894 O M Edwards launched a magazine called Wales, a National Magazine for the English Speaking Parts of Wales. In his introduction to the new magazine Edwards makes the following comment which was hardly likely to win him friends amongst the working classes of Radnorshire:

"It is to be hoped that, some day, the Radnorshire farmer will be as fond of reading as the Lleyn farmer, the working man of the Montgomery borders will be as intelligent as the working man of Cardigan or Merioneth, that the peasant of eastern Monmouth will be as intelligent as the peasant of Arvon or the Vale of Towy."

Now Radnorian believes that there was a prejudice in Welsh speaking Wales towards anglicised districts like Radnorshire dating back to the Blue Books of the 1840s. These had condemned the Welsh as being ignorant and immoral, placing the blame on the continued use of the Welsh language. What better way to refute this libel than to point to largely English speaking Radnorshire which had, for example, the highest illegitimacy rates in the principality.

Of course this is a prejudice that still lingers today but was Edwards right? Were the somewhat mythical gwerin of Welsh-speaking Wales more learned than their English-speaking compatriots?

A rough estimate of literacy levels in 19C Wales is found in the Registrar General's returns detailing the numbers signing the marriage registers rather than making a mark. Look at the closest available figures to when Edwards was writing, those for 1884, and he has a point. 20.1% of Radnor men used a mark compared with 12.3% in the Pwllheli district. Likewise men in the English speaking districts of Montgomery and Monmouth were marginally more likely to make a mark than those in the districts to which they were compared in the quote above.

The really remarkable figures are those for women. Now we find that Radnorshire brides are far more likely to sign than any of their fellow countrywomen elsewhere. Here are the figures for women signing the marriage register in 1884 for example: Monmouth 76.2%, Glamorgan 73.7%, Carmarthen 72.7%, Pembroke 84.4%, Cardigan 70.5%, Brecon 74.7%, Montgomery 81.8%, Flint 74.9%, Denbigh 74.8%, Merioneth 80.4%, Caernarfon 79.5%, Anglesey 77.2, and Radnor 90.3%. Indeed throughout the Victorian period Radnorian women head the lists with 56.9% signing the register in 1845 and 99.1% sixty years later.

Of course these figures were for registration counties, which in Radnorshire's case included many parishes in Herefordshire and Shropshire. But if we look at the Rhayader district for 1884, which contained no English parishes we see that 91.9% of brides signed the register, an even higher figure than for the county as a whole. The district in Wales with the highest figure of all was Hay with 94.2% signing and the Hay district contained most of Southern Radnorshire. Compare these figures with the dim sisters of say Pontypool 71.1% signing or Merthyr 65.3% or Lampeter, a mere 56%.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Forgotten Radnorians

The picture shows Sir Hamar Greenwood, Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1920 and 1922, inspecting RIC Auxiliaries in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Born in Ontario, Canada, Greenwood was created Baron Greenwood of Llanbister in 1929.

Originally named Thomas Hamer Hubbard Greenwood, the Liberal, later Tory, politician's father John Hamer Greenwood had emigrated to Canada from Radnorshire in 1850. The later Viscount Greenwood's grandfather William, an agricultural labourer, having married a Mary Hamer in Llanbister in 1825.

The Greenwoods are another of those Radnorshire families who appear in the Llanddewi Ystradenni/Llanbister area in the 17C. There is a Thomas Greenwood in the 1670 Hearth Tax for Llanddewi parish and you can find the 1755 will of William Greenwood of the same parish here.

A John Greenwood was Overseer of the Poor for Llanbister in 1793 when he was accused of the unusual crime of conspiracy to procure a marriage between a local woman and a John Moss from Llanfihangel Nant Melan. No doubt he wanted to offload a burden on the local ratepayers to a neighbouring parish. Nothing came of the case. In the 1891 and 1901 Censuses an Edward Greenwood, born in Llanbister in 1839, but living in Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire, is recorded as being able to speak Welsh. One imagines he picked up the language away from Llanbister.

Note: In the 19C censuses the main Greenwood settlement is a farm called Dolau-farian in Llanbister parish which the modern day map makers now call Dol-y-Fran.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Howey Corinthians 1923-1924

Forgotten Radnorians

When he died, aged 49, in 1831, following an operation in Shrewsbury to remove a cancer from his left hand, over 5000 inhabitants of Newtown, Montgomeryshire attended the funeral of local Baptist minister John Jones. Indeed factories and shops in the town were closed to honour a man who was described as one of most popular Baptist preachers in Wales.

John Jones was born in Llandrindod to Radnorshire parents in 1782 - his father was from Aberedw (John's brother Evan farmed Danycoed in that parish as late as 1876) and his mother was a Watkins from Trefonnen. In 1807 John Jones married Elizabeth Jones of Woodcastle Farm, Newbridge-on-Wye in Llanyre parish church. By 1811 John had given up farming and the couple, who would have seven children, moved from Llanyre to Newtown, where Jones laboured as the pastor of the Baptist church for the next twenty years.

According to his obituary in Greal y Bedyddwyr John Jones was a fluent preacher in both English and Welsh. He is buried at Rhydyfelin Baptist Church in Aberhafesp.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Powys Local History Encyclopedia

Well here's an interesting site which I haven't seen before.

Meanwhile, how bright are Radnorian's readers? Well over the last year Firefox accounted for 59.68% of visitors, Chrome for 6.76% and Safari for 5.93%. Only 0.54% were super-bright Opera users and our readers have obviously never heard of Camino. Me neither. Internet Explorer users made up 26.47% of the total over the last twelve months, down from 31.22% in the previous year and 49.58% in the year before that. The figures speak for themselves, reading this blog increases your IQ.

UPDATE: The BBC now admit that the IE users are stupid story was a hoax based on dodgy data ..... now what does that remind me of?