Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ageing Process

Looking through old census returns isn't quite as much fun as it used to be. You check out some young fellow of 30 in 1841, follow him through to the age of 60 in 1871 and then fail to find him in 1881. It makes you think. Maybe that shed you've been meaning to tidy up for the last 20 years is actually going to be sorted out by someone else. Good luck to them.

The ageing process must be even more of a problem in the little Radnorshire parish of Bryngwyn. Of course time seems to speed up for all of us but in Bryngwyn it gallops along. Take Edward Williams, a 103 year old resident of the parish, who turns up in the 1881 Census. "Hearty as a two year old" the enumerator notes in the margin of the return. Check back to the 1871 Census and we find Mr Williams has aged twenty years in ten, for he was a stripling of 83 in that year. And between 1861 and 1871 the Nantmel born former agricultural labourer had already aged fifteen years.

Mr Williams died in 1882, which by my reckoning would have made him 107. His wife, being a more conventional timekeeper, informed the authorities that he was in fact 88.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I don't think that the United Kingdom's decline can be blamed entirely on the abolition of the Radnor Boroughs parliamentary seat in 1885 or even on the disappearance of the Radnorshire constituency in 1918. Although it can't have helped. Now even Brecon and Radnor is set to disappear as Welsh representation at Westminster is reduced from 40 to 30.

What will become of Brecon and Radnor? Will it gain the necessary 23000 extra voters from a dissected Montgomeryshire, making the seat even more of a Liberal stronghold? Perhaps the additional headcount will come from Labour voting seats in the south, after all Cefn Coed and Brynmawr used to be part of Brecknockshire, or will they come from Abergavenny and Monmouth?

Thankfully the days when Radnorshire could have been annexed into Leominster or Hereford are long gone. Although the idea would, doubtless, still appeal to a metropolitan mindset which will happily consign parts of Cornwall into Devonwall.

Radnorian will now be taking a short break to go on what looks likely to be a storm chasing holiday.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Forgotten Radnorians

Now here's a name that shouts out a Radnorshire origin. His father was from Presteigne but the family roots were in Llanbister, where else.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Musical Interlude

Hi ya hi ya ho

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Mere Welsh

Researchers sometimes fail to note that the boundaries of Wales in the Victorian census records are not the same as the borders we take for granted today. Parishes were assigned to the country where their local workhouse was situated. So in 1891, for example,Welsh language statistics were collected for Bedstone in Shropshire (part of the Knighton Union) but not for Glascwm in Radnorshire (part of the Kington Union).

This anomaly could have been useful if some of the Shropshire parishes where Welsh survived - Llanyblodwel, Sychtyn and Selattyn - had been in a Welsh Union. It would have provided evidence of the language's strength in those districts at the end of the 19C. The inhabitants of many English parishes were indeed asked about their ability to speak Welsh - from the Gloucester parish of Tidenham to Shocklach in Cheshire. Unfortunately none of these places were in areas where one or two old people born in the locality might still have spoken the language, Llanveynoe in Herefordshire for example. As a reader of the blog recently pointed out, there were certainly Welsh speakers native to the neighbouring Monmouthshire parish of Cwmyoy at this time.

Now as it happens there was, until it was transferred to Monmouthshire in 1893, a small detached part of Herefordshire within Cwmyoy parish called Fwthog. And here in 1891 there were still a handful of locally born Herefordians who spoke Welsh, this household for example, click to enlarge.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Dr Dee

A correspondent informs me that Damon Albarn (ex-Blur) has recently staged the premiere of his English folk opera Dr Dee, here's the BBC report. Now although Radnorian is in favour of anyone who wants to "express something about England" and is "tracing modern English identity" he does wonder if Albarn is aware of Dee's Radnorshire roots. You can find Dr Dee's descent from Bedo Ddu of Nantygroes, Pilleth here.

Albarn is fascinated by Dee's "lasting influence on English identity" which I suppose is correct, although I would say that the influence was in helping create the confusion between "British" and "English" which the junior partners in the Union find so annoying. Before Dee's time "British" meant "Welsh" so I guess his coining of the term "British Empire" and the subsequent history of the word as a useful term to describe the union of the English and Scottish thrones under James the Sixth/First did contribute to the confused modern-day English/British identity.

Turning back to John Dee's pedigree we note that his English mother was called Jane Wilde. It's a fact that from the 1600s on Wilde was a Radnorshire name. Indeed by the 19C a quarter of all the Wilde's in Wales were born in Radnorshire. I wonder if marriages between 16C Radnorians on the make like John Dee's father and English brides might have been responsible for English cousins inheriting land in 17C Radnorshire?

A Brit Pop take on Elizabeth the First is to be welcomed, but if you like your music with tunes then Bob Tai'r Felin's recording of Pan oedd Bess yn teyrnasu can't be bettered. Not on You Tube, shamefully, although there's a brief snatch on Amazon. Certainly Radnorian's first choice for Desert Isamd Discs.

Friday, July 01, 2011

People From Off

This map shows parishes which in 1670 had significant numbers of surnames of English origin not found in the locality at the time of the Acts of Union in the previous century.

It's sometimes said that these incomers were Cromwellian soldiery settled in the county after the Civil War. Infact wills show that some of the more familiar names were settled in Radnorshire before that time: Mantle (1617), Harding (1628), Wilde (1637), Russell (1625), Jarman (1629), Gregory (1620), Mason (1625), Bebb (1620), Bufton (1633), Hamer (1639).

Some of these names and others found in 1670 such as Kinsey, Wozencroft, Wilson, Hatfied, Bright and Ingram are associated with the 16C plantations in Montgomeryshire, see here. One has to ask if something similar happened in some of the parishes in Maelienydd? Because there was no religious divide these newcomers were quickly integrated into the mainstream community.

In the 1540s the Knighton was a very Welsh place with the great majority using patronyms, by 1670 the town had probably doubled in size, to around 600, and some 40% of the householders had English names. Interestingly only a couple of these surnames - Woolley and Norgrove - are used by natives of the town by the time of the 1881 Census. Who were these here today gone tomorrow 17C Knightonians and what became of them?