Skip to topic | Skip to bottom

The Carmarthenshire Historian


Start of topic | Skip to actions


A Country House and its Families
Llandysul Grammar School.

In 1803 a London antiquary spent several weeks travelling in South Wales. One day he crossed from Lampeter to Llandeilo, passing through Llansawel and Talley. He described what he saw in these words — "The sun had now dispersed the mists through which we set out, and shone direct on the vale: from its verdant level, high hills enjoying different degrees of cultivation, rose on every side; and under one of them, at the further end of the valley, the well whitened village [sc. Llansawel] sparkled through the intervening foliage. This valley was immediately succeeded by another called Edwinsford, a delightful spot . . . ".1

The valley of the Cothi remains as attractive and romantic as ever it was, but the mansion-house of Edwinsford has sadly decayed — a prey to social change and a way of life undreamt of by our ancestors. This short article is an attempt to convey something of the history of Edwinsford and its owners, and to recapture a fleeting glance at one of the great houses of Carmarthenshire.

The Williams Family
The Edwinsford genealogy takes us back to remote period in Welsh history.2 The Williams family of Rhydodin claimed descent from princely and royal blood. Through Rhys ap Tewdwr, they descended from Hywel Dda and Rhodri Mawr, and through Ellen wife of Llywelyn ap Phylip from Henry I of England. It will be recalled that Nest the famous daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr had many paramours, and was clearly a woman of great charm and beauty.3 Not without reason was she known as the 'Helen of Wales', and her numerous offspring included Angharad the mother of Giraldus Cambrensis, Henry 'filius regis' her son by Henry I, and also Idio Wyllt, Earl of Desmont, by Sutrick Centrick or Wygen - Irish adventurer.4 Idio Wyllt gave assistance to Rhys ap Tewdwr against the Normans, and for his services was given the lordship of Llywel. Dwnn calls him "Eidio Wyllt Arglwydd Llywel"5 It was one of Idio's descendants, Trahaearn, who married Joan, daughter and co-heiress of Gruffydd ap Meurig Goch of Rhydodin.

Through the centuries the uchelwyr of Edwinsford married into other famous Welsh houses, such as, — the Morgans of Tredegar, the Vaughans of Golden Grove and the Philipps clan of Cilsant. We read, for example of one Dafydd ap Llywelyn of Edwinsford who married Angharad, daughter and heiress of Sir Morgan Maredudd, Knight, Lord of Tredegar. Again, Rhys ap William married Gwenillian daughter of Hywel ap Morgan Fychan.

At a later period, David ap Rhys ap William, Esquire, of Rhydodin married Jane daughter of David Phillips of Cilsant. In 1600 their son Rhys Williams, who by now had adopted the English mode of expressing his patronymic, further enlarged his estates by marriage to Jane daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Fychan or Vaughan of Llether Cadfan in the parish of Llangathen.

Llether Cadfan had been an important house in medieval times, and was owned by the Vaughans, who were as influential here as in other parts of Carmarthenshire.6 The north chapel in Llangathen Church is known as the Cadfan Chapel, and was at one time the freehold of the family.7 Cadfan and its environs had also other claims to fame, for this was the reputed site of a memorable contest in Welsh history — the battle of Coed Llathen. It was here in Whitsun week 1257 that the Welsh fought against the troops of King Henry III, who were led by Stephen Bauzan one of the King's most experienced commanders. But the English were completely routed and Bauzan himself was killed.8 Tradition says that the names of the fields in the neighbourhood recall the disastrous defeat of the English. Thus we have cae dial (field of vengeance), ) cae yr ochain (field of groaning), cae tranc (field of death), llain dwng (field of oaths), congl y waedd (corner of shouting) and they strongly suggest a disaster of some magnitude which has long survived in popular memory.9 Again, Nant Steffanau, the brook that drains the valley from Broad Oak to Pentrefelin, may well remind us of the terrible retribution which overtook Stephen Bauzan.

But to return to the Williams family of Rhydodin. Rhys Williams was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1614, and thereby held a position of power and authority, in that the custody of the county was committed to him by the Crown. And from now on the family was destined to play a prominent part in the social and political life of Carmarthenshire.10

Rhys Williams was succeeded by Nicholas Williams, who married a daughter of Sir Marmaduke Lloyd, Knight, of Maesyfelin, Cardiganshire. Through him the family continued to hold influence, and Nicholas Williams held the office of High Sheriff in 1665. In those days families vied with one another for royal favour and patronage, and the result was that Rice Williams son of Nicholas Williams received a Knighthood. Sir Rice was twice married. Firstly he married Joan daughter of Sir Roger Lort, Baronet, of Stackpole, Pembrokeshire. She died without leaving issue, and his second wife was Mary the daughter and co-heiress of John Vaughan, Esquire, of Llanelli. In fact this lady was a great niece of the 1st Earl of Carbery.

Sir Rice served as High Sheriff in 1650, and died on 27 February 1694. He lies buried in Talley Church, and is remembered chiefly in connection with religious affairs in the county following the Declaration of Indulgence of 1687. The object of this measure by James II appeared to be the suspension of laws against Roman Catholics and Dissenters, and ostensibly allowed them full rights to hold civil and military posts. But in fact the Kings true purpose was to retain all his powers under the royal prerogative, and in this way James thought he could restore Catholic worship, even in the teeth of national sentiment. Many Protestant Dissenters realised what was afoot, and even Anglican officers of the crown feared what was to come. In the counties Lords and Deputy Lieutenants, Justices of the Peace and others were asked whether they would support the measure. Most replies were in the negative and of the Welsh justices two gave very qualified assent.11 This showed the way the wind was blowing. We find that Sir Rice Williams of Edwinsford would only agree provided "the preservation of ye Protestant religion" was guaranteed. He expressed his opinion in clear terms and frankly stated that the existing penal laws against Dissenters were contrary to the primitive principles of Christianity. But his protest was a voice crying in the wilderness.

Sir Rice Williams left five sons — Nicholas, John, Walter, Charles and Thomas. His younger brother John possessed an adventurous spirit and distinguished himself in the Royal Navy. Nicholas was created a Baronet by Queen Anne in 1708. He followed his ancestors by becoming High Sheriff for the county and represented it in three successive parliaments. By a deed dated 16 April 1734 he was appointed Chamberlain of the town and borough of Brecon, and of the counties of Brecon, Radnor and Glamorgan. On 9 July of the same year a warrant was signed authorising the Receiver of Wales to pay Sir Nicholas £100 a year in respect of this office. On 11 June 1736 Sir Nicholas was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum for Carmarthenshire. This office originated in 1557 and amongst its obligations was the organisation of the Militia of each shire, the review of men, armour and munitions, and the administration of justice and local government through magistrates virtually appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. This position of trust and responsibility helped to consolidate the rising influence of Edwinsford. Hitherto, the great land-owning family of Vaughan of Golden Grove had held sway during the first half of the eighteenth century. But now new forces were emerging to challenge their power. We read of Philipps of Picton and Cwmgwili, Rice of Dynevor and Williams of Edwinsford jockeying for supremacy as the leaders of rival factions in county politics. Parliamentary elections were in essence contests between squires or their nominees. As early as 1722 Sir Nicholas Williams had ousted Griffith Rice as Member of Parliament for the county. But the contest had not been straightforward. Rice the sitting member had polled 592 votes and Sir Nicholas was defeated with 587. On petition the latter gained the seat and the Under Sheriff was fined £500 for "foul play". In 1727 Sir Nicholas retained his seat against Richard Gwynne of Taliaris. Again in 1734 he defeated Sir Edward Mansel after what was regarded as "sham opposition". in effect the Whig power represented by Sir Nicholas prevailed against the Tory faction from 1722 until his death in 1745.

Sir Nicholas' private life was rather less auspicious. His wife was Jane Mary Cocks daughter of Charles Cocks and niece of the celebrated Lord Chancellor, Lord Somers. On 25 June 1720 articles of separation were drawn up between them, by which he allowed her £100 a year. She was to take with her "Her cloaths, Towells and also her horse and furniture thereunto belonging, which she usually rides upon, and also her Dressing Glass, Comb Box, Powder Box and Patch Box, and her Books, etc ". But no further steps were taken to annul the marriage.

Sir Nicholas died without issue on 19 July 1745 in his sixty-fifth year, and was buried in the family vault at Talley. He was regarded as a great personality, who had represented the county for twenty-three years in Parliament, and one who was a champion of truth and liberty. His memorial in Talley Church records that "his unshaken virtue and integrity in an age of falsehood and corruption will be remembered to after ages". If we are to believe all that this grandiose memorial says, he was humane, charitable, benevolent and well endowed with Christian virtues. It appears that he was a great sportsman and his silver hunting horn used to be preserved at Edwinsford. One of the picturesque heights overlooking the mansion and the Cothi valley is known as Pigyn Syr Nicholas. It was during his lifetime that much was done to improve the house and gardens at Edwinsford. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the nucleus of the present masion was built, replacing the old Welsh house of Rhydodin mentioned by Lewis Glyn Cothi.12

But the time had come to rebuild and embellish the existing house and its surroundings. Of Sir Nicholas' renovations at Edwinsford the most notable was the apartment known as Sir Nicholas' Room with its rib and panel plaster ceiling. An early dormer window with leaden quarries remains and provides an interesting example of the decorative taste of the early eighteenth century. Again, leaden statuettes were placed on the ridge line of the roof and in the ornamental grounds of the house. These figures were usually of local casting, and in all likelihood the Edwinsford examples were executed at Carmarthen during the years 1700—1710. There are two very spirited casts of Mercury — remarkably fine examples of this art — and a figure of Sir Nicholas Williams' gamekeeper with his gun to his shoulder and spaniel dog at his heel. There was, it is said, a similar figure of the dairy maid of the day, which was blown down and damaged beyond repair early in the eighteenth century. There is in addition a leaden figure of a most truculent looking boar, which formerly occupied a site in the farm-yard. In the garden is a fine old sundial, with the inscription — "Sir Nicholas Williams, Baronet, 1710" and the Williams' crest, a lion rampart, and motto, Mea Virtute me involvo._13 Sir Nicholas, as we have seen, died without issue and was succeeded by his brother Thomas Williams. Actually Sir Nicholas had four brothers in all: (i) John, who married Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Johnes of Dolaucothi and Llanfair Clydogau, who died _sine prole in 1729, (ii) Walter, (iii) Charles, (iv) Thomas, of Great Russell Street, Middlesex.

On 10 March 1746 he succeeded his brother as Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum. He was also appointed Chancellor and Chamberlain of the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan. Thomas married firstly Arabella daughter and co-heiress of John Vaughan of Court Derllys, who died without issue. Secondly he married Anne, daughter of William Singleton of London, by whom he had two daughters. Bridget, the elder, married Robert Bankes Hodgkinson, Esquire, of Overton and also of Rhydodin in the right of his wife. Hodgkinson was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1784 and member of Parliament for Wareham in the county of Dorset. He died in 1792, and while he resided in Carmarthenshire took part in political and public affairs, and made some improvements at Edwinsford. He arranged for the Edwinsford bridge across the Cothi to be rebuilt, transforming it into one span in place of the two it formerly had. There is a stone upon the parapet which reads: "This Bridge is the sole Property of the Family of Edwinsford. Rebuilt by Robert Bankes Hodgkinson, Esq., 1783." The work of rebuilding was actually carried out by one of the Edwards brothers of Pontypridd, whose eminent father William Edwards is remembered as the architect of the famous Pontypridd Bridge.

Advent of the Hamlyn
As Hodgkinson and Bridget Williams died without issue the Edwinsford estate passed to Thomas Williams' younger daughter Arabella who had married Sir James Hamlyn, 1st Baronet, of Clovelly Court, Devonshire.

At this time Clovelly was a small fishing village situated on a romantic steep descending to the southern shore of Bideford Bay.14 The manor of Clovelly was an ancient demesne of the crown, and was settled by William the Conqueror on his consort Matilda. In the reign of Richard II it was possessed by Sir John Cary, Knight.

Subsequently the Clovelly estate was purchased by one Zachary Hamlyn of Lincoln's Inn for the sum of £9,426 and devised by him to his great nephew James Hammett. The latter took the name of Hamlyn by deed of George III in 1795. On 11 June 1762 he had married, Arabella, younger daughter of Thomas Williams of Edwinsford and niece of the great Sir Nicholas Williams. On 7 July 1795 a baronetcy was granted to James Hamlyn, and the marriage between him and Arabella Williams brought about the merger of the Edwinsford and Clovelly estates for generations.

Sir James Hamlyn represented the county in the two parliaments of April 1793 and June 1796, in the first instance vice the Hon. George Talbot Rice on his accession to the peerage. In the 1796 election Hamlyn had to contest against Magens Dorien Magens, a wealthy London banker, who had married into the Dynevor family. It was during his period as M.P. that Hamlyn obtained his baronetcy, and to this added the offices of Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum. Sir James took an enlightened interest in the Edwinsford estate and its management. He carried out much rebuilding there and erected a new stable block in 1802. A tablet above the archway records the fact.

At this time there was much coming and going between Edwinsford and Clovelly and Sir James Hamlyn kept in constant communication with his agent and bailiff at Edwinsford, David Thomas. From the following two letters we infer that the family sometimes travelled by sea to Clovelly, was much interested in agricultural pursuits and enjoyed the services of a Welsh harper.

Clovelly Court,
30th November, 1799.

Dear Mr. Thomas,
I received your letter and gave that enclosed to Mr. Williams. He was here for a day, and is gone to Clifton to escort his wife here, and I expect them all the latter end of next week.

The Vessel (Mr. Philipps' Yacht) came here without-the-things sent to Carmarthen. She is returned to Wales, and is expected to come here again very soon.

You do not say whether you sent the Cradle Spit, and I do not see it in the list of things at Carmarthen.

I hope the fine weather we have lately had has enabled you to finish your tillage on Brinabbon. I have had six and eight ploughs a day, and have nearly finished 26 acres in fine order.

I hope this will find the children all well and very good. Your health I hope, too, to have a good account of.

Yours very truly,


Clovelly Court,
Sunday, 5th Decetnber, 1802.

Dear Mr Thomas,
You'l be surprised to receive this at the hand of my Coachman. He is sent for my Chariot and the Curricle with the pair of Coach Horses, and the Black Mare and Morgan, with the proper apparatus of Harness, etc., which Richard will of course select, viz., the leading Harness, short traces, long reins and small pieces of leather that makes the Curricle harness answer the purpose of Coach harness.

Two four horse whips and the white, one pair of horse whip, to be packed in the long box that is in the Sportsman's Hall. The Harper and Harp will travel in my chaise. Dio to come with Richard, and of course to drive either the chaise or Curricle as they can best manage the arrangement.

I expect Mrs Williams [i.e. his daughter-in-law, Diana] here on Tuesday next, and hope all things turning out well, that the importation from Wales will arrive on Friday next. Yours very truly,


Sir James Hamlyn died in London on 8 June 1811 aged 76 and was buried in the Clovelly family vault. His wife, Dame Arabella, had predeceased him in May 1797 in the fifty-eighth year of her age and was buried at Talley.

There were four children of this marriage — James, Zachary, Priscilla and Arabella. On the death of his mother, James, being the only surviving son and heir apparent, assumed the surname and arms of Williams by a grant from Garter King of Arms dated 14 March 1798.

He succeeded to the title and estates on his father's death in 1811. James Hamlyn Williams married on 22 June 1789, Diana Anne daughter of Abraham Whittaker Esquire of Stratford, Essex. He was elected M.P. for Carmarthen in 1802 and died in December 1829 at Clovelly, where he was buried.

The election of 1802-3 has been regarded as one of the most bitter in the parliamentary annals of Carmarthenshire. Since 1793 the county seat had been held by Sir James Hamlyn of Edwinsford, who, as we have seen, had married the ultimate heiress to that estate. He was a member of the Tory faction, but in 1802 the Whigs introduced a new candidate for the county in the person of Sir William Paxton of Middleton Hall. Paxton was a London banker who had made a princely fortune in India and had settled at Middleton Hall about 1794. He was a burgess of Carmarthen and Mayor in 1802 and so wielded much influence. The election opened at Llandeilo on 17 July 1802 and the candidates were James Hamlyn Williams nominated by his father Sir James Hamlyn and William Lewes of Llysnewydd, opposed by William Paxton, whose sponsors were J. G. Philipps of Cwmgwili and J. W. Hughes of Tregib. At the close of the day the poll stood — Williams 228, Paxton 87. On 31 July it was reported that the contest was being carried on with much party violence, and that the progress of the poll was slow. The candidates had agreed to vote in 'tallies', i.e. batches of equal number, registered in rotation. Paxton represented a party known as the 'Blues' while Williams had the support of the 'Reds'. Voters were brought from all parts of the kingdom, and finally, after a poll lasting fifteen days, the election came to an end with the return of 'Williams, with an official poll of 1,217 votes as against Paxton's 1,110.

But this was only the beginning of further party strife. Bitter scenes followed in Carmarthen town as rival factions fought against one another. The candidates were chaired by their supporters and carried 'in trono' through the town. Fighting broke out and a violent conflict followed between "Reds" and "Blues". Lord Dynevor was Williams' chief supporter, while Paxton had more influential backing. At a dinner held later at the Bear Inn, with J. G. Philipps in the chair, some "150 of the principal Gentlemen and Freeholders of the county" were present. The health of Lords Cawdor, Milford and Kensington, Sir John Stepney and John Vaughan of Golden Grove was drunk. The meeting broke up "assured that the favourite candidate of the Independent interests must ultimately be seated". Thus ended the first act in Lecsiwn Fawr, which is said to have cost Paxton £15,690 4s. 2d. All public-houses were thrown open and amongst the items in the enormous bill were: 11,070 breakfasts, 36,901 dinners, 684 suppers, 25,275 gallons of ale, 11,068 bottles of spirits, 8,879 bottles of porter, 460 bottles of sherry, 509 bottles of cider. Milk punch accounted for 18 guineas and even ribbons cost £786.

Having spent so much Paxton was not going to give in easily.16 Consequently on 24 November he petitioned the House, alleging that Thomas Owen, the sheriff, had acted with great partiality towards Williams. Many of the votes were queried and some observers, such as Mansel Philipps, plainly stated that both Williams and Paxton were guilty of "notorious bribery and corruption" and that neither deserved to be returned.

Meanwhile James Hamlyn Williams was not perturbed, as may be seen from this letter written by B. Foard, Bailiff at Clovelly, to David Thomas his counterpart at Edwinsford.

Dec. 12, 1802.

Dear Sir,
I received your letter this day — all is safe arrived — they was not three hours a coming from Swansey to Illfordcoomb. Mr. Williams arrived hear last Tuesday in grate spirits. Likewise James and Chals. Mrs. Williams is at Tunbridge Wells. Mr. Williams is in grate spirits about the Peticion as he says all the House of Commons laugh at the Peticion he thinks it will not come on till April or May. Mr. Williams has tow of the best Counsel in London but they are to have Twenty Guineas a day each as soon as the Peticion comes on, I am afraid Sir James will not go to London this year, but Mr. Williams family come here as soon as they leave London so I may not expect to see Wales again for some time. Davye desires you to lett his wife knowe that he is safe arrived here. I think he will be here about a month.

Pray deliver inclosed as they are directed and you oblige.

Your humble servant,


Mr. Williams was at Church today the bells rang all day likewise evirybody men and women was drest in Read Ribbons in complament to him so it looks like an election hear. Mr. Williams has jest received a fresh Peticion from London. Mansel Philips as sent it in accusing Boath Mr. Williams and Paxton of Bribyry.

Eventually the dispute was considered by a committee of the House. It was decided that Paxton had not made out a case against the Sheriff, and Williams was declared elected on 6 April 1803. Some months previously James Hamlyn, junior, son of the contestant had written to David Thomas in the following terms:

Dear Sir,
My father has received your letter and I cannot omit the first opportunity of thanking you for the contents. I am very sorry I had not the pleasure of seeing you these holidays. I hope nothing will prevent my passing some time with you at old Edwinsford in the Summer, and that we shall be able to talk over the defeat of the Nabob [sc. Sir William Paxton] and rejoice together on having verified the old Welsh saying of -

"Ni chollodd Rhydodin erioed".

Yours most truly,


The Nabob was well and truly defeated, but in some respects James Hamlyn Williams was faced with a Pyrrhic victory. A parliamentary contest was notoriously expensive, and on the the eve of the election Williams had expressed his anxiety in a letter to his agent David Thomas. At the time hostilities were being renewed against Napoleon and the social and economic climate looked unfavourable. Landlords were the first to realise that a long war was a grave misfortune due to the vagaries of prices, wages and employment, and violent fluctuation made business a gamble. In addition there would be a heavy drain on his purse due to the inevitable costs of a parliamentary campaign.

Dear Mr. Thomas,
This unlucky war that is likely to break out has occasioned the funds to fall very much, by which I shall lose a great deal of money if I sell. I could wish if you have any money that you can anyhow spare, and that you would send it to Hammersleys, and acquaint me of it.

The battle will begin tomorrow, and I hope success will attend us.

Yours truly,


Love to the Children. Paxton looks down in the mouth.

To turn to more domestic matters it would be of interest to quote a few letters which reflect something of the social life of the period. The first was written by James Hamlyn Williams to David Thomas.

Clovelly Court,
April 22nd, 1804.

Dear Sir,
You will he glad to hear of our safe arrival here, after having been detained in Herefordshire some days by Mrs. William's illness. We found Sir James and the children in high health, but notwithstanding all you have heard my father say of Devonshire, I can assure you that Edwinsford is full forward as Clovelly, and the farm, I think, looks much better at Edwinsford than here.

I shall expect soon to hear from you respecting Carmarthen, as well as what you have done with Mr. Harell, and if you have offered Mr. Morris, the Banker, the Wood at Mr. Hassall's valuation, also what you have done with Jenkin Morgan, as well as Ben Davies, respecting the abatement of ready money.

You will recollect, that I propose keeping twenty calves, and as it is by no means impossible that I may visit you again this Summer, I hope the road through the Meadows will be finished in good manner, and the gates hung, as well as the roads kept in order both from Maes and Talky. You forgot to have the road formed over the mountain from Llandovery to Maes. I hope it will be done before my return; and if you wish me to reside in Wales the roads must he kept good. They are had here, and have put me out of humour with Devonshire.

My residence must be where the roads are best. Send me all the news you can, and believe me,

Yours truly,


My Father and Mrs. Williams desire to be remembered.

Some months later he wrote to David Thomas and was concerned this time about reletting one his farms to a slovenly and slothful tenant.

Clovelly Court,
22 June, 1804.

Dear Sir,
I conclude you have received my rents, which when done I will thank you to pay the interest of money borrowed to everyone, and to yourself. You will please to keep as much money in your hands as you will want for your use, and remit the remainder to Messrs. Hammersley without loss of time. Morgan, Mrs. Williams says, must not have the farm that he used to hold, as it looks so bad near the road, and he has been so slovenly upon it.

I hope you took care in offering Jenkin Morgan £50 to state that he had no claim, but that you meant it as a gift, and by no means offer him any more.

We have fine weather; Charles has gone to fight the French, and James' holidays will begin in about three weeks, but I am going to my Regiment in a fortnight. I wish you your health, and

I am,

Yours truly,


All well here.

His wife, Diana Hamlyn Williams, spent much of her time between Clovelly and London. In one letter to David Thomas she makes arrangements for her kinswoman, Mrs. Hammel, to stay at Edwinsford.

Clovelly Court,
August 1st, 1804.

My Dear Mr. Thomas,
In about a week or ten days Mrs. Hammet and two or three of her party will arrive at Edwinsford. She has lately had a great affliction in the loss of her eldest son, who was to have had the living of Clovelly next October.

We beg you will prepare for her reception every accommodation our House affords. Kill a sheep and poultry.

I have desired Mrs. Hammet to give you a line. Pray order our bedroom, the white one, and another to be ready for them, well aired, and put down the carpet in the eating room, and let Dio be always at their service to wait upon them and shew them the country.

I hope your turnips are as promising as ours.

We talk of being at Edwinsford in the Autumn. I hope your health is better.

Believe me, Dear Sir,

Yours very sincerely,


Mr. W. is with his Regiment at Kingsbridge, Devon.

The following two letters were also written by Mrs. Williams from London.

No. 11, Hertford Street,
1st March, 1805.

Dear Mr. Thomas,
I shall be obliged by your sending me to town about 6 hams, some cheeks and tongues and a side of bacon, and a cheese, which may be cut in half or quarters, or pieces, for the greater convenience of packing up, as we pay here so dear for everything; Bacon 15d. lb., and our Meat is 8d. and 8½d. I wish you would desire them to take care of the eggs, and when they have collected enough for a good sized box, they may he sent — next month or so — each egg wrapt up in brown paper, closely packed.

Mr. Williams is very much engaged as he is on the Middlesex Committee, and he is today to have a second conference with Ministry to prevent the further intended duty on Agricultural Horses, which I trust will gain him some credit with our Welsh Friends, for he is obliged to exert himself greatly about it.

The two eldest girls are with us, and pretty well. Charlotte and the brave Orlando stay with Sir James.

James is going on well at Winchester, and Charles is daily expecting to attack two Spanish Frigates from the Havannah, with a Hundred sail under their Convoy.

Mr. H. W. continues tolerably well, but a London life does not agree with him like the Country.

I should be glad to know what wages you have given to our Housemaid, as I see £8 in the account; I suppose that must be for more than a year.

Lady Dynevor17? doing well, though I am sorry she not a son. I am very unhappy about Mrs. Pam; I fear she is going on very badly, and that I shall never see her again.

At the same time I wish you to send a cask of butter and two cheeses to Mrs. Whittaker, Tunbridge Wells, and a cask of butter and two cheeses to Mrs. St. John, Winchester, and a ham or two if you have any as they are very acceptable.

The girls desire their love to you, and I am always, Dear Sir,

Yours Sincerely,


I sent some time since some garden seeds down.

Berkeley Square,
March 5th, 1807.

Dear Sir,
I have received safe the box of brawn, &c., but the box before this last had been opened and 9 Woodcocks and the Wild Duck taken out. I have written to the Proprietors of the Coach, and they promise me redress, either by sending me birds or their value in London Price.

In future I wish the boxes to he weighed before you send them off, and their weight marked on the outside. Mr. Heath of Gloucester will then examine them in their passage.

I am quite of your opinion the Pea fowls are a most delicious bird, a great Rarety, and I wish to have three or four put up to fatten every year. They must be well fed — with barley meal and milk — and when fat sent up, one or two at a time with a Turkey, &c.

I beg you will order all the Pig Dung to be taken to the garden for the Pear and Apple trees; it is the only good manure for them. The girl may make another Brawn when there is a Pig, rather larger than this.

Sir James is still very poorly, and Mr. H. Williams has not been able to leave him. Friday he sets out for town, and will be there the next week, as he travels with our Curricle horses.

James leaves school and is going to be under a private Tutor — he is so much improved - he promises to be a comfort to us all.

The girls desire their kind love to you; they are very good, and improving every way.

Dear Sir, I am

Yours very truly,


In Iater years Sir James Hamlyn Williams and Lady Diana spent more and more time at Edwinsford, and were great benefactors to the family in the way they improved their estates at Edwinsford, Cwrt Derllys and Clovelly. In December 1828 they bought the Plas Demesne and Talley Lakes and constructed a canal connecting the two lakes on the level ground below Rhiw Paderau. At Clovelly they laid out the celebrated Hobby Drive and extended the pier.

On her husband's death in 1829 Lady Diana retired first to Ferryside to 'Parc Portes Cliff' where she laid out the picturesque landscape garden. This was given later to her son Captain Charles Hamlyn Williams, R.N.

Sir James Hamlyn Williams and Lady Diana left six children:

  1. James Hamlyn Williams, who married Lady Mary Fortcscue, fourth daughter of Hugh, 1st Earl Fortescue.
  2. Charles Hamlyn, who married, on 15 August 1833, Harriet daughter of Sir Nelson Rycroft, Bart. He had a distinguished naval career and retired with the rank of Admiral and lived at Portiscliff.
  3. Orlando Hamlyn, who married Mary Anne Elizabeth daughter of the Rev. Charles Pine Coffin, Rector of Clovelly.
  4. Diana, who died unmarried.
  5. Arabella, who married Charles Noel, 3rd Lord Barham. Their eldest daughter, Lady Mary Arabella Louisa Noel married, in August 1846, Sir Andrew Agnew, 8th Bart., of Lochnaw, Wigtonshire and was the mother of Lady Williams-Drummond of Edwinsford.
  6. Charlotte, who married Sir Arthur Chichester, Bart., of Youlston, Devon.

A Champion of Reform
It was their eldest son Sir James Hamlyn Williams who spent most time at Edwinsford. He was born 25 November 1790 and entered the 7th Hussars, where he served with distinction in the Peninsular War. He was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1848, having been M.P. for the county in the parliaments of 1831 and 1835. He was defeated in 1832 and 1836, at a time of great political agitation in Wales, and Carmarthenshire was in many ways the centre of the struggle. Church rates, Chartism and the Rebecca Riots, popular education and the repeal of the Corn Laws made bold headlines. Radicals and Independents were led by David Rees (1801—1869) who moulded public opinion through the columns of Y Diwygiwr. Rees' slogan was "Agitate" — agitate for the removal of non-conformist disabilities, tithes and and church rates, inequality in education and the dire poverty of the peasants. He was opposed by David Owen (Brutus) who, having deserted his former allegiance, became the vitriolic champion of church and landlord.18

Popular discontent coincided with agitation for parliamentary reform. In March 1831 the Reform Bill was introduced into parliament, but divergence of opinion in the house led to a dissolution a month later. In Carmarthenshire the tide ran strongly in favour of reform, and at meetings held up and down the country "reform of parliament" became the war cry of the populace. Rice Trevor, the sitting member, was against reform and he wisely avoided a contest. He was replaced by Sir James Hamlyn Williams who supported parliamentary reform, the extinction of monopolies and the abolition of slavery. In one of his election address Sir James had stated:

To the Independent Electors of the County of Carmarthen.

The trust which was confided to me in in so flattering a manner of representing this County in Parliament, will ere long be restored to you, and you will consequently be called upon to exercise the important privilege which will henceforward be enjoyed by you, of selecting two Individuals to express your political opinions in a Reformed Parliament.

My principles are well known to you, — I have advocated Reform and Retrenchment in every department of the State. I have proved myself to be the Enemy of Slavery, by my vote in favour of Mr. Buxton's recent motion for its abolition; and, as I deem it right that you should be made acquainted with my opinions upon some of the leading topics of political discussion, I beg to state, that a Reform in the Church, a Commutation of tithes, the extinction of all Monopolies, that are unwarranted by sound policy, as well as of useless places, unmerited pensions and sinecures are a course of measures which I anticipate the perfection of with unfeigned satisfaction; and which must be secured, if the Electors of this Empire will with fearless integrity of purpose avail themselves of the opportunity now afforded them, of choosing a House of Commons that will boldly perform its duty to the nation at large.

As an Independent Man, anxious that the Country should thoroughly reap the full benefit conferred upon it by that great Charter which has recently confirmed us in the free enjoyment of our constitutional rights, I solicit your suffrages; and if by a continuance of your former kindness I should become one of the objects of your choice, I can safely assure you, that the zeal and exertion which it has hitherto been my study to evince in your service, will accompany my future endeavours to promote your real and truest interests.

I have the honour to be,


Your faithful and obliged servant,


Edwinsford, August 24th, 1832.19

The Reform Bill which reached the Statute Book in June 1832 had provided for the vote to be given to all leaseholders of premises of an annual value of £10, and to all occupiers paying a yearly rent of £50. Carmarthenshire was given an additional member, and the struggle for representation was intense.

In December 1832 Sir James Hamlyn Williams issued another election address in English and Welsh. In it he denied the false assertions that there was any kind of coalition or understanding between him and the other candidates; and that any voter intending to support him must give both Votes at the same time, " . . . for when you have once polled, you cannot return to vote a second time". He asked for support in the interest of radicalism and reform. "Come forward boldly, of whatever Party or Color, and use your best exertions for Sir James Williams, who fought the Battle of Reform in Parliament, and is now fighting for the Independence of Carmarthen Shire". On a stronger note he said " . . . yr wyf yn dilys ddywedyd, na fu, ac nad oes genyf unrhyw fwriad i wyro oddiwrth yr egwyddorion diymyraeth hyny wrth ba rai yr wyf hyd yn hyn yn ddiysgog wedi glynu".20

Sir James's political viewpoint was almost unique amongst Carmarthenshire landlords at the time, and he had openly expressed the view in Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions that "the magistrates of the County have competely lost the confidence of the people". Even though the wind was blowing in favour of radical reformers, Sir James lost the election and on 29 January 1833 G. R. Rice-Trevor and Edward Hamlyn Adams of Middleton Hall were returned to represent Carmarthenshire. It is interesting to observe that the £10 household franchise, established in the boroughs, had introduced a thin wedge of democracy. But the £50 enfranchisement of tenant farmers had the reverse effect and strengthened the hold of the large landowners over the constituencies. The Edwinsford estate amounted to about ten thousand acres in extent. It was considerable in comparison with the demesnes of the lesser gentry which often did not exceed a few hundred acres. On the other hand the really powerful magnates were the families of Dynevor and Golden Grove and their nominees. Sir James Hamlyn Williams lost their patronage, as well as that of many Tory churchmen throughout the county.

On 19 February 1835, however, Sir James was elected once more to represent the county. His triumph was short lived as he remained a member of parliament for only eighteen months or so; and the Tory hold on Carmarthenshire remained unshaken until 1868. One of 'Sir James' great enemies was the satirist "Brutus". In July 1835 a vicious campaign was led against Sir James and every radical reformer. As the champion of the Tory and Church party, "Brutus" strongly objected to a public testimonial fund being collected by Carmarthenshire reformers to buy Sir James a gift as a token of their gratitude for his work in parliament. Actually he was presented with an interesting gold snuff box to commemorate the appreciation of his public services to the county and to record that he represented it in the two parliaments of 1831 and 1835. It was inscribed as follows:

"This tribute of respect was presented to Sir James Williams, Baronet, M.P. purchased with the penny pieces of upwards of 6,000 of his Friends and constituents in the County of Carmarthen, April 1836".

"Brutus" considered the whole project ludicrous, and he openly castigated Sir James for the paucity of his speeches and his inept performance in the House. Daniel O'Connell and other enemies of Protestantism, he sarcastically claimed, deserved as much for had not they done more than the great man of Rhydodin? Brutus claimed that this collection was more like Peter's Pence which the Papists levied on the poor Irish peasant. And what for? Because Sir James had voted for the Reform Bill, the disendowment of the Irish Church and was an avowed enemy of order and good sense by supporting Daniel O'Connell, Lords John Russell and Ebrington. Brutus concluded as follows:

"Tebygol yw bod y tanysgrifwyr yn bwriadu i'r cwppan fod yn gwppan dewiniaeth i Syr James, unwedd a chwppan Joseph gynt; ac yno yn lle bod yn gwppan y fendith, try allan i fod yn gwppan y felltith iddo of a'i deulu. Cynn-y gia cyfaill yr ysgrifen ganlynol i'w gosod ar y cwppan, mewn math o Ladin, yr hon, er nad yw yn hollol bur, etto sydd yn eithaf addas i'r perwyl.


Ac ym mhellach, bod i lun pen angeu hardd, ac esgyrn croesion, gael ei gerfio ar y cwppan, er dangos parch i Daniel, brenhin yr Iwerddon; a gosod llun Arglwydd John Russell arno, yng nghanol Chaos, ynghyd ag amryw addurniadau Radicalaidd eraill, rhy faith i'w henwi ar hyn o bryd".21

Despite these attacks Sir James remained a radical. He voted in the Parliament of 1835-36 for the expulsion of bishops from the house of Lords, and his agent in Llansawel opposed the levying of a church rate.22 Later on in 1843 he protested against the misuse of public funds in Carmarthenshire. As local government and administration were largely in the hands of magistrates in petty sessions or full quarter sessions, there were constant protests about the way they handled public affairs. There were accusations that bridges were built, roads made and even hills cut down, to suit the convenience of local magnates and not for the public advantage. In October 1843 Sir James urged in Quarter Sessions, that a strict enquiry be made into the expenditure of the county stock for the last twenty-nine years, and presented no less than fourteen addresses from different parishes on this particular grievance. When serious rioting in the winter of 1842-43 had caused the authorities to consider the setting up of a rural police, many parishes protested and begged for exemption on the grounds that they were themselves peacable. In favour of the new police force was the Tory, George Rice Trevor, while Sir James Hamlyn Williams remained adamantly opposed.23

At Edwinsford the daily toil of the estate and its management went on as placidly as before. A contemporary writer described the mansion and its environs as follows — "The lands are for the greater part enclosed and in a state of good cultivation. The surrounding scenery is pleasingly diversified with wood and water, and from some of the higher grounds are fine prospects extending over a tract of well cultivated country. . The mansion appears to have been formerly of greater magnitude; the grounds, which are extensive and judiciously disposed, comprehend much beautiful scenery".24

Here Sir James made extensive alterations which changed the character, and to some extent, the charm of the old house. The first major change was the building of the new dining room in 1840, which was furnished with oak panelling and sideboards from the old hall at Llether Cadfan. Above this room were erected the "Peacock" or "Best" rooms, and there followed in 1861 the new drawing room, the north wing and the two corridors. A new lodge was built at 'Iron Gate' and Moelfre in the same year, while the old fish-pond or Pysgodlyn opposite the stables was drained. Fortunately, the attractive bell roof wing and the main portion of the old house, remained intact. The exquisite ceilings which adorned Sir Nicholas' Room, the boudoir and the library, which were supposed to be the work of Italian plasterers in the reign of James I (circa 1620) were left untouched.25

Sir James was regarded as one of the most colourful personalities in the Edwinsford family, a great character — generous, quick tempered yet genial and kind hearted. He died at Clovelly on 10 October 1861 and was buried in the family vault on the north-west of Clovelly Church. Lady Mary survived him until 1874 and was buried at her special request at Talley among the surroundings she had loved so much. Sir James left no male heir and with his death the baronetcy became extinct. Three daughters survived: Mary Eleanor, Susan Hester and Edwina Augusta, who became respectively the heiresses of the Edwinsford, Clovelly and Derllys estates.

Enter the Drummonds
By the marriage of Mary Eleanor to Sir James Drummond, 3rd Baronet, of Hawthornden, Midlothian, an old Welsh princely family was united to one of Scotland's famous houses. Ancient tradition maintains that the Drummond family dates back to the eleventh century, when in 1068 Maurice Drummond a native of Hungary accompanied Edgar Atheling and his two sisters to Scotland. Margaret, the elder married Malcolm Canmore and through her influence Drummond acquired great possessions in Scotland. He was the projenitor of the noble family of Drummond of Perth, of which Drummond of Hawthornden is a cadet.26

Hawthornden, near Edinburgh, recalls much of the interesting history of the Drummonds. This Scottish estate was purchased by Sir John Drummond, Gentleman Usher to James VI who was knighted in 1603 when he came to England with his sovereign.

The son and heir of Sir John Drummond was, perhaps, the most famous of all the Drummonds of Hawthornden — William Drummond the poet. Born in 1585, he was widely known as one of Scotland's most gifted bards. Ben Jenson, it is claimed, travelled on foot to Scotland solely for the purpose of visiting him at his romantic home. Drummond was well versed in Greek and Latin, as well as in later European poets which he could recite at will. He had great facility of expression, and it was he who described the moon as "the sad queen of silence". Drummond made great use of the sonnet and preserved it as a literary form.27 Of his prose the best example is A Cypress Grove, 1623. He died on 4 December 1649.

Sir William Drummond, his son, was knighted by Charles II, and his granddaughter was Mary Barbara, who eventually inherited Hawthornden and later settled it on her cousin, Mary Ogilvie. The latter married Captain John Forbes, R.N., who also assumed the name of Drummond. He was created a baronet in 1828, with remainder to his son-in-law Francis who succeeded his father-in-law in May 1829. Sir Francis Walker-Drummond the 2nd Baronet was the eldest son of James Walker, Esquire, of Dalny, Midlothian, by Jane Hay his wife. She was the daughter of Richard Hay Newton, also described as Esquire of Newton, the grandson of John, Marquess of Tweddale and the Lady Jane Maitland, his wife, the only child of John, Duke of Lauderdale.

James, his eldest son, succeeded the 2nd Baronet in 1844. As we have seen his wife was Mary Eleanor, daughter of Sir James Hamlyn Williams of Edwinsford. By the latter's will of 21 December 1858 Lady Drummond was to inherit the Edwinsford estate. Pursuant to the same will Sir James Drummond assumed the surname of Williams in lieu of Walker in addition to and before that of Drummond. By a grant from the Lord Lyon he also bore the arms of Williams quarterly, with those of Drummond. Sir James died on 10 May, 1866 while his widow lived on at Edwinsford until her death in August 1872. Of this union there were five children: (i) James Hamlyn Williams (ii) Edwin Fortescue (iii) Hugh Henry John Fortescue (iv) Francis Dudley (v) Annabella Mary.

Sir James Hamlyn Williams Williams-Drummond, the 4th Baronet, was born at Clovelly Court on 13 January 1857. He was educated privately and at Eton. Having succeeded to the baronetcy in 1866 he served in the Grenadier Guards from 1877—1883. In 1889 he married Madeleine Diana Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Andrew Agnew, 8th Baronet of Lochnaw Castle, Wigtonshire. She was a grand-daughter of Arabella Williams (Lady Barham) the daughter of Sir James Hamlyn Williams of Edwinsford.

Sir James H. W. Williams-Drummond was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of the County of Carmarthen, the fourth member of the family to hold that office. He served as a County Councillor for the Llansawel division. He was also High Sheriff in 1885 and a J.P. for Midlothian and Carmarthen, as well as being a colonel of the Carmarthen Artillery. Before the disestablishment and disendowment of the Welsh Church he was patron of the living of Talley.28 His love for Edwinsford exceeded every other interest. His death took place on 6 June 1913. Lady Drummond had predeceased him in 1907. For her part, she devoted much time and energy in relieving poverty and suffering in those less comfortable days. Through her efforts the Alltmynydd Sanatorium was built. The foundation stone was laid on 25 April 1905 by H.R.H. Princess Christian, who, accompanied by her daughter Princess Victoria, paid a four-day visit to Edwinsford. An oak tree was planted on the lawn at Edwinsford to commemorate the occasion and to mark the close friendship between Her Royal Highness and Lady Williams-Drummond.

On the death of the 4th Baronet the title and Edwinsford estate passed to the present owner, their only child — James Hamlyn Williams, who was born on 25 May 1891. Educated at Eton, Sir James married Lady Enid Malet Vaughan daughter of the 6th Earl of Lisburne of Crosswood, Cardiganshire.29

This chronicle of the Edwinsford family would be incomplete without some mention of Sir Francis Dudley Williams Drummond. He was born at Edwinsford on 27 June 1863 and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He married, in July 1890, Marguerite Violet Maude, daughter of Sir Andrew Agnew, Bart., of Lochnaw Castle. He resided for many years at Hafodneddyn near Llandeilo, and played an important part in the public life of Carmanhenshire. He was Lieut-Colonel in the Carmarthenshire Royal Field Artillery, a D.L. and Chairman of Carmarthenshire Quarter and County Sessions. As Alderman of the County Council he was awarded the O.B.E. for public services, especially to agriculture and forestry;30 later he received the C.B.E. and subsequently a knighthood.

In this connection he deserves to be remembered for his book on the annals of Edwinsford, Clovelly and Hawthornden, which was circulated privately, and from which a great deal of this article is derived.

Today the great house of Edwinsford is silent, a mouldering ruin, bereft of its former glory. It is a long time since the keeper whistled after his dogs and the dairy maid carried her milk pail. This chronicle of Edwinsford commenced with a quotation from an eighteenth century antiquary who described this house and its environs as a "delightful spot". And as the seasons come and go, and as cloud and storm give way to sunshine, we are reminded of the famous lines of William Drummond of Hawthornden:

The winds all silent are;
And Phoebus in his chair
Ensaffroning sea and air
Makes vanish every star:
Night like a drunkard reals
Beyond the hills to shun his flaming wheels:
The fields with flowers are deck'd in every hue,
The clouds bespangle with bright gold their blue:
Here is the pleasant place — 31

Here much of Carmarthenshire's history was made, and here the memories of a byegone age still linger.*

See also:

to top

You are here: Historian > HistorianVol5 > EdwinsfordACountryHouseAndItsFamilies

to top