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Talley House

By David Long Price and Jack D. Willson

The village of Talley (Tal-y-llychau) lies in a narrow valley connecting the Vales of the Cothi and the Tywi in N.E. Carmarthenshire. Somewhat isolated by its remoteness and limited communications with the outside world, it is still today an enchanting site, dominated by the ancient ruined abbey whose remaining walls look out onto the lakes from which the name of the village is derived. This abbey was built exactly on the watershed so that the rain from the north roof ran via the lakes to the Cothi and that from the south roof through the Afon Ddu to the Tywi.

According to surviving documents, Talley Abbey was first founded by Rhys ap Gruffydd (d.1197) and belonged to the order of the White Canons (Premonstratensians), although there is some evidence for an earlier foundation.1 A confirmation charter from the time of Edward II (1324) lists the lands in Talley and neighbouring parishes endowed by Rhys and subsequent benefactors.2 At the Dissolution the lands were taken by the Crown, the sovereign becoming the lord of the manor. "They are, and immemoriably have been, held as copyholds of inheritance by suit and service, now commuted into a small money fine and fealty, and are transferred by surrender and not by deed. This manor is one of the few, if not the only one, in South Wales in which the custom of Borough English prevails: the land descending, in the event of intestacy or a general entail, to the youngest son of a customary heir, and the widow being dowable, in 'freebench', of the whole of her husband's lands during her chaste widowhood".1

Major Francis Jones has published two interesting documents about the customs of the manor, one relating to a meeting of the Court Baron about the boundaries of the manor in 1668,3 the other to an inquisition into the customs of the manor held in 1725.4 The former was addressed in legal proceedings in 1832-3 when some of the tenants refused to pay rents on the grounds that their lands were part of the manor of East Greenwich and not of Talley.

The village surfaces a few times in national affairs. In 1215 Iorwerth, Abbot of Talley, was appointed Bishop of St. David's in preference to Giraldus after a bitterly contested struggle. The poet Dafydd ap Gwilym spent his later years in Talley and, according to an englyn ascribed to Hopcin ap Tomas (1380), was buried in the abbey precincts, a claim disputed however by the Cistercian house at Ystrad Fflur.

thumb One of the principal buildings in the village is a moderately sized whitewashed house lying between Talley Mountain (Mynydd Cyn-y-rhos) and the abbey precincts, now going by the name of Talley House. It has today a pleasing, somewhat Georgian appearance, but from the inside5 it becomes apparent that the house contains a number of structures from different periods which have been modified in later years to produce a more unified exterior.

The early history of the house is unknown. Various suggestions have been made and it seems probable that there was a building allied to the abbey in the position of the present house. Some part of it may be built into the existing fabric. There are records of a Mansion House belonging to the abbey. "At the Court of the Lordship, 22nd April in the first year of Queen Mary (1553): They say that there is a house called Ye Convent Hall, covered with tile, contayneth two roomes between the roofe and the ground, and in the lowermost room there, there is a buttery and a lard-house, and in the uppermost a hall and a parlour called the Abbot's Chamber, which house is decayed and requireth reparation of 5"6 Although the description is not inconsistent with the structure of part of Talley House, one cannot make any definite association. There are family traditions of tunnels connecting the house with the abbey, ghosts of hooded monks etc., some of which have found their way into the popular press.7

In the late eighteenth century the house came into the possession of Daniel Price, Esq., attorney-at-law, and remained the residence of his family and their descendants for 180 years.

Dan Daniel Price (1749-1815) was the second son of John Price, Esq., of Neuadd-fawr, Llanwrda, and the grandson of William Rees of Llansadwrn. John was the first of his family to adopt the anglicised surname; his mother was Anne Fortescue who apparently inherited the Fortescue home of Neuadd-fawr, until recently a large farmhouse in the village of Llanwrda some 300 yards south of the parish church.8 It was probably built or acquired by Anne's great-great-grandfather, Bennett Fortescue, a younger son of Sir Lewis Fortescue, Baron of the Exchequer under Henry VIII,9 who left England to settle in the Vale of Tywi in the 16th century.

Daniel came to Talley in 1771 when he was 22 and in 1777 married Elizabeth Williams of Talley. Elizabeth appears to have inherited property from her father, Thomas Williams, who had a business in Talley. He was the son of William ap David ap William ap Morgan ap Lloyd and Elizabeth Jones of Borthyn, Cynwyl Gaeo.

Daniel with his two surviving sons Thomas (1781-1823) and Daniel (1788-1848) founded the firm of Price and Sons, Solicitors, Talley and Llandeilo. They were agents for the Edwinsford estates and the younger Daniel was steward of the manor of Talley for the Crown. As such he represented the manor in the 1832-33 legal proceedings mentioned above.

Despite stories of documents regarding Talley House dating back to 1110 the authors have found nothing specific earlier than some records of the Courts Leet and Baron which controlled the transfer of the local copyhold properties. The report of a meeting on the 26th October 1781 shows the transfer of Ty'r Jenkin Gwynne from a John Harries on his death to his wife Mary. This was two houses joined together which was later, if not then, known as Talley House. On the 11th May 1789 the Court met at "Daniel Price's house" to approve the transfer of Ty'r Jenkin Gwynne and Mynydd Cyn-y-Rhos from Mary Harries to John and Mary's only child, Elizabeth Williams. Ty'r Jenkin Gwynne was described as "now in the possession of Elizabeth Williams widow and Daniel Price Gentleman", apparently meaning that Daniel Price was a tenant at that time.

On the 29th May 1793 the Court Baron recorded the surrender of "all those several Copyhold Messuages Tenements or Dwelling Houses being under the same Roof commonly known by the name of Ty'r Jenkin Gwynne....now or late in the several tenures or Occupations of Daniel Price Gentleman and Jane Lloyd widow ....also a Dwelling House called Cegin-newydd and two Copyhold Fields Cae Glas and Bonis-Ucha all occupied by John Harries to pass to the use and behoof of Daniel Price". The cost to Daniel price appears to have been some 200. How the properties passed from Elizabeth Williams in 1789 to John Harries and his wife Margaret who surrendered them in 1793 is not shown by the documents.

In 1815 Daniel Price died and on the 2nd May 1817 his younger son Daniel was admitted as copyholder of the same four properties. The elder son Thomas was resident in Llandeilo where he was a coroner. He died unmarried in 1823.

Plan It seems probable that about this time the two houses were combined as one. The younger Daniel married Elizabeth Long in 1821 and by 1843 they had had 13 children, so surely needed the room. Only minor structural changes would have been required. The empty well of the staircase of the second house remains to this day.

Elizabeth Long was born in Swansea in 1800 although is shown in the register as living at Llangadog at the time of her marriage there. Her parentage is not definitely established. It is possible, and has the support of family tradition, that she was the daughter of David Long, a surgeon who lived in Fisher Street, Swansea; the fact that she named three of her sons David Long lends weight to the possibility. Surgeon Long rented "a messuage and tenement called Leeson Wick" in Llanrhidian, Gower, from the Duke of Beaufort, and propably inherited other property in this area; the documents show Longs in Llanmadoc, Llanrhidian and Rhossili going back to the 14th century. Significantly, a "curate of Rhossili" officiated at the wedding of Daniel and Elizabeth. In any case the name was evidently a source of pride to Daniel and Elizabeth's son, David Long Price, who used his middle name in styling himself as did (and do) many of his descendants. Out of 13 children only one son and five daughters survived to adulthood.

In the 1839 Talley Parish Rate Book, and subsequently, there is an exhaustive list of properties but no mention of Ty'r Jenkin Gwynne or the other properties named above. Talley House is shown as owned and occupied by Daniel Price. In the 1841 census Daniel and his family are recorded as living at Talley House.

The younger Daniel Price died in 1848 but it was not until 1868 that his only surviving son David Long-Price (1833-1898) applied for and was granted the copyhold of Ty'r Jenkin Gwynne and the other properties "known by the general name of Talley House". It seems that the old names were maintained in the records of the Court Baron long after they had passed from general use, since the Court was concerned with authorizing and recording the passing of the various named copyhold properties. The locations of Cae Glas and Bonis Ucha are not known but Cegin-newydd was probably a house close to Talley House which has long since ceased to exist.

David Long Price was educated at Froodvale Academy, a large house just west of the river Cothi between Crug-y-bar and Pumpsaint, and there is a record of him from this period:10 "D. Long Price, Talley - son of the chief steward to Sir James Williams, Edwinsford....he used to lodge at Trewaun-fawr on his own food, but somehow or other the tea or the sugar or the butter or the bread would come to an end without fail on Friday morning, and mid-day he would present a request to the master to go home that afternoon for fear he would die of hunger before morning. The master would not think of refusing, since he knew that Mr. Long Price would go home in any case".

When David was 15 his father died: "On a summer afternoon a crowd of us were bathing and swimming in the river Cothi below Ffrwdval opposite Penycoed when we could see the servant of Mr. Price, Talley, coming on horseback, leading another by its reins. He imparted the news that his father had died suddenly. He came up from the river in a trice, dressed, jumped on the animal's back and away at a wild gallop, and we did not have a peep of him after that".10 As far as is known he did not go to school again but was articled to a solicitor in Gloucester and subsequently qualified as one himself.

Following his father, he became Steward of the Manor of Talley and agent for the Edwinsford and Danyrallt estates. Perhaps with his mother's support, he was soon adding properties to his own estate both by purchase and by building. He is mentioned several times in the journals of Hermione Jennings of Gellideg. 11 On one occasion he and Hermione were guests at a large houseparty at Pentre, the home of the Saunders Davies family at Manordeifi, and over four very active days in February 1866 Hermione's notes suggest that David had some romantic interest in her. He is the first to be mentioned as having danced with her at both the first and second Cardigan balls and returned from both in the same carriage. He took her into dinner twice and "insisted" that she should go with him to a meet of the foxhounds. She comments "rather a slow party" but perhaps this is natural from a bright young lady of 18 who spent half the year in a hectic round of London entertainments writing of a man 15 years older!

He appears to have been an able and energetic man. He had an active interest in local affairs, holding for many years the posts of Under-Sheriff for the County, registrar of the Lampeter County Court and County Treasurer. He was in charge of the excavations of Talley Abbey carried out by means of public subscription over the period 1892-1894, and is commended in the reports of the excavations.12 He was well versed in Welsh language and literature and local history. Several of his translations were published as well as the article on Talley Abbey already referred to.1

In 1867 the ground area of Talley House was enlarged by perhaps 30 per cent to its present form. This was done by building new walls outside the north and south of the existing house with two floors of higher pitched rooms at the south matching the total height of the three old floors. An interesting staircase was built and a new roof was put over the whole. At the same time the road from Talley to Cwmdu, which used to pass close to the front of the house and the stables, was rebuilt on the present line to leave room for a lawn between it and the house. Some photographs taken about 1880 show the outside of the house as it is today save for the porch and bay window which have gone in recent years.

These changes were made in preparation for David's marriage in 1868 to Susanne Peel. By this time a substantial estate had been built up with many scattered properties within 10 miles of Talley. The same year Elizabeth Price and her five daughters, who had all been living at Talley House, moved to Lampeter (40 High Street and later Bank House). None of the daughters married but all reached a ripe old age.

Long Susanne Peel came from Taliaris Park, a large estate four miles south of Talley. Her father was William Peel, Esq., J.P.,13 who had bought Taliaris from Lord Robert Seymour around 1830. The Peels were Lancashire industrialists: William's great-grandfather was "Parsley" Peel (so called from the favourite design printed on his calico cloth), founder of the family fortunes. One of his grandsons was Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister in 1834-5 and 1841-6.

Susanne's mother on the other hand had an impeccable Welsh ancestry. She was Anna Maria Lloyd of the Lloyds of Ffos-y-bleiddiaid, a family with military traditions which traced its ancestry from Cadifor ap Dyfnwal, Lord of Castell Hywel and kinsman and follower of Rhys ap Gruffydd.14 Cadifor in turn was eighth in descent from Rhodri Mawr, King of all Wales (ruled 843-877).15

David and Susanne had one daughter, Susanne Elizabeth, and seven sons. Following the traditions of the day, two sons (John and Francis) entered the Church, two (Robert Peel and Edmund) the Law, two (Herbert Overton and Cecil Evelyn) the Army, while the seventh (Alan Sydney) went out to Ceylon and made, and lost, a small fortune as a tea-planter. Cecil Evelyn was killed in the Gallipoli landings in the First World War and is commemorated by a plaque in Talley Church.

David Long Price died in 1898, his widow Susanne inheriting the estate. On her death in 1905 it passed to the eldest son, the Rev. John Price, B.A.

John was made vicar of Talley in 1914, after spells as curate of Llanstephan and rector of Pendine, and carried on his ministry from Talley House until his death in 1940. He was a much loved local vicar, preaching regularly in Welsh and English; he never wore a clerical collar and this emphasised his second role, that of squire. He was also a true sporting parson, being a very keen tennis player and kennelling a pack of beagles, and later harriers, at Talley House. He hunted the local countryside for 21 seasons and only gave up when smitten with arthritis.

In 1899 John married Myfanwy, daughter of the Rev. John Price of Llanveigan, Brecon. Myfanwy supported her husband in every way, playing the organ and directing the choir. They had one son and seven daughters. The son, John Meredydd David Long Price, died tragically young in 1951 and on Myfanwy's death in 1960 the remaining estate was sold.

A few members of the family still reside in the county,16 but many have moved across the border and some overseas. The clerical traditions of the family were continued by the Very Rev. Robert Peel Price, vicar of Christchurch Priory, Hampshire, and later Dean of Hereford, who died on 26th December 1981.

The two Daniel Prices, David Long Price, John Price and their families lie peacefully in the churchyard, "the place above the waters", overlooking the lakes and the abbey ruins. Talley House still stands, without hidden passages or skeletons of walled-up monks but in good repair thanks to the workmanship of past days and the love and care of the present owners.

Naperville, Illinois, 1982


Acknowledgement.

The authors are grateful for patient assistance from the staff of several libraries, especially the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, the Dyfed Archives, Carmarthen, the Glamorgan Archives, Cardiff, and the Genealogical Library of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, Naperville, Illinois.
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