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- The Best Farmer in the County
In September 2023, our first talk of the 2023-24 season, was by Michael Freeman, back by popular demand. Michael is the former Curator of Ceredigion Museums and Honorary Research Fellow at the National Museum of Wales. Always informative and entertaining, his topic this time was ‘Anne Evans, Highmead, the best farmer in the County.’ Here is a summary from Michael about her: Anne Evans (1738-1807) kept very detailed records of the produce of the Highmead estate farms (near Llanwenog) from 1778 until her death. After her husband died in 1787, leaving her with seven young children, she ran the farm and estate. She was obsessed with weighing and measuring the farm produce and kept some very detailed descriptions of the work of the maidservants' work in the dairy and brewer Anne recorded some of the costs of building their new house and provided us with an almost unique breakdown of the cost of building cottages for the workers; for repairing and improving mills and the cost and nature of her footman's livery. She kept many records of the volume of the corn sent for grinding and the weight of different grades of flour returned; the quantity of butter and cheese made and its current value and the weight of all the products of the animals that were slaughtered on the farm including the number of candles made from the tallow rendered from those beasts. Her notes provide us with a fascinating and very detailed insight into work at a Cardiganshire estate farm around 1800. Michael Freeman Nov 2023
- Touring Nanteos
The beautiful Nanteos mansion was the destination of our October trip. Now a hotel and wedding venue, this 18th century house outside Aberystwyth is probably most famous for having housed the Nanteos cup, said to be the holy grail. Janet Joel, author of the book ‘Nanteos: Life on a Welsh Country Estate’, was our guide for the afternoon. Here she describes the house and our tour: A guided tour: 11th October 2023 Nanteos was built in 1739, by the Powell family. The Powell’s owned over 31,000 acres at their peak, owning mostly North of Ceredigion and many lead and silver mines. The Georgian mansion was built by Thomas Powell and his wife Mary which the foundation stone states on the East side of the mansion. Sadly, Thomas Powell died in 1752 before completion but his brother Rev. William Powell completed the build. The mansion is built on top of a smaller house, which remains underneath and used as a cellar, it has been suggested that it dates to the 13th century. During the tour we walked from the Entrance Hall through to the Morning Room, following through to the library, which is now the hotel bar. During the Powell time the Nanteos Cup was kept in a locked cupboard and taken out when visitors called to drink from it. Then through to the dining room, the largest room of the house. We continued the tour up the grand staircase to the gallery and saw the very grand Music room, with its decorative Rococo design, large mirrors, and Aesop’s Fable marble fireplace. Today, wedding ceremonies are conducted in this lavish room. Then up to the second floor, to see the smaller private areas of the Powell family; today the rooms are bedroom suites for the hotel. The attic rooms where the servants slept had been removed in the early 1960s due to replacing the roof with lead. Returning down to the ground floor via the servant staircase to the service areas. The service bells still hung in the corridor, sadly only the Music Room bell remains in working order. Then onto the kitchen, which was laid out for breakfasts for the visitors of the hotel. The Victorian dresser remains in the kitchen as does the ‘Vigars of Aberystwyth’ cooking range, charcoal ovens, and a huge plate warmer. Hooks can still be seen on the ceiling that once hung the meat for the family. Making our way outside, to the courtyard, where there were more service rooms, including the Estate office and battery store, which are now 4 dog friendly bedroom suites. Leaving the courtyard, we were led to the Greek style stables, built in and around 1837, which would have housed up to 18 horses and several carriages. Then back down to the walled garden, and eventually returning to the dining room for afternoon tea. Jan Joel 2023 You can read more about the house on her website: A History of Nanteos Mansion
- A Drunken Drowning
Our first post-Covid outing took place in June 2023, our destination, Strata Florida. There we had a fascinating visit to the abbey itself, the Mynachlog Fawr exhibition of Ceredigion rural life and the archaeological dig on the site at the time. Lunch followed in Tregaron; at the cosy and atmospheric old coaching inn, Y Talbot. This has long been a favourite of mine. When researching my family tree some years ago I was surprised to discover a closer connection with the inn through my great-great-great grandfather, Thomas. While waiting to be served, this is the story I shared with members: Thomas Jenkins (1819-1850) Thomas, a local customs officer, died on 19th January 1850 and, I quote The Welshman, in ‘mysterious circumstances’ following a night in that very hostelry. Foul play was suspected - customs officers were probably not exactly popular in those times - and his drinking companion for the evening, a German clock-maker, Herr Christian Moser, was arrested. They had left together but Thomas never made it home. His body was found several days later, 2 miles down the river from Tregaron after the river had been dragged all the way to Lampeter and back. The Welshman gave a detailed report recording the subsequent inquest, held in The Talbot, on 24th January. Its title: ‘Inquest on a drunken dead tax-man.’ Through witness statements, it tells how Thomas had gone to the Talbot at about 10pm. He had drunk one glass of brandy and water then went home to fetch his fiddle. He then remained in the pub drinking amiably with Herr Moser until about 2am drinking brandy and gin, by which time he was ‘far gone in liquor’. As he was having trouble walking, Moser accompanied him towards home & shortly returned to the pub where he was staying. He asked for a torch as Thomas had dropped his hat and asked Moser to look for it. A small search party set off from The Talbot: the hat was found, as was a portion of Thomas’ coat sleeve. Of Thomas there was no sign and it was assumed he had got home. The next morning his maid came to the Talbot looking for him and the alert was sounded. Evidence from Avarina Evans, a servant girl at the Talbot, shed light on Thomas’ behaviour when intoxicated - and I get the sense from the various statements that this was a fairly regular occurrence. He had the habit of pouring water over his face and washing his hands. On several occasions he had asked Avarina to pour a jug of water over his head. Others reported how he had also been seen a number of times going to wash himself in the river when in such a state. The surgeon found no evidence of an attack on his body, just a few abrasions on the body consistent with a fall in the river. It would therefore appear he had simply slipped into the Teifi in his drunken stupor and died. The eventual verdict was therefore ‘accidental death from drowning’ and Herr Moser was released without charge. And that was the sorry end of my great-great-great grandfather!
- Activities | Cymdeithas
Activities Talks We have a programme of wide-ranging talks for the 2023-24 season. All meetings are held in the Tabernacle Capel Vestry (except October: hosted by Natalie Chapman in Galeri Gwyn, Oxford Street.) Tuesday 19 September 7.30pm Michael Freeman: Ann Evans, Highmead 1738-1807, the best farmer in the county Tuesday 17 October, 7.30pm Natalie Chapman : George Chapman: A Personal View Tuesday 21 November, 7.30pm Dr James January McCann (RCAHMW): Historic Place Names of Wales Tuesday 16 January, 7.30pm Ken Murphy, Dyfed Archaeological Trust: The Iron Age capital of mid-Wales: recent archaeological excavation at Pendinas Hillfort Tuesday 20 February, 7.30pm Jane Aaron: Cranogwen (In Welsh with simultaneous translation) Tuesday 19 March, 7.30pm Siân Stewart: Bensha and his daughters: The Remarkable Residents of Portland House, Aberaeron. Part 1 Trips Our most recent trip in October 2023 was to Nanteos Mansion, near Aberystwyth. This beautiful 18th century house was the home of the Powell family and most famous for having housed the Nanteos cup, said to be the holy grail. Details of our next planned trip will follow soon. Dining Always popular with our members, this year we are holding a mixture of lunches and dinners kindly organised by Margaret Bevan: • Thursday, 28 September 2023: Feathers Royal Hotel 7pm • Monday, 13 November 2023: The Hive 12.30pm • Friday, 8 December 2023: The Harbourmaster 12.30pm • Wednesday, 31 January 2024 : Y Seler 12.30pm • Tuesday, 12 March 2024: The Hive 2.30pm • Thursday, 11 April 2024: The Harbourmaster 7pm Menus and prices are circulated to members in advance of each date.
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