Saturday, January 7, 2017

Nelson, Napoleon and John Richards

Really interesting day in Portsmouth visiting HMS Victory , the vessel used by the British under Nelson to defeat the Napoleonic French in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. Although they won, Nelson was fatally wounded and news of his death was relayed to London from Falmouth by horseback, passing through here at Overton as a rest stop.....history lesson over but strange to think that my great great great grandfather John Richards from Trentishoe , North Devon, who was born a few months before the battle , breathed the same air.. (Below: Luke Richards (2007-) my son at HMS Victory, Portsmouth UK 7/1/17)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Jenny Vida Richards 1920-2016

My beloved grandmother passed away peacefully in June , the same day as my grandfather Richard Richards (1923-1979) passed away . Wonderful memories X 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Richard Richards (1884-1947) - my great grandfather

At Easter, Dad and I visited the grave of Richard, his wife Celia, and their son Thomas at Llantwit Cemetery outside Neath. The tombstone was quite overgrown so we cleared it a bit so at least we could read the inscription.

Thomas was one of twins, his other twin Jack apparently eventually left Wales and settled in Jersey and that is a strand of the family we need to connect with at some point and may have some family history to share. We don't know how Thomas died but it must have been tragic as he was only 19. My grandfather Richard, his brother, must have felt the pain. 

The tombstone states:

Richard Richards
Died Feb 1st 1947

Also Celia his wife
Died Sept 29th 1954

Also Thomas their son
Died Feb 26th 1935
Aged 19 years

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reminding myself why I'm doing this - interlude

I've picked up a few books on researching family history to help me get some structure. Some are glossy with lots of pics and different page shadings which I somehow find hard to navigate. More my type is "Step by step guide to tracing your ancestors" by DM Field (Treasure Press 1987) which reads more like a traditional narrative. 

The first chapter nicely sums up some points about what exactly I am doing, what may be motivating me to do it and a fires a few warning shots to rein in my excited expectations. 

It tells me to be clear about what I am doing. There is a difference between genealogy and family history; the first is interested in family relationships and descent, the second more about the people behind the names on the pedigree chart and what their lives were like. I think I'm doing both. Certainly there's an excitement in seeing how far you can go back, or how high you can stack the inverted pyramid of the genealogy chart. But I'm also curious about who the real people are behind the names, where they lived, what world events were happening and whether there was any influence on their lives. The challenge for me is an ethical one - they were real flesh and blood like me, born of the same God, breathing in the same air, having the same feelings of joy and happiness, despair and sadness. So how can I reduce them to a name on a chart? 

It tells me that why I am doing it is apparently very simple. To know more about how I came to be who and what I am. Glad I'm not trying to clean out any Freudian cupboards at least, or so I'm told. Having said that Im not sure I agree with the deterministic tone of this. For sure I've inherited some genes in terms of looks and character. But I'd like to think each of us has a choice to be different from our forebears, for good or bad, despite the strong influence of Darwin trying to squeeze us into the Richards niche - whatever that may be. 

The warning shots. The book says that you have done very well if you manage to trace your ancestors back as early as the mid 17th century. Before that you apparently come up against the Civil War and Oliver Cromwell, a turbulent time in England and apparently a time of great administrative turmoil (I expect this means not a great time for things like parish records). So this is a sobering thought - and whilst I was never expecting to get back to the Richards of the Dark Ages or even the Normans, it does give me a sense of accomplishment that so far I've got back to Richard Richards born in 1792 in Devon. And indeed, at least for the time being, that's where the mist starts to descend.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The pub's role in the Richards ancestry - Part 1

The "pub", or public house, seems to have featured strongly in the Richards line, certainly from the mid 19th century onwards. We ran/owned pubs both in North Devon and, later, in Wales.

John Richards (1815-1897) was the father of Richard Richards, the latter being the family member that came over to Wales from Devon and was part of my direct line (see previous post here). It appears that John was born in Trentishoe in the same year as a very historic event - the Battle of Waterloo where the French Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the allied forces under the Duke of Wellington, which reversed what was started in the French Revolution and restored the French crown (link).

John married Mary-Ann Hoyles (1824-1891) in or around 1846, and it seems that Mary-Anne's family were running/owning the Hunters Inn in the Heddon Valley in the parish of Martinhoe.
Mary-Ann Richards (nee Hoyles)  

The 1841 census shows that the Hoyles were running the Hunters Inn in 1841, but that John and Mary-Anne had taken it over by the time of next census (1851). It's possible that John and Mary-Anne moved into the Hunters Inn before they were married in 1846, but perhaps one would have expected to have done that after they were married, i.e sometime between 1846 and 1851. Before they moved to the Hunters Inn, they were apparently living at Trentishoe Coombe Cottages, where there is evidence that their first 2 children Elizabeth (b. 1846) and John (b. 1849) were born.

Trentishoe Coombe Cottages (circa early 1900s) - posted in stating "John and Mary lived in one of these cottages from 1845 to 1850. Elizabeth and John were born here. They then took over Hunter's Inn from Mary's family" (thanks to Angela Manning for posting)
My father outside Trentishoe Coombe Cottages January 2014

This narrows down the time they moved to the Hunters Inn to between 1849 and 1851. The following link referring to White's Directory of 1850 link to states "John Richards, victualler Hunters Inn".  The image below is possibly from that time.

Hunters Inn (early 20th century, rebuilt post the 1895 fire which destroyed the building that John and Mary-Ann lived in) 
Hunters Inn today (

Tragically, we know that John and Mary-Ann's eldest child, Elizabeth (or Eliza as it seems she was known) only survived 2 years. She is buried with her parents and her passing in 1849 is recorded on the headstone of their grave in Trentishoe church.

My direct ancestor, Richard, was born in the Hunters Inn in December/January 1850/1851 as we are told in the 1851 census (taken on 30 March 1851) to be 4 months old. His brother Thomas (see post here) was born a few years later in the Hunters Inn in 1853.

It would seem that John and Mary-Anne were running the Hunters Inn as late as 1880/1, as the 1881 census shows that they were living in Trentishoe parish. Hunters Inn was in the Martinhoe parish. So at least they were not living there at the time of the fire which devastated the pub in 1895! It is unclear which property they moved to, but both the 1881 and 1891 censuses showed them living in Trentishoe parish.

John died in 1897 and is buried as St Peters Church, Trentishoe with Mary-Anne who had died earlier in 1891 and their infant daughter Eliza. Their grave is in close vicinity to that of John's father Richard (1790-1875).
The grave of John Richards, his wife Mary-Anne (nee Hoyles) and their daughter Eliza (Elizabeth) - St Peters Church, Trentishoe

Part 2 of the pub's role in our family line revolves around John's son Richard who moved to Wales and it was his son (another Richard) who ran a pub in Neath, the Duke of Wellington (ironically commemorating the victor in the war which was won in the same year that his grandfather was born!)..........see next post!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thomas Richards (1853-?) - the original founder of the Richards' coal merchant business?

This post focuses on a person who is a slight deviation from my direct ancestry, but in terms of his occupation is definitely relevant to the story of my direct line.

To provide some more recent context. My father and his brother (Gwyn), and their father before him, owned a coal merchant's business in the village of Aberdulais, about 2 miles from Neath. The work was hard and I experienced that personally by helping out during holidays. The coal business ceased in the early 1990s due to the building of the new A465 road which came straight through the coal yard.

It seems that my great grandfather (Richard!) and my great-great grandfather (Richard again!) were not in the coal business, but my great-great grandfather's brother Thomas was. And possibly, this is where the coal business started off from. So what do we know of Thomas and how did the coal business develop over time?

My previous post here mentioned a Thomas Richards, who appears to have come over from North Devon to Wales with his brother Richard Richards (my great-great grandfather) in the second half of the 19th century. The census of 1891 shows Thomas living with his wife Mary and family at Tyn Yr Heol Fach*, in the parish of Llantwit Lower, just outside Neath. His occupation is set down as "coal merchant". The next (1901) census shows him still at Tynyrheol Fach as a "coal merchant (retail)" and also his son, another Thomas Richards, as  in a similar occupation. The 1911 census, ten years later, shows that he was  "coal merchant and farmer" at Tynyrheol Farm, Tonna; probably the same property as Tynyrheol Fach (but I'm not completely certain). Thomas was not living at the property in 1911 (though he still may have been in the coal business with his father or on his own) and another son, Frank A Richards was mentioned "assisting in the coal business".

Unfortunately, records do not show any further information for either Thomas senior, Thomas junior or Frank beyond 1911, so at this point I cannot say which of them, if any, continued the coal business. It is very possible that my grandfather Richard Richards got into the coal business himself via his great-uncle Thomas or uncles Thomas/Frank, or perhaps their offspring, rather than setting up a new business from scratch; though a conversation with my father suggests that my grandfather set up his own coal merchant business, so it was possible that there was some inter-family business rivalry!

* It appears that Tynyrheol Fach or Farm (whether they are the same of different properties) is different from Tynyrheol which is mentioned in the link attached (here) as being on "the Neath road, Tonna". Fach and/or Farm may have been an adjacent property. Certainly the censuses mention above distinguish between the two properties and Tynyrheol was headed up by the Jones family.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

More about Richard (1851-1912)

So Richard (1851-1912) was the one who came over to Wales and started a Richards dynasty in Neath!

Richard was 4 months old during the census of 1851 and at that time he was living at the Hunters Inn, in the parish of Martinhoe, a neighbouring parish to Trentishoe. It's therefore likely that he was born at the inn that his father, John, and his mother, Mary-Ann, kept at the time. The 1861 census shows that the 10 years old Richard was still living in Martinhoe, though whether he and his family were still running the Hunters Inn at that time is not known to me as yet.

As I mentioned in my last post, the 1871 census shows him having arrived in Wales and working as a "stone breaker" so he must have arrived sometime between 1861 and 1871. He would have been a young man, anything between 10 and 20 years of age, though if he came over to Wales (it seems without his parents, though possibly may have been accompanied by his brother Thomas*) one would have thought he was nearer to 20 than to 10. But in those days, anything was possible, and further research may shed some light about his journey to Wales from Devon.

He married Margaret Morgan in St Catwg's church, Cadoxton (a village outside Neath) on 26 November 1873 when he was 22 years old and living in the Pentwyn area of Neath. I am not sure, and trying to find out, which part of Neath that is. Margaret was also from Neath, living at Gellia Fach (a farm?). Richard's occupation at the time seems to have changed to a collier from stone breaker. His father John obviously appears on the marriage certificate, but one wonders whether he was actually present and/or whether any other family members were there. Maybe Thomas stood close to his brother?

It appears that Richard took over and resided at the Duke of Wellington pub sometime after 1888. By this time, he was gathering quite a collection of offspring and the 1911 census shows that he and Margaret had 12 children in total, of which 8 survived. By 1911, only 3 children were living in the pub - Richard (my great grandfather), Kate and Maud**.

He is also noted as a "church sexton" in the 1881and 1891 censuses.

As far as I understand, his son Richard (my great grandfather) took over the Duke on his father's death in 1912.

* An interesting story for another blog post is Richard's brother Thomas. website shows that was born in 1853 at the Hunters Inn and was two years younger than Richard. He was married to Mary in 1874, a woman born in Lynton, Devon. Were they married before they left Devon? Or did they leave on their own journey to Wales as young lovers? The 1881 census saw them living in Llantwit Lower, an area of Neath near the village of Tonna and appear to have remained there at least up until 1911 Wales Census (the census shows him living at "258 Tynyrheol Farm, Tonna, Neath" in the parish of Llantwit Lower). His death date is not recorded on What is interesting is that the 1911 Wales census shows his occupation as both a farmer and coal merchant. As my own father, and my grandfather, were coal merchants, I wonder if my grandfather got involved (apprenticed?) in the coal business via his "uncle" Thomas, as my great grandfather does not appear to have been involved himself. Maybe. 

** Maud, or Clara Maud L Richards per, appears to have only died relatively recently in 1975 but it is not a name that I have come across before in family discussions. Another interesting future blog post!