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Beech Farm


The location of Beech Farm is shown above, courtesy of Google maps. The modern farm is in the background, while the ancient farmhouse is situated between the two tracks coming up from Glascoed Lane. The exact location is also pinpointed on the “British Listed Buildings” website, with a little synopsis of the history and construction of the house – this is well worth a read and can be found here.


Beech Farm is a centuries old farmhouse. is a Grade II Listed Building situated off Glascoed Lane (North side) about 1000 yards west of the Glascoed crossroads in the direction of New Inn.

I have reproduced the description of the property below in full from the British Listed Buildings site and accept all of the conditions of their Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

The Headings History, Exterior, Interior, and Reasons for Listing are all from the British Listed Buildings site. The subsequent information was written by me, drawing on sources I researched and transcribed myself.


This is an early C17 house, which was increased in size probably in the C18 when a kitchen was made out of what was an existing attached agricultural building. It was improved again in the Victorian period and had a major refurbishment in the 1990s.


The house is wholly rendered, presumably over local rubble stone and has Welsh slate roofs. It is a one and a half and two storey, three cell house with a rear outshut. The main elevation has the two storey section on the left on falling ground. The ground floor has window, door, window, window; the features are late C20 but their arrangement suggests that they are largely original openings. The windows are standard two light casements. The upper floor has another casement on the left and an eaves dormer on the right. Left gable stack and a central one in the cross-passage position. The left gable is blind, the right gable has a small window in the upper floor. Rear elevation (only partly seen) has an outshot and similar casements.


The plan is two cell gable entry with an addition at the entry (downhill) end to give an extra room. This may be a conversion of a former agricultural building which could be partly contemporary with the house, but the roof structure is definitely later than the house part.

The gable entry is the usual arrangement, to the left of a large fireplace with massive chamfered oak lintel and monolith jambs. The entrance has a chamfered oak surround with shaped head and door with planted mouldings which has been reset from its original position. To the right is a stone firestair, now disused. The inner room is still partly separated off by an oak post and panel screen with a doorway to the inner room. The panels may not survive in the screen and half the screen has been moved to the gable wall. The ceiling has chamfered cross beams with ogee stops and the joists are also chamfered and stopped. The inner room remains unheated. The main entrance is into a cross passage, now filled by a C20 stair but the rear wall has only a small window. The kitchen is at a considerably lower level and has a smaller and plainer fireplace with oak lintel and mid C19 bread oven to the right. To the left is another firestair, also blocked, with a 4-centred doorway. Plain ceiling beams. Modern rear extension. The first floor has no visible historic features. The roof is in three bays with principal rafters and ties and trenched purlins. The secondary rafters etc are part of a full recovering of the roof.

Reasons for Listing

Included as a good early C17 house retaining appearance and character.


The first resident that I can link with Beech Farm is the “Widow of Joseph Harries”, in the Land Tax Assessments of 1823 and 1824. I don’t really know anything else about her, although I do know that a Joseph Harries was paying Land Tax in Glascoed at the time of the 1806 Land Tax Assessments. He appeared to be liable for less tax in that particular assessment, so if it is the same Joseph (likely I think) then he had managed to move up in the world before he died, if taxation is anything to go by!

From 1829 onwards and possibly up to 5 years earlier, Beech Farm was inhabited by the Williams family. Roger Williams and his wife Ann. It has also been referred to as “Big Beech Farm”, after the huge beech tree that for centuries was a noted local landmark (see also below - “The Great Storm”). Roger’s parents were Phillip and Elizabeth Williams. Phillip had died in 1830 and Elizabeth in 1836 - both were buried at Mount Zion Chapel. It is quite possible that they farmed at Beech Farm before Roger inherited the property - this is my own speculation.

Roger was a native of Breconshire, being born near Crickhowell, c 1790, at a place called Cwmbychan - I haven’t been able to locate it on modern maps - maybe it was a farm? His brother, William though, appeared to have been born at Glascoed (according to the 1871 census) so his parents, Philip and Elizabeth must have been farming at Glascoed in 1806 too, around the time of William’s birth. I guess this record points to them, although cannot prove this for sure, or exactly where they were farming at this point.

The first we see of him is when he married Ann Morgan, a Glascoed girl, at Usk in 1830. They were certainly in residence at Beech Farm by 1832, when Roger was listed as the occupier on the Register of Electors of that year. He lived at the farm until his death on 11th March 1872.

They had seven children, JamesMary AnnJohnElizabethPhilipWilliam and Henry - all born at Glascoed. An eighth “son”, Charles was also listed on the 1851 census, although I suspect he was probably the son of Mary was 17 or 18 and unmarried at the time that Charles was born. This is speculation rather than proven fact. They weren’t the only babies born to the family at the farm; I know that my Great Grandmother, Mary Ann Arnold, was also born there in 1857, before her mam, Elizabeth got married.

It was definitely a working farm. Here are a couple of stories about the farm and its residents (Source: “The History of Glascoed Chapel from its origins to 1970” by A. Glyndwr Williams.):

The Great Storm

In 1879, a very severe storm blew down what was known as the “Big Beech” at Beech Farm. It must have been some tree as it took six men, with arms outstretched, to encompass its trunk and such was its height that, tradition has it, sailors in the Channel used it as a landmark. Such was the ‘crack’ that the noise was heard at the Cross Farm. In an article written for the Free Press, July 25 1868, a distinguished journalist, commenting on the view from the Folly Tower, wrote, “On the Crest of the ridge, right in front of us is the ‘Big Beech’ popularly, but erroneously known, supposed to mark the centre of Monmouthshire, as much like the figure of a crouching lion as it is possible for a tree in a state of nature to be”.

Seconds out . . .

Henry Williams described a fight between two women. He was working in the field at Beech Farm when he heard the sound of saucepans being beaten and two parties, one from the Poplars, the other from High House direction, met on the Common Land and proceeded to abuse each other, to the delight of their followers, followed by some hair pulling. They then agreed to meet at the Cross in Pontypool to fight it out and settle the matter.

(This second story probably took place in the 1870s or 60s.)

After Roger’s death, Ann continued as the farmer until 1884, with the help of her sons Henry and PhilipHenry married and moved away to his own farms by the time of the death of his mother in 1884.

The up until his late 40’s, confirmed bachelor, Philip married Ann, the daughter of William Gwatkin and Eliza Williams of Maes Mawr Farm in Glascoed, on 2nd August 1887 at St Woolos’, Newport. She had been recently widowed by Isaac Edward Lewis and brought five children from that marriage with her to Beech Farm to make it a noisy place again! William Isaac, Isabella, Florence, Ada and Beatrice. Philip and Ann rounded out the family by bringing two new children to the world, Richard (1885) and Annie Kate (1890). We see the family together on both the 1891 and 1901 censusesPhilip continued as the farmer until his death in January 1903.

I don’t know exactly when the farm passed on to the hands of the next owners, although I according to the electoral records of 1909, Ann Williams (nee Gwatkin), Philip’s widow was still living there in 1909. The census also shows her there in 1911 with her son Richard Henry (aged 23 - “farmer’s son, working on farm, looking after farm”), and daughter Annie Kate (aged 20 - Farmer’s daughter, dairy work, dairy maid).

I have also been told by a contact that the Bradley family were farming at Beech Farm by 1910. I would imagine that the year given must have been approximated over the years, since we still see Ann Williams/ Gwatkin farming here in April 1911.

“I am not even sure of the exact dates my family were in residence, apart from the fact my Uncle Ernest BRADLEY born there in 1917 farmed it all his married life. Coincidentally, my Aunt (his wife) died this month, leaving my Mother as the only living person now of that generation (aged 90). I can only guess that John William & Esther BRADLEY were at Beech Farm sometime between 1901-1910, and held it until recent years”. Thanks for the above info to Hazel! Any more info would be much appreciated.

John and Esther can be found on the Register of Electors at Beech Farm in 1922 and 1929. An Arthur James Bradley was also registered to vote at the address in 1922. He wasn’t registered any more at Beech Farm in 1929, but Frank Bradley was registered.

The National Register, taken on 29th September 1939, following the outbreak of World War II shows John and Esther Bradley still in residence with their family.


Land Tax Records

1823 - “Widow Joseph Harris”

1824 - “Widow Joseph Harris”.

1829 - Philip Williams (Father of Roger Williams)

1831 - Roger Williams.

Registers of Electors:

1832 through to  1872 - Roger Williams.

1889  - Philip Williams.

1909 - Ann Williams (nee Gwatkin).

1922 and 1929 - John & Esther Bradley and family.

Beech Farm censuses: 

1841 - Roger Williams and family.

1851 - Roger Williams and family.

1861 - Roger Williams and family.

1871 - Roger Williams and family.

1881 - Ann Williams and family.

1891 - Philip Williams and family.

1901 - Philip Williams and family. 

1911 - Ann Williams (nee Gwatkin) and family.

1939 (National Register) - John & Esther Bradley and family.

Picture Notes: View from Great Beech trig - Probably around the place where the “Big Beech” was situated.

© Copyright Iain Macaulay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.