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Beech Farm is a centuries old farmhouse that in the available census years  - from 1832 certainly, 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?

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, James, Mary Ann, John, Elizabeth, Philip, William 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 Philip. Henry 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 censuses. Philip 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.


Beech Farm censuses: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911.


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.