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Henry Watkins


Henry Watkins was born around 1818 at Saint Torvence, Monmouthshire.

We first meet him at the 1841 census (aged approx 20) and Maria Jenkins (aged approx 15) at Lower Wernhir farm, working for the Roberts family. Henry was an agricultural labourer and Maria was a servant and hailed from Glascoed.

It appears that love and a marriage followed involving two of those “below stairs”! Henry Watkins and Maria Jenkins appear on the 1851 census as a married couple at another Glascoed house, “Pergoed”.

By now, Henry was a farmer in his own right at Pergoed. And he had married Maria Jenkins, his fellow servant. They married at Llanddewi Fach on 20th March 1846. There must have been love in the air at Lower Wernhir!

In 1858 Henry took “two little girls” to court for trespassing and stealing apples. They were ordered to pay 6s costs. The “little girls” were actually aged 14 (Mary Ann Rowlands) and 11 (her sister, Temperance). They lived at High House which was a short jaunt away. This was reported in the Usk Observer.

At some point in the 1850s or very early 1860s, Henry and Maria moved to the farm which would be their main residence for 30 to 40 years or so – Upper House, Llanbaddock. They were there for the censuses in 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891. There are two Upper Houses in what we think of as Glascoed – Upper House, Glascoed which is near Pergoed Lane, and Upper House Llanbaddock (which is very near to Cherry Orchard). Henry, it seems, continued to farm the land around Pergoed for quite some time.


The Registers of electors of this period (from 1868 to 1889) trace his use of the lands at Pergoed qualifying as a tenant from 1868 to 1876 and as the owner of the freehold of the Pergoed lands in 1889.


Henry appeared on the grand jury at the Monmouthshire Assizes in March 1864. I take this to mean that he was of some standing in the community, but maybe he was simply selected randomly as a man eligible to vote.


Later in 1864 and in 1865 there’s an interesting little cameo featuring Henry in two related disputes over dung! The accounts are a little confusing at first. What is clear straight away is that George Roberts (a hay dealer) rented Pergoed from Henry from May 1863 to May 1865.


In November 1864, there was a dispute over who had the rights to taking dung away from the property. It seems that in the November 1864 case, Henry had taken five cart loads of dung and one cartload of ashes away from Pergoed. The tenant felt that this was out of order! It all ended in the tenant (George Roberts) threatening Henry with a pitchfork in an attempt to protect his property. The case was not resolved in the November hearing, although we later (June 1865) found that the case was dismissed.


10th June 1865 report - maybe since the landlord (Henry) and tenant (George Roberts) had been in dispute for quite some time, Henry had not been paid his second year’s rent, which he was now seeking to recover. To add insult to injury, George Roberts had been taking manure away from Pergoed and selling it to his neighbours (John Pitt – who I believe at this time lived next door at Rose Cottage, on 1st August 1864, 22nd December 1864 and in March 1865 – and also to Benjamin Rees at Lower Wernhir on 21st February 1865). He observed the dung being taken from Pergoed up the steep Pergoed lane, probably just a couple of hundred yards to the neighbouring Rose Cottage from behind a hedge. I visited Rose Cottage’s site today and enjoyed imagining Henry Watkins peering over the hedge probably getting more and more annoyed at George Roberts delivering dung to my Gt Gt Grandfather’s John Pitt’s land. The case revealed that even more dung had been sold in November to William Arnold and also to Greenpool farm. The court judged in Henry’s favour.


Henry and Maria were back at Pergoed for the 1901 census, and I believe this must be where they saw out their days. They had lived long and fruitful lives - both died at the ripe old age of 87 in and were buried at Mount Zion Baptist Chapel in Glascoed – Henry in May 1905 and Maria in August 1907.


References

Census: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901


Marriage record (1846).


Monumental Inscription: At Mount Zion, Glascoed.


Register of Electors: 1868 to 1889