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Mary Ann Arnold (nee Williams)


Mary Ann Arnold was born Mary Ann Williams on 1st March 1857, at Beech Farm, Glascoed, the daughter of Elizabeth Williams.


Mary Ann, was one of 12 children. One contact informed me that she was commonly known as Nell, although this is strange since she had a younger sister, Ellen, who was also known as Nell. Her mother, Elizabeth Williams, married Richard Arnold on 9th April 1857, several weeks after Mary Ann’s birth. She always told people that she was born on 1st March 1858, to hide this fact. She was generally known (apart from on her birth certificate) as Mary Ann Arnold. As far as anyone in the family knew (or still knows!), Richard was her father. Was he her natural father? Maybe we’ll never know for sure, although family stories indicate that she always treated him as if he was.


Mary Ann married James Pitt at Pontnewydd, Cwmbran in 1879. James was active in union and chapel life, working as a shearer at the Foundry. Later on they became entrepreneurs, opening a grocer’s shop at Mill Road and then at Fowler Street, Pontnewynydd. James also worked as an insurance agent, which involved weekly trips on the steamer to Weston-Super-Mare to travel to the insurance office.


Mary Ann and James had eight children. The first, Annie was born in 1880, married Fred Brown and moved away to the Rhondda and then Bargoed. By the time their youngest son, Ernie, my grandfather, reached secondary school age, they were doing well enough in life to send him as a day pupil to West Mon school in Pontypool. He went on to become the first Head teacher of Grofield Secondary Modern school in Abergavenny.


They must always have considered Glascoed to be home. Their two children, Eva and Stanley, who had died in infancy, were buried at Mount Zion Baptist chapel in the village.


Their grave, first used when Eva died as a baby in 1885, became the final resting place of their parents. James died in 1929, and Mary Ann six years later, in 1935.

I have added a recollection of James and Mary Ann from their grand-daughter, Clyde Purnell (nee Brown).


NOTES FROM CONVERSATION WITH EDITH CLYDE PURNELL (nee Brown): 19/03/1994


Clyde was brought up by James & Mary Ann Pitt, of Pontnewynydd. She was sent to them originally, as a baby, because she had a medical condition, that required treatment at Pontypool Hospital. After she recovered, she was wanted back by her parents (Fred & Annie Brown - Annie was James & Mary Ann's eldest child) - at this point I believe her parents lived in the Rhondda valley. There was a disagreement about this - eventually James & Mary Ann won the day and brought Clyde up themselves.


Clyde remembers working in her grandparents' grocery shop. She remembers her Grandparents with great affection & love. She described the Pitt family as a very GOOD family. She idolised James Pitt - he was described as a lovely, good man - she recalled how in his work as an Insurance Agent, he had to go to Weston-Super-Mare every Wednesday on the "Steamer" - and took Clyde with him every week. She kept telling me how Mary Ann was "the most beautiful girl in the Glascoed" - and a very kind, good woman.


She recalled that her Great-Grandfather, Richard Arnold, was in fact a farmer in his own right, and NOT a Labourer - he had to give up the Farm after going blind. She remembers visiting him - every time he met her, he would beckon her over, feel her head, face & shoulders and say "My, how you've grown", and comment on the rate of her growth. She commented how everyone in Glascoed seemed to be related to each other!


Other things she said to me were that Mary Ann's sister, Aunt Nell (Ellen), lived at the first farm on the way into Glascoed - she married Reg Perrott - they were buried next to James & Mary Ann - also that Mary Ann's (four) sisters were buried in a vault by Mary Ann's grave at Glascoed.


She remembered Hilda Jenkins as a light, bubbly sort of personality - commenting how sad it was that she died. She was a teacher - Clyde confirmed that Hilda & Ernie used to go swimming together. She also said that Hilda is buried at Trevethin Parish Church.


She said that Ernie (James and Mary Ann’s youngest son, my grandfather) was a lovely man - very well-educated - I think she said that he helped to bring Clyde up - he was 10 years older than her. She said that he would have been Head of Caerleon College, if he had lived - he apparently died sitting on his wife Cerrie's lap. Cerrie was described as a lovely person, as well - another ex-teacher.


On seeing a photo of Alexandra Louisa Watson, she said that Alexandra's husband was the preacher of Mount Zion Chapel - that he often used to come for lunch with James & Mary Ann - living away from the church - is this right ? - Clyde seemed a little unsure who Alexandra was and may have mistaken her for someone else. Alexandra’s husband was not the pastor of Mount Zion, Glascoed. What may have confused matters is that in later life, James was a deacon and trustee of Zion Hill Baptist Chapel in Pontnewynydd.


Apparently, William Pitt (James and Mary Ann’s eldest son) got to know his wife-to-be, Edith Alice, through her being a servant at James & Mary Ann's house.


Other links:


Birth certificiate: 1857


Marriage certificate: 1879


Censuses: 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911.


Letter from Mary Ann to her son, Ernie Pitt - August 1934.


Monumental Inscription: Mount Zion Baptist Chapel 1935.