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Upper Cwmhir

Upper Cwmhir is situated at the end of Cwmhir Road, which winds up to the north of the village from Jerusalem Lane if you are approaching from New Inn. It’s near neighbour is rather predictably, Lower Cwmhir (and is situated at the very end of Cwmhir Lane, just 100 yards further east).

For most of the 19th century, Upper Cwmhir was occupied by several generations of the Williams family, although by tracing back through the Land Tax records, it appears likely that from about 1824 to 1829 or thereabouts, a Joseph Samson was the Occupant. The Duke of Beaufort was the landowner. This may well have been the Joseph Sampson who married Amy Morgan at Mamhilad, on 3rd June 1777 (or maybe a son?!).

At the time of the 1831 Land Tax Assessment, William Williams was in residence. He was assessed for a £1 yearly rental on the property.

We find out more about the Williams family on the 1841 census. The residents were William Williams, aged “20” Occupation “Ind” and born in Monmouthshire. There was also an Elizabeth Williams, aged “50” also born in Monmouthshire and a William Jones aged 10, an Agricultural labourer and a William “ditto” aged “20” born outside of Monmouthshire a M S (male servant). I assume that Elizabeth was William’s mother. It’s possible though that the “20 year old William” was in fact the elder William Williams from the 1831 Land Tax Assessment - hard to say whether it’s a census enumerator’s error or not. William senior may well have just been away from home on census night.

With the sparseness of detail, it is not easy to be sure about exactly which Williams’ and Jones these were. These are such common names.

On the 1851 census we still see that the Williams family was still in residence - an older William Williams, a 78 year old widower, born in Glascoed who was a farmer. He was probably the same William Williams who appeared on the 1831 Land Tax Assessment, although this is a bit of an assumption. Here we see that Upper Cwmhir was not a large farm by any means - he only farmed 8 acres.

His daughter in law, Mary Williams (aged 28) - born Panteg - was living there and in obvious poverty. She was in receipt of parish relief, along with her two daughters, Harriet (aged 6) and Eliza (aged 4), both of whom had been born in Glascoed. It is not clear who their father (by now deceased) was.

In 1856, the Usk Observer reported that one of William’s dogs killed several of a neighbour’s sheep, including a “fine ram” … along with a neighbouring dog. I’m sure he wasn’t popular on Rhadyr farm for a while!

On the 1861 census, the farm is called “Lower Cwmare” - although since Upper Cwmare is not on this census and Lower Cwmare appears twice, I have assumed that this is actually “Upper Cwmhir” . William Williams, born Glascoed aged 48 is now the farmer. I believe that this is likely to be the William Williams, baptised in Monkswood on 21st March 1813, son of the Glascoed residents, William and Elizabeth Williams. This William had at least two siblings, Sarah (baptised on 20th Jan 1811 at Monkswood - who later married William Rowland) and David (baptised 10th Sept 1815 at Monkswood). David later and married a much older lady farmer, Frances Williams (nee Morgan). She was about 30 years older than David and this fact I believe led to the marriage being reported in the Hereford Times.

Also living at the house in 1861 were Mary Ann (William’s wife) aged 50 born in Glascoed. Their three daughters listed were Margaret (aged 14), Jamima (aged 12) and Elizabeth (aged 8). All were born in Glascoed.

The Williams family continued to farm at Upper Cwmhir for years onwards, as evidenced by the census records below:

The 1871 census shows that William (born 1813) and Mary Ann were still the main residents. Their daughter, Elizabeth (now 18) and still a “Scholar” and their nephew Leonard (aged 12 from Llanfrechfa Upper) were with them. Leonard is described as an “Imbecile”. This sounds harsh to our modern ears; it may have indicated that Leonard had a moderate learning disability, although the families and enumerators wouldn’t necessarily have been well equipped to diagnose this!

The 1881 census has William, Mary Ann and Elizabeth still living at the farm. William is still farming and aged 68, Mary Ann has gone blind and Elizabeth is listed as an unmarried 26 year old. I wonder whether she stayed at home to care for her mother? William and Mary Ann’s other daughter, Jemima had died in 1879 and was buried at Llanfihangel Pontymoile churchyard on 16th July 1879. Their grand-daughter, Alice Margaret Williams, born in 1872 was now living with William and Mary Ann. She was Jemima’s daughter with Wyndham Williams, noted on Alice’s later marriage certificate as the father.

1891 census showed an ageing William Williams, as a widower. His wife Mary Ann had died in October 1888 and was buried at Llanfihangel Pontymoile churchyard.

William was by now a 78 year old farmer, living with his Grand-daughter Alice, who worked as his housekeeper. They had also taken in a 23 year old Steel works Labourer, William Stoneham, as their lodger. William was born in Shirenewton.

William died in April 1892 and was buried at Llanfihangel Pontymoile churchyard on 18th April 1892. At first glance this would appear to have been the end of an era, since by 1901, the lodger, William Stoneham had taken on the tenancy at Upper Cwmhir. On closer examination though, William’s wife was Alice and in fact William married her, which continued the Williams family’s interest in Upper Cwmhir into the 20th century.

William actually lived to see them marry, since their marriage was at Panteg Parish Church on 9th September 1891.

The 1901 census shows the young couple with two children, Louisa (aged 8) and William (aged 5). William was now a Plate layer on the railway. They were all English speakers. We discover that Upper Cwmhir had four rooms.

The 1911 census shows the same people. William was by now working at “Brickmaking” at the nearby Little Mill Brick Company. It confirms that William and Alice had been married for 19 years ad that they only ever had two children. Louisa was now 18 and a Dress maker (employed at home) and the younger was working with his dad at the Brick Company. Upper Cwmhir is now known as “Upper Cwmhir Cottage”.

The Registers of Electors had shown some Upper Cwmhir Williams’ as voters from 1841 onwards (William Williams initially).

The 1922 and 1929 Registers show more than just the Head of Household and we see the following people listed:

1922 - William and Nellie Simmons.

1929 - William Thomas and Elizabeth Ann Gameson.

We find out a little more about the Gamesons in the 1939 National Register, which was taken in September 1939 as a consequence of the outbreak of war. Willaim Gameson was born on 24th March 1869 and was a “Small Holder”. Elizabeth was born on 19th April 1874 and was an unpaid Domestic (“housewife”). Their son William T. Gameson was a Journeyman Saddler having been born on 25th September 1925.

Elizabeth Ann Gameson died in the early days of World War 2, aged 67 and was buried on 15th October 1941 at Llanfihangel Pontymoile Churchyard.

An Upper Cwmhir Cottage is now listed too on the 1939 Register - I guess this was a newer building, or could it have been the old cottage, with a new farmhouse constructed as “Upper Cwmhir”? Hopefully somebody will be able to tell me. The Cottage has Robert Parry (DOB: 22nd May 1867) in residence, a “Small Holder” with his wife (I assume) Martha an “unpaid Domestic” (DOB: 4th April 1871).