Morgan Richard Morgan, 18th Century

We now travel north to the rural Welsh hinterland bordering Breconshire and Carmarthenshire.  While only about 15 miles away, it was and still is a completely different environment to the now rapidly industrialising Dulais Valley area to which our Morgan family would become connected.   It feels a lot further away.  North of Penycae there is nothing but the seemingly endless high moor and the stony, lonely Crai reservoir, ghosts of how many farmers resonate, before dropping down into Defynnog and the altogether gentler beginnings of the less threatening part of rural Breconshire, at least here in the valley.  North of this, of course, start the Brecon Beacons proper, a mountainous landscape, through which our ancestors seem only to have travelled.  Our Morgans came from around the villages of Llywel and Trecastle, on today’s A40 between Brecon and Llandovery.  This was a key and ancient communications and trading axis between England and west Wales, the old London to Fishguard road, particularly important for centuries as a cattle-droving route, so was not completely in the backwaters and in many ways was better connected to the outside world than our more industrially advanced but still rather remote and inaccessible wild upland of Banwen Pyrddin.  In those days, Llywel parish was large and extended about 20 miles in each direction, no doubt because of the sparse population: in 1849 it was estimated at only 1,684 inhabitants (“St David’s Church Llywel, an Illustrated Guide”, R Camp).  Until recent times, Llywel Parish was generally split into the following divisions:

-        Llywel village

-        Trecastle

-        Traian, Trian or Trayan Glas

-        Traian Trian or Trayan Mawr

The last two are sometimes referred to as hamlets but they do not appear to be nucleated settlements, rather collections of scattered farms.  A parish church - St Mary’s - was established for Trayanglas and that and its vicarage provide something of a focal point.   The vast majority of our Morgans are recorded in either Trayan Glas or Mawr, since the earliest records available.

Parish records from St David’s church, Llywel, date back to the late seventeenth century, with births starting in 1694.  Most records survive in good and legible condition, and the Morgan name features regularly from the start.  This allows to re-constitute parts of these families relatively easily, although the use of a limited stock of forenames – for example between 1760 and 1780 there were up to 20 different Morgan Morgans baptised at Llywel  – generally makes things rather difficult.    Some of the earliest entries are hard to read, though, so we catch only tantalising glimpses sometimes of possible forebears: “Lewis Morgan de [of] Trayan Glas, yeoman…1696”; “Margaret, the wife of David Morgan, yeoman, Trayan Glas was buried April the 17th Anno Domini 1697”; “Richard the son of Llwelyn John Morgan yeoman de [of] Trayan Mawr was baptised April the 9th 1698”…

The curate or the vicar writing in the book gave men, and by implication their families, a place along the social spectrum of the time, which we can reconstruct as generally being:

 

Pauper (or beggar)

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Labourer (in this area, agricultural)

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Tradesman (or Farmer): Shoemaker, Miller, Cobbler, Carrier, Tailor all feature for the Morgans

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Yeoman, of which there are some Morgans

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Gent [leman] – a couple found so far

 

Women, on the other hand, were given little positive status other than daughters or wives, but plenty of negative labels abound: “concubine” features heavily in the earlier records.  Pity poor “Sarah, bastard child of Mary Davis Andrew and the reputed daughter of Jenkin Morgan…” In  1709, we can feel the full force of the vicar’s disapproval, still fresh after three hundred years, as he records “David a bastard child of Owen Thomas which he begot upon the body of Janet verch [daughter] of Watkin Morgan flaxman de [of] Trayan Mawr.”  At least here he gave the father equally short shrift: plenty of children appear innocently in the register with only a father’s name; they tended much more to get the “bastard” label when there was only a mother’s name…

This Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile map of 1885 shows many of the Morgan settlements in the Trayanglas area, generally ranging southwest of Trecastle along the course of the young river Usk.  The village of Trecastle is on today’s A40.

The first family of interest to us in this area cam from the farm of Castell Ddujust off this map, to the west of the small hamlet of Cwm Wysg. 

Morgan Richard Morgan (1756-1838) and Margaret Nicholas

One of Richard and Urania Morgans’ sons, Morgan Richard Morgan (1756-1838) is the author’s 4xGreat Grandfather and at the moment, we can link the baptisms of three children to these same parents, Morgan Richard Morgan and his wife Margaret.   


Children of Morgan Richard Morgan and Margaret Nicholas:


1. Urania Morgan (1793-1871) married Thomas Williams

Urania Morgan was clearly named after her grandmother, a relatively unusual name, which recurs in this family.  She married Thomas Williams at Llywel Parish Church on 28 December 1821 and spent most of her life in the small village of Llanfinghangel Nant Bran (further east, towards Brecon) as the wife of a Baptist Minister.   He is mentioned in later accounts of Nantyffin Chapel, Penycae, which was also to be connected to later generations of this family.  Urania Morgan is buried at Horeb Chapel, Cwmdwr.

horeb morgans urania grave

Urania Morgan’s headstone at Horeb Chapel.  Photo by G. Jones, 2015

horeb3

General view of the Horeb graveyard.  Photo by G. Jones, 2015



2. Anne Morgan (1796-1826) married John Jones

Anne Morgans married John Jones at Llywel in January 1816. 


3. Richard Morgans (1798- bef.1832) married Sarah Morgans



© (the written content and authorial photographs) Gareth Jones 2015-19