Richard Jones & Mary Benjamin, Toncastell


Richard Jones (1847-1922) and 

Mary Benjamin (1851-1881) / Elizabeth Mathias

Like all boys at this time, Richard started work early in life: he is recorded aged 14 in the 1861 census as a resident Carter on Dysgwlfa farm, where his maternal grandmother, Jennet Davies, was still recorded as head of the household aged 75.  Her husband, and Richard’s grandfather, Meredith Davies, had died three years previously.  Richard hadn’t travelled too far, though: Dysgwlfa is adjacent to Ynysdomlydd, where his parents still lived at this point.

He married Mary Benjamin at Neath Register Office on 10 September 1870.  On his marriage certificate, he is recorded as resident at Corslwyn Coch, consistent with his father William’s previous move from the original homestead at Ynysdomlydd.   Mary came from the Benjamin family close by at Toncastell farm, father David Benjamin, and from an old, local Benjamin family which had occupied Toncastell since at least the end of the eighteenth century.  On their marriage certificate, 2 “X”s appear for their signatures, indicating their skills too lay in areas untouched by the need for literacy (compare this sad situation with Gwenllian Walters’ elegant copperplate – from 1854 - in the appendix).

The courting in these days would have been straightforward: Dysgwlfa, Ynysdomlydd, Nant Hir, Tonpyrddin, Tonyfildre and Toncastell farms are ranged roughly in a row from east to west, along the course of the Afon Pyrddin river.  Considered remote now, as they are hidden well away from today’s Inter-Valley road (A4109), in the middle of the nineteenth century there was no such defining feature and it made sense for the farmsteads to be strung out along the banks of the river, close to the water source.

The newly wed Richard and Mary Jones lived with the Benjamin family at Toncastell for at least the next ten years, and a steady stream of children appear in the 1870s.  Mary Benjamin died suddenly, though, aged only 30, in May 1881, and her grave is at Tyn-y-Coed Chapel, Abercrave.  This is an Independent chapel and it seems that most of the Jones family allied themselves to that cause.  After that, Richard Jones left Toncastell while Mary’s younger brother, William Benjamin, took over the farm.

Richard moved to the nearby cluster of houses at Cefnbyrle, just outside Coelbren to the northwest.   Here lived Elizabeth Mathias, with her son Daniel (born c.1877) and her sister Hannah.  Elizabeth was born in 1850 in Ystradgynlais but her father, Mathias Mathias, came originally from Carmarthenshire.  By the 1881 census Elizabeth is recorded at Cefnbyrle as unmarried, living with her son, sister and a cousin, William Williams aged 59.  Richard and Elizabeth married shortly afterwards in 1882 and the newly constituted family unit is shown in the 1891 census.  Richard’s occupation has changed from collier to railway platelayer and he has brought his children with him.  There is now also a further child Mary, shown aged 8, born in c1883.  The family is still at Cefnbyrle in 1901, and again in 1911, where at the age of 63, Richard is still a railway platelayer.  Still also at home are stepson Daniel Mathias (a ministerial student who progressed to becoming a canon in the Church in Wales - St Theodore’s, Port Talbot) and youngest daughter Mary Jones, 28, now recorded as a mother’s help.

David Jones, Richard’ eldest son, was to return to Toncastell after William Benjamin’s death in 1906 and the land then continued to be farmed by his youngest son Thomas (1911-2003).  The farm has now passed out of the family.

 

Children of Richard Jones and Mary Benjamin (1) 

and Elizabeth Mathias (2)

(1) David Jones (1870-1932) married Hannah Thomas (Penycae)

(1) Gwenllian Jones (1873-1947) married David Lewis (Coelbren Farm)

(1) Matilda Jones (1875-) married David Williams (Wenallt, Abercrave)

(1) William Jones (1877-)

(1) Ann Jones (1880-) married Gwilym Williams


(2) Mary Jones (1883-)


Back to William Jones’ children

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