A Brief History
By W.W Price, Esq, M.A. Brynhyfryd Aberdare
|The first written records of Hendre Bailey Farm of which Fedw Hir Farm formed part go over 800 years to the year 1203 when the Abbots of Caerleon and Margam Abbeys came to an agreement about the rights of where to graze their sheep. Around this time when King John reigned over England, the Cistercian abbeys were among the largest owners of sheep in the country, and exported large quantities of wool to the manufacturing towns of Flanders.
Margam Abbey, near the present Port Talbot in Glamorgan, and Caerleon Abbey “later removed to Llantarnam near Newport, Monmouthshire”, soon shared in this lucrative trade, employing large numbers of lay men as shepherds to look after their flocks. To avoid trespassing on each other’s grazing rights “grounds”, they agreed that the Caerleon sheep should graze to the west, but that Margam sheep should be allowed to graze on Comin Hirwaun Wrgan “Hirwaun Common”. So where we have today Llwydcoed and Abernant, shepherds looked after the sheep belonging to Caerleon Abbey, while Margam sheep occupied the present Aberdare Park, right up to Hirwaun.
Caerleon Abbey owned a monastery at Penrhys, between the two Rhondda Valleys, to which for many centuries’ pilgrimages were made, and their monks travelled down the Graig mountains along what is now known as Monk Street, to look after their shepherds and their flocks. In order to provide shelter for them, they built farms at Hendre Bailey and Tir Ergid.
Penrhys Monastery in addition to the two farms mentioned in Aberdare, also owned many farms in Llanwynno and Ystradyfodwg parishes and formed a Manor or Lordship of its own and were allowed to continue in quiet possession for many centuries, free from paying tithes as other farmers had to do. But at around 1538, Margam and Llantarnam Abbeys were dissolved, and came into the possession of King Henry V111, who wanted their wealth, or to sell them and their lands and flocks and herds to a new lot of landowners.
In 1563 the Manor or Lordship of Penrhys with its numerous farms in Llanwynno and the Rhondda parishes, together with Hendre Bailey, Tir Ergid and Fflaldau in the parish of Aberdare, were sold to William Morgan Esq., and were in the possession of his son , Sir Edward Morgan , of the Tredegar family, when he died in 1633.
In the Cardiff Public Library there are two important documents relating to these three farms, the first is dated 7th Oct 1657 at the time of the Commonwealth, and is a grant from William Broviskin of Glamorgan who was a Doctor of Laws, to Miles Mathew of Blaengwawr Farm, Aberaman, Aberdare, gentleman, who was about to marry Elizabeth daughter of William Bassett, of the three tenements, Hendre Bailey, in the tenures of Nicholas Herbert and Watkin Herbert, Tir Ergid in the tenure of Matilda Thomas widow and Watkin John, her son and Tir y Ffalde on the tenure of David Morgan, all being in the parish of Aberdare, and in the Lordship of Manor of Penrhys.
In the second document is very important for it is the earliest document known to me which specially names “Fedw Hir”, it is dated 3rd November 1659, and it an Indenture a grant from Miles Mathew of Blaengwawr, Aberaman “in consideration of a marriage already solemnized between himself and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of William Bassett”, to the said William Bassett of the tenements:-
And Tir Nant y Vallen “parish of Llanwynno”
The Hendre Bailey and Fedw Hir continued in the joint tenure of Nicholas and Herbert Watkin as previously mentioned concerning Hendre Bailey alone. The other tenures continued as before with William ap Evan Morgan as the occupier of Tir Nant y Vallen.
These farms were granted to William Bassett for the use of Miles Mathew and his wife Elizabeth for their lives and remainder to their issue, etc.
Can it be the Fedw Hir Farm was now built as Hendre Bailey was getting an old building and need of repairs, or could they have been a barn or out-buildings at Fedw Hir before this time and not considered worthy of mention?
Throughout the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries both farms continued in the sane ownership and even at the beginning of the 20th century Hendre Bailey was named as the home of the Edwards family. This family sprang from Morgan Edwards, Esq, of Ty Newydd Ystradyfodwg, and his wife, Elizabeth whose son Thomas Edwards (1749-1805) married Margaret (1748-1806), the rich daughter and heiress of Edward William Morgan (died 1788) of Gadlys Isaf and came to live in Aberdare, probably purchasing Hendre Bailey and Fedw Hir soon after.
They and their parents, their children and their grandchildren’s names are entered on tablets in the parish church of St John’s in Aberdare. They were succeeded by their son William Edwards (1781-1852), who practised as an attorney at Merthyr Tydfil, his widow Maria Edwards who was found burnt to death as Fedw Hir on April 8th 1869 as the age of 88.
In the country records of 1809-10-11-11-12-13, William Edwards is spoken of as “Esq.” and his younger brother John Edwards as “gent”, both of Hendre Bailey, when they took out Games Certificates costing 3 guineas each, which could only be afforded by the very well-to-do, other member of the family continued to live at the old home of the family at Ty Newydd Rhondda.
William Edwards was succeeded by his son m Richard Edwards, J.P. (1815-1885), who married as his second wife, a very young lady Ann Williams of Ponllwyneinion, Ystradfellte, who became a great collector of antique jugs from all the local inhabitants. They had several sons, two of them solicitors, while the oldest Owen Tudor Edwards J.P. M.E. of Whitchurch, sold Fedw Hir to Aberdare Urban District Council and later became a small pox hospital.
(1779 – 1836)
|Edward Edwards was born in Wales in 1779, in 1797 he entered the service of the Hon. East India Company and was appointed to serve as an officer in the Company’s Army of Madras in 1798. By 1831 he had been promoted to the rank of Colonel and after serving served 32 years in India he returned home on three years furlough leave. On the 6th March 1832, his cousin Rev. Edward Williams with whom he was staying in London died. Shortly afterwards Edward Edwards applied for permission to go to America “to visit relatives there and to attend to urgent family matters.” Prior to leaving he made his will in which, after some minor bequests, he instructed that the proceeds of his estate should be invested in the purchase of land in America and that the interest thereof should be divided annually amongst his five brothers. He did not specify in the will where in America the land should be purchased. He received the Company’s permission in June 1832 and later that month he sailed for New York. According to a note by his brother he did not return until Spring of 1833. He then stayed with his brother in Wales for seven months before returning to London.
In September 1834 Edward Edwards applied for permission to visit America a second time before returning to India. He sailed from Liverpool and on the 29th November 1834 he arrived in New Orleans, before leaving London Edward Edwards had arranged with his bankers that his correspondence should be forwarded home via their agents in New Orleans. The last letter received by the agents from Edward Edwards was dated 22nd September 1835 from Monterrey Mexico. Nothing further was heard of him. In February 1840 the agents in New Orleans wrote to his bankers stating that following enquiries made by them “they had every reason to fear his death had taken place.”
On 29th August 1840 a letter was printed in the Evening Post (New York) which was reprinted in The Times (London) on the 19th September 1840, it was this letter that Edward Edwards family became aware of his death in Texas in 1836. Edward Edwards was known to be wearing a mourning ring in memory of his cousin Rev. Edward Williams who died in London on the 6th March 1832. In a codicil to his will Edward Edwards had left his gild ring, his gold watch and all his guns to his brother John.
Edward Edwards will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in March 1841 (it is understood that there where a testator had real property or chattels in more than one diocese or in another country than only P.C.C could at that time grant probate of the will). Edward Edwards had assets in Madras amounting to £12000 and it seems likely that at his death he may have possessed chattels or real property in Texas.
Edward Edwards wooden travelling chest which he took with him to America was later returned with some personnel possessions to his family in Wales. The chest, which I saw recently, is now in the possession of a descendent of his brother John. Unfortunately he does not have any information on the circumstances of the return of the chest to the family or whether the family contacted the writer of the letter in the Evening Post regarding the return of the gold ring.
I have no further information on the circumstance of Edward Edwards death in Texas in 1836, on the basis of the known facts I do not think that he took an active part in the hostilities of the Texan/Mexican War of 1836. At that time he was still a serving officer in the Army H.E.I.C. however, from his character, I think that he would strongly have defended himself or any land he may have possessed in the area of the De Witt County against any incursions. I understand that the Mexican Army passed through that area shortly after the battle of San Antonio.