A Glamorgan Family History
John Howell was apparently the only surviving son of Rev. Roger Howell. According to the family Bible, he was born on 27th May 1816, probably at Nantmoel Uchaf and was named after his paternal grandfather, John Howell Roger. He was baptised on Easter Monday, which fell on 15th April in 1816, by Rev. Daniel Evans of Morriston. I'm not able to find any records of John's early life, but it is likely that he received a good education at the school based at Nantmoel. From the evidence of his later years, he was able to read and write in both English and Welsh and may himself have had some involvement in the running of the school. While he lived in Rhyndwyclydach he was an actively involved deacon of Baran chapel and played a part in the establishment of Saron Chapel in Rhydyfro, as an offshoot of the Baran. From the censuses, his main source of income appears to have come from farming, but a ledger and 2 rent books recently acquired by his direct descendant, Huw Roberts, show that John owned several properties himself and managed others for family members.
On 7th December 1839, John married Ann Lewis of Penygorof, in the Gurnos parcel of Ystradgynlais and the couple were enumerated at Nantmoel Uchaf with John's parents, Roger and Sarah in the census of 1841. By this time, John and Ann had an infant son of their own - named Roger after his grandfather.
|Ann Lewis' family|
John's father, Roger died in 1843, followed soon after by his mother, Sarah in 1844. John must have inherited Nantmoel Uchaf from his father's estate, but as yet, I cannot find any record of Roger's will. In the census of 1851, John is described as a farmer of 106 acres. 3 daughters have been born since the last census: 9 year old, Ann (after her maternal grandmother); 6 year old Sarah Elizabeth (after her paternal grandmother) and 2 year old, Jennet (after Ann's eldest sister). John's only son, Roger died in infancy in 1842 and is buried in the cemetery at Baran. As well as farm and house servants, the household includes 2 young lodgers, described as scholars: David Lewis aged 16 from Ystradgynlais and 5 year old Ann Jones of Llangyfelach. David Lewis is a nephew of John's wife, Ann, (son of her brother, Richard of Ystrad isaf) while Ann Jones is a niece, (daughter of her sister, Gwenllian of Glynmeirch farm).
An entry in the Cambrian newspaper on 2nd April 1852 shows that as well as being a farmer, John played an active role in his community - having been elected an Overseer of the Poor for the hamlet of Rhyndwyclydach Higher at the Llangyfelach Petty Sessions. This was an unpaid office, created by the Poor Law Act of 1597/8, which established the obligation of every parish to provide relief for the local poor. At least two members of the parish were appointed annually by the vestry to "oversee" this task and John shared his duties in 1852 with a Daniel Bevan. Originally, overseers were responsible for assessing and then gathering the so-called "poor rate" from each household as well as supervising it's distribution to the needy. As populations became more mobile, it became difficult for individual parishes to manage this duty effectively. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 saw the creation of Unions of local parishes to collectively provide for their poor and build workhouses to accomodate them. Alongside the other parcels of Llangyfelach parish, Rhyndwyclydach became part of the Swansea Union. While Overseers continued to levy the rate, it's use was now administered by a local, elected, Board of Guardians.
By 1861, John is described as a farmer of 107 acres, employing 2 boys. His eldest daughter, Ann, now 19, remains at home and has been joined by a younger sister, Mary Jane, aged 8 years. Daughter, Sarah Elizabeth is enumerated at the lodging house of a Martha Griffiths at 11 Mansel Street, Swansea, along with 2 other youngsters who like her, are described as scholars. This suggests that they are attending a school or college in Swansea. Slater's Commercial Directory of 1858-1859 lists several schools and academies in Swansea at this time - some of them specifically for the education of girls. The same directory lists 5 lodging houses in Mansel Street, including that at No. 11, which seems previously to have been run by a Catherine Edwards. The 2 other children enumerated with Sarah are her first cousins, Ann Elizabeth (15) - seen at Nantmoel Uchaf in the previous census and David Henry (9) Jones. They are both the children of Isaac and Gwenllian Jones of Glynmeirch farm, Rhyndwyclydach. Their mother, Gwenllian is Sarah's maternal aunt. Their father, Isaac is a brother of Howell Jones, Llechartfawr who was married to Sarah's paternal aunt, Jane. Knowing the family's great interest in education, it is unsurprising that Sarah might receive an extended education.
John and Ann's third daughter, Jennet had died 6 months previously, aged only 12 years and had been buried with her elder brother, Roger. In total, John and Ann had 5 children:
|By 1866, at the relatively young age of 50, John apparently decided to retire from farming. A notice on page 4 in the Cambrian newspaper on 28th September of that year, announced:
TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION
By Mr. H. W. Jones
On Tuesday, the 9th day of October, 1866, at Nantmole Uchaf, in the
Parish of Llangyfelach, about 3 miles from Pontardawe Station of the
Swansea Vale Railway (the property of Mr. John Howell, who retires
The whole of the STOCK, IMPLEMENTS OF HUSBANDRY,
BREWING UTENSILS, and the HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE.
The Stock consists of 3 capital working horses, 1 mare to ride or in
harness, 1 pony ditto, 12 milk cows in calf, 20 head of cattle of the
Hereford and Castlemartin breed, 160 mountain sheep and lambs.
For particulars see bills
Credit till the 21st June on approved security.
Luncheon on the table at 10a.m. Sale to commence at eleven precisely.
The Auctioneer solicits an early attendance as the whole will be sold
in one day.
From the evidence of a rentbook, recently acquired (2006) by John Howell's 2x great grandson, Huw Roberts, if the auction actually took place, the farm wasn't sold. From late 1866 until 1881 John rented Nantmoel, and neighbouring farm, Tyn y berth to his daughter, Sarah Elizabeth and her husband, Morgan Powell of Llanedi at £30 per half year. Sarah and Morgan had been married at Hebron Chapel in Clydach on 7th September 1866 - just 3 weeks before the auction notice had appeared.
|Nantmoel Uchaf rentbook|
John and Ann retired to nearby Brynwith (also known as Brynchwith & Tywith) Farm. In 1871 they are enumerated there with their 5 year old grand-daughter, Maud Matilda Rees who was the eldest child of their own eldest daughter, Ann - who had married Joseph Benjamin Rees of Clydach in 1864. John and Ann's youngest daughter, Mary Jane is enumerated with her sister, Ann Rees (who has just had her 4th child) at 3 New Oxford St., in Swansea. Another of Ann's children, 2 year old, John Hamilton Rees is enumerated with his aunt, Sarah Elizabeth at Nantmoel in this census.
Soon after this census, Joseph and Ann Rees emigrated to Denver, Colorado with their young family. After their departure, John appears to have taken on the management of several properties the couple owned. There are details in his ledger of monies paid out on the repair and maintenance of these properties, along with various taxes and rates that were liable on them. There are also references to monthly drafts of approximately £20 that he forwarded to them in America during the 1870s and 80s - presumably from the rentals accrued.
While he was retired from farming, John continued his involvement in parish affairs. In the Cambrian newspaper on the 12 April 1872, he is again reported as having been elected as an Overseer for the Poor in Rhyndwyclydach Higher, along with his son-in-law, Morgan Powell.