A Glamorgan Family History
|Sarah (Howell) Bowen
|Parents||1840s||Mother's will||1850s||Later years|
Sarah Howell was the 4th child of Reverend Roger Howell and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth, (nee Price). According to the family Bible, she was born at "12 of the clock at night" on Friday, 16th March 1810, probably at the family home of Nantmoel Uchaf farm in Rhyndwyclydach, Llangyfelach. Of her 3 older siblings, Ann, Mary and Roger, possibly only the eldest, Ann was still alive at the time of Sarah's birth. The family household may also have included her paternal grandmother, Rebecca Howell (nee Jones).
Sarah is likely to have been named after her mother and was baptised on 9th April by Rev. Thomas Davies, Bethany, at the nearby Baran Chapel - where her father was the minister. Her family had helped to found the chapel in 1805 and had been associated with Nantmoel Uchaf farm since at least 1684. Although many girls in the early 19th century did not receive a formal education, Sarah's father, Roger passionately believed in the benefits of education and was a teacher as well as a minister. He kept a school at Baran chapel and later, at Nantmoel itself offering general schooling to local children and theological instruction to young men preparing for the ministry. It's likely then, that Sarah would have had at the very least, some basic schooling as she was growing up.
From the evidence of her father's memorial biography, Sarah's parents kept a open house at Nantmoel, offering charity and hospitality to all who needed it. Her father's dual role as minister and teacher would have meant that the family was well known both in their local, mainly farming community and further afield. As she grew up, Sarah and her siblings would have supported their parents in their busy community role and as a result would have been exposed to people from many walks of life.
Typically of the age, there are no official records of the life of a young woman like Sarah until her marriage at Llangyfelach parish church on 24th November 1832. She had probably known local farmer, Henry Bowen all her life, as he was the son of David and Jane Bowen of neighbouring, Nantmoel Isaf farm. Henry was born circa 1799 and at the time of his marriage, had still been living at Nantmoel Isaf with his widowed mother, Jane and younger brother, David. Jane Bowen (nee Phillip) had been recorded, on Land Tax records, as the occupier of the farm since 1811, following the death of her husband circa 1810. Earlier Land Tax records show that the Bowen family had lived at the farm since at least 1772 and are to be found on the list of members of Gellionen chapel. Henry's older brother, John had been the occupier of neighbouring, Llwyn Ifan farm, where dissenters from Gellionen chapel had met prior to the erection of Baran chapel in 1805. Aged only about 40 years, John Bowen died on 11th September 1832 - just prior to Sarah and Henry's wedding. His wife, Alice continued to farm at Llwyn Ifan with the aid of her sons.
Some time after their marriage, Sarah and Henry moved to Lletty'r crydd farm - situated north-east of Nantmoel Uchaf and close to the boundary between Rhyndwyclydach and the Carmarthenshire parish of Llandilofawr. They were not at the farm for the Tithe apportionment of 1838 when a John Jones was named as the occupier. This record showed that the farm consisted of a total of 9 plots, covering 53 acres, 2 roods and 1 perch. The owner of Lletty'r crydd was recorded as being a Miss Ann Jenkins - who also owned the property, Tyn y berth, where Sarah's parents had lived prior to their marriage. They were however, in residence at Lletty'r crydd by 18th November 1838 when their 3rd daughter, Rebecca was born there and on 6th September 1840, Henry's mother, Jane gave this as their address in her will, written just before her death on 4th October that year. In this will, which was witnessed by Sarah's father, Roger, Jane bequeathed:
...to my son Henry the two oak chairs and the box with a drawer. I also give to my son
Henry the sheep which I have with him at Lletty Crydd......
I also give and bequeath to Henry my son the sum of Fifteen pounds
By the time they moved to Lletty'r crydd, Sarah and Henry had at least 3 daughters, Jane (born circa 1833 and named for her paternal grandmother), Sarah (born 19th April 1835 and named for her maternal grandmother) and Rebecca (born 1838, possibly named for her great-grandmother, Rebecca Howell, who had died in 1828).
This was to be a decade of great changes for the family which had already begun with the death of Henry's mother in October 1840. Although the census of 1841 showed no change in the family make-up, by this time Sarah was expecting her 4th daughter, Hannah who was born 3 months later on 10th September. In March 1843, Sarah's father, Roger died after a period of ill-health that had forced him to seek the assistance of another minister, Rhys Price, of Cwmllynfell to help him serve the needs of his congregation. A year later, in July 1844, Sarah's mother, Sarah Elizabeth Howell, died at her daughter, Jane's home, Llechartfawr. As inheritance of Nantmoel Uchaf had already been settled on her only surviving son, John, Sarah Elizabeth bequeathed her 5 daughters all of her personal possessions. Her will was proved on the oath of her daughter, Sarah Bowen at Carmarthen on 18th November 1844.
In 1845 Sarah's oldest sister, Ann died at the age of only 40, leaving a family of 5 children aged 4-17. In 1847, Sarah gave birth to her 5th daughter, - who she named Ann, probably after her sister. The gap between this baby and her previous daughter born in 1841 suggests that Sarah may have had other pregnancies in between - although there is no evidence of any infants being buried at Baran cemetery.
|Sarah Elizabeth Howell's will|
At the start of this decade there may already have been signs that Sarah's health was beginning to fail, as a year later on 20th February 1851, she died just before her 41st birthday. On her death certificate, the cause of death given by Henry, acting as the informant, was "Consumption not certified". Sarah was buried in the Baran chapel cemetery.
Consumption (or tuberculosis) was a major cause of death in the early 19th century Britain - accounting for up to 25% of all deaths. Until the bacterium that caused the disease was identified by Koch in 1882, the active form of the disease had no known cure. The bacterium could be carried in milk and other foods or in the saliva of an infected person. It could be transmitted by spitting, coughing, sneezing - even laughing - remaining airbourne for hours. It could also survive in the earth for long periods. Consequently, many people were exposed to the bacterium.
In it's latent or inactive form the bacterium might have little effect on an individual's health but if the person later became unwell from other causes or was subjected to stresses such as malnutrition, insanitary living conditions or overwork, the disease could be reactivated. Although present throughout the body, the bacterium most often attacked the lungs - progressively "consuming" the lung tissue. Once the the all-too-familiar symptoms of flushed cheeks, over bright eyes, fever, loss of appetite and energy and persistant cough were displayed, death was considered inevitable.
The disease could affect all ages, from all walks of life but was often perceived to be associated with intelligent, young people "in the prime of life" - usually of an artistic or creative nature. This personification of the "typical consumptive" led to a romanticisation of the disease in contemporary literature and the arts, an illusion which Hollywood has perpetuated in modern times through the production of films such as "Camille" and more recently, "Moulin Rouge".
The realities of the disease were much more grim and its ravages led to a very unpleasant form of death. As the obituaries in the Swansea based Cambrian newspaper can testify, although there are numerous examples of young people dying in their late "teens" and 20s, many others refer to the deaths of children, middle-aged mothers and fathers and sometimes whole families. Familiarity with the symptoms and progression of the disease may be the reason why a doctor's certification of consumption as the cause of Sarah's death was not sought by the family.