A Glamorgan Family History
Howel Roger 1717-1801
From the evidence of the cenotaph attached to an outer wall of Baran Chapel, Roger Howell's paternal grandfather, Howel Roger was born circa 1717. There are apparently no other records of his early life, but he was probably himself the son of a previous minister of the Gellionen, Cwmllynfell and Gwynfe chapels called Roger Howell. As yet, I have no official records to confirm this, but as well as the obvious suggestion of a patronymic connection between their names, J.E. Morgan ("History of Pontardawe") adds weight to the theory, through his description of the elder Roger Howell as:
"...the grandfather of Roger Howells, Beckington, and great-grandfather to
Roger Howells, minister and schoolmaster in the Baran."
I have also recently found a memorial biography of the younger, Rev. Roger Howell by Rees and Thomas in "Hanes Eglwysi Annibynol II" which states:
"Yr oedd ei dad, Mr. John Howell, yn wyr i Mr. Roger Howell, gynt gweinidog y Gellionen a
(His father, Mr. John Howell, was a grandson of Mr. Roger Howell, former minister of Gellionen and Cwmllynfell)
Also from the Baran cenotaph, Howel Roger is described as the son-in-law of John William Rhydderch of Nantmole.
In local parish records, there are 2 marriages that might be connected to Howel Roger:
1) 24th April 1741 at Llangyfelach to Margaret John of Llangyfelach
2) 15th December 1749 at Llangyfelach to Mary John of Llangyfelach
It is possible that Howel was married to either or both of these women and equally, (from the styling of their names) that either or both of them might be the daughter of John William Rhydderch.
The register of the members of Gellionen chapel for the year 1767 lists a Howel Roger (and his wife) on it's first page. His wife is named as Margaret in the List, but in his will, dated 2nd August 1794, Howel names:
"Mary my beloved wife........"
and the Land tax records for 1801 record the occupier of Nantmoel Usha (sic) as Mary Roger, widow.
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The 1749 marriage seems late (though not impossible) for the birth of Howel's apparent eldest son, Roger (later Rev. Roger Howell, Beckington). I suspect, that of the 2 possible wives, Roger and John Howell Roger are likely to be Margaret's sons. In the records that are available, the names of all of Howell's children (apart from the eldest) appear to share a common patronymic style - linking them to their father. From sources that include: IGI entries (not always reliable in their treatment of patronymics), membership and baptism records of Gellionen, and the family Bible, Howel's children seem to include:
Roger Howell: (born 6th March 1742) , and was later minister of the Non Conformist chapel of Beckington in Somerset. He is mentioned in the family Bible - which apparently belonged to his father, Howel and acknowledged (above) by J.E. Morgan to be a grandson of the elder Rev. Roger Howell.
(Full dates of birth provided by Huw Roberts - who has recently acquired Rev. Roger Howell's family Bible.)
John Howell Roger: (born 1st August 1743), father of Rev. Roger Howell (see Parents)
William Howell Roger: (born 10th Jan. 1745) and named in his father's will. This son apparently lived all his life at Nantmole and is buried in the same grave as John Howell Roger and his wife, Rebecca. From the wording of his memorial, William suffered some kind of infirmity, although he lived to be 84. It is possible that William was the true heir to Nantmole (being likely to to be Mary's son), but that his affliction prevented him from assuming this role - which fell to his older brother, John. The wording of Howell's will (see below) certainly indicates that he felt it necessary to make some special provision for William.
Gwenllian Howell Roger: (born 1st Aug. 1747), also recorded as a member of Gellionen in 1768. IGI has an entry of her possible baptism in 1754.
Margaret Howell Roger: (born 21st Feb. 1751) recorded as a member of Gellionen in 1768. IGI has an entry of her possible baptism in 1753.
David Howell Roger: (born 10th Oct. 1752) and named in the will - although the wording suggests he may have been deceased by the time the will was written. He is also named in the Gellionen register of baptisms as the father of a son, John born September 1784 - who is also named in Howell Roger's will.
Mary Howell Roger: (born 29th July 1756) and recorded as a member of Gellionen in 1773. The mother of Rev. John Jones of Cwmbryn (1781-1813), who attended Carmarthen Presbyterian college (1800-1803) and subsequently ministered at Brigdewater, Belper & Plymouth, before his early death at the age of 32. Described by E. Pan Jones in "Oriel ColegCaerfyrddin" as being:
"Through his mother he was first cousin to the Rev. Roger Howell of Baran ..., nephew to the Rev. Roger Howell of Beckington; and great-grandson to the Rev. Roger Howell of Gellionen."
Mary married farmer, Llewelyn John of Cwmbryn, Llangyfelach on 18th December 1776 at Llangyfelach parish church
Maud Howell Roger: (born 20th May 1758) - no record seen in Gellinonen membership.
Thomas Howell Roger: (born 12th May 1760) and recorded in the Gellionen baptism records as the father of Mary, born 1783; Jane, born 1784 and Howell, born 1785. Despite the apparent connection, neither Thomas (or any of his children) are named in Howell Roger's will.
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The author (known only by his initials, J.D.) of a tribute to Rev. Roger Howell of Beckington in the 1812 edition of "The Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature", supplies the detail that Rev. Howell lost his mother when he was about 6 years old (i.e. circa 1748). Given that at least 5 of Howel Roger's children were born after this date, this appears to confirm that he was married twice and that a remarriage in December 1749 seems perfectly feasible to ensure the care of his 4 eldest children, Roger, John, William and Gwenllian.
The tribute also mentions that in his youth, Roger attended a school in Brecon under the care of his maternal uncle, the Rev. D. Jones, a dissenting minister. If more detail about Rev. Jones can be uncovered, it may indicate whether one or both of Howel Roger's wives were daughters of John William Rhydderch.
|Tribute to Rev. Roger Howell of Beckington|
From at least the time of Gabriel Powell's Survey of the Lordship of Gower in 1764, Howel Roger was documented at intervals, as the joint freeholder and occupier (alongside his father-in-law) of Nantmoel Uchaf Farm. Records of the annual, Land Tax assessments - collated every May - demonstrate this relationship up until 1781, after which Howel was recorded alone.
The cenotaph again provides the information that Howel died on 20th April 1801 and that like John William Rhydderch, his body lies interred at the graveyard at Gellionen chapel.
On visiting Gellionen graveyard there is no sign of either of these graves. In J.E. Morgan's "History of Pontardawe", written in 1911, he describes his own visit to the graveyard, where burials have taken place since the early 18th century:
"The oldest graves were the upper ones to the North, alongside the hedge of the graveyard. The old gravestones are crumbling and level with the ground. In the rows there are a host of Howells, the family of the old Roger Howells, one of the old ministers of the church and doubtlessly many of his descendents."
These graves by the hedge are still visible but their memorials are now almost completely eroded by time or damaged.
Unfortunately, there is no official record of Mary's death or burial. It is most likely that she too, is buried with Howell at Gellionen in one of the graves near the hedge.
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