Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 1st May 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: The 1919 Sale of the Penybont Estate – Shirley Morgan

Geraint welcomed Mike Fussell from Upper Graig – Mike unfortunately received a telephone call at this point and was called away.

He also welcomed Gordon Morgan, Richard’s brother.

There was a surprising large turnout considering it was the Bank Holiday Monday!

Jennifer mentioned a Family History event that will be held on the 18th May at 7.00 p.m.

In introducing Shirley once again to the group he also welcomed Alice who had come as Shirley’s ‘technician’ to manage the powerpoint presentation.

Main Topic: The 1919 Sale of the Penybont Hall Estate

Shirley started by telling us that there have been 3 sales over the years affecting the size and scope of the Penybont Hall Estate. Shirley said that she would be focusing on just the one as there was so much material to cover in the 1919 sale, Future talks might well look at the subsequent sales in 1926, and 1945. Catalogue’s for the sales were present as Richard Morgan had brought copies of all three.

As a preliminary exercise Shirley asked the members to visualise an acre. Humphrey was able to put it in perspective as it is the size of a football pitch (4840 sq yds).

The auction was held in the Iron Room in Penybont and as an event it was very different to auctions of today. There was a sense of enjoyment and participation that went beyond the bidding process. As we shall see later in Shirley’s talk the proceedings were often punctuated with spontaneous applause!

In conducting her research Shirley has had access to the catalogue that was used on the day but none of the copies still include the detailed map that they would have had as part of the defining information for prospective buyers. Even the catalogue in the Powys Archives does not have the maps.

 

 

 

In order to understand the reasons underlying the sale of the Whitehead Estate in 1919, we have to take a look at some of the things that were going on in Britain at that time. The country was still reeling after the expensive and traumatic war, and the rural community were feeling the effects of  cheap foreign agricultural imports. Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget of 1909 had introduced unprecedented taxes in Britain’s rich and landowning communities in order to fund social welfare programmes. During Victorian times the vast wealth of the ‘landed gentry’ was hardly taxed at all, but although the Land Valuation Tax did not really take off, it did generate huge controversy: http://www.liberalhistory.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/73_Douglas_Lloyd_George_land_taxes.pdf

“The Tory cry is – ‘Hands off the land!’

The Liberal policy is – Taxation of land values and the best use of the land in the interests of the community!”

However, the introduction of the ‘Super Tax’ on the wealthy, and the increase on ‘death duties’ meant that ‘the sun began to set over the British Aristocracy’: http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/taxation/overview/newtaxes/

“A ‘super tax’ (or surtax) of 6d in the pound was to be levied on incomes over £5000 (payable on the amount by which incomes exceeded £3000).

In addition, there were steep increases in ‘death duties’ which had been introduced in 1894.”

This was the first budget that had at its core the ‘redistribution of wealth’ and was initially blocked by the House of Lords.

“They are forcing a revolution and they will get it – who made ten thousand men the owners of the soil and the rest of us trespassers in the land of our birth.”

Ironically it was the Coalition Government, Headed by Lloyd George that repealed the Land Tax!

However, in Penybont the owner of the Penybont Estate, Mrs Sarah Whitehead, was undoubted feeling the effects of these taxes when, in 1919, part of the Estate, of some 24,000 acres, that had been built up initially by John Price (who we now know quite well from his exploits as Shop-Keeper, Publican, Banker, High Sheriff, and Trustee of the Turnpike Trust), was put on the market. The Estate was extended  by John’s son-in-law, John Cheesement Severn, who we have also come across before, and who was a London Barrister. He was known to have been buying up land, which was relatively cheap, in the Penybont area from 1808. He had become acquainted with the area through his step-sister Sarah Augusta, who had married Edward Rogers of Stanage. In 1811 John Cheesement married Mary Ann Price, John Price’s daughter, who, despite the nature of her ‘illegitimate’ birth, had inherited her father’s vast fortune and Estate. John Cheesement also gained land through enclosure, though in practice this was not enforced as harshly as in many places, on the poor tenants of Penybont. After the death of John Cheesement, in 1875, his son, Percy Severn, became the Squire of Penybont. He carried out improvements to the Hall and lived the life of the ‘Country Squire’ at Penybont Hall. At this stage Percy, and his three sisters, Sarah, Emily Augusta, and Julia, were all middle aged, unmarried, and childless. Sarah died in 1891, Percy in1900, Emily Augusta in 1906, and finally Julia in 1907. With no children in direct line to inherit the Estate passed to the line followed by John Cheesement’s step sister, Sarah Augusta and Edward Rogers, and to Major General Robert Children Whitehead (The Widowed Sarah Augusta later remarried to Rev. Whitehead.)

The Major General had a long military career in the Crimea, India, and South Africa. He retired in 1892 and settled at the United Service Club in London. He was 73 years old when he inherited the Penybont Estate, and he had recently married an ‘employee’ at the Service Clup who was 25 years his junior, Sarah Jones. The Major General was only able to enjoy his inheritance for a few years as he died in December 1910. Apart from a small annuity, which he left to his brother, the entire Estate passed to his wife. The Estate at that time was valued at £116,000. Following on from the considerable charitable works of the Severn’s, Sarah continued this tradition. She was not always present at the Hall, and the 1911 census shows only a skeleton staff at the Hall and Mrs Whitehead is not recorded as being present.

The Estate was not immune to the problems that beset every aristocratic family in the land. The auction houses were flooded with the sales of estates, and so it is not surprising that by 1919 a portion of the Penybont Estate came up for sale. An advert was placed in the Brecon and Radnor on the 18th September by the Hamer Family as Estate Agents/Auctioneer. This advert was headline news taking the whole of the front page of the paper. The two subsequent sales saw a decline in the significance of the Estate – in 1926 the advert was a ½ page, and in 1919 it was much smaller again.) The Hamer family had had 3 generations as Agents to the Estate and they were now prominent Bankers.

A very detailed catalogue was  produced containing the details, including the acreage, of the 42  properties up for sale. This would have meant a careful survey needed to be carried out across the area, which included farms in the Parishes of: St Harmon, Abbeycwmhir, Llanddewi Ystradenni, Llandegley, Cefn Llys, Llangunllo, Painscastle, Michaelchurch, and Lyonshall.

The general notes at the front of the catalogue highlighted the ‘excellent grouse shooting and fishing rights’ at the St Harmon properties. It is interesting that the catalogue draws attention to this because of their altitude and extensive watershed, ‘lots 1 & 2 had been looked at under the London Water Bill as being suitable sites for reservoirs – they still are!

A sale was only accepted if a deposit of £10 was transferred at the signing of the Contract. The Buyer was responsible for arranging and paying for the conveyance – possibly the first time many had had to engage in the services of a solicitor.

In addition to the deposit Buyer’s had to agree that all disputes over boundaries would be settled by the auctioneers, and that their decision would be final!

The Brecon and Radnor for the week following the sale printed a report as follows:

“On Wednesday afternoon Messers Campbell and Hamer were announced to offer about 9000 acres comprising the outlying portions of the Penybont Hall Estate, by auction, by directions of Mrs Whitehead who succeeded to the Estate in the death of her husband, the late General Whitehead, who was the heir of the late Mr J Percy Severn. The agent/autioneer Mr James Hamer, and the Solicitor, Mr H Vaughan Vaughan offered several farms to the tenants at reserve prices, which were very low. Further Mrs Whitehead intimated to each tenant that she was prepared to leave mortgages on each farm charging 4½% in such sums as were agreed upon. This generous offer was received with great gratitude by the tenants, and prior to the sale. 16 tenants bought their farms prior to the sale and further tenants purchased them at the auction and subsequently.

As the auction was getting under way, Mr Campbell said that he had been asked over and over again why Mrs Whitehead was selling this part of the Estate. He was sorry to say that she did not enjoy the best of health and did not want to be worried with the cares of property more than she could help, and her idea was that by selling the outlying portions of her Estate, wht remained would be more consolidated and earier to manage. He did not believe that there had ever been a better family in the County, or in any other county, than the Servern family (followed by applause), and the late General Whitehead and Mrs Whitehead had fully upheld the noble traditions of the Servern family (more applause). The Estate had been exceedingly fortunate in its Agent, Mr James Hamer, (again more applause) and better relations between tenant and agents could not exist, than what existed in this instance. (Yet more applause) It had been Mrs Whitehead’s wish that tenants should be given first chance of purchasing, and 16 farms had been purchased by the tenants. (Even more applause) Sime of the farms had been rented very much below their true value and the reserves were very low.

£30,000 was raised through the sale!

Shirley then took us on a tour of some of the farms that were sold in the auction. She took us round Llandegley rocks taking in The Ffaldau and round the Rocks and back to Rhos House. Shirley had physically gone on this tour and had interviewed many of the current residents, and also taken up to date photos to compare, where possible, with the photos of the time of the auction.

  1. Caedildre

The building is no longer there, the walls can only be seen from an aerial photo. The building was nocked down to build a bungalow. It had been a traditional long-house and dairy. The tenancy covered 52.61 acres and was bought by the Council for £1000. A Morgan family rented it and coincidently a completely different Morgan family have it now!

  1. The Ffaldau

It was sad that John Abberley was not present as the Ffaldau was his childhood home and the centre of many stories associated with his father’s dairy business. Shirley remembered the milk being delivered to the school when she was a child. One of her particular memories was getting a lift with the milk one morning on the way to school. Her bike had just had a puncture. The current house is much altered from the original which was rented at £60 per year.

Shirley then took us along the Graig Lane to three properties all with Graig in their title:- Graig (Mills); Graig (Price); and Graig (Hughes)

  1. Graig (Mills)

Bill Davies had the Mill and it comprised of 100 acres. It was rented at £65 per year. Jason lives there now and sadly in a recent tragedy he lost both of his parents in very quick succession.

  1. Graig (Price)

This was an 84 acre plot at £55 per year rent.

There is now a tree growing through the building.

Shirley told us about Stan and Alan Price who set off to deliver butter to her home on a scooter. One of them had his foot down all the way and his shoe was completely worn away when they arrived. They then discovered they had forgotten the butter! They were however welcomed with open generosity. They were fed tea and cake before setting off home again!

Stan joined up for the War and became Batman to Major D. Jones. He saw a lot of suffering during the War.

Alan did not join up, he was the local ‘butcher’ and specialised in pigs. Neil was able to tell us the he, Neil, has the set of knives that Alan used. He had a set of knives with black handles which he would roll out to select the one he needed for the job at hand.

  1. Graig (Hughes)

Now known as ‘Upper Graig) and Mike Fussell, who was mentioned above, now lives there. It was 143 acres and also rented.

Shirley had a picture of the building that was taken in 1940’s.

  1. Bwlchycefn

The plot was 324 acres. The current house was built in 1901 and it replaced a cruk-house where strays were taken in. Ivor Hughes died at Shirley’s House and so she had a lot affection for this place. His second wife brought Shirley into the world and was the ‘most delightful lady’. Ivor sin jack was a founder member of Young Farmers and his dedication to the organisation led to a building being named the Jack Hughes Centre. Robert and Doreen Owen, who are descended from the Hughes family are still farming, have Bwlchycefn now and they are still farming.

  1. Bwlchllwyn

Moving along towards Hundred House this plot was 169 acres and id did not reach its reserve.  It is now a holiday cottage.

  1. Waen Arthur

There is no trace of this plot now at all. There are records of children who came to the school but with no roads or access it is not surprising it has disappeared.

  1. Nursery Cottage

This is just off the Hundred House Road, quite close to where Shirley used to live. A Mrs Mansfield lived there, she was considered quite eccentric – she kept goats! Shirley wondered if there was something else in the milk – she did not have any more.

It is now very well kept.

  1. Sunnybank

Coming back around we come to Dilwyn Powell’s old family home. Shirley can remember camping at Sunnybank and Neil’s wife who also camped particularly remembers the thunderstorms. They camped next to the sheep wash pool.

Sunnybank’s front door was always open in Dilwyn’s Parents time. His father was often there ready to receive any news that might be passing. They were known for the New Year’s day ‘Gifting’ tradition. They would shut the door when the singing started.

  1. Rhos House

Sold for £300 with 3.1 acres. Shirley did not know if it was sold to the tenant but Neil, who lives more or less next door said he would find out.

Gareth who lives there now follows on from his great-grandfather. Gareth used to deliver gas throughout the area in the past, but he has not changed the house at all over the years.

Conclusion:

Shirley wondered whether the ‘social revolution’ proved to be a success. Owning your own small farm gave status and prestige, but times to follow in the 20’s and 30’s were very tough. Shirley referred to a couple of books that underlined the challenges of the period.

  1. Haber Nant Llan Nerch Freit: by George F. Lewis (Gwen’s brother)
  2. The Valley by Elizabeth Clarke (Shirley’s husband used to service Elizabeth Clarke’s husband’s car)

Neil said that even 20 years ago ewes couldn’t be given away!

Geraint thanked Shirley for an excellent talk.

As indicated in the Notes for April at our June meeting on the 5th June Andy Johnson will talk about ‘Walking in Radnorshire’.

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