Friday, October 17, 2008

The Jeffreys in Llywel

This watercolor was a gift to the author from Mrs. (Capt.) Tony Robotham (Virginia) of Pencelli, Brecon, who is his second wife. His first wife was Ann Jeffreys.

Llywel Parish in the county of Breconshire in southern Wales is situated on the main east-west road (A-40) between Brecon and Llandovery in the northern portion of the Brecon Beacons National Park. In Roman times the Via Julia Montana traversed Llywel Parish from east to west, parts of which remain today. The hamlets which make up the parish are called Isclydach, Traian-Mawr and Traian-Glas.

The Jeffreys family has played a vital role in the community and in the Llywel Parish Church, the Church of St. David, since Elizabethan times. Some of the very earliest records in the parish register which begins in 1694 involve the Jeffreys family. Similarly the earliest monuments mounted inside on the walls and those in the churchyard are memorials to the Jeffreys.

The site of the church was a place of worship since early medieval times with the first church being erected in the 5th century. Prior to 1203 the church was dedicated to three saints (David, Padernus and Teilo) and was known as Llantrisant (Church of the Three Saints). Since 1203 when the church was acquired by the Chapter of St. David, the name has been St. David’s. The present building was probably erected in the late 1400’s. The church tower is 65 feet high and dates from the late 14th or early 15th century. Three giant, ancient yew trees adorn the church yard.

In Georgian times St. David’s had a whipping post and stocks which were apparently replaced in 1798 by the stocks which are on the north wall of the church under the clock. It was customary for the parish constable to be responsible for the upkeep of the stocks at the expense of the parish. The 6th century “Llywel Stone,” one of many ancient Ogham stones found in Wales, is now housed in the British Museum. The stone is inscribed with “the stone of Maqutrenus Salicidunus” in addition to various symbols and human figures. In 1896 a 1,000-year old font was found in the churchyard and resides inside the vestry now.

John Jeffreys (1614-1688), one of the sons of Edward Jeffreys of this parish, became a businessman and merchant on an international scale. From his new home in London he amassed a considerable fortune in the trade of land, tobacco and slaves. During this period John acquired the Manor of Kentish Town in the Borough of London which ultimately passed through his nephew Sir Jeffrey Jeffreys to his descendants, the Earls Camden. “During the second half of the seventeenth century, the Jeffreys firm was one of the very greatest houses in the Virginia trade and was active to a lesser extent in the tobacco re-export trade.”(1) In his Last Will and Testament John Jeffreys established annual payments to the poor of Llywel parish.

In 1692 Roger Jeffreys married Frances Briggs, daughter of Richard Briggs, of Yorkshire. There is a record of their wedding in Latin: “Fiat licentia solemnizandi matrimonia inter Roger Jeffreys, Gent. & Frances Briggs, Spinster” which is dated February 18, 1692.

The Jeffreys family crest as it appeared circa 1700

There is a memorial tablet to Roger Jeffreys which has been affixed to the exterior east wall, which in 1999 was completely covered in a growth of dense ivy. Roger died on June 29, 1714 at the age of 69. By his last will, Roger Jeffreys of Berthddu bequeathed money to be drawn from lands he owned in Rhyd-y-Briw and distributed to the poor of Is-Clydach.

Two of the four large carved chairs in the sanctuary were donated by Rees Jeffreys in 1871. The pulpit was a 1924 gift in memory of Rees and Mary Jeffreys from their children. The stained glass window on the north side was donated by Miss Maude Powell in honor of her late uncle, Dr. John Jeffreys-Powell. The reredos was a gift to the church in memory of David Jeffreys-Powell. Members of this branch of the Jeffreys family formally added the surname Powell in order to inherit the valuable estates of their uncle, Dr. Lewis Powell, who required that the inheritor adopt the surname of Powell.

The wooden screen with details of carved grape vines which separates the nave from the chancel was donated by the Jeffreys family in 1925 in memory of David Thomas Jeffreys (1860-1923) and his wife Elizabeth (Powell) Jeffreys. After graduating Christ College in Brecon and Queen’s College, Oxford, David T. Jeffreys established himself as a solicitor in Brecon of the firm “Jeffreys and Powell” which survives today.

David T. Jeffreys

David T. and Elizabeth Jeffreys had two sons and two daughters: Jeffrey Rees Powell Jeffreys, David Gwyn Powell Jeffreys, Mary Florence, who married William Herbert Powell Rees and Elizabeth Sibyl who married William Rees Jones.

April 1926 Wedding of Jeffrey Jeffreys & Miss Lucy Thomas

May 1933 Wedding of W.H.P. Rees & Miss Mary Jeffreys at Llywel Church

April 1926 Wedding of Sybil Jeffreys & W. R. Jones, Photo on grounds of Neuadd, Trecastle, the Jeffreys Estate. (l to r) Gwyn Jeffreys (brides' brother), two bridesmaids, W.H.P. Rees (married Mary Jeffreys), bridesmaid, groom, bride, Brychan Jeffreys (bride's uncle), Mary Jeffreys (bride's sister), Jeffrey Jeffreys (bride's brother). All three wedding photos are courtesy of Mrs. Dilys Jones, Oakley House, Trecastle.

The Rev. Canon J. Jones-Davies supplied the following writing to Mr. T. O. Evans for his book, “Roots and Branches, A Genealogy of Some of the Older Families of the Parishes of Llanddeusant and Llywel:”

“The Jeffreys brothers and I had a lot in common. We shared a deep love of countryside and we had a great fondness for dogs and the country sports. We enjoyed good food and good company. For many years we met at the Neuadd, Trecastle [the Jeffreys home] for our Christmas dinner, where we were joined by Major Jack Valentine Rees. It was a sumptuous meal, and I used to take the precaution of setting the alarm clock in case we should doze off and miss the Queen’s speech.
The Jeffreys were proud of their Welsh ancestry, but, above all things, they were conscientious farmers. They were the second biggest landowners in the county. For many years Jeff was the chairman of the Hereford Herd Book Society and took great interest in agricultural shows. In some ways I should have thought that they were somehow old fashioned in their attitude toward their tenants with whom they were on the friendliest of terms. Poachers were never tolerated, and they were dealt with summarily. They were horrified at the thought of overstocking and the ruthless exploitation of the land through the excessive use of chemical fertilizers. They regarded the land as a sacred heritage which was to be passed on in good fettle to future generations.
As the years went by, the little company began to fall apart. Jack Rees died on his way home from a
party; and after a comparatively short illness, Gwyn died
in the month of August; a month which meant so much to him. Jeff and I continued to meet; at first at Peterstone Court, and later at the homely Tynewydd, Llanfrynach. Jeff’s health began to fail, and in time I too failed to make the journey to Tynewydd. After a long illness Jeff died in his 78th year. With a heavy heart, I recall that I have laid to rest all the members of the family: Lucy, Jeff’s wife; Gwyn, his brother; the 3 daughters, Ann, Betty and Catherine; all the women died before they reached their 50th birthday.
‘They are all gone into the world of light,
And I alone sit lingering here.
Their very memory is fair and bright.’
For hundreds of years the name Jeffreys has occurred in the parish of Llywel, now, alas, it has ceased to be.” (2)

From top down: Gwyn Jeffreys, Jeffrey Jeffreys and J. Valentine Rees
Photos a gift to this author from David Jones Powell of the firm Jeffreys and Powell, Brecon

Though the venerable firm of Jeffreys and Powell was founded by David T Jeffreys over 100 years ago, he appears not to be the first Jeffreys who offered legal services in the area. In the Estate of Rees Jeffreys which was probated in 1679 by his brother Roger, an inventory of his belongings included “his law books.” Rees left a sum of money for the poor of Sclydach in the parish of Llywel.

Llywel Parish Register
(1) Price, Jacob M., 1961, The American Philosophical Society. “The Tobacco Adventure to Russia, Enterprise, Politics, and Diplomacy in the Quest for a Northern Market for English Colonial Tobacco, 1676-1722”
(2) Evans, T.O., 1988. private printing “Roots and Branches, A Genealogy of Some of the Older Families of the Parishes of Llanddeusant and Llywel”

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