Ystradgynlais History

Walter Jones Williams

Rector of Ystradgynlais 1846-1856

Walter Jones Williams was the eldest son of Howell Jones Williams, of Coity Mawr, Brecon, and his wife, Harriet Gough, daughter of the Reverend Fleming Gough, Rector of Ystradgynlais 1796-1835 and Squire of Ynyscedwyn from 1808.

Walter Jones Williams was born in Swansea on 3rd July 1814, the first of eight children of his parents. He was baptised at Saint Mary's Church, Swansea on 2nd September 1814. Walter had three brothers, although one, Fleming Gough Williams, died an infant in 1817. The others were Fleming Gough Howell Games Williams, who rose to become a Lieutenant in the 41st Regiment of Foot but died aged only 25 in 1851, and John Wilkins Williams, born in 1832 when his mother was 42.

His sisters were Anne Harriet Williams, born 1815 and who married the Rev. Calvert Richard Jones, Susan Beata Williams, born 1820, Mary Martha Gough Williams, born in 1821, and Gladys Games Portrey Williams, born in 1829 who married the Rev. Arthur Sidney Pott.

In January 1819, he and his eldest sister Anne Harriet were rebaptised in Ystradgynlais by their grandfather, the Reverend Fleming Gough.

Rev. Walter Jones Williams attended Saint John's College of the University of Oxford, enrolling in 1833 aged 19 and graduating in 1837 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. At the time the B.A. degree was not in a particular subject but covered a range (Latin and Greek texts, Mathematics, Geometry, Philosophy and Theology) and was primarily, if not exclusively, pursued by those seeking a career in the clergy.

In the 1841 census, Walter Jones Williams is listed as being present at Ynyscedwyn House, Ystradgynlais, with his uncle Richard Douglas Gough, his wife Constance Elizabeth, and their only daughter to that date Frances Martha, who would sadly die in 1842. Also present is his father, Howell Jones Williams, and his sister Anne Harriet with her husband, the Rev. Calvert Richard Jones, and their daughter Christiana Henrietta Victoria Games Jones.

In June 1844, Walter Jones Williams was ordained by the Bishop of Hereford as a "deacon of Oxford" by "letters dismissory from the Lord Bishop of Saint David's" (The Morning Post, Thursday 6th June 1844). The following year, in May 1845 the Bishop of Hereford ordained Walter Jones Williams as "Priest of Oxford" (The Morning Post, 26th May 1845). In the National Library of Wales, the record with the Reference code SD/P/3399 is the Diocese of Saint David's record of the presentation of Walter J Williams to the benefice of Ystradgynlais. It is dated 1845, but the exact date cannot be read on the header.

Whether in later 1845, or in 1846 as the history of the church of Ystradgynlais has it in its date list, the Reverend Walter J Williams was appointed Rector of Ystradgynlais in succession to Rev. Timothy Davies, who had held that position since the death of Rev. Fleming Gough ten years before, but who was now moving on to become Vicar of Defynnog. Walter Jones Williams was certainly in position at Ystradgynlais by April 1846 when he joined with other local clergy in writing an appeal in the newspaper protesting the merger of the North Wales bishoprics of Saint Asaph's and Bangor.

Reverend Walter Jones Williams was Rector of Ystradgynlais from 1846 to the start 1856, being the last Rector to solely preach in the old church before it was demolished and replaced by the current building, completed in 1861 by his successor, the Rev Thomas Walters. Walter Jones Williams does not seem to have taken another posting within the Church. The Clergy Lists of 1859 and 1866 list him as without a position, whilst the 1861 census finds him living in Brecon and recording him as a clergyman with "no cure", which can be understood as meaning "no care of souls". He is additionally described as a landowner, and magistrate, and those may well have become his full-time occupations.

Rev. Walter Jones Williams was a J.P. for Breconshire from at least 1847, and also involved in expanding the railway to Brecon, being by 1860 one of the directors of the Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway. On 18 January 1860, as recorded by the North Wales Chronicle ten days later, he cut the first sod on the Merhyr side of the short tunnel. At the third half-yearly meeting of the company held at Brecon on 27th February 1861, Rev Walter Jones Williams was re-elected as a director. He became Vice Chairman and retired on 4th September 1863.

Walter Jones Williams married Jane Mary Miers at St Marylebone, Westminster on 17th June 1858, when he was 44 and she was 25. His brother, John Wilkins Williams, was one of the Witnesses. At the time of his marriage to Jane Mary Miers in 1858, his residence is listed as St Mary's parish, Brecon and his occupation as "Clerk in Holy Orders".

Walter Jones Williams and Jane Mary had six children, three sons and three daughters. The daughters were born first: Harriet Mary Jones Williams (April 1859-1929), Gladys Susan Jones Williams (July 1861-1942), and Ann H J Williams (born c1862). Their sons were Howell Richard Jones Williams (April 1863-1927), Walter Maurice Jones Williams (born 1864) and Arthur Henry Jones Williams, born July 1865 and who would die in an accident in British Columbia in January 1901.

Walter Jones Williams died at his house in Glamorgan Street, Brecon on 9th April 1866, aged almost 52. He was buried in Llanfeugan.

After Walter Jones Williams' death in 1866, his widow Jane Mary attended the wedding of Constance Gwenllian Harriet Gough in December 1867. Jane Mary married for a second time, to William Bridgewater of Broomfield, Glasbury, on 2nd October 1868 at Llanfigan, Brecon. They would have 3 children together before his death in 1874. Jane Mary would live until 4th February 1921, dying in Brighton.

Arthur Gordon Jones Williams, grandson of Rev. Walter Jones and son of Arthur Henry Jones Williams, would become a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F. and win the Military Cross. He lost his life in the first ever attempted non-stop flight from London to Cape Town, dying at the age of 31 on 17th December 1929.

A modern view down Glamorgan Street, Brecon, probably much-changed since the Rev. Walter Jones Williams' time.

Sources and Useful Information

Online Resources for Historians & Genealogists

Ynyscedwyn Estate Papers (held at West Glamorgan Archive Service)

Clergy of the Church of England Database (Up to 1835)

Forest of Dean Family History Trust (Free Registration)

Saint David's diocesan records at the National Library of Wales

Dictionary of Welsh Biography

Free BMD - Births, Deaths and Marriages (from 1837 onwards)

Welsh Newspaper Archive (1804-1919)

British Newspaper Archive, from the British Library (subscription necessary):- https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

National Archives Discovery website:- https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/