Thursday, December 29, 2011

All the Crew are saved

Culver Hole
The remote Gower coastline was a lucrative haven for smugglers during the late 18th and 19th centuries. 

Beneath the cliffs at Port Eynon is a cave called Culver Hole.  Set between two rock faces it has a masonry wall and a staircase leading up four floors.  

Culver Hole is believed to have links with the legendary 11th century castle of Port Eynon.  In more recent history it was used as a safe hideaway for contraband.

Various smuggling gangs operated under the very noses of the establishment making the job of the customs officials particularly difficult.  Farms at Great and Little Highway occupied by William Hawkin Arthur, the self-styled smuggling king, were the centre of operations.  Seemingly invincible, it was customs officer Francis Bevan (an ancestor of both Silvanus and Ann) who in 1804 seized some 420 casks of spirits from a concealed cellar in both farmhouses, causing the collapse of this particular gang’s operations. 

This incident illustrates just how dangerous the work of customs officers could be as to get the casks into safe keeping over night Francis had to contend with a mob of some 200 people.  He was forced to allow them to have a couple of casks just to keep the peace.  Guarding the haul proved equally difficult and by the time the consignment reached Swansea it was found to be 17 casks short.  In a subsequent report Francis explained how he had given up some of the cask to secure the safe transferral of the bulk of the shipment.

Official figures state shipwrecks along the Gower coast occurred at the rate of one every two years but the Bevan letters would indicate that they were much more frequent than this.  In a letter to George dated 23 January, 1879 Ann writes:

Overton Jan 23 1879

Dear George

I am glad to say Sill is better but not able to get up from bed he [he] will have been in bed three weeks next Saturday he is now out of pain but very weak the Dr says he may try to get [get] up on Sunday next if he goes on well.  

Hannah & Ellen have had bad colds & had to stay in bed some days they are better & able to sew & nit by the Parlour Fire you Father feels the cold weather very much.  I have just been to see your Aunt Harriet she has caught a severe cold & is laid up in bed.  I hope she will soon be about again & I hope you will try not to take cold as the weather is very trying.  

Last Monday night a Norweggian Barque came on Shore under Slade Cliff Laden with Indian Corn, Maize all the Crew are saved & are at Porteynon the men round here have got work getting out the Cargo. Frank has been up seeing the wreck this afternoon. 

We have heard from George Bevan that you are coming home Saturday week Bring all your clothes with you that want mending.  I am getting Stockings ready for you your Uncle promised me some packing cloth & a Basket but perhaps he has forgotten them you must write to let uss know when you can come home weather Saturday or any other day.  

Dear George it is getting late I must conclud with our kindest love & may God bless & keep you form every evil from your affectionate

                                      Mother A. Bevan

Image - courtesy of the National Trust

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frank looks for a situation

George’s eldest sister Jane is always a good source of local news and gossip. 

Friday Night

My dear Brother

Here we are three in bed.  Sill is out of pain but still helpless.  Hannah has not been up since Monday but she is better.  Ellen came home from school crying in pain in her head and knees she is a little better now.  Mother and Frank is goine to town tomorrow to look for a situation.  Mr. Jenkins in Castle Square would take him in March Mr. B. Williams in Temple St. would take him so they are going in tomorrow to see which place will suit him best.  Aunt Jane was here yesterday.  She said that Rowland had the offer of Manager in a shop he did not know the man to speak to he had heard of Rowland and wanted a steady young man he is not going [to] leave his present employ as Aunt Jane is proud of her boy.  Uncle promised me to some hampers and packing cloth please remind him of it and buy them will you.

Mr Benson of Fairy Hill was out shooting yesterday and fell down and broke his neck was carried home dead.  When are you coming home you must try and come on a Wednesday or Saturday.  Do not forget the little thing I sent for some time a go.  Come whenever you like hoping to see you soon. I remain Your affec. Sister


 Seventy-year-old Mr. Starling Benson JP was out shooting with his gamekeeper when he fell into a quarry. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A sick house to begin the New Year with

Silvanus junior, referred to in the letters as Sill, older then George by two years, is the mainstay on the farm, especially following his father's near fatal illness.  Aged only twenty, Sill suffers from a bout of rheumatism, and when he is confined to his bed even more pressure is put upon Ann and work on the farm suffers.

Overton Jan 8 1879

Dear George

Just a line to say we have sent the Box with a Goose & two Fowls & a parcel for you a little Pudding & a few apples.  I had nothing else to send.  I hope you have had them.  I am sorry to say Sill has been ill in bed since Sunday in Rheumatism in his legs & arms he is better to day & slept a little last night the Dr thinks he will not have Rheumatic Fever he caught cold last week removeing the Sheep nets in the wet at Moors.  Jane has been very poorly but is better & able to get up to day so I have had a Sick House to begin the new year with.  I hope poor Sill will be better soon as he is wanted every day your Father has had a cold but is better all the rest are quite well

With kindest love & hoping you are quite well this cold weather I remain in haste

                             Your affectionate


Image - a traditional Christmas pudding - 1860s.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Head Man on the Farm

At the beginning of the New Year sixteen year old Francis writes to his brother about how he is ‘head man’ at the farm at Overton.

Overton Gower
January 6th 1879

My dear brother

I am quite well and I hope you are the same. I have had a very hard time of it to day almost enough to make me wish myself back to school again owing to Silvanus is very bad in his legs and he is obliged to stay in bed and the servant boy went home this morning very bad and I have just returned from being after medicine.  Jane and Father have also been very poorly but are getting better now.  So you see that I am head man just now.  I do not think that I am going back to school.  Mother was into Swansea last Saturday to look out for a place for me but she failed to get one.  Mr Jenkins cant take me until March but I hope to get a birth before then.  Mother says that we are going to send the box on Wednesday from Killay station so you may look out for it.  I have got no more news to tell now.  So long

                             Your affectionate
                                                F.J. Bevan

A modern view across Overton Bay

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Christmas

And after Christmas sister Elizabeth writes to her brother to tell him how it all went.

Dec. 31st/78

Dear Brother

We enjoyed our Christmas very much Although it was snowing all the morning and very cold.  We were all so sorry that you could not come home.  We were down to Aunt Harriets to tea yesterday evening and Jane and Sill are gone down to Uncle George Gibbs to tea this evening.

I am afraid you will be too late for the tea meeting it is to take place to morrow evening.  There has been a sad accident it happened a few days ago.  Uncle George’s Brother Captain Joseph was knocked of the vessel and drowned the crew didnt know he was gone till they missed him.  We are going to sent Uncles box next week so you may expect a bit of Christmas pudding and a few apples.

                   I must now conclude
                             And Wishing you a happy
                                      new year I remain
                                                Your affectionate sister

First Edition Frontispiece and Title Page of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol published 1843

George Gibbs was the son of Harriet nee George, (Ann’s mother Jane’s sister) and Samuel Gibbs.  After working in London under the guidance of his uncle Robert, George returned to Gower and married Ann Hughes of Newton in Llanddewi.  George was employed for many years as Lloyd’s Agent (the shipping firm) in Gower and farmed 59 acres at The Rectory, Porteynon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wishing George was home

Ann squeezes in one more letter before Christmas, obviously thinking of her absent son.

Overton Monday morning
Dec 23rd 1878

Dear George

Just a line to say we are all quite well your father has gone off the Club & seems in very good spirits but his legs swell a little now he does not feel the Cold weather so much now as when it first set in.  The children are quite delighted with the sleding on the Splol Pool & are wishing George was home.  

We are all sorry you cannot be with us perhaps you will be able to stay the longer when you do come.  I hope you will be able to injoy your Christmas at Llandudno as we are very busy to day & I must Finish with our kindest love & may God bless & keep you from all evil from your Ever affectionate Mother & Father

                             S & A Bevan

Jane wants you to send her the Christmas number of the [Methodist] Recorder if you can get it.

Believed to be one of the first mass produced Christmas cards published in 1843 for Henry Cole.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"We are haveing Winter in Earnest," writes Ann

December 1878 and the family at Gower prepares for Christmas

Overton Decr 9th 1878

Dear George

I think it is my turn to write this week we are all well your Father feels the cold weather he has to stand with his back to the Fire every now & then to keep warm he does not like to sit in the Parlour it is too lonely.

I dare say you find it cold in the Shop we were surprised this morning to find the Ground cover’d in Snow.  We are haveing Winter in Earnest.  Franks School breaks up on Wednesday next the Agricultural Show will be held on Thursday.  I think Sill will go in if all is well we have sold two Fat Cows to go in on Monday next.

Will you be able to come home this Christmas we should be glad to see you but you must do as your Uncle thinks best the little ones are often talking about you Ellen thinks they shall have a better Christmas this year than last as Father is so much better.

They are all gone to Capt. Steven’s this evening to tea. I have not much news to tell you. Captain Jones has got back to Swansea he & his Crew were landed at Plymouth the Second Mate was drowned Mr Thomas’es Son of Hillend.  There is no account of Capt. F. Gibbs. We live in a world of trouble & disasstars.  The Lord help uss to keep our lamps trimmed and burning ready to meet our Master when he calls for uss.  With our kindest love we remain Dear George

                                      Your affectionate
                                                Father & Mother
                                                          S & A Bevan

P.S. Robert & Eddy sends their love & you must buy them a Ball each

Winter Landscape, Poland by Robert Polhill Bevan

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New hotel at Llandudno is good for trade

Silvanus was incapacitated for nine months following the typhoid outbreak in September - the illness appeared to have a debilitating effect upon him for much longer as is revealed in Ann’s letters.

Llandudno May 30th

Dear Mother

I was very glad to hear from Uncle this morning that father was much better and liked to be able to sit up soon.

I shall send the Box to day (Thursday) Passenger train so you will have it on Saturday if you ask William to call at Killay.

There is a teapot, & the 2 spoons a piece of canvass & 2 sacks which Uncle thought would come handy for you.

And my Jacket & waistcoat & trousers, the jacket is gone too small & is nearly worn out and I am afraid I shall want a new one, and the waistcoat is gone too small but I have plenty of them.  The trousers is gone rather small and worn a good deal but I think I can manage with it when it is cleaned & Repaired.

The teapot will be about 4/- and the spoons 3/- but I cannot say what he will charge you exactly.

Has grandfather had his bedstead all right yet uncle was asking me if I had heard anything about it the other day?

We are very busy here.  I have just been counting how many bedsteads we have sold this spring and I find we have sold 70 and about 60 more on order for this new Hotel so we shall have plenty to do for some time yet.

                             I remain
                                      Your aff: son
                                                George Bevan

an old picture postcard of the promenade at Llandudno

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shop Talk

George's elder cousin Rowland had also served his apprenticeship with Uncle William in Llandudno.  In this incomplete letter the two young ‘ironmongers’ enjoy some shop talk.

34 St Mary St.

Ap. 8th 1878

My dear Cousin

I was very pleased to receive your note this morning.  I can assure you your letters are always very welcome, the only fault I find with them generally is the last word come too soon you justly accuse me of negligence but I think I can justify myself as I proceed.  It grieved me very much to hear about the disturbance in Chapel.  I hope things will soon better.  Wm Bowden told us once in Class that he had a bad temper but he had felt nothing of it for this last 30 years.  I fear it has mastered him again now about the books you ask for.  I am very sorry to say I left them at home.  I only brought some of my books here with me the rest I carefully packed in boxes at home.  I will however write home to mother and ask her to send it you.  I fear however she will be unable to find it if she does you may keep it until I ask for it.  Perhaps you would like the Dictionary as well if so please let me know.  I was very pleased to hear what you said about your father whenever you write me let me know how he is for you know better than they do at Horton.  I dare say you would like a little of Cardiff news.  I came here on the 9 of Feby. Just one day more would have been the anniversary of my 5 year at Llandudno.  Aunt Margaret lives 13 miles from here & seeing Mr Hernes advertisement I came to Cardiff to see him.  I was at Hingead a week before he gave me an answer.  I find Mr Herne is not as bad after all rather curious sometimes but withal a thorough business man of sound principles he will not have us talk too much to our customers he says it is not business like & they dont like it and I quite agree with him.  We have only one price except wholesale when we take 10% for cash that is an excellent rule it saves no end of trouble & confusion sometimes there are exceptions when the articles are damaged or old stock. When foreigners come in and he get a great many we always tell them before we commense ‘one price’ but they will try and beat down then the master comes and tells them to go about their business but they invariably buy for they too like it we sell all kinds of oil & paints etc but the assistants are not allowed to touch any Iron, wire felt flash oil & anything of that sort there are boys who have to attend to these things I dont think I can do better than…….

St Mary Street, Cardiff

Letters of condolence

Ann keeps a further two letters of condolence.  One from her brother in law William and the following from M.A. Cocks.

Lafronda Villa

Oct 12th /77

My dear Mrs. Bevan

                   How dark your path and how sad your lot at this time.  I have wept with you in your troubles and prayed with you, but have refrained from sending you a line not knowing what sympathy I could offer.  Dear Little Willie gone from you, darling boy taken from his suffering and safely housed in his Fathers house above.

                   I share with you in thankfulness that dear Mr Bevan’s life is spared to you and trust your lives may be given to each other many, many years.  It is with great anxiety I hear of dear Lizzie’s state oh, I do trust that she, Jane and the other members of your family it may be God’s will to give back to you.  However you have managed and still manage to nurse them I cannot understand.  Do support yourself with all the nourishing food you can possibly make use of.  God’s ways are indeed mysterious but I often think of his condescension in promising us that what we know not here we shall know hereafter, yes some day these things that appear to us so inexplicable and almost cruel, will one day be so shown to us that we shall see it was all done out of love, and we shall wonder that we could ever have thought otherwise.

                   Dear Little Willie will be much missed by you.  The first gap in your family circle is it not?  I know from conversations we have had you think deeply of the immortality of your precious ones, and on that account would be thankful that God has not taken the one in regard to whom having attained years of responsibility, of their souls welfare there might be a shade of doubt.  Give my kindest love to Lizzie if she is strong enough to receive a message, and I hope if she has not already she will give her affections fully to Jesus.  His good spirit has often striven yes God the father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost are all loving and doing what they can to woo us.

                   My love to Mr Bevan, Miss Bevan and all the dear sufferers with much love to yourself.

                   I remain,
                             Yours affectionately,
                                      M.A. Cocks

Novr 5th 1877

Dear Brother & Sister

                   Now that I have commenced writing I scarcely know what to say, but I am anxious you should know we had not forgotten you we hear through George and Harriet often writes we are glad to hear so favourable news of you all.  I trust you will all continue to improve, and that we shall soon hear of you being able to be out as usual, but after all God knows what is best for us he cannot err what a blessing it is that our lives are in his hands.  We daily remember you at the Throne of Grace that He will sustain and comfort you in this your time of need.  I hope Ann will have strength bear up under her continual anxiety and toil and that she will soon be rewarded by seeing all the sick ones restored to their usual health.

                   We are all well and all join in much love and sympathy and wish you and shall at all times and as often as convenient like to hear from you.

                   I remain
                             Dear Brother & Sister
                                      Yours etc
                                                W Bevan

Dear mother do not fret

While Silvanus was to make a slow but steady recovery, the couple’s nine year old son William Arthur died on October 8, 1877.

How isolated must sixteen year old George have felt, so far from home, when he wrote this letter on the day that William was buried at St. Cattwg's Church, Port Eynon. 

October 9th

Dear Mother,

I cannot help grieving for poor Willie but it gives me joy to think that he is now with the angles in Heaven, and that we may meet again in Heaven in our father’s good time.  Dear mother do not fret for it is His will that he should go to a happier and a better place to be with Christ himself.

                   This lovely flower so young so fair
                   Call’d Hence by early doom
                   Just came to show how sweet a flower
                   In paradise would bloom

Oh may we all meet him in the skies

I remain
          Your affectionate son
                   George Bevan

The parish church at Port Eynon was founded in the 6th century by St Cennydd, St. Cattwg's missionary in Gower.  The present building dates from the 12th century.

The statue of a lifeboatman looks out to sea from the churchyard, a memorial to the three crew members of the Janet who were lost on New Year's Day 1916 when the lifeboat capsized attempting a rescue of the steamer Dunvegan.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Yours in sympathy with your troubles

As the condition of her husband Sylvanus worsens, Ann turns to Eliza Bescombe, the wife of Enoch who in 1876 was the Wesleyan minister at Pitton.  Eliza writes back:


Sept. 20/77

Dear Mrs Bevan

                   I received yours this morning & was exceedingly sorry at the intelligence it brought your toils, fatigue, sorrow must have been greater than tongue can tell or least conceive I hope you may be sustained through it, as to advising you it seems difficult for me to do, especially with regard to the deseace I suppose you have the Doctor and that all that can be done is being done by him but I should think as soon as Mr Bevan recovers a little the best thing you can do is to get him out of the house into park surroundings say to Oxwich he will not soon gain strength in your house there is a depression in old circumstances & thoughts – I trust he will be spared to you yet.  I am sorry then about his tendency to consumption – you have two helpful things to comfort you – first his constitution has not been impaired by secondly his state of mind & trust in God look up Sister, the Lord has mercy in store for you yet, the dark cloud shall burst in blessing.  I trust the rest of your children may recover and live to be a blessing to you.  I assure you of an interest in my poor prayers for you & I believe others will do the same, and the [Lord] has heard yours hoping to hear better news of you & yours believe me.

Yours in sympathy with your troubles

                             E. Bescombe

John Wesley, the founding father of Methodism, visited Gower at least four times between 1762-1773 staying at a cottage in Oxwich.  By 1780 the Methodist movement had spread widely in the southern counties of Wales and produced a flurry of chapel building in the Gower area.  Oxwich Chapel was built in 1808 and Horton in 1813, followed by Pitton (pictured) in 1833, Llangennith in 1862 and Reynoldstone in 1869.  The chapel at Port Eynon was fitted out by Captain Bevan in 1852.

George is worried

Ann keeps the full extent of the situation from young George, far from home in Llandudno.

Sept 7th

Dear Mother

I am very sorry to hear that father is ill and I hope that by this time he is very much better and Eliza and Jane.  Please write and say what is the matter with them all as we are all anxious to know.

It is very cold here to day and the visitors are nearly all gone away.

I enclose 3 of my witnesses and hope you will be pleased with them and that all the sick ones is much better.

                                      I remain
                                                Your Affectionate
                                                          Son G Bevan

A view of Mostyn Street, Llandudno where George worked as an apprentice in his Uncle William's ironmongers.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Disasterous disease

Among the carefully preserved letters is the following newspaper clipping saved from The Cambrian.  Now the full horror of events in the small villages of Port Eynon, Horton and Overton is revealed.

PORT-EYNON – It has been deemed necessary, under medical advice, to postpone the re-opening of Port-Eynon Elementary School, in consequence of the prevalence of typhoid fever, which has assumed a most serious aspect in the neighbourhood.  This deadly fever has visited the villages of Horton, Port-Eynon, and Overton.  Only one case, as yet, has appeared in the first mentioned village, which has proved fatal to Mr. Coe, clerk to Mr. Justice Lush.  One case only has appeared in Port-Eynon, but in the village of Overton the fever has laid its prostrating hand upon no less than 18 persons.  In the house of Mr. S. Bevan, seven persons are lying severely afflicted with this disastrous disease.  In Capt. J. Stevens’s house there are four suffering from the same malady. Last week there were five persons lying on beds of affliction in the same mentioned house; but on Wednesday night, the 19th inst, death rid Mrs Stevens of all her sufferings.  On Friday, the 21st inst, her mortal remains were escorted to the place of internment.  She was a woman highly beloved and respected by all who knew her.  Her death has caused a great breach in the family; she has left a husband and seven children to lament her loss. – Cor.

All is not well at home

The first intimation that all is not well at home comes in George's letter dated September 7, 1877.

Sept 7th

Dear Mother

I am very sorry to hear that father is ill and I hope that by this time he is very much better and Eliza and Jane.  Please write and say what is the matter with them all as we are all anxious to know.

It is very cold here to day and the visitors are nearly all gone away.

I enclose 3 of my witnesses and hope you will be pleased with them and that all the sick ones is much better.

                                      I remain
                                                Your Affectionate
                                                          Son G Bevan

George's clothes

After a visit home a year later, George returns to Llandudno, the following list packed with his clothes.

A Year's March Nearer Heaven

Health concerns are a constant theme throughout the letters.  The year begins with two letters regarding ‘cousin Frank.’  With a plethora of Francis Bevans' in the family it is difficult to pin this one down.  Miss Wheeler is obviously some connection within the church, possibly a Sunday School Teacher.  Again, Rowland is also a popular family name.  The Rowland who writes this letter is most likely the son of Morgan, another of Silvanus’ brothers, and his wife Jane nee Tucker.

11 St. Georges Crescent
January 8th/77

My dear Frank,

Since my return from Cheshire I have been so sorry to learn you were not well & I should have written to you before but waited to see whether you returned to Llandudno last week.  I sincerely trust you are now recovering & shall be so glad to see you in our Class on a Sunday afternoon again yesterday we numbered eleven & had a very happy time together our lesson was the 3rd chapter of St. John’s Gospel since we saw each other dear Frank we have commenced a “New Year” I do trust it will be a very bring & happy year not only to yourself but also to each member of your family, how lovingly & tenderly our “Heavenly Father” has been caring for us though the past twelve months. Many have gone to the “Better Land” some that we knew & loved but God has work for you & I to do yet, let us each try by God’s grace to spend this “New Year” in the Saviours service & if we are spared to see its close will it not be sweet to feel “We are a Year’s March nearer Heaven.”  Arthur Cooke has been very poorly but is better again you must write & tell me how you are & when I may hope to see you.

They are getting on so fast with the “New Pier” I expect Llandudno will be very full when the season arrives.   I only came home a fortnight ago being away almost nine weeks.  I saw Mr. Roland today he seemed quite well & was going to the funeral of poor Miss Jones who died last Thursday what a blessed thought to know she was quite ready to go Home may we all dear Frank be found with our lamp trimmed & brightly burning whenever the Bridgroom cometh Accept the enclosed with my kind love again hoping you are quite better.

                   Believe Me to Remain

                             Affectionately Yours
                                      Marie C. Wheeler

“May the Lord guide
thee continually.”

The new pier at Llandudno replaced an earlier one built in 1858.

Designed by Charles Henry Driver in partnership with James Brunlees, the pier took just over a year to complete and was opened to the general public on August 1, 1877.

Jany. 15th 1877

My dear Cousin,

By Uncle’s note on Saturday we were rather surprised to find that you had been so ill.  I just drop you this note fearing you will be troubling about my coming home. They certainly dont expect you here until your are quite well they think with me that you will run the risk of renewing your cold on your journey.  Miss Wheeler frequently asks after you. I expect she has written to you for she has had your address for some time.  I shall probably relieve your mind of some anxiety when I tell you that the Range is sold & paid for there is rather an amusing incident connected with it (in reference to the stand) which I will tell you of again travellers are calling thick & fast we expect a Brooksbank & Owen & Fendelow here to day if they come we shall be very busy.

                             I am dear Cousin
                                      Yours affectionately
                                                Rowland Bevan

Friday, December 2, 2011

George is getting on very well indeed

After approximately ten months at school, George leaves to begin a five-year ironmongery apprenticeship at Llandudno with his uncle William - Silvanus’ brother.

May 13th 1876

Dear Brother & Sister

According to promise I write to say that George is getting on very well indeed.  I am quite pleased with him and his Aunt has quite taken to him we are only afraid that as he came just in our busy time that he will think it too hard work for him but I know he has not been brought up idle and indeed my experience has been that there is nothing like plenty of work when you set out in life it stamps ones character and then greater will be the pleasure if any time we can do without it.  You would be amused to see him go up to some of the Welsh customers to serve them and when he cannot understand what they say he looks up at them and says “dina cymraeg.”  I do not think on the whole we are quite so busy this year as last.  We are all well but my Sister in Law is very ill confined mostly to her bed there is no hope of ultimate recovery although she may linger for months.  I have heard of Mary’s trouble but do not mention it in any of your letters for I do not want Ellen to know until she is obliged to.

I am now going to beg you will see by the enclosed book what we are doing we now want at least £300 to build the School and as we are all very poor I hope you will give us a lift.  I enclose a stamp’d envelope to return the book and would suggest if you can get a £5 note enclose it in the book or if Sovereigns you can do the same and tie a piece of thin paper round the book before you put it in the envelope it cannot then come out.  With kind love to all and everyone in which Ellen Join.

                                      Yours etc W Bevan

Bay View Farmhouse, Overton pictured in 2007.  The house where George grew up has been much altered and extended.

A postcard view of Overton village dated 1910.  The farm can be seen in the top right hand corner.

George's First Letter

George, aged fourteen, writes home to let his parents know that he has arrived safely at Weston School.  Having passed his scholars certificate at Port Eynon School, he was to spend a further year in education before beginning a five year apprenticeship at his Uncle William's ironmonger's shop in Llandudno.

Weston School
Thursday July 22nd 1875

My dear father and mother

We arrived all saftly and the first thing we did was to go to the baths and have a bathe, after that we came to the school and had to take off most of our things for the masters to see if they were marked and then we had to slip our shirts down to our middle and wash and then we had to stand before Mr. Browning for him to see wether we had washed clean and at half past eight we had to go to bed, me and Saunders slept together and the bed was rather hard.

At 7 o’clock we got up and at quarter past we had to be in the school room for breakfast we had half a pint of coffee and a good piece of bread and butter then we had to learn the tables.  And then we had to go to the baths and have a bathe and then we had to stand all naked before the master to see if we were clean and then we came home to dinner we had so much potatoes and meat as ever we could eat. and a good piece of pudding. I should have written last night only they had the key to see if all my things were marked so no more from your affectionate Son


 His mother wrote on the bottom of the page 'George's First Letter'

George's birth certificate

How it all began

Several years ago I acquired an archive of family letters and books collected and preserved by Dr Mary Bevan (pictured below).  Mary was born in 1925 in Colwyn Bay, the only child of George Herbert Bevan and his wife Constance. Having graduated from Oxford University, she went on to Medical School in Manchester where she qualified in 1950.

After the sudden death of her mother in 1962, Mary decided to travel, ending up in Mildura, in North Western Australia, where she settled and retrained.  It had always been her intention to retire to her old home in North Wales, but apart from an occasional visit, she failed to return.

Although Mary never married or had children, she left the most extraordinary heritage, over 200 family letters,  dating back to 1839.

Mary's grandfather, George Bevan, was born in 1861 at Bay View Farm, Overton, Gower, the third of Silvanus and Ann Bevan's eleven children.  In 1876 George left the family farm to begin an ironmongery apprenticeship at his Uncle William's shop in Llandudno.

The Bevan family roots in Gower stretch back over 350 years to Jenkin ap Evan, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. Peter After in the parish church of St. Mary's at Rhossili c.1620.  Jenkin anglicised his Welsh surname creating the new one of Bevan.

One branch of the family moved to Swansea, a descendant of whom was Silvanus Bevan (1691-1765) an apothecary who created the Plough Court Pharmacy in Lombard Street, Cheapside, the foundation of the 21st century global conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline.

Another Silvanus Bevan (1743-1830) son of Timothy and his first wife Elizabeth Barclay, joined the Quaker family bank of Barclay, Bevan, Tritton & Co and was also a sleeping partner in the takeover of Henry Thrale's famous Southwark Bankside brewery, paying a quarter of the total purchase price of £135,000 in 1781.

However Mary's great-grandfather, yet another Silvanus Bevan, led a more prosaic life.  Farmer and Methodist lay preacher, Silvanus kept close to home, marrying his cousin Ann and raising his large family on the farm overlooking the tempestuous Gower coastline.

George was the first to fly the nest.  He planned to return to his childhood home after completing his apprenticeship with the intention of building a business in Swansea.  However, like Mary, he was also to put down new roots, opening a shop in the developing seaside resort of Colwyn Bay.

George was first elected on to the Local Board in 1890, the beginning of a political career lasting forty-two years.  In 1908 he became a Justice of the Peace for the county and towards the end of his life he was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough in recognition of his services to the town.

Entering the gateway of St. John's Methodist Church for Sunday worship in March 1935, George collapsed and died shortly afterwards.  Opening the eulogy at his funeral the Rev. A.J. Costain said:

"We are met to pay our last tribute to the memory of George Bevan.  He touched the life of the community at many points."

The letters that Mary so carefully preserved, chart the events of George's life and one Victorian Welsh farming family.  I hope she would have approved of this account.

Dr Mary Bevan

Constance Bevan - Mary's mother

George Herbert Bevan - Mary's father