The Penycoed Inheritance
Of the many mysteries
associated with the family history one of the most intriguing is what I
would call the 'Mystery of the Penycoed Inheritance'.
The events to which I refer took place in the parish of St.Clears in
Carmarthenshire in the eighteenth century. It is essential to the nature
of this story that we establish a clear background to the happenings.
The Bevan family had been living at Penycoed, an estate to the north of
St.Clears, since 1575 or thereabouts. They were considerable landowners
and some four generations of BEVANS were appointed High Sherrifs of
Carmarthenshire and as such were the senior officers of the Crown with
responsibility for law and order and the good management of the county. In
1692 the family was granted arms.
Thomas BEVAN was born in 1696 and himself became High Sherrif in 1735. He
married Bryanna Lloyd, daughter of one of the well established South Wales
families, and they proceeded to have six children, William in 1730,
Margaretta Maria in 1732, Amy in 1733 and three other girls. William was,
therefore, the son and heir and Margaretta Maria could be said to be the
Some time in the 1750's or 1760's Thomas built the present palladian
mansion on the site of the old manor house which had been the family home
since the late 1500's.
We now come to a surprising series of events. Amy married a Gregory COLE
on a date as yet unknown and gave birth to a little girl, Anne, in October
of 1775. She then died and was buried on the 24th November of that year.
Gregory Cole was a widower (having buried his first wife in 1771) and a
publican, being the landlord of the "Blew (blue) Boar Inn", a small
hostelry on the northern edge of the village of St. Clears. It is more
than likely that he was a tenant of Thomas BEVAN's.
After her mother's death Anne was taken into the BEVAN household. Gregory
severed his relationship with the family and subsequently remarried.
If this was the end of the story one would assume that the simple
explanation was that Amy had been indiscreet and had married her lover - a
man who would not otherwise have been considered a suitable husband in
view of the social inequality involved - and that, following the 'shotgun
wedding' and her subsequent death, effectively in childbirth, the family
had shrugged its shoulders and taken in the little mite as a moral
obligation - leaving the husband to go his way. But this is not the end of
We now come to another sequence of events. Thomas died intestate in 1763.
This was a remarkable situation where a man disposing of a considerable
estate was concerned.
Margaretta Maria and not her brother William was appointed to administer
the estate. (We must assume that her mother, Bryanna, was dead although we
do not as yet have the date of her death). William did not inherit and
died in 1806 intestate and not worth more than £100.00. His sister,
Margaretta Maria, was granted Letters of Administration. The estate
appears to have been inherited by Anne - presumably at the wish of her
grandfather and by arrangement of his administrator, her aunt, Margaretta
In 1793 Anne married Walter WILLIAMS. Walter was a landowner in his own
right, the grandson of Isaac WILLIAMS, a landowner of Llanginning, who had
married the heiress Jane BEYNON and come into the 'capital mansion' of
Llwyn Bychan and other estates. (After moving out of the parental home and
prior to his marriage to Anne COLE, Walter had lived as a tenant at the
manor house known as Panteg in the parish of Llandewi Velfrey).
By the marriage settlement Anne held Penycoed for herself and her eldest
son by Walter, William Bevan WILLIAMS. Thus, when Walter made his own Will
he could only dispose of his personal estates which, by then, included
Llwyn Bychan. Importantly it should be noted that Walter regarded himself
as having married a BEVAN! (Not a COLE !) The arms of the Williams were
then quartered with those of the Bevans.
The twist of the inheritance casts a different light on the marriage of
Amy to Gregory COLE and the standing of their child. It seems
inconceivable that Thomas will have wished to by pass his son and his
elder (and very capable) daughter in favour of a grandchild who was the
product of an undesirable union which had ended in tragic results.
In these circumstances I postulate two possible answers to the riddle.
The first possibility is that the father of Amy's child was not Gregory
COLE but someone else, of good social standing, who was unable (due to his
being married) or unwilling to marry the girl carrying his child. At that
time the disgrace to the family would have been considerable and there
will not have been the opportunity in rural Wales to send a pregnant girl
abroad to give birth to her child - as happened to a descendant towards
the end of the last century! Can it be that Gregory was seen as the answer
to the problem. He conveniently married Amy and provided a name for her
daughter. Thus young Anne will have been seen by her Grandfather - not as
a publican's daughter, but as the child of a suitable social connection.
This does not, however, explain the preference shown to her in the matter
of the inheritance.
We now come to the second possibility - a possibility which will doubtless
be considered very distasteful - but which merits consideration.
If we suppose that he father of Amy 's child was her brother, William, we
find that the family was faced with the same problem as that posed in the
first suggested set of circumstances. The result, however, would have
certainly involved the disgrace of her brother and his disinheritance.
Amy's child was truly a BEVAN! The matter would not have been committed to
paper and would have involved a verbal agreement between Thomas and his
capable daughter Margaretta Maria.
The final act was the inheritance of Anne to the estate of Penycoed, an
inheritance which ensured that the estate should pass, by means of a
marriage settlement, to her eldest son - William Bevan WILLIAMS
It would be unwise to dismiss this third possibility over hastily.
First published in The Friend December 2005