An auction sale in 1857

The Friends have been involved in two auction sales in the last year - one a national affair where there were a few viewing days attended by many of us with little intention of taking part in the final bidding and the second a domestic entertainment in the museum to re-imburse our contribution made towards the museum's expenditure at the first. By chance between the two I came upon a catalogue of a sale at Nant, in the parish of Llangunnor held on the 14th January 1857.The catalogue is in the Carmarthen Record Office in the Museum collection. The Tithe Schedule of 1843 lists the acreage as just over 35 acres and the owner and occupier of Nant was William Young.

The map drawn by George Goode , auctioneer and surveyor, at the time of the sale shows 13 fields - there had once been 14 but 2 in front of the house had had the hedge removed and a grander drive to the house made. An earlier map , also in the Museum collection , shows a simpler approach , and is entitled Nant Cottage .There is no compass marking on either map, but the house had access to both the new turnpike to the north and the old Great Road to Llanarthney and Llanddarog to the south.

The 1841 Census does not give much information but it lists six people staying there on census night viz. William Young 35 Surgeon born in Scotland,Ireland or abroad

Ann Young 51 born in Carmarthenshire

Mary Howell 20 female servant

Ann Robbert 15 female servant

Evan Howell 15 Ag. lab.

Ann John 20 Seamstress

Ann John was probably not a permanent member of the household . By the 1851 Census the household had shrunk but it gives much more detail about the owner.

William Young, now 47, head of the household was a widower who was born in Scotland and he was licensed by the Apothecary Hall, London and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Bridget Adams, Servant, unmarried ,22, was born in Llandowror and was housemaid.

Ann Samuel, Servant, unmarried, 21, born in Llangunnor, was the milkmaid.

It is obvious from the Catalogue that there were other workers on the farm who were not resident but "of Nant."

The catalogue itself is intriguing as it lists nearly four hundred lots from which it is possible to draw a picture of the self sufficiency and way of life of the people who lived there .The buyers are named, and their occupations, addresses or parishes are given as there are so many with the same name - a common problem in Carmarthenshire . There are about eighty three buyers named , some lots were sold and cash paid straight away and so no name was recorded, and a few lots were not sold. The clerk keeping the account kept to the code of the time in the titles he accorded the buyers - thus when an innkeeper bought some items he was plain William Evans, but when he bought books he was Mr William Evans .

.The sale had been advertised in the local press and the buyers came from thirteen Carmarthenshire parishes which seems to indicate the standing of the seller rather than the size of the house and farm [though he had improved it since buying it.]

The occupations of the buyers listed gives a cross section of society of 1857 in Carmarthenshire and the lots they bought indicates a difference in lifestyle from ours today - for example of the four milking cows , two were bought by farmers and two by inn-keepers. One store pig was bought by a farmer and the other by an inn-keeper. A butcher and a farmer shared the cost of three ewes in lamb - one wonders how they shared the final profit . Altogether about 47 farmers are listed ranging from Captain Edwardes of Rhydygorse to the smallest of neighbouring farms .The 9 inn- keepers ranged from Mr Valentine Rees of the Ivy Bush to the recently opened Railway Tavern , there were 3 Captains from the local mines , a solicitor , 2 druggists, local clergy - mostly of the Nonconformist persuasion , a stationer from Carmarthen town , a local turngate keeper, a few blacksmiths and carpenters , 3 masons , a weaver, servants of Nant, a fishmonger, a policeman and the auctioneer himself as well as ladies from the town and parish .

The first lots were the livestock, 4 cows in calf and 1 fat cow, 1 horse and a 5 year old pony, 8 wethers, 10 Ewes in lamb and 4 ewe lambs in lamb, 1 ram and 2 store pigs. These were followed by harvested crops - 1 rick lay hay, 2 stacks of wheat and 2 of barley. The root crops were 4 lots of mangold worsel and 2 lots of swede turnips. Next the farm implements and means of transport such as an invalid carriage, a Scotch cart and trebble, cart and trebble, an iron plough, iron harrow, 2 harrows, roller and shaft, jack, turnip drill, chaff cutter, winnowing fan, double Tom, barn planks, turnip slicer, sheep troughs, sheep racks and a wheel barrow, reaping hooks and traps. As is still usual in these sales all the oddments lying round and about were to be sold - such as 2 iron bands [ bought by a smith ], wheels and boxes, a door and rather expressively 2 lots of lumber which were not sold .

The lady's saddle fetched 3 pounds while the gentleman's only 3 shillings, though the buyer had come all the way from Llanpumpsaint to buy it. The set of cart shaft harness went for a guinea, the set of leading harness for 11 shillings, one set of plough harness for 9 shillings while the other for 1 shilling. There were 3 headstalls and a saddle stand.

The 5 lots of seasoned ash timber interested the carpenters but the prices given ranged from 4 s 9 d a lot to 8 shillings, there were 4 lots of unseasoned timber too - the first going to Mr Valentine Rees of the Bush for a guinea - the rest were far more moderately priced. There was a sawpit on the property as some lots of sawn boards were located there.

The next 45 lots were from the dairy and pantries showing that the surgeon's home was both self sufficient in many ways and probably sold its surplus at the market - carried in the market baskets. There were 6 cheese vats, a cheese press, cheese clothes and fillets as well as 30 milk pans, strainer and skimmer and a lot of butter prints and a butter basket. Of course there were the essential churns, one a druke churn worth five times the value of the ordinary churn. There were 5 black pots, three earthen ware pans, a brass pan, 2 brewing kives, cask, gallon bucket, a noy and a beehive. It would seem some of the produce was sold as there was 1 complete set of weights which went for 1 pound and 4 shillings while the other set was only 1s 2d - so weighing the produce was important.

In the house there were tin candlesticks, copper candlesticks and lamp and brass candle sticks and lamp, 2 coffee pots, 2 copper urns, a chimney glass worth 1 pound and 6 shillings, damask moreen window curtains, window blinds, a carpet with hearth rug to match [ though sold to different buyers ]. A pair of casters sold for 4d completely floored me until I saw an "Antiques Road Show" on the television and chairs of the French style were shown with casters only on the front legs. There were 15 lots of books including 27 volumes of the penny encyclopaedia, 3 volumes of the History of England and 2 volumes on gardening. The latter with the ownership of 2 cucumber frames, watering pots and flower stands would indicate the owner was a keen horticulturalist - there were also three garden shears showing that Nant was no ordinary Llangunnor Cottage.

The furniture was special too, for as well as some mahogany pieces and painted furniture there was a large quantity of rosewood which had not long been introduced into Britain. Until recently it had been thought it was only made in the big cities but there is evidence in a "day book" in the Record office that local craftsmen were also producing it. It shows that this cabinet maker made a rosewood settee for W.O.Price of Castle Pigyn in 1848 and he used designs by Henry Wood. At the Nant sale Mr Evan Williams, Druggist of St Clears bought 10 rosewood chairs for 7 pounds and a sofa for 4 pounds.

Among the furniture was a four poster bed, [the steps to get into it were sold to a lady from Carmarthen] which went to Captain Thomas of the the Mineworks, Llangunnor. Among the other 17 lots he bought was a rosewood table on a pillar for 5 guineas - I visualise him bidding agaist Mr Evan Williams for the complete suite. He had to make do with the second best feather bed, bolster and pillows which were sold by the weight of the feathers inside - in his case he paid 1 shilling a pound for 54lbs in weight, thus 2 pound and 14 shillings.

The sale was held because Mr Young was leaving the district, it is difficult to imagine what he did take with him from his home at Nant. The only cutlery that was sold was spoons on a stand along with wooden plates, but there was a large amount of blue and white and plain ware as well as a green dessert service sold - what is missing in the catalogue is cutlery of any distinction to go with the dining room furnishings. I wonder why a man of his learning could sell his books unless he was planning on emigrating.

The sale realised 262 pounds 7 shillings, the congestion in the lanes around must have rivalled fair day in the town and the sale doubtless proved a talking point for weeks to come.

Mary Binding

Reproduced from THE FRIEND November 1999