Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tantalizing Hints of Nonconformity

Ruins of Tredwstan [also "Tredustan"] Chapel built about 1690 near Talgarth, Breconshire.
Note the old gravestones still standing.
A researcher I've worked with once emailed that "Roger Vaughan" seemed like an uncommon name and shouldn't be too difficult to spot. Maybe that's true in the rest of Wales, but in the mid-Wye Valley it's rather common because of the illustrious ancestor who may or may not have fought and died at Agincourt. His father-in-law, Davey Gam, certainly did as Shakespeare even picked up on to include in Henry V. This Roger, the originator of our Vaughan surname, died somewhere. Maybe in the breach at Harfleur, or more likely of dysentery somewhere along the march and family legend preferred to have the death linked with that of the father-in-law's.

One of the Roger Vaughans died in 1782 at Trewalkin, on the slopes just south of the Wye as you head over to the most ancient Vaughan home at Cwmdu and the most impressive Vaughan home at Tretower [Tret┼Ár]. This Roger made a will I was pondering the other night. He named his three daughters and his son appears to be another Roger. Could this be the Roger Vaughan 1734-1797, the father of Hannah/Joanna who was the mother of John Vaughan 1789, the Butcher of Hay?

Then I realized what was most odd about the will. It does not start with the formulaic language of willing his body to Christian burial and his "Soule" to God with a token remembrance for the poor of such and such parish. No, it just starts off giving meager means to his daughters. This isn't the language of a member of the established church! He could have been a nonconformist or dissenter! And he lived just across a couple of fields from the later Methodist-Presbyterian College at Trefeca [also, Trefecca or Trevecka]!

OK. Let me digress slightly here. The Established Church was once dominant in Wales. That is the Church of England with the King or Queen at its head. They don't call it that for obvious reasons in Wales. Rather, it was "the Church in Wales" or the "Established Church." It was the Church of King Charles I who lost his head in 1649 after a civil war with Oliver Cromwell's dissenters generally called Puritans. It was also the Church of Charles II who restored the monarchy in 1660 and restrengthened the Established Church (even if he wasn't all that religious). Many nonconformist chapels sprang up around the United Kingdom in varying degrees of conflict with the Established Church. One such was the Independent Chapel at Tredwstan established about 1690 just across the Wye from Trefeca.

As I digress further, we had a senior missionary couple report in our ward last Sunday on their recent mission to England and Wales. They're good people. The Brother told a story about getting lost and asking someone where the "Mormon Church" was. They guy probably heard him say "Norman" Church which was perfectly logical as "the Church" over there, especially in Wales, is that Established Church of the King (or the Queen as in current accidents of birth and abdication of her Uncle). What our missionary should have asked for was directions to the Mormon Chapel. "Chapel" refers to every Christian denomination that is not the Church of England. Church or Chapel makes a big difference, especially in Wales. I hope that clears it up.

Yesterday, I made a quick dash into the SLC Family History Library to look at the records for Tredwstan [Tredustan] Chapel.* There were no answers but some interesting clues. In 1710 and 1714, there were lists made of the members of the Chapel:

Do you see that? Right at the bottom! "Catherine Vaughan of Trewalkin!"
Also, "Wow!" William Price, Taylour, of Glasbury Parish!
So, there you have it. Nothing definitive, but pretty solid evidence not only that a Vaughan of Trewalkin was once a dissenter but also that a tailor named Price of Glasbury was as well!

The main problem with nonconformist records is their rarity. It wasn't popular to be listed as a Nonconformist in those days. They'd just had a civil war connected to the issue and people were still being persecuted for not belonging to the King's Church. They at minimum were taxed (i.e., forcefully tithed) for the Established Church. And not too long before this people losing their heads, burning, or hanging (or worse as in the case of bowels being roasted while still alive or drawing and quartering) if they belonged to the wrong religious society. [I could make a political point here about the US Constitution, but will refrain].

Nonconformist Records are sparse. But these seem to be pretty solid hints that we should be paying attention to any new possibility of such in our Vaughan and even Price ancestry.
*FHL Br Film No. 1,482,419, Item 18.

Adendum, later same day:

I was looking at the British Ordnance Survey Map again and realized that more Vaughans appear in the neighboring household of Llanerch:

Samuel Vaughan of Llanerch and Walter Vaughan and wife [et ux] of Llanerch!
Most likely close relatives, not just geographically, of the Vaughans of neighboring Trewalkin

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