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Sir Francis Lloyd< (abt 1610 - 1669)
Among the three daughters of Richard Leigh and Dorothy Oakley, the most fascinating life was that of Bridgett Leigh. Her story is romantic, complex, and well known in Welsh history, because it directly involved titled notables of the period. It gives us a window into the wealthy lives of the privileged class which was interested in details of property, power, and inheritance that only occasionally touched our other Leighs. Also, Bridgett's life seems piquant because of the puzzling curse which later unjustly came to be associated with her.
Bridgett's story is a beautiful love story, irregular but sincere and responsible, as revealed in the long will of Sir Francis Lloyd of Maesyfelin by which he secured the future of his mistress and their three children, who were legitimized and made heirs of his estate. Such a long-term extra-marital affair while his wife was still alive was termed concubinage, and Bridgett was routinely called his concubine. The word emphasizes the lasting public nature of their relation and his legal acceptance of their children. A few writers (e.g. Edmunds 18-19, Phillips 2) believe that Sir Francis married Bridgett after the death of his wife, and such a statement appears in Burke's Extinct Peerage (319), but there is no known evidence of a marriage, and the will of Sir Francis's wife shows that she died after her husband.
Sir Francis Lloyd belonged to an ancient and honorable Welsh family that bore arms commemorating their distant ancestor who captured Cardigan Castle from the forces of the Earl de Clare, one of the Norman conquerors of Wales, in about 1164. Cadifor ap Dinawal scaled the stone walls with long ladders, and was given as coat of arms, sable, a spear's head imbrued between three scaling ladders argent, on a chief aules a castle trifle towered of the second, i.e a black shield with a bloody spear's head between three silver scaling ladders and three red castle towers. Cadifor married Catherine, daughter of the Lord Rhys, Prince of South Wales (Edmunds 5). The family had various distinguished members, including Sir Francis' grandfather Thomas Lloyd as Treasurer of St. David's cathedral, and his great uncle as Principal of Jesus College, Oxford (GG, Tydwal Gloff, 23A83 on Film no.104351). Sir Francis' father was Sir Marmaduke Lloyd, an important lawyer as Chief Justice of the counties of Radnor, Brecknock, and Glamorgan and also Recorder of Brecon (Edmunds 14).
As eldest son Sir Francis inherited from his father the manor of Maesyfelin (later called by its English name Millfield) and the hereditary Lordship of Lampeter (Llanbedr pont Stephan) in Cardiganshire, north of Carmarthen. He married Mary Vaughan, daughter of the wealthy and powerful first Earl of Carbery of Golden Grove, and this association, along with his own talents, brought him numerous offices outside Wales. He was knighted by King Charles I and later became Comptroller of the Royal Household. He was elected to Parliament from Carmarthen in 1640, but four years later he left the Parliament in support of Charles I. He fought alongside his Vaughan in-laws on the Royalist side in the Civil War, was imprisoned twice, and fined 1,053 pounds by the Cromwellians (J.E. Lloyd 11,25,28,464; Prys-Jones, II,148,172).
Sir Francis has been compared unfavorably to his ancestors, e.g. he was not "cast in the same mould as his father" (Phillips p.2) and "The grandson of the canon now passes before us as a man of fashion a courtier, as polished in his manners as he was loose in his morals" (Edmunds p.19). Yet no specific charges were made against him other than for his illegitimate children with Bridgett. In an age when heirs were essential to a man of position, both psychologically and economically, Sir Francis in a childless marriage may have felt impelled to have sons and thus tempted, unlike his father, whose wife quickly gave him three sons and six daughters. In part, his historical reputation suffered because of folk stories about Maesyfelin, but they may have been of a much later date.
We don't know how or when Bridgett and Sir Francis met, but he was considerably older than she was, perhaps as much as 25 years, making theirs almost a December and May romance. Most likely they met in Carmarthen during the Commonwealth (1649-59) when Royalists such as the Lloyds and Vaughans lived quietly at their country estates and provincial townhouses. After the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell ruled but eventually changed from a republican warrior for religious liberty to an anti-Parliament dictator. His death and the increasing public dislike of the fanatical Puritan society, allowed the Restoration of the monarchy. After Charles II returned from his long French exile in May 1660, the explosive riotous celebration lasted several years in reaction to the previous puritanical government that had outlawed public music, fairs, plays, ale houses, and all such "sinful frivolities." The king and his period were summed up in his popular nickname as The Merry Monarch. Charles also brought new French customs of luxury, extravagance, and sexual liberty as well as the emphasis upon art and beauty so prominent in the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Sir Francis became a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and must have spent time at the court.
By this time Bridgett had surely become his mistress, because their second son was born in 1662. During the ten or so years they were together, until he died in 1669, did she go with him to London? Can we imagine her watching the spectacular water festivals and fireworks on the Thames River, or dancing at the elegant royal balls in St James's palace? Did she shop in the street stalls of Covent Garden, attend plays in the King's Theater, stroll through Hyde Park, and find her way through the maze at Hampton Court? We aren't sure, but it is pleasant to imagine her there.
Sir Francis' Will
Most striking about Sir Francis' will is his detailed and persistent determination that it should not be overturned after his death. He appointed numerous friends and relatives to be trustees, overseers, or guardians, and he earnestly insisted on the legal and moral basis of his bequests. Was he expecting opposition to his will? Certainly during the Restoration it was usual to provide for a mistress and illegitimate "natural" children, but provincial Carmarthen was far from liberal London. Sir Francis must have felt the need to prevent threats from the powerful Vaughan family of his wife, or from potential rival Lloyd heirs, and as appears later, this latter fear of Lloyd rivals was justified.
Following custom and legal phrasing, the will carefully began with a lengthy bequest of property to "Dame Mary my beloved wief" (p.1, lines 4-5), and later it conscientiously did "hereby grante. Ratify. Confirm, and Corroborate" to her the property she brought as her dowry at her marriage (p.2, lines 28-29). The will continued with a shorter bequest of property to Mrs. Bridgett Leigh, including the "capital messauage" or dwelling house called Maestroyddyn fychan, together with Rhyd lydan and Rhosgoch, which are west of Pumsaint in Conwil Caio parish in Carmarthenshire (p.1, lines 18-22). Then came a list of property to his son Charles Lloyd (p.1,lines 22-27) and to his daughter Frances Lloyd (p.1, lines 27-31). The eldest son Lucius Lloyd, of course, received the major bequest of "the Lordship of Llanbedr" with all rights, perquisites, etc, and the "manor of Maesyvelin" with an extended list of property (p.1, lines 32-61).
Both sons Lucius and Charles were named as executors of the will (p.3, lines 3-4), but as they were minors Sir Francis provided them with twelve allies:
And I do further constitute and appoint my trusty and well-beloved friends (to witt) the said Morgan Herbert, Thomas Powell, Morgan Lloyd, Jonathan Oakley, Richard Leigh, & Ludowicke Lewis and Thomas Herbert of or near the City of Worcester esq. And allso my dearly beloved Cozins John Vaughan & Edward Vaughan of Trowscoed, esq, James Stedman of Strata Florida esq, and Thomas Jenkin of [illegible] and my Loving ffreind and Council] att Lawe William Phillipps of ?Myddfai esq, to be Supervisors and overseers of this my last Will and testement to see it performed. And [to be] Tutors and Guardians of my said children ?unto whose affections and ffriendshipe I repose my greatest trust and Confidence for the performance of this my Will. (p.3, lines 3-6)
... defend against opposition, any suit or action att Law or arms, titles, or other molestations, or Interuptions, which may or shall be made by any person or persons whatsoever to the Right, estate, title, possession & Interest of any of the messuages, Lands, tenements, hereditaries, by this my Will devised unto my said Reputed children. (p.3, lines 9-11)
the fifteenth, sixteenth Sonnes Lawfully issuing Severally Respectively and Successively one after another (according to the laws of Inheritance by the Common Law as they shall happen to ?be born? in Seniority of age, or precedence or priority of Birth, allways preferring the Eldest Sonne and the heyres males of his body (for the time being) before the Youngest Sonne and the heyres Males of his body in such Sorte, manner, & form as for ... the first, Second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth Sonnes .... (p.1, lines 71-79)
To us in our time, such preoccupation to secure inherited property for his sons seems strange, but it illustrates the way the aristocracy lived, and reminds us of the cynical definition of gentlemen (or gentlewomen) as people who didn't have to work because they received rents, tithes, fines, and taxes from those who did have to work on lands not worked by their owners.
The will also shows Sir Francis's touching concern for his son Lucius to be treated and educated like a legitimate eldest son, as he asks for help from the friends who were overseers of his will:
And I doo desire them to see that my said Sonne Lucius may have [a] competent Education fitting to the degree & quality of my Eldest Sonne, and I doe hereby allso give, grant, and devise full power and authority unto the aforenamed overseers and guardians, or Two, or more of them. (p.3, lines 6-7)
And especially I desire them [the overseers] to see payed the Bill obligatory of one hundred pounds debt which I owe unto Mrs Bridgett Leigh, which she promised she would Imploy to the use of my younger children, and so I desire that it may be so settled after my Decease. (p.3, line 11)
The Codicil written three months later gives a further glimpse into the relations of Bridgett and Sir Francis, because he left to her another piece of property but also set a condition upon it. Here we have to remember that in the 17th century a woman had almost no power over her own property, which her husband controlled and could use, mortgage, and actually ruin even if it was entailed so that he could not outright sell it. This was one reason why wills of the period so often provided that a widow would lose her portion if she remarried and thereby placed her first husband's wealth under the control of another man. Even a husband who would not want to bind his widow to remain single could fear that a second husband might squander the inheritance of his children. Ironically, keeping women helpless did not work well. Bridgett was not a widow, of course, but all of the property given to her use would revert at her death to her children, and like many another man Sir Francis bound her to protect this legacy. His provision, however, claimed to follow her own desire:
Item I give and devise .... P R 0 V I D E D nevertheless that Bridgett Leigh shall nott marry but remain single & unmarryed as she hath often affirmed she would, in memory of my Love, and the affection she bears unto her children, so Long as any of them shall Live, butt if they all dye she is att her Liberty hereby to marry, or not, and this provision do bind her and affirm the Lands devised unto her in my will hereunto annexed, as those in this Codicill. (Cod. lines 19,24-25)
We know little more of Bridgett, including whether she lived in the properties bequeathed to her. Phillips says she lived in Maesyfelin as a concubine, but gives no supporting evidence (pp.2,9). We can speculate a bit. In 1667 she was living in a house owned by Sir Francis named Coed y parke, but his will bequeathed that residence to his wife. Did he plan for his wife to move out of Maesyfelin and into Coed y parke when his son Lucius took possession of the manor? This arrangement would be tactful, and since Sir Francis gave away Coed y parke, perhaps he expected Bridgett to move in as mistress of Maesyfelin until Lucius married. Perhaps we can also infer that Bridgett moved to Maesyfelin after 1670 from the fact that the Leigh family of her nephew, Oakley Leigh, who was later living in Lampeter was described as "of Millfield." We don't know when or where Bridgett died. The will of someone named '"Bridget Leigh" was indexed (PRO catalog?), but is now apparently lost. Probated in 1666 (when our Bridgett was still living) it must have belonged to a different woman, perhaps one of the unknown Leigh wives.
It is not out of place to give a moment of sympathy to Sir Francis's wife, Dame Mary Vaughan. Childless or at least without living children, she appears a sad and sympathetic figure. There is no evidence of any relation to her husband's children and heirs, and when Dame Mary made her will in 1677 (eight years after her husband's death) she left her own property to two Vaughan nieces at Golden Grove. She died in St Martin's-in-the Fields in England in 1677. Ironically, she was a collateral relative of many of today's Leigh descendants (by Hugh Vaughan in the line of Oakley Leigh's wife ?Margaretta PRICHARD), though she was only a distant cousin-in-law of Bridgett herself.
The love story of Bridgett Leigh and Sir Francis Lloyd in itself was joyful and pleasant. The story belonged to the celebratory spirit of the Restoration and its optimistic belief in reasonable human acceptance of moral failings, in forgiveness, restitution, and expectation that human society should be tolerant and lenient. This story of Bridgett and Sir Francis was not the only connection of the Leigh family to the period of the Merry Monarch. Our second such joyful relation to the Restoration involves a much more distant relative, but one who reached close to the throne and became the earliest mistress of Charles II, while he was still the exiled Prince of Wales. Like the love story of Bridgett and Sir Francis, the story of Lucy Walter and her relation to Charles had its early joys. Later it turned dark, and their son as the Duke of Monmouth became a pawn in the historical contest of religious and political forces that rose to a climax after Charles' death in 1685.
Such a curse was perhaps not highly unusual in superstitious times, when one person cursed another as a common way of calling for God's justice against a sinner who otherwise seemed to be escaping just punishment. Retribution was often desired, and thus if one's own family was harmed the curse would be extended through the sinner's whole family. The curse of Maesyfelin was not published until much later, and without contemporary references to it, we know it only in a later form. According to this form as developed in folk stories and legends, a horrific curse was laid after the mid-17th century upon the heirs of the Lloyd estate of Maesyfelin by the beloved "Vicar of Llandovery" for the murder of his only son in 1642-43. This Vicar was Rhys Prichard, the Anglican clergyman whose humorous, earthy but morally righteous verses in the Welsh of everyday speech were published as Canwyll y Cymri (The Welshman's Candle) in several enormously popular editions. The curse drew its power from the fervent public devotion to this man.
The Vicar was indeed remarkable. Unlike most of his contemporaries who shared his "primary purpose.. to hammer furiously at the gates of Satan's kingdom and convert sinners" (Jenkins 151), the Vicar wrote for the masses of ordinary, mainly unschooled people. His "homely verses, soaked in biblical allusions and practical advice." were designed to be remembered by the simplest reader, but they also appealed to the sophisticated (Jenkins 153,168). The Vicar believed that his verses needed only three readings to be memorized, because "I took a metre short and plain, easy to follow, easy to retain" (Prys-Jones II,193). His verses' popularity proved him out.
It had always been Prichard's dream that his work would become the common man's song-book of the Reformation, and when we consider that even beggar women were able to recite his verses on the duty of charity to householders (and also, of course, an appropriate verse for those miserly citizens who "stopped up their ears" to the plea of paupers), it is clear that his work had penetrated to lower levels than did most printed books. The flames of Rees Prichard's candle burned strongly on Welsh hearths for over two centuries and his work counts as much in the religious history of Wales .... (Jenkins 154)
Melldith Duw fo ar Maesyfelin
Dan boh carreg, dan boh gwreiddyn;
Am dafiu blodau plwyf Llanddyfri
Ar el ben i Deifi foddi.
May God with heavy curses chase
All Maesyfelin's villain race,
Since they have drowned in Teifi's tide
Llandovery's flower, Cymru's pride.
Melltith Duw fo ar Maesyfelin,
Ar bob carreg a phob gwreiddyn,
Am daflu blodyn tre' Llandyfri
Ar ei ben i Dywi i foddi.
| May God's curse be upon Maesyfelin,
On every stone and every root,
For casting the flower of Llandovery town
Headlong into the Towy to drown.
The personae and location varied, but in all versions of the curse the Vicar's young son, Samuel Prichard, fell in love with a beautiful girl in the Lloyd mansion, and was murdered by her relatives, primarily Sir Francis, for motives of jealousy, greed, or class pride. Sometimes the young woman was said to be one of the six Lloyd daughters, Sir Francis's sisters, and sometimes (later) Bridgett Leigh, or even Bridgett's daughter Frances Lloyd. Samuel was always described as a young impetuous lover tempted into a riotous life at Maesyfelin against the wishes of his pious father, his soul corrupted even before he was smothered with a pillow and his dead body secretly thrown into a river flowing past the Lloyd estate.
Folk stories always develop from a few facts or a core of historical truth. The Vicar of Llandovery had indeed been friendly with the Lloyds of Maesyfelin during the early life of Sir Francis's father, Sir Marmaduke, and probably later. A letter from Sir Marmaduke to the Vicar, dated 1626, is evidence of their friendship. Also, the Vicar's only son Samuel was something of a wild student at Oxford before being ordained, but he apparently reformed (according to his letter of repentance to his father (cited by Phillips 2, from Rice Rees). Later he became his father's curate in Llandovery, but soon died (before his father) perhaps by drowning.
This historical support for the legend, however, collapses with the fact that at his death in 1642/43 Samuel was a married 38-year-old man with two teen-aged children. At that time, the young Sir Francis was an M.P. and/or Comptroller of King Charles I's household in London and still living with his wife, long before Bridgett Leigh entered his life (Edmunds 23-24, Phillips 9-10). The Vicar himself died in 1644, so the curse, if really his, must refer to the early Lloyd household of those years. Biographers and students of the Vicar, as well as of the Lloyd family, find the murder and its implications completely out of character and implausible (Edmunds 23-25, Phillips 10-11). There is no known reference to such a murder, nor even to suspicion of foul play in the young Prichard's death. Though the curse is phrased in the meter and rhyme of the Vicar's Welshman's Candle, it is regarded as religiously and literarily unlike the Vicar's work. It appears nowhere in his known writings and was first printed only in 1841, i.e. almost two hundred years after the Vicar's death.
Thus, the curse was not based upon an actual or even suspected murder. Instead, in its earliest form it perhaps arose as a weapon in a political and religious polemic. Speculatively, two historians have suggested its origin in Civil War hatreds and fears far from the personal lives of Sir Francis and Bridgett. Ironically, however, we Leighs cannot escape from the curse even though its origin may not be laid to Bridgett Leigh and Sir Francis. We find ourselves looking at a different possible family relation to the curse through the Vicar himself and our collateral relative, Stephen Hughes, who became and remains beloved for his role in publishing the Vicar's Welshman's Candle.
Regardless of the origin of the curse, however, it carried a powerful charge against the Lloyds and relevant Leighs in the popular imagination for well over two centuries. This thriving life of its own was fed, not by the origin of the curse, but by its startling accuracy in prophesying the eventual unhappy fate of the Maesyfelin family and the total destruction of the estate. "God's curse" seemed to chase the family and fall upon "every stone and every root."
Bridgett's Children and Grandchildren
Bridgett and Sir Francis's children began well. At the time of Sir Francis's will, they were apparently living apart from either parent, presumably for education and a respectable upbringing in England. Lucius was called ''Lucius Lloyd, alias Baker of the city of Worcester, gent" (p.1, line 30), and he may have lived with Sir Francis' friend and overseer listed as "Thomas Herbert of or near the City of Worcester" (p.3, lines 4-5). Charles was called "Charles Lloyd of Faust Hill in the county of Oxford, gent" (p.1, line 22). Daughter Frances was called "Frances Lloyd of the city of Worcester, spinster" (p.1. line 27), but by the Codicil three months later she was "of Staneway. Shropshire" (Cod. line 17) and Lucius was said to be on "Newport Street" in Worcester (Cod. line 15). Possibly more could be found by study of those locations.
Sir Francis's efforts at securing his children's inheritance succeeded, and his eldest son became Sir Lucius Lloyd of Maesyfelin. Yet the young man committed suicide, with no known reason or explanation, at a date probably before December 1690, when his younger brother was already called "Charles Lloyd of Maesyfelin ... Esquire" in his marriage bond (as summarized in an Indenture of Release dated 28 September 1752, NLW Isgarn Miscell., pp.7-8). The daughter Frances is said in the Golden Grove books to have married a man named Murrel "of Staffordshire," then she died in 1680, perhaps not yet twenty years old, and was buried at Lampeter church (GG, Tydwal Gloff, 23A83, Film no.104351).
With the inheritance of Lucius' younger brother as Sir Charles Lloyd, however, the family prospered. He served as sheriff of Cardiganshire in 1689 and as M. P. for several terms, and he was knighted by King William III before 1702. Queen Anne made him a Baronet on 10 April 1708 (Edmunds 19). He married twice, had four daughters who died young and three who married, and had two sons who followed him as Lord of the Manor. His first wife, Jane Lloyd, died young, and a beautiful baroque-style white marble gravestone for her and their daughter describes her wifely virtues:
|Underneath this Monument Lyes ye body of Jane ye First Wife of Sr Cha:Lloyd of Maes Y Velin Kt & also Their Daughter Elianor Aged about 12 years. She was an Affectionate, Good, Virtuous and discreet Wife, and Descended of ye best Family in ye County. She Dyed July ye 20, 1689. Aged 32 years. this Monument was Erected by Sr Cha:Lloyd Anno Dni. 1706||
Sir Charles married a second time, to Lady Frances Cornwallis perhaps in 1691, according to their pre-nuptial bond dated 30 December 1690 (summarized in an Indenture of Release dated 28 September 1752, NLW Isgarn (Miscell.). They must have felt great satisfaction and security with their two sons, having an "heir and a spare."
The only known portrait of anyone in the family shows the dignified Sir
Charles as a portly middle-aged squire in white wig, grey velvet suit
with fine lace ruffles, sitting erect in a gracefully carved wooden
chair, holding an opened letter (dated about 1720). The painter is
Formerly in the mansion of Dolau Cothy, the current whereabouts of the
portrait are unknown to us.
This reproduction was supplied by the NLW from the book Portraits in Welsh Houses.
Sir Lucius' grief must have been great. The marble he had made for his wife's place in the family vault in Lampeter church is now mounted high in the vestibule, beside his father's white carved marble for his first wife. Plain, even stark, the white slab has no ornamentation, only the high praise of his wife. To it were later added the names of Sir Lucius himself and his father:
Photo by Michael Rudinsky, 1996
Click for a larger view
The inscription says the following:
Near this place are Deposited the Remains of Lady Lloyde Wife of Sir Lucius Christianus Lloyde of Millfield Baronet. She was Eldest Daughter of Walter Lloyde of Peterwell Esquire his Majesties Attorney General for the Counties of Carmarthen; Pembroke, and Cardigan. For Piety, Charity, and every other Virtue that could either adorn or endear Singularly Eminent. For the regular Discharge of all Duties In her several Relations of Life Admired by all Happy In the cheerfull evenness of her Temper The meekness of her Behaviour The agreeableness of her Conversation. She departed this life December 21st 1746 Aged 27. Conjugis Bene Maerentis Lucius Christianus Lloyde Baronettus Monumentum hoc Maritus Moerens Posuit.The carved lettering is damaged on the upper right of the slab, but was verified with the transcription made in 1860 by Edmunds (36).
Also the Body of Sir Charles Lloyde Gent of Millfield Kt and Bart Who departed this life ye 1st of Janry 1723 Aged 61 And Likewise the Remains of the above Mentioned Sir Lucius Christianus Lloyde of Millfield Aforesaid Bart Who departed this life the 18th of Janry 1749 Aged 34.
Dame Frances survived her husband by thirty years and outlived both sons, still residing in Maesyfelin. In 1753 she was buried in the Lloyd vault according to the desire in her will to be "buried in the chancel of the church at Lampeter near the grave of my dear son Sir Lucius Christianus Lloyd" (Phillips 74). If a stone once commemorated her, it is no longer known, and there is no stone for her son Sir Charles Cornwallis, whose widow (Jennings Anderton) remarried, moved away, and was suing in court for her life annuity from her late husband. Three of Dame Frances' daughters died young, but two married and apparently outlived her. Emma married a medical doctor Ffoye of Carmarthen, and Elizabeth married a Sherburne man from Herefordshire, and was still living in June 1750 (NLW, Millfield Rent Roll 1750 A, p.6). Dame Francis's step-daughter Jane had also married earlier, and sold her mother's property at Green Grove (summarized in an Indenture dated 28 Sep 1752) to her father. Like Sir Francis' daughter Frances, these daughters too received money instead of property in the various wills and indentures of their fathers, and the estate itself could be inherited only by male heirs. Their children, if any, are untraced.
Despite the death of the last male descendant of Bridgett and Sir Francis Lloyd, the estate itself could have survived through a nephew or cousin. Yet it collapsed financially and in a few decades even physically. In Sir Francis's time it was prosperous, and he could buy other properties in trust for his children. But his son Sir Charles gave a mortgage in 1690 as part of his marriage bond with Frances Cornwallis, and this mortgage was not paid off in 1706 and 1711, when he also mortgaged property at the Green Grove estate of his late first wife, Jane Lloyd. On 20 April 1727 the grandson Sir Charles Cornwallis Lloyd mortgaged Maesyfelin and all the other lands from Sir Francis, as well as the Green Grove property (NLW Isgarn Miscell. Indenture of Release dated 14 June 1731, pp.1-2), as part of his pre-nuptial bond giving Jennings ANDERTON a life annuity of 450 pounds per year. Fulfilling Sir Francis' earlier fear of a Lloyd rival for his sons' property, a Lloyd cousin claimed the estate and had to be opposed and placated with a life annuity of fifty pounds per year (NLW, Millfield Rent Roll 1750 A, p.6; Phillips 116-17). Only one thousand pounds were paid on the mortgages, and two years later when Sir Charles Cornwallis died in 1729, his fourteen-year-old brother Lucius Christianus received a heavily mortgaged estate with expensive annuities charged against the yearly income.
This was hardly an unusual situation. The 18th century was a period when many old families lost their estates to new forms of industry and business in the coming Industrial Revolution that altered the old rural economy formerly supporting the British country estate with its leisured gentry. For centuries tenant farmers had worked the fields, woodlots, grist mills, game preserves, fishing streams, stone quarries, sheep flocks, wool mills, and the other activities that made up the country estate economy. But times were changing rapidly, and only estate owners who could adjust to the times survived. Some found coal or metals to mine on their estates, or set up factories and employed the farm laborers leaving the country estates. Others married the heirs of newly rich industrialists. Our Lloyds were not among them. I have seen only part of the Maesyfelin documents that evidence the owners' efforts to hold the estate together, but the sad story of their debts includes a puzzling aspect that seems psychological as well as economic.
Like many 18th-century gentlemen, Sir Lucius had a passion for cards and gambling. His addiction to risk, however, is thought by some historians to come from a deeper and more perverse irresponsibility than about mere money. On 14 January 1746, still during his wife's lifetime, he signed a strange will which left his entire estate to his friend and brother-in-law John Lloyd of Peterwell. John was Lucius's wife's elder brother and perhaps could be trusted to provide for her, but Sir Lucius also made no provision for his mother or his two living sisters. According to Edmunds, he and Lloyd had in a "frolicksome humour" made a pact to leave their entire estates to each other, the one who first died losing everything (20). Phillips says, "In this case it was a wager in the stake of life, winner take all" (p.73).
Equally puzzling is the will signed by Lucius' wife Anne Lloyd two years earlier on 22 February 1744. A single sheet of paper, it first commends her "Soul into the Hands of Almighty God Hopeing through the meritts of Jesus Christ My Saviour and Redeemer to be received into Everlasting Life and My Body to the Earth." Then it appoints her "Dearly Beloved Husband" to be sole executor of her will. That is all--not a word on her property or dower (NLW SD/1750/61 W). She was young but somewhat experienced as the executrix of her first husband's estate (a fact mentioned as she identifies herself in her will), so why is there no reference to property or rights?
Such perverse behavior (recalling the unexplained suicide of the first heir) does suggest a curse at work even to a modern skeptic! Yet it likely came from simple fact. Anne's father's will signed on 18 May 1743 made his bequest of a thousand pounds to his daughter Anne conditional upon a "Settlement of Jointure" to be executed by her husband Sir Lucius (presumably not done by pre-nuptial bond). Also his will required Sir Lucius to make his testament bequeathing everything to any son or sons he might have with his wife Anne (NLW SD/1747/83. These were ordinary requirements, yet Lucius apparently ignored them. In fact, Anne may have had nothing to list in her will. Sir Lucius must have known he owned only mortgaged real estate and encumbered income. In these circumstances he could think (and Anne might agree) that his only escape was by death or acquisition of a new estate. Her will as well as his has a tone of ironic fatalism.
Our Lloyd relatives were not among the energetic survivors who adjusted to the coming Industrial Revolution and survived its economic changes. They certainly made efforts, doubtless more than appear in the documents I have read, but they couldn't find their way. Anne's will was not given for probate until after her husband's death four years later, when John Lloyd was made administrator of both wills in December 1750. Walter Lloyd died in 1747, but his will and codicil (revoking the thousand pounds to his late daughter Anne) were not probated for years, being successively given for administration to John Lloyd (1747), Herbert Lloyd (1757), Jeremiah Lloyd (1775), and a grandson Walter Lloyd (1782) (NLW SD/1747/83 X G1 G2). Presumably none of his heirs were able or willing to settle his accounts.
At Sir Lucius' death, John Lloyd united the estates of Maesyfelin and Peterwell, thus unintentionally preparing for even the physical destruction of the mansion and buildings. His "victory" over Sir Lucius Christianus was hollow, because he had to redeem the estate from its mortgagees or lose it, and again he had to placate the Lloyd cousin who claimed the estate (NLW Isgarn, Miscell. Assignment of 450 Annuity dated 1 July 1751; NLW Isgarn, Miscell. Indenture of Release dated 27 September 1752). A year later he had to mortgage it again to pay off accumulated annuities and debts (NLW Isgarn Miscell. Mortgage to Horace Walpole dated 9 April 1753). Maesyfelin became an economic drain on the Peterwell estate too. John Lloyd himself had little time to try to improve Maesyfelin, for he died in five years, and his brother Herbert inherited both estates together. This last Lloyd owner was so tyrannical and cruel that he became known to history as the evil squire of Peterwell.
This is no longer the story of Bridgett and Sir Francis, but it remains a story about our Leighs in two new ways. It goes back in time to the possible origin of the curse in the political and religious battles and polemics of the Civil Wars and after, and it gives the Biography of one of our most worthy relatives, Stephen Hughes. Also, the story goes forward in time to the dismal fulfillment of the curse, with the Biography of Oakley Leigh, one of our least worthy relatives.
Edmunds, William. On some old Families in the neighbourhood of Lampeter. Cardiganshire. Tenby: R. Mason, Printer, 1860. (read on Film no.839711)
Inglis-Jones, Elisabeth. Peacocks in Paradise. Carmarthen: Golden Grove Book Co., Ltd., 1988.
Jenkins, Geraint H. Literature. Religion, and Society in Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1978.
Lloyd, John E. A History of Carmarthenshire. 2 vols. Cardiff: London Carmarthenshire Society, 1935, 1939.
Phillips, Bethan. Peterwell. Gomer Press, 1983.
Prys-Jones, A. G. The Story of Carmarthenshire. 2 vols.Llandybie: Christopher Davies Ltd, 1959, 1972.
Revised 9 March 2001