An in-depth study of Lord and Lady Llanover

High Hats and Harps

The Life and Times of Lord and Lady Llanover

High Hats and Harps cover

Lady Llanofer - the Bee of Gwent


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Helen Forder

March 2009


My main interest is in David (Dafydd) Williams, my great-grandfather, who was under-agent to Lady Llanofer in the 1880s. He and his family moved from Aberystwyth to Llanofer about 1882/3, and left about 1889. As a result of looking for information about him and his family, I have discovered many other interesting people who lived and worked on the estate at that time.

The most well-known of these is Thomas Gruffydd, domestic harper to the Llanofer family from the middle of the 19th century until his death in 1887, when his daughter Susanna Gruffydd Richards succeeded him.

Gruffydd's teacher and predecessor was John Jones, a harper of distinguished lineage, who died at the comparatively young age of 44 years.

Peter James was a young man living in Ty'r Ywen, Llanofer, who was taught to play the harp by Mrs. Gruffydd Richards. He became well-known as a harpist in the first quarter of the 20th century.

There were carpenters employed on the estate, some of whom became expert harp makers. One of these was Abraham Jeremiah and there is one of his harps on display at the National Historical Museum in Gaiman, Patagonia.

Another well-known harp-maker was Elias Francis. He made the harp that was presented as a prize at the Harp Competition held in Llanofer in 1869.

Gwilym Griffiths seems to have been a rather disontented young man who left to seek a better life in the USA, much to Lady Llanofer's displeasure.

The school teacher in the 1880s was Rachel Evans. Her husband, John Elias Evans played the harp before Queen Victoria, at the Royal Albert Hall.

One of the stone-masons on the estate was Henry Morgan. He died at the age of 35 years. Lady Llanofer looked after his widow and young children.

John Powell was a stone-mason in Llanofer in the 1850s, but he and his family left for America in 1856. It was foretold that one day John would work on the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City.

It is frequently said that Lady Llanofer 'invented' the Welsh National Dress. This causes much debate; but she did require the ladies of her household to dress in a 'uniform' which she designed. The cloth for the dresses was woven on the estate, much of it at the Gwenffrwd factory where the Harris family lived for many years.




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