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The Hanbury Family of Pontypool and the Iron trade.

The first member of the Pontypool branch of the Hanbury Family was Richard Hanbury, a goldsmith or banker of London, who was descended from the Worcestershire family founded by Roger de Hanbury (born 1125). He became a shareholder in the "Society of the Miners Royal" and the "Society of the Minerals and Battery Works," founded in 1568 to work the patents granted to William Humfray and Christopher Shutz "to explore for, and work mines of gold, silver, copper and quicksilver, and all other minerals and metals that might be discovered in England, Wales and the English pale in Ireland." Humfray and Shultz were the first to introduce into England the "science and faculty of the drawing and forging of iron and steel into wire by water works, a thing altogether foreign until that time." Works were established all over the country, including one with new buildings, engines and tools, for the manufacture of wire at Tintern where an iron works had previously existed, and ironworks (a furnace and two forges) at Monkswood to supply the Tintern works with the "osmond" iron necessary for producing wire. It was claimed that in 1588, 400 families were maintained by the Tintern works which had cost the Society £6,500 to build. Operations were also commenced on a mountain in Monmouthshire called Elgam, near a brook called Blaen Afon, in the Lordship of Abergavenny, and certain ores were discovered there suitable for the manufacture of iron works.

Hanbury in 1577 had renewed his lease of the Tintern Wire Works for£24, and made such profits that a shareholder suspected that he had not rendered true accounts when acting as manager. He therefore offered £200 a year and Hanbury bargained with him, offering £400 a year. He was bought out in 1591, when Cornelius Avenon, another shareholder, persuaded Captain Fennor and Mr. Challenor of the Pontymoel iron works to offer an annual rent of £666; in 1594 they owed the Company £1,200.

Hanbury made a contract with Challenor in 1591, as farmer of the Society's iron works, to deliver yearly for the works, 80 tons of "osmond" iron at £11 16s 8d per ton. He was to be allowed 38,000 cords (12 loads of charcoal made 41 cords - 5,125 cubic feet, of wood, were required to convert one ton of bar iron) of wood and 500 tons of "merchant" iron each year. With the wood however he had made large quantities of "merchant" iron out of the best "osmond" iron, which merchant iron he had made into bars and sold to blacksmiths to ,make scythes and other implements, "to his own lucre and gain." "Were it not for the malpractice's of Hanbury and others," the Society complained, "the iron mills at Monkswood could produce 20 tons of iron yearly and, together with the wire works, provide a living for 20,000 persons, the Society thus producing a dividend and a profit." "And although by lawe he knoweth that both the companie and their farmer may recover their several damages sustained by his default, yet knowing also that the said workes (Tintern) have no provision of good Osmond iron in that countrye but from him, bothe for that the best mynes in Monnouthshire for making of Osmond iron be his, and almost all the woods within ten miles compasse there be his also; all which it should seem that he had gotten into his hands purpose to bind the companie, their workes, and farmer to his purpose; and that it is not damage in longe tyme to be recovered, but the present use of his Osmond iron must uphold ye works."

On 5th June, the Privy Council summoned Hanbury and his partner to appear before it to answer a charge of supplying inferior iron to the Tintern works; it was stated that for twenty years he had secretly practiced at Monkswood, Abercarn and Glenebw the manufacture of "merchant iron" for himself which he had sold to the Society in such a way that from being a poor man he had now amassed great wealth. Andrew Palmer in the Lansdown MSS also says that "about the year 1577, Mr. Richard Hanbury gott to his handes two or three iron workes there in Wales, whereat he made much merchant iron to great gain." The Council in 1597 ordered Hanbury to delivery good iron from the ironworks at Pontypool to the Tintern wire works, and when he refused, he was on 15th April 1598, thrown into the Fleet Prison. He submitted on 25th July and agreed to pay the Society £100 annually for nine years and to deliver fifteen tons of good iron without delay.

Hanbury would seem to have increased his stranglehold on the Society by leasing from the Lordship of Abergavenny for less than £100 annual rent, the timber and minerals to be obtained on the mountainside from Pontypool to Blaenavon. His own works continued to produce iron in large quantities. The vessel Jonas of 18 tons in 1602 carried from Newport to Bridgewater 16 tons of Welsh iron on 20th February, 12 tons on 20th April, 15 tons on 1st June and 16 tons on the 5th August, all belonging to Richard Hanbury, described as "merchant."

Richard Hanbury died in 1608 possessed of the Pontypool works and others in Monmouthshire.

 
 

The Hanburys of Pontymoel.

Richard Hanbury left two daughters, Alice, married to William Combes of Warwickshire, and Elizabeth who married his partner, Sir Edmund Wheeler of Reading Court, and who retained his interest in Tintern. By his will Richard Hanbury provided that his money invested in Tintern and other iron works in Monmouthshire should be used to its best advantage by his executors to meet the legacies provided. His nephew, John eldest son of his half-brother, Richard of Elmley Lovett in Worcestershire, was appointed his acting executor and thus acquired an interest in the iron works. Phillip, a brother of John, described as of Fakenham (Worcs.) Had inherited from his father the family estate of Elmley Lovett.

John and Phillip proceeded to acquire land interests in Monmouthshire, Phillip being known as Phillip Hanbury of Trevethin in 1609 and his son being born there in 1610. In 1624, Phillip was concerned in a law suit regarding land he had leased in St. Brides and Bassaleg; in 1625, he purchased land at Llanvihangel-next-Usk and Llangattock, and later another 20 acres in the Hundred of Usk. In the year 1629, John leased houses, buildings, etc. and all water courses, iron mines, or iron ore, coal, coalpits, woods and forests in lands of Llanvihangel Gobion, Panteg and Mynddislwyn. In the next year Phillip's wife died and he was able to buy 87 acres in Llanvair Kilgeddin, Usk, Mamhilad and Goytre and a further 100 acres from Francis Challenor in Panteg, Llanfrechfa, Pontymoel and Trevethin. (This may have included Challenors iron forge at Pontymoel.) On the death of Phillip about 1653 it became necessary to make fresh provision of the supervision of the iron works.

The eldest son of John Hanbury, likewise John, had died in 1634. Richard, the second son, in 1650 married Dame Mary Morgan, widow of Sir Ed. Morgan of Llantarnam Abbey. In 1655, John Fortescue and Dame Mary leased to Capel Hanbury, fourth son of John and his first wife, Anne Capel, "a parcel of waste ground called Pontypool, together with the forge thereupon built and standing for the term of one and twenty years if Dame Mary should live so long." John Hanbury settled £3,000 on Capel in 1657; with this capital he was able to develop the works at Pontypool, but on the death of his brother Richard in 1660 he came into possession of the lands leased by his father in 1629 and also the lands in Kidderminster and Hoarstone. Though his financial interests centred in Monmouthshire he never resided in the county and when he died at Hoarstone on 14th January 1704, he was burried in Kidderminster church.

It would seem that from 1660 therefore Capel's cousin, Richard Hanbury, son of Phillip, was responsible for the ironworks and in that year he engaged Thomas Allgood of Northants as manager (See Japan Ware). Richard Hanbury was one of the earliest members of the Society of Friends in Monmouthshire; he had become a true Friend in 1657 and meetings were held at his house at Pontymoel where he entertained George Fox in 1657 and 1668. He died at Pontymoel, aged 83, on 20th February 1695-6, and was possibly buried in the Friends' Burial Ground at Pontymoel, now partially covered by the railway embankment. His son, Richard (1647-1714) and grandson, Charles (1677-1735), were likewise Quakers and were buried at Pontymoel. With the death of Charles in 1735 the connection of this branch of the Hanburys with Panteg and Pontymoel practically ceased. Although he had estates in Llanvihangel Ystern-Llewern, John, the eldest son, left Monmouthshire for London where he became known as John Hanbury of Tower Street and a merchant of Virginia and Maryland. He inherited through his wife, Anne Osgood, the estate of Holfield Grange, Coggleshall, Essex. A younger brother of Charles, named Capel, held estates in Pontymoel until his death in 1740 but was connected chiefly with Mangotsfield, Bristol, where he lived and died. His son, Capel, became the London merchant form whom is derived the firm of Allen and Hanburys'.

 

 
 

Major John Hanbury.

The connection of the Hanburys with Pontypool was however well established. Major John Hanbury, a son of Capel Hanbury, born in 1664, decided to abandon the legal profession and to devote himself to the iron works in Pontypool. He once told Jones of Llanarth, "I read Coke on Littleton as far as Tenant in Dower, but on the suggestion of a friend that I should gain more advantage from the iron works of Pontypool than from the profits of the bar, I laid it aside at Tenant in Dower and turned my attention to mines and forges."

Forges for the conversion of pig iron into wrought iron existed on the site of the present Pontypool Park and at the Town Forge; the Osbourne Forge produced the "osmond" iron necessary for the manufacture of wire; the wire was drawn at the Pontymoel works. The works at Cwm Glyn area said to have been destroyed by Cromwell's troops in 1645 but restarted later, The Tintern iron works were sold to George White of New Weir, near Monmouth, who already possessed iron works at Monmouth and Redbrook.

Before 1564 wire was drawn out by hand. Rods of iron were hammered out to certain lengths and the thickness of a finger, "Osmond" iron as manufactured at the Osbourne Forge being used. After annealing, the wire was sent in bundles to the wire works at Pontymoel where it was reduced by a process of "rippling" or "rumpling", i.e. drawn into wire. Hammering was likewise the only method of producing sheets until the invention for rolling flat sheets of iron between "cylinders." About 1682, Thomas Cooke came to Pontypool from Stourbridge as chief agent of the Hanburys. He greatly improved the Hanbury works, instituting many mechanical devises, including, it is thought, the rolling of iron since in his portrait a roller is to be seen at work. In 1728 a patent was granted to Hanbury and John Payne for "the art of expanding bars by the means of compressing cylinders." It is believed that such "cylinders" or rollers were first erected at Pontymoel, but then known as Pontycapel, and they were operated by a water wheel attached to the upper roller as well as the under roller. This enabled plates of a smoother and more uniform surface to be produced, and in larger quantities.

Joh Hanbury had been assisted in the extention of his works by his marriage to Albinia, daughter of John Selwyn of Matson, Glos. He decided to take up his residence in Pontypool in order to supervise the works personally and started to build Pontypool Park House, overlooking the iron works, but on the north bank of the river. For this he enclosed the park which stretched as far as the Old Farm of Penygarn. In 1703 he married his second wife, Bridget Ayscough, an intimate friend of Sarah. Duchess of Marlborough. The Duke in his will, dated 19th March 1721, made Hanbury a trustee for the administration of his household goods and an executor. Pontypool Park house was then being built and the Duchess gave the fine ironwork central gates which still stand at the entrance. The original stone pillars were replaced at the beginning of the 19th century by the present ornamental iron pillars, cast in Blaenavon, and the side gates were added.

Major Hanbury sat as M.P. For Monmouthshire from 1720 until his death in 1734 when he was buried in the Hanbury Chapel in Trevethin Church.

 

 
 

Charles Hanbury Williams.

During his life Major Hanbury had befriended Charles Williams of Caerleon who had been forced to flee abroad after killing his cousin, Willaim Morgan of Penros, in a duel fought in a meadow by the River Usk near Penros House. Willams accumulated a large fortune in Smyrna and in the reign of WIlliam III John Hanbury was able to obtain his return to his country. In gratitude, Williams left the greater part of his fortune of £70,000 to him on condition that he purchased estates in South Wales or Monmouthshire and held them during his own lifetime but that on his death they should go to one of his sons who, with his heirs, should assume the name and arms of Williams. Hanbury purchased for £22,725 16s 8d manors and lands which including Coldbrook Park, near Abergavenny, and in 1732, settled these estates on his forth son, Charles, the godchild of Charles Williams.

Charles Hanbury Williams was educated at Eton and afterwards the "Grand Tour" of Europe in the habit of the age. After his return he became a familiar figure in London Society and a model of fashion for the young bucks about town. He married the daughter of the first Earl of Coningsby and in 1734 succeeded his father as an M.P. For the county, like him also being a staunch supporter of Sir Robert Walpole, who appointed him Paymaster of the Marines in 1739. Among his friends were Stephen Fox, afterwards Lord Ilchester, his brother Henry Fox, and the young Horace Walpole; in 1744 he became a Knight of the Bath.

Hanbury Williams acquired first some fame as a writer of political satire, in verse, which was full of brilliant flashes and phases though spoilt at times by asperity towards his opponents and indecency. His readiness of wit served him well when he was appointed British Minister to Saxony in 1746 and later to Prussia. When relations with France were becoming strained he was sent to St. Petersburg to negotiate with Austria and Russia. This he soon accomplished but to no purpose for the government's policy changed.

Sir Charles was in great favour with the future Catherine the Great and assisted her in an amour with his friend, Poniatowski, afterwards King of Poland. His health broke down in 1757 and he returned to his home at Coldbrook which he had rebuilt and enlarged and there he died two years later and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He left one daughter, Charlotte, wife of Robert Walsingham, youngest son of the Earl of Shannon. Another daughter, Lady Essex, predeceased him by a few days.

 

 
 

The Pontypool Hanburys.

In his will John Hanbury settled on his wife, Bridget, all his land, mills, forges, furnaces. etc. in Monmouthshire for the term of her life. After her death the dwelling house with outbuildings and land, together with that part of Trevethin in the manor of Wentsland and Bryngwyn, were to revert to their eldest son John. The lands etc., in the parishes of Trosnant, Panteg, Lanfrechfa and the rest of Trevethin, were to be settled by his wife on which son of grandson she chose. She settled them on Capel Hanbury , but since John Hanbury died in 1739, two years before his mother, Capel Hanbury inherited the whole estate.

Capel Hanbury was born in 1707; he acquired by inheritance lands in the parish of Llanwenarth (Mon.) and on his mothers death inherited the whole of the Pontypool property. From Lord Abergavenny in 1755 he leased for an annual rent of £6 "all that place of waste land enclosed, about a quarter of an acre of land" leading from the said Capel Hanbury's house to the town of Pontypool - except mines and quarries of stone, ore and coal." In 1756 he bought the whole manor of Edlogan, including the castle of Caldicot, form Baron Chedworth. In politics he was a friend of John Wilkes and corresponded with him after the latter fled to Paris. He was a staunch Nonconformist and annually received a donation of £100 to the County funds from the Duke of Newcastle.

When Charles Hanbury Williams, after a life spent in the British embassies at Berlin and St. Petersburg, died in 1759 without male issue, Capel became heir to the Coldbrook estate and the Charles Williams property in exchange for the Pontypool property which should have passed to his brother, George. He arranged instead for George to take the Coldbrook property because he (Capel) had acquired and planted several thousand acres of wood for carrying on the iron works at Pontypool and had bought other land which he had incorporated in Pontypool Park and other farms. Capel died at Pontypool on 7th December 1765, and was buried at Trevethin.

John Hanbury, the only son of Capel, was born in 1744; in 1766 he inherited all his fathers property known as the lordship or reputed manor or Edlogan, containing lands in the parishes of Llanfrechfa, Panteg, Llanthony, Varteg, Llanbadoc, Tredunnock, Llangattock near Caerleon, Llangibby, Llandegveth, Caerleon Town and Aberystruth. He died in 1784 and was buried at Trevethin, but his widow, Jane Lewis, continued to live at Pontypool after her marriage in 1788 to Thomas Stoughton.

John Capel Hanbury, eldest son of John, was born in 1775 but claimed his share of his fathers estate in 1787 and gained possession of the manor of Edlogan, but died at Cadiz on 20th December 1795. Immediately after his fathers death and no doubt because of his minority his mother had in 1785 leased the Pontypool works to David Tanner, a Monmouth speculator, who had acquired the Tintern iron and wore works in 1775. Capel Hanbury had erected another Plating Mill in 1745 at the Estate Yard, midway between the Pontypool works and the rolling mills at Pontyvelin. Tanner now closed the Potyvelin mills.

Capel Hanbury, the second son of John Hanbury, was born in 1776 and succeeded to the Hanbury estates after the death of his brother. He assumed the name and arms of Leigh on 30th May 1797, by right of his decent through Jane Tracy from the first Lord Leigh, and by the will of the fifth lord who left his property to his next of kin male who should bear the name and arms of Leigh. In the same year he married Molly Miers of Cadoxton, widow of Sir R. Humphrey Mackworth. He acted as Lord Leitenaunt of the County and did much to enlarge Pontypool Park House (his wife is credited with building the Grotto and Folly); in 1856 he opened and presented the Town Hall to Pontypool.

Capel Hanbury-Leigh was accidentally poisoned in 1861 and died on 20th September leaving property valued at under £100,000/ His only son, John Capel, born in 1853, resumed the name of Hanbury by royal license on 22nd January 1864 and died in 1921.

John was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge. When he came of age he was made Justice of the Peace. In 1885 he married Louisa Charlotte, daughter of Colonel Edward Eager. They had 2 children, Capel Lionel Charles and Ruth Julia (later to become Lady Ruth Tennison).Unfortunately Capel Lionel died after a sudden illness in 1908 aged 15.

Squire Hanbury as he was popularly known liked horse racing and shooting and the Prince of Wales later Edward VII visited him on several occasions during the 1890's when they went grouse shooting. Squire Hanbury was involved in both the Scout movement and the Volunteer Force, having been appointed Honorary Colonel of the 3rd V.B. South Wales Borderers in 1891, roles he took very seriously and held until his death.

His civic duties included the role of President of both North Monmouthshire Conservative Association and of the Pontypool Constitutional Club.

His health declined around the turn of the century and in 1908 the Hanbury family moved from their Park House to Gordonstown near Elgin in Scotland for recuperation. The Squire passed away on the 8th of May 192 at Dransfield, near Sevenoaks in Kent and was cremated at Golders Green. He had left strict instructions that no memorial service should be held and this was honoured by the Park estate and people of Pontypool.

He will best be remembered for the kind of generosity towards the people of Pontypool that no one before or since has bestowed. Among his gifts to the people of Pontypool are the sites of the prominent landmarks such as Pontypool Hospital, West Mon Grammer School, Pontypool Library, Pontypool Market and of course, the most generous gift of them all, one of the finest natural parks in the country which has become the cornerstone of Pontypool's heritage.

 
 

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