My father's family had strong connections with the Aberystwyth area and I was taught very early by my father, Cyril Henry Hughes, to be proud of my Welsh ancestry but, truth to tell, I speak not a word of Welsh and have never had the chance to live in Wales. I must even acknowledge that I am only one-eighth Welsh. But that inheritance has dominated my outlook all my life and, when I finally had some time as I neared retirement, I went to Aberystwyth on a hunt for my 'roots'. The clues I had were few, and my known relatives were as ignorant as I was.
I knew merely that my grandfather had been the eldest son, disinherited, of a Hugh Hughes, a solicitor of Aberystwyth, who lived at Glynpadarn mansion in Llanbadarn Fawr, in the late 1800s. I found that his father had been a certain John Hughes, farmer of Cefnhendre from 1797 to 1842, who had ten sons and one daughter, and at least fifty-six grandchildren. This huge family were mainly in farming in Llanbadarn Fawr and I believe there are a great number of descendants today. It is because I hope that some of them may see this article, that I have begun my account of the family in Llanbadarn Fawr with this John Hughes, though I have, in fact, traced the male line of the family back to about 1580.
John Hughes, farmer of Cefnhendre, was born in the Henllys area of Llanfihangel Geneu'r Glyn and baptised in 1764, eldest son of Simon Hughes of Ty Mawr, Ynyslas. His father died young in 1785 and John married Anne Edwards, baptised 1768, daughter of John Edwards, freeholder of Rhyd-onnen, in the old church at Llandre in 1789. Their first home, where a son was born, was Cyncoed/Cefncoed on the western flanks of Plynlimon not far from Goginan, and their second, Neuadd in Cwm Rheidol, where another son and their only daughter were born. Finally they moved to Cefnhendre by 1797. This prosperous farm of about 70 acres, was just off the Aberystwyth-Bow street road. The massive old farm buildings still remain, though the house has gone. They stayed there forty-five years and six sons were born there. John Hughes was on the freeholders' list but the farm was owned by Matthew Davies Williams of Cymcynfelin in 1841. I imagine they supplied dairy produce to the rapidly-growing Aberystwyth. My father remembered that the farm had a 'great Welsh wheel' and a harp. Certainly old Welsh traditions were cherished. Towards the end of John's life his youngest son, Thomas, farmed Cefnhendre and lived there with the old people and their own growing family. John and Anne had twenty-six grand-daughters and an equal number of grandsons. The funeral of John Hughes was described in The Welshman in 1842 as being an example of true Welsh tradition, with the eight sons carrying the coffin down the hill to the church and the youngest son inheriting the farm. John's wife Anne died in 1843 in Brynamlwg, owned by her son William. It is now a University club house.
I have traced the lives and families of all John's sons but, in this article, I will deal only with the eldest son, John. He had been born in Cefncoed in 1789 and probably educated - for he was well educated - by Hugh Hughes, the schoolmaster of Llanbadarn Fawr who later became land agent for Nanteos. John became a lawyer in Bridge Street, Aberystwyth. I believe he may have studied for his profession under William Cobb Gilbertson, an attorney of Aberystwyth at that time, though later he lived at Cefn Gwyn, Elerch. Gilbertson was a family friend. In the 1827 John's young brother, Hugh, started training with him and John took him as partner in 1834 - 'Hughes and Hughes' - and moved to Market Street. In the 1820s-30s there was another 'Hughes' legal firm in Aberystwyth, James and Horatio Hughes of Laura Place (James Hughes of Glanrheidol), but they were not connected with our family at all. 'Our' John took little further share in the work of the firm, devoting himself to public and antiquarian affairs. He was elected mayor of Aberystwyth in 1851, 1852, and 1854 and was a keen antiquarian and local secretary of the Cambrian Archaeological Association for the first two years of its existence. He was also the author of a history of Aberystwyth Castle and a book on Parliamentary Representation in Cardiganshire. Among his public offices he was vice-chairman of the Board of Guardians which administered the Poor Laws and the Workhouse.
Our John Hughes was a wealthy landowner in Aberystwyth and Llanbadarn Fawr. For many years his home was Lluestgwilym farm in Llanbadarn Fawr village, but his brother, Lewis also lived there and farmed it. John was not married but he seems to have had a strong affection for a certain Mrs Paul Maggs and her family, and there is something mysterious about it. Paul Maggs was evidently a tobacco merchant of Bristol, married to Lovina Jane Johnson of an aristocratic Somerset family, and they had eleven children. I am told that he employed a man called Wills who married one of Paul's daughters, and that this Wills later founded Wills Tobacco. Paul and Lovina seem to have made Aberystwyth their home from 1824 but after 1835 there is no trace of Paul himself. His wife and family lived at 22 North Parade, and were 'gentry' according to Slater's Directory. Her uncle, Thomas Johnson and his partner, John Deane, 'of London and Capetown, Proprietors of Mining and Bank Shares', were clients and friends of John and Hugh Hughes.
On 9 November 1839 the second Maggs daughter. Ellen Sophia, aged just 21, married Hugh Hughes in apparent secrecy in Hereford, and the birth of their son Reginald Hugh took place in London a fortnight later on 25 November 1839. Ellen Sophia returned to Aberystwyth early in 1840 and the 1841 census shows the young couple living in North Parade with Mrs Maggs and Emma Maggs. However, the baby son had been left behind in Camden Town with foster parents called Reffell. The 1841 census shows that Paul's eldest daughter, Jane Maggs, and the youngest child, Tysilio, were living or staying with John Hughes at the farm. Perhaps Mrs Maggs never saw her grandson at all, for she died in 1845 and was buried in a new vault made in the north-west corner of Llanbadarn Fawr. She was described on her memorial as 'wife of Paul Maggs', so he must have been still living then. Little Reginald did come to live with his parents in Aberystwyth eventually but I cannot find out when. He was in Aberystwyth by 1851.
John Hughes perhaps had aspirations to marriage himself, or why would he have built a mansion on the hill called Mount Pleasant, above Lluestgwilym Farm during the 1850s? It was large and elegant and the building of it is said to have virtually ruined him. It now houses a school for handicapped children. Anyway, he was living there when he died in 1870. His will far over-reached his assets - he left £2000 to 'Tysilio Johnson', the name adopted by Tysilio Maggs who, in 1841 had stayed at Lluestgwilym, £500 to his godson Tysilio Johnson, child of the first Tysilio, and £300 to Emma Duffy, who had been Emma Maggs. Other small bequests were to some of John's brothers and nephews, and all his property and houses went to his brother, Hugh. However, the value of the estate only came to £1865 - though this may simply reflect some clever dealing by Hugh Hughes, the lawyer, to avoid duties.
What was astonishing was that John was buried in the vault made for Mrs Lovina Maggs. Due north of the chancel of the church a path runs north, up the slope to the top of the old churchyard. Starting with a handsome table tomb of John and Anne Hughes, all the graves are Hughes family - six of John's brothers, and their families, too many for the one path, and continuing in a row behind the first, almost all with Welsh inscriptions. Only the two lawyers, the eldest son, John and his brother Hugh, are missing. They are buried in the Maggs vault together with two little children of Hugh and Ellen, Thomas Johnson and John Dean's wife, Sarah. I can understand the burial of two of Mrs Maggs' grandchildren, and her brother and a great friend - and her daughter, Ellen and Hugh, Ellen's husband - but why John? Was this a reflection of 'snobbishness' or was there a reluctance to be identified with the rest of the Hughes clan? Or was there some romantic link, I wonder.
If it would interest anyone, I may write another article outlining the lives of other Llanbadarn Fawr Hugheses - Lewis, fanner of Lluestgwilym; Richard, farmer of Troedrhiwgwinau and Erwgoch; David, farmer of Glanyrafon; Thomas, fanner of Fronffraith, Cefnhendre,and Rhydyfirian; William, fanner of Cefnllan, Brynamlwg, and innkeeper at 51 Bridge Street; Evan, a slate and coal merchant at Trefechan, who died quite young. One branch of the family has produced fifteen lawyers, and there have been at least eight ordained clergy including an Archdeacon of Bangor.