GRIERS OF LLANARTHNEY
'Gwreiddiau Dwfn - Bywyd Dedwydd'
Contents / Cynnwys
Griers' Resting Place
19th Century Llanarthney
This booklet has been produced as a keepsake for the family of the Griers who came to Carmarthenshire in the late 18th century.Relatives are scattered around the world by now and I hope this history will give you a glimpse of our common heritage and roots.
My fourth great grandfather was James Grier (born in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, Scotland in 1753 and died 5th December, 1814 in Llanarthney) and was originally married in Old Cumnock, Ayr, Scotland to Sarah Willison on 27 June, 1779.He was one of five known children of David Grier and Agnes Dickson of Dumfriesshire (daughter of William Dickson).The Grier surname is a variation of MacGregor (Clan Gregor) - the clan motto is 'S rioghal mo dhream' (My blood is royal) - and reflects their claim to royal descent.The clan was one of the most famous victims of the Clan Campbell's expansionism.It held lands in Glenstrae, Glenlochy and Glenorchy.With the capture of Iain MacGregor in 1296, his property was passed to the Campbell Clan.The MacGregors were pushed further into Glenstrae.I should add at this point that James' grandmother was Agnes MacDonald, which certainly offers another tartan for formal occasions.
The first confirmed chief of the Clan Gregor was Gregor of the Golden Bridles.His son, Iain Camm, One-Eye, succeeded as the second chief before 1390.King Robert the Bruce gave the barony of Loch Awe to the Campbells for their aid in raising him to the throne. Locha Awe was MacGregor land and the Bruce left it to the Campbells to decide how they would take possession of this area.The Campbells built the castle of Kilchurn and the MacGregors were forced to retreat deeper into their lands until they were eventually restricted to Glenstrae.
Iain the Black, a later MacGregor chief, died in 1519 without a male heir.The Campbells supported Eian MacGregor as chief since he was married to the daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy.Eian's son, Alistair, fought the English at Pinkie Cleugh but died shortly after. In 1560, a certain Gregor Roy MacGregor fought the Campbells as an outlaw after Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy refused to recognise his claim to his estates.In 1570 he was captured and killed by the Campbells. His son, Alistair, took over as chief but was unable to stop the Campbell persecution of the MacGregors.
CONCEALING THE NAME
A Royal forester, John Drummond, was murdered after catching a band of MacGregors poaching.The King then issued an edict abolishing the name MacGregor.What this essentially meant was that MacGregors had to renounce their name or suffer death.The chief and 11 of his chieftains were hanged in Edinburgh.The rest of the Clan scattered, many taking other Highland names to conceal their lineage and thus avoid being hunted like animals.
Despite this treatment, 200 of the men of the Clan fought against Cromwell during the Civil War.In gratitude, King Charles II repealed the proscription on the name MacGregor but it was re-imposed when William of Orange took the throne.
This is the time of the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor. Born in 1671, he had to assume his mother's name of Campbell.He fought on the Jacobite side at the Battle of Sheriffmuir but after the battle he began a life of plundering and was a thorn in the side of the government until his death in 1734.The proscription on the MacGregor clan was again repealed, this time for good, in 1774.At this time there were 826 MacGregors who wanted to claim the chieftainship but it was finally awarded to General John Murray, a descendant of Duncan MacGregor of Ardchoille who died in 1552.
James Grier's roots in lowland Scotland are also interesting when one considers the changes that were happening in his homeland.Historians tell us that the prime reason for English mistrust and dislike of the Scots was envy (unlike their mistrust of the Welsh that was based on total bewilderment at hearing and seeing their strange language).By the middle of the 18th century, Scotland had begun its transformation into a great industrial power.Glasgow began a period of phenomenal growth, fuelled enormously by the flourishing tobacco trade with the American colonies.
When the successful American Revolution ended the tobacco trade, linen took its place dominating the Scottish economy for a century.Many Scottish tobacco merchants had made huge fortunes, but equal wealth now came from the rapid expansion of the new linen industry.Aided by grants of Parliament, bounties and grants of assistance from the British Linen Company, established in 1746, the industry thrived and linen became Scotland's chief export.
A newer and more promising source of profit was cotton, and by 1786, the New Lanark Mills were the largest in the world and cotton had become Scotland's largest industry. Money made in cotton was invested in heavy industries.At the end of the 19th century, Scotland led the world in engineering and shipbuilding and had invested enormously in iron, steel and coal.The rapid growth in Scottish industry had been set in motion as early as 1757.For this was the year that James Watt of Greenock, at age 22, was accepted as mathematical instrument maker to the University of Glasgow where he was given a workshop to try out his experiments.His discovery of the separate condenser for the steam engine in 1765 changed the world forever.To the illustrious name of James Watt, we can add that of bridge and road building genius, Thomas Telford to attest to the enormous influence that Scotland's finest had on the Industrial Revolution that was to so quickly transform the world.
On rainy days, how many of us have not blessed the name of Charles Macintosh for helping to keep us dry?Born in Glasgow in 1766, chemist Charles invented a method for waterproofing garments.In an age where rapid progress in industry could be so easily obstructed by poor communications between workplace and store, between factory and port, it was the work of another Scotsman John Loudon McAdam that made the crucial difference.McAdam's name is known throughout the world as the father of modern road building.He began in Ayrshire his experiments that would transform the ancient, inefficient methods of road building worldwide.His methods seem simple enough in retrospect: roads were to be raised above the adjacent ground for good drainage. They were first covered with large rocks, then layers of smaller stones and covered with gravel or slag mixed with tar.
Little is known of James Grier in the early years but he was a man of his time.Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire appeared to be the breeding ground of men of talent and practical ability.Sir William Paxton recognised his skills as a surveyor, engineer and agent.There was a flood of Scotsmen and their families to the country south of the border to help realise the dreams and social aspirations of the financiers of the industrial revolution.Once James arrived in Sarratt, Hertfordshire, he no doubt was contracted to turn Lawrence Capability Brown's grand designs into reality.A 'country pile' was not simply a retreat for hunting and shooting.The country house was a place to entertain and impress one's peers and potential friends.
How much of these ancestors' history the Griers knew one can only guess but Sarratt and Llanarthney must have seemed a world away from the lowlands of Scotland.James and Sarah's children, all born in Sarratt, Hertfordshire were John Grier (b.18 June, 1780 and died 17 December, 1853 in Llanarthney), William Grier (b. 17 June, 1781) and George Grier (born 1786 and died 1853 in Llangennech).With her husband William Jones, James's daughter, by his second marriage, Lucy, looked after her Uncle John in his old age, at Pandy Farm near Llanarthney
James married, in Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminster on 3 November, 1788, his second wife, Anne Crane of Wantage, Berkshire (b.28 December, 1760, and died 14 November, 1840). Ann was one of eight known children of Thomas Crane and Elizabeth Richardson.Her sister Lydia came to Wales with James, Ann, George and John to live together in 1789 at a farm called Gorsddu (Black Bog - the original Welsh form being 'cors' or Gorsedd Ddu meaning Black Throne) on the estate in Llanarthney (now the site of the National Botanical Gardens of Wales).The Griers may have worked initially for the Scottish Falconer (or spelt Faulkener) family who had land at Llangyndeirn and Llangathen.This detail was reported by Walter Lesley Grier Rees, who had fond memories of his childhood at Pandy, Llanarthne.It might have been that James Grier, like Samuel Lapidge, was a student of Lancelot Capability Brown on one of the numerous estates on which they worked in Hertfordshire.James and Anne's ten children were all born in Llanarthney - Fanny (1 August, 1789), Anne (18 July, 1790), Elizabeth (19 February, 1792), Lydia (28 July, 1793), Frances (9 April 1795, died on the 10th May, 1866), Lucy (my third great grandmother) born 4 April, 1797 in Llanarthney and died in 1866, James Grier (12 May, 1799), Liddia (31 August, 1800) and her twin Rachel (died 8th July, 1870), and Archibald (17 September, 1802).The farmhouse changed its name at a later date to Gorswen (White Bog) and is now in ruins.Griers were baptised, married and buried in the parish churches of both Llanarthney and Llanddarog.
George Grier, James's son from his first marriage, obtained work as an agent / bailiff to Sir William Paxton in Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire, Wales.George married Clarissa Bowden (born 1775 in Carmarthenshire - and died 22nd April, 1819) on 9th January 1805 in Llanarthney.The employment of Scottish people on Welsh estates was quite common as they were less likely to be influenced by the family connections of local tenants, especially as they carried out some of the less pleasant duties of estate management.
William Paxton came to Wales in 1785, after thirty years of travelling the world, bringing with him a taste for the exotic. He could not have known when he set sail from England some thirty years earlier as a 'captain's boy' that he would return having made his fortune and secured his social standing. With the money and privilege to be able to indulge his passions, he bought Middleton Hall and its estate, and in 1789 he set about enlarging and enriching the five-hundred-acre park.Although it was in Paxton's interests to make his estate produce an acceptable annual revenue, this was not his first consideration. He intended to develop the estate into a home that would do him credit and provide amusement for him and his young family.
ESTATE MANAGER AND ENGINEER
All these estate owners needed someone to manage their estates when they themselves were absent or occupied with other affairs.Estate managers were familiar figures on eighteenth century estates.As the century wore on, agricultural improvements made the running of large estates an ever more complicated and delicate affair, requiring careful planning and book-keeping.Estate managers, therefore, were often men with strong professional qualifications and bore in this respect little resemblance to the stewards and bailiffs of the previous century.James Grier, the man who was to be Paxton's estate manager, had qualifications that were out of the ordinary even by contemporary standards.He was a recognised engineer.Aged thirty-six when he became Paxton's agent, James managed the Middleton Hall estate until his death in 1814.He played a constructive role in the realisation of Paxton's plans for the estate.The new estate manager was housed in the old mansion which was transformed into a home farm and renamed 'Gorsddu'.James Grier was described in his obituary as having been known for his 'peculiarly ingenious application of the theodolite'.This certainly assisted Paxton when deciding on the best location in the prospective park upon which to build his new mansion.James' talents must have been of even greater worth in the creation of the artificial lakes and the design of the intricate pattern of water management that was so much to distinguish Paxton's park in its heyday.
Water played an important role in Paxton's scheme. Paxton and James Grier combined this interest in horticulture with their technical expertise to explore the use of piped water throughout the estate.It might be that Paxton had been inspired by the Mughal gardens, which he had seen in India.If so, he adapted his ideas well to the landscape and climate of South Wales where water could be used to create beautiful lakes stocked with fish.Dams were created and bridges and sluices were built along with two cascades.
A second man of great talent invited by Paxton to contribute to his plans for Middleton Hall was a reputed architect by the name of Samuel Pepys Cockerell.It was Cockerell who designed the new mansion for Paxton which was to form the magnificent centrepiece of the park.Not only was Samuel Pepys Cockerell one of the most famous architects of the day, he was also the elder brother of Paxton's business partner Charles Cockerell.As if this were not sufficient, Cockerell, at the time Paxton asked him to design a new Middleton Hall, was employed building Daylesford House for Warren Hastings, the man who had been Governor of Bengal at the time Paxton had been the Company's Mint Master at Calcutta.Paxton was also well acquainted with another of the Cockerell brothers, Colonel John Cockerell, an officer in the Company's Bengal military service.John Cockerell had been a client of Paxton's agency house in Calcutta and continued to use the services of Paxton & Co. after his return to Britain.He had even invested part of his fortune in the London partnership.Samuel Pepys Cockerell accepted Paxton's commission and created a mansion of classic beauty.Grier must have been involved at some point in the design, adding the more technical details of the most modern supply system of running water to date.Cockerell may also have contributed to the laying out of the park.Samuel Pepys Cockerell was recognised by Humphrey Repton, one of the most notable garden architects of the day, as being perfectly capable of taking on the task of designing the garden himself.
A third man of reputation who made a contribution to Paxton's Middleton Hall was Samuel Lapidge.Lapidge had been one of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown's surveyors from 1765 until the latter's death in 1783.In his will, Brown directed that all his uncompleted tasks were to be continued by Samuel Lapidge.In some ways, therefore, Lapidge inherited Brown's practice and he continued to employ the same men Brown had used for the execution of his designs.He also succeeded him as Surveyor of the royal gardens at Hampton Court.No drawings have yet been discovered of Lapidge's designs for Middleton Hall and it is not certain which features of the garden were his ideas.Taking the professional qualities of Cockerell and James Grier into account, it seems reasonable to suggest that the planting of trees and the arrangement of the flowerbeds were the work of Lapidge.The idea of a double walled garden may also have been Lapidge's, as he was definitely the most professional gardener of the four men (including Paxton himself) who shaped Paxton's park.
Paxton and James Grier used their technical expertise to design a system of clay pipes, which appears to have been used to heat the hothouse.Oranges, melons and grapes were grown in the garden and it is probable that more delicate plants were also grown using this elaborate heating system.Paxton, like many of his time, believed in the healing power of natural spring water and a bath house was built with the discovery of chalybeate springs in the park. Paxton was keen to encourage 'the common people' to take the waters and he extended the pipes to conduct water from the spring to the outside of the wall surrounding the park.
With his accumulation of wealth and sense of public spirit, Paxton aspired to a political career in Carmarthenshire. He stood as a Whig in the 1802 election. Despite his lavish spending, he was defeated by 139 votes. The bill with which Paxton was presented after the election was enormous. Among the items were 11,070 breakfasts, 36,901 dinners and 25,275 gallons of ale.
Paxton had lost his heart to Carmarthenshire but there were not enough Carmarthenshire hearts won to secure him the political career he desired.His Scottish birth remained a handicap and his 'Indian' purse proved the envy of his neighbours.It is said that Paxton's election promise to the voters was to build a much-needed bridge over the Towy. Instead, it is said, with the money and the materials he had put aside he built Paxton's Tower. The 'folly' is one of the most conspicuous landmarks overlooking the Towy Valley. Whatever the true reasons for its construction, the 'folly' was dedicated by Paxton to Nelson after his death at Trafalgar.
FRESH WATER FOR CARMARTHEN
In July, 1803, William Paxton returned to Carmarthen as Sir William Paxton and, presiding over the town council as Mayor on 5th July 1803, proposed a plan for bringing fresh water to the town.The technical details had been worked out by James Grier and consisted of the fitting of iron pipes to convey water to different points and houses in the town, no doubt according to ideas and techniques already in use at Middleton Hall.His plan was adopted by the burgesses, who raised money for the realisation of the plan by mortgaging the Corporation's lands.There is little doubt that Paxton, in his private capacity or as a banker, was of at least some help in financing the project.
Having been greatly satisfied by the building of Middleton Hall, Paxton commissioned his engineer James Grier and Samuel Pepys Cockerell to design and build a fashionable bathing establishment suitable for the highest society at Tenby.The work on the building began in the first week of July 1806.'The Cambrian' reported how the works, carried on 'at the sole expense of Sir William Paxton', were advancing rapidly, employing a great number of workmen.The following January, the Town Council allowed Paxton 'to dig clay to make bricks for his own use in erecting buildings in Tenby'.Evidently Paxton had extensive plans, and, he was already erecting further buildings at Tenby.He had acquired the Globe Inn and was transforming it in 'a most lofty, elegant and convenient style' to lodge the more elegant visitors to his baths.Cottages were erected adjoining the baths and on several other locations in the town to receive more visitors, while conveniences such as livery stables and a coach house were constructed to make Tenby comfortable even for the most exacting company.A road built on arches overlooking the Tenby harbour was built at Paxton's expense in 1814.Apart from providing a good approach to his bathhouse, it allowed the clientele of that establishment to observe the activity in the harbour without having to mix with the workmen and the public.
DEPARTURE FROM MIDDLETON
After Paxton's death in 1824 the Middleton Hall estate was put up for sale. It passed through the hands of three families before, in 1931, the mansion was gutted by fire. Twenty years later the walls were pulled down and for some years this was the end of the story of Middleton Hall and its parkland. The site was bought by Carmarthen County Council and leased to young farmers hoping to make their way into an agricultural career.
The artificial lakes drained away with the ruin of the dams and sluices. Paxton's bathhouses were forgotten and it needed an experienced and discerning eye to find the underlying structure of Paxton's park and to imagine the former charm and beauty.
To return to the history of the Grier family: James and Ann's daughter, Frances, married a local farmer, John Stephens.One of her descendants, Lynn Stephens Bryan, is alive and well in Utah, USA.This branch in Utah descended from a group in Llanddarog who became Mormons and emigrated to Salt Lake City, where the family still practises the faith.Another descendent of Frances, Sue John, a keen genealogist, still lives in Carmarthen and explains an occupational genetic link to James Grier: "I have continued the family interest in horticulture in that I have a florist shop in town.James' engineering skills have been passed down through the generations: my grandfather had an electrical business in town and installed generators in Laugharne, so that when the national grid was put through they just had to plug Laugharne in; my father followed in engineering, although his speciality was electronics at the British Steel Company, Port Talbot before his retirement; my brother Mark is Works Electrical Engineer at Trostre Works and his son Gareth is currently following a masters degree in electronics engineering.I think James' engineering genes must have been very strong!"
Lucy Grier also married a local Carmarthenshire farm boy/weaver, William Jones of Pandy.They had a total of ten children, three boys and seven girls.They kept the Christian names of her father and mother in the next generation but the surname Grier naturally was lost.The Welsh language family Bible (dated 1830) clearly records these descendants.
Local woollen mills would have supplied the Parishioners with blankets, flannel petticoats, plaids, and homespun cloths for suits.Stockings were manufactured at the mills, which supplied knitting wool for home use.Large quantities of yarn were also sold to local weavers who plied their trade in their dimly lit cottages.It was customary for the farmers to supply a sufficient quantity of wool for the making of cloth etc. and the weaver would stipulate the amount required.After being manufactured at the mill, the cloth would be sent to the Pandy (the Welsh word for 'fulling mill') at Llanarthne where it was shrunk by processing with soap and water.Cloth 54ins wide would be shrunk to 36ins, and cloth 36ins. to 28ins.Suits made of these cloths weighed 8-9lb, whereas present-day utility suits weigh 3-4lb.Blankets weighed 12-15lb against the 5lb article of today.Blankets and "carthenni" made over fifty years ago are still in use in the district.Doubtless the excellent lasting qualities of the products of these old craftsmen contributed largely to the decline of the industry, and the poverty of the weavers' families.These mills were small family concerns.The father, mother, sons and daughters worked at the mill but when trade dwindled the children sought work elsewhere, leaving the father to earn a meagre living at home.
Lucy was given a hand painted Swansea 'Dillwyn Lewis Llywellyn' (Cambrian) jug dated 1815, inscribed with her name.This beautiful jug hand painted in enamels over the glaze, uses a popular Welsh potteries design.In 1934, Walter Lesley Grier Rees (2nd great grandson of James and Ann Grier) was given the 'Lucy Grier' jug by his parents.Unfortunately, the jug was lost years later following a burglary.I have been able to find a similar jug, which I presented to my parents on their Golden Wedding anniversary.It is also good to find that Pandy is still occupied by James and Ann 3rd great granddaughter Susanna Thomas and her husband Ivor Lewis.
Walter Rees remembers happy holidays at Pandy with his cousin Eddie Stephens (Eddie became quite famous in the motoring world).Walter's son, Nigel Grier Rees, at the age of eleven won a scholarship to Dartmouth Royal Naval College.When on the 'HMS Devonshire' as trainee officer, he won the Queen's sword for the student with most academic and officer like qualities.When Prince Philip arrived to present Nigel with the Queen's sword, HRH asked Nigel to act as his page at the Coronation. In 1953, Nigel co-presented with Richard Dimbleby a programme on the BBC from Nelson's Museum - a case of 'Nelson knew my 3rd great grandfather'.He rose to the rank of Commander for Air, having been Squadron Leader in the Air Branch and also trained the Black Arrows Display team
Both Lucy and Francis are buried at Llanarthney with a substantial stone above Lucy's grave.Their brother Archibald married local girl Elizabeth Jones.Clarissa, George's wife, died after childbirth on 22 April 1819, but the daughter, also named Clarissa, born 19 April, 1819, survived.The inscription on the grave stone (found by my mother) just in front of her father in law's tomb read: 'Here lies the body of Clarissa, wife of George Grier of Gorsddu in the parish who departed this life April 22, 1819, aged 44 years.In her, the strictest integrity was combined with the most unaffected benevolence.She exemplified the character of prudent affectionate mother joined with kind and faithful friend'.George married again to Rachel Griffiths in 1820 and started a new life farming down in Ty Fry, Llangennech, Carmarthenshire, where they had three children - Harriet b.1833, John b.1837 and William b.1840.Perhaps the move there was prompted by Paxton's death and the sale of the estate in 1824.
Rees Thomas Gabe (2nd great grandson of James and Ann Grier) played in the rugby clash that was billed as the 'Match of the Century'.The Welsh rugby team had in 1905 won their third Triple Crown in five years.Rugby had survived the religious revival that had swept through Wales and the world's greatest coal-exporting port, Cardiff, had become the country's capital.The scene was set for the 47,000 who witnessed a game settled by one score and a disallowed try that was still claimed by Kiwis years later - the final score being Wales 3 New Zealand 0!
To bring the story right up to date, Arthur Grier Stephen Thomas still lives in the area with his family.He is known as 'Grier Llaeth' as he delivers milk to the community.My father, a retired Mining Engineer and Surveyor, lives in Whitchurch, Cardiff, just around the corner from a recently discovered 4th Grier cousin Gwilym ap Robert.They had known each other for years, even attending the same chapel, but had never realised that they were related.
The 'Dumfries and Galloway Courier' on the 20th December, 1814, stated that James Grier, land agent and engineer, had died 10th December, 1814 at Middleton Hall, Carmarthenshire and that he had been a native of Cumnock, Ayrshire.After a great deal of searching, my wife and daughters found James' and Ann Grier's grave at St. David's, Llanarthney, in a poor state.We have been able (with the assistance of Thomas and Delyth Jones, Dyffryn Aur, Llanarthney) to note the dedication before it disappears completely.
James Grier's obituary 'The Cambrian' (December, 1814) reads: "On Saturday morning, at Middleton Hall, Carmarthenshire, aged 61, Mr. James Grier, who for upwards of 30 years filled the situation of principal Land Agent and Engineer to Sir William Paxton, with acknowledged ability and probity.The very extensive and valuable agricultural and other improvements effected by him at Middleton Hall; the equally elegant and salubrious Baths constructed under his directions at Tenby, and his peculiarly ingenious application of the Theodolite, will prove ample and lasting memorials of his talents.He was, without appearing to be so, the poor man's friend; his last moments were spent in a manner suitable to the awful situation of a dying man.The deceased has left a wife and several children to lament his loss, and we believe that no one feels deeper regret on the occasion, than the worthy and highly respected personage who was his employer and patron."
The family was reunited on the 23rd March, 2002 with a Welsh language service of remembrance and blessing of the restored Grier Tomb at St. David's, Llanarthne.A reception followed at the National Botanical Garden of Wales.Over 160 members of the Grier family gathered for what turned out to be a most enjoyable get together.The plaque, shown above, was unveiled as a tribute to and a reminder of a remarkable Scotsman, who contributed a great deal to the fabric and lives of the people of West Wales.
THE TOMB OF JAMES GRIER (1753-1814) AND HIS FAMILY WAS RESTORED
(JANUARY, AD 2002) THANKS TO THE GENEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE FOLLOWING:
4TH GREAT GRANDCHILDREN
ALUN GRIER DAVIES
ANDREW SCOTT DAVIES
HELEN RHIAN DAVIES HOWARD HAMILTON DAVIES
HUW THOMAS DAVIES
JOHN SCOTT DAVIES
GARETH LEYSHON EVANS
GERAINT PRICE EVANS
JOHN ARWEL EVANS
ENFYS ANNA HARRIES
MENNA GRIER DAVIES
ELIZABETH MARY HORAN
CARYL ELIZABETH HERDMAN
JOHN SAUNDERS JAMES
ARTHUR GRIER S. THOMAS
3RD GREAT GRANDCHILDREN
ALBERT W DAVIES
DAVID TREFOR DAVIES
DILYS G DAVIES
GRUFFYDD ANEURIN DAVIES
ROSSER HYWEL DAVIES
JOHN HOWARD DAVIES
RHYS LLEWELLYN DAVIES
SADIE SARAH MORGAN
LUCY MARGARET MORRIS
LYNN BRYAN STEPHENS
2ND GREAT GRANDAUGHTER
RACHEL M DAVIES(by marriage)
AND THEIR FAMILIES