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The story of the Coles family in St Nicholas - kindly shared by Wendy Coles.

Wendy is the daughter of Edgar Coles, born Blacksmiths Row, St Nicholas 1908 and Lillian.

This cutting contains the obituary of Elizabeth Ford who died in 1824, and who married Samuel Griffiths at St. Nicholas Church in 1758.  She was sister to Richard Ford a.k.a. 'Dick the Racer'.   They are ancestors of, among others, Bleddyn Williams the rugby player and his siblings, and of Mary Coles. 
Known as 'Betty the Gardener', Elizabeth, in times far ahead of the motor vehicle, carried vegetables from "Bonvilstone" to markets as far away as Bridgend and Llantrisant.

To go even further back, on Mary Coles mother's side we have the Griffiths family of Bonvilston and St. Nicholas, who are mentioned several times in 'The Diary of William Thomas'.  One of them is described as 'the Dyffryn's gardener', and all of Mary's ancestral families get a mention.

"The Penmark Deeres descend from a John Deer/e Junior and his wife Mary Thomas who married at Penmark in 1734.  While their first child was baptised there, several more were baptised at St. Nicholas, during the lifetime of John Deer/e of Howel Harries fame, which made me wonder if they were connected.  At the time they were living at Llancarfan or Moulton.  Their last known child, Robert, was baptised at Llancarfan.  After another move to 'The Ostry' Inn at Barry old harbour, they finally settled at Cuckoo Mill where their descendants remained as millers for around 100 years.  Robert and his eldest brother John were founders of the Llanelli branch of the family, who spelt the name as Deer.  They are said to have been the first to invite John Wesley to the town, and the family is mentioned by him in his Journals.  He preached from John Deer's doorstep on at least one occasion."

Mary (Maiden name Deere) Coles (b. 1876) was from Bonvilston.  As Mary's mother died giving birth to her, she spent part of her early life with her father's sister Selina and family - Selina was mother of Lewis Alexander, the locally famous channel pilot, whose life was featured in the TV series 'Boats that Built Britain' a couple of years back.

Her brother, Edwin and her father are mentioned in a number of (mostly Welsh language) newspaper articles for their singing prowess at chapel and local eisteddfods.  They lived in Bonvilston, and Edwin was the father of Charlie Deere, whose 'Recollections' have recently been re-published in colour.  She also has a sister, Cecilia.  Most of the family were bilingual.

Mary Deere and William Coles (b. 1875)  married in 1897, in Cardiff.

William Coles at various times worked on the roads and on the Cottrell Estate, where he trained the horses he worked with by word of command.  I believe he had also worked in the gardens at Dyffryn House when he first came over from Somerset.  He was one of five brothers, three of whom settled in the area.   They were viewed with suspicion at first by some of the locals, and occasionally referred to as 'foreigners'!  William Coles used to enter ploughing matches, and I have recently found a newspaper article about a match at Wenvoe where he took part.  He was able to take a nap in the cart on the way home from these competitions, as the horse knew the way.

Mary Coles attended Croes-y-Parc Baptist Chapel.  She used to walk down Chapel Lane to Croes-y-Parc twice on Sundays, as her father had done.  Apparently when Win, her daughter, was courting her future husband, Ted, they were expected to do the same.  When Ted arrived to visit one Sunday during a torrential downpour, he enquired 'Surely your mother doesn't expect us to go to chapel in this weather?'.  Win put him straight, and they all trudged off through the rain!
Many of the Coles family are buried at the chapel, but as Grandfather was an Anglican, he must have got his way when it came to baptisms, since the first five surviving children were baptised all in one go at St. Nicholas Church, while the two youngest were baptised at Bonvilston.  I think the family may have lived there for a few years, probably with the widowed Edward Deere.  Two sons died within weeks of birth and I believe are buried at St. Nicholas Church.  My father's twin brother who died at birth, is also there.

The following two photographs below of Croes-y-Parc are believed to have been taken in the 1880's. at the time that Mary Coles was attending the chapel.

Could the two girls on the right of this image be the young Mary and her sister Cecilia?  

Mary was strictly Baptist and teetotal, but medicinal brandy was produced for emergencies - like the time her granddaughter, Mavis Coles, cycled to Trehill from Llancarfan in freezing weather [probably 1947], and it was so cold the skin on her shins split by the time she got there . . . . .

In 1908, the Coles family were living in the centre cottage of Blacksmiths Row - where Edgar Coles was born in November 8th that same year.  It's likely that the children in the following 1908 photograph are Ted aged 4 and Eva Mary Coles aged 8, at the gate of their home.

The Coles family moved to Whitton Lodge (Five Mile Lane) where the following photographs were taken.

The young Coles in 1912.  Two more children of William and Mary  were yet to be born.

"The photos at Whitton Lodge were taken by a mobile photographer, who travelled by bike - the wheel of which can be see in one of the photos.  The house was quite unchanged until fairly recent times, when it was enlarged and rendered.  My sisters spoke to the owner about 30 years ago, who said Gran's bread oven was still there." 

"Edgar and his older brother Ted used to walk to the flour mill at Llancarfan and bring home a sack of flour on some sort of wheeled handcart.  He remembered as a toddler walking to Barry for shopping with his mother, and she would carry him on her back when he got tired."

"Both my father Edgar and his youngest sister Winifred remembered some harsh treatment at the school, compared with modern times.
Winifred [born 1915]  remembers the day they moved from Whitton Lodge back to St. Nicholas, their belongings brought by horse and cart driven by grandfather Edward Deere of Bonvilston.  As they lived on two separate occasions at Blacksmith’s Row, I am unsure of the date they made their final move to Trehill Cottages [No. 2 I think].
Dad was very dark skinned, especially in the summer, and on one horrific occasion came home from school with the back of his neck raw, bleeding  and covered in abrasions.  His teacher had taken a scrubbing brush to his neck and accused him of being dirty.  Needless to say, my spotless Gran went to the school next day and there were ructions by all accounts!
Poor little Winifred had a similar tale.  Her teacher  had  repeatedly ignored her request to visit the toilet, with the inevitable result.  She was struck a heavy blow on the arm, which left marks.  Her father noticed it that evening, and  once again the Coles family were on the warpath.  Winifred was removed from that particular class at once."
As a young man, Edgar Coles (b. 1908) worked at Homri farm.  The lads lived in, and were allowed one evening off per week.  They usually cycled to the cinema at Ely, and had to be back at the farm by a certain time - after which the door would be locked and they had to sleep with the animals in the barn!  He had been a Barry grammar school boy but was put to work at 14.  He worked for a while in an accountant's office, but he hated being confined and opted for the outdoor life and fresh air.
As children, the boys were expected to bow to the gentry when they passed through the village, and the girls had to curtsey.  Edgar Coles refused, and was severely punished from a very young age!"
"Another tale Dad told was that in those days surgeons would carry out minor procedures in people's homes, and when one of them was working in the district his mother assisted, passing instruments etc., much like a modern theatre nurse."
Wendy Coles Aunt Win (b. 1915- )  is the last remaining child of William (Bill) and Mary Coles.

"Bill Coles, with my parents Edgar and Lillian and my older sister Mavis, at Trehill."

The Coles family in 1938 at Trehill Cottages, at the wedding of Winifred Coles to Ted Phillips - with runner beans in the background.

"My sister and I attended the school [St Nicholas] for a short time in the mid 1950s, when we lived at Bonvilston.  I think the headmaster was a Mr. Thomas, who lived in the house attached to the school.  His wife used to bring him a milky coffee every morning - I remember he used to get the skin stuck to his moustache!  

We had wonderful school lunches at the village hall, tasty food prepared by local ladies.  In the summer they made us proper lemonade, and in the cold weather we had hot chocolate.  I think the ladies had an award of some kind for the quality of their cooking.  And certainly it was the most attractive school canteen I have seen, before or since.
There was a huge roaring fire in the classroom with a massive fire guard where wet clothes could be dried. 
Dad asked me to try and take a look at the boys’ toilets to see if his initials were still carved on one of the wooden seats.  Yes, they were still there, and Dad had been there around 35 - 40 years previously!
I remember Joan, a girl who lived along the lane leading to Homri.  The house next door to hers was derelict and we used to climb in through a small window and play ‘haunted house’.  Some years later I visited the site with a boyfriend and we sat outside while I told him the tale of the spooky house, which was by then in ruins.  With that, a roof tile slowly rose from the ground and hovered for a second or two before falling and smashing!  We were back on the motorbike and away within seconds."

Mavis Coles (1929 to 2005), sister of Wendy, wrote the following for newsletters of the Llancarfan Society.

  Llancarfan Society - Newsletter 12, July 1988
Growing up in Llancarfan in the 1940's by Mavis Coles

After I was born, my parents, Edgar and Lillian Coles made their first home at Penyrheol Cottage, Bonvilston. My father worked at Homrey Farm, St Nicholas, but we moved around a lot as he was a farm worker and we lived in 'tied' cottages. The first school I attended was St Nicholas. There is a photograph showing Penyrheol Cottage in Roy Denning's Vale of Glamorgan in Old Photographs, but the cottage was knocked down in order to widen the road in the 1930's.  [See photograph below]

We came to Ford Cross Cottages in around 1940-41, as my father started work at Penonn Farm. He joined the Home Guard and was a bell-ringer at the church. My mother had two part time jobs, one as a tutor at Fonmon Castle and one at Bonvilston. She was also Clerk to the Parish Council of Llancarfan for a while. The Palling family lived next door to us at Ford Cottages and I particularly remember Mrs Palling because she made the most wonderful faggots when they killed a pig and, although I've tasted a lot of faggots since then, I've never forgotten them as there has been nothing to equal them.

For those of us who went to Rhoose School a bus came to the Church Hall every morning to take us. We had to get there early as it circled around as far as Whitton Rosser and Llantrithyd to pick up other pupils.

There was a busy social life in the village: dances, socials and whist drives at the Church Hall and fetes and sports days. We had a lot of charabanc trips. Young Farmers Club was held in the school - I remember one debate 'Which is best in a farmer, brains or brawn?'

Girl Guides meetings were held in a Chapel in Bonvilston.

Errands for my mother might include - cycling to Boverton for tomatoes; going to Bindings market garden (Ford Lane) for lettuce or vegetables; Mrs Pickett for strawberries; Mrs Sweet for apples (Beauty of Bath and Russet); Ford Farm for windfalls or eggs. Sometimes I hoed rows of swedes for pocket money.

The church was well attended. Rev. Evans took Sunday School - he was a dear old gentleman but we were very unruly (or was it just me?) and used to hide behind the altar and experiment on playing the organ.

A lot of time was spent at 'the den' where we used to light a fire and produce charred potatoes which tasted delicious. Saturdays were sometimes spent exploring the village and adjoining countryside, either cycling or on foot. There was plenty to see, foxes, dragonflies, and woodpeckers were quite common. We did a lot of fishing for trout and eels. Another favourite game was jumping streams and I'm not likely to forget when I got tangled up in barbed wire and had to be rescued by Mrs Alice Rees. I've still got the scars.

We also used to climb the trees and play cricket in the field opposite Dai Griffiths' wheelwright shop. Mr Griffiths used to walk up and down from his home to the field by the bridge with his cow 'Daisy'.

An event I remember vividly was the fancy dress Victory procession when the war ended.

I've got more scars on my feet from that, as I dressed-up as a gipsy and wore my father's hob-nailed boots. My feet were raw when I got home and took a long time to heal. I wonder if anyone took photographs of this procession? As I grew older, I joined other teenagers in cycling to other village halls for dances - you had to have a bike. We used to meet in the village or top of Pancross Hill and go to dances at St Athan, Bonvilston, Penmark, Peterston, Pendoylan, St Nicholas and sometimes Cowbridge.

In 1945 we had a double addition to the family in the form of my twin sisters. My mother had only prepared for one baby and had knitted a carrying cape with nearly 400 stitches but she immediately set to work and kinitted a second cape.

Eventually I left Rhoose School and travelled to Cardiff to commercial college to learn shorthand and typing. I travelled with Heather Morgan who also worked in Seccombes. We had to get up early to cycle to Bonvilston to catch the Cardiff bus and left our bikes in

Mr Thomas' shed at Penyrheol Cross. On dark nights we had to feel about for the right bike as others left their bikes too, if they wanted to travel by the bus. At the time I saw nothing unusual in this but I wouldn't like to do it these days. If we wanted to go somewhere in Cardiff, Capitol Concerts or the cinema for instance, we had to leave before the end to get the last bus, then get our bikes and cycle to Llancarfan.

It was at this time I remember a convoy of British soldiers driving through the village and American troops at Cottrell were also seen driving through. German and Italian prisoners of war appeared to work on the farms and there were some working at Pencarreg Farm who used to shout good morning to us on our way to work.

I remember the village having a lot of personalities, the list is endless and an account of their lives would make good reading. I hope someone will be able to write about them.

From Ford Cross we moved to Curnix Farm where my father became farm manager for Dan Evans. I will try to write about life there for a future newsletter.

Below is a photograph of Penyrheol Cottage at Trehill, demolished when the A48 was widened in the 1930's.

 Llancarfan Society - Newsletter 33, November 1990
My Ancestry in Relation to Llancarfan by Mavis Coles

In Newsletter 12 I told the story of my upbringing in Bonvilston and Llancarfan during the 1940's. Before that story began, my family had remained closely within the area of Bonvilston, Llancarfan, Penmark and St Nicholas for the previous five generations despite repeated moves from one agriculturally tied house to another.

1908-1987: My parents, Edgar Coles and Lillian Osmond lived at Penyrheol Cottages, Ford Cross Cottages, Curnix Farm, Gowlog Farm and Sheepcourt Cottages.

1875-1956: My grandparents, William Coles and Mary Deere, on two occasions lived at different cottages opposite the smithy in St Nicholas, and at Whitton Lodge and Trehill Cottages. Home made cider, gooseberry jam and bread are some of my memories of Trehill Cottage and drinking water from a huge corrugated asbestos tank which caught the water off the roof - didn't seem to do us much harm.

Whilst at Whitton Lodge, William worked on the roads until he volunteered for the army when the first war came. After he left the army they moved to St Nicholas in 1919 and he worked at Cottrell until he retired. Mary also worked at Cottrell for many years - I remember the home-made butter she used to bring home. At Christmas there was a tea for the children of St Nicholas school in a barn at Cottrell with a Christmas tree, and the children always had a present.

There are two surviving daughters of this family who remember walking daily from Whitton Lodge to Llancarfan school. In a letter my aunt says: "No one has mentioned Mr Davies and his daughter Teacher Alice, as we called her. She was a lovely person as I remember and if we got wet going to school would dry our clothes  on a big guard in front of the fire."

1842-1918: My great grandparents, Edward Deere and Anna Griffiths were married on 3rd June, 1865. Edward came from Penmark and they brought up their family in Bonvilston. The occupation of both Edward and his father is shown as "husbandman" on the marriage certificate. Anna's father, Henry Griffiths, was a gardener.

1797-1878: My great-great grandparents were Morgan Deere and Cecilia Williams who married on 13th May, 1837 at Penmark in the presence of Mary Deere and Ann Thomas.

The 1861 census shows the family living at Woodhouse, Penmark. Morgan died at Cowcliffe Mill (Cuckoo Mill), aged 71, on 14th November 1868.

Cecilia was born in Llancarfan, daughter of Edward Williams (watchmaker) and Sicilia.

The 1871 census records Cecilia living at Rockshead, agricultural labourer's widow. Her daughter Selina, one of twins, was living with her. The other twin was William.

1738-1823: My great-great-great grandparents, Morgan Deere and Jennet Llewellyn, spinster of Penmark, were married on 3rd November 1796 by licence, witnessed by John Llewellyn and George Morgan. This was Morgan's second marriage; his first wife was Catherine Thomas. Morgan died, aged 85, on 1st March 1823.

Editorial notes.

1. We heard about Henry Williams, a clockmaker who worked in Llancarfan during second half of the 18th century, in articles by Mike Bartlett and Ian Baldwin (Newsletters 8 & 12). Was Edward Williams (Mavis' great-great-great grandfather through Cecilia Williams) a descendent of Henry? We have asked the question before, but no information has turned-up. We do know that Edward Williams was also Parish Clerk and that he is recorded as a clockmaker as well as watchmaker (Parish Registers).

2. Mr Rees Davies, the head teacher, served the school for a record 36 1/4 years from 1886 to 1922! Should this be in the Guinness book?

3. Cottrell Mansion, north of the A48 between St Nicholas and Bonvilston, was built during the mid-19th century and stood in the much older Cottrell Park. For a time it was a residence of the Mackintosh of Mackintosh, Lord Lieutenant of Invernesshire. After standing empty for decades it was demolished about 20 years ago. The Park is currently the focus of a controversial planning application (hotel and leisure pursuits again).