My 2 x great grandfather, William Howe, was born on 3 March 1855 in South Corneli. His parents were William Howe of St Brides and Mary Hopkin of Corneli. He was baptised on 6 April 1855, Good Friday.
In 1861 William was living with his parents and siblings, Hopkin and Mary Ann. Lodgers, David and Ann John, also lived in the house. The census shows that William was attending school and his main language was Welsh.
Newspaper reports of the time show that William’s father, also William, owned a bank account, which suggests that the family were careful with their money and had a few spare pennies to stash away for a rainy day.
By 1871 William had left school and found work as a servant, farm labouring for Thomas Powell in Newton Nottage. He was one of three farm labourers and two domestic servants working for the Powell’s. One of the domestic servants was Mary Jones. Mary introduced William to her sister Ann, and the couple started courting.
On 13 November 1876 William won five shillings for plowing half an acre of land with a pair of horses within four hours. Five shillings was the equivalent of a day’s wages for a skilled tradesman.
On 5 December 1878 William married Ann. Ann was born in Corneli on 22 April 1854, the youngest child of David Jones of Merthyr Mawr and Ann David of Margam. William was still working as a farm labourer at the time of his marriage. Interesting that when William recorded the family birthdays in the Howe family Bible he did not know the exact date of Ann’s birthday. A typical man?!
William and Ann were married at Hermon Methodist Chapel in Bridgend, a grand chapel for a grand occasion. They signed their names, thus proving that they were literate, and the marriage was witnessed by William’s brother, Hopkin, and Ann’s friend, Mary Phillips.
By 1881 William had returned to Corneli. Along with his wife Ann, he lived with his father-in-law, David Jones, and their baby daughter, Mary Ann, born in 1879. A niece, Elizabeth Burnell, Mary Jones’ daughter, was also living in the house. Elizabeth Burnell was living with the Howe family because Mary Jones was suffering from a chronic mental illness that stayed with her for the rest of her life. The family were now in North Corneli and William was working as a railway packer.
Around this time William would walk three miles to Newton – and three miles back – three times a week to receive lessons in English and other subjects. Each lesson cost one penny.
William became Headman in South Corneli and through his learning he helped the villagers with their reading and writing. Another duty of the village Headman was to lead the band of mourners as they carried a coffin from home to burial ground, many miles sometimes, over fields and mountains. He was living at a time of changing attitudes, and he seized the opportunity to improve himself and give help and support to the less educated in his village, a Howe trait that can be traced back many generations.
By 1891 four more children had appeared in the Howe household: Christiana in 1881, Evan in 1885, Elizabeth in 1887 and William David in 1890. Sadly, William David died on 20 May 1891. The family were now living in South Corneli, two doors down from Ty Draw. The house had three rooms and William was working as a stone quarryman in the limestone quarry. His parents, William and Mary, lived next door.
In February 1895 William had a life threatening accident in the quarry, which was recorded in the South Wales newspapers.
In 1901 William was still working in the quarry and his family were living on Porthcawl Road, South Corneli. Now, they had a four-roomed house. They also had four more children: William, born in 1892, Margaret, born in 1894, Priscilla, born in 1897 and Edith, born in 1899. Along with Elizabeth and Mary Ann, all were living at the house. William was now bilingual; he could speak Welsh and English. And although his mother, Mary, had died in 1897, his father, William, still lived next door.
Along with a host of other people William Howe was fined five shillings on 16th February 1906 for not sending his children to school. He was a platelayer on the railways at this time and the fine is interesting because it seems to go against his character of a well-respected member of the community and chapel. Also, William was a firm believer in education so he must have had a good reason for not sending his children to school. Unless any further evidence comes to light, we can only guess at his reasons.
By 1911 William and Ann had been married for 32 years. All the family, except Christiana, were living in a five-roomed house in South Corneli. William was an excellent gardener and grew fruit and vegetables to support his family and augment his wages.
Tragedy struck the family when on 6 November 1913, Priscilla, William and Ann’s daughter, died during an operation. She was sixteen years old. Evidently, Priscilla had a sweet voice because she sang at the Corneli Literary Society concert in December 1909.
William’s wife, Ann Jones, died on 29 February 1916 of Bright’s disease. She was sixty-one. Ann was buried at St Mary Magdalene, Mawdlam, plot A118. The census described Ann as a ‘housewife’, but one suspects that there was much more to her than that. She gave birth to nine children and no doubt supported her husband in the running of their home and allotment. In all probability, she shared William’s Methodist beliefs, although the fact that she was buried at Mawdlam and not at Capel-y-Pil adds an element of mystery.
By the 1920s William had become one of the elders at Capel-y-Pil Methodist Chapel. Therefore he was in the company of some of the leading land owners in the area. His house in South Corneli was called Lilac Cottage and William was now a foreman at the quarry. In his youth, his ambition had been to become a Methodist Minister. However, family finances dictated that only his older brother, Hopkin, could train for the ministry.
On 14 May 1933 William died at ‘Woodview’, North Corneli. His son, Evan, was at his side. The Howe family continued to live at Lilac Cottage in South Corneli while William was buried with his wife, Ann, at St Mary Magdalene, Mawdlam.
Lilac Cottage, home to my 3 x great grandparents, William and Mary, and my 2 x great grandparents, William and Ann.
In the twentieth century, William David Howe, his wife Gwendolyne and their children lived in Lilac Cottage, followed by my great grand aunt, Mary Ann and great grand uncle, Evan. Mary Ann lost a leg as a child and Evan was blind in later life. Both were great ‘characters’.
Painted by Priscilla D Edwards, nee Howe.