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Dear Reader

Dear Reader # 143

Dear Reader,

My latest translation, the Spanish version of Looking for Rosanna Mee, Sam Smith Mystery Series book seventeen.

I’ve been revisiting the Howe branch of my family tree, making some minor corrections and uncovering some amazing stories, including a murder and three female Howes who joined the Pioneer Trail in the Wild West of America. More about them in a future post. But first, to start at the beginning…

The Howes of Glamorgan first appear in the historical record in the 1600s with John Howe, born c1640, of St Hilary. He was the father of my 8 x great grandfather, John Howe. The Hearth Tax of 1670 and later records show that around 150 people lived in St Hilary, with Welsh the dominant language.

St Hilary Church c1900 (People’s Collection Wales).

In 1675 the Welsh Trust established a school in St Hilary. It’s possible that my 7 x great grandfather Joseph Howe, born c1690, attended this school. Certainly, he was literate. In 1678 ten children attended the school, making it the smallest in the county. Education was provided by the vicar and churchwardens, in English and Welsh.

The Vicarage, St Hilary c1900 (People’s Collection Wales).

c1711 my 7 x great grandfather Joseph Howe married Elizabeth (surname unknown). The couple produced four children: Elizabeth, Dorothy, Mary and my direct ancestor John. Sadly, Dorothy died when only nine days old.

Joseph died in July 1742. He was buried on 5 July 1742. That year, ten people died in St Hilary. Five children were baptised while the parish register recorded only one marriage.

John Howe, my 6 x great grandfather, was baptised on 24 July 1726 in St Hilary, Glamorgan, probably a week after his birth. Sadly, many babies died within a week of their births so baptisms were often swift affairs.

The son of Joseph and Elizabeth, John became a successful farmer. When Joseph died on 5 July 1742, sixteen-year-old John helped his mother to run the farm. He didn’t marry until 1761, a month before his mother died.

From the National Library of Wales, the tithe map of St Mary Church Parish, St Hilary. The Howe family farmed thirty-three fields on this map, twenty-six arable and seven meadow. They also owned Howe Mill.

In the eighteenth century St Hilary was a small, close-knit farming community with a population of around 150. It was self-contained and regulated its own affairs. The church remained the focal point for the religious and social life of the village. Dissenting voices were nonexistent. Then, in 1748, my ancestor Priscilla Howe (a name that reoccurs throughout the generations) registered a meeting house for Quakers and literally ‘shook things up’.

St Hilary. People’s Collection Wales.

In 1753, my 6 x great grandfather John Howe became a churchwarden, Petty Constable and Overseer of the Poor. Overseers of the Poor were chosen from the ‘substantial householders’ within the community and were elected at the annual vestry. Although elected for a year, they often served multiple terms over many years.

As Overseer of the Poor, John made a payment of £1 17s 6d for the making and binding of Bibles, 1s for attending a coroner’s inquest and 7d for a pair of male stockings. He also awarded payments of a few pence to ‘the little boy of whom nothing else is known’.

This is John’s account of 1753, written in his own hand.

The pivotal period of my 6 x great grandfather John Howe’s life arrived in April and May, 1761. On 3 April 1761 he married 39 year old Mary Robert, a widow with two children. Then his first son, John, my 5 x great grandfather, was born on 28 April 1761. That’s right, Mary was eight months pregnant at the time of her marriage. On 1 May 1761 John’s mother, Elizabeth, died aged 62. A marriage, birth and death within four weeks. A very stressful time for John. 

From the age of sixteen John had run his mother’s farm. He was probably waiting until she died before he married, but with Mary eight months pregnant he couldn’t wait any longer.

With his standing in the community, John was an eligible bachelor so Mary, four years his senior, must have been pleased with the match. Equally, she must have possessed qualities that set her apart from younger women. The couple had four children and spent 37 years together, and I trust enriched each other’s lives.

John died on 23 February 1818, aged 91, a remarkable age in any era. And through his family, farm and community activities I sense that he lived a rewarding life.

St Hilary parish church (Wikipedia).

Next week, more about the Howes, including a murder.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Categories
Sam Smith Mystery Series

Pontypridd and Cardiff

Chapter One of A Parcel of Rogues, Sam Smith Mystery Series book thirteen, is set in Pontypridd, South Wales. Pontypridd is famous for being the hometown of legendary singer, Tom Jones. It is also famous for its Old Bridge, pictured. The stone bridge spanning the River Taff was built in 1756 by William Edwards. At the time of construction, it was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the world. Notable features are the three holes of differing diameters cut through each end of the bridge, placed there to reduce weight. Due to its steep nature, horses and carts found it difficult to cross the Old Bridge, so Victoria Bridge was constructed adjacent to it in 1857.

The_Old_Bridge,_Pontypridd

As mentioned earlier, Pontypridd is the hometown of the legendary Tom Jones. Towards the end of his career, Tom returned to his roots. And never sounded better.

Sam, my narrator, visited Cardiff City Centre this week, in A Parcel of Rogues. The city centre contains a number of notable buildings, most dating from Edwardian times. The buildings include the City Hall, the Central Police Station, the National Museum, Cardiff University and the Crown Court. A splash of green is provided by Alexandra Gardens, a regular landmark in my books.

Cathays_Park,_Cardiff

A Parcel of Rogues is set in October. Roath Park will feature in the story, so this autumnal picture of the park seems appropriate.

Roath_Park,_Cardiff,_Wales

This is NOT a Hannah Howe novel. However, this cover created by the multi-talented Cusper Lynn has given me an idea for a story set in the 1920s or 1930s with The Cardiff Caper as the title. This illustrates why I like to have my covers in place before I start writing, because visual clues from the cover can suggest facets of character and that in turn suggests plot development. Two examples of this from my original covers – Sam’s Song and Sam’s long hair, and Ripper and the roses on the river. Both covers had a big impact on the shaping of my characters. So, The Cardiff Caper is not a Hannah Howe novel yet, but with such a striking image to inspire me, it might become one in the future.

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