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Brycheiniog

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Vol. 29 1996-1997

'A gentleman of the name of Jones'

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became an enormously fat man, like his cousin David Thomas and cousin-in-law
David Pritchard. Peter is supposed to have attended school at Cwmparfit in
Disserth, Radnorshire, run at one time by a Mrs Joseph (whose family was of
some status in the Builth-Llanafan-Llanwrtyd area, and was known to the Joneses),
in Llandovery, Brecon, and in Kington, Herefordshire, at which last school he
was said to have met his future wife, their romance being early forecast by the
headmaster's daughter, Miss Selena James.
Perhaps Peter suffered, as many men have done, from being the son and heir of
a strong and successful man; from the expectations such parentage laid on him
like a burden; and from premature responsibility for an estate he may have lacked
the innate skills to manage. He was only 1 7 when his father died. He was left his
father's estates, but had to run them in tandem with an extravagant and difficult
mother. Not long after he came into his inheritance, farming in the area (as
elsewhere) struck hard times, post-war depression in farm prices coinciding with
consecutive years of bad weather. This meant less to sell, and less to get for what
was sold; less even to live on for those at subsistence level.
A well-known story in Abergwesyn is of the winter of 1814-15, when it snowed
for 18 weeks, and so many of the Jones sheep died that they sold 2,500 skins for
£ 150; and when 'so many crows fed on one carcase on a tree near Llwynderw
House that Peter at one shot struck down 28'! Apocryphal though it may be, the
tale indicated a season of memorable hardship. The image of the wheel of fortune
was a popular one with 19th-century local historians, including D. L. Wooding.
For the Jones family, the wheel had reached its zenith with David's empire-
building. Now the family fortunes were borne relentlessly down. The scarcity and
dearness of grain for bread, stock-prices down, marriage-portions falling due over
the years for Peter's sisters, his mother's extravagance and intransigence, the
fecklessness of some of his siblings, and the rapid increase of his own family-all
were factors that during the two decades after David's death contributed to
the eventual loss of what had been the family pride, the estate and mansion of
Llwynderw.
Temperamentally, too, Peter had problems his father never knew. He became a
solitary drinker, money worries and quarrels with his mother, even litigation,
joining and increasing an addition to strong ale (a more plebeian drink than the
more typical brandy which his cousin David Thomas favoured!) to make a vicious
trap.
Yet life was not all gloom for Peter. His marriage was a romantic one, and
descendants say that he remained devoted to his wife Elizabeth, by whom he had
a large family, a number of whom (sad to say) were to die young, not, it seems,
having the stamina of the previous generation. At the age of 20, on 26 January
1813, he married at Llansantffraid Cwmdauddwr church in Radnorshire a beautiful
16-year-old girl, Elizabeth Lewis, born at Nantgwyllt, the home for generations of
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