John Morgan (1861-99) & Mary Anne Powell (1866-92), Coelbren
John Walter Morgan (1861-99) & Mary Anne Powell (1866-92), Coelbren
Gwenllian Morgan (1888-)
John Walter Morgan (1861-99) & Anne Hopkins, Coelbren
Thomas John Morgan (1897-1918)
Richard Morgan (1828-1903) brought his family’s name to Coelbren in 1876. By 1918, there were no more male Morgan descendants to continue his name in the village.
Richard and Gwnellian Morgan had just two sons, and only two - John Walter and Richard - were to survive infancy. As such, much may have been expected of him. When, for example, Richard Morgan had leased the land for the building of Coelbren House, he had enough left over to have a further house constructed next door – Bryncelen House – and this was later given over to John Walter and his first wife Mary Ann Powell, who married in 1886 at Pontardawe. An anonymous history of Coelbren states that Bryncelen was built in 1893. They started their married life at Henrhyd Cottages in Coelbren, at that time a series of rudimentary “one up one down” workers’ accommodations and are shown squashed in to one of the units there in the 1891 census. Now, they have all been converted and extended, in the modern way, into a single family dwelling.
Right: Henrhyd Cottages, 2014. Photo from rightmove.co.uk, 2014
In 1892, and possibly in or as a result of childbirth, Mary Ann died, leaving John Morgan with a young family. We can imagine that in this period he relied very much on the help that would have been available from his parents and siblings in and around Coelbren House. John then re-married in 1895, to Anne Hopkins, from Abercrave. Tragically, though, this second marriage appears to have lasted only a few years, as John Morgan himself died, aged 38, in 1899.
This shock would have devastated both the immediate and extended family, and indeed the wider community. As his obituary relates, John Morgan very much upheld family commitment to both the chapel at Nantyffin and the wider community. The same anonymous local historian mentions John Morgan, Bryncelen, as one of several men who formed a committee to try and establish a primary school in the village, from 1893.
The sense of tragedy experienced by parents Richard and Gwenllian Morgan is now all the greater, as John was the third and last of their sons to die young (John Ifor in infancy, and the last born, Richard, died aged only 30, and this only a year prior to John’s death).
John Morgan, Bryncelyn, Colbren Junction
With grief we remember John’s passing from us which took place about 9 a.m. on Monday morning, Sept. 7, after a long debilitating physical illness. Everyone did their best to help John get better because everyone who knew him were his friends. But death does not listen to our pleadings, when he puts his hands on his subjects; therefore, John was taken in his 38th year, leaving a widow and six young children to grieve for their loss, and the loss is felt every day.
He was the son of dear Richard and Gwenllian Morgan, Colbren, who are the oldest members of Nantyffin, and this needs much effort and faithfulness to be the head of such an old chapel. The departed was also a faithful and diligent member. He was baptised alongside others by the secretary about 26 years ago, when he was very young, and he kept the faith. He was very useful as the choir master of the “big choir” in the chapel and the small choir in the school house at Colbren. It is a great loss to these children as he also taught the catechism. He was presented for his services to the chapel and choir with a testimonial on his retirement due to his illness. As a member, he contributed generously according to his circumstances to every cause, and he can be a lesson to many, if they need an example of generosity. He was a peaceful member. He was a peaceful son, and he hated quarrels among the members. He considered religion to have higher attainment than men gathering to quarrel. He had a respectable funeral on the following Saturday afternoon. The Rev. W. Jones Ystalyfera conducted the services in the house and chapel, and Mr Jones, the secretary, took part at the graveside with great feeling. May the Lord in his infinite mercy sustain the widow and little children, his grieving mother and father, and all the relatives.”
Right: Obituary for John Walter Morgan (1861-1899), Seren Cymru, 6/10/1899 With thanks to Elaine Parry for the translation.
John Morgan’s six children are now left without a father; four of them also without their own mother. While today’s Social Services would no doubt be very interested in such a situation, the only thing for it in 1901 is for Anne Morgan (Hopkins) to look after most of them – her own and her step-children - and this family unit is shown in 1901 next door to Coelbren House (although we have also seen that the eldest child – Margaret – has been sent to Penygraig to work in the Jeffreys household. Anne is shown as a Shopkeeper and it was the way of the times for many “shops” to be effectively front-rooms in people’s houses.
Anne is shown as a Widow, aged only 26, with Gwenllian, William, Richard and Thomas, while youngest daughter Anne can be found at Cefn Coed Uchaf (Abercrave), with her grandparents, Richard and Anne Hopkins.
Three Morgan sons are alive at this point - William, Richard and Thomas. Through a combination of unusual and tragic circumstances, none would prolong the male Morgan line.
Unsurprisingly in this unstable household, changes occur before 1911. Anne Morgan is no longer resident at Bryncelyn House. Now aged 36, she may have remarried or died in the interim.
The head of the household is now Margaret Jones (née Morgan). She was John Morgan’s daughter and is no stranger to early death. Her parents had died young and now she is a young widow of only 2525. She had two children with John Jones: Mary Ann and Evan John, as shown.
Sister Gwenllian is now aged 23 and married John Jones of Pontardawe.
Brother William will now be 22 and he may be the “Willie J” Morgan recorded as a Boarder with the family of Evan and Jane Richards in Ystradgynlais. He has declared his birthplace as Coelbren and shown as aged 22.
Brother Richard Morgan remains in the household, now shown aged 18 as a coal-miner (hewer).
Thomas John Morgan can be found age 14 and already a collier (hewer) with his widowed grandmother Anne Hopkins at Cefn Coed, Abercrave.
Still in 1911, we can identify three living Morgan sons: William, Richard and Thomas. This would be the last point at which all would be alive together.
Children of John Walter Morgan
1. Margaret Morgan (1886-1941) married John Jones (1886-1908)
We have already seen Margaret aged 14 working in 1901 as a maid in her aunt’s house (Jeffreys, Penygraig). By 1911, she is back next door to Coelbren House at Bryncelen House as is her brother, Richard Morgan, aged 18. She is shown as Head of the Household, as Margaret Jones. This is because she had married a John Jones, but his early death at the age of 22 is recorded at Nant-y-Ffin chapel in 1908. Her occupation is recorded as Shopkeeper and it is known there was a front-room style of shop operating from the house, an activity often undertaken by widows.
Mary Ann Jones (1908-)
Evan John Jones (1909-1939)
Margaret married a second time, to Sephaniah Williams (1886-1924), who is buried with her and her first husband John at Nantyffin. They had at least one child:
Richard Morgan Williams (1919-1998) married Elizabeth Ann
2. Gwenllian Morgan (1887- ) married John Jones (Pontardawe)
This family was of Wern Ddu farm, Rhos, Pontardawe. Gwenllian is shown as a widow on the farm, with two of her children, on the 1939 register.
Brynmor Jones (1917-)
Thomas Glyndur Jones (1925-)
3. William Morgan (1890-) - further information here
4. Richard Morgan (1892-1916) - further information here
5. Thomas John Morgan (1897-1918) killed in WW1
This particular family suffered yet more ill luck in the First World War. After father John Morgan had re-married in 1895, to Anne Hopkins, they had a son, Thomas John Morgan (born 1897). In 1911, he is found on the census aged 14, with his grandmother, Ann Hopkins, a widow in Abercrave (Cefn Coed Uchaf).
He too was later killed in France, at the age of 21, on the 17th October 1918, less than a month before the Armistice. He was in the Royal Artillery, 22nd Battalion, and at the time of his death would have been engaged in what was known as the second Battle of the Somme, the “last One Hundred Days”.
Gunner Morgan, 259754, 21st Battalion, Royal Field Artillery, is buried near Cambrai, in a cemetery at Busigny. With him, died the last hope for continuation of the Morgan name through this family in the Coelbren area.
6. Anne Morgan (1896-1982) married John Evans
Busigny Communal Cemetery, courtesy of CWGC