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London Branch of the Welsh Family History Societies
Cangen Llundain o'r Cymdeithasau Hanes Teuluoedd Cymru
Y Ddraig Goch
Branch Activities by Year






Sir Watkin Williams Wynn

Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 4th Baronet In the November meeting of the branch, Dr. Laura Mayer gave an interesting presentation on Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the 4th Baronet, of Wynnstay, Ruabon.

Sir Watkin, inherited the extensive Wynnstay estates as an infant when his father, the 3rd Baronet ('the great Sir Watkin'), was killed in a fall from his horse while out hunting.
He was Member of Parliament for Shropshire (1772 - 1774) and for Denbighshire (1774 - 1789), and was Lord Lieutenant of Merionethshire (1775-1789).

Described as "perhaps the greatest patron of the arts Wales has ever produced", Sir Watkin spent much of his time at his London home, at 20, St James's Square, Westminster, which he commissioned architect Robert Adam to build and which was which was constructed between 1771 and 1775. Sir Watkin lavished the house with paintings, at a considerable cost to the family fortune! The Williams Wynn family occupied the house until 1906 and owned it until 1920. Laura’s talk was well-illustrated with photographs she took on a visit to the house showing many of the original features which still remain today.

Welsh girls in service between the wars

Rosemary Scadden visited the branch on 17 September, speaking about Welsh Girls in Service between the Wars, based an oral history project for which she had interviewed around 70 women who had originated mainly from the south Wales valleys. This was based on Rosemary's study of Welsh girls in domestic service during the inter-war period, "Be good sweet maid, and let who will be clever".

Domestic servant

Before modern plumbing and central heating, the work involved in cleaning, heating and maintaining a home was a laborious and time-consuming exercise, and most households who could afford it had at least a general servant. More affluent families might employ a housekeeper, cook and ladies’ maid, and, at everyone’s beck and call, a scullery maid, who rose first in the morning to light the fires and heat the water and often retired last at night.

Large numbers of young women from Wales went into service, in a period when there were few other opportunities for those who had left school at the earliest opportunity, often through family poverty. For many who had rarely travelled far from home, the journey to take up the post was often a dramatic prelude, with dire warnings of the ‘white slave trade’ ringing in their ears.

Paddington Station

Paddington Station. The London terminus for most
railway services from Wales at the time.

Early days might be accompanied by acute homesickness; one woman working in London recalled going to Paddington just to hear Welsh accents. Others welcomed the opportunity to see a new world and to get away from the drabness and poverty of their previous lives. For most, the work was hard and the hours long; even so many enjoyed themselves and felt that they had learnt from their experiences, though others felt exploited and degraded. World War II changed everything; women were needed for the ‘Home Front’ and after it was over, the development of mass-market domestic appliances brought an end to the demand for live-in servants.

Rosemary’s talk was well-illustrated and full of fascinating anecdotes; for many of us the most interesting aspect was that she spoke of an era which was familiar, not through our own experience, but from memories of a way of life recalled from the family stories of our childhood.

Stark Mad With Gardens

At the May 2011 meeting, Jean Reader gave a fascinating talk entitled Stark Mad With Gardens, the untold story of women gardeners in Wales, 1750-1850, based on her ground-breaking researches into the history of women gardeners in Wales in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ... more


London Branch members have provided research for several TV programmes investigating Welsh roots, most recently for an edition of the genealogy series Perthyn, which featured the London Welsh dairy community.

Here the production team from Rondo Media are filming outside Jones Dairy, in Ezra Street, Bethnal Green.

Jones' Dairy 2011Jones' Dairy 1930s

The picture on the left shows cameraman Haydn Denman filming the programme's subject, Olive Corner (right), being shown around by researcher Rhian Medi (left), inside a typical example of the many Welsh dairies once in London, 'S. Jones' in Ezra Street, Bethnal Green. In the 1930s Olive's family kept a similar dairy in Gibraltar Walk, illustrated in the photograph on the right.

Gibraltar Walk, located just off Columbia Road, a few minutes walk from Ezra Street, was severely bombed in the London Blitz, sending Olive's family back to Wales.

The series was shown on S4C in May and June 2011.

This programme, and other television and radio broadcasts from Wales, can be received in London by satellite:

Radio Wales
Radio Cymru
Freesat 964 971 120 714 715
Sky 972 991 134 0117 0154

Also, S4C programmes can be viewed live on-line, and for a limited period after being transmitted, on their Clic service.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

Members of the London branch helped out at the Association of Family History Societies of Wales stand at WDYTYA? Live 2011 which took place from 25th to 27th February 2011 at Olympia Exhibition Centre in London.
Menna Evans, the Honorary Secretary, represented the Association and we were joined by several members of the Glamorgan FHS, who had the adjacent stand. The event proved to be highly successful and branch members were kept busy on each of the three days with a constant stream of visitors seeking help with tracing their Welsh roots.

wdytya 2011  wdytya 2011
wdytya 2011  wdytya 2011

Visits to the National Library at Aberystwyth

The branch has made three summer visits to Aberystwyth, researching family history at the National Library of Wales and Ceredigion Archives, and staying nearby in student accommodation. All of us, new visitors and old hands alike, have found it a very useful and most enjoyable experience, making great progress with our researches, and using the evenings to share successes and explore problems. The photograph below shows some of the group in the South Reading Room admiring the pedigree roll of the family of John Jones, Maes-y-garnedd, the Welsh Regicide (photograph courtesy of the National Library).

Branch members at the National Library
Branch members at the National Library in August 2009

A Welsh walk through the City and Clerkenwell

The branch organised an interesting walk through the City of London and Clerkenwell, taking in various historical sites of Welsh interest. The walk took them from St Benet's Welsh Church, at Paul's Wharf, through the City, Smithfield and Clerkenwell to the London Welsh Centre in Grays Inn Road. ... Full details of the walk

Branch members on a London visit
Branch members at St Paul's during the City Walk

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