BENJAMIN RICHARDS 1842-1877 By ANDREW MILLER

The following story of the RICHARDS family has kindly been written and submitted by Mr Andrew Miller a descendant of the Richard’s family and “Friend” of the charity. It is a remarkable story of a seafaring family, many of which are buried in St David’s cemetery Carmarthen. One brother was killed when he was run over by a train in Russia on Christmas Day 1878, one relative was drowned, another brother aged just 16 died in Cuba in 1855, and an aunt died of mysterious circumstances in Kidwelly when found at the roadside. None of this information would have come to light were it not for the family bible that Andrew has in his possession and his keen interest in family history research. The following then is his story….so far.

Several years ago, I was able to arrange to see an old copy of the churchyard burial plan. As not one family member was listed it was assumed that the family was too poor to afford headstones and that all members had simply been buried in unmarked paupers graves. They were not especially poor as far as I know but I had to accept that. At the time the churchyard was an overgrown wilderness, with access sealed off, and no likelihood that it would ever be available to visit and view properly. Visiting the churchyard in summer 2019 out of curiosity to see what development had taken place I was thrilled to see that it had been transformed and was completely clear with every headstone fully visible. Knowing there were no headstones for the family, but having an interest in all of them anyway, I wandered over to the sunlit north wall out of curiosity and took a dozen headstone photos at random of with a view to looking the families up on the Ancestry website. One of them though excited me in particular, it read:
In Affectionate Remembrance of Benjamin Richards, son of Capt T Richards, Quay, who died Nov 6th 1877, aged 35 years leaving a wife and one child to deplore the loss.
I knew that a Benjamin Richards was listed in the family bible, that his father was Thomas and that he lived on Quay St so it seemed possible that it was a relative – I just couldn’t remember the date although only a month earlier I had received a copy of his death certificate. When I returned home I immediately took out the bible and certificate and was thrilled to see it was my Benjamin!

Benjamin Richards headstone

He had died of scarlet fever 21 days and intus susception 7 days (when the bowel telescopes in on itself and blocks up). I knew that he had married the previous year in Clifton, Bristol but not that he had a child. My quest now is to find out what happened to his widow Mary (nee Rooke) and child. Incidentally the bible and marriage certificate identifies him as Benjamin Parfitt Richards, the gravestone just as Benjamin and the parish church baptism entry as Benjamin James Richards. I have no idea where the Parfitt originates unless perhaps it was grandmother Esther’s mothers maiden name.
Benjamin’s grandfather was Thomas Richards of Llanstadwell, born July 1772, who married Esther White of the Parish of St Peter’s in St Peter’s church on 30th May 1805. Thomas and Esther had six children, the second of which was another Thomas Richards (born 2nd Dec 1809), father to Benjamin, who had married Louisa James (born 23rd Oct 1808) of the parish of St Peter, in the same church on 16 April 1829. Thomas and Louisa had nine children altogether (all detailed by Louisa in the family bible). Thomas’s occupation on the 1851 census is shown as “buoy keeper and barge marker”, in 1861 as “Trinity Buoy Keeper”, in 1871 as “Trinity Buoy Inspector” and by 1881 as “Harbour Master”. He was awarded his Masters Certificate of Service on 29th May 1851 following 27 years in the Coasting and Foreign Trades. A newspaper article, which appeared in the Cambrian newspaper of 30 May 1873, announcing his elder brothers (George White Richards) promotion to “Leading Man of Shipwrights” at Pembroke Dock refers to Benjamin’s father as Captain Thomas Richards, Trinity Officer for Carmarthen.
Thomas and Esther, Benjamin’s grandparents, both died in Carmarthen – Thomas on 27th May 1825 aged 50 and Esther 49 years later in Buckingham Alley, aged 94 on 24 Oct 1872. Seafaring appears to have been in the blood as an older brother of Benjamin’s, William (born 16 Sept 1838) died in 1855 in Havana, Cuba,

Cuba’s Harbour in 1855

aged just 16 and another older brother, John David, was working as an Able Seaman when he went ashore in Odessa on Christmas Day 1878, was hit by a train and died shortly thereafter in the local hospital of the injuries sustained. I learned of this when I stumbled across a newspaper article from the Carmarthen Weekly Reporter of 21 Feb 1879 which referred to the Mayor of Carmarthen having received a sum of £122 from the British Consul in Odessa to be handed over to the widow of the late Able Seaman John David Richards, the money having been collected by the officers and crew for that purpose. It amounts to about £11,300 in modern currency.

The main train station in Odessa today, now part of Ukraine.

And going back a generation his uncle George (brother of Capt Thomas Richards) was drowned at Ramsey, Isle of Man on 11th Feb 1823 aged just 17 years. Grandfather Thomas from Llanstadwell was also a mariner, a fact that came to light on the death certificate of Benjamin’s aunt Esther (born 27 Dec 1820), who, at the age of 34, was “found dead on the roadside (at Pen Y Banc near Kidwelly) without no marks of violence on her body”. Further research revealed an article about this in the Pembrokeshire Herald of 20 Oct 1854. It reads: Mysterious Death – It is our painful duty to record the death, under mysterious circumstances, of a young woman named Esther Richards of the Hope and Anchor Inn in this town. Miss Richards, who had latterly been residing in the Boars Head Inn, left town, it is supposed, on Monday afternoon, last afoot for Kidwelly. She had a day or so previously been observed to be much dejected and complained of being unwell. On Tuesday morning she was found on the road side not far from Kidwelly. Her body was found in a recumbent position on a bank. An inquest was held on the same day before Mr Bonville at Kidwelly and a verdict of “Found Dead” was recorded. Miss Richards was much respected by a large circle of friends and relations, and no reason can be assigned for her having left town on foot to go such a distance. The night in question was very stormy and it is supposed that having been overcome by fatigue she had sat down on the roadside and there she probably died.

Thomas and Louisa, Benjamin’s parents lived and died in Carmarthen – Thomas on 28th Jan 1888 in Buckingham Place and Louisa on 31st Jan 1885 in Spring Gardens. George White Richards, the eldest married twice and died in 1899 in Pembroke Dock, Thomas (born 1832) married and moved to Swansea where he died in 1916, Esther (born 10 Mar 1836) married and moved to Pennsylvania where she died in 1903, Maria (born 25th July 1840) also married and joined her sister in Pennsylvania where she died on 28th May 1911, James (born 8 Mar 1846) married and moved to Swansea where he died on 7 Oct 1925 and Mary Jane (born 21st May 1849) married and moved to Bermondsey/Camberwell in London. Her husband died in St Olave’s Union workhouse in 1905 where he had been for at least four years. In 1901 she was still alive but her subsequent whereabouts remain unknown.
Andrew Miller