The death of a loved one is always tragic and sad, especially so when it relates to children. To have three children die of disease within a few weeks of each other is unimaginable, and yet in Victorian Britain it was commonplace. The 1861 census reveals that Thomas Charles aged 27 was born originally in Middlesex, and his wife Mary aged 33 who came from Meidrim were living on a 95 acre Farm in Llandyfaelog together with their then three children, Anne aged four, Rhys aged two, and Esther aged one. Interestingly, all three children were born at Llanstephan.
Apart from them, there were also another five occupants on the farmstead making a total of ten, which by any standards was a large household.
These included Ms Jane Griffiths – sister in law, described as the “Fund holder” then Phoebe Davies – Dairy Maid, John Evans – Carter (driver of a horse drawn carriage) John Davies – Ploughman, and Theophilus Davies who was described as a “Hobble Boy”. A hobble or spancel is a device which prevents or limits the locomotion of an animal, by tethering one or more legs. Although hobbles are most commonly used on horses, they are also sometimes used on other animals. They are made from leather, rope, or synthetic materials such as nylon or neoprene. There are various designs for breeding, casting, and mounting horses.
Very clearly a busy farm with Thomas at its head, though it is difficult to see how the family ended up living in Union Street – Carmarthen Town, only five years later. Indeed movement of families was frequent during these times especially so when it was to find work.
Tragic and desperately sad are the only words that can be said about the loss of this young family to a hard working couple trying to make a living in Victorian Carmarthenshire.
Their story is one that has proven to be all too common at this time, when disease was so prevalent. Young Ellen died of Scarlet Fever, Esther died of Croup, and Rhys also died of Scarlet Fever, a disease so common in children at that time. By 1871, four years after the death of their three children both Thomas and his wife Mary Anne had left Carmarthen for good to go and live in Swansea where Thomas took up the job of becoming an Agent for the world renowned Hafod Copper works never to return, leaving behind their grief and three children for pastures new, though not before providing them with a fitting memorial tribute. There is in this case however, a happier ending in as much that the 1871 Census records Thomas & Mary as having a further three children, all of whom survived into adulthood. What became of them, who knows, but I would like to think that during their lifetime they had the opportunity to remember their brother and sisters and return to St David’s cemetery to pay their respects. We will never know, but they can be assured that their last resting place will now at least always be cared for.