5 Aug 2016

‘The disappearance of the old mansion’ by Wendy Bedford

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

Late Middleton/pre-Paxton era – 1700 to 1789

I became a volunteer for the Regency Restoration project in 2015, taking part in the archaeological excavations as well as joining the History Group. What really interests me is the old Middleton Hall mansion which is believed to have been built early in the 17th century. Surprisingly little is known about it and I can’t wait for the excavations of the old site (started in 2011 and 2012) to be resumed, so that we can find out more. In the meantime, I have chosen to look at the late Middleton/pre-Paxton era of the history of the Garden to see what I can discover from records of the lives of the last occupants of the old mansion. This first blog describes the owners of the Middleton Estate during that period and speculates on the fate of the old mansion.

The end of the Middleton Dynasty

The last Middleton male heir to the Estate was Henry Middleton (great-grandson of the Henry Middleton who had married Mary Vaughan). His father Richard Middleton had held the Estate since 1699 and Henry was nearly into his forties when he inherited it in 1733. In the same year Henry married Elizabeth Price, daughter of the Carmarthen Post-Master, but they had no children. Henry died in 1738, having made the legal arrangements in 1734 for the Middleton Estate to pass to his sister Elizabeth if he died without issue. In his Will (1738) he left all his real estate ‘to and for the sole and separate use of My Dear Beloved Sister Elizabeth Gwynne the Wife of (the said) Thomas Gwynne, and I do hereby declare that the same shall not be subject or liable to the Debts or contracts of her said Husband.’

The disappearance of the mansion?

We assume that Henry and his sister Elizabeth were brought up in the original Middleton Hall mansion and we can guess that it was occupied by Henry and his wife. However, it is unlikely that his sister Elizabeth lived there after she took possession of the Estate in 1738 as she resided with her husband Thomas Gwyn of Gwempa in the Parish of Llangendeirne (Llangyndeyrn) near Kidwelly.

Middleton Hall mansion may have had a tenant for some of the next fifty years, or it may have been neglected and gradually fallen into disrepair. There is a rumour of it being used as a farmhouse for a while after William Paxton had built the new Middleton Hall but at some stage he demolished it completely to remove any visible trace of it from his new landscape.

The Gwyn Family chapter

Thomas Gwyn died in 1752 and his widow Elizabeth Gwyn in 1756. Their eldest son Richard Gwyn did not seamlessly succeed to the Middleton and Gwempa Estates. Both Estates were heavily mortgaged (mainly as a consequence of provision made for younger brothers and sisters in previous Wills in both families). Richard obtained title by 1759, along with an onerous burden of debt. He was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1761, describing himself as Richard Gwyn of Middleton Hall, but it is doubtful if he actually lived there. He never managed to free himself of debt and was obliged to spend time in the Debtors Prison between 1767 and 1771. He died in 1781.

In 1746 in Marylebone, London, Richard Gwyn had married Elizabeth Fuller, daughter of General Francis Fuller of Gregories, Buckinghamshire, probably against the wishes of his parents. The eldest of three children to this marriage, Francis Edward Gwyn, had a distinguished military career after borrowing from his sister’s husband to obtain a commission in the army. He inherited what was left of his father’s mortgaged estates but eventually all the properties were disposed of to satisfy creditors, and in 1789 the Middleton Estate was bought by William Paxton.