Scanning more old photos recently I came across this lady, what a stunning dress! I was even more pleased to see names on the back of this lovely cabinet card, but then when I saw the name COLBY I was astonished, I remember last year writing a blog with the Colby family mentioned and also FFYNONE, do you remember it?
So checking on the small family tree I had compiled on Ancestry at the time, I had no Frances Anna Higgon but I did have the name John Colby, so now to confirm the connection!
After researching a bit more of their family history I found the John Colby I had on the family tree who was born in 1816 was the man she married on 29 July 1841 at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Frances Anna Higgon was born in 1820, baptised on the 31 July 1820 in Haverfordwest. Her father was James Higgon and Frances (Bellairs). So I was able to place them both on the tree and they lived at Ffynone Mansion for many years, but strangely they really don’t seem to have had a lot written about them, I suspect it is because they didn’t have any children, well none that I can find anyway!
If you remember in the previous Blog I wrote about Ffynone and the couple who had married there in June 1908 and were living there from 1919. Cecil J H Spence Jones who had married Aline M Colby.
I had found this information at the time: “There were many additions and improvements over future years to both house and estate. The property was passed down the Colby family to John Vaughan Colby, whose wife in 1902 commissioned architect and garden designer Inigo Thomas to remodel the house and layout the terraced gardens, which was completed in 1907″ Most places I searched on the internet then and now simply don’t have any information about the custodians of Ffynone previous to 1902. There’s a huge gap in any information spanning the Victorian years for Ffynone when this lady and her husband John Colby were the custodians. But now, by looking at the Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers, British Newspaper Archives and Census records, we can put together some interesting information about the couple and we have a beautiful photo of the lady of the mansion!
So going back to researching more about the years before 1902 firstly I have a mention of Ffynone here from Gen Johnson, on The Teifi Estuary History Man’s Blog. He is discussing Rhosygilwen but mentions Ffynone: ‘On 27 February 1837 John Humphreys of Rhosygilwen intended releasing the property to John Colby. In 1838 the house was owned by John Colby and occupied by Mary Colby and reverted to them following Humphreys’ death. On 3 April 1839 John Colby of Ffynnone leased the property to his mother, Cordelia Maria Colby. On 3 September 1840 John Bryde (?) of Londonderry married Cordelia Colby of Rhosygilwen‘. Also I found these records: Colby Records from The Library of Wales online: The Colby family settled on their arrival in Pembrokeshire in Bletherston which they owned from 1597 to 1786. A younger branch of the Colby family, many of whom were solicitors, lived at Bangeston in Pembroke, which they purchased in 1722. The family acquired through the marriage of John Colby in around 1715 with Anne Jones the Rhosygilwen estate, Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire. Ffynone estate was purchased by the Colby family in 1752, and the Ffynone mansion was erected in 1795. The family also inherited Dyffryn Wdig near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, through the marriage of two of the daughters, and purchased properties in the parishes of Cenarth, Carmarthenshire, and Llanfihangel Penbedw, Pembrokeshire and were actively involved in working collieries in Pembrokeshire. The estate remained in Colby possession until 1919 when John Vaughan Colby died without male issue. Ffynone passed to his daughter Aline Margaret, who married C.J.H. Spence-Jones, who took the name of Colby by royal licence in 1920. Ffynone was sold in 1927 to a Glamorgan businessman. Interesting information and there is lots more on the Library Of Wales website if you are researching your Ancestors in Wales.
Then we have the census records, and they are full of wonderful information. In order firstly from 1841 to 1871 all previous to the death of John Colby.
Two reports from the Welsh Newspapers online via The Library of Wales, the first one above is correct, interesting to have called her Fanny and not Frances, so maybe she was known as Fanny in the family. Also good to have the Rev Crymes mentioned, but the second one below hasn’t spelt Ffynone anything like it should be!
Scolton Manor (not Scotton) was built in 1840 and occupied from just after the wedding in 1842 by the Higgon family, Frances’s parents, more about Scolton later…
Now we are back to the census records, here is the 1851 for Ffynone, the first of Frances in her new home.
Looking all through the amount of staff at Ffynone over the years it’s astonishing isn’t it just the way the gentry lived back then, reminiscent of Downton Abbey. I just cannot imagine living the way they did, mind you, I wouldn’t mind someone popping in to do the housework some days!
Then on the 6 June 1874 John Colby died suddenly at 10 Dover Street, Piccadilly, London.
Here’s a couple of short reports from the British Newspapers Online about his death: 1) Illustrated London News on 13 Jun 1874: On the 6th inst at 10, Dover-street, Piccadilly, John Colby, Esq., of Fynone, in the county of Pembroke, aged 68, deeply regretted by all who knew him. 2) Cambrian News 17 June 1874. The death of Mr John Colby of Ffynon, a Magistrate for Cardigan, Camarthen and Pembroke.
Searching for a better account of his death, an obituary or any details of John Colby’s funeral I was unable to find anything much else at all on the British Newspapers Archive online so I turned again to The National Library of Wales and their amazing records. I found what I was looking for as they have an extensive collection of Welsh newspapers online if you are researching your Welsh Ancestors this is definitely the place to go and it’s free!
Also from the Welsh Newspapers: FUNERAL OF THE LATE JOHN COLBY, ESQ OF FYNONE. The Tenby Observer 25 June 1874. (Welsh Newspapers Online) ‘The funeral of this much-lamented gentleman took place on Saturday last, when his remains were interred in the family vault at Manordeifi churchyard. Anyone who witnessed the mournful procession must have been deeply struck with the genuine grief which pervaded all present. The silent tears which bedewed the cheeks of the numerous farmers who attended, bespoke more than language can express the estimation in which he was held by his numerous tenantry. The large cortege of carriages, numbering about 50, showed how much the deceased was respected by the gentry of the country, many of whom came from a considerable distance to pay their last respect to a sincere and good friend; and the numerous poor who were present bore testimony to the loss they had sustained, as he was always ready and happy to afford them assistance when applied to; indeed his loss will be an irreparable one to many. The clergy have also sustained a great loss, as he was always a liberal contributor towards all subscriptions set on foot for the building or restoration of churches and the erection of schools. The new schools lately built in the parish of Manordeifi will be a lasting monument to his liberality and generosity‘.—The Welshman.
The photo above: ‘One of several railed-off gravesites at Manordeifi: just as local gentry enjoyed their private box pews in a church so their preference for separation from the commoners persisted after death. Here lies John Colby of Ffynone (1816-1874) with some very ornate wrought ironwork surmounting his enclosure‘.
Unfortunately, they had spelt her name wrong on the records COLLY not COLBY. But I was persistent in my search, trying all the many variations I could think of to find her. I decided to try no name, born in 1820 and born in Jordanston and yay I found her! She was with her sister Mary Emma Clark, that was to be my next path to look at family members to see if she was visiting anyone I knew of. Mary Emma Clark (Higgon) was the widow of the Rev John Alexander Clark 1816-1860. The couple had only married in July 1856 at St Mary’s, Haverfordwest, but sadly her husband died in January 1860. I have wondered if Mary wasn’t well at the time of the census and that’s why Frances was visiting, as Mary dies later in 1881.
I have found a few accounts of events with Mrs Colby attending, here are just one of them that really shows that she was a big part of the local community and very well thought of, just as her husband had been, she having an interest especially in politics and the local school. From the Cardigan & Tivy-side Advertiser on Friday 30 Aug 1889: GRAND OPEN AIR FETE AT FFYNONE. On Friday last, by the kind invitation of Mrs Colby, the highly-esteemed Ruling Counsellor of the Boncath Habitation of the Primrose League, the members, numbering over 500, spent a most pleasant and enjoyable afternoon at Ffynone, which will long be remembered by all who were present. The beautifully-situated mansion, with its grand surroundings of some of the most charmingly wooded and pastoral scenery to be found in South Wales, at no time requires artificial aid to enhance its attractions, but the judicious introduction of some handsome flags amid clumps of foliage imparted for the occasion quite a gala appearance to the scene, and relieved the variously tinted shades of green which met the eye in every direction; at the entrance gate being a fine span of flags, with the words “Success to the Primrose League” while over the mansion itself floated proudly in the breeze a fine white ensign.
More on the Primrose League here from Wikipedia: Conservative Primrose League
contd…Any amount of music was supplied by the excellent brass band of the Cardigan Company of Rifle Volunteers, and when we take into consideration the fact that notwithstanding the unsettled state of the weather, Jupiter Pluvius deigned to be kind, and withheld his watery hand, only one shower falling throughout the afternoon, we think the most fastidious must have been satisfied. The arrangements for the fete were simply perfect, and no efforts were spared both by Mrs Colby personally, and those acting on her behalf, to set all present at their ease, and then add to their enjoyment and comfort. Sports and pastimes of every description were provided, while refreshments, with profuse hospitality, were served in a pavilion on the ground, beautifully decorated with the choicest flowers and flowering plants, flags, and patriotic mottoes. A smaller tent close by being occupied by a host of willing helpers, whose duties were to administer to the wants of the visitors. In addition to the above the whole of the magnificent gardens. vineries, hot-houses and ornamental grounds of Ffynone were freely thrown open for inspection; vistas of floral wealth and woodland glades gladdening the eye at every turn— ‘Gorgeous flowerets in sunlight shining, Blossoms flaunting in the eye of day, Tremulous leaves with soft and silver lining’ (from ‘Flowers’ by Longfellow) In the midst of the general festivities of the Primrose leaguers, the children of the Manordiefi upper schools, in which Mrs Colby takes a deep interest, were not forgotten, they being regaled with an excellent repast of tea and cake in the sports field previous to the proceedings of the day, swings and other entertainments being provided for their amusement; in the evening, before returning home, each received a bun. The proceedings of the afternoon commenced about three o’clock with an OPEN LIBERAL MEETING, Presided over by Mrs Colby……
Frances also obviously enjoyed wearing lovely things and was very fashionable by looking at the beautiful dress she is wearing in my Cabinet Card of her, so I wasn’t surprised to see that the V and A had an item from her described on their website as ‘Bertha collar of needle lace, Brussels, 1840s‘ Here it is: Their description of the collar above includes the donor details: ‘The collar belonged to the donor’s great-great-aunt, Mrs John Colby (née Frances Anna Higgon) of Ffynone, Pembrokeshire, and a portrait of her wearing the collar, painted in 1851, remained in the Higgon family‘. I would love to see the portrait!
After Frances Anna Colby died in 1901 Ffynone passed over to ‘John Vaughan Colby, whose wife in 1902 commissioned architect and garden designer Inigo Thomas to remodel the house and layout the terraced gardens, which was completed in 1907. John Vaughan died in 1919 and, having no sons, left the estate to his daughter Aline Margaret, who had married Captain Cecil John Herbert Spence-Jones, son of the Dean of Gloucester‘ from Wikipedia. This takes us back to my previous Blog last year about this couple mentioned above, here’s the direct link to that past blog: Spence-Jones m Colby
Also, I spotted this via a link on Wikipedia: Archived ‘Between 1902 and 1907, the house was again altered, but this time much more extensively. Mrs J V Colby commissioned Inigo Thomas, architect and garden designer, to improve the house in accordance with her wishes; her husband was, at the time, spending a few months shooting bears in Siberia. The entire garden front and approaches were redesigned and two new wings were added to form a dining room and drawing-room. The basement was extended to form the loggia, balustraded balcony and formal terrace. Heavy keystones and rusticated quoins were added to the original structure and at least one of the windows was completely re-modelled. The attached stable block was also re-modelled with clock tower, cupola and weather-cock‘.
If you do have an interest to read more of the history of the Ffynone Estate and gardens, here is the link to an 8 page PDF document: Ffynone
The HIGGON FAMILY and Scolton Manor was built in 1842 for the Higgon family by the local architects William and James Owen. The Higgons supplied no less than 3 Sheriffs of Pembrokeshire, and since there were no other large landowners in the area they were the major employer.
In the inner hall hangs a portrait of John Higgon (1873-1916) who would have inherited Scolton but died while fighting in France during WWI.
The last Higgon to reside at Scolton was Lt Col John Higgon, who was captured and held as a prisoner of war in WWII. He survived and in 1951 became the 3rd of his family to become Sheriff of Pembrokeshire. Scolton served as the Higgon’s family home until World War Two when it became a convalescent hospital. In 1972 it was purchased by the Pembrokeshire County Council and restored to house the county museum, offering visitors a glimpse of Victorian life above and below stairs.
The family of Frances Anna Higgon also like the Colby family had an interesting history, here’s a little about them:
Records of the Higgon Family The Higgon family had lived in Scolton Manor, Spittal, Pembrokeshire, since the 16th century. The mansion was destroyed by lightning in the mid-18th century and the family resided in Haverfordwest until 1841. The first recorded member of the family to live there was James Higgon (d. 1732) who married Elinor Harries of Porthelly. The estate descended in the male line until John Donald George Higgon (1832-1898). His wife, Edith Emily (née Thompson, of Liverpool) succeeded to Scolton. She died in 1937. Their grandson, Colonel John Henry Victor Higgon (b. 1902) sold the estate in 1972 to Pembrokeshire County Council, who converted it to Scolton Manor Museum and Country Park.
When I was searching through the newspaper archives I found the dedication of the new church local to Ffynone and Mrs Frances Anna Colby has a mention as the new church had a window dedicated to her husband John Colby.
British Newspapers. Western Mail – Thursday 22 September 1898: NEW CHURCH IN PEMBROKESHIRE. DEDICATION SERVICE. Another advance in Church work in North Pembrokeshire took place on Wednesday, when new Church in the parish of Manordivy was opened, and dedicated to St. David by the Lord Bishop the diocese. For year past the ancient church situated on the banks of the Tivy. had been found most inconvenient for Church purposes. The present incumbent, the Rev. B. Parry Griffiths, six years ago took the matter in hand, his first successful effort being the erection of mission church Abercych. on one side. Not content with this, he also undertook the building a new parish church, situate on the Plasyherllan Estate, on the other side of the parish, which, with the licensed schoolroom in the upper portion, will accommodate the inhabitants of th© whole district. The new church, which was commenced about twelve months ago. is remarkable for the beauty of its design and the pleasantness of its situation, overlooking some of the most beautiful views in the Tivyside. The architects were Messrs. Protheroe and Phillot of Cheltenham, the design being pure Gothic, and the material used of native dressed stone, freely intermixed with Bath stone. The sacred edifice is estimated to hold about 300 people, and that cost nearly £1.600. The contractors were Messrs. Thomas and Lewis, of Newcastle – Emlyn. who have well carried out the work entrusted to them. Three beautiful painted glass memorial windows have already been presented to the church, namely, the west window, representing the Ascension, the memory of the late Mr. John Colby, of Ffynone and two in the chancel, representing the Resurrection, one to the memory of Elisabeth, wife of the late Mr. H. W. Howell, of Glaspant, given by the family, and the other Jane Anne Bridget, wife of the late Mr. Augustus Brig-toeke. 8.D., given Mr. W. O. Brigstocke. of Blaenpant. Amongst others who have also presented gifts, are Lady Scourfleld. Williamston: Mrs. Colby, Bhosygilwin; Mrs. Colby. Ffynone; Mrs. Gower, Castlemalgwyn; Miss Slade Baker. Budely; the Misses Howeil, Cardigan; Miss Lewis, Clynfrew; Mrs. Evans. Manordeifi Rectory; Mr. T. Nicholas. Abercych; Mrs. Mallet. Shrewsbury. and Mr Mrs and Miss Howell. It should stated that the old Parish Church will retained as a venerated link between the present and the past, it being intended to restore its chancel and use it a mortuary chapel. The opening services commenced eieven o’clock, when the sermon was preached by the bishop. At three and six p.m. the preachers were the Rev. D. Jones vicar of Abererch and Canon E. T. Davies of Pwllhai. The services were most successful throughout, and handsome collections were made towards the building fund. The Rev. B. P. Griffiths to be congratulated upon the success of his energies in the cause of the Church, and it is very few can say that in the small space of six years they have been instrumental in raising two new churches in an absolutely agricultural parish.
This is the family tree I have compiled on Ancestry where I have added all the details about John Colby and Frances Anna Higgon I’ve made Frances the home person for now on it, until I come across another photo of a member of the family! You can see see the Spence-Jones branch on it : Colby Higgon Spence Jones Family
Note of interest. When I was searching through the newspaper reports I found several names mentioned where all the names of people in some of the recent old photos I have been sharing on Twitter were all together at events in Wales such as the one in the report above, names such as Colby, Higgon, Scourfield, Owen, Davies, Jones, Evans, Baker. All part of the Victorian gentry of Wales. I suspect that these may all have been owned by one family or person and due to a house clearance or an auction somewhere they have all been spilt up far and wide, but now it’s nice to think that some are brought back together again in my collection.
The gardens of Scolton (Above) look a super place to visit, definitely on my list now!
Till next time then…….