King of the Van

William Jones (1824-1900), stated of Trefeglwys, had six children, of whom two daughters, Margaret (b. 1857) and Anne (3 April 1864).

   Margaret Jones married Daniel Jerman, of Cae Iago, in 1879.

   Anne Jones married Richard Ashton, of Cae Iago, on May 7 1886.

   Daniel Jerman is believed to be Richard Ashton's uncle (Richard Ashton's mother was Mary Jerman, Daniel's brother).

Daniel Jerman and Margaret Jones are believed to have started married life at Bwlch y Fan, where they are shown in the 1881 census. They are then believed to have moved to Cae Iago, probably after 1884, when Daniel's mother, Elizabeth died. They are shown resident with their large family in the 1901 census.

William Jones' family is worthy of consideration not only because of the daughters' marriages into Jerman families, but also because of the interesting local history an examination of their lives reveals.

Siân Wheway, a descendant of Daniel Jerman and Margaret Jones writes "William Jones Cwmbernant...was said to be the son of William Gladstone.   His mother had been a maid at Gladstones country seat in Cheshire.  William Jones was certainly very well educated - the money coming from somewhere and he became a prominent member of the Llanidloes community and in great demand writing wills, letter writing, land and stock valuations.  He was also a collecter of rates and clerk of various councils. He was also Clerk of the Trefeglwys Board School and his son became head of Elan Valley Farms and Dams.  Many of Williams Jones's manuscripts are held at the National Library of Wales."

The following information was compiled by the wife of John Henry Ashton, son of Richard and Ann(e) Ashton (nee Jones), and provided by Mary Chinnock.

"Little is known of William Jones' parents.  It was said that he was a chance child of some great person.  His mother went down to Chester and worked as a maid in some nobleman's or fine gentleman's house.  The family thought it might have been Gladstone since William Jones was always speaking of Gladstone and had a picture of Gladstone hanging over his desk.  This above information was told by William and Ann(e) Jones' daughter, Ann (e) Ashton to her daughters before her death. (That still is not enough information to establish paternity). It does seem true though that money came from somewhere to give William a better than average education.  Part of his schooling was taken in Liverpool, and he also saw to it that his own children were given a good education.  Later in life he was appointed tax collector for that area of Wales and his home , Bwlchyfan, became a sub-post office  station, too. He was a highly intelligent man, respected by his neighbours and friends, and fondly called 'King of the Van'.  In one room in Bwlchyfan he kept his tax list and records.  Later, many of his records  were sent to the museum at Aberystwyth, i.e. the National Museum.  His grandson John remembers that he also bound his own books.  Whether he wrote any books of his own or whether he just bound his tax records is not known. All the records I have seen are of his tax records..  David Tilsley had the position before him.  He had great curiosity and was always toying with some invention that he had made.  He put in his own electric lighting system at Bwlchyfan using direct current.  Another of his inventions was a shorthand system which was used in schools there.  As you can see from these two extremes, he was a very versatile man of many talents. Both he and his wife are buried at Trefeglwys in the churchyard of the Church of England.  There you will find a tombstone with inscriptions for himself, his wife Ann and an infant son John.  On the fourth son of the tombstone is engraved Jeremiah and Mary Richards.  Who they are at this writing is not known, and on whose side of the family - William Jones' or his wife Ann's.  Since his wife outlived him and if it is true that he was a chance child, then it would seem more probable that Jeremiah and Mary Richards were Ann Jones' parents."

"King of the Van"

It appears that William Jones was resident first at Cwmbernant, which is a farm approximately 1.5km north of the Van Mines, in the north-eastern lee of Bryn y Fan (or Van Hill).

Photo by G. Jones, 2009.

William Jones' son, John Jones 1861-1940 seemed to have inherited his father's love for knowledge.  He, too, got a better than average education.  While, as  a young man, he was working in the bank at Llanidloes, his industry and intelligence were noted.  When the people of the Birmingham City Corporation were looking for a young man to train,his employer, the banker, recommended him highly.  He then stayed with the corporation until his death.  He was given supervision of the watersheds in Wales that supplied the water for the City of Birmingham, in the Elan Valley near Rhayader. Since he and his wife had no children, John Jones took his nephew Richard Ashton (son of his sister Ann Jones and Richard Ashton, (of Cwmduallan - GJ.  Richard Ashton's mother, was Mary Jarman of Cae iago) as his apprentice.  At this time Richard was about 12 years old.  When John Jones died (1940), his niece, on his deceased wife's side, received most of his estate, which was estimated in value at £1 million.  His sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces received some money or personal property from the estate, but not very much.  His sister Ann did receive clear title to Bwlchyfan.


Richard Ashton (fourth son of Richard and Ann Ashton)
 b. November 5th 1890 at Cwmbernant
 d. August 1977
. No children.

"After his grandfather, William Jones died in 1900, Richard, his parents and brothers and sisters moved into Bwlchyfan.  His uncle, John Jones, brother to his mother, took him to raise and he was apprenticed to his uncle so that he could learn his uncle's occupation in order to take over when his uncle died.  Following his uncle's death, he became Supervisor of the Birmingham Watershed in Radnorshire and the Rhayader waterworks.  This included supervision of 50,000 acres, including forestry, collecting of rents from the farms, weatherman, maintenance of the dams and the building of dams.  One of the highest points in his career was the building of a new dam that was finished in the 1950s.  Queen Elizabeth, herself, came down for the unveiling and dedicated this dam. Just before his retirement he built another huge dam.  Richard took for his apprentice an Edward Vaughn, son of John Vaughn, a carpenter and mason, of Stay Little, he was a cousin of Richard's mother, Ann Jones Ashton.  The Vaughn family lived at Abertrinant, a holding of William Jones.  Edward Vaughn had a sister by the name of Lillian.  After his retirement, Richard continued to live in Rhayader in the same house, except after the death of his wife he moved upstairs and has a very comfortable apartment there."

There is a large archive of material relating to the Elan Valley reservoir system.  Amongst it, held by Powys County Archives are

"/113/1-6 Estate accounts (bank) of John Jones, Ash Villa and of Richard Ashton, Ffrwd Villa. Bank credit receipts "

Much of the information on this page has been kindly provided by Mary Chinnock, of South Wales, a descendant of Richard Ashton and Anne Jones.

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