The Reverend John Bowen-Jones B.A., a Minister of the Independent Denomination, who died at Brecon on Dec. 9th 1905, was born at Blaenborthyn, a farm situated on the borders of the parishes of Llanwenog and Llandyssil, Cardiganshire, in a thoroughly Welsh district where the Welsh language, habits and customs prevailed, and have been preserved down to modern times.
Blaenborthyn Farm was owned by the well-known Bowen family who have held the Waunifor Estate for generations. On part of this tenement, in 1760, Thomas Bowen, the squire of Waunifor, although a churchman, built a meeting-house called Waunifor Chapel, and, by his will proved in 1806, directed his widow and executrix, Mrs Jennet Bowen, to keep this Chapel in good repair for the Welsh Association of Methodists "who were to have full liberty to preach and attend public worship therein, without any molestation or interruption from my son, Daniel Bowen, or any other person claiming under me."
Thomas Bowen lived at Waunifor from 1727 to 1805. His son, Daniel Bowen, took Holy Orders after graduating at Oxford. He lived from 1777 to 1848 and held the living of Llanllwni, an adjoining parish, with others.
It is impossible to trace the pedigree of ordinary persons who lived in that period in this part of Wales. The civil registration of births, deaths and marriages was not established by law until 1836. Church (registers) contain only the names of those baptised in the established parish churches. There are no available known registers in the numerous chapels of the various Nonconformist bodies in the district. This information was generally preserved in the Family Bible if at all.
It is not easy to fix the time when the use of surnames became general and settled in Wales amongst all classes. It remained the custom, even down to the 19th century, to identify a person by coupling his Christian name with that of his immediate ancestor and by the use of "Ap" or "son of".
The noticeable thing then, was the paucity of surnames in the Welsh-speaking parts. (See "The Welsh People" p. 257.) Those that usually occur are mostly baptismal names spelt in diverse ways, taken from the Bible. The usual explanation of the fewness of surnames in the Welsh-speaking parts is that the English officials of the Welsh Law Courts found the Welsh custom of stringing names together to be troublesome, and that they abridged the style of the person with whom they were dealing. Thus they summoned a juror, or called a witness, not by the style he would have given himself, as:"William ap John ap Owain ap Dafydd," but as: William ap John" which, often repeated, became "William Jones", and this procedure was acquiesced in by a too patient people. In Welsh rural districts,persons were also very commonly known by the names of their farms, a custom which has been continued to modern times. For instance, "John, Maeseglwys", was thus known by the name of his holding. In Llanllwni Parish, there are many recent instances of this practice to be found, e.g. "John Stafell Wen", "Betty Cwmbach" "Jack Abertegan" and "Benjamin Blaenplwyf".
In Llandyssil Parish, one farm was jointly occupied by three brothers, who were identified and known by different surnames.
The Rev. John Bowen-Jones was born at Blaenborthyn on Feb 10th 1829. He was the son of John Bowen, the tenant of that farm. John Bowen was born in 1789 and died in 1850. His wife, Mary, was the daughter of James and Mary Griffiths of Bwlchog. She was born in 1795 and died in 1883. John Bowen of Blaenborthyn was the son of John Thomas Bowen and Elizabeth his wife. John Thomas Bowen died about 1804 and Elizabeth, his widow, died in 1830, being then 81 years old.
John Thomas Bowen was the son of Thomas Bowen of Llwynyffynon, or Cwm Esgereinon, in the parish of Llanwenog, who died about 1818, when well over 80. His wife is said to have been named Micah. Fifty years ago, one David Thomas of Frongau stated that this Thomas was buried in the Waunifor vault in the parish churchyard at Llanwenog. The history cannot be traced further back, but all these predecessors were closely related to, or were an offshoot of the more important and well-to-do family who lived at Waunifor.
It was sometime during the tenancy of Blaenborthyn that John Bowen, the father of John Bowen-Jones, began to use "Jones"as a surname, he being ap John, the son of John Thomas Bowen. This was in accordance with the prevailing Welsh custom. But the fact that he was tenant to the Bowens of Waunifor and distantly related to them had something to do with it, for it is said to have met with the approval of his landlord, who moved in a more important social sphere and welcomed the distinction in name.
The Rev. John Bowen-Jones married Anne Owen in 1861. She was the daughter of the Rev. Owen Owen of Bwlchnewydd, Caermarthenshire. He died in 1841, leaving a widow, Eliza, who subsequently married the Rev. John Thomas D.D. of Liverpool. John Bowen-Jones was the first, and only one of his brothers and sisters to receive a Classical and English education. His parents managed to send him to the Unitarian College at Caermarthen whence he graduated at the University of London. His family then spoke and knew little English, but he benefited by his education and became an excellent scholar and teacher. He kept a large school for many years in Wales.
On his marriage, he determined to revert to the use of the family surname of Bowen, For this purpose, all his children were specially baptised and registered as Bowen and were always described and known as Bowen. I am the eldest son, and my brothers and sisters were all entered in their various names, educated and known, in school and business, by the family surname of Bowen. When each of us arrived at the age of 21, we confirmed this by resuming in a legal and formal manner the family surname of Bowen. This change has always been used and is completely recognised as such by the Public amongst whom we have lived.
The following note was added by Ivor Ian Bowen . It is dated London, May 6th 1941 and is addressed to Sarah and Ivor:
The above account of the family was written by my father in 1929. Ivor Bowen was born in 1862 and died in 1934. He had two brothers, Leopold who died in South Africa (or is presumed to have done so), and Vaughan, who was Bank Manager of the National Provincial Bank at Beaumaris for many years and died in 1937 leaving a daughter, Beryl. There were also two sisters of Ivor Bowen, my aunts Floyd and Gwladus, married to Norman Shaw and George Badcock respectively, who are still living. My father's first wife was the sister of Norman Shaw but he had no children from his first marriage. In 1905 he married my mother, Edith May, daughter of Robert Dummett of Highgate. My sister, Floyd Helen Maisie was born Jan. 31st 1907 and is married to Robin Flack and is your Auntie Floyd.
The second youngest sister of my father, Gwendolyn (Gwladus is the eldest and Floyd Shaw the youngest} is also alive and lives at Beaumaris, and is unmarried. She is 64 years old.
My father, Ivor Bowen, began life in the National Provincial Bank in London as his father could not afford to put him into a profession. He worked hard in his spare time and passed London Matriculation and his Bar examinations and was called to the Bar. He had a very successful practice on the South Wales Circuit. On the outbreak of the War of 1914 he joined the Army, having been a Territorial for many years, and became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was never sent to France. After a very bad winter in camp, 1917-18 on the Eest coast, his health broke down and he had to give up active service. He accepted a County Court Judgeshipsoon afterwards and held this post till his deathin 1934. As an advocate, he was particularly well-known for his fighting qualities in common law cases; he was a bencher of Gray's Inn for many years and Treasurer there twice.
He was born at Bridgend, and brought up mainly at Brecon, where the Rev. John Bowen-Jones had a school. He died in London.
I was born at Llandaff House, Llandaff and was given the names Ivor Ian. The Ian does not denote any Scots ancestry, but was a preference of my Mother's to the Welsh spelling of the name. My father spoke nothing but Welsh as a small child and could understand and speak it readily in later years, although he did not have much practice. I have never learnt to speak Welsh, although I understand a few nouns, and I regret not knowing the language.
Thomas Bowen = Micah
John Thomas Bowen = Elizabeth
d. 1804? | b. 1759
| d. 1830
John Bowen of Blaenborthyn = Mary, d. of James Griffiths
b.1789 | b.1795
d. 1850 | d.1885
John Bowen-Jones = Anne, d. of Rev. Owen Owen
b. 1829 |
d. 1905 |
Ivor Bowen = Edith May