Breconshire
Local & Family
History Society

 

Cymdeithas Hanes
Lleol & Theuluoedd
Brycheiniog

Emma Louise BETTS and Gwernyfed Hall, Glasbury (BRE)

Tony and Irene Betts of Fareham, Hampshire, would appreciate help with identifying the significance of some old photographs which may link their BETTS family with Gwernyfed Hall. If you can offer information about the photographs, or know anything about their BETTS family, Mr and Mrs Betts would be delighted to hear from you.

Original request received, via Sally Wheller, 5 November 2011

Contribute your own thoughts by e-mailing Hilary Williams, who will pass on your contact details to Mr and Mrs Betts.

Tony Betts provides the following background:

My aunt, Emma Louisa Betts (1891 -1971), was unmarried and a domestic servant until she retired c1951. During her working life Emma accompanied her various employers on visits to country houses

She collected 'souvenir' photographs of such visits, five of which, found together, seem to relate to two visits to Gwernyfed Hall in June 1914 and September 1915. My dear old Dad sent her a postcard in June 1914, addressed to 'Gwernyfed, Three Cocks, R.S.C. Brecon'. The second visit is the subject of these notes, and for the furtherance of the Betts family history the relevant objectives are to:

  1. identify the family living in Gwernyfed Hall at that time;
  2. analyse the two photographs of Gwernyfed Hall c1914/5, from Emma's collection;
  3. analyse and discover the significance of the two contemporary group photographs from Emma's collection.

a) THE RESIDENT OWNERS OF GWERNYFED HALL – The house was designed by architect W. E. Nesfield and built 1877-80 by Colonel Thomas Wood (1853-1933) 'for his wife'. One of Thomas's forebears was Thomas Wood, MP for Breconshire. The house remained in the Wood family until 1922, and therefore in 1914/15 they were the likely hosts to the large gathering and to the employers of my aunt Emma.

b) THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE HOUSE – There are two photographs from Emma's collection – both are blank unsent postcards:

Gwernyfed Hall
Above: Photo 1 – A front view of the Hall, entitled 'Gwernyfed'.

 

Gwernyfed Hall
Above: Photo 2 – A front view of the Hall, entitled 'Gwernyfed Hall, Glasbury' – (photographer 'Cartwright').

 

This photograph shows part of the straight drive to the left of the house, and further to the left the stable block, clock, cupola and bell tower.

c) STAFF AND HOUSE GUESTS – There are three photographs from Emma's collection - they are all blank unsent postcards.

Staff & House Guests Gwernyfed Hall
Above: Photo 3 – Emma and her colleagues. Emma is standing at the extreme left (back row). None of the others is known, but the man seated in the front row, second from right, also appears in photo 4.

 

Scouting Group Gwernyfed Hall
Above: Photo 4 – A 'scouting' group. Four of the men have a 'favour' in their lapel, of varying shapes but of two shades, meaning unknown, and the fifth man, seated front row left, has a more rigid flag 'badge' bearing the cross of St George. The photo is by J. Clark of 13, High Street Brecon, whose descendants have no copy or knowledge of this particular photo.

 

Large Group at Gwernyfed Hall
Above: Photo 5 – A large group assembled around the steps at the back of what was thought to be Gwernyfed Hall. The problem with this photo is that the large bay window behind the assembly has five front panes flanked by two side panes, but the front of Gwernyfed as pictured has bays with three front panes and two side panes. This may nonetheless have been at the rear of the Hall. In the picture, there are some very fashionably dressed ladies, and one or two children, and most of the gentlemen are wearing a 'favour' in the lapel, thus giving a connection to the small group photograph No 4 above. Again, the photographer is J.Clark. The group was evidently too large for all to be included in the picture.

There is thus a strong link between the two group photographs, but without having seen all round the exterior of the house, the question remains as to whether the scene is at the rear of Gwernyfed Hall or at another large local property.

Whilst the two group photographs are strongly linked, there is as yet no answer as to the occasion or purpose of the assemblies except that they may have a scouting connection. There is a story that Lord Baden-Powell visited Gwernyfed Hall (date unknown), and we were told there may be information about this on the Old Hay website, under 'villages'.

Addendum