Revd Augustus Morgan and Frances Morgan
All three monuments on the north wall of the chapel are dedicated to the memory of the Reverend Charles Augustus Samuel Morgan and his much-loved wife, Frances who was his second cousin. Augustus always affectionately referred to Frances as “Fanny”.
Confusingly his parents, Sir Charles (Gould) Morgan 2nd Baronet and his wife Mary, had chosen to give three of their sons the same name “Charles”, so he was always known by his middle name, “Augustus”
She was the second daughter of Rowley Lascelles, a nephew of Edward, 1st Earl of Harewood, of Harewood House Yorkshire. The couple married on the 20th April 1837 at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, London by the Hon. and Very Rev. the Dean of Gloucester. Unfortunately, they did not have any children.
Each of the two memorial tablets, by Gaffin of London, comprise a black slate backing slab; the white statuary marble plaques have the dedication picked out in black. They display the armorial shield of the Gould Morgan and Lascelles families with a gold stag’s head crest above. The Gould arms on the Morgan side, are depicted with azure blue roses and chevron. on their hatchments. On their hatchments in the nave, a darker shade of paint or varnish makes the arms appear to be black.
The memorials are inscribed as follows-
IN MEMORY OF
DAUGHTER OF THE LATE ROWLEY LASCELLES ESQR
THE BELOVED WIFE OF THE REVD AUGUSTUS MORGAN
CHANCELLOR OF LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL
DIED AT MACHEN RECTORY UNIVERSALLY ESTEEMED AND REGRETTED
FEBRUARY 16TH 1867
IN THE 67TH YEAR OF HER AGE
THIS TABLET IS ERECTED
AS THE LAST SAD TRIBUTE OF AFFECTION
BY HER SORROWING AND DEVOTED HUSBAND
THE REV CHARLES AUGUSTUS SAMUEL MORGAN
CHAPLAIN IN ORDINARY TO THE QUEEN
CHANCELLOR OF THE CATHEDRAL OF LLANDAFF
AND RECTOR OF THE PARISH OF MACHEN FOR 42 YEARS
HE WAS THE THIRD SON OF CHARLES MORGAN BART.
OF TREDEGAR IN THIS COUNTY AND WAS BORN 2ND SEPTEMBER 1800
IN 1814 HE ENTERED THE ROYAL NAVY AS A MIDSHIPMAN
AND QUITTED THE SERVICE IN 1819
IN 1821 HE MATRICULATED AT CH CH (CHRIST CHURCH) OXFORD
GRADUATED IN 1826
HE WAS ORDAINED DEACON IN 1825
PRIEST IN 1826 AND IN 1831 HE WAS INDUCTED TO THE
RECTORY OF MACHEN WHICH CURE HE RESIGNED IN 1873
IN 1837 HE MARRIED FRANCES
SECOND DAUGHTER OF ROWLEY LASCELLES ESQR
AND DIED THE 5TH SEPTEMBER 1875 AGED 75
RESPECTED AND BELOVED BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM
The third monument, beautifully carved by Gaffin is a marble scroll on a slate backing panel, with a small painted and gilded armorial shield depicting the Gould, Morgan and Lascelles arms. The inscription is a sad poem to Frances poignantly written by her loving husband Reverend Augustus Morgan, Rector of Machen, after her death.
These three memorial plaques tell us so much about Frances and Augustus, their achievements in life, and how much they cared for each other. Augustus’s poem shows his love for “Fanny”, but the couple also had a great affection for the people served by his ministry, working tirelessly to improve their lives.
They were very active in Monmouthshire Society as would be expected for the son of a Baronet, but they were also extremely involved in all aspects of village life and regularly supported local events and concerts.
Newspaper reports from the time show Augustus to be a successful exhibitor at agricultural shows and regularly won prizes for his North Devon cattle. His agricultural interests went well beyond just cattle and he successfully showed his sheep and pigs. He sponsored show prizes and even won his own cup for the best breeding sow and litter of pigs at the Tredegar Cattle Show on Saturday 20th December 1851.
Frances was a great lover of gardening and was instrumental in creating the first annual show of the Machen Horticultural Society on Thursday 21st July 1853 which took place in the Lower Machen schoolroom and tents in the field behind the school premises. The Monmouthshire Merlin reported extensively on the event giving credit for “its origin to the kind-heartedness and sympathy with their humbler fellow-creatures, of the esteemed and benevolent rector, the Rev. Augustus Morgan, and his amiable lady”.
The Society with Frances’ patronage, within just two months of its creation, had made an impact on the village, which the same newspaper article reflected that many who witnessed the first exhibition would have thought ” Approaching that lovely and picturesque village, one beheld on either hand, evidences that the formation of this society, had been of utility, and productive of a sweet reward for garden cultivation to the cottager and his family. Small gardens in front of thatched cottages, exhibited ….. a new sense of the beautiful and ornamental…”
Augustus was made curate in Machen in 1828. Before coming to Machen to live in 1831 he would have walked or ridden up from Tredegar House for Sunday services and at other times to meet families at weddings and funerals. He was inducted as Rector in 1831 when there were three public houses in the village, but he soon had them removed from the neighbourhood of the vicarage.
Between 1831 and 1835 he had the old vicarage rebuilt and laid out the gardens. The South Wales Daily News later reported that this was “one of the prettiest spots in the world, indeed, Machen village is a little paradise the grounds before the vicarage are beautiful, and the gardens are excellent.” The grounds included a maze and kitchen garden, where Frances is reported to have spent much of her time, often in the company of her older sister, Anna Lascelles. When Augustus left his ministry in 1873 the house became his personal property, as a new vicarage was built In Upper Machen, at the cost of the Tredegar family, and this has been given to the parish in place of the old Vicarage. After his death, two years later the house reverted to the Tredegar Estate.
Today the vicarage is known as Machen House and is Grade ll* listed. The gardens are also listed as Grade ll on the CADW Register of Parks and Gardens in Wales. Machen House and gardens are privately owned and are not open to the public.
Machen House is not the only significant building that is a legacy of Augustus’ time in Machen. Just across the road from St Michael’s Church is the Grade II listed Parkfield House, with its unusual design mixing simple Tudor to Gothic detail with Italianate hipped roofs and windows.
Now a private house the building is the former Lower Machen National School which the Revd Morgan established in 1834. He was a key social reformer in the nineteenth century, providing for children whose families could not afford to pay for their education and compiling the parish censuses for 1839, & 1844. When he produced the 1853 census, with the help of the curate, Revd. Howell Williams, they listed all the children in the school and the occupations of their fathers, adding valuable details to the history of Machen.
He was involved in the creation of schools in many communities, including in 1850 at Coed Waunfawr near the Blackvein Colliery, Risca at the extreme edge of the then much larger Parish of Machen. His involvement in education continued throughout his life as can be seen from one of his return visits to Waunfawr Infant School on 19th April 1870 which the Monmouthshire Merlin reported-
“On Tuesday…. over fifty children who attend the school, were, through the kindness of the rector of the parish, the Rev. Augustus Morgan, sumptuously regaled with tea and plum cake. The children assembled about three o’clock and amused themselves at various games until tea was announced. Having done due justice both to the cake and the refreshing beverage, suitable presents, in the shape of toys, were given to the children. After singing several sweet pieces and giving three hearty cheers for their kind benefactor, and the friends who had enabled them to pass so pleasant an afternoon, buns were distributed amongst them, and they returned to their homes apparently highly delighted with their treat.”
Perhaps Augustus’ greatest legacy to the village was achieved on Thursday 13th September 1855 with the opening and consecration of the new St John the Baptist church to serve the rapidly increasing population of Upper Machen. He was aware that by 1853 industrialisation had made Machen a very busy place with its tinplate works, colliery, fulling mill, lead mine, quarry (funded and run by the Rector) and the Rhymney Railway which was being developed.
The 1853 census was prepared in May and it revealed that Upper Machen had a population of 1213 (roughly half of what it is now). Their attendance at church services meant folk were required to walk to Lower Machen, one and a half miles away in all weather conditions so it was apparent that a new church, serving as a chapel-of-ease would be required.
So in 1854, the Rector opened a subscription list and soon had over £1,000; £400 was donated by Edward Buller, proprietor of Machen Colliery. The Rector’s brother, Sir Charles Morgan, gave the land on which the church is built and the church, designed by the Tredegar Estate’s architects, W. G. & E. Habershon, was built by Edey & Basford of St Neots and Mr Knight of Exeter.
The foundation stone was laid on 24th June 1854 by the Rector’s wife, Frances; the ceremony was attended by a great assembly of dignitaries and local people. The Rector had even hired “one of Mr Phillip’s omnibuses to bring a goodly party of ladies and gentlemen” from Newport.
Remarkably the building was completed and ready for use in September 1855, even though work had been delayed in February 1855 when a severe frost meant the River Rhymney froze over and villagers indulged in country dancing on the ice!
The Monmouthshire Merlin report of the consecration ceremony included “The new and elegant church, erected on a very eligible site, just below the shadows of the Machen mountain, and within easy access to the large population drawn together by the important works in the upper part of the parish, was opened and consecrated for divine worship, by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, assisted by his Lordship’s Chaplain the Rev. Augustus Morgan, Chancellor and Rector”.
The press report noted among those attending were Sir Charles and Lady Morgan, Miss and Master Arthur Morgan of Tredegar House, the Lord Bishop and Mrs Oliphant, of Llandaff, Octavius Morgan, Esq., M.P., and numerous other dignitaries.
The inscription on Augustus’s memorial tablet records some of his many achievements from the age of 14 when he served as a Royal Navy midshipman before attending Christ Church, Oxford, to graduate with an M.A and then pursuing his vocation in the Church. This continued for 47 years from when he was ordained Deacon in 1825 until his retirement in 1873.
In August 1830, Augustus became an honorary Chaplain in Ordinary to King William IV; this impressive-sounding position did not require him to carry out any formal duties apart from preaching once a year in the Chapel Royal. This was a role he also fulfilled to Queen Victoria. He was also Chancellor of Llandaff Cathedral where he would have been involved in many of the Cathedral’s activities. He had a broad brief, mainly in the areas of pastoral care and engaging with communities, roles he was made for.
While his wealthy family background and his status as Rector and Chancellor made Augustus an important person in the County there can be no doubt that he and Frances were much respected and loved by all the people of Machen and the other villages in the parish.
Not only was Frances’s death at Machen House on 16th February 1867, aged 66, a bitter blow for Augustus, it deeply saddened all those who know her. It would seem that she did not enjoy the best of health in later life and her death was not unexpected.
Just twenty days before she passed away there had been the funeral at St Michael’s of Rifleman Sgt. William Harris, of the Pontymister Corps. The usual military honour of firing over the grave of the deceased was dispensed with to respect the illness “of the lady of the Rev. Augustus Morgan”, who lay just 50 yards away at Machen House (Cardiff Times – 2nd February 1867).
To know and understand Frances as a person perhaps we can do no better than quote from the Monmouthshire Merlin 23rd February 1867 –
“While naturally, the bereavement will be keenly felt by the House of Tredegar, and their grief be sincerely shared by a large circle of friends, the removal of Mrs Morgan will also cast a thick gloom over the neighbourhood of Machen, and create a void which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill. To the humbler classes of the community, Mrs Morgan was not only a benefactress but, in the truest sense of the word, a friend. She was not only ever accessible, but pre-eminently one of those who sought out the needy and the distressed.
Uniformly affable, of kindly disposition, with a hand as liberal as her sympathies were large, it may truly be said that she was a constant imitator of Him who went about doing good. And while attentive to the physical wants of the mere humble of the parishioners, she ever manifested an earnest solicitude for their social, moral, and religious improvement.
Constant in her visits to their own homes, she gained their confidence and affection, by making herself a participant of their domestic joys or sorrows, and so became the better qualified for imparting useful lessons and wise counsels, and at the same time more fully ensured the success of her efforts to secure their social improvement and moral elevation.
But for her no written panegyric (eulogy) is needed her untiring and disinterested acts of benefactness secured for her the reverence and love of all to whom they were known-rich and poor, and her memory will not only be enshrined in the hearts of those to whom she was ever a kind benefactress, but the recital of her good deeds will descend to many generations. Being dead ‘she will yet speak’.”
Augustus survived his beloved wife for over eight years. He died on 5th September 1875 just three days after his 75th birthday. He had given most of his life to serving the people of Machen, first as their curate and then as their Rector. He looked after their spiritual well-being but ably assisted by his wife, he sought to improve their social needs and made sure their children were educated. His caring manner and innovations made a difference to people’s lives and his loss was sorely felt in Machen as the South Wales Daily News reported on 11th September 1875 after his funeral-
“Machen has been in mourning all this week and the bell has been tolling every day since Sunday, when the Rev AS Morgan, the rector died. And this is not to be wondered at as he has been here for more than 47 years and has done a great deal of good, particularly from a sanitary point of view. He would have everything kept in good order and whatever was being done was done well.…..
Yesterday the whole place was astir, and every grade of the population wending their way to the village to see the funeral of the late Rector. There were hundreds of spectators present, many of them weeping, especially the old people about the village and Draethen.
The funeral procession reached Bassalleg about 3.40 p.m. Many people were there waiting and everyone saying what he remembered of the late rev. gentleman, one expatiating on his beauty as a young man, and another upon his faithfulness to his duties…….. The service was read by Rev. J. C. S. Darby, the late Rector’s successor to the living. After the service, the coffin was removed by the bearers, …., to the vault, and the body was placed by the side of Lady Morgan, there to rest till the trumpet will sound on the resurrection morn.”
Apart from the one portrait of Augustus as a 14-year-old in his naval uniform, we do not have an image of him or Frances. It is a shame that the public memorial in Machen which was being contemplated to perpetuate his memory seems to have come to nothing. Three years after his death the Western Mail printed a letter in support of the memorial which included-
“The late Mr Morgan undoubtedly was the greatest benefactor Machen ever had. He was a gentleman of excellent part and refined taste and through his influence, Machen became a model parish, everything was kept in strict order and neatness and the inhabitants were supplied with pure water at his expense. He was a warm patron of the reading room and education. I have before me a balance sheet of what he paid himself for supporting five schools in this parish, which amounted to several hundred pounds a year, a rare thing in our days. The parishioners of Machen miss him; the schools, reading-room, and the roads and paths prove that he is gone and this place knows him no more.”
A fitting tribute to a truly remarkable man.