The Life of Miss Caroline Elizabeth Williams.

Photograph of Caroline Elizabeth Williams.

Caroline Elizabeth Williams was the sister of Morgan Williams of Killay House, the sister of Arthur Williams MP for South Glamorgan and the niece of Walter Coffin III. She was a descendant of Dr. Richard Price and William Morgan FRS the inventor of the first X-Ray tube.

Described as a 'radical', her liberal mind and passion for the advancement of women was next to none known in Wales at that time. Throughout her long life, she worked hard and did much to better the education for women. It is noted that she never hesitated or swerved from expressing her opinions and did all in her power to put her views into practice.

Unfortunately, although Caroline published a book 'A Welsh Family from the Beginning of the 18th Century' detailing the history of her family, not much is known about Caroline's life as she neglected to detail any information about herself.

The following information has been drawn together from various certificates, newspaper articles, and various books.

Caroline Elizabeth Williams was the first-born child of Dr. John Morgan Williams and Caroline Whitesmith of Newcastle Hill. She was baptised at St. Illtyd's Church, Newcastle Hill, on 16th December of 1823 but was not registered as born until January 1824.

Shortly after the 'failure of the bank' in 1825, Dr. Williams and his wife moved to London with the hope of pursuing his profession as a surgeon. They settled on the North side of London and took a house at Stoke Newington, near Stamford Hill where an uncle of Dr. Williams' lived. It was at Stoke Newington that five of Caroline's siblings were born.

During Caroline's time in London, her the family lived in a street near one of the hospitals in which its patients were ravaged by Cholera Morbus. Caroline notes that at that the height of the disease she was visiting her mother's family and friends in Yorkshire. Her letters to her father refer to Cholera as “that terrible thing”. She writes “it is very bad in Bradford”.. “but there is no wonder, for there is a canal there, and they throw everything into it”.

In 1834 the Cholera epidemic had arrived at Bridgend.  It is well known that most of the inhabitants of Angeltown, Bridgend (now the site of Glanrhyd) were “carried” away by what Caroline Williams describes as “the pestilence”.

By this time, the Williams family had relocated back to their native town so that Dr. Williams could resume the practice of his profession. It is written that Dr. Williams' services were greatly requested as it was known that he had first-hand experience of this disease while he was in London. It was during this year that Caroline's mother gave birth to a son at Bridgend. She later gave birth to two girls at Bridgend, one in 1837 and the other in 1839.

Sometime during 1837, Caroline's Uncle, Richard Williams, who was a keen supporter of the educational advancement of women, paid for his niece (Caroline) to be educated at Mrs. Carpenter's Boarding School for Young Ladies, Bristol. The school was run by Mrs. Carpenter and her daughter Mary Carpenter the infamous social reformer and supporter of Women's Suffrage.

The 1841 Census tells us that Caroline, then aged 17 was living in a house on the East side of Newcastle Hill (thought to have been opposite the Horse and Groom Inn). She lived there with her parents and eight siblings.

Three years later in, 1845 Caroline's mother passed away at the age of 48. Native of Yorkshire, she died at Bridgend and had been married to Dr. Williams for 23 years. Dr. Williams continued to live at the cottage on Newcastle Hill until his death in March 1866.

Shortly before the death of her mother, Caroline was invited to Llandaff Court to live with her relatives the Coffin's who relocated there after the death of Walter Coffin II in 1815. Caroline was taken under the wing of Mrs. Coffin, who with no grandchildren herself, fell to her sister's grandchildren.

“It was the privilege of these young people... to be thrown into the society of their cousins at Llandaff. To be with them was a liberal education. " 
- Caroline E Williams, 1893.

Furthur census' and registers give us the following information:

  • At the time of the 1851 Census, Caroline was a visiting her aunt Sarah Rowlands at Glyn Clydach, Neath. 
  • The 1861 Census tells us that Caroline was a lodger at a house in Edward Street, Llandaff.  Her occupation is described as 'Independent'. 
  • The Principal Registry, dated 13th April 1866, tells us that on the death her father, Caroline was living with her Uncle Walter Coffin. at 47 Prince's Gate, Kensington and is noted as a spinster. 
  • The 1871 Census tells us that Caroline, aged 47 was staying at Bloomfield House, Sketty. It seems that she was living with her brother Leonard and his family.
  • The 1881 Census tells us that Caroline was living at 4 Vicarage Gate with her niece, nephew, and five servants.  The niece and nephew were the children of her brother Morgan Williams who returned, with his children from Russia after the death of his wife.

After the death of her uncle Walter Coffin III, Caroline Williams inherited a majority of The Dinas Estate including the Colliery.

1892 saw Caroline give instructions that a Reading Room and Workmen's Institute were to be built on a site below Old Dinas House. She paid for this via her own means and it is recorded that she felt that it was her duty to provide the inhabitants of the area with such institutions.  Along with this, she spent large sums of money on laying and making good roads throughout the Dinas Estate.

Dinas Institute was completed in 1893. The building cost £1700, contained a 250 seated hall and a library with both men's and women's reading rooms. 

Architectural drawing of Aberdare Hall, Cardiff, 1897

Caroline Elizabeth Williams and Aberdare Hall 

Aberdare Hall was established in 1883 by Lady Aberdare to  promote women's education in Wales.

An article published (1890) in the South Wales Daily News tells of how Caroline Williams paid the sum of £1000 to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire in trust that the money would be devoted to the foundation of scholarships, tenable by girl/women students who resided/would reside at Aberdare Hall. 

The Scholarship became known as the Caroline Williams Scholarship and was the first Scholarship for women ever given at a Welsh University College. 

Caroline was one of the founders and directors of the Women's Printing Society, Westminster. She published both of her books with the society: 'A Welsh Family from the Beginning of the 18th Century' - published in 1893. The second of her books detailed the historic buildings of Bridgend but is now out of print and virtually untraceable. 

In November 1897, Caroline was nominated for the position of President of Governors of Aberdare Hall, Cardiff. Caroline Williams was later elected as the president of the Governors of Aberdare Hall, Cardiff. She succeeded the founder of Aberdare Hall, Lady Aberdare who died in 1897.

In 1900, along with other governors she supported the movement for raising a memorial to Alfred Hughes. This memorial was in the form of a proposed Anatomical Museum at Cardiff. 

For reasons unnoted, Caroline Williams resigned as President in December 1902. Regarding her resignation The Western Mail reports: "her generous support of the hall since it's formation and her unfailing interest in its welfare marked her on as the fitting successor of the first President, Lady Aberdare." 

On her death, Caroline Williams bequeathed £800 to Aberdare Hall, Cardiff, upon trust for a Catherine Buckton Scholarship. So named after her sister Catherine Buckton, who was a teacher and lecturer in Leeds.  

On 13th of January 1908, Caroline Elizabeth Williams died suddenly at the age of 84. Caroline was living at 4 Vicarage Gate, Kensington. At the time of her death, Caroline was one of many subscribers to the new college buildings being erected at Cathays Park.

At her death, Caroline left substantial money to various educational charities and Women's Suffrage Causes.

These included:
  • £800 to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire for the establishment of  a School of Mining. 
  • £800 to Aberdare Hall, Cardiff, upon trust for a Catherine Buckton Scholarship.
  • £100 to the promotion of the cause of Women's Sufferage. 
  • £450 to her five servants.

She was cremated and her ashes were placed in the Unitarian Chapel at Park Street, Bridgend - The Unitarian Chapel was founded by Rice Price who was the father of Dr. Richard Price and an ancestor of Caroline Williams and Walter Coffin. 

(Sources: Caroline E Williams - Dr. Randall - NLW - Bridgend 900)


  1. A distant cousin of mine. Caroline's family history book was a great source of knowledge. She was an amazing woman.

  2. What a great 'story' - thanks for sharing. I must go look up my Bridgend ancestors and see if any may have crossed her path.


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