Behind the Folk Tale: The Maid of Cefn Ydfa.

The Ruins of Cefn Ydfa Farm House

Many of you will have heard of the story of The Maid of Cefn Ydfa. It is a story that has been passed down and altered from generation to generation but who were the real people behind this folktale?

The eldest child of Diana Thomas (nee Harry) and Hopkin Thomas, Will Hopkin was baptised at Llangynwyd on the 24th of November 1700. He had two brothers: Jenkin Hopkin born in 1703 and Thomas Hopkin born in 1706.

The parish record entry for the birth of William Hopkin.

A year after the birth of his brother, Thomas, William's father Hopkin died aged 37 years.

Not very much is known about Will Hopkin. The only proof we have that he could write can be found on a lease for 'Gwaun y Llan' in the village of Llangynwyd. Will signed his name at the bottom of the lease. It would seem that his mother, Diana was unable to write as she signed the document with her 'mark.' William's brother Jenkin is also mentioned but couldn't sign as he was too young to sign the document.

The signature of William Hopkin

The lease dated the 25th of March 1722, is the only known home of Diana Thomas, William and Jenkin Hopkin. The property is described as "a house, smith's forge ad croft' were 'adjoyning and lyeing neare the church of Langonwyd with approximately 8 acres of meadow.'"

Sometime after 1842, it is thought that Gwaun y Llan was demolished to extend the churchyard of Llangynwyd.

William Hopkin was buried in the same grave as his father on 1741. His brother Jenkin died a year previous to William in 1740. The parish record entries for both deaths describe them as 'paupers'. Diana, their mother was also listed as a pauper at the time of her death in 1756.

William Thomas married Catherine Price of Tyla Coch Farm on the 30th of March 1703.  Catherine was the sister of the infamous Rice Price of Tynton and the aunt of Dr. Richard Price. Their eldest child Ann Thomas was baptised on the 8th of May 1704.

The parish record entry for the birth of Ann Thomas.

William Thomas was buried on the 14th of December 1706. His Will makes for interesting reading.

“I give and bequeath my only son William Thomas the sum of one pound to be pd when he comes of age of one and twenty to be paid by an executrix hereafter named.” (Within a few days of his death, his son William who was only a two weeks old died and was buried with him.)

“I give unto my only daughter Anne Thomas my best brazen pan and crock, with a good new feather bed, and bed cloths. I give my sd daughter Anne the sum of fifty pounds in money to be improved and bear use for her from the day of my decease.” 

His will states that he appointed his brother in law, Rice Price and his special friend Richard Price (who was his nephew) to be “guardians on my poor fatherless children.” 

The rest of his personal estate was left to his “loving wife Kate Price.” He goes on to say that she is to maintain their children with “meat, drink and apparel and all other decencies.” 

An extract from the Inventory included in the Will of William Thomas.

After the death of her daughter in 1727, Anthony Maddocks remarried and Catherine was ejected from Cefn Ydfa. We know that by 1735 she was living at a residence in Newcastle in Bridgend. A year earlier, Catherine signed her name as 'Cate Thomas' on the marriage portion of her sister Anne Price.

Although her signature is some what crude, it shows that by that time Catherine had learned at least to write her name.

The next document that we have for Catherine Thomas dates from 1741 but refers to a period when she was involved in land/property transactions with her sister Jennet in 1735.

Catherine died sometime between June 1751 and July 1752. Her burial place remains unknown and there is no record of her death in either Newcastle or Llangynwyd Parish Records.

It is thought that she was buried at the Old Meeting House, Newcastle Hill but we cannot be certain. Reading Catherine's will, it seems that she had little of her former wealth and close family.

"I give and bequeath unto my nephew the said Samuel Price one large table and one cupboard formerly my father's of Tila Goch."

“I give and bequeath unto Samuel Price and William David of Bridgend five pounds in trust for the use of the poor members of the congregation meeting at City and Bridgend.”

“I bequeath unto ye said Samuel Price and Thomas David five pounds in trust towards repairing the walls of the burying place at Newcastle adjoining the meeting houses at City and Bridgend.”

As mentioned above, Ann Thomas was baptised on the 8th of May 1704. With the death of her father and younger brother, Ann became the sole heiress to the Cefn Ydfa Estate. Nothing is known about Ann's upbringing other than unlike her mother, she learned to write.

Anthony Maddocks Jnr was the eldest son of Anthony Maddocks Snr and Anne Llewellyn of Cwm yr Isca Farm. One of nine siblings, Anthony was baptised on the 16th of October 1695.

Anthony Maddocks Snr was the solicitor and advisor for the Prices of Tynton and the Thomases of Cefn Ydfa. His son Anthony Maddocks Jnr followed in his father's footsteps becoming a solicitor and advisor for a majority of the aristocracy in the Glamorgan area.

The first mention of both Ann Thomas and Anthony Maddocks Jnr is found in the form of their marriage settlement. Dated the 3rd of May 1725, the document details the 'terms and conditions' of their marriage.

This included:

  • A payment of £500 by Ann and Catherine Thomas to Anthony Maddocks Jnr. 
  • A payment of £20 per year to Catherine Thomas (in four quarterly payments) 
  • Transfer of lands to Rice Price and William Edmunds. 

A description of Cefn Ydfa Estate is also given:

"One bakehouse, one barn, cowhouse, two orchards, one garden, and tenements of land by the estimation of fifty acres, commonly called and known by the name of Kefn y Gnydfa." 

The marriage settlement was signed by

  • Ann Thomas, Anthony Maddocks – The mark of Catherine Thomas was given.
  • Thomas Powell, William Maddocks, and Thomas Lewis.

The marriage of Ann Thomas and Anthony Maddocks Jnr took place at Llangynwyd Parish Church on the 4th of May 1725.

Ann Maddocks was buried on 16th of June 1727. She was buried with her father and brother in the chancel of Llangynwyd Parish Church.

The parish record entry for the burial of Ann Maddocks.

According to Caroline E Williams, a descendant of Ann Maddocks, Ann died as a result of child birth. An entry in the parish records for Llangynwyd shows an entry for a Catherine Maddocks, daughter of Anthony Maddocks and Ann Maddocks who was buried on the 28th of May 1727.

(This was just two weeks before the death of Ann Maddocks of Cefn Ydfa.)

Others suggest that Ann died of Smallpox or perhaps Typhus which were both rampant in Wales during the period 1727 – 1730.

Just seven months after the death of his first wife, Anthony Maddocks Jnr married Elizabeth Thomas of Laleston. Elizabeth was the daughter of Dr. Thomas and Jane Thomas of The Great House, Laleston.

The 'Cefn Ydfa' Portrait - The handwriting of Anthony Maddocks Jnr.

(Source: G.V Hill - NLW - NMW - Find My Past) 

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