The Gwillym (Gwillim, Guillim, Guillym, Gwyllim) family history

The Atherton connection

Robert Gwillym the younger married Elizabeth Atherton in 1738.   Langstone was settled on them at their marriage.   But by 1740 he is described as having moved to Leigh in Lancashire: and by 1748 he and Elizabeth had moved to Atherton Hall.

Their second son, Robert Vernon Gwillym (born in 1742?), matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, on 19 June 1758 (aged 16) i and in 1763 married Henrietta Maria Legh, the eldest daughter and co-heir of Peter Legh of Lyme, a large landowner in Cheshire.   He was MP for Newton in Lancashire from 1774-80 but seldom attended the House.   He assumed the name and arms of Atherton in 1779 and died in France on 9 July 1783.  ii   Hodgkinson says that “The Athertons, Leghs and Gwillyms were strong supporters of the Jacobite cause, though rarely if ever backing their convictions with force of arms.”  iii Another son, William Atherton Gwyllym of Atherton, matriculated at Brasenose on 22 March 1763, aged 18. iv

The son and heir of Robert Vernon and Henrietta, Atherton Legh Atherton, died in France in 1789. v

In 1736 Robert Gwillym, described as “the elder of the City of Hereford” to distinguish him from his son, took out a deed of mortgage on Langstone for £1,000.   The mortgage increased to £3,000 by 1770 and £4,000 in 1782. vi  When Henrietta Maria Atherton (Robert's great grand-daughter) inherited Atherton in 1789 there were “huge debts of £15,500 which had burdened the family for fifty years.”   Richard Hodgkinson, her estate manager, discovered that her “grandfather, 'old Mr Gwillym', had also been no stranger to debt, and in [1747] had acquired an Act of Parliament that enabled him to raise funds by selling his Herefordshire estate.   Not all of that estate had been disposed of and Hodgkinson advised Henrietta to revive the old Act and sell off the remaining lands.”  vii   The sale fetched £20,145.

Hodgkinson visited Langston in 1794 and 1795.   On his second visit he goes into a remarkable soliloquy about the lessons that the deserted house could offer the young Miss Atherton as well as himself (see here).

Walter Green, who did the survey of Langstone in 1759, also did a survey of Bernithan in 1780. viii  It seems likely that a monument on the south wall of the choir in St Deinst's remembers him:
Near this Place lies the Remains of WALTER GREEN late of Kilrege who departed this Life Janry 26th 1796 Aged 76 Years Also of CATHARINE his Wife who departed this Life April 23d 1796 Aged 80 Years.

Kilrege, also Kilreege, now Kilreague, is a farm in Llangarron which had belonged to Edward Rawlyns whose sister Margaret married Thomas Guillym when he settled here.

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     i  (return to text)
     ii  (return to text)
     iii   Wood, F. and K. ed., A Lancashire Gentleman: The Letters and Journals of Richard Hodgkinson 1763-1847, Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Stroud,1992, page 16   (return to text)
     iv  (return to text)
     v    Wood, 1992, page 16   (return to text)
     vi   Cornforth, 1967  (return to text)
     vii   Wood, 1992, page 58; but see also page 17.   The 1747 date is also attested in Robertson, 2009, page 314 in connection with the sale of Walford Court   (return to text)
     viii   Cornforth, 1967 and Mowl and Bradney, 2012, pages 74-75.   The date of the Langstone survey is unclear: Cornforth reads it as 1759; Mowl and Bradney as 1758.   (return to text)