Research Blog: Volunteer archivist

A copy of Lady Cecil's will

Over the passed few months our volunteer archivist, Caroline Wright, has been beavering away to try and unearth some of the stories that have been lost over the centuries. Follow her journey and get in touch if you have a story to share.

January: Who is Lady Cecil?

This year as part of Power of Women, Dinefwr Park is celebrating the life of Lady Cecil Rice.  Lady Cecil was the only child of Lord (later Earl) Talbot of Hensol and his wife the heiress Mary de Cardonnel  was born in 1735. Her father`s scandalous infidelities led to her parent`s separation in 1742 and it is believed that Cecil spent her childhood with her mother in Barrington Park in Gloucestershire. She would have seen her mother develop Barrington Park which may have influenced Cecil in the possibilities in developing Dinefwr Park..

Lady Cecil moved to Dinefwr Park at age 21 when she married George Rice on 16th August 1756. Georg Rice was a Member of Parliament for Carmarthenshire between 1775 and 1779 and Lord Lieutenant of Carmarthenshire between 1755 to 1779.  Lady Cecil and George went on to have six children. Lady Cecil took over the running of Dinefwr Park and Newton house when George Rice died in 1779 and she managed the estate until her death in 1793.

February: Servants and charity.

Some interesting information on the life of the servants during Lady Cecil`s time has been recorded in the Carmarthenshire Historian publication “the Household Accounts of an 18th Century Mansion” extracts from family papers.  The extract colourfully tells us all about the activities on the farm and the women who followed the occupations of washing, ironing and work in the house.  

Lady Cecil gave to the poor and needy e.g to William Pogson – a pair of shoes 5/6, hat 8/-. William David had 5/- towards burying his son. Wages at the time were paid according to the status of the job. The most important was the housekeep who was paid £12 per annum , a kitchen maid was paid 18d per week and the steward and bailiff who was responsible for supervising household expenses and the affairs of the farm was paid7/-. Lady Cecil was an amateur farmer which we think developed during her early life and had in her own charge 20”Weathers” which cost £8-5-0. A ferret bought for 10/6. She appears to have been quite a colourful character. A very interesting read.

March: London home

We know that the family did not spend all their time in Dinefwr Park and spent some time in London but where?   One of the Dynevor staff understood that that the family was connected to St Marys Parish in London. Checking online it seems that most Parish records have now been transferred on to the websites. So paying for access for a limited time I tried various permutations of Lady Cecil `s name and relations and finally found records of land tax that Lady Cecil paid in 1791 and 1792 in Marylebone of £3.4s.7d per year. What was Marylebone like at that time?        ..

At the start of the 18th century, Marylebone was still a quiet country village. A plan dating from 1708 shows a small number of houses dotted along the high street, beyond which lie open fields. However during the 18th Century there was much development and tall Georgian houses began to emerge along the wide roads of Harley Street ,Portland Place and Wimpole Street but the rapid development meant that by 1799 virtually the whole from Oxford Street to Marylebone Road was covered by houses  and became home to the city`s wealthy elite. So we can assume that Lady Cecil rented or bought one of these new developments.