Tuesday, 19 February 2013

(1) Abadam of Middleton Hall

Abadam arms
Edward Hamlin Adams (1777-1842), a West India merchant and banker, who came from a planting family settled in Barbados since the 17th century, but who ‘made his own fortune from a variety of business ventures, some of a questionable nature’, purchased the Middleton Hall estate from the executors of Sir William Paxton, kt. in 1824. He was a testy and litigious man, described by his granddaughter, the novelist Vernon Lee, as ‘extremely doctrinaire and moral, an ardent Voltairian, who spent much of his time disputing with the local parsons and refusing to pay tithes’. The estate was a focus for disturbances during the Rebecca riots of 1839-43, and the Lord Nelson inn at Porthrhyd (Carmarthens) which they owned was attacked in 1843. Adams' son Edward (1809-75), who changed his name to Abadam, seems to have inherited many of his father’s more disagreeable qualities. He was an obstinate man, who dissipated the family fortune in an unsuccessful attempt (before the Master of the Rolls, 1853-63) to have his younger brother William’s children declared illegitimate, and left his siblings financially embarrassed. At his death, the estate passed to his daughter Lucy and her husband and then to her sister Adah, widow of J. W. Hughes. Their son, William John Hamlin Hughes, sold the estate in 1919 to Col. W. N. Jones, JP, of Dyffryn, Ammanford. The house was accidentally burnt in 1931 and the ruins demolished in 1954, although some outbuildings survive as part of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which now occupies the site.

Middleton Hall (Carmarthenshire)

The Middleton family, possibly descended from the Myddletons of Chirk Castle, had a house here in the early 17th century.  It was sold in 1784 to Sir William Paxton (1744-1824), who had made a fortune in the service of the East India Company, and who employed S.P. Cockerell to build a replacement house on a new site 500 yards to the west in 1793-95. 

Middleton Hall: the Palladian garden front in 1900.

Paxton's new house is very different from the Indian fantasy which Cockerell was to create for another nabob, his cousin Charles Cockerell, at Sezincote. The garden front is for its date an unusually pure Palladian design, with a pedimented giant Ionic portico and three Palladian windows on the ground floor, echoing elements of Lord Burlington's villa at Chiswick. The seven bay entrance front is more innovative and more mannered, with the central stone stairs breaking through the line of the front wall between columns with deep bands of icicle-work, under an arch framed with cornucopias spilling flowers and fruit onto the outer cornices.

Middleton Hall: the entrance front, depicted in a print of 1853.

The interior introduced a more contemporary neo-classical style, with varied room shapes including an apsed staircase hall set at right-angles to the the entrance hall and a round bedroom over the entrance hall. The entrance hall itself had Classical trophies of arms in plaster on the walls and giant fluted pilasters, while the dining room had neo-classical arcading with antique-style grisaille panels.

Middleton Hall: the dining room, from a Victorian photograph

The grounds were landscaped at much the same time as the house was built to the designs of Samuel Lapidge, and a series of watercolours by Thomas Hornor was commissioned in 1814 to record the grounds once they had grown into maturity.  Hornor's views show an eminently picturesque, almost gardenesque, layout. 

Middleton Hall: a view of the grounds by Thomas Hornor, 1814.

The house stood on an eminence looking down over a chain of lakes to the west and south. To its north was a detached service block (which survives as Principality House) and further north was a large stable court, also by Cockerell except for the rear range, which was built after 1824. To the north-west are the very large walled gardens which helped to make the site suitable for its current use as the National Botanic Garden of Wales. The house itself was burnt down in 1931 (it is said that leaves in the lake from which firemen drew water clogged their hoses and prevented the body of the house being saved, although the outbuildings were spared destruction); the ruins were demolished in 1954. The park was then acquired as smallholdings land by the County Council and subdivided. The National Botanic Garden was created in 1996-2000 with some £44m of Lottery and other funding, and has allowed the rescue of the surviving buildings and garden features and the restoration of the designed landscape.  Various new buildings have been erected around the site, including the Great Glasshouse by Norman Foster & Partners, built in 1997-99.
Paxton's Tower on Middleton Hall estate. Photo © David Evans

Half a mile south of the house stands Paxton's Tower, a monumental triangular folly tower, visible as an eyecatcher for miles along the Tywi valley.  It was built in 1808 by S.P. Cockerell for Sir William Paxton as a memorial to Lord Nelson. As built, there was a banqueting room inside with Gothic plaster vaulting, of which only fragments remain. The tower was bought in 1964 by Viscount Emlyn and presented to the National Trust, but was badly damaged by lightning before being well-restored in 1972, with an inserted staircase.

Descent of the property: Henry Middleton (fl. 1644); to son, Christopher Middleton (fl. 1668); to son, Richard Middleton (d. c.1733); to son, Henry Middleton (dsp); to sister, Elizabeth Middleton (d. 1756), wife of Thomas Gwyn (d. 1752) of Gwempa; to son, Richard Gwyn (fl. 1761); to son, Lt-Gen. Francis Edward Gwyn (1748-1821); sold 1776 to John Gawler; sold 1776 to Sir William Paxton, kt. (1744-1824); executors sold 1824 to Edward Hamlin Adams (1777-1842); to son, Edward Adams (later Abadam) (1809-75); to daughter, Lucy Caroline Adams Abadam (1840-1902), wife of Rev. Richard Gwynne Lawrence (c.1835-1923); to sister, Adah Constance Abadam (1842-1914), widow of Capt. John Williams Hughes (1845-88); to son, William John Hamlin Hughes (1879-1941), who sold 1919 to Col. W.N. Jones of Dyffryn, Ammanford.

The Abadams (formerly Adams) of Middleton Hall

Wax portrait of E. H. Adams
Image: V&A Museum
Adams, Edward Hamlin (1777-1842).  Second but eldest surviving son of William Adams of Christchurch, Barbados and his second wife Elizabeth Anne, dau of Rev. Thomas Coxeter, born in Kingston, Jamaica (West Indies), 30 April 1777.  MP for Carmarthenshire 1833-34; High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire 1832.  He married, 5 January 1796 at Philadephia, Pennyslvania (USA), Amelia Sophia (d. 1831), daughter of Capt. John MacPherson and had issue:
(1) Mary Anne Adams (1799-?1849), baptised in Jamaica, 1809; married, 2 August 1823 at Gretna Green, Thomas Cuff of Puriton near Bridgwater (Somerset) and had issue two sons (who later took the name Adams); possibly the Mary Ann Cuff who died at Tewkesbury (Glos) in 1849;
(2) Edward Adams (later Abadam) (1809-75) (q.v.);
(3) Sophia Adams (b. c.1811), baptised in Kingston (Jamaica), 1811; probably died young;
(4) Caroline Adams (1812-74), baptised 25 September 1815; married, 29 September 1838 at Coolock (Co. Dublin), Capt. Charles Augustus Brooke of Curraghbane (Tipperary), 95th Foot, later 6th Foot, son of Joseph Brooke (1761-1841), who assumed the style of a baronet and was generally so recognised in his lifetime; died 1 April 1874;
(5) William Macpherson Adams (1814-51), baptised 8 December 1815 at St Giles-in-the-Fields, London; married, 21 May 1835 at Walcot, Bath (Somerset), Agnes, youngest daughter of Capt. Jump RN and had issue; lived in the French Pyrenees; will proved 13 November 1852;
(6) Matilda Adams (1815-96), baptised 8 April 1816 at St Giles-in-the-Fields, London; described as ‘cynical, disillusioned and emancipated, but believed in living conventionally on the surface’; moved to France ‘to avoid the English Sunday’ and later travelled extensively on the continent; married 1st, c.1840, Capt. Lee-Hamilton (d. 1852) and had issue a son, James Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1845-1907); married 2nd, 13 October 1855 in Dresden (Germany), Henry Hippolyte Ferguson Paget (1820-94), her son’s tutor, who was the son of an exiled French nobleman who had become a naturalised Englishman; after travelling extensively on the continent they settled in Florence for the sake of her son’s health;  and had issue a daughter, the novelist Violet Paget alias ‘Vernon Lee’ (1856-1935), who formed a permanent lesbian relationship with the painter Clementina (Kit) Anstruther-Thomson (1857-1921); died in Florence (Italy), 8 March 1896; administration of her goods granted to her children, 22 April 1896 (effects £852).
On retiring to England after the Napoleonic Wars he at first lived in London and Bath, but in 1824 purchased Middleton Hall (designed by S.P. Cockerell, 1793-95) in Carmarthenshire from Sir William Paxton (q.v.).
He died at Middleton Hall, 2 June 1842, aged 65, and is commemorated by a memorial tablet by E. Gaffin, 1843, in Llanarthne church (Carmarthens); his will was proved in PCC, 10 August 1842. His wife died at the Hotel Schniederff in Florence (Italy), 1 April 1831 and was buried in the Protestant cemetery there.

Edward Abadam (1809-75)
Abadam (né Adams), Edward (1809-75), of Middleton Hall (Carmarthens). Son of Edward Hamlin Adams (1777-1842) and his wife Amelia Sophia, dau of Capt. John MacPherson, born at Kingston, Jamaica (West Indies), 28 April 1809. High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire, 1855. He changed his name to Abadam on inheriting the Middleton Hall estate in 1842. He is said to have been interested in firearms, and to have been an expert shot, who once challenged to a duel a man who wisely declined to fight. He married, 18 November 1841 (sep. c.1860), at St Marylebone (Middx), Louisa (1820-86), daughter of John Taylor of Weymouth (Dorset), tailor and had issue:
(1) Lucy Caroline Adams Abadam (1840-1902), born 22 July 1840, prior to the marriage of her parents, and baptised 22 July 1841; married, 14 September 1875, Rev. Richard Gwynne Lawrence BA JP (c.1835-1923), vicar of Tong (Salop), son of Dr. Henry Lawrence (1785-1862), but had no issue; died 3 June 1902; administration granted to her sister, 21 November 1902 (estate £4,928);
(2) Adah Constance Abadam (1842-1914) (q.v.); 
(3) Edward Hamlin Middleton Abadam (1843-66), born 23 April 1843 and baptised 24 April 1844; died unmarried, 24 March 1866, aged 22; administration of goods granted to father, 8 June 1870 (effects under £800);
(4) Conrade Maxwell MacPherson Middleton Abadam (1845-73), born 10 March 1845; married, 5 August 1868, Susanna Mary Saunders (1847-1927) of Court Henry, Llangathen (Cardigans), (who m2, 15 June 1878 at St John, Paddington (Middx), Capt. Frank Fiddes Rudman (1850-84)) and had issue one son (who died in infancy) and two daughters; accidentally killed during a shooting expedition in New Jefferson, Iowa (USA), 3 September 1873;
(5) Francis Walrond Middleton Abadam (1846-88), born Jul-Sep 1846; married, Jul-Sep 1868, Helen Ramsay Schultze (1846-1924) and had issue one son (died in infancy) and four daughters; lived at Clapham and Brixton in south London; died 4 July 1888; will proved 18 December 1888 (effects £8,899);
(6) Edith Abadam (c.1847-1926), married, Apr-Jun 1885, Edward Harold Morris (1850-1929), solicitor and land agent, son of Thomas Charles Morris (1808-86) of Bryn Myrddin, Abergwili (Carmarthens) and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 16 June 1926; will proved 20 July 1926 (estate £2,649);
(7) Alice Abadam (1856-1940), born 2 January 1856; Catholic convert, suffragist and feminist, of Upper Norwood (Surrey), life partner of Dr. Alice Vowe Johnson (1869-1938), physician; died without issue, 31 March 1940.
He inherited Middleton Hall (Carmarthens) from his father in 1842.  At his death it passed to his eldest daughter until her death and then to his daughter Adah.
He died 27 November 1875; his will was proved 27 March 1876 (effects under £4,000). His widow died 16 June 1886.

Abadam, Adah Constance (1842-1914). Eldest legitimate daughter of Edward Abadam (1809-75) and his wife Louisa, daughter of John Taylor of Weymouth, tailor, born 4 March 1842 and baptised 24 April 1844. She married, 30 July 1878, Capt. John Williams Hughes (1845-88), farmer, of Glandulais, Llangathen, son of Capt. William Garnons Hughes (1801-78) of Glancothi (Carmarthens) and had issue:
(1) William John Hamlin Hughes (1879-1941) (q.v.);
(2) Evodie Constance Vernon Hughes (1882-1925), born Apr-June 1882; lived at Clearbrook, Llanarthney; died unmarried, 14 June 1925; will proved 7 July 1925 (estate £3,264);
(3) Charles Williams Hughes (1883-1951) of Dial House, Lamphey (Pembs); farmer in Britannia, Saskatchewan (Canada), 1906-23; married, c.1913 in Saskatchewan, Minnie Hewitt (1892-1973) and had issue one son and two daughters; died 12 September 1951; will proved 27 October 1951 (estate £456).
She inherited Middleton Hall from her sister in 1902.
She died 16 May 1914. Her husband died 23 January 1888; administration of his goods was granted to his widow, 15 May 1888 (effects under £650).

Hughes, William John Hamlin (1879-1941), of Middleton Hall (Carmarthens), JP.  Son of Capt. John Williams Hughes (1845-88) and his wife Adah Constance (1842-1914), daughter of Edward Abadam (né Adams), born Oct-Dec 1879.  Lieut. Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and subsequently Capt. and temp. Major,  Carmarthen Royal Garrison Artillery Special Reserve.  He married, 9 October 1912, Violet Stewart (b. 1892), only daughter of Henry Leeke Horsfall, Esq., of Cliff House, Dunwich (Suffolk), and had issue:
(1) John Adams Gwynne Hughes (b. 1913);
(2) William Henry Gwynne Hughes.
On the death of his mother in 1914 he inherited Middleton Hall (Carmarthens), which he sold in 1919 to Col. William N. Jones. He then rented Sibton Abbey (Suffolk), c.1923, and subsequently emigrated to South Africa.
He died in Underburg, Natal (South Africa), 10 April 1941; administration of his property was granted to his elder son, 27 July 1942 (estate in England £10,452).


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1871; Marquis de Ruvigny, The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal, reprinted, 2001; T. Nicholas, Annals and Antiquities of the County Families of Wales, reprint, 1991; F. Green, ‘Saunders of Pentre, Tymawr and Glanrhydw’, Trans. Hist. Soc. West Wales, ii, 1913; Conrad Davies, 'The Adams family of Middleton Hall, Llanarthne', The Carmarthenshire Antiquary, 38 (2002), 36-52; Thomas Lloyd, Julian Orbach and Robert Scourfield, The buildings of Wales: Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, (2006), 233-5; L.A. Rees, Middleton Hall, Carmarthenshire, 2014; http://awtc.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=AHN&db=isanders&id=I01273&ti=5538; http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/pagetv.htm

Location of archives

Abadam family: estate and family papers, ?19th century [National Library of Wales, uncatalogued archive of D.M.C. Charles of Carmarthen, solicitors]
Abadam, Alice (1856-1939): papers, notebooks, notes and text for speeches and lectures, corresp, photographs, financial and administrative papers rel Feminist League, c.1900-39 [London School of Economics: The Women’s Library, 7/ALA]
Morris (née Abadam), Edith (1846-1926): album of about 90 photographs, including copies of paintings and drawings, and views in England, Wales and on the continent, commenced 1866 [National Library of Wales, 412A]
Paget, Violet (Vernon Lee) (1856-1935): correspondence, 20th cent. [Somerville College, Oxford]

Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 19 February 2013 and was revised 18 February 2015, 27 July 2015, 6 February 2016 and 6 June 2017. I am grateful to Jack Ruler for supplying the image of Edward Abadam.

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