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’. His elder son and heir, 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, which left his siblings financially embarrassed. Abadam on several occasions also took legal action against his tenants, and the estate was a focus for disturbances during the Rebecca riots of 1839-43, when hayricks near the house were burned and the Lord Nelson inn at Porthrhyd on the estate was attacked. Under his father's will, Edward was left the power to appoint by his own will the succession to the estate, and he passed over his surviving son, so that the property passed to his eldest 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, Llanarthne (Carmarthenshire)

A cadet branch of the Myddletons of Chirk Castle had a house at Llanarthne (which became known as Middleton Hall), from the early 17th century. No visual record of it seems to survive. In the mid 18th century it passed by marriage to the Gwyns, who sold it in 1776 to John Gawler. He in turn sold it in 1789 to Sir William Paxton (1744-1824), who had made a fortune in India. Having joined the East India Company in 1764, Paxton became Assay Master to the Bengal presidency, and used his position to start an agency trading illegally with the Dutch. The outbreak of the Anglo-Dutch war in 1780 made this operation a good deal more risky, and in 1785 he decided that his position was becoming untenable and that he should leave India before he was disgraced. He returned to England as the classic "Indian nabob", with a fortune of £300,000 in his pocket, and used part of this vast capital to buy the Middleton estate and to employ S.P. Cockerell to build a new house in 1793-95.

Middleton Hall: the Palladian garden front in 1900.

The new house looked down over a chain of lakes to the west and south. To its north was a detached service block (now 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 were the very large walled gardens which helped to make the site suitable for its current use as the National Botanic Garden of Wales. The architecture of the house was very different from the Indian fantasy which Cockerell was to create for his cousin Charles Cockerell (another nabob), at Sezincote (Glos). 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 with super-arches which echo those at Lord Burlington's villa at Chiswick. 

Middleton Hall: the entrance front, depicted in a print of 1853.
The seven bay entrance front is more mannered and innovative, 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. 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: view from the entrance hall into the staircase, from a Victorian photograph.
Middleton Hall: the dining room, from a Victorian photograph
The grounds were landscaped at much the same time as the house was built, possibly 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: view of the house from the approach drive by Thomas Hornor, 1814.

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

After Paxton's death, his estate was divided between his many children and had to be sold so that they could be paid their respective shares. The purchaser was Edward Hamlin Adams (1777-1842), whose family had been settled in Barbados as planters for several generations, but who trading and banking activities in the Caribbean and America. He moved to England in 1815 and in 1824 bought Middleton Hall, despite having no discernible previous connection with this corner of Wales. The estate descended to his son, Edward Adams (later Abadam) (1809-75), who bequeathed the estate to his eldest (and technically illegitimate) daughter and her husband. They had no children, so on her death it passed to her widowed sister, whose son sold the estate in 1919 to a local industrialist who wanted the land not the house. He put in a pig-keeping caretaker, under whose care the house 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. Only the outbuildings were spared destruction. The ruins of the house stood until they were demolished in 1954.

The estate was acquired in the 1930s by the County Council and subdivided into smallholdings, which survived until the County Council made the estate available as a home for The National Botanic Garden of Wales, which was created in 1996-2000 with some £44m of Lottery and other funding. The Trust's plans for the rescue of the surviving buildings and garden features and the restoration of the designed landscape had to be severely scaled back after it became clear that the revenue from visitors would be much less than hoped, but work continues albeit at a slower pace than intended. As part of the original capital project, several new buildings were erected around the site, including the Great Glasshouse and Gatehouse by Norman Foster & Partners, built in 1997-99. The main historic buildings have also now all been restored.

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 1789 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 (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; sold after 1931 to Carmarthenshire County Council.

Abadam (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, daughter of Rev. Thomas Coxeter, born in Kingston, Jamaica (West Indies), 30 April 1777. In partnership with Robert Robertson, he was a West India merchant and banker, based in Jamaica but trading with England, France and the United States until c.1815, when he retired to England; he and his partner are reported to have been key suppliers of slaves for Government projects in Jamaica. High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire 1831-32; MP for Carmarthenshire 1832-34. 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’. He did not believe in formal education and did not send his sons to school or university, let alone his daughters. He married, 5 January 1796 at Philadephia, Pennyslvania (USA), Amelia Sophia (1776-1831), daughter of Capt. John MacPherson of Mount Pleasant near Philadephia, and had issue:
(1) Mary Anne Adams (1807-32), born 25 September 1807 and baptised in Jamaica, 1809; married, 2 August 1823 at Gretna Green and again 14 August 1823 at Batheaston (Somerset), Thomas Cuff (later Cuffe Adams) (1797-1874) and had issue three sons (who took the name Adams by royal licence in 1842); died at Funchal, Madeira, 10 January 1832;
(2) Edward Adams (later Abadam) (1809-75) (q.v.);
(3) Sophia Adams (b. & d. 1811), born 31 January 1811 and baptised in Kingston (Jamaica); died in infancy, 11 November 1811;
(4) Caroline Adams (1812-74), born in Kingston (Jamaica), 11 April 1812 and baptised at St Giles in the Fields, Holborn (Middx), 25 September 1815; married, 29 September 1838 at Coolock (Co. Dublin), Capt. Charles Augustus Brooke (d. 1859) 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; they had issue one daughter; died 1 April 1874; will proved 17 August 1874 (effects under £4,000);
(5) William Macpherson Adams (1814-51), born at Bristol, 15 September 1814 and baptised at St Giles-in-the-Fields, 8 December 1815 ; married, 21 May 1835 at Walcot, Bath (Somerset), Agnes Snow otherwise Agnes Shakespear (1806-66), youngest daughter of Capt. Robert Jump RN and had issue; lived in the French Pyrenees and died at Besançon (France); will proved 13 November 1852;
(6) Matilda Adams (1815-96), born 20 December 1815 and baptised at St Giles-in-the-Fields, 8 April 1816; described as ‘cynical, disillusioned and emancipated, but believed in living conventionally on the surface’; she moved to France ‘to avoid the English Sunday’ and later travelled extensively on the continent; an independent and domineering woman, both of whose marriages seem to have been rather loveless; married 1st, c.1840, Capt. James Frederick 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, 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 in about 1815, he at first lived in London and then at Batheaston House (Somerset), until in 1824 he purchased Middleton Hall.
He died aged 65 at Middleton Hall, 2 June, and was buried at Llanarthne on 10 June 1842, where he is commemorated by a memorial tablet by E. Gaffin erected in 1843; his will was proved in PCC, 10 August 1842. His wife died at the Hotel Schniederff in Florence (Italy), 1 April, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery there, 3 April 1831.

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 was an officer in the Merioneth Rifle Regiment of Militia (Lt., 1854) and is said to have been interested in firearms, and to have been an expert shot; he once challenged to a duel a man who wisely declined to fight. He is said to have been an ardent Liberal in politics, 'but took no active interest in public affairs'. It has been suggested that his interested in estate management extended to architecture, and that he was responsible for the design of Clearbrook Hall, Llanarthne, built in 1843 as a dower house for the estate. He did, however, inherit many of his father’s more disagreeable qualities, and was obstinate, opinionated and litigious. He fell out with his siblings, and went to law in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to prove that his brother's children were illegitimate. 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 at St Marylebone, 22 July 1841; married, 14 September 1875 at Llanarthne, Rev. Richard Gwynne Lawrence BA JP (1835-1923), vicar of Tong (Salop), son of Dr. Henry Lawrence (1785-1862), but had no issue; died 3 June 1902; administration of goods 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 at Holy Trinity, St Marylebone, 24 April 1844; died unmarried in London, 21 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 at Clifton (Glos), 10 March 1845; married, 5 August 1868 at Cilcennin (Cardigans.), Susanna Mary (1847-1927) (who m2, 15 June 1878 at St John, Paddington (Middx), Capt. Frank Fiddes Rudman (1850-84)), eldest daughter of Capt. Saunders of Court Henry, Llangathen (Cardigans), 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; will proved 10 December 1875 (effects under £500);
(5) Francis Walrond Middleton Abadam (1846-88), born Jul-Sep 1846; married, 18 August 1868 at St Mark, Southend (Essex), 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 and was buried 7 July 1888; will proved 18 December 1888 (effects £8,899);
(6) Edith Abadam (1847-1926), born Apr-Jun 1847 at Sturminster Marshall (Dorset); married, 28 April 1885 at Llanarthne, 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, described as “one of the suffragette movement’s most prolific public speakers in early 20th century… she travelled all over the British Isles speaking on women’s suffrage and often addressed two meetings a day; she... reflected upon the culmination of a marathon struggle and euphorically anticipated the dawn of a glowing future”; lived at Upper Norwood (Surrey) and later at St. John's Wood, London; life partner of Dr. Alice Vowe Johnson (1869-1938), physician; died without issue at Abergwili (Carmarthens.), 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; her will was proved 22 September 1886 (effects £469).

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 at Holy Trinity, St Marylebone, 24 April 1844. She married, 30 July 1878 at Llanarthne, 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, Llanarthne; died unmarried, 14 June 1925; will proved 7 July 1925 (estate £3,264);
(3) Charles Williams Hughes (1883-1951), born 15 July 1883; farmer in Britannia, Saskatchewan (Canada), 1906-23 and lived later at Dial House, Lamphey (Pembs); 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 will was proved 10 October 1914 (estate £736). 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).  Elder son of Capt. John Williams Hughes (1845-88) and his wife Adah Constance (1842-1914), daughter of Edward Abadam (né Adams), born 25 September 1879.  Lieut. Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and subsequently Capt. and temp. Major,  Carmarthen Royal Garrison Artillery Special Reserve.  JP for Carmarthenshire. He married, 9 October 1912 at All Saints, Margaret St., St Marylebone (Middx), Violet Stewart (1892-1975?), only daughter of Henry Leeke Horsfall, Esq., of Cliff House, Dunwich (Suffolk), and had issue:
(1) John Adams Gwynne Hughes (b. 1913), born in Norfolk, Jul-Sept 1913;
(2) William Henry Gwynne Hughes (b. 1915), born at Middleton Hall, Jul-Sept 1915.
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). His widow may be the woman of that name who died at Lymington (Hants), 26 November 1975; her will was proved 5 February 1976 (estate £741).


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, p.280; 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; A. Gagel (ed.), Selected letters of Vernon Lee, 2017, vol. 1; 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, 6 June 2017 and more thoroughly on 26-27 August 2018. I am grateful to Jack Ruler for supplying the image of Edward Abadam, and to Dr Stephen Briggs for a correction.

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