Sunday, 15 November 2020

(436) Bassett of Bonvilston and Crossways

Bassett of Bonvilston
This family trace their origin to a cadet branch of the Bassets of Beaupré who settled at Lantrithyd (Glam.), Bonvilston and Talyfan Castle, Welsh St. Donats (Glam.) in the 16th century. John Basset (d. 1551) began the construction of the mansion at Lantrithyd in about 1546, although it was finished by his daughter and son-in-law, from whom it passed by marriage to the Aubrey family. For several generations thereafter the male heirs were clergymen in Glamorganshire. The first to style himself as 'of Bonvilston' was John Bassett (1747?-1827), with whom the genealogy below begins. He was a solicitor and appears to have inherited his Bonvilston property from his clergyman father. It seems likely that he built a new house or altered an existing one at Bonvilston which became the seat of the family, but nothing is known of the predecessor of the house built in 1838-40 except that one existed. He also had a house at Welsh St. Donats. John left two sons: John James Bassett (1779-1838), who inherited the Bonvilston estate but never married, and Thomas Morgan Bassett (1780-1840), who succeeded his father in his legal practice, working from both Cardiff and Bonvilston. Until 1834 he was in partnership with a relative called Richard Bassett, although the nature of the relationship has not been established. 

In 1837, Thomas inherited from his great-aunt the Crossways estate at Llanblethian, which he continued to let to the existing tenant, Col. Robert Entwistle; and in 1840 he also succeeded to the Bonvilston estate on the death of his brother. He seems at once to have commissioned the building of a new house at Bonvilston from local architect David Vaughan, which was built in 1838-40, and may not have been quite finished when Thomas died, leaving a widow and young family. He bequeathed Bonvilston, with its new house, to his eldest son, John Morgan Bassett, and Crossways to his second son, Richard Bassett (1820-91). However, John Morgan Bassett (1817-41) survived his father by only ten weeks and his will left Bonvilston to his youngest brother, William Watkin Bassett (1827-69). He recognised, however, that this left the younger of his brothers with the superior estate, so he encouraged them to arrange an exchange, which seems to have happened as William was left in possession of Crossways while Richard lived at Bonvilston with their mother. William died unmarried in 1869, and with a view to keeping the two estates in distinct ownership, left Crossways to Richard's second son, Ralph Thurstan Bassett (1851-1903), who greatly enlarged the house there and made it his home. However, Richard's eldest son, John Richard Bassett (1847-73), died in India in his father's lifetime, so on Richard's death in 1891 the two estates were once again united in the ownership of Ralph Thurstan Bassett. The union was brief, however, for Ralph moved to Hampshire and both houses were sold after his death in 1903. Much of the land was retained by Ralph's two daughters, however, and even after they died in the 1920s, continued to be held jointly by their respective heirs.

Bonvilston House, Glamorganshire

The Bassett family's connection to Bonvilston was revived by John Bassett (1745-1827) who returned to live in the village and probably built the first house on the later site in the village. However, nothing seems to be known of this building, which was replaced in 1838-40 to the designs of David Vaughan for Richard Bassett. 
Bonvilston House: the garden front of the house of 1838-40 as originally built.
The west-facing garden front of the new house had a central canted bay window under a pyramidal roof, with gabled bays to either side. In 1872, when the house was first leased to tenants, it was said that 'considerable additions and improvements...being made to the house... are now on the point of completion'. The changes may have included the addition of a Doric portico to the canted bay, or this may have happened rather later, after the house was sold away from the estate to R.H. Williams in 1904. 

Bonvilston House: the garden front as altered in 1872,
photographed at the time of the 1968 sale. 

After the Second World War the house fell into disrepair. It was sold by the Williams family in 1968 and after standing empty for more than a decade it was demolished in 1979 and the site was redeveloped as a small estate of detached houses. The former lodge house survives (as Woodland Lodge) and was given a rather tactful upper storey when converted into a dwelling.

Descent: John Bassett (1745-1827); to son, John James Bassett (d. 1838); to brother, Thomas Morgan Bassett (1780-1840); to son, John Morgan Bassett (1817-41); to brother, William Watkin Bassett (1827-69), who seems to have exchanged it for Crossways with his brother, Richard Bassett (1820-91); to son, Ralph Thurstan Bassett (1851-1903); sold 1904 to R.H. Williams; sold 1968; demolished 1979. In the late 19th century, the tenants were the Rev. Lewis Morgan, 1872-78 (brother-in-law); Tudor Crawshay (1854-1916), 1878-97; Col. Homfray, (cousin), c.1899-1902; and J.T. Brain, c.1902-04.

Crossways, Llanblethian, Glamorganshire

Crossways looks today like a late 19th and 20th century building, but the core of the house is much older. The right-hand side of the entrance front may be 17th century in origin, although the first mention of the house is from 1700, when it belonged to Edward Deere, a significant landowner in the Vale of Glamorgan. In the early 19th century, the house was let to a number of tenants, including Col. Robert Entwistle and his sister Margaret, who were presumably related to the Philip Boye Entwistle who married one of John Bassett's daughters.
Crossways, Llanblethian: a pencil sketch of the house, probably showing it before the
remodelling of the 1870s. Image: Cowbridge History Society/People's Collection Wales.

Entwistle farmed Crossways and may have been responsible for a remodelling of the house, as the first visual record of the building suggests that it had tripartite sash windows and steeply pitched roofs, a combination that is likely to date from c.1840. Entwistle was succeeded by his sister, who continued to farm the estate until she retired in about 1853. She was replaced as tenant by the Rev. W.H. Beever, headmaster of Cowbridge Grammar School, who lived in the schoolhouse and installed one of his workers at Crossways. This suggests that Crossways was gradually sliding down the social scale, although the process may have been arrested by the next tenant, Edward Thomas, who kept two live-in servants in 1871.

Crossways, Llanblethian: entrance front in the 1920s. The earliest part of the house is on the right; the wing of the 1870s on the left with the porch, probably of 1891-94, in the angle between them.  Image: Cowbridge History Society/People's Collection Wales
Crossways, Llanblethian: the garden front in c.1905. Image: National Library of Wales.
After the death of William Watkin Bassett in 1869, Crossways passed to his nephew, Ralph Thurstan Bassett who seems to have extensively remodelled and enlarged the house before 1877, as the footprint shown on the Ordnance Survey map of that year indicates that significant parts of the Victorian fabric were already in existence. The architect of the remodelling is not recorded, but he seems to have wrapped the old house around with new ranges that are rather fussily decorated with large mullioned and transomed windows, gables rising into chimneys, little gablets in different styles, broad canted bays, and a glazed cupola above the staircase. Later photographs show that the interior was decorated in the same vein, with elaborately moulded and mirrored overmantels and a rather plainer neo-Jacobean staircase. Further alterations seem to have been made to the house and outbuildings in 1891-94 by Seward & Thomas of Cardiff, for which loans totalling some £3,500 were raised from the Board of Agriculture; these works included the building of two gate lodges.

Crossways, Llanblethian: the addition of c.1917 forms a north wing. 
Image: Cowbridge History Society/People's Collection Wales
The house was further enlarged after 1917 for Owen Williams, a shipowner who briefly brought real wealth to the estate. He extended the house to the north, over the line of an existing roadway. To accommodate a sharp fall in the ground level, the addition was a storey higher than the part of the house it adjoined, but it replicated the design of the canted bay which marked the end of the 1870s build. Williams' 
wealth and marriage had both collapsed by 1924, leading to the sale of the estate. By 1930, Crossways had become an orthopaedic hospital for children. A newspaper report stated “It was a pleasing revelation to the visitors to note the manner in which the stately old mansion had become adapted to such great and noble work”. The hospital also became a centre of nurse training, and some of the glass-fronted hospital ward remains incorporated into the present house. The hospital closed in 1965 and the house returned to private ownership, being run as bed and breakfast accommodation for many years; it now also houses a number of apartments.

Descent: Edward Deere (fl. 1700)... Margery Deere (d. 1787); to Rev. Henry Jones (d. 1795); to widow, Catherine Jones (d. 1837) and then to his great-nephew, Thomas Morgan Bassett (1780-1840); to son, Richard Bassett (1820-91), who seems to have exchanged it for Bonvilston with his brother, William Watkin Bassett (1827-69); to nephew, Ralph Thurstan Bassett (1851-1903); to daughters, who sold 1906 to Anthony Miers; sold to Sir William John Thomas; sold 1917 to Owen Williams, shipowner; sold to Prince of Wales Orthopaedic Hospital; sold after 1965 to Patterson family; sold before 1999 to Mr & Mrs John Davies, who ran it as bed & breakfast accommodation; sold 1999 and 2011.

Bassett family of Bonvilston

Bassett, John (1747?-1827). Son of Rev. John Bassett, prebendary of Llandaff and his wife, usually said to have been born 1745 but possibly the man of this name baptised at St Hilary, 10 December 1747. A solicitor, in partnership with his son. An officer in the Eastern Regiment of Glamorgan Militia (Lt-Col., 1809); JP for Glamorganshire; High Sheriff of Glamorganshire, 1824-25. He married, 13 April 1778 at Llandough-juxta-Cowbridge (Glam.), Anne Morgan (c.1744-1822), of Bonvilston, and had issue:
(1) John James Bassett (1779-1838) (q.v.);
(2) Thomas Morgan Bassett (1780-1840) (q.v.);
(3) Mary Ann Bassett (1784-1837), baptised at Bonvilston, 9 July 1784; married, 9 October 1821 at St Brides Major (Glam.), Philip Boye Entwistle of Southerndown, youngest son of John Entwistle of Foxholes (Lancs); died 22 March 1837.
He inherited the Bonvilston estate from his father and may have built a new house here.
He died 11 December and was buried at Bonvilston, 17 December 1827; his will was proved in the PCC, 8 March 1828. His wife was buried at Llandough-juxta-Cowbridge, 5 August 1822.

Bassett, John James (1779-1838). Elder son of John Bassett (1745-1827) and his wife Anne Morgan, baptised at Llanblethian, 29 January 1779. An officer in the Glamorgan Volunteer Infantry (Lt., 1803) and Central Regiment of Glamorgan Militia (Capt., 1809); JP and DL for Glamorganshire. 'A gentleman much respected for the warmth and firmness of his friendship and the integrity of his life'. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Bonvilston estate from his father in 1827. At his death it passed to his younger brother.
He died 12 September and was buried at Bonvilston, 19 September 1838; his will was proved in the PCC, 31 January 1842.

Bassett, Thomas Morgan (1780-1840). Younger son of John Bassett (1745-1827) and his wife Anne Morgan, born 9 February 1781 and baptised at Bonvilston, 13 February 1783. A solicitor in partnership with his father and Richard Bassett (dissolved 1834). He married, 27 May 1815 at St Paul, Bristol, Anne (c.1793-1871), probably the eldest daughter of Rev. Dr. James? Morgan, vicar of Llantrisant (Glam.), and had issue:
(1) John Morgan Bassett (1817-41), baptised at Welsh St. Donats, 17 June 1817; educated at Exeter College, Oxford (matriculated 1835; BA 1839) and Lincolns Inn (admitted 1838); survived his father by only ten weeks; died unmarried, 22 January and was buried at Bonvilston, 29 January 1841; will proved 24 March 1841;
(2) Mary Bassett (1818-48), baptised at Welsh St. Donats, 25 October 1818; married, 12 June 1843 at Bonvilston, Rev. Charles Rumsey Knight (1817-97) of Tythegston Court, vicar of St Bride's Major (Glam.) (who m2, 28 November 1854 at St John, Cardiff, Mary Anne Elizabeth, only daughter of Rev. Thomas Stacey, precentor of Llandaff, and had further issue) and had issue one daughter; died 18 November and was buried at Newton Nottage (Glam), 24 November 1848;
(3) Richard Bassett (1820-91) (q.v.);
(4) William Watkin Bassett (1827-69), baptised at Welsh St. Donats, 15 July 1827; inherited the Bonvilston estate from his eldest brother in 1841 but exchanged it for Crossways with his next brother, and came of age in 1848; an officer in the 56th Regt. (Ensign, 1846; Lt., 1848; Capt., 1854; retired 1865); JP for Glamorganshire, 1867; lived latterly in Duke St., St. James', Westminster; died unmarried at Haywards Heath (Sussex), 14 May 1869; will proved 27 May 1869 (effects under £3,000);
(5) Susannah Bassett (1822-1902), baptised at Welsh St. Donats, 15 December 1822; married, 20 April 1844 at St Martin-in-the-Fields (Middx), Jean Louis Thouroude of Tours (France), 'proprietor', and had issue; died 8 October 1902; will proved 17 March 1903 (effects in England, £6,250);
(6) Louisa Catherine Bassett (1829-1924), born 27 October and baptised at Welsh St. Donats, 12 November 1829; married, 2 June 1853 at St Marylebone (Middx), Rev. Lewis Thomas (later Morgan) (1827-92), rector of St. Hilary (Glam.) and secretary of the Glamorgan Education Board, son of Evan Thomas, customs officer, and had issue one daughter; died aged 94 on 10 March, and was buried at St Hilary, 13 March 1924; will proved 16 August 1924 (estate £22,337).
He inherited the Bonvilston estate from his brother in 1838 and commissioned the new house there, but may have died before it was completed. At his death ownership passed to his eldest son, John Morgan Bassett, who survived him by only a few weeks. John in turn left the Bonvilston estate to his youngest brother, William, who seems to have exchanged it for Crossways with their middle brother, Richard. However, Bonvilston continued to be occupied by their mother until shortly before her death in 1871.
He died at Welsh St. Donats, 5 November and was buried at Bonvilston, 12 November 1840; his will was proved in the PCC, 24 March 1841. His widow died at Dimlands House, 31 October and was buried at Bonvilston, 6 November 1871; her will was proved 15 November 1871 (effects under £12,000).

Basset, Richard (1820-91). Second son of Thomas Morgan Bassett (1780-1840) and his wife Anne, eldest daughter of Rev. Dr. Morgan, born 21 June and baptised at Welsh St Donats (Glam.), 23 July 1820. JP (by 1846) and DL (from 1846) for Glamorganshire. A director of the Great Western Railway Co., c.1850-91. He spelled his name with one t in his later years, and his second family consistently used this spelling. He married 1st, 24 October 1843, Anna Maria (1821-63), second daughter of John Homfray of Penlline Castle (Glam.) and 2nd, 25 June 1878, Honor Georgina (1842-99), eldest daughter of William Blundell Fortescue of Octon, Torquay (Devon), and had issue:
(1.1) Mary Elizabeth Constance Bassett (1845-1909), baptised at Cheltenham, 12 September 1845; married, 25 May 1874 at St Matthias, West Brompton (Middx), Rev. Archibald John Norman Macdonald (1846-82), headmaster of Earls Court Grammar School, son of Norman William Macdonald of Priory Field House, Taunton (Som.), Governor of Sierra Leone, but had no issue; died at Villa Sylvie, Nice (France), 1 May 1909; will proved 27 July 1909 (estate £410);
(1.2) John Richard Bassett (1847-73), born 31 May 1847; educated at Sherborne School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (matriculated 1865); died unmarried in India, 28 February 1874, and was buried at Dibrugarh Cemeteries, Assam (India);
(1.3) Ralph Thurstan Bassett (1851-1903) (q.v.);
(1.4) Ann Maria Bassett (1852-53), baptised at Bonvilston, 25 July 1852; died in infancy, Apr-June 1853;
(1.5) Anne Maria Rosamond Bassett (1855-1934), baptised at Bonvilston, 29 July 1855; married, 23 August 1876 at St Andrew's Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, Benjamin Hardwick (b. c.1838), solicitor, of Kenmure House, South Kensington (Middx), son of Benjamin Hardwick, but had no issue; died at Nice (France), 5 January 1934; administration of goods granted 12 March 1934 (estate £112);
(2.1) William Fortescue Basset (1879-1953) (q.v.);
(2.2) Hugh Fortescue Basset (1881-1931), born 3 June 1881; educated at Marlborough College; served in Boer War with Highland Light Infantry (2nd Lt., 1900) and in First World War with Royal Army Service Corps (Lt., 1914; Capt., 1915); managing director of Union Motor Car Co., Victoria and Battersea, a dealership specialising in bespoke bodywork; JP for County of London; Westminster City Councillor, 1912-22 and Alderman, 1922-31; converted to Roman Catholicism, 1906; married, 1907, Mary Bessie Lee (1869-1941), daughter of Capt. B.J. Cooper, RN, and had issue two sons (who both became Jesuit priests) and two daughters (one of whom became a nun); died 29 March 1931 and after a requiem mass in Westminster Cathedral was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery; will proved 2 May 1931 (estate £11,579).
He inherited the Crossways estate at Llanblethian from his father in 1840 and exchanged it for Bonvilston with his younger brother perhaps about 1848. He lived with his mother at Bonvilston, but after her death in 1871, he let it.
He died 17 January 1891; his will was proved 25 March 1891 (estate £48,000). His first wife died in July 1863. His widow died at Octon, 15 December 1899; her will was proved 6 February 1900 (estate £14,647).

Bassett, Ralph Thurstan (1851-1903). Second, but eldest surviving, son of Richard Basset (1820-91) and his first wife, Anna Maria, second daughter of John Homfray of Penlline Castle (Glam.), born 15 January and baptised at Cheltenham (Glos), 19 March 1851. JP and DL for Glamorganshire; High Sheriff of Glamorgan, 1895-96; Master of the Glamorgan Hunt. He married, 12 June 1878 at St Marylebone (Middx), Augusta Maria (1858-1917), second daughter of Capt. Charles Frederick Tyler of Cottrell, Cardiff, and had issue:
(1) Dorothy Sysyllt Bassett (1879-1929), born 11 March 1879; married 1st, 14 April 1898 (div. 1920, on the grounds of her adultery), the Hon. Frederick George Morgan (later 5th Baron Tredegar) (1873-1954) of Boughrood Castle (Radnor.), and had issue one son and one daughter; married 2nd, 9 May 1921 at Bath Registry Office (Som.), the co-respondent in her divorce case, Ralph William Kirby (1891-1969); died 1 October 1929; will proved 19 November 1929 (estate £4,288);
(2) Olive Bassett (1882-1926), baptised at Llanblethian, 4 October 1882; married, 14 April 1904 (div. 1918), Lt-Col. Roland Stuart Forestier-Walker DSO (1871-1938) (who m2, 1921, Norah Jacintha (1878-1935), daughter of Charles Nicholas Paul Phipps and widow of Sir John Michael Fleetwood Fuller, 1st bt.), son of Sir George Ferdinand Radziwill Forestier-Walker, 2nd bt., but had no issue; died 4 July 1926; administration of her goods granted to her sister, 10 November 1926 (estate £2,789);
(3) Margery Bassett (1886-88), baptised 2 November 1886; died in infancy, 2 November 1888.
He inherited the Crossways estate from his uncle William in 1869 and largely rebuilt the house there before 1877. In 1891 he inherited Bonvilston from his father, but continued to let it. He lived at Crossways, Lanblethian (Glam.) and later at Ivy House, East Woodhay (Hants). After his death both Crossways and Bonvilston House were sold; the estate land passed to his two daughters as co-heirs. On their deaths, Dorothy's share passed to her son, and Olive's to her half-brother, William Fortescue Bassett.
He died 26 November 1903 and was buried at Cowbridge (Glam.); his will was proved 29 February 1904 (estate £16,289). His widow died at Bridgend (Glam), 16 August, and was buried at Llanblethian, 18 August 1917; her will was proved 18 September 1917 (estate £753).

Basset, Lt-Col. William Fortescue (1879-1953). Elder son of Richard Basset (1820-91) and his second wife, Honor Georgina, eldest daughter of William Blundell Fortescue,, born 7 April 1879. Educated at Marlborough. An officer in the Rifle Brigade and later on the General Staff (2nd Lt., 1899; Lt., 1900; Adjutant, 1904-07; Capt., 1905; retired as Lt-Col., 1919); ADC to Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, 1907-09; Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, War Office, 1916-17; Assistant Adjutant-General, War Office (as temp. Lt-Col.), 1917-19. He was appointed OBE, 1918. He married, 17 February 1910 at Mickleham (Surrey), Mary (1886-1982), daughter of Henry Parkman Sturgis of Givons, Leatherhead (Surrey), and had issue:
(1) Nancy Ursula Basset (1910-80), born 22 November and baptised at St Andrew, Darjeeling, Bengal (India), 25 December 1910; married 1st, 25 April 1935 at Faccombe (Hants), Maj. Robert John Horn (d. 1945), second son of H.J. Horn of Faccombe Manor, and had issue two children; married 2nd, 1947, William Douglas Elmes Brown (1913-84) of Littlewick Green (Berks); died 27 February 1980; will proved 27 June 1980 (estate £3,619);
(2) Richard Thurstine Basset (1913-95), born 27 April and baptised at Laleston (Glam), 2 June 1913; educated at Stowe School; an officer in the Rifle Brigade (2nd Lt., 1933; Lt., 1936; Capt., 1941; Maj., 1946) and Territorial Army reserve of officers (Maj. before 1953; Lt-Col., 1955; br. Col., 1959); awarded MC, 1941 and appointed MBE, 1953; died unmarried in Brighton (Sussex), 3 January 1995; will proved 16 February 1995 (estate under £125,000);
(3) David William Basset (1916-2000), born 22 February and baptised at Petersham (Surrey), 25 March 1916; educated at Stowe School; farm manager; married, 6 September 1947 at St Paul, Knightsbridge (Middx) (div. before 1965), Jane Christian (1926-2009) (who m2, 1966, Nigel R. West, and had further issue), daughter of John Cyril Moinet, and had issue one son; died 4 May 2000; will proved 25 July 2000;
(4) Lydia Mary Basset (1920-83), born 13 July 1920; married, 9 December 1950 at Woolton Hill (Hants), Lt-Cdr. Lionel Charles Digby Godwin RN DSC (1909-96) of Manor Cottage, Stoke Trister (Som.), son of Lionel James Godwin; died 24 December 1983; will proved 15 February 1984 (estate £26,129).
He lived at Restharrow, Godalming (Surrey) and later at Netherton, Andover (Hants) and Brambles, Woolton Hill (Hants). He inherited a half-share in the Bonvilston estate from his half sister in 1926.
He died 21 June 1953; his will was proved 16 October 1953 (estate £14,936). His widow died aged 96 on 2 September 1982; her will was proved 24 November 1982 (estate £3,807).

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1937, pp. 112-13; T. Lloyd, The lost houses of Wales, 2nd edn., 1989, p. 88; Cowbridge History Society, Llanblethian buildings and people, 2001.

Location of archives

Bassett family of Bonvilston: estate and family papers, 19th-20th cents. [Glamorgan Archives, DWP1]

Coat of arms

Bassett of Bonvilston: Argent, a chevron between three bugle horns stringed sable.

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Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 15 November 2020.

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