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President: Dame Janet Trotter DBE, Lord-Lieutenant

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A FoGA Mystery Tour

Courtesy of John Chandler's hard work and erudition, Friends recently enjoyed a mystery tour taking in the cathedral and town of Brecon, the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre and the Blaenavon Ironworks.

The visit to Brecon prompted a little research from Anthea:

In the course of duty: travelliing to Brecon 350 years ago

James Yorke, the new bishop of St David’s, and Mary his wife did not follow quite the same route as the FOGA mystery tour, but Mary, who was a determined letter-writer, described part of their journey into Wales, calling first at Brecon, as we, too, experienced it (some of Mary Yorke’s spelling and punctuation, athough not always present-day usage, has been retained to give the flavour of her letter-writing).

James was a conscientious prelate, who set out on a visitation of his diocese almost as soon as he had kissed hands in June 1774. The Yorkes stayed for ten days in their own house, Forthampton Court, before they

‘sallied forth again in search of adventures. We dined at Castleditch [Eastnor] & lay at Hereford the first night, saw all that was thought worth seeing at that Town, namely a bad Cathedral & a very fine Publick Walk commanding a view of the Neighbouring Romantick Hills, Black Mountains &c with the River Wye in the front. From thence we passed over a most beautifull range of Country Hills of all sizes & shapes, some covered with hanging Woods others cultivated to the Tops, rolling over each other in delighfull confusion (the Black Mountain at a distance still keeping its preemin¬ence) the River Wye winding through the Valley beneath us compleating the Scene! But how uncertain are the fairest Prospects! The clear sky which had hitherto accompanied us, was at once over cast, the Horizon thickened, Clouds as thick as smoke surrounded us, & prevented our seeing the nearest objects. A violent Rain followed, & continued for 14 Miles; the Bishop entered his Diosces of St Davids in the midst of Thunder, lightening, and a deluge. The same Weather with little intermission continued till we reached Brecknock, where we dined. In the afternoon the Sky cleared upon us; the Country appeared in all its beauty & taught us to lament what we had lost in the morning; we ascended gradually Trecastle, alias the black mountain being 5 miles in the ascent; when we came to the Top we might have had it seems a most noble view of south Wales the Sea &c, but tho’ the Sun shone on the Valley we were so surrounded with Clouds, as not to be able to distinguish anything but the Wild Downs we were upon, & we were glad to get down to chearfuller Scenes’ (Bedfordshire Archives and Record Service L30/9/111/51)

This letter to Lady Marchoness Grey, James’s sister-in-law, was dated ‘Aug 9th 1774. Tuesday Morn.’ and was written from Aberguilly, where the bishop’s palace was. That visit to Brecon was brief.

The next year James and Mary and their daughters may have stayed several night in Brecon. A letter from ‘Brecknock’ to James’s neice Amabel, Lady Polwarth, was dated July 13th [1775], a Thursday, and described the scene.

‘We reached this place last night & were received by poor Mr Bland who complains bitterly of our Roads (not without reason) & seems thoroughly tired. He is now at this moment enjoying the society of 40 more of his Brethren with the Bishop, who are all at Dinner together in a Room just by, my two Daughters enjoying the Bustle & the continual running up & down Stairs. Mr Bland is my Beaux, I took him with me in the Coach to Church & we were had up the middle Isle together preceeded by the Clergyman of the Parish white Staves etc much to my confusion when I found the Service had waited for us. The Bp (who was there before) could not conceive what grand ceremony they were waiting for, & I suppose expected at least a fine Mayor & Alderman in the Kentish stile preceeded by a Band of Musick. Guess therefore what was his surprise & what difficulty he had to keep his Countenance when Bland & I appeared together in all that state, the procession closing with Peggy & Polly, the Service beginning imediately upon Mr Bland’s hanging his Hat up, upon a Peg over his Head’ (Bedfordshire Archives and Record Service L30/9/111/51.

Anthea Jones

Friends also took pictures:

Where are we going?

Brecon Cathedral

Bredon Cathedral Font

The welcome was mostly friendly

It wasn't plastic

Blaenavon Ironworks

Last edited: 15th June 17