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Helmdon Historical Articles

Pryce Jones, Curate of Helmdon

An article by Robert Butler

 

 

Pryce Jones, was Curate of Helmdon from 1819 to 1855, having been born at Braddon, Northamptonshire, in 1788. At the time, his father, later the Vicar of Abthorpe, was an ordained deacon in the Peterborough diocese and may have been serving in some capacity at the Braddon church. There are many memorials to Pryce Jones and his family at Helmdon. He and his wife, Mary Ann, had twelve children, all born in Helmdon. Nine of these children survived to adulthood and the eldest of these was my great great grandfather who came to Australia as a young man.

 

The family lived in the rectory and were provided with a domestic servant and an “outside” servant, probably a groom/gardener. After the Revd. Pryce’s death, his widow and a daughter remained in residence there for some years. The Northamptonshire archives office has a copy of a painting which showed the original Helmdon rectory in which the Jones family would have lived.

 

There was a distinctive naming pattern in this family. The eldest son was named Pryce, after his father (and grandfather). Each successive son also had the name, Pryce, but only as a second or third given name. The daughters, similarly, were endowed with their paternal grandmother’s family name, Jemson, as a second or third given name. Three of these twelve children died before reaching adulthood; one at age fourteen; while two little boys died in the same year, as toddlers. There had also been a still-born male child. In the fashion of the day, the short lives of these two deceased infant sons were remembered by naming later-born sons after them.

 

Pryce, the eldest son of the Revd. Pryce and Mary Ann Jones, was a surgeon. Of his five surviving brothers, one became a surgeon like him, three attended Oxford University and became clergymen and one was a banker. Of the surviving adult daughters, little is known other than a record of the youngest daughter as a fifteen year old boarder, at the St John’s Wood Road Clergy Orphan Asylum, Marylebone, Middlesex, in 1861, and another who, in the same year, was still living, unmarried at 35 years of age, with her widowed mother in the rectory house at Helmdon. She was described as a governess. Another daughter was living with her family in Helmdon at 22 years of age in 1851 but her whereabouts after that date are unknown and she had probably married and moved on.

 

The Revd. Pryce Jones must have made a notable contribution to the church and he and his family are perpetuated in a number of memorials there. There are six bells in the tower, two of which commemorate its one time Curate. 

 

No 2 bell has the inscription:

“THE REVND PRYCE JONES OFFICIATING MINISTER   

T.TAYLOR & SON FOUNDERS LOUGHBOROUGH 1855”

No 3 bell is inscribed:

“ THE REV. PRYCE JONES CURATE. W & J TAYLOR

FOUNDERS 1834."

 (and, around the rim):

"OBEY OUR CALL. THE RIGHT THE GOOD OLD WAY,

 SHUN SCHISM’S  WILES, NOR EVER FROM IT STRAY."

 

My Northamptonshire ancestors are also commemorated in Helmdon in a number of other ways. Quite apart from the large number of graves of my Bayliss, Edmunds and Jones ancestors, almost all of which have been identified in a local community project, the church itself contains several prominent memorials to their long-serving Curate, Pryce Jones, his wife, Mary Ann and his children. On the south side of the nave of the church, above the pillars, there are two memorial plaques, one of marble and the other of somewhat darker material. The left hand marble tablet is dedicated to the Revd. Pryce Jones  and his wife, and reads:       

 

"Sacred to the memory of the Revd. PRYCE JONES

curate of the parish upwards of 36 years

he died December 7th 1855

aged 68 years

also of Mary Ann relict of the above who died July 12th 1863

aged 63 years

What I say unto you I say unto all. Watch."

 

while the smaller, darker plaque to the right is dedicated to the children of Pryce and Mary Ann and reads:

                   

“In memory of

Richard Pryce Jones 3 years died 1840

Philip Sydney Pryce Jones died 1840.

Margaret Jemima Jemson aged 14 years died 1848 

 Also Pryce MRCS aged 56 years died 1879

 and buried at Ballarat Australia

 Children of the Rev Pryce and Mary Jones”

 

Researching the ancestry of this Helmdon curate has led to some confusing distractions due to incorrect reference material. As previously noted, this curate was the eldest son of the Vicar of Abthorpe, also named Pryce Jones. Careful research has established that the father of the elder Pryce Jones, Vicar of Abthorpe from 1793 to 1831, was the Revd. John Jones, Curate at Llangurig, and later Vicar of Llanwonog, Montgomeryshire, Wales.

 

The parentage of this Pryce Jones has been incorrectly attributed in Foster’s Alumni Oxonienses to him being the son of Thomas of Llanrhaeadr, Denbighshire. This error has arisen, it would seem, from the annotation of his appointment, as Vicar of Abthorpe, to the wrong Pryce Jones – there are two successive entries of individuals of the same name who were clerics and graduates of Oxford. Unfortunately, the credibility of this source has led to the error being perpetuated in other references.

 

In the early drafts of the Church of England database, under development by the University of Reading, the careers of each of these gentlemen are detailed and there are similar entries in Henry Isham Longden’s Northamptonshire and Rutland Clergy. These references, in addition to the Oxford reference, provide the following details for two particular clerics with the name of Pryce Jones:

1.       Pryce Jones, son of Thomas, is shown as having been born c. 1751, ordained in 1776 and appointed as stipendiary curate in Shrewsbury in the same year. In 1783, he is shown as being appointed as curate in       Hannington. He is later shown as being appointed Vicar of Abthorpe.

2.       The other entry is for a Pryce Jones, a graduate from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, who was ordained as a         deacon at Peterborough Cathedral, Northamptonshire, in 1785, as priest in 1789 and serving as Curate at Towcester, Northamptonshire, in 1792. This Pryce Jones is said to be the son of the Revd. John Jones of Llanwrig (Llangurig), having been born c.1764.

 

There are two critical differences between these individuals, in these entries, apart from their stated origins and the matter of the Abthorpe appointment. The first one is some 13 years older than the second, and the second individual is the one who was ordained and received clerical appointments in the Peterborough diocese, which includes Towcester and the nearby Abthorpe. In original research into this family, it was enough to provoke some doubts.

 

On a visit to Wales in 2007, I was unable to locate any record of the first listed Pryce Jones in the parish records of Llanrhaeadr, examined at the Denbighshire County records office. I was also aware that memorials in the church at Abthorpe had indicated that Pryce Jones, the Vicar there, had died in his 68th year, which would make his year of birth c.1764, the age of the second listed of these two individuals. There was also a suggestion by an Abthorpe archivist that the predecessor of Pryce Jones as Vicar of Abthorpe – a John Jones - was his brother and this proved to be a matter of fact, as it turns out.

 

Recent evidence to support the parentage of Pryce Jones, Vicar of Abthorpe, as being the son of John Jones of Llangurig, later of Llanwonog, has arisen with the discovery of what has come to be known as "the Helmdon bible". The bible was discovered by Katherine Ashley of Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire (see  articles 52 and 61 on this website). This bible was obviously once the possession of the family of Pryce Jones, who was the Curate at Helmdon. It contains handwritten details of the birth and baptism of the Jones children and their ancestry. The information was almost certainly recorded by the Curate, as the details of times of birth of children are listed herein and would not be likely to have been recorded by anybody else. It even lists a stillbirth of an unnamed male baby. This bible describes the Curate’s grandfather as being the Revd. John Jones of Llanwonog. It has been important to have discovered that the Revd. John Jones, Curate of Llangurig, went on to become Vicar of Llanwonog. This links the Llangurig place of birth of the second-listed Pryce Jones in the references to place of residence of his father in the Helmdon bible. (Welsh place names are also a matter of some confusion at times due to variations in their spelling from time to time and their anglicisation by non-Welsh speakers. Research shows that there are number of variations of the spellings of the two parishes in question, namely: LLANGURIG - Llanwrig, Llangirrig and LLANWONOG - Llanwnog, Llanwnnog).

 

Relevant parish records of Llangurig and Llanwonog at the Powys Records Office also show that the Revd. John Jones was Curate of Llangurig from 1754 to 1786, and the records show that he baptised four children of his there, including John in 1752 and Pryce in 1763. These ages correspond with the ages of the two successive Vicars of Abthorpe, John Jones and Pryce Jones. Furthermore, the records show that the father of these two, John Jones the senior, was appointed Vicar of Llanwonog in 1786, and was buried there in 1803, which is in accord with his place of residence shown in the Helmdon bible. He is clearly the John Jones, of Llangurig, father of the second-listed Pryce Jones, cleric, in the Alumni Oxonienses and the other references.

 

There is, therefore, overwhelming evidence that Pryce Jones, Curate of Helmdon, was the grandson of the Revd. John Jones, Curate of Llangurig and later Vicar of Llanwonog and not the grandson of Thomas of Llanrhaeadr, Denbighshire, as detailed in Alumni Oxonienses and perpetuated in other references. The discovery of the Helmdon bible, with its entry showing the family tree of its Curate, Pryce Jones, substantiates the true Welsh origins of this Jones family.

 

This information has been provided to the Archivist at the Northamptonshire Records Office and the University of Reading which is working on the Church of England database was also grateful for this information. They were already well aware of quite a number of errors in this database and have since corrected the entry for Pryce Jones.

Robert Butler.

Editor's Note - For further information about the Helmdon Bible look at: 

No: 52 The Helmdon Rectory Bible Part 1
by Katharine Ashley

And the follow up article to that, No: 52 -

No: 61 The Helmdon Rectory Bible Part 2

By Katharine Ashley

(opens as a PDF document)

 

 

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