The History of the House and family.
The early part of this history is based on family tradition handed down over generations, much of it based on Theophilus Jones’ History of Brecknock. When Bernard de Neufmarché came over from Normandy in the train of William the Conqueror, after 1066, to become Lord of Brecon, he brought with him a certain knight, Sir Thomas de Boulogne. The area of land allotted to Sir Thomas as a reward for his services was that of ‘Talgarth and Wernfawr’ and much of the upper Usk valley. In due course Sir Thomas married and had children. Most of these sons and daughters lived and grew up and, as is the case in many families, some members moved away and settled elsewhere. For the sons and grandsons who stayed on in Wales, the usual custom was followed of affixing ‘ap’ to the Christian name of a child before the father’s name, so ‘de Boulogne’ was entirely lost, and the family names were a succession of Lawrence ap Williams, John ap Lawrence, and so on. Henry VIII’s order that permanent surnames in Wales should be made from the name following the Christian name was given at the moment when the last name was William, and so the surname Williams came into the family.
In the 1400s a branch of the Bullen family appeared in Norfolk, from which Thomas Bullen, Earl of Ormonde & Wiltshire, was descended. He became Henry VIII’s Ambassador in France in 1527. His second daughter, Anne, was briefly married to Henry VIII, during which time their daughter was born who was to become Queen Elizabeth I.
Also in the 16th Century there was a Breconshire descendant of Sir Thomas de Boulogne, one Thomas Williams, who was Vicar of Llanspyddid. This Thomas was known as “Vicar Gwyn”, (gwyn meaning “white” in welsh), being the first vicar in the area to wear a white surplice. He inherited the then medieval house at Abercamlais in 1580 or thereabouts and his descendants have lived there ever since. Some time before he died he discovered the Bullen connection (however distant) between himself and Queen Elizabeth. Vicar Gwyn was proud of this kinship and the relationship is written on his tombstone.
Of Vicar Gwyn’s grandsons, the eldest remained at Abercamlais while the second son moved downstream to a house which was eventually enlarged and altered and named Penpont. Because of intermarriages over several generations the families in the two houses are still related to this day.
Ten descendants of Vicar Gwyn who lived at Abercamlais were in Holy Orders, with connections with churches far and wide, including the Cathedrals of St David’s, Llandaff and Brecon and also the local church of Betws Penpont which was originally a Chapel-at-ease for St David’s Church, Llanspyddid.
In the early 18th Century the owner of the house was another Thomas Williams, and it was he who altered the house, giving it the georgian front which can be seen to this day. The only further alterations were done by the victorians. Gilbert Scott had re-built Penpont church for Prebendary Garnons Williams of Abercamlais, and also was responsible for the Porch on the front of the house.
In 1935 Captain Nevill Garnons Williams, a grandson of Prebendary Garnons Williams, inherited the house and estate from his father (who was also a vicar). After the War Nevill retired from the Royal Navy and returned home with his family. To-day his daughter lives at Abercamlais.
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