Thomas Walker

The 150 years after the building of Newton are the best documented and were the most prosperous in the history of the house.  The Games’ circle of relations widened both socially and geographically.  The sums of money available for the improvement and decoration of the house were considerable.

It was THOMAS WALKER who contributed most to the late seventeenth-century splendour of the mansion. Walker was a lawyer of some eminence and was Reader and lay Treasurer of the Inner Temple. He was Recorder in Brecon from 1689 until his death in 1707.

Under Walker’s ownership the Hall regained some of its late medieval importance.  It was furnished and decorated in a style appropriate to the formal centre of the building with large paintings and royal and family arms covering the walls. Walker spent much of his time away from home and his wife Elizabeth. He purchased many paintings on his regular trips to London and by 1700 Newton housed a substantial collection.  Walker also spent lavishly on fireplaces.

How representative of Welsh houses was Newton in terms of furnishings and decoration?  It is not easy to find houses of comparable status with similar contents.  The few contemporary references to paintings in Welsh houses reinforce the impression that Newton was a spectacular exception to the general rule. Today none of Walker’s pictures are at Newton.  It is not known what happened to the contents of the house after the estate was divided and sold during the eighteenth century.

Along with many alterations to the interior, Walker was probably responsible for the most striking change to the external appearance of Newton since 1582.  The remodelling of the roof which resulted in the pyramidal structure to be seen today was completed c. 1700.  The only dated building outside the house is the large barn to the east which has a datestone of 1697 – further evidence of Walker’s zeal for improvement.

The only surviving child of Thomas and Elizabeth was their daughter Elizabeth. With her marriage to Francis Jenkins of Hensol, Glamorgan, the Games connection with Newton was near its end.

There are a few elusive reminders of Thomas Walker and the Games family in Brecon.  A nineteenth-century local historian claimed that the bells of St. Mary’s were donated by Walker.  The chapel of Christ College contains a splendid brass chandelier inscribed ‘The Gift of Elizabeth Walker of Newton, 1723’.  Her memory is also preserved in the Games Almshouses which she and her sister endowed in the suburb of Llanfaes.

© 2018 Abercamlais. All rights reserved. Website created by Theresa Stabb. All photographs courtesy of Mr and Mrs A. Ballance and Theresa Stabb.

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