The Child family was the dominant local resident gentry in the Begelly area for at least 150 years. Little is left now to mark their presence except their residence, Begelly House. As with many old houses, the date of its construction is not obvious to the untrained eye. Thankfully there are two sources of information provided by “trained eyes” that provide professional insight.
Firstly, investigators from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales describe Begelly House as follows:
“The present house, a rather stark cube, was probably built/rebuilt in the second quarter of the nineteenth century…”
This is not much to go on. A second and more recent source is the Pembrokeshire edition of CADW’s “The Buildings of Wales” series. The authors describe the house as having a “mid-C19 refronting to a house built c. 1750” and comment specifically about a mid-1700s staircase.
Taken together these sources indicate a two-stage building process: the first in the mid-1700s followed by a second about 70 to 100 years later. How, if at all, do these dates correlate with what is known about the family’s history?
If the “mid-1700s” is taken as an accurate date range, the answer is the first date at least does tie in nicely with a change in circumstances for the family. John Child, then head of the family, died in 1734 leaving as orphans his four young children. Their guardian whisked the children away to Tenby, collecting rents from the estate but without investing any money to maintain the empty family house. One contemporary source stated that by the mid-1740s the house was “in decay” (TNA C 12/1801/3). So, it is probable that when John’s son, James Child, took control of the estate around 1748 he was forced to knock down the existing structure and rebuild from scratch. Short of money, James would have delayed building work until the mid-1750s at the earliest to accumulate the necessary funds from rentals and sales of coal.
Any correlation between the second phase of development and the family’s history is less clear-cut. The re-fronting may have occurred when the then family head, James Mark Child, stepped back from investing his own money in the local mines and turned to national politics instead: he stood for Parliament in 1841 and threatened to stand a second time in 1847. So it is possible he spent money re-fronting his house to provide the effect of a modern building befitting the grand political aspirations of a local businessman.
Other than the church, is Begelly House the oldest surviving building in the parish?
RCAHMW’s web site including description of Begelly House
“The Buildings of Wales: Pembrokeshire”, Thomas Lloyd, Julian Orbach and Robert Scourfield, Yale University Press, 2004
Details of the sources for the Child family history available from the blogger.