Sir Thomas Bonsall

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Sir Thomas Bonsall

Also Known As: "Family Motto "Goreu Ach Y Goruchaf" or "The best protection is the moat high.""
Birthdate: (78)
Death: 1808 (78)
Place of Burial: Trawsgoed, Ceredigion, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of George Bonsall and Mary Bonsall
Brother of Lt Colonel Richard Bonsall

Occupation: Sheriff of Cardiganshire
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Sir Thomas Bonsall

The Bonsall family is thought to have originated in the village of Bonsall, near Matlock in Derbyshire, though the first Bonsall to achieve honour was Thomas, the son of George Bonsall and his wife Mary Beardmore, who was born in 1730 and died in 1808 and is buried at Llanafan. Thomas Bonsall was born at Ecton in Staffordshire where his father worked in the local mine and he probably came to the Aberystwyth area in connection with the lead mining industry about the year 1770. In 1796 he was Sheriff of Cardiganshire and was responsible for delivering a loyal address to King George III who had survived an attempt on his life by one Maywell Nicholson and, as a result, Thomas Bonsall was made a knight. Sir Thomas Bonsall adopted a coat of arms largely composed of the pickaxe as a symbol though one of his sons deftly transformed them into crosses.

Sir Thomas Bonsall had ten children and they lived at the family's town house at 'Y Crynfryn', Little Darkgate Street, Aberystwyth and at Fronfraith, an estate at Llanbadarn which was purchased in 1784. Of the children Winifred married a Captain Lozon, a Frenchman who was a friend of the Powells of Nanteos, and lived at Y Crynfryn until her death in 1859. Her brother, John Smith Bonsall, shared the house which their father had built in present day Eastgate Street, until his death in 1858; their father had also built a row of houses along the front known as Bonsall's Row and though they have been rebuilt a single letter 'B', high on the wall, linl{s that part of Marine Terrace with the Bonsall family. There was another son, Thomas, who died at a young age and another, George, who became a doctor and built the house at Glanrheidol which he bequeathed to his younger brother William. William had trained as a surgeon at Shrewsbury and came to Aberystwyth to live in 1808 but on his death, without children, he bequeathed the house to his sister Mary who was married to James Hughes and he took the name of James Hughes - Bonsall on inheriting Glanrheidol in 1824. The bulk of the property of John Smith, George and William Bonsall was to pass to the son of their brother, Isaac, John George William Bonsall.

Isaac Bonsall trained for the Church and became Rector of Llanwrin, Montgom eryshire. He married Catherine, the daughter of the Rev. John Davies, Rector of Cemmaes, and his wife Jane, who was descended from an ancient Welsh family that could trace its ancestry back to Cadwallader in the Seventh Century. Isaac Bonsall had four children: Jane, who married the Rev. I. Rees of Capel Bangor; Thomas, the eldest son, who married Mary Hughes; John George William and Isaac, a clergyman, who married Rosa Williams and lived at Dole.

John George William Bonsall was born at Llanbrynmair Rectory on the 29th of May 1817 and was four years younger than his brother Thomas; the recorded birthdate on the memorial is almost certainly wrong and, in all probability, only given because it coincides with that of his wife, Frances. John, as he was known, was educated at Shrewsbury School and became a solicitor, working at Machynlleth as can be seen from his 'Case Book' for the period October 1843 to December 1845 which is preserved in the National Library of Wales. On the fourth of May, 1853, John married Frances, the daughter of Joseph Davies of Galltyllan, Montgomeryshire. She was to inherit the family estate on the death of her brother, Edward, in 1872: the Galltyllan estate yielded an income of £403 for the half year to May 1873 while the Fronfraith estate, including properties in Aberystwyth, realised over £800 for the same period: in addition John Bonsall could rely on income from the mortgages he held and from his earnings as a solicitor: he was regarded as being wealthier than the Pryse and Powell families. He built many houses in the area along the frontage of 'Y Crynfryn' and even today a small plaque at the end of the lane by the Pier Hotel proclaims 'This pine end belongs to J.G.W. Bonsall, Esq., of Fronfraith. Built 1867.'

John and Frances Bonsall had two sons and four daughters: John Joseph, who died in October 1914 and is buried at Capel Bangor; Frances Winifred, who married Guy Hardwin Gallenga, and died in 1925 and is buried at Hendon Park Cemetery; Elizabeth Jane, who married Edward Meuthen Leir of Taunton; Mary Catherine, who was unmarried and is buried in the family vault, lived at Fronfraith and cared for her father until his death: she was bequeathed a house at 9, Marine Terrace, but spent most of her time in London with her sister Elizabeth until 1939 when she returned to Aberystwyth. She was always a generous supporter of the National Society for the Blind. Another child was Sarah Margaret, baptised in April 1861 she died at the age of seven months and is buried in the family vault; and Hugh Edward, the youngest.

Major Hugh Edward Bonsall of the Cardigan Artillery was, like his father, a staunch Conservative and, at one time, Chairman of the Llanbadarn Bench. He was also Income Tax Commissioner for Cardiganshire and Montgomeryshire, and High Sheriff of Montgomeryshire in 1916. He inherited the Fronfraith estate in 1914 on the death of his elder brother. He was married to Gertrude Elizabeth, the second daughter of J. T. Morgan of Nantcaerio and she was to be honoured with an M.B.E. for her work with the Red Cross.

John Bonsall was, of course, a solicitor as well as a man of property and as such he took an active part in public life though he was too reserved to stand for election to Parliament. He was High Sheriff of Cardiganshire in 1866 and took a leading part in establishing and running the Aberystwyth Infirmary and the Penyfron School at Llanbadarn. He served on the Quarter Sessions of Cardiganshire and was a Justice of the Peace at Llanbadarn where he was highly regarded as a just and straight-forward man.

John Bonsall never spoke to his father after 1858 and the reason the pair quarrelled was the manner in which John is alleged to have acquired the Bonsall estates including Fronfraith. Sir Thomas Bonsall had left the prop erties to his children and Fronfraith had gone to John Smith Bonsall who was a bachelor. Shortly before he died in 1858 John Smith Bonsall had made a deed of gift of the property to John Bonsall and when his brother, Isaac Bonsall, who was John's father, came to Aberystwyth to claim the property as heir he was upset to find that his son had outmanoeuvred him. Isaac then approached his elderly sister, Winifred Lozon, to complain about the loss of Fronfraith and asked her to make a will leaving her money, about £30,000, to him. This she did and Isaac Bonsall returned to Llanwrin. When John found out what his father had done he was outraged for, twelve years previously, he had persuaded the old lady to make a will in his favour without his father knowing. Once again he persuaded her to make out another will, the third, this time in his favour and on her death, in 1859, he was able to produce the will and claim the money. His father was, naturally, angry at being outmanoevred for a second time and contested the will but there was an out of court settlement by which John paid his father £6,000 in return for a small piece of land. However Isaac was so upset that he crossed out John's name from his will where he had been bequeathed Dolwenlynllyn Farm, near Dolgellau, and substituted that of his eldest son Thomas; John then contested the deed and his brother gave way so that he got the farm.

In old age John Bonsall was a striking figure who was very popular around Aberystwyth where his long nose and large protruding lower lip and his independent manner were remarked upon. He continued to carry out his duties until the day of his death even though he had gone blind and had had one of his eyes removed in July 1897: he is supposed to have come round from the chlorofom and his first words were to the doctors "I have written out the cheque and all it wants is filling in" which was done to the sum of £40.

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Sir Thomas Bonsall's Timeline

Age 78
Trawsgoed, Ceredigion, United Kingdom