The Church often plays a large role in many people’s lives – baptisms, marriages, mass and funerals – they offer services for every stage of one’s life. It is therefore somewhat unsurprising that many members of the St David’s community left either money or possessions to the Church in their will. This was a special act from the person and the money donated often used for charitable purposes. Within the St. David’s collection are a miscellany of legal records, including a number of wills and correspondence concerning inheritance and the church. These documents are not simply full of legal jargon, they also offer a wonderful glimpse into the lives of multiple Swansea residents and their families, as well as confirming the Priory’s importance to the local community.
In August 1828 Revered William Bond received £30 to distribute to the poor as he saw fit, and in October 1929 Father Aspinwall received £50. However, inheritance was not only used for poor relief. Located within the Legal Records is set of several items concerning the estate of Adam Matthews, including correspondence in the form of a touching story between Father Abbott and a Mrs Mary Howells of Swansea.
Miss Howells writes to the Father in February 1926, desperately asking for help after her father, Adam Matthews, left all of his possessions, with the exception of four small legacies, to the Church. This meant that the family business was starting to suffer, and Miss Howells was massively struggling to make ends meet financially. She even offered to be interviewed, to ‘prove to you [father Abbott] the genuineness of this application’, and states that her mother has agree to visit the church also if needed. One day after this letter, Father Abbott received another letter signed, unfortunately, by an illegible signature. Regardless, the letter is still of interest as it links directly to that sent by Mary; he writes that he has read her letter and would like to confirm her statement and plea for help.
After deliberation between senior members of the Church, including correspondence between Father Aspinwall and the Archbishop of the Diocese of Cardiff, the Church used its best judgement and decided that the best course of action would be to give Miss Howells the money she had requested. These documents give a real example of everyday struggle and loss which can affect every single person still to this day. From birth to death the church offers a wide range of services and this touching story demonstrates the importance it played to members of the local Swansea community.
RBA LAC/99/G5 Letter to Father Abbott from Mary Howells,15th February 1926.
RBA LAC/99/G5 Letter to Father Abbott, 16th February 1926.
RBA LAC/99/G5 Letter to Father Aspinwall from Archbishop of Cardiff, 16th March 1926.