The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter

For anyone who has not come across Agnes Porter before, she was a prolific writer of letters and, like many women of her day, she also kept a journal. Both her journal and letters were a serendipitous discovery several years ago in the attic of Penrice Castle, by Joanna Martin, who has spent time both transcribing and researching them in order to write a book about the life of Agnes which largely consists of extracts from both her letters and journals along with some background information about Agnes and the Georgian period.

Agnes was born not long after the Jacobite rising of 1745, in Edinburgh and lived between 1784 and 1806 in Somerset and then South Wales. She was governess to the children and grandchildren of the second Earl of Ilchester.

Our interest in her is somewhat superficial to be perfectly honest. Agnes appears to have been very fond of ‘name dropping’ in her journal and letters and as usual we stumbled across her purely by chance when researching a possible link to a lady who we think may have had a familial connection with a Rev’d David Williams. Agnes, it appears  was a close friend of his wife . David was for some years the vicar at Wroughton, a small parish in Wiltshire, his predecessor in that post being Agnes’s father.

Rev’d Williams we know had two brothers, Evan Williams, whom along with another brother, Thomas were booksellers and stationers in London.

We also noticed that Agnes’s sister Frances was friends with a Mrs Dyke of Syrencot House, Figheldean, Wiltshire.

William and Elizabeth Dyke had 5 children, one of whom, Caroline born c.1776, went on to marry Rev’d James Williams of Matherne, Monmouthshire by licence on the 19th May 1803 at Figheldean Parish church where James was a curate at the time. The Rev’d James Williams and Caroline went on to have four children – Samuel Rosser Williams, Elizabeth Arabella Williams, Frances Maria Williams and Thomas Lewis Williams.

We know that James was a beneficiary in the will of a relative of the lady we are researching which makes it seems highly likely, given the personal nature of the bequest, that  he had some close familial connection to her, but we have yet to verify the connection.  The family moved to Mathern, Monmouthshire as the memorial inscriptions inside the church testify.

Sacred to the Memory of The Rev James Williams MA in the Commission of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of this County who died January 31 1846 at Clifton Aged 76

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2 thoughts on “The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter

  1. Peter Richards

    Whilst researching my family tree I found that the Rev. David Richards of Hyssinton, (1710-1777), married Margaret Morice in 1759 at Hyssington. Margaret had inherited the Carrog Estate near Aberystwyth. One of their three surviving children, the Rev. Thomas Richards, married Frances Porter, the sister of Agnes. On the death of David, Thomas inherited the Carrog Estate. I have ni death date for Frances but Thomas lived to be 68. They are both buried in Aberystwyth.

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    1. All Things Georgian

      According to A Governess in the Age of Jane Austen: The Journals and Letters of Agnes Porter, Thomas lived to be 90 and was buried at Llanddieniol. There is a burial on the National Burial Index for a Thomas Richards dated 3rd March 1852 and one dated the 9th October 1823 in the same parish for a Frances Richards, but whether those entries relate to your Thomas & Frances we can’t say without viewing the register itself. We don’t know whether you have seen the will for Agnes Porter, but she made provision for both Thomas and her sister Frances in it (she wrote it in 1813 and it was proven 1814).

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