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.