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Hearse at Felinfach
Hearse at Felinfach, c1925
Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery

Death was a day to day reality for the Victorians. The Queen herself spent much of her reign in mourning; it became essential to observe all due formalities if a member of the family died. As with other rites of passage, it attracted its own rituals. The wearing of black was well established and became quite lucrative for manufacturers of crepe, such as Pryce-Jones in Newtown.

The size of a funeral reflected the status of the departed. The body would lie at home until the funeral, and on the day of the ceremony the mourners would gather to say a prayer, and then the neighbours would sing hymns prior to the coffin's being borne to church.

Pantpurlais Farm
Powys County Archives

It was quite common to give tips to the sexton after the funeral. This was known as ‘shovel money' and persisted in the custom of paying a gravedigger more than his due fee. Afterwards there would be food and drink supplied, again reflecting the status of the deceased.

The Davies family lived at Pantpurlais, a farmhouse just outside Llandrindod Wells in Radnorshire. They had occupied the house for some years, since at least the 1850s, and had forged a living from the often inhospitable surroundings.

The parents of the family were Ezekiel and Elizabeth Davies and they had 8 children altogether: Elizabeth, b1846; Fortune, b1848; John, b1850; William, b1852; Sarah, b1854; Anne, b1858; Martha, b1861; and Thomas, b1870.

Ezekiel Davies of Pantpurlais
Powys County Archives

Mourning card
Mourning card for Ezekiel Davies
Powys County Archives

It was usual to have mourning cards like these printed following a death. Elizabeth died in February 1883, Ezekiel died 22 months later; both were buried at Howey Baptist Chapel.

The picture below shows the soberly dressed daughters of this couple.

Elizabeth Davies
Elizabeth Davies of Pantpurlais
Powys County Archives

Mourning card
Mourning card for Elizabeth Davies
Powys County Archives

Advert for mourning cards
Advertisement for Mourning Cards
from the 1891 Brecon & Radnor Express

Powys County Archives

Davies' daughters
Betsy, Fortune, Sarah, Annie and Patti
Powys County Archives

All of the children had left home by 1883 except Anne, who stayed on to nurse her father. She was married to a Thomas Morgan who took over the tenancy of the property which had grown in proportion since her father had taken over. He managed to buy the property in 1899. However, the house burnt down some time between 1899-1903 and was rebuilt as a much more comfortable residence, even becoming a boarding house and a tea room in the early part of the twentieth century.

Funeral notices were published in local newspapers much as they are today. The following is an extract from the Brecon and Radnor Express in 1891 which describes a funeral for a highly respected person in the community - in this case Mrs Amelia Edwards who was the wife of Rev D Bowen Edwards, the pastor of Watergate Baptist Church in Brecon:

Funeral notice
Description of the funeral of Mrs Amelia Edwards
from the Brecon and Radnor Express

Powys County Archives