James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants


On Monday, 2 August 1858 Elias married Margaret Pierce, who had been born in Llanllechid in 1839, one of at least four children of Eleanor and William Pierce, a quarryman. The censuses show the Pierce family was living in Llanllechid between 1841 and 1861 and William was born in Bettws, Carnarvonshire. The expansion of the slate industry in the 19th century had an immense effect on this remote area of Wales. Between 1800 and 1840, the populations in some of the quarrying areas trebled and new towns and villages came into existence. A group of Non-Conformist quarrymen built a chapel near their new working quarters, and called it 'Bethesda' after the healing waters of the Biblical pool. Cottages, pubs and more chapels followed, many similarly named after Biblical places. By 1881, the parish of Llanllechid, which included Bethesda, had a population of 8,291 compared with only 1332 in 1801. The local Penrhyn Quarry employing around 3,000 men in 1869 produced 93,000 tons and by 1882, with a slightly reduced workforce, the output had risen to 111,166 tons.

Their marriage certificate states that Margaret was of "full age", though she was in fact no more than nineteen, and that she and Elias were resident in Mason Street Liverpool at the time; Mason Street, Liverpool was very near St. David’s Church, the Welsh chapel in Brownlow Hill, Liverpool, where the marriage took place; both are in the Edge Hill district of Liverpool (Brownlow Hill runs E-W through the present day Liverpool University campus and Mason Street runs N-S just to the east of the university). (map) Witnesses were Jane and Henry Kay, a ‘Certificated teacher at a National School’, who in 1861 were still living in that part of Liverpool. It may be that the wedding had to take place in Liverpool because of Margaret’s age. I know of another genealogist who was surprised that two of her Welsh ancestors, similarly with no apparent connection with Liverpool, married at that church.