Monday, 1 March 2010

A trip to Brynmawr

This weekend I paid a return visit to Brynmawr in Blaenau Gwent, Wales to again try to find the last resting place of Dr George Fitzhenry, the suspected bigamist.
Here's what I've previously written about him and here's the previous trip to Brynmawr.

The local council were able to confirm that he was buried in the Brynmawr municipal cemetery (opened 1853) and that he shared his resting place with three women:
Jane Thomas
Elizabeth Barnes
Hannah Besant

Janes was his widow. Thomas was both her maiden name, and a suspected second married name (there are a lot of Thomases in this part of Wales). So no surprise to see her in there.
But the two other women were completely new to me.

Saturday was cold and sleety. I've put some pictures of the cemetery and the last of the recent snow still on the hilltops in my Picassa webalbum. The cemetery doesn't have any section markers, but with the sterling help of Ann and Margaret at the Brynmawr Local History Museum (where I took refuge when it became too cold and wet to stay out in the open any longer) and their friend John who came back to the cemetery to help in the quest, we found the grave.

Jane had obviously decided that her husband should have something good but not too showy. It's more of a monument than a gravestone made of grey/black marble and with an iron railing around it. It was a bit overgrown as the railing prevented the lawnmower from getting to close. Here's where we finally found it on Google maps

The inscription on one side read:
In loving memory of
physician and surgeon
of Brynmawr
who died October 23 1893
aged 72 years

... and on the other
Also of
JANE wife of the aforesaid
Died Nov 29th 1901
She feared God and kept his commandments

and this was on the top of the stone at one end:
Also of
Died March 10th 1956
aged 80 years
So still no clue to who Hannah Besant was, and no inscription for Elizabeth Barnes. I've asked the council if they have any more information about these women.

So it hasn't really enlightened me any further about George and Jane. George's age was given as 72 on the grave, whereas it was more like 80 years. Jane would have been about 71 years old.

I've found the entry for Hannah Besant's death in the GRO indexes. This was registered in the first quarter of 1956 in the district of Bedwellty and the given age was 80. (Bedwellty, vol 8c, page 82).
There are numerous Elizabeth Barnes who died in Wales, but there is one who died in Bedwellty in 1954 aged 83 (Bedwellty 3rd quarter vol 8c, page 52).

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  1. While trying to find out more about Dr. George FitzHenry I came uupon this site.
    Hannah Besant was my Greatgrandmother and Jane Thomas was her Aunt who went to keep house for the doctor. On the cenus it said the Jane was his wife, but have been unable to find a marriage for them. My Grandfather was named after him. George Henry Besant. Hannah always told us that she would be buried with them, as she was parted from her husband. Don't know who was Elizabeth Barnes.

  2. Dear Hazel
    Thanks for leaving us this extra information. If you would like to drop me an email at then I will send you a copy of George and Jane's marriage certificate.
    Best wishes
    Jo Fitz-Henry