AGM & talk on Edward Edwards.

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The Friends of St Augustine’s Annual General Meeting took place on Thursday 11th May at 2.30pm in the Parish Hall, Albert Road, Penarth.  Twenty-one members were present.

Cathy Grove, Joint Chair, welcomed members and gave an overview of The Friends and the activities over the past year. The annual accounts were presented and information given about the membership.

Members elected to the Executive Committee were: Cathy Grove, Linda Guilfoyle, Chris Higley, Margaret Knight, Caroline Lamb, Steve Lavender, Michael Lawrence and Chris Riley.

The next AGM will take place in May 2024.

Refreshments were available after the meeting and at 3.30pm, local historian Chris Riley will gave a talk on The True Story of Edward Edwards, Penarth’s notorious smuggler and pirate!

From Smuggling in the Bristol Channel 1700-1850 by Graham Smith: “In 1738 at Penarth the local Customs men seized tobacco and rum from a small coasting vessel from Bristol that ‘uses no other trade than to carry culme for burning of lime and stones to the Sea Wall’.  The two Customs boatmen boarded the vessel at dawn and they felt that the smuggled goods belonged to ‘a man of substance named Edwards, who had lately Built a house by the Harbour where was never one before ……he is an old offender and it is reputed that he has built large cellars to store his goods’.  They further felt that Edwards’ sole reason for living in such a place ‘was to defraud the Customs’.  There was an added complication, the Customs moored their boat right by Edwards’ house and he threatened to sink the vessel should the Customs interfere with his ‘lawful business’. Other quantities of brandy were found on the shore at Penarth and it was assumed that they too were part of Edwards’ cargo.  Needless to add that no prosecution was brought against this ‘man of substance’!

The house was the Penarth Head Inn which was later demolished and replaced by the Custom House (now restaurants).

Edward Edwardes was born in Wenvoe in about 1702 to William and Margaret (formerly Matthews), a stocking buyer.  The family was well off. In about 1729 Edward married Mary Howell (possibly also called Florence) from Dinas Powys.  Mary died in 1755 and was buried at St Augustine’s on 29th December.  Edward seems to have gone down in the world.  He was accused of violence several times and by the late 1730s was arrears of his farm rent.  Eighteenth century letters and diaries connect Edward with smuggling activities.

In 1739 Edward was convicted and also in that year he came under the influence of Howell Harris, a preacher who had had a religious experience and worked with the Wesley brothers. Edward became a Methodist.

Edward went to Bristol and became a shopkeeper.  He died there and was buried in 1765 aged about 66.  He still had property in Penarth and in his will left the property to his daughters Catherine Edwards and Margaret Philpot.

It seems certain the Edward Edwardes was a smuggler but a pirate?  That seems to be a fantasy, maybe thought of as an extension to his smuggling activities.

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