Mona House, High Street, Rhos

by dave edwards

In 1805, Morgan Williams was born in Tan y Felin, Llandona, Anglesey, the son of John A. P. Williams (1767-1856) and Eleanor (Ellin) Williams (1774-1857).  Morgan was baptized on 10th March 1805.

On 3rd June 1805, Anne Hughes was born at Menai Prredy, Llanfechall, Anglesey

On 27th March 1826 at Anglesey, Morgan Williams married Anne Hughes at Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog Church.

In 1841, Morgan Williams, a collier, and his wife Anne (nee Hughes), were living in a house called Tyddyn Uchaf (upper house) at Gaerwin in the Parish of Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog on the island of Anglesey.  They had five children, John (aged 11), William (aged 8), Anne (aged 5), Mary (aged 3) and 7 month old Ellin.  

Four years later, on 1st December 1845, their son Benjamin Williams was born at Tyddyn Uchaf, Gaerwin, Llanfihangel Ysceifiog and his father was described as a labourer.

By 1851, Morgan and his 20-year-old son John were both working as agricultural labourers and still living at Gaerwin, in the Parish of Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog.  Ellin (then called Eleanor) was 10-years-old and Benjamin was 5-years-old.

Robert William Williams wrote that his grandfather, Morgan, “was a labourer on a large farm, quite probably permanently bound to the land or landlord. He lived in a two-room stove cottage straw-thatched. His wages were six pence a day in cash.  In addition he was given about a quarter-acre of land enclosed by a stone wall for a garden in which he grew potatoes and broad beans and other vegetables.

Each labourer was entitled to two suckling pigs each spring and autumn to be raised and, fattened for his own use, and enough straw to bed the pigs and the family. The children slept on the stone floor. The parents usually had wooden bed-frames and home-made woollen blankets. In those days there were weavers in every locality weaving blankets and cloth from the wool of sheep in their own homes, and barter was a common way of distribution of such goods. Each laborer in addition was allowed sufficient garden space to grow potatoes for the pigs”.

When Benjamin was 12 years old, there were colliery closures in Anglesey and the Williams family moved eighty miles to live in Rhosllanerchrugog.  One or two of Morgan’s sons had previously visited Rhos to check things out.  This would have been circa 1857.  By 1861, 57-year-old Morgan was working as a coal miner in Rhos.   With them on the day of the census were their daughters Anne (aged 26 and unmarried) and Margaret (aged 11).

Anne Williams was described in her son Benjamin’s obituary as being, “a queen in her family, ruling with the sceptre of love.  Pure and undefiled religion was said to be the keynote of the family life, the discipline was perhaps inclined to be strict and puritanical; but all recognised that true piety filled the home-life with a sweet smelling savour.  It is no wonder, therefore, that three of the sons grew up to be deacons in different churches”.

Benjamin worked down the pit for a while, but was later apprenticed to the grocery and drapery business with Mr. Sauvage at Rhos.  After completing his apprenticeship, he spent an interesting and pleasant period at the business establishment known locally as “Siop y Forge”.  The religious atmosphere of this establishment suited him admirably.  And it is worth noting that Siop y Forge produced not only shopkeepers, but also many of Rhos’s foremost preachers, and a good number of devoted deacons.  Benjamin went on to spend some time at Plaskynaston, Cefn, then a well-known establishment that did extensive business.  He left Plaskynaston to begin a business of his own at High Street, Rhos.   

On February 27th 1869, 24-year-old Benjamin Williams rented from Samuel Evans a House, shop and warehouse, near the Cross, Rhos.  He agreed to pay Mr. Evans £10 per annum rent in quarterly installments, with the first installment being paid on that very day.    We can speculate on why Benjamin’s new house was called Mona House.  The Welsh name for Benjamin’s birthplace of Anglesey is Ynys Môn.  The Saxons knew it as Monez, but the Romans called it Mona.  {Historically the name Mona has been applied to both Anglesey and the Isle of Man} – small wonder that Benjamin chose the name “Mona House”.

By April 1871, Benjamin’s parents, Morgan and Anne Williams, both aged 66, were living at Yew Tree Issa, in the township of Dynhunlle Ucha and Morgan was working as a farm labourer.

Also in April 1871, 26-year-old Benjamin Williams was a Grocer, living in Campbell Street, Moreton Above (Rhos).  He was Head of the household and his 19-year-old sister Margaret Williams was his housekeeper.  Present in the house on the day of the census was Benjamin’s nephew, John Williams, aged 12, who was a grocer’s apprentice.  We know from Benjamin’s rent book that he was still paying rent to Samuel Evans in 1871 for a house, shop and warehouse near The Cross, so it is puzzling that he would be living in a house in Campbell Street.  Was it possible that he was renovating the other house in preparation for his forthcoming marriage … or was he sub-letting it?

Benjamin had fallen in love with a young lady called Jane Roberts, (born 7th September 1849).  Jane was from Rhos Farm but was living at Hillbury, a wealthy family’s home in Wrexham, where she worked as a maid.  Benjamin would often walk the four miles or more from Rhos in the evenings to see her.  A letter from him, dated May 1st 1871, promised that he would meet her at Hillbury at half past seven the following evening.  

Shortly after writing that letter, Benjamin married 21-year-old Jane Roberts on 17th May 1871, at the Welsh Presbyterian Chapel.  Her father was Robert Roberts and her mother was Elizabeth Roberts (nee Williams).  At this time, Benjamin’s address was High Street, Rhos.

Jane left her position at Hillbury when she married Benjamin.  Many readers will forgive me for a slight digression here when I mention that Hillbury was once owned by a prominent landowner and land agent named John Bury.

By profession he was a solicitor and he was an alderman of the town of Wrexham. He owned some land between Wrexham and Llangollen, but sold the land to Messrs Jenkins and Jones, who then developed it and sold it off plot by plot to various entrepreneurs.  A condition made by Mr. Bury was that the name of the village would be either ‘Bury’ or ‘John’s Town’. In the event the village came to be known as Johnstown.

Back in Rhos, on 15th April 1872, Jane Williams gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Elizabeth Ann, after Jane and Benjamin’s mothers.  Sadly, Elizabeth Ann died on 26th January 1873 from convulsions, as the result of an infection brought about by being given an impure vaccine.

On 12th July 1873, Jane gave birth to a second child, Robert W. Williams, who was named after Jane’s father.  Robert was only to live for five years.   

A third child was born to Jane on 5th January 1876 and they called him Howel Morgan Williams.  He was to live for only six years.

Benjamin’s mother, Anne Williams, died in 1876, aged 71 and was buried in the churchyard of Capel y Groes, Penycae.

On 26th April 1878, Jane gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Ann Williams.  This fourth child was the first to survive into adulthood.  

Benjamin and Jane’s second child, Robert, died on 10th October 1878, aged only five, as a result of Scarlet Fever.

A fifth child was born to Jane and Benjamin in September 1880 and was named Robert William.  

In 1881, 35-year-old Benjamin was a grocer and provision dealer, living at 27 High Street, Rhos with his 31-year-old wife, Jane, and their two sons and a daughter.  Jane and the children had all been born in Rhos.  Living with them was Benjamin’s 76-year-old widowed father, Morgan Williams.  In the house on the day of the census was Benjamin’s 13-year-old nephew, Benjamin Williams, who was employed as a grocer’s apprentice.  There was also a fourteen-year-old servant.

Howell Morgan Williams, a son of Benjamin and Jane, died on Friday, 2nd June 1882, aged six-years and five months.  The newspaper account of the death gave the address as Mona House.  Two months previously the census had showed their address to be 27 High Street, so they had moved across the street to Mona House at 6 High Street.   

On 8th April 1883, Jane Williams of Mona House, gave birth to a son, Caradawg Williams.

On Monday, 2nd October 1883, Mr. Benjamin Williams of Mona House presided over a meeting at Capel Mawr where they were celebrating 150 years of the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion.  At two o’clock a procession had taken place from various churches, culminating in the meeting at Capel Mawr.

The death of 80-year-old Morgan Williams, father of Benjamin, was registered during the 1st Quarter of 1885, in the district of Wrexham.  Morgan and his wife Anne are buried in the churchyard of Capel y Groes, Penycae.

On 14th August 1885 a seventh child, Jane Ellen Williams, was born at Rhos.

During the 4th Quarter of 1887 the birth was registered in the District of Wrexham of Ernest Morgan Williams, his middle name being a tribute to Benjamin’s father who had died only two years previously.

A photo taken in 1888 shows Benjamin, Anne, their children and the children’s nurse at the seaside resort of Rhyl.

Circa 1888, an eighth child was born to Jane and Benjamin.  His name was Ernest Morgan Williams and he was born at Rhos.    

By 1891, Benjamin Williams, a grocer/shop keeper working on his own account, was employing an assistant, an apprentice and a porter.

On 23rd November 1891, nineteen years after the birth of Jane’s first child, their ninth and final child was born at Rhos and named Margaret Williams.   

An advert placed in the Rhos Herald in 1894 listed Benjamin’s business as being at Mona House, High Street.  

He was described as a draper, grocer and ironmonger.  He offered for sale a splendid selection of paraffin lamps and stoves, furnishing and general ironmongery, hardware and tinware.  Also for sale were galvanized buckets, wash-ups, oval baths, washboards, etc.  Benjamin sold brooms, brushes and Manchester and Birmingham trunks.  He also sold colliers’ picks, shafts, steel hammers, all kinds of nails in patent cut and wrought and petroleum and other oils.

On Monday, 25th February 1895, a literary meeting was held at Capel Mawr.  It was in connection with the Johnstown Calvinistic Methodist Chapel.  Five people entered a pianoforte competition and the first prize was awarded to eleven-year-old Caradoc Williams of Mona House. Second prize was divided between Miss M. C. Jenkins and fourteen-year-old Robert W. Williams of Mona House.     

On Monday, 9th September 1895, the members of Bethel Chapel, Ponkey, had afternoon tea, followed by an evening meeting, which was presided over by Mr. John Tysilio Jones, a timber merchant of Johnstown.  There was a song by the children who were conducted by Mr. William Jones of Mona House.  9-year-old Miss Jane Ellen Williams of Mona House came second in a singing competition and then Mr. William Jones of Mona House and party were joint winners of a hymn-singing competition.

This may be the same William Jones who is later mentioned as being a cousin of Benjamin.  A newspaper article of 1899 confirms that Benjamin was very well respected in Rhos at that time.

An advert from the Rhos Herald of September 1899 described Benjamin’s 20-year-old daughter Elizabeth Anne Williams as the proprietor of the Maelor Restaurant and Temperance Hotel directly across the road from Mona Stores.  The Restaurant was referred to in the advert as a High Class Confectionery.

On Monday, 13th November 1899 a lecture was given at the Public Hall in connection with Siloh Calvinistic Methodist Church, Johnstown.  The chair was to have been taken by Alderman Edward Hooson, J.P., but in his unavoidable absence it was taken by Mr. Benjamin Williams of Mona House.  {I have observed that although addresses are not always mentioned in newspaper accounts, the Williams family members were always described as being of Mona House.  To me this implies they had some importance in the village.  It could also have been because there was a Mr. Benjamin Williams living in Hafod, who was sometimes mentioned}.

On New Year’s Day 1900, Benjamin Williams followed the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law, in an event which said a lot about his temperament.  On the evening of 31st December 1899, some members of the Rhos choir were singing carols around the streets of Rhos. After listening to them sing, Mr. William Edwards, the landlord of the Sun and Dragon Inn, Hall Street, kindly invited them and a few listeners into the warmth of his private rooms.  It was customary in those times to offer hospitality on New Year’s Eve and there were nine people welcomed into his house altogether.  Mr. Edwards, gave them each a glass of beer as a thank you for their vocal efforts.

Meanwhile, someone saw fit to inform Mr. Benjamin Williams of what was happening round the corner to his house.  Mr. Williams turned up at 2:30am and after knocking three times on the door of the Sun and Dragon, William Edwards unbolted his door and Benjamin admonished him for having company in his house at that time of night.  Benjamin took note of who was present and in the morning he reported the matter to the Deputy Chief Constable.

Despite the landlord’s insistence that it had been his custom for the previous seven years to invite carol singers into his home, each of his guests were each fined one shilling and costs at the Ruabon Petty Sessions in January 1900.

On Friday, February 9th 1900, at a further court hearing, Mr. William Edwards was charged with keeping his premises open during prohibited hours.  He insisted he had never been charged before.  Benjamin Williams, a well-known temperance advocate of Rhos, then told how he had been unable to find the constable so had gone himself to the Sun and Dragon Inn and found between 12 and 15 persons seated with glasses of drink at one o’clock in the morning.  A Mrs Elizabeth Evans told how she had been given refreshments but had not paid any money.  She was then asked by Police constable Lee why she had hid the glass under her apron, but she denied doing so.

A Mr. Joseph Ellis told how the carol singers had been given three shillings and some food and drink as a gift.  This was confirmed by William Jones and Hannah Thomas of Jones Street.

Despite a united front in defence of Mr. William Edwards, in front of a crowded court, he was fined ten shillings and costs; a total of one pound.    

In fairness it has to be mentioned that Benjamin was known for usually being public-spirited and was a member of the Rhos Silver Band and also an important member of the Temperance Movement, which was very strong in Rhos at that time.  Benjamin’s great-great nephew told Ieuan Roberts that Mr. Williams had a reputation for standing on street corners and outside pubs, preaching against drink.  He would have seen it as his God-given duty to keep people on the straight and narrow path to righteousness.

In May 1900, the annual meeting of the Rhos Auxiliary Branch of the Bible society was held at Capel Mawr School-room.  In the account of the meeting it was mentioned that the treasurer was Mr. Benjamin Williams of Mona House.

The 1901 census gave Benjamin’s address as being 6 High Street, which is also known as Mona House.  Benjamin, a grocer/shop-keeper working on his own account, was 55 at this time and his wife Jane was 51.  They had quite a full house on the day of the census.  Present were their daughters, Elizabeth Ann (aged 22), who was a confectioner; Jane Ellen (aged 15) who was a confectioner’s apprentice and Margaret (aged 9) who was a scholar.  Also present that day were their sons, Robert William (aged 20), who was a farmer; Caradog (aged 17), a grocer’s apprentice and Ernest Morgan (aged 13), a scholar.   There were two servants, Evan Richard Roberts (aged 22) from Widnes, Lancs., and a 28-year-old local girl called Sarah Jane Jones.

I have a special interest in Mona Stores, because in 1901 my great grandparents were living at 7 High Street, Rhos with two of their children: my Great Aunt Amy, aged four and my future Taid, Edward Charles Edwards, then aged three.  They will have been familiar with Mona Stores, as it was diagonally opposite where they lived.

During the 4th Quarter of 1906, in the District of Wrexham, the death was registered of Benjamin Williams, aged 61.  He died at Mona House on 11th December 1906 and was buried on Friday, 14th December 1906 in Rhos cemetery.

The informant on the death certificate was Mr. Robert Jones of Mona Gardens, who had been present at the death.  The Llangollen Advertiser mentioned that Benjamin had been a member of the Ruabon School Board for many years and also represented the Rhos Ward on the Parish Council.  Benjamin was a prominent man in the Flintshire Monthly Meeting (a chapel organisation) and had served as chairman.  He played a significant role in temperance and in local politics and was a first cousin to Mr. William Jones, the Arfon M.P.  As a politician, Benjamin was one of the staunchest Liberals, and a faithful supporter of the late Sir George Osborne Morgan.

Benjamin was first connected with Capel Mawr, but for the greater part of his life was involved with the cause at Ponkey.  He served as a deacon for 32 years, being elected to the office when he was only twenty-nine.  Prior to this, he had been secretary of the church.  He was a prominent member of the Monthly Meeting, always serving on the most important committees.  Benjamin somehow managed to find time to be the treasurer of the District Quarterly Meeting, treasurer of the county scriptural examination, treasurer of the home mission funds and treasurer to other local societies, such as Rhos Silver Band, and the Rhos branch of the Order of Rechabites.

Exclusive of what Benjamin Williams may have been possessed of or entitled to “as a Trustee and not beneficially”, he left £3,546:10:0 in his Will.

On 31st July and 7th August 1909, the Rhos Herald carried an advert offering for sale a Gent’s First Grade Cycle – a Royal Prince bicycle guaranteed for four years.  The price asked was £5 5s and the seller was B. Williams, Mona Stores, Rhos.

The next reference to Mona House I found also featured a bicycle.  On Wednesday, 15th September 1909, Thomas Evans, a young apprentice at Mona House, Rhos, was cycling down Talwrn Hill when he lost control of his bicycle and ran into the wall of a bridge.  He was rendered unconscious and had to be conveyed to Mona House in a trap.  He lay in a critical condition and was attended by Dr. D. J. Williams.

In October 1910, The Maelor Restaurant, 39 High Street, Rhos was for Let.  Interestingly, applications were to be made to Mrs. B. Williams of Mona House.   

The 1911 census described Mona House as 6 High Street. Its occupants were Mrs Jane Williams (widow of Benjamin Williams) with three of her daughters and two of her sons.  Mrs Williams was a Grocer and General Dealer and was assisted in the shop by her sons Ernest Morgan Williams and Caradawg Williams.  Her daughter Jane Ellen Williams also assisted in the shop.  Of Jane’s other two daughters, Elizabeth Ann was their housekeeper and Margaret worked from home as a dressmaker.  The sons and daughters were all single and aged between 19 and 32, so it was as well that Mona House had nine rooms.

It is interesting to observe that behind Mona House was Mona Gardens, a five-roomed house, which was situated in Hall Street between Hanover House and the Nags Head. In 1911, its occupants were Robert Jones and his wife of one year, Mary Ellen Jones.  In 1906, Robert had been present at the death of Benjamin Williams.    Robert was from Esclusham and Mary Ellen was from Lancashire.  Robert was a Sanitary Engineer and Ironmonger working from home and his wife assisted in the business.  With both premises bearing the title “Mona” it is possible there may have been a connection between them; maybe Benjamin rented both buildings originally and Mr. Jones took one over after Benjamin’s death – who knows.

On 30th June 1915, 27-year-old Ernest Morgan Williams married 26-year-old Grace Mary Lloyd of Coedpoeth, Bersham at Bethel Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Smelt, Coedpoeth, Bersham.  Grace’s father was John Lloyd, a locomotive engine driver.

On 14th February 1916, 33-year-old Caradawg Williams enlisted as a Private in the South Wales Border regiment.    

On Monday, 7th August 1916, 30-year-old Jane Ellen Williams, daughter of Jane and the late Benjamin Williams was married to 36-year-old Frederick Ellis at Capel Bethel, Ponciau.

Caradawg Williams was discharged from the army on 5th November 1918 after being wounded.

In 1920, Benjamin and Jane’s son, Ernest Morgan Williams, then aged 32, was on board the ship Haverford when it sailed from Liverpool to Canada, arriving on 12th July.

Margaret (Maggie) Williams, the unmarried daughter of Jane and Benjamin, died from pneumonia on 17th January 1924 at Rhos, aged only 32.  Many felt that the shock of this loss brought about the subsequent death of her mother, Jane Williams, who passed away on Saturday, 5th April 1924, aged 74, following an illness of only four days duration.  Jane’s obituary described her as being well-known, most respected and a member of one of the oldest and most esteemed families of the district (the Roberts family of Rhos Lodge).  The obituary went on to stress that Jane Williams was known for her benevolence and readiness to help every good cause.  She was one of the oldest members of Capel Bethel, where she had served as a Sunday School teacher for many years.  Administration of Jane’s Estate was granted to Caradawg Williams, son of the deceased and to Robert Jones, of Mona Gardens.

Jane’s obituary of 1924 mentioned Miss Sarah Jones, Mona House, who had been in their service for 25 years.  The 1901 census showed Sarah Jane Jones as being a 28-year-old General Domestic Servant, so in 1924 she would have been 51.  Mr. & Mrs. Williams must have been good employers for Sarah to have stayed so long.

Little is known about Mona House itself, but we do know that the shop’s warehouse caught fire on 5th May 1930.

On 5th July 1932, Caradawg Williams, Elizabeth Ann Williams, Frederick Ellis and Jane Ellen Ellis conveyed 22 square yards – part of the forecourt of numbers 35 to 39 High Street – to the Denbighshire County Council.  39 High Street was the Maelor Restaurant, so this implies that the Williams and Ellis family owned it.

In 1940, 57-year-old Caradawg married 31-year-old Catherine (Katie) Ann Edwards (born 1st June 1909).  The marriage was registered during the 3rd Quarter of 1940, in the District of Wrexham.

A newspaper advert of 12th July 1946 announced that after almost 80 years of serving the public, B. Williams and Son (Mona Stores) was to be transferred to Mr. Eric Jenkins. Significantly, Mr. Caradawg Williams, the proprietor, would have been 63 at this time and on retirement he had no children to pass the business on to.

Elizabeth Ann Williams died on 3rd December 1960, unmarried and aged 82.     

On Tuesday, April 30th, 1963, Caradawg Williams (born c.1883), sixth child of Benjamin and Jane, died aged 80 at Rhos.  Caradawg was buried on Saturday, 4th May 1963, at the cemetery at Wern, after a moving service in his favourite church and at the graveside under the leadership of its pastor, Rev. John Evans.

Caradawg had been the organist at Capel Bethel, Ponciau, for years until he was forced to give up, because of war wounds sustained during the 1914 – 1918 war. He was an elder at Capel Bethel in 1937 and treasurer for many years. His loyalty, unfailing activity, steadfast character and demeanour were admired by all. He served under seven ministers and was a helpful and sincere friend to each of them.

Caradawg Williams, of Arddol Poplar avenue, Rhos, left effects  valued at £2,412 to his widow, Catherine Ann Williams.

Mona Stores was managed by Eric Jenkins as a grocer’s shop.  Eric’s son Eifion, was a member of a pop group called the Strollers in the early 1960s.  They were later called the Deesiders.

Ron Hughes, who lived opposite in the Maelor Restaurant, recalls that Eric Jenkins’ wife Phyllis now lives with her daughter Ann in Northampton and Eifion possibly lives in Gresford.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Neville Roberts’ mother always sent him to Mona Stores for the Saturday shopping. He had to stand there until Mr. Jenkins, and the counter girls had finished serving the grown-ups, then Neville would hand over the list for them to get all the groceries. He remembers it used to take ages.

Ernest Morgan Williams died in Vancouver, Canada, on the evening of Sunday, 17th May 1964.

Robert William Williams, the fifth child of Benjamin and Jane, died in California, U.S.A. in 1971.

Catherine Ann Williams, Caradawg’s widow, died on 29th January 1993, aged 83 and her death was registered in February 1993, in the District of Clwyd.  Her funeral was on the 4th February at Bethel Chapel, Ponciau and she was cremated at Pentredwr Bychan.

Mona stores later became a Mace store and is currently the premises of R. Breeze, the funeral director.

WRITTEN BY – Dave Edwards.Feb 2015 updated March 2015

SOURCES – Ieuan Roberts; David Jones; Steve Williams; Kathryn Heslop; Sandra Lewis; Neville Roberts; Anne Templeton; Ancestry UK; Free B, M, D; Google Maps; Rhos Herald, 18th August 1894; Wrexham Advertiser – 14th September 1895 / 20th January 1900; Llangollen Advertiser – 16th February 1900; Rhos Herald 18th September 1909;


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Mona Stores, Rhos
Mona Stores, Rhos

Mona Stores, Rhos 1923
Mona Stores, Rhos 1923

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