The Bell in St. Tanwg’s Church, Strydd Fawr, Harlech was taken down for inspection and repair in May 2009. Its clapper had been replaced by a mallet head a couple of years earlier as it was badly corroded. The fittings were all badly corroded.
An Inscription on the bell reads:-
“C&G Mears Founders London
The gift of Lt Col Le Blanc as a thanks offering for the preservation of himself and family in attempting to cross the estuary of Traethbeck on the 14th August 1844.
D Evans, A.B. Rector
I Foulkes )
L Thomas ) Church Wardens”
It is reasonable to assume that this rescue took place at Traeth Bach, not Traethbeck, near the Ynes. This is the first of two errors in the inscription. In those days, this was a useful, but dangerous, short cut across the Dwyryd Estuary to avoid going all the way upstream to Maentwrog and back on the other side when travelling between Harlech and Porthmadog.
There is an error in the church guide when it identifies the benefactor of the bell Col. Le Clarc. This error is reproduced in the article on the Church Bells of Merioneth in Society’s journal of 2005 (page 305).
St. Tanwg’s Church in 1844
The Minutes of a Vestry Meeting of Llandanwg Church, held on 18th February 1839, in the Blue Lion Inn, Harlech (now the Plas Restaurant and Spar shop) “Resolved to build a new church in Harlech and it should be the Parish Church of Llandanwg for the celebration of divine offices and solemnisation of marriage, instead of Llandanwg. The old church shall still be used for bringing the dead to the Church Yard.” These Minutes were signed by David Evans, Rector.
According to the Minutes Book he conducted burials until 1841. There were no more funerals recorded until 1846 when Rev.d Rees Davies (Rector of Llanfair) officiated. In 1847 Rev.d John Jones Brown was the Rector of Llandanwg. Unfortunately the Minutes Book does not record when this new church, St. Tanwg’s, Harlech was first used for services, although it is understood that it was built in 1840. The new St. Tanwg’s Church did not become the Parish Church of Harlech for another 60 years. The old church in Llandanwg fell into disrepair by the 1850s and was restored later.
The Minutes of the Vestry Meeting in June 1844 and May 1845 show John Foulkes (not I Foulkes – the second error in the bell inscription) and Lewis Thomas were the church wardens. Sadly there is no mention of this new bell in these Minutes. They concentrated on what the Poor Rate would be and to whom the Poor Relief would be dispensed. Most of the annual church meetings were held in the Blue Lion Inn in Harlech at the time.
The 1841 Census shows that the Rector David Evans was 75 years old and lived in Llanbedr. John Foulkes (aged 30) was Inn Keeper of the Blue Lion Inn in Harlech with his wife Sarah (40) and daughter Mary (4). Lewis Thomas (aged 55) was a farmer in Llandanwg and lived with his wife Grace (50). None of them appear in the 1851 or subsequent Censuses! There are farmers called Thomas living in the area, perhaps descendents from the same family.
C and G Mears Founders
This company was first established in 1570 by Robert Mot. It currently operates as the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
It is the longest established manufacturing company and the last surviving bell foundry in the UK. It was owned by the Mears Family from 1781, Alfred Lawson from 1884 and the Hughes family from 1904. Alan Hughes is the current Director.
It is probably the most famous bell foundry in the world.
Many Cathedral bells were made there including the Liberty Bell (1752) and Big Ben (1858), which is the biggest bell they have made, weighing 13.5 tonnes.
The St. Tanwg’s bell weighs 0.1 tonnes and is 21 inches in diameter and rings at a pitch of G sharp.
Repairs to the Bell
The Bell was taken back to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on June 18th 2009 with the intention of replacing the clapper and the corroded fittings. However they advised that the bell was cracked, like the Liberty Bell and Big Ben.
The St. Tanwg’s PCC decided at a meeting on June 25th 2009 to have the bell recast with its inscription reinstated. The original bell was broken up, melted and re-cast on October 30th at Whitechapel – it has been recycled and a new inscription added giving details of its recasting. The new bell was re-hung on the December 28th and used for the first time to ring in the New Year of 2010. The church is very grateful to Bob Major, Bob Jones (Tyn-y-Pant) and Adam Greenfield (Cadwgan Inn) for their efforts in removing and re-hanging the bell.
The total cost of the new bell was approximately £5500. This was paid for by generous donations from local people and businesses, grants from CADW and the All Churches Trust, VAT refund and Gift Aid Tax rebate.
The new bell was dedicated during Choral Evensong on February 21st 2010, in a service led by Bishop Andy of Bangor. This was also attended by Andrew Le Blanc Smith, a great, great grandson of Lt Colonel Le Blanc, the original benefactor of the bell (more of him and his family later!).
Who was Lt. Col. Le Blanc?
There were no Le Blancs in the 1841 Census of Wales. There were only 20 Le Blancs in the 1841 Census of England. Most were female or too young to be a Lt. Colonel. But there was a Colonel Henry Le Blanc living in the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners. He was 50 years old, with his wife Elizabeth (50), son George (25, a lawyer) and a daughter, Lucy (20). His nick-name was “Stumpy”!
Henry Le Blanc was born on 5th April 1776 in Cavenham, Suffolk. His parents were Thomas (1743-1801) and Felicia, nee Pelham (1747-1840). He had 13 siblings. Many of them were the other Le Blancs in the 1841 Census. His family tree is traced back to Robert Le Blanc, born in 1529 whose great grandson David was born in Rouen (1633) and his son Symon born in Yorkshire (1664).
On 31st December 1801 he married Elizabeth McClintock. She lived in Drumcar, Ireland, the daughter of John “Bumper Jack” McClintock, a wealthy Tory Protestant Irish MP who lived in a large mansion. Her sister, Fanny, married a cousin of Clive of India. Her brother, John, also became an Irish MP.
Their children were born in Guernsey:-
• Thomas Edmund, 2nd May 1808
• Elizabeth Ann, 16th January, 1810
• George, 5th March, 1812
• Lucy Mary, 5th December, 1813. She was born in the small stone fort at the entrance to Guernsey Harbour.
Henry Le Blanc died on 13th July 1855 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery. His Irish wife Elizabeth is buried with him. She had initially been buried in the grave yard at the Chelsea Hospital but when this closed Henry had her remains moved to Brompton in 1854.
Henry Le Blanc’s Military Service Record
• 1792, Joined 71st Regiment (Highland Light Infantry), posted to India.
• 1895, Promoted to Lieutenant.
• 1798, returned to England.
• 1799, promoted to Captain, posted to Stirling, Scotland.
• 1801, posted to Dundalk, Ireland.
• 1805, posted to South Africa, captured Cape of Good Hope.
• 1806, promoted to Major, posted to Buenos Aires, Argentina where he lost his left leg when hit by a Spanish cannon ball. Hence Stumpy. Apparently he had had a premonition that he was to lose a leg and had taken the precaution of finding out about tourniquets from the Surgeon and had found a suitable sapling to make a crutch.
• 1807, Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, 5th Royal Veteran Battalion, Guernsey.
• 1814, Royal Hospital Chelsea, Captain of Invalids and Hospital Major (second in command).
• 1815, Fought at Battle of Waterloo on horse back, helping to defeat Napoleon’s Imperial Guard on the last day of the Battle!
• 1854, Promoted to Colonel.
He was still serving at the Royal Hospital at the time of his death in 1855, although he died in Clifton Down, Bristol possibly staying with his elder son Thomas. He introduced many changes at the hospital, including its management structure and the uniform of the pensioners. These remain in place today. Apparently he was a well-recognised, highly respected, if slightly eccentric, figure at the Hospital.
Who was with Lt Colonel Le Blanc when he tried to cross Traethbach
on August 14th 1844?
• Not his Irish wife Elizabeth
She died on 29th May 1843, aged 52
• Probably not his daughter Lucy.
She married Revd.Thomas Tunstall Smith on 31st March 1842, and moved to live in Lincolnshire. Her second child, Stuart, was born on July 18th, 1844. Amazingly his younger son and daughter are still alive in 2010.
• Possibly his younger son George, who did not marry, worked in Lincoln’s Inn Fields as a lawyer. He died in Pontypool, 1867, aged 55.
• Probably his fiancée (aged 43), another Elizabeth, who he married in September 1844 in London, a month after his rescue. The birth of a Clementine Le Blanc is recorded at Hannover Square in 1848, but there is no record of her in the 1851 census, so perhaps she died as a baby.
It is not too surprising that he was very thankful to have been rescued as he was just about to re-marry! Had they been staying in the Blue Lion Hotel in Harlech? Was he on holiday here or travelling en-route to or from Ireland? Who rescued them?
The descendents of Henry Le Blanc
Thomas Edmund was Henry’s elder son. He had 5 children with his second wife Laura Catherine Longmore between 1850 and 1860 (Harriet, Henry, Theodore Claude and Leopold). He later married Janet Lindsey Reid, 1882, aged 27. He died in 1896, aged 88. He was a Captain in the 37th Regiment. He had lived in Devon and latterly in Northaw House, near Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. This fine white stone faced house was the Le Blanc family home for many decades. Two of Henry’s elder brothers were living there in 1841and before that one of Henry Le Blanc’s uncles had lived there. His first son Henry also lived in Northaw, with his wife Florence. They had a daughter Lindsay. Henry died in 1910 in Hampshire. Claude was the married to Leticia with 2 children, Maude (1887-1975) and Janet, born in 1897. He died in Essex and is buried in the same grave as his grandfather Henry. Leopold was their youngest son and he died in 1965 in Devon. Another son, Theodore, was born in 1855 does not appear in any census after 1871 when he was at boarding school in London with his younger brothers.
Elizabeth Ann was Henry Le Blanc’s first daughter. She married Revd John Prideaux Lightfoot in 1835. They had 9 children. He was Vicar of Wooton in Northants and later Rector of Kidlington and Exeter College in Oxford. Elizabeth died in Oxford aged 50.
Lucy Mary was Henry’s younger daughter. She also married a clergyman, Revd Thomas Tunstall Smith (1810-1893). He served in Whaplode in Lincolnshire, Chipping Barnet and most of his ministry was as Rector of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. Their children are:-
• Georgina, 1843 – 1920, died in Wirksworth
• Stuart, 1844 – 1933, died in Salcombe
• Emily, 1846 – 1892, died in Middlesex
• Ernest, 1848 – 1941, died in Surrey
• Stanley, 1849 – 1922, died in Wandsworth
• Florence, 1852 – 1900, died in Richmond, Yorkshire
• Alfred, 1854 – ? , emigrated to America
• Herbert, 1855 – 1940, died in Ware, Herfordshire
Their sons took the name Le Blanc Smith as do their descendants.
Some of the family of Lucy Le Blanc
Stuart Le Blanc Smith, who had been born the month before Henry Le Blanc’s rescue near Harlech, was educated at Radley College, Oxford as were his male descendents and those of some of his brothers. This is a private boys school established to uphold Anglican values. His was “a devout Anglican family”. He was famous rower and later a stockbroker. He lived in Hayes, Middlesex. He married Lucy who had three children Mary, Ethel, Frederick. Frederick married Gladys Haig who died having twin boys Graham and Ted. They also had a daughter Betty who died as a nurse in evacuation of Singapore in WW2. Graham became a much respected Catholic monk who worked hard on ecumenical activities. Ted worked for the Bank of England. John Scott Miller, who now lives in Llanfair, knew Ted in the early 1930s when he lived in Wargrave on Thames.
Stuart remarried in his 70s to Evelyn Ellis and had two children, Stuart (still alive aged 90) and a daughter. Stuart “junior” has a son Roger and two daughters Sherril and Krista, born in Norwich in 1948 and 1954. Roger lives in New Zealand and has 3 children.
Ernest Le Blanc Smith married Edith Emily Earp, a long established Derbyshire family. He was a stockbroker. They lived in Crich and Matlock Bath, Derbyshire and had three children Guy, Dorothy, Norah. Guy married Lena Kirkham Read and they had 3 sons. One died in WW2 and the others moved to Australia. One of them, Guy, is a geoscientist there who does not believe that climate change is man-made.
Florence married Revd Davis Ewart Johnstone and lived in Tynemouth. She had one child. Lucy stayed with this son-in-law after husband’s death (1893) according to 1901 census, but Florence had died the previous year.
Alfred Le Blanc Smith emigrated to New Orleans in late 19th Century. He worked for a Liverpool Shipping Agency. He married Jane and they had four children, Alfred Stewart, who married Ida, Kenneth, Henry and Josephine. There are several Le Blanc Smiths living today in America and Canada.
Herbert Le Blanc Smith married Beatrice and lived in Lordship, Standon, Herts. He was a Stockbroker. Their first son, Charles, was born in 1890. He was a pupil at Eton College and studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. Charles rowed for Cambridge University in the Boat Races in 1910-12, losing each time and once sinking He became a Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion, Rifle Brigade and was killed in action in Belgium during the First World War. Their younger son Thomas was born in 1895. He married Peggy Streeter and had 3 children of whom William is a retired brigadier living in Dorset and Tim is a retired estate agent in London with a son who is a stockbroker. His daughter Charlotte has rowed in the British Championships.
Stanley Le Blanc Smith married Amy Harris, 1880, in Westmorland, lived in Walton on Thames and Leatherhead. He was also a stockbroker. His mother Lucy died in Stanley Villas in Leatherhead in 1905, perhaps in a property named after him! They had 3 sons Clive (1882), Geoffrey (1884) and Maurice (1898) all born in Leatherhead.
Clive Le Blanc Smith was born in 1882 and lived in Kendal, worked as a civil engineer in a turbine works. He does not appear to have married. He died in 1907 of tuberculosis.
Geoffrey Le Blanc Smith was born in 1884. He fought in East Africa in the First World War and continued his military service as Brevet Major in Africa. He had the nick name of “Blanco”. He died in Kenya in 1968. He married Irene Montagu Ram. She had many aristocratic ancestors in Britain and Ireland. Her father was Barrister and Priest. Her family is littered with Knights, Earls, Lords and Ladies. They had 3 children:-
John, 1921-2002. He was a Captain in the Navy and married Patricia Sheriden. He was Commodore in Malta during the 1970s. Local historian Lt. Colonel Oliver Wyn Hughes was based in Malta at that time and can remember film nights that he hosted for officers. John’s three children, Sally Ann, Wendy and Michael are living today.
Kathleen, 1923-2001, married Mr Gee. She died in Capetown. Their children Penelope, Sandra and Susan (twins) and Rosalind are living today in South Africa.
Margaret (Meg), 1925-2003. She married Frederick Peter Byrne Derrick (1948, Nairobi). He was in the Colonial Service in Africa and died during a heart operation at Harefield Hospital in 1970. She then married Clyde Fairbanks (known as Peter) in 1973 in Chelsea and died in a Sussex nursing home. Her first daughter died at childbirth, and third child, Clare, died at 18 months, but Julia, Liz and Hugh are living today.
Maurice Le Blanc Smith was born in 1898. He lived in Bridport, Dorset, with his wife, Margaret Chance. He was a Major in the RFC/RAF in the first world war, and was awarded the DFC. He was a company secretary and they lived in Oxshott, West Byfield and Blackheath. He died in a nursing home in Lyme Regis. They had 3 children, Jane, Robin and Andrew. Jane married Jock Blackadder and has 4 children. They live in Dorking. Robin spent most of his life in Australia and died of cancer in 1996. He had no children. Andrew married Kathy and has 3 sons, Paul, Simon and Mark. Maurice and all the men in his family attended Radley College.
Andrew Le Blanc Smith, son of Maurice, grandson of Stanley and great Grandson of Lucy and great great grandson of Henry Le Blanc attended the Bell Dedication Service at St. Tanwg’s, Harlech on February 21st 2010.
The Le Blanc Smith family motto is “Tenax in Fide” – “Hold in Faith”
The family of Lt Colonel Henry le Blanc is alive and living all over the world, in the UK, Germany, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and North America. They have maintained the military tradition of Henry Le Blanc and also developed expertise in stockbroking and rowing.
In addition to the connections between local people and the Le Blanc Smith family already referred to in this article, there are other coincidences.
Revd Dr Henry Field was Warden of Radley College at the beginning of the 20th Century and was a regular visitor to Harlech, frequently preaching in St. Tanwg’s and becoming Captain of Royal St. David’s Golf Club and owning Llys Tanwg, a large house near Llanfair, later the home of the Red Dean. Did he know that an ancestor of some of his pupils had donated the bell above the porch of St. Tanwg’s? Neil Fisher who had a holiday home in Harlech, a former Captain and President of Royal St. David’s Golf Club, was a teacher at Radley College when Andrew Le Blanc Smith was a pupil. There is a plaque in his memory on the wall of the grave yard of Llandecwyn Church, overlooking Trath Bach. His daughter, Elisabeth, has a holiday home in Talsarnau and regularly worships at St. Tanwg’s Church. She has recently been appointed Deputy Chancellor of Bangor Diocese. David Morkill former Secretary of the Golf Club is an old boy of Radley College. None of these people seemed to be aware of the relationship between the Le Blanc family and the Bell in St. Tanwg’s Church. Revd Rachel Phillips is the current vicar of St Thomas a Becket Church in Northaw, where many of the Le Blanc family are buried and close to Northaw House, long time home of the Le Blanc Family. She trained with and is still a close friend of Revd Beth Bailey, current Vicar of St. Tanwg’s in Bro Ardudwy.
There must be more, as yet undisclosed, connections between Henry Le Blanc’s family and the people of Harlech.
Dr David Naylor, Warden, St. Tanwg’s Church, Harlech 2011