The Hanburys

The Hanbury Family ¹

Richard Hanbury 1538 – 1608.

Richard Hanbury was the first of the Hanbury family to come to Pontypool. Originally a banker or goldsmith from London, Richard could be described as an aggressive business man and was occasionally involved in lawsuits and legal struggles, and even went to prison for fraud! He came to Pontypool because of the raw materials and minerals in the land, and in 1577 opened Iron working furnaces and forges across the area, including in Trevethin. Richard worked and ran iron businesses in Pontypool but he never lived here. He died in 1608 leaving the estate and a small fortune of £5000 to his nephew John Hanbury.

Capel Hanbury 1625 – 1704

John’s son, Capel Hanbury inherited the ironworks in 1658 and made lots of improvements to the works at Pontypool.  The businesses were so successful he was able to buy some land past the small hamlet then called Pont y Pwll.  On this land he built Pontypool Park House in 1681 but still lived and managed the business from Gloucestershire.  On his death in 1704 the Hanbury estate passed to his only son, Major John Hanbury.

Major John Hanbury 1664 – 1734

Major John Hanbury was the first of the Hanburys to actually live in Pontypool. He moved to the area and finished building Pontypool Park House in 1694 and surrounded it with 158 acres of Parkland. Major John Hanbury gained his title from serving in the Militia when he was 21. He was a pioneer in iron production and grew his business he is also known for the development of the rolling mill to produce tinplate, which was eventually used all over Britain. Major John Hanbury married twice, increasing his personal wealth and left a healthy estate to his son John in 1765.

Capel Hanbury -1765

Capel Hanbury was Major John Hanbuy’s second son and inherited when John Hanbury died. During his lifetime he undertook several alterations and extensions to Park House. On his death, he passed the estate to his son John.

Capal Hanbury Leigh -1861

Capal Hanbury Leigh was Capel Hanbury’s 2nd grandson and eventually inherited in 1795 when his elder brother John, died. He married a wealthy widow, Molly, and they made continued improvements to the house and park, including building the stables in 1830, which now house the Museum. They also built or donated many of the buildings you can see around the town. Hanbury Leigh inherited and re-invigorated the Pontypool businesses, and the Pontypool works reached an all time high during the Napoleonic wars. Unfortunately due to fierce competition Pontypool iron and tinplate started to become unprofitable, and in 1851 the works were leased out, and the Hanbury association with iron making that had lasted 250 years came to an end.

Molly died in 1846 without children, and Capel Hanbury Leigh married Emma Rous of Cwrt-yr-ala who gave birth to 2 daughters and a son, John, when Capel was 77 years of age! The whole town rejoiced at the birth of the heir John and a great celebration was held, in which a huge ox was roasted and distributed to an estimated crowd of 20,000.

John Capel Hanbury

Capel Hanbury Leigh’s son John was the last squire of Pontypool and spent a lot of time away from Pontypool. When he married Louisa Eager in 1885 Pontypool celebrated and a huge bonfire was lit and fireworks were set off in the Park. They had a son, John, but he died at a young age from appendicitis. In 1912 John Capel Hanbury decided to lease Park House to a Roman Catholic Order and it remains as a RC school today.

In 1913 the District Councils decided to ask Mr Hanbury if a section of the Park estate could be set aside for public enjoyment, he agreed. In 1920 the whole 158 acres of Pontypool Park was transferred to the ownership of the District Councils.

John Capel Hanbury died in 1921.

Sir Richard Hanbury-Tenison 1925 – present

The Park Estate was left to John Hanbury’s daughter, Ruth Hanbury-Tenison who was married to General Gerald Tenison.  They had a son,  Richard Hanbury-Tenison, in 1925.

Richard joined the Army in 1943 and later joined the diplomatic service where he served until 1975.  He married Euphan Wardlaw Ramsa and had 2 sons and 2 daughters.

Richard was appointed High Sherriff of Gwent in 1977 and made Lord Lieutenant in 1980, representing the Queen in the County. He received a knighthood in 1995.

[1] Eastern Valley. The Story of Torfaen. 1999.