Benjamin Hall, 1st Lord Llanover, was born in London on 8 November 1802, the eldest son of four of the industrialist Benjamin Hall (1778-1817) and his wife Charlotte (née Crawshay, 1784-1839). The family moved to live on the Aber-carn estate in Monmouthshire when Benjamin Hall was six years old. He attended Westminster School from 1814 to 1820, when he entered Christ Church College, Oxford, which he left in 1821 without having taken a degree.
Soon after, two events were to influence the course of his life. During a tour of England and Scotland in 1822 his visit to the New Lanark settlement founded by Robert Owen made him aware of the connection between the living conditions of the working classes and their mores, imbuing him with the reforming spirit which made him a successful Liberal politician. His marriage to Augusta Waddington, Lady Llanover, on 4 December 1823 made him part of an influential circle of patrons of Welsh culture and language who combined cultural nationalism with advocacy of a robust Protestantism.
Elected the Liberal MP for the Monmouth boroughs in 1831 he was unseated on petition, but was rightfully returned in 1832. He remained the member for Monmouth boroughs until 1837, when he was invited to stand for Marylebone, which he very successfully represented until 1859, making numerous speeches, of which his published A Letter to his Grace of Canterbury of 1850 greatly influenced the debate on Church reform. He was created baronet in 1838 and appointed President of the Board of Health in 1854. His active involvement in the treatment of the cholera epidemic which struck London a fortnight after his appointment, and successful piloting through Parliament of a health bill that resulted in the creation of the Metropolitan Board of Works (the forerunner of the London County Council), brought him to the attention of the Queen, who appointed him First Commissioner of Works in 1855, a post he held until 1858. In 1855, he successfully campaigned for the opening of London parks to the public on Sundays as a means of improving public health, a scheme greatly enjoyed by thousands of people, despite Sabbatarian protests. The great clock of Westminster whose casting and erection he oversaw during his period of office, which overlapped with the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, was called ‘Big Ben’ in recognition of his work, but also the fact that he was extremely tall, some say 6‘7. He was raised to the peerage on 29 June 1859 during Palmerston's second administration, to considerable protest by those who considered him a political radical, became Baron Llanover of Llanover and Aber-carn, and took his seat in the House of Lords.
His marriage to Lady Llanover involved him in patronage of the Welsh language and culture, which he, perhaps more than she, combined with a concern for the religious welfare of Welsh speakers, especially the provision of Welsh-speaking Anglican clergy. This is the background to his controversy with bishop Connop Thirlwall on the state of the church in the diocese of St Davids. In 1842, he was one of a number of notable London Welshmen who discussed and patronised the provision of Welsh-language Anglican services in the capital. Having raised the money necessary to lease St Ethelreda's church and pay a clergyman, the first Welsh-language service at the Welsh Episcopalian church, Ely Place, Holborn, was held in December 1843 and continued until 1874. At his home in Aber-carn, he built a church for Welsh-language services, which was consecrated in 1854. The frugality of the quotidian life and avowed temperance of Lord and Lady Llanover are illustrated nicely by Victorian graffiti daubed on the entrance gate to their estate, which proclaimed: ‘A park without deer, a house without beer, Sir Benjamin Hall lives here’.
A keen hunter, Benjamin Hall suffered several horse riding accidents, and lost an eye in a shooting accident in 1848. He died in London on 27 April 1867 of a facial tumour caused by a shooting accident in November 1866. He was interred in the family tomb at St Bartholomew's Church, Llanover.
Published date: 2016-06-08
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Son of Benjamin Hall (1778 - 1817). Born 8 November 1802. He married, 4 December 1823, Augusta Waddington . Elected M.P. for the Monmouth boroughs in 1831 he was unseated on petition, but was again returned in 1832, and remained member until 1837 when he was transferred to Marylebone. He was created baronet in 1838, and in July 1855 became commissioner for works, the great clock of Westminster which was erected during his period of office being on that account called ‘Big Ben.’ He was raised to the peerage on 29 June 1859, during Palmerston's second administration, as baron Llanover of Llanover and Aber-carn. He died 27 April 1867. He engaged in bitter controversy with bishop Connop Thirlwall on the state of the church in the diocese of S. Davids, and championed the right of the Welsh people to have religious services in their own tongue.
His importance in the history of Wales is entirely overshadowed by that of his wife. AUGUSTA WADDINGTON was born 21 March 1802, the younger daughter of Benjamin Waddington of Ty Uchaf, Llanover, and of Georgina Port, a great-niece of Mrs. Delaney. On her marriage with Benjamin Hall the neighbouring estates of Llanover and Aber-carn were united. Her sister had already married baron Bunsen (later German ambassador to Great Britain) whose circle was interested in Celtic studies. In 1834 she won a prize at a Cardiff eisteddfod for an essay on the Welsh language, and at this time seems to have adopted the pseudonym Gwenynen Gwent. Under the influence of Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) she became an early member of ‘Cymreigyddion y Fenni.’ Although she spoke but little Welsh she organized her household on what were considered Welsh lines and gave Welsh titles to her servants. She was a patron of the Welsh Manuscripts Society and of the Welsh Collegiate Institution at Llandovery. She acquired the manuscripts of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) now in the National Library of Wales, by purchase from Taliesin Williams (Taliesin ab Iolo). She collaborated with Maria Jane Williams, Aber-pergwm and Brinley Richards in a collection of Welsh airs. She gave financial assistance to D. Silvan Evans in connection with his dictionary. Her other main interests were temperance work and a militant protestantism. She endowed two Calvinistic Methodist churches, Capel Rhyd-y-meirch and Aber-carn, where services were to be conducted in Welsh, but with a liturgy based upon the Book of Common Prayer. She edited the Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs. Delaney in six volumes (1861 and 1862), and published a medley, Good Cookery … and Recipes communicated by the Hermit of the Cell of St. Gover … 1867, with illustrations by herself, and coloured plates illustrating Welsh female costumes (c. 1843). She survived her husband by over twenty-eight years and died 17 January 1896.
Her only surviving child, Augusta, married 12 November 1846, Arthur Jones of Llanarth, of an old Roman Catholic family which later assumed the name of Herbert. Their son, Major-General Sir IVOR CARADOC HERBERT (1851 - 1934), became baron Treowen in 1917. He presented the Llanover MSS. to the National Library of Wales in 1916.
Published date: 1959
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