Porth yr Aur Papers

Scope and Content

The first deposit of 50, 726 items represents the activities of John Evans, attorney of Porth yr Aur, Caernarvon and his practice.

Papers relating to the administration of justice and local government in the county of Caernarfon and in some cases Anglesey, consist of shrievalty papers, 1774 - 1831; county court action and minute books and papers, 1784 - 1831 (1811 - 1821 for co. Anglesey); court of Great Sessions account books, protonotary's accounts and miscellaneous papers, 1789 - 1831; divisional and Quarter Sessions minutes, jury lists and papers, 1790 - 1835; county treasurer's papers, 1795 - 1809; militia accounts, certificates of enlistment and miscellaneous papers, 1793 1808. Then follow papers dealing with the county gaol and prisoners, 1796 - 1833; highways, 1808 - 1833; bridges, 1796 - 1809; assessed taxes for Caernarvonshire and Anglesey and the land tax, 1772 - 1828; hawkers and pedlars, 1819 - 1832; excise and licensing, 1808 - 1833; weights and measures, 1820 - 1833; overseers of the poor, 1809 - 1834; parochial administration for Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and other Welsh and English counties, 1790 - 1734; Caernarvon town developments, 1819 - 1827; election matters, including poll books of the 1768 and 1774 county elections and of the 1722 borough election, together with accounts, correspondence, election songs and miscellanea, 1768 - 1835.

Documents relating to land and estates include papers regarding inclosures in Aberdaron, Mynydd Mynytho, Rhoshiwaun, Llanbeblig, Llanrug, Llanddeiniolen, Morfan Dinlle, Llandwrog, Llanwnda, Llanllyfni, Clynnog, Nefyn, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Penmorfa co. Caernarfon; Heneglwys, Morfa Malltraeth, Llanbedr Niwbwrch, and Llangeinwen co. Anglesey and Llandanwg, Llanfihangel-y-traethau, Llanfachreth and Llanelltud co. Merioneth and Llanfihangel Genau'r-glyn and Llangynfelyn, co, Cardigan, 1803 - 1827; and also a collection of crown rents, 1788 - 1834 and the rents of the Bishop of Bangor's manors of Cantred an Treffos, Anglesey. Also included are originals, copies and drafts of deeds documents and papers relating to the Caerhengan and Coed Cae Du (Llanllyfni), Collfryn (Llanwnda), Coetmor (Llanllechid and Llandygai), Llangwnadl, Cesail Gyfarch (Penmorfa), Glanrafon (Llanbeblig), Glynllifon, Gwynfryn, Morris (Llanrug), Madryn, W.A. Maddocks (Tremadoc), Pentir, Plas Brereton (Llanbeblig), Rhiwlas (Eifionydd), Rosindale Lloyd (Pwllheli), Tan-y-bwlch (Llanllechid), Trallwyn, Treflan (Llanbeblig) and Vaynol estates, and also papers relating to other properties in Aberdaron, Aber-erch, Bangor, Betws Garmon, Bodferin, Bryncroes, Caernarfon, Clynnog, Conway, Llandygai, Llanengan, Llanfairfechan, Llanfaglan, Llangwnnadl, Llanllyfni, Llannor, Llanwnda, Llysfaen, Portinllaen and Pwllheli, 1570 - 1839, and the following Anglesey estates : Bodrwyn (Cerrigceinwen), Chwaen Du, Llanfaethlu, Plas Coch, Tai Croesion, Trosymarian (Llangoed) and Trysclwyn (Amlwch) and other properties in Coedana, Heneglwys, Holyhead, Llanddaniel, Llanddeusant, Llandegfan, Llandyfrydog, Llannerchymedd, Llanfwrog, Llangefni, Llangoed, Llangristiolus, Llangwyllog, Pentraeth and Trewalchmai, 1581 - 1834. Also papers in actions concerning tithes, 1731 - 1834.

Papers concerning slate quarrying and mining activities including accounts, correspondence, plans etc., originate either in litigation or administration concerning the following major quarries : Braichrhydd (Llandwrog), 1810 - 1832, Cefndu (Llanbeblig), 1798 - 1834, Cilgwyn (Llandwrog and Llanwnda), 1789 - 1829, Dinorwig (Llanberis), 1787 - 1829, Hafodlas (Ffestiniog), 1812 - 1827, Moeltryfan (Llanwnda), 1823 - 1830, and the minor concerns of Bwlch Carreg-y-fran (Penmachno), 1814 - 1821, Bwlch-y-beudy (Dolwyddelan), 1814 - 1816, Cefn Carn (Merioneth), 1822 - 1823, Coetmor (Llanllechid), 1804 - 1826, Gallt-y-fedw (Llanllyfni), 1866 - 1877, Gallt-y-llan (Llanberis), 1811, Pen-y-bryn (Llanllyfni), 1808 - 1818, Talysarn (Llanllyfni), 1802 - 1804, 1826 - 1831, Tanybwlch (Llanllechid), 1811 - 1826, Ty'n llwyn, 1817 - 1922 and Ty'n ffridd, 1818 - 1826. Papers dealing with the vicissitudes of the slate trade, 1788 - 1823 and with efforts made to repeal the Slate Tax, 1791 - 1795. Papers in a chancery action between William Turner, one of the capitalist pioneers of the Ffestiniog slate industry and George Ford a London merchant, 1808 - 1828. Papers relating to mining ventures in Caernarvonshire and Anglesey and mentioning the following mines: Pen-y-Crug Colliery (Llangristiolus), 1814 - 1818, Bwlchderwyn Mine (Clynnog), 1822 - 1823, Ffridd Redyn (Llanrwst), 1822, Penrhyn Du Mine (Llanengan), 1769 - 1779, Parys Mine Co., 1764 - 1785, Mona Mine Co., 1812, 1828, Llangystennin Mine, 1784 - 1785, Gwydir Nant Mine, 1773 - 1793, Llanberis Mine, 1761 - 1804, Snowdon Mine, 1805 - 1818 and the Moelfre Stone Quarry, 1823 - 1826.

Papers concerning transport and communications include those dealing with the administration of the turnpike roads of Caernarvonshire and Merioneth, 1786 - 1837. Reports and correspondence relating to the Nantlle Tramroad, 1813 - 1832 and the Caernarvonshire Railway, 1861 - 1865. A group of papers relating to the shipping industry, including the papers of individual ships and papers dealing with the regulation of shipping in the port of Caernarvon - all of which throw light on the development of the port under the impetus of the slate industry, 1793 - 1834.

The administrative papers of the Porth yr Aur practice include journals and day books, general account books, 1773 - 1834. Among the letters are those of the Rev. Peter Bailey Williams, rector of Llanrug and Llanberis, written in his capacity as Justice of the Peace for Caernarvonshire.

Other papers and documents illustrating various aspects of the professional works of John Evans include action papers, 1784 - 1826, wills, bankruptcy papers, 1810 - 1827, corn accounts (Pwllheli market), 1789 - 1832 and building societies' accounts and transactions, 1801 - 1832.

The additional papers (2,062 items) include 1,807 records relating to the King's Sessions and Great Sessions of Caernarvonshire, Anglesey and Merioneth, 1423 - 1831. They include bailiff accounts of the county of Caernarfon, 1422 - 1423, an Anglesey plea roll, 1509 - 1516/7, together with writs, jury presentments, pleas in actions, recognizances, coroner' inquests, recusancy certificates, jury lists and miscellaneous documents and papers, 1433 - 1831. The remaining items include deeds relating to properties in Aber, Aber-erch, Bangor, Bodfaeo, Botwnnog, Dwygyfylchi, Caernarfon, Llanbeblig, Llanfairfechan, Llanfairisgaer, Llangwnnadl, Llaniestyn, Llanllechid, Llanllyfni, Llanrug, Llanwnda, Llanystumdwy, Penmorfa and Pistyll, co. Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Bodedern, Holyhead, Llanbadrig, Llanddyfnan, Llandrygarn, Llandyfrydog, Llanfeirian, Llechylched, Newborough and Rhosbeirio, co. Anglesey and Ffestiniog, Llanfachreth, Llandrillo, Llanfihangel-y-traethau and Tal-y-llyn, co. Merioneth, 1524 - 1903 and a few papers (including commissioners' awards) relating to the Nefyn and Morfa Dinlle, Aberdaron and Llanddeiniolen inclosures, 1812 - 1817.

The further additional papers include deeds, documents and papers relating to properties in the parishes of Llanddona, Llanbabo (Llanfflewin), Llangefni, Llangoed, Llangristiolus, Llanidan, Llechylched, Pentraeth, Rhosbeirio, Amlwch and Beaumaris, co. Anglesey, 1637 - 1866; Aber-erch, Betws Garmon, Bryncroes, Caernarfon, Clynnog, Llanbeblig, Llandwrog, Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Llanllechid, Llanllyfni, Llanwnda, Penmorfa, Dwygyfylchi, Llanfairfechan, Castell, Deneio, Llanfair-is-gaer, Llanddeiniolen, Llanfaglan, co. Caernarfon, 1625 - 1859; St. Asaph in Flintshire, 1850; Ffestiniog and Llanfrothen in Merionethshire, 1813. Also included are papers regarding the Caernarfon, Beddgelert and Portmadoc Railway 1861 - 1867 and the Nantlle Railway Company, 1827. And also correspondence, 1784 - 1883, accounts, 1780 - 1864 and miscellaneous papers such as pedigrees and Caernarvonshire chapel leases.

Administrative / Biographical History

The founder of this solicitor's practice at Caernarfon, was Hugh Ellis, the second son of Archdeacon Ellis, vicar of Bangor who died in 1785 and Anne, the youngest child of Hugh and Ellen Lloyd of Trallwyn. His brother was the Rev. John Ellis, Rector of Llanystumdwy, who lived at Plas hen, Chwilog. Hugh Ellis married Ann Wright of Knutsford, Cheshire, a sister of Henry and Thomas Wright who were solicitors to the Vaynol estate at one time. Originally, Hugh Ellis's office was at Bangor, but sometime before 1790 he moved to Caernarfon, and his interests became permanently identified with the county town when he was appointed treasurer of the county in 1796. It is also believed that Ellis also acted as clerk of the magistrates for the Caernarvon district. Hugh Ellis was also made undersheriff for T. Assheton Smith in Caernarfon County in 1774.

The first mention of John Evans in connection with the practice occurs in 1788 when his name appears as that of a clerk in the affairs of the Dinorwig slate quarry in which Hugh Ellis and his brother in law, Thomas Wright were concerned. John Evans was born on 12 November 1766, the son of a farmer in the parish of Llanllyfni, and entered into articles with Hugh Ellis in August 1789 and the affidavit of service was sworn at the second Great Sessions at Conway five years later. There is nothing to suggest that he became Ellis's partner after this, but when the latter died in 1808, John Evans seems to have taken over his practice and extended it very substantially. He headed one of the most extensive practices of the day in North Wales and was considered to be the most active amongst his fellows, with interests extending considerably beyond the limits of ordinary legal activities. His clientele was a wide one. He was administrator of two major estates in the county of Caernarfon for a period, Madryn and Coetmor, and his counsel was acceptable in the affairs of the Gwynfryn, Vaynol and Glynllifon estates. Below these, came such estates as the Pentir and the Brynkir estates in Caernarvonshire and the Taicroesion estate in Anglesey for which he acted. He was also concerned in the fortunes of a large number of yeomen properties in the counties. On the death of Hugh Ellis, John Evans also succeeded him as clerk of the magistrates for the Caernarfon district. In 1810 he succeeded Samuel Grindley as Deputy-Protonotary of the North Wales Circuit - an appointment which made him a central figure in the legal circles of three counties. John Evans also acted as deputy sheriff to Thomas Parry Jones Parry, Madryn in Caernarfon County in 1811 and again in 1812 and 1821 for Sir Joseph Huddart. The assistants of John Evans also acted similarly for G.F. Barlow in 1814 and Rice Thomas in 1817 - both sheriffs of Anglesey. The extra-legal activities of John Evans give him a place in any account of the slate and quarrying industry during the early stages of the industrial revolution. He undertook to open the Cilgwyn Quarry in 1800 and seems to have acted in the capacity of managing director of the concern. His office at Porth yr Aur, Caernarfon was also the office of the quarry company. He was also interested for a time in the Cefn Du Quarry. John Evans married Sydney, daughter of the Rev. William Griffith of Rhoscolyn and had a son, John Griffith Evans who served his articles in his fathers' office but did not succeed to the practice. An improvident marriage, on the part of John Griffith Evans led to an estrangement between him and his father, which ultimately led to complete separation.

John Evans died on 8 July 1827 and was succeeded by his nephew, Evan Evans who had been in his uncles service for several years. He was able to retain one at least of his uncles offices, that of Deputy-Protonotary, but the practice in general shrank during his short career. Following the death of Evan Evans ca. 1836, the practice, or at least the office, was occupied by R.D. Williams who was succeeded by his son of the same name and who was known as of Porth yr Aur, Caernarfon. This served to give the Porth yr Aur collection its title.


The first deposit has been broadly divided into 6 series based on the main lines of John Evans's activities. Within each series there are further divisions and within each sub-division the documents have been arranged chronologically - in some cases further divisions occur. The undated documents have been inserted at the end. The additional deposit is arranged chronologically whilst the further additional deposit has been divided into types of documents and geographical area and then arranged chronologically.

Access Information


Open to all users

Acquisition Information

The first group was deposited in 1930 by the Corporation of Caernarvon. By 1937 another group had been deposited, soon to be followed by three further additions in 1947, 1959 and 1966 by Misses Williams of Highgate, London, daughters of the late Mr. R. D. Williams of Porth yr Aur.

Other Finding Aids

The first deposit has a catalogue at series and group level and a card index in manuscript format at item level. The additional and further additional papers have catalogues at item level.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright conditions apply. Reprographics made at the discretion of the archivist.


None expected