John Phillips*, landowner, grazier, antiquarian who lived for many years in in the Manor House (Manor Farm House) 39 Main Street, KibworthHarcourt, was born in 1801 at the farm Esgerfa in Abernant parish,Carmarthenshire.
John was the son of Jonathan Philipps (1765 Conwil Elvet -1849) and Catherine Howell (1770- 1849 of Rhydd y garreg ddu, Talog. Carmarthenshire.) John Philipps was also the nephew of John Howell - surgeon in the East India Company, whose memorial is adjacent to his in St Lucia’s Church, Abernant. Jonathan and Catherine Philipps had married on 1st June 1790 in St Lucia’s, Abernant.
From a family letter it would seem that John had been well educated. My thoughts from reading family letters being that this was paid for by his mother Catherine Howell ’s uncle the Rev. Thomas Thomas who lived in Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire. John Philipps was the grandson of Rosamond Howell nee Thomas - the Rev Thomas Thomas ’ sister.
In 1823 the Rev David Lewis writes from Carmarthen to John Phillips’s uncle the Rev Thomas Thomas of Kibworth Harcourt describing the 22 year old John Phillips at Lampeter Collegethus…
‘I must not omit that he bears the best character for assiduity and regular deportment in school and at home: and such is the improvement of our country in dress, or rather perhaps the deterioration of it, that our Welshmen, in our great school, dress as well as in any part of England.’
After his uncle Rev. Thomas Thomas ’s death in 1826 John Philipps aged 25 undertakes renovations of the Manor House, Kibworth Harcourt. (see Manor House (Manor Farmhouse) 39 Main Street, Kibworth Harcourt- Ancient)
Three years later, John Phillips now aged 28 married Elizabeth Smeeton aged 19 on the 30th July 1829 at Kibworth Beauchamp by license and with the consent of her parents. A son, John Smeeton Philipps, was baptised on the 17th November 1830 at Kibworth Beauchamp.
On the 1841 census John Philipps says that he is aged 35 and that he was born in 1806 in Abernant, Carmarthenshire. Making himself a little younger? He is living in Kibworth Beauchamp with his wife Elizabeth who is now aged 30 who was born in 1811 in Leicestershire. John and Elizabeth’s son, John Smeeton Philipps, is aged 11 and John’s mother in law Elizabeth Smeeton is aged 70 (born in 1771) and living with them. Their housekeeper Elizabeth Day is aged 20; she was born in 1821.
Five years later in 1846 John Philipps is living at the Manor House in Kibworth Harcourt.
On the 1851 census John Philipps is aged 50 and now a widower continuing to live at the Manor House in Kibworth Harcourt. John is described as a Grazier of 30 acres with no labourers. His son John Smeeton Philipps is now aged 20 and described as a hosier who was born at Kibworth Harcourt.
In a letter from Richard Thomas at Haverfordwest in the Pembrokeshire Archives we learn that John Philipps bought the Manor House at Kibworth Harcourt from his uncle the Rev ThomasThomas’s estate for £4,450 on the 5th November 1855.
Later in 1863, we learn that ‘John Philipps had rebuilt the Manor House, Kibworth Harcourt with twin gables and barge boards as well as putting up a wall around the garden and land. The brick front with its twin gables and ornamental barge boards is evidently his work. The garden wall also built by Philipps carries tiles dated 1475, 1690 and 1860. As both he and his uncle were local antiquarians there may be good evidence for the earlier dates. About 200 yards north of the house are two fishponds probably of medieval origin.
In August 1863 The Leicestershire Architectural and Archaeological Society held its AGM over two days in Kibworth (see -Modern) On the aft ernoon of the first day of the meeting an exhibition was held in a museum (temporarily formed in the National Schools by permission of the Rector) which was opened to the public. In this exhibition the objects of antiquarian interest were numerous and interesting.
John Philipps exhibited the following items:
- Court cupboard.
- Queen Elizabeth’s Poem in her own handwriting, signed,
- Charles II’s autograph for signing the warrant to elect Wm Hanbury Esq, High Sheriff of the county of Northampton, December 1665 (William Hanbury was a friend of John Philipps’s uncle the Rev. Thomas Thomas this must be how it was acquired)
At 5pm that day the attendees of the meeting visited the Tumulus (The Munt) then The Manor House, 39 Main Street, Kibworth Harcourt, the residence of John Philipps Esq and the many objects of interest to antiquarians there afforded much pleasure. Mr Phillips, after a good old English fashion, requested the members of the company to partake of good and homely beverage.
John Philipps' Will 21st April 1866
John Philipps leaves his son and his nephew Thomas Philipps of 182 Piccadilly (Fortnum and Masons grocers in their early days! ) son of my brother Thomas Philipps and my friendsThomas George Langham of Oxford Terrace, London butcher and John Langham of Walton in Knaptoft, joint executors of his will.
I direct a small tablet to be placed by my executors in the parish church of Abernant in the county of Carmarthen with the following inscription
‘This tablet is placed to the memory of John Philipps son of Jonathan and Catherine Philipps late of Skyrfa in this parish‘ with the date of my demise annexed.
I revoke all former wills in witness whereof I have to this my last will and testament ….
He leaves 19 guineas to his friend Emily Sarah Slatter and £10 each to his three executors. (Emily was a governess)
Tablet in the Parish Church of Abernant in the
county of Carmarthen with the following inscription:
‘ This tablet is placed to the memory of John Philipps Son of Jonathan Catherine
Philipps late of Skyrfa in this parish who departed this life December 23rd 1867
Aged 67 Years’
In 1706 the Manor House was sold to the Foxton’s who owned it until 1797 when the last of that family died the office and property passed to the son- in -law The Reverend Thomas Thomas of East Farndon, Northamptonshire. The property remained college leasehold, but both the Reverend Thomas and later John Philipps made considerable alterations.In 1972 the Manor House was sold by Merton College, Oxford to Mr P Thurnham.
John Philipps - a letter to family in Wales.
On 1st December 1853 he writes…
I have seen the minister of the chapel this afternoon and he will send the rent down to you in about three weeks’ time, be so kind as to send me how much he owes you. There is no tithe in this parish and I can’t give you my account of other parishes.
You asked what family I have -only one son and he is in a very good situation at Leicester in a country house, he is nearly 24 years of age and very steady. My dear wife has been dead 6years last August, almost all your old friends at Kibworth are no more. I shall be very pleased to see you at Kibworth to spend a week or two with me.
Let me know when you will be likely to come. I shall be in London about the 2nd of January for a week or two. I was at Dublin last August and through North Wales and I enjoyed the trip very much. Give my best respects to your family and let me know how many you have.
I remain, dear sir
P.S. I have one of best Durham bulls in the county 2 years old on the 13th of last month he has now served a great many cows this last summer at 6s per cow the mother was counted the best cow in the county and was got by one of the Marquis of Exeter’s bulls.
* Philipps is the original spelling of his name on the baptism entry denoting his ancestry to the Philipps of Picton Castle - however it is often later spelt ‘Phillips’
© Jeni Molyneux 14th November 2019
(John Philipps was my 4x great grandmother’s younger brother.)
Information extracted from Family Letters which were deposited at both the National Library Wales and Pembrokeshire Archives at Haverford West.
The Leicester Journal