Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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HASSALL , CHARLES ( 1754 - 1814 ), land agent and surveyor .

Born 1754 , the second son of James Hassall of Cardigan (1718-1787) and Martha Rose of Stourbridge (d. 1795), resided at Eastwood near Narberth. He married Dorothy Bullfinch (d. 1845) and had three children, the Rev. William Hassall of Llyswen (1788-1849), Oriana Hassall (1790-1809) and George Hassall (b. and d. 1792).

An agricultural pioneer and colourful figure, he achieved some prominence in West Wales during his life-time. He came to Pembrokeshire as agent to the Llanstinan and Slebech estates of William Knox , c . 1784 , but was dismissed. In 1791 he was appointed surveyor of the South Wales Association for the Improvement of Roads , and compiled reports on the agriculture of the counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen for the Board of Agriculture . His 1794 A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Pembroke with Observations on the Means of its Improvements, is still valuable as a detailed survey of conditions at the time. It provides, for instance, the first record of an agricultural society in Pembrokeshire, founded in 1784. Hassall participated as a volunteer in lord Cawdor 's march to Fishguard when the French landed in 1797 , and was the first to meet Thomas Knox in the latter's retreat from Fishguard. Using this opportunity to get even with the Knox family, he was instrumental in causing Knox to resign his command of the Fishguard Volunteers . Hassall became Major of Pioneers in the invasion scare of 1803 and secretary to the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in 1806 . A capable and knowledgeable agriculturalist , he was on friendly terms with lord Milford , lord Cawdor , Greville , and the Foleys , whilst Sir Thomas Picton condescended to fight a duel with him over a quarrel which originated in a ball-room.

Charles and his older brother Thomas (1750-1813) have been called ‘two of the best-known agriculturists in Wales’ of the time, pioneering land improvement measures, such as draining wetlands, but both also acted as Commissioners of Enclosures for Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan and Merionethshire in the early 1800s, controversial work which attracted criticism. Distressed by his older brother's death in 1813 while supervising the enclosure of Cors Fochno and by complications in the process of buying recently enclosed land at Mynydd Mawr, Charles Hassall took his own life while visiting Lampeter, on 16 May 1814. He is commemorated by a tablet in Narberth church.

Sources:

  • D. Salmon , West Wales Historical Records , 1910–29 , xiv;
  • E. H. Stuart Jones , The Last Invasion of Britain. , 1950 ;
  • Felix Farley's Bristol Journal , 28 May 1814 ;
  • Henry Owen , ‘Yn Amsang ein Tadau’;
  • F. Jones, 'Some Farmers of Bygone Pembrokshire', The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion 1943-44 (1946), 133-51. [esp. 135, 140-43]
  • Robin Hassall, 'The Hassalls of Cilrhue and Eastwood', Dyfed Family History Journal , Volume 11, Number 8 (April 2014), 12-19.

Authors:

Commander Edwyn Henry Stuart Jones, R.N., Wells, Somerset

Marion Löffler, Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959