Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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MATHEWS , JOHN HOBSON ( Mab Cernyw ; 1858 - 1914 ), Roman Catholic historian, archivist and solicitor ;

b. 1858 at Croydon , his father being from S. Ives and his mother ( Emma Hobson ) from Great Grimsby . Although not a Welshman , Mathews was connected with Wales by residence and otherwise for so long a period and wrote so much concerning the country that he merits inclusion in this dictionary. Educated at schools at Blackheath and Cambridge , he worked for a while for a shipping firm in Malta . He entered the Roman Catholic church in 1877 , became a solicitor in 1889 , and practised at Cardiff for many years. He was a good linguist and learnt Maltese , Cornish , and Welsh . He it was who first drew attention to the carols of the Welsh Catholic martyr , Richard White (q.v.) ( Catholic Record Society , iv). He edited Emynau Catholig , was the translator of Ffordd y Groes , and became a member of the Welsh Bardic Gorsedd . He acted as archivist to the Cardiff Corporation and was the editor of the six large volumes entitled Cardiff Records, being materials for a history of the County Borough from the earliest times ( 1898-1911 ). He also made a report, 1905 , upon records belonging to the Monmouthshire County Council . He published A History of the parishes of St. Ives, Lelant, Towednack, and Zennor ( London , 1892 ), and edited Martin Cock 's Guide to St. Ives ( St. Ives , 1906 ). He had previously prepared Yr Hen grefydd a'r grefydd newydd. Sef dadl … am yr Eglwys Gatholig … Wedi ei gyfieithu i'r Gymraeg gan … J. H. Jones ( Cardiff , 1889 ), and The Life and Memorials of Saint Teilo ( Preston , 1893 ). He contributed to the transactions of societies, e.g. Cardiff Naturalists Society (see Transactions , xxxiii, for a study of place-names of the Cardiff district ) and particularly to the Catholic Record Society , of which he was one of the original members (in 1906 ); many of the volumes of the latter contain valuable material relating to Catholics in south-east Wales , including Monmouthshire , contributed by him (see, e.g. vols. iv, v). The Vaughans of Courtfield: a study in Welsh genealogy ( London , 1912 ) was based upon his examination of the family muniments of the Vaughans of Courtfield (qq.v.), a Herefordshire Catholic family (the muniments are now in N.L.W. ). At the time of his death he was co-operating in the work of continuing Duncombe 's History of Herefordshire . He m., 1892 , Alice Mary Gwyn-Hughes ; they had four sons and two daughters. He d. at Ealing , 30 Jan. 1914 . N.L.W. MSS. 2851-3 contain some typical examples of his ‘collectanea.’


  • The Tablet a weekly newspaper and review (London) , 31 Jan. 1914 ;
  • Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales , i, ii;
  • Cardiff Naturalists' Society: Report and Transactions , xxxiii.


Sir William Llewelyn Davies, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. (1887-1952), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959