Elizabeth Williams OBE - Windy Hall to South Africa!!

Elizabeth Tryphena Williams OBE, was the daughter of David Williams and Susannah Davies.

David Williams was born in Goodwick in 1817 (the son of Owen Williams, a seaman) but married his wife Susannah in Steynton parish, near Milford Haven.

Census data records him as being a mariner but later an officer with the Royal Navy Coastguard. Owing to his job, the family moved around Wales and his nine children were born in various coastal towns and villages. Elizabeth, the youngest, was born in Pembroke Dock in 1857 but later moved to Fishguard when her father retired although it’s possible he may have been involved with the Fishguard Coastguard station.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        David and Susannah lived in Windy Hall House on the cliffs above Goodwick harbour with their two youngest daughters Elizabeth and Emily. Windy Hall house was built around 1868 and the family moved in some time between 1871 and 1879.

During this time Elizabeth was introduced to a young South African whose family originally came from Milford Haven. Charles Edwardes Lewis was studying at Cambridge and spent the holidays with his cousin in Milford Haven. His uncle had married Elizabeth’s aunt several years prior so there was already a connection between the families. In order to visit Elizabeth he spent his summer cycling back and forth between Milford and Fishguard which probably kept him quite fit. After a brief courtship the couple married on the 27th of May 1879 at St Mary’s Church in Fishguard and spent their honeymoon in Tenby.

It must have been a bitter-sweet event for  her parents, David and Susannah as their new son in law Charles, had just been appointed as a classics lecturer at the South African College School and the young couple sailed for Cape Town a month later. Charles became a professor of Greek Classics and was instrumental in the founding of the University of Cape Town while Elizabeth established herself in Cape Town society, many famous South Africans spending their formative academic years under the care of Charles and Elizabeth at College House residence.
They had six children, five sons and a daughter Gwendoline (the author’s great grandmother). Tragically  two sons were killed in WW1, in the Somme and at the battle of Jutland while a third son was seriously wounded while fighting in France. A heavy price to pay for three Military Crosses. For her work with the Comforts Committee in supporting young British troops in Cape Town Elizabeth was awarded the OBE in March 1918.

Of their surviving sons, one became a judge, another a civil engineer while the third son after recovering from his wounds became a barrister and served again as a colonel in WW2. Their daughter married a lawyer and raised four children, one of them being Gwendoline Joyce Lewis RSSAf, a botanist and curator of the South African Museum Herbarium.                                                                                                                                                                                                         On the 27th of May 1939 the University of Cape Town hosted Charles and Elizabeth’s diamond wedding anniversary, General Smuts, first prime minister of South Africa and UCT Chancellor gave the congratulatory speech.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Elizabeth passed away in 1944 aged 86 and Charles a year later. It is fitting that their house in Cape Town was named “Manorowen” possibly in memory of Charles’s long bicycle rides on his way through Manorowen Parish to visit Elizabeth all those years ago.

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