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The Vaughans of Ruardean

The IGI contains a baptism record of St John the Baptist church, Ruardean (photo, right) from 1538 to 1812: enter the surname VAUGHAN, British Isles, England, Gloucester county, and the Batch Number C025811.

This record has a gap from 1558 to 1607, and those which exist are illegible for many years. (there is also an incomplete collection of bishop's transcripts). The following early Vaughans are recorded.

1543: Thomas son of John

1545: John son of Robert

1553: William son of Robert

1555: Elizabeth dau. of Robert.

There is then a gap (a major discontinuity, notwithstanding the missing years 1558 to 1607) to:

1684: John Vaughan, son of Andrew and Elinor.

Although the condition and continuity of the registers are poor, it is worth pointing out that there are no Ruardean Vaughans recorded in Men and Armour (1610) (1). Most Vaughans in the vicinity were then in nearby Abenhall and they continue at least into the 1700s. There are also some in adjacent Mitcheldean.

Also, it must be noted that the manor of Ruardean was owned by a Vaughan family in the 17th century and it had passed to another Vaughan family (Courtfield, Welsh Bicknor) by the 18th century, but after extensive researches I have been unable to show a link with those branches of Vaughans. The former holding began with Baynham Vaughan who took possession by about 1630/35, and the pedigrees do not give any realistic chance that the following Vaughans stemmed from that ancestry.

Now the record is complicated by two factors.

1. The Vaughans under consideration, at around the turn of the 17/18th centuries, were dissenters, and so the baptism record is incomplete.

2. According to a note in the Ruardean registers, the incumbent at that time lived over the border at Walford in Herefordshire, and apparently was too idle to attend Ruardean to conduct marriages, which were held at his home church. Helpfully, Gloucestershire RO holds a transcript of Walford marriages which includes the years of interest at Ruardean (ref. OC38).

The earliest relevant record I have is a marriage at Walford between John Vaughan and Mary Bradley, both "of Ruardean" on 26 November 1687. This puts John's birth maybe around 1660. It will be difficult to trace this because of the difficulties with the records noted above.

The next relevant entry is in the Ruardean register (BT) and is for the burial of their son John on November 6th 1698. Presumably there was no CofE baptism. Their subsequent children, baptised at Ruardean, were Richard (the records, shown below, note that John was a dissenter) baptised on March 7th 1701, and Rachel (baptised 1704). It is possible that there were other unbaptised children.

"Richard, the son of John Vaughan dissenter and Mary his wife was baptised." Above, parish register; below, Bishop's Transcript.

Marriages of Richard, Rachel and Phebe, (another possible child of John and Mary) all of Ruardean are shown at Walford in 1728, 1728 and 1729 respectively. The correspondence of the names Richard and Rachel and the absence of possible Vaughan matches from neighbouring Abenhall and Mitcheldean seems to confirm these identifications.

 A John Vaughan, probably the one above, died in 1738 at Ruardean, his age based on the above estimate being 78. He may have been a blacksmith.

A Richard Vaughan "of this parish" died 19 December 1730 aged 77, and is buried in the floor of the church with a memorial on the covering stone, according to Bigland (2) in 1787. The inscription was partly illegible then, but suggests that Richard's wife was Elizabeth. [Bigland also noted a number of altar tombs in the nave bearing Vaughan names, which were removed by 1872, but these all belong to the short-lived Vaughan lords of the manor, Baynham Vaughan, his wife and two sons.] There is no Richard Vaughan in the registers at this time, but there is a Richard Vaughton whose wife Elizabeth died in 1692, and in 1694 a Richard, son of Richard and Ann Vaughton was born. He was churchwarden of Ruardean at the turn of the 17/18th centuries and so his burial location would not be out a of place. It seems possible that Bigland misread the inscription, a theory which could easily be checked by reference to the burial register.

Richard (1701), son of John and Mary Vaughan, married Mary Morgan on 11 May 1728 and their children were: Mary (1730), Sarah (1733), John (1737), Richard (1741), Ann (1745), William (baptised 9 January 1748), and Phoby 1752. All were baptised at Ruardean parish church. Richard Sr, Richard Jr and John were voted freeholders of the parish in the county elections 1776 (Bigland). John was a blacksmith in 1762 and a churchwarden in 1787. He died in 1818 and there is a plaque near the nave of the church commemorating him, his wife and daughter Ann.

William (1748) married Hannah-Jemimy Bennett and their children were Ann (1775), John (1778), Fanny (1781), Hannah (1787), Jane (1791) and William (baptised 9 January 1797). All were baptised at Ruardean parish church. A John Vaughan age 74, blacksmith, was living at Morse Lane, Ruardean in 1851.

William (1797 - 1869) married Sarah Smart (born about 1796, died 1887, surname unknown) and among their children were Absolom (1820), Ann (1822), and William (1824) who died in 1859 at the age of 35 (he is buried with his parents in Ruardean churchyard, and all are recorded on the headstone. All were baptised at Ruardean parish church, William giving his occupation as “husbandman”.  Later came Hannah I. (about 1828), Timothy (1838) and Sarah Ann (1840), deduced from the 1851 census. In 1851 William Sr. described himself as a yeoman at "Ploods" (now written Pludds and situated just over the southern border of Ruardean in East Dean parish - see map left from 1884) with Sarah (Gentleman Farmer's wife) , and children Timothy and Sarah Ann. Also at Ploods were son William Jr. and his wife Ann.

The Vaughans at this time had substantial landholdings in the district, as the tithe map (1848) shows. The areas shaded in red belong to John Vaughan esq. (this would be John Francis Vaughan of Courtfield, Welsh Bicknor) which were probably inherited from the Ruardean Lords. The remainder of the coloured areas were owned by these Ruardean Vaughans, William owning land at High Beech, which is confirmed in his will of 1869.

In 1851 Absolom (1820) was a farmer of 30 acres at Smithway Farm, Ruardean, (map, left) with his sister Hannah Vaughan as housekeeper. In 1852 he married Elizabeth COOPER (baptised 16 October 1825 at English Bicknor, Gloucestershire) at Ruardean parish church. Elizabeth was the daughter of William (a collier) and Sarah Cooper of Lydbrook,  an industrialised hamlet within English Bicknor parish, where iron and tin "said to be the first in the kingdom" (Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, 1840) were worked. 

Among their children were Absolom (1854) Timothy (born about 1856), Elizabeth (baptised 2 June 1861), Ann (born about 1867) and Bertha (born about (1868).


Right: English Bicknor church

Below: the remains of Pludds Court.



By 1881 Absolom Sr. and Sarah had moved to Pludds Court, near Ruardean, and were living there with their children Timothy, Ann and Bertha. Elizabeth was in service at a hotel at nearby Drybrook. Absolom was described as a publican and farmer. Absolom Jr. was also at Pludds with his wife and child. Timothy and Absolom Jr were coal miners.

On 11 November 1889 Elizabeth Vaughan gave birth to Annie (father now believed to be Henry WATKINS - see below), and in 1891 mother and daughter were living with Absolom and Sarah at Pludds Court.

Annie's mother Elizabeth died of heart disease in 1894 at the age of 32. Her death was shortly followed by those of her parents Absolom in November 1897 and Sarah in April 1898. Family tradition has it that Annie came to Monmouthshire at the age of 9, which would just follow that final death. She was adopted by Henry and Frances WATKINS of Glanhowy Cottages, Cwmpenmaen, Blackwood, Monmouthshire, and she then took the surname Watkins until her marriage in 1909 to Luther CAREY.  

It now seems virtually certain that Henry Watkins was indeed her father: he was born in Ruardean, lived near to the Vaughans, and was six years older than Elizabeth. He married Frances EDWARDS in about 1895, within a year of Elizabeth's death. 



Annie Vaughan/Watkins


1. Men and Armour for Gloucestershire in 1608. Republished 1980 by Alan Sutton. ISBN 0904387496. Copy at Gloucester RO.

2. Historical, Monumental and Genealogical Collections relative to the county of Gloucester, ed. B. Frith, 1989-95, published by the Gloucester Record Society. ISBN 0 900197 28 5, 0900197 30 7, 0 900197 34 X and 0 900197 40 4. Copies at Gloucester RO.


Forest of Dean Genealogy pages


GENUKI Ruardean