The Chatfields

The Argoed

In October 1897 the Argoed was purchased from the executors of the late Richard Potter by Mr Kyrle Mitford Chatfield. He had recently retired after working for thirty years in the Indian Education Service, having ended his career as Director of Education for Bombay District, one of the most senior posts in the service. Before going out to India he had taught at Marlborough, after gaining first-class honours in Classics and Philosophy at Oxford, and he remained a considerable classical scholar to the end of his life.

His wife, Agnes, was the daughter of an Indian Army officer, and was evidently a woman remarkable for both beauty and intelligence. They had four children, The eldest son, Kyrle, entered the Church, but both his brothers, George and Hugh, followed their father into service in India; George, a distinguished classicist like his father, became a good friend of Mahatma Gandhi, while Hugh was for many years a highly respected judge in the old state of Travancore in southern India. The only daughter, Dorothea, also kept up the family tradition by marrying an Indian Civil Servant, Clement Beyts.

The Chatfields immediately entered fully into the life of Penallt. Within days of their arrival Agnes and Dorothea were helping to decorate the church for the Harvest Festival, and six weeks later Dorothea played both piano and violin at a concert given in the school. In January 1898 Agnes produced an entertainment entitled “Mrs Jarley’s Waxworks” for the Sunday School Christmas Treat (postponed for a fortnight owing to an outbreak of measles) in which her husband and their children Dorothea and Hugh all acted. In the following month Chatfield was, almost inevitably, elected one of the School Managers.

Indeed, he soon became the “Squire” to the people of Penallt and this was not just “ex officio” through owning the Argoed but because of the generosity and openness of his nature. He had, after all, a rival for that title in the Hon Arthur Pelham of Moorcroft who, with his wife, was also active in parish affairs and a benefactor in connection with the Hall which bears his name. Penallt was indeed fortunate at that time to have two such public-spirited and wealthy families living there. Most of the Chatfields’ acts of generosity to their poorer neighbours were never publicised, but people still remember how the village children were always free to walk and play in the garden and grounds of the Argoed. To one woman whose husband died Chatfield gave a horse and trap so that she could earn a living carrying passengers to and from Monmouth and he encouraged parishioners to use her services. He used to lend his hay wains for Sunday School outings and for jaunts to the May Day “Mop Fair” and to the Races which were still held in Monmouth in those days.

Chatfield himself was a great walker even in his old age, going often to Monmouth and back, and on occasion as far as Chepstow on foot; and he walked regularly to church until near the end of his life. The father of Hildred Jones of the Little Argoed, Tregagle, was coachman at the Argoed for many years, and she remembers harnessing a donkey-cart for the Chatfields and Beyts. Her brother, Mr Summers, who lives in Monmouth, recalls driving Mr Chatfield on one occasion in the car owned by Mr del Sandys, the writer who bought Moorcroft from the Pelhams. Mr Summers senior drove the wagon, adorned with laurel leaves, which carried Chatfield’s body to the parish church for burial when he died in 1927. Coffins were still usually carried to the churchyard on men’s shoulders at that time; it seems typical of Kyrle Chatfield’s character that he requested the use of the wagon to spare his neighbours the burdensome task of carrying him.

Before his own end he had had to mourn the deaths of many of his family. His wife Agnes died of a very painful disease in 1912 and ten years later his daughter, Dorothea Beyts, died suddenly, aged only 43; only a few months earlier she had been elected Vicar’s Warden in succession to Miss Hankey of Ty Mawr, and she was deeply mourned in the parish. Her daughter Wendelin, a girl of only eleven, died less than a year later, while her husband Clement Beyts died in India in 1925 as the result of being mauled by a leopard. Mrs Beyts and her children Diana, Wendelin and Ernie had continued to play an active role in parish life and were very popular.

After Kyrle Chatfield’s death the ownership of the Argoed passed to his son, George Ernie Chatfield, who died in 1931. His widow, Grace, lived there until the property was sold in 1947 to Major Ynyr Probert, a descendant of its original owners.

[from: Penallt – A Village Miscellany]