Select Hughes Miscellany

Here are some Hughes stories and accounts over the years:

Daffydd Llwyd ap Hugh at Plas Coch

Daffydd Llwyd ap Hugh began the construction of his home at Plas Coch in Anglesey in 1569.  He was the first of his family to take the English surname of Hughes. 

He married into the Montagu family (the Dukes of Manchester) which brought him many contacts in the English legal and political establishment of the time.  He was Anglesey’s MP in 1597 and then Attorney-General for North Wales.   In 1609 James I appointed him Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, but he died before being able to take up the post. 

The Plas Coch manor house and grounds were recently restored into a luxury holiday home park.

The Rev. Thomas Hughes of Ruthin School

Ruthin School is one of the oldest private schools in the country.  The Rev. Thomas Hughes, previously a master at Hanmer School in Flintshire, was appointed its headmaster in 1739.  It was said that “he carried the School to a degree of celebrity it had not before obtained.”  He held the position until 1768.  He was also the rector at Llanfwrog until his death in 1776.

The Rev. Thomas, born in 1713, had been the son of Captain Myndic Hughes of Liverpool and the grandson of a Hughes from Gelle Faulor in Flintshire.  He apparently bore the arms of his uncle Thomas Wood of Hillingdon in Middlesex whose estate he inherited in 1748. 

The children of the Rev. Thomas and his wife Elizabeth (nee Salusbury) included Robert Hughes of Holborn in London and the Rev. Thomas Hughes of Kew in Surrey.  This Rev. Thomas was the grandfather of Thomas Hughes, the author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, and of his sister, Jane Hughes, described by Florence Nightingale as 'a noble army of one' on account of her work for pauper children.

The Hughes of Kinmel

The Kinmel estate in Flintshire, which had been around since the 16th century, was acquired in 1786 by the Rev. Edward Hughes. 

The family money had come when Edward, a young curate in Anglesey, had fallen in love with Mary Lewis, the daughter of his employer, the rector of Trefdraeth.  She had been left on the death of her uncle the house of Llysdulas on Anglesey, along with a “barren hill” nearby. 

This hill was what is now known as Parys Mountain, the great copper mine that was to be owned by Edward Hughes and his partner Sir Nicholas Bayly.  At its peak the mine employed 1,500 miners and Hughes and Bayly divided upwards of £300,000 a year, a huge amount of money at the turn of the 19th century. Through this windfall Edward Hughes had built up a prodigious estate, the jewel of which was Kinmel. 

In 1860 Kinmel passed to a nephew of the family, Hugh Robert Hughes, affectionately known as HRH.  This was a reflection not just of his initials, but of his grand lifestyle and affectations.  HRH embarked upon a massive construction program for the estate.  Kinmel Hall was built with 52 main bedrooms and quarters for 60 live-in servants and a room used only for ironing the newspapers.   The flamboyance of HRH proved the old adage of: “It takes one generation to start an estate, one to consolidate it, and a third to lose it.”

Although the family ceased to live there in 1929, it still occupies a prominent situation in the park and serves as a reminder of Victorian splendor and excess

The Hughes Name Distribution in 1881

There were approximately 84,000 Hughes in the UK census of 1881.Some 25,000 or 30% were in north Wales and 35,000 or 42% in Wales as a whole.

Numbers (000's)
Elsewhere in Wales

The Hughes name had extended principally into the English counties that were neighboring to north Wales.

Numbers (000's)
Total in England   

The largest numbers in Lancashire were to be found in Liverpool, notably in Toxteth Park and Everton.

Trader Hughes in Virginia

Most histories of Amherst county, Virginia recount the first settler in the area to be an Indian trader known as "Trader Hughes."   He had established a trading post on the James River about a half-mile west of the mouth of Otter Creek.  He had the first stone chimney in the area, which qualified him as the first permanent settler.  This location was where several Indian paths intersected and near the river access to the Valley of Virginia, apparently a busy intersection in the mid/late 1600’s.

Hughes’ Indian wife was said to be Princess Nicketti Powhatan, the niece of the famous Pocahontas.  Hughes and Nicketti had one daughter Elizabeth, born around 1654.  She married Nathaniel Davis, a Welshman and an early settler in the region.  He made a large fortune by having choice river-bottom lands and trading with the Indians. 

But who was Trader Hughes? 

Some historical references described him as a Scotsman, others said that he was an English cavalier, and others again that he may have been Welsh.  His first name could have been John; or Rees or Rice.  There is no known connection with any other Hughes in Amherst county.

The Howard Hughes Line

Howard Hughes Jr - the aviator, film maker and latter day eccentric - has captured all the headlines.  But it was his father, Howard Hughes Sr, who was the source of the family fortunes. 

He had been a classic entrepreneur, trying and failing at many endeavors before eventually finding success.  This came in the form of the two-cone roller bit which he patented.  It allowed rotary drilling for petroleum in places previously inaccessible.  He then made the shrewd and lucrative decision to commercialize the invention by leasing the bits instead of selling them, and founded the Hughes Tool Company in 1909.

The traceable Hughes line is five generations long:

  • William Hughes (born 1780), born in Virginia (of possible English origin).  
  • Joshua Hughes (1808-1901), a farmer and blacksmith who migrated west to Illinois.
  • Felix Hughes (1837-1926), born in Illinois.  He fought in the Civil War and later settled in Missouri. 
  • Howard Hughes Sr. (1869 - 1924), born in Missouri.  The entrepreneur.
  • and Howard Hughes Jr. (1905 – 1976), born in Texas.  The famous son.

John and Sam Hughes in Canada

The following were some recollections about John Hughes and his son Sam by a man who knew them both: 

“John Hughes was a man of rare and varied ability, a typical Irish gentleman endowed with all the Irish man’s wit and humour.  Possibly his most marked characteristic was a marvellously tenacious memory. The writer recalls hearing him one night in John Gray’s store, at the time of the 66 Fenian raid, repeat a humorous parody of over two hundred, four line stanzas, descriptive of the Fenian trouble in Ireland some years previous.  At its conclusion he stated that he had not repeated this poem for twenty years.

Of his sons we all know Sir Sam, first in prominence, as Minister of Militia in the country’s most critical period.  He achieved a success not surpassed by any incident of the Great War, not even over-shadowed by immortal Verdun. In a non-military country just emerging from colonial status, he raised, trained, equipped and transported to Great Britain an army of 33,000 men in the inconceivable limited period of six months and two months. 

Later that band of heroes faced and held and defeated the onslaught of the army outnumbering them ten to one, part of the most highly trained and perfectly equipped fighting machine that ever took the field in the world’s history. The place of Sir Sam in Canadian history is assured."

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