Although called Colly ucha in the 1841 census, in the Tithe schedule the farm was called Tir y Colli. It was a 186 acre farm adjacent to the Bargoed Taff river north of where today stands the village of Bedlinog. just beyond the similarly named Coly isaf. Isaf means lower and uchaf is upper. In 1841 it was shown as being owned by the Marquis of Bute who was the Lord of the Manor of Senghennydd, indicating that it was Manor land. Unlike most farms in Gelligaer it was throughout the period from 1540, held by lease from the Manor rather than freehold land. On the modern OS map it is given the name Coly uchaf, but the fields adjoining the river appear now to be common land, the railway having cut them off from the rest of the farm. Although it is a farm that has almost retained its name since 1570 it can be confused with the neighbouring farm – today called Coly isaf. But Coly isaf was always a freehold farm whereas Coly uchaf was leasehold. There have been many variations on its name, Jevan Colly, Tir Evan Colly, Tir y Colli, Colly uchaf finally Coly uchaf. There is no information on who Jevan Colly might have been. T V Davies hints at a link with an Iereward Colly who is recorded as a mercenary from Senghennydd fighting for Queen Isabel to overthrow Edward II in 1326, but the link seems somewhat tenuous.
In the 1540 Senghennydd Manor survey it is found not in the section which lists freehold land, but in the following section which lists ‘vacated land’. Even for the owner of freehold land there was an annual rent to pay to the Lord of the Manor, and if this was not paid then the ownership of the land returned to the Manor. In the 15th and 16th century this had apparently been not uncommon due to changing climatic conditions and the plague. It is not known why the land around Bedlinog became ‘vacated’. The entry in the 1540 survey merely recorded an income of 23s. 4d “From farmland of certain vacated land called Tyre Adame ap holl, leased to various tenants”. It is not known who Adam ap Howell was, nor is there any information on the tenants. In the 1570 survey we are given a little more information, the entry reads “Tenants of Senghenydd Supra hold certain land called Tyr Adam ap hoell, rent per annum Janken Rosser (8s. 4d.), Morgan Awbery (8s. 4d.), and other tenants for Jevan Colly (7s. 0d.)”. [Why the total rent is 4 pence greater than in 1540 is not known.] Coly uchaf has been identified as Jevan Colly – the other two properties are identified as “Bedlinog isaf” and “Bedlinog uchaf”. In the Manor survey of 1625/30 we find the actual lease detailed for the first time:
Thomas Arnold holdeth unto him his executors and assygnes for the terme of the natural lives of ffrances Thomas, Lewis Thomas and Rowlande Thomas by lease from William Earle of Pembroke dated the 11 of april anno tercis Caroli (1628) one messuage and landes thereunto belonginge called tir Evan Colly, rent 7s. two capons three weathers, a heriott of the best, or ells 40s. in lue thereof, beinge abouts 24 acres – which maie be improved to 20s. more per annum.
The Earl of Pembroke was the lord of the manor, the rent remained unchanged at 7 shillings. Thomas Arnold and his family lived and owned land in the north of Hengoed hamlet. It is not known whether any member of the family ever lived at Tir Evan Colly but in 1658 the family surrendered the lease and a new lease was granted as shown in the Manor Audit and Grant book of 1650-1659:
At the Receipt 1658
Granted to William Lewis of Kelligare in the County of Glamorgan gent all that messuage or tenement and lands containing by estimation 24 acres or thereabouts with the appurtenances there late in the tenure of Thomas Arnold gent or of his assigns. ….. All now in the possession of the said William Lewis or his assign or assigns (except as in the old lease) to hold the same to the said William Lewis his executors or assigns from Lady day last for 99 years if George Williams David Williams and Thomas Williams three of the sons of the said William Lewis or any or either of them shall so long live upon surrender of an estate in the messuage and 24 acres for the lives of Francis Thomas, Lewis Thomas and Roland Thomas sons of the said Thomas Arnold ….. under the yearly rent of 32s., two capons, Herriot the best or 40s. at the Lords choice suit of court and mill, and for the fine of 60s. in hand.
Also mentioned was 6 acres in Brithdir hamlet. After over 100 years at 7s., the rent was raised to 32s, although this does include the 6 acres in Brithdir. In addition an initial payment of £3, called a fine, was made.
In the 1670 survey in the section headed “A List of the Grants Demised by the Lord of This Manor to his Tenants in the parish of Gelligaer” is the following entry:
Wm. Lewis of Gelligaer by Lease or Grant dated 21st day of June in the year 1658, for the 3 lives of George William, David William and Thos. William, his sons, all that tenement of land called Tir Evan Colley containing 24 acres or thereabouts lying in Gelligaer aforesaid, at the yearly rent of 32 shillings, payable 25th March & 29th September, 2 capons and a Herriot or 40/- in lieu thereof.
However in the Senghennydd Manor’s “Survey Booke – Date 1666” it is described as:
One messuage with its appurtenances and certaine parcells of lands thereto belonging called Tir Jevan Colie as it is now divided into tenne parcells, lyeing intirely togeather abutting to Bargod river and the lands of Edward Lewis of Kilvach vargod esq. on the north parte and the lords land on the north east parte thereof, containing of welsh measure sixty acres,
Quite why the acres are now 60 acres of welsh measure rather than 24 is not known. The local acres was 2½ times the standard acre so 60 equates reasonably with the 186 standard acres shown in 1841, possibly the figure had been more accurately determined. The lands of Edward Lewis of Kilvach vargod esq on the north was Nant y Ffin then known as Blaen Bargoed, the lords land on the north east was the common which was owned by the lord of the manor. The lessee William Lewis was the owner of Cefn y Brithdir farm in Brithdir Hamlet. By the time of his death he owned three or four farms which he gave to his sons, it is unlikely that any of them lived at “Coly uchaf”
Underneath in a different hand, and obviously written at a different date is “fallen in hand in ffeb 1732/3, let out to Evan Morriss for 1734 one parcell at 11.7.6 p.a.”. It is known that Thomas William, by then known as Thomas Lewis of Llanelen having adopted a surname, the last surviving of the 3 brothers whose lives determined the length of the lease, died in feb 1732/3. It is not known who actually occupied Coly uchaf during this period. The rent in 1733 at £11 7s. 6d. is considerably higher than the previous 32s. Evan Morris the new leaseholder was also the leaseholder of a property somewhat confusingly called Blaen Bargoed in Merthyr Tydfil parish just across from Nant y Ffin. However he seems to have had problems at Coly uchaf as in a Rental survey of 1642 we find two entries which show that a William Evan held part of “Tir y Colly” for 21 years at a rent of £4 12s. 6d, and that he was also paying a rent of £5 7s. 6d. for the other part – but beside this is written “He holds this for this year and the rent is sunk £1-9-6 for the tennant that held it last year is broke”. Subsequent rental surveys show that in 1752 William Evan took out a lease on the whole property for a rent of £10 2s. 6d – still the reduced rent. The lease was for three lives, those of himself, his son Morgan and his daughter Gwenllian. From subsequent rental surveys we learn that at the time of the lease William Evan was 32, his son 7 and his daughter 5. It is also known that from at least as early as 1747 William Evan was the tenant of neighbouring Nant y ffin which would have given him a total of about 380 acres. It was not however the best of land, in a rental survey of 1785 it was described as “Part clear pasture and about 20 acres of poor arable, the rest is rough scraggy land”. Although it was also suggested that the land was then worth about £25 a year rather than the £10 2s 6d William Evan was still paying. In fact William Evan ceased to be shown as paying the local taxes on both Coly uchaf and Nant y ffin in 1784. Previous to that from 1773 he is shown as sharing Coly uchaf with a Thomas Henry. From 1784 to 1790 the taxes are paid by an Edward Thomas after which he shares the taxes. There is no information on his lease but in 1810 he reassigns the lease as evidenced by the following deed:
1810 June 22 Agreement to Assign
(1) Edward Thomas, par. Gellygare, co. Glam., widower
(2) Thomas Edward of the same parish, bachelor.
£20, Premises called Mardy Bach otherwise Cwrt y Tyla, all part of Coly Ucha Farm par. Gellygare.
mark of Edward Thomas Witness L Edwards
It is possible that Thomas Edward here is the son of Lewis Edwards who owned neighbouring Bedlinog uchaf and was the witness to the deed, but the farm would appear to have been sublet as the name does not appear as a tax payer. From this time a Nicholas Waters appears as one of the tax payers, and from 1821 he is the only tax payer. He continues at the farm until his death in 1849. The 1841 census shows that he was not from Glamorgan, in his will he mentions only his wife Ann. The parish register shows that Nicholas Walters of Vaynor married Ann Williams of Gelligaer 24 December 1807. In 1851 Ann is shown as an annuitant living at Coly uchaf – there is no indication as to who was farming the land. Cwrt y Tyla is shown as occupied by an agricultural labourer in 1841 and as being uninhabited in 1851.
There is a map of the farm made in 1820, the earliest detailed map of any part of the hamlet, which shows that the number of fields had by 1841 been reduced by consolidating 7 or 8 smaller fields into two larger fields. Probably this was as a result of the farm being farmed as a single unit rather than as two farms.
1540 Senghenydd Manor Survey : National Archive SC6/HENVIII/7493
1570 Senghenydd Manor Survey : National Library of Wales Bute S1 & S2
1628 Lease: see National Library of Wales : Bute M37/39
1630 Senghenydd Manor Survey : National Library of Wales Bute M37/39
1658 Lease: see National Library of Wales : Bute M1/562
1670 Senghenydd Manor Survey : National Library of Wales Bute M37/41 & S11
1723-85 Rental Surveys : National Library of Wales, Bute S12-S23
1763-68 Land Taxes : National Library of Wales Tredegar 85/2230++
1773-1809 Local Taxes : National Library of Wales, Bute G11
1783-1831 Land Taxes : Glamorgan Record Office Q/D/LTA/CAE
1810 Assignment of Lease : Gwent Record Office, D749.381
1841 Tithe Schedule : Glamorgan Record Office P/1/2/13
1849 Will : National Library of Wales, LL1849-81