The Hendre - Rolls Family

Rolls Family

The ascent of the Rolls family to the aristocracy, and to the fortune used to develop the Hendre as the finest Victorian country house in Monmouthshire, was through marriage. James James of the parish of Llanvihangel-Ystern-Llewern, Monmouthshire settled in London and acquired a valuable estate in Southwark, Surrey.

He purchased several farms and parcels of land in Llanvihangel-Ystern-Llewern and Llangattock-Vibon-Avel between 1639 and 1648. In his will published in 1677 he left his estate to his only surviving child, Sarah, who was the wife of Dr Elisha Coysh, a physician from London. Their daughter married William Allen, who also bought land in Monmouthshire. William Allen's daughter and heir married her cousin Thomas Coysh. They were succeeded by their son Richard Coysh, who was succeeded by his sister Sarah (d. 1801), the eventual sole heir of the families of Coysh, Allen and James. Sarah married John Rolls (1735–1801) of the Grange, Bermondsey, and of the Hendre, Monmouthshire, sheriff of Monmouthshire 1794, bringing him much property both in Monmouthshire and London.

John Rolls died the day after his wife. John Rolls was succeeded by his son John Rolls (1776–1837) of the Hendre, who was succeed by his son John Etherington Welch Rolls (1807–70), sheriff of Monmouthshire 1842 (married Elizabeth Mary Long, granddaughter of William Carnegie, 7th Earl of Northesk). He was succeeded by his son John Allan Rolls (1837–1912), sheriff in 1875 and MP for Monmouthshire, 1880–1885, created Baron Llangattock of the Hendre, 1892.

John Allan Rolls's enoblement brought the family, and the house, to its social apogee, culminating in a visit from the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary), who stayed with Lord and Lady Llangattock at the Hendre in late October – early November 1900. The Duke and Duchess were taken on motor car excursions by Charles Rolls, probably the first time that the royal couple had been in a car. This was an important event in the family's social history, confirming their elevation to the upper echelons of society.

Of John Allan's three sons, the most famous was Charles, the co-founder of Rolls Royce. As well as his interests in cars and aeroplanes, Charles was a keen balloonist, the Flight Magazine of January 1909 recording a flight from Monmouth:

Ballooning Home. On Saturday last the Hon. C. S. Rolls gave an exhibition of the possibilities of ballooning by taking his mother, Lady Llangattock, home by balloon. The ascent was made at Monmouth in the balloon " Mercury," the occupants of the basket being Lady Llangattock, Hon. C. S. Rolls, Hon. Mrs. Assheton – Harbord, Mr. Claud Crompton, and Mr. Charles Freeman, and the balloon landed on the lawn in front of Lord Llangattock's house, The Hendre.

In July 1910, Charles Rolls was killed when his plane crashed during a flight display at Bournemouth, the first Englishman to be killed in a flying accident.

Lord Llangattock died in 1912. His heir was his first son John Maclean Rolls (1870–1916, dsp.), 2nd Baron Llangattock. He died at Boulogne in 1916 from wounds received at the Battle of the Somme. His younger brother, Henry Alan, having died four months previously, and none of Lord Llangattock's three sons having had children, the direct male line ended and John Maclean Rolls was succeeded by his sister Eleanor Georgiana (d. 1961), wife of John Courtown Edward Shelley.

With the death of Charles Rolls, Henry Allen Rolls and John Maclean Rolls and the extinction of the barony and surname in the male line, the estate passed back up the family through the closest member of the family with surviving descendants, Patricia Rolls, sister of John Allan Rolls. She had married John Taylor Harding of Pentwyn, vicar of Rockfield and Canon of Llandaff, son of John Harding of Henbury and they had four children (John Reginald Harding, Charles Allan Harding, Francis Henry Harding and George Valentine Harding). John Reginald Harding in turn married Elizabeth Margaret Saunders (daughter of Captain John Saunders of Fuzhou, China) and had five children. Upon the extinction of the Rolls branch, the estate came down to his son, John Charles Etherington Harding (born 1898, Xiamen), the first cousin once removed of the 2nd Baron Llangattock, who inherited the house, estate and surrounding farmland, changing his family name to Harding-Rolls for this purpose.

The Harding-Rolls branch of the family continued to live at The Hendre until 1987 when, following a failed time-share operation, it passed out of their hands. The mansion is presently the club house to The Rolls of Monmouth golf course.

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