On the 14th April 1880, Alfred Donald Mackintosh (b.1851) of Moy Hall near Inverness, 28th Chief of the Clan Mackintosh and 29th Chief of the Clan Chattan married Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards (b.1857) of Cottrell, St Nicholas. Alfred’s vast estates in the Scottish Highlands covered 124,000 acres, though much of it was moorland with the result that his rent roll, together with the economic potential of the land was considerably less than that which accrued from his wife’s property in Glamorgan even before the Plasnewydd estate was developed.
The Richards pedigree begins with William Richards, a late 17th century Alderman of Cardiff. In the 18th century the family prospered becoming lawyers, clergymen and administrators and were the most substantial family resident in or near Cardiff. Harriet’s father Edward Priest Richards (1831-1856) was the third son of John Matthews Richards (1803-1843). He was named after his great-uncle Edward Priest Richards (1792-1867) who for 40 years was the chief agent of the Marquis of Bute’s estates in Glamorgan and while contributing to the Bute fortune, doubtless did not neglect to increase his own. He also accumulated almost every public office in the county of Glamorgan and the borough of Cardiff and in doing so established a powerful and intricate network of local control.
On the 5th February 1856, Edward Priest Richards the younger married Harriet Georgina Tyler of Cottrell, St Nicholas, 6 miles west of Cardiff. According to an eye witness Edward was short sighted, wore an eyeglass and walked with short steps and a curious little hop. He died during the first year of the marriage, when after having attended a ploughing match dinner, he and his horse were involved in a fatal collision with a cart load of manure in Heol y Plwca (now City Road).
At the time of her husband’s death, Harriet was pregnant and their daughter Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards was born at Cottrell House, St Nicholas in June 1857, where she continued to live as a young girl. The St Nicholas Poor Rate Records for 1879 and 1880 show that Cottrell was owned by Gwinnett Tyler, a naval lieutenant, but occupied by his niece, the 22-year-old Harriet Richards. George William Tyler, a nephew of Gwinnett Tyler, inherited Cottrell in 1886 but did not live there. He too had entered the Navy in 1866 as a naval cadet and after 20 years service retired, and sold Cottrell to his cousin Harriet. She could afford it as in 1867 she had inherited the fortune of Edward Priest Richards the elder, who had died that year. She was now a very wealthy young woman.
Harriet married Alfred in 1880 having signed a comprehensive “Ante-nuptial contract of marriage” the day before. Arranged marriages were not unknown between the wealthy and there are in the Mackintosh papers, in the National Archives of Scotland, documents which relate to arrangements made for the care of Harriet Diana Arabella Mary Richards from between 1862 and 1874, as well as a copy of the contract of marriage. The resulting situation seems to have been that Alfred owned the Scottish estates and Harriet the Glamorgan estates. This arrangement seems to have anticipated the Married Woman’s Property Act,1882.
Alfred’s father and grandfather had been fur traders at Detroit in the USA, though the family seat was at Moy Hall, near Inverness. Alfred was born at Moy and was educated at Brighton, Sussex and Cheltenham College. He then enrolled at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and in 1870 was commissioned in the Highland Light Infantry. The death of his brother in 1876, with no male heir, caused Alfred to become the 28th Chief of the Clan Mackintosh. He resigned from the regular army, but became a Captain in the militia battalion of his local regiment, the Cameron Highlanders.
Alfred and Harriet divided their time between Mayfair, Moy and Cottrell. For the first six years of their married life, they lived at Cottrell but did not own it. Their main preoccupation at Cottrell was hunting, while at Moy it was fishing and shooting. The Glamorgan Hunt was not large, as many were in the 1880s and in 1882 they attended a meet at Llanishen (then described as a rural hamlet) and also supported local steeplechases and point-to-point races. The Hunt Ball was the social event of the year. Alfred and Ella (Harriet’s pet name) would have danced waltzes and performed the Lancers to tunes from The Mikado and Ruddigore. Polkas listed on the dance card were Buffalo Bill, Bugle Call and Hanky Panky! Even more energetic were the gallops Post Horn and John Peel.
Both took their role as landowners seriously. Each Christmas they gave joints of beef and bags of coal to the poorer people. The schoolchildren of St Nicholas and Bonvilston were treated to a Christmas Party every year. This would include tea and cake, a bag of sugared almonds, dips in the bran tub and a march around the Christmas tree, after which everyone was given a present. They gave the Bonvilston Reading Room to the village as a social centre and also donated a cricket pavilion. Finally they organised a Boy Scout troop, paying for the uniforms and equipment and providing an old cottage in which to meet.
A census taken in April 1881 lists their daughter Violet, then 8 weeks old, who was sadly to die 2 years later. Puis Henn the butler is still there as he had been 10 years previously. Maria Jones, age 73, is still the housekeeper but one new face is Hugh Fraser, the Mackintosh piper. There are 15 other staff, including 2 nurses.
The Queen’s grandfather, George V was a friend of Alfred, staying at Moy Hall on a number of occasions. The Mackintosh held several public positions, ranging from Lord Lieutenant of Invernesshire to President of the Highland Agriculture Society. He was also President of the Cardiff Caledonian Society. During the 1930s, Harriet continued with her charitable and social work and was particularly involved with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade.
Alfred died on the 14th November 1938 and was buried in the family vault at Petty near Moy, his piper playing the Mackintosh Lament. He had no direct heir, his son Angus Alexander (b.1885), a Captain in the Royal Horse Guards had died of pneumonia in Canada in 1918. He had been on the military staff of the British Ambassador in Washington. Harriet survived him by two years, living alone at Cottrell, in increasing poor health. She died in March 1941 and was buried at Petty Church. In 1942 the Cotrell estate was sold.
This Roath Local History Society ‘Occasional Paper’ was researched and written in 2009.
Cottrell – Cottrell Park, St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan – John Richards (1999).
A Short History of the Mackintosh Estate, Roath. Jeff Childs (2005)