InterAmericas is looking for specific information on the Byam family, who occupied Sunny Hill in particular and possibly other places in the county of Pembroke, Wales and the island of Antigua during the mid to late 18th century. We are hoping to solve a mystery related to an artist/botanist Lydia Byam. There are a number of women of the same name in the same time period--all related. At this writing, we believe that the artist Lydia is a:
LYDIA BYAM, bapt. at Manorbier 4 Sept. 1772; died on her passage from the West Indies, unmar.
This information is from the Byam Family Genealogy in The History of Antigua by Vere Oliver. An earlier reference in Antigua and the Antiguans does not contain the specifics as to Manorbier. Oliver is also very specific as to her grandfather, Edward Byam (who married his cousin Lydia Byam) in regard to his properties. He is of "Cedar Hill" in Antigua, "Clay Hill" Enfield, Middlesex and sometimes of Llanian in the Parish of St. Mary, Pembroke. He died in 1768 and is listed as buried at "St Mary's, Pembroke. His wife, Lydia Byam Byam who died in 1767 is referenced as being buried with her husband in St. Mary's Pembroke.
It is their son, William, and the above refenced grandaughter Lydia that are of current interest, William Byam, a member of the Privy Council in Antigua who died and was buried in St. Georges, Antigua in 1779 is referenced as "sometime of Sunny Hill in the parish of Manorbier, county Pembroke." At the time of his death, he left three young children, including the 7 year old Lydia and his son and heir, Edward Byam. His son Edward is only listed as "Cedar Hill" in Antigua.
William's wife and mother of Lydia was Martha Rogers, daughter of Edward Rogers, who Antigua and the Antiguans characterizes as "of Lanwnda in Pembrokeshire." Oliver's reference has Edward Rogers also as: of Lunborough, co. Bucks. There is no birthdate or place for her, but Martha Rogers and William Byam were married at Haverford West, co. Pembroke 26 June 1766.
We are try to reconstruct the life of the young family after the death of the father William in 1779 in order to specifically identify the Lydia Byam who is the author/illustrator of two extremely rare botanical works:
A Collection of Exotics from the Island of Antigua, "by a Lady" dated 1797 dedicated to the Viscountess Galway ; and
A Collection of Fruits from the West Indies dated 1800 dedicated to the Princess Elizabeth,
which are creating much interest here as: the Byam family played a distinguished role in the history and development of Antigua, there is much interest in the role of women in the development of the science of botany in late 18th. England, these plates seem to have a number of unusual features, including a plate with a cross emerging from a flower and the fact that all the plants are medicinal.
There is no scholarship on her and her work, and we are focussing on this Lydia by process of elimination, and because of her brother, Samuel Byam, described iin The History of Antigua as:
"D.D. of University College, Oxford, born in Llanian near Pembroke 2 Sept. 1769, Vicar of of Catterick, Co. York and one of the Chaplains in Ordinary to George III; matriculated University College, Oxford, 24 January 1788 Ã†T. 18 B.A. 21 Oct. 1791; M.A. 10 July 1794, B.D. 22 April, D.D. 21 April 1807; Vicar of Wyke Regis, Weymouth; died at Brussels 24 April 1816."According to Web research, the Rev. Samuel Byam is also associated with Jesus Chapel, St. Mary Extra, Peartree 1797-1809.
There is no record as to the place of his burial, nor to the date of death of his sister Lydia. It is my understanding that if one dies at sea, the body is buried at sea and then a service is held at the destination point. Given the contacts with Pembroke, this service (if the "from" is correct) may have take place there.
The question is when. If earlier than 1800, she is probably not the artist Lydia. That role would then be assigned to either a first cousin Lydia, daughter of another Samuel Byam who dies in Antigua in 1786, or her aunt Lydia, sister to William of whom we only known that she was born in 1752 at Enfield, Middlesex.
Since the specific Lydia the artist has proved so hard to locate, we have focused on the career of the Reverend Samuel Byam for the nexus between the households of the two dedicatÃ©es, the Viscountess Galway and the Princess Elizabeth. The connection with the Viscountess Galway, Elizabeth Mathew Monckton, in 1797, has always been clear for all of the Lydias, as both the Viscountess' parents are Antiguan and her mother was a cousin, Mary Byam.
Samuel Byam is referenced in the Royal Archives, but the connection with the Princess Elizabeth has only recently become clear though correspondence with the branch of the Byam family discussing Samuel's son, Adolphus Elizabeth Byam:
"His father and mother (Rev. Samuel Byam and Jane (nÃ©e Welsh)) were friendly with Princess Elizabeth and determined to have her as Godmother: when AEB turned out to be a boy they called him Elizabeth anyway...." Our informant further supposes that:
"The Rev. Samuel's sister Lydia would have been c. 25-28 at the time of the publications you are studying but I know nothing more about her beyond what you already know and that she was the youngest of three children. I would say she is your most likely candidate because as an unmarried sister she is likely, when in England, to have been part of her brother's household.
The most important thing at this point is to see if we can find a record of her date of death. Since the families have such close connections with Pembroke, we have written to the various referenced churches with no results to date.
We are in the position to commission such research and always prefer to work at the most local level possible. This is especially important in this case, where there is the distinct possibility of mounting an exhibition and the finding of original documents of great interest.
If there is any way you can be of help it will be most appreciated.
Hoping this works, I am
Jane Gregory Rubin