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THE PRYSE FAMILY OF GOGERDDAN AND THE DECLINE OF A GREAT ESTATE, 1800-1960 BY the turn of the eighteenth century, the ancient Gogerddan estate, embracing almost thirty thousand acres of northern Cardiganshire, had become one of the major focal points of the social and political life of the county. Since 1553, when John Pryse, member of the Council of the Marches of Wales, had been returned to Parliament, the house of Gogerddan had regularly provided the parliamentary member for either the county or Cardigan Borough seats. Moreover, by a series of marriages within Welsh county society, the Pryse sphere of interest had extended well beyond the confines of Cardiganshire and the family owned large tracts of land in the counties of Pembroke, Merioneth and Brecon. Ownership of land, of course, conferred power and privilege but at the same time required that owners or life tenants apply themselves to the traditional, and often onerous, duties of local legal administration, poor relief, organisation of the county militia and other important areas of rural life. Thus, besides providing members of Parliament, Gogerddan spawned county sheriffs, lords lieutenant, colonels of militia and justices of the peace in abundance in the years before 1800. Living on a large estate in close proximity to the growing town of Aberystwyth, successive life tenants of Gogerddan enjoyed considerable influence within the town, continually vying with the nearby houses of Nanteos, Hafod and Crosswood for the opportunity to exercise the patronage which was so vital in obtaining the political support of the burgesses. In the county, the Pryse interest was no less influential. The steady acquisition of manor lordships and ecclesiastical livings allowed the house of Gogerddan to ensure political support by the appointment of 'staunch' local people to the numerous offices in the various parishes under its control. Moreover, the fact that both the agricul- tural estate and the extensive lead-mining holdings were major employers of local labour provided a further vehicle for the dispensing of local patronage. Following the untimely death, in January 1774, of John Pugh Pryse, M.P., this highly agreeable patrimony devolved upon his cousin Lewis Pryse of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, the son of Walter Pryse of Painswick in the county of Gloucester. Through his step-grandson, George Lewis Langton, who had died without issue in Rome in 1738, Walter Pryse had secured an interest in the Llangors estate in