A DISPUTED INHERITANCE: THE TREDEGAR ESTATES IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FOR contemporary observers and historians, one of the most striking features of the eighteenth century in Wales is the high rate of failure in the male lines of gentry families. This demographic crisis produced an 'age of heiresses' which saw some of the most prominent estates in Wales passing to cadet branches of families or into the hands of newcomers. A quasi-colonial process is held to have taken place since 'prevailing demographic trends had robbed Wales of many of its native gentry and encouraged acquisitive newcomers to snap up encumbered properties or marry eligible heiresses'.1 Philip Jenkins has placed great emphasis on the concentration of landed property in the hands of a few 'Leviathans' who formed the new elite of the area. Old names such as Mansell and Kemeys were overtaken by incoming Tyntes, Johnsons and Talbots. Scottish Butes and Irish Wyndhams moved to the head of the list of South Wales landowners. At a rather less exalted level, lawyers, stewards and a few industrialists elbowed their way into gentry status, setting their sights on county offices such as those of sheriff and justice of the peace. By the end of the eighteenth century, it seems, those members of the old gentry who survived did so only by means of considerable belt- tightening, and a refusal to succumb to the lures of London life, drink and gambling. This dull and unfashionable behaviour effectively ruled them out of the elite, which was becoming increasingly anglicised. A few families did manage to survive into the nineteenth century without great loss of position and prestige. These included the Lewises of St. Pierre, the Joneses of Llanarth and Clytha, the Gunters, the Bakers and the Gabbs.2 These elements of the old gentry had, in fact, proved themselves more than willing to fight to maintain, and if possible to increase, their landholdings and status, apparently against odds which favoured incomers. In the cases of the Joneses of Clytha and Llanarth and of the Bakers and Gabbs, their adherence to Catholicism provided a strong element of continuity and county tradition which served to strengthen their resistance to intrusions. A combination of social aspiration and economic ambition ensured that wealth and prestige were not allowed to fall into the hands of newcomers too easily. It will be argued, though, that the principal concern of these tenacious and combative G. H. Jenkins, The Foundations of Modem Wales, 1642-1780 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 264-65. 2 Philip Jenkins, 'The Demographic Decline of the Landed Gentry in the Eighteenth Century: A South Wales Study', ante, 11 (1982), 43-44.