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Retracing the Gozzaldi Expedition of 1890

April 18, 2012

by Larry P. James


     In the year 1890 Mary Isabella James de Gozzaldi (1852-1935) led the James family on an expedition into Radnorshire, Wales. (Image No. 1) Her travels marked the first documented return of the James family to Radnorshire since the immigration of David James (circa 1660-1739) of Llandegley and Glascwm parishes to Pennsylvania in 1682.  The expedition was truly remarkable as it was made prior to the advent of planes, automobiles and the wide spread use of electricity.  Because of her earlier education, marriage and relocation to Switzerland, Mary was already familiar with traveling through Europe.  In 1885, the same year Mary moved to Switzerland, her mother Isabella Batchelder James (1810-1901) moved to Ottery Saint Mary in Devon shire, England to live with Mary’s sister Frances Batchelder James (1859-?) who married Lieutenant John Rose-Troup, son of General Sir Colin Troup. (Image No. 2)  It is from Devon shire that the Gozzaldi Expedition into Radnorshire, Wales was likely launched.


     Mary Isabella James was born on September 19, 1852 in Burlington, New Jersey.  She was the first child of Thomas Potts James (1803-1882) of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania and Isabella Batchelder of New Ipswich, New Hampshire.  Mary’s father Thomas was a famous scientist specializing in botany and is regarded as the “father” of the study of North American mosses and lichens.  Mary had three younger siblings, two brothers and a sister including: Montgomery James (1853-1895); Clarence Gray James (1856-1892); and, Frances Batchelder James.  Although the James family lived in New Jersey and Philadelphia when Mary was a young girl, they later moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and lived in the Vassall House at 94 Brattle Street.


Image No. 1

Mary Isabella James de Gozzaldi (1852-1935)

Image No. 2

Isabella Batchelder James (1810-1901)


Image No. 3

Silvio Mario Alfredo de Gozzaldi (1854-1924)

Mary was educated at the Berkeley Street School and later traveled abroad to study painting and languages, including Italian and German.  Prior to 1885, while in Europe, Mary met and became engaged to Silvio Mario Alfredo de Gozzaldi (1854 – circa 1924) of Denno, Tyrol, Austria. (Image No. 3)  Silvio was then a captain in the Austrian army.  Mary and Silvio were married in Christ Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 4, 1885 and soon thereafter moved to Lugano, Switzerland (Image No. 4) where they had four children, two daughters and two sons including:  Isabella Luigia de Gozzaldi (1886-1887); Amy Frances Alba de Gozzaldi (1887-1981); Richard Silvio Mario de Gozzaldi (1890-1982); and Alfred James de Gozzaldi (1891-?).  In 1898, when the children reached school age, the Gozzaldi family returned to Cambridge where Mary succeeded to her father’s home.  Silvio de Gozzaldi, now a Colonel, divided his time between Cambridge and Austria until his retirement.  He then became a citizen of the United States and settled permanently in Cambridge with his wife and family.


Mary had a lifelong interest in genealogy that she inherited from her mother Isabella.  She was profoundly interested in early American history and was a co-founder and vice president of the Cambridge Historical Society, established in 1905.

She conducted historic and genealogical research on behalf of many members of the Cambridge Historical Society including the James family.  Mary was also a very active member in the Hannah Winthrop Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Through her membership in these societies she wrote several articles on early settlers of Cambridge, contributed to the Guide to Cambridge, written by the Daughters of the American Revolution (“D.A.R.”), and wrote an index to Paige’s History of Cambridge.  Mary’s husband Silvio died of a stroke in Cambridge on or about 1924.  Mary died in her Cambridge home on Sunday, April 6th, 1935 after a sudden and very brief illness

Image No. 4

Inscription Reads, “Mary Gozzaldi, Isabella James and Silvio Gozzaldi in carriage, 1886.”


The Gozzaldi Expedition to Radnorshire represented the culmination of many years of James family history research carried on by both Mary and her mother Isabella.  Mary was the direct lineal descendant and great, great, great granddaughter of David James (c.1660-1739) of Llandegley and Glascwm parishes in Radnorshire, Wales.  Mary descended through her father Thomas Potts James (1803-1882), grandfather Rev. Isaac James, M.D. (1777-1874), great grandfather Griffith James (-1812), and, great, great grandfather Evan James (1715-1795).  All her paternal ancestors were born on the James family homestead in Radnor Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania following the arrival of David James in 1682.  Her mother, Isabella Batchelder James, recorded an extensive amount of genealogical information concerning the James family and published these findings in her 1875 book, “A Memorial To Thomas Potts, Jr.”  Mary was undoubtedly intimately familiar with her mother’s work and the 1753 work of Joseph Besse chronicling the 17th Century persecution of Radnorshire folk including the James family because of their affiliation with the Society of Friends.  Mary was thus familiar with not only the Radnorshire roots of the James family but with its Quaker history as well.


The only surviving record from the 1890 Gozzaldi Expedition is a collection of eleven photographs.  These photographs taken during the expedition are among the most rare pictures ever taken of pre-twentieth century Radnorshire and quite likely the very first photos ever taken by a private party.  The photos from the expedition are also remarkable in that they capture a glimpse of what life must have been like in Radnorshire prior to the advent of the modern age, a time when things moved at a much slower pace.  These eleven images are particularly important to James family historians because they provide us with a glimpse of the land from which our family comes and bring us as close as we will ever get to visualizing what life was like in Radnorshire prior to the twentieth Century.


The expedition into Radnorshire began at the small village of Walton, about one mile into Wales from neighboring Herefordshire. (Image No. 5)  Here Mary and the expedition stopped to photograph a “Y” shaped intersection in the road.  The lane veering to the left would lead the Gozzaldi family west to New Radnor about 3½ miles away.  Today, this intersection is identified as the convergence of Route A44 west bound and Route B4357 North bound toward the village of Evenjobb. (Image No. 6) The house in the center of the intersection splitting the two directions is the only structure in the photo that survives to the present day.

Image No. 5

The village of Walton, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “3½ miles from New Radnor, Walton, Entrance into Wales from England. ”


Image No. 6

Current view (2009) of Image No. 5:  Walton, Powys, Wales, UK at the intersection of Route A44 headed west toward New Radnor and B4357 headed north to Evenjobb.


The village of Walton also marked the entrance to Radnor Valley, or Walton Basin, as it is also known.  Like old Radnorshire, the valley is now in the county of Powys in mid Wales, about 5 miles south west of Presteigne, and about the same distance from Kington in western Herefordshire.  It lies approximately 600 to 800 feet above sea level.  The largest village is New Radnor, and other settlements in the valley include Llanfihangel-nant-Melan, Walton, Old Radnor, Evenjobb and Kinnerton as well as a number of smaller hamlets.  Radnor Valley is roughly bounded on the east by low lying foothills called the Stanner Rocks, which form the introduction to Wales as one comes from England along route A44 and Herrock and Burfa Hills.  To the north, the valley is bordered by a ridge where is located Beggar’s Bush.  To the west the valley is bordered by Radnor Forest and to the south by Smatcher and Gore Hill.


The Gozzaldi expedition’s first stop of historical interest for the James family was at Old Radnor, a small village at the top of a hill just outside of Walton where is located the Harp Inn, a pub, a 15th century longhouse and the ancient church of St Stephen. (Image No. 7)  Considered one of the finest medieval churches in Wales, St. Stephen’s church hosts considerable architectural interest, a significant range of internal fittings, and strong evidence of a former curvilinear churchyard.  The tower is 15th century with limited restoration work; the north aisle and north chapel are 15th century.  The east wall was rebuilt in the 16th century during Victorian times, and the same is true of the chancel.  The church building is the oldest surviving church in the Walton Basin and would have been a well-known landmark to the James family prior to its immigration to Pennsylvania in 1682.  The organ case within the church dates back to the 12th century and is regarded as the oldest organ case in Britain.

Image No. 7

Old Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Old Radnor Church.”


The church was originally dedicated to St. Ystyffan prior to the Norman invasion, and it holds the oldest, 8th century font in Britain; thought to have been a collegiate church it is now just a simple parish church with a roof that needs replacing.  It stands 840 feet above sea level high on the western side of Gore Hill, currently being quarried on the eastern side by Tarmac. Ystyffan himself belongs to the late 6th century when he was a member of the royal family that ruled Powys circa 600-850.  The font is, like the organ case, the oldest in Britain, being dated to the eighth century.  To the east of the church lie the reputed remains of Old Radnor Castle in the form of a ditch, presumably the moat.  Until the advent of the Victorian church at Evancoyd, the parish of Old Radnor covered the entire eastern end of the Basin.  Note the conspicuous disappearance of a majority of tombstones over the 100-year span from 1890 to 2009 as seen in the modern photo of Old Radnor Church below. (Image No. 8)

Image No. 8

Current view (2009) of Image No. 7:  Old Radnor Church, Old Radnor, Powys, Wales, LD8, UK southwest of Walton off of Route A44.


After paying its respects to the Old Radnor Church, the Gozzaldi expedition cut west through Radnorshire to the village of New Radnor or “Maesyfed” as it is known in the Welsh language.  Amidst the very quaint rural surroundings of this medieval township, the James family sought out both a connection to the family’s past and a grim reminder of the dark history of religious persecution that drove the family from Wales.  New Radnor was the original county seat for Radnorshire during the age of intolerance and the family’s flight to the New World.  It lies adjacent to Radnor Forest and was originally built to replace Old Radnor.  It was once a medieval walled town with streets laid out in a grid pattern.  New Radnor was undoubtebly the inspiration for naming the  community settled by the James family in Pennsylvania in 1682, “Radnor Township.”


In 1405 King Henry IV of England controled the castle that stood on the hill overlooking New Radnor.  He garrisoned it with a force of thirty men-at-arms and one hundred and fifty archers under the command of Richard, Lord Grey. This force was employed in the defence of the castle and served to deter the Welsh from asserting their independence.  The James family would have been intimately familiar with these events.  Radnor Castle then gently fell into decay during more peaceful times and by 1538 only one tower remained habitable and that was used as the county prison. The castle was in the care of the Earls of Pembroke during the reign of King James I (1566-1625) and then passed to Lord Powis.  During the English Civil War (1642-1651) Radnor castle was visited by King Charles I.  After a siege, the castle was captured and dismantled by Parliamentary forces to prevent it from becoming a Royalist stronghold.  These events too would have been intimately familiar to the James family for they marked the beginning of the period of persecution the James family would endure prior to its flight from Wales.  During this time James ap David and his sons owned an operated a corn and grist mill, Melin Bussnant, not more that twenty miles away between the parishes of Glascwm and Llandegley.  This is also the period of time in which the James family felt compelled to join the Society of Friends and the Quaker movement.  The photo below was taken from the ruins of Radnor Castle that overlooked the villiage. (Image No. 9)

Image No. 9

New Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Birds Eye view of New Radnor - Old Radnor Church in dim distance.”


The Old Gaol at New Radnor:


In 1874, sixteen years before the Gozzaldi expedition arrived in Wales, Mary Gozzaldi’s mother Isabella Batchelder James chronicled how David James, the ancestor of Evan James, had suffered persecution in Wales.  According to Mary’s mother, David James was mentioned several times by Joseph Besse in his 1753 book “Sufferings of the People Called Quakers.”  In this work it was recorded that in December of 1662 David James was imprisoned for three weeks because he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Church of England.  In a more extended account of the same event, David James reportedly suffered with twenty-two others, “Anno 1663.  About the month called January this year, David James [here follow the names of the rest] were committed to prison in Radnorshire until they should take the oath of allegiance, which yet had not been tendered them before their commitment.”   Naturally, it was of great interest to the Gozzaldi expedition to seek out and locate the prison or “gaol” as it is called in the Welsh language that confined the James family ancestor because of his religious beliefs.  Upon their arrival in New Radnor, Mary Gozzaldi and the expedition took great interest in the “Old Gaol” as the likely site of the events reported by Besse.  Consequently, three different photos were taken of this structure that by 1890 had fallen into decay.  (Images 10, 12 and 14)


As can be seen in the modern images below the Old Gaol at New Radnor no longer stands and has been replaced by a structure that serves as an extension of the old Eagle Inn in New Radnor. (Images 11 and 13)  By 1820 the county jail serving Radnorshire had been moved to the village of Presteign to the north.  Consequently the Old Gaol at New Radnor fell into decay and was no longer functioning by the time the Gozzaldi expedition arrived in 1890.  The actual date of its destruction is unknown.  Nevertheless, the site remains visually verifiable when compared to the images taken by the Gozzaldi expedition in 1890.

Image No. 10

New Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “New Radnor Old Gaol [Jail] & Eagle [Hotel], front view, where Quakers were confined.”


Image No. 11

Current view (2009) of Image No. 10:  Broad Street, New Radnor, Powys, Wales, UK facing northwest toward site of Old Gaol replaced by modern extension of old Eagle Hotel.


Image No. 12

New Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Side view of Gaol.”


Image No. 13

Current view (2009) of Image No. 12:  Broad Street, New Radnor, Powys, Wales, UK facing northwest toward site of Old Gaol.


Image No. 14

New Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Back of Ancient Gaol at New Radnor.”


Before departing New Radnor, the Gozzaldi expedition captured a few more images including the photo below of the old Kings’ Arms Inn (on left), a structure that remains today but was more than 300 years old when visited by the Mary Gozzaldi in 1890.  (Image 15)  It is possible that this is where the members of the Gozzaldi expedition stayed before pressing on deeper into Radnorshire.  Undoubtedly, the Kings’ Arms Inn would have been a well known establishment to the James family of the 17th century and may very well have been a resting place for them as they traveled through Radnorshire as well.  As one can see from the image that follows, the old Kings’ Arms Inn remains as well as the old drover’s inn across the street.  Both of these structures today, however, are used as family residences.  (Image 16)  The expedition also climbed to the top of New Radnor Castle Mound and took a photo of the view toward the northwest of New Radnor and Whimble Mountain in the distant. (Image 17)

Image No. 15

New Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “House 300 years old.  Entrance onto Radnor Forest & Glascow out of New Radnor.”


Image No. 16

Current view (2009) of Image No. 15:  High Street, New Radnor, Powys, Wales, UK facing west along route headed out of New Radnor.


Image No. 17

New Radnor, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Welsh landscape.  Looking from the Castle at New Radnor toward Whimble Mountain 1800 ft. High.”


Penybont, Llandegley Parish:


After departing New Radnor, the Gozzaldi Expedition pressed westward deeper into Radnorshire and closer to the James family’s historic roots.  Upon arrival in the village of Penybont, the expedition took an extremely rare photo of the Penybont Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. (Image 18)  This Church was originally erected in 1822.  It was rebuilt in 1835 and finally demolished in 1989.  The view in the photo is from a location within 100 yards due south of the Chapel facing north toward the structure and the adjacent swing bridge.  The Church and the bridge were once located on the west side of Penybont Village in Llandegley Parish. The precise coordinates of the location from where this photo was taken are: (52°16’04.03” North) by (3°18’02.11” West). By entering these coordinates one can locate the site on Google Earth. (Image 19) The swing bring was eventually replaced with a more modern fixed bridge which is now located along route A44.  There is nothing left of the Chapel but an empty field where it once stood. There is, however, a marker inserted into the parapet near the bridge that marks the site. The marker can also be viewed using Google Earth.

Image No. 18

Penybont, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Penybont Bridge.  Swing bridge at end of village.”  Also pictured is the River Ithan and the Penybont Calvinistic Methodist Chapel.


Image No. 19

Current view (2009) of Image No. 18:  Penybont, Powys, Wales, UK facing north from the west side of the village.  Blue arrow points to modern low profile fixed bridge.  Red arrow points to historic marker alongside the road indicating former location of Calvinistic Methodist Chapel that was demolished in 1989.


Penybont Village is located to the west and slightly to the north of Llandegley Village, also in Llandegley Parish, in what is today the County of Powys. The photo in Image 18 was likely commissioned by Mary Gozzaldi as part of her research into the origins of her James family ancestors who were Quakers persecuted in Radnorshire prior to the immigration of her ancestor David James of Llandegley and Glascwm in 1682. The significance of the photo is that it records a very early Methodist Church. The James family was closely affiliated with the Methodists having donated land to the founding of Radnor United Methodist Church in Radnor Township, Chester County Pennsylvania in 1783.  The location, Penybont Village, is of equal significance in that the “common” of this village is the site of a very famous gathering where Welsh Quakers from Radnorshire met with George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, on or about 1657.  In close proximity to this site is also the Pales Meeting House, the original site of Quaker worship in central Radnorshire.  The Pales Meeting House lies directly due north of Llandegley and north west of Penybont. It rests on lands that include a cemetery acquired by the Quakers in 1673.  The meetinghouse and lands surrounding it, formerly known as “The Soith” are the historic homeland of the James family as referenced in the last will and testament of David ap Rees ap Jevan Athro of Llandegley.  Thus the location of this photo is also significant in that Mary Gozzaldi was capturing images of her ancestral homeland as well as images of Quaker and Methodist historical significance.



Alpine Rocks in Radnorshire:


After passing through Llandegley Parish and the village of Penypont, the Gozzaldi expedition continued west in the direction of Llandrindod Wells.  Along the route Mary had commissioned a photograph, which was entitled “Alpine Rocks in Radnorshire.” (Image 20)  Upon closer examination of the photo, it appears that what was actually being photographed was the ruins of a man made mill race, that is, a channel carved out of the rock to redirect the flow of water to a nearby mill that was powered by the flow of the water.  Whether or not Mary Gozzaldi and the other members of the expedition were aware that the James family owned and operated a water powered corn and grist mill called “Melin Bussnant” between Llandegley and Glascwm is uncertain.  However, the fact that they took interest in what appears to be an ancient millrace certainly suggests they may have possessed that knowledge.

Image No. 20

Llandrindod Wells, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Alpine rocks near Llandrundod Wells.”


Welshpoole, Montgomeryshire:


After exploring Radnorshire and its environs, the Gozzadi expedition moved west before completing its journey.  The final destination of the expedition appears to be the town of Welshpoole in neighboring Montgomeryshire just north of Radnorshire.  The town of Welshpoole is the location of many significant events for the James family prior to its migration to Pennsylvania in 1682.  These events would have been well known to Mary Gozzaldi and the other members of the James family in her company.  For instance, in 1674 Mary’s ancestor, David James, attended a meeting at a house in Welshpoole called Cloddian Cochion.  At that time the town of Welshpoole was regarded as “within the corporation of Poole.”  There a small number of Quakers met together in silence.  Thomas Lloyd (1639-1684), of Dolobran who was afterwards well known in Pennsylvania as Penn’s first deputy-governor was also present when fifteen armed men came to arrest those attending this meeting.  Mr. Lloyd requested the armed men remain awhile, and he preached to them, for which offence he was fined.


Welshpoole was also host to the notorious “Old Crib”, or gaol, where numerous Quakers had already been imprisoned during the 17th century, some for many years including Thomas Lloyed during the reign of Charles II. (Image 21)  The building was situated at the back of Mr. Fred Anderson’s premises on High Street, but was demolished in 1899, just nine years after the Gozzaldi expedition’s visit, and another building was erected on the site.  As of 1958 only part of the old structure remained, one corner of the old building at the back.  Today, the site is somewhat obscured by a wall that runs the length of Park Lane. (Image 22)  Nevertheless, the back of Mr. Fred’s Anderson’s old premises as well as the Welshpoole clock tower is still clearly visible. The only other known image of this ancient structure is a drawing made by Robert Own, showing the building as it was originally, in Volume 38 of Montgomeryshire Collections.


Image No. 21

Welshpool, Radnorshire, Wales 1890.  Inscription Reads, “Quaker Prison and Town Hall Tower, Welsh Pool, Wales.”


Image No. 22

Current view (2009) of Image No. 21:  Welshpool, Powys, Wales, UK view from Park Lane facing northeast with Town Hall Tower at center right.  Blue arrow points to former location of old Quaker prison.


The Gaol was a two-story building strongly built of rough-hewn stone and timber.  The size was estimated to be 35 feet by 14 feet.  There were two rooms on the ground floor, with a rough garret above, reached by means of a ladder.  There were, however, several strong cells or dungeons in adjoining houses, which formed part of the prison and could be used in case of emergency.  During the time that the Quakers were in this prison, they held meetings regularly, and Friends from outside the prison were allowed to attend.  Strong representations were made to the Justices for the release of the prisoners and some were allowed to occupy other houses in the town.  They were still “under arrest,” and were not allowed to go to their homes.  Charles Lloyd did not see his home at Dolobran for ten years prior to his release in 1672 by which time all were discharged from confinement by letters patent.


Finally, Welshpoole was also the location of where David James purchased his rights to the 100 acres of land in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania from Richard Davies and his Land Company No. 7 in 1681 before departing Wales in 1682.  Hence, the significance of Welshpoole for the James family clearly made that old Montgomeryshire township a priority for the Gozzaldi expedition prior to its departure from Wales.  The images captured by the Mary Gozzaldi in Wales are among the most priceless artifacts pertaining to James family history in existence.  We are eternally grateful for what she recorded and the legacy preserved for future generations of James family members.




Photographs and biographical information obtained from Mary Isabella Gozzaldi Papers, 1844-1952, The Cambridge Historical Society.


Modern photographs of Radnorshire obtained from Google Earth.


Cloddiau Cochion and the Welsh Quakers by A.R. Lewis Saul, Montgomery collections relating to Montgomeryshire and its borders, Vol. 55, Part 2 (1958), p. 202-205.


Collections Historical and Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire and its Borders Collections; Volume 38 (1918), p. 158.


Obituary of Isabella Batchelder James (1810-1901), Boston Evening Transcript, Wednesday, August 7, 1901, Page 13 of 16.


Early History of the James Family as Recorded by Isabella Batchelder James (1810-1901, wife of Dr. Thomas Potts James (1803-1882) in her book “Memorial of Thomas Potts, Junior Who Settled in Pennsylvania With An Historic-Genealogical Account of His Descendants To The Eight Generation,” Privately Printed in Cambridge 1874, Page 251, Fourth Generation, No. 59, Henrietta Potts.


Information on New Radnor obtained from Clwyd Powys Archaelogical Trust, Historic Settlements Survey – Radnorshire, New Radnor, SO 212608-16181.