A fascinating insight into life at Llanelly House, and into the social and economic life of mid-eighteenth century Llanelli, is provided by a series of accounts now held at the National Library in Aberystwyth.
The accounts were kept by Elizabeth, Lady Stepney, the wife of Sir Thomas Stepney, seventh baronet, although she was not particularly happy that she had to keep them; she wrote that ‘I was steward to my husband, with this difference, that a steward has a salary and I had none’. Even so, she studiously recorded even the tiniest items of expenditure. On 15 October 1759 she donated three shillings to the poor (this was a regular occurrence), but also spent 5s 6d on a side of veal, a shilling on herrings and 7½d on a quarter of black pepper. On 8 November she spent 9d on eighteen flounders and a shilling on three plovers. In the week ending 14 January 1760, she spent 6d on rabbits, 1s 8d on four pounds of butter, 6d each on fish and cakes, and 11½d on ‘earthen pans’. Other foods bought at different times included cockles (usually 3d worth), lemons, figs, mutton, oysters, turbot, plums, nuts and coffee. In July 1760, fish from Kidwelly cost two shillings, four sewin from Loughor 1s 1½d. She bought her cheese from one Hector Morris, her eggs from John Rees and ‘Mrs Williams’, and her butter from ‘Mrs Jones of Machynys’. Llanelly House was clearly kept well stocked. In April 1760 she sent to Sir Thomas’s yacht some 63 pounds of pork, 8 pounds of cheese, 9½ pounds of butter, and 54 pounds of cheese, while in November there were ‘twenty-seven old hams in the house’.
Charity always loomed large in the accounts, as did expenditure on Stepney family presents. As well as the regular general payments of three shillings, there were also additional grants to individuals: in the week ending 10 March 1760, for example, she gave 6d to ‘a poor woman’, 2d to ‘a blind man’, and 1d to ‘a lame man’. On 19 May 1760 she spent 1d on ‘a rattle for the little master’ (the new born Thomas Stepney, later the ninth baronet) and 1d on ‘a cake for miss’. In November she spent five shillings on ‘William Francis’s grand-daughter’s wedding’, and in January, she bought ‘a tin saucepan for little master [Thomas]’. Despite the apparent generosity recorded in the accounts, Lady Stepney grumbled that ‘money was never plenty’ and that she was constantly overdrawn. Matters got worse as she got older. By 1793 she was living at Bath for her health, spending almost £1,300 a year, complaining that the cost of her servants was ‘intolerable’, and claiming that she expected ‘to live to borrow, for expenses grow faster than estates improve’.
Elizabeth died two years later and was buried at Llandebie church, where there is a fine memorial to her. Fortunately, though, she provided us with one of our most vivid insights into the life of eighteenth-century Llanelli.