History - The Rudds (1600's)
Once the original line of the Thomas family had left for North Wales, the fortunes of Aberglasney passed into new hands. With a convenient neatness we find the property being sold to a different family roughly at the start of each new century and a strange see-saw pattern of wealth alternating with misfortune emerging.
Each new family establishes itself with great hopes and ambitions at Aberglasney, but after two or three generations finds itself enmeshed in difficulties and debts, and forced to sell up.
The first of our new owners were members of the Rudd family, who rose to landed status thanks to wealth from the Church. The documents are missing, but Bishop Rudd is generally thought to have acquired the Aberglasney estate sometime around 1600 (he was certainly buying other local properties shortly afterwards). He is credited with rebuilding the house he found at Aberglasney - old accounts describe his chapel with a fine pulpit in the south wing.
The bishop's heir was his equally ambitious and successful younger son, a favourite of James I who was made a baronet by Charles I in 1628. Sir Rice Rudd married well and was active in public life, but he met with heavy fines for his royalist sympathies during the Civil War.
He was succeeded in 1614 by his grandson, the second Sir Rice (1643-1701) - it's interesting to note that the estate doesn't pass directly from father to eldest son in the normal way. It was under his ownership that Aberglasney was assessed for 'chimney tax' in 1670: at 30 hearths, the house ranked with the most imposing in all Carmarthenshire. However, a downward spiral had already begun: debts accumulated, and the second baronet eventually had to mortgage the estate, which was sold to Robert Dyer in 1710. Two further baronets - a cousin, Sir Anthony, and his son, Sir John - briefly held the title but did not gain possession of Aberglasney, and with them the male line of the Carmarthenshire Rudds died out.
Anthony Rudd (c. 1548-1614), a Yorkshireman and high-flying cleric, was Dean of Gloucester before being appointed to the wealthy See of St David's in 1594. He was being groomed to succeed Whitgift as archbishop of Canterbury but at Easter 1596 he preached a sermon to Elizabeth I which deeply offended her by alluding to her advanced years, and all hope of further promotion came to an end. Bishop Rudd remains a strong presence in the parish through the splendid 'bedstead' tomb erected to him by his wife in 1616. His choosing burial at Llangathen rather than with his predecessors in St David's Cathedral is also remarkable, suggesting an independence of spirit and a deep affection for the place he made his home.
According to an Aberglasney tradition dating back to the time of the Rudds, disembodied candle-flames appear to foretell a death. The number of flames corresponds with the numbers of deaths, as when a housekeeper of the 1630s saw five lights in a room where, following some redecoration or building work, five maidservants were found to have died overnight. The tale comes in varying versions. Sometimes the number of maids is different, and sometimes rather than by suffocation (from coal fumes, presumably) the maids die from arsenic poisoning in 'the Blue Room.