Olive Talbot

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Olive Emma Talbot (October 1842 – October 1894) was a Welsh aristocrat of the prominent Talbot family of Glamorgan. She was a patron of Welsh church construction and restoration, and a close friend of Amy Dillwyn.

Early life[edit]

Olivia Emma Talbot was born in 1842 in London, daughter of the wealthy industrialist and politician Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot and his wife, Lady Charlotte Butler, daughter of Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall. She was just four years old at the time of her mother's death.[1]

Church patronage[edit]

St Nicholas Church, Nicholaston – geograph.org.uk 263482; one of the churches restored with funding from Olive Talbot

Olive Talbot was physically disabled and confined with a spinal condition for much of her life.[2] She used her inheritance after her father's death in 1890 to support building and restoration projects at churches in Glamorgan. She funded the building of St. Michael's College in Llandaff and rebuilding work on St David's Church in Bettws in 1894,[3] shortly before her death. She also donated significant pieces of antique silver and gold church furnishings, chalices and patens to Welsh Catholic churches.[4] Commented a contemporary, "Her memory is revered by multitudes of worshippers in churches restored at her sole cost, in many mountain solitudes and busy industrial vales."[5]

Talbot, a teetotaller, donated land on what is now Talbot Street in Maesteg. As part of the agreement it was prohibited to sell alcohol on the street, and as a result for well over a century it was believed to be the only teetotal high street in Britain. In 2012 the tradition ended when an Indian restaurant received permission to sell alcoholic drinks on the premises.[6]

Olive Talbot died in 1894, just before her 52nd birthday, in London.[7] Her remains were placed at Margam Abbey, with a memorial tablet.[8] One of her biggest projects, the church of St. Nicholas in Gower, was completed just two months after she died.[9]

Her sister Emily Charlotte Talbot funded the building of St. Theodore Church in Port Talbot in her memory and in memory of their brother Theodore, who died in a hunting accident in 1876.[10] The Church of St. Michael and All Angels at Maesteg was also built as a memorial to Olive Talbot's generosity.[11]

Friendship with Amy Dillwyn[edit]

Novelist and businesswoman Amy Dillwyn called Olive Talbot her "wife" in private diaries, in 1872.[12] The women can certainly be said to have shared a romantic friendship and exchanged gifts and shared trips. From the evidence of Dillwyn's diaries, the relationship remained "unrequited" by Talbot.[13]


  1. ^ "Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot" in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832 ed. D.R. Fisher (Cambridge University Press 2009).
  2. ^ "Death of Miss Olive Talbot; The End of a Life of Suffering" South Wales Daily Post (8 October 1894): 4.
  3. ^ "Church of St David, Bettws, Garw Valley". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  4. ^ George Eley Halladay, Llandaff Church Plate (Bemrose & Sons 1901): 44.
  5. ^ William Riley, "Intrenchments and Camps on Mynydd Baidan and Mynydd Margam," Cardiff Naturalists' Society Reports and Transactions 27(2)(1895): 84.
  6. ^ "Drink licence for teetotal street". BBC. 20 June 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Miss Olive Talbot Dead; A Princely Donor to the Church in Wales Taken Away" Evening Express (8 October 1894): 4.
  8. ^ "Late Miss Olive Talbot; An Impressive Funeral Ceremony at Margam Abbey" Evening Express (12 October 1894): 2.
  9. ^ Gary Gregor, "The Gower Legacy of Miss Olive Talbot" Gower 53(2002).
  10. ^ The Churches and Chapels of Wales (University of Wales Press 2011): 140. ISBN 9780708324141
  11. ^ "Memorial Church to the Late Miss Olive Talbot" The Cambrian (7 August 1896): 8.
  12. ^ Kirsti Bohata, "Rough Tumbles and Cracked Crowns" New Welsh Review 101.
  13. ^ Kirsti Bohata, "Foreword to the New Edition", David Painting Amy Dillwyn (University of Wales Press 2013): 6. ISBN 9780708326725