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Welsh pirate’s descendants claim to own New York


Descendants of a legendary Welsh pirate have spoken of the incredible legal battle to try to prove they “own” Manhattan, and of how the expensive bid ultimately failed.
The modern-day offspring of 18th century buccaneer Robert Edwards contacted Wales on Sunday after we last week revealed how Hollywood director Sara Sugarman plans to make a movie telling of their lengthy fight to claim some of the most lucrative real estate on the planet.
Welsh-born Edwards was said to have been granted 77 acres of prime New York land by Queen Anne, for fighting the Spanish.
Ever since, a dispute has raged between branches of the Edwards family in Wales and the US, and New York’s Trinity Church, which now owns the land that forms Lower Manhattan.
Lorraine Parry, from Port Talbot, says she’s a descendant of William Edwards – Robert’s brother.
Retired sewing machinist Mrs Parry, 64, still feels aggrieved at missing out on the fortune associated with the $800bn worth of land that includes Wall Street and Broadway.
She said: “My grandfather, David Needs, used to talk about it a lot. That was his belief [that it belonged to the Edwards family] and his mother’s and they passed it on to us.”
Mrs Parry and her retired steel worker husband Phillip, 64, had a lawyer working on the case before they abandoned the fight around a decade ago.
Family legend says Edwards, who is said to have had six brothers and a sister, leased the plot to the brothers John and George Cruger for 99 years. The Edwardses claimed that after the lease expired in 1877, it was meant to revert to the seaman’s heirs.
But Trinity Church has fought and won successive claims for the estate from branches of the Edwards family. It claims it was granted the land in 1705 directly from Queen Anne.
Maxwell Cole and wife Joan, from Pembrokeshire, spent thousands in the 1980s and 1990s trying to claim a chunk of the land.
Retired post office worker Mr Cole says though his wife has traced her family tree back to the seaman, most families would struggle to prove any connection to Edwards.
Before it was standardised as Edwards, the surname appeared in various guises on official documents, including as “Edward”, “Edwards” and “Edwardes”.
Mr Cole hired a researcher to work for him in Virginia, where he found a Robert Edwards had lived with his six brothers and one sister. He believes it was the same Robert Edwards who, according to family folklore, was granted the land by Queen Anne. The researcher recovered the wills of all eight siblings, but found nothing that referred to the 77 acres.
Mr Cole, 76, a former secretary of a group of South Wales Edwards families, said: “I was hoping it would have shown up [in the wills], but it didn’t. We spent a hell of a lot of money on it and you just can’t go on like that with no result.”
Experts say although a copy of the lease between Edwards and the Crugers lies in the New York state records, no original was ever found. And New York’s Statute of Limitations says any action to reclaim land must be started within 15 years of the end of a lease.
Trinity Church declined to comment.
• by Darren Devine, Wales On Sunday

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