SWANSEA VALLEY HISTORY SOCIETY

SUMMER NEWSLETTER – JULY 2020

Hello to all our members! I am pleased to send you each our Summer Newsletter, keeping you in touch with our latest news.

It has been a difficult year in many ways with all our meetings and talks cancelled from last March. Due to continuing Coronavirus complications, we shall not be holding any of our regular talks this autumn; hopefully, we may be able to resume sometime in the New Year. However it is not all doom and gloom and we not only have something for you to read (just in case you’ve been tired with the TV) but would like to invite you to join us on a series of walks we have organised for the coming months, September, October and November.

Due to government restrictions on gatherings of people, we are limiting the numbers to small groups of 10 plus the guide (members only) If you would like to join us, would you please contact the guide for that particular day to confirm your place. Please book early, places are limited .We meet at 10.30a.m.on each walk, sturdy walking boots essential.

Covid -19 guidelines will apply, which as matters currently stand, will include 2 metres social distancing.

If you are not a member and would like to join us on one of our walks, please contact Steve for details of how to join the Society : steve@openwork.uk.com Tel 01792 862632

Wednesday 16 September: Gellinudd to Cilybebyll. A circular walk led by Liz Jones who will be recounting memories of growing up in the area. Meet Liz at the entrance to Cwm Nant Llwyd Road, Gellinudd. Parking is also available in the approach lay -by on Graig Road. Car- sharing would help with the limited area for parking.

Contact Liz to book: lizajones558@btinternet.com ; Mobile: 07790 782062

Wednesday 21 October: The Glanrhyd Estate and the Gilbertson family. Meet Jeff at Pontardawe Cross. (The paved area adjacent to the traffic lights) The route starts on Gellionen Road taking in Primrose Row, All Saints Church, Glanrhyd Lodge then turning into the estate and making a circular tour before walking the path down to the Upper Clydach river and returning to the Cross (steep in parts) approx. 2 hours; 2-3 miles.

Contact Jeff Childs to book: jeff.childs1@btinternet.com; Mobile: 07974 012464

Wednesday 18 November: The Railway that never was.

Meet Steve at Pontardawe Leisure Centre. The route follows the tow path to Trebanos, then to the site of the former Darren Colliery before returning back to Pontardawe along the old railway track, possibly taking in the Upper Clydach river path if time allows.

Contact Steve Williams to book: steve.williams@openwork.uk.com: Tel: 01792 862632

SWANSEA VALLEY HISTORY SOCIETY NEW YEAR’S DAY WALK 2020

A record-breaking fifty-three participants were involved in this year’s walk-and-talk to Alltwen. The walk was led by Jeff Childs and Keri Thomas and, as usual, was held in conjunction with Pontardawe Rugby Football Club, the starting point being the RFC’s clubhouse.

In route order, the walk covered the following sites and locations although several of the buildings and complexes associated with them no longer exist:

The ‘Tesco Bridge’; the former Primrose Colliery tramroad leading to Lon Tanyrallt; Ynysfechan Colliery; Gwyn’s Drift Mine; Pontardawe Chemical Works; Swansea Vale Railway and Pontardawe Railway Station; Pontardawe Flour Mill; Lon Tanyrallt; the tramroad line to Gwyn Street (formerly Queen Street); Lon-y-wern/Dramroad/Incline; the ‘Shanty’ (later a post office); Ty’n-y-cae Farm (formerly Cwm y Llygod); Heol-y-Parc (formerly Colliers Row); Rock Chwyth/Alltwen Chwyth; Pen yr Alltwen; Alltwen Ganol Farm; Bryn Llewelyn; Pig and Whistle PH; Alltwen Quarry; Pen-yr-Alltwen Farm; the Neolithic burial chamber; Colliers Arms/Pen yr Alltwen Hotel/Celtic Lodge Hotel/New Lodge; Butchers Arms/The Butchers at Alltwen; the demolished row of cottages next to Alltwen Chapel (Independent); Alltwen Chapel; High Street; the Triangle; Gwyn Hall/St John’s Church; The Rock PH/Alltwen RFC clubhouse; Gwyn Arms (formerly the Vernon Arms); Gwyn Villa; Parc Gwynfryn; Alltwen & Pontardawe Co-operative Society store/Mount Pleasant Stores; Alltwen Hill; Alltwen Post Office; Gibbs’s shop; Dyffryn Road; former St John’s Church; Brondeg Lane and Brondeg House; Alltwen & Pontardawe Co-operative Society store (Alltwen Hill)/Spar/Alltwen Stores; Farmers Arms; Coronation Stores (formerly Lewis Jones’s drapery and grocery); Swan PH; Tanyrallt House/Pontardawe Collegiate School/Tan-yr-Allt House Nursing Home; Mill Row; Cross Hands Hotel; Alltwen Junior and Infants School; Chemical Works Lane and (former) Pontardawe road bridge.

There were several stopping points where walk leaders spoke about various local features as well as local businesses and individuals such as David Davies & Son (Builders), Howel Gwyn, Llewelyn Bevan Williams, Illtyd Williams, John Hopkin, ‘Gwyn the Milk’ and Mrs Annie Hopper. Keri also brought along a comprehensive array of images which helped greatly in putting the past into visual perspective. The leaders were also grateful for contributions en route from David Lewis, Elizabeth Jones, Richard Lewis and James Jones. The walk terminated at the clubhouse where participants were treated to the customary high quality soup and mulled wine and for which warm thanks were extended to those involved in the catering.

Jeff Childs (Photo JC)

Jan 1st 2020

Our programme of talks for Jan-April this year were unfortunately cut short due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic with its associated restrictions. However the January and February talks are published here for those that missed them.

On Wednesday 15th January 2020, Martin Jones presented a follow up to his previous talk on the River Tawe.

This was a most interesting talk that once again focused on the fauna and flora in and around the river. Martin had taken the photographs himself, and this added to the personal approach he takes.

He certainly has a passion for his river and demonstrates considerable knowledge of its wildlife. Martin has a particular interest in the birdlife, and took some great photographs of Herons and Cormorants. Interestingly he talked about Sand Martins which frequent the river. These birds belonging to Swallow and House Martin family, migrate from South Africa, and nest in sandbanks where possible.

Swansea City Council has created some artificial nesting holes for these Sand Martins in a concrete wall by the Tawe, near Ynysforgan, doing their bit for the environment. Well done Swansea!!

What Martin’s talk demonstrated was the improvement in the quality of water in the river. This then creates a healthy environment for wildlife to thrive, mammals, birds and aquatic creatures.

Martin referred to the industrial pollution of the river during the industrial period in the Swansea Valley. The position now, demonstrates how quickly a river can recover when pollution ceases.

Looking forward to a follow up Martin!

(David Jones)

Wednesday February 17th

The scheduled talk for February was unfortunately cancelled but happily Society member Glyn Williams stepped in at short notice to give us a most informative talk on the construction of the Clifton Suspension Bridge at Bristol.

In the 18th century the 700 ft. span across the Avon Gorge was seen as impossible to cross, and although there was little development in the area for many years, as Bristol began to prosper and become fashionable, more wealthy merchants moved into the area.

In 1829 a competition was announced for the design of a bridge, funded by the legacy of £1,000 bequeathed by a Bristol wine merchant in 1753 with instructions that when the interest had accumulated to £10.000 it would be used for the purpose of building a bridge across the gorge .The story is one of intrigue. The competition was held offering a prize of 100 guineas for the best design. Twenty two designs were submitted including 4 from Isambard Kingdom Brunel ; all were rejected by the judge Thomas Telford (an engineer of some repute) who offered a design of his own. This proved too expensive to implement and a second competition was held in 1830. Telford, Brunel and others re-entered .The winning design by Smith & Hawkes of Birmingham was criticised by Brunel who, after a private meeting with the new judge reversed the decision and Brunel was declared the winner – at the age of 24 years. In 2010 newly discovered letters and documents revealed that in producing the design, Brunel had ignored advice from his father Sir Marc Isambard Brunel a French Born engineer, who recommended a central support.

Isambard’s design of a Suspension Bridge was an exciting new idea. Difficulties in the design caused many challenges; this combined with financial issues caused delays and a further halting of construction work in 1831 due to the Bristol reform riots. When Brunel died in 1859, the bridge was still incomplete. As a monument to his legacy, money was raised by Friends of the Institute of Civil Engineers to resume construction. The bridge was finally opened in 1864.It remains a toll bridge, the income from which provides a fund for maintenance

Glyn gave an informative and illustrative account of the planning and construction of the bridge with an insight into the interior vaults of the massive stone foundations. The Clifton Visitor Centre offers guided tours and Glyn gave his account, aided by personal photographs, of how exciting and awe- inspiring the bridge really is. His enthusiasm was infectious.

The Society is indebted to Glyn for agreeing to lecture at such short notice and we look forward to his return in the near future.

(Wynford Pugh, Secretary)

A recent announcement that the old Brewery building in High Street Pontardawe was being sold, prompted a response from one of our active Committee members Clive Reed, who seeks to highlight its historic importance.

To begin at the beginning – of Pontardawe

Most people living in the present village or small town of Pontardawe probably consider that it has always been here. That is not in fact so Pontardawe is a relatively new town only about two hundred years old. Three maps in particular show how the communities in the Swansea Valley including Pontardawe developed. In 1729 Emanuel Bowen produced his New and Accurate Map of South Wales which is now considered to be not at all very accurate. (See Around Pontardawe 1996 for this map).

However, he does identify places that are pertinent to this article. At the location we refer to as the Cross area of Pontardawe Mr Bowen has marked a Pont Cledach, and about half a mile to the east Pont ar Dawye. They both refer to bridges as the word Pont signifies. There are no buildings or a village identified that later became Pontardawe. The two places identified as Pont are simply bridges crossing rivers in the mid Swansea Valley, one on the Upper Clydach River (the Pont Cledac) and the bridge about half a mile away crossing the River Tawe (the Pont-ar Dawye). (See Two Centuries of Pontardawe 17941994 by Clive Reed for more on this bridge and Pontardawe).

In 1797 Mr George Yates produced a Map of Glamorgan that showed the major places in the old county. They include the names of towns, villages, mountains, rivers, churches and the seats or country houses of the gentry and clergy. In the Swansea Valley there were still no towns at that time, apart from the small village of Morriston and places such as Gellygron, Ynis Penllwch, Llanguge, Ystradgynllais and Kilybebill. The new Swansea Canal is identified, this having been completed by 1796 as far as what is now Godrer Graig, and would eventually be completed by 1798 to its terminus at Hen Noyadd (the Old Hall at Abercraf).

I mentioned the Cross area of Pontardawe a little earlier, but it was not a crossroads in 1797. The location was originally the junction of two parish roads. One road from Llandeilo to Neath and one from Swansea to Brecon, but the Brecon road turned east down what we now refer to as Herbert Street before turning up what is now Holly Street and continuing on toward Brecon. The road junction at the Cross was a tee junction.

There are just four buildings marked on Mr Yates’ Map. There were probably a few additional habitable places for the farm labourers or poorer people working in agriculture but they were too insignificant to record. In 1797, near the Swansea Canal, are a small group of three buildings that are unidentified but what is Ynys Gelynen Farm. This is spelt in different ways in different documents. In 1777 the Land Tax Assessments (WGAS) record it as Ynis Glinen and occupied by Mr William Elias, in 1797 it is recorded as YnysyGlynen, and by 1838 as Ynysgelynnen. This wording translates from the Welsh into English as a meadow where holly grew, indicating the presence of a large number of holly trees growing in the locality.

What is pertinent to this article is the area we refer to as the Cross. In the 18th century the Government encouraged private enterprises to invest in the road infrastructure of the UK, and private companies took over the responsibility of improving and maintaining the countrys main roads, hence the Turnpike Trusts were created. The parish still maintained the lesser roads. In 1805 the road up the Swansea Valley from Swansea to the Twrch River became the Twrch Road. At the Pont Cledach instead of turning to the eastward to Neath a new road was created through the farmlands toward Ystradgynlais creating a crossroad. The new section was later named as High Street continuing into Brecon Road.

Other developments took place soon afterwards. On 6 March 1821 The Swansea Canal Navigation Company recorded in its Minutes Ledger (PRO Rail 876/3) that the Company resolved that the clerk inform Mr Lockwood that the Canal Company feel disposed to meet lord Dynevor’s views and that they will be ready to Assign ground for wharfs and other conveniences at Pontertawey whenever requested”. That ground granted to Lord Dynevor was from the road junction at Pont Cledach and running eastward. The wharf ran alongside what is now Herbert Street as far as Herbert Street Canal Bridge, enclosing the area to the southward as far as the canal aqueduct and back alongside the Upper Clydach River, forming an inland dock (See Two Centuries of Pontardawe.

Miss Davies of the Cross Ironmongers donated a plan to me in 1986 that had been prepared for the construction of the ironmongery business, whose headed notepaper stated it had been established in 1856. The plan showed the canal dock and wharf. The dock could accommodate two canal barges in line for the loading and unloading of goods. Hannes y Gwrhyd recorded that iron ore from the Gwrhyd iron mines was carried to the wharf in panniers on horses along what is currently James Street, then transferred to canal barges for delivery to the ironworks in the locality. Also marked on the plan at the junction of the crossroads was the Cross Inn, this no doubt giving the location its familiar name of the Cross. The Inn was only a small twostorey establishment at that time.

A later map, the Tithe Apportionment Map of the Parish of Llanguicke 1838 (NLW) and shown in this article, identifies the plots of ground with their respective owners and occupiers and the use of that land. Two small settlements” had now developed in what was to become Pontardawe and are shown on the following map.

The smaller one lay along the road towards Rhydy-fro and was a compact group of buildings that included five cottages, a homestead, a limekiln, a furze outhouse (gorse) and a public house, later the Dynevor Arms.

A slightly larger group of buildings is shown around the cross and canal area that included the two breweries, a public house (the Dillwyn Arms), Ynysgelynnen Farm, two houses (not cottage, and indicating a group of buildings), a fulling mill, a small group of industrial buildings that included a limekiln and dwelling of sorts, and the first terrace or row of buildings in the new community. This terrace consisted of five dwellings which in 1844 are named as Carpenters Row. This larger settlement was later to develop into the small village of Pontardawe.

Tithe Map of the Parish of Llanguicke 1838 (copyright National Library of Wales)

Joseph Martin is identified as the occupier of plots 35, which is a house, 27 a Pandy (fulling mill), 28 Cae Pandy and the unidentified plot 29 which was the canal company limekiln that is presently to be seen built into the wall alongside the pavement on Holly Street. Ynysgelynnen farm was demolished in 1906 and the Pontardawe Public Hall erected on the site by public subscription and later to be known as The Pontardawe Art Centre.

Two other properties interest me at the present time. They are plots 24 and 30, both owned by Henry Leach of Plas Cilybebill and occupied by John Jones who farmed the nearby Ynisderw Farm, and who brewed beer in a brew house on the farm. Plots 24 and 30 are both breweries. Plot 30 is recorded as the new brewery erected in 1838 to replace the older smaller brewery of c1810. John Jones was

obviously a man with business acumen. His

original brew house was too small to cater for the numbers of persons wanting to buy beer, such as the canal bargemen, iron ore miners, coalminers and drovers. He first built his old brewery, then the larger new brewery to cater for the demand for his beer. In 1838 two public houses are recorded near the brewery, The Dillwyn Arms and The Dynevor. The original old brewery was demolished much later to make way for the Castle Hotel.

The new brewery is shown in local artist Mr Mike Jones depiction of it as it would have appeared in that period with a barge laden with barrels of beer about to set off on a journey along the Swansea Canal to canal side public houses or inns. The buildings are constructed of local stone, probably quarried from the hillside below Barley Hill and with slated roofs. The brewery was a substantial structure comprising a brewing room, bran house, cask washing house, malt room with a malt mill dated 1849 probably to replace a less efficient or smaller malt mill of 1838, a barm house, fermenting room, washing room, boiler house with an 18 feet long steam boiler, an engine house with a vertical steam engine, cart shed, coopers shop, cellar, brewery stores, stables, coach house, and offices (Whitbread and Co archives 1919). Barges also brought anthracite coal to the brewery for the coal fired steam boiler that powered the steam engine that worked the equipment in the brewery. The canal barges would have delivered all the above equipment to the brewery during its construction.

In the original documents a cart shed and stables are recorded and also the type of and numbers of different types of horse tackle in the brewery stables indicating that horses pulled dray carts with beers to local taverns and inns.

In the 1920s the brewery was capable of making 200 barrels of beer per week. The brewery was essential to the working men of Pontardawe after William Parsons built his iron and tinplate works on Ynisderw farm land in 1838 and where over 200 men and boys laboured at strenuous work in heat to produce sheets of iron. Later the works became the Gilbertson Steelworks and employed over 1000 persons. In the 1980s a Mrs Williams of Pontardawe told me a story of her husband working at the steelworks in the 1940/50s and who sweated so much because of the hard physical work that he lost a lot of liquid and salt from his body. To replace that lost fluid he drank about ten to fifteen pints of beer every day in work, and afterwards she said he went out for a drink with the boys, yet he was not drunk. He had to replace the lost fluid or he could have been seriously ill, and beer at that time was safer to drink than the local water. It was common practice to send young boys to the nearest pub for jars of beer. Beer was an essential element to men working in such industries, hence the proliferation of public houses at works entrances.

Mrs Eunice Williams of this Society told me that as a little girl she used to go to the brewery to buy yeast that her mother then used to make a liquid locally known as jovine. That was a weak beer drunk by children when they were unwell.

The new brewery operated as such until the c1920s and afterwards as a storage building until World War Two when it became the main headquarters of the Air raid Precautions (ARP). In 1947 it was used as a pickling factory for onions and cabbage and operated to about the late 1950s. The buildings later became a car repair business and operated as such until about 2016. That business provided an excellent first-class vehicle repair service for the people of Pontardawe and the surrounding area and will be very much missed by all who knew of Duncan and Mike.

The former new brewery of 1838 is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, building surviving in Pontardawe from the earliest times of the village, still in its unaltered state. The other structures identified on the Tithe Map have been demolished or rebuilt. Its setting with the canal running alongside and St Peters Church above is a relatively unaltered scene from the period 1860 when St Peters Church was completed. The whole scene is one of an historic character that creates an attractive and heritage element in the centre of Pontardawe. It provides a physical link between the past and the present.

Regeneration projects were proposed in 1988 to improve the fabric of a number of Pontardawe’s commercial buildings, including the former brewery. They were to restore the structure of the buildings to encourage investment in the town. One project was to convert the brewery buildings into an Outward-Bound Centre. The Urbed Regeneration Report recommended that the buildings could be redeveloped as such and boats could be operated on the adjacent canal. That project would have seen the brewery building fully restored and becoming an attractive heritage asset to Pontardawe. Unfortunately, the project was not supported by the local authority of that time.

There are Planning Policies extant at the present time designed to improve and protect historic buildings in towns such as Pontardawe. These could see the brewery building renovated and become an attractive asset to the town. I ask why are they not implemented? The hope is that our local authorities will support them in the near future.

Our National Government, The Welsh Assembly, has policies to assist local authorities with protecting and enhancing historic buildings. Among them Planning Policy Wales which has as an

Objective: “To ensure that the character of historic buildings is safeguarded from alterations or demolition that would compromise the building’s special architectural interest. And that Local Planning Authorities have an important role in securing the conservation of the historic environment whilst ensuring that it accommodates and remains responsive to present day needs.

I look forward to the time when those objectives are implemented to save the oldest surviving building in Pontardawe.

© Reproduction by kind permission of Clive Reed. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without the permission of the author/or The Swansea Valley History Society.

A Book review: Cefn Celfi

A forty page booklet has been written by B. M. Lodwick of Neath Abbey on the history of Cefn Celfi Farm, Rhos, Pontardawe. He starts with the 3 ancient stones mentioned in ‘Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin, the Black Book of Carmarthen; a collection of early Welsh poetry where the 3 stones with the names Cynon Cynfael and Cynfeli are mentioned. Prof. Thomas Jones of ‘Twmpath’, Danygraig Alltwen, was the one who recognised them as being at Cefn Celfi. Mr Lodwick traces the history of the farm from when it was built on Plas Cilybebill land. He shows a plan drawn by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments which identifies its location, also photographs taken by past and present owners.

Two of the names, namely Cynon and Cynfeli have been designated as names of roads for the new housing estate built opposite Rhos school. What I don’t understand is why they named another road as Alfred (Russel) Wallace as he has no connection with this site, but further afield at Bryncoch Farm and Neath. Why not include Cynfael?

I found the book very interesting as I know the area well. One of the farming daughters still lives in Rhos where her garden backs onto Cefn Celfi land.

For details of how to obtain a copy, please contact Liz.

Liz Jones lizajones558@btinternet.com

We have all spent more time this summer in our gardens and walking outdoors. How many of you heard the distinctive call of the Cuckoo this spring? David Jones laments its demise.

SAY GOODBYE TO THE CUCKOO

Ask most people what they know about the Cuckoo, and the response probably would be that it is a bird that lays its eggs in other bird’s nests.

Absolutely true, but there is much more to this bird.

The bird’s scientific name is Cuculus Canorus. What a great name.

Imagine that this Cuckoo lays an egg in the nest of its host, usually a meadow pipit or reed warbler. The hen bird then removes an egg so that the number remains the same in the nest. The new egg, although slightly larger resembles the colour of the rest.

The practice of using other birds to incubate the egg and rear the young is known as brood parasitism.

Up until the early 20th century it was thought that the Cuckoo laid its egg on the ground, and transported it to the nest. Leading ornithologists and naturalists believed this. What people were observing was the cuckoo holding the stolen egg after it had been removed from the nest.

For some time the female Cuckoo had been observing the behaviour of the host bird. She knows exactly when the host is about to lie. This is crucial to the whole process.

When hatched, the Cuckoo chick, blind and naked and just a few hours old; immediately sets to work removing the original eggs or chicks from the nest. The tiny naked chick is programmed to do this. A wonder of nature. The female will lay about thirteen eggs in different nests.

The Cuckoo fledgling grows at a fantastic rate. Its call resembles a full nest of chicks so that the host birds respond to its begging sound. Even other birds passing will feed it responding to this call!

Remember that the young Cuckoo has never met its parents. By early September it leaves for equatorial or southern Africa. It arrives at the site of its ‘biological’ parents. It is not shown the way but is programmed by DNA to find its way. We just don’t know how they do it.

Surely this must be one of the wonders of nature. Just take a minute to think about it.

Cuckoos arrive here usually in April. Their arrival prompting calls to the editor of The Times. Their arrival, as with other migrating birds, coincides with the abundance of insects. They feed more or less exclusively on the hairy caterpillar, an insect poisonous to other creatures. Stomachs of Cuckoos are lined with the hairs of these caterpillars, and every so often they regurgitate the stomach lining.

Although not a hawk, it does resemble one in flight with its curved wings. Subsequently it is ‘mobbed’ by smaller birds. It seems to have a hawk’s body and pigeons head! What is the problem then? Well, as with many birds and animals, it is mainly down to habitat loss. And loss at a great rate.

The Cuckoo is in a chain.

If the caterpillar population crashes, the Cuckoo population crashes. If there is a reduction in the birds that the cuckoo uses as a host, it will suffer. Added to that, it often has to run the gauntlet of so called ‘hunters’ armed with the latest weaponry.

Over one hundred million migrating birds are killed whilst migrating across the Mediterranean. This number is arrived at via satellite studies.

Malta and Italy are the biggest culprits. It makes one sick. What do they get out of it?

The EU stated that they were going to tackle the problem. Did they? No.

Finally we have the Sahara. It is moving south at a fast rate, resulting in a longer journey without rest and water.

So when did YOU last hear a Cuckoo? I for one will certainly miss its call.

David Jones

A reminder that we still have copies of ‘Around Pontardawe’: Volume 2 (1999) and Vol 3 (2013) at £10 a copy

Contact Liz at lizajones558@btinternet.com

Since our last Newsletter our sympathy and thoughts are extended to the family and friends of members who have passed away during the last year.

Leonard Ley, more familiarly known as Len in historical circles, was a regular speaker for the SVHS giving talks on the history of Ystradgynlais, Ystalyfera and Ynyscedwyn. His specialist subject was Craig- y – Nos Castle and the charismatic opera singer, Adelina Patti. He was the author of The Iron Cradle: Ystradgynlais and the Upper Swansea Valley (2005) He passed away at Ystradgynlais Community Hospital on 24 December, 2019.

Richard Murdoch, a qualified accountant, served as Treasurer for the Society for a number of years. He obtained a diploma in local history with the then University College Swansea. His great passion for local history led him to joining the SVHS where he became an active member co-authoring the first two volumes of Around Pontardawe On retirement he settled in Torquay, South Devon where he passed away earlier this year.

Both gentlemen have had a long association with the Society and will be greatly missed

(Wynford Pugh, Secretary)

We have an active Facebook presence and a website where you can post items of interest and keep in touch:

www.swanseavalleyhistorysociety.org.

Alternatively, If you have any notices, articles or photographs of local interest which you would like included in the next Newsletter, could you please forward them to me: helen@hallesy.com Tel 01792 865451

In the meantime we wish you all a healthy and safe time during the coming months and look forward to resuming our programme of events next year.

Very Best wishes to you all,

Helen Hallesy (Newsletter editor)

Posted in Uncategorized

2020/21 Lecture Series.

Just a note to bring you up to date regarding the Society’s lecture series normally held at The Cross Community Centre, Pontardawe.

The current health emergency means that it is not possible to arrange for speakers to present the lectures or for the actual venue to be booked in advance as it is currently closed. It has therefore been decided to cancel the lecture series between September and December

  1. A further announcement will be made to clarify the situation in the new year.

It is unfortunate that this course of action has to be taken but the health and safety of our members and others who attend our lectures has to be paramount in our thinking.

Please keep safe and well and watch the web site for further announcements.

Ann Lewis (Chairperson)

Posted in Uncategorized

A decision has been taken to cancel all further meetings, lectures and also the A.G.M for 2020. The Society wish to thank all members, speakers and non members for their constant loyalty and support. Our thoughts are with you all at this perilous time.
We will post another announcement when it is appropriate to resume the lectures and to hold the AGM.
We wish each and everyone of you good health.
From

Chair Ann

Posted in Uncategorized

CANCELLED

Please note the lecture on March 18th (The Tay Railway Bridge) has been cancelled

Posted in Uncategorized

WINTER NEWSLETTER 2019 /20

Seasonal Greetings from your new Newsletter Editor!

Keri (Thomas) has decided to relinquish his many duties associated with the Society; he is not retiring but has decided to devote more of his time to other family commitments. Keri’s all- round contribution included that of Chairman (2017-18) Vice Chairman of the Society for ten years , a period during which he served as Treasurer and Newsletter Editor, he also took the lead in successfully applying for grants from various organisations during that time. His energies will be greatly missed. In recognition of his dedication to the Society, he is being awarded Honorary Life Membership (sorry Keri no clock or watch)
Future proposals for The Newsletter are the publication of summaries of the talks held during the last season. These now follow (Sept-Dec), but please be aware that from next year, 2020, the Newsletter will only be forwarded (or delivered) to fully paid up members. As a reminder, membership fees are £8 per year and are due at the beginning of our season of talks in September. It is not too late to join! Our application form can be downloaded at the end of these pages, or you can pick up a form at one of our talks.

18th SEPTEMBER 2019, ‘THE PETERLOO MASSACRE’- Jeff Childs jeff.childs1@btinternet.com
The Peterloo Massacre occurred on 16 August 1819 in which up to 18 people were killed and nearly 700 injured including many women and some children. The site was St Peter’s Field, Manchester, at which a peaceful rally of some 50,000 pro-democracy reformers were attached by armed cavalry on the orders of the local magistracy. According to Robert Poole, author of the recently published and definitive account of the massacre, ‘Peterloo’ was not an accident, it was a deliberate, pre-emptive act and a disaster waiting to happen’. After defining what constituted a ‘massacre’ and giving several well-known examples, the speaker explained the event fully particularly the key roles played by Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, the demonstrators, the cavalry and local militia, the magistrates and central government. The wider political and socio-economic background was emphasized as were the authoritative studies of other contemporary historians (as well as the late E. P. Thompson), Shelley’s poem The Masque of Anarchy and Peterloo’s immediate and long-term legacies. Illustrations of the event and current images of the site, including the 2019 commemorations at which the speaker was present, were also highlighted.
16th OCTOBER, 2019
Our initial disappointment at learning that our speaker for the evening was unable to be with us was soon lifted by the arrival of Ioan Richard. This is not the first time that Ioan has helped us out at the last minute and we are indebted to his willingness, at the drop of a hat, to come to our aid. Ioan, of Craig Cefn Parc was a local councillor of many years, standing for Mawr ward, and also the first chair of governors of Ysgol Gellionen Clydach. He is President of Clydach’s History Society. We were highly entertained with stories of his experiences of serving as Lord Mayor of Swansea, pinpointing highlights in his political career interspersed with humorous anecdotal stories of personal mishaps (two odd coloured shoes!) His graphic light-hearted descriptions of many comic scenes as well as the more serious administrative duties he was engaged with, delighted an amused audience for well over the designated time of an hour. We extend our warmest thanks for your time and generosity of spirit. – HH

‘THE LAST DAYS OF THE WAR’- Gary Williams
On Wednesday 20th November 2019 a fascinating and thought provoking talk was given by Gary Williams.
Gary talked about the political and military issues surrounding the end of the World War 1. It was of interest that he included as well, the human and personal elements of this monumental event. Time was of essence when the political decision was taken to end the war. It was a race from the time the ink dried on the Document of Surrender to the fighting units receiving the news. It became very clear that many died right up to the final eleven am ceasefire. Just east of Mons, a Canadian soldier, Private George Price was waiting for the end of the war. At two minutes to eleven, he was killed by a German sniper. He was one of the very last casualties on the Western Front.
The British representative at the surrender talks was Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss. It was due to his insistence that a ceasefire could be achieved earlier than planned and his direct link to King George V, that many more lives were saved. His decision angered the Prime Minister Lloyd George, who wanted to announce the end of hostilities at 2.30pm. Wemyss realised that 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month had a strong poetic quality and would be significant. Besides, many lives would be saved.
That meeting in the railway carriage in Compiegne would change world history, and as we know, led in part to another catastrophic war.
Thank you Gary. It is hoped that he will return in the near future. His parting shot was to tell us that he could give a talk on the Zulu War.
Watch this space!! (Submitted by David Jones)
4th DECEMBER 2019 ‘THE GENTRY FAMILIES OF LLANGYFELACH AND THEIR ESTATES INCLUDING PONTARDAWE ‘ – Jeff Childs
jeff.childs1@btinternet.com

This illustrated talk was based on the speaker’s recent published book on this theme and was held at Pontardawe RFC’s clubhouse. The ecclesiastical parish of Llangyfelach was at one time the second largest in Glamorgan and comprised four administrative districts – Clase, Penderry, Mawr and Rhyndwyglydach. Among the estates highlighted were Briton Ferry, Brinwhillach and Cefn Myddfai, Cilybebyll, Gnoll, Penllergare, Ynyspenllwch, Ynystanglwys and Ynystawe as well as those owned by the dukes of Beaufort, the bishops of St David’s, the Calvert Richard Joneses and the Calland, Gilbertson, Gwyn, Herbert, Lott, Morris and Popkin families. Emphasis was placed on the rise of some estates, the decline of others and the reasons for such changes. The entry of newcomers into the land market and the industrial nature of several of the estates were also underlined.
Our thanks are extended to Jeff for his continued support and contributions.
LOCAL NEWS

THE JUBILEE CLUB in lower Herbert Street Pontardawe was recently sold. It served as a social and leisure club for many years in the village offering a function room, lounge bar, and on the first floor, a snooker room and manager’s flat. Its future is as yet undecided. We would welcome any information on its history from members.

GELLIGRON HOUSE which latterly served as a social services centre has closed this year. Historically it is a very historic property/site in the context of Pontardawe which housed a number of the district’s notable individuals and families including Josiah Rees (associated with Gellionnen Unitarian Chapel), John Morgan (associated with the Primrose Coal Company and nominally Ynysmeudwy Pottery), John Gwyn Jeffreys and his son Howel Gwyn Jeffreys and for forty years (until 1950) Charles and Ellen Gilbertson and their family.

SWANSEA VALLEY HISTORY SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP FORM 2020
I/We wish to join/renew membership of the Swansea Valley History Society. The annual membership subscription is £8 and runs from September 1st – August 31st. If joining after 1st January, there is a reduced rate of £6 which covers you up to August 31st.

Full name…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Address……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Telephone No……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Email address…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

In applying for membership you give your consent for the said Society to hold in a secure place the details you provide with your membership application and these will only be used to contact you about issues relating to Society membership, or with information which could be of interest to members. Your details will not be passed on to any other organisations.

Payment by cheque should be forwarded to our Treasurer, Steve Williams at 5, Grove Road, Pontardawe, SA8 4HH: steve.williams@openwork.uk.com

Payment in cash or cheque can also be made at one of our Society meetings -details to follow.

PROGRAMME FOR 2020
January 1st – New Year’s Day Walk
This year Jeff Childs will be giving us a ‘guided tour’ around Alltwen pointing out buildings and homesteads of historical interest. This annual event is always popular. Meet at 1pm to depart at 1.30 pm Pontardawe Rugby Club. Stout walking boots are recommended. Refreshments will be available at the Club following the walk.
Society meetings are held at The Cross Community Centre Pontardawe on the third Wednesday of each month. Talks begin at 7pm.

January 15th- ‘The River Tawe Part 2’ by Martin Jones

February 19th – ‘A History of the South Wales Transport Bus Company’ by John Adams

March 18th – The Tay Railway Bridge (Scotland) by Alan Underhill

April 15th – The Titanic – A memorial Cruise Re-Visited by Tony Waters.

The April meeting will comprise a short lecture followed by the Annual General Meeting
If you have any articles, notices or photographs of interest which you would like included in the next Newsletter, could you forward them on to me please, Helen Hallesy. Email: helen@hallesy.com : Tel. 01792 865451
Many thanks.
We wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas and hope to see you all in the New Year.
Since the last Newsletter our sympathy and thoughts are extended to the family and friends of members who have recently passed away: Teifion Rees, who was one of the founder members of the Swansea Valley History Society, also Roland Murdoch who was a contributory author to the first 2 volumes of Around Pontardawe produced by Pontardawe Historians. He was also a former Treasurer to the SVHS.

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2014 in review

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Swansea Valley History Society (Pontardawe and District)

Welcome to the web site of the Swansea Valley History Society. We hope we see you at one of our future meetings.

 

Pontardawe station buildings copy

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