The Journal of William Roberts ('Nefydd'), 1853-62


E D Jones, National Library of Wales journal Vol IX/1 Summer 1955.

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is a complete extract of this article [Gareth Hicks 2002]

This third part of the series

- includes Journal entries from February 1856 to June 1856, which cover his visits to places in Glamorgan, Monmouthshire and Brecknockshire

See the first part for links to all the other parts




February 1 - 7.

I was with Mr. Baxter this part of the month and as his Journal will contain the particulars of his special visit, it will be un-necessary for me to write them here.

February 8.

Beaufort. Mr. Baxter and myself intended to be at this place on the 7th, but we were prevented by the weather. I saw some members of the Committee of the present B. School (not Dr. Bevan's), and had an interview with them. Mr. Baxter will explain the position of the two British Schools and prospects in this place. It was arranged that the Rev. T. Rees will apply to T. Brown, Esq., for a site, and then to lay before Dr. Bevan the necessity of co-operation among all parties in order to have schools for boys and girls; and to have them erected on such ground that the Com. of C. will approve of its lease if possible, i.e. the land of the Ebbw Vale Co. (if granted) inasmuch as the Duke of Beaufort will not grant a long lease.

February 9.

Writing my Journal for January, letters & sending off the Pamphlets &c.

February 12.

Tredegar. I had been for a long time very wishful to have an introduction to R. P. Davies, Esq., the Manager of the extensive works in this Town, who had so nobly responded to my correspondence in The Star of Gwent about twelvemonths ago, by putting a stop to the rigid measures adopted in the schools under his management to enforce the learning of the Church Catechism, and Church attendance, by children of Dissenters. It happened now that I had an excellent opportunity to converse with him and Mrs. Davies,# (who takes a considerable interest in the schools). She informed me of a new plan that she has adopted to teach the Girls that are in the highest class in the school, house work, & Cookery. Mrs. Davies takes eight girls to receive the above house education for twelve months. Each of them spend two days per month in her house under the tuition of her servants, one day to learn house-maid work such as cleaning the rooms, making the beds, &c., and the other day to have a lesson in the various branches of common Cookery, so that they will be able to prepare a dinner out of a small quantity of meat, which will be taught to them in various ways. They are therefore to spend 13 days during the year in learning the work of the kitchen, and 13 other days for house-maidwork. Only two girls are in Mrs. Davies's at the same time, on Tuesday, and Thursday in the same week, then the other six during the remainder of the month and in the 4th week the same two again. Each of them have sixpence per day, which they may either receive or put in the Savings' Bank until the end of the year. It is pleasing, whether Mrs. Davies will succeed in doing much good or not, that she takes such interest in the welfare and education of the poor. We arranged that Mr. Baxter will Inspect the schools when he comes in April. I spent that afternoon, and evening with Mr. & Mrs. Davies and returned home the next day.

#She is a niece to the late Alderman Thompson of London.

February 14.

Wrote letters, and sent Pamphlets by post to various places.

February 19.

Merthyr. I had partly arranged before Mr. Baxter came to Wales, that he should pay a visit to this important Town in order to try again, whether we could have awakened the numerous and influential Dissenters of the place to a sense of duty towards the rising generation, But Mr. Baxter's time was too short and other engagements so numerous that we could not go then. I found that the feeling for having a B.S. here is now stronger than ever. It is a wonderful fact that the proprietors of the Works in the Town, Penydarren, & Cyfarthfa, do not put their schools on unsectarian principles. There are eight National Schools in the town, and not one British School, although the number of Dissenters are at least 10 for every one of the Churchmen. There is now a better prospect than I have ever seen there before.

February 20.

Abercanaid & Pentre-bach. These places are populous districts on both sides of the river Taff near Merthyr. They are connected with the extensive works at Pentre-bach, where National schools have been established many years ago. Here again the Dissenters are obliged to submit to Church Catechism, and Church attendance. There is no public school on unsectarian principles, at Abercanaid, Pentre bach, or Troedyrhiw, in this neighbourhood although they have Dissenting Chapels numerous.

February 21.

Dowlais. I was told some time ago that these schools were to be under the inspection of the Rev. H. L. Jones instead of Mr. Bowstead, and I wanted to ascertain the truth and was very glad to find that such is not the case. They are to be carried on the same as they have been, on unsectarian principles, and under the inspection of Mr. Bowstead, at least such is the impression at present in the school.

February 25.

Tredegar. I visited R. P. Davies, Esq. again, (on my way to Neath Abbey) in order to extend my acquaintance with him. I gave him a pamphlet and also The Monmouthshire Merlin containing Mr. Baxter's speech at the Newport School, as I had promised on the 12th instant to Mrs. Davies.

February 26.

Neath Abbey. I had paid a short visit to these schools when Mr. Baxter inspected the Neath B. School. This institution is the oldest, I think, in Wales, as an unsectarian school. It was established in 1802 by the late respected Joseph Price, Esq. who was the Manager of Neath Abbey Works for a great many years. The schools are now chiefly under the management of his sister Miss C. A. Price. I visited the place now at her request with a view to furnish them with a Teacher for the Boys' School. It was necessary to have one acquainted with the Welsh language. I recommended Mr. Jno Phillips that was at the Boro' Road last year; he has been unsuccessful in trying for a Certificate but he is determined to have one at Xmas if alive & well. I went to see the state of the Boys' School. Mr. Phillips is to commence next Monday week.

February 27.

Neath. I visited this Town & school chiefly with a view to see the Rev. D. Davies, who was from home when Mr. Baxter and myself visited the school. He is a strong opposer of Gov. aid and he is a very active and influential member of the Committee. Miss Evans the Teacher had also objections to being under inspection of Gov. I think that the Rev. Davies and Miss Evans will give in gradually, and I rather think that the school will be under inspection this year. They were thankful for the grant of books they had rec'd of the Society.

February 28.

Aberaman & Aberdare. I paid a short visit to these places, with a view to establish a school in the former and to see how things were going on in the latter. The prospects are not very promising in Aberaman. Aberdare School is proceeding in the right direction, they are going to have a female Teacher, and to separate the boys and girls immediately. They are very thankful for the grant of Books from the Society.

March 3.

Abertillery. A public examination of these schools took place. Mr. Jones of the Blaina B. School, Mr. Reynolds of Bryn Mawr B. School, Mr. Bevan the schoolmaster, Miss Fox the schoolmistress, and myself took part in the examination. It was a sort what we call show examination got up in order to draw the attention of the parents and the neighbourhood generally towards the B. School. A great number of parents and others were present and were very much pleased. Addresses were delivered to the parents and children and produced a very salutary effect upon the school.

March 4.

Llanvihangel-y-fynachlog. This parish contained, in 1851,a population of 1228. It is a large parish containing an area of 4092 acres of land. The Church and few houses called the village is situated near one extreme end of the parish. An effort is now being made by the Clergyman & others to have a Church school established in this village, and another effort has been lately commenced by the parishioners to have a B.S. in a more populous district near the centre of the parish. It was with a view to gather some information as to how to proceed that I was invited. I find that there are ten Dissenters for every Churchman in the parish. I gave the friends of the B.S. every encouragement and information to proceed and promised to meet them again shortly.

March 6-7 & 8.

Writing my Journal for February, letters to various places, and sending about 300 of the pamphlets (lately pubd) to M.Ps. and others in England & Wales.

March 10.

Aberdare. I had visited this place on the 28th ult. and found that the Com. was preparing for making an expensive alteration in the schoolroom. They were so peculiarly situated that it struck me that they were in need of advice. I expressed my wish on the 28th to have a few together this day.

(i) They were going to form one end into two classrooms, and a Gallery in the other end, and other alterations.

(2) They had prepared plans & specifications themselves of the alterations and the work had been contracted for.

(3) The boundary wall, and other outside works were necessary to be done, but they did not intend doing these for the present.

(4) The above work was intended to be done at the expense of the Com. without Gov. aid, although the school is under Gov. inspection, and that aid is promised by the C. of C. towards the building &c.

I advised them

(i) To defer the working of their alterations for a short time.

(2) To make the inside and outside works all in one contract, in order to complete the premises.

(3) To receive Gov. aid towards it, which would be 2/3d.(two thirds) towards the fittings, and the half of the remainder.

(4) For that purpose to apply to the C. of C. and to prepare their plans for the sanction of their Lordships.

By that they could do the whole work for the same expense to the locality as the part they intended and perhaps the work as they intended it would not be approved of by H.M'sinspectors and therefore should have to be altered soon.

They could not act upon my advice without having another meeting themselves, and receiving the consent of the Contractor.

March 11.

Hirwaun.  I reached this place in the afternoon of this day, and made inquiries as to the state of the B.S. and found that the miserable schools connected with the works in this place are still great obstacles in the way of the B.S. so that it is kept entirely inefficient. The workmen are obliged to pay out of their wages towards the support of schools, one superintended by a drunken man, who is in the habit of cursing & swearing the children, the other by a man who became unable to work and does not possess the most common branches of information. The population of this place being almost entirely under the influence of the Manager of these works, who is quite careless about the education of the people, causes the few individuals who went to £300 expense in 1849 of building a B.S. (£230 of which is now unpaid) to be in great trouble and difficulties. The room is now given to a schoolmaster free to do his best with it. But it cannot be expected that they can, under those circumstances, get a 3'd or even a 4th rate Teacher, and therefore the school is kept down. I met some of the members of the Committee, and they gave me the above information.

March 12.

At the request of the Rev. D. Charles, B.A., Trevecca College, I visited this and the two following places (Talgarth & Crickhowel). The object was to try to stimulate some of the friends of education to establish a B.S. there. I called upon several, but was sorry to find that the contention which so generally causes Dissenters to be inactive is so strong here that we can scarcely expect much good at least for a time. I mean the opinion for and against Gov. aid. However Mr. Charles promised to visit the place, and to endeavour to try his influence to move them onward as soon as he possibly can.

March 13.

Talgarth. The Com. of this B.S. wanted my assistance in giving them information as to how to proceed in obtaining Gov. aid to clear off the present debt, and to refit the room. They also want a Certificated Teacher knowing the Welsh language. As regarding their first request I gave them all the necessary information, but I am sorry that I have no Certificated Welshman to recommend to them. While I am on the subject of scarcity of Teachers, I may also mention that we have succeeded at last to establish a B.S. at Cardigan where Mr. H. Owen and I endeavoured to sow the good seed in 1854. They intend to commence the school at once in an old Chapel until they can erect a Gov. School room. They have applied for a Certificated Welshman. I have tried to persuade them to make an Englishman (at least for a time) recommending to them Mr. D. Morgan of Swansea. I have already recommended Mr. Jenkins of Pembroke Dock to the Com. of the Blaina B.S. as an assistant to Mr. E. Jones. However they seem to think that an Englishman will not do at Cardigan, and I could do no better than to recommend a substitute for a Certificated Teacher until Mr. R. Lewis (who was the Master of the Hibernian school at L'pool) will return from America in October next, where he went for the sake of his health about 6 months ago. They have such substitutes in many places, and they are obliged to do with them from year to year because we have no others for them. I could wish we had from 15 to 20 Certificated Welshmen ready now.

March 14.

Crickhowel. Mr. Charles thought that there was a necessity and a prospect for a B.S. in this place. However I was informed by some of the leading Dissenters of this small town that Dissent is not strong here, and that several wealthy persons belong to the Church, and that they are about to build a National School with Gov. aid, which will cost about £1500 or £1600, and that at present there is no prospect of a B. S.

March 19.

Went to L'pool.Returned Apl. 1st.

April 3.

Rhigos. This is a new school opened not many months ago, in connection and for the benefit of the Colliers & Miners under R. Crawshay, Esq. of Hirwaun, whose preparation towards educating the Children of his Fire workmen and Mechanics at Hirwaun is so miserably attended to (as I reported to you lately) that it is even worse than if it was neglected altogether, because his schools (if worthy to be called so) retard almost entirely the operations of the B.S. in the place. This Rhigos School is about a mile and a half distance, where the Colliers & Miners dwell. The movement originated entirely among themselves. They were afterwards aided in their efforts by the Committee of Hirwaun B.S. They obtained a suitable room to commence from R. Crawshay, Esq., and also his consent to apply 1d per £1 of their own wages towards the support of this instead of supporting those that are in Hirwaun. They have obtained an untrained young man as a master in whom some of the leaders have much confidence. We had no teachers to offer to them from the Boro' Rd., neither would the salary they can give at present be acceptable to a competent one, being only £40. There are from 60 to 70 children already in the school. My next visit will give you some idea of their progress.

April 4.

Cwm Nedd. Some friends in this place are wishful to have a B.S. erected and invited me there in order to render them some assistance in order to proceed, and to obtain Gov. aid towards the same. I advised them (as I do with others) first of all to ascertain whether they could get the site on the terms approved of by the Com. of C. and afterwards to apply for aid, and then their course will be successful provided the neighbourhood will contribute the half. There are, it seems, not less than from 100t o 150 children without a convenient school to go to.

April 7.

Pontytypridd. This place in connection with Trefforest Works, has a population of from 8,000 to 10,000,and strange to say, without any schools excepting 2 or 3 private ones, and a very inferior N.S. The private ones are excepting one very inefficient. I have endeavoured 2 or 3 times to rouse the leading men, more especially the members & leaders of the various denominations to act as they themselves considered necessary to establish a B.school; but hitherto, I think for want of spirited leaders, unsuccessful. It is a remarkable fact that in other neighbourhoods with about 1/5th of the prospects that we have here they took the matter up spiritedly and worked on successfully. But such places as this, Merthyr Tydvil, Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest and the like, after a very prolonged slumber may yet rise up with more energy as is the case at Cardigan and other places.

April 8.

Gyfeillion. In this place there are at the Coalworks about 300 men in the employ of the Gt Western Co., and their children are numerous. There is a Parish Church near it, the Clergyman and his friends about two years ago built a commodious schoolroom in connection with the Church, with Gov. aid, and intended to have the workmen to give (through the influence of the Agent Mr. M'dougal Smith) so much per cent out of their wages towards the maintenance of the N. School; and gave out a word to the effect that he had obtained the Agent's consent. The workmen almost all being members and hearers in the Dissenting Chapels made it a point to ask Mr. Smith if such was the case, and he said it was not and offered to the men his aid if they wished to build a school on liberal principles. They wanted some information as to how they should proceed and I was very glad to give it to them. The Church Schoolroom hitherto has been and probably will be of no use.

April 9.

Gwaunyreirw. Messrs. Jones & Joseph have in this place about 150 Workmen; a new Work now being opened by Mr. John Calvert and another work with about 200 workmen by Mr. D. James of Merthyr;  making altogether about 1000 workmen within about half a mile of each other, Messrs. Jones & Joseph are anxious to have a good B.S., and if the others will co-operate they may easily succeed. The men themselves, at least some of them, are also very anxious to have one. Mr. Joseph has engaged a room to establish a school temporarily, in order to see how it will take, and what readiness will be manifested in the co-operation of the workmen by sending their children to school, and allowing a percentage of their wages to support it. So the matter stands at present. I promised to visit the place again, and therefore will give further information respecting it.

April 10.

Cymer. This place is much the same as the last mentioned. Mr. Ensol's Coal Works have already 150 workmen and being now greatly extended, will have many more, Messrs. Thomas Jones & Thomas have about 200, --- Mr.Crawshay have about 100; making together about 450, and a new Work now being opened by Messrs. Jones and Shepherd. This neighbourhood therefore will be very populous. Messrs. Thomas Jones & Thos are anxious to have a good B. School, and are about to make the same experiment as Messrs. Jones & Joseph in Gwaunyreirw. with hopes of success, and of ensuring the co-operation of the other proprietors.

April 12.

Writing my journal for March.

April 16.

Neath Abbey Boys' School. At the request of Miss C. A. Price I visited this school in order to confer with the newly appointed master John Phillips as to the requirements of the school. I was glad to find the number on the books to be 90, and an average attendance of 70, which is about 30 more than were there when I had visited it before. I found the S. very deficient in books and advised them to lose no time in getting some; and as to the alterations and refittings of the room, to let them remain in abeyance until Mr. Bowstead for the first time will visit them in Aug. or Sep.

April 17.

Neath Abbey. Girls' and Infants' Schools. I paid a short visit to these schools, and was sorry to find that they are not in a satisfactory state. As to the Girls' school it was customary, (on acct of the incompetence of the Mistress) for the girls in the afternoon to be instructed in Arithmetic and some other branches by the master, and John Phillips expressed a wish to get free from submission to that rule on acct of number of scholars under his care, the want of teaching power in his school, and the shortness of the time before Mr. Bowstead's visit. That has greatly diminished the number of the Girls in the school. Miss Price has in view to have a more competent Mistress, although unwilling to change suddenly from pity for the present mistress.

The Infant school containing about 60 children seemed to be in a more satisfactory state. Conversed with Mr. Price & Agents.

April 19.

Preparing my Report for 1855-6 for Mr. Baxter.

April 22 & 23.

Writing letters and sending pamphlets.

April 28.

Llanelly (Breckneck).This school is in connection with the Iron Works of Messrs. J. & L. Powell. It is a liberal Ch. S. because they teach the Catechism, although not enforcing Ch. attendance. There is 120 children in the school and those are almost all children of Dissenters. It is a wonder that children of Dissenters should be continually subjected to this wrong. We have a movement to endeavour to induce the Managers of Works to alter this rule, by sending petitions & deputations from their own workmen requesting them to do so.

April 29.

Gilwern. This is a small school kept by a man that has hurt his leg and by that was made unable to work. It was some years held under a Committee, and supported as a B.S., but at present the room only is given to the present master to try to teach a few children, and to receive what he can get towards his living from them. I need not say that such a Teacher is unable to give the children but something like an apology for Education. He has 30 Children in the school.

May 5 & 6.

Writing letters to various parts of S. Wales and preparing my Journal for April &c.

May 7.

Starting to London to the Annual Meeting of the Society.

May 8.

Travelled from Newport to London.

May 9.

The Annual Meeting.

May 10.

Writing in the morning, ---spent the afternoon with Mr. Saunders.

May 11.

With Mr. Baxter.

May 12.

Attended the Committee in the evening.


Spent part of the day with Mr. Owen, and called at the Privy Council Office on behalf of Abertillery B.S.


Walked about to the Bookshops, and went to the Crimean Photographic Gallery by a Ticket presented to me by Mr. Owen.

May 15.

Started home, reached Bristol.

May 16.

Bristol to Newport.


Newport to Blaina.

May 19. Writing letters &c.

May 20.

Translating the account of the meeting of the B. & F.S, Socy and some of the speeches, from The Patriot.

May 22 & 23.

Darren Felen. Visited this place at the request of the Committee, to inform them as to the advantages of Gov. aid, and inspection. I was glad to find that the number increased in the school since I had visited it in April. I gave the Committee all the information I  could on the above subject, and also on the advantages offered by the C. of C. in the erection of school buildings. At present the Com. pay rent for the room of £5 per annum. The above to be considered in An1 M. Mr. H. Rosser, the Master, is very anxious to be better qualified for the work of Teaching, and I promised to send to Mr. H. Owen on his behalf to know if he is eligible for a 'Neale exhibition'. I look upon the establishment of this B.S. as well as several others that have been lately established in S. Wales with much satisfaction, because we have been successful in moving the working men to action. In this instance the school is entirely managed and supported by Colliers and Miners, which are generally considered inferior to other workmen in point of information. They pay Mr. H. Rosser & Mrs. Rosser (his wife) together £75 per annum. The Com. meet every month, and they take take much more interest in the school than if it was Managed and supported for them by the proprietors of the work.

May 29.

Abersychan. Visited this place with a view to ascertain whether these are now conducted on the same liberal principles as the other schools under the management of Mr. Brown of Ebbw Vale, that is without coercion as to Church attendance & Catechism. To my great satisfaction I found it to be the case although I had been informed otherwise. I find that Mr. Brown intends to erect new buildings for these schools which will cost upwards of £2000, on a very pleasant and convenient site near the works. Mr. Baxter will visit & inspect all Mr. Brown's schools in July.

June 2.

Beaufort. Visited this place in order to ascertain whether John Richmond, the schoolmaster (who was not able to go to the Boro' Road the two last years for want of means to pay), would avail himself of the kind offer of Hugh Owen, Esq., that is, to take four young men of S.W. Richmond will thankfully avail himself of the offer.

June 3.

Aberdare. The Promoters of this B. School, as well as that of Hirwaun, have experienced a very considerable inconvenience, in consequence of the solicitor of the Marquis of Bute delaying the preparation of the conveyance Deed from time to time. In consequence of this they cannot get the Gov. grant towards the building, and have been obliged to pay £12.10. per annum of interest on the money for many years promised by the Com. of Council, which takes off a considerable amount of the income of the school. It had been arranged that we should endeavour to bring this matter into a close. And now we have some prospect of succeeding in our effort.

Hirwaun. The object of my visit at this time to this place as well as Aberdare was to try to have the Deeds prepared, in order to have the grants and to put the schools on a better footing, with more income, so that their efficiency may increase accordingly. We have reason to hope that we have been successful.

June 4.

Rhigos. This little school was established for a portion of the workmen of Hirwaun Works. There were 35 scholars present, and they were receiving good elementary education, some of them read very well, and writing was good, and so was the spelling. There were but few of that had been there long enough to go through the first simple rules of Arithmetic. Mr. D. Jones the Teacher seems to give general satisfaction to the parents. This is a school established by the working men themselves for their own children.

June 6 & 7.

Writing letters and my Journal for May,

June 12 & 13.

Neath Abbey. Attended at the request of the Managers of these schools in order to make arrangements to have a qualified female Teacher for the Girls' school, so as to have it (as well as the boys' school) under Inspection, and to increase its efficiency. They had been giving only £26 per annum of salary, but I had to persuade them that they could not get any competent Teacher for that amt. Therefore I proposed a plan to make up £40 for the Mistress, and I applied to Mr. Dunn for a Teacher. I have every reason to believe that Miss Hunter of Bacup will be engaged there.

June 16.

Devynnock. This place is just now very peculiarly situated. The only public school in the place has been under the inspection of Mr. Bowstead for years and was called 'British School' in the Reports of the Com. of Council. Now the Clergyman is anxious to have it under the inspection of the Rev. H. L. Jones, and to have it a strict Church school. The restrictions of the old endowment left towards it in the 17 century, is in favour of the present conduct of the Clergyman, but it enjoins that no payment is to be rec'd for the education of the children of the Parish so that they cannot avail themselves of the Capitation Grant. Under the effect of these changes, and of rigid adherence to Church Catechism, and Church attendance, the Dissenters, being about 9/10th of the population, began to consider what to do, and they have resolved to oppose the Clergyman, and to have either the present school on liberal principles, or to have a new school.

June 17.

Glyn Neath. This school was built by Mr. Williams of Aberpergwm some years ago, and it is now connected with the Abernant Works, under the same Company of proprietors as the Neath Abbey Works. But the room is too small for the number now in attendance, and the teaching power is not adequate to the requirement. It is to be hoped that it be put under inspection so that Pupil Teachers may be granted. Mr. Jones holds a Certificate, but he labours under great disadvantages, the Children are so young, and so numerous that it will be impossible to do much good during the present organization.

June 18.

Pont Walby. This is a very good little school considering the disadvantages. The room is small to contain 60 children. There is a project to have a new room erected. To give information on this matter was the chief object of my visit. The prospect is not so strong as yet, as we might anticipate.

June 19.

Aberavon. This school is in connection with the works of Messrs. Lewellyn, and conducted on liberal principles, although the same proprietors have three schools connected with the Church under their Management in other localities.

June 20.

Swansea. Went to see Mr. Adams (the Teacher) to arrange about Mr. Baxter's visit. But the school had broken up and was to be so a fortnight longer so I was disappointed.

(to be continued)