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Sir Humphrey Mackworth

By 1686, the coal interests in Neath came under the control of Humphrey Mackworth through marriage, and he was right up to his death in 1727 to play a large and controversial part in the development of coal , and copper smelting and silver refining as well. He had interests too in the lead mines of Cardiganshire.

At that time his coal works were regarded as the best in Wales both in output and quality, and he revived the smelting of copper and lead. He also interested himself in the manufacture of litharge [ lead oxide] useful in the manufacture of glass and pottery; and in the newly profitable adventure of brass making.

By 1720 it was said that ; " Such variety of excellent and most profitable works were now to be seen at Neath as cannot be equalled in any part of Gt Britain, especially when his intended additions there shall be completed."

Sir Humphrey died in 1727.

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks ]

Earliest records of copper smelting

The earliest surviving written account of smelting and refining copper in Wales seems to be that dated 12 Feb 1702 and is captioned;
"Thomas Williams: Account of ye Smolting and refining at Neath from 2 January to 23 January 1702 [Mackworth Papers]

The object of the weekly accounts was to report what had transpired in terms of individual direct wages payments , the amount of material used and the result of the week's work.The account made up locally would have been sent off to Sir Humphrey Mackworth's agent. The company concerned was that of the Mine Adventurers. The maximum number of men employed in the smelting and refining works was 26 with weekly wages ranging from 3/- to 16/- so the fact that each workman's names was recorded is not surprising.

Family Historians may be interested in the following list of names appearing in these accounts;

Saturday 9th January;
Morning Watch; Samuel Ackroyd, John Jennings, Charles Evans
Evening Watch; John Parry, Thomas Forrest, Michael Parker, John David.
John Parry --4 days sick
Richard Nelmes--for 6 days making Brick
Thomas Forrest--for 2 days making Brick
Edwd Simon--6 days repairing refinery furnaces
Evan William--6 days attending refinery furnace
Richard Gascoyne--6 days Lime being scaled at what to be allowed him [no wages amount shown for him]
Samuel Holton--6 days at ye Stamps
Howell Jenkins--5 days making Brick, 2 1/2 days mending Tools
Richard Manering,William Morgan and Benjm Mathew--3 1/2 days on Sir Humphreys Account

[I note that the accounts for the following week show the very same group of men, John Parry had been sick for 6 days this time and received 6/- instead of the previous week's 4/-.]

Apart from the Wages amounts the accounts include detailed items of materials manufactured and consumed

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s 8 June 2000]

The Case of Sir Humphrey Mackworth and the Mine Adventurers

A pamphlet of 1705 referred to by Grant-Francis; Smelting was carried on day and night in shifts of eight hours. In addition to copper, Neath concentrated on the production of lead. It was being reported in 1702 that production of silver, both at Neath and in Cardiganshire was running at 80 ozs a week but the 23 January 1702 account refers to the fine silver produced as being 28 ozs.......

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s ]

Herbert Evans Mackworth of the Gnoll, Neath

[ Mackworth Estate Accounts 1759-60.]

He was the son of Sir Humphrey. Together with his Steward and 'accomptant' William Cross, he was 'keeping and maintaining distinct accounts' of his landed estates which comprised freehold and leasehold lands, iron mines, collieries, brickworks and sundry other establishments. He died in 1765.

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s ]

Wages systems at Neath

[Mackworth Papers]

The records of the early C18 do not contain many examples of Wages sheets. There is evidence that wages were paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly. In some cases the wages were signed for by one man, generally the senior artisan or chargehand.
The weekly Wages records include payments to the following for the week ended 26 July 1755;

"Amount paid to sundry Smiths, Carpenters and Sawyers for Wages;
Roger Price; Thomas Lewis, Rees Morgan, Huw Edwards, Rees Lewis etc."

The wages were signed for by one man, Thomas Lewis, who made his mark.The agent for Herbert Mackworth was one William Cross.

Some workers would have agreed to be paid monthly and for the month ended 26 July 1755 is recorded
" Cash paid to sundry companys of Colliers in full to Ballance their Accompts for the month ending July 26 1755[ a list of 18 names followed on the original records]- cash paid total £72.6.4 1/2. "

The words " Ballance their Accompts" is interesting as it was the practice to advance payments to colliers[ and others] during the month in question and before they had completed their agreement to dig out and produce a given amount of coal. Separate records were kept of these advance payments, in this case there was an entry " the Cash Subce on Accompt £38.3.6."

Where workers could write they signed their names thereby acknowledging receipt of wages. A Labourers' Wages sheet for January 1774 includes the names Thomas Jones, old John Morris, Thomas David.
Thomas Jones signed his name, and witnessed the others making their mark.

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s 14 June 2000 G]

Coals to Bridgewater

There is plenty of evidence that all aspects of the operation were being considered in deciding on the siting of copper works , here or there , in the early C18. For example, in the book is a detailed calculation of the costs involved in making a ton of copper [ Mackworth Papers c 1740?] and this includes this commentary;

"The Profit in the Coal would be very considerable in this way of proceeding for there would be 520 Wheys of Coal spent every year at home which being valued at 25s a Wey would be at least half of it neat Profit as there would be near 1000 Tun of Oare brought to melted [ from Cornwall] the Ships which bring it would take off a great quantity of Coale so that it is probable there would be much more Profit from the Coal than from the Coppar."

It is clear that the wider implication on the total profitability of the concern are being considered here, in that more coal can be exported when these ships make the return journey to Cornwall. In fact it appears that the Coals were shipped to the port of Bridgewater[Somerset], and other parts.

[Note-In 1713 in Neath , a way [or wey or wheye] of 5 1/2 tons was stipulated, but amounts varied]

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s 15 July 2000G]

Another early Neath Copper man

The book refers to a Mr Costar, who was Mr Costaria John Coster, a Cornish mineworker who hailed from the Forest of Dean. He became manager and later owner of Copper Works at Upper Redbrook. He died in 1718 and was succeeded by his son , Thomas, who took up a lease of copper works in Neath, and was working there in 1733.

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s 3 Aug 2000 G]

Brick works in Neath

[Mackworth Estate]

A Brick Account in the records of the Mackworth Estate in 1737 includes the names David Thomas David, John Griffiths, chandler, and Mr Cralph.

Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s 3 Aug 2000 G]

Imported pioneers at Neath

In 1697 the burgesses let the coal to Sir Humphrey Mackworth for 31 years, and he attempted to work it with local colliers, but without much success. Nothing daunted, he went to seek for experienced men from the coalfields of Shropshire and Derbyshire. He brought a number of them, with their wives and families, into Neath, and they settled in a district known as the "Mera".' In the passage Phillips describes that these men became known as ...'good and competent workers'. .....'Many of their descendants afterwards found their way over the hills to Merthyr and the great ironworks. The women used to trade around the country districts of the hinterland with crockery, baskets, small drapery, and other articles of the pedlar's stock-in-trade.

From The Pioneers of the Welsh Coalfield (pp11-12) Elizabeth Phillips, Cardiff, Western Mail 1925.

[Steve Keates 4 July 2000 G]

A Glass Works at Neath ?

[Mackworth MSS]

In the 1740s a case was made for the setting up of a Glass Works at Neath, the factors considered included;

  • The site proposed was contiguous to the river[Neath], and a quay where ships of 100 or 150 tons lie very commodiously.
  • Adjoining this is the coal yard ..........
  • Adjoining to the wall of the coal yard ....lie vast heaps of sea sand ....brought by ships for ballast from all parts of the west of England.and more is continually coming...............
  • About 40 feet from the said wall.....is a lime kiln.....and as the ships from several places are ballasted with lime-stone they sell it for about 14 a ton, and stores are had directly from the Mumbles for very little more so that lime is very cheap, and very good bricks are made in the field where the Glass House is to be built.
  • A great quantity of kelp and fern ashes may be had in that neighbourhood, and also copper and iron slagg very near.........and a Salt work near.
  • There are above 500 ships loaded every year in that river with coal, bound to all parts of the west of England, to Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, France; and some likewise to Gloucester and Chepstow, so that bottles may be conveyed from Neath to any of these places as cheap or cheaper than from Bristol.
  • There are several sorts of strong coking coal; ....it is believed the latter[smaller] will be found as good coal as ever was used in a Glass House.............the best coal for Smiths, Dyers and Brewers that is known anywhere on that coast........
  • The place is situated in a pleasant , healthy country where there is great plenty of all manner of Conveniences of life to be had very cheap, so that it is supposed common workmen would be had there at as low rates as anywhere, and much lower than either at Bristol or London, and the superior workmen would be supplied with houses etc at much less expense.

Note; The export of coal from Neath alone at that time was c 3000 tons a year. By 1750 considerable quantities of foreign copper ores were being brought to Neath. The story of the development of Neath and area in the C18 is "closely linked with the Bristol ventures, the influence of that city on the development of the South Wales coastal areas being close and considerable".

[Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s 2 Aug 2000 G]

The Eaglesbush Colliery Explosion 1848

Extracts adapted from an article written by Harry Green and published in the " Neath Antiquarian Society - Transactions of 1979. " It gives an idea of the working methods and conditions of the day as well as the background to how and by whom the inquest was conducted. There are also names of witnesses and some of those who died.


Worked seams on the Briton Ferry Estate and was about one mile and a half south of Neath and was one of the oldest and most fiery mines in the district. The seam of coal worked - it was bituminous and very `binding`- was four feet thick. Extraction was on the `pillar and stall system`. Entrance to the main heading was by a drift six feet high by five and a half feet wide, dipping with the coal for about 880 yards. The coal was drawn up this inclined plane by a stationary engine, in trams about 25 cwt, on a railway three feet two inches gauge. Cross-headings were at right angles, rising only enough to drain water. They were the same size as the drift and one hundred yards apart. Stalls were driven at right angles to the cross-headings, they were six yards wide and 50 to 80 yards long. Horses were used to draw coal from the stalls to the engine incline.


Was effected by having down-cast and up-cast shafts. The former was above the dip of the drift and was also used to extract water using a water wheel and a steam engine. Air passed down this shaft, through all the workings, old and new, to another shaft which ascended to a culvert leading to a stack or chimney. A furnace was located at the bottom of the chimney; its purpose being to create an up-draught of air when air movement underground became sluggish. In warm, windy or foggy weather, natural ventilation did not work effectively but the furnace was never used and was in a very dilapidated state. Air was passed to the stalls by digging bolt-holes from one stall to the next. The number of bolt-holes varied with the air quality and the amount of fire-damp given out but it was estimated that they added 2d to the price of a ton of coal. As stalls moved forward the older bolt-holes were "gobbed up" using dry stone walls built without mortar and a similar process was used to block up abandoned stalls. The process was not efficient and some of the fire-damp which continued to hiss out of the abandoned coal face found its way into the working stalls. No air was directed beyond the line of bolt-holes to the working face. Gas accumulated here and the men used fans (wooden frames up to 2 ft square) to drive the fire-damp towards the bolt-holes .


Was on the body of one man, Thomas Christmas, a native of Cornwall. He was one of twenty men and boys who were killed by an explosion of fire-damp (methane) on March 30th (1848) at the Eaglesbush Colliery, also known as the Esgyn , at Melincryddan, Neath , Glamorgan.

The jury were described as being of "respectable tradesmen" but included : George Dods, a former Portreeve and agent to the Gnoll Estate; Henry Simmons Coke the Town Clerk; David Randall , a councillor , who would later become Mayor and other borough councillors.

Witness Rosser Thomas was not cutting coal when the explosion took place at 2 p.m. on the 29th March. He and his mates John Parker and Tom Thomas were in dispute with the overman about the price for cutting coal and had been put to work cutting an air-way after complaining about fire-damp in their stall. Although only 28, had been a collier for 20 years and conceded that this meant he started underground at 8 years of age. He had finished in the colliery after a previous incident in 1845 when a number of men had been burnt but had returned. He had remarked to Thomas Hill that morning that there was fear of danger. His own lamp was in good repair and he did not think that any of the other men were negligent of their lamps. Although their lamps were blown out by the explosion he and his mates had escaped through an old stall in which a wall had given way. On the way out they assisted another man David Hill.

John Parker had worked in the mine for 10 years. He did not consider the mine well ventilated. He had almost suffocated on a previous occasion when working in John Hill`s stall.

Witness David Griffiths, agent for the owners Penrose and Evans for four years, thought that an initial explosion in present workings must have knocked down partitions then igniting the large mass of gas in the abandoned workings. In his opinion the explosion occurred between the 16th and 24th stalls. Thomas Jenkins` was the 18th stall and with him Thomas John Morris was filling trams. Twenty men had died, eighteen in the initial explosion. Thomas P. Hill, Thomas Note, Rosser Thomas, John Thomas, Thomas Parker, John Hill, Charles Note and Thomas Thomas had escaped. All those working beyond the 16th stall had died. On the morning of the accident he had seen John Grey, William Grey, William Mosely, Leyshon Protheroe, John Davies, Solomon Mainwaring and John Hill sitting down near stall 24. Some of them were smoking. All had died. He had found Henry Davies` lamp after the explosion without the cap on. His body had been found in Leyson Reynold`s stall.

Witness Thomas Philip Hill, assistant overman, had worked for Mr. Penrose for twenty years. He had found a little "fire" in Rosser Thomas` stall that morning but did not think it a danger. He had found "fire" in Thomas Jenkins stall and thought it too dangerous to work there with a naked lamp. Following the explosion he had brought out the body of his own son who had been working in No. 19. He was unable to say where he was found because he had been crawling on his hands and knees.

Witness David Rees was on his way out of the level when the explosion occurred. Robert Thomas and his son had been working with him- both were now dead. The son had had a naked lamp.

The inquest was adjourned to await a surveyors inspection report. The necessity for an objective report was reinforced by Rosser Thomas` account that he and his mates had been turned away by George Penrose on the Monday after the explosion. They had gone to the mine to recover their lamps fearing that Penrose might damage them so that he could make them responsible for the explosion.

When the surveyors examined the colliery it had been cleared of wreckage. Air-ways were being rebuilt and walls were rebuilt - this time with mortared stone. They had not found fire-damp in one stall they checked with a safety lamp although they could hear it hissing from the walls. They found that the air flow through the workings was only about a third of what was required and concluded that artificial means should have been used - the overman should have made use of the furnace.

Further evidence about previous accidents was given by a Neath surgeon W.G.Jones who reported that some of those he had treated for burns had complained to him about lack of ventilation. The civil engineer William Price Struve had been consulted by the owners in 1845 and had made the recommendations which had seen the building of the chimney and furnace.

The jury of respectable tradesmen returned a verdict of `Accidental death` , one which was not well received by the local magistrates and other inhabitants.

[Brian Wagstaffe 15 Sept 2000 G]

Melincryddan Chemical Works

My ancestor William Griffiths (1795-1869) is living at Rotten Row, Melincryddan in the 1841,51 and 61 census. He was a cooper by trade and it took me some time to realise that barrels were not only made to hold the "amber nectar". In 1851 one of his sons is recorded as a chemist and it struck me that he and his father were probably employed at the Melincryddan Chemical Works.

At Swansea Archives I found a map of the Chemical Works ( by Samuel Hosgood - 1835); this gave a plan of the works with each section being "lettered" and the attached key giving the function of each building in the works. The building labelled "H" was the Cooperage giving further evidence that this was where W G worked.


....of the Chemical Works is outlined in " History of the Vale of Neath-D.Rhys Phillips ". It was started in 1797 and continued in production until the early 1900`s. when the "Galv." Sheet steel coating works was built on the site. The first owners were Messrs. Bewick and Horne; the lease was passed to a Samuel Thornton in 1809 and he in turn assigned it to a Dr. Plumbe and Joseph Gibbins in 1813. This was the start of the Gibbins family`s association with the Company. Dr. Plumbe assigned his share to his partner in 1816 and Joseph Gibbins assigned his interest to his brother Bevington Gibbins in 1818. On his death in 1835 the works carried on under his widow until 1859 when she assigned them to her sons, Henry Bevington Gibbins and Frederick Joseph Gibbins who took Mr W.J.Player into partnership. Following the retirement of H. B. Gibbins in 1883 and then Mr Player in 1886, F. J. Gibbins became the sole partner. He was to die in 1907 and the company was run by his widow until 1913 when , on her death, it passed to her four sons.


...Samuel Hosgood`s plan gives names to the various parts of the Works and from this we can deduce what they made.

1. Oil of Vitriol : This was the name given to Sulphuric Acid. The early alchemists prepared it by heating naturally occuring sulphates to a high temperature and dissolving in water the sulphur trioxide thus formed. In the 15th Century a method was developed for obtaining the acid by distilling hydrated ferrous sulphate,or iron vitriol, with sand. In 1740 the acid was produced successfully on a commercial scale by burning sulphur and potassium nitrate in a ladle suspended in a large glass globe partially filled with water. It is probable that a method similar to this was in use at Melincryddan. The Sulphuric Acid would have been supplied to the Tinplate Industry and D. R. Phillips quotes a letter from the Ynysygerwn Tinplate Works in 1819 which refers to the return of empty carboys - which would have been used to store the acid.

2.Roman Vitriol : Vitriols was the name given to metallic sulphates. Roman Vitriol, or blue vitriol, was Copper Sulphate and was produced by reacting Copper with Sulphuric Acid.

3.Verdigris : This was the green or greenish blue substance obtained artificially by the reaction of dilute Acetic Acid on thin plates of Copper. It was used as a pigment, in dyeing, the arts, and medicine; it was a basic acetate of Copper. Verdigris is also the name used to describe the corrosion products which appear on copper alloys such as brass and bronze, as well as on pure copper.

4.Sugar of Lead : This is Lead Acetate, a white crystalline substance called sugar of lead because of its sweet taste. It was prepared by dissolving litharge ( Lead Oxide ) in acetic acid. It was used as a mordant in dyeing, as a paint and varnish drier, and in making otherlead compounds.

5. It was also noted in 1798 that the works produced : "the best and purest alum in the kingdom".

Alum or Potassium Alum is a combination of Potassium and Aluminium Sulphates. It was widely used as an astringent.

The Works was built on the side of the Neath Canal at Melincryddan.

The canal would have been used to transport acid to Ynysygerwn. The canal bridge at this point gave access to a wharf on the River Neath which gave the Works easy access to shipping. The canal bridge is all that is left today and even the road which linked the Works with the main Neath/ Briton Ferry road and was called "Chemical Works Road" has now sadly been renamed.

[Brian Wagstaffe 16 Sept 2000 G]

George Borrow on Neath Abbey

Little bit on Neath Abbey from one of my favourite books Wild Wales by George Borrow, first published in 1862 it gives a picture of Wales in 1854. He was able to speak Welsh to a degree.

.....I had surmounted a hill and had nearly descended that side of it which looked towards the east, having on my left, that is to the north, a wooded height, when an extraordinary scene presented itself to my eyes. Somewhat to the south rose immense stacks of chimneys surrounded by grimy diabolical-looking buildings, in the neighbourhood of which were huge heaps of cinders and black rubbish. From the chimneys, notwithstanding it was Sunday, smoke was proceeding in volumes, choking the atmosphere all round.
From this pandemonium, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile to the south-west, upon a green meadow, stood, looking darkly grey, a ruin of vast size with window holes, towers, spires, and arches. Between it and the accursed pandemonium, lay a horrid filthy place, part of which was swamp and part pool: the pool black as soot, and the swamp of a disgusting leaden colour. Across this place of filth stretched a tramway lading seemingly from the abominable mansions to the ruin. So strange a scene I had never beheld in nature. Had it been on canvas, with the addition of a number of diabolical figures, preceding along the tramway, it might have stood for Sabbath in Hell - devils proceeding to afternoon worship, and would have formed a picture worthy of the powerful but insane painter Jerome Bros. [Hieronymus Bosch]

[Steve Keates 6 Oct 2000 G]

Oliver Cromwell and Neath

Oliver Cromwell did have Welsh blood. It seems that one Morgan Williams married a sister of Thomas Lord Cromwell. His son Sir Richard Williams seems to have taken the name Cromwell and was given large parts of the Neath Abbey lands on the Dissolution of the Abbey.

Robert Cromwell a grandson of Sir Richard married Elizabeth, a daughter of Sir Thomas Stuart of Ely and in 1599 they had a son - Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector.

When Oliver Cromwell came to Glamorgan [Civil War]he tried to get the cooperation of some of his Williams cousins. He wrote to the Williams family of Aberpergwm reminding him of their relationship.

This placed the Williams family in a difficult position because they were also connected through marriage to some of the great estates of Glamorgan ( Williams was married to a sister of one of the Bassetts, who was Sheriff at that time) who were all Royalists.

In 1648 a group of Cromwells troups passed through the Vale of Neath and fired cannon shot at Aberpergwm and it seems that as Williams was mounting his horse a cannonball carried off his leg.

Adapted from History of the Vale of Neath by D.Rhys Phillips

[Brian Wagstaffe 20 Oct 2000 G]

School visits in 1856---Neath Abbey

"I had paid a short visit to these schools when Mr Baxter inspected the Neath B.[British] 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 who 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 and well. I went to see the state of the Boys' School. Mr Phillips is to commence next Monday week. "

School visits in 1856--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."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 17 Nov 2000 G]

School visits in 1856--Cwm Nedd

"Some friends in this place are wishful to have a BS erected and invited me there in order to render them some assistance in order to proceed, and to obtain Govt 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 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 100 to 150 children without a convenient school to go to."

Glyn Neath

June 17th ;

"This school was built by Mr Williams of Aberpergwm some years ago, and 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 organisation."

Pont Walby

June 18th ;

"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 strong as yet we might anticipate."


June 19th ;

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

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth ]

School visits in 1856--Neath Abbey, Boy's School

April 16th ;

"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 obeyance until Mr Bowstead for the first time will visit them in Aug or Sep."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth ]

School visits in 1856--Neath Abbey, Girls' and Infants School

April 17th ;

"I paid a short visit to these schools , and was sorry to find that they were 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 time before Mr Bowstead's visit. That has greatly diminished the number of 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."

June 12th & 13th ;

"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 increase its efficiency. They had been giving only £26 pa 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."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth ]

Smuggling goings on at Neath

" By August 1719, the Customs authorities had discovered that hardly a ship, carrying coal from Neath to other countries, returned without having concealed under false bulkheads, or stowed amongst non-dutiable material, articles of foreign manufacture, particularly brandy ........

Dec. 1719 : An artifice used in "running " brandy " was to put the liquid in large baskets on board fishing vessels, covered with herrings and other fish, " Ye better to conceal ye Fraud". Coffee was frequently found hidden in the sacks of shavings used for "hatts".

April 1723 : Ten bottles of wine seized by Jacob Davis, tidewaiter at Neath.

Nov. 27, 1723 ; Two tierces of wine were clandestinely run out of the "Two Sisters", under the noses of two Briton Ferry officers who were on board. As they were "either drunk or asleep" at the time they were penalised to the amount of the duty, or, in default , to be dismissed"

From the "History of the Vale of Neath " by D.Rhys Phillips :

[Brian Wagstaffe 17 Jan 2001 G]

More :

The Women Smugglers of Briton Ferry :

Oct. 8, 1726 ... :

" Henry Davies, Sitter in ye Boat att Britton ffery, being obstructed in ye Execution of his Duty . . . there is Sufficient proof to prosecute CATHERIN LOYD, CATHERIN MORGAN, ELIZABETH CHANDLER and MARY SHAW for abusing . . . the said Davies . . . and rescuing from him some brandy and wine after he had seized it . . Davies had no authority to break into ye out-house, where the goods were, without a writ of assistance and a peace officer."

On Jan. 31, 1728, one Christopher Vaughan, forwarded to the authorities an affidavit relative to the clandestine practices of a certain " p'cell of women." Vaughan, however, had " but an Indifferent Character, we therefore Dont think it adviseable to Comence a prosecution on his evidence."

In 1734, after a long career of smuggling strategy, robbing revenue officers of their booty, and acting as an agent between importers of illegal goods and their customers throughout the Vale of Neath, the leader of the Briton Ferry group was definitely unmasked.

Writing to the Board on July 29, 1734, the port officers said :

" We have likewise sent your Honrs inclos'd patterns of ye India stuff that was seiz'd by an officer under ye Collection of Mr. Edw. Dalton, Collr of Llanelly upon his Return from his journey on his private affairs by leafe of his Collr with another man, Stop'd at a Publick house Called Bretton ferry to drink a Pint of ale, the woman of ye house, one CATHERINE LLOYD a widdow not suspecting him to be an officer bro't out the s'd goods & Offer'd the same to sale as India Goods, moreover told they were RUN GOODs she had secured the night before & wd be glad to dispose of them, upon w'ch made a seizure of ye same & Brought them to our Warehouse, being the nearest Customho. May your Honrs be pleased to observe yt Said Widdow is very well to pass in ye world & Suppos'd to have All Her Riches by Running of Goods for SHE is an old offender and a NOTED SMUGGLER to, wch we humbly refer & are your most faithfull & obedt Servants. WM. SHEWEN, Collr, Edw. LLOYD Comptr."

Whether the smuggling career of the redoubtable Landlady of the Ferry Inn was actually brought to a close by the prosecution that followed, the records do not say. She was evidently caught unawares, the engaging manners of the Llanelly visitor having dethroned her usual caution.

In any case, her operations as the leader of "female runners" seem to have aroused the authorities, for an order of the Board of Cutoms, dated Sept 19, 1739, directed the local Collector "to appear before the Justices of the Peace, requesting them not to renew the licenses of public -house keepers, who are known to have harboured smugglers in the past.

From the "History of the Vale of Neath " by D.Rhys Phillips :

[Brian Wagstaffe 18 Jan 2001 G]

Evans-Bevan family of brewers

You will find lots of information about the Evans Bevan Family in Keith Tuckers book : "Chronicle of Cadoxton"

Short adapted extracts :

The Vale of Neath Brewery was started by Mssrs . Stancombe, Buckland and Rusher in 1836 at the Cadoxton site. It was dissolved in 1847 following a major fire which caused financial difficulties. It was purchased at a knock down price by Evan Evans (1794-1871) a Neath businessman who was born in Briton Ferry. Evan`s eldest daughter Mary Standert Bevan ( 1823-1889) married David Bevan (d. 14/7/1888 aged 63 ). Evan had no sons and formed a partnership with his son in law; this is where the name of Evans-Bevan started . This company was to become very successful with its interest in Brewing, Coal Mining and Landowning. The book goes on to give information on the "Seven Sisters " - the children of David & Mary Bevan after whom the village of Seven Sisters is named.

[Brian Wagstaffe 23 Jan 2001 G]

Reformatory School, Neath

Here is a list of those who were "in attendance" at the Reformatory school in Neath during the 1891 census.

  • George Evans -head - mar - 49 - Superintendenat - Tarrington, Hanks
  • Sarah Evans - Matron - mar - 50 - Matron, Worwickshire, Berkcony(sp)
  • George Ashton - schoolmaster - sing - 30 - school master - York
  • William Probert - tailor - sing - 38 - tailor - Salop
  • Julia Rees - serv - sing - 28 - domestic servant - Neath

All the following shown as Inmates - "Under detention".

  • John Williams - 17 - Cardiff
  • William Roberts - 14 - Ystrad
  • George Harries - 13 - Llandly
  • George Pook - 16 - Cardiff
  • David Rosser - 15 - Pontypridd
  • Arthur Geo. Court - 17 - Warwickshire, Aston
  • Owen Richards - 14 - Cardiff
  • William J. Ash - 16 - Cardiff
  • William Powells - 15 - Cardiff
  • Sydney Heartlle(sp) - 13 - Swansea
  • Wm.Thos. Simbett - 13 - Aberdare
  • Wm. Thos. Wallace - 12 - Aberdare
  • Wm Birchall - 12 - Penarth
  • William Couch - 12 - Swansea
  • Dvd. Wm. Davies - 15 - Pontypridd
  • Reynold Reynolds - 12 - Neath
  • Morgan Mainwaring - 17 - Neath
  • Evan Nile Smith - 14 - Aberavon
  • Thomas Emmanuel - 16 - Ystrad
  • Robert Evans - 12 - Aberdare
  • Sydney Squires - 14 - Swansea
  • William Thomas - 16 - Aberdare
  • Anthony B. Howells - 14 - Aberdare
  • Evan Isaac Williams - 14 - Cardiff
  • William Watkins - 16 - Neath
  • Henry Gibbins - 16 - Herefordshire, Ross
  • Alfred Ernest Cook - 11 - Herefordshire, Ross
  • George Gibbs - 14 - Cardiff
  • Henry Thomson - 15 - Breconshire, Crickhowell
  • Lewis John Jenkins - 12 - Pontypridd
  • James Thomas - 12 - Swansea
  • Wm. Hy Heardony(sp) - 16 - Cardiff
  • Joseph Bensamit(sp) - 15 - Breconshire, Hay
  • Francis Parterdige - 14 - Cardiff
  • Michael Carroll - 13 - Cardiff
  • Joseph Griffiths - 11 - Bridgend
  • John Harris Davies - 9 - Pontypridd
  • Patrick Ridey - 10 - Swansea
  • William Moppet - 13 - Cardiff
  • Morgan Evans - 11 - Swansea
  • William Browning - 14 - Bridgend
  • William Fisher - 13 - Swansea
  • Arnold Alexander - 14 - Cardiff
  • Thomas Jones - 11 - Neath
  • Wm. Cls. Rees - 9 - Ystrad
  • Henry Bendall - 13 - Cardiff
  • Wm. Llewellyn - 13 - Swansea
  • Wm. Jenkins - 15 - Cardiff
  • Harry Powell - 13 - Cardiff
  • Evan Davies -11 - Carmarthenshire, Llandilo
  • Howell Davies - 11 - Pontypridd
  • William Judd - 15 - Cardiff
  • John Evans - 16 - Cardiff
  • Joseph Chas. Coles - 15 - Cardiff
  • Albert J. Pengelly - 14 - Swansea
  • Thomas Jas. Thomas - 13 - Swansea

[Sue Martin]

People in Neath workhouse - 1891

This is a list of people in residence on census night 1891.

  • John King Bells(sp) - hd - mar - 51 - master of workhouse - Mont. Llandiloe - Eng/Welsh
  • Anne Jane Bells(sp) - wife - mar - 51 - Matron - Leicesher, Sanderly - English
  • Edith Myfwny Bells(sp) - dau - sing - 21 - assistant Matron - Fling, Caerorn(sp) English
  • Bard(sp) Elaine Bells(sp) - dau - sing - 19 - student nurse - London, St.Georges - English
  • Mary Marjorey Linde(sp) - adopted - sing - 26 - Cardiff, Glam - English
  • Mary Morgan - serv - sing - 40 - Nurse - Pembroke, Welsh Rock(sp) - Eng/Welsh

All the following listed as "Inmate"

  • Edward Edwards - widr - 78 - gardner - Herefordshire, Hampon(sp) - English
  • John Heavin(sp) -sing-widr - 70 - Shipwright - Devonshire, Barnstable - Eng/Welsh
  • Elizabeth Jones - sing - 58 - Glamorgan (.....) - Imbecile - both
  • John Lock - mar - 45 - seaman - Devonshire, Barnstable - English
  • John McDonald - widr - 58 - Hawker - Ireland, Cork - English
  • David Roberts - sing - 40 - Carpenter - Bridgend, Glamorgan - Eng/Welsh
  • Patrick Sabrian (sp) - sing - 67 - Rag gatherer - Ireland, Cork - English
  • John Thomas - sing - 68 - gen lab - Aberavon, Glamorgan - Eng/Welsh
  • William Thomas - widr - 66 - Plasterer - Pembroke, Tenby - English
  • Michael Shea - mar - 50 - gen lab - Waterford, Ireland - English
  • John Welch - sing - 46 - gen lab - Cardiff, Glamorgan - English
  • Samuel Hopkins - sing - 77 - retired ag lab - Yorkshire - English
  • John(sp) Hughes - sing - 46 - Skewen, Glamorgan - Idiot
  • John Bedford - mar - 55 - driver in iron works - Neath, Glamorgan - both
  • Constance Ouberg Staeton(sp) - sing - 75 - London - English
  • John Beacesp(sp) - sing - 67 - ag lab ret - Devonshire - both
  • William Richards - sing - 53 - Neath, Glamorgan - Imbecile - both
  • Ruth Williams - sing - 74 - gen ser. domestic - Neath, Glamorgan - Welsh
  • Ann Cornibear(sp) - sing - 18 - dom serv - Resolven, Glamorgan - both
  • Elizabeth Lewis - sing - 18 - dom ser - Pembrokshire, Haverford - English
  • Alfred Cardiff - widr - 45 - mason - Isle of White - English
  • Thomas Jeffries - sing - 50 - gen lab - Wilts - English
  • Sarah Ann Reynolds - sing - 50 - Monmouth - imbecile - English
  • Daniel Cousins - widr - 61 - gen porter - ret - Ireland, Cork - English
  • Robert Richards - sing - 30 - gen lab - Glamorgan, (......) - both
  • Jane Thomas - sing - 79 - dom ser - glamorgan, Llantrissant - Welsh
  • Daniel John - widr - 68 - Carpenter - Breconshire, Ishadgyden(sp) - Welsh
  • John Brown - sing - 72 - gen lab - Neath, Glamorgan - welsh
  • David Davies - sing - 45 - flannel weaver -Cardiganshire, Llandyssul - Welsh
  • David Davies - mar - 66 - gen porter - Neath, Glamorgan - Welsh
  • Elizabeth Davies - mar - 55 - Hawker - Yorkshire (.....) - English
  • Phillip Davies - sing - 65 - tin plate worker - Neath, Glamorgan -Lunatic - English
  • William Davies - mar - 68 - ...Painter - ret - London, Shoreditch - English
  • William Davies - mar - 53 - shoemaker - Cardiff, Glamorgan - English
  • Ellen Dee - mar - 65 - Cork, Ireland - English
  • Patrick Dunn - widr - 35 - gen lab - Ireland, Kingscourt - English
  • Joshua Cox - mar - 52 - iron moulder - Leicester - English
  • William Edwards - mar - 65 - Baker, Neath, Glamorgan - English
  • Rachel Frances - sing - 45 - Llansamlet, Glamorgan - Imbecile - both
  • Samuel Griffiths - widr - 68 - Stone mason - Neath, Glamorgan - both
  • John Hill - sing - 48 - lead miner - Neath, Glamorgan - Imbecile - Welsh
  • William Heoard(sp) - mar - 64 - gasfitter - Devonshire (.....) - Welsh
  • Jane Jones - sing - 56 - Mounmouthshire, sikorn(sp) - English
  • Thomas Jones - sing - 61 - lime burner - Neath, Glamorgan - English
  • Ann Kitchener - wid - 63 - London, Malborn - Welsh
  • John Lake - sing - 58 - Neath, Glamorgan - Imbecile - Welsh
  • Charles Meredith - sing - 74(?) - Blacksmith - ret - Neath, Glamorgan - both
  • Mary Morgan - mar - 65 - Skewen, Glamorgan - Welsh
  • Myriam Moore - wid - 67 - now known - English
  • Thomas Nicolas - sing - 48 - Baker - Builth, Breconshire - English
  • Thomas Page - mar - 66 - gen lab - Devon, Pinlave(sp) - English
  • Mary Ann Parker - sing - 73 - dom. serv. ret - Neath, Glamorgan - Lunatic - both
  • Griffith Rees - mar - 64 - engine fitter - ret - Neath, Glamorgan - Imbecile - both
  • Martha Rees - mar - 62 - Neath, Glamorgan - both
  • William Rees - sing - 44 - gen porter - Carmarthen - both
  • Thomas Richards - widr - 75 - lab - Neath, Glamorgan - both
  • Catherine Shea - wid - 68 - Ireland, County Kerry - English
  • Edward Timothy Shea - sing - 40(60) - genlab - Ireland, County Kerry - English
  • William Shildrick(sp) - widr - 74 - Cambridge - English
  • Ann Thomas - wid - 76 - Neath, Glamorgan - welsh
  • Thomas Thomas - sing - 65 - Ship carpenter - ret - Neath, Glamorgan - both
  • William Thomas - widr - 71 - hammerman tinplate works - ret - Whitechurch, Glamorgan - both
  • Eliza Mathais - sing - 31 - factory works - Glamorgan, BlaenP.... - Welsh
  • Margaret Thomas - sing - 32 - dom. serv - Pembrokshire (.....) - welsh
  • Annah Thomas - sing - 29 - dom ser - Glamorgan, Blaen..... - Welsh
  • Harriet Brooks - mar - 29 - gen ser. dom - Glamorgan, Abe.... - both
  • John Kelly - sing - 29 - lab - Ireland, County Cork - english
  • Thomas Jones - sing - 23 - lab - Monmouthshisre, Beaufort(sp) - English
  • John Welsh - sing - 44 - lab - Nors Deslex, Kralifax(???????) english
  • Joseph Chambers - sing - 21 -lab - Essex, Bigalon(sp) - English
  • James Roberts - sing - 48 - lab - Glamorgan, Cardiff - English
  • Lori Sparks - widr - 50 - lab - Cardiganshire - English
  • William Wright - sing - 21 -lab - Suffolk - English
  • James Clark - sing - 48 - Lab - Monmouthshire, Tredegar - English

[Sue Martin]

This adaptation from " History of the Vale of Neath " by D. Rhys Phillips is of interest to me because while the William Leyson mentioned was probably the brother of my ancestor Elizabeth Leyson, among the coppermen and colliers could have been some of my Poley and Owen and Jenkins ancestors.

William Leyson was one of the "Leisionaidd Nedd " an ancient Neath Valley family reputed to be descended from the 12th century Morgan ap Caradoc. Several of the family were customs officers and William had been appointed Deputy Searcher in the River of Neath in April 1770.

In October 1784, Richard Gough was sworn in as "coast waiter" at Neath in place of George Hutton , deceased, and in August 1786 he and William Leyson were involved in a riot at Neath Abbey about which they wrote this report :

" On Sunday the 20th of August, 1786, being waiting the Tyde and on the look out, we observed the Polly of Guernsey, John Brehent master, coming into the River and followed her to her moorings at the Abbey Copper Works near Neath, when we boarded her at about 4 o'clock in the Evening and upon examination finding in her Cabbin more than the customary allowance for sea Stock, we took possession of her but were prevented from making further search by the appearance of a LARGE MOB of Copper Men and Colliers who assembled round her and violently assaulting with Stones and other missile weapons threatened a rescue, our whole attention was now taken up in her defence and our own preservation; and finding their attempts at this time ineffectual we were kept upon the alarm till about 12 o'clock at night, when the Mob made a second attack and attempted to board her, but being provided with Fire Arms we were compelled to Us them in our defence and having with small shot fir'd amongst and wounded some of them, the assailants were dispersed and theattempt thereby frustrated"

[Brian Wagstaffe 25 Jan 2001 G]

Neath Abbey Iron Company , an extract from the 1842 Commisioners Report into Child labour:

The Neath Abbey Iron Company is an engine manufactory and contains a department for iron ship building . Our works have no special provisions for ventilation but they are sufficiently airy and the usual temperature of some 50 to 70 degrees nor is any great degree of heat required in those circumstances where the children are employed. Indeed, unless under particular circumstance, such as the inability of parents to support their children through sickness or any other cause, children are never employed at these works under 14 years of age nor is it indispensable that children should be employed at all.

There are three schools connected with the works. One for infants, one for boys of from 5 to 14 years of age and one for girls, conducted on the Lancastrian plan. To these schools each of the workmen contribute 1d. per week and they generally avail themselves of them by sending those of their children who are not old enough for work. The workmen have a reading society among themselves and the fines taken from some for bad behavior are applied as a sick fund for the use of others.

Of those children who are in work you will not find more than six who cannot read and write. Indeed in this particular quarter instruction is much more generally diffused and more interest is taken in the education of the working people and their children, than in many other parts of South Wales where there is a manufacturing population. We have about 170 adults at work now but when we are full of work we employ 260 to 300. Our two blast furnaces are not at work.

Number of person employed:

  • Adults 175
  • Under 18 years of age 47
  • Under 13 years of age 11

There are Interviews in the Report with following people:

  • Mr Charles Waring, Agent
  • Phillip Jones, aged 14, fetter tender
  • William Rees, aged 12, Moulder's attendant
  • John Jenkins, aged 13 general attendant
  • Thomas Morgan, aged 13, attendant at the furnace
  • John Howell,. aged 15
  • Thomas Davis, aged 12, attendant at the furnaces
  • William Davis, aged 11

[Sonia 12 March 2001 G]

Tin plate works in the Briton Ferry area

The old tinplate workers were not shy of walking so your ancestor may have travelled about a bit. One of our local villagers died last year aged 90 and he was a tinplate worker in the 1930`s. Work was difficult to come by at that time and he had his name down with lots of local tinworks. He recalled to me just before he died that he had worked in about 6 different tinplate works ranging in distance from Clyne ( about 2 miles North of his home) to Port Talbot ( about 7 miles in the other direction).

These are some of the likely Tinworks close to Briton Ferry area which were working in the 1870/80 period :

  • 1) Ferry Tinplate Works - founded 1860 ; closed 1882; reopened 1884 as the Vernon Tinplate Co.
  • 2) Melincryddan Tinplate Co. - founded 1864; also managed the tinplate decorating Works - founded 1872 & known as the "Japan".

In the late 1880`s /early 1890`s there was a considerable expansion with the opening of :

  • 3) Baglan Bay tinplate Co. ( 1891)
  • 4) Eagle Tinplate Co. (1891)
  • 5)Gwynne & Co. (1892)
  • 6) Villiers tinplate Co. (1888)
  • 7) Jersey Tinplate Co./ later The Wern Tinplate Co. ( 1891)

[Brian Wagstaffe 23 Feb 2002 G]

Follow up;

Clyne Tinplate Works

It was known as the Clyne (or Clun) Tinplate Works and was in the village of the same name. It operated from the 1880`s until the 1930`s. My wife`s grandmother worked there in the 1920`s. She would walk from the village of Abergarwed on the other side of the valley, crossing the River Neath at the old canal aquaduct. Nothing now remains of the works; the area has now been returned to fields.

If you go to a map site such as Bing then enter the postcode SA11 4ES .This is the postcode for the row of houses known as Cyd Terrace, which was built to house the Tinplate workers.

The road between Tonna and Resolven and the Neath Canal run immediately in front of these houses (towards the River) and the Neath Valley railway line runs behind them. The Tinplate Works was located next to the railway line and to the South of it in one of those fields shown (not sure exactly where),

[Brian Wagstaffe 23 Feb 2002 G]

Railways in Glamorgan

Taff Vale Railway staff rules

The 1856 rule book of the Taff Vale Railway stipulated that .....staff should keep their hair cut, were not to sing or whistle on duty, and should attend a place of worship on Sunday, 'as it will be the means of promotion when vacancies occur' ....and if you had a free pass, you had to ride 'in a sitting position on the floor of the fourth wagon from the rear of the train'.

From A Regional History of Railways Vol 12 South Wales D S M Barrie David & Charles 1980

[Steve Keates 9.4.2000 G]

Taff Vale Railway withdraws "staff perks" !

From PRO RAIL 1014/4/21 Taff Vale Railway Company

Letter regarding diarrheoa [sic] medicine

Taff Vale Railway Company, General Managers Office, Cardiff

19 July 1892

Dear Sir

It has been the practice, I believe for this Company to supply a medicine or Diarrhoea mixture to the men engaged in the various departments, but, as I find that this is not so in the case of the G.W.R. Co., nor the Rhymney and Barry Companies, I do not see why we should continue to supply such a medicine in future.

Kindly note, Yours truly, A. Beasley

To J. Brewer Esq. Engineer

From 'Railway Ancestors' David Hawkins Alan Sutton Publishing for PRO

[Steve Keates 10.4.2000 G]

The mobility of labour and the railway

'Whatever improvement in communication will enable the poor man.....to carry his labour, perhaps the only valuble property he possesses, to the best market, and where it is most wanted, must be a decided advantage, not only to him but to the community at large.'

Speech by Peel at Tamworth 1835 (Staffordshire Advertiser 19/12/1835)

[Steve Keates 13.4.2000 G]

Taff Vale Railway and congestion at Cardiff Docks causing difficult working hours....

'...it is not an infrequent thing for a train of coal coming from Pontypridd down to Cardiff, a distance of 12 or 13 miles, to be 8 or 9 hours on the journey.........simply from the congestion of traffic. It is no infrquent thing, I believe, for the enginemen to be 7 or 8 hours without moving a yard, waiting untill the line can be cleared.'

A quote from parliamentary papers of 1883

From The Taff Vale Railway D. S. Barrie Oakwood Press 1950

[Steve Keates 18.4.2000 G]

More from the Taff Vale rule book or 'local instructions'

94 All the Servants of the Company, are to place sand or gravel upon the rails, when they perceive, or hear that an Engine is slipping.

241 It is strictly forbidden that any Officer or Servant shall at anytime interfere in the least with matters of a political nature.

428 No person can become a Station Master..........unless he is married.

The most strange is that, given the way Welsh surnames developed, the Taff Vale Company in its wisdom states that .....'.no gang of men must include two of the same surname'

From The Taff Vale Railway D S Barrie Oakwood 1950

[Steve Keates 19.4.2000 G]

Slightly odd entries in the Taff Vale Railway Company accident book.

PRO RAIL 684/116

From the Register of Accidents to Company's Servants:

27/4/1904, Aberdare Goods Yard, Thos Ed Brimmell a guard employed at Cathays. Injured a finger (slight). Placing scotch under wheel of coach and his finger was caught between scotch and rail.

Waste of a good drink?

6/5/1904, Station Terrace Maerdy, Edgar Edmund Phillips a carriage cleaner at Maerdy Station. Sprain. Wheeling barrow load of parcels up a hill his nose began to bleed, he having sprained himself.

Slave driving?

From Railway Ancestors, David Hawkins, Alan Sutton 1995

[Steve Keates 19.4.2000 G]

Two fatal accidents on the Taff Vale Railway at Pontypridd

The Rhondda Cutting branch line was used to ease the working at Pontypridd passenger station, it.......'was used for reversing branch passenger trains. It was in the course of one such operation on 19 October 1878 that an empty passenger train which was backing on the wrong road from the North Junction to Rhondda Cutting Junction.......collided at the Cutting Junction with a Down Rhondda passenger train, causing thirteen fatal casualties. (The North Curve was finally closed on 5 August 1968)'.

'Only half a-mile or so north of Rhondda Cutting Junction there occurred another serious collision, at Coke Ovens on 23 January 1911, when a Down passenger train ran into the rear of a loaded coal train, and eleven people where killed'.

A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. Vol 12 South Wales D S M Barrie David St John 1994.

[Steve Keates 3.5.2000 G]

Taff Vale Railway-- Short extract from the payments book to various contractors.

Part of PRO doc ref RAIL 747/37 Whitlan and Taff Vale Railway Company Voucher Book

Maintenance Permanent Way

PAY BILL for the fortnight ending Friday 28th day of July 1876

Name Occupation Days Rate Amount Paid

Benjamin Jones Ganger 12 * 3s 4d = £2

Thomas Rowlands Repairer 8 * 2s 10d = £1 2s 8d

James Beynon " 11 1/2 *2s 10d = £1 12s 7d

Thomas Thomas " 11 1/2 *2s 10d = £1 12s 7d

Stephen Lewis " 4 * 2s 10d =11s 4d

John Gibbon Carpenter 12 * 4s 2d = £2 10s -

Daniel Rees Smith 12 * 4s = £2 8s -

Railway Ancestors David Hawkins Alen Sutton/PRO 1995

To try and put these wages into perspective I have used a price list of 1900, and the cost of living index for 1850 to 1914. Thus I have attempted to find the price of a loaf of bread in 1876.
By about 1900 to 1914 the cost of living index was down by about 18% from 1876 prices. So the price of bread in 1876 was I think about 10d for a large loaf. Tea about 1s 3d a lb.
These are only approx someone may have the real prices. I leave those interested to convert the wages and prices into todays money.

[Steve Keates 3.5.2000 G]

On early locomotive power in South Wales

Following a commission from Samuel Homfrey, an original partner in the Pen-y-darren Tramroad project of 1799, Richard Trevithick was given facilities to develop and build his experimental steam locomotive.........

'Homfrey.......had sufficient confidence in him, (Trevithick) to lay a bet of 500 guineas with Anthony Hill, the proprietor of the Plymouth Iron Works, that the locomotive would haul 10 tons of iron from Pen-y-darren to Abercynon. A successful trial trip was run on the 21 February 1804, thus securing for South Wales the distinction of staging the first occasion which a steam locomotive hauled a load (10 tons of iron and 70 men, all in or on 5 wagons) on rails'.

The Taff Vale Railway. D S Barrie. Oakwood 1950

[Steve Keates 3.5.2000 G]

In the beginning....

The Taff Vale Railway Company's Act received the Royal Assent on 21 June 1836, so incorporating the first public railway of any commercial importance in South Wales.

The Act....listing the Ironworks of Pen-y-darren, Dowlais and Plymouth, the Collieries of Lancaiach<sic> and the Tramroad to the Collieries at Dinas, also Cogan Pill on the Ely....all in the County of Glamorgan.....the railway....would be of great public convenience by opening an expeditious Means of Conveyance to the sea for extensive Mineral and other Produce of the places and Works above mentioned .....also for the carriage of the said Works from the Port of Cardiff of Iron Ore used in the Fabrication of Iron, and for the Conveyance of Passengers and Goods to and from the said Towns of Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff, and the several and immediate and adjacent Towns and Districts......

Under the Act of 1836 passenger fares were not to exceed 1 1/2d per mile.

Maximum speed was fixed at 12 mph. (repealed by the Taff Vale Amendment Act of 23 July 1840)

First stone was laid on the 16 August 1837 at Pontypridd by Lady Charlotte Guest, wife of the company chairman.

First section opened was 16 miles between Cardiff and Navigation House (Aberavon) on 9 October 1840.

[Steve Keates 5.5.2000 G]

Life before steam

Quoting from 'Pioneers of the Welsh Coal-Field' (1925) Dendy Marshall writes about Walter Coffin's railway built just after 1806:

..............'in a short time he constructed three miles of tramway, connecting Dinas with Dr Griffith's tramway at Gyfeillon, and thus was gained access to the canal at Treforest. For many years this tramway was the only communication link between the villages of the lower Rhondda and Pontypridd. It was a great convenience to the country folk and miners, and was the means of bringing much trade to Pontypridd. Up to that time Llantrisant had been the chief market-town within reach, but it was a weary way to tramp over the hills and return at night heavy laden, and the colliers wives welcomed the appearance of the tramway, which provided them with many a lift homewards'.

A History of British Railways down to the year 1830 Dendy C F Marshall, Oxford University Press 1938

[Steve Keates 8.5.2000 G]

From a flyer put out in November 1921

Saturday December 10th 1921

Northern Union International Rugby Match


at Pontypridd. Kick Off 2:30p.m.

Cheap Tickets will be issued to PONTYPRIDD

There follows a list of prices, Cardiff to Pontypridd costs 2s 6d

Children three and under twelve , half price. No luggage allowed.

The ultimate get out clause;

The Company do not undertake that the Trains shall start or arrive at the times specified, nor will they be accountable for any loss, inconvenience, injury which may arise in consequence of the wilful misconduct of the companies servants.

E. A. Prosser, General Manager.

Details thanks to The Taff Vale Miscellany John Hutton Oxford Publishing 1988

[Steve Keates 16.5.2000 G]

Mr Brunell himself

There was nothing Mr I. K. Brunell liked better than a good night out with the lads along with a fine cigar. He then had time to nip into the County Office where the clerks clearly worked all night (and that was a good week) as this extract from the Taff Vale Miscellany shows[ Steve]

' Mr I.K. Brunell, FRS engineer, deposited on the night, at the time of half past eleven, on the 30th of November in the year of 1835, with the Clerk of the Peace, of the county of Glamorgan, the completed, surveyed plans for the directors of the Taff Vale Railway Company, eventually resulting in the Royal Assent by his Gracious Majesty, King William IV, to the Act of Parliament, of 21st of June 1836.'

This extract is not credited by John Hutton in the above book but is used as part of the introduction.

[Steve Keates 25.5.2000 G]


Ebenezer Congregational church Grangetown Cardiff.

Here is a potted extract taken from a booklet on the 100 year history of the Ebenezer Congregational church Grangetown Cardiff.

<In the late 1800s in the West Dock of Cardiff, an old wooden war ship, called HMS Thisbe, was moored and used as a Church of England mission ship for dockworkers, pilots and boatmen etc. As a result of evangelical work carried on by the superintendent of the ship, Mr Gale, several channel pilots, boatmen and others connected with dock work were converted, and their lives completely changed. They were so full of this new found faith that their one desire was that others should share this conversion experience, so they gave their friends and colleagues no rest until they too came under the sound of the gospel. Blessing spread, and among those changed were a number of prominent men associated with the docks. Every Sunday evening an open air service was held on the old Pier Head which drew great crowds of people and as a result many were converted.

As the numbers of folk with the new found faith increased, Mr Gale left the Thisbe and hired a room in Stuart Street where the original group met, who later were to become Ebenezer assembly. A short while afterwards, two rooms were rented in Eleanor Place which were to become known as the "Seamen's Bethel". The larger room was situated above a stable, and as can be imagined during the summers months, with the animals housed beneath, the smell, noise and heat made the search for more congenial premises very urgent. In the other smaller room downstairs, various services were held and also a day school was commenced by Mr James Buck. In this building a good Sunday school was held, and a number of children and young people were also converted.

Mr Peter Evans commenced a Sunday School in Harrowby Street which was situated near the "old sea lock" near the entrance to the Glamorganshire Canal and this effort became known as "Auntie Ann's" because it was originally built as a shop and locally known as that. The room was regularly filled, and many persons were converted.

It was in "Auntie Ann's" that the first "mother's meeting" ever to be held by the Assemblies of Cardiff was commenced by Mrs Peter Evans. The services were held in the evenings, and Mrs Evans purchased material for the women to cut out clothes, and taught them to sew for their families. Before the ladies left, she always had reading from the Bible and prayer with them.

Soon another outreach effort was commenced at the docks. The assembly at Eleanor Place had two houses in Evelyn Street knocked into one, and from there they carried on a fine Gospel and Sunday school work. In addition, open air services were held in the streets of the docks area and many as a result were brought into the regular indoor services. At both Eleanor Place and Evelyn Street throughout the winter, a number of special services were held, and as a result of these, the number in the fellowship became greater. After 25 years or so, the old meeting room fell into a bad state of repair, and the church members considered it advisable to search for new premises.

At about this time the Grangetown area was rapidly developing as a residential area, and it was felt that this could be the possible location of a new building. A new bridge , to be known as Clarence Road Bridge over the River Taff, to replace the old ferryboat crossing, was planned, a proposal which gave further impetus to the suggestion that the new hall should be located in the Grangetown area.

The main thoroughfare from the docks through Grangetown to the Town centre was Corporation Road. In the late 1800s the tide came right up to the east side of Corporation Road, (in front of the present building) and there were only a few houses built on the end of Corporation Road. There was a good site available on the west side of Corporation Road (where Ebenezer is now). In the late 1800s the area located behind Ebenezer was ear-marked for approximately 600 houses. Furthermore, there was a scheme to reclaim much of the low lying tide field in front of Corporation Road on which a large number of houses would be built.

Also, on the area between the Glamorgan Canal and the River Taff, a considerable number of houses were to be erected. These facts reinforced the conviction that Ebenezer should be sited where it stands at present.

The original architect's drawing showed a large single storey building able to accommodate approximately 500 people in the main area. Work soon commenced, but during the early days, after the foundations of the original building were constructed, a number of members of Ebenezer went up into the town centre to attend some conference meetings. Here they were very impressed with the fact that the building in which these meetings were accommodated, had a large basement which was extremely useful as an area for providing teas etc. Resulting from this, and after much discussion, it was agreed to include a basement in Ebenezer similar in size to the main hall. The architects drawings were altered for the sum of 15 shillings (75 pence) and the building work revised to include the basement, (this is the reason there are wide ledges running around the sides of the present basement as they were the original foundations of the intended single storey building.)

Ebenezer Hall was opened on 5th October 1899 at a cost of £1,250.00 which was no mean sum in those days (a week's wage then was probably in the order of £1.50). When the hall was opened, one of the speakers noting the large structure and the absence of houses in the front and the rear, reckoned that it would be a "white elephant". One year after the building was opened, the register of those in fellowship at Ebenezer was 61.>

[Phil T.C.M G 26 Oct 2001]


This is a copy of the details of a brass plaque witch is now in the Western Power offices in Church Village must have originally been in Cardiff?















[Doug G 1 Nov 2001]


A hint of what matters exercised religious minds in 1756.

At an annual meeting of ministers held at Rhydymaerdy [Independent chapel] , parish of Loughor, in 1756 it was resolved

"1.To have a day of fasting and prayer in the various churches every 3 months on account of the erronious times, the religious sluggishness among the nonconformists; to wish the blessing of the Lord on the arms of England in the present war with France, our common enemy [The Seven Year War 1756-63]; to request the influence of the Spirit in the conversion of the black men in the West Indies, and to thank God for those already converted.

2.To keep to the correct teaching in our churches and be more diligent to questioning our people."

[From The History of Brynteg, Gorseinon [Independent chapel] By John Ceri Williams and D. Tom Davies Translated by Ivor Griffiths Gareth G/D 6 Nov 2001]