Four generations of clockmaking in the Swansea Valley


Ystalyfera  3

Contributed by Anna Brueton, with help from the Clatworthy clan (Nov 2004)

Clock face

Thomas Clatworthy, the son of a Somerset miller, set up his clockmaking business in Ystradgynlais around 1848, expanding to include beer-selling a few years later.  He subsequently moved to Ystalyfera, where he continued in his dual role as clockmaker and publican, first at the Queen's Arms, Upper District, and then the Victoria Arms, Wern Road.  In this period, the business sold and repaired longcase and wall clocks and watches, assembled from components bought in from Birmingham and cases from Bristol.

The longcase clock illustrated comes from his period at Ystradgynlais.


Shop 1

From 1879 one of his sons, also Thomas, set up on his own account, first in Alltwen, and from the late 1880s in Herbert Street, Pontardawe.  

This picture shows the Pontardawe shop around 1901




Thomas senior died in 1897, leaving his stock to son Thomas, and his tools to a grandson, Thomas Llewelyn Clatworthy.  In the early twentieth century, the children of the son Thomas Clatworthy opened shops in Clydach, Brynaman and Gorseinon, though the latter two were short-lived. Following the death of Thomas in 1925, his son Benjamin, shown here at his work bench, took over the Pontardawe shop.
During this period few clocks were being made, but repairs were an important part of the business; Benjamin travelled to places such as cinemas and public houses, and also to private customers to ensure their clocks were kept in good order. Watches and jewellery were the main lines sold, and Benjamin also practised as an optician.



Shop 2

In 1903 Benjamin's cousin Thomas Llewelyn Clatworthy opened his business in Commercial Street, Ystalyfera, later adding a branch in Ystradgynlais.  An enthusiastic cyclist, Thomas Llewelyn also sold bicycles.
A "Christmas Shopping" edition of the South Wales Voice here illustrates the Ystalyfera shop in 1928.
The paper's upbeat tone belies the down-turn in trade around that time due to the depression in the coal-mining areas.  By the early 1930s, Thomas Llewelyn had moved the business to Pwllheli, where it continued until his death in 1940.

( By permission of the British Library "South Wales Voice 15.12.1928. Mr T L Clatworthy's shop")  


Shop 3

Benjamin Clatworthy's daughter Esme continued to run the Pontardawe shop until the 1980s, the last jewellers' shop in the Swansea Valley. After she sold up, the building became a wine bar, The Pink Geranium.  

The picture of Esme outside the shop in 1974 shows the shop front little changed since the beginning of the century.