Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Unexpected family connections

The opening meeting of 2018 proved something of a disappointment in that the Society's President's annual talk was cancelled owing to ill health. Phylip is on the mend and is now home from hospital, hopefully normal service will be resumed in 2019.

The attendance itself was rather disappointing with the ravages of inclement weather, long term illness and the normal coughs and sneezes reducing the number of members present. It was therefore left to the Secretary to deputise for the advertised speaker with a talk on the Anthracite Strike of 1925 based on a dispute in the Aman valley. It would be improper for the author of this piece to give a precis of the contents of this very interesting if little known dispute, since he also doubles as the Secretary of the Society and keeper of this blog. However, since the Vale of Neath and the Dulais valley played a notable part in this dispute it was very interesting that several of those present remembered fragments of the strike from the recollections of their parents. Indeed, Professor Hywel Francis, the main academic researcher into this dispute had obviously delved deeply into the first hand evidence given by the inhabitants of the Dulais valley, notably his father the famous NUM leader Dai Francis. The work of the Amman Valley History Society had also been crucial in keeping the memory of the anthracite strike alive.

If anyone would like a transcript of the content a similar talk then it is available on the Resolven and District News site  November archive, in an excellent article by Diane Sims.

Next month's speaker is Mr Huw Williams, who will give a talk on the history of the Cynon valley - "Sweet Ber Dare".

Friday, December 29, 2017

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda - January Meeting


January MEETing

Mr Phylip Jones – a local Theme

Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Church hall on MondAY  8th January 2018

Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)

Visitors: £3.

Croeso cynnes i Bawb

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What does deltiology mean Santa?

DELTIOLOGY: A study of Postcards 
The History Society held their annual members night on December 12th despite the inclement weather with temperatures plunging below zero. This undoubtedly affected attendance  ,  along with illness to some of our key members.

The evening began with an address by William Willis on his new book “Resolven – Then and Now ”. He explained that his main motivation for compiling this pictorial history on Resolven mainly since the second world war had been his realisation that many of the photographic record of daily life in the village was being lost as residents passed on and house clearances were simply throwing valuable historic material in the municipal skip. He also explained that features which we now view as normal quickly dissipate when shops change hands and people are unable to give a name to a character in a photograph. He also explained, that the digitalised nature of modern printing meant that everything had to be prepared in digital format and that the printer literally only produced what you had written without the need to proof read. This in his view put extra pressure on the author especially one with little experience of the format. The book has already been a roaring success with over 400 copies already being sold in the run up to Christmas.

The second contribution came from Trefor Jones. He took “The Power of 7”, as his theme. He related that 2017 was a year very rich in anniversaries, perhaps unusually so. His talk ranged from the protestant reformation, to the Russian revolutions, the NHS and the dawn of devolution in Wales.

A cameo performance by David Woosnam amounted to a Q&A session regarding who had been his famous celebrity schoolmate. Following some heavy clues, it appears that David Hamilton had the honour of being in school with another (now) Resolven based David.

Deltiology is a term which is largely unrecognised. However, Barry Flynn explained that he was a deltiologist or in common parlance a collector of post cards. He showed several albums of a collection which he had amassed over a period of some fifty years. He explained that the advent of the internet had made collection more problematic since it was quite easy to download common postcards from the web. He also stated that it was regrettable ( as was stated earlier by William Willis) that so many collections were simply being dumped.

Following some festive fare and mulled wine, the members settled down to the annual quiz. Following a request, there were some changes this year, and chocolates were not to be catapulted around the room!! Instead a team quiz based on the rules of Brain of Britain was to be used. Three correct answers from the same team resulted in the winning of a bonus Christmas cracker, which was to be taken into account in the final score. In the end TEAM A beat TEAM B by 25 points and three crackers, to 16 points and two crackers.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Members Night

december MEETing

members night

Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Church hall on MondAY  11th december

Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)

Visitors: £3.

Croeso cynnes i Bawb

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jacobitism in South Wales

"Bonnie Prince Charlie"
Charles Edward Stuart

This month’s speaker was Mr Steve David of Bryncoch, who has spoken to the Society on several occasions. Mr David took Jacobitism as his theme and began by asking the central question as to where “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, was born? Several answers were offered including Scotland and France. The correct answer, Rome, was the prelude for a very illuminating talk on the issue of Jacobitism which spread far further and deeper than the romanticism of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stephenson.

Richard Gwynne, President of the Society of Sea Sergeants which met until 1762.
Mr David gave a detailed explanation as to how Jacobitism arose owing to the combination of an untidy succession of Stuart monarchs leading to the joint reign of William and Mary following the “Glorious and Bloodless Revolution”, of 1688. The Act of Succession of 1701 ensured that there had to be a Protestant monarch. The deposed James the Second’s son, James Edward Stuart, lived in Rome as “the Prince across the Water”. He was acknowledged as the legitimate successor and Prince of Wales, by the Jacobites and as the “Old Pretender”, by the supporters of the Hanoverian Succession of 1714. Queen Anne was the last of the Stuarts and the solidly protestant German speaking Hanoverian , George the First, (despite being 17th in line to the throne) was invited to take the British throne. Therefore in essence Jacobitism  far from being a restoration of Roman Catholicism was more a battle between the old established order personified by the Tories and the new one identified by the Whigs. The issue of the Old and New pretenders, in James Edward Stuart and his son Charles Edward Stuart, would not subside until George the Third came to the throne as an English speaking and more importantly English born King in 1760.

Glamorgan today would be associated with nonconformity however in the 16th and 17th centuries there were few dissenting chapels, only six in Neath. Each chapel had to be sited at least three miles from a church. Attendance at Anglican services was mandatory and the traditional ruling Tory elite families: the Mansells, Kemeys, Stradling and  Evans amongst others held sway. However in Neath the Shropshire born Mackworth family came to the Gnoll Estate in 1696 when Sir Humphrey Mackworth married the heiress Mary Evans. The Mackworths were viewed as interlopers but the Gnoll estate had coal, copper and limestone and the shrewd use of leases gave the estate an income to rival the Mansells of £4,000 per annum. Historical records indicate that the Mackworth’s despite their wealth were rather shunned socially by the established families. Eventually, Humphrey Mackworth had the audacity to challenge the Mansells for the parliamentary seat of West Gamorgan for the Whigs in 1712. The Mansells plied the tiny electorate with drink for three days prior to the election and held the seat. However, the threat was there and the Tories were on the side of the “King across the water”.

For the following 40 years and the successive Jacobite rebellions, a secret Jacobite society existed in south Wales, “The Society of Sea Sergeants”. In the north of Wales, Watcyn Williams Wyn led a similar society, "the Society of the White Rose".The Sergeants  met on board a yacht four times a year, had a banquet of twelve courses and made Jacobite toasts over a glass of water symbolic of the "King across the water" . Clandestinely they surveyed the ports of the area for the use of an invasion force. Indeed, the recently renovated Llanelly House in Llanelli has the emblem of the Society emblazoned in the forms of letters S on its walls. However, they made sure that their secret plotting was not discovered, indeed few made the journey to England in order to join either pretenders when given the chance. In defiance, the industrialist William Morris (who gave his name to Morriston) raised a company of men to fight for the Protestant succession and to defend the ports in the area. 

Mr Trefor Jones, in the unfortunate absence of both Chairman and President gave the vote of thanks and stated how the present Brexit machinations and its vested interests mirrored much of the chicanery of the Jacobite period. He also thanked Mr David for an inspired talk on a little known subject.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

November Meeting

 November MEETing :

Mr STEVE DAVID – “Jacobitism in south wales”

Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Church hall on MondAY  13th  november.

Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)

Visitors: £3.

Croeso cynnes i Bawb

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The origins of copper working in Swansea

The terms “Copper Quarter!”, and “Copperopolis”, are terms which are well known today and synonymous with the Swansea area, however the origins of why Swansea enjoys this association is less well appreciated. Luckily, this month’s speaker Peter Rees of Swansea Outreach Speakers was able to more than supply the answer.

Mr Rees began his talk by paying tribute to the massive contribution which the Swansea Valley had played in the metallurgical story of the industrial revolution. The area was not only known for copper smelting but also zinc, lead, iron/steel, nickel, cobalt, gold and silver. The galvanised zinc sheets produced in Swansea had literally roofed the Caribbean much as the slates of North Wales had roofed much of Europe. The question why, lay much further in the past than Dr John Lane’s first modern copper smelting works in Landore in 1717.

Remains of  copper works at Aberdulais
The area had several geographical features which made the smelting of metals easier here than elsewhere. Firstly, the southern limb of the coal measures outcropped between Aberafon and the Loughor estuary. This made extraction relatively easy and secondly in the absence of adequate roads, transport was possible by boat along the Tawe, Neath and Loughor rivers.  As early as 1249, some 150 tons of coal was leaving Swansea and this rose to 5,000 tons by 1500. The third locational advantage was that of coal itself which provided the energy for the smelting. Four tons of coal were needed for every one ton of copper ore so the relative difficulty in transportation meant that it was easier to bring the copper ore to the coal.

The Elizabethan age, heralded a new demand for copper. Elizabeth the First who came to the throne in 1558, was threatened by papist armies on the continent of Europe ten times in number of her own forces. Luckily the sea provided a defence and she gave patronage to some highly able ( some might say disreputable privateers) such as Drake, Frobisher, Raleigh and Rawlins to form the basis of a nascent Royal Navy. However, a supply of copper was essential, both to manufacture cannon from brass (bell making technology). Unfortunately, the Hanseatic League dominated the Baltic ports and could ask a high price for copper (literally a Queen’s ransom, Ed) which meant that she needed a new strategy. The astute Elizabeth recruited 300 copper smelters from Bavaria who had the expertise to begin an English copper industry. Following surveying in Kendal , the search for a suitable site brought the German smelters to the Neath area and a copper works was established in secret at Aberdulais, where the first manager was one Ulrich Frosse. The locally available ore and coal, plus the power of the Dulais river to run a water wheel and bellows made the location an ideal one. The plant worked at its Aberdulais location for over a century and certainly played an invaluable part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Tall chimneys of reverbatory furnaces
New reserves of copper were found in Cornwall, Dorset,County Wicklow and of course Parys Mountain on Ynys Môn.  In 1688 a new design was patented by Sir Clement Clerke and his son Talbot from Avon for the production of copper – the Reverberatory furnace. This design did not need bellows and a tall chimney was used instead. By the 1800s the Swansea area had 16 copper works, there was also one in Neath at Melincryddan ( Eaglesbush) and others in the Llanelli area.  Robert Morris , bought out John Lane and became a metal magnate, giving his name to Morriston. In 1810, Swansea produced 65,000 tons of copper which equated to 72% of world production. Copperopolis now set the world price of copper in a building which stood on the site of the now Sainsbury’s supermarket.
Mynydd  Parys Mountain

There was a very buoyant market for the copper since the Royal Navy and trading ships needed copper sheeting to stop barnacles developing on the hull of ships, thus slowing the vessel. It also stopped the notorious teredo navalis (worm) from rotting the timbers in tropical waters.  A less commendable aspect of this development was Swansea’s undoubted role in the slave trade centred on the port of Bristol.  It is interesting that none of the main industrialists were originally Welsh , Morris was English and both the Vivians and Grevilles  (of the White Rock Works  – now the Liberty Stadium Ed. ) were of Cornish extraction, though their legacy is still evident in Swansea and their collective wealth would now be valued in many billions of pounds.

The population of the Swansea area grew rapidly, from 7000 inhabitants in 1801 to 72,000 in 1891. It also gave rise to a very proud worker “The Copperman”, who expertly tapped the furnaces and attracted migrants in droves from the surrounding areas to adopt the skill. However, the work was extremely poisonous and it was unlikely that the worker would live longer than forty five years.  Another notable feature of the copper industry was that owner and worker were often seen together on the shop floor trying to improve the techniques and processes of manufacture.

Swansea barques
Inevitably, the Swansea copper industry went into decline after 1860. Local ores were worked out or poor with foreign ore substituting from Cuba or Spain. Later the Swansea barques (manufactured in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia) made the perilous journey to Chile around Cape Horn and even Australia. They were lined with wood to stop the corrosion of the copper ore in transit. Inevitably, despite the world beating expertise in Swansea, the source areas began their own production centres often “head hunting”, the Swansea copper men for their own purposes. The last copper works shut in Swansea in 1923, though production of copper goods maintained until the 1960s in the area. However, Ludwig Mond, set up the famous, and still surviving Mond Nickel Works in Clydach in 1902 owing to the skills in metallurgical trades latent in the Swansea area.

Following a short question and answer session, Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Rees for a fascinating insight into the history of Swansea copper.

The Wonders of the Web of Time

They say that you are only six (or is it seven steps) from anyone else in the world. With the advent of the world-wide web we are all far closer than ever. Paul Bailey and his wife Julia of North Carolina in the USA, were coming to Wales in order to enjoy the tourist delights of our wonderful country but also to find the family roots of Doctor Bailey whose great grandparents hail from the Neath area.

Paul and Julia Bailey at Manteg
A Facebook search asking for some assistance with their task was sent to the Resolven District News and the Resolven Community Council web sites. To cut a long story short, Trefor Jones current Chair of the Community Council and long serving secretary of the Resolven History Society was contacted to meet them. On Monday, September 18th they met with Trefor outside the erstwhile Sion Chapel now the Community Centre. However, they had already been met by the residents of Tan-y-Rhiw (formerly Chapel Row) and next door to Paul’s great grandfather’s house which it is now assumed to have been demolished (Chapel House Ed.) . A whistle stop tour then ensued, firstly of the now renovated chapel which includes the gravestone of the Morgan family, and where Paul’s ancestors were members and his great grandfather a deacon. This was followed by a historical tour of the Resolven area including the canal and what remains of the hamlet of Ynysfach. It appears that Paul’s great grandmother was an orphan who had spent her early life in the workhouse in Neath “Llety Nedd”. They subsequently made two visits to the now Vet’s surgery and saw some children’s clothes from the period. On the way back to their car parked in Resolven, they visited “Sgwd Rhyd yr Hesg”, (Melincwrt falls) and finished their initial visit at Capel Melincwrt (built 1799). By sheer chance, (the chapel which is only used very infrequently), had a harvest service that afternoon and Mr Roy Joseph was delighted to open the chapel and let our visitors experience the inside of a genuine 18th century independent chapel almost as old as the USA itself.

Their second visit to Resolven occurred on the Wednesday of the same week when the Baileys visited Manteg, the home of Mr and Mrs Phylip Jones, and of course President of the History Society. Phylip is literally the 'keeper of records' for the Resolven area and had already prepared a family tree much to the delight of Paul Bailey. Phylip was also able to fill and verify in some of the gaps left in his internet led research. This also led subsequently to other successful leads to Llandyfaelog in Carmarthenshire and the graveyard of St David’s Church in Resolven. They concluded with a visit to Glyncastle and the site of Ty’n-y-Cwm farm which was originally the family home. A subsequent visit unearthed some more details and the location of the family graves.

To show his appreciation of the help he had received, Paul gave a generous donation to the History Society and to the Community Council. It is to be hoped that the Baileys will maintain their association with the area and feel that this is now very much their ancestral home.
Ed: Paul has promised us some photographs of his visit which I will post on the blog.
UPDATE: Paul Bailey has been in touch and has promised more information. He also thanked everyone for making his visit a success.
Paul Bailey's great grandfather John Morgan.