Ghosts of Neath
It is great to report that the Society returned to the newly refurbished church hall to hear this month’s speaker Mr Robert King, the author of the book “Haunted Neath”. Mr King is a resident of Abergarwed, therefore was hardly a stranger to the large audience. He explained that he considered the subject of his talk to be a “daft”, topic for a history society, however he was intrigued as to how many invitations had come his way to speak on the ghosts of Neath. He explained that even burly policemen could be reduced to jelly, by some eerie bumps in the night in a Skewen cemetery and that he had accumulated hundreds of tales over the years.
|Robert leading a ghost walk in Neath|
|Winfred Coombe Tennant and Lloyd George|
Mr King explained that most of the episodes seemed to come from the Victorian period. Writers such as Dickens had often referred to ghosts and ghouls in his stories and the reference to the world of ghosts and the embellishment of those stories was typical of the period. He then referred to Winifred Coombe-Tennant of Cadoxton Lodge (now Stanley Place) who led a double life as a psychic called Madam Willett. Luminaries such as George Bernard Shaw and Lloyd George visited her in Neath for séances to “raise” ghosts. Mr King added that he had visited the ruin of Cadoxton Lodge as a child and had a strange experience there.
He then turned to the unexplained events in the area, and it is worth noting that these were in the main, recent in origin. He turned first to Resolven itself and the tale of “the girl in a red coat”. A motorist one evening, gave a lift to a girl whose clothes were sopping wet to the village. Leaving the car she opened the door and entered one of the council houses, and disappeared inside. The following day, the motorist realised that she had left her umbrella in his vehicle and returned it to the house. On knocking the door, the resident who answered stated that the umbrella belonged to his daughter who had died six months previously.
Mr King then turned his attention to some iconic buildings in the town of Neath which he uses for his popular ghost walks. He began by referring to the Castle Hotel (originally the Ship and Castle, Ed.).The ancient building had once been described by the Sun newspaper as the most haunted building in Wales, following one of his reports. He explained that the building, which was built in 1695,was originally closer to the docks and a tunnel was reputedly said to run to the river, and may have been used for contraband. The ghost tale referred to a hound howling, a noise which has been heard by many of the staff over the years.
Ty Mawr in Neath Abbey, was the home of Joseph Tregelles-Price who owned the Neath Abbey Ironworks. A devout Quaker family, Mr King was baffled as to why the house should be associated with the “other world”. However, recent owners had been troubled by ghosts, apparitions and unexplained events. The house had been exorcised by an Anglican priest but the trouble has not fully disappeared.
The area around Church Place in Neath, was also renowned for an apparition which appeared to walk below the present pavement and into the premises of a well-known firm of solicitors. This might be explained by the “fact” that the ghost was walking along the original surface of the road ( a similar story has been heard in Abergarwed, Ed). The offices were once the location of a police cell (see the article on Neath Borough Police, Ed.) and the story of the ghost apparently caused fear among the staff. Later, the owner found legal documents disturbed in a secure vault. Strangely, most of the stories would appear to happen during the day rather than the night which is contrary to what would be expected from popular cultural depiction.
Finally, Mr King turned to the area between the old workhouse (now a Vet’s) in Pen-y-dre, and the large town cemetery at Llantwit . A tale referred to a young couple visiting a grave at the cemetery and their child refusing to leave because he was playing with another child. On later inspection, it appears that this was the grave of a four year old girl.
Mr Gwyn Thomas in his vote of thanks to Mr King, invited members of the audience to add any stories of their own. Tales of miserly ghosts and buried gold sovereigns in the “Mera” area of Neath alongside child conversations with recently deceased relatives were forthcoming. He told the members to read the blog which he was assured would be “ghost written”.