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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Swansea in the Great War


A report on the meeting of Resolven History Society on Monday 11th October

Mao Zedong, as well as having his name appearing in several different versions is also misquoted as saying that “the first step in a long journey is the first”. He actually said that the first step was the first in 10,000 to take over the country which you may agree has a slightly different meaning. However, the first step of reviving the activity of the Society took place this week following the pandemic, which is the worst to hit the world in a century and a historic event in itself.

Not surprisingly, the audience in the church hall was far smaller than normal, and Covid-19 restrictions meant that the layout of the hall was different, however the engine had started and we were on our way. As speaker, Bernard Lewis from Cimla remarked, he had spoken to smaller audiences in the past and so long as those present enjoyed what was said, then he had done his part in the proceedings.

Mr Lewis, who has visited the Society twice before ,took “Swansea during the Great War” as his topic and explored several aspects of everyday life in the (then ) town.

On the fourth of August 1914, Charlie Chaplin’s latest film was about to be shown at the Albert Hall in Swansea. The showing was interrupted by a notice that war with Germany had commenced. The Mayor, Thomas Taliesyn Coaker , immediately made a plea for the formation of a “pals battalion” and requested a force of 1200 men. However, many had already volunteered with other regiments and despite recruiting attempts such as military bands, it stood at only 500 men, before being sent to Rhyl to prepare for the front.

Swansea has many conscientious objectors during the war. Some, such as John Oliver Watkins, a Quaker, opted instead to act as a stretcher bearer by joining the “Friends Ambulance” in France.  He eventually joined a French equivalent and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery.

Enemy aliens who were in Swansea, such as Carl Oscar Roth a sausage factory owner were rounded up and many were sent to the Isle of Man as internees. Conditions were not good and resulted in riots in Douglas with several deaths. Refugees from Belgium , began arriving and there were 350 in the town by 1915, housed in Maesteg House and the YMCA.  The YMCA also acted as a hospital with 20 beds. Penrice Castle was used as a convalescent home for Australian officers as demanded by the Talbots of Margam for an unclear reason.

Despite being a port, Swansea’s traffic in merchandise dipped terrifically during the war, since the U Boat campaign was ravaging the merchant fleet. This caused inflation in the price of goods and food, with stagnant wages leading to strikes in local factories. Indeed Lloyd George came to Swansea to implore the workers to return to work. This was accompanied by the introduction of rationing by 1916, with shortages of butter, flour and margarine. Potatoes were also in very short supply and were sold in lots of 4lb. However, the Belgian fishermen ensured that there was still plenty of fish! Swansea Council introduced a “Grow your own”, scheme and a “make do”, effort for the population to make the best of their plight. Pigs were allowed to be kept in gardens and rabbits were sought all over Gower as a source of meat. Owing to conscription, there was shortage of bread since the number of bakers had halved.

As on the second world war . The role of women changed completely as they were brought into the factories and even formed a version of the police force , to stop “giddy young girls “, being lured by soldiers returning from the front in the rough streets of Swansea.  As today, women’s football became popular and drew large crowds.

The population were busy in raising funds for the war effort. Carnivals an whist drives were popular, and free entry to special clubs for servicemen to be fed were common, with the YMCA feeding some 30,000 during the war, by day and night. !00,000 cigarettes were sent to the front and sometimes the prizes from raffles were rather bizarre, such as “ten tons of slag”. Wounded sioldiers also attended the college in Swansea for retraining.

Two VCs were awarded to men from Swansea during the Great War. Thomas Fuller , was the soldier who carried the dying Mark Rider Haggard of Rheola House from the front. Haggard’s name is featured on the war memorial in Resolven, and was from the same family as the author of “King Solomon’s Mines”. In all, some 3,000 casualties of the war came from Swansea, though the war memorial in the now City, only shows 2,300 owing to the fact that so many served in other regiments.

Mr David Woosnam, thanked Mr Lewis for a memorable talk. In a lengthy question and answer session it was noted that many of the mistakes and lessons of the Great War were adopted early in 1939, such as rationing and conscription.

Trefor Jones.





Thursday, September 23, 2021



Please make every effort to attend. Quite a few members have already given their apologies.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Annual Meeting


A Report on the Annual Meeting of Resolfen History Society .

After a hiatus of over two years, the History Society held an annual meeting at the Church Hall. It was encouraging that nine members were able to attend and several others sent apologies. It should be pointed out to anyone intending to return that strict measures regarding the prevention of Covid-19 are still in place within the building.

The meeting began, by remembering those who had passed away during the two years, especially Mr Gwyn Thomas the Society President and Mrs Mair Norton the former Treasurer. They will both be sadly missed and their contribution to the continuation of a History Society within the village for nigh on forty years was immense.

A new committee was elected with Trefor Jones relinquishing the Chair in order to return to his former role as General Secretary. Mr David Woosnam will now be Chairman, Julie Hicks will continue as the long serving treasurer and Jill Saunders will continue as Assistant Secretary. Val Davies will continue as Transport Secretary and the general committee includes Barbara Harris, Caryl Rees, Carole and David Jefferies.

Following a short address by the outgoing chairman, there was a general discussion on the way forward for the Society. Meetings will proceed as before on a monthly basis, but since speakers are difficult to find at the moment, this will vary in content and form . It was felt that a “workshop” approach to the history of the village would be beneficial and possibly a Q&A format for those who would not want to give a formal talk or lecture. It was felt that this would appeal to a wider audience and crucially involve more younger people in a slightly more rigorous approach to history since evidence showed from social media that there was a great deal of interest in local history.

The meeting concluded with another reading from the autobiography of Joseph Cookson, who lived and worked in the area in the 1920s. The episode concerned the changing of working in a small level above Clyne and changing to work at the more mechanised Gored Merthyr colliery. Despite being the best worker in the pit in his opinion, he remained on a junior minimum wage until becoming a fully-fledged collier at twenty one year of age. A problem with a coal cutter led to a remonstration with Mr Lloyd the under manager over pay, this resulted in Joe getting split form his “butty”, Dai Francis who in fact turned out to be Jill Saunders’s grandfather , much to her delight. He also seemed to be suffering from the long term after effects of the Spanish flu, reminiscent of the so called “long Covid”, which is prevalent at present.

Plus ca change/ nothing changes/ dim byd newydd?

Trefor Jones



Monday, September 06, 2021

Annual Meeting



Friday, August 20, 2021

We are back!!!!/ Y Gymdeithas yn adfywio!!!

 Following a well attended meeting of the Committee ion Monday 16th August , it was decided to recommence activities with an annual meeting. Please come along, we all face a challenge in getting the Society back on its feet following the pandemic. Once the formalities are over it is intended to have a general discussion as to how we proceed. It is YOUR society and we have been in existence for very nearly forty years a little bit of history in itself. 

Dewch yn llu.


Monday, August 02, 2021

The end of the hiatus

 Members must be wondering when the activities of the Society will be recommencing. It is now seventeen months since we had to curtail all meetings owing to the Covid 19 pandemic. However, it appears that most restrictions will be lifted next week and we can at least look forward to having an annual meeting at least. Please keep a close eye on the weblog for developments. 

At the end of the day , it is your Society and how it develops is up to you. In some ways this offers opportunities as well as challenges and a chance for new ideas as to how we promote history in our community.

Cofion gorau.

Trefor. ( Chair).

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Fair View and Llwyn Helig , confusion resolved.

The Society recently received this mail from Mr John Lewis of Hertford, Herts,  who has strong links to the village of Resolven. 

Dear Trefor Jones

 I contacted you by telephone 2 weeks ago and must apologise for taking so long to get back to you. I have been dealing with a medical emergency.


I am attaching a letter (pdf file) and an image (jpg file) that I hope you will consider for publication on your excellent website for the Resolven History Society.


All the best for now.


John Lewis

The contents of the letter are transcribed below.

Dear Trefor Jones,

I am writing to provide further information concerning the two houses on Glynneath Road, on the way to Abergarwed, destroyed by a landslip in 1965. This event was recalled on your website in February 2016 and again in February 2020, when you published a letter by Anne Thorne correctly naming the houses involved  as Llwyn Helig and Fair View, not "Hirwaun cottages" as previously incorrectly reported which was further along the road towards Resolven.

Llwyn Helig was the home of Thomas Llewelyn and his family , and Fair View was the home of my maternal grandparents Sydney and Olive Willett and their family . The houses were built by my grandfather who was skilled in masonry. My grandmother was Thomas Llewelyn's sister and my mother was one of the children raised at Fair View. I visited both houses and stayed at Fair View with my parents for holidays in the 1940s and 50s.

Fortunately a part of the original plans of the two houses drawn on drafting linen has survived and passed down to me through the family. I attach a scanned copy of the front elevation. Llwyn Helig on the left and Fair View on the right. The plans are dated from October 1910 , so the houses would not have been occupied before then. The 1911 Census shows that both families were resident in Company Street, Resolven in April 1911.

I hope the information will be of interest to the readers of your website. Some may remember the houses before they were destroyed in the landslip of 1965.

Kind regards,

John Lewis .

Many thanks to Mr Lewis and Mrs Thorne for clearing this up, once and for all. !!!