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, April 16, 2014


The editor has noticed that the number of comments has dried up in recent weeks, despite the traffic on the site remaining steady. If you have placed a comment on the site and it has not appeared and know our personal contact details could you let us know.



Update: Many thanks to Richard Hopkins, who has solved the problem. Keep the comments coming, we seem to have new readers in Ukraine - esbima.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Battle Against Apartheid

April Meeting: The history of Apartheid.

It was gratifying to see the new temporary base of the Society at the Community Centre full for the Noel Thomas Memorial Lecture, given by Neath MP, Mr Peter Hain. Mr Trefor Jones opened the meeting, by stating that Mr Hain needed to introduction, since he had been a Resolven resident for many years.
Mr Hain, thanked the Society for the invitation to come to give the Noel Thomas lecture and stated his admiration for the work done by the History Society over many years. He began, by referring to his parents, both now residents of the Vale of Neath and their personal struggle against the apartheid regime, which had led to their deportation from South Africa in 1966. He stated that they were both born in South Africa but were of British ancestry.
The origins of Apartheid, which became an official policy in 1948, could be found in the imperial history of the country. The two major colonisers, the Dutch East India Company on the Cape and later the British around Johannesburg had one objective which was the subjugation of the native peoples and the exploitation of the riches of the country. Afrikaans, itself which Mr Hain described as closest to Flemish of the modern European languages, had also caused a “lager” mentality among the Boers. This led to the Great Trek in the mid nineteenth century as they attempted to preserve their own culture against the infiltration of English culture. Indeed, it was his empathy for the  insecurity of the Boers that Nelson Mandela was later to use most successfully in building the nascent “Rainbow nation” in the 1990s. The expansion and exploitation of the country led to the Zulu wars with the native population in the 1870s and the two Boer wars in the later stages of the nineteenth century. The introduction of concentration camps during this period by the British, caused the deaths of thousands of women and children, and hardened the opinion of the Afrikaner. The role of the non-white population was always seen as subservient throughout this period,with both education and basic skills denied to them.
Following the general election of 1948, the National Party achieved a majority which gave the Boers the chance to formally introduce a system of apartheid, though segregation had long been a feature even under British rule. Mr Hain noted, that it was not only an apartheid between white and black but also of the mixed race Cape “coloureds” and Asians. The adjective “Orwellian”, was used during the talk and this was particularly appropriate in the case of the children born to ostensibly white parents who could be of genetically mixed race. In some cases, members of families would be segregated from each other as teenagers. By now, everything was segregated, including sport, leisure, the workplace and even skilled blacks were forced to give up their employment to whites.
The origins of the African National Congress lay in the early twentieth century, but it was not banned until the 1950s by the National government, as were other parties in opposition to the regime. The only party which was allowed to campaign against it were the largely white Liberal party of which the Hain family became members. Opposition was not looked at kindly, and the opposition of his parents which started with distributing leaflets, ended in banning orders, loss of employment and raids by the secret service in the middle of the night. The subject of a banning order could only communicate with one other person at a time, and a ludicrous situation arose when both Mr and Mrs Hain had banning orders at the same time and had to be given special dispensation to speak to each other in the company of the family.
Mr Hain then turned his attention to the twenty seven year incarceration of Nelson Mandela on Roben Island and the forces that were slowly defeating apartheid. He put this down to three factors. Firstly, the international sports boycott, which affected the sports mad South African public. Secondly, economic sanctions were increasingly being applied, especially as the number of black politicians was increasing in the House of Representatives in the USA. Thirdly, internal strife in the 1980s was putting increasing pressure on the regime and a civil war was possible. By then, secret negotiations were taking place with Nelson Mandela who had himself recognised that reconciliation was the only way forward and that the whites would have to play a part in any settlement.
Mr Hain concluded his talk by taking questions from the large audience. He was asked why he appeared a little disappointed with the way things had progressed in South Africa since the ending of the apartheid regime. He answered, that he realised that economic progress had been slow and early expectations had been euphoric. However, he was wary of the fact that corruption was rife in public life and more importantly that the role of education had not been pushed in any great degree. The great skills gap, despite large public expenditure, had been hackneyed by poor teaching of black children and the apathy shown by the teachers and unions. South Africa languishes at the bottom of the international league standards for education.
Former close neighbour, Mr Phylip Jones thanked Mr Hain for his memorable talk.

Next month’s speaker will be Mr Tony Waters on Monday May 12th, who will speak on the 1904 revival and show his television programme on the religious revival.

Update: Many thanks to Peter for donating the profit on the books that were sold on the night to the Society.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

April Meeting

April Meeting
Mr Peter Hain MP ,
The struggle Against Apartheid.”
Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Community Centre  on MondAY,14th April.
Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)
Visitors: £3.
Croeso cynnes i Bawb

PLEASE NOTE: there is a change from the normal venue

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Good news. Our weblog has had over 60,000 visitors since we started.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March meeting : Neath Borough Police

Neath Borough Police 1837 – 1947

Mr Martin Griffiths, this month’s speaker, is an ex-policeman and this showed in this tremendous analytical or even ‘forensic’ account of the history of the Neath Borough Police. He promised the audience that this would be a “warts and all”, account of one of the smallest police forces in the country with its rather colourful history.
The Gordon Riots
The illustrated lecture began with the reasons for the formation of police forces in the first place. The 19th century was noted by its unrest which included riots of political, religious and social causes meant that the authorities had to revert to the Riot Act and call out the troops ( as happened in Merthyr Tudful and Newport in the 1830s Ed.). Even though the mediaeval posts of parish constables and watchmen did exist, these were largely ineffective and even voluntary posts in the community. 
A Watchman

Famously, Sir Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary set up the first organised and uniformed modern police force in 1927 in London with 3,000 men recruited, all over 35 years of age and at least 5 feet 7” tall. The uniforms, which initially included top hats, swallow tailed coats and duck trousers were aimed at giving the police a “man about town”appearance in order to give an air of calm. During the century, headwear varied from French style kepis to German style helmets. They also carried a long stick, rattle and sometimes a cutlass.
Police uniform
As the idea of local police forces spread, a Watch Committee was set up in Neath in 1835, then a small borough of only 3,000 people situated between the docks and castle.
Neath town
                                          Neath Jail built 1807
 The name of the first constable to be appointed was a certain colourful David Protheroe (now immortalised in the name of a rather popular hostelry in the Parade). His, was a lone police force (though his wife deputised at times!) and he was given a generous salary of £52 per annum. He resigned in 1837 (possibly following a beating) and may have left for Bridgend though a mystery surrounds his advanced age of fifty five years. Following the departure of David Protheroe the number of policemen was raised to three with a much reduced wage supplemented by collecting the night soil. The duties of the police were also laid down with service amounting to 24hours, regular beats were outlined, and they were not to speak casually to the public nor take gratuities.

In 1841, the Glamorgan Police Force was established under the leadership of Captain Napier and only 23 policemen for the whole County. Napier suggested that the two forces should be combined, but this was rejected, though the two did share facilities when a joint police station was built in 1843.

Mr Griffiths then turned to the various characters who had led the Neath Borough Police during its existence. Fair to say that each one was rather colourful with the tendency to resign following from scandal, drunkenness or debauchery. The titles adopted by these men were rather grandiose considering their meagre resources – from superintendent to Chief Constable. Neath was certainly a lively place to police by this time with the development of industry and 83 licensed premises to patrol. In 1862, a new police station was opened on the same site as the now David Protheroe Pub  in the then Station Parade, which also included a court. Superintendent John Phillips (1860-88) had five constables and a rather bullying sergeant who was later dismissed.

Evan Evans

The next Head Constable was a local man, Evan Evans who hailed from Pontardawe. He was a huge man of over twenty stones in weight and the rather comic impression of Evans taking charge of the new fire engine meant that the horses would struggle to move it. He was replaced briefly by Robert Kilpatrick in 1899 and then by the colourful Evan Lewis in 1906. Lewis was a philanderer and drunk who had been embroiled in controversy over his dalliance with a young woman in Birmingham. He became the target of local satirical cartoonist, Clement Truman who lampooned him in the press as a stooge of freemasonry.

                                                       Evan Lewis pilloried

Richard Jones became Chief Constable in 1906; quickly followed by William Higgs who saw the force grow to 22 policemen by 1921. The charismatic Horatio Rawlings took the post between1922-26 and also oversaw the amalgamation of Briton Ferry into the Borough force so increasing its manpower to 44.

                                   Horatio Rawlings marching in Eastland Rd.

The ‘old’ police station in the Parade which now houses the David Protheroe Public House was also built in the 1930s.

The present David Protheroe in the Parade
In 1926, the talented Percy Keep took office and introduced both police boxes and traffic lights in the town. The Second World War put extra pressure on Keep as the force grew in number and complexity and Keep was replaced in 1943 by Great War hero Ernest Rollings as Chief Constable, Rolling had been initially overlooked for the post. The final incumbent was William Doolan, an Irishman, who in his short time as Chief Constable modernised the force by introducing a finger prints department and radio enabled cars.
The two forces in Neath amalgamated without much ceremony on April 1st 1947 though the Neath Division as it was then called carried a letter ‘N’ on their epaulettes until the 1960s. Another echo of a past age is the fact that the Mayor of Neath is also to this day,the Constable of Neath Castle.

Mr Trefor Jones thanked Mr Griffiths for a fabulous lecture and said that he now realised where the famous author Terry Pratchett based his City Watch characters.

Neath Borough Police with William Doolan

 Members should note that the next two meetings will take place at the Community Centre owing to the refurbishment of the Church Hall. The speaker at next month’s meeting will be Mr Peter Hain MP.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Annual Dinner

Some twenty members of the Society enjoyed an excellent meal at the Old White Horse, Pontneddfechan on Friday 7th March. Many thanks to Dave Woosnam for arranging everything, especially the idiot-proof and tailor made slips as to what everyone had ordered and what they owed. 

The Quiz posed a trial as usual, with the dinner resembling an examination at times, the use of Welsh phonetics got the old grey cells going. Congratulations to Val and Julie on being victorious and magnanimous at the same time by sharing their chocolate spoils with everyone.

Back to serious business on Monday 10th March when our speaker will be Mr Martin Griffiths on the topic of  the "Borough of Neath Police".

Thursday, February 20, 2014

March Meeting

Mr Martin Griffiths,
The History of the Neath Borough Police.”
Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Church hall on MondAY ,10th March.
Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)
Visitors: £3.
Croeso cynnes i Bawb