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, August 11, 2015

Pictures at last from summer trip!!

Following several attempts Gwyn has eventually got the photos of our summer trip to the blog.
Inside the historic Prince of Wales, Cynffig

The girls are happy that they have left the pub and are looking forward to Ewenny Priory!

Pottery demonstration at Ewenny Pottery

The members prove that the recession is over.

The magnificent interior of the 12th century priory at Ewenny.

Interesting armrest.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Commemorative 'Dram'.

The 'dram'
The Community Council following a request from the public have placed a 'dram', near Sardis Chapel to note the contribution of heavy industry to the history, culture and traditions of the village. The 'dram', itself was excavated from the Selar opencast site and is placed on a pair of rails. A large stone also features a bilingual plaque. The official opening of the monument will happen in September.

The bilingual plaque.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Visit

 Kenfig Burrows and Ewenny Priory

Some nineteen members and friends of the History Society made the short visit to the Vale of Glamorgan. The first stop was at the historic fifteenth century Prince of Wales tavern in Kenfig. The building  had a very varied history as a courthouse, Sunday school and the general centre of the community. The landlord gave a detailed history of the building and also showed various video clips regarding the shipwrecks and archaeology of the area including a visit by Channel Four’s Time Team.

The Historic and supposedly haunted Prince of Wales at Kenfig
The afternoon, included a visit to Ewenny Pottery and then Ewenny Priory with its 12th century abbey. The building has a rather strange status in that one portion serves as a place of worship of the Church in Wales, whereas the second portion is retained by the Turberville family. Luckily, the members were given access to both areas and were also given a detailed history of the Priory.
Ewenny Priory

Mr Gwyn Thomas, was busy with his camera and unfortunately technical glitches have so far stopped us displaying them nil desperandum,Gwyn.

The separated priory.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Resolven Boys of 1915

Members of the 9th Welsh Regiment from Resolven, July 1915

As the years commemorating the Great War of 1914-18 progress, Mr Glyn Davies has given the Society a cutting from the Aberdare Leader of 24th July, 1915, which refers to the above photograph.

It states: 

                   " The 9th Welsh - On Wednesday, the inhabitants of Resolven turned out in grand style to give a send-off to the boys of the 9th Welsh. Nearly a hundred Resolvenites have joined this particular regiment , in which one of them is colour sergeant, viz William Hawkins and three are sergeants, viz., T. Owens, Reggie Stroud and Jim Hooper. On Tuesday evening the boys had a smoker at the New Inn. Also Mr Jenkins the proprietor of  Vivian Hall, gave a free admission to them and their families. Some 50 presents of pipes and cigarette cases were presented to the boys by their friends.

At 11 o'clock on Wednesday morning a procession was formed , headed by the Resolven Brass Band, and after parading the streets speeches were made. Councillor T.W. Herbert  said that the inhabitants wanted to show their appreciation of the lads who had so nobly answered the call of the country. They were proud of them all, and were sure they would distinguish themselves - Councillor F.H. Beaman hoped that the boys who had proved their worth on the  football field would also cover themselves in glory on the battlefield - Dr R.D. Pritchard, whose only son is in the army, felt it difficult to speak. He remarked that these young men were doing a great duty in sacrificing their family ties for their country's sake. He hoped they would come back safe . - The following received presents : - Tom Owen, Reg Stroud, Arthur Hutchinson, Brychan Morgan, Tom Nicholls, Henry Lewis, Richard Evans, David Thomas, Evan J Jones, James Hughes, Joe Pickford, William Harris, Gwilym Morgan, Trevor Morgan, Richard Williams, William Hawkins, Tom Rewbridge, Jim Lewis,
J. Parry Evans, S. Bowen, Llew Jones, David Beynon, Richard Morgan, William Davies, Charlie Thomas, Fred Rowlands, Lee Hopkins, Walter Jones, Jim Hooper, T. Dorrington, W. Williams, Charlie Daidy, Fred Edwards and William Jones. 

After the presentation the recipients had to go through the ordeal of an all round hand shaking. The station was thronged . The band played selections during the wait. Some very touching farewells were witnessed. The train steamed out amid the booming of detonators. The boys are expected to be at the front this week."

What a terrific witness to a society now well and truly at war. This is written in heroic and even stoic terms with the atmosphere of an adventure. The only words of doubt came from the doctor who evidently knows of the horrors which are in front of the recruits. To compare a battle to a game of rugby seems banal to us, but fits the tenor of the time. The reference to detonators is also a reminder that even though a hundred Resolven men had gone to war, many more were working underground as miners since it was a reserved occupation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ghost walk with Robert King

Some thirteen members and friends of the Society came to the ghost walk organised by well known local historian, Robert King. Such was Robert's appeal that two young members of the general public also "tagged along", and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Victoria Gardens
Howel Gwyn
Robert explained that this was a historical and ghost tour and that he would try to give a glimpse of the known and less known features of Neath town centre. Starting in Victoria Gardens, Mr King stated that many of the features of Neath were associated with Queen Victoria including the building of Queen Street and the market in 1837. The Gardens themselves were built on the old "Mera" wetlands and commemorated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The gardens were laid out exactly today as they had been in the Victorian era, with marble pillars at its entrance

Leaving the Gardens the group passed the life-size bronze statue of benefactor, entrepreneur, and politician Howel Gwyn.He died in 1888, months before the opening of his eponymous hall in the town. Queen street was built as a straight road to the new market and included a British School ( now the Halifax) which is reputedly haunted by children, and an English baptist chapel ( now M&S). Robert explained that there was a crypt below the chapel which is accessed through a trapdoor in the middle of the road, this too had ghostly associations. The Masonic hall is also an imposing building on Queen Street. The market in Green Street surprisingly had no ghost stories attached to it at all, though it has once doubled as a centre of entertainment as well as commerce. The reference to Green and Orchard streets in this part of the town, refererred to Ty Mawr or Mackworth house where Burtons used to stand. This was the most expensive property in Glamorgan at one time.

Turning down Orchard Street, the rear entrance to the Castle Hotel revealed an original cobbled road. Originally the Ship and Castle this is a truly historic building with numerous ghost stories including those with connections to smuggling and murder. It is also of course the venue where the WRU was formed.

Robert then took the group through the heritage area associated Alfred Russel Wallace a contemporary of Darwin who had assisted with the Origin of Species. He designed the Mechanics Institute ( now the headquarters of the Neath Antiquarians). St Thomas's Church was originally the garrison chapel of Neath Castle and is the only building of the centre of Neath still used for its original purpose. The site of Jestyn Jeffries Solicitors was once a bath house and ghostly goings on have been reported there.

Finally, the group went up old Market Street with its numerous taverns and heritage architecture, passing the Butchers Arms ( now the Duke), the St Ives (with its connection between Cornwall and Wales's trade in copper and coal - Tregelles Price, the quaker is buried nearby) and the Bunch of Grapes ( now a house). The nearby Mission Hall is also closely associated with the religious revival of 1904 and its charismatic preacher, Seth Joshua.

Water Street was built over the Gnoll brook and was also the site of the synagogue in Neath with several ghostly connections associated with this once wild area of the town.

Mr Trefor Jones thanked Robert King for a fantastic ghost tour of Neath. Though everyone had visited the sites many times, no one had realised the significance of much of what they had passed by habitually.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Discovering your past

Discovering your family’s past: a journey of discovery
This month’s speaker was Mr Mike Rees of Bryncethin, but formerly of Maesteg. Mr Rees, a professional family history researcher had previously phoned the Society regarding his relatives ,the Barclay family of Stag House Abergarwed , and when it turned out that he was also the same Mike Rees who had been in school with our secretary, he was asked to come to speak to us. He attended one of our lectures this year given by our President, Mr Phylip Jones who through pure chance was speaking on the same Barclay family.

Mr Rees began his talk by referring to the boom in internet electronic searches for family history. He described them as being useful tools but little more than that, since the joy of finding out the history of everyone’s family lay in the spade work of delving into the “shoe boxes”, and other archives which families possessed. He began by setting out the basic questions of any search:-

First – How far can you get? It is possible for anyone with grandparents born before 1911 to get back to the 1790 s .
Second – do you have any rich, notorious or unknown relatives.Be prepared for shocks and scandal.
Third – decide which line or lines you wish to take. After all you have many different family lines branching into grandparents, great grandparents etc. You cannot do them all at once.
Fourth – is there an intriguing and long standing family myth which you would like to resolve as a focus to your research?
Who, where, when?

The first stage is to find out how much you already know. Speak to other members of your family and other siblings, in which to get vital information regarding dates and location of births, occupations and other family details in order to construct a family tree. Mr Rees,stated that the 1911 Census, was now freely available online and was “gold dust”, in tracing ancestry. The censuses are in a reliable form to 1841 (first census 1801) and therefore would have included people born in the 1790s. The Civil registration of marriages also started in 1837. Before then, every legal marriage would take place in a Church, therefore the parish registers would take you further back.

Section of the 1911 Census

Mr Rees,then turned to the family archives, which are referred to as “shoe boxes”, even in digital form. These are literally containers with old photographs, certificates, cuttings and other materials which families habitually keep. He said that it was important at this point to mark each item in pencil and keep a log on each person in a pocket book for future cross referencing. In his case it was a tin box in a drawer which included lamp checks, family photographs of important events, title deeds, plans for houses, ration books, bills for funerals, National Identity cards from the 1940s and 50s, in memoriam notices and the medals and sashes of friendly societies.

The family Bible is also a trove of information, since it was the custom to write the the births, deaths and marriages with dates in these. The added advantage was that it was sometimes possible to work out the legitimacy of the birth and the existence of siblings who died between censuses in an age of incredibly high infant mortality. The attendance book at a Sunday school was also a valuable resource.

Mr Rees frequently referred to the importance of libraries (a vanishing resource in themselves) in keeping local records. The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth has extensive records of will and probate. Archives and Libraries also have microfiche records of local publications and newspapers in which relatives and events could be painstakingly traced. The procedure for getting access to some of these places can be quite a trial in themselves. Historical publications can also be a valuable resource, and Mr Rees referred to “The History of the Vale of Neath”, by D.Rhys Phillips as a classic example. Neath Library has many copies and there are also copies in the volunteer led Cyber and Resources Centre ( formerly the library), in Resolven.

Some more unusual sources of information are the asylum records of the nineteenth century. Mental illness was little understood and many people ended up in so called lunatic asylums but with the added advantage to the family researcher that a photograph was always included even as early as the 1860s.

To conclude, Mr Rees turned to various agencies which could prove short cuts or help. The Glamorgan Family History Society publishes ( in booklet form) indexes of parish registers, baptisms and burials. Churchyards and headstones are also catalogued. Censuses are also extremely useful, but personal recorda are kept for a century before publication. 1921 therefore will be the last meaningful resource since little remains of the 1931 Census owing to war damage and there was no census in 1941.  Following censuses are in a different format.
Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Rees for a fascinating talk.

The Society will now take a short break until September. However, there are two events scheduled:-

1. A Ghost walk with Robert King on Monday 18th May. Meet at the Church hall at 5:30 for a lift or meet at the bandstand in Victoria Gardens at 6:00. There will be a £3 charge.

2. Annual Trip – Cynffig and Ewenny Priory, Saturday 13th June.
Arrangements: Meet at Church hall – 11:00

Cost: £11 including buffet at the Prince of Wales in Kenfig.                                               

Monday, April 27, 2015

May Meeting

May MEETing
Mike Rees–

“How to start a family history”,

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

Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)
Visitors: £3.

Croeso cynnes i Bawb