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, November 11, 2014

Ghosts of Neath

The 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”.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Charles James Thomas

Members will recall that Mr J.Eric Powell contacted the Society some weeks ago regarding Glyncastle colliery winding engine. He stated in his letter that he was investigating the Newport RFC players he were involved in the work and also played a very important part in the founding of Resolven RFC. He has contacted Newport RFC and unearthed the history of Charles James ( Charlie) Thomas who was one of those involved. The picture purporting to be Glyncastle Colliery is incorrect and is actually from Aberaman. Click on the images to enlarge.

Many thanks once again to Eric Powell.

A Ghostly tale?

NOVEMBer Meeting
Mr Robert King,
“The ghosts of neath”.
Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Church hall  on MondAY,10th  novemBER.
Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)
Visitors: £3.
Croeso cynnes i Bawb

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Church Hall

Following last night's committee meeting, it was reported that the Church Hall would be back in business shortly. Therefore our November meeting on Monday the 10th, will be at the newly refurbished Canon Lewis Memorial Hall. This will come as good news to some older members who will not have to brave the walk to the Community Centre in the coming winter months.
It looks the same from the outside

How will it look now inside following the work?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Letter from America

The Society has recently received a letter from a member of the Resolven diaspora now resident in St Petersburg, Florida (lucky him). Mr J.Eric Powell is a former resident of Cory Street and also a former collier in Glyncastle colliery. Mr Powell has given us some fascinating information regarding this photograph
Number One Pit winding engine Glyncastle colliery c.1885

I reproduce some of Mr Powell's letter below:

Dear Mr Jones,

                            In the book " Reflections of a Bygone Century", compiled by Mr Glyn Davies, there is a photograph on page 65 entitled; "A Newport (Monmouthshire) engineering firm installing boilers at the Glyncastle Colliery pithead. The photo however, is that of the Number One Winding Egine being assembled. I am researching the history of the manufacture, purchased by Cory Bros - shipping to Resolven, assembly at Glyncastle etc of the winding engine. I wonder if there is a clearer photograph available? Also if there other photographs available of the installation of this remarkable steam winder as I believe it was built for a side paddle steam ship? 

I was born in 3, Cory Street in 1931, which was next door to Trevor the barber ( Glyn Davies's grandfather. Ed.) and we moved to 102, John Street when I was three years of age. I worked at Glyncastle Colliery from 1947 to 1952, when I left to attend Glamorgan Technical School, Treforest (now the University of South Wales, Ed.). My father, William John ( Jack ) Powell was Chairman of Neath Rural District Council and also served as a Justice of the Peace. Both my parents' families were very much involved in local affairs. I keep up to date with news of Resolven through family members and your News Letter.

                                   With kindest regards,
                                                             Eric Powell

When we produced Resolven Recalled in the year 2000, many commentators gave us detailed information after the book had been published. Now, in the days of the internet, revising content is a fairly simple task . However, folk memory is finite and it may be an idea to have a meeting in the near future when the other pictures which Glyn has given us, and not used in his wonderful book can be scrutinised by our older members for other insights into the history of Resolven.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Bayeux Tapestry: Norman Propaganda

Norman Propaganda : the Bayeux Tapestry
Mr John Richards of Skewen has visited us on two previous occasions and this time took the Bayeux tapestry as his topic. He explained from the outset that there were several misconceptions regarding the “tapestry”. Firstly, it was not a tapestry and was actually an embroidery, using various colours and was highly detailed. Secondly, although it is a narrative of the events leading to the ultimate conquest of Saxon England, it should be viewed as propaganada by the Normans and in particular Bishop Odo, Duke William's half brother, in justifying the conquest and William’s coronation as King. The tapestry was produced in 1077 with the intention of being on display in Bayeux Cathedral.

Mr Richards firstly explained the structure of the work which is 230 feet long and some 18 -20 inches wide. It is set in three sections with the top showing the story in Latin, the main section showing the action and the bottom showing some of the sub plots. It was fascinating to discover the hidden story behind some of the pictograms and the scandal was reminsiscent of a modern tabloid newspaper with the sex and violence both graphic and gory. The Normans can be seen by their strange hairstyles with a shaved face and back of the head. The Saxons on the other hand have longer hair and moustaches.

The tapestry covers the period between the declining years of Edward the Confessor in 1064 and the Battle of Hastings on October 14th,1066. Mr Richards explained that the succession was complicated and confused since Edward had no heir. Harald Hardrada of Norway, Duke William of Normandy and Harold Godwinson ( sub regulus) all jostled for the succession. The tapestry, makes the case for William who had befriended Harold when he was stranded in Normandy and had made him swear an oath on the bones of saints that the succession would be his. Having been ultimately betrayed by Harold, this justified the invasion.

Mr Richards then went through each section of the tapestry in turn, which he showed had probably been made by English embroiderers owing to several grammatical errors in the text. The question as to whether Harold had actually been killed by an arrow was uncertain, since eye witness accounts say that he was “ridden” down by four knights. A figure, nearby Harold also also has the indentations of an arrow protruding from his eye, so the jury is rather out on that one. The brutality of the battle was shown by the tapestry in graphic detail as the Normans gradually wore down the Saxon kraals ( professional soldiers) to win the battle. The last two pages of the tapestry are missing, but a contemporary poem suggests that they depicted the pillage of the surrounding countryside as the Normans suppressed the local opposition. A more detailed account can be found in the link below.

And a translated/ truncated animated version

Mr Richards concluded his talk by showing a slide of Battle Abbey which was built on the orders of William the Conqueror on the site of the famous battlefield, possibly as penance for his many bloody victims.

Mr Trefor Jones in thanking Mr Richards stated how something so familiar actually held so  much detail and intrigue. Mr Phylip Jones giving the formal vote of thanks to Mr Richards for a memorable talk, stated jokingly that how ironic it was that the Normans had conquered England in a day but had taken two and a half centuries to suppress Wales!!

Next month’s speaker on Monday, November 10th will be Mr Robert King of Abergarwed, who will talk on “The Ghosts of Neath”.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

October meeting: Where there's a Will there's a way?

October Meeting
Mr John Richards  ,
“The Bayeux Tapestry”.
Meeting begins at 7:00pm in the Community Centre  on MondAY,13th  OCTOBER.
Membership: £10 ( including refreshments)
Visitors: £3.
Croeso cynnes i Bawb

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lt.Colonel J.E.Vaughan of Rheola

Glyn Davies has given the Society a published photograph of the burial of Lt.Colonel J.E. Vaughan of Rheola at Cadoxton Church on the 30th March 1929.

Here is the publication of his will a few months later. It is noticeable that his personal effects would hardly buy a flat today, and I wonder what the skipper of his yacht had done? 

Extract from the Western Morning News dated Tuesday, 10 December 1929
Col. J. E. Vaughan, Flushing.
Colonel John Edwards Vaughan, J.P., D.L., of Rheola, near Neath, Glamorgan, and of Cliff Cottage, Flushing, Falmouth, who served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the Burmah Campaign of 1887 and in the South African War, and who died on March 30, last aged 65, son of the late Col. Vaughan Hanning Vaughan-Lee, M/P/, D.L., J.P., of Dillington Park, Somerset, who served in the Crimean War, left unsettled property of the gross value of £18,792, with net personalty £10,019.
Probate of the will, dated October 22, 1927, has been granted to his widow, Mrs Alice Elizabeth Vaughan, of Rheola; John Nash Edwards Vaughan, of Rheola, son of the deceased; and Jonah Arnold, of Great Western Chambers, Neath, estate agent; and Charles Joseph Clayton Wilson, of Temple-Street, Swansea, solicitor.
Testator left £300 and certain household effects to his wife; £50 to his daughter, Doris Elizabeth Shuldham; £50 to Lucinda Ellen Ashe; £50 to his nephew and godson, Gerald Hanning Vaughan-Lee.
One year's salary to his mineral surveyor, Harry Morgan, if acting in that capacity at his death;
Six month's wages to each indoor servant of one year's service;
£150 in addition to Hannah Rowlands "who has nursed me faithfully and well";
£50 to his gardener, William Crofts;
£50 to his chauffeur, George Ballard;
£50 to William Sydney Bevan, skipper of his yacht "for though he let me down badly over my last cruise in the s.s. Sheila he has served me very faithfully for a great number of years";
£300 to Jonah Arnold; £50 to Frederick G. Arnold; and the residue of the property he left to his son, John Nash Edwards Vaughan