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.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Thirties in Resolven

Resolven in the Thirties

Yes! I remember the thirties, those golden years. Little did we know then that this world would be shattered in 1939!

I was 16 in 1939, living in our cosy house in Company Street with Mam and Dad, my five brothers and three sisters.

I never thought we were poor. We had little money but plenty of fresh vegetables, grown by my father on his five allotment plots (despite his poor health), so we were well provided for. We also kept chickens in our back garden and when the war came a pig was raised as well.

Every Sunday morning our grandmother, Mrs Beazer would round us up and take us to Bethel Chapel for morning service. This would be followed after Sunday dinner by Sunday school and after tea, the Evening Service. My grandparents were among the original members of Sardis Chapel and I have never found out what caused the “split” between the chapels. However I do remember the Whitsun March when the Sardis children would call us “Split Peas” and we would retaliate with “Sardines, Sardines”, as we passed each other.
Olive Herbert outside her home in Railway Terrace
Resolven was a great place to live; everyone knew one another and was so friendly.

Commercial Road was just that, with lots of shops – we hardly needed to go to Neath for anything. There was Mr Prytherch the ironmonger, Mr Davies the grocer on the square. Strangely, he was known as John ‘Poo Poo’, and his sister, Miss Davies “three farthings” who lived next door. As she was unable to use farthings any longer she would give you a strip of pins in your change! Then there was Strouds the sweet shop. The Vaughan Arms was kept by Mrs Jenkins, who opened fêtes or concerts with the immortal words “This is the happiest moment of my life”. Other shops included a clothes shop owned by Llew Davies’ wife and which sold ‘posh clothes. Jack Taylor owned another grocer and my brother Bill worked there before he joined the RAF at the outbreak of war. My favourite shop was Mr Hunkins’, if ever I had a penny to spend I would pretend to got to bed when our mother sent us, but instead slip out, put on my shoes and nip over to his shop. It’s the new fish and chip shop now, but in those days Mr Hunkins had a hall where my brothers learned to box. In 1965, I had a cafe there.

There is another memory of Resolven that my daughter reminded me of, it is the smell of the India and China shop – loose bacon, cheese, butter and spices. I am sure that many of you reading this article can recall them also.

It would be difficult for anyone returning to Resolven from those far off days to recognise it now. Looking back over 82 years, I thank God that I was born in this valley village and into a large family, The Smiths.

Olive Herbert.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Society's visit to Nantgarw

The Society visit to Nantgarw China Works.

Frequent travellers along the busy A470 Trunk Road could well be forgiven for missing this gem of a museum. On Saturday 15th July some thirty four members and friends of Resolfen History Society visited Nantgarw as part of their annual historical visit.

The famous porcelain works had a very short if illustrious history and the porcelain is now regarded as highly collectable and of a superb quality. The four main characters in the story, which lasted less than a decade, as a producer of high quality wares, are William Billingsley, Samuel Walker, entrepreneur William Weston Young ( who had connections with the Neath area) and artist/illustrator Thomas Pardoe.

Trained in Derby, Billingsley and Walker were attracted to the Nantgarw area in 1813 by the easily available local coal to fire the kilns and the presence of the Glamorganshire Canal which runs adjacent to the works.This enabled the fragile porcelain to be shipped safely. Using his unique formula for soft paste porcelain and with £250 to erect the buildings, production started. However, owing to the vast wastage in production the venture quickly ran into financial difficulties. They received help from William Weston Young, however an offer from industrialist L.W.Dillwyn in 1814 moved production to Swansea (and hence producing the equally collectable Swansea porcelain) until 1817 when Billingsley returned to Nantgarw. Porcelain production then re-started, however by 1820 the works had once again hit the financial buffers .Billingsley and Walker then left Wales permanently.

William Weston Young, who is better remembered for glorious failure had a stroke of genius and persuaded London illustrator Thomas Pardoe to decorate the large number of porcelain plates remaining and so increased the number of decorated pieces available. Unfortunately, Thomas Pardoe died in 1824. Nantgarw continued as a producer of domestic ware, especially clay pipes until it closed in the 1920s. In recent years The Friends of Nantgarw have restored Nantgarw House and are now in the process of restoring the works.

Members may be interested that an illustrated lecture on Nantgarw China works will be given by Mr David Phillips to the Society on Monday,October the 9th.
Trefor Jones