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.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thomas Alfred Oaten

Thomas Alfred Oaten

Thomas Alfred Oaten, was born in Taunton and came to Wales in 1897 when 17 years old. He was apprenticed to his uncle, who was the Head Gardener at the Hendrefoilan Estate in Swansea. A few years later he joined the Glamorgan County Constabulary and became the first police constable to join a sergeant in the newly built Police Station in Neath Road in 1901. The previous Police House was at 13, Railway Terrace. More recent incumbents.

My father related many tales of his policing career. One tale told of when he dived into the River Taff at Merthyr to re-capture an escaping prisoner. He was a strong swimmer so the prisoner did not get away. There was an area of Merthyr called China Town, an infamously rough area, so the policemen had to patrol the district in pairs. When a policeman in Merthyr; on off duty weekends (usually on a Sunday) Dad would cycle to Cardiff Railway Station in order to meet his sister who would travel from Taunton for the day. There they would catch up with family news. This was quite an effort on a basic bicycle with a solid saddle. Ouch!!

Another interesting tale included an episode when he was one of the mounted escorts of a Bristol judge from Cardiff to the Swansea Crown Court and back. One of the changing posts for the horses was the Yniscollen Arms, now better known as the Rock and Fountain on the old road to Neath.

I wish I had recorded so many of his tales, alas regrettably I did not,now they are lost for ever.

Josie Duke

Editor’s note:

This article gives insight into the social state of Wales at the turn of the twentieth century covered by Dai Smith in his history of Wales, “A People and a Proletariat”. It was a society growing and also changing in nature through mass immigration to the burgeoning industries of the period. However it was also a period of industrial unrest with large police stations built throughout the south Wales coalfield in order to suppress industrial unrest and keep general order over what was a volatile social mix of largely incomers . This came to a head famously in the Cambrian dispute of 1910, which led to the riots at Tonypandy.

“China”, in Merthyr Tydfil, would today be described as a shanty town .It was an admixture of various nationalities and languages,including notably Italians. This was a real melting pot in what was one of the earliest truly industrial towns. Merthyr had passed its economic height at this point with many of six ironworks closed or relocated but China with its reputed 3,000 public houses retained its notoriety.

The reference to the Crown Court Judge is also interesting. As mentioned, there was a railway between Cardiff and Swansea, yet the judge was paraded with a mounted escort. This would seem to point to a demonstration of power by the authorities, nervous as to the social changes and showing who was really in charge in turbulent times. Was the judge on his way to the Rhondda, who knows, the dates are not specific.


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