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, April 09, 2009

April Meeting: Ynysmeudwy Pottery

Ynysmeudwy Pottery

This month’s speaker needed no introduction since it was none other than Mr Clive Reed of Pontardawe who took an illustrated history of Ynysmeudwy Pottery as his topic. Mr Reed has recently retired from his post at the Cefncoed Colliery Museum and has been regular feature for many years speaking to various groups on the history of the Neath Port Talbot area. It is therefore rather sad to report that his successor will not be providing the same service in the locality.

Mr Reed began his talk by stating that the present village of Ynysmeudwy owes its very existence to the pottery factory which commenced production in 1848. The Swansea Canal served as the main vehicle of transportation of Cornish China clay ( Kaolin) as the raw material for the production of porcelain in the area which was of course rich in that other essential ram material, coal. At the time there were over 400 pottery works in England and Wales and 32 working in Wales alone e.g. the Cambrian Pottery in Melincryddan, Neath.

The first family to own and build the works were the Williams family who bought the original site of the Ynysmeudwy farm ( variously Ynismudw, Ynysmudw or coloquially “ Y Smutw” – the field of the hermit) which is is now the Ynysmeudwy Arms. They also built Ynysmeudwy House which later became the now defunct Glanafon Hotel and a string of workers cottages adjacent to the works. Later a terrace of workers housing ( Ynysmeudwy Road/Curtis Row) and chapel was built a fair distance from the works owing to the riotous behavious of many of the workers.
A very rare Christening implement in Ynysneudwy porcelain

The Williams brothers in various combinations ran the works until 1861, when it was bought by local entrepreneurs Lewis and Morgan who also owned the Primrose Colliery in Alltwen. In 1871 the works was bought by the Llanelli Pottery and it ceased production in 1877. At its height Ynysmeudwy was producing 20,000 items of porcelain per week.

Mr Reed explained that he had written a thesis on Ynysmeudwy Pottery and showed how he had had to piece together the history from various sources including salvaging some 30,000 fragments of pottery from the site of the works. In the process he had accounted for many examples of the pottery which now sold for considerable sums at auction or eBay. He used some real examples to illustrate his talk and also showed how examples of the pottery's production had been used in the local architecture.

Following the closure of the site most of the pottery factory was demolished to make way the opening of the Bryn tin works which worked intil 1941. Now little remains of the original site following salvaging works by the local authority in the 1980s. However one of the bridges on the canal which once brought in the raw materials and shipped out the finished products is now nicknamed the Potters' Bridge.

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Reed for a most memorable evening.