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, February 11, 2010

February Meeting:Jeff Childs

Ever since 1995 (this was the agreed date) Jeff has made yearly visits to Resolfen to indulge us in his love of local history. Pontardawe born Jeff, has given talks on an eclectic range of topics ranging from the “Brecon Beacons” to the “Churches of the Glamorgan coast”. His detailed knowledge of his subject is remarkable, and all given without notes or aids apart from thousands of slides. Last year, Jeff told the Society that we had all but exhausted his range of talks, however he was yet to give us his illustrated talk on “Pontardawe Families. A large audience gathered to hear what turned out to be probably his penultimate appearance in Resolfen.
Carn Llechart

The illustrated talk began at Carn Llechart, a five thousand year old burial site on the mountainside above the town of Pontardawe. This marked the location of the earliest Pontardawe families who lived on higher land than today because the climate was warmer at that time. However, most of Pontardawe’s history can be gleaned from its heavy industry since the town has smelted iron and steel, produced chemicals, pottery and even soft drinks. These industries were associated with a handful of families over centuries: Lloyd, Herbert, Gwyn, Parsons and Gilbertson. These in their turn had built many of the grand houses in the area, a few of which are still standing, including Gelli Gron, Plas Cil-y-bebyll and Alltycham.

St. Peter's Church

Jeff spent the bulk of his talk speaking on the role of William Parsons and William Gilbertson who had started the metal smelting industry in the nineteenth century a tradition which lasted for over a century when the steelworks eventually closed in 1960. The Parsons family were responsible fro the building of St Peter’s Church in Pontardawe with its 197 foot steeple. The Gilbertson’s themselves had a mixed reputation locally, since Arthur Gilbertson was a benefactor in many ways but was also a great opponent of unionism and syndicalism which was rife among the industrial workers in the 1890s.

Gilbertson's steelworks

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Jeff Childs for the time that he has given the Society over the years, and presented a book token to him in appreciation of his efforts. However, this was not the end of the road since Jeff has one last talk on the “Growth of the Penlle’r gare Estate”. We look forward to hearing him again next year.