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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Final Curtain

The Chairman, Mr Gwyn Thomas described this month’s speaker as a “good friend of the Society”. This is an apt description of Jeff’s contribution to the work of the Society over the last fifteen (or is it sixteen) years. Indeed, his detailed talks on the development of mainly the Gower hundred have been a fixture which everyone has looked forward to. Unfortunately, we have now exhausted Mr Childs’ collection of lectures, though he promises to return should we like to hear some or all again!
Location of Llangyfelach

The focus of this month’s lecture was the Penllergare Estate. Mr Childs insisted that the anglicised spelling was correct since it was how the various families that had run the estate for centuries had referred to it.

Using tithe maps of the parish of Llangyfelach ( the second largest parish after Cadoxton juxta Neath with 23,000 acres), Jeff showed how it was divided between the various landed gentry families – Price, Llewelyn, Popkin and Morris ( of Morriston fame). The Penllergare estate, which still exists, at its height covered some 15-16,000 acres though not all of this was in Llangyfelach since the estate had holdings in other parts of Glamorgn and present day Powys. Llangyfelach parish is divided into four units – Parsel Mawr, Rhyndwyclydach, Clase and Penderry. Most of the land held by the Penllergare Estate was in the Penderry section.

The first family to own the estate were the Prices who gained the estate during the 16th century. The Prices were a local yeoman gentry family who had been “ap Rhys” until they adopted the name Price. Griffith Price (1687-1753) had built up the estate and the family had become very influential locally. Indeed he is commemorated by a marble tomb in Llangyfelach church. However, he was the last of the Prices since he was predeceased by his first wife and children and the estate was left to distant cousins, one of whom was J.llewelyn of Ynys-y-Gerwn. He eventually gained the whole estate owing to the gambling debts encrued by the other beneficiary.

The polymath L.W. Dilwyn, a relative of Fox Talbot of Margam ( and also an early photographer) married John Llewelyn’s daughter,Emma, and the Dilwyn-Llewelyn dynasty was established ( there is a Dilwyn Llewelyn secondary school in Swansea today). The family grew rich on various enterprises including metal working though the family had a famous interest in horticulture.
Penllergare House -1854

John Talbot Dilwyn Llewelyn who died in 1927, was the last Steward of the Penllergare Estate. A formidable figure, he had been a founder member of the Welsh Rugby Union, Swansea Cricket Club and had also served as an MP. Indeed, the touring Australian Cricket team had once stayed at Penllergare.

After the first world war, Penllergare as was the case with many estates in the area went into decline, indeed a sale of the assets of the estate was held in 1936. In 1940, Swansea Bible College moved to Penllergare House and they were followed in 1943 by the American military, which did very little good to the fabric of the building. In the 1960s the building was in ruins and it was finally demolished as target practice by the sappers of the Royal Artillery in 1961. Other parts of the estate were curtailed by the building of the M4 and A48.

Following local government reform in 1974, the Headquarters of the Lliw Valley District Council was built on the site of Penllergare House. Other parts of the estate have been built on for extensive housing developments e.g. Tircoed. However, the Penllergare Estate as a body still exists, and owns a fair bit of property. The Penllergare Trust is also very active in trying to restore the glory of what remains of the estate.

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Jeff Childs once again for his talk and hoped that he would keep in touch with the Society. In reply, Mr Childs thanked the Society for putting up with him for so many years.

Next month’s speaker is Mr Martin Culliford of Machynlleth.