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, May 08, 2014

Middle Ages lecture at Swansea University

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Confessions of a now distant past.

Mr Robert King of Abergarwed has given me a long letter sent in January 2000 to friends in Resolfen by Mr V Davies of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He also sent a letter in February 2001 extolling the virtues of “Resolfen Recalled”, which the Millennium Committee had published in September 2000. However, the first letter is a wonderful testimony of life in Resolfen (the story of the Rheola Church font is a gem) in the early twentieth century and show how times have changed and also how Americanised he became in terms of expression. I have slightly edited the content and disguised some names and addresses. The first six pages of the letter are shown below. (Ed.)

Rheola Church - demolished 1955.


Hi, Friends,

I must first apologise for not writing to you before, but as you know time goes by so very quickly. My visit to you both and the walk around Rheola was the highlight of my vacation which has brought home so many memories of my youth. As you know we lived one time about a mile up the Rheola brook in Pen Cae. It has been down so now for many years, I suppose. We had a few horses, a cow and some chickens.
Summertime as a kid, I’d ride my horse via Cefn Hirfynydd on Sarn Helen (the Roman Road) which was not far from Pen Cae. The first stop was with Mrs Howells, Blaenllwyd farm above Abergarwed for apple tart and custard. 

The on to Hendre Gletran Farm, above Ynysarwed , owned (sic) by Mr Morgan and then onto Mr Thomas’s Llety-Pela ( possibly Llettybella,farm in Aberdulais). The Thomas’s were breeding pheasants for the Ynys-y- Gerwn estate. I used to stay over some nights with the children who were the same age as me and the older brother, Fred was the gamekeeper on the estate. He later became the forester on the estate.

From there on to Ynysgollen, which people called what is now the Rock and Fountain Inn. I’d stay the night with my grandmother who had the hotel pre-war. My parents had moved there around 1938. Next day I’d cross the river Neath at Ynysbwllog farm to Clyne Tinworks, then ride up Cefn Morfydd to the Evans' farm at Llety Mawr, where Edwyn Evans lived. From there on to Pen Rhiw Angharad farm and I’d clean out the cow shed for the two old ladies who lived there. After supper, I would sit outside and look down at the Rock and Fountain across the valley and sometimes a rail road train going towards Tonna.

Next day, I would go along Cefn Mawr, above Melincourt to Glyngwilym farm and then Ffald-y-Dre farm . You will remember that old Mr Williams was keeping a shop in the village. You both would remember him and his son Willie, Ffald-y-Dre. A chap by the name of Ron had the farm by then. Mr Williams’s shop was opposite Mr Powell’s shop on Commercial Road in that small street where the bakery was. From Ffald-yDre, I would go down the Clydach brook behind Resolfen Mountain and come out by the Glyncastle colliery siding, rail road bridge. Across the canal, near the main lodge and up the Rheola brook and the castle (Rheola House?), then home to Pen-Cae. When Mr John Hurst moved to Rheola I would ride down the path past your old castle (the bachelors’ hall) and on to the stable near the laundry.

Do you remember the horse races and sheep dog trials at Rheola, in front of the house and the main road? The last one held there was about 1944 or 45. The Tube Investment Company took over the works and I always remember that day as I won four races out of six. The next year, a big extension was built to the Aluminium works and the sheep dog races and the hunter horse jumping moved to a farm in Clyne, Ynys Nedd. By that time, Pentre-clwyda race track had opened. They also had a few trials over at the Resolven brook, before they built the council home (Llys-yr-Ynys? Ed.).

In the Church belfry (Rheola Church; Ed.), when I started the demolition I found some books. One was the “Book of the Dog”, printed about 1880. I gave a book about steam engines and pumps to Tommy Croft. I often wonder who had left them behind in the belfry in a small cupboard on the wall and a box under a chair which included two telescopes and some knick knacks. From a little room above the bell you could look out at the pond (Rheola pond) in all directions. One of the windows though was blocked with bricks and clay though the window frame and glass was still in place (window tax? Ed.). The large stained glass windows (south side) some eighteen feet by eighteen, I cut up into sections and sold them on to a chap from Gloucester. The inside of the church was lined Bath stone blocks 4x16x24 inches long and connected to the main stone wall with some straps. They came out with ease as there was no cement between the blocks. 

The font was in three parts including bowl stand and base. It was also made of Bath stone with very nice carvings of oak leaves. It weighed around 500lbs and I sold it to a chap from Chain Rd., Cwmgwrach.They had just finished building those homes (which homes we will never know, Ed.), and he placed it in his front lawn as birdbath, ha ha!! By this time the people of the village were rather unimpressed by my activities, but anyway I had £10 for the font. Reg Harris (Lindsay’s father) went to see the fellow who had bought it and along with Jack Powell (Eric’s father) paid £20 for its return and they took it to St.David’s Church in Resolven. Maybe it’s still there in that shed beside the Vicarage (now old Vicarage)? I did ask Vicar Lewis (Rev. A T Lewis 1940 – 66, Ed.) if he wanted the bell and I delivered it myself rather than taking it to Swansea for scrap. That’s when I saw the font and Vicar Lewis (he was reputed to be quite a colourful character, Ed.) and he thought it was very funny! Poor Reg and Jack! The red roof tiles I gave to Hewie Taylor in payment for his help in the demolition. The pews were all pine and the ceiling beams; these were sold to various people. 

When I look back and think of ( the destruction sic) of such a beautiful building, I have regrets, since there was only a little bit of dampness in the north west corner owing to vandalism by kids breaking into the boiler room and removing some tiles. Anyway, many chapels and churches have gone the same way by now.

View of Melincwrt and Clyne tinworks
The site of Blaen Llwyd farm, April 2014

                    To be continued……….

Inside the Aluminium works 1980s, following its  closure

Rheola Church and pond