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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ghost walk with Robert King

Some thirteen members and friends of the Society came to the ghost walk organised by well known local historian, Robert King. Such was Robert's appeal that two young members of the general public also "tagged along", and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Victoria Gardens
Howel Gwyn
Robert explained that this was a historical and ghost tour and that he would try to give a glimpse of the known and less known features of Neath town centre. Starting in Victoria Gardens, Mr King stated that many of the features of Neath were associated with Queen Victoria including the building of Queen Street and the market in 1837. The Gardens themselves were built on the old "Mera" wetlands and commemorated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The gardens were laid out exactly today as they had been in the Victorian era, with marble pillars at its entrance

Leaving the Gardens the group passed the life-size bronze statue of benefactor, entrepreneur, and politician Howel Gwyn.He died in 1888, months before the opening of his eponymous hall in the town. Queen street was built as a straight road to the new market and included a British School ( now the Halifax) which is reputedly haunted by children, and an English baptist chapel ( now M&S). Robert explained that there was a crypt below the chapel which is accessed through a trapdoor in the middle of the road, this too had ghostly associations. The Masonic hall is also an imposing building on Queen Street. The market in Green Street surprisingly had no ghost stories attached to it at all, though it has once doubled as a centre of entertainment as well as commerce. The reference to Green and Orchard streets in this part of the town, refererred to Ty Mawr or Mackworth house where Burtons used to stand. This was the most expensive property in Glamorgan at one time.

Turning down Orchard Street, the rear entrance to the Castle Hotel revealed an original cobbled road. Originally the Ship and Castle this is a truly historic building with numerous ghost stories including those with connections to smuggling and murder. It is also of course the venue where the WRU was formed.

Robert then took the group through the heritage area associated Alfred Russel Wallace a contemporary of Darwin who had assisted with the Origin of Species. He designed the Mechanics Institute ( now the headquarters of the Neath Antiquarians). St Thomas's Church was originally the garrison chapel of Neath Castle and is the only building of the centre of Neath still used for its original purpose. The site of Jestyn Jeffries Solicitors was once a bath house and ghostly goings on have been reported there.

Finally, the group went up old Market Street with its numerous taverns and heritage architecture, passing the Butchers Arms ( now the Duke), the St Ives (with its connection between Cornwall and Wales's trade in copper and coal - Tregelles Price, the quaker is buried nearby) and the Bunch of Grapes ( now a house). The nearby Mission Hall is also closely associated with the religious revival of 1904 and its charismatic preacher, Seth Joshua.

Water Street was built over the Gnoll brook and was also the site of the synagogue in Neath with several ghostly connections associated with this once wild area of the town.

Mr Trefor Jones thanked Robert King for a fantastic ghost tour of Neath. Though everyone had visited the sites many times, no one had realised the significance of much of what they had passed by habitually.