02 October 2020The Diary of Llewelyn Williams of Dyffryn


Martyn J Griffiths

It was the Brecon & County Times, who in 1867-8 serialised a diary written by Llewelyn Williams of Duffryn.  The original was owned by a bookshop in London and was purchased by Joseph Joseph Esq., a Breconshire alderman and antiquarian, who then presented it to Howel Gwyn, the new owner of the Duffryn Estate.

The diary is mainly a litany of the names of people that Llewelyn Williams met and dined and socialised with.  Deciphering who these people were, is a huge task that is currently being tackled, since in spite of Tony Hopkins’ excellent publication 'Neath: The Town and its People' of the social life in Neath in the eighteenth century, there is very little information about the town’s inhabitants available elsewhere.

The diary covers only one year, although the newspaper heading gives the impression that it is for 1745 and 1746. At the time when it was written, as far as the law was concerned, the New Year started on Lady Day which was the 25th March. Up to that day, entries are dated 1745 with the subsequent entries dated 1746.

Llewelyn Williams was the son of Phillip Williams, the genealogist.  His father had produced a monstrous family tree that took his family back to the age of the Welsh princes and linked them with kings of Dublin and North Wales, John of Gaunt, the Emperor Constantine and even Coelus, King of Britain, better known as Old King Cole.  It is a fantastic and probably imaginary family lineage but one which most of the Neath gentry could relate to as their own families claimed similar princely heritage.


Phillip died in 1717 and Llewelyn took over the running of the estate.  He was twice married.  By his first wife he had two children, Phillip and Mansel, and by his second wife he had a further two children, Elizabeth (Betty) and Horton.  In the autumn he notes the children setting out for their respective schools, Phillip for Westminster and Mansel for Cowbridge.  He spends a lot of time with his youngest son, Horton.  On several occasions he takes Horton to clubs with him and they also went hunting together.  We are told that Horton attends school at Wells in Somerset.  On the 9th December Will. Evans [presumably an estate servant] sets out to fetch Horton and Mansel home from their schools.  They did not arrive back until the 17th!

Horton was buried in Cadoxton on 15th May 1747 and this may very well have had a fatal effect on his father as 18 months later he too was dead.

His only daughter, Betty, did not attend school.  However, a Mr Eaton, dancing master, visited the house every week and stayed overnight.

                                                 Cowbridge Free Scholl - NLW


Throughout the narrative Llewelyn Williams refers to his many cousins who visit Duffryn and who he meets up with on his travels.  The term ‘cousin’ when used in the eighteenth century could mean any cousin, i.e. first, second, third or even a more distant relationship.  Sometimes the individual might not be what we deem to be a cousin at all, but some other type of relative, even an in-law.  Therefore, trying to identify the individuals mentioned and their relationship is difficult in the extreme.

Here then is a list of his 'cousins' which the genealogists amongst you can endeavour to untangle:

Jenny (Jane) and Molly (Mary) Broadbear,   Will Bowen of Gellymarch,  Jenny and Keziah Powell, Betty Powell, Dan and Rah Jones, Billy Jones, Henry Llewelin, Traherne (Cardiff), Griff Price (Cardiff), Seys (Boverton), James Powell of Swansea, Will Jones of Swansea, Peggy Jenkins, William Evans of Eaglesbush, Roderick Evans who was also a godson and Jack Llewelin of Ynyisgerwn.


The Williams family regularly attended Sunday services at both Cadoxton and Neath churches, often dividing themselves up to cover both parishes.

Francis Pinkney, the vicar of Neath, was a very frequent visitor to Duffryn mansion.

If the diary had extended another year, we might have been privy to the first visit of John Wesley who came to the town on at least a further ten occasions.

Pinkney died in 1768 which was fortuitous for the Methodist cause.  In that year John Wesley paid a visit to the town and was invited by the curate William Davies to preach inside the church.  This would never have been allowed had Pinkney still been in office but Davies was a Methodist sympathiser. 

On one occasion in December Llewelyn Williams met up with Herbert Mackworth at the Ship and Castle to hear complaints by Parson Thomas of Cadoxton against his parishioners for 'subtraction of tithes'.  Nonconformity arrived in Neath in force in the nineteenth century; first putting down roots in the rural areas and then the Baptists, Methodists, Independents, Unitarians and Quakers all establishing themselves in Neath town itself.  No doubt many of the supporters of these new religious groups were resentful of the fact that a tenth of their produce still had to be given to the church.  This was the start of a battle which continued to be fought until well into the twentieth century.


As noted by Tony Hopkins, the Williams family of Duffryn were on a different level of gentry to the Mansells of Briton Ferry and the Mackworths of the Gnoll, so to be invited to the Gnoll must have been a highlight on their social calendar.

On the 4th June, Williams, his wife and his younger children, Mansel, Horton and Betty, dined at the Gnoll with the Mackworths and other guests and danced the evening away, arriving back home at 10 o’clock at night.  It was a rare opportunity for Betty to put into practice the skills she would have learned at her weekly dancing sessions with Mr Eaton.

Llewelyn Williams often travelled and dined at different houses in the area but it is noticeable that, on the occasions when he dined at the Gnoll, he inserted the comment in brackets, (by invitation).  Similarly, when he dined at Briton Ferry House on 1st January it was (by invitation).  Other houses where the invitation was evident were Cilybebyll and Eaglesbush.

He takes opportunity when it arises to drop in on friends and relatives.  For example, on his trips to and from Cardiff to carry out his judicial duties, he dropped in on a number of people, included among whom were his relations from some of the oldest families in the county: the Turbervilles of Ewenny, the Seys family of Boverton, the Carne family at Cowbridge and cousin Traherne of Cardiff.


Several times there are mentions in the diary of visits to clubs. On 21st March he visits Richard Moses’ club in Cadoxton with Horton; en-route they join up with other members of the minor gentry who accompanied them – Robert Morris of Ynysarwed, Parson Francis Pinkney of Neath, George Hutton, the coast waiter, and Dr Pralph junior.  At the club they dined before returning about eight in the evening. 

Also mentioned are Rees Goch’s club in Cadoxton, Thomas Price’s club at Melincourt, Mr. Portrey’s club at Ystradgynlais [he stayed all night on this jaunt] and a club at Newbridge, Melincourt which may well be identical to Thomas Price’s club.  These seem to have been gentlemen’s clubs; somewhere they could dine and discuss the affairs of the day.

His main dining den was the Angel in Neath.  He appears to have owned this public house as he states on several occasions that he dined with ‘my landlord’. It is a pity that the diary does not start a few  years earlier as then we might have had an account of the visit of the Methodist preacher George Whitfield who allegedly preached to a crowd of over 3,000 from the Angel (the population of Neath at this time was just over 2,000).


Hunting seems to have been his favourite pastime.  The Drummau Mountain was immediately behind his home and much time was spent there.  On only one occasion does the writer tell us what he was hunting 'for hares'.

In October and November, he went further afield to 'Keven-y-coed' [Cefn coed, Crynant]; Kenvas [Cefnfaes in Cadoxton]; Tyn yr Heol [probably the farm now enveloped by Bryncoch] and Wernvraith [Wernffraith - behind Court Herbert].  He also went by invitation to hunt on the Gnoll and the Eaglesbush estates.

His favourite hunting partner was a Mr Walter Powell.  Indeed, this gentleman visited Duffryn House several times a week and regularly dined there staying overnight.


There are frequent mentions of the diarist taking ‘physick’ (medicine).  He seems to have been unwell in February when he took physick twice, and was particularly ill in the autumn taking his tonic twice in September and three times the following month.  Despite this he does not appear to have slowed down his social commitments.

On several occasions Dr Pralph junior was called to the house to conduct bloodletting.  His wife was bled twice in the year and Llewelyn himself was bled for ‘sore eyes’ which particularly afflicted him for a week in June. On Dr Pralph’s third visit something was applied to his eyes which seemed to have had the desired effect and the inflammation went away.

A patient being bled by his doctor - Wikimendia Commons - Wellcome Library


Several deaths during the year are noted.  The first, in January, was a Mrs Rees of Neath who must have been a notable person as the bearers were Llewelyn Williams, William Evans of Eaglesbush, Dr Pralph senior of Neath, Dr Jenkins also of Neath, Lewis Thomas of Margam and David Griffiths of Briton Ferry who seems to have had a strong connection with Briton Ferry House as the party retired there after the body was buried in Briton Ferry, at his invitation.

An eighteenth century funeral procession - ephemera-society.org.uk

Towards the end of April, he set out for Llwynbrain, near Llandridnod Wells for the funeral of Mrs Hughes. He travelled with his brother-in-law Richard Turberville and the Herberts of Cilybebyll with other parties joining them en-route.  It took them all day to get there, arriving at 7 pm at night and the house must have been crowded with the throng of mourners.  The body was taken to Llandingat church the following evening with Llewelyn Williams once again being one of the twelve bearers.  Normally there would be six men acting as bearers, but carrying a coffin for any distance would need a change of personnel on the way.

In May he attended with George Hutton senior the funeral at Cilybebyll of Mrs Williams, late of Trevithel, after which they dined at Cilybebyll House with the Herbert family and other mourners.


A large part of Llewellyn Williams’ year was taken up with judicial duties.  He was a Justice of the Peace although It was not necessary to have legal qualifications in order to participate in court activities, you merely had to be a gentleman of high standing in the county.  He was called upon to sit at the Quarter Sessions and the Court of Great Sessions, probably as part of what was called the Grand Jury, although the diary is not clear on his actual duties.  The sheriff of the county would produce a list of 24 men of the county 'to inquire into, present, do and execute all those things which, on the part of our Lord the King, shall then be commanded them.'

Once the court was opened by the crier the names constituting the Grand Jury would be called and they were duly sworn in.  They would number between 14 and 23 persons.  The jury would hear the evidence of the prosecution witnesses only and examine them in order to decide whether or not there was a 'true bill' and the case could go to trial. At the trial it would be the duty of the 'Petit Jury' to find a defendant guilty or innocent.

The Court of Great Sessions in Wales lasted until 1830 when it was replaced by the Assize court.  Wales was divided up into circuits and the local one comprised of Brecon, Radnorshire and Glamorgan.  The Sessions were held twice a year at Brecon, Cardiff and Presteigne and dealt with the more serious cases, lesser crimes being assigned to the Quarter Sessions.  The ultimate penalty was of course execution and these took place in Glamorgan at Little Heath, Cardiff or at Stalling Down, Cowbridge.  It is reckoned that less than ten percent of the judges throughout the long history of the Welsh Great Sessions, were actually Welsh and of them only a small percentage actually spoke the language.  Justice was elusive in the eighteenth century.

Regrettably the writer tells us nothing about the court or its criminal cases and concentrates solely on his dining and social involvement.

On 29th March he set off for Cardiff, dining on the way at the Bear in Cowbridge.  In Cardiff he visits the 'White Lyon' and afterwards the Red House in Broad Street which was at the west end of Angel Street, meeting up with various attorneys and gentry.  The following day, a Sunday, started with church in the morning before dining at 'the Judges' [judges lodgings?] with fellow Justices.  During his tour Llewellyn Williams stayed in lodgings, often with a colleague from the court.

On the Monday he again attended church together with the Town Corporation in attendance with the Judges.  This event signalled the start of the Sessions.

On the 4th April the entourage set out for Brecon and the diarist dined at Pontsticill with one of the Judges and some of what he calls 'the brethren' who would have been fellow justices.  They then visited the Golden Lion in Brecon before a late arrival at his new lodgings.

They set out again on the 10th April for Presteigne and dined there at the Royal Oak.  Another watering hole whilst staying in the town is named as the White Hart.

On 16th April, he set out once more for Brecon and stayed the night there before making his way home to Neath.  Even then he did not reach home that day, staying the night at Ynisarwed.

In August this grand tour would be repeated although on this occasion he went first to Presteigne, then to Brecon and finally Cardiff; the whole tour lasting from 18th August and at Cardiff seems to have merged into the town’s Quarter Sessions, before finally setting out for home on 4th September.

The Quarter Sessions dealt with both criminal and administrative matters.  In the latter category would have been the upkeep of bridges and the county goal, provision for the care of lunatics and the registration of electors, and it acted as an appeal court for the Poor Law which was administered by the parishes. As a member of the Grand Jury he may not have been involved in this aspect of court work.

His duties at the Quarter Sessions started with a two-day stint at Cardiff 15-16th January.  He must have found this and his subsequent elongated journey back home particularly exhausting as his diary has one of his rare personal comments when late on the 17th he wrote, 'I got home (thank God) before 7, in good health.'

On 12th February John Gwyn of Neath met up with him in order to go 'to Neath to hold a quarter session in order to qualify Mr. Llewelin of Ynisgerwn to act as Justice of Peace, pursuant to an Act passed the 18th of his present Majesty.'  The actual Neath Quarter Session was held on 15-16th July at the Ship and Castle.  As aforementioned, the Cardiff Sessions were in September.

He has one further reference to the Quarter Sessions when, on 13th November, he met with ‘Her. Macharan Esq, Jno. Price Esq., and Dr. Phillips of Sketty', for an adjournment of Quarter Sessions [presumably a case held over from an earlier meeting].

Other Quarter Sessions were held at Swansea and Cowbridge but Llewelyn Williams was not called on those occasions.

More Miseries - British Museum Images


A description of the town of Neath was never going to be included and the only mentions we have are of the Angel, the Ship and Castle, the Hare and Hounds and the Red House.  The latter may not have been a public house; he merely speaks of Catherine, the wife of John Morgan of the Redhouse at Neath visiting them at Duffryn.

He does mention one incident in the town on the 19th March when he and Horton went into town to 'throw the benches the Corporation erected between my two houses in High Street.'  Evidently there was some sort of dispute between him and Mackworth but the latter was out of town and Williams persuaded the Corporation representatives - Spicket the Portreeve, Benbow the Commons attorney and Leyton Hopkins, one of the burgesses - to put matters on hold until Mackworth should return.

The name 'Penyrheol wernvraith' crops up several times on his way home to Duffryn and one wonders if this was the name of the lane that became Dwr-y-felin Road.

On another occasion he dines in company with two Chief Constables.  This was at a time when seven or eight parish constables would have carried out various duties for the magistrates in the borough.  The Chief Constables would have represented a hundred, a hundred being an administrative unit for the county.  There were ten such hundreds in Glamorgan and the Neath hundred would have extended well beyond the boundaries of the town. The meeting was in relation to Land Tax and Llewelyn Williams was acting as a commissioner along with Herbert Mackworth and Parson Pinkney. 

The diary lasts for just one year and offers a look through a chink in the curtains of history surrounding Neath in the eighteenth century.  Regrettably, there is no mention of Duffryn House, the staff, its grounds or even the wider estate.  So much is missing, but at least we have a glimpse of one year in the life of Llewelyn Williams.

My thanks are due to our Chairman David Michael for the interpretation of several facets of eighteenth century life.

01 September 2020Fighting the French


Martyn J Griffiths

Former Neath Antiquarian, John Garfield Griffiths, wrote a series of articles for the society’s Transactions about Neath’s military heroes of the past.  Most saw service in the World Wars of the 20th century but a few fought in earlier conflicts.

He names four as having served during the long wars with the French between 1793 and 1815:

CAPTAIN REES HOWELL GRONOW, son of William Gronow of Court Herbert, joined the army in 1812, took part in the Peninsular War and in 1815 fought at Quatre Bas and Waterloo as aide to Lt-General Sir Thomas Picton.  He left the army in 1821.  His reminiscences of Waterloo are one of the best eye-witness accounts of the battle.




LT-COLONEL ROBERT PLACE, was third son of the copper master, John Place of Cadoxton and brother to Thomas Dumayne Place, mayor of Neath.  His brothers John, James and William all served in the army.  James, two years younger than his brother, joined the same time as him. 

He entered the Native Indian Army based at Bombay, as a cadet aged 17.  Later he saw action in the disastrous, malaria-ridden, Walcheren expedition of 1809 and in the Peninsular War.  He served in the army for 21 years and died at the age of 40 on the coast of Malabar in the East Indies in 1828.

His wife was a sister of Diana Ainsley Bowzer whose memorial is near the organ inside St. Catwg’s church, Cadoxton.

MORGAN HOWELLS died in 1867 at the age of 86.  His memorial stone in the parish graveyard at Resolven states that he served as a sapper and miner during the Peninsular War and had been present at Salamanca, Talavera, Badajos, Vittoria and Corunna.  When he retired he lived with Samuel Sims at Ynysfach Inn in Resolven and later with Samuel’s daughter, Mrs Evan Rees.

MAJOR LEWIS ROTLEY was the son of Lewis Rotley, landlord of the Ship and Castle Hotel in Neath.  He served in the Royal Marines from 1805 to 1814.  His memorial in St. Mary’s graveyard, Swansea, states that he served on the flag ship, Victory, under Lord Nelson at Trafalgar and was severely wounded during the action.  In 1809 he was in charge of the marines on board the Cleopatra during the reduction of Martinique.

The above are brief accounts as reported by John Garfield Griffiths in 1977 and 1978 Transactions.  However here are four further French War heroes not mentioned in his lists:

COMMANDER HUGH ROBERT ENTWISTLE  Entwistle was the second son of John Entwistle Esq. of Foxholes near Rochdale.

He joined the navy in 1799 aboard the frigate ‘Amethyst and continued there until 1805.  That year he joined the Bellerophon in time to see action at the Battle of Trafalgar.  He is shown on the lists as being an able-bodied seaman but in fact this nomenclature was a cloak for ‘young gentleman’.  He was promoted to Lieutenant early in 1806 and served aboard the sloop Paulina where he saw service in the Mediterranean and on the Copenhagen expedition.  Six years later he transferred to the Warspite and later to Bucephalus where he travelled to New Orleans.  After the war, like so many others, he was placed on half-pay.  His final rank was that of Commander.

HMS Bellerophon by W Mitchell

His connection with Neath is difficult to unravel.  From 1821 to 1828 he was a member of the Common Council, the role also known as a Capital Burgess.  In order to attain this position he must have owned property in the town.  Perhaps he was a friend of Admiral Charles Warde who lived at Preswylfa.  He is recorded as living at ‘Drummau House’ in 1823 but he did not stay there long as he, at the time of his marriage in 1825, was living at  Llanblethian Cottage, near Cowbridge.  He died at Marlborough Grange, Crossways, Cowbridge in 1867 and his memorial stone is in St. John the Baptist’s Church, Llanblethian.

COLONEL TURNER GRANT  The brother of Henry John Grant of the Gnoll has his memorial inside St. Thomas’ Church.  It states that he served for forty years in the army with the Grenadier Guards, including the Walcheren campaign and the Peninsular War, his constitution suffering from the effects of the baleful climate of the former.  He was present at Corunna, Bidassoa, Nivelle, Adour and Bayonne. He was appointed ensign in 1805, lieutenant and captain 1811, Lt Colonel 1816, Bt Colonel 1837 and ‘Major with rank of Colonel’ 1837.  He died in 1845 at the age of 59.

JENKIN FRANCIS  On the wall behind the font at Cadoxton Church is a memorial blackened with verdigris which must be one of the oldest in the church.  On the plaque you might just be able to read the name of Jenkin Francis.  He joined the army and was lieutenant with the 8th Regiment of Foot when he died at the age of 37 in March 1798. 

We do not know whether he died as a result of injuries or disease but he had returned home because the memorial states that his remains lie in Cadoxton.

The 8th Regiment of Foot was also known as the King’s Regiment.  Jenkin probably served with the regiment in North America until 1785 during the War of Independence.  After war was declared with France in 1793 the regiment was deployed in the Netherlands under Prince Frederick (the Grand Old Duke of York).  From 1795 to 1796 they were in the West Indies which was not the healthiest of climates for British lads.

VICE-ADMIRAL CHARLES WARDE  Charles joined the Royal Navy in the summer of 1798, at the age of 13,  as a first-class volunteer on board the Northumberland.  At this time of course, Britain was at war with France and his active service saw him rise to the rank of Captain and in charge of his own ship, a sloop named HMS Banterer from 1810 to about 1817.  He took part in the blockade and capture of Malta and in operations off Egypt in 1801. He served on the Glory under his uncle, Admiral Cornwallis.  The Banterer carried 18 guns and had been built in 1810 at Woolwich.

A model of HMS Banterer, a new build when Warde took command which the Navy sold when he left.

After the war, Captain Warde and his ship played a major role in the Battle of Algiers of 1816.  This was an attempt by the British to end the slavery practice of the Dey of Algiers.  An Anglo-Dutch fleet bombarded the ships and harbour defences and it is believed that Warde carried out a surveillance of those defences, partly in plain clothes, and was involved in negotiations with the port.  As a result of their efforts the Dey of Algiers freed around 3000 slaves and signed a treaty against slavery of Europeans.

Another expedition attributed to Warde was to chart part of the Alaskan coast.  HMS Banterer was sold in 1817 and soon after that Captain Warde accepted half-pay.  There is no record of him returning to sea but seniority saw him in 1851 rise in rank to Vice-Admiral.

Charles Warde was a son of General Warde of Oystermouth (His grandfather, General George Warde, had been Commander-in-Chief, Ireland and retired in 1799 to Clyne Castle.  His father – also General George Warde, was one of the major early industrialists in Llanelli).  His whole family was involved in the armed services. 

Charles Warde took up residence in Neath in the early 1820s and served on the Common Council from 1824.  He settled in Preswylfa on the Gnoll Estate. His sister Mary married Henry John Grant the Gnoll squire and Warde and his brother-in-law were the two most powerful people on the Neath Town Corporation where they were referred to as representatives of the local aristocracy.  He followed Henry John Grant as Portreeve of the town in 1830.  He was also Mayor of the town in 1835 and in 1839 but resigned during his second term of office.

In 1861 Warde inherited Squerryes Court in Westerham, Kent, and he died there in 1869.  

Vice-Admiral Warde


02 August 2020Our Early Twentieth Century Nursing Heroines

Our Early Twentieth Century Nursing Heroines


Building on David Michael’s May 2020 essay 'When all this is over', it seemed an appropriate time to pay tribute to the predecessors of today’s heroic health professionals. The records released by the Wellcome Library of the UK & Ireland Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll (and, to a much lesser extent, the UK Midwives Roll and the Nursing Registers) give an insight into the lives and work of many thousands of women who served communities in this way before the advent of the National Health Service.

As far as Neath is concerned some passed through within a matter of weeks, while others gave diligent service here over many years. Not all were 'Queen’s Nurses'. Interestingly, a name which appears in all three of the above-named registers was Margaret Alice Bushell who qualified as a Queen’s Nurse in 1903 and initially lived at 116 Briton Ferry Road when she arrived at Neath around 1906.[1] She was among the first residents at the QNI Home before leaving in 1912 to take up a post as a school nurse employed by Glamorgan County Council.[2]  After several years spent working in her native Pembrokeshire, Margaret returned to the Home at Neath in 1926, again in the role of midwife.[3]  She possessed those two prized qualities of a nurse in Wales - she was Welsh-speaking and a cyclist!

It goes without saying that Margaret (like many nurses generally during this period) was unmarried. The QNI official record stated unequivocally 'Single or Widow' since upon marriage a nurse was obliged to resign her QNI status.  They were, however, permitted to re-join the Institute having been widowed.

An unexpected link with David’s article emerged during research.  One of our early Queen’s Nurses, Sarah Mary Jenkins of Bridgend, arrived in Neath in July 1900 and spent more than five years in the town ministering to the local population before leaving in September 1905 for Huddersfield, where she was to become Senior Nurse.  Her tenure was to be very brief, as Nurse Jenkins surrendered her badge and brassard[a] to the Queen’s Nurses’ Institute in December of that same year, as her health had 'given way'.[4]  Did she return to nursing after a period of rest and recovery, I wondered? Well, apparently not; for well within a year of her departure from Neath she returned, but this time as the bride of Dr John Mudie Morris, who was for many years the town’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH).[5]  Their first marital home was 100 Briton Ferry Road, before moving to 'Plasnewydd' in London Road (a substantial residence where Dr Edward Coyne and partners later practised).  By 1939 the Register lists them as settled at 'Gnoll Cottage'. 

Several girls from Neath were appointed Queen’s Nurses: Catherine Evans, a product of Gnoll School, worked in the town between April 1925 and June 1926 before moving to England, later returning to take up 'holiday work' in Gowerton and Llansamlet; Gnoll and County schoolgirl Blodwen Morgan spent her career in North Wales in the 1920s, before resigning to marry; and farmer’s daughter Jessie Trew, educated at Bryncoch National School, was deemed 'exceptionally capable' in her work at both Cardiff and Penmaenmawr before marrying in 1941.

Training at the Queen's Institute of District Nursing, Guildford,1944(Wikipedia Commons)

 Nursing at Cymla Tuberculosis Hospital, meanwhile, was part of the early training for Martha Russell from October 1914 to March 1915 before gaining admittance to the QNI the following year and working throughout the 1920s at Pontardawe and Resolven. 

Another who spent a short time at Neath in the Summer of 1916 was Meirion Evans. She left for military work, serving in stationary hospitals in Salonica and Constantinople and a casualty clearing station in Russia. It was little wonder that she could not settle to district work after these experienes. Following demobilisation in February 1920 she worked at the Ministry of Pensions.

Meirion was far from being the only nurse to suffer early burnout (it was not unknown even among those who remained in Britain). Another casualty was Margaretta Edwards. Having worked previously in Gower and Aberystwyth and described on her record as 'a capital nurse, keen and thoroughly reliable', Margaretta spent fifteen months in Neath before leaving in March 1924 due to ill-health.  She returned home to Trapp, Llandeilo, where she died three months later, aged 31.

Having spent almost three and a half years in Neath as both nurse and Health Visitor, Annie Richards (following departure for Cambridge in June 1915) later offered herself for military nursing, serving in Baghdad and Basra (1918-21).

Upon being appointed a Queen’s Nurse and midwife, young Edith Williams spent several months of 1922 in Neath. Her record was excellent, except for the statement that there was 'trouble about rash on babies'. The MOH advised resignation, but it did not seem to be her fault.   Whether that was her reason for leaving is unclear, but she moved to Guildford for a short period, then to Llanrwst before marrying in 1925. 


Relaxing at the Queen's Institute of District Nursing,Guildford (IWM)


It is impossible in a short article, to do justice to so many.  Looking back a century and more it is worth reminding ourselves of the sheer physical effort of cycling to and from patients’ homes in all weathers, nurses’ exposure to diseases for which remedies were less reliable or available and the strict constraints under which they were expected to live as members of the Queen’s Nursing Institute.

The many volumes of records of that body lay bare the scrutiny to which each nurse was subjected throughout her career.[6]  It was entirely reasonable that her work and medical equipment should undergo inspection every six months, but the local nursing association also saw fit to dissect all aspects of a nurse’s character, their remarks lying indelibly until her career’s end and beyond. Very few of the comments which follow apply to nurses who served in Neath, but they give a flavour of what was endured.

A nurse reports to Matron (seated) on the cases she has visited that day (IWM)

Reports on nursing itself covered a spectrum ranging from 'conscientious, methodical, attentive, energetic' to 'satisfactory, acceptable' and then take a downward turn toward 'irresponsible, slapdash … a muddler lacking in method and gumption … a third-rate nurse, poorly educated.'

Also noted were an individual’s relationship with patients, whose opinions were canvassed (generally nurses were 'well liked' or even 'loved') along with her colleagues at the Home, where harmony was deemed crucial.  Again, some comments were very complimentary: 'irreproachable, amiable, refined and neat in appearance'; some less so: 'giddy, lacks dignity and discretion, always getting into scrapes … a mischief-maker, talkative and disloyal … harum scarum – troublesome about uniform and regulations … too keen about off-duty time, regardless of work … a peculiar woman with a curious disposition … not very strong, but improving since teeth overhauled' [what dentistry was this one wonders!].  In one case complaints led to a nurse being removed from the QNI Roll 'after later information'. And, of course, the cardinal sin: 'It was found that she had a child soon after marriage. She is not to be allowed to join.'

Clashes of personality in a Home could have serious consequences. We do not know how 'friction over a second-hand car' ended, but one situation reached such a pitch that it resulted in two resignations,   that of the senior nurse and her junior colleague, who 'could not get on.'  Inevitably this caused staff shortages, putting further strain on the remaining nurses until replacements could be found.

We can be very grateful to these women, whose actions undoubtedly saved many lives (perhaps those of some of our ancestors). There can be no doubt that sacrifice, of one sort or another, has always been a strong element of a nurse’s calling. 

The table below, includes those who spent a minimum of one year in Neath during the period covered by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll (Wales) - Volumes 1 & 2. The third column records the immediate reason why each nurse left her post, if stated.

Edith Eliza Please

Dec. 1897 – Jun. 1900

Matron at Kingsbridge, Devon

Sarah Mary Jenkins

Jul. 1900 – Sept. 1905

Senior Nurse, Huddersfield

Elizabeth West Thorpe

Nov. 1900 – Sept. 1904


Elizabeth Ellen Jones

Sept. 1904 – Sept. 1910

Nursing at Clydach

Ethel Annie Lyon

Nov. 1905 – Oct. 1911

Assistant Co. Supt., Cornwall

Margaret Mankley

May 1909 – Jan. 1912

Other work

Ethel Penstone Short

Jul. 1909 – Dec. 1911

Nursing in England

Margaret Alice Bushell

Sept. 1909 – May 1912

School nurse, Glamorgan C.C.

Mabel Katherine Knight

Oct. 1910 – Dec. 1911

Nursing in England

Mary Miller, Superintendent

Nov. 1911 – Feb. 1913

Nursing abroad

Mary Barker, Midwife

Dec. 1911 – Dec. 1913


Elizabeth Robyns-Owen, M/w

Jan. 1912 – Mar. 1913


Annie Richards

Jan. 1912 – Dec. 1913

Health Visitor, Neath

Charlotte Scarfe, Supt.

May 1912 – May 1916

Nursing in England

Sarah Twigg, Supt.

Jul. 1913 – Jul. 1921

School nursing, Neath

Elizabeth Carter

Aug. 1913 – Oct. 1914

Hospital work

Beatrice Caroline Brooks

Apr. 1915 – Sept. 1916

Military nursing

Elizabeth B. Sprintall, Supt.

Jun. 1916 – Mar. 1920


Margaret Elizabeth Cole

Jul. 1916 – Jul. 1917

Nursing in England

Clara Margaret Woodward

Dec. 1919 – Dec. 1922


Hannah Marie Cutter

Nov. 1920 – Jul. 1927


Mary Catherine Price, Supt.

Oct. 1921 – 1947, at least


Rose Gwendoline Miller

Aug. 1922 – Aug. 1923


Margaretta Edwards

Feb. 1923 – Feb. 1924

Ill-health; died June 1924

Jeannie Anne Jones

Jul. 1923 – Oct. 1932

Nursing in England

Catherine Evans

Apr. 1925 – Jun. 1926

Nursing in England

Bronwen Jones

Aug. 1926 – Aug. 1928

Other work

Marjory Coslett

Sept. 1926 – Sept. 1928

Health Visitor training

Annie Roberts

Oct. 1928 – Sept. 1936


Badges - Old & New - (QNI)

[This article is a supplement to a longer article that will appear in The Neath Antiquarian Vol.4 which will celebrate the centenary of the NAS in 2023]

Images appear courtesy of the Wellcome Institute, Imperial War Museum, Queens' Nuses Institute and Wikipedia Commons

[a] A brassard or armlet is an armband or piece of cloth or other material worn around the upper arm; the term typically refers to an item of uniform worn as part of military uniform or by police or other uniformed persons.

[1] UK Midwives’ Roll, 1910

[2] UK & Ireland Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses, Wales, Volume 1 

[3] UK Midwives’ Roll, 1926

[4] UK & Ireland Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses, Wales, Volume 1

[5] Civil Registration Marriage Index 1837-1915 – The marriage took place at St. Luke’s, Battersea in May 1906 

[6] There are two volumes for Wales; and as many as 42 for England, covering the period 1891-1931

01 August 2020VAUGHAN'S TOWER


Vaughan's Tower



Early in 1864 the proposal for the building of a new church in Neath (led by the Rector John Griffiths) was gaining momentum with the site for building, together with a contribution of £200 to the subscriptions list, being made by Howel Gwyn.   Donations to the subscription list (which included £500 from Nash Vaughan Edwards Vaughan) were so good that on the advice of Mr Vaughan it was decided to engage the architect John Norton to submit plans for a new church[1].  The plans were ambitious – a large church accommodating 1,200 worshipers at an estimated cost of £6,400.  While the design met with general approval, there was considerable concern about the cost which appeared, to some of the community, to be beyond their ability to raise the necessary funds.  However, it was decided to proceed with Norton’s plans but, to begin with, only to erect the nave [the area of the church where parishioners, or congregation, sit or stand] and chancel [the space around the altar for clergy and choir], leaving the church proper to be completed by future generations.[2]

The original contract for the first phase erection of the church was awarded to Messrs Jones & Son of Gloucester, with the tower portion of the new church being discontinued after reaching a height of 60 feet and a temporary wooden roof constructed for its protection (as stipulated in the contract). The building had impressed all that saw it, but now some criticised the temporary works for giving the place of worship an unsightly appearance of having a stump attached to it.  One such critic was Mr Vaughan who offered 'to present the bride with a diamond necklace,' as he expressed his intention to fund the cost of the completion of the edifice.[3] Builders were sought and the tender submitted by Mr Alfred Bucknell's was accepted.  He undertook to complete the work without removing the new organ erected in the chapel at the base of the tower.  In addition he also committed not to take any materials through the inside of the building during the construction work.  To achieve this, a massive scaffold was erected on the south side of the tower; the materials for the work being raised with chain and pulleys worked by [real] horse power.  A revolving crane, designed and constructed specially for the work was erected on the top of the scaffolding, allowing each stone to be lowered into its place.  Before work commenced a strongly reinforced waterproof platform was constructed (for the protection of the organ) in case any heavy stones or other materials should fall through the opening into the tower.  The tower was completed without injury to those engaged on the project.  However, in November 1868, a high wind caused part of the woodwork to come crashing down on to the roof of the chancel. The force of the falling debris broke away the rafters in the interior of the building and caused considerable damage to the upper part of the ornamental tiles.[4] 

The tower was eventually completed in 1869, at a cost of £1,300, but without a clock or bells [it was intended that 8 bells and an illuminated clock would be included].[5]  However, it did have a wrought iron weather vane with a gilt cross and cock surmounting the spire, which was also fitted with a lightning conductor.  The tower’s benefactor, Mr Nash Vaughan Edwards Vaughan, died at Inchbae, Ross-shire, Scotland in 1868, before completion of the tower.  In recognition of his generous contribution a memorial tablet with the words 'Vaughan’s Tower' was fixed to the outside of the tower beneath the three single-light lancet windows. 

Nash Vaughan Edwards was born in London on 22nd May 1811 to John Edwards and his second wife Sarah Parkin (widow of James Dalton).  Nash was probably named after his father’s relatives, John Nash the architect and William Vaughan of Lanelay Hall (near Llantrisant).  Nash’s formative years were spent in the company of other young gentlemen.  From the diaries of Lewis Weston Dillwyn (who was foremost among the political opponents of Nash’s father) we learn that Nash and John Dillwyn (Lewis’s eldest son) were friends and that Nash was a frequent house guest at the Dillwyn household.  Nash was educated at Eton College and Christ Church College, Oxford, where he enrolled at the age of 17.[6]  Following the death of William Vaughan at the Edwards' family residence in Regent Street, London, Nash’s father was granted by Royal Licence ' the use of the surname Vaughan in addition to and after Edwards.'  In 1832, aged 21, Nash Vaughan Edwards Vaughan, as he had become known, was appointed one of the Deputy Lord Lieutenants of Glamorgan.  The following year Nash’s father died at their Regent Street home and Nash inherited both the estates of Rheola and Lanelay.  Nash married Harriet Amelia, second daughter of Edward Swainston Strangways, Esq., of Alne Hall, Yorkshire in 1834.  The couple had two children together but sadly both died in childhood and were buried in St. Mary’s Church, Alne.   At the age of 27 Nash was appointed Sheriff of Glamorgan.  He was also a Justice of the Peace for Glamorgan, Brecon and Ross, and was on the Grand Jury that in 1843 prosecuted some of the Rebecca rioters.  There is plenty of evidence showing his generosity to good causes; he was a very liberal subscriber to the Public Reading Room in Resolven which opened in January 1856 and in 1865 he proposed 'a new and more commodious infirmary' for Swansea giving £1,000 towards its funding.  He built a private chapel at Rheola and provided land for a new church in Resolven.  In the parish of Neath (where he owned little or no property) he financially supported the new St. David’s church in Neath from its inception contributing £500 and a further £1,300 for completion of the tower.[7] 

In February 1870 a storm caused considerable damage to the church over two days.  It completely stripped the roof near the tower and over the nave and partly stripped the roof over the chancel.  Coping stones were displaced and all the stone crosses on the pinnacles and gables were blown down and smashed to pieces.  The iron-work of the steeple weather vane was also badly bent and water poured through the roof which filled the organ pipes.  The church’s finances were inadequate to cover the repair costs and appeals to the congregation for increased offerings fell short of the necessary figure.  Then one Sunday in August the Rector informed the congregation that by an act of great generosity by a benefactor, residing near Swansea, the whole expense of repairing the tower would be paid for.[8]  It was John Dillwyn Llewelyn, of Penllergaer, the boyhood friend of Nash Vaughan Edwards Vaughan, who was the benefactor [John Dillwyn had assumed the additional surname of Llewelyn on the death of his maternal grandfather].[9]

Late in November 1871 a gas illuminated clock, paid for by Mrs Jennet Morgan, was installed in the tower, but within two months gale force winds had damaged the centre glass of two of the clock faces.  In 1873 the Council took on the expense of illuminating the clock only to extinguish the illumination in 1876, since it had been condemned as useless at night.  In September 1873 as the clock was being wound, the wire rope of the striking weight snapped sending a 3cwt iron block smashing through the double doors of the belfry tower and then partially demolishing the swell box and pedal pipes of the organ. The vagaries of the British weather continued to play havoc with the church and Vaughan’s Tower.  In December 1891 what was described as a hurricane swept over the town causing further damage to the church roof.[10]  In 1893 'extra-ordinary repairs' to the tower and roof costing £1,600, were undertaken by Holway and Parsons of Swansea, necessitating a suspension of services.  At the start of the twentieth century the clock in the tower of St David’s was the greatest offender in the town when it came to punctuality.[11]  The Rector and Neath Council disagreed on funding for either the repair or replacement of the clock, so that by 1912 the clock had stopped working with its hands stuck at 12.50.[12] 

A much larger clock mechanism (with bigger clock faces) and a carillon was installed as a War Memorial.  A plaque erected in December 1923 to the side of the South porch informs the onlooker thus;

[Fidelis ad Finem - faithful to the end][13]

In 2013 a campaign was launched to raise £500,000 to cover the cost of repairs to the church tower, chancel and Lady Chapel.  The scope of work included re-roofing, timber repair, and the refurbishment of the rainwater goods; tower louvres; leadwork and the finial ironwork.  Also included were restoration work to the clock and clock faces and some work to the carillon. New capital works included the installation a ladder to improve maintenance access to the tower.

Probably the finest structure in the town and iconic of Neath 'Vaughan’s Tower', colloquially referred to as 'The Vaughan Tower', impacts in an unobtrusive way, the daily lives of hundreds of people.  Whether waiting for a bus, or just passing by, people glance up to check the time of day or hear the Westminster chimes marking the hour, half hour and quarter hour. 


[1] John Norton had been engaged by NVE Vaughan to build a chapel overlooking the lake near Rheola House.  Later the foundations became unstable and it was ultimately demolished.- britishlistedbuildings.co.uk

[2] A History of the Churches in the Parish of Neath with Llantwit – Editor: Rev. WP Thomas

[3] The Brecon & County Times – 13th February 1869

[4] ibid

[5] The Welshman – 3rd April 1868

[6] Oxford University Alumni 

[7] The Cardiff & Merthyr Guardian – 26th September 1869

[8] Western Mail – 16th August 1870

[9]  Lewis Weston Dillwyn Diaries – (refers to Dillwyn's son having his friend Nash, the son of John Edwards of Rheola staying as a house guest at Penllergaer).

[10] Western Mail – 14th December 1891

[11] The Cambrian – 18th September 1903

[12] Herald of Wales – 30th May 1918

[13] Chimes relates to the additional mechanism fitted to the clock in order to mark every quarter of an hour (Westminster chimes). Strictly there is no 'peal' since the bells are hung 'dead' and cannot be used for full circle ringing. They are a ring of bells installed as a carillon, which is a set of bells that may be played musically using a keyboard or other mechanism.

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