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Queen Street, Neath


Keith Reed


Queen Street Neath, was built in 1850 and named because of Queen Victoria. It was planned as a middle class street of terraced houses of the period. They probably had small walled front gardens with rough iron railings and a gate. The main thoroughfare was for horse-drawn traffic.


Starting at Green Street end, opposite the town market, which was adjacent to the cattle market. and standing at Marks and Spencers autobank, looking across to Shoe Zone we can make out three or four Georgian Houses built around 1790.On Marks and Spencers side there was previously an Independent Chapel with a cemetery. The chapel has long gone, but the cemetery remains are under the top half of the floor of Marks and Spencer, which also holds a crypt and has to be inspected once a year. Rumour has it that none of the staff will go down into the storeroom on their own - I wonder why?


At the top of Queen Street we have Victoria Gardens laid out for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Before that it was known as Corporation Field where the fair was held and where local boys played football. Opposite the Sports shop is the stone built 'British School' erected in 1848. My grandfather went to this school and could remember children with no shoes on their feet. The building then became the Neath Guardian printing press and subsequently the local Masonic Lodge. One of the shops in the old school building was Rene Gwyllam's lingerie shop. She lived at Waunceirch House which was built in 1812 and was visited by Prime Minister Lloyd George during World War I. Rene Gwyllam's sons are actors. Robert was in the BBC series 'Casualty' in which he played a consultant.


There are a few other interesting features concerning Queen St. There was an observatory discovered in one of the back gardens which may have been used for an early Astronomical Society in Neath. It would be of interest to note that while extensions were being built to Marks & Spencer in the early 1970's - next to the Jewellers shop and part of the old cemetery - an arched tombstone was excavated with the name SARAH in large letters and the date 1812. (I have seen this tombstone in the Museum)


Today Queen St. is one of the main shopping streets on the town with shops, offices, charity shops and cafes. If we stand in the middle of Queen St we can see some of the original bay windows on the terraced houses which date from the architectural period when they were designed and built.

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