Miscellany and Snippets
A collection of bits and pieces of local interest that may also be of use to researchers on a particular subject. Not collated in any order, just for dipping into.
Don't mess with the women of Neath!
It is very rare in history to get the views of the working man. It is even rarer to get the opinions of the working woman, so the gem unearthed below may well be unique in the annals of Neath.
To set the scene - the year is 1803. Britain has been at war with the French for 10 years. A tenuous peace (The Peace of Amiens) between the two nations ended on 18th May when the French refused to withdraw from Dutch territory. Napoleon is in the ascendancy and the threat of invasion is very real indeed.
In his book 'British Society and the French Wars 1793-1815' (1979), Clive Emsley writes that the Prime Minister, Henry Addington (1801-1804) had received a letter from the women of Neath requesting that they be allowed;
'to defend ourselves as well as the weaker women and children among us. There are in this town about 200 women who have been used to hard labour all the days of their lives, such as working in coal-pits, on the high roads, tilling the ground etc.. If you would grant us arms, that is light pikes… we do assure you that we could in a short time learn our exercise… I assure you we are not trifling with you, but serious in our proposal.'
Only those 'gravely interested' neded apply!
Getting 'the needle' in 1890
Was it a good night out in Skewen?
The Great Fair
Although the town of Neath now regularly 'hosts' speciality events it remains best identified with the Great September Fair. Originally (as with many fairs) this was a 'hiring and horse' fair, but evolved to become a street market and pleasure fair. Even as late as 1936 the horse fair still (just) existed as this cutting from the SWEP of 11th September shows us.
Herald of Wales - 27th March 1897
Like many villages in the district they were once well populated with small shops that catered for the needs of locals without them having to traipse to town. Many shops also allowed goods to be had 'on account' meaning that many families avoided starvation in the middle of the pay week. As mobility increased and shopping habits changed from just the bare essentials these small scale purveyors disappeared. This unedited list, relating, to Tonna is a prime example of how things have changed.
Today there are only two shops left in the Village. In 1935 this is the list of business in Tonna starting at Lock Hill, at the entrance to Tonna where Mr Daniels was the Lock keeper.
1) Mr Lewis the Coal merchant.
2) Mr Mathews. Grocery Shop later to become Gwyn Parry.
3) Mr Johns Radio & Battery charging also the sale of Vindec Bikes
4) Morlais Terrace Mrs Lilly Phillips Sweets and General (Parlour Shop)
5) Mr Mathews Sweets and General (Parlour Shop)
6) Llewellyn Howells a branch of London House Aberdulais Selling Groceries and Hardware, later taken over by J O Hughes
7) Mr J O Hughes General & Groceries this was the site of the Wheat sheaf Public House, the Licence transferred to the Royal Oak
8) Opposite Mr J Hopkins had a Fish and Chip Shop later taken over by Mr Mathews
9) Gerts Mrs Evans Clothes Shop and hardware
10) Mr Jenkin Butcher
11) In the woods opposite a shed used for watch repairing
12) Mr Poley had a sweet shop opposite the School
13) Up Wenallt Rd The Thomas's had a coal business and collected the rubbish (Thomas the coal)
14) Gwyn Parry had a grocers Shop in Wenallt Rd on the way up to the Wenallt Farm which was owned by Mr and Mrs Evans
15) Back to the main Road, the Post Office was next to the School and was kept by the Morgan Sisters.
16) Mrs Bowen kept a Grocery Shop and also the Billiard Hall
17) We are now up to the Whittington Arms.
18) On the corner of Whittington Street Mr and Mrs John kept a Fish and Chip Shop
19) Opposite, Mr Danny Rees had a General Store and was very handy on the repairing of grandfather Clocks
20) Opposite Mr Rees, Mr and Mrs Davies kept a Shoe shop
21) On to the Barley Mow which was pulled down, on this site is the Post office
22) Harry Davies had a Grocery shop
23) Opposite, Mrs Blod Bevan kept a Grocery shop
24) On the corner of New Street Mrs Bell had a Shoe repairing shop shop
25) Also on the this corner Mr David Evans had a yard which contained all that necessary for the building Trade and also an undertaker
26) In New Street we had our own Dentist Mrs Macdumat ably assisted by her husband
27) Further down the road Mr Peter Davies ran Tonna Farm
28) Then up the hill to Mrs Brown shop her father in law being the headmaster of Tonna School
29) We also had our own Bakery in Whittington street Mr D Francis
Unfortunately, we have no idea who the author was.
Nothing at all to do with Neath but an humourous newspaper cutting found marking a page in one of the archive documents. The date and source remain unknown at present.
One of the lesser known local victims of the Titanic sinking.
A Train Incident
MR EVAN ROBERTS AND THE SMOKER
Mr Evan Roberts, the revivalist, was in South Wales on Saturday, and was a traveller in the train which left Neath for Cardiff about noon.
Mr Wm. Griffiths, of 8, The Parade, Neath, who knows the revivalist very well, was a passenger in the same compartment and relates the following incident:-
Just as the train was leaving Neath Station a party of young men rushed in, crowding our coach, which was a corridor. Many of them invaded our carriage, a non-smoker, and among the number was a young fellow who had a pipe in his mouth. As he persisted in smoking, an elderly man requested him to desist, and in return was subjected to filthy abuse.
In the corner sat a gentleman busily reading. He remonstrated with the smoker, and proceeding, read him a severe lecture on the evils of drinking and fast living.
By this time passengers from other compartments began to crowd around the door of our coach, and some of them, amused at the stranger's earnestness, began to laugh.
Then it was that the stranger indignantly turned upon them with the remark, "You may laugh and scoff as much as you like, but I am determined to stand for what is right, come what may."
The smoker, the cause of all the trouble, sneeringly remarked, "Get away man - you and your preaching! Only the other day that fellow Evan Roberts was preaching and kicking up a fuss all over the country; but what has come of him now, eh?"
A lady who had hitherto sat silent turned to the smoker with the admonition: "Take care what you say! Think of all the good that Evan Roberts did to many thousands of the likes of you."
As she spoke the stranger rose to his full height and, looking the smoker straight in the face, said: "I would like to know what you have to say about Evan Roberts: here is he standing before you."
The shame faced smoker made no attempt to reply.
Surely the incident should serve to bring home to railway companies the annoyance and indignity to which non-smoking passengers are now too often subjected.