26 March 2018A Right Royal Result

A Right Royal Result


The Society was pleased to be invited to the recent rededication service held at St. Thomas' church for the restored panel depicting the Royal Arms of King George II.

Royal Arms following conservation work

As part of the Dissolution, King Henry VIII established himself as head of the newly formed Church of England.  It thus became customary to display the Royal Arms in all parish churches to act as a visual aid by which those attending were reminded that it was the monarch who now had authority over the church and not the Pope.

During the English Civil War most of these Royal Arms were torn down and destroyed, so there are very few early examples that remain today.

However, following the end of the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, churches were encouraged to display the Royal Arms as a sign of allegiance to the Crown.  The example in St Thomas' is dated 1731 and was probably mounted on the east wall of the north aisle following the completion of this extension to the church in 1730.  It measures over 11ft wide and 10ft high, painted in oils on wood and set in a gabled frame. 

It is believed that these dimensions make it the largest of its kind to be found in a church outside London.

There is no record of who painted the panel but unusually the names of two prominent Neath men are delineated at the bottom.  These are John Hopkin, Portreeve and William Gabb, Churchwarden.  The question arises, Did these two men sponsor the panel?

It took many months of work by expert conservationists to remove the centuries of dirt and grime.  The result is breath-taking and those who remember the panel before it was removed can hardly believe the splendour and grandeur that have resulted.

Royal Arms before conservation work

There are many historical reasons to explore St Thomas' church and all visitors should put the Royal arms panel on their 'must see' list. 

The 'before and after' images appear by courtesy of www.parishofneath.org

03 March 2018Who was Richard Prichard?


The home of Richard Prichard stood for more than 200 years in Water Street, Neath, only to fall foul of the council’s 1970s town redevelopment plans. We know who built the house as it proudly bore the legend, ‘Richard Prichard 1764’ on a plaque on the front of the house.

Richard Prichard’s house is her seen to the left of the George and Dragon Inn.

   It was demolished in 1978 to make way for a Tesco store.   


The house was built at a momentous time for Water Street and for Neath.  That year the Neath Turnpike Trust was established and changed for ever the method of road maintenance.  Until that time able-bodied parishioners had to give up 6 days a year to dig ditches, cut hedges and to generally repair, maintain or renew roads in the area.  Failure to do so led to a fine and your name being read out in church after the Sunday service.

The Neath Turnpike Trust consisted of 50 grandees who met annually – most often in the Ship and Castle Hotel, to auction the five gates and chains within the Trust’s area.  Three of those were in Neath town on the western end of Cadoxton river bridge, in Penydre (which possibly moved to Tonna Road, Llantwit) and at the Merra though the latter later moved to Eastland Road and then to Southgate.  Money from the tolls gathered went towards looking after and renewing the main roads and bridges in the area.

The main thoroughfare through town (The King’s Highway) led along Bridge Street, Cattle Street, High Street (now called Old Market Street), Water Street and Eastland Road.  The year after the Trust was formed one of the first major repairs undertaken was to move the Swan Brook – also called Gnoll Brook – from the middle of Water Street, whence it ran to a pond near the castle.  The brook was moved behind the houses on the north-eastern side of Water Street.

Who then was Richard Prichard?  There is very little known about him.  He married Ann Legg in St. Thomas’ church in 1766 and a Marriage Bond tells us that he was a carpenter.  He died in 1780 without leaving a will.  His widow who administered his estate was ordered to draw up an inventory but regrettably that has not survived.  He was probably of a good age as he is not named on the 1763 Militia List which included every able-bodied man between the ages of 18 and 45.

Fortunately through other wills we know that he inherited all his bachelor brother’s property and chattel when he died early in 1766. Just a year earlier their father, Rees, had died and he was a particularly interesting character.  In July 1763 a lease was granted to him on four dwelling houses in Water Street.   Rees Prichard is named there as a maltster and the lease is for the lives of his son Richard, grandson William Edward (the son of William Edward, cordwainer, and Margaret Prichard who had married in 1751) and of a William Wagstaff who seems to have been a son of one of the occupants.

When Rees Prichard died in his will he left to his son David, 'all that messuage or dwelling house with the appurtenance of wherein I the said Rees Prichard do now dwell together with the Croft and Garden thereunto belonging commonly called or known by the name of Long Acre containing in the whole by delineation Four Acres' and continued..'part of the said premises which lies to the North end of the Brewhouse containing those several rooms following (that is to say) one room or kitchen and one inner room which my son Richard has for a joinery shop) and one room or chamber over the said two other rooms all and singular which said premises I hold under George Venables Vernon the younger esquire.'


The maltster’s business passed from Rees Prichard to John Young (died 1803) to Richard Morgan to David Arthur who died in the 1850s.  The latter held four leases for public houses in Water Street – the Bull Inn, Plume of Feathers, Mason’s Arms and Lamb and Flag.




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