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.




12 February 2018Skewen Names - analysed


What's in a name?



 The derivation of town, village and street names are always an intriguing and fascinating study and locally Skewen is no exception.Carole Wilsher explores this subject in her recently published book ‘Skewen Village Story - its origins and growth’ and has kindly agreed for the relevant information to be posted on this website for the benefit of a wider audience and as a source for local history researchers. 







The name Skewen - its origin

Whenever I mentioned to friends that I was 'embroiled in' a Skewen history project, invariably the first question to me was "Where do you think the name 'Skewen' came from?" This seems to be the ideal place to investigate and consider various possibilities:

1.      'Scuen, Scuan or Skuen, a rivulet courses to the Nedd from its source under Drymmau Hill, passing beside the main road through the village to which it gives its name' writes D Rhys Phillips in his 'A History of the Vale of Neath' thus stating his opinion unequivocally.

2.      Skuen - the above interpretation is obviously shared by the late Melville Richards (who was from Skewen), Professor of Welsh at Bangor University; he points out in 'Neath and District a Symposium' that early forms of the name 'Skewen' refer to the rivulet Skuen and he proceeds to examine the derivation of the word Skuen which, he says, might be Ynys + 'Cuen / Cufen' i.e. an island and a person's name with later only the 's' remaining from 'ynys' so 'Skuen'.

3.      Scuan - this brook was, in days gone by, obviously rather important since it gave its name to two nearby areas - Gwern Scuan (Scuan Bog or Marsh / Swamp) in the hollow of Old Road and Pen Rhiw Scuan Farm - Top of Scuan Hill Farm. Both these are shown on the 1770 Neath Abbey Estate survey map. However, interestingly Pen Rhiw Scuan Farm was not on the 1831 Land Tax Record so it had disappeared by then presumably due to developments in the area.

4.       Iskywen Brook - marked on 1601 Estate map. J Islwyn Davies suggests the name comprises ynys + cu + gwyn and gwyn mutates to wen, so Sgiwen is formed (The Neath Antiquarian Vol. 2)

5.      Scuan - an internet definition suggests Scandinavian origin but I have found no evidence to suggest this.

6.      Sger-wen - An interesting interpretation is given by Messrs Bailey and Gough in their book 'Skewen and District, a History.' An 1155 charter of William Earl of Warwick, which mentions 'Eskeyrhyrayth', is quoted; a connection is then made with quite a modern farm 'Cefn yr Esgyrn'' (earlier known as 'Cefn yr Esgyr' with a suggestion that 'Eskeyr' or 'Esgyr' might have been 'Esgair' - ridge) and a further point made that it is then a short logical step to 'Sger-wen' (white ridge) or Skewen.

7.      Ysgawen - meaning elder (the tree / shrub). D Rhys Phillips points out that this is a more modern derivation. However, I remember asking my grandfather about the meaning of Skewen and his answer was, "from the Welsh Ysgawen - the elder tree".

8.      Having considered the options, my own preference is for the stream / rivulet 'Scuan / Scuen / Skuen' explanation; the above points 1, 2 and 3, in my view, present strong evidence in favour of that conclusion. Also 'Rhiw Scuan' (no. 3 above), Skewen Hill explains the 1816 reference to Skewen Hill as a location before the village existed.




The districts and streets of Skewen

"The streets echo with footsteps from the past" - Carole Wilsher


As industrial landmarks of the past disappear, the street names of a city, town or village are precious links with its heritage.

A late twentieth century local council official guide states 'this tradition of using familiar names for newer developments continues' It was, therefore, rather surprising that the name Railway Terrace was changed to  Brookville Drive for no apparent historical reason.  The railway to which the former name relates still exists and had a connection with two other streets nearby whose names remain unchanged.  These are Sidings Terrace and Station Road. A name change which connected with Isambard Kingdom Brunel or Alfred Russel Wallace would have maintained the historical link. Brunel was engineer of the line and Wallace the surveyor.   The loss of the name Railway Terrace bestows an added significance upon Sidings Terrace since the sidings, as well as the railway itself, contributed positively to the dramatic growth of Mooretown.

Street names, then, are golden threads leading us back through time and they were very often significant in their era.

Skewen's names tend to fall into five broad categories: - Neath Abbey and the Monks; Traditional; Location; Landowners and Relatives; Welsh.

1. Neath Abbey and the Monks

Burrows Road - taken from the fact that this road (a mere track in the thirteenthth century) would have led to Crymlyn Burrows where the monks had probably established rabbit warrens.

Cwrt y Betws - cwrt means grange and Betws is 'bede' a house of prayer.

Cwrt y Clafdy - this was probably the site of an isolation hospital - clafdy means house of the sick.

2. Traditional

These are generally the earliest names of the village, often religious where a chapel was situated on the street e.g. Bethlehem Road and Tabernacle Street.

Or the obvious such as: Old Road - the old turnpike road, New Road - the new turnpike road and High Street - the one furthest up the hill so the highest.

Others are patriotic, like: Queen's Road - which gives an idea of chronology as it was named after Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837.

Jubilee Crescent - this is later, and marks the silver jubilee of King George V in 1935.

Picton Road - is in honour of Major General Picton, Wellington's second-in-command at the Battle of Waterloo. Picton was killed in this battle in June 1815, and after his death, a letter from Wellington was found in his pocket empowering him to take command of the army in the event of Wellington himself being killed.

3.  Location

Brook Street - the brook from Caenant flowed along the New Road end of this street.

Foundry Row - is the site of a small foundry which closed in the late nineteenth century.

Railway Terrace - this street runs alongside the main railway line (as discussed above).

Sidings Terrace - these sidings were probably built on the first suitable site, considering the undulating terrain from Neath to Skewen. It would have been something of a challenge for the surveyor Alfred Russel Wallace (this is the correct spelling, as opposed to Russell).  One opinion is that that an error was made in entering his name onto his Birth Certificate.  An erudite study on this will be found at:


Wallace was extremely talented in many fields and is now recognized as having arrived at a theory of evolution both before and independently of Charles Darwin.  Wallace, however, gave way to Darwin who had better social connections, and supported him in publishing 'On the Origin of Species'. Wallace lived in Neath during the 1840s.

Spring Gardens, Springfield - these names probably indicate the site of a spring. Water sources were extremely important as reliable piped water did not reach the locality until the 'Ystradfellte Scheme' in about 1914.

Station Road - this road was built after Skewen station was moved in 1910 from further west to a more central location just east of Station Road.  This station was closed under the Beeching Act of 1963 and was removed totally.  Much later the present station was constructed, which is just west of Station Road. The wooden bridge that was the original railway crossing in this area was located behind the building that is now Skewen Auto.

White Gates - In 1871 the New Neath Abbey Coal Company, who operated a dram road that ran down Skewen Incline and across New Road, was requested to install level crossing gates.  These were painted white and hence gave their name to this location.

4. Landowners and their Relatives

While researching this section, I was struck by the changes in fashion - at the end of the nineteenth  century and the beginning of the twentieth century, it was obviously 'in vogue' for landowners to name streets after family members, whereas these days the custom seems to be for people naming their children after places.   A landowner wished to personalise his area and also immortalise his name and the names of family members.

a. Coombe-Tennant 

Charles Street - Charles (1852 -1928) was the grandson of George Tennant and son of Charles and Gertrude Tennant. He married Winifred in 1895.

Christopher Road - named after Charles and Winifred's eldest son Christopher b.1897 who was killed at Ypres in September 1918.

Coombes Road, Coombe-Tennant Avenue - Charles Tennant prefixed his surname with 'Coombe' as a gesture of respect to his godfather who had bequeathed him a small Devon estate.

Evelyn Road - after Eveleen sister of Charles and fifth child of Charles and Gertrude Tennant (1857-1937), she married the poet and philologist F W H Myers in 1880.

Serocold Avenue, Winifred Road - Winifred Serocold Coombe-Tennant (1874-1956), wife of Charles Coobe-Tennant. Note: misspelled as Serecold on signs and maps.

Stanley Road - Charles Coombe-Tennant's sister Dorothy (1855-1926) married H M Stanley in 1890. Denbigh-born Stanley was adopted by an American and took his name, later becoming a journalist. He went on many expeditions and is probably best remembered for his "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" remark. He died in 1904 and in 1907 Dorothy married Dr Henry Curtis, a Neath-born Harley Street surgeon.

Tennant Park - The land for this park was given by Mrs Winifred Coombe-Tennant in 1935 and its name recalls the whole Tennant family.

b.Newall Moore

Ellen's Row - this street was named after John Newall Moore's wife, Ellen Elizabeth who died giving birth to their second child in 1883. Incidentally, John Newall Moore had an aunt who was also named Ellen Elizabeth.

Lucy Road - John Newall Moore's daughter born 1883.

Mooretown - the district was named after the landowner John Newall Moore.

Newall Road - Moore's mother's maiden name was Newall. His father Edward Ackland Moore married Charlotte Newall in 1843.

c.Lord Dynevor

Bosworth Road - the Battle of Bosworth was fought in 1484 and an ancestor of the Dynevor family, Rhys ap Thomas, aided Henry VII's victory.

Cardonnel Road - the 6th Baron Dynevor's name was Arthur Cardonnel Rice.

Compton Road - Elizabeth Hoby married Henry Compton, who, with the Rice and Stanley families, became the first to be styled 'Lords of the Abbey'.

Dynevor Road - renamed after Lord Dynevor, originally the top part of this road  had been called Coronation Road (after Edward VII's coronation).

Talbot Street - The grandson of Griffith Rice (1st generation 'Lord of the Abbey') married Cecil Talbot and their eldest son George Talbot Rice later became 3rd Baron Dynevor.

Villiers Road - Walter Fitz Uryan Rice, married the Earl of Jersey's eldest daughter Lady Margaret Villiers in 1898. He became 7th Baron Dynevor in 1911.

d.Lord Jersey

Jersey Marine - Lord Jersey owned a great deal of land in the area; after the 1783 Will of Lady Barbara Vernon, the Vernon Estate later became the Jersey Estate.

e. Various industrialists / industries / miscellaneous

Elba Crescent - it is a row of managers' houses built for the Elba Tinplate Works at King's Dock, Swansea. The Works opened in 1925.

Llandarcy - William Knox D'Arcy was the Australian millionaire who had been responsible for the successful search for oil in Persia. 'Llan' at first glance seems rather an inappropriate prefix as the present definition is 'site of a church' but the original meaning is 'a level space or an enclosure' although another dictionary definition refers to it as 'a village'.

Southall Avenue - Mr Southall was the General Manager at the Llandarcy Oil Refinery.

Francis Street - there is a possibility that it was named thus because a blacksmith David Francis was working in the area around 1850. However there was also a Frances Frances noted on the 1831 Land Tax Record as farming Wern Andrew Farm. Of course, spelling has been noted earlier as variable and Francis Francis (Ffranc, Wern Andrew) is noted in other documentation, he was a notable figure having given a plot of land for Bethlehem Chapel.

5. Welsh Names

These names often have a countryside feature as their focal point; not surprising really, since our ancestors lived much closer to nature than most of us do today. There is a school of thought which deprecates how far 'Modern Man' has moved away from his natural environment.

Caenant Terrace - 'cae' means field and 'nant' means brook or stream. A stream did flow through this area before it was piped; indeed in the early days of Horeb Chapel, several people were baptised in this stream.

Coedffranc - as with Scuan, I found various spellings - for example a 1582 Indenture granted a lease of 99 years for a 'parcel of land' (out of wasteground or forest) called Coyde Ffrance. The meaning seems to be generally accepted as 'French wood' after the French / Norman settlers. However, there is a possibility that 'Frank' refers to a man because on the Neath Abbey Survey map of 1770 there is land noted as 'Tir Frank' and not 'Tir y Frank' (Frank's land). In the 1894 logbook of Neath Abbey Infants' School, I also came across the variant 'Coed Frank'.

Crymlyn Road - Crymlyn brook forms the western boundary of Coedffranc parish and also Crymlyn Bog and Crymlyn Burrows are marked on maps.  There are various possible derivations e.g. 'Crymu' means to bow (also a curve) and 'llyn' is lake; yet another alternative is 'Crymlin' - a bended knee (possibly associated with sun worship).

Cwmdu - 'cwm' is vale and 'du' means black or dark - possibly due to the presence of coal; Cwmdu brook and woods are shown on maps.

Drymmau Road - takes its name from the dominating feature Drymmau Hill, along whose slopes it runs.

Drymmau Hall - it is something of a local landmark since it overlooks the village and was built in 1884 by John Birch Paddon, who had bought the Drymmau Estate direct from Chancery. Paddon seems to have had no involvement in the development of Skewen as his attention was focussed further west - on Birchgrove.

Graig Road - 'Craig' means rock or crag.

Pal/Pale - I found this a really difficult puzzle to solve as a number of explanations did not really match the circumstances.  One meaning which the eminent historian D Rhys Phillips suggested in 'A History of the Vale of Neath' was 'Puffin' and the Welsh Dictionary does indeed give this meaning; however, as an experienced bird-watcher, I knew that the habitat in that area was just as unsuitable 200-300 years ago, furthermore I have checked historical bird watching records and the nearest sighting of a puffin was off Worm's Head in 1848. Therefore I discarded the 'Puffin theory'.


'Tir y Pal' is marked on the 1770 Neath Abbey Estate Survey map as being near the River Neath and noted as belonging to the Copper Works; this area is where some of the earliest dwellings in Skewen were built. A second dictionary definition gave 'Pal' as a spade or shovel and I ruminated over this for a long while until someone who's far more fluent and experienced in Welsh than I, suggested 'palu' - to dig and then applied the word to the action of the river - digging out one bank and depositing silt on the opposite bank which is exactly what the River Neath does. It is a descriptive name, taken from nature and fits the landscape in that area. It seems a sensible explanation.

Moreover, language evolves and 'Pal' could easily have become 'Pale' (a stake or fence) since a river is a natural boundary and a connection could have been made with a fence boundary as the word 'Pal' became anglicised.

Pant y Sais - 'Pant' is hollow or valley and 'Sais', Englishman.

Pentre Ffynnon - 'Pentre'(f) means village and 'ffynnon', well or fountain, so quite literally 'Village of the Well'. There was a well in this area where some of the earliest dwellings in Skewen were built.

Pen yr Alley Avenue, Pen yr Heol - named after farms in the area - 'pen' meaning top or end of and 'heol' road.

Penbryn Road - Similarly 'bryn' is hill so top of the hill.

Penshannel - this was shown on both the 1838 and 1875 maps as 'Pant y shanol' and has obviously evolved to 'Penshannel' - top of the channel.

Wern Road - 'Gwern' means wet or boggy area, or swamp and the form is often 'Y Wern' - "the swamp" later becoming just 'Wern'.

Postscript: - My apologies for any omissions; There are two descriptive self-explanatory ones -Grove Lane and Woodland Road. Also I failed to obtain information on Caewathan, Graham's Terrace, Lonlas and Ormes Road and would greatly appreciate any relevant details on these.








12 January 2018Appeals for Money - Martyn Griffiths

One can hardly walk thorough the street without being 'approached' and asked to part with any small change you may have for the benefit of charity be it from a homeless person or a collector on the behalf of both local and national good causes.  Additionally, there are appeals for cash via junk mail and through all of the visial media formats. Indeed, the most popular of these 'Children in Need' is determined each year to exceed its previous level and this year achieved £60 million.

Martyn Griffiths throws light on appeals made in the past and unuearths the generosity of some of our forefathers. 




Today we raise money for all sorts of things by appeals to the public.  Natural disasters, terrorist bombings, Children in Need, etc., etc., all have raised phenomenal sums due to coverage in the media.

In days gone by one might think that national and international appeals were less successful.  Perhaps they did not produce the flood of money that goes to good causes today, but nevertheless the number of appeals and the funds raised are quite surprising.


The Wars with France

1803        An appeal was made to raise funds for the defence of Swansea Harbour and coast.  In particular the aim was to purchase four six-pounders (field guns) with carriages and appendages, to be placed on the hills commanding the harbor under the direction of the Commander of the Sea Fencibles.  (This organization continued to exist until 1810.) Although this was ostensibly for the benefit of Swansea, many notable Neath gentry subscribed to the cause.

1806       The French Wars which had been going for more than ten years, engendered a Patriotic Fund.  The town of Neath led by the portreeve, James Coke, raised £79.15s.6d for a fund for the relief of seamen, soldiers and the widows and orphans and relatives of those in His Majesty’s service.  The chief subscribers were John Nathaniel Miers Esq. who gave 10 guineas (about £830 today), along with Matthew Gwyn Esq.  and Rees Williams (Aberpergwm) who both gave 5 guineas.

1813       This particular fund was for the relief of Russian sufferers or as stated more grandly, ‘To grant pecuniary advantage to the Russians is, under existing circumstances, to contribute to the commerce of the British Empire, and to the restoration of the liberties of Europe.’  The French, led by Napoleon, had invaded Russia in June 1812 and although beaten back eventually by the harsh winter, the Russian peasantry suffered huge hardships.  Neath Corporation, Henry Grant and his son Henry J. Grant each laid out 10 guineas and J. Herbert Lloyd (Cilybebyll), Edward Hawkins (Court Herbert), Thomas Walker (Cadoxton House) and William Gwyn donated 5 guineas each.

1814       German Relief.  Similar to the above a national fund was set up for the relief of German families suffering from the results of the continuous wars.  The Neath Corporation led the way with ten guineas, matched by Henry J. Grant who pointed out that this was ‘exclusive of his subscription in London.’

1815       The Waterloo Fund had a great deal of support from Neath and there exists a long list of subscribers, headed by Neath Corporation at 10 guineas and Mrs. Williams of Dyffryn at 5 guineas.

Local Building Work

1792-1800    The river bridge at Neath was stated to be in a dangerous condition as early as 1675 and some repair work had been done to keep the route open, but it was not until the 1790s that the bridge was rebuilt.  The cost was paid for by public subscription but, spiraling costs meant that in total three appeals for public funding were made before the bridge could be completed.

New bridge at Neath by Rowlandson. The Croft is to the right of the picture.

The river bridge at Neath was stated to be in a dangerous condition as early as 1675 and some repair work had been done to keep the route open, but it was not until the 1790s that the bridge was rebuilt.  The cost was paid for by public subscription but, spiraling costs meant that in total three appeals for public funding were made before the bridge could be completed.

1819       The need for a new town hall was getting ever more urgent with increasing trade.  The Guild Hall in High Street (now Old Market Street) was no longer fit for purpose.  A fund was set up and the Corporation put forward the grand sum of £1000 (£78,000 today) which was supplemented by many generous donations headed by Henry J. Grant, the Earl of Jersey and the Trustees of the Margam Estate giving £300 each, James Coke, John Edwards MP, the Marquis of Bute and Dumfries, William Williams of Aberpergwm, L.W.Dillwyn on behalf of the Penllergaer Estate and Capel Hanbury Leigh each gave £100.

1821       The entrance to the port of Neath, which had always been considered difficult or even dangerous, had improvements made through money raised by subscription.

Other Funds

1822       There were acute food shortages in Ireland during 1822 caused by rain damage to the potato crop.  Around a million people, particularly in Connacht and west Munster, had to depend on government aid.

A society was formed in London calling itself ‘The British and Irish Ladies’ Association for improving the condition of female peasantry in Ireland.   “The pleas for funds stated that those rescued from famine were now in danger of perishing from ‘the lingering death of cold and nakedness and their attendant diseases”.   The report went on to state that out of a family of four or five, only one can be clothed, and that women go about to procure food for their children with no covering but a rag or an old sack.  A meeting in Neath Town Hall (which would then have been the Guild Hall) in October 1822 raised £18 for the cause being the third such monies raised.  For this sum they procured a new spinning-wheel and 12 checked aprons. They also sought to buy coarse coloured Welsh flannel petticoats and strong calico shifts for the women and bed-gowns and shifts for the children.

1826       Money was raised at Neath Abbey Ironworks for the relief of distressed manufacturers.  This depression was as a result of a bank crash the previous year caused by speculation on the stock market in speculative investments in Latin America.

1823   Money being raised in Swansea and Neath for the relief of distressed Greeks.  The Greek War of Independence started in 1821 and went on until 1832.  Events such as the massacre at Chios in 1822 when 25,000 people were killed and even more sold into slavery, incensed the rest of Europe.

1836       One of the strangest public subscriptions was for the first Neath Borough Police Force.  In 1835 the first committee to be formed in the Town Council was the Watch Committee.  Its sole purpose was to establish and to maintain a police force in the borough.  They appointed David Prothero as the first constable on a salary of £52 a year.  When this was reported back to the full council they were appalled and tried to negotiate a lower salary.  This failed and they then decided to raise the money by public subscription with any deficit being taken out of the gas lighting fund.

1854       Patriotic Fund.  The huge loss of life in the Crimean War led to another Patriotic Fund being set up to supply relief to and support for relatives dependent on the fallen.  £45 was raised at the meeting when the fund was opened.


The above list is not exhaustive but it serves to show that raising money for worthy causes is a phenomenon that has been around for centuries.



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