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.
APPEALS FOR MONEY
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.
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.