You may well have asked yourself, "What was here before my house was built". Little did Paul Richards realise what researching this question would reveal. This resulting article is a fine example of what can be achieved by accessing online sources and documents and plans held at the NMI as part of the NAS archive.
A Research Example
Prior to demolition around 1939, a property comprising up to eight dwellings nestled between the upper portion of the back-to-back segments of Cimla Road and Chestnut Road. Identified on period maps as 'Ysgubor-newydd', this singular property has an origin possibly linked to Herbert Mackworth, son of Sir Humphrey Mackworth, the noted gentleman and industrialist of Neath in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This article traces the chronological history of Ysgubor-newydd and its immediate surroundings, from the earliest recordings of the premises in the mid-eighteenth century to its eventual demise some two hundred years later. It also follows some of its occupants, notably the Roberts family, who seemed virtually ever-present across the rent rolls and censuses. Unless otherwise stated, males in this family were coal workers and females destined for a life in service. The majority of male children, once married, tended to remain in the locality, whereas the females, unless recorded as deceased, are assumed to have moved away where no further details e.g. marriage, could be found.
(Note that the spelling of locations and names are as recorded in the relevant documents)
The name ‘Ysgubor-newydd’ readily translates from Welsh as 'New Barn'. Notably, a number of payments (ref.1) were made by Herbert Mackworth in 1748 for the building of a ‘new barn’ on ‘Kimney Gnol’ i.e. within an area which covered the present location of the upper part of Cimla Road/Chestnut Road, with the associated carrying of stone, mortar and water for the masons, Fig.1.
Fig.1 - Original receipts for work associated with the New Barn on Kimney Gnol, 1748 (ref.1)
It is reasonable to assume that this new barn would have been known locally as Ysgubor-newydd, with the same name also being given to the premises to which it was latterly associated. Over the ensuing years, if this was indeed the same property, the barn was either converted fully, or partly, into a series of adjoining cottages, or was (more likely) demolished, with a new building being erected on the site whilst retaining the original name of Ysgubor-newydd.
Period rent books (ref.2) of the locality over periods in the 18th century occasionally give details of both the buildings and their inhabitants. Circa.1799, a house is listed at 'Kimney Barn' but with no specific reference to Ysgubor-newydd. However, in 1812, four properties are being rented with a fifth vacant. Notably, one of the premises was occupied by David Roberts whose decendents were to remain at Ysgubor-newydd until at least 1911.
The earliest reference specifically mentioning Ysgubor-newydd that has been found is of circa.1812, where it is referred-to as 'Yskybor Newydd'; the spelling of Ysgubor-newydd varied over the years, dependant no doubt upon familiarity with the Welsh language and often appears phonetic. There were now six properties plus a 'Carpenters Shop & Smiths Forge' - the latter being run by 'Messrs. Penrose & Evans.' In 1824, with five individual premises, it was documented as ‘Skibber Newidd’, reducing to four during 1825, 1828 and 1829, being named as ‘Skibbor Newidd’ over these latter periods. It is not known if some properties were amalgamated, unused or unrecorded during these times, thereby resulting in the apparent reduction.
The first census of 1841 provides further residential details, now listing five properties and recording the properties as ‘Scybor Newydd’. It also revealed that David Roberts was at that time a Sawyer (70yrs), living with his son John (25yrs), also a Sawyer, who was married to Jane (25yrs though probably 28yrs based on subsequent censuses). The couple had two daughters, Margaret (4yrs), and Jane (2yrs). The Tithe map of 1846, Fig.2 (ref.3), shows a very basic depiction of the premises, with Ysgubor-newydd noted as ‘146’ (to the right of map centre), appearing as a single building sitting in the widest section of a field with a narrower access to the passing road (now Cimla Road).
Fig.2 - Tithe map 1846 (ref.3), Ysgubor-newydd indicated by '146' at centre-right
In the 1851 census Ysgubor-newydd was incorporated into a group of many properties described simply as ‘Cimla’. However, it is possible to establish details of Ysgubor-newydd by comparing the occupants noted in prior and later censuses. On this basis there were once more five dwellings. David Roberts was now deceased, (buried 3rd January 1842) but there was no record of the original two children of John and Jane although a further five had arrived, Anne (9yrs), John (8yrs), Rachael (6yrs), David (4yrs) and Mary (1yr). However, a girl of the correct age (14yrs) named Margaret was noted as being a Home Servant to Margaret Jenkin, a widow, also of Cimla, at her premises. Further, a House Servant named Jane Roberts of the correct age (12yrs) was at East Terrace (now Pen-Y-Dre) with the widow Powell. These would not be uncommon roles for children of that relatively young age at the time so it is suggested that they were the ‘missing’ daughters of John and Jane. It is unclear if these children lived at their workplace premises or were simply there at the time the census was taken.
Rent details in 1853 indicate five premises, described only as ‘Cottage & Garden’ while being under the heading of ‘Cimla Common’. These were occupied by John Robert (assumed the same as previous census), David Roberts (not a known relation), Thomas Abraham, Elizabeth Williams and Thomas Beddow. In 1857 the rent book showed simply ‘D. Roberts & others’ at ‘Cotts. Cymla’.
The 1861 census is again short on details as to an address, the only reference to the premises being ‘Cimla’, although a number of the families from the previous census of 1851 can be traced to a group of consecutive premises. As well as the parents, John and Jane, the sons, John (Collier), David (Scholar) and Ann (Dress Maker) remained at the Roberts’ household albeit with no record of Rachael, now 16yrs, and Mary, who would now be 11yrs. Unfortunately, there is no record of Mary residing elsewhere in 1861 or a record of her death following the 1851 census so at this time her whereabouts are a mystery. However, both a Margaret Roberts and Rachael Roberts aged 24yrs and 16yrs respectively are residing in Cadoxton as House Servants to the Donague family. It seems these sisters have joined forces. Also, an unmarried House Servant named Jane Roberts of the correct age (22yrs) was at Water Street with the Jones family, probably the Roberts’ second-eldest daughter aforementioned. There is no further record of Margaret although a female of the correct age had died in Neath during 1863. A Rachael Roberts of the correct age was also married at Neath in 1867.
The census of 1871 contains familiar names, the site under the name ‘Scubor Newyd’ with five defined properties. John Roberts was now aged 58 and described as a ‘Sawyer in Tinworks’, living with wife Jane, and, their son David - the only residing child who was keeping-up their family tradition as a ‘Sawyer in the Tinworks’. Daughter Jane, who was soon to return to the fold, appeared to be continuing her life in service, now at the Cambrian Inn, Briton Ferry Road, as a Domestic Servant. Mary was also a Servant (now a Nurse) at Penrhewcoch House, Baglan, to the Davey family.
The son, John (collier) and new wife Margaret (29yrs) were also living at one of the other Scubor Newyd premises, already having four daughters and a son, Mary (7yrs), Margaret (6yrs), Jane (4yrs), Ann (2yrs) and John (9m). Unfortunately, Ann died later that same year.
The OS map of 1877, Fig.3 (ref.4), is the first found to give a division of the property with five sections agreeing with the earlier census and also the first showing the name Ysgubor-newydd.
Fig.3 - OS map 1877 (ref.4), Ysgubor-newydd delineated as a combination of properties
At the rear of Ysgubor-newydd are three footpaths. Fig.4 (ref.5) shows the first leading down towards Neath town centre and joining the road at the present entry to the Gnoll via Cimla Road. The second heads over to meet the stream which had already passed through the Cimla Common area prior to its confluence to form the Preswylfa Brook (now the Gnoll Brook). The third joins the road further up the hill near ‘Park House’ (not listed in previous censuses by that name), Fig.5, which was demolished to build the later, now also demolished, Cimla Hotel i.e. site of the current Tesco Express store. Access to the road from Ysgubor-newydd remained via the strip between the two adjacent fields, with a well indicated in the opposite field.
Fig.4 - OS map 1884 (ref.5), alternative details of surrounding area compared with Fig.3
The 1881 census names the property as ‘Yscybornewydd’ comprising five premises, the rent rolls of both the same year and up to 1884, describing it as ‘5 Cottages Cimla, all in 1 building’. John Roberts and wife Jane remained with their son David, both men registered as ‘Sawyer Unemployed’. The daughter Jane, now aged 42 and unmarried, was at the household, with no employment details being provided.
John, Margaret and family remained at Yscybornewydd with children Margaret, Jane and John with Mary located at Talyfedw Farm, Coedfrank as a Domestic Servant to the Fisher family. A further four children had arrived, Rees (8yrs), Elizabeth (6yrs), David (3yrs) and Rachel (11m).
By the time of the 1891 census at Ysgybornewydd, John was now a ‘Retired Sawyer Living On Own Means’ living with wife Jane. Both were aged 78, and remaining with them was daughter Jane, again her employment details were not stated. David was no longer residing with his parents, he was now listed as a Sawyer living at Park House, being married to Hannah (42yrs, b. Rugely, Stafford), with four children, Brereton (7yrs), John (6yrs), Arthur (4yrs) and David Henry (3m) along with a Servant of their own. Fig.5 (ref.6) probably shows Hannah in the doorway.
Fig. 5 - Park House (ref.6), date unknown - the lady facing right in the doorway is most probably Hannah Roberts
John, Margaret, children John, Rees, David and Rachel remained at Ysgybor newydd with the addition of two more to the family, Philip (8yrs) and Thomas (3yrs). The eldest three daughters had by now left home. Elizabeth was living in as a domestic servant to the Peters family at 7 Queen Street.
The OS map of 1900, Fig.6 (ref.7), shows that there are now only two footpaths at the rear, both joining to head towards the Gnoll Brook. Again, five premises are shown in the same building.
Fig.6 - OS map 1900 (ref.7), change in footpaths around Ysgubor-newydd
The 1901 census named the premises as ‘Yscybornewydd Cottages’ which again comprised five dwellings, although by now there is no record of the original Roberts family. The closest associated chronologically is that of a Jane Roberts who had died in Neath during the first quarter of 1898 with the given age of 58yrs - relatively close to that of the last residing daughter. Although by this time Margaret had become a widow (husband John having died in 1893), he had fathered one more child; Arthur who had been earlier that same year. This would place Margaret as being around 51yrs when conceiving her last born (according to the census of 1901). David, Philip, Thomas and Arthur remained at the family premises with Elizabeth and Rachel having left home. John was now a farmer and along with his wife Rachel (26yrs) and their three children lived at Goitre Farm, Briton Ferry.
Rees was living at Siera (probably Segur) Fach, Eaglesbush with wife Mary (Ann) (27yrs, b. Tredegar, Monmouth) and their two children David John (7yrs) and Elizaberta (Ann) (6yrs). Mary died later that year aged 28yrs (buried 15th Oct), her abode recorded as Cwmpandy (Neath), probably relating to the area that included Segur Fach and other properties in the vicinity of the Cwmpandy Woollen Mill. Noting that Segur Fach and Cwmpandy Mill were quite close to each other along the bank of the Crythan Brook at the top of Eaglesbush Valley, coincidentally, earlier that year in late March a fatal accident occurred at the Mill whereby a weaver named George Mitchel was caught-up in the water-wheel and killed (ref.8). This unfortunate and very gruesome incident was witnessed by a 'Miss Roberts' who managed to stop the wheel and was praised for her quick-thinking. It is unclear if this was Rees’ wife Mary and if so whether it had any bearing on her demise although the proximity of her residence makes her a likely candidate.
The family of David and Hannah had remained together in its entirety and in 1901 still resided at Park House.
The census of 1911 now listed Ysgubor-newydd as 'Upper Cimla Road' and appeared to once more have five premises with one split in two (numbered 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32) accommodating a total of six families. Margaret had passed-away in 1909 aged 69 although the family continued to occupy the premises, recorded as 27 Upper Cimla Road and housed David, Philip and Arthur. John, Rachel and their by now six children and his mother-in-law were farming at Tanygraig Farm, Dyffryn. Following the death of his first wife, Rees had taken a new wife, Elizabeth (45yrs), and was living at 21 Dynevor Road in Skewen, with children David John, and their own child Mary (8yrs). Elizabeth was now a domestic servant to the Rosser family at New Road, Skewen. Thomas had that year married Gwendoline (20yrs) and they were living at 42 Old Road, Skewen.
Although the official address was now 26 Upper Cimla Road, it was still actually Park House. This was large enough to accommodate the complete family of six yet again plus the addition of Arthur’s wife Grace (21yrs) and their daughter PG Roberts (27months).
The OS map of 1913, Fig.7 (ref.9), shows that a range of premises were now established on the opposite side of the road to Ysgubor-newydd, a row of terraced houses, and, two groups of semi-detached houses, separated from the terrace by a lane.
Fig. 7 - OS map 1913 (ref.9), terraced housing developments
Fig.8 (ref.10) shows the general area with more detail of the houses and the inclusion of the well in relation to these recently built premises.
Fig.8 - OS map circa.1914 (ref.10), terraced housing details and location of a well
The stretch of terraced housing was initially known as Winifred Terrace, Fig.9 (ref.11), and/or Upper Cimla Road with both were being used in the 1911 census.
Fig. 9 - Terraced housing named as ‘Winifred Terrace’ 1918 (ref.11)
Fig.9 also clearly shows Ysgubor-newydd split into eight sections plus a small attachment at the rear. Due to the vagaries of modified address details in the census, this somewhat matches the census of 1911 which, as aforementioned, showed seven premises, maybe two were joined, one not used, or one was a communal facility? Since census details are not released until 100 years have elapsed further occupancy information is unavailable at the time of writing (the 1921 UK census being released in 2022). Additionally, it is unfortunate that the 1931 census will never be available since it was destroyed in a fire while in storage at London during World War 2.
Fig.10, (ref.12) shows the area of land around Ysgubor-newydd in 1924. This was now beginning to be encroached by housing with the road being referred to as Upper Cimla Road.
Fig.10 - Houses (now Nos. 138 & 140 Cimla Road) March 1924 (ref.12) showing proximity to Ysgubor-newydd
Fig. 11 (ref.13) illustrates the original area allocated for the building in 1928 of the house which is now numbered 132 Cimla Road, adjacent to that of WA Rouse which had obviously been completed between 1924 and then.
Fig.11 - Original area of No. 132, circa.1927 (ref.13) showing an impinging section of Ysgubor-newydd
Following the building of 132 Cimla Road, Fig.12 (ref.14), access to the road from Ysgubor-newydd remained virtually unchanged.
Fig.12 - Modified OS map (c.1930) showing Ysgubor-newydd following the building of 132 Cimla Road (ref.14)
However, when No.130 was built c.1930, Fig.13 (ref.15), the access to the road from Ysgubor-newydd became more restricted.
Fig.13 - Housing between Ysgubor-newydd and the now Cimla Road, post-1928 (ref.15)
On completion of these nearby houses, the boundary of Ysgubor-newydd clearly resulted in a somewhat untidy rear to the gardens of 130 and 132 by encroaching into the area that would naturally have formed the boundary in-line with adjacent properties. As aforementioned, access to Ysgubor-newydd was now through a relatively narrow lane between 130 and 132. However, as 130 is at a slightly lower level it is likely that this lane was more alongside 130, as seen in Fig.13 which shows a slightly wider gap to the boundary with 130.
It was around this period that housing developments were beginning at the rear of Ysgubor-newydd. Initially named Chestnut Avenue, this is latterly known as Chestnut Road. By 1935, Fig.14a (ref.16), Ysgubor-newydd was virtually surrounded and remained that way until at least 1938, Fig.14b (ref.17).
Fig. 14 - Development of Chestnut Avenue behind Ysgubor-newydd : a) 1935 (ref.16) b) 1938 (ref.17)
Fig.14b indicates that Ysgubor-newydd had been reduced in size increasing the length of the rear gardens of 130 and 132 particularly. As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to establish what happened to Ysgubor-newydd in the period post-1911 census. Although the England & Wales Register of 1939 is available, unfortunately it is difficult to discern accurate occupancy details at this time as there are many premises named as Upper Cimla Road but no matching resident names with 1911 and no record of Ysgubor-newydd. However, the Upper Cimla Road details probably relate to most premises between the areas now known as Poplars Avenue and Myrtle Road [maybe the 1921 census will reveal some further details]. Furthermore, by 1939 houses on Upper Cimla Road in front of Ysgubor-newydd were named instead of being numbered and with no reference specifically to Ysgubor-newydd or any obvious breaks in their sequence, to indicate the presence of another group of buildings, it is difficult to ascertain if it was inhabited. It is possible that by 1939 Ysgubor-newydd was already empty or even demolished and was thus absent from the register. It seems from the earlier map, Fig.14b, that it was most likely already in decline by 1938.
However, for completeness some of the previous occupants of Ysgubor-newydd are traceable in 1939 and have been documented. David John and family now lived at 11 Woodland Road; Arthur and Grace were now living at 59 Coronation Road with at least one child Jessie M (19yrs) who delivered bread. It is possible that two others also lived there as their names remain redacted. Brereton was still single and living in Ammanford and finally, David Henry was living with wife Mary Ann (49yrs) and their shop assistant daughter Mary Eva (24yrs) at 3 Teague Cottages, Cimla.
The OS map of 1948, Fig.15 (ref.18) shows that although the Ysgubor-newydd premises had by now disappeared the access lane was still shown along with the small portions of the original Ysgubor-newydd premises that impacted on these adjacent properties. It appears that the land on the Chestnut Road side had already been absorbed.
Fig.15 - OS map 1948 (ref.18), lane and remaining small portion of land once part of Ysgubor-newydd
Private land boundary documents, however, show that the rear of properties 130 and 132 were already 'tidied-up' by this time. By around 1943 the awkward small remaining portions of land which impinged on these properties (Fig.15) were amalgamated to form relatively uniform rectangular boundaries thereby swallowing-up the last remaining element of the original site. Finally, after the best part of 200 years, all traces of Ysgubor-newydd were now gone.
Ysgubor-newydd was a focal-point of the Cimla area for about 200yrs and provided a considerable amount of ongoing accommodation during its existence. Although all structural evidence has disappeared the memory is preserved in many period maps and plans. There are no doubt many descendants of the numerous occupiers of Ysgubor-newydd still in the area and maybe in time they can add to this article. Sadly, no photographs of Ysgubor-newydd have been unearthed during research; if any are subsequently found they would certainly be a significant addition to the story of early Cimla.
1. University College Swansea - Mackworth N/1360 (now RISW/Gn at WGAS)
2. Rent Rolls - NAS Gn/E 9/7-22
3. Tithe Maps & Schedules - National Library of Scotland
4. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1877, NAS
5. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1884, NAS
7. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1900, NAS
8. The Cambrian - 5th April 1901
9. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1913, National Library of Scotland
10. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1914, NAS
11. Plan 1918, NAS B/N 13/5/15
12. Plan 1924, NAS JAS 2/1/1521
13. Plan 1927, (no ref.) NAS
14. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1930, NAS
15. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, post-1928, NAS
16. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1935, NAS
17. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1938, National Library of Scotland
18. Ordnance Survey Map, Neath, 1948, National Library of Scotland