February Meeting Resolfen History Society

Funeral Notice for Mrs Betty Thomas

Cold Start Today





Report on Resolfen History Society’s January Meeting

It is arguable whether this was the first meeting of a new decade or merely the start of another new year, since there wasn’t a year “zero” by all accounts. What is certain,is that the History Society were reacquainted with an old friend in Jeff Childs, this month’s speaker. Jeff is a very well-known local historian and some years ago gave an annual and much awaited talk to the Society until his extensive cupboard of lectures was bare. Luckily, the cupboard is now replenished and hopefully we will enjoy his highly informative and detailed talks for years to come.


A native of Pontardawe, Jeff took “steel and sheet tinplate” of that town as his topic. He started his illustrated journey with an aerial photograph of Pontardawe which had been fortuitously rescued from a bin following the closure of the steelworks in 1962. The image showed clearly that rather than being one works, Pontardawe in fact included three tinplate works ( Glanrhyd, , Ynysmeudwy and the Parsons “Ynysderw”), a steelworks and a chemical works alongside other industrially related enterprises. The site extended over 120 acres on land acquired by William Parsons in 1830 from the Cilybebyll Estate, formerly Ynysderw farm. Parsons and his brother had interests in Rhos, and a dram road can still be seen which carried the coal from the Primrose colliery to the Ynysderw works. This was also facilitated by a private canal. Parsons also built Ynysderw House, which was used by the Gilbertsons when they acquired the site in 1862.


William Gilbertson came to Pontardawe in 1861. He was a lawyer by trade and hailed from Hertfordshire, though the family had its roots in Thirsk, Yorkshire. It is unclear how he arrived in Cwmafan to successfully run the local tinplate works, but he quite quickly turned his sights on Pontardawe where his family is viewed as the architect of the modern town. His son Arthur was a very strong character and took up the running of the works. He was either loved or despised in equal measure. He gave lavishly to local good causes including both Anglican and non-conformist causes. St Peter’s Church is a striking epitaph with its steeple standing at 197’, thus making it taller than the tallest chimney stack in the works. However, woe betide trades unions or worst still, the foreign influenced syndicalists (which he despised with a vengeance) after their philosophy based on workers taking over the running of the works, arrived in the area during the early twentieth century.


Arthur Gilbertson married an heiress of the Cilybebyll Estate, Elen Lloyd, and they had fourteen children. He built Glanrhyd House as a home for his large family, however unfortunately she died during the birth of her final child. Arthur, burdened by grief and the strain of the work suffered a stroke and the business was subsequently managed by his three eldest sons. During the first world-war, the house was used as a convalescent home for soldiers. Francis his son took on most of the management duties, and also moved to a house in Langland. Having a great interest in education, he later played a major part in the foundation of University College, Swansea, in 1929.


In the 1930s the works was taken over by Richard Thomas and Baldwins (RTB) ,and it was also known as the Baldwin’s works and it was operated by RTB until 1962 when the works closed ( a century since Gilbertson arrived) This was mainly caused by the fact that newer tinplate works at Trostre and Velindre had come into operation.


The Chairman gave a vote of thanks in which he thanked Mr Childs for a fascinating account of a very detailed and interesting topic. He recounted that he vaguely remembered the steelworks as a young child passing over the bridge near the now Pontardawe Inn (“Y Gwachel”), which  is one of the few buildings now remaining near where the steelworks stood.


Trefor Jones.





Message from Resolvenite in Luton

Des Jones, now in his nineties, has delighted us before with his memories of growing up and working in Resolven, so it is great to hear from him again.

Hello everyone,

A Happy New Year to you all!

In my last year at Glyncastle Colliery, Mr Sam Lloyd and I were part of the gang in the timber yard 1949.   Sam was telling me about all the chairs he had won for his poetry in the Welsh Eisteddfods and that they were not looking too good being stored in the loft.  I said bring them down from the loft, give them a good clean and let them dry out a bit, and I’ll get you a  tin of bee’s wax.   Not long after that, I left and came to Luton .

Some time later I came home to visit my parents and met Sam in the street in Resolven.  We had a nice chat and I asked him about his chairs. “ They are fine Desmond “ he said.  “What  I do on a fine sunny day, I put them out on the pavement and the children come along and make them look like new.”

Now then!!!!! Is there anyone who knows where the chairs are now or who remembers helping to clean them?

With All Best Wishes,

Des Jones

The Highest Tides

The River Neath

The highest tides in the world can be found in Canada’s Bay of Fundy at Burntcoat Head in Nova Scotia,

The 2nd highest tides are around the coast of South Wales UK

Witness these high tides in springtime and winter with these images taken around the Neath river area showing  just how powerful the sea is.



Images and presentation by RDN photographer Mike Davies

YouTube link


Wolf Moon Rising



The remarkably bright wolf moon seen rising over the Vale of Neath.


Picture taken with an early start and with just a window space before the clouds gathered.




Star gazers will be treated to a double lunar event to start the new decade as the “wolf moon” coincides with a penumbra lunar eclipse The first full moon of January, which is nicknamed the “wolf moon,” will appear opposite the sun on Friday at 2:21 p.m. and will appear full until Sunday morning, according to NASA.”

“Star” source by Google


I was up early to capture the full moon this morning of 10/01/2020 and hoping for clear skies ahead

Any budding enthusiasts who  captured the event on  Friday at 2:21 p.m can send them on to us at RDN

Again it all depends on the Welsh weather!!!

MIKE DAVIES (RDN Photographer)


An Intruder in Mike‘s Garden

Imagine this. You’re enjoying a morning brew in your garden.
The blue tits are calling to one another, the goldfinches are feeding,
and the blackbird is staking his claim over the land with his fluid,
musical song.  Suddenly, the blackbird’s song ceases to flow. Instead it becomes that
frantic chip chip! – The intruder alarm of the natural world is about.

The blue tits have vanished.  Over the hedge shoots a flash of red, a
yellow glint, the barred breast of a sparrowhawk. It’s a scene that
might be familiar to anyone who gardens for wildlife.






Mike Davies RDN photographer


Mike Davies Captures Banwen Miners’ Hunt on Camera

Despite the damp grey skies there was, as always, a good gathering in Neath on Boxing Day to greet the Banwen Miners’ Hunt.









Report, pictures and video by MIKE DAVIES

you can find the video with live footage on youtube here











Resolfen History Society Meeting

Clyne Mission Carol Service

Carol Service in St. David’s Church Resolven

Resolfen History Society Christmas Members Night

Resolfen History Society Christmas Members Night

Some years ago the History Society made the decision to not have a formal speaker in the December meeting, owing to the many counter attractions during this festive month usually led to a lower attendance than usual. This year some eighteen members were present and hopefully the event was enjoyed by all.

The meeting began with a contribution by David Woosnam who had been researching his family tree. His family line despite being born in London was almost exclusively Welsh, as his family had moved to England during the 1930’s from the Garw valley as part of the huge movement of population during the Great Depression. His ancestry hailed from Llandinam, home of the famous industrialist David Davies, and also concurs with another demographic change as the rural population of Wales poured into the newly industrialised valleys of the south. However, when he and his Garnant born wife, Olwen, retired to Ewenny near Bridgend , his searches revealed that he was distantly related to his neighbour and also by marriage was related to the Llewelyn family of Resolven. 

Mrs Anne Morgan was the second contributor, and following on last month’s talk on Evacuees, she gave a fuller version of her experience as an evacuated child. Her father was a serviceman with the Welsh Guards at the outbreak of the second world war,and Anne spent her days being decanted from the South East of England to her grandmother’s house in Coronation Avenue. During part of this period she spent her time living with her mother in a huge mansion. It was fascinating to hear the difference in the standard of living encountered, with the mansion having many of the modern accessories which we now take for granted compared with the basic necessities in her grandmother’s basic though loving home. 

The third contributor was Trefor Jones who as a former head of a geography department and A Level examiner in Geography, decided to give a historian’s view of climate change. Mr Jones, showed by way of a powerpoint demonstration that changes (often very abrupt ones) are common occurrences in the geological record over the last two million years, when the earth has been subject to ice ages. Concentrating on the causes of climate change during the Holocene (the period since the end of the last ice age) he showed that periods of exploration and civilizations were coincident with warmer periods including the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Whereas colder periods were usually periods coincident with war and famine, such as was shown during the last major cold snap known as the Little Ice Age, which ended in the mid-19th century. Without straying into the modern more contentious man assisted climate change in the week of the COP global conference in Madrid, he ended by saying that until the mid-1980s, climate change was based on a “dry as dust” approach by pioneers such as H.H. Lamb, who analysed the numerical data for what had definitely happened, however the modern and very popular approach uses computer models which give a projection of what is likely to happen. 

The last formal item included a brief history of Christmas as outlined in the December edition of St David’s Church magazine. Contrary to common belief, Jesus is unlikely to have been born on the 25th of December, which may have more to do with Roman tradition and the fact that both Charlemagne (800 A.D.) and William the Conqueror (1066 A.D.) were crowned on that date. Epiphany, on the 6th of January would seem to be a more likely date. In addition, Christmas has oscillated from being a largely religious to a largely secular revel, on several occasions. Indeed the Puritans including Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century banned Christmas for many years. Central to this is the fused character of Father Christmas and Santa Claus. St Nicholas was a bishop in what is now Turkey in the fifth century and spent the Christmas period doing good works, Father Christmas on the other hand is a secular character from the 18th century (usually portrayed in green) and is associated with the drunkenness and excess of the festive period. The fusion of both, may have more to do with marketing during the 19th century (possibly the red coat belongs to a well-known cola brand) and has lain the base for our modern version of Christmas.

Members’ night concluded with the annual quiz accompanied with mulled wine and minced pies. This year, it was decided that the teams would keep their own score, this led to a shambles (the wine?) and the chocolates for the winners was distributed between all the members!


Funeral Notice for Mr Michael Morgan