Funeral Notice for Mr Griffith Davies

History Society April Meeting Report

A report on the April meeting of Resolfen History Society

The speaker this month needed no introduction since it was none other than Jeff Childs, erstwhile of Pontardawe who spoke on the legacy of steel and tinplate in the town, especially that of the Gilbertson’s work. This was Mr Childs’s sixteenth visit to the Society.

He began his illustrated talk by alluding to the famous people with association to Pontardawe, including Siân Phillips, Rachel Thomas, Gareth Edwards who went to the technical school and the Welsh poet Gwenallt. Even Glynneath boy, Max Boyce began his illustrious career above in the folk club situated at the Ivy Bush public house. None of this would have happened without the advent of heavy industry.

The catalyst for steel and tinplate was the Swansea canal built between 1796 and 98 , to Abercrâf. This alongside the building of the famous Edwards bridge, near the present day Pontardawe Inn, led to the land at Ynysderw farm being commandeered by the Herbert family of Cil-y-bebyll, for the building of a works. Indeed the main road in Pontardawe to this day is Herbert Street. The original entrepreneur was Richard Parsons, who built ultimately and industrial complex including a steel, tinplate and sheet steel works. A chemical works not owned by Parsons supplied vitriol for Galvanising. The Gilbertson family then dominated the enterprise for many decades, leaving a legacy in St Peter’s Church which today still dominates the skyline with its 197’ spire. William Gilbertson indeed was responsible for the beginnings of steelmaking at the Abbey works in Port Talbot, though he quickly returned to Pontardawe. The Gilbertson’s intermarried with the Gwyn family and indeed fourteen children issued from William’s marriage.

Following the death of William Gilbertson from a stroke in 1912, the plant was managed by three of the Gilbertson brothers, as the plant was gradually taken over by other interests including RTB , and the Steel Company of Wales in the early 1950s. Indeed by 1958 the works was slowly closing and the land was being redeveloped, closing ultimately in 1962, with the trademark chimneys demolished in 1965. Today the site is marked, by the site of Cwmtawe School, the Alloy trading estate, a sports centre, a Lidl store and an old peoples’ complex which is being redeveloped from the old administrative block to the best environmental specifications. Some walls still contain the old waste sheets of steel as a reminder of a previous age.

In concluding his talk, Mr Childs made reference to the well-known story that the roof of the White House and especially the West Wing was manufactured in Pontardawe. This is partially true, in that a former roof was manufactured by Gilbertsons, however this predated the building of a west wing to the building, so 80% correct. The present White House has an entirely new roof.

Mr Trefor Jones, thanked Mr Childs for a memorable talk, and hoped that he would add to his tally of visits.

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Next month the Society will finish the year with a social evening to mark its 40th anniversary. The event will take the form of an informal tea, starting at 6 o’clock and all members past and present are invited to share some memories of the Society. See you all on Monday, May 13th!!!!

Trefor Jones

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Funeral Notice for Mrs Jeanette Davies

Funeral Notice for Mr David Carroll

Although David had lived in Australia for many years , he had links with Resolven and worked in Rheola Market