Thursday, August 13, 2015


A Country House and its Families
Llandysul Grammar School.

In 1803 a London antiquary spent several weeks travelling in South Wales. One day he crossed from Lampeter to Llandeilo, passing through Llansawel and Talley. He described what he saw in these words — "The sun had now dispersed the mists through which we set out, and shone direct on the vale: from its verdant level, high hills enjoying different degrees of cultivation, rose on every side; and under one of them, at the further end of the valley, the well whitened village [sc. Llansawel] sparkled through the intervening foliage. This valley was immediately succeeded by another called Edwinsford, a delightful spot . . . ".1

The valley of the Cothi remains as attractive and romantic as ever it was, but the mansion-house of Edwinsford has sadly decayed — a prey to social change and a way of life undreamt of by our ancestors. This short article is an attempt to convey something of the history of Edwinsford and its owners, and to recapture a fleeting glance at one of the great houses of Carmarthenshire.

The Williams Family
The Edwinsford genealogy takes us back to remote period in Welsh history.2 The Williams family of Rhydodin claimed descent from princely and royal blood. Through Rhys ap Tewdwr, they descended from Hywel Dda and Rhodri Mawr, and through Ellen wife of Llywelyn ap Phylip from Henry I of England. It will be recalled that Nest the famous daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr had many paramours, and was clearly a woman of great charm and beauty.3. Not without reason was she known as the 'Helen of Wales', and her numerous offspring included. Angharad the mother of Giraldus Cambrensis, Henry 'filius regis' her son by Henry I, and also Idio Wyllt, Earl of Desmont, by Sutrick Centrick or Wygen - Irish adventurer.4 Idio Wyllt gave assistance to Rhys ap Tewdwr against the Normans, and for his services was given the lordship of Llywel. Dwnn calls him "Eidio Wyllt Arglwydd Llywel"5 It was one of Idio's descendants, Trahaearn, who married Joan, daughter and co-heiress of Gruffydd ap Meurig Goch of Rhydodin.

Through the centuries the uchelwyr of Edwinsford married into other famous Welsh houses, such as, — the Morgans of Tredegar, the Vaughans of Golden Grove and the Philipps clan of Cilsant. We read, for example of one Dafydd ap Llywelyn of Edwinsford who married Angharad, daughter and heiress of Sir Morgan Maredudd, Knight, Lord of Tredegar. Again, Rhys ap William married Gwenillian daughter of Hywel ap Morgan Fychan.

At a later period, David ap Rhys ap William, Esquire, of Rhydodin married Jane daughter of David Phillips of Cilsant. In 1600 their son Rhys Williams, who by now had adopted the English mode of expressing his patronymic, further enlarged his estates by marriage to Jane daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Fychan or Vaughan of Llether Cadfan in the parish of Llangathen.

Llether Cadfan had been an important house in medieval times, and was owned by the Vaughans, who were as influential here as in other parts of Carmarthenshire.6. The north chapel in Llangathen Church is known as the Cadfan Chapel, and was at one time the freehold of the family.7 Cadfan and its environs had also other claims to fame, for this was the reputed site of a memorable contest in Welsh history — the battle of Coed Llathen. It was here in Whitsun week 1257 that the Welsh fought against the troops of King Henry III, who were led by Stephen Bauzan one of the King's most experienced commanders. But the English were completely routed and Bauzan himself was killed.8 Tradition says that the names of the fields in the neighbourhood recall the disastrous defeat of the English. Thus we have cae dial (field of vengeance), ) cae yr ochain (field of groaning), cae tranc (field of death), llain dwng (field of oaths), congl y waedd (corner of shouting) and they strongly suggest a disaster of some magnitude which has long survived in popular memory.9 Again, Nant Steffanau, the brook that drains the valley from Broad Oak to Pentrefelin, may well remind us of the terrible retribution which overtook Stephen Bauzan.

But to return to the Williams family of Rhydodin. Rhys Williams was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1614, and thereby held a position of power and authority, in that the custody of the county was committed to him by the Crown. And from now on the family was destined to play a prominent part in the social and political life of Carmarthenshire.10

Rhys Williams was succeeded by Nicholas Williams, who married a daughter of Sir Marmaduke Lloyd, Knight, of Maesyfelin, Cardiganshire. Through him the family continued to hold influence, and Nicholas Williams held the office of High Sheriff in 1665. In those days families vied with one another for royal favour and patronage, and the result was that Rice Williams son of Nicholas Williams received a Knighthood. Sir Rice was twice married. Firstly he married Joan daughter of Sir Roger Lort, Baronet, of Stackpole, Pembrokeshire. She died without leaving issue, and his second wife was Mary the daughter and co-heiress of John Vaughan, Esquire, of Llanelli. In fact this lady was a great niece of the 1st Earl of Carbery.

Sir Rice served as High Sheriff in 1650, and died on 27 February 1694. He lies buried in Talley Church, and is remembered chiefly in connection with religious affairs in the county following the Declaration of Indulgence of 1687. The object of this measure by James II appeared to be the suspension of laws against Roman Catholics and Dissenters, and ostensibly allowed them full rights to hold civil and military posts. But in fact the Kings true purpose was to retain all his powers under the royal prerogative, and in this way James thought he could restore Catholic worship, even in the teeth of national sentiment. Many Protestant Dissenters realised what was afoot, and even Anglican officers of the crown feared what was to come. In the counties Lords and Deputy Lieutenants, Justices of the Peace and others were asked whether they would support the measure. Most replies were in the negative and of the Welsh justices two gave very qualified assent.11 This showed the way the wind was blowing. We find that Sir Rice Williams of Edwinsford would only agree provided "the preservation of ye Protestant religion" was guaranteed. He expressed his opinion in clear terms and frankly stated that the existing penal laws against Dissenters were contrary to the primitive principles of Christianity. But his protest was a voice crying in the wilderness.

Sir Rice Williams left five sons — Nicholas, John, Walter, Charles and Thomas. His younger brother John possessed an adventurous spirit and distinguished himself in the Royal Navy. Nicholas was created a Baronet by Queen Anne in 1708. He followed his ancestors by becoming High Sheriff for the county and represented it in three successive parliaments. By a deed dated 16 April 1734 he was appointed Chamberlain of the town and borough of Brecon, and of the counties of Brecon, Radnor and Glamorgan. On 9 July of the same year a warrant was signed authorising the Receiver of Wales to pay Sir Nicholas £100 a year in respect of this office. On 11 June 1736 Sir Nicholas was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum for Carmarthenshire. This office originated in 1557 and amongst its obligations was the organisation of the Militia of each shire, the review of men, armour and munitions, and the administration of justice and local government through magistrates virtually appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. This position of trust and responsibility helped to consolidate the rising influence of Edwinsford. Hitherto, the great land-owning family of Vaughan of Golden Grove had held sway during the first half of the eighteenth century. But now new forces were emerging to challenge their power. We read of Philipps of Picton and Cwmgwili, Rice of Dynevor and Williams of Edwinsford jockeying for supremacy as the leaders of rival factions in county politics. Parliamentary elections were in essence contests between squires or their nominees. As early as 1722 Sir Nicholas Williams had ousted Griffith Rice as Member of Parliament for the county. But the contest had not been straightforward. Rice the sitting member had polled 592 votes and Sir Nicholas was defeated with 587. On petition the latter gained the seat and the Under Sheriff was fined £500 for "foul play". In 1727 Sir Nicholas retained his seat against Richard Gwynne of Taliaris. Again in 1734 he defeated Sir Edward Mansel after what was regarded as "sham opposition". in effect the Whig power represented by Sir Nicholas prevailed against the Tory faction from 1722 until his death in 1745.

Sir Nicholas' private life was rather less auspicious. His wife was Jane Mary Cocks daughter of Charles Cocks and niece of the celebrated Lord Chancellor, Lord Somers. On 25 June 1720 articles of separation were drawn up between them, by which he allowed her £100 a year. She was to take with her "Her cloaths, Towells and also her horse and furniture thereunto belonging, which she usually rides upon, and also her Dressing Glass, Comb Box, Powder Box and Patch Box, and her Books, etc ". But no further steps were taken to annul the marriage.

Sir Nicholas died without issue on 19 July 1745 in his sixty-fifth year, and was buried in the family vault at Talley. He was regarded as a great personality, who had represented the county for twenty-three years in Parliament, and one who was a champion of truth and liberty. His memorial in Talley Church records that "his unshaken virtue and integrity in an age of falsehood and corruption will be remembered to after ages". If we are to believe all that this grandiose memorial says, he was humane, charitable, benevolent and well endowed with Christian virtues. It appears that he was a great sportsman and his silver hunting horn used to be preserved at Edwinsford. One of the picturesque heights overlooking the mansion and the Cothi valley is known as Pigyn Syr Nicholas. It was during his lifetime that much was done to improve the house and gardens at Edwinsford. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the nucleus of the present masion was built, replacing the old Welsh house of Rhydodin mentioned by Lewis Glyn Cothi.12

But the time had come to rebuild and embellish the existing house and its surroundings. Of Sir Nicholas' renovations at Edwinsford the most notable was the apartment known as Sir Nicholas' Room with its rib and panel plaster ceiling. An early dormer window with leaden quarries remains and provides an interesting example of the decorative taste of the early eighteenth century. Again, leaden statuettes were placed on the ridge line of the roof and in the ornamental grounds of the house. These figures were usually of local casting, and in all likelihood the Edwinsford examples were executed at Carmarthen during the years 1700—1710. There are two very spirited casts of Mercury — remarkably fine examples of this art — and a figure of Sir Nicholas Williams' gamekeeper with his gun to his shoulder and spaniel dog at his heel. There was, it is said, a similar figure of the dairy maid of the day, which was blown down and damaged beyond repair early in the eighteenth century. There is in addition a leaden figure of a most truculent looking boar, which formerly occupied a site in the farm-yard. In the garden is a fine old sundial, with the inscription — "Sir Nicholas Williams, Baronet, 1710" and the Williams' crest, a lion rampart, and motto, Mea Virtute me involvo._13 Sir Nicholas, as we have seen, died without issue and was succeeded by his brother Thomas Williams. Actually Sir Nicholas had four brothers in all: (i) John, who married Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Johnes of Dolaucothi and Llanfair Clydogau, who died _sine prole in 1729, (ii) Walter, (iii) Charles, (iv) Thomas, of Great Russell Street, Middlesex.

On 10 March 1746 he succeeded his brother as Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum. He was also appointed Chancellor and Chamberlain of the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, and Cardigan. Thomas married firstly Arabella daughter and co-heiress of John Vaughan of Court Derllys, who died without issue. Secondly he married Anne, daughter of William Singleton of London, by whom he had two daughters. Bridget, the elder, married Robert Bankes Hodgkinson, Esquire, of Overton and also of Rhydodin in the right of his wife. Hodgkinson was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1784 and member of Parliament for Wareham in the county of Dorset. He died in 1792, and while he resided in Carmarthenshire took part in political and public affairs, and made some improvements at Edwinsford. He arranged for the Edwinsford bridge across the Cothi to be rebuilt, transforming it into one span in place of the two it formerly had. There is a stone upon the parapet which reads: "This Bridge is the sole Property of the Family of Edwinsford. Rebuilt by Robert Bankes Hodgkinson, Esq., 1783." The work of rebuilding was actually carried out by one of the Edwards brothers of Pontypridd, whose eminent father William Edwards is remembered as the architect of the famous Pontypridd Bridge.

Advent of the Hamlyn
As Hodgkinson and Bridget Williams died without issue the Edwinsford estate passed to Thomas Williams' younger daughter Arabella who had married Sir James Hamlyn, 1st Baronet, of Clovelly Court, Devonshire.

At this time Clovelly was a small fishing village situated on a romantic steep descending to the southern shore of Bideford Bay.14 The manor of Clovelly was an ancient demesne of the crown, and was settled by William the Conqueror on his consort Matilda. In the reign of Richard II it was possessed by Sir John Cary, Knight.

Subsequently the Clovelly estate was purchased by one Zachary Hamlyn of Lincoln's Inn for the sum of £9,426 and devised by him to his great nephew James Hammett. The latter took the name of Hamlyn by deed of George III in 1795. On 11 June 1762 he had married, Arabella, younger daughter of Thomas Williams of Edwinsford and niece of the great Sir Nicholas Williams. On 7 July 1795 a baronetcy was granted to James Hamlyn, and the marriage between him and Arabella Williams brought about the merger of the Edwinsford and Clovelly estates for generations.

Sir James Hamlyn represented the county in the two parliaments of April 1793 and June 1796, in the first instance vice the Hon. George Talbot Rice on his accession to the peerage. In the 1796 election Hamlyn had to contest against Magens Dorien Magens, a wealthy London banker, who had married into the Dynevor family. It was during his period as M.P. that Hamlyn obtained his baronetcy, and to this added the offices of Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum. Sir James took an enlightened interest in the Edwinsford estate and its management. He carried out much rebuilding there and erected a new stable block in 1802. A tablet above the archway records the fact.

At this time there was much coming and going between Edwinsford and Clovelly and Sir James Hamlyn kept in constant communication with his agent and bailiff at Edwinsford, David Thomas. From the following two letters we infer that the family sometimes travelled by sea to Clovelly, was much interested in agricultural pursuits and enjoyed the services of a Welsh harper.

    Clovelly Court,
    30th November, 1799.

    Dear Mr. Thomas,
    I received your letter and gave that enclosed to Mr. Williams. He was here for a day, and is gone to Clifton to escort his wife here, and I expect them all the latter end of next week.

    The Vessel (Mr. Philipps' Yacht) came here without-the-things sent to Carmarthen. She is returned to Wales, and is expected to come here again very soon.

    You do not say whether you sent the Cradle Spit, and I do not see it in the list of things at Carmarthen.

    I hope the fine weather we have lately had has enabled you to finish your tillage on Brinabbon. I have had six and eight ploughs a day, and have nearly finished 26 acres in fine order.

    I hope this will find the children all well and very good. Your health I hope, too, to have a good account of.

    Yours very truly,


    Clovelly Court,
    Sunday, 5th Decetnber, 1802.

    Dear Mr Thomas,
    You'l be surprised to receive this at the hand of my Coachman. He is sent for my Chariot and the Curricle with the pair of Coach Horses, and the Black Mare and Morgan, with the proper apparatus of Harness, etc., which Richard will of course select, viz., the leading Harness, short traces, long reins and small pieces of leather that makes the Curricle harness answer the purpose of Coach harness.

    Two four horse whips and the white, one pair of horse whip, to be packed in the long box that is in the Sportsman's Hall. The Harper and Harp will travel in my chaise. Dio to come with Richard, and of course to drive either the chaise or Curricle as they can best manage the arrangement.

    I expect Mrs Williams [i.e. his daughter-in-law, Diana] here on Tuesday next, and hope all things turning out well, that the importation from Wales will arrive on Friday next. Yours very truly,

    JAS. HAMLYN.15

Sir James Hamlyn died in London on 8 June 1811 aged 76 and was buried in the Clovelly family vault. His wife, Dame Arabella, had predeceased him in May 1797 in the fifty-eighth year of her age and was buried at Talley.

There were four children of this marriage — James, Zachary, Priscilla and Arabella. On the death of his mother, James, being the only surviving son and heir apparent, assumed the surname and arms of Williams by a grant from Garter King of Arms dated 14 March 1798.

He succeeded to the title and estates on his father's death in 1811. James Hamlyn Williams married on 22 June 1789, Diana Anne daughter of Abraham Whittaker Esquire of Stratford, Essex. He was elected M.P. for Carmarthen in 1802 and died in December 1829 at Clovelly, where he was buried.

The election of 1802-3 has been regarded as one of the most bitter in the parliamentary annals of Carmarthenshire. Since 1793 the county seat had been held by Sir James Hamlyn of Edwinsford, who, as we have seen, had married the ultimate heiress to that estate. He was a member of the Tory faction, but in 1802 the Whigs introduced a new candidate for the county in the person of Sir William Paxton of Middleton Hall. Paxton was a London banker who had made a princely fortune in India and had settled at Middleton Hall about 1794. He was a burgess of Carmarthen and Mayor in 1802 and so wielded much influence. The election opened at Llandeilo on 17 July 1802 and the candidates were James Hamlyn Williams nominated by his father Sir James Hamlyn and William Lewes of Llysnewydd, opposed by William Paxton, whose sponsors were J. G. Philipps of Cwmgwili and J. W. Hughes of Tregib. At the close of the day the poll stood — Williams 228, Paxton 87. On 31 July it was reported that the contest was being carried on with much party violence, and that the progress of the poll was slow. The candidates had agreed to vote in 'tallies', i.e. batches of equal number, registered in rotation. Paxton represented a party known as the 'Blues' while Williams had the support of the 'Reds'. Voters were brought from all parts of the kingdom, and finally, after a poll lasting fifteen days, the election came to an end with the return of 'Williams, with an official poll of 1,217 votes as against Paxton's 1,110.

But this was only the beginning of further party strife. Bitter scenes followed in Carmarthen town as rival factions fought against one another. The candidates were chaired by their supporters and carried 'in trono' through the town. Fighting broke out and a violent conflict followed between "Reds" and "Blues". Lord Dynevor was Williams' chief supporter, while Paxton had more influential backing. At a dinner held later at the Bear Inn, with J. G. Philipps in the chair, some "150 of the principal Gentlemen and Freeholders of the county" were present. The health of Lords Cawdor, Milford and Kensington, Sir John Stepney and John Vaughan of Golden Grove was drunk. The meeting broke up "assured that the favourite candidate of the Independent interests must ultimately be seated". Thus ended the first act in Lecsiwn Fawr, which is said to have cost Paxton £15,690 4s. 2d. All public-houses were thrown open and amongst the items in the enormous bill were: 11,070 breakfasts, 36,901 dinners, 684 suppers, 25,275 gallons of ale, 11,068 bottles of spirits, 8,879 bottles of porter, 460 bottles of sherry, 509 bottles of cider. Milk punch accounted for 18 guineas and even ribbons cost £786.

Having spent so much Paxton was not going to give in easily.16 Consequently on 24 November he petitioned the House, alleging that Thomas Owen, the sheriff, had acted with great partiality towards Williams. Many of the votes were queried and some observers, such as Mansel Philipps, plainly stated that both Williams and Paxton were guilty of "notorious bribery and corruption" and that neither deserved to be returned.

Meanwhile James Hamlyn Williams was not perturbed, as may be seen from this letter written by B. Foard, Bailiff at Clovelly, to David Thomas his counterpart at Edwinsford.

    Dec. 12, 1802.

    Dear Sir,
    I received your letter this day — all is safe arrived — they was not three hours a coming from Swansey to Illfordcoomb. Mr. Williams arrived hear last Tuesday in grate spirits. Likewise James and Chals. Mrs. Williams is at Tunbridge Wells. Mr. Williams is in grate spirits about the Peticion as he says all the House of Commons laugh at the Peticion he thinks it will not come on till April or May. Mr. Williams has tow of the best Counsel in London but they are to have Twenty Guineas a day each as soon as the Peticion comes on, I am afraid Sir James will not go to London this year, but Mr. Williams family come here as soon as they leave London so I may not expect to see Wales again for some time. Davye desires you to lett his wife knowe that he is safe arrived here. I think he will be here about a month.

    Pray deliver inclosed as they are directed and you oblige.
         Your humble servant,
                 B. FOARD.

    Mr. Williams was at Church today the bells rang all day likewise evirybody men and women was drest in Read Ribbons in complament to him so it looks like an election hear. Mr. Williams has jest received a fresh Peticion from London. Mansel Philips as sent it in accusing Boath Mr. Williams and Paxton of Bribyry.

Eventually the dispute was considered by a committee of the House. It was decided that Paxton had not made out a case against the Sheriff, and Williams was declared elected on 6 April 1803. Some months previously James Hamlyn, junior, son of the contestant had written to David Thomas in the following terms:

    Dear Sir,
    My father has received your letter and I cannot omit the first opportunity of thanking you for the contents. I am very sorry I had not the pleasure of seeing you these holidays. I hope nothing will prevent my passing some time with you at old Edwinsford in the Summer, and that we shall be able to talk over the defeat of the Nabob [sc. Sir William Paxton] and rejoice together on having verified the old Welsh saying of -

        "Ni chollodd Rhydodin erioed".

    Yours most truly,

    JAMES HAMLYN, Junior.

The Nabob was well and truly defeated, but in some respects James Hamlyn Williams was faced with a Pyrrhic victory. A parliamentary contest was notoriously expensive, and on the the eve of the election Williams had expressed his anxiety in a letter to his agent David Thomas. At the time hostilities were being renewed against Napoleon and the social and economic climate looked unfavourable. Landlords were the first to realise that a long war was a grave misfortune due to the vagaries of prices, wages and employment, and violent fluctuation made business a gamble. In addition there would be a heavy drain on his purse due to the inevitable costs of a parliamentary campaign.

    Dear Mr. Thomas,
    This unlucky war that is likely to break out has occasioned the funds to fall very much, by which I shall lose a great deal of money if I sell. I could wish if you have any money that you can anyhow spare, and that you would send it to Hammersleys, and acquaint me of it.

    The battle will begin tomorrow, and I hope success will attend us.

    Yours truly,


    Love to the Children. Paxton looks down in the mouth.

To turn to more domestic matters it would be of interest to quote a few letters which reflect something of the social life of the period. The first was written by James Hamlyn Williams to David Thomas.

    Clovelly Court,
    April 22nd, 1804.

    Dear Sir,
    You will he glad to hear of our safe arrival here, after having been detained in Herefordshire some days by Mrs. William's illness. We found Sir James and the children in high health, but notwithstanding all you have heard my father say of Devonshire, I can assure you that Edwinsford is full forward as Clovelly, and the farm, I think, looks much better at Edwinsford than here.

    I shall expect soon to hear from you respecting Carmarthen, as well as what you have done with Mr. Harell, and if you have offered Mr. Morris, the Banker, the Wood at Mr. Hassall's valuation, also what you have done with Jenkin Morgan, as well as Ben Davies, respecting the abatement of ready money.

    You will recollect, that I propose keeping twenty calves, and as it is by no means impossible that I may visit you again this Summer, I hope the road through the Meadows will be finished in good manner, and the gates hung, as well as the roads kept in order both from Maes and Talky. You forgot to have the road formed over the mountain from Llandovery to Maes. I hope it will be done before my return; and if you wish me to reside in Wales the roads must he kept good. They are had here, and have put me out of humour with Devonshire.

    My residence must be where the roads are best. Send me all the news you can, and believe me,

    Yours truly,


    My Father and Mrs. Williams desire to be remembered.

Some months later he wrote to David Thomas and was concerned this time about reletting one his farms to a slovenly and slothful tenant.

    Clovelly Court,
    22 June, 1804.

    Dear Sir,
    I conclude you have received my rents, which when done I will thank you to pay the interest of money borrowed to everyone, and to yourself. You will please to keep as much money in your hands as you will want for your use, and remit the remainder to Messrs. Hammersley without loss of time. Morgan, Mrs. Williams says, must not have the farm that he used to hold, as it looks so bad near the road, and he has been so slovenly upon it.

    I hope you took care in offering Jenkin Morgan £50 to state that he had no claim, but that you meant it as a gift, and by no means offer him any more.

    We have fine weather; Charles has gone to fight the French, and James' holidays will begin in about three weeks, but I am going to my Regiment in a fortnight. I wish you your health, and

    I am,

    Yours truly,


    All well here.

His wife, Diana Hamlyn Williams, spent much of her time between Clovelly and London. In one letter to David Thomas she makes arrangements for her kinswoman, Mrs. Hammel, to stay at Edwinsford.

    Clovelly Court,
    August 1st, 1804.

    My Dear Mr. Thomas,
    In about a week or ten days Mrs. Hammet and two or three of her party will arrive at Edwinsford. She has lately had a great affliction in the loss of her eldest son, who was to have had the living of Clovelly next October.

    We beg you will prepare for her reception every accommodation our House affords. Kill a sheep and poultry.

    I have desired Mrs. Hammet to give you a line. Pray order our bedroom, the white one, and another to be ready for them, well aired, and put down the carpet in the eating room, and let Dio be always at their service to wait upon them and shew them the country.

    I hope your turnips are as promising as ours.

    We talk of being at Edwinsford in the Autumn. I hope your health is better.

    Believe me, Dear Sir,

    Yours very sincerely,


    Mr. W. is with his Regiment at Kingsbridge, Devon.

The following two letters were also written by Mrs. Williams from London.

    No. 11, Hertford Street,
    1st March, 1805.

    Dear Mr. Thomas,
    I shall be obliged by your sending me to town about 6 hams, some cheeks and tongues and a side of bacon, and a cheese, which may be cut in half or quarters, or pieces, for the greater convenience of packing up, as we pay here so dear for everything; Bacon 15d. lb., and our Meat is 8d. and 8½d. I wish you would desire them to take care of the eggs, and when they have collected enough for a good sized box, they may he sent — next month or so — each egg wrapt up in brown paper, closely packed.

    Mr. Williams is very much engaged as he is on the Middlesex Committee, and he is today to have a second conference with Ministry to prevent the further intended duty on Agricultural Horses, which I trust will gain him some credit with our Welsh Friends, for he is obliged to exert himself greatly about it.

    The two eldest girls are with us, and pretty well. Charlotte and the brave Orlando stay with Sir James.

    James is going on well at Winchester, and Charles is daily expecting to attack two Spanish Frigates from the Havannah, with a Hundred sail under their Convoy.

    Mr. H. W. continues tolerably well, but a London life does not agree with him like the Country.

    I should be glad to know what wages you have given to our Housemaid, as I see £8 in the account; I suppose that must be for more than a year.

    Lady Dynevor17? doing well, though I am sorry she not a son. I am very unhappy about Mrs. Pam; I fear she is going on very badly, and that I shall never see her again.

    At the same time I wish you to send a cask of butter and two cheeses to Mrs. Whittaker, Tunbridge Wells, and a cask of butter and two cheeses to Mrs. St. John, Winchester, and a ham or two if you have any as they are very acceptable.

    The girls desire their love to you, and I am always, Dear Sir,

    Yours Sincerely,


    I sent some time since some garden seeds down.

    Berkeley Square,
    March 5th, 1807.

    Dear Sir,
    I have received safe the box of brawn, &c., but the box before this last had been opened and 9 Woodcocks and the Wild Duck taken out. I have written to the Proprietors of the Coach, and they promise me redress, either by sending me birds or their value in London Price.

    In future I wish the boxes to he weighed before you send them off, and their weight marked on the outside. Mr. Heath of Gloucester will then examine them in their passage.

    I am quite of your opinion the Pea fowls are a most delicious bird, a great Rarety, and I wish to have three or four put up to fatten every year. They must be well fed — with barley meal and milk — and when fat sent up, one or two at a time with a Turkey, &c.

    I beg you will order all the Pig Dung to be taken to the garden for the Pear and Apple trees; it is the only good manure for them. The girl may make another Brawn when there is a Pig, rather larger than this.

    Sir James is still very poorly, and Mr. H. Williams has not been able to leave him. Friday he sets out for town, and will be there the next week, as he travels with our Curricle horses.

    James leaves school and is going to be under a private Tutor — he is so much improved - he promises to be a comfort to us all.

    The girls desire their kind love to you; they are very good, and improving every way.

    Dear Sir, I am

    Yours very truly,


In Iater years Sir James Hamlyn Williams and Lady Diana spent more and more time at Edwinsford, and were great benefactors to the family in the way they improved their estates at Edwinsford, Cwrt Derllys and Clovelly. In December 1828 they bought the Plas Demesne and Talley Lakes and constructed a canal connecting the two lakes on the level ground below Rhiw Paderau. At Clovelly they laid out the celebrated Hobby Drive and extended the pier.

On her husband's death in 1829 Lady Diana retired first to Ferryside to 'Parc Portes Cliff' where she laid out the picturesque landscape garden. This was given later to her son Captain Charles Hamlyn Williams, R.N.

Sir James Hamlyn Williams and Lady Diana left six children:

   1. James Hamlyn Williams, who married Lady Mary Fortcscue, fourth daughter of Hugh, 1st Earl Fortescue.
   2. Charles Hamlyn, who married, on 15 August 1833, Harriet daughter of Sir Nelson Rycroft, Bart. He had a distinguished naval career and retired with the rank of Admiral and lived at Portiscliff.
   3. Orlando Hamlyn, who married Mary Anne Elizabeth daughter of the Rev. Charles Pine Coffin, Rector of Clovelly.
   4. Diana, who died unmarried.
   5. Arabella, who married Charles Noel, 3rd Lord Barham. Their eldest daughter, Lady Mary Arabella Louisa Noel married, in August 1846, Sir Andrew Agnew, 8th Bart., of Lochnaw, Wigtonshire and was the mother of Lady Williams-Drummond of Edwinsford.
   6. Charlotte, who married Sir Arthur Chichester, Bart., of Youlston, Devon.

A Champion of Reform
It was their eldest son Sir James Hamlyn Williams who spent most time at Edwinsford. He was born 25 November 1790 and entered the 7th Hussars, where he served with distinction in the Peninsular War. He was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1848, having been M.P. for the county in the parliaments of 1831 and 1835. He was defeated in 1832 and 1836, at a time of great political agitation in Wales, and Carmarthenshire was in many ways the centre of the struggle. Church rates, Chartism and the Rebecca Riots, popular education and the repeal of the Corn Laws made bold headlines. Radicals and Independents were led by David Rees (1801—1869) who moulded public opinion through the columns of Y Diwygiwr. Rees' slogan was "Agitate" — agitate for the removal of non-conformist disabilities, tithes and and church rates, inequality in education and the dire poverty of the peasants. He was opposed by David Owen (Brutus) who, having deserted his former allegiance, became the vitriolic champion of church and landlord.18

Popular discontent coincided with agitation for parliamentary reform. In March 1831 the Reform Bill was introduced into parliament, but divergence of opinion in the house led to a dissolution a month later. In Carmarthenshire the tide ran strongly in favour of reform, and at meetings held up and down the country "reform of parliament" became the war cry of the populace. Rice Trevor, the sitting member, was against reform and he wisely avoided a contest. He was replaced by Sir James Hamlyn Williams who supported parliamentary reform, the extinction of monopolies and the abolition of slavery. In one of his election address Sir James had stated:

    To the Independent Electors of the County of Carmarthen.

    The trust which was confided to me in in so flattering a manner of representing this County in Parliament, will ere long be restored to you, and you will consequently be called upon to exercise the important privilege which will henceforward be enjoyed by you, of selecting two Individuals to express your political opinions in a Reformed Parliament.

    My principles are well known to you, — I have advocated Reform and Retrenchment in every department of the State. I have proved myself to be the Enemy of Slavery, by my vote in favour of Mr. Buxton's recent motion for its abolition; and, as I deem it right that you should be made acquainted with my opinions upon some of the leading topics of political discussion, I beg to state, that a Reform in the Church, a Commutation of tithes, the extinction of all Monopolies, that are unwarranted by sound policy, as well as of useless places, unmerited pensions and sinecures are a course of measures which I anticipate the perfection of with unfeigned satisfaction; and which must be secured, if the Electors of this Empire will with fearless integrity of purpose avail themselves of the opportunity now afforded them, of choosing a House of Commons that will boldly perform its duty to the nation at large.

    As an Independent Man, anxious that the Country should thoroughly reap the full benefit conferred upon it by that great Charter which has recently confirmed us in the free enjoyment of our constitutional rights, I solicit your suffrages; and if by a continuance of your former kindness I should become one of the objects of your choice, I can safely assure you, that the zeal and exertion which it has hitherto been my study to evince in your service, will accompany my future endeavours to promote your real and truest interests.

    I have the honour to be,


    Your faithful and obliged servant,


    Edwinsford, August 24th, 1832.19

The Reform Bill which reached the Statute Book in June 1832 had provided for the vote to be given to all leaseholders of premises of an annual value of £10, and to all occupiers paying a yearly rent of £50. Carmarthenshire was given an additional member, and the struggle for representation was intense.

In December 1832 Sir James Hamlyn Williams issued another election address in English and Welsh. In it he denied the false assertions that there was any kind of coalition or understanding between him and the other candidates; and that any voter intending to support him must give both Votes at the same time, " . . . for when you have once polled, you cannot return to vote a second time". He asked for support in the interest of radicalism and reform. "Come forward boldly, of whatever Party or Color, and use your best exertions for Sir James Williams, who fought the Battle of Reform in Parliament, and is now fighting for the Independence of Carmarthen Shire". On a stronger note he said " . . . yr wyf yn dilys ddywedyd, na fu, ac nad oes genyf unrhyw fwriad i wyro oddiwrth yr egwyddorion diymyraeth hyny wrth ba rai yr wyf hyd yn hyn yn ddiysgog wedi glynu".20

Sir James's political viewpoint was almost unique amongst Carmarthenshire landlords at the time, and he had openly expressed the view in Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions that "the magistrates of the County have competely lost the confidence of the people". Even though the wind was blowing in favour of radical reformers, Sir James lost the election and on 29 January 1833 G. R. Rice-Trevor and Edward Hamlyn Adams of Middleton Hall were returned to represent Carmarthenshire. It is interesting to observe that the £10 household franchise, established in the boroughs, had introduced a thin wedge of democracy. But the £50 enfranchisement of tenant farmers had the reverse effect and strengthened the hold of the large landowners over the constituencies. The Edwinsford estate amounted to about ten thousand acres in extent. It was considerable in comparison with the demesnes of the lesser gentry which often did not exceed a few hundred acres. On the other hand the really powerful magnates were the families of Dynevor and Golden Grove and their nominees. Sir James Hamlyn Williams lost their patronage, as well as that of many Tory churchmen throughout the county.

On 19 February 1835, however, Sir James was elected once more to represent the county. His triumph was short lived as he remained a member of parliament for only eighteen months or so; and the Tory hold on Carmarthenshire remained unshaken until 1868. One of 'Sir James' great enemies was the satirist "Brutus". In July 1835 a vicious campaign was led against Sir James and every radical reformer. As the champion of the Tory and Church party, "Brutus" strongly objected to a public testimonial fund being collected by Carmarthenshire reformers to buy Sir James a gift as a token of their gratitude for his work in parliament. Actually he was presented with an interesting gold snuff box to commemorate the appreciation of his public services to the county and to record that he represented it in the two parliaments of 1831 and 1835. It was inscribed as follows:

"This tribute of respect was presented to Sir James Williams, Baronet, M.P. purchased with the penny pieces of upwards of 6,000 of his Friends and constituents in the County of Carmarthen, April 1836".

"Brutus" considered the whole project ludicrous, and he openly castigated Sir James for the paucity of his speeches and his inept performance in the House. Daniel O'Connell and other enemies of Protestantism, he sarcastically claimed, deserved as much for had not they done more than the great man of Rhydodin? Brutus claimed that this collection was more like Peter's Pence which the Papists levied on the poor Irish peasant. And what for? Because Sir James had voted for the Reform Bill, the disendowment of the Irish Church and was an avowed enemy of order and good sense by supporting Daniel O'Connell, Lords John Russell and Ebrington. Brutus concluded as follows:

    "Tebygol yw bod y tanysgrifwyr yn bwriadu i'r cwppan fod yn gwppan dewiniaeth i Syr James, unwedd a chwppan Joseph gynt; ac yno yn lle bod yn gwppan y fendith, try allan i fod yn gwppan y felltith iddo of a'i deulu. Cynn-y gia cyfaill yr ysgrifen ganlynol i'w gosod ar y cwppan, mewn math o Ladin, yr hon, er nad yw yn hollol bur, etto sydd yn eithaf addas i'r perwyl.


    Ac ym mhellach, bod i lun pen angeu hardd, ac esgyrn croesion, gael ei gerfio ar y cwppan, er dangos parch i Daniel, brenhin yr Iwerddon; a gosod llun Arglwydd John Russell arno, yng nghanol Chaos, ynghyd ag amryw addurniadau Radicalaidd eraill, rhy faith i'w henwi ar hyn o bryd".21

Despite these attacks Sir James remained a radical. He voted in the Parliament of 1835-36 for the expulsion of bishops from the house of Lords, and his agent in Llansawel opposed the levying of a church rate.22 Later on in 1843 he protested against the misuse of public funds in Carmarthenshire. As local government and administration were largely in the hands of magistrates in petty sessions or full quarter sessions, there were constant protests about the way they handled public affairs. There were accusations that bridges were built, roads made and even hills cut down, to suit the convenience of local magnates and not for the public advantage. In October 1843 Sir James urged in Quarter Sessions, that a strict enquiry be made into the expenditure of the county stock for the last twenty-nine years, and presented no less than fourteen addresses from different parishes on this particular grievance. When serious rioting in the winter of 1842-43 had caused the authorities to consider the setting up of a rural police, many parishes protested and begged for exemption on the grounds that they were themselves peacable. In favour of the new police force was the Tory, George Rice Trevor, while Sir James Hamlyn Williams remained adamantly opposed.23

At Edwinsford the daily toil of the estate and its management went on as placidly as before. A contemporary writer described the mansion and its environs as follows — "The lands are for the greater part enclosed and in a state of good cultivation. The surrounding scenery is pleasingly diversified with wood and water, and from some of the higher grounds are fine prospects extending over a tract of well cultivated country. . The mansion appears to have been formerly of greater magnitude; the grounds, which are extensive and judiciously disposed, comprehend much beautiful scenery".24

Here Sir James made extensive alterations which changed the character, and to some extent, the charm of the old house. The first major change was the building of the new dining room in 1840, which was furnished with oak panelling and sideboards from the old hall at Llether Cadfan. Above this room were erected the "Peacock" or "Best" rooms, and there followed in 1861 the new drawing room, the north wing and the two corridors. A new lodge was built at 'Iron Gate' and Moelfre in the same year, while the old fish-pond or Pysgodlyn opposite the stables was drained. Fortunately, the attractive bell roof wing and the main portion of the old house, remained intact. The exquisite ceilings which adorned Sir Nicholas' Room, the boudoir and the library, which were supposed to be the work of Italian plasterers in the reign of James I (circa 1620) were left untouched.25

Sir James was regarded as one of the most colourful personalities in the Edwinsford family, a great character — generous, quick tempered yet genial and kind hearted. He died at Clovelly on 10 October 1861 and was buried in the family vault on the north-west of Clovelly Church. Lady Mary survived him until 1874 and was buried at her special request at Talley among the surroundings she had loved so much. Sir James left no male heir and with his death the baronetcy became extinct. Three daughters survived: Mary Eleanor, Susan Hester and Edwina Augusta, who became respectively the heiresses of the Edwinsford, Clovelly and Derllys estates.

Enter the Drummonds
By the marriage of Mary Eleanor to Sir James Drummond, 3rd Baronet, of Hawthornden, Midlothian, an old Welsh princely family was united to one of Scotland's famous houses. Ancient tradition maintains that the Drummond family dates back to the eleventh century, when in 1068 Maurice Drummond a native of Hungary accompanied Edgar Atheling and his two sisters to Scotland. Margaret, the elder married Malcolm Canmore and through her influence Drummond acquired great possessions in Scotland. He was the projenitor of the noble family of Drummond of Perth, of which Drummond of Hawthornden is a cadet.26

Hawthornden, near Edinburgh, recalls much of the interesting history of the Drummonds. This Scottish estate was purchased by Sir John Drummond, Gentleman Usher to James VI who was knighted in 1603 when he came to England with his sovereign.

The son and heir of Sir John Drummond was, perhaps, the most famous of all the Drummonds of Hawthornden — William Drummond the poet. Born in 1585, he was widely known as one of Scotland's most gifted bards. Ben Jenson, it is claimed, travelled on foot to Scotland solely for the purpose of visiting him at his romantic home. Drummond was well versed in Greek and Latin, as well as in later European poets which he could recite at will. He had great facility of expression, and it was he who described the moon as "the sad queen of silence". Drummond made great use of the sonnet and preserved it as a literary form.27 Of his prose the best example is A Cypress Grove, 1623. He died on 4 December 1649.

Sir William Drummond, his son, was knighted by Charles II, and his granddaughter was Mary Barbara, who eventually inherited Hawthornden and later settled it on her cousin, Mary Ogilvie. The latter married Captain John Forbes, R.N., who also assumed the name of Drummond. He was created a baronet in 1828, with remainder to his son-in-law Francis who succeeded his father-in-law in May 1829. Sir Francis Walker-Drummond the 2nd Baronet was the eldest son of James Walker, Esquire, of Dalny, Midlothian, by Jane Hay his wife. She was the daughter of Richard Hay Newton, also described as Esquire of Newton, the grandson of John, Marquess of Tweddale and the Lady Jane Maitland, his wife, the only child of John, Duke of Lauderdale.

James, his eldest son, succeeded the 2nd Baronet in 1844. As we have seen his wife was Mary Eleanor, daughter of Sir James Hamlyn Williams of Edwinsford. By the latter's will of 21 December 1858 Lady Drummond was to inherit the Edwinsford estate. Pursuant to the same will Sir James Drummond assumed the surname of Williams in lieu of Walker in addition to and before that of Drummond. By a grant from the Lord Lyon he also bore the arms of Williams quarterly, with those of Drummond. Sir James died on 10 May, 1866 while his widow lived on at Edwinsford until her death in August 1872. Of this union there were five children: (i) James Hamlyn Williams (ii) Edwin Fortescue (iii) Hugh Henry John Fortescue (iv) Francis Dudley (v) Annabella Mary.

Sir James Hamlyn Williams Williams-Drummond, the 4th Baronet, was born at Clovelly Court on 13 January 1857. He was educated privately and at Eton. Having succeeded to the baronetcy in 1866 he served in the Grenadier Guards from 1877—1883. In 1889 he married Madeleine Diana Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Andrew Agnew, 8th Baronet of Lochnaw Castle, Wigtonshire. She was a grand-daughter of Arabella Williams (Lady Barham) the daughter of Sir James Hamlyn Williams of Edwinsford.

Sir James H. W. Williams-Drummond was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of the County of Carmarthen, the fourth member of the family to hold that office. He served as a County Councillor for the Llansawel division. He was also High Sheriff in 1885 and a J.P. for Midlothian and Carmarthen, as well as being a colonel of the Carmarthen Artillery. Before the disestablishment and disendowment of the Welsh Church he was patron of the living of Talley.28 His love for Edwinsford exceeded every other interest. His death took place on 6 June 1913. Lady Drummond had predeceased him in 1907. For her part, she devoted much time and energy in relieving poverty and suffering in those less comfortable days. Through her efforts the Alltmynydd Sanatorium was built. The foundation stone was laid on 25 April 1905 by H.R.H. Princess Christian, who, accompanied by her daughter Princess Victoria, paid a four-day visit to Edwinsford. An oak tree was planted on the lawn at Edwinsford to commemorate the occasion and to mark the close friendship between Her Royal Highness and Lady Williams-Drummond.

On the death of the 4th Baronet the title and Edwinsford estate passed to the present owner, their only child — James Hamlyn Williams, who was born on 25 May 1891. Educated at Eton, Sir James married Lady Enid Malet Vaughan daughter of the 6th Earl of Lisburne of Crosswood, Cardiganshire.29

This chronicle of the Edwinsford family would be incomplete without some mention of Sir Francis Dudley Williams Drummond. He was born at Edwinsford on 27 June 1863 and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He married, in July 1890, Marguerite Violet Maude, daughter of Sir Andrew Agnew, Bart., of Lochnaw Castle. He resided for many years at Hafodneddyn near Llandeilo, and played an important part in the public life of Carmanhenshire. He was Lieut-Colonel in the Carmarthenshire Royal Field Artillery, a D.L. and Chairman of Carmarthenshire Quarter and County Sessions. As Alderman of the County Council he was awarded the O.B.E. for public services, especially to agriculture and forestry;30 later he received the C.B.E. and subsequently a knighthood.

In this connection he deserves to be remembered for his book on the annals of Edwinsford, Clovelly and Hawthornden, which was circulated privately, and from which a great deal of this article is derived.

Today the great house of Edwinsford is silent, a mouldering ruin, bereft of its former glory. It is a long time since the keeper whistled after his dogs and the dairy maid carried her milk pail. This chronicle of Edwinsford commenced with a quotation from an eighteenth century antiquary who described this house and its environs as a "delightful spot". And as the seasons come and go, and as cloud and storm give way to sunshine, we are reminded of the famous lines of William Drummond of Hawthornden:

    The winds all silent are;
    And Phoebus in his chair
    Ensaffroning sea and air
    Makes vanish every star:
    Night like a drunkard reals
    Beyond the hills to shun his flaming wheels:
    The fields with flowers are deck'd in every hue,
    The clouds bespangle with bright gold their blue:
    Here is the pleasant place

Monday, January 21, 2013

My memories of Epping

 I was born in a house opposite Ivy Chimneys Primary School at No 72 on January 1955 at around 5.20pm.  I was one of 11 children, 8 were born at home, while 3 were born at St Margaret’s Hospital, where my mother lost one of the twins.  
  As a child, I attended ‘Ivy Chimneys Primary School,’ which had fields on one side and at the back, behind which horses were kept. I have fond memories of this school, together with my girlfriend, who I would walk home up near Hemnall Street, after school – her name I have forgotten, but I can remember she always wore sweet smelling perfume !  A little way up from the school, was a sweet shop (now a house), where I would take my thrupenny bit and buy all the sweets I wanted and still have some change. A little further up the road was a pub called, ’The Spotted Dog’ where we would buy 4 biscuits for a penny similar to Rich Tea only bigger !
There was a shop on Bell Common, where we would take (without paying !) a few handfuls of peas in their pods that were in boxes outside the shop.
  When I was just 7 years of age, before moving to Wales, we lived at Bridge Hill. We had a large garden, surrounded by a few oak trees and a  stream, where I spent many happy hours. At the bottom of the garden, we kept chickens in a run. I, and on one hot summers day I do remember winding up a old gramophone on the lawn, not sure where we had it from but it played the old 78’s. I also have a photograph of my father digging the garden at Ivy Chimneys, while I was walking up the path. The rear of Bridge Hill overlooked Theydon Bois and the land, I believe was part of Great Gregories Farm – this land now forms part of the M25 with the tunnel under the Bell Common. At Bridge Hill in the 1960’s, new homes were being built and we would wait until the workers would leave the site at the end of the day. So that we could play around on the site – one memory that remains with me is that of the smell of fed-mix that they mixed with water in a 45gallon drum. Later, when the houses were completed and families moved into this new estate, we would sell them horse manure (for their roses) which we had brought down from the common in an old 4 wheeled pushchair which we had – we would also use this to carry firewood.
  In a house opposite ours, I had been helping an elderly gentleman, by doing the garden for him,- to show his gratitude, he gave me my first bicycle – it was a big green 28" 3 speed Raleigh bike that was really too big for me – I was unable to reach the pedals It had a carrier over the back wheel that I sat on. I would push one pedal and wait for the other pedal to come around – It sounds very strange, but 10 years later, when we had moved to Wales, I happened to be in a local shop and saw the same type of bicycle for sale. I felt I had to buy it. The shopkeeper was a pleasant gentleman called Don. He agreed to keep the bicycle for me. I gave my first payment there and then and in a month or two later I gave my last payment and I was then the proud owner of the bicycle. I had this bicycle for years and would use this regularly to cycle to work.  …Happy Days !
  On Bridge Hill itself, during snowy days in winter, we would slide down the hill on milk crates. In those days, there were not many cars, so the roads were somewhat safer to play on to what they are today. We also used the buttress on the bridge as a slide  - looking back on this; one would ask why we did it? … But we were very lucky, as we never fell off onto the road.
   At the bottom of Bridge Hill, at the corner of Sunnyside Road, there was another sweet shop (now a house). Here we would buy sweets and sherbet (powder) when we had a penny or two. We would also buy fireworks (bangers) and would set them off under the railway bridge at the bottom of Bridge Hill, we would run away when we would be told off by the drivers for letting of the fireworks when the passing cars went under the bridge.
  Opposite this shop was a piece of land, belonging to my uncle – I remember there was a black car with big headlamps and leather seats on this land. Years later I was told that this car was buried here…Why, I will never know.
  At the far side of my uncle’s land there was a footpath and a bridge over the Ongar to London railway line (Central Line). In days gone by, the LNER which ran steam trains from Liverpool Street, London to Ongar.
  Both my father and grandfather worked on the line, back in the days of steam. My grandfather (Joe) was a driver, while my father (Bill) was a coalman.
  My older brother (Phil) still remembers the day when he ran home to tell mother that a man had jumped off the bridge in front of the train. The train was there for sometime until workmen and the fire crews came to jack up the train to remove the body. Today, the bridges are covered over, but years ago, you could climb up and wave to the train drivers, who in turn would always wave back to you.
  We had a pet dog – Sally our black Labrador, who once managed to get herself onto the railway line and refused to return despite calling her, so my brother, Gordon and I had to go and get her off – not knowing the danger of trains and the lines being electrified. 
  Half way up Sunnyside Road was another bridge over the railway line –here there was yet another shop – well of a sort. You were unable to go into the shop … asked for what you wanted to a lady at a small window outside . This is no longer here.
  If you walked over the bridge, you would pass the Power Station at the top of Crossing Road.  On my last visit, I could see the building was still there, but it is not in use anymore and was up for sale.
……my grandfather’s house was next door  before he moved to Wales, who was then followed by my parents. There are now 4 houses with adjoining gardens on this site.
  At the corner of Crossing Road and Allnuts Road was another shop and if I remember correctly, there was also a shop on the corner of Crossing Road and Brook Road.         
  Further up Sunnyside Road, we would pick cherries off the trees, until we would be chased away by the owners.
  Half way down Stewards Green Road, opposite the new housing estate was an old black wooden barn on land what is now The Epping Golf Club.
  Near the farm at Fluxs Lane was a pond and an old corn tip. My father and I would often take a sack up there to collect corn for our chickens. On occasions, Sally, our black labrador would get into this muddy pond, and fail to get herself out, so as my father would fill the sack, it was my job to help her out.
  We would often take a walk over to Theydon Bois Golf Club and look for lost balls under the trees and in the long grass, ….sometimes we would be quite naughty and wait for stray golf balls to come over our way and hide them in the ground with our feet … that when the players would come over and look for them, they would be unable to find them and so they would go on their way. After they had gone, we would take out the golf balls, clean them up and take a few of them to the clubhouse, where we would get paid for them. We would then spend this money back at the sweet shop.
   Sometimes, my brother Phil would come home with a little extra money and we would take the train (the tube) from Epping to London and back, just for the ride. We would also sometimes take a walk up to Epping Plain to see the fish in the pond (the lake). 
   Opposite Bell Common, was the corner of Bury Lane, where the pond still exists – I believe this to be part of Creeds Farm.
   On the right hand side of Coopersale Street just before the Theydon Oak public house was the hall where the Jumble sale was held- here my mother would often take us to buy clothing and other things. There were probably sales in other parts of the town, but this one I will always remember.
  At Allnutts Road, there was a hall and I believe it still exists, it was here that I remember, at a wedding reception, I had to carry a pint of beer onto the stage for the drummer.
  On Hemnall Street, I seem to remember seeing a gentleman going around in a 3 wheeled self propelled version of a wheelchair, (Three wheeled invalid chair) his name I believe was Douglas Penrose and he lived in Nicholl Road,  we would often see him going around up there.
  One incident that I will always remember is when I was in my teens, my father and I made a visit back to Epping. We were about to cross over High Street from Saint John’s to go to a tobacconist (who my father knew well.) for 2oz of shag (tobacco) for his pipe. When he took my hand and led me across the road –this was the only time he had done this…. but I have always remembered this experience.
  At the cemetery in Bury Lane, my father worked as the gravedigger and cared for the area, cutting the grass etc. I have fond memories of being here with my Dad; being pushed around in the big waste cart, eating and drinking tea with him in the shed that was near the main gate (this has long gone). In my dad’s shed in Wales I would watch my father using tools and by doing this, I learned a great deal from him. It was strange that in later years, he would always ask me to help him with repairs to the roof of the house and work with him on jobs both on and under the car. My father taught me a great deal about life – one of which was having respect for the dead and near graves and churches and even now when working on headstones in various cemeteries, this respect has never gone away
  My father was a quiet man who kept himself to himself. He rarely mentioned his time in WW2. However, whenever we had a war film on the television, he would come into the room and turn it off – it was only later in life that I realized why he did this. My father died in 1980 at the age of 55. My mother died about a year before in 1979.
  My mother would help at Great Gregories Farm with the turkeys just before Christmas and also at potato picking time. – I can well remember being with her at this time of year, stopping for food which would consist of bread and dripping or jam which had soaked into the bread, through the thick layer of butter.
 Some of my family are buried at Bury Lane cemetery  …my mother’s parents together with an Aunt and Uncle on my father’s side. However, most of my father’s family are buried at All Saints Church, Theydon Garnon and at St .Alban’s Coopersale. The family previously lived at Hydes Hall (now called Hydes Farm Abridge) and prior to this, they lived at South Mimms .
  I still have a few members of my family living in Epping – a place I will always remember as a young boy. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

“It Takes”

“It Takes”
“By Anthony of Glynderi Glanamman”

It takes good men to dig a pit
It takes young boys to shovel it quick
It takes strong ponies to shift the drams
Up the slopes that lay under-ground
It takes tough women to wash the coals
In cold mid winter snows, and watch they do not slip
When they push the slag up to the tip

It takes the brave to walk in a pit
With just a lit candle on a long stick
Look for gas that maybe there
In places with not much air
In that dark hole down below
Where they dig for more black coal
And even if the air is thin you maybe told to go back in
And find your tools that lay within
Yes it takes the brave to walk back in

And as you walk towards the shaft
You sometimes feel like having a laugh
When you hear the boss-man say
“Go back in lads it’s ok, and work another day
Dig more coal and earn you pay”

God bless them that’s all I say

Monday, August 30, 2010

No More Will I

No More Will I
 “by Anthony Gostling”

No more will I wake up to the pit whistle call

No more will I walk to the pit-head cage which I find more difficult at my tender age

No more will I descend to that dark black hole to dig the hard black coal

No more will I see my pony and tram, or sit there eating cold spam and not ham

No more will I give the signal to say that’s it boy’s end of another day

No more will I see the light from below and ask dear God to save my soul

And has I walk away from that pit, I chew my tobacco look back and then spit

And say to myself that’s it, I quit, I’ll not be back at the dreadful pit…!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ammanford No1 and No2 Colliery (Top or Red Vein)

A rare site of Ammanford No1 (top works) uncovered in August 2008 before being recap (photo by Tony Gostling)

Ammanford No 1 known as Gwaith Isa'r Betws (Map Rev SN648401)..... sunk by Henry Herbert in 1890. In 1891 they opened second colliery, Ammanford No 2 known as Gwaith Uchaf Betws became part of United Anthracite Collieries Ltd in 1924Ammanford No 1 was abandoned after the 1925 strike.Ammanford No 1 owned by Amalgamated Colliers Ltd in 1927There was an adjoining brickworks producing bricks stamped 'Ammanford Colliery'Ammanford No 2 closed in 1976 Substantial remains of the old Ammanford Colliery ... the only example of a late C19th colliery in Carmarthenshire and one of the few virtually intact sites in South Wales. A book called the 'Battle of Ammanford' has a substantial feature i.e the 1925 Coal Strike at these pits.

1925 - The Anthracite Strike and the 'Battle of Ammanford'
Then, during 1925, the UAC Ltd. created a situation at Ammanford No 1 Colliery by challenging the rights of the important custom of seniority rule, which protected the workmen from victimisation from management.. This rule, the "last in, first out" principle, ensured that whenever there were redundancies the owners couldn't use that as an excuse to lay off union activists. All men were protected by their date of employment at the pit with those most recently employed the first to be laid off. The problem arose at Ammanford No 1 when management refused to acknowledge and implement the seniority rule.
The Ammanford No 1 lodge decided to strike over this issue. Within a short time the whole of the Swansea District Anthracite miners, including Emlyn Colliery, Penygroes, were on strike. There followed a period of riotous and bloody confrontation between the miners picketing the collieries and the police, most of who had been imported from outside the valley to protect the men still at work and the company's property.
Finally, one evening, groups of workmen visited each pit in the Amman and other valleys and, after some troubles, cleared the men out of every pit in the Swansea District. The worst riot took place at Ammanford No 1, on Pontamman bridge, between police and strikers where many were injured on both sides. This situation resulted in a high number of local people being committed to trial at Swansea and Cardiff Assizes for unlawful and riotous assembly with 58 miners being imprisoned. The AAC Ltd. gave up the struggle after this and recognised the seniority rule within the Anthracite District. The miners had won the struggle – but they lost Ammanford No 1, for this pit was closed by the UAC Ltd. for good in reprisal. However, as all the men from Ammanford No 1 were relocated to other nearby collieries this must be seen as a victory.
Mr Henry Herbert a Mining Engineer, In 1911 he sold the land in Tirydail which became Arthur Street (named after his son), and again in 1947 he appears when his family sold more land on the same field to Ammanford Urban District Council for the building of Myddynfych council estate.
Mr Henry Herbert was more than a property developer, however, and he also established a drift mine at Bodyst Isaf in Hopkinstown, working the outcrop of the 'Red Vein' seam. It was in 1890 that he sank this mine on the Betws Mountain but soon sold out his undertaking to a syndicate of wealthy Lancashire coal owners who created a new company, the Ammanford Colliery Company Ltd. The company was formed with a share capital of £40,000 in £10 shares. Within a short time after the takeover the company decided to close the operation at Bodyst-isaf and open a new slant on land attached to Glyn-cywrch Farm, again working the outcrop of the 'Red Vein' seam. These workings were to be called Ammanford No 1 Colliery, later to be known to the miners as 'Top Works'.

No1 uncovered in August 2008 (photo by Tony Gostling)

Expanding their operations in 1891 another slant was driven near to where Maesquarre Road joins Pentwyn Road and this was called the Ammanford No 2 Colliery, later to be referred to as the Ammanford Little Vein Colliery, and which was more or less the focal point of mining activities in the area.
By 1908 Ammanford No 1 (Red Vein) was producing anthracite coal with a workforce of 245 underground workers and 20 surface workers. Ammanford No 2 (Little Vein) was producing coal with 278 men underground and 104 surface workers the larger number of surface workers presumably being employed on the shared washery. Thusthe Ammanford Colliery Company were providing work for a total of 747 men. In 1924 the Ammanford Colliery Company Ltd was sold to a much larger organisation, the United Anthracite Collieries Ltd.
A major industrial dispute in 1925 had a serious effect on coal mining in the area resulting in the closure of the Ammanford No 1 Colliery (Top Works). This was the Anthracite Strike of 1925, which had started in Ammanford at the end of April that year. During the next four months Ammanford was the epicentre for riots and mass demonstrations whose shock waves were felt all over the district. On one day alone, July 30th 1925, there were riotous disturbances simultaneously at Ammanford square; Ammanford No 2 colliery, where there was a police baton charge; at Betws; and also at Wernos, Pantyffynnon and Llandybie collieries. And the major battle was yet to come, the so-called 'Battle of Ammanford' which occurred on August 4th. In total 198 miners were arrested with 58 being jailed for periods of up to one year.
In 1927 yet further changes occurred, with the United Anthracite Collieries Ltd, itself being merged into a much larger conglomerate, the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd., setting up offices and headquarters in Tycoch.
Ammanford No 2 expanded during this period and a railway and sidings were added. Attached to the site, and owned by the Ammanford No 2 colliery, was a brickwork’s which ran alongside the railway sidings. This produced bricks which were stamped 'Ammanford Colliery' until nationalisation of the colliery in 1947 after which they bore the name of 'Ammanford' only. The brickworks was closed by the NCB in 1960 though the chimneystack of its kilns was a familiar sight until recent times and can be seen in all the photographs of the colliery. It was not uncommon for a colliery to also produce bricks as part of its operation. Bricks after all had to be fired to extreme temperatures in kilns, and where better to get coal than just a few yards away and at cost price as well? The Emlyn colliery in Penygroes opened in 1893 and closed in 1939 but its brickwork’s continued in production until the mid-1990s

Brickworks and Sidings at Ammanford No2

Growth of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd. The local owners who opened the two Ammanford collieries operated on a very small scale compared with the major capitalisation that took place in the coalfields of Glamorgan and Monmouth. The take-overs of 1924 and 1927 brought much greater players onto the stage as the following comparisons show:
Year Coal Owners Collieries Operated in Carmarthenshire
1890 Henry Herbert Bodyst Isaf
1890/91 Ammanford Colliery Company Ammanford No 1 & No 2
1918 Ammanford Colliery Company Ammanford No 1 & No 2, Pontyberem, Pontyberem Clynhebog
1945 Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ammanford No 2, Emlyn No 1 & No 2, Carway, Great Mountain No 1 & No 2, Pantyffynnon, Llandybie, New Cross Hands, New Dynant (Tumble), Pentremawr No 1 & No 4, Pontyberem, Great Mountain No 3, Wernos
Thus at nationalisation in 1947 the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd (AAC) operated 15 collieries in Carmarthenshire with a total workforce of 3,748. A far cry indeed from the two collieries of the Ammanford Colliery Company in 1908 with their 747 miners. To show the scale of the Amalgamated Anthracite Company's operations, the other nine non-AAC collieries in the Ammanford and Amman Valley area employed only 742 men between them (Garnant, Llandybie, Pantyffynnon, Mount (Butchers), two in Glanamman, three in Saron).
The Nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947 brought the next major changes with the Ammanford No 2 Colliery coming under the administration of the National Coal Board. The Colliery continued production until the opening of the adjoining new drift mine in 1976, on the site of the old Ammanford No 1 pit. The new drift was renamed Betws Colliery, rectifying at least one anomaly, as the two Ammanford Collieries were in fact in Betws, located at the Betws end of Pontamman bridge. Like Ammanford No 1 before it Ammanford No 2 was now closed. The 'spake' which had carried miners to and from the coal face since 1890 was given a continued lease of life, however, in the form of a new mine on an old site.
British Coal run down mining industry
Here are the official NCB coal output and manpower figures for Ammanford Colliery after nationalisation in 1947.

Year 1948........... Manpower 188 ..........Tonnage 25'000

Year 1953........... Manpower 298 .........Tonnage 87,049
Year 1956 ..........Manpower 399 ..........Tonnage 100,470
Year 1961.......... Manpower 470 ..........Tonnage 73,936
(Source: Betws Mas o'r Byd (2001)
It's interesting to note that in 1956, the 399 men at Ammanford colliery produced 100,740tons of coal, a third more than produced in 1961 by 470 men. Throughout the remorselesspit closures of the seventies and eighties, accelerated after the defeat of the 1984/85 miners' strike, men were transferred to remaining collieries, often making them uneconomical, and giving the government further excuses to close them. These, and other creative accounting methods, were used time and time again to close what were often profitable pits. When Betws colliery was closed in 1993 the excuse given was that it was unprofitable. Yet British Coal operated at that time what can only be described as a 'scam' to make mines appear unprofitable on the accountant's balance sheets. Instead of Betws selling its coal directly to their customers at the current market price, they had to sell instead to a marketing company set up by British Coal. Betws sold its coal to this marketing company at less than market prices, while the marketing company then sold directly to the customers at the going rate. Thus Betws colliery – and many others that were closed during this period – were guaranteed to make a loss. The architect of this amazing dodge was Swansea born Michael Hesletine, the Trade and Industry Secretary of John Major's Tory government which privatised the industry in 1993, though not after massive opposition from the entire mining and trades union movement. Needless to say, the Betws Colliery management that bought and ran the mine after it was privatised did not employ such suicidal sales techniques, preferring instead to live in the real world.
It is worth while pausing to think about this, and perhaps we may be forgiven for dwelling on it somewhat. The Tory cabinet at the time, much like the current Labour cabinet, had a pretty thick sprinkling of multi-millionaire business men amongst its members. It is inconceivable that these people would unknowingly run a coal business on the basis of selling at a price that was guaranteed to make a loss. Experience may have given many of us a low opinion of politicians generally but this level of stupidity is surely impossible even for them. The only conclusion that can be drawn, clearly, is that this loss making policy was deliberate, and designed to give the flimsiest of pretexts to sell off the mining industry on the grounds that it was loss making.
At the time of privatisation it was pointed out that if the deep mining industry had been subsidised at the same level as the nuclear industry, then the coal produced by Britain's deep mines could be given away free! In the 'dash for gas' that followed, Britain was in the ludicrous position of closing down its deep coal mines but then buying French gas for our power stations via a trans-channel pipeline, and subsiding the French company who supplied it (Electricit√© de France) by £140 million in 1993 alone. As if this wasn't enough, this was in accordance with a deal signed between Britain and France as far back as 1981.
The closure of Ammanford colliery in 1976 brought to an end an era of older, pre-mechanised mining. According to John Cornwell in his 'Collieries of South Wales' (2001), Ammanford Colliery was one of the last in Wales, certainly the last in the Anthracite District, to mine coal using the 'long wall' method by hand. Ammanford Colliery and Graig Merthyr in nearby Pontardulais, were also the last deep mines in Wales to bring coal to the surface by rope hauled trams.

The pit had two drifts (intake and return airways). These airways were 3,200 metres long and travelled beneath the old Ammanford No 1 mine. More than 4,500 tons of rock were extracted to develop the new drivages. The steel arches that formed the roof cost more than £1 million. The depth of the workings ranged between 150 metres and 800 metres below Betws mountain.

Betws New Drift
Ammanford Colliery was closed in 1976 and in 1978 Betws New Drift was opened. For these two years the workforce of Ammanford Colliery was transferred temporarily to nearby mines. In 1978 the initial workforce of 500 men was drawn from the former Ammanford Colliery workers and Graig Merthyr Colliery in nearby Pontardulais. From May 1978 to January 1993, when British Coal closed the mine, a total of 21 long retreat long wall coal faces were mined. From 1994 the pit was taken over in a management buy-out by Betws Anthracite Company Ltd who changed the coal extraction method to the older 'pillar and stall' method. Stephen W Town's study of the Amman Valley published in 1978 describes the difference between the two methods of coal extraction in Ammanford Colliery as follows -
"It should be mentioned here that the methods of winning coal have developed tremendously since the Second World War, and mechanisation largely superseded the pick and shovel. But it wasn't always so. The traditional method of winning coal from a face, common in this area until about 1950, involved small groups of men working a particular part of a seam by driving a stall into it from a roadway driven across the seam. They won the coal largely by hand and filled it into tubs which were then taken to the pit shaft; individual output was measured and payment was made on this basis. As well as getting the coal, each small group was primarily responsible for the maintenance of the roof of its area, as well as performing a wide variety of other tasks. By the early 1950s the long wall method of working had generally replaced the pillar and stall.Unlike the pillar and stall method where a series of parallel entries were made into a face with pillars left standing to support the roof in between the stalls, in the long wall method the entire stretch of a face was worked at the same time, and the area behind the face where the coal had been removed was left to collapse following the removal of props. The use of a mechanical coal cutter which moved down the whole length of the face became practical, as did the installation of a conveyor on to which coal could be loaded by the collier as it was won from the seam. Although there were many variations to this method of working (which was still used in Ammanford Colliery), the general principle involved a cycle of production over three shifts in a twenty-four hour period. Coal would be cut and fired on one shift, the conveyor and roadways advanced on the second shift, and the coal filled and face propped up on the third. Productive effort was dependent upon the efforts of all three shifts which together may have involved 40 men working on one face; each task was paid on a piece-work basis (amount of coal cut, or tonnage filled, etc.) but the earnings of individuals were dependent upon the efforts of a whole group, rather than on those of just the immediate team of two or three men. This demanded a higher degree of group co-operation in task performance than had been normal hitherto.By the early 1960s, this method of working was being replaced by the more automated system of power loading whereby coal is cut and loaded on to a conveyor by machine. Both Abernant and Cynheidre collieries were developed for this sort of mechanised working; except in the case of the Wernos colliery where pioneering work in the development of power loading was carried out, this system of working was new to the valley. Other equally important developments followed, such as self-advancing roof supports and conveyors. These developments tended to split up the close-knit work groups created in earlier systems of production, particularly because earnings were no longer related to output and are hence no longer so dependent on close cooperation."
This memory of the huge machinery involved in mining in the modern era comes
from the son of NCB employee Hugh Walters:
My father was at the NCB Group Workshops, very near to Pontaman Bridge. Lots of his work as a turner was to do with getting disparate pieces of kit (probably bought by incompetent higher-ups) to work together. This often involved designing, creating and assembling pieces of machinery. He enjoyed the work because no two days were the same. At one time he enjoyed being used by Dr Jacob Bronowski (who had an association with NCB research labs in Swansea), to see if the good Doctor's ideas could be translated from paper to working reality.I remember him telling me about the work he did in connection with the creation of the new Betws mine. If I recall correctly (and I wouldn't put any money on the numbers being right), the coal from the mine was brought to the surface on a conveyor belt that was 2000 yards long. To get any conveyor belt moving, the system must have a very efficient gearbox. A conveyer belt is never just off or on. My father worked on the gearbox. After talking with him for a while about it, with ladders and winches being mentioned, I had to revise my conception of this gearbox. My father was actually working inside the gearbox. The "box", in order to contain the required cogs, etc., had to be sixteen foot high. I've never been able to imagine what such a gearbox (and contents) would look like or the technology that no doubt soaked up a sizeable proportion of the millions sunk into the ground there. (Lloyd Walters, correspondence 12th November 2005.)
Coal started to come off the conveyor belts in 1978 after the mine was officially opened by Prince Charles on 1st March. Someone present on that occasion tells of the preparation that was necessary to receive such a dignitary:
Preparation was similar to a television programme about preparing for a Royal visit. The policy being, 'if you can't move it, paint it'. With that instruction, I was sent underground for a final clean up – this meant literally dusting the coal so that the Prince could be shown that it was shining ... There was one embarrassing moment. All the signs on the surface of the colliery had been replaced in both English and Welsh, but unknown to us one of the Welsh signs had been spelt wrongly and only the Prince spotted it. The colliery General Manager was not impressed. (Alan Jones quoted in: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005).
The forecast expectancy of the Colliery (based upon the estimated coal reserves available) was given as 15 years. Looking to the future, moves were made in 1983 to extend the operations of the mine by gaining access to an estimated 7.5 million tonnes of anthracite in two seams – 'Big Vein' and 'Peacock Vein' which were to the east of the 'Gardeners Fault'. A special machine, a Titan tunneller (known as 'the mole'), was deployed to cut a 540 metre long drivage through rock which proved to be a formidable and expensive task.
During the 29 years of Betws New Mine's life the workforce of 11 collieries were transferred to augment the miners already at Ammanford Colliery. As mines were closed in a relentless pit closure programme their workforce was transferred to nearby mines that were still open until Betws was the only one left. As had been predicted, this closure programme accelerated after the defeat of the 1984/85 miners' strike. Here is a list of the mines affected:

Redeployment to Betws came from the following pits

Colliery Operating Years

Ammanford 1890 to 1976

Craig Merthyr, Pontardulais 1873 to 1978

Cwmgwili 1960 to 1980

Morlais, Llangennech 1893 to 1981

Brynlliw, Gorseinon 1903 to 1983

Treforgan 1963 to 1983

St Johns 1908 to 1985

Lady Windsor 1884 to 1988

Wernos Washery 1949 to 1988

Abernant 1958 to 1988

Cynheidre 1954 to 1989
Cefen Coed/Blaenant 1924 to 1990

(Source: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005)

1993 and Privatisation
In the meantime the National Coal Board had been restructured and was now known as British Coal. In 1992, when there was evidence of a sharp drop in the demand for coal, a major national review of the industry took place. As is usual with governments and businesses, 'review' turned out to mean massive closures, and it led to drastic action with the shutting of a large number of deep mines. The Betws Drift Mine was one of the pits so scheduled and on the 15th of January 1993, British Coal withdrew their operations at Betws. In June of the same year advertisements appeared in the National press offering licenses for the working of coal at five collieries of which Betws was one.
Happily, the story didn't quite end there, for with the full support of the community a management buy out was successful, forming a new private company in 1994 to be known as 'Betws Anthracite Ltd.
Tower colliery near Hirwaun, also in the Anthracite District, took a different route when they opted for an employee buyout instead, with each miner investing £8,000 of his own money. Along with various loans the new Tower colliery was launched as a workers' co-operative, employing 350 people in 2001. Of course, with politicians nothing is ever, as it seems and there were some who smelled political motives behind the Tory govermen's decision to allow workers' buyout of Tower Colliery:
I don't think British Coal would have supported our bid for workers' buyout. As far as Tower Colliery was concerned it was a political decision to make the Tory government look good, 'a propaganda coup'. Not that anything can be taken away from the Tower men; they fought a brilliant campaign and proved their confidence in themselves. (Former Betws NUM Secretary Mike Reynolds in: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005).
After privatisation coal was to be mined in Betws from the 'red vein' seam and eventually from the top quality 'peacock' seam. The 'peacock' anthracite which plays with the colours of light is only a degree or two from pure carbon and has been described as being to the miner what a perfect diamond is to a jeweler. The coal produced at the privatised mine was originally for burning in the domestic fire, its traditional use, but in 1999 an innovative new use was found for the coal. This was as a water filtration product trade marked as 'Puracite', a top quality anthracite filter media, exclusively mined and manufactured by Betws Anthracite Ltd. This comprised 90% carbon granules, washed, dried and precisely sized to individual customer specifications and used in the treatment of drinkable water, process water and effluent.
In 1998 a plant producing quality anthracite filter media was constructed. Anthracite as a filter media has for many years been widely used as a way of improving filtration rates and the quality of water. The filter media must conform to very stringent parameters and this was borne in mind during the design of the plant. In 1999 the plant was commissioned and the products offered for sale, the first customers being the former Welsh Water Authority.Within months orders were being received from all corners of the globe via Betws Anthracite internet website. At this point it was decided to give this unique product its own trade name and 'Paracite' was born.In the next five years a large customer base was established supplying many countries and regions of the Far and Middle East, North and South America, West Europe, Indonesia, North Africa, Scandinavia and the U.K.In 2003 Betws Anthracite resulted in the end of mining activities and the filter plant and business was sold to the E.G.L. group and renamed Puracite Limited.
The plant is still located at the former Betws Washery site producing premium filter media. In addition to conventional water treatment applications the product is now being used in sewage treatment, petrochemical cleaning applications, industrial waste and water and metallurgical uses. (Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005).
After the buyout however the new management decided to go back to the older 'pillar and stall' method of extraction. The coal was to be produced using conventional mining methods by boring and firing the coal and hand filling by shovel, a backward step from the mechanised long wall system the nationalised industry had introduced to Betws in 1978.
A former Betws miner comments:
At a stroke, under the pillar and stall method of coal extraction, it turned from the most modern mine in Europe back to the old system of hand filling coal. The work was a lot harder ... (Keith Rees quoted in: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005).
The NUM chairman at Betws from 1994 to 2003 explains this method in more detail:
We had gone back to the 1930s in terms of producing coal by hand filled methods. There were six coal headings working. The cycle consisted of boring, firing, hand clearing the coal and erecting two 15ft bars. Three men worked on the coal face and an output of 12 tons a shift per man was the goal for face workers. We were all men around 16 stones starting at the pit after the buyout but after a few months we had lost a lot of weight. (John Walters quoted in: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005).
For nearly 200 years colliers traversed Maesquarre Road on their way to work at the Dynevor & Maesquarre Colliery, the Ammanford Nos 1 & 2 Collieries, and the Betws Drift Mine. There were however many changes during that period and no longer was a miner identified on the street by his appearance, covered head to foot in coal dust. The pithead baths, an essential part of a modern colliery, were introduced under the National Coal Board regime in the 1950s. Still, no matter what improvements had been achieved in working conditions mining was still a highly skilled and dangerous occupation. After nationalisation in 1947 legislation was passed to place pit safety in the hands of the workforce itself, by means of the 'Deputy' system. These men had full authority to overrule management in matters of safety. In the 1990s the Tory government, ahead of privatisation, took away the responsibility of safety from the Deputies and gave it back to the employers instead. Thus a major advance in safety achieved by nationalisation was reversed when the mining industry was privatised in the 1990s. Sadly, a Labour government returned to power in 1997 left things as they found them, with the result that accidents in what few British pits remain are on the increase in the last few years.
Under British Coal management the mine employed up to 700 people in the 1980s. At December 1999 a total of 110 men were employed at the now privatised pit, reduced to about 50 in December 2000. Then, in 2001, the Betws Anthracite Company received a major government grant of £2.8 million, thus safeguarding the future of about 100 miners and their families, at least for a few years to come. But 'few' would be the operative word and the end was not, in fact, far away. The business plan for the Betws management buyout in 1994 had only been for ten years mining, and on Friday 1st August 2003 that plan ran its final course when the pit was closed, this time for good. Cruelly, the mine had just received an order to supply its Puracite granules as the filtration product for the swimming pools at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. At the time of the closure it was estimated that there are still 2 million tonnes of known coal reserves at Betws with another 5 million tonnes in untested seams. Yet within a year a yuppie housing estate was built on the site. With Britain's energy needs increasingly imported from politically unstable regions of the world, most of them ruled by dictatorships, we may well question the wisdom of our political masters in abandoning native resources like coal.
Betws mine survived these final ten years as much from a series of government grants as from self-generated income: the privatised concern received a total of £4.9 million of operating aid from the Department of Trade and Industry between the years 2000 and 2001 (see Coal U.K., August 2003). But this shouldn't detract from the achievement of the workforce who did everything, and more, that was asked of them during this time. The management, though, were left considerably better off after closure than the miners who lost their livelihoods in a high unemployment, low income economy. Here is the BBC website's report of the Betws. More than a century of mining in a west Wales valley came to end on Friday when Betws Colliery closed its gates for the last time. Around 60 miners and their families marched out of the colliery marking the end of an industry that employed thousands in its heyday in the Amman Valley. There were tears as well as laughter as 110 men who had worked side-by-side, many at the coal face, finished for the last time. The colliery has been forced to close because of rising insurance costs and a drop in the market price of the anthracite coal that was excavated there. NUM lodge secretary Anthony Jones said: "It's a sad day. "The miners have gathered here to celebrate the achievements of Betws and also to commemorate the sad demise of the last deep mine in the Amman Valley. "Over the last 10 years Betws Colliery has put into the local economy in excess of £30m. "It's a big void for someone to fill. "We've had some marvellous times and some tragic times. "It's comradeship and friendship, something that cannot be touched in any other industry." Last-ditch talks to try and secure further financial support from the government were held in Westminster last week but without success.Keith Sutton, one of the long serving workers at the colliery, said: "It's a very emotional day. "All of a sudden it's the end and I don't think there will be anyone coming back here. "It's been hard work, there is no getting away from that, but I have great memories. "I don't know what the future holds but my children are now grown up and we'll manage." Many communities in the Amman Valley were founded on coal mining and between the two world wars there were more than 30 working pits in the region.

Betws councillor and former miner John Dorian Evans had tears in his eyes but said the community would bounce back from the jobs blow. "It's a very sad as 110 people are being made redundant," he said. "It will have an affect on the local economy because these were relatively high paid jobs. "We have been here before when the pit was closed by British Coal back in 1995. "It's a tribute to the resilience of the people of the Amman Valley that they have always been able to adapt to new jobs. "Most of the men are middle-aged but I'm quite confident they will be able to find new employment. "These men are likely to be the last generation of coal miners and the skills they have accumulated and their experience will be lost and possibly lost forever."
One more former miner can provide the final word on the end of mining in the
Amman Valley:
The colliery closed in July 2003 and on that day we all met in the car park. We raised the N.U.M. banner of Betws Lodge and we all marched down to the entrance of the mine where we took photographs. I closed the gates for the last time. We all had tears in our eyes. I felt it very much because it was my drill that found the first coal at Betws 28 years earlier, and here I was closing the gates to close the pit.After this we all went down the Welfare Club in Ammanford for a few pints of beer and to say goodbye to each other.The N.U.M. has an annual Christmas dinner for the boys that worked for British Coal and it is well attended each year. I miss the comradeship that was to be found in the coal industry. (John Walters, Betws N.U.M. Chairman from 1994 to 2003 in: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005).
Betws Colliery –a Timeline
Here is a timeline for key events taken from a history of the mine published by former miner John Dorian Evans in 2005.
Chronology of Main Events at Betws Colliery

Work begins in sinking the pit.

Ammanford Colliery closes; Prime Minister Jim Callaghan visits the new pit.

March 1st: Prince Charles opens the pit and production starts.

£12 million investment is made at the pit to access through geological disturbances.

The coal miners' strike.

£3.9 million is made available to sink new drift and shaft.

The end of British Coal ownership and the pit is placed on care and maintenance.

The management buyout.

July 31st: the end of coal production at the pit.
(Source: Betws New Drift Mine, John Dorian Evans, 2005)
Some of the former Ammanford no 2 buildings are still in use, having been sold off by the NCB in the 1960s with the decline of the British coal industry. The pit baths have been taken over by Amman Engineering Ltd. The stores buildings, along with the manager's office and the Group workshops, are in use by small firms and the railway line and its sidings, after 20 years of disuse, were bought up by Llandeilo Building Supplies. All are employing from the local workforce, so there is some continuity.
There are other buildings which once formed part of these two Ammanford collieries but which have since acquired a second life as businesses of quite a different kind from that originally envisaged.
Tycoch. This property is closely associated with the mining history of the area, though its current use as a nightclub might seem far removed from this. When the Lancastrian business syndicate purchased the colliery undertaking at 'Bodyst-isaf from Mr Henry Herbert in 1890, they appointed Mr Ernie Hewlett (one of the Directors and principal share holder of the newly formed Ammanford Colliery Company Ltd.) to oversee the operations and their interests.
Immediately after commencement of the two new 'slants' – the Ammanford Nos. 1 and 2 Collieries – they proceeded with the building of offices and residential accommodation for Mr Hewlett. The site selected, next to the Ammanford No 2 Colliery, was at the junction of Pentwyn Road and Maesquarre Road. The building was constructed in the English style, using Ruabon facing bricks which was quite in contrast to local traditional structures which at that time were mainly of dressed stone or rendered plaster work. Because of its conspicuous outward appearance it soon acquired the name of 'Tycoch' – the 'red house – a name it still carries to this day.
In 1903, the Ammanford Colliery Company Ltd. purchased the adjoining mansion of Wernoleu, where Mr. Hewlett took up residence until his departure to Africa in 1923. Tycoch became the administration block of the Company, being extended in 1927 to accommodate the larger concern of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd.
Under nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, all assets of the various companies were taken over by the National Coal Board and Tycoch entered into a new role as Group Headquarters of the No 9 (Neath) Area.
Signs of decline in the coal industry, with its inevitable changes, loomed in March 1967, when it was announced that the South Wales administration was to be merged into two areas (Eastern and Western). The new Western Area, with headquarters at Tondu, near Bridgend, contained former No 1 (Swansea), No 2 (Maesteg), part of No 3 (Rhondda) and No 4 (Aberdare), along with No 9 (Neath) areas – controlling 34 collieries with 22,260 employees. The Tycoch and Wernoleu properties, now surplus to requirements, were placed on the market.
Messrs. Mary F Roberts and Samuel Roberts, (Licensees of the Coopers Hotel, Betws) purchased Tycoch, and converted the premises into a residential country club, which was to change hands on a number of occasions in the years to follow. Part of the building (the old drawing office complex) is now transformed into a night club called 'Senoritas Nitespot', clearly not an enterprise devoted to punctuation or spelling activities.
Brynhyfryd (translated – 'bryn' is a 'hill' and 'hyfryd', is 'pleasant' – a pleasant hill).
The house is believed to have been built by a Mr Samuel Chivers, around about the mid 1800s.
The Chivers' family were connected with the chemical manufacturing industry in Pontamman, creating a very successful vinegar and pickling business and achieved national repute for over 120 years. In the 1920s, the property was acquired by the Amalgamated Anthracite Company Ltd. who converted the premises into offices. At one time it was occupied by the financial section of the company where, every Friday, colliers would queue at the pay hatch to collect their hard earned wage packet.
The National Coal Board placed Brynhyfryd on the market in 1965 and the new owner re-instated the premises to its original use as a private residence.
Dowty Prop and Cable Repair Workshop
In order to make financial savings and improve efficiency, the National Coal Board decided to provide their own in-house facilities for the maintenance of Dowty-props and underground heavy electrical cabling (these works had previously being carried out by private companies, under a standing contract).
A new factory unit was built on land formally used as railway sidings where rail wagons were cleaned. This fronted Maesquare Road and was well equipped with lathes, welding equipment and other machine tools, all operated by NCB employees. Unfortunately, with the pit closure program of the sixties, this was closed in 1968 and remained unused until 1986, when the site was bought by Llandeilo Building Supplies and opened as the Ammanford branch of their builders' merchant business.


Wernoleu is situated on land which was originally part of an old farmstead. On the Ordnance Survey map of 1831 it is shown as 'Gelli Grafod'– 'gelli' is a wood or copse and 'grafod' means 'gravely' so the word translated means, roughly, 'a gravely wood'. On the 1875 Ordnance Survey map the farmstead has disappeared and in its place is a property called Wernoleu, meaning 'the location of the alder trees'.
Wernoleu, originally designed as a gentleman's residence, was built about 1872 by the Morris family who became involved in the nearby Amman Bridge Chemical Works; the grounds were laid out as park land with an imposing selection of trees, an ornamental lake, and a large walled garden.
Within a short period of time the ownership changed when the Ammanford Colliery Company Ltd. bought the property in 1903 as a residence for the Managing Director.
The Company later became part of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd. On the nationalisation of the industry in 1947 these assets were once again transferred, this time to the National Coal Board, to be occupied as the residence of the Area No 9 (Neath) manager.
In 1965, under re-organisation of Area No 9 of the Coal Board, the house and surrounding land, along with two other properties – Tycoch and Bryn Hyfryd – were placed on the market and sold in separate lots. After protracted negotiations, the Ammanford Urban District Council acquired about 17 acres of the land and earmarked it for private development rather than the more usual council house building. An estate of about 100 houses now stands on this site, divided up into five roads – Ashgrove, Fairoaks, Laurel Drive, Pinewoods and James Griffiths Road. The last named, a departure from naming the roads after trees, was to honour Ammanford's most famous political son, Jim Griffiths MP, who, in the 1964 Harold Wilson government, became the first Secretary of State for Wales. Wernoleu itself was bought separately and converted into a hotel and country club, and is still in business as a hotel and bar today.