Walk through Pentrechwyth
Starting from the Jersey Arms to walk through Pentrechwyth
The Jersey at this time had a very well kept vegetable garden, walled all around with a pig sty in the corner and a stable at the top end of the garden, at the Pine-end was a flat surface where a wall game used to be played. The ball would be thrown at the wall and then it back with the palm of the hand, with the opponent out of position he would make a score, twenty one was for game. There were many good players around at that time, and much exertion was used to play out the game. About 100 yds away was the Malt-house, a stone building where the malt was ground. A big tank was on the ground floor for washing purposes and the machinery on the first floor. This was operated by a horse, fastened to a beam, bolted to a very big horizontal cog wheel, with other cogs and shafts up to the mill, which was operated by one man. The horse would be going around in a circle of about 30 to 40 ft. and controlled by shouts from the operator, who we called John “Brachoo”. He was a genial old man and very kind to (grown up boys) who would go to the pump and work for a couple of hours filling the big tank for him. He would then give a penny each, and the promise of a ride. When he was delivering the malt in bags to public houses, most of them at that time brewed their own beer (two pence per pint) one of these trips took us nearly all day, to deliver the bags of Malt but we were given bread & cheese by most of the landlords.
About 200 yds further down were two thatched cottages, a further gap then Rees Davies the builder & undertaker with workshop & little yard at the back of the house. About a dozen houses further down, the Chapel House built next door to the Chapel called Bethlehem a very good Congregation at this time, all Welsh services, with the big seat for the deacons, who were very solemn in their Sunday array, mostly colliers and trades people, with plenty of (Hwyl) Gusto in the singing of Hymns.
A little further down on the opposite side of the road, was the bakehouse. Public baking it was kept by a Thomas Phillips, as we boys spent many an hour there waiting for tins, to take home for our parents to fill, and then back to the bakehouse for the baking. In two hours time, again at the bakehouse to take the bread home. Nearly every-body made their own bread at that time. Next we come to ‘John Shop’ a big shop sold everything Groceries, Drapery, hardware, oils, and a butchers shop. He was also a hay & corn merchant and always kept a few very nice horses & carts for delivery. He was a very stern type of man and a Deacon at Adulam Baptist Church. Opposite “John Shops” was a flannel shop. I come now to the Gwindy Inn the noted pub in Pentrechwyth (brewed their own beer). I think this Public House was the first to have a ‘Skittle Alley’ and what a good business was done there, always horses & carts outside with the reins fastened to rings bolted into the front wall, it was at the junction of Station Rd. and there was a lot of horse & cart traffic, coal to the works Grenfells. Upper bank spelter works, and all kinds of stuff, discharged at the station sidings were brought up this road, which was pretty steep, so a rest for the horses at the top, was very welcome to drivers and horses. The station master was a Mr. Coats, a kind gentleman. The station running passenger trains were very well patronized especially on Saturdays, as all the shoppers made for Swansea Market. Some of the women used to go very late on a Saturday night to have bargains. What was not sold in the day Meat, poultry eggs etc were auctioned as there were no refrigerators about at that time. The last train up was at 11 o clock, so that train was always packed with bargain hunters & ‘drunks’. The station master a Mr. Coats was always on the station platform to see that train safely away, the porter at the station received the princely sum of sixteen shillings as wages per week. One unusual occupation at this time was by a woman, who had to collect from the houses owned by Grenfells Copper Works, the contents of the chambers, which were emptied into a kind of barrel and carried on her head on a pad. This urine was used to clean the sheets of copper and they called it pickleing, the scale after the copper had come out of the furnace would immediately come off by this process. She made so many journeys per day. The next shop a Grocery business, who also sold a number of chemistry requirements was kept by a Thomas Rees, who had a brother a chemist, so the village could get all their requirements at a very short notice. Later he started baking bread mostly for sale to the public.
The next building was Cannan school room (congregational) were services were held on Sundays, and little concerts on a week day (The Church has been built since). It was a branch of Cannan Foxhole and the minister saw to the needs of the two. Some very good talent in the concerts (Penny Readings) as they were called, held weekly or fortnightly to suit the (Band of Hope concerts from the school).
Next door to the church is the ‘New Inn’ this public house was a bit select, and more of the collar and tie business, a most genial landlord, and the customers a few back entrance type not to be seen going in to the pub from the road, but everybody in the village knew the back entrance crowd, who were regular, worshipers on Sundays. At the end of the block another Grocers shop. Opposite the Pentrechwyth Post Office, Mrs Fisher kept a general business as well as being Post Mistress and one of her sons became Mayor of Swansea; just opposite was Grenfell Town all the houses, Taplow Terr, Rifleman’s row and some on the main road were built for the workmen of Grenfells Copper works, the corner houses being a bit larger were occupied by the foreman. We now come to the Infants school, also built for the children by Grenfells, it was used on Sundays for religious services. Quite a good Congregation Church of England, a branch of Kilvey church. Mr. Thomas was the Scripture Reader and preacher on Sundays. He was always known as (Thomas the Scrip) he was a good musician and all who went to Sunday school were taught Sankey hymns by him, all in Tonic Sol Fa, at that period. He used to arrange all concerts, a social evening about twice a year, do the sick visiting, etc. for the princely salary of one guinea a week. He was there for many years and afterwards became a Vicar, but never forgot to visit all old friends in later years. A Miss Jones was the School Mistress and lived next door, with an entrance into the school yard a fine stately figure, and turned out many clever pupils, who used to go to her in later years to be coached, for the teaching profession. Miss Mary Grenfell also visited the school regularly and kept a penny bank for the savings of the village, paid out at Christmas Time.
The Vicar of Kilvey would come up for anything special. Communion once a month for burials, which were attended by nearly all the workmen, carrying on a bier to Llansamlet men changing at every telegraph post, mourners men and women walking behind the coffin. This was a real day out for the men, who would call in most of the pubs on the way back, to shew their sorrow for the deceased, wet or fine, they were always at hand. The officiating minister walking in front of the cortege with the head deacon or church wardens who took no part in carrying the bier, nearly every one of note wearing Top Hats.
Now we come to the last Public House the ‘Rising Sun’ which was very small, and very low headroom in the bar (it has been rebuilt since) you could touch the beams in any of the rooms and being the nearest to “White Rock Works” and the first pub on entering Pentrechwyth from Foxhole it done a good business. The road was very narrow at this point some cottages opposite were very near, (all these have been demolished years ago).
The White Rock Works owned by Vivians was not a very desirable place to work in. The ‘Lead one’ was brought up in barges up the river discharged by cranes to the furnaces to extract the pure lead from the residue which we called slag. It was then hauled up by a wire rope in Drams to be discharged on the side of Kilvey Hill Pentrechwyth. Some of the workmen had very unhealthy jobs, and many died from Lead Poisoning in their middle age, no compensation of any kind for the widow. The Company would supply the coffin and that was the end, a collection gathered from the work mates, and neighbours would help to obtain the mourning clothes for the widow to attend the funeral, very much sympathy but little financial assistance. A little shop used to supply homemade ‘Pop’ in pint bottles made from ‘herbs’ to the works about three times a day. The price a penny per Pt bottle, the corks used to be tied with string to the bottles to keep it fresh & ‘fizzling’. There was also another beverage taken in to the works ½ and 1 gallon jars of beer. These jars were covered in cane wicker, to stop getting broken, when a man had to much to drink and would fall down, the jar would still be intact, with a heavy screw cork. Nearly all the workmen in these villages owned one of these jars and at Stop Tap 11 o clock on Saturday nights the parade to their homes with the jars on their shoulders from the different pubs, some passing each other was a very pleasing sight.
There were a row of houses adjoining the ‘Rising Sun’ and were occupied by Pigeon enthusiasts, who were a source of trouble to all. Quite a number of people kept Pigeons and there were arguments continually of who owned the best birds, there were fights galore over pigeons and one of these proved fatal. A fight started in Foxhole road, men coming home from Swansea met men coming down from the Rising Sun the worse for drink met in Foxhole Rd near the bottom of Maesteg St a fight followed an argument, with the result a Pentrechwyth man was killed. Police Court proceedings, then the Swansea Assizes. Dr. E. B. Evans gave evidence that the cause of death was caused by the man stumbling against the curb and struck his head against some stone. All that was in the fight got off. This caused a sensation in the village of Pentrechwyth.
It was one of the largest funerals, the man was very popular, and seemed a quiet type. A stone was erected to his memory in Llansamlet Parish Church and was paid for by voluntary subscriptions his name was John Huxtable.
About the late 1890’s we had one very bad winter, snow and severe frost which lasted for a little over a month. All outside work in the building trade was at a complete stand-still. We used lime mortar at this particular time. Once frozen it was impossible to do anything about it. Our wages at that time were £1.12.4 for a craftsman, a good labourer £1.4.0. A horse driver £1.5.0 who worked hard and long hours, he had to be in the stable about 5.30 AM (all building employees started at 6.30 AM) clean his horse, (fill his nose-bag the horses food for the day) be on the road at 6.30 hauling, heavy stone from the quarries, and all materials for the building trade, he would get back into the stable about 4.30 PM, then cut hay into chaff, for his feed for the night and next day, then lay the bed in straw if the horse was wet coming into the stable he would have to rub him until dry with wisps of straw. He would never leave the stable until 5’30 some-times 6 o clock, he had to come on Sunday morning for a couple of hours, no one seemed to be in a hurry in those days, and I must say workmen took a much keener interest in their work especially in the building trades as very little machinery was available in those days, being the roads so bad, we could not take horses out. So the drivers and labourers would fill their time at the quarry, sorting out small stone, not suitable for building purposes, to be supplied to the council for roads. All men would do anything to be working to have their wages there was no dole at that time, and this I am sure of there was more harmony among the men and employers at that time, you could approach the boss for time off, and to be helped financially if in trouble. Snow frozen on the roads seemed to last and were very bad for horse traffic.
Sometimes the horses would be in the stable for a week, and when taken out would have their shoes taken off, and have rough pointed nails, replacing the old, even then horses fell on slippery surfaces, the drivers would always have plenty of assistance in getting the horses on their feet again. I have many times seen a pair in a wagon heavily loaded, fall with the harness in a proper mess, a very difficult job to undo the buckles and chains attached to the wagon to free the horses to get them on their feet again.