And now we four are joined as one: The formation of the South Wales Constabulary, 1 June 1969

It will be 50 years in June since the formation of the South Wales Constabulary. This is the first of three articles that look back at the formation of the constabulary and its early days. It draws on records held at Glamorgan Archives including copies of the annual reports compiled by the Chief Constable.

On any scale 1969 was a challenging year to stage a major reorganisation and weld a new constabulary from the Glamorgan, Merthyr, Swansea and Cardiff police forces. As the Chief Inspector’s report for 1969-70 observed, 1969 was a testing year with the need to contribute to the policing of the investiture of Prince Charles and a number of royal visits to South Wales. In addition, the force faced a range of serious challenges including bearing …the heavy burden of work and investigations into Welsh extremism… alongside policing …anti-apartheid activities and Springbok rugby matches.

The move to larger police forces was a national initiative following the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Policing in 1960. The changes in South Wales were one piece of a jigsaw that aimed to reduce the number of forces across the country from 117 to 43. Preparations for the South Wales Constabulary had been handled by some 13 working groups set up to look at every aspect of the running of the new force. The working group records are held at Glamorgan Archives and from the outset the Chief Constables of the four forces admitted, in a joint letter, issued on 26 July 1967, that the merger would be not be popular in many quarters.

It is acknowledged that the process of amalgamation does not commend itself to all members of the regular forces and civilian staff affected. This we understand.

However, the new force, serving almost fifty percent of the population of Wales, would be more efficient:

…providing greater resources and more modern equipment, transport and communication.

Two years later, on 1 May 1969, a month before the launch of the Constabulary, the Chief Constable designate, Melbourne Thomas, wrote again to his staff admitting that:

…there will undoubtedly be many initial problems and difficulties, but with the co-operation and combined effort of all members we can overcome them… In the whole of Great Britain there are only six provincial forces with responsibility for a greater number of people and the merger is taking place in an atmosphere of economic restraint with restrictions on manpower, and at a time when the structure of the police service is subject to tremendous change in both the administrative and operational fields.

Chief Constable Melbourne Thomas

Chief Constable Melbourne Thomas

As a means of smoothing the transition he sought to reassure officers that they would not be required to move as part of reorganisation and that:

there will be a substantial number of promotions in the new force and I want to stress that these will be on merit with no regard being paid to which of the constituent forces the officers belonged.

The letter made no mention of the disagreement that had surrounded the conclusion of the arrangements for the new force and, at times, had threatened to derail the entire process. Naturally, with an organisation that would embrace almost 3,000 police officers and civilian staff across South Wales, there were questions surrounding job security, relocation and promotion prospects. In addition, as debates in Parliament during March 1969 illustrated, the battle lines also encompassed concerns surrounding the loss of forces such Merthyr with a distinct local identity and a titanic tug of war over the location of the new police headquarters. Although many, including Jim Callaghan, the Home Secretary, had argued the case for Cardiff with its new state of the art HQ in Cathays Park, the eventual choice was Bridgend, the base of the Glamorgan Constabulary and the biggest of the 4 forces.


Police Headquarters, Bridgend

It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the launch of the South Wales Constabulary on 1 June 1969 was, for most people, a low key affair. Coverage in the Western Mail was limited to a very short article tucked away in the inside pages. Chief Constable, Melbourne Thomas simply stated that:

I have taken the view that there is no funeral and that the good spirit existing in the four forces will be carried forward into the new force (Western Mail, 1 June 1969).

And so it proved. In the annual report, produced in January 1970, the Chief Constable argued that many of the challenges faced in 1969 had helped forge the new constabulary:

The early jointure of the members of the forces in duties for Investiture of HRH The Prince of Wales and the Royal Progress precipitated the business of working together for the whole force. Demonstrations at football matches continued the acceleration of getting to know one another. Social exchanges added to the integration the amalgamation must gain if the desired benefits are to be secured.

While there were ongoing difficulties with the force operating under strength and with limited ability to move staff, Melbourne Thomas concluded:

…the new force was launched and is progressing daily towards the integration and efficiency desired from amalgamation. Twelve months from now it will be possible to look at the progress made from a much better perspective point.

The acid test probably lay in the mood of the members of the new South Wales Constabulary. 1968 and 1969 had seen some 350 retirements and resignations – well above the average. One of the first developments was the production of new Police Magazine for the constabulary. It not only provided news of staff changes and social events but also provided a forum for a range of views on the amalgamation.  An edition published in 1970 contained the following poem, penned by ‘152G’, which possibly summed up the ‘let’s just get on with it’ attitude across the force.


To some it brought promotion

A move they did not want?

For others, no commotion

But don’t give up and daunt


We’ve had it now for many a day

And things are settling down

For those who sighed are heard to say

“I was too quick to frown”


And now we four are joined as one

To form a brand new force

A good beginning has begun

We are the best, of course.


So let us make our motto

“Forever we are best”

Until the day we have got to

Amalgamate with the rest

[Taken from South Wales Police Magazine, Autumn 1970, p73 (DSWP/52/1)].

Melbourne Thomas’ conclusion at the end of 1969 that …the general sense of progress is now quite encouraging… was, therefore, not far from the mark. The South Wales Constabulary, despite challenges on numerous fronts, was up and running.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Records on the establishment of the South Wales Constabulary can be found at Glamorgan Archives, including the Chief Inspector’s report for 1969-70 (DSWP/16/2). The letters from the Chief Constables are at DSWP/29/7 (26 June 1967) and DSWP/29/7 (1 May 1969). Early copies of the South Wales Police Magazine are at DSWP/52/1. Copies of the Western Mail for this period, including the article on the formation of the South Wales Constabulary on 1 June 1969, can be accessed at the Cathays Heritage Library.

Castell Coch, Tongwynlais

The original Castell Coch is thought to date from the 12th or 13th century.  Its name, which translates as Red Castle, comes from the hue of the local sandstone from which it was built.  Abandoned at an early date, it formed part of the estates associated with Cardiff Castle.  By the mid-19th century, only foundations remained.

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In 1871, the third Marquess of Bute commissioned William Burges to reconstruct the castle as a country residence for occasional occupation in the summer, using the medieval remains as a basis for the design.  Burges rebuilt the outside of the castle between 1875 and 1879, but died in 1881 before the interior had been finished.  This was completed by other members of his team in 1891.  The exterior is considered to be a reasonably accurate reconstruction of a medieval castle, though experts doubt the authenticity of the conical turrets.  However, the interior is a fantasy of colourful symbolism and decoration which must be seen to be appreciated.

The building is quite impractical as a living space and was little used as such.  Since 1950, Castell Coch has been in state guardianship and is currently managed by Cadw both as a popular tourist attraction and also as a venue for weddings and other events.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Capel Heol y Crwys (now Shah Jalal Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre), Crwys Road, Cardiff

Building plans were approved in May 1884 for the erection of a Calvinistic Methodist Chapel in May Street, Cathays.  That building, designed by J P Jones, is now used by the Salvation Army.

Having outgrown their May Street premises, the congregation obtained approval in May 1899 to build a new chapel in Crwys Road.  Designed by local architect, John H Phillips, the building had a large worship area at street level, with a gallery above and schoolroom and vestry on the lower ground floor.  The frontal treatment was quite ornate with curved rooflines and turreted staircases.  It is the interior of this chapel which features in Mary Traynor’s sketch.

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During the 1930s, Calvinistic Methodists became the Presbyterian Church of Wales.  In 1975, the congregation at Crwys Road was boosted following the closure of its original ‘parent’ chapel in Churchill Way and, some years later, they moved to the Christian Scientists’ former church in Richmond Road, which is now known as Eglwys y Crwys.  The Crwys Road building was subsequently converted to serve as the Shah Jalal Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/1)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for new Methodist chapel, May Street, 1884 (ref.: BC/S/1/4307)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Crwys Road, 1899 (ref.: BC/S/1/13732)
  • Bowen, Parch Thomas:  Dinas Caerdydd a’i Methodistiaeth Galfinaidd
  • Rose, Jean: Cardiff Churches through time

Brynderwen, 49 Fairwater Road, Cardiff

On 8 May 1878, Cardiff Rural Sanitary Authority approved plans, drawn up by John Prichard, the Llandaff Diocesan Architect, for building a house on a large plot of land adjacent to Insole Court.  Prichard’s client was Evan Lewis, proprietor of coal mines in the Aberdare area.  By the time of the 1881 census, Lewis, then aged 58, was living in Brynderwen with his wife and eight children.  The household also included Mrs Lewis’s mother, and seven servants.  While not playing a prominent role in public affairs, Evan Lewis was a local magistrate and served for several years as churchwarden at Llandaff Cathedral.

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Evan Lewis died in 1901 and Brynderwen was subsequently acquired by John Llewellyn Morgan, only child of David Morgan, founder of the department store which traded in central Cardiff until 2005.  The 1911 census lists him along with his wife Edith, two of their sons, and three servants.  John Llewellyn Morgan died in 1941 but Edith was still listed at Brynderwen in the 1949 Cardiff Directory.  By 1952, though, the house was occupied by Major Evan John Carne David, a member of the David family which formerly owned the Fairwater House and Radyr Court estates.  Born in 1888, he served as a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of Glamorgan and was High Sheriff of the county in 1930.  Following Major David’s death in 1982, the house was demolished and replaced by a development of some 26 detached houses, known as Hardwicke Court.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/2)
  • Cardiff Rural District Council Records, plans for house at Llandaff for Mr Evan Lewis, Llandaff, 1878 (ref.: RDC/S/2/1878/8)
  • Family history of the David family of Fairwater (ref.: DDAV/1)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • Morgan, Aubrey Niel: David Morgan 1833-1919 The Life and Times of a Master Draper in South Wales
  • 1881 – 1911 Censuses
  • The Cardiff Times, 10 February 1883
  • Weekly Mail, 14 February 1885
  • Weekly Mail, 16 April 1887
  • The Cardiff Times, 31 March 1894
  • Evening Express, 17 April 1900
  • Evening Express, 11 & 14 November 1901
  • The Times, 27 March 1982

Boston Buildings, 68-72 James Street, Cardiff

On 21 March 1900, local authority approval was granted for a building on the northern side of James Street, at its junction with the pathway which ran alongside the Glamorganshire Canal.  It comprised two shops on the ground floor, each with a basement, while a central doorway gave access to offices on the first and second floors.  With re-numbering a few years later, the shops became 68 and 72 James Street, while the offices were number 70.

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Designed by Cardiff architect Edgar Down, the premises were erected for Rose & Co., Engineers, who were based at Royal Stuart Buildings on the opposite side of James Street.  The proprietor, Joseph Rose, was born in Leake, near Boston, Lincolnshire, so it is perhaps reasonable to presume that this is the origin of the name Boston Buildings, which still appears in wrought ironwork above the roofline.  The arms of the pre-1974 Borough of Boston are carved into the stonework at one corner.

Earliest occupants of the office space were shipowners and brokers, but with the gradual decline in Cardiff’s importance as a port, later tenants ranged more widely to include printing, stockbroking and insurance businesses, along with professionals such as solicitors, accountants and consulting engineers.

Throughout the first quarter of the 20th century, the shop at 68 James Street was occupied by a butcher, Thomas Morgan (later T Morgan & Sons).  But by 1929 the unit had been taken over by Kristensen & Due, ships’ chandlers, who remained until at least the 1970s; during much of this time, Mr Kristensen also served as the Danish Consul in Cardiff.  It is less easy to trace occupancy of the second shop; during the 1950s to 1970s, though, the tenant was a tobacconist, Anthony Nethercott.  While Mary Traynor’s 1986 sketch identifies it as a general store and snack bar, a well-known cigarette brand is still prominently advertised.

In more recent years, number 68 served as the Somali Advice and Information Centre, while 72 was an office of the Flying Start family support programme.  Today the shop units are occupied by an estate agent and a property management company.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/4)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for new premises, James Street, 1900 (ref.: BC/S/1/14110)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, Glamorganshire Canal Navigation, Memorandum of Agreement, 1904 (ref.: BC/GCA/4/162)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • 1881 – 1901 Censuses
  • Google Streetview

Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff

Baltic House dates from about 1915, when it replaced 17, 18 and 19 Mount Stuart Square, in a prominent position directly opposite the main entrance of the Coal Exchange.  The architects were Teather & Wilson and their client was Claude P Hailey, a local accountant who later donated the land for Hailey Park in Llandaff North.


Having five storeys plus a basement, the building is oddly asymmetric in appearance, with a more ornate bay at the eastern end.  The approved building plan shows that it was originally intended to balance this with a western extension which has clearly never been executed.

The earliest occupants included Mr Hailey’s accountancy partnership with Sir Joseph Davies, and Mount Stuart Square Office Co Ltd, which appears to have been the building’s management company.  Business Statistics Publishing Co Ltd and the Incorporated South Wales and Monmouthshire Coal Freighters Association – both closely associated with Davies and Hailey – were also based there.  Other tenants were generally coal exporters or shipping companies.  From the outset until at least the mid-1950s, there was a café on the lower ground floor.  While developing patterns of business saw changes in occupancy over the years, Baltic House continued to house a number of shipping and travel companies well into the 1960s.

During the 1990s, Baltic House was the principal office of Cardiff Bay Development Corporation as it masterminded the regeneration of the city’s rundown docklands and waterfront.  More recently, it has housed the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, along with a number of other third sector organisations.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection (ref.: D1093/1/6)
  • Cardiff Borough Records, plans for offices, Mount Stuart Square, 1913 (ref.: BC/S/1/18776)
  • Evan Thomas, Radcliffe and Company, Shipowners, Cardiff Records, lease (counterpart) for term of 21 years, 1916 (ref.: DETR/92/1-3)
  • Various Cardiff Directories
  • Cardiff Year Book 1921
  • Wales Yearbook 2000