Bridgend Town Hall

In the expanding town of the 1840s, it was thought desirable to replace Bridgend’s old town hall, which stood on arches over the marketplace, with a new building large enough to hold public meetings and courts.  Designed by a Swansea architect named Rayner, the building was erected on land donated by the Earl of Dunraven and is reported to have cost £1,450.  The Justices of the Peace of the County of Glamorgan contributed £300 so that the basement storey could be fitted out as a Police Station House, while the remaining sum was raised through voluntary donations.  A foundation stone was laid on 13 September 1843 by the Rt Hon John Nicholl, MP for Cardiff, and HM Judge Advocate General, and the completed building was handed over to the subscribers on 1 May 1845.  The major internal space was a hall measuring 65 x 38 feet.

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The building was used for a variety of purposes – court hearings, banquets, concerts, dramatic performances, political meetings and meetings of the townspeople.  When Glamorgan County Council was established in 1889, the County Surveyor’s office was initially based there.  The changed pattern of society after the Second World War robbed the building of much of its usefulness.  As a result, the structure fell into disrepair.  Despite a ‘Save the Town Hall’ campaign, it was demolished in 1971.

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‘The Town Hall Fund’ remains active as a charitable trust.  It administers income from the proceeds of the Town Hall’s sale, which may be applied for charitable purposes for the general benefit of the inhabitants of Bridgend.  During the five years 2009 – 2013, it generated an average annual income of around £570.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/1-2; D1093/2/6]
  • Bridgend Town Hall Management Committee, minute book, 1845-1941 [DXS1]
  • Bridgend Town Hall Management Committee, agreement to build Town Hall including specification and plans, 1843 [DXS4]
  • Old Bridgend in Photographs (Commentaries by D. Glyn Williams) Pub. Stewart Williams, 1978
  • blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/how-are-mighty-fallen-bridgend-town-hall.html
  • bridgend-town-hall-trust.org.uk
  • bridgendtowncouncil.gov.uk/bridgend-origins/some-historical-facts.aspx

 

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‘A good shilling’s worth’: The building of the Police Station House at Bridgend in 1845

When the Glamorgan Constabulary was formed in 1841 there was a pressing need across the county for suitable station houses for the new force. In his first report to the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County, on 30th August 1841, the newly appointed Chief Constable, Captain Charles Frederick Napier, had emphasised that the existing facilities needed to be either completely replaced or upgraded. In towns such as Merthyr, prisoners were frequently held by constables at local public houses, given Napier’s assessment that cells, where available, were …totally unfit for the reception of such prisoners. Napier underlined the need for a station house with lock up cells in each of the main towns across the county. With regard to Bridgend, which was in the Ogmore District, he noted:

I propose making Bridgend the Station House for this District and the residence of the Superintendent…  Bridgend being the central point it is highly desirable that a good station house should be erected, I would suggest that the building should contain a residence for the Constable, with offices for the Superintendent, and four cells  [Record of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan, held at the Pyle Inn on Monday 30 August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

Although it was agreed that a new Police Rate of £800 be raised specifically to fund the Constabulary, it was recognised that it would take time for suitable premises to be built in all areas. The situation in Bridgend was not addressed fully until 1845. The Glamorgan Archives holds the original plans for the new police station built at that time and much of the background correspondence dealing with the negotiation for its construction.

The news, in 1843, that plans were afoot to build, through private subscription, a new town hall in Bridgend on land owned by the Earl of Dunraven presented an opportunity for a police station, cells and court room to be incorporated within the design.

A Committee of Magistrates had been established to oversee the building of police stations for the Constabulary. When this committee was approached, in 1843, by the group charged with the construction of the Bridgend Town Hall, it was soon agreed that facilities for the police and local magistrates could be provided in the basement of the Town Hall. The details of the arrangement agreed at that time are set out in the Record of the General Quarter Sessions of the peace held in Neath on 27 June 1843, held at the Glamorgan Archives.

… the Inhabitants of Bridgend (having previously determined to erect a Town Hall in that Town by private subscription) offered the Magistrates to provide on the basement story of the proposed Hall the necessary accommodation for the Police upon being paid by the County as much as a Police Station House, including the price of the Land, would have cost in any other situation in the Town.

A Meeting of the Committee of Magistrates was immediately afterwards held and they agreed to pay the subscribers to the Town Hall the sum of Three hundred and fifty pounds for providing such accommodation according to such plan and upon having a Lease of the Station House for a Thousand years at a Pepper Corn rent, granted to the County, the whole arrangement being subject to the approbation of the Secretary of State.

It is intended to set apart in the basement story two rooms viz ‘the Magistrates Room’ and the ‘Waiting Room’ adjoining, for the use of the Magistrates of the District they having at present no room in which to hold their Petty Sessions.

The Upper Story is intended to be used as a Public Hall with Judge’s and Jury Rooms.

That, save such as may be included under the head of ‘County Meetings and duly convened’, it shall not be used for any meeting of a political party, polemical, or controversial character or complexion  [Record of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace held at Neath on 27 June 1843, ref.: DMM/CO75/2].

The last provision, relating to political usage of the Hall, was kept in place for 40 years and only rescinded by agreement of the management committee in May 1885  [Bridgend Town Hall Minute Book, 1845-1941, ref.: DXS/1, p103].

The original plans for the basement, drawn up by the architect, D Vaughan, can be seen at Glamorgan Archives.

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The plans carry a wax seal and they are signed to confirm that they had been approved by the Secretary of State at the Home Office, Sir James Graham, on 8 August 1843. Given that the town of Bridgend was policed by only one officer, the space allocated to the Glamorgan Constabulary was quite sparse and consisted of one bedroom, 12ftx12ft, a store room of similar proportions and a living room with a fuel store, 14ft by 17ft. In addition, three cells were provided, each 10ft by 6ft. Napier had commented that where cells were provided across the county they were often unheated and unsuitable for use in the winter. To address this, provision was made for the cells in Bridgend to be heated by flues from fires in adjoining rooms. Each cell also had a water closet. Much of the rest of the ground floor was allocated for use by the Magistrates of the Hundreds of Newcastle and Ogmore with provision of a Magistrates’ Room and a Court Room. Although it is not stated, the basement would have been lit at night by oil lamps given that the Town Hall was not fitted with gas lights until 1847 [Bridgend Town Hall, ref.: DXAG].

Copies of the declaration of Trust and lease for the station house, made in August and October 1844 respectively, are also held at Glamorgan Archives. They confirm that the construction of the building took just over a year.

The foundation stone of the building which was erected by public subscription, was laid on the thirteenth day of September 1843, by the Rt Honorable John Nicholl, MP. Her Majesty’s Judge Advocate General and the Hall, having been completed, was delivered up to the subscribers by Mr John Rayner of Swansea, the Architect, on the first day of May 1845  [Bridgend Town Hall Minute Book, 1845-1941, ref.: DXS/1].

By and large the facilities were in line with Napier’s recommendations, with provision of accommodation for the local constable, for which rent would have been deducted from his pay. However, only three, rather than four, cells were provided.  The New Town Hall was handed over to the Trustees in May 1845 with the first meeting held in the first week of June. A small amendment to the station layout was made in 1848 to provide stairs from the station house to the prisoners dock in the hall. The plans for this are also held at Glamorgan Archives with confirmation that they had been approved by Sir George Grey, the Home Secretary, on 2 September 1848 [Glamorgan Constabulary Records, Bridgend Town Hall, 2 Sep 1848, ref.: DCON236/1].

Views on the new facilities provided for the police and magistrates were aired at the meeting of the Magistrates a month later, in July 1845, and reported in the Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian. On the one hand, there were clearly a number of teething problems:

Bridgend Station House. It was stated that the rooms of this station smoked very badly – that the chimneys did not draw well…  After a short conversation upon the subject… it was ordered that steps should immediately be taken for the purpose of lessening, if not entirely removing the evil complained of by the inmates of the Bridgend Station House  [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 5 July 1845].

Yet it was evident that, overall, the Magistrates were more than content that they had struck a good deal at Bridgend. So much so that one of their number, Robert Knight, commented:

At all events he thought the county had received a good shilling’s worth for a shilling in having a station house which cost £500 for £300. (Hear).  [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 5 July 1845].

Whether the inhabitants of Bridgend were pleased with this assessment was not recorded.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Puddings and Parcels: Christmas fundraising in the First World War

Christmas is traditionally a time when we think of others and when charities launch special appeals to raise funds.  During the First World War this was even more important with so many soldiers and sailors serving overseas, separated from families and home comforts.

School log books record the charity fundraising efforts of the pupils.  At Gellidawel School in Tonyrefail in October 1914, the Headteacher recorded sending a  £1 postal order to HRH Princess Mary for her fund to provide Christmas gifts for servicemen.  The teachers had provided the prizes and there was a prize draw amongst the children, who paid a penny for each ticket [ELL26/2].

One Headteacher in Pen-y-bont School, Bridgend [EM10/11] wrote wearily in October 1914 that, due to the war and the many calls …it has entailed upon the pockets of the people…, he had not had …the face this year to beg for subscriptions… to the Christmas Prize Fund. However, funds were raised for servicemen and a sizeable sum of over £7 was sent to the Prince of Wales Fund.  It was used to purchase cigarettes, woollen mufflers and chocolates and sent to Old Boys stationed in Scotland.  He records having received a thank you from Sergeant Major Miles thanking the boys for …their Happy Christmas Box [EM10/11].

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Refugees from Belgium were not forgotten at Christmas. The Headteacher of Dyffryn Mixed School in Ferndale, recorded that money had been raised for the refugees by pupils collecting on Christmas Day in 1916 [ER15/1].  The minute book of the Rest Convalescent Home in Porthcawl also records help given to Belgian refugees;  …that the matter of providing extra diet etc. for the refugees and staff at xmas be left to matrons and chairman… [DXEL/3/5].

Concerts were arranged to raise funds.  Mr Leon Vint applied for a licence from Barry Council to open ‘Vint’s Place’, Thompson Street in Barry on Christmas Day in 1914 and 1915, with performance profits to go to the Barry Red Cross Hospital.  Romilly Hall was also to be allowed to open on Christmas Day for the same purpose [BB/C/1/20,21].  As well as raising funds, the opening of venues on Christmas Day meant that servicemen could be entertained.  Cardiff Borough Council gave permission for the Central Cinema, The Hayes, to be used on Christmas Day between 5.30 and 8pm for the …purpose of free entertainment for servicemen [BC/C/6/54].  Mountain Ash Urban District Council proposed a Sunday Concert at Abercynon Palace on 29 November 1914, …the proceeds to be devoted to the making of, and sending a huge Christmas box of cigarettes, tobacco, socks etc to the soldiers at the front [UDMA/C/4/12].

In 1916 The Daily Telegraph and Daily News were entrusted by the War Office to raise funds for providing Christmas puddings for soldiers at the front, and local councils raised funds to send to the charity. Porthcawl Urban District Council sent over £7 to the ‘pudding fund’ in 1916 [UDPC/C/1/10].

Local parish councils, churches, chapels and other organisations also sent morale boosting Christmas parcels to local men serving abroad.

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Amongst the records of the Cardiff University Settlement are letters of thanks from soldiers for parcels received at Christmas. On 19 December 1916, Gunner C Upcott writes to Edward Lewis, I beg to thank you and all the members of the University Settlement for their kindness in sending me the parcel and I do not know how much to thank you for your kindness.  It is something terrible out here with the rain and one thing and another but I hope the end won’t be long so as we can all meet once again (DCE/1/64).

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Private William Slocombe of Cardiff, who was awarded the Military Medal during the War, wrote to his mother, from the front, on 9 December 1916.  He asks her to buy him a …soldier’s diary… which has …a lot of useful military information and a small French dictionary at the beginning… I should like you to send me one if possible. It does not cost more than a couple of shillings at most.  He is also thinking of Christmas gifts for his family at home and sends a postal order for 10 shillings; It is for the kids and yourself… If you can get some chocolates for the girls so much the better.  I should like to give Pa some tobacco too’  Poignantly he writes …the circumstances are very different to last year aren’t they?  Your affectionate Son… [D895/1/3].

These records, and many more relating to the First World War, are available to consult at Glamorgan Archives.

Essential services must be maintained. Are you prepared to serve? – Edward Loveluck’s Story

The nine days of the General Strike in May 1926 shook the foundations of British society as over 1.5 million workers across the country downed tools. For many in the trade union movement it was a simple act of solidarity with the miners who had seen their wages and terms and conditions progressively driven down in the years following the end of the First World War. It is estimated that, by 1926, miners’ pay had fallen by a third from the 1919 levels. Proposals to further reduce wages and extend the working day produced the famous response from the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, ‘Not a penny off the wages and not a minute on the day’. The decision by the TUC, in May 1926, to call out the transport workers, printers and iron and steel workers in sympathy with the miners met with almost total support from the unions and their members across the country.

In other quarters the TUC’s decision was seen as a General Strike and a challenge to constitutional government. With the shock waves from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia still fresh in the memory, the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, called the Strike ‘a challenge to Parliament’ and ‘the road to anarchy and ruin’ [The British Gazette, 6 May 1926]. Well before the strike was announced, the Government had preparations in hand to maintain key services across the country to be run in each area by a centrally appointed Civil Commissioner. In South Wales, the Earl of Clarendon was installed on May 2 1926 in Dominions Building in Cardiff to work with the local authorities to maintain law and order, transport and food supplies. He also had at his disposal the local arm of the Volunteer Service Committee established to recruit local men and women to keep the docks and local transport services operating and, if needed, bolster the police force. In all, the local Volunteer Service Committees recruited over 12,000 volunteers in South Wales. Small numbers of men were used to provide a skeleton service on the railways and in the docks . The impact of the volunteers was perhaps most evident in urban areas and, in particular, in Cardiff, where they were used to run tram and bus services. Although the TUC urged its members to avoid confrontation, the Government was determined to maintain essential services and stationed troops in most cities and towns along with naval vessels in key ports.

Glamorgan Archives holds material that tells the story of the General Strike in south Wales from the perspective of the unions, local volunteers and those running the Volunteer Service Committees. Records, such as the school log books, also trace the impact on local communities.

Last week we examined and account of the Strike by Trevor Vaughan, a railway worker and trade union official in Aberdare in 1926 [DX196/2]. A very different perspective on the events of May 1926 is provided by the Edward Loveluck papers held at Glamorgan Archives [DLOV/148-149].  Despite widespread sympathy for the miners there was a very real fear in many quarters that the strike called by the TUC was the first step in the breakdown of law and order.  The Government moved quickly to counter the print workers’ strike and produce its own newspaper, The British Gazette, with the first edition published on Wednesday 5 May. From the outset, Stanley Baldwin’s Government took an uncompromising approach to the strike. Under the heading ‘No Flinching. The Constitution or a Soviet’, the British Gazette stated:

The strike is intended as a direct hold up of the nation to ransom. It is for the nation to stand firm in its determination not to flinch. ‘This moment’ as the Prime Minister pointed out in the House of Commons, ‘has been chosen to challenge the existing constitution of the country and to substitute the reign of force for that which now exists….’

Mr Churchill pointed that either the nation must be mistress in its own house, or suffer the existing Constitution to be fatally injured, and endure the erection of a Soviet of Trade Unions with the real effective control of our economic and political life. The Chancellor, however, foresees the nation’s triumph in the struggle. ‘No one’, he declared, ‘can doubt what the end will be, but from every point of view, including our duty in the interests of the working classes of this country, we are bound to face this present challenge unflinchingly, rigorously, rigidly, and resolutely to the end’  [The British Gazette, No 1, Wednesday 5 May 1926, DX24].

The Government had put in place detailed contingency plans for the maintenance of essential services in the event of a strike. The first edition of the British Gazette contained details of the Civil Commissioners appointed at a regional level across the country, with the Earl of Clarendon charged with south Wales. Based at Dominions House, Queen Street, Cardiff, his remit was to work with local authorities to maintain law and order and the provision of essential services, in particular transport and supplies of coal and food.

The Civil Commissioners also had at their disposal a local Volunteer Service Committee chaired by a Government nominee and set up specifically to recruit volunteers to keep essential services running. In some instances the basis of a volunteer force had already been put in place by a body known as the Organisation for Maintenance of Supplies. The OMS had originally been created in response to a campaign led by The Times in 1925 for the establishment of a voluntary body, with branches across the country, ready to recruit volunteers in the event of a general strike. Although not officially a Government agency, Volunteer Service Committees, often supported by the OMS, played a key role in helping the Civil Commissioners maintain key services.

Edward Loveluck was a local architect from Bridgend who worked for the Volunteer Service Committee in May 1926. His papers illustrate the extent to which the Government was both determined to break the strike and had taken steps to put detailed plans in place to counter the strike in the run up to May 1926. On 22 April, two weeks before the strike was called, Illtyd Thomas, Chairman of the Cardiff Area Volunteer Service Committee, wrote to Loveluck headed ‘Secret and Confidential’, asking him to act as Vice Chairman with responsibility for the Bridgend District. Thomas’ letter confirmed that planning for service provision in the event of a General Strike was in full swing.

As you have probably gathered from information which has appeared in the Public Press, preparations are being made for the maintenance of Public Supplies should an emergency arise.

I have been requested by the Government to provide a Volunteer Service Committee which will comprise a deputy appointed by me and nominated official Representatives, namely a Food Officer, Road Officer, Railway Officer, Postal Officer, Coal Emergency Officer and Finance Officer, representing the essential services.

Loveluck was asked to lead in the recruitment of men and women in the Bridgend district willing to undertake:

…national service to assist to produce, handle or transport necessary food, fuel, light and power or such other duties essential for the maintenance and well being of the community, but not for the purposes of acting as strike breakers.

The last line was to be the subject of much controversy for there was clearly a fine line between the use of volunteers to run services where union members were on strike and strike breaking. It was clear that the Volunteer Service Committees were seen as an integral part of the machinery being put in place at the local level to counter the strike. In a second letter, dated 3 May, Thomas provided Loveluck with a copy of a confidential Government Memorandum setting out how the Volunteer Service Committees would support the Civil Commissioners and their staff. It also contained details of codes that would be used during the strike to initiate, suspend and end action. The memorandum provided, as an appendix, a suggested format for a recruitment poster and a template for a Registration Card to record the details of volunteers. Although the posters were not to use the Royal Arms or the letters ‘OHMS’, it was clear that the committees were seen as a key agent in rallying public support for the Government in countering the strike.

Volunteers urgently required. Men, women and children must be fed. Essential services must be maintained. For these purposes volunteers are urgently needed. Are you prepared to serve?

The records produced by Loveluck for the Bridgend area show that, within days, he was able to recruit over 180 volunteers. It is often thought that the volunteers came primarily from middle class, white collar occupations that had little sympathy with the unions. To an extent the records bear this out with a number of solicitors, accountants and surveyors in the ranks of the volunteers. However, the volunteers also included large numbers of labourers, drivers, blacksmiths and gardeners. Given the origin of the strike it perhaps surprising that several gave their occupation as collier, collier’s labourer, tram driver and loco driver. The ages ranged from the 16 year old bus conductor to the 72 year old man from Southerndown willing to help with transporting food and coal. The records suggest that, while the strike was widely supported in mining areas, in the towns and cities the population was deeply divided. There was certainly no shortage of recruits, both men and women, ready to help with clerical work, deliver supplies by road and even to work on the docks and railways if required. After assessing the volunteers, Loveluck produced a summary of the skills that could be provided by the second week of the strike.

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Special constables – 9

Railwaymen drivers – 2

Drivers – motor car 32, lorry 47, bus/tram 2

Motor cyclists – 11

Electricians/engineers – 13

Horse duties – 2

Dock workers – 1

Labourer – 23

Clerical – 29

Lady workers 13  [DLOV149].

Perhaps a surprising factor was the small number coming forward for work as special constables given that there was a significant campaign in the Cardiff area to increase police numbers. However, it is possible that the need for additional police was less pressing in areas such as Bridgend, Southerndown and Porthcawl. The volunteers also included 13 women, one of whom was Edward Loveluck’s wife. Most offered clerical or canteen work although some were prepared to help with transporting food and supplies. In his letter to Illtyd Thomas of 14 May, Loveluck confirmed that the measures put in place were working smoothly as the strike moved into its second week.

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I telephoned the qualifications of the Locomotive Drivers on my list to you this morning and I enclose herewith the enrolment cards of same.

The lorry drivers canteen here has been open each night and has done excellent service and it will continue until further orders.

I understand tonight that a settlement has been reached with the Railway men, so probably the week end will see an end of the emergency. All is quiet and orderly in the Town and District, there is no shortage of anything except coal and this is strictly rationed.

There is nothing calling for special mention  [Edward Loveluck to Illtyd Thomas, 14 May 1926, DLOV148].

By this time the strike was all but over with the TUC’s call for all but the mining unions to return to work. Four days later Thomas wrote to Loveluck confirming that his volunteers could stand down.

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Instructions have now been sent from the Chief Civil Commissioner that all Recruiting Offices should be closed and the services of staff ended but I should be glad if the individuals who so kindly helped should remain available in case it may be necessary to re-open offices at short notice. All records and accounts should be preserved including registration cards until further notice  [Illtyd Thomas to Edward Loveluck, 18 May 1926, DLOV148].

The papers end with a letter to Loveluck from the Earl of Clarendon, Civil Commissioner for south Wales, thanking him for his service, dated May 16 1926:

The national emergency is over and I am shortly returning to London but before I go I wish to thank you most warmly for the services you have rendered as Vice Chairman at Bridgend of the Cardiff Volunteer Service Committee. The work which you have done has been an important factor in the success with which essential services have been maintained in this Division, and I am most grateful to you for the help and assistance you have given me during the last fortnight.

There is still much debate as to precisely why the TUC called off the strike on 12 May. There is no doubt, however, that the work of the Volunteer Service Committees and men such as Edward Loveluck played a significant role in persuading the TUC that, at both local and national levels, the Government was a determined to resist the strike and there was no certainly that further strike action would be successful.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

News from the Front

With the outbreak of the First World War, many men signed up to serve their country, either voluntarily or because they were called up by the military. Local authorities were affected by this as much as any other field of work. Naturally those who had stayed behind and continued to work with the local authorities were keen to find out how those who were at the Front were getting on.

Good news came from the Front in the form of awards bestowed on soldiers for their actions in combat. In September 1915, Gelligaer Urban District Council noted that James Green had been recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal. In December 1917 Private Tudor Lewis received the Military Medal. And on New Year’s Day 1918, it was announced that Sergeant Ivor Jones had won both the Distinguished Conduct and Military Medals.

Ivor Jones

Several other employees were recognised for their distinguished service and bravery.

In January 1917, Porthcawl Urban District Council heartily congratulated Lieutenant Tamblyn and Corporal Nicholls who had both been awarded for conspicuous bravery while on active duty. And in July of that year Maesteg Urban District Council congratulated Sergeant Fred Davies who had received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

In June 1917 Bridgend Urban District Council passed on their congratulations to the parents of Oscar Powell and Frank Howells who had both received the Military Medal. In December of that year Second Lieutenant Steve Jenkins, son of one of the council members was also awarded the Military Medal. In January of 1918 Ogmore and Garw Urban District Council reported that Mr King, a former Captain of the Nantymoel fire brigade had received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

At the end of the War in November 1918, Aberdare Urban District Council revealed that Major R D Williams, the son of a councillor, had won the Distinguished Service Order.

Another source of good news would be when servicemen were promoted. In June 1916 Bridgend Urban District Council congratulated Lieutenant Colonel F W Smith on his promotion to the Command of the 16th Welsh (Cardiff City) Battalion. In May 1917 Gelligaer Urban District Council reported on the rapid rise of Mr Emlyn Evans. Starting as a Private in September of 1915, he became a Lance Corporal in November of that year, then a full Corporal a month later. Six months after that he became a Sergeant before becoming a Company Sergeant Major in December of 1916. The following month he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and became a Flight Sergeant and then in April of 1917 he became a Sergeant Major.

Sometimes just hearing the news that someone at the Front was alive and well was enough cause for celebration. In September 1914 Penybont Rural District Council congratulated Colonel Turbervill on the news that his son Captain Turberville was in good health. However sadly, in May of 1915, Colonel Turbervill’s grandson was killed in action.

Along with the joy of hearing of colleagues receiving awards for valour, there was also the despair of hearing the news of the death or wounding of those serving at the Front. In September 1914 the Earl and Countess of Plymouth lost a relative, Archer Windsor Clive. Several local authorities voted to pass their condolences, which were followed up by replies of thanks in kind from the Plymouth Estate.

In November 1914 Penybont Rural District Council conveyed their sympathy to Colonel Nicholl on the death of his son Lieutenant Nicholl. In December, Mountain Ash Urban District Council expressed their condolences to the family of Lord Aberdare, whose eldest son had been killed. In October 1915, Porthcawl Urban District Council proposed a vote of condolence for the families of Lieutenant Sydney Randall Jenkins and Sergeant Evan Rogers.

In November 1916 Dr M J Rees, who had been for many years the medical officer of health for Aberdare Rural District Council, was reported killed in action. In July of 1917 three former employees, Motorman Amos, Motorman E Wiltshire and Conductor AC Sims, were killed in action.

In December 1917 Maesteg Urban District Council experienced a triple loss, with the deaths of Second Lieutenant Hugh Grade, Private Harold Edwards and Private Charles Corbett. Another triple loss was announced at the end of the war, with the deaths of Privates Ivor Evans, A Meldrum and Hillman.

Not all losses occurred at what most people would view as the ‘Front’, namely France and Belgium. Some of the above losses may have occurred in other parts of the world. The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 saw British Empire troops serving in modern day Turkey, while several campaigns took place in both Africa and the Middle East. It is also worth noting that not all losses occurred on the ground. There were those who served in the air with the Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force) and Royal Naval Air Service (later Fleet Air Arm), and there were those who served with either the Marines or the Navy. One loss at sea was in October of 1914 when Gelligaer Urban District Council reported the death of Lieutenant Commander McGregor when HMS Hawke was sunk by a German U boat in October of 1914.

McGregor

The local authority minutes at Glamorgan Archives show us that news from the front was highly sought after by councillors and employees. Although good reports were hoped for sadly it was often bad news that was received.

Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant

The Bridgend Boys and the Machine Gun

On 25 July 1919, the pupils of Penybont Council Boys’ School attended a meeting held at the Bridgend Town Hall to commemorate the ending of the First World War. Centre stage was a captured German Maxim Gun and one of the Penybont pupils, Edwin James Cuming, aged 9, delivered the following speech:

Dear Friends and citizens of the town of Bridgend, – This is a happy day for us and I have been chosen to tell you about this gun. Penybont Boys’ is the only school in the district, and I believe in South Wales that had been given a gun by His Majesty’s Government. In this we are greatly honoured. The gun is a light German Maxim gun and was captured from the Bosches. It has been presented to our school as a reward for the work of the scholars during Tank Week, and also in connection with the War Savings Campaign. We are proud that we have been able to bring this additional honour to the town of Bridgend, and that the boys of Penybont Boys’ School are showing themselves worthy sons of the Empire (Glamorgan Gazette, 1 Aug 1919)

The log book for Penybont Boys’ school, kept by the Headmaster, John G Jenkins, provides further detail:

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This afternoon the School had a Victory and Peace Celebration of its own in order to show the people the captured German Machine Gun which had been presented to the School by the Government for the meritorious work which had been done by the school in collecting over £4000 in War Savings Cert during the Bridgend Tank Week. Many of the boys dressed in fancy costumes. They paraded the town and dismissed in front of the Town Hall after the delivery of two or three speeches and singing of several patriotic songs (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 25 Jul 1919, EM10/11 p.499)

The raising of £4000 amounted to approximately £12 per pupil – a massive sum in 1919. In addition, the money raised for Tank Week was just one element of the work undertaken by the Penybont Boys during the war years. John Jenkins’ log book, held at the Glamorgan Archives, records the remarkable effort made by the boys and staff of the Penybont Boys’ School from August 1914 onwards to raise money and support the war effort.

In August 1914 Penybont Boys’ School had 330 pupils. The school was run by the Headmaster supported by only 6 assistants. Each of the teachers, including the Headmaster, would have led classes of at least 40 pupils and often more when staff were absent. In addition, the fabric of the school was not in good repair. A School Inspection report from earlier in the 1914 tells us:

The recommendations of the 1909 report with regard to classroom accommodation, direct access to the playground, heating and the provision of hoppers for the lower sections of the windows have still to be carried out… The two small classrooms are still habitually overcrowded. Several windows panes were broken at the time of the visit (Penybont Boys’ School,, log book, 24 Apr 1914, EM10/11 pp.365-68).

Yet Penybont Boys’ School was clearly a very well run school. Average attendance was 90% and the Inspection report for 1914 noted:

The Department is staffed with energetic teachersA very good scheme of work has been planned and under the able supervision of the Master, who himself takes a full share in teaching, is soundly carried out (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 24 Apr 1914, EM10/11 pp.365).

John Jenkins was a very experienced Headmaster. Born in Maesteg, he was 57 in 1914 and had been Headmaster of Bridgend Boys’ School for over 30 years. He was also a noted figure in the local community as Chair of the Bridgend Urban District Council and a deacon of the English Congregational Church in Bridgend. At the outbreak of war there is no doubt that he decided that his school would play its full part in supporting in the local war effort and the boys of Penybont School certainly rose to the challenge.

One of the earliest appeals was launched by the Prince of Wales to provide relief for the families of servicemen. In August 1914 Penybont was already struggling to cope with the immediate impact of the war on staffing:

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We resumed duties after the summer holidays under the shadow of the terrible war which has broken out between Germany and Austria on one side and England, France and Russia on the other. This has already disorganised my staff as Mr. Brown has rejoined the colours and Mr B J Jones who had been appointed to succeed Mr Morgan has failed to take up his engagement. We had only four teachers this morning to teach seven classes… (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 31 Aug 1914, EM10/11 p.379)

Although in some instances teachers had to cope with classes of 70, the school responded magnificently to the call to raise money for the Prince of Wales’ Fund. The Glamorgan Gazette listed every week the donations made by the school from September 1914 onwards. Several months later John Jenkins noted:

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Ever since the week ending Sept 4th   my boys have subscribed weekly to some military fund or other. Up to Nov. 13th the school, including the staff, had collected a sum of £7 19s 8d and sent it to the Prince of Wales Fund. From then on to Dec 17th another sum of £2 7s 2d has been subscribed. With this money we purchased 50 shilling boxes of cigarettes and sent them to our Old Boys stationed in Scotland with the Welsh Cyclist Corps. Besides cigarettes we sent a parcel of splendid woollen mufflers and chocolates. Serg. Major Miles, to whom we sent the goods, sent a very warm letter of thanks from himself and the Old Boys for their happy Christmas box (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 26 Feb 1915, EM10/11 p.387).

The good work undertaken by the boys was not limited to raising money. To cope with the number of wounded from France and further afield, the Red Cross set up hospitals across Glamorgan. Penybont Boys’ School immediately adopted the Red Cross Hospital established at Merthyrmawr Road and from 1915 onwards sent regular deliveries of food and supplies for the servicemen.

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This week we have sent our second consignment of gifts to the Red Cross Military Hospital in Merthyrmawr Road. The boys were asked to bring eggs and fruit and they responded very well. Over 100 eggs were sent to the Hospital besides a large quantity of apples, oranges, bananas, chocolates and cigarettes. About 20 eggs were also sent to the Cottage Hospital. Cordial letters of thanks were sent to the boys by the two matrons of the respective hospitals. Last week we sent nearly 40 eggs and a large basket of fruit (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 1 Apr 1915, EM10/11 p.389-90)

John Jenkins, as a former member of the famous Cor Caradoc, was also well known for his love of music. Under his leadership the Penybont Boys’ school choir took a leading role in local concerts organised to raise money throughout the war.

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My boys took part in a Concert last Wednesday night in the Town Hall. A section of the St I and II sang ‘Till the boys come home’ and a large section of St V, VI, VII sang Sullivan’s ‘Lost Chord’. There will be a repeat performance tonight. The proceeds of the two concerts will be devoted to the support of Queen Mary’s Guild (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 21 Jan 1916, EM10/11 p.415)

Performances were not limited to choral works. As the Glamorgan Gazette recorded, the Penybont boys often included a dramatic rendition of the scene before Agincourt from Shakespeare’s Henry V. The scene was obviously a great favourite and was repeated on St David’s Day when the boys marched through the streets of Bridgend and performed for parents and the townspeople on the steps of the Town Hall.

In fact there were very few fund raising activities where the Penybont boys did not shine, including their contribution to the many Flag Days held in Bridgend. The Glamorgan Gazette reported on 5 March 1915 that the Penybont boys had raised £2 5s 9d and …scarcely a person passed through any of the main thoroughfares without having a flag pinned on them.

From 1917 onwards schools were asked to set up a War Savings Society to promote the purchase of War Bonds. In 1918 a number of Tanks toured South Wales as part of a national campaign to encourage local communities to purchase bonds. The arrival of the Tank, Egbert, in Bridgend, in June 1918 was possibly the boys’ finest hour.

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The tank ‘Egbert’ paid a visit to our town on Tuesday and Wednesday, 18th and 19th inst. The huge sum of £230,500 was invested in the tank by the people of Bridgend and the surrounding district. As the population of the town is now only about 7,500 the above sum represents a sum per head of head of over £30 one of the best contributions in the Kingdom. The proceedings in front of the Town Hall where the tank was stationed were characterised by great enthusiasm and patriotic fervour. The Choir of our school occupied the stage in front of the tank on two occasions and sang numerous patriotic and national songs, to the evident pleasure of the great assemblage, which completely filled the square. Our School Assoc’, The Penybont Boys’ War Savings Association invested in the tank on Wed afternoon the comparatively large sum of £2,100, representing a sum of £2,800 in War Certificates. This placed our school easily on top of all the schools in the town and district whether elementary or secondary and had I believe made a record for the schools of the whole County of Glamorgan (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 21 Jun 1918, EM10/11 pp.473-4)

The Penybont School also had its share of ‘war heroes’. In July 1917 John Jenkins recorded:

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The father of one of my old boys who is at the front visited me today and gave me the gratifying news that his son – Charlie Lawrence of Newcastle has been awarded the D.C.M for distinguished conduct ‘In the Field’. The other day the townspeople presented another of my Old Boys with a gold watch for winning the Military Medal. The presentation meeting was held in the Town Hall Square and I had the honour of presiding over the meeting and of presenting the hero with the watch. The Old Boy’s name is Corporal Fred Quinlan of South Street. Another of my Old Boys who has won a Military Medal is Harry Bushnell, now living in Treorchy; and yet another is Frank Howells, Nolton St, who has been awarded the Military Medal, and it is rumoured that he has been recommended for a VC. My own son also, T Steve Jenkins has recently received a Commission at the Front ‘for meritorious Service in the Field’ (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 20 Jul 1917, EM10/11 pp.451-2)

However, there was also news of losses from the Front in France:

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News has been received, that unfortunately it is officially confirmed of the death of two of my old scholars in the field of battle viz Willie Davis, Oldcastle and Edwin Thomas …. Other Old Boys who have fallen were Fred Thomas, Arthur Palmer and John Fitzgerald (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 29 May 1916, EM10/11 p.422).

It is not surprising, therefore, that John Jenkins and the boys threw themselves into the celebrations at the end of the war with gusto.

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News of the Great Armistice with the belligerent nations in the Great War came this morning about 11 o’clock. I immediately organised a procession of the boys thro’ the principal streets of the town, headed by their school banner. We cheered the King, Lloyd George, Foch, Haig and Beatty, and sang ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ in front of the Town Hall, and then returned to school. Half holiday in the afternoon. Staff and children and most of the townspeople half delirious with joy (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 11 Nov 1918, EM10/11 pp.481-2)

The school was reopened he following day …with a very poor attendance. It might have been expected that this drew the boys’ war time work to an end. However, there was still much to be done not just in welcoming the troops home but also in continuing to raise money, through Bonds, to pay for the war. The War Savings campaign, therefore, continued without a break in the immediate post war years. The schools that sold the most Bonds in Bridgend were promised additional holidays. In January 1919 the John Jenkins noted.

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Mr Preece, the Manager’s Clerk has written to tell me that my school has won a half holiday for collecting the next highest amount per head in war Savings Certificates during the month of December. The holiday will be taken next Friday afternoon the 31 inst. (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 24 Jan 1919, EM10/11 p.488).

The boys also continued to support a range of local events. For example, on 27 December 1918, the Glamorgan Gazette reported on a concert held at the cinema in Bridgend to raise money for the Bridgend Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Reception Fund. Amongst a number of performers:

The Penybont Boys’ Choir (conducted by Mr J G Jenkins) again created a very favourable impression, singing in perfect time and with clear enunciation and the sweetest harmony – quite suggestive of a trained cathedral choir (Glamorgan Gazette, 27 Dec 1918)

It was probably this ongoing work that led to the ‘queer request’ noted in John Jenkins’ log book from the Education Department …for particulars of any special work done by the school during the period of the war (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 27 Mar 1919, EM10/11 p.493). This request was the springboard for the War Office’s decision to present the school with the Maxim gun as a reward for its efforts.

The log book tells the story of a remarkable school and a remarkable Headmaster. Penybont Boys’ School operated in difficult circumstances. Throughout the War, the Headmaster continued to make regular appeals for contributions to his ‘Boot Fund’ so that there poorest pupils could be provided with shoes (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 22 Feb 1918, EM10/11 p465). Yet those who had so little gave an enormous amount to support the war effort . Dr Abel Jones on behalf of the National War Savings Committee for the County of Glamorgan wrote to John Jenkins in June 1918:

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I must congratulate you and your staff and children very heartily upon the excellent contribution you made to the Tank visit last week. I shall be very glad if you will convey to them my congratulations. I have not heard of any other school in the County doing so well (Penybont Boys’ School, log book, 28 Jun 1918, EM10/11 p.475)

The log book does not tell us what became of the Maxim gun. If you know what happened to it please let us know so that we can add it to the above account.

The above material has been taken from the log book of a school in the Bridgend District. Similar stories can be found in the records of schools across Glamorgan for 1914-18. If you want to find out more about the impact of the war on school life in your area and across Glamorgan you can access summaries of the school log books for each local authority area on the Glamorgan Archives website www.glamarchives.gov.uk. You can also access many of the newspapers produced in Wales in 1914-18, including the material from the Glamorgan Gazette quoted above, at http://newspapers.library.wales/. This website from the National Library of Wales provides free online access to newspapers produced in Wales.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Allotments during the First World War

Allotments have been with us for many hundreds of years, possibly as far back as Anglo-Saxon times. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that they began to be used in the way we recognise today. At this point land was allotted to the working poor in the countryside so that they could grow food, while in urban areas the relatively well-off used allotments as a way to escape city life. In the late-1900s the Small Holdings and Allotments Act came into force, making local authorities responsible for provision of allotments according to demand.

As the First World War progressed, it became apparent that Britain could no longer reply on imports of food from other countries, as the ships transporting them became frequent torpedo targets for German ships and u-boats. This led to a rise in the number of allotments, as local authorities allowed derelict land to be used for growing food.

The Board of Agriculture and the War Agricultural Committee were involved in helping to acquire land, although the final decision laid with the parish councils. As early as September 1914, parish council minutes show that the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries was encouraging the residents of Pencoed to cultivate gardens and allotments (Pencoed Parish Council, minute book, P131/1/2). One option favoured by the Board was the use of land near roads and railways for allotments. At Llandaff railway station, for example, land was acquired near the station and the station’s hotel (Whitchurch Parish Council, minute book, P6/64). By 1917 even this was not considered enough. In Pontyclun and Talygarn, it was recommended that the church ground be used as gardens (Pontyclun and Talygarn Parish, vestry minute book, P205CW/33).

Pontyclun church-ground

One problem the local authorities faced was that not everyone who had land that could be cultivated would willingly give it up for use as allotments. In Newcastle Parish, Bridgend, the parish council reported that a Mr Thomas repeatedly refused to give up his land, despite the local authorities pointing out to him that they had the right to purchase his land in a compulsory manner if necessary (Newcastle Parish Council, minute book, P84/15).

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Another issue that surfaced was the unsuitability of some land for crop growing. In Tythegston the parish council made it clear that ‘unless the allotments were allowed to be where the Surveyor had pegged out the ground that they would have nothing to do with them’ (Tythegston Parish Council, minute book, P88/2). It would appear that the processing of applications to Glamorgan County Council by the parish councils for use of land as allotments took some time. In one instance, this led the Ynysawdre parish to contact the Dunraven estate to see if they could offer land instead (Ynysawdre Parish Council, minute book, P129/2/3). But even the Estates were not always willing for their land to be used, as the parish of Laleston discovered (Laleston Parish Council, minute book, P81/7/1).

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The local authorities tried to help those who had allotments, giving advice on a variety of issues. Llanishen parish council advised gardeners to put fruit and vegetables in Kilner jars, as this would mean they would not have to use sugar to preserve them (Llanishen Parish, parish magazine, P55CW/61/31).

Kilner-jars

In Llancarfan the War Agricultural Committee asked the parish council to secure seed potatoes for allotment farmers (Llancarfan Parish Council, minute book, P36/11), although in Rhigos the Glamorgan County Council Agricultural Committee canvassed allotment farmers to invest in the potato seeds (Rhigos Parish Council, minute book, P241/2/1). Those who grew potatoes were encouraged to spray them to prevent disease (Newcastle Parish Council, minute book, P84/20).

Once the war was over, interest in allotments declined. Some land returned to its previous state, or was put to other use. But one problem remained. Some of the fields used for cricket had been converted to allotments during the war, such as the one at St Fagans Road, Ely (Llandaff Parish Council, minute book, P53/30/5). When the cricketers returned ho me after the war and wished to play again, they found that some of their playing grounds were out of use.

cricket

Many of the remaining fields were in demand, which meant that finding a vacant field for a game was very near impossible (Roath Parish, parish magazine, P57CW/72/10).

Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant