Monday, 7 April 2014

The History of The Ship.

The date of the Ship building and opening is unknown. We know that it was in existence as an in inn during the mid 18th century and in 1793 Catherine Evans is listed as the licensee. During the 19th Century The Ship was a well known coaching and posting inn. As late as 1841 it was only a cottage sized building and at that time it did not fill the corner of Cross Street/Dunraven Place as it did in the last days of The Ship's being.

Duraven Place was then widely known was Broad Street or High Street and Cross Street was known was Back Street or Gay Street. The corner where The Ship stood was then occupied by a Drapers Shop owned by David Protheroe, whose premises were later absorbed by the extension of The Ship. At the time of this extension, The Ship was enclosed by a low wall and railings.

Behind The Ship were its yard and stables, and also Ship Court. The 1841 census shows us that two people were recorded as residing at Ship Court.

Around 1830, William Stephens, Landlord of The Ship had made the inn "replete with every convenience" and provided "good old wines and genuine spirits, good stables with lock-up coach house". Costs of staying at an inn such as The Ship at that times would have been: 3/6d (17 and a half pence)  - with a good dinner of several courses for half a crown (12 and a half pence).

During 1835, a coachman/guard named Bennett was thrown to the ground by the perilous swaying of the coach, being so badly injured that he was carried into The Ship. The local physician  prescribed blood-letting and later that day Bennett insisted on carrying on to Cardiff with the packed coach. Changing coaches in Cardiff, he proceeded to Bristol - there he fell into a coma and died as a result of his injuries.

A list of a few of The Ships licencees 

1793 - Catherine Evans
c.1830 - William Stephens
1840 - David Richards
1851 - David Richards
1857 - John Hewitt
1861 - Edward David
1880 - William Hopkin
1884 - Robert Lougher 
1901 - William Jenkins  

It seems that many of the proprietors of The Ship had another occupation as well as keeping the inn.

  • Around 1830 the licencee was a William Stephens who was also a Maltster.
  • In 1851 the licencee was a David Roberts who was also a "House-Joiner". 
  • In 1861 the licencee was an Edward David who was also a Farmer.
  • In 1884 the licencee was Robert Lougher who was also an Auctioneer and Estate Agent. 

By 1871 The Ship has a number of listed residents, this would indicate that by 1871 the property had been enlarged.

(Sources: BDLHS)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

"Louvain brings local history to life" - Glamorgan Gazette, 20/3/14.

On the 13th of March I had an interview with WalesOnline's Abby Bolter - we had a lengthy dicussion about my work and my great-great grandfathers contribution during World War One. As a result Abby wrote this lovely article about my work, I would like to thank her for giving me the opportunity to be featured in the Glamorgan Gazette.  

Information about my great-great grandfather: Frederick Rowlands & 16th Battalion Welsh Regiment

The article has not been made available online so I have scanned the article for those that do not live in Wales.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Island Farm: Hut 9 Open Weekend, March 2014.

On Sunday 9th of March, I visited Hut 9's Open Weekend - The Hut was opened as part of the Hut 9 Preservation Groups efforts to preserve, restore and spread awareness of their cause.  (more information)

We were welcomed by the Bridgend County Borough Council Conservation Team who "booked" us in and showed us to our seats.

Brett Exton (Local Historian and owner of gave an interesting and insightful talk about Island Farm's History: including before, during and after its time as a Prisoner of War Camp.  

Brett Exton

We were then split up into two groups: The group I was in was given a tour of the outside of the building by Military Historian Dr. Jonathan Hicks (Chairman of the Preservation Group).

We were then taken inside Hut 9 by Richard Williams (Living History Re-enactor and Historian) - he talked to us about the importance of the restoration and preservation of Hut 9, how it will be used to educate children from local schools and around the world about Bridgend's War history. 

If you would like any more information on Island Farm and Hut 9: check out the following links.

Hut 9 Preservation Group:

Hut 9 Preservation Group: Twitter Facebook

Dr. Jonathan Hicks - John Thomas - Richard Williams

Corporal Ward 

Sources: All images are mine (Louvain Rees) 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Newcastle Hill: Brief Historical Notes

Newcastle Hill is situated in the parish of Newcastle Lower and until 1851 was not part of the parish of Coity. The village of Newcastle (including the hill) is thought to be one of the oldest parts of Bridgend, with the castle dating back to the 12th century (1106) - at that time the hill would have been the old route out of the town until the old stone bridge was built during 1425.

During the 19th century the road in Bridgend were not in very good condition, as a result of this tollhouses/gates were set up to cover the cost of road maintenance. One of these tollhouses was situated at the bottom of Newcastle Hill (bottom right hand side).

The living conditions at the Newcastle Hill and the Village were "stagnant and dirty". The local authority that "The condition of the Unitarian Burial Ground is much complained about by the neighbours." - The Public Health Report of 1849 talks about how the inhabitants of Newcastle Hill relayed on water from the River Ogmore and some even paid local women to fetch it - 1/2d a six gallon pail. With no underground drains most street drains were left open.


As the road was the main route for travellers for many hundreds of years, many of the travellers would need a place to rest and freshen up. A few of these places were situated on the hill.

St. John's House (or Hospice as it's more commonly known) is a medieval building that is situated half way up the hill. Said to be in existence from the year 1425, the house has also been known as Church House. It is thought that during the 15th century the house was used as a stopping/resting place for travellers during their journeys.

In more modern times travellers would have used public houses including: The Lamb and Flag which earliest record of trade is 1790 - along with The Horse and Groom, and The Talbot also trading at that time. The earliest recorded record  of trade of The Angel Inn is 1790, it was said to have stables and an on site groom.

Places of Worship

The Unitarian Chapel situated at the bottom of Newcastle Hill was founded in 1702 by Rice Price of Tynton (father of Dr. Richard Price) - the land and adjoining cottages were donated by Michael Williams, who was the Sheriff of Glamorgan 1719. The Chapel as it stand now was rebuilt in 1795. Other people that are/have been associated with the building include he Coffin and Morgan families - all relations to the Price family of Tynton. (read more)

The first Ruhamah Baptist Chapel was situated on the corner of West Road, it was built in 1808. It became too small for the congregation and a new chapel was built in 1890. All that remains of the first chapel is the grave yard.

St Illtyd's Church is a  Grade II listed church situated on top of Newcastle Hill. The church overlooks the town of Bridgend and is dramatically lit up during evenings. It is a Victorian decorated, Gothic rebuilding of an early 14th century church. The churchyard is entered through a lychgate donated in 1910 by Samuel Llewellyn of Coed Parc. Steeped in history, the building is well maintained and the surrounding graveyard is a well-kept chapter of history. (read more)

People of the Area

Captain Charles Napier was the first Chief Constable of the Glamorgan Constabulary - he lived at the Vicarage for sometime and is buried in St. Illtyd's Church Grave Yard.

Mr. William Riley was a local antiquarian who died in 1914, he lived at Newcastle House. He was an archaeologist who during his time, found and excavated the Beaker burials at Merthyr Mawr. He was also know to have carried out a few excavations in Penyfai, 1898. - There he found a cross bearing a carving of St. Leonard, this is thought to have been taken from St. Illtyd's Church.

Caroline Williams, a suffragette before her time, was born on Newcastle Hill in 1823. Caroline spend her life working for the cause of women education, and funded many scholarships for women students of Cardiff University. She wrote a book about the history of her family, her relatives being: The Coffin Family, The Prices of Tynton and William Morgan, the man who first discovered the X-Ray.

(Sources: BLHS - Dr. Randall)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Opening of Bridgend Free Library, 1907.

On the 28th of August, 1907 - Bridgend Free Library, Wyndham Street was officially opened by Mr. John Randall, County Councillor. The building which was built at the cost of £2000 replaced the Reading Room at Bridgend Town Hall. A large amount of townspeople were present at this historical event.

On the day Mr. Randall was welcomed into the new building by Mr. Michael Davies (Chair of the Library Committee) and Mr. P. J. Thomas, the architect who designed the building. - He was presented with a leather bound copy of  Mr Bradley's book on the Marches and Borderlands of Wales as a souvenir.

Later a gathering was held at the lecture room, here Mr. Davies delivered an address expressing his confidence in the Free Libraries Act along with its history.  He talked about Mr. Carnegie's contribution had attached the condition that a site of free rates should be obtained, this was fulfilled by the Earl of Dunraven who had generously provided three fourths of the cost of the pre-sent freehold - with the other third being paid for by the subscriptions of the wealthier public. Mr. Randall made a speech, which focused on the advantages of the library to the young people of Bridgend, also expressing his thoughts on how it would help the social life of the community.

Mr. H.J. Randall (hon. sec. of the library) proposed a vote of thanks to the donors: Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the Earl of Dunraven and to the subscribers.  He also added that through his connection to Mr. W. Brace MP he had secured a number of historical books which would be valuable to students in the district.

Mr. J. Ballinger, the Chief Librarian of the City of Cardiff, is said to have made an interesting speech about the uses of the Free Library, he pointed out how it would be a valuable aid to education in the area.

The building was designed by Mr. P. J. Thomas with the contractors being Messrs. Price and Morgan.

Bridgend Free Library, 1908.

Sources: Cardiff Times - 1907

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Original Maid of Sker

This story first appeared written in Welsh with the title ‘Y Ferch o’r Scer’ and, as is usual with Welsh stories, its origins are obscure. The earliest reference to a love-lorn maid appears in 1806 in a translation by the historian William Davies of Neath of the words of a Welsh air composed by a Harper. There is doubt as to who this Harper was but it seems likely that he was Thomas Evans of the parish of Newton-Nottage. Further information about the story was then obtained by Thomas Morgan of Maesteg from an old woman of Maudlam who said she knew the Maid and it is her version that has generally been accepted. There are doubts about the authenticity of the story, however, and Mr. Leslie Evans in his book Sker House valiantly wrestles with the problem. His researches uncovered two descendants of the so-called Maid who hotly averred that the heroine had been happily married, It is a pity to spoil a good story, however, and this is the original account of Y Ferch o’r Sker.

 Isaac Williams of Sker had tow daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth (the  Maid) was tall, beautiful and loved dancing. She used to wait impatiently for the Gwyl Mabsant to come round, the annual festival to commemorate the local saint (Saint  Mary Magdalene, hence the name Maudlam). The celebrations took  place in the Town Hall of Kenfig (today the Prince of Wales Inn) when the harpist would  appear and play throughout the night. Everyone attended, even the old women who now preferred knitting, but the youngsters thought it despicable if they failed to dance continually until the dawn.

 One fateful year the harpist was Thomas Evans of Newton-Nottage, who was always in great demand. The sight of the tall attractive girl must have quickened his pulse and his music, for he fell in love immediately; and to his joy he saw that Elizabeth was not averse to his approaches. They made the most of the evening together and by dawn they were lovers.

 But Isaac Williams, when he heard if the associations, was furious, after all he  was a gentleman farmer and Thomas Evans was a mere carpenter, however good his music. Undeterred the harpist hired a carriage and pair, and stealthily approached Sker House at night, hoping for an elopement. Unfortunately the dogs heard him and quickly the old house was alight as candles and lamps were  lit. Poor Thomas though it best to retreat. The father locked the Maid in her room and she was not allowed to leave the house for a long period of time. But she still pined for her lover so Isaac Williams forced her to marry Mr. Kirkhouse of Neath.

 As with most forced marriages Elizabeth never forgot the man she had favoured and so there was constant friction between her and her husband. She sought out  the harper whenever he was in the region and once Mr. Kirkhouse caught them together. The story has an unhappy ending, for within nine years of the marriage  the Maid was dead; dying, presumably of a broken heart. She was buried at Llansamlet on January 6th 1776. The tombstone that marked her grave has disappeared and lies buried in an unknown part of the churchyard. Thomas Evans, however was made of sterner stuff, for although he, too pined for his lover for the rest of his life, he eventually married in his fiftieth year and had several children. His end came much later in  1819, when, playing at a ball in Nottage Court, he collapsed and died a few weeks afterwards. He is buried at Newton churchyard.

How much of this story is true and how much is fiction we do not know.

The story of Y Ferch o’r Sker has a remarkable resemblance to that other tear-jerking legend, The Maid of Cefn Ydfa. In this story another lowly born bard, Wil Hopcyn, was prevented from marrying Ann Thomas, the daughter of a well-to-to farmer at Llangynwyd. Poor Ann like Elizabeth Williams, was forced to marry another man and died of a broken  heart in her lover’s arms. Wil Hopcyn, not being as robust as Thomas Evans, also pined away, meeting his death later when he fell off a ladder whilst carrying out his trade as a thatcher. It would be fair to end in saying that such stories, whether there was an element of truth in them or not, were repeated, in various forms, throughout the Principality. They were the stock plot of the nineteenth century.

The Legends of Porthcawl and the Glamorgan Coast
Author:  Alun Morgan 
Illustration: Margaret Wooding 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Elizabeth Martin: The Careful Housewife of 1763

Elizabeth Martin's Handwriting

Her name was Elizabeth Martin and she resided at Vervil (Coity Lower)  - which is less that two miles from the town centre. We can assume that Elizabeth would have done most, if not all of her shopping at Bridgend. The old house at Vervil was a fairly substantial yeoman's residence, but was demolished when it was acquired by the Nicholl family due to disrepair.

Her account book is a quire of quarto paper which does not seem to have been abstracted from a larger book. We do not know if she was a careful person by nature but we can see that her books of accounts is written neatly and with meticulous accuracy.

There is a separate account for each week, this extends over the period of 53 weeks. (March 1763/1764)

The totally expenditure for this period was £88. 5s. 4 and a half.  
The weekly average was £1. 10s. 6d.
The highest week was £3. 0s. 4 and a half d. 
The lowest was 14/4 and a half d. 

Most of Elizabeth spelling is original and phonetic: Flour as Flower, Celery as Sallary, Lemons as Lemmans, Beef Steaks as Stakes and Salmon as Sammon.

Some of the things that Elizabeth purchases include: Lambs Fri, Sammon, Veal, Caves Head, Gouse, Craw Fish, Pidegons, Sugar, Turnips, Flour, Eggs, Soap, Cockels, Bread, Tea, Oyl, Cheese, Snuff, Sand, Lemmans etc. (all original spelling)

Clothes, Fuel and Furniture were treated as special items (not included in the household books).

 Below are various extracts of the account book transcribed by Dr. Henry Randall.

(Sources: Dr. Randall & Glyn Davies)