James Lewis was born at Michaelston-Suer-Ely during 1817. He attended school at Cowbridge and Shrewsbury where he, like his uncle acquired a taste for the medical profession. He trained at Guys Hospital in London and on qualifying as a physician and surgeon he took up work at the Salop Infirmary, he later came back to his native lands and established a general practice. He married Charlotte Lynch Blosse sister of the Rev. Henry Lynch Blosse of St. Illtyd’s Church, Newcastle. Not long after the birth of their only son, in 1846 the family became residents at Bryn Llynfi, Maesteg.
A majority of James Lewis’ patients were the industrial worker of the Llynfi Valley and their families. It was this work that sparked an idea, an idea that the workers should have some sort of convalescents home for himself and his dependants. During 1847 James Lewis was appointed medical officer for the Bridgend and Cowbridge Union, this required him to attend and treat those in receipt of the parish. It was through this appointment that the Doctor would come face to face with the harsh realities if industrial life.
The remedy the Doctor suggested was some sort of convalescents home, where his patients could perhaps escape from their working environment.For this convalescents home James looked to the Glamorgan Coast. He acquired three cottages between Newton and Porthcawl and equipped them with all the basic furnishings. In the summer of 1862 he opened the doors to the rest.
James Lewis and his associate Dr. James Bernard of Laleston made approaches to a number of influential individuals in aid of funding. The founder benefactors included the Earl and Countess of Dunraven, the Talbots of Margam, the Turbervills of Ewenny, the Knights of Tythegston and Nottage and the Nicholls family of Merthyr Mawr. Supporters from local industry included the Brogden family, particularly the brother; Alexander and James, the owners of various Ironworks and Collieries in the Llynfi and Ogmore Valleys.
During the first twelve months of the Rest’s being 95 patients were admitted, most of them being Iron and Colliery workers from Mid Glamorgan.The Rest catered (and still does!) for Men, Women and Children. The charge for adults, which was usually paid for via a sponsor was 7s 6d a week.
The three cottages were purchased at the cost of £200 – this included a cow that provided the patients with fresh milk, this was more than covered by donations and personal contributions of the Doctor.
On the first if September, 1869 the Rest had completed its first seven years of service. By this time the Rest had gained recognition throughout industrial Glamorgan.
During the year of 1871 after various public meetings the first organising committee for the Rest was established. It was time for The Rest to expand! Serious consideration was given to the design of the new Rest. The Lewis’ wrote to Miss Florence Nightingale, who they had met during their time working with the Red Cross for advice. During 1874 a site at Lock’s Common was acquired and the first part of The Rest was built by 1878! The Water Tower was added in 1892 with the West Wing being completed in 1897. The additional east entrance block was completed c.1920.
During World War One The Rest was used as convalescents home for wounded soldiers and was used as a temporary mortuary after the sinking of the Santampa during 1947.
|Nurses and Miners at The Rest, 1910!|