THE ANTIQUARIAN YEAR UNDER REVIEW 2013

 

Despite the wintry conditions, more than sixty members and guests attended the first Antiquarian lecture of the new year in the Carmarthen Library on Saturday the 19th of January. This was an afternoon lecture and was held through the medium of Welsh with simultaneous translation facilities by Lynwen Davies from Trywydd. Those present were delighted to have a lecture on Brechfa's Amazing History delivered by Canon Patrick Thomas. Jill Davies introduced Canon Thomas with a brief biographical account which included his appointment as Vicar of Brechfa in 1984 where he was the incumbent for seventeen years. Throughout the lecture Canon Thomas presented a diorama of historical events that had occurred in the Brechfa area from the times of the Romans to the exploits of the Home Guard during World War Two. Everyone present were quite intrigued to hear of events affecting Brechfa such as the influx of Mormons, the Rebecca Riots, the diaspora of local people to America, an escaping anarchist from the Sydney Street siege, rioting refugees from the Spanish Civil War and the founder of Chivers Jam with his chemical factory. Malcolm Jones kindly thanked Canon Thomas for his wonderful delivery.

On February the 16th, the Society held its annual day school at the Halliwell Centre, Trinity St.David's, Carmarthen. This year the theme was “Our Local Museums; Facing the future while preserving our Heritage”. The Chairman for the day, Chris Delaney, welcomed everyone present and outlined the very varied programme for the day. During the course of the morning those present heard from Ann Dorsett, the senior museums officer for Carmarthenshire, Sally Moss who was the project leader for the re development of the National Wool Museum and Robert Protheroe-Jones from the National Waterfront Museum. To round off the morning Chris Delaney spoke on the Kidwelly Industrial Museum. For the afternoon session Carrie Canham and Michael Freeman spoke on the collections housed at the Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth and Kathy Talbot followed by giving an account of Tenby Museum. To round off the day Pauline Griffiths spoke on the creation of the Narberth Museum. The Day Schools are always very well supported and the Halliwell does seem to be an ideal setting. Heather James was congratulated on bringing the idea of museums to fruition.

Llanelli was the host town for the March meeting which was held at the Selwyn Samuel Centre. Antiquarian Chairman Dominic Conway introduced the speaker, the Rev. Felicity Randall whose subject was “William Haggar-fairground film maker”. The Rev.Randall was the great, great grand-daughter of William Haggar and was therefore able to deliver a very knowledgeable account of his life. Members were informed that William Haggar was born in 1851 and in his early life he was apprenticed to a ship builder and later a watchmaker. In 1902 he started making his own films thus making him one of the earliest film directors. Perhaps his greatest success was “The Maid of Cefn Ydfa” and in 1910 he opened a cinema in Aberdare. This was followed by cinemas being opened up in towns throughout South Wales. William Haggar died in Aberdare in 1925.

The annual general meeting was held in the community hall at Myddfai on Saturday the 13th of April. The Rev.J.Towyn Jones opened the meeting and welcomed everyone present. Favourable reports were presented by the Chairman and Treasurer and followed by the election of officers for the coming year. At the conclusion of the annual meeting, Dominic Conway introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Quentin Outram. In his introduction the chairman stated that Dr.Outram was the senior lecturer and director of learning for economics at the University of Leeds. The subject of the lecture was “A Real Victory; The First of its kind since 1926, which was the account of the Emlyn Colliery strike of 1934”. Using a series of slides and documentary evidence in the form of letters from various sources, it transpired that the strike included aspects of tyranny, communists, fascists, loyalty, betrayal, secrets and spies on both sides. This was a very well researched presentation and many questions from the audience were put to Dr.Outram. It was pleasing to note that there were many in the audience who from a mining background which added much credibility to the session. The ladies from the Community Centre provided delicious cakes and tea to an appreciative gathering.

The first field day of the year was ably led by Tom Lloyd and Steve Dube and was held at Rhydowen and at Alltyrodyn Mansion on Saturday the 18th of May. Members met at the former Alltyrodyn Arms in Rhydowen which is now a tea room and antique centre. After being suitably refreshed, members made their way to the now empty Llwynrhydowen Unitarian Chapel which was opened by Jenkin Jones in 1733. Steve Dube opened the series of lectures for the morning and explained the significance of the Black Spot or Smotyn Ddu. This was a triangular area between Llandysul, Lampeter and Aberaeron which contained thirteen Unitarian Chapels. 19 th Century Methodists labelled this area as the Black Spot as they were frustrated by the strength of the Unitarians. Dr.Huw Owen from the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust gave an account of the work in restoring the chapel and Ken Llwyd gave a lecture on the events surrounding the history of the Unitarian Chapel. To finish the morning session Roy Davies spoke on the connection between Gwyn Alf Davies and Lenin. After lunch members reconvened at Alltyrodyn Mansion, by kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Usher. Tom Lloyd gave an account of the estate and house and members were allowed to view the interior. A lovely tea was provided by the hosts with donations going to the National Gardens Scheme.

On the 16th of June, Heather James and Jill Davies led a field trip to Llechryd. Here members were introduced to Manordeifi Church which is now in the care of The Friends of Friendless Churches. Inside the church, members were able to view the 18th Century box pews, some of them with fireplaces for the comfort of the local gentry and their families. In the graveyard there were eight sets of family tombs each surrounded by ornate railings which included the families of the Colbys and Saunders-Davies. From Manordeifi Church the party took the spectacular drive to Hammet House, formerly known as Castell Malgwyn. However some of the party decided to walk down the drive where they were able to view the remains of the canal which supplied Sir Benjamin Hammet's late 18th Century tinworks at Pen Y Gored. After a lunch at Hammet House members took a tour of the recently refurbished property which is now a luxury hotel. Upon leaving Hammet House the party enjoyed a short lecture by Heather and Jill on the ancient bridge at Llechryd and the River Teifi. Finally the group arrived at the Welsh Wildlife Centre at Teifi Marshes to round off the day which had been so well organised by Heather and Jill.

A large turnout of some sixty members and friends met at Gellideg Mansion, Llandyfaelog, on July the 12th , for the annual Chairman's evening. Gellideg is the home of Captain Edwin Atkinson and his wife, Mary, who are both members of the Antiquarians. He inherited the estate from the Jennings family, who had owned the property since the 1850s. The Chairman, Dominic Conway, introduced Captain Atkinson and also Thomas Lloyd, former High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire, who spoke on the history of the buildings on the estate in the 1850s. Hermione Jennings was the daughter of the house and kept a diary which offers an insight into the leisurely lives of the upper classes in Victorian times. The mansion was rebuilt by William Wesley Jenkins in 1852, in the Italianate style, complete with a campanile in the style of Osborne House. By the 1950's the mansion became unmanageable and a smaller mansion was built in the walled garden which is now the home of the Atkinson's. There is still a magnificent stable block dating back from 182 which still houses the horses. Refreshments were provided in the new mansion and all visitors found Gellideg both beautiful and interesting. A special thank you to Captain and Mrs. Atkinson.

At 10.30am on Saturday the 10th of August members, friends and local people assembled at the Castle Hotel, Llandovery. Here Chairman Dominic Conway introduced the speakers, Ken Murphy from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Dai Gealy, Llandovery's historian. The first port of call were the ruins of the castle which were built in the early 12th Century by the Normans. The castle was besieged by Glyndwr in 1403 and after a local rising in 1532 it was dismantled. Dai Gealy then led everyone on an informative tour of the town centre. During the lunch time an interesting local history exhibition was visited in the upstairs rooms of the Castle Hotel. For the afternoon session the party walked up to Llanfair-ar-y-Bryn where Ken Murphy spoke about his involvement with the excavations at the Roman Fort. At the Church Dai Gealy pointed out items of note and he had also put together a collection of local history material appropriate to Llandovery. The organiser of the day, Robert Evans was thanked for a most enjoyable day.

The annual field excursion took place during September where over a period of five days members explored the County of Warwickshire. The theme of the excursion was Elizabethan England. A full account of the field excursion appears in this issue of The Antiquary and Pam Harding and Hazel Martell are to be congratulated on the meticulous arrangements.

As the Winter months were approaching the final field day was held on the 12th of October in the Talgarth area. Roy Davies and the Rev.Towyn Jones were the leaders and members met during the morning at Coleg Trefeca. Here a community was set up by the Methodist preacher, Howell Harris in 1752. Later a training college for the Methodist ministry was developed and the Rev.Towyn Jones gave an account of the eventful life of Howell Harris. It transpired that Howell Harris was a man of remarkable energy who travelled thirty thousand miles between 1738 and 1743, on horseback preaching the word of God. There was time for members to visit the museum which featured artefacts from the life of Howell Harris. Talgarth was the next stop where members took lunch at the café on the site of the old mill. The remote church of Llanelieu was visited in the afternoon which is in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. The church is a medieval single chambered building with a rood screen that divides the chancel from the nave. This is a very rare feature as most rood screens were destroyed by Protestants after the reformation.

The final lecture for the year was held at Heol Awst Vestry, Carmarthen on Friday the 15th of November, where Dr.Lester Mason gave a lecture on the subject of Memorials of The Great War in Carmarthenshire”. Dr. Mason's main academic interest lay in the field of modern British and European history, Britain and the Great War and West Wales and the Great War together with the immediate aftermath. Dr. Mason has published widely throughout Wales including the “Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society” and “Llafur-Journal of Welsh People's History”. The speaker who is a lecturer in modern history at the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales, Trinity St.Davids delivered a fascinating lecture which provoked much thought on the conflict of the Great War.

December the 7th was the annual President's Lunch, which this year was held at the Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli. The subject this December was the “Stradey Castle Ghost” which was delivered in the usual entertaining style that the Rev.'d Towyn Jones is renowned for. It is always so pleasing to see so many members attending and long may it continue!

Jeremy John