Under New Management

Hello everyone,

Due to pressures of work, I am, reluctantly stepping down from editing this blog.

Fortunately, the blog will continue in the New Year with someone else at the helm – a well respected local historian, and I know it will be in safe hands.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to the blog, and I hope you will continue to do so, and also spread the word about the blog.


Merthyr Poverty

When looking at Merthyr’s history, it is sometimes easy to forget the crippling poverty that afflicted a lot of people in the town. Below is an article that appeared in the Merthyr Telegraph 139 years ago today about a group of local dignitaries who tried to alleviate the situation….

Merthyr Telegraph – 28 December 1877

Boxing Day in Dowlais

Many thanks to Steve Brewer for the following:

In years gone by, one of the most famous, and most anticipated events in Merthyr’s musical calendar was the annual ‘Boxing Night Oratorio’ at Bethania Chapel, Dowlais performed by the Dowlais United Choir, conducted by D T Davies.

The choir would perform a different work every year, and some of the top singers in Britain would often appear as soloists – the programme below, from the 1941 performance of Handel’s Messiah with Joan Cross (later Dame Joan Cross) as soprano soloist, is a case in point.


However, things didn’t always go to plan as can be seen in the following report from the Merthyr Express regarding the concert on Boxing Night 1947.

Merthyr Express – 3 January 1948


The Carlton Workingmen’s Hotel

105 years ago today, a report was published in the Merthyr Express about the opening of the Carlton Workingmen’s Hotel. The building is better known today as the Ex-Servicemen’s Club.

Many thanks to Carl Llewellyn for transcribing the article below:

Carlton Workingmen’s Hotel

(by a visitor)

The fine building which has been erected at the bottom of High Street by Mr Nathanial Moss, and which will in future be known as the Carlton Workingmen’s Hotel, will be opened to-morrow (Saturday). It has often been urged that the Merthyr Corporation ought to provide a municipal lodging-house. Such a place was needed, and Mr Moss has met the want. He has erected a substantial building, which has certainly improved this part of the town, and will prove a great boon to those who frequent lodging-houses. I have been in many similar institutions, but I do not remember one that was better arranged. Mr Moss is certainly to be commended for his public spirited enterprise.

The building is three stories high, and the front of red pressed brick, faces the old Parish Church. It is 80 feet long and the height from floor to the apex is 40 feet. The rooms are all commodious and well lighted. They are also well ventilated – a most important matter in institutions of this character. In every room there are wall boxes to admit fresh air and outlets for foul air. The site on which the hotel has been built was formally occupied by old dwellings, which projected on to the pavement at one corner and were set back at the other corner. Mr Moss, however secured a straight building line, though he had to pay a substantial sum for the privilege.

A wide entrance from the main street gives access to the hotel, and on the right of the passage there is an assembly room about 40 feet long and 18 feet wide. It contains four polished tables, dozens of Windsor chairs, and a number of smoking chairs, besides an upholstered settee. At the rear and parallel to the assembly room is a kitchen almost as long as the assembly room and about 20 feet wide. Here there is a large cooking-range, one of the best in South Wales. It has all the latest appliances, and is well adapted for such an institution. Lockers are provided for lodgers in which to keep provisions etc. Opening off the kitchen is a pantry for crockery and cooking utensils which are provided for the use of lodgers. Close at hand is a bathroom with hot and cold water. At the rear is a washing place, with six or eight basins, and a couple of foot baths, all with hot and cold water attached. This room also contains a number of shelves for bundles of clothes, and a smaller room adjoining, which is well heated, is fitted up as a wash-house, and there are racks on which wet clothes can be hung to dry. At the back there is a big yard, enclosed, and in summer time men will have the privilege of using this. There are four or five w.c.’s. and lavatories, all on up-to-date principles.

On the first floor, which is approached by wide stairs, there is a large sleeping room containing forty-four single beds. This room has windows on three sides. There is another drying room here, and bathroom and w. c. adjoining. On the top floor there are three more sleeping rooms, one of which contains forty-six beds, and another twenty-two beds, and a smaller room with three beds. In all, there is accommodation for 120 beds. Another w.c. is provided on the top floor. The bedsteads, which are substantial, are of iron, with wire mattresses, flock mattresses and pillows. Three blankets, two sheets, and a counterpane are provided for each bedstead.

All the walls are distempered and the woodwork painted. The hotel is lighted throughout by gas, inverted incandescent mantles having been adopted. Ample provision has been made to cope with fire. There are two fire escapes from each of the upper floors, and 60 feet of hose pipes on each floor, with necessary appliances

The hotel is to be conducted on methodical lines, and rules and regulations are displayed in every room. For weekly lodgers the charge will be 3s, per week, and nightly visitors will be charged 6d, per night. For these moderate charges men will have single beds, the use of the kitchen for cooking purposes, the large assembly room for games or conversation, the washery and drying room and dining room and the other conveniences, including footbaths. A charge of twopence extra will be made for the use of the slipper baths. As I have mentioned, lockers are provided in the kitchen, and each man can have a key on paying a deposit of sixpence, which will be returned when he gives up the key

Separate apartments are provided for the manager, and there is also a shop which can be approached without leaving the hotel. The idea is to sell provisions here, which will be a great convenience for lodgers.

Mr Moss has been fortunate in the selection of a manager. Mr. W.F. Rowley who was airing beds, when I called on Wednesday, is an ex- Army man, having served ten years with the colours. He was in the East Yorkshire Regiment, and was for nearly two years in South Africa during the Boer War. He left the Army with a splendid character, and for seven years he has charge of municipal homes in Bristol. He has come from Bristol with excellent credentials. A better selection could hardly have been made.

As I have remarked, the institution is a credit to Mr Moss, and will supply a long felt want. The foundations were commenced in August, and it has taken only fifteen weeks to complete the hotel. The total cost of the hotel, which has been erected from the plans prepared by Messrs. Johnson and Richards, architects, cannot be much less the £3,500.


Merthyr Express – 16 December 1911

The Building of St Mary’s, Merthyr Vale

In the last post, a newspaper cutting appeared announcing the opening of St Mary’s Church in Merthyr Vale. The story of the building of the church is a fascinating one, as the church was built at a time of austerity, actually coinciding with the General Strike of 1926.

A number of people from Merthyr Vale and Aberfan worshipped in the Anglican faith, and indeed they had their own vicar – Rev P Evans. The one thing they didn’t have was their own church. Encouraged by Rev Evans, they decided that they would build a church themselves, and despite the deprivations of the time, and having very little money, plans were drawn up by Rev Evans; Mr Walter March, the engineer of Merthyr Vale Colliery; and Mrs Lewis James.

One of the first problems facing them was where to get the materials needed to build the church. Fortunately the owners of the Glamorganshire Canal told them that they could have the dressed stone from the old, disused pump house near the Pontyrhun Bridge in Troedyrhiw, but they would have to dismantle the building and transport the stones themselves. Mr Ernie Williams, a coal delivery driver from Troedyrhiw offered them the use of his delivery lorry, and every day, people from Merthyr Vale, led by Rev Evans went to Troedyrhiw and pulled down the pump house, stone by stone, and Ernie Williams delivered the stones to Merthyr Vale. After many months of back-breaking work, the building was finally completed, but the generosity didn’t stop there.

Rev Evans and volunteers during the building of the church

Money being very scarce, the group had very little to spare for fixtures and fittings for the new church, however, a church in Aberdare offered the people of Merthyr Vale a pulpit. Once again, the services of Ernie Williams were called upon, and with the aid of a steam wagon borrowed from Merthyr Vale Colliery, not to mention many willing helpers, the pulpit was loaded on to the wagon for the journey to Merthyr Vale. Hearing of the endeavours of the Merthyr Vale group, the firm of Williams and Williams, colliery lamp makers, gave those who had journeyed to Aberdare a free meal.

The journey from Aberdare to Merthyr Vale was not an easy one. The steam wagon travelled at a speed of five miles per hour, and was so heavy that several bridges en route had to be strengthened to take its weight. Despite this, the pulpit arrived in one piece and was installed in the church. The church was consecrated on 12 December 1926.

St Mary’s Church

Sadly, due to subsidence caused by the mine workings at Merthyr Vale Colliery, St Mary’s Church was demolished in 1967, after just over 40 years serving the community. A new church was built on the same site in 1974.

Photos courtesy of Old Merthyr Tydfil (http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/index.htm)