Friday 9 June 2017

114 Henry Hussey Vivian

114 Henry Hussey Vivian
This person is hardly “hidden history”, for the statue of the first Lord Swansea stands prominently outside St Mary’s Church, by the entrance to the Quadrant.  Henry Hussey Vivian had much to do with Swansea becoming “Copperopolis” in the nineteenth century, but his life demonstrates that even privilege and wealth cannot shield a person from what Shakespeare calls “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.
Henry Hussey was the eldest of the four sons of John Henry Vivian MP, whose statue stands in the Marina looking across to the Waterfront Museum.  His middle name Hussey was the surname of his Cornish grandmother, and a name of his uncle.  Born in 1821 at the octagon-shaped Marino, which was later extended and altered into Singleton Abbey, he followed his father to study in Germany at the University of Freiburg’s mining institute.  Henry Hussey became manager of the Hafod copper works at the age of 24, and in time diversified into smelting other non-ferrous metals such as zinc, gold and nickel, and established a works at White Rock to treat silver-lead ores.  He combated the problem of the copper smoke, which polluted the landscape and harmed livestock, by adopting the German Gerstenhöffer process at the Hafod works in the 1860s.  This had the bonus of producing chemical by-products such as sulphuric acid from the fumes of the copper smoke.
Like his father, Henry Hussey became a Liberal member of parliament, initially representing Truro, though after J.H. Vivian’s death he succeeded his father as M.P. for Glamorgan (and later for Swansea District).  He was a Fellow of the Geological Society, and particularly interested when in 1869 a Neolithic burial chamber was discovered at Parc Cwm, which was then on land he owned in Gower. 
But there were tragedies in his personal life, sadly all too frequent with childbirth in those days.  Henry Hussey had married in 1847 Jessie Goddard, the daughter of the M.P. for Swindon, and they lived at Verandah, of which part remains by the Botanical Gardens in Singleton Park.  However within a year she died after giving birth to a son, Ernest Ambrose.  In her memory St Paul’s Church in Sketty was erected, built of stone imported from Cornwall, with its eight bells being cast at the Hafod works.  In 1854 he married Flora Cholmeley, also the daughter of an M.P., and they moved to Parc Wern (which later became Parc Beck nurses’ home).  Although Flora gave birth to a son John Aubrey the following year, she became an invalid and died in 1868. 
In 1870 Henry Hussey married Averil Beaumont, twenty years younger than him; she bore him six children, including twin daughters.  Besides living at their London house, 27 Belgrave Square, they lived happily at Parc Wern until the death of John Henry’s widow in 1886, which enabled them to move into Singleton Abbey.  They had temporarily moved into Singleton in 1881 in order to host Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra, who visited Swansea to open the Prince of Wales Dock, and by the time Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone visited in 1887 to open the Public Library in Alexandra Road, Singleton Abbey was Henry Hussey’s Swansea residence.
He was created a baronet in May 1882, and honoured locally in March 1886 with a statue created by Italian sculptor Mario Raggi, which was unveiled by Lord Aberdare at what was then called Castle Square, at the top of Wind Street.  This was later moved to Victoria Park, and now stands outside St Mary’s Church.  When Glamorgan County Council was created in 1889, Henry Hussey was elected chairman, a position he occupied until his death. 
Elevated to the House of Lords in June 1893 as first Baron Swansea, Henry Hussey Vivian died in November 1894, aged 73.  The man who along with his father had contributed so much to Swansea’s prosperity was buried in the Vivian vault beneath Sketty Church.

Sunday 4 June 2017

113 Wrecking

113 Wrecking
Some remains of shipwrecks are still visible around the Gower coast – most notably in Rhossili Bay is part of the Helvetia, the Norwegian barque which ran aground in 1887 with a cargo of timber, though, thankfully, no loss of life.  Further along the bay during the Spring tides the remains of paddle steamer City of Bristol from 1840 become visible at low tide, while near Port Eynon Point is the anchor of the Happy Return (1879), and in a cove below old castle in Rhossili are parts of the iron-hulled Vennerne (1894).  Many of Gower’s 360 recorded shipwrecks are mentioned in the books by George Edmunds and Carl Smith, who point out that there are others of which we are ignorant if no trace of wreckage was found.
As in Gower, Devon and Cornwall’s rocky coastline, along with strong prevailing onshore winds, brought many merchant ships and warships to grief.  Coastal dwellers could profit from goods salvaged from the wrecks – such as the cargo of oranges washed ashore from the Francis and Ann at Overton in 1865!
It was rumoured that some ships were deliberately attracted by false lights on the shore to lure them to disaster, though evidence to support such allegations is scarce.  In 1735 a law was passed making it an offence to make false lights, but no one was prosecuted as a result.
Those who have read Daphne Du Maurier’s 1936 novel “Jamaica Inn”, or watched the 2014 television adaptation (which drew complaints about indistinct dialogue), will know of this tale of ships in Cornwall being lured by false lights onto rocks so that the cargo could be plundered.  The most sinister aspect was that any crew or passengers who managed to struggle ashore would be deliberately killed or drowned lest they give evidence to the authorities.  As to whether this happened in Gower one would assume that it was unlikely, for the coast was dangerous enough to shipping without human intervention.  Yet stories of deliberate wrecking do get passed down, often embellished in the re-telling.
The nineteenth century clergyman who wrote the carol “Good King Wenceslas” and translated the Advent hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel” provides some evidence – albeit hearsay, and therefore inconclusive – regarding nefarious activities on Rhossili cliffs.  This clergyman was Dr J.M.Neale, a high churchman like his contemporary Rev. J.D. Davies, rector of Llanmadoc and Cheriton, and historian of west Gower.  Dr Neale was told by a South Wales prison chaplain of the confession of a dying man who had been involved in luring ships to their doom off Rhossili cliffs.  The gang of wreckers employed a young girl named Kate from the Ship Inn – whether that was what is now Middleton’s Ship Farm (owned by the Beynons when it was licensed premises during the nineteenth century), or the Port Eynon hostelry, is unclear.  Kate’s task was to carry the lantern in order to ignite false flares, but on one occasion, moved by the rector’s sermon on the evils of wrecking, she instead set alight a warning beacon of sticks and furze to illuminate the scene and reveal the advancing gang, thus warning off the struggling ship.  The prisoner confessed to the chaplain that he had struck Kate with his boathook, and flung her body over the cliff.  But it is said that that was the end of wrecking at Rhossili.
In “Gower Gleanings” Horatio Tucker writes that there are “legendary stories of wreckers who lured ships to destruction on the rocks, of lanterns hung on a cow’s horn, and of mysterious lights bobbing on the headlands”.  Nevertheless I concur with the late Nigel Jenkins, who in his book “Real Gower” states that “Stories about wreckers – depicting, for instance, the luring of ships to their doom by positioning lanterns along a treacherous headland to suggest a port’s haven – are the fanciful stuff of popular fiction”. 

Saturday 3 June 2017

112 Cefn Coed Hospital

112 Cefn Coed Hospital
The first Welsh “asylum” (the old term for a psychiatric hospital) for the mentally ill was opened in Swansea at May Hill in 1815.  It was followed by Vernon House in Briton Ferry, which was adapted in 1844 for this purpose and could accommodate 92 inmates, before closing in 1905. 
The Glamorgan County Asylum in Bridgend opened in 1864 to serve the whole county of Glamorgan, until each County Borough was required to build its own asylum under the terms of the 1891 Public Health Act.  This took a long time to implement, for initially Townhill was thought to be the right place to build an asylum in Swansea, until in 1908 the Cefn Coed site was first considered.  Nearly 250 mentally ill persons from the Swansea area were being treated elsewhere.    
By November 1910 it was decided that Swansea Borough would meet two thirds of the cost of the new mental hospital, with the Borough of Merthyr Tydfil supplying one third.  The cost of the land included purchasing mining rights and compensation for farm tenants.
The purchase proceeded, and the foundations of the new buildings were nearly complete when shortage of labour and materials during the First World War brought everything to a standstill.  Building work re-started in 1928 on the first of Swansea’s four large municipal undertakings to utilise Unemployment Relief Schemes: the other three were the main drainage scheme, erecting the new Guildhall in Victoria Park, and building Tir John electricity generating station.  Cefn Coed’s first medical superintendent, Dr Skottow, said that the new hospital would have no padded rooms, stating that “they would make admirable store-rooms”. 
In December 1932 the first psychiatric hospital to be built in Britain since the First World War, then called Swansea Mental Hospital, was opened by the Princess Royal, daughter of King George V.  Having changed its name from the Daily Post to the Evening Post earlier that year, in its editorial the South Wales Evening Post commented that mental hospitals had been regarded as places of dread, but stated that “the treatment of mental complaints must be faced in the open”, and recommended that “the public themselves should adopt a totally different attitude towards mental ailment”.  Old prejudices, however, took a while to fade - some in the local community thought that the ringing of the hospital’s bell signified that an inmate had escaped! 
The first patients were transferred from Talgarth Hospital, Breconshire, where mentally ill persons from the Swansea area had previously been treated.  Besides taking mentally ill people, at first Cefn Coed also accommodated the mentally handicapped (now known as people with learning disabilities), who required permanent care.  Some complained that relatively few local people were employed, perhaps because of the specialised nature of much of the work, though Welsh actress Rachel Roberts (of “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”) worked there as a nurse for some time.
Three quarters of the in-patients made use of occupational therapy, and a psychiatric clinic for children was introduced.  During the Second World War Cefn Coed was used as a casualty hospital, in addition to its psychiatric role, and the first ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) machine was installed.  In the 1950s there was an acute shortage of nurses – whereas in 1932, 130 nurses had looked after 600 patients, in 1958 almost the same number (128) cared for 700 patients.  The annual fĂȘte was a popular occasion, helping place the hospital firmly among the local community.
Cefn Coed has also been the Regional HQ of the Welsh Ambulance Service.  Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board intends to close the hospital in the near future, and replace it with specialist units, such as the new 60-bed unit Ysbryd y Coed which provides care for older people with dementia.  Whatever future changes transpire, thankfully we have come a long way since the days of London’s notorious Bethlehem Hospital - from which we get the word ‘bedlam’.                  




Friday 2 June 2017

111 St James' Church

111 St James’ Church
During the second half of the nineteenth century Swansea had a spate of building Anglican churches (as well as several nonconformist chapels).  Prior to 1867 the town centre had two Anglican churches - St Mary’s and Holy Trinity, in Alexandra Road where the Breast Clinic is now, with two more in the suburbs – in Sketty, St Paul’s, built by the Vivians, and in Cockett, St Peter’s.  As the St Mary’s congregation grew, so the need for another building became acute.
In 1863 James Walters of Penlan (now Oakleigh House School), after whom Walters Road was named (though it is often called Walter Road), offered a site for a church almost opposite St Mary’s vicarage, which then stood where the Belgrave Court flats are.  Walters Road was a residential rather than a commercial area, and a committee was formed of such prominent citizens such as banker Robert Eaton, John Crow Richardson of Pantygwydr, barque owner Charles Bath and James Walters.  A Hereford architect made a drawing of a proposed building costing around £2,500, with the option of a further £1,000 if a tower and spire were added over the south porch. 
With the efforts of Rev. Edward Squire the new church was built, and consecrated by the Bishop of St David’s 150 years ago, on 21 June 1867.  Over refreshments on the vicarage lawn opposite, the vicar of St Mary’s stated that the new church was “chiefly for the use of the more respectable parishioners”, though such an opinion stands at variance with Christ Jesus, who stated that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  Rev. Squire did mention the needs of the “poorer brethren”, having plans to build in the Sandfields Christ Church, which opened five years later.
Even without a tower, St James’ did have one bell - from the Jesuit Cathedral in Santiago, which had been destroyed by fire in 1863.  Likewise All Saints, Oystermouth, had received three bells, which were returned to Chile in 2010. 
Finance, as was customary in those days, was augmented by pew rents, with the charges graded so that dearer pews had the best acoustics and the clearest view of the pulpit.  This system at least gave members of the congregation a vested interest in the church.
St James’ was not a separate parish, but a chapel-of-ease to St Mary’s, whose vicar and curates would take the services, until its own curate-in-charge was appointed from 1894.  It only became a separate parish in 1985, with a vicarage in Eaton Crescent.
In May 1905 the church hall was opened in the grounds.  The outside world did intrude – with memorials to trooper S.M. Evans, killed in South Africa during the Boer War in 1901, seaman Thomas James, lost at sea during the First World War, and churchwarden Lieut-Col. G.T. Gregor, killed in France in 1917.
During the Second World War aerial bombardment caused damage to St James’, but unlike St Mary’s, which was gutted in February 1941 during the intense “Three Nights Blitz”, the building remained in use.  With Holy Trinity Church also gutted, St James’ was used as Swansea’s parish church from 1941 until 1959, when the rebuilt St Mary’s was opened.  During the war the church hall was requisitioned by the ambulance service.
Bomb damage had caused the church glass to be replaced by plain glass, but in peacetime two stained glass windows designed by Gerald Smith were installed.  In 1954 the east window was installed with the theme from the Te Deum, “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ”, followed by the west window, which depicts the church as a ship carrying pilgrims to the holy city. 
In recent years the land around the church has been utilised sensitively with appropriate housing, so that as it celebrates its 150th anniversary St James’ stands in a residential area - as did St Mary’s prior to the 1941 bombardment.            

Thursday 1 June 2017

110 Robert Morris

110 Robert Morris
Morriston takes its name from Robert Morris and his second son Sir John Morris,   who confusingly named his own son John (and he was also knighted).  At least it stopped there - unlike Calvert Richard Jones, whose son and grandson both bore the same names, as did three successive keepers of Mumbles lighthouse, each named Abraham Ace. 
Robert Morris came from Shropshire but was married in Swansea at St John’s Church (now St Matthew’s in High Street).  A colliery owner, he developed the Llangyfelach Copper Works in Landore and established the Forest Copper Works.  Near the present-day DVLA his son Sir John Morris built at Pengwern the Palladian-style mansion of Clasemont, where Nelson and the Hamiltons dined in 1802.  He erected what is called Morris Castle, originally a block of workmen’s dwellings at Cnap Lwyd, probably Europe’s first attempt at multi-storey workers’ accommodation.  Sir John engaged the architect William Edwards to create Morris Town, one of Europe's first purpose-built villages, laid out in a gridiron pattern, with each cottage having sufficient garden to grow vegetables.
After Sir John died in 1819, his son (also Sir John Morris) removed the mansion of Clasemont to Sketty, to become Sketty Park mansion, designed by William Jernegan, “the architect of Regency Swansea”.  Following its later purchase by Swansea Corporation, it housed Belgian refugees, and was used as the Civil Defence headquarters, before demolition in 1975, and gave its name to the housing estate.  All that remains is a ruined gothic belvedere, after a design of Margam Park's Chapter House, on a tree-covered mound in Saunders Way.
But even the Morris family had a “black sheep” - in this case Robert Morris’s elder son, also named Robert, elder brother of the first Sir John.  He was born in 1743, and through the advantages of his father’s business acumen was educated at Charterhouse School and Oriel College, Oxford, before being called to the Bar in 1767.  But this Robert Morris was a very different character from his father and his brother John, for he squandered his inheritance and gained a reputation as a hedonist and a womaniser.  He was involved in 1769 with the Society of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, he belonged to the notorious Retribution Club of the Devil’s Tavern, and he befriended the extravagant libertine and radical MP John Wilkes. 
In 1772 29-year-old Robert Morris scandalously eloped to the continent with twelve-year-old heiress Frances Harford, of whom he was a guardian.  For contempt of court Morris was sent to London’s Fleet prison, whose earlier inmates had included the Quaker founder William Penn, and the poet and clergyman John Donne, while after ten years of protracted legal proceedings the marriage was annulled. 
Morris returned to Swansea in 1785 and became involved in local politics, marrying a Llangyfelach woman, who died four years later.  Though effectively barred from the legal profession, in 1791 he sailed to India, aiming to practise law.  But the judges were aware of his unsavoury past – he had even been caught playing with loaded dice at the gaming table.  A Supreme Court of Calcutta judge, in refusing his attempt to practise law in India, referred to “the notoriety and infamy of your character, and the vile, abandoned and disgraceful life you have led for many years past”.  Morris died two years later of a liver complaint in Utah Pradesh, aged 50. 
To the end his brother Sir John remained loyal and met his bills, noting in his diary “my poor brother buried at Fattigar in East Indies 29 Nov. 1793”.  Ethel Ross, sister-in-law of artist Alfred Janes and compiler of “Letters from Swansea”, has edited some of Morris’s diaries, published as “Radical adventurer: the diaries of Robert Morris, 1772-1774”.
Describing him as a “radical adventurer” is a kindly description of one whose life stands in such marked contrast to those of his father, his brother and his nephew.