All Mod Cons

Submitted by Colin T Davies
Although I was born in Bridgend my parents moved away whilst I was still very young, therefore my only memories of my grandparents’ homes are from visits during the school holidays. During the 1950s and the early 1960s my grandparents lived on opposite sides of the valley in Llangeinor. It is about the facilities available in each home that I would like to tell you about.

Maes-y-Deri.
Let me start with the older of the two homes first. This was of my maternal grandparents who lived in Maes-y-Deri, which together with its adjoining villa, Maes-y-Gelli, is situated just above the old level-crossing at Llangeinor station. My great grandfather Jenkin Thomas was a master mason and building contractor who died whilst building these villas in 1904. My family, who at the time were living at 11 Treharne Row, West Rhondda, Pontyrhyl, one of a terrace of cottages which Jenkin had built, had to pay another mason to complete the work.
Jenkin also had plans to build a hotel on land in the river bend between the Llangeinor railway crossing and the bridge to the Recreation field (facing the present two bungalows). Should business fail it was designed to be easily converted to individual houses by sealing up the cross passages. This plot became my grandparents’ garden.
My grandparents did not move into this villa until sometime around 1920. My mother was born in 1916 in what is now 14 Heol Llangeinor, which was the site of the Post Office during the 1950s. This address was one of 5 villas which I think may have been collectively known as ‘Glan Garw’. Remember there was only one othet house, apart from any farms, at Half-Way, between Tyn-yr-Heol School and Pandy before the late 1920s (see below).
So of what did Maes-y-Deri consist? It appears to have been built on a platform set into an old quarry. The steps led straight up from the road alongside of the house to the back yard, off which was the rear door. A branch of the steps led to the front door and across to the villa next door, which had its own set of steps. Inside the front door was the passage leading to the rear, off which were the stairs to the upper floor.
The front room, or parlour, with its bay window, had a fireplace on the outside wall and fitted cupboards in the alcoves. Next along was the middle room also with a fireplace and alcoves, with its window facing towards the rear. This room was always very cool and the butter was kept in a stoneware jar on the floor to keep it fresh. The main room at the back, with the rear door and window facing to the side, had the only fire that was kept going all the year; in fact this was the only fire I remember ever being lit. This was used for the majority of cooking and for hot water. An old heavy black kettle was always on the hob and water was decanted into a lighter kettle which was boiled on a small electric stove in the scullery at the very back. This small place also contained the only water supply to the house, a single tap.
The toilet was very basic and was just a smooth wooden bench, a hole with a lid, a ceramic lining, but no means of flushing it. This was crammed into a small space between the rear wall and the very small patch of garden at hillside level. When water was required to ‘flush’, an enamel bucket which was kept in the toilet was filled from the tap, via the scullery window! Where the tap water came from, or where the waste water went, was never fully discovered.
Upstairs at the front above the entrance hall was the ‘study’, a small room crammed with books and anything else not for general use. Next to this was the smallest bedroom. Both had windows facing across the valley and were quite low, which made life easier for us children to see out.
The middle bedroom matched the middle room downstairs with a rearward facing window. The main bedroom was at the back above the main room, with a side-facing window.
So what was missing? There was no bathroom, no fitted water heater, no exterior lighting, and no flush toilet indoors or out. There was however a rather basic electricity supply which powered the lighting, a radio, and later, the telelvision. Oh, there was a sink in the scullery but the waste water had to flow out along the rear wall then down the side wall, then into a small grid in the yard. This water was contained (sic) in an open channel, the edge of which was made from a small concrete band, or at least there were the remains of one when I was a lad.
My grandfather dies in 1968 having lived in the house for at least 48 years, and modernisation has since taken place- thank goodness!
23 Heol Llangeinor
The first housing built by the Ogmore & Garw Urban District in what is today called Llangeinor was from adjacent to Tyn-yr Heol school along the hillside eventually to opposite Pandy.These houses were built towards the end of the 1920s and an old picture postcard shows the brand new houses and the school being extended. The Glamorgan Gazette of Friday 17th October 1930 mentions the opening of the completed school works. This housing development introduced the name ‘Llangeinor’ to the locality, which was formerly known as Tyn-yr-Heol (hence the name of the school opened in 1900).
Although semi-detached, the home of my paternal grandparents had a central front door. Immediately as you entered the door to the parlour was on the right within the porch area. Through the inner porch door was the main living-room with the coal-fired cooking range. From this room on the rear left was the pantry; next to it the stairs, with the door to the kitchen and back yard off to the right. The kitchen had a sink and gas cooker. Outside was the small back yard with the garden set higher to the rear. From this yard was the door to the toilet which was built under the stairs- but it did flush! There was no cwtch or coal hole built into the frame of the house.
Upstairs was the small back bedroom which was over the kitchen, with two larger bedrooms facing the front. In the back left was the bathroom with a bath and two taps, what luxury! I am unsure if the hot water was heated by the coal fire in the living room or if an immersion heater was included in the airing cupboard. The electrical fittings were also up-to-date although my grandparents were a little naive about what they could safely do with the outlets etc.
As these houses were up steps from the road level. Tradesmen such as the butcher and baker would place a selection of their wares in an old fashioned wicker basket and come to the front door. If you wanted something else he would either go down to his van or the customer would go down and look. The postman used to walk from one end of the street to the other along the front of the houses. As they were on different levels people used to put stools or some other item against the adjoining wall for him to step up and climb over the fence.
Street lighting was a single bulb in a bat-wing type of reflector mounted on the telephone or other posts. These were set out at junctions or bends so there was no ‘light pollution’. There were more stars to be seen in those days than there are now, or so it appeared,
Considering both homes were only about 20 years; different in age, the facilities they contained, or did not contain, were a lifetime apart.

5 comments Add yours
  1. having lived in maes y deri for the last 10 years this is a really intresting read,i can help mr davies on one thing to do with maes y deri ,he states “where the tap water came from” in the summer i was working behind the house about 50yds away from it and discovered a 5ft well ,so there is your answer mr davies,
    one thing about the name of the village(llangeinor) in the old censuses they name the village as”rough mill village” which translates to velin arw that was the area around the square,ive never seen evidence of the village being called tyn yr heol,only the school ever being called that
    regards
    peter

  2. I am Colin’s younger sister and this article has evoked so many memories! I can still walk through Maes y Deri and No. 23 in my mind and see how it used to be. Our mother did visit Maes y Deri years after it had been sold and some improvements made – not sure if I would want the memories changed. As Colin was 6 years older than myself and 8 years older than our younger brother Tudor, we used to swap between the 2 houses during the holidays but we could still signal with torches to each other across the valley, thanks to the low windows in Maes y Deri. Towards the end of 1963, Tudor and I, together with our mother spent an extended time in No.23 as our paternal grandmother (Mamgu Davies) was terminally ill. Our father and Colin remained in Bristol as they were both working. Tudor and I attended the school and I have memories of going to the shop and buying penny ice lollies, falling over in the school yard when it was wet and my clothes being black from the coal dust – being made to stand in front of the fire in the little childrens classroom to dry off. Walking to the hall in the village for school lunch – forced to eat prunes – yuk! When we have told our children about the facilities in Maes y Deri in particular they can’t believe things were so basic – but it didn’t seem strange to us – it was our second home and perfectly natural and it still does! The ability to go off for the day with the village children, walking along the old railroad track towards Pandy,picking bluebells and not coming back until supper time. Walking up the old railway behind Maes y Deri towards Pontryhl, through the ‘fairy glen’ cutting looking at all the wildflowers etc is a memory of childhood that will never go away. Took a nostalgic visit back in 2001 on the 1st anniversary of our mother’s death and walked all the old paths and visited Auntie Beattie (Job) in Maes y Gelli. Found it hard to see Maes y Deri and not go in.

    Thank you Peter for explaining where the water came from and I think you gave our Auntie Nansi an overhead picture of the house.

    I may be living in Portugal now, brought up in Bristol but Llangeinor will always be home! Life here is more like the simple life we experienced as children.

  3. I think that Glangarw Row was in Abergarw, on the site of the old Kodak factory, Millers Avenue. My Great Grandparents lived there in 1881. It was next to Caegarw Farm.

  4. Thank you David. I may be mistaken in referring to the houses in Heol Llangeinor as Glan Garw. This name appeared amongst some original documents which came into my grandfather’s hands when he acted on behalf of family in the sale of what is now 10 Heol Llangeinor. In those days no house numbers existed only house names as the council had not yet built on the land below Tynyrheol School. So it quite possible that the Llangeinor “Glan Garw” fell into disuse only the Abergarw one remembered. Thank you again, I will check through the papers again and let you know.

    Regards

    Colin

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