The Betws Pioneers

It was in September, 1949, when Betws saw the beginning of an influx of new residents that changed the little hill-top village forever. Turning what was incorrectly called by some the ‘off the beaten track’ hamlet into a bustling community.

In a matter of a few weeks 149 families came to live in Betws from all parts of the Garw valley, to live in aluminium bungalows, built in factories, and delivered in sections. (Prefabs) There was an air of excitement and great happiness, and some amazement, as the new ‘settlers’ began to enjoy the modern facilities on offer for some for the very first time. Hot and cold water in the one place, and bathrooms and toilets.This was a dramatic change from the over-crowded and shared accom- modation with the barest of facilities further up the valley. The ‘native’ Betws people, some of whom could trace their roots in this place over generations, must have looked on in awe as fleets of removal vans and sundry other vehicles wound their way up the hill to their village filled with the newcomers’ belongings.

The weather, warm and sunny, suited the mood of the day as the new tenants got to discover their surroundings. For a start the bus service would have to be dramatically increased as family, relatives and friends came to help or just visit in packed buses, with sympathetic conductor’s always ready to ‘squeeze one more inside!’ Extra buses were to be laid on for workers in those days of full employment, with a new generation who were eager to start enjoying the so called ‘post war boom.’

Regarding places of worship, Betws did have the spiritual facilities available for its original population, long before the Council decided to build there, with the ancient church of St David’s and Sardis Chapel. A new council school was provided for the influx of new pupils. The Oddfellows Arms welcomed the older thirstier newcomers with refreshment and entertain- ments, without for the time being having any other competition, the Mackworth Arms having closed down several years earlier.

Now down the years there have been other buildings added to the fabric of Bettws to supply the people’s needs. New schools, playing fields, min- ers’ welfare hall, a Christadelphian meeting place, a Senior citzens’ home, Clinic / Surgery, Post office, Boys’ Club and Social Club were all provided in the fullness of time.

In 2016 I wonder how many of the original 149 ‘Pioneers’ are still living in Betws, and would any of them or their families like to share with us the memory of that day, and any other events that happened in that early period of Betws’s history?

13 comments Add yours
  1. My 1st cousin lives in Bettws and as far as I am aware his family moved into one of the new pre-fabs in West Side. I think it was in this pre-fab that my cousin first lived, I will have to ask.

  2. Just after the war my parents Gearge & Nora Crumbie moved into a brand new prefab on west side.
    They were amazed at the things that were in the prefab, hot & cold running water,afridge, inside bath, an electric cooker to name but a few.
    My brother Micheal was born in the prefab in 1949 and I was born in 1953. Three years later my sister was born and we moved up to the Croft up the top site.
    Len Crumbie

  3. I am a Kenfig Hill boy living in Canada for the past 50 years. As a 10 year old I remember travelling to Bettws on a Saturday morning to play rugby against the local lads. This would have been in the winter term of 1953. Each player was assigned to a local lad who took us pre-game to his home to change, and post game for a hot drink and a biscuit. It was my first time inside a pre-fab as we typically called them and I clearly remember the warmth of the welcome, the home and the bathful of hot water. I later attended Garw Grammar, though my attendance was not great, in the years 1954 to 58. My memories of the days in the Garw are strong but I could never fiure out why the road over the top was never completed to provide an egress from the top end of the valley.

  4. I remember reading somewhere as to why no road from Blaengarw was built to connect with the inter-valleys road. It appears that due to the narrowness of the Garw in relationship to its neighbours the Ogmore and Llynfi and the closeness of the mountain massive to Blaengarw it was deemed to costly to blast a route through.

  5. Teresa Pitt
    My family are from Betws and I still have family there they first lived in the prefabs but then moved to 59 heol glannant where my younger sister Maria and myself were born all my family are from the Garw valley and I have fond memories of my days living there

  6. My family was one of the lucky ones My mam was so proud of her prefab and cried when they knocked it down.we then moved to 50 Pen y mynydd .Mam and Dad lived there till they died .my sister moved away but kept coming back. Me and my family moved to Bridgend and I have to admit I still miss Bettws. We had such a great time I think It was because we all moved in at the same time we all grew up together don’t know how many or the original family’s are still there 3 or 4 generation later I bet it is quite a few.

  7. My family lived at 63 East Side Bettws for four years in those early years. My parents were Bryn and Edith Moore and while we moved up to 15 Waun Fach in the top site when I was 4, I have very fond memories of living in that prefab. We have loads of photographs of the prefabs. We had a huge garden at the back with a gate onto the Meadow behind. There was a huge green in the front and we all used to play on it.

  8. Thank you so much for this post. I have been trying to remember the date, as I was one of those who moved in to East Side with parents Bryn and Edith Moore. I was about 2 at the time. For me the prefabs were a paradise, with plenty of space and lovely neighbours: Glyn and Gladws Roberts and Trevor next door I remember well. And of course there was the path and stream behind the lower prefabs which was a brilliant place to play.

    And then there was February 1953, when sweet rationing ended. I have a very clear memory of my mother taking me to the post office and telling me that I could have anything that I wanted.

    But the prefabs themselves were superb. Lovely bathrooms, great kitchens, and warm. My father had managed to acquire a TV set for the coronation, and the living room was packed out like a cinema on that day. And also an old pre-war projector, with cartoons projected onto a sheet for children and neighbours.

    St Fagans has a prefab that is an exact replica of the one we had on East Side, and presumably most of those built in Betws. Well worth seeing, and brings back powerful memories for those of us who lived there.

    For me it was a magical place to grow up, and I have warm and fond memories of the Bettws of the early 50s. I am embarking on a project to have a picture and short note on all the places I have lived. Most have good memories, but the prefab is close to the top.

  9. We lived opposite you in waunfach I cant remember you but have a vague memory of your sisters .I remember your dad Bryn. Fetching clothes to our house and cloth swatches for my mother to make quilts for our beds .. we lived in number 14 waunfach bottom flat my younger sister and i was born there and you took pics of us which we still have my . My father was sid avery my mother was ethel I’m richard and my sister is both avery

  10. Mr Avery
    I grew up opposite sid and Ethel they were so kind. every New Year’s Eve, midnight Sid would go outside and blow his hunting horn. My mum still lives in Bryn-awel. My nan Trissy middleton lived in number 18. So many happy memories growing up surrounded by amazing neighbour’s.

  11. Richard

    You may not remember me, but I remember you, your parents, and sister very well indeed. I have the pictures of you scanned into my computer as I write. They are among just a few that I have kept of those long-ago times, less because of their artistic merit (though there is some), but more because of the good memories they bring.

    Andrew Moore – now of Devon

  12. Came across this information when looking for the date when the prefabs were built. Lovely to see the names of individuals I grew up with and remember so well. Like Andrew, my memories (of 76 West Side) are particularly happy ones – I recall my mother saying that she felt she was on holiday when she moved in. Andrew was East Side…….and there was something of a rivalry between East and West Side – especially coming up to bonfire night! As our families grew we moved to the Top Site and along with the Moore family, who lived next door at Waun Fach. East and West side rivalries were put aside and Andrew and I became firm friends. We were some of the first families to move in and enjoyed the building site as our playground! Few, if any, safety and security issues meant that once the workmen left, we explored half built houses and climbed wherever we pleased. I remember my brother, Hugh, getting locked in the flat opposite while ‘exploring’ one day! It was there that Hugh developed a love for driving…….one of the workmen let him drive his dumper truck! Great days to look back on.

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