By David JK Jones
How many people even knew that there was such a place? Not many I suspect but I came across the Station’s Journal whilst on a visit to the Glamorgan Records Office in Cardiff. They actually have the original Police Station Log/Journal dating between the years of 1896 and 1898. The Journal is open to inspection and I read through it all in a two day period.
The handwriting is beautifully scripted and makes for easy reading. It tells mainly of the exploits of PC 111 and his beat which extends from Pantygog river bridge down to Cwm Garw Village (Llangeinor) and over to Moelgeilau.
I have established that the Station was the large house which still stands today at the rear of the Braichycymmer Public House which had previously been named the “Pontyrhyl Junction Hotel” but not during the period of PC 111’s time there. He commences his beat each day at Garw Fechan and concludes it each day at Garw Fechan. He usually works a 13 hour beat. For a week’s work as a Police Constable he earns £1-6-6d a week. This would be £1-32.5p today and was usually handed to him by the Sergeant who was based in Pontycymmer.
Most of the offences that he dealt with were usually drunkenness and licensing offences. However, there was the occasional serious assault and various thefts that took place.
There appears to be two parallel societies operating alongside each other at a time of no television, no radio or cinema. There were those who were devoted chapel goers and those who went to the public houses of the time.
Waun Bant, Garreg Road and Garw Fechan feature prominently in the Station’s Log with Garreg Road seemingly the “roughest” street by far at this particular time in our valley’s history.
There is regular trouble at all three pubs on PC 111’s beat. They are the Braichy, and the Old Tavern and Green Meadow at Cwm Garw Village.
The Old Tavern, in particular, seems the most disorderly Ale House by far. There are always violent incidents there and drunkenness is rife.
The Licensee of the Old Tavern is acquitted of assaulting one of his customers whilst the Licensee of the Braichy is convicted of being drunk in charge of his own licensed premises during a tap room brawl and fined a hefty £4 with 18 shillings costs.
The Log shows that PC 111 (sadly we never get to know his name) had to attend the evening service at St Mary’s Church, Pontyrhyl in uniform each week and that he also had to attend Maesteg Police Station each week for “cutlass training”. He travelled to Maesteg by train.
An entry shows that on Sunday 2nd May 1897 PC 111 is on duty at the “new railway line”.
On another occasion whilst he is attending Bridgend Police Court he is given the weekly wages for the entire police force for officers within the Garw Valley. The total for himself, Pontycymmer and Blaengarw officers amounts to £7, 10 shillings.
Throughout the journal there is virtual paranoia about “Swine Flu”. Nearly everyone keeps a pig in their back garden and if the pig’s health fails in any way then the people promptly attended the police stations to report it. The Vet is always called for, a Mr Whapham, who diagnoses the pigs with “Heat”, “Old Age” and “Exhaustion” but never “Swine Flu”. They are usually put down and buried in the gardens.
PC 111 has a busy day usually serving summonses including on one occasion a “Bastardy summons”. Research shows that this was some sort of Child Maintenance order. We certainly used to speak differently in those days.
He kept observations on West Rhondda coal sidings for coal thieves, reported someone for cruelty to a horse (working it in an unfit state), scores of people for drunk and disorderly, some women for being drunk in charge of a child, some folk for simply being drunk, all three pubs for not having “sleevers” (measured glasses), the proprietor of the Royal Stores for selling from the back of a wagon “without scales and weights”, selling beer at 6am to miners from an unlicensed house, theft of fowls, theft from the Drapers at Manchester House, Oxford Street and theft of timber from the railway line. All fines had to be paid within seven days or it was instant committal to prison in lieu of the amount owed.
Some of the addresses are no longer with us too. They include Landore Huts, Pontycymmer, Temperence Terrace, Pontycymmer, Pontycymmer Huts, “The Cellars”, Tylagwyn and Gwynfryn Terrace, Pontycymmer.
The most serious offence appears to involve the home of a regular drunken offender. On Thursday 16th September 1897 a local Green Grocer found his wife at another man’s house in Waun Bant and attempted to stab her as retribution. The police were called and PC’s 111, 76 & 98 all attended. A struggle ensued and PC 111 was cut across the hand. The man was detained, taken to Pontycymmer Police Station and then conveyed on to Bridgend where he was remanded in custody. Just two days later he was found “not guilty” and discharged due to the non attendance at court by his wife.
A recurring address during this Journal is “Halfway House”, Llangeinor. This was a very busy lodging house at the very least as many of the police’s “customers” hail from there.
One such man was Benjamin Thomas, who at 10-30am on Tuesday the 1st February 1898 was found at the back of the skittle alley of the Llanharan Hotel, Pontycymmer. The Licencee, Mr Williams summoned the police who attended and found that Mr Thomas was suffering from hypothermia. He had been allowed to sleep out the alley the previous night because of the torrential rain and his drunken condition being too bad for him to safely get home. Sadly, Mr Thomas died there and then in front of PC 111.
This is a brief synopsis in what was a fascinating document available to anyone who joins. Membership is free and the documents can be photographed with a flashless camera. I have posted some photographic extracts for your enjoyment.
David JK Jones