I remember Loughor
Hi everyone, my name is Sheila Francis and I welcome you to my web site which is about the village of Loughor. I came here as a baby in 1941 and I have seen so many changes that I think it is time that I put them down in print for future generations, so come with me on a travel back to the 1940's and 50's.
Our village is on the coast of South West Wales. If you study a map you should see us approximately 200 miles west of LONDON (England). Look for the Bristol Channel which divides England and Wales and we are an hour and a half's drive away. SWANSEA is our nearest city and about 9 miles east, and CARMARTHEN town is about 19 miles further west.
Loughor stands on the river bank and has a busy road bridge and a railway bridge which cross the river into the next county of Carmarthenshire. Our village has expanded greatly with many newcomers settling here just in the last 20 years and new housing estates dotted around.
In the 1940's this was quite an an industrial area. Across the river stood two huge works.... the St. David's Tinplate, (known as the Ysbitty works or by villagers as 'the Spitty', and next to it the Bynea Steel works. Huge smoke stacks could be seen for miles and many men were employed here. There were also two collieries... the Broad Oak, and the Beli Glas and an iron foundry, needless to say there was hardly any unemployment locally. Today if you visit us you will look across the river and see a modern factory 'Ina Bearings' on the site.
Work was very hard in the steel and tin works and you had to be tough. Boys about 14 left school and could start the following week, a tough breed of ladies were also employed 'opening plates'. This was one of the many processes in the works which entailed the seperation of razor sharp sheets of tin very quickly. Allthough they wore thick aprons and gloves accidents were many as you can imagine. Toilets were outside and were the old 'bucket type' with wooden seat. Workers sweated so much that their thick flannel shirts could stand up alone. The steelmen were also strong and tough as they worked each day in very hot conditions. All the workers did shift work and loud hooters blared out at the various change of shift so we did not need a clock.
The bridge at Loughor was always busy with workers passing to and fro across it. We had a large strip of sand on the river bank and this was our holiday place. Everyone would congregate here on fine summer days, young and old. When the tide was in we had a great time building sand castles and swimming until the sun went down. Fishermen spent many hours there too and we even had local cockle pickers who went way down to the Gower area and returned home with the tide in their boat loaded with sacks of the sea food which were transfered to a late steam train and taken to various parts of Britain. Today the sands stand folorn, only a handfull of fishermen when the tide suits.
The old cement bridge was built in about 1923 but heavier traffic caused cracks and it was demolished in the 1990's and a much larger one now copes with even more traffic. The old rail bridge still stands, it is made of wood and has withstood two tides a day for over a century. In rough weather the tide rushes through the arches at a terrifying speed I do not know how it still stands? We did have a station and the last steam train to stop there was in about 1961. Diesle took over and no more was heard the sound of steam and the train whistle and trucks being shunted up and down a side line. Where the station once stood is now a busy road leading to Llanelli. We had a ticket office and two waiting rooms and a signal box in which could be heard the clunk of levers as the signalman did his work, wires buzzed and the signals with their red and green 'eyes' went up or down along the track. Express trains sped through the village a long trail of smoke behind, heading for Swansea and the rest of the countand long lines of trucks trundled past carrying all sorts of comodities to we knew not where. All is gone now.... just a single track left.
We have on the river bank a busy Boating Club, but in my day there were only two boat sheds for rowing boats. Regattas held in were the 1920's a bit before my time! In the 40''s and 50's gypsy camp stood on the site, colourful wooden caravans in acircle and tethered horses grazing nearby. Tents dotted around inwhich the families lived, and open fires on which they cooked. This is now the club car park.
A railway track wended its way from the station and along the sands past the present boating club and to the colliery. The small steam engine chuffed along carrying coal to the station yard where it was taken on to larger trucks and taken to many parts of the country. Work went on busily in the Foundry nearby and a one man wood yard next to it was always working... the loud grinding machine cutting wood could be heard over the area.
The castle dominated the area, it still stands looking over the sea as it has done since about the 10th century. Generations of village children have played on it's grassy mound and still do.
The castle looks over a large park named Parc Williams after a generous benefactor who went to the USA. There are swings and a bowling green. Just after the war we had lovely fetes here quite often, now we have a band about three times in the summer.
Lower Loughor only has two public house at the time of writing (2002) one has closed... It was called the Leucarum in the last few years but it was always 'The Station Inn' as the railway station was close by it. One other pub was 'The Bush Hotel' but it burned down in 1961. The only ones left are the 'Ship and Castle' in Castle Street and The Reverend James.
We have St. Michael's church which also stands looking out to sea and is buffeted by the gales in the winter, it is cosy inside when the gas fires hiss and the candles are lit however. There once stood a welsh chapel on the opposite corner named Horeb and this was attended by numerous villagers who would dress in high fashion. A small chapel (now the church hall) was named Bethany this too finished up years ago. The English Congregational chapel has gone years ago from Castle Street, there are a row of houses here today. Jireh Gospel Hall still stands and is well attended. In the early 1950's all the village children converged there weekly raising the roof with hymn singing when they attended the Band of Hope meeting. We recited passages from the bible and watched in awe 'magic lantern pictures (before TV). We went on Sunday school trips in a fleet of buses and had lovely summer parties outside and winter ones inside. Happy days!
The village has a sheltered homes complex Llys y Coed which is at the junction of Castle Street and Culfor Road. Here about 40 elderly residents have one bedroomed flats owned by the city council, they have stood since the late 1970's. Before they were built there was a large field here which was cut for hay in the summer and we spent many a hour jumping into piles of hay from the high wall.
The village had a large number of shops when I was a child. Starting down near the bridge was a wooden shed chip shop this later moved to Station Road, a few doors from it was a small shop in a person's front parlour. It was a small grocers and had a weighing scale in the passageway for veg. On the corner by the castle was a tiny butchers shop, a cobblers stood across the road where Bob the cobbler worked the day away mending the villagers shoes. Two doors from the butchers was a large cafe and later another chip shop, next was a wool and sewing material shop, then a green grocers. Our main post office, another butchers shop, another grocer, and in Culfor Road another grocers so as you can see we did not need to go out of the village really.In Castle Street stood the school (still there). Mr. Chester Morgan was headmaster when I was a child, he was very strict and everyone was afraid of him, he taught the older children. One of the teachers after the war later became a headmaster at another school the late Mr. Powell, Mr. Brain was another teacher there. School dinners came into force in about 1950 and we all had to walk single file to the canteen which was further along the road in a building called the 'town hall'. The school toilets were the old bucket type which had to be emptied at certain times and we only had a small school yard to play in. Skipping and whip and top were games played. I left in 1951 for the new Secondary Modern school in Upper Loughor... but that's another story.
I have kept this narative short as I have written a book about the village(Loughor memories) which is now finished, obviously there is much more detail in that.The book is priced £10 and is available now. You can email me for a copy.
Please contact me if you need any info. on our area or any family history details, I will be pleased to help.
April 12th 2005