Messrs Ralph and Sons – Abertillery

Messrs Ralph and Sons – Abertillery

Mr Samuel Ralph.
Mr Samuel Ralph was born in 1865 at Cwmtillery, Abertillery, was the son of Mr Henry and Eleanor Ralph of Chapel Row, Cwmtillery. Samuel was the eldest of four sons, with William, Thomas and Alfred and a daughter Sarah.

In about 1884 Mr Samuel Ralph moved from the family home at Cwmtillery, married Agnes Alice nee Jones of Mynyddislwyn and lived at Jamesville, Cwmcarn. His occupation was listed as a Coal Miner. They had a small family, two daughters, Eleanor and Laura and a son William. Samuel moved onto Cilfynydd and worked as a Coal Miner though whilst working there suffered a severe accident to his leg and he had to finish work in the collieries.

Messrs Ralph and Sons at Abertillery.
Mr Samuel Ralph and family moved back to Abertillery in the latter part of the 1880s and lived at No1 Station Street, later known as Station Approach and renamed Station Hill. They rented their home from Mrs Hannah Maria Edwards of the Globe Inn. A while later opened a small Coffee Tavern at the premises. At about the same time they rented a shop at No2 Market Street from Mr Thomas Stephens of Commercial Street, Abertillery and opened a small Fish Frying business there and he also did some Haulage work.

In September 1899 Mr Samuel Ralph applied to the Licensing authorities for permission to have a Billiard table at his premises in the Fish Shop at Market Street, Abertillery and one at his other premises at No1 Station Hill. I can’t find out about the granting of a licence at the Station Hill premises though the licence at the Fish Shop at Market Street was refused on the grounds that the premises were too small and it lacked proper sanitary accommodation.

The Coffee Tavern.
On the 1901 Census Mr Samuel Ralph was living at No1 Station Hill with his wife Agnes Alice Ralph and children – Eleanor Ann; Laura; William Henry; Samuel Abner; Theophilus John; Victor Jehoida and Edgar Vernon: The premises was known as a Coffee Tavern.

The Fish Frying Business.
In October 1902 Mr Ralph had a Stables and Fish Shop at a premises located on Railway Street, Abertillery (this may have been Station Hill, it was often mis-printed in many reports of the time) he was fined for throwing fish offal into the river at the rear of his premises, he was classified as a Fish Hawker and also appeared in Court for trading on the streets of Abertillery and not having his name painted on his barrow.

In October 1904 Mr Ralph advertised his Fish Shop and Potato business was for sale. This must have been the Shop at Railway Street, Abertillery as the Market Street Shop was still open and was owned by the family in later years.

The Mineral Water Manufacturing Business.
In March 1905 Mr Ralph applied to the Council for permission to build a Pop Factory and Stabling at Portland Street, Brynteg and started a new business, he began manufacturing Aerated Mineral Water. The Pop Factory was close to the old Clyn Mawr Isaf Farm on lower Portland Street, Abertillery.

In 1906 Mr Ralph started a Carriage Service in the area (as seen in the featured image above). He placed his first transportation services advertisements in the local papers (as seen left) stating “S Ralph & Sons Aerated Water Manufacturers – Proprietors of – Landau, Charabancs and Brakes Etc. Station Hill, Abertillery – Weddings a Speciality – Also Furniture Removed” – P.O. Telephone 58.

Link to – S. Ralph & Sons Pop Bottle.

In April 1909 the Pop Factory at Brynteg, Abertillery was inspected and deemed unfit for purpose, Mr Ralph was given 6 months to bring the factory up to standard requirements. The manufacturing of Mineral Water continued as in Nov 1911 the Council wanted to widen the road at the bottom of Portland Street and the area close by, the Roads and Bridges Committee were in communications with Mr Ralph in connection with the purchasing of land near the Pop Factory.

In April 1912 Mr Ralph was Hauling for the Council, his Tender was the lowest and was accepted.

In September 1912 Mr Samuel Ralph advertised Motor Cars for Hire (as seen right) from his premises at Station Hill, Abertillery. The advertisement was the first issued stating Mr Ralph had Motor Cars for hire yet the advert showed an open carriage.

A week later the Gazette newspaper printed an updated advertisement stating Mr Ralph had Motor Cars for hire and they printed an image of an actual Motor Car (as seen below).

It was later reported that Mr Ralph had the first Ford Motor car in the district.

In March 1913 Ralph’s Garage was chosen by the Council to store the new Abertillery Fire Engine that was to be purchased, at this time the construction of the new Fire Station was under consideration and the Council wanted to rent Ralph’s Garage at 5 shillings per week to house the new vehicle until the station was built.

In February 1914 Mr Theophilus John Ralph, son of Samuel applied for a licence for a Billiard Table at Station Hill,

In 1914 Mr S. Ralph & Sons purchased their first Charabanc and was the first firm in the county to start in the Charabanc business.

In 1915 Ralph & Sons were listed as being at the Station Approach and Somerset Street, Abertillery (as seen on the 1915 ad right)Mr Theophilus John Ralph became a member at the Liberal Club Abertillery. He was member number 433 and was registered as being a Driver by occupation and living at Station Hill, Abertillery.

During the War most of Messrs Ralph & Sons Horses, Rolling Stock and the new Charabanc was taken away from them by the War Department. They were later replaced by Motor Cars. In 1919 the fleet of Charabancs was considerably added to.

Ralph’s Motor Bus Service.
On 18th September 1923 Mr Samuel Ralph under the name of Ralph’s Garages applied to the Roads and Bridges General Purposes Committee to run a three vehicle Bus service in the district. In November Mr Samuel Ralph and his son attended a meeting to support their application and stated their readiness to carry out the wishes of the Council. The application was proposed by Mr Lewis and seconded by Mr Pask, it was resolved to reply in the terms of the resolution previously passed in relation to the application of Mr James Jones to run a one vehicle Bus service in Abertillery. It seems that the Council had authorised the Griffin Bus Company to run a service in the valley and the Council – in the interest of public safety had given the monopoly to one firm. Messrs Ralph’s application was pending.

In November 1923 Messrs Ralph & Sons started stocking and supplying Wireless Sets, they were trading as The Wireless Depot, No1 Station Hill.

In November 1923 at a meeting of the Nantyglo and Blaina Council Mr D. J. Thomas, moved that the Council reconsider the decision to recommend the Joint Committee of Local Authorities to grant the application made by Messrs Ralph to run a Motor Bus service. Mr Thomas said he was unaware that Mr Ralph had been asked by the Abertillery Council to run a service prior to the Griffin Company running a service. He stated whatever happens between the two companies should be debated conjointly with the Abertillery and the Nantyglo and Blaina Councils. Later there were disagreements over the decision to have one company run a service which could be controlled by the Council or have two companies in contention with each other. Mr W. H. Hale with the support of Mr Ashton said “the Griffin Bus Company had only improved their service since they became aware that Messrs Ralph & Sons were interested in running a service”, he went on to say “one company should not have all the power”. It was agreed to hold a joint conference on the matter with the Abertillery Council at a later date.

On Monday 26th November 1923 at the monthly meeting of the Abertillery Urban District Council, Mr James Brown presided, the following members attended – Mr T. H. Mytton (Vice Chairman); Mr W. Williams; Mr J. Snellgrove; Mr W. F. Walters; Mr H. J. Davies; Mr S. Pask; Mr J. Lewis; Mr G. Williams; Mr F. W. Chivers; Mr R. Tudor; Mr D. Smith; Mr J. T. Boots; Mr L. Elliott; Mr D. Thomas; Mr F. Athay; Mr D. Walters; Mr J. H. Godwin; Mr W. Gait (Clerk); Mr D. R. Davies (Deputy Clerk); Dr T. B. Smith (Medical Officer); Mr M. J. Mortimer (Electric Works Engineer); Mr Ifor G. Jenkins (Gas Works Engineer); Mr A. G. Jones (Surveyor); Mr J. G. Hoskins (Assistant Surveyor); Mr F. Padfield (Sanitary Inspector); Mr Rupert Prosser (Accountant) and Mr D. E. Williams (Assistant Overseer and Rate Collector): At this meeting it was decided to grant the applications of Messrs Ralph’s Garages and Mr James Jones to run Motor Bus services. After a lengthy meeting lasting over five hours it was resolved to hold another meeting the following Thursday. At this adjourned meeting the Council rescinded the granting of the licenses and came out in favour of the Griffin Bus Company. The Ministry for Transport were informed of this outcome and a special meeting of all parties involved was called for.

On Thursday 13th December 1923 an Enquiry was held at the Council Offices, Abertillery, before Major Samuel Evans of Cardiff and Mr Fisher of London, representing the Ministry of Transport. The Enquiry heard the appeal of Mr J. Jones of Aberbeeg and Messrs Ralph’s Garages of Abertillery against the Abertillery Council’s refusal to grant licenses for one and three buses respectively. Other members present at the meeting were as follows – Mr James Brown (Chairman); Mr S. Pask; Mr L. Elliott; Mr W. F. Walters; Mr J. Lewis; Mr D. T. Bond (Inspector); Mr W. Gait (Clerk); Mr A. Gordon Jones (Surveyor) representing the Council; Mr L. A. Wallen (Clerk to the Blaina Council); Mr A. J. Blake (Deputy Clerk); Mr J. J. Quirk (Surveyor to the Brynmawr Council) and Mr R Baker (Superintendent of the Abertillery Police): The Clerk of the Council submitted grounds of the refusal to grant a license and stated they did not want a series of motor buses to be running around the valley on the narrow and dangerous roads and that it was be a danger to the public if additional buses were licensed. The Superintendent of the Police stated his opposition by saying that the present service was adequate. The Ministry drove around the route in the district and promised to present their report in due course.

In February 1924 the Ministry of Transport sent out letters to Mr James Jones and Mr Samuel Ralph, the letters stated the Ministry could not support the Council in its refusal to grant licenses and therefore Messrs Jones and Ralph would be granted licenses to run Motor Bus services in the area if they would comply with the terms laid out by the Ministry. The Council stated their recognition of the terms and also pointed out that they would not be responsible for any liabilities resulting in any accidents, the Ministry would have to be held responsible for any public liability insurance fees or claims. After a lengthy meeting the bus companies were told to prepare their timetables (as seen above).

On Friday 25th April 1924 at a meeting of the Abertillery Urban District Council, the full Council attended and granted the official Motor Bus licenses as follows –
The Griffin Bus Company 11 Buses with the necessary Drivers and Conductors. The Griffin Bus Company sent in a letter confirming they will no longer be able to continue with their route to Cwmtillery under the present conditions. The Inspector reported that Messrs Jones Bros were prepared to serve this route and it was agreed to. Messrs Jones Bros 1 Bus with the necessary Drivers and Conductors. The Cwmtillery district will be served by Messrs Jones instead of them running a car to Bournville. Messrs Ralph’s Garages 3 Buses with the necessary Drivers and Conductors. Mr A. Overfield 1 Bus with the necessary Drivers and Conductors. It was reported Mr T. W. W. Jones of the Jones Bros attended the meeting and stated that his service on the Old Aberbeeg Road was now established. It was decided to allow Mr Jones to use his present vehicle until April 30th 1924 but he must purchase a new bus after that date. The Council had to inspect the new bus before any license could be re-issued.

On 1st April 1926 Ralph’s Motor Service announced an increase in their service and the extension to Newport. The service was extended from Pontypool to Newport via New Inn and Croesyceiliog. Buses also left Abertillery direct to Newport via Pontypool, the times of the buses were five minutes past the hour and 35 minutes past the hour. The fare to Newport was 2 shillings single ticket and three shillings for a return journey. On Sundays the buses leave for Newport via Brynmawr and Pontypool.

On Sunday 14th August 1927 Messrs Ralph & Sons conducted the first long distance commercial trip by Charabanc in the history of transport in the Abertillery district. On the Sunday morning at 7am they took twenty-two people to Blackpool. They were returned two weeks later by another Charabanc that took another batch of holiday makers up to the sea-side resort.

The trip to Blackpool was overshadowed by a fire that broke out in the Shop and Offices of Messrs Ralphs in the early hours of the Sunday morning. The fire was seen by Mr William Robbins a Foreman Driver who was at Castle Street, he had noticed smoke issuing from the premises and rang the bell at the Fire Station. Superintendent A. G. Thurling immediately brought out the engine with six men under Captain W. J. Rancombe. The fire was extinguished within half-an-hour. It was stated the fire had been slow burning with the lack of air circulation and the Brigade had a lot of problems with the thick smoke. The report in the Gazette stated that the building had 4 Billiard Tables on the upper floor and living quarters adjoined occupied by Mr Jehoida Ralph, Mr Ralph was not at residence at the time of the fire as he was on holiday. The cause of the fire remain unknown.

After the experience of the thick smoke during the fire at Ralphs premises, the Fire Brigade was reported to have bought a First Aid Smoke Mask. It was purchased for £7 10s.

On 31st October 1927 Messrs Ralph’s Garages wrote a letter to the Council asking their support in applying to the Abercarn and Risca Councils in requesting permission to operate a circular route through the valley’s. They obtained the permission and started the new route (as seen ).

In the late 1920s Mr Tom Harvey, the youngest son of Mr and Mrs George Harvey of No20 Clarence Street, Abertillery was a Mechanic at Ralph’s Garages.

Sometime in the late 1920s Ralph’s Garage Motor Company became a Limited Company.

In May 1930 The Abertillery District Council gave permission to Messrs Ralph’s Ltd to erect Petrol Pumps and a Petrol Tank at their Somerset Street Garage, Abertillery.

In April 1931 Mr Samuel Ralph of Ralph’s Garages Ltd entered into negotiations to purchase the Reliance Bus Services which operated between Crumlin and Newport. The following month it was reported that the negotiations were successful and the Reliance Bus Service was taken over by Messrs Ralph’s Garages Ltd. It was stated in the report that Mesrs Ralph’s Ltd were – Mr Samuel Ralph the Managing Director and Mr Eddie Ralph the General Manager. Mr T. R. Jenkins J.P., of Blackwood was the Manager of the Reliance Services.

In November 1936 it was reported that Ralph’s Garages Ltd were in negotiations with the Griffin Company with the intentions to amalgamate both companies. There were no further reports on the proposed amalgamation.

(More information to come).


Points of interest – In March 1907 Miss Laura Ralph second daughter of Samuel and Agnes married Mr Joel Chivers, son of Joseph Chivers of the Tillery Fountain Inn.

Ralphs Welfare Club.
The founder of Ralph’s Welfare Club (as seen circled in Black on the image left) was Mr Eddie Ralph, I am not sure when he established it though in September 1924 it appeared in the Western Valley’s Billiards League. Some of the players in the Billiard Team between 1924-1934 were as follows, First Team – Mr J. Rees; Mr H. Morris; Mr S. Reed; Mr S. Dicks; Mr J. Read (Captain); Mr W. Pritchard; Mr R. Wallace; Mr C. Purchase; Mr J. Purchase; Mr Theophilus Ralph; Mr T. Weaver; Mr W. Baghurst; Mr C. Mattey; Mr R. Watkins; Mr S. Owen; Mr W. Strickland; Mr Ike Evans and Mr E. James: Second Team – Mr Weeks; Mr D. Brain; Mr D; Thomas; Mr N. Davies and Mr W. Wick:

In the main featured image at the top of the page, Mr Ralph’s carriage can be seen outside the Old Bridge-End Inn at Penybont, Cwmtillery.

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