The Six Bells Recreation Grounds story.
In the early 1920s the unemployment and financial situation in the South Wales Valley was looking bleak. There was a slump in the coal trade after the 1921 Miners “Lock-out” workers in the industry laid off and together with the valley’s high population meant many men were out of work. At this time voluntary unemployment schemes were introduced to get the unemployed men to work on projects to regenerate the area.
These projects were mainly based around groundwork, landscaping and laying out areas of land once used for dumping or colliery waste to be turned into recreation grounds etc. The areas that were in much needed regeneration at this time were Cwmnanty-Groes, Six Bells. Hafodyrynys old reservoir area. Llanhilleth, behind the Institute. Glebe Land, Abertillery. Duffryn, Blaina, Bournville, Newbridge and Aberbeeg. The unemployment schemes were mostly funded by the Bedwelty Board of Guardians and controlled by the Council.
The tip in the Cwmnanty-Groes Valley was quickly becoming a health hazard and eye-sore. The local people wanted something done about the state of it and a petition was circulated with the aim to get signatures to force the Council to act and get the scheme to flatten the area for the construction of a much needed Recreation Park.
The proposed area chosen to construct a Park was the dumping ground at the top end of Eastville Road, between Llewynon Road and Windsor Road. The idea of some sort of park at Cwmnanty-Groes was first mentioned in the late 1890s about the same time as the main Abertillery Park/Recreational Grounds were first proposed, though the idea was pushed aside.
On Monday 27th November 1922 the Abertillery Council reported on the Unemployment Schemes in the area. A meeting of the Roads Bridges and General Purposes Committee stated that they had arranged for men from the Crumlin Exchange be employed on the works at Six Bells and Abertillery. Messrs Smith and Brown were deputed to see the Accountant as to the payments to be made by the Bedwelty Board of Guardians.
The Surveyors estimates were submitted showing that the cost of the “complete scheme” would be £9,525 and for levelling off only £5,791, proposed by Mr Brown and seconded by Mr Boots. Mr Boots suggested no action at the present time though an amendment was proposed by Mr W. Williams and seconded by Mr D. Walters that the Surveyor revise such estimates with a view of a reduction in such or acquire another site? The proposer and seconder only voted for the amendment and the Chairman declared the proposition carried.
When the minutes came up for consideration at the full Council meeting, Mr Williams alluding to the Six Bells Recreation Ground Scheme said that 2,060 had petitioned the Council to have something done. The Surveyor moved that the Council delete the proposal to revise the costs or look for a new site as he wanted the scheme to move on and get started. He also said that there were many unemployed men walking the streets with nothing to do, the scheme would get them back working and lower the rates on others while beautifying the Cwmnanty area. At the same meeting the construction of a football field at Cwmnanty would raise the cost to £10,000 and stated they couldn’t think of anything better to spend the money on at this present time.
On Monday 5th January 1923 a meeting of the sub-committee consisting of all members of the Council. They met at the proposed Six Bells Recreation Ground at 4pm. Members present were as follows – Mr D. Thomas J.P. (Chairman); Mr J. Brown; Mr L. Elliott; Mr J. Lewis; Mr D. Smith; Mr F. Athay; Mr S. Pask; Mr J. H. Godwin; Mr T. H. Mytton; Mr J. Snellgrove and the Surveyor: The Council met at Cwmnanty near the house of Mr Warfield. An estimate of the cost of the scheme was submitted, the site inspected and the matter discussed at length though no resolution was passed. Many arguments followed with the costs and financial situation at the forefront of all talks.
On Monday 26th March 1923 a Council meeting heard that the Surveyor met with Messrs Graham and Hitchcox & Co in connection with the proposed Six Bells Recreation Ground, they agreed that if the Council constructed a new road parallel to the proposed boundary of the new grounds in place of the one running through the site they would recommend the owners to give the land required. The Council resolved that this be accepted.
On Monday 30th July 1923 the terms submitted by Messrs Lougher and Co on behalf of Messrs Webb and By Messrs Graham and Hitchcox & Co on behalf of Mr T. P. Price were discussed for the committees consideration.
In September 1923 Mr Mytton gave a report of a conference of Local Authorities, Representatives and Guardians and other bodies held at Newport at which he informed them that he was empowered to refer the scheme for a recreation ground at Six Bells, the Surveyor had revised the estimate to £11,494. 19s. 5d. He stated 80 per cent would be spent on wages and 20 per cent on materials and he said it would be a good opportunity to get the Guardians to do the work. The Bedwelty representative stated that the Ministry would not allow them to undertake any schemes except ” test work” so the door was shut in that direction. Mr Boots was against the idea to go ahead and spend £12,000 on an empty field and Mr W. Williams suggested the Council ask the Miners Welfare Fund for financial help.
In October 1923 the Council received a letter from the Arael Griffin Colliery No5 Lodge drawing attention to the urgent need for proceeding with the Six Bells Recreation Scheme on the grounds that it would provide much needed work for the unemployed men.
On October 9th 1923 at a meeting of the Allotments, Pleasure Grounds and Fire Brigade Committee, the Surveyor submitted the cost of the proposed Six Bells Recreation Grounds as follows – Formation and completion £11,494. 19s. 5d. Estimated cost of complying with conditions of the Landowners in connection with the land required Mr T. P. Price £2,470. Messrs Webb of the Cwm Estate £2,602. 6s. total – £16,567. 5s. 5d. The former owner would convey the freehold of the land to the Council subject to payment of legal costs. The latter would grant a 99 years lease at an annual rental of £20. The estimate was based on the assumption that local stone be obtained and used at reasonable prices. Mr W. Williams proposed and Mr Walters seconded that further interviews be sought with the landowners agents with the view that the conditions submitted may be modified. It was also discussed that the Bedwelty Guardians and the Pontypool Guardians be approached again with an appeal to help. It was resolved that the Miners Welfare Committee be approached at a later date.
In November 1923 the Six Bells Recreation Scheme had a set back when the Council were told that no further grants will be received from the Unemployment Grants Committee, as Abertillery was considered no longer a necessitous area. Following this news Mr D. Thomas and Mr W. Williams put their case and appealed to the Rt Hon Thomas Richards and Mr Finlay Gibson of the Miners Welfare Fund and they generously granted £3,000 for parks and open spaces in Abertillery and they were able to secure £2,600 of that sum for Six Bells and the work on the new grounds was started.
In May 1924 it was stated that the Park was nearly complete and hopefully opened in a months time. It was later announced that the new Six Bells Recreational Ground was to be left for the period of one year as to let the ground settle and for the grass and shrubberies to take hold. It was then planned to open in the Spring of 1925.
On Friday 7th November 1924 a specially convened meeting was held at the Six Bells Hotel where it was decided to form a Six Bells Bowls Club, Mr D. Thomas and Mr W. Williams (District Council members); Mr D. J. Badger was appointed Chairman; Mr C. O. Caldicott (Provisional Secretary) and Mr D. Thomas (Treasurer): The Chairman and Secretary was appointed to represent the club at the annual meetings of the Monmouthshire and Welsh Bowls Association and a provisional committee was set up to transact any business which would arise between then and the time the Recreation Grounds opened.
The Official Opening of the New Six Bells Recreational Grounds.
On Saturday 24th April 1925 the New Six Bells Recreational Grounds were officially opened. The official opening ceremony was performed by Mr David Walters, he described the day as a red-letter one for the people of Abertillery and Six Bells especially the latter.
The scheme had originated in the complaints of Mr Joseph Kingston (Representative of the Six Bells Lodge) to the Trades and Labour Council, regarding the constant tipping of refuse on the spot with the consequent nuisance to the surrounding inhabitants. It was now hardly conceivable that the present park was on the site of an old refuse tip. Thanks were given to Messrs Williams and Thomas for their hard work in securing the grant from the Miners Welfare Fund. He also said that he hoped that the way the Councillors pursued this scheme through to the end would teach young aspiring Councillors to have the same grit and determination in what ever they should want to achieve and accomplish and to never give up!
A descriptive account of the Recreation Ground – The Park was laid down at a final cost of £9,500 with £7,000 of that on wages with £2,500 on materials, with £2,600 grant from the Miners Welfare Fund. The Park covers an area of 2 and three-quarters of an acre and comprises of two ash covered Tennis Courts surrounded by wire netting, a Bowling Green, a Children’s playing ground, a Pavilion and extensive shrubberies. An acre and a quarter of the land was held on lease from the Cwm Estate and the remainder was from freehold ground by Mr T. P. Price.
The public were admitted into the grounds and further speech making took place, a platform was erected in the Children’s Recreation Ground and Mr L. Elliott J.P. (Chairman of the Council) presided, supported by Mr A. G. Jones (Surveyor); Councillors Mr Jack Games (Abercarn Welfare Supervisor); Mr James William; Father F. H. Garrett; Mr J. Dixon; Mr D. Thomas; Mr W. Harris; Mr D. Walters; Mr W. Williams; Mr W. Beynon; Mr R. Downs; and Mr J. Snellgrove (Members of the District Council); Mr I. G. Jenkins (Gas Works Manager); Mr G. Daggar (Miners Agent) and Mr W. Harris (Pontllanfraith):
Mr Williams spoke and expressed the hope that “In the near future the grounds would be extended to include Football and Cricket fields. The estimated cost of such was £17,000 and where would they get that money from? Some people said we only catered for “nobs” but there was nothing to prevent miners, navvies or scavengers having a game of bowls or tennis, it was a mistake to assume that there was a class distinction in recreation”.
After the speeches a Choir of school children conducted by Mr D. J. Badger sang “Fairy Moonlight” “Sou Gan” (Lullaby) “The Jovial Smith” and “Cyfri’r Geifr”. Mr Snellgrove moved and Mr Daggar seconded a vote of thanks to the Chairman, the Choir and the visitors, this was unanimously accorded. The Children’s Choir was afterwards entertained to tea at the Primitive Methodists Schoolroom.
After the ceremony teams representative of Abertillery and Six Bells met on the Tennis Courts and Bowling Greens. The Six Bells Tennis players were as follows – Miss Ison/Eason? Mr Courtoys; Mrs Preece; Mr Hoskins; Miss Godwin; Mr A. Hill: The Six Bells Bowls teams were as follows – Mr T. Moore; Rev Thomas; Mr D. J. Badger; Mr W. Caldicott; Mr T. Shelland; Mr L. Morgan; Mr C. Reynolds; Mr Coombes; Mr Dando; Mr Tom Williams; Mr Jim Bailey; Mr C. W. Mathits; Mr A. Williams; Mr G. Colbourne and Mr A. Price:
In June 1925 the Council invited tenders for the rights to sell – Confectionery, Ice’s and Sweets etc at the New Grounds.
On Monday 29th June 1925 at a District Council meeting the Six Bells Tennis Club asked for permission to reserve the tennis courts for them for tournaments and the Committee recommended that one court be reserved on Saturdays from 1pm to closing time and also on Thursday evenings in each week. The Six Bells Bowling Club, letters from this club were read and it was decided that four rinks be reserved for them to play matches, the usual scale of charges apply. It was noted that a half set of woods was to be obtained to complete a set. The Surveyor stated that a scoring board and galoshes had been supplied.
In April 1926 the sub-committee of the Allotments, Pleasure Grounds and Fire Brigade Committee met with Messrs Saunders and Price, representing the Six Bells Park Wireless Fund Committee relative to their application to install a a four-valve wireless set with speakers at the Six Bells Park.
On the 21st January 1930 Six Bells Tennis Club stated that they proposed to enter the Newport and District League and to be represented by a gent’s team and a mixed team and asked for the use of the courts at Six Bells Park for the coming season on all Saturday’s during the months of May, June and July from 2pm until 7pm and on alternate Saturday’s in all other months with the usual court facilities on one evening each week on a Wednesday. The request was granted.
In November 1930 it was resolved that the Surveyor prepare an estimate of the cost of substituting the present Ash covered courts to two hard courts. A letter dated November 7th 1930 from Capt C. S. Mason was read stating that his committee had been asked by the Bowls Club to supply ground sheets, score board and a powered lawn mower. He didn’t think a mower was necessary for Six Bells and gave one to Llanhilleth instead where he said “Llanhilleth had more ground to mow”. He supplied Six Bells with a hand mower.
In the following years the Six Bells Recreation Grounds was the hub for many Carnivals, Attractions and Fete’s etc. The Park, Tennis Club and Bowls Club is still in existence.