History and Heritage

The British Legion, Ystalyfera

Noel Watkin, late historian of the area, had told me that the British Legion members had opened a club in one of the buildings above Clee's Lane that was originally owned by Mr William Thomas. It had been known as the Central Stores, selling boots and shoes and clothing, as well as groceries and a variety of patent medicines. When my family lived in Pantteg 30 years ago these derelict buildings were still standing but today the ground remains as a piece of green and a couple of trees, which when not in leaf, give anyone sitting on the bench a view of the opposite mountain. I had obviously never known just when these premises became vacant (and sadly I cannot recall them being demolished, as I should have taken a last photograph) but I have discovered the fate of the British Legion in 1936. I am assuming that the reference to the British Legion Memorial Institute at Pantteg refers to the building once found within this row.
If anyone has any further information which either substantiates or corrects my assumption I would be grateful to be informed.

However, according to the headlines in the South Wales Voice on Saturday 8th August 1936, the Ystalyfera British Legion Club was destroyed by fire in an early morning blaze. Happily no lives were lost and no one was injured but people rushed from their beds to the scene of the outbreak and helped the police and Pontardawe Council Fire Brigade to quell the flames. Unfortunately, with the exception of two ante rooms, the whole building was burnt to the ground. The cause of the fire was not known but it appears that it was first discovered by Mrs Margaret Edwards, who was occupying part of the premises with her 7 year old son who was suffering from measles at the time. Upon noticing smoke entering the room from beneath the door and as her husband had gone to work, she screamed, in order to hopefully get some ones attention. Mr Thomas Lewis from Graig Road was luckily passing and heard her screams.

He called the police and Sergeant James and other officers upon arriving at the house, carried the lady and her sick son to the basement.

Neighbours by forming a bucket chain then helped the police in their efforts to put out the flames as it was feared that the fire would spread to the row of houses adjoining the club. By now the fire brigade, answering its first serious fire had arrived and although the houses had caught alight, and the roof and windows of the club had collapsed, they managed to prevent the flames from spreading any further. Nevertheless, families within the vicinity had already removed their furniture from the danger zone. It took three quarters of an hour to get control but three hours in all to gain full control to be certain that the fire was completely quelled.

Mr William Thomas although covered by insurance did suffer the loss of the building, but within several weeks a further issue of the South Wales Voice claimed that the British Legion Headquarters at Pantteg, following their demolition by fire, were to be rebuilt. The building contractors would be Messrs Hopkins and Evans and the rebuild was to begin in September. Hopefully the new building would accommodate an estimated three hundred and fifty to four members and would be opened before Christmas.

To the left is the site in Pantteg where the British Legion once stood. It is now an open area of ground with a bus stop.

Looking back the other way, we can see Pantteg Chapel at the end, the same chapel that is at the end of the row of houses in the old photograph above.

The History and Heritage of Ystalyfera is put online by Swansea Valley researcher Val Trevallion and Grey Wolf Web Design. All copyright remains with the original copyright holder, and all original research is copyright Val Trevallion, YEARGroup.

You can contact Ystalyfera History by emailing: contact@greywolfwebdesign.com or Val Trevallion by emailing yeargroup@hotmail.co.uk.