THE EVANS FAMILY FROM TREFIL IN WALES
Some background about Angela's father's family: Evans (Wales), from her cousin, Ivy Davies of Trefil.
Brothers and Sisters: Eliza (?first born), Tom (Ivy & Stan's father), Evan (Mair & Leuian's Dad)
Will with twin brother Hany, Annie, Sam?, (Joseph Stanley, Angela & Muriel’s father) was the youngest. Possibly another 4 in the family. There was a Mary and younger babies died from broncho-pneumonia.
The family were Baptist, known as Chapel. Two or three chapels in a small village like Trefil. Most were buried in Dukestown cemetery on the outskirts of Tredegar nearer Trefil. The quarry in Trefil provided employment. Some people possibly came from mid-Wales and Brecon.
The Evans family lived at 4 Giles Row, opposite the chapel, which is now extended.
Uncle Tom worked in the quarry and his wife, Margaret Anne, formerly a school teacher, ran the Post Office. She was in charge of the Post Office for around 37 and a half years. Ivy took over in about 1967 and has been there ever since.
[[ image TrefilPostOffice size="medium"]]
Grandfather Evans could speak Welsh but grandma spoke only English, although she could understand Welsh. Therefore the branch of the family in Trefill / Tredegar, were never taught Welsh as they were in Ammanford.
Uncle Tom was a Bard Ovat and was in a photo 20-30 years ago. He was dressed in blue for literature. He was meant to be wearing blue but not enough to go around. Like a degree, the colours indicated an area of specialty. Only Druids and Arch-Druids wore white.
Ivy's twin brother, Stanley was possibly named after my father. It is thought that he died of a heart attack whilst employed in the British High Commission in Canberra in the 70's. He'd married an Indian woman he had met in South Africa. There is a son called David living in Melbourne. Stanley died whilst in Canberra.
My father, Joseph Stanley or Stan, was arrested when young and put into prison for 6 weeks for something to do with miners and unions. He was looked upon as a hero when he came out of Swansea jail. He had bread and water whilst he was there.
Uncle Evan's nick-name was Leunto, a similar type of name to Leuian. My cousin Gwyneth (Ivy's sister) had a husband, Idris Willams, who it was thought, wrote a history of Trefil.
Tombstones found by us in 1996 in Dukestown cemetery, controlled by Tredegar council.
Thomas Evans' gravestone
Idris Williams' gravestone
My grandfather and grandmother
'In loving memory of Mary Jane, the beloved wife of Samuel Evans (Trevil) died Nov. 14th 1900 aged 40 years'
Also Samuel Evans, beloved husband of Martha Ann Evans - died 1st May - (difficult to read)
Joseph, beloved son of Samuel and Mary Jane Evans (Trevil) who died Sep 1894 aged … ?…
also Henry, their son, died Sep 22nd (? ) 1890 aged 2 yrs, also Dottie their daughter died c. October 19OO also of …?… 1901 aged 7 months.
Note - later information from Blaenau Gwent County Council at Ebbw Vale shows that Samuel was buried on 15 Dec 1931 aged 79 years. The minister at his burial was Reverend Gomer James Evans (I wonder whether he was a relative.) and at the 1900 burial of Mary Jane the minister was Rev. A. S. Evans.
Summary of an essay about Trefil prepared by a Mr Williams many years ago. (My guess is in the 1920’s)
Trefil lies in the folds of the mountains just 3 miles north of Tredegar and 8 miles south of Brecknock Beacons. South-east of Trefil is the famous steel town of Ebbw Vale and to the south-west is the ancient town of Rhymney, noted for its choral singing.
In the proper season the purple heather can be seen as well as numerous rivulets winding down to join the Howy stream. Three miles north of the village the terrain drops down suddenly to the beautiful Doone Valley. The sides of the valley run up from the brook at an acute angle but each side is carved up into fields of hay, barley and oats. The sight is spectacular at harvest time.
Trefil consists of a few rows of small houses, plus half a dozen small farms, a school, hall, which is a converted army hut dated from World War 1, 2 small churches and a pub. Beyond the village is a large green sward called, 'the Dukes' table', which was the area of some bloodthirsty, sixty-round, bare-knuckle fights in the old days and is now the venue for picnics.
Just south of the village is the famous Shon-Shelfrey well and reservoir which supplies Tredegar with a wonderful water supply. There is a regular bus service to Tredegar but 20 years ago the road was almost impassable to wheeled traffic.
Water had to be conveyed in pails and tin cans over long distances from the homes no matter what the weather. It must be remembered that the winds, blowing from whatever direction, were bitter in winter because Trefil is almost 2000 feet above sea level.
Yet for well over a century, the Trefil mountains have yielded untold wealth in the form of hundreds of thousands of tons of limestone. Trefil is famous for its limestone.
NAMING OF TREFIL
There is much speculation about how the name ‘Trefil' was derived. The author of this history felt that an attractive option is a legendary tale that Trefil means 'Three thousand’
Many years ago, at an unknown date, a great battle occurred between 6000 warriors, half wearing black uniforms and the other half wearing green uniforms - hence the name 'Trefil Du' to the mountains west of the of the village and 'Trefil Glas' to the mountains east of the village. This supports the story of the fight between the Black Three Thousand coming from the west and the Green Three Thousand coming from the east.
Place names around the village support this story. To the south west near Rhymney Bridge is a river called 'PwlI Y Duon' meaning 'Pool of the Blacks'. The Blacks apparently watered their horses there when approaching their enemy. Old inhabitants say that the marks of the horses hoofs are still to be seen in the Farewell Rock which is in the bed of the river. North of the village is a field of grave-like mounds. A farm near this field is known as 'Maes-y-Beddau' or ‘Field of the Graves'. Here many of those who were killed in the battle were buried. Recently, a Roman coin was found in this region.
Close to the present Dukestown cemetery is a farm called 'Hirgan' meaning 'Long Song'. Here the legends inform us, was the scene of the strumming the Green warriors to the fray. Then there is 'Pugard' the farm to the north of tile village, where the 'Pure-to Arms' call of the Black Warriors was blared forth.
Although this legend is consistent, being told from generation to generation, the writer thinks it is an improbable explanation of the naming of 'Trefil'. The most probable explanation is that 'Trefil' means, 'Home of the Mule'. Continued use of the word 'mule' would account for the change to 'fil'. The mule was used as a means of freight in Trefil in the early industrial revolution. Limestone was burned on the open hearth system: a crude method of burning limestone placed in holes in the mountain tops. In addition, small scoopings were dug into the hillsides for limestone - a sort of one man prospecting. This lime was conveyed across rugged country by mule-packs, much of it to the agricultural areas of Breconshire. The lime was exchanged for butter, cheese and eggs. Some of the mule tracks still exist in outline. For example, there is the back which was named the Parish Road, extending from Llangynidr across the mountain through Trefil, passing near the Green Hill Inn (now PenIyan Farm) then proceeding down between Penlyan Farm and the Pentwyn Field, then on through the threshold of the Quarrymen's Arms and again across the mountains in a direct line.
.John Pentwyn remembers the old track. The hooks where the mules were tethered to the walls of the Green Hill inn are still jutting out from the walls. The Green Hill Inn would have been a typical wayside pub for the drivers of the packs.
The History of Tredegar (Evan Powell) refers to the importance of the mule as a carrier near Tredegar. Even today the mule is sometimes used to convey lime from a small quarry on the Llanganidr mountain, although Trefil has long since moved on to large scale mechanised quarrying, now for steel smelting, not for lime burning purposes. As the lime burning industry grew, the mule gave way to the horse which probably operated on a railed track. However it was the advent of the Iron Age which actually caused the first wagon way to come into existence.
TREVIL RAIL ROAD
This rail road was probably one of the oldest in tile country and was constructed by the Trefil Rail Road Company, a private company. Its first meeting was held on 30 May 1793. It took possession of the necessary land in 1795 and opened a series of lines in 1797 to enable the products of the TrefiI limestone quarry to be delivered to the ironworks of Sirhowy, Beaufort and Ebbw Vale. The main railway extended two miles and five furlongs to near Trefil Station and the remaining railways were branches from Rassau to the various ironworks.
RAIL TO TREFIL
The first rail-road was laid to the quarries at Trefil owned by the Ebbw Vale Company although it was to those owned by the Tredegar Iron company that mechanisation was first intoduced. Around the 1880's a locomotive was first introduced to convey limestone to the Tredegar Ironworks. Tredegar had been familiar with the locomotive from the early 1800's as pioneers in this field. Different locomotives were in action until finally the 'Puffing Billy' ended her career on this line when the quarry was finally closed in 1920. The rail journeys were often tortuously slow with stops for steaming-up purposes and visits to the local pubs where the local brew was sampled. Most of the local residents used these trams as a method of travelling into town for shopping.
The Trefil quarries owned by the Tredegar Company seem to have produced limestone for the Tredegar Ironworks from quite early in the 19th Century. A lease was obtainied from the Duke of Beaufort c.1825 and a rail wagon-way existed in the middle of that century. Horses drew trams of stone along gutter-like rails which passed through Trefil via the Crown (Nantybwch) and behind Charles Street, Tredegar. In addition, a railroad route ran almost parallel with this to Rhymney Iron Works. Exactly when these lines were built is unknown but it was very early in the 19th Century as there exists a description by T.G. Cummin in 1824 which refers to a railroad from the Tredegar Works to the Trefil lime works, with the branch to the west to Rhymney.
The Monmouthshire Canal Act of 1902 empowers 5 men as partners to build a branch from the Sirhowy tramroad at the Tredegar Iron Works to Trefil limestone rock and quarry, subject to the consent of Henry, the Duke of Beaufort. It is clear that the limestone beds of the Trefil quarries assumed importance very early in the eyes of the early iron-masters and the village must have been a hive of industry.
Probably, at this period, migration to the village gave Trefil its pioneer families: the boatmen from the Brecon Canal. These men took up quarrying as did the cousins, whose ancestors today are still engaged in the same occupation in modern quarries. In 1818, ‘old Nanny’, a Trefil pioneer originally from ‘The Glyn’, in Breconshire, gives a description of Trefil at that time. The pubs were the Quarryman’s Arms (not the present one), the Cock and Jackass (the low roofed house now known as Glan-y-Afon) and the Green Hill inn. All the pubs probably brewed their own beer. The early farms included Shon Sheffrey, Old Nanny’s House, and perhaps, Pen-y-lan.
The Tredegar Company built Shop Row quite early in the century and the Rhymney Iron Company built Rhymney Row. In those days it must have been a bleak and desolate place to live.
EBBW VALE QUARRIES
The steam locomotive superseded the horse in the early 1900’s as a means of transporting limestone from the quarries owned by the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company Ltd. The first locomotive was called the ‘Trefil’. The locomotives were built upon small lines suitable for sharp turns and twists of the track running into the quarry faces. There are many stories about the battles between horse and man on the wagon ways and beer played a large part in the lives of the hauliers. The men had a tough existence and faced the terrors of the stormy mountain top and the rigors of the long heavy toil extending into the darkness of the winter. There are many tales of the haulier returning at night, drunk at the bottom of an empty tram and appearing again in the morning to take Silver or Boxer out of his stable for the trek to the ironworks at Beaufort, Ebbw Vale or Sirhowy, in order to keep the economic wheels turning. Only men of a very tough calibre could work and drink as they did.
The quarries are now mined using explosives and huge excavators. The present quarry is an enormous cavity in the mountains.
Limestone quarrying has been closely allied to the fortunes of the steel industry which has experienced instability and depression so frequently. The village has passed through many years of unemployment, misery and dejection, however, its communal sense has kept it alert and it has struggled bravely to withstand the capitalist slumps. In this small village, a kind of socialist morality exists. Everyone calls one another by their Christian names. Each neighbour knows the problems of the others and runs to their rescue. Each social and political movement is supported by all. A newcomer is soon assimilated into the community. The community is as one.
There is a continuity in the village which owes much to a quarry institution: ‘The Cabin’, where men eat their meals and where they meet in wet weather. It is a forum for discussion of literature, poetry, religion and politics. Many of the problems of the day are discussed and have been since the quarries existed. Trade Union meetings are held in these cabins. There is speculation about whether any of the early trade unionists participated in the discussions which are said to have taken place secretly in the Chartist Cave, situated on the mountain top within a few hundred yards of the quarry. This was said to be the place where the leaders met to discuss weapons and their plan of campaign for the march on the Westage Hotel at Newport in 1839. Undoubtedly, Zephania Williams and his followers planned at the cave the huge meeting which was held at the Duke’s Inn at Duketown before that memorable march. This cave is in a direct line with Dukestown and is still treated by visitors as a kind of monument to the chartist pioneers.
SOME LEADING MEN OF THE VILLAGE
In the religious sphere, Samuel Evans (Sam Bach); Thomas Evan s (Thomas Shon Sheffrey); Tom Parry (now Rev. T.Parry); John Davies; and William James were all leading figures in the Sardis Baptist Church. Sam Evans JP. Was another who figured prominently at Sardis, in addition to being the only JP and the first County Councillor from Trefil. Then there were John Meredith, William Williams (Pentwyn), John Williams (John Liza) with William Williams (Will Nanny) who were all leaders in the Horeb Congregational Church.
These men were not men with great literary or scholastic gifts. They had little education but were men who learned much by activity in church affairs. They learned to read mainly in the Sunday School but were very good speakers in their native tongue. Some could not read at all but took part in every social movement and wielded considerable influence over their fellow townspeople. They were rough diamonds and they had simple, honest ideals. Their sincerity and personality made them leaders of men.
MUSIC AND EDUCATION
Music is also a great recreation at Trefil. Choral singing and the Eistedfodd have always been popular. Many of the works of the great masters in oratorio have been performed by the village choir. Successive competitive choirs have been produced at Trefil for well over 50 years and the village has had its leading men wielding the baton.
There was Thomas Price (Price Back), one of the pioneers, followed by Morgan Evans, then Lewis Jenkins (Llew Trefil). Llew was probably one of the most remarkable both as a singer and conductor of choirs. Llew had the voice of a lion and had a genius for teaching. His interpretations of the best works was remarkable and he was well known as a singer and conductor throughout Wales. Today there is a Will Evans (Will Rank), a quiet mannered man, who perhaps has succeeded in welding together a body of voices which no Trefil choir of the past could surpass. Will is a very able musician.
The Adult Class movement has been flourishing for the last 25 years. First founded with the assistance of a young man named Aneurin Bevan (Now Minister for Health in the present government), in 1921 – it has created a huge impact on the little community which has raised its standard of thought to a level of which the village can be proud. A pioneer in this field was T.S.Evans who in the early days founded the local quarry union. He was ably assisted by Ted Prosser, who is still active in the social life of the village, and by Dan Meredith. Sociology, Trade Unionism, Economics, and Politics are among the subjects that have been offered. The Adult Class has led to agitation for a better road, gas supply and water supply over the last 20 years and all of these have been obtained. The Adult Class uses the village hall as its centre, as well as the Institute, which is the hub of all village activities and functions.
This essay is only a general account of an isolated village. It gives an idea of its way of life, its local colour, its patriotism, warmth and energy, and its love of culture and music. It highlights its association with Tredegar, Ebbw Vale, and Rhymeny.
It is regrettable to see the end of Shon Sheffrey Farm which had a long association to the well and reservoir built in 1865. Is the village to live on, carrying with it the institutions created by its forefathers, the rough diamonds hewn from the famous limestone of the Trefil quarries. Trefil is one large family.
An unknown gathering at Trefil. It was given to Angela so probably includes the Evans family.
The material above was summarised by John Clements of Toowoomba, husband of Angela (nee Evans). The proof was read by Mrs Nola Robinson.