Some Captured History of Glanamman and Garnant

The Opening Of Amman Valley Cottage Hospital

Frondeg c.1936

The Amman Valley Hospital was once a private house named "Frondeg" and home to the family of William (Gwylim) Rees; manager of Amman Tinplate works at Garnant. Sometime later it became the home of the Folland family. Henry Folland made his fortune in the tinplate industry and the family moved to Black Pill in Swansea in the first half of the 1920's. More information on the Folland Family can be found on the "Mr and Mrs Henry Folland" page on this site.

Before Henry Folland ventured on holiday to Egypt in the spring of 1926, he informed his wife that on his return, he wished to donate their former home on what was then Horny Road, Glanamman, to the community, in order that it be used as a much needed hospital. The family's intention had already been announced by the wife of county councillor John Phillips at a concert two years previously in February of 1924. Unfortunately, Henry Folland died in Egypt and it was left to his wife, Lilly Folland, to carry out his wishes.

Portrait of Henry Folland at Amman Valley Hospital

Although the whole community of the Amman Valley agreed that a hospital would be of great benefit to the area, things did not go at all smoothly. There was a difference of opinion as to what kind of hospital should be established and how the community could possibly afford such an establishment. Some saw the opportunity of setting up an accident and emergency hospital at Frondeg, while the miners lodges were in favour of a preparation unit, where people involved in industrial accidents could be cleaned up and be given preliminary treatment before being sent to a main hospital in Swansea, for example. Others envisaged that Frondeg would be most suited to serve as a convalescent home or geriatric hospital.

While the various committees in the area were still trying to decide which sort of service the new hospital should provide, Mrs Folland was more focused. Her vision was that of her former home acting as a fully equipped cottage hospital, providing as many services as possible to the sick and injured of the area. Swansea General Hospital at the time, was overcrowded. At her own expense, Mrs Folland, by 1929, had proceeded to turn Frondeg into a twelve bed self contained hospital.

This was not an easy period in the industrial history of the Amman Valley and there was still the issue of funding to be considered. A public meeting held at Brynseion Chapel vestry, Glanamman, on 15th May, 1930, included a full cross section of the community. Interested parties from the industrial sector, public authorities, the business sector and from the religeous community gathered together and concluded that Frondeg should be used as a convalescent home until the local industry improved in the Amman Valley, as the costs of maintaining a cottage hospital would be too high. The Llandeilo Rural District Council's medical officer for health, Dr Shibko, believed that a cottage hospital with less than fifty beds would not be economically viable. His counterpart for Cwamman Urban District Council, Dr Dunne, did not agree.

On the 7th of August, 1930, the idea of a hospital at Cwmamman all but evaporated as a result of a report presented by Mr G. Tracy Phillips, who was the clerk to the Cwmamman Urban District Council. This report disclosed that the necessary funding was not forthcoming from the various mining lodges in the area; only half of which were prepared to pay the 2d (two old pennies) per man per week to the hospital fund.

There was much underlying disappointment in Cwmamman, with both the general public and the local council. It was a man from the religeous sector of the community who re-energised the plan and through his dedication to the concept, saw it through to its fruition. The pastor at the non conformist Calfaria Chapel in Garnant, Rev Myles Griffiths, had recently been disappointed in his endeavours to build a larger chapel. This was due to the decreasing numbers of his congregation, partly because of the economic decline of the Amman Valley and partly due to his draconian religeous opinions. For example, he did not approve of his congregation buying newspapers or listening to their radio sets on Sundays and made them aware of this. In 1930, he redirected his attention to the issue of the hospital.

A new committee was set up by Reverend Griffiths, of which he was chairman. The other members of the committee are listed below:

Councillor D. R. Owen, Garnant. Vice Chairman
Mr David Davies, Tydfil House, Garnant. General Secretary
Mr Idris Hughes, Lloyds Bank, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen. Treasurer
Mr G. F. Davies, Cash Stores, Glanamman. Chairman of the Organising Committee
Mr D. D. Thomas, Ty Mawr, schoolmaster of the Garnant National School. Hon. Secretary of the Organising Committee

Back Row: Mr D. D. Thomas and Mr Idris Hughes

Front Row: Mr G. F. Davies, Rev. Myles Griffiths, Mr David Davies

As previous attempts at obtaining the required funding from the council rates and miners lodges had been unsuccessful, Rev Griffiths' committee turned to individual households, who proved more willing to make contributions. The committee also proved successful in obtaining the interest of specialist consultants from Swansea and Llanelli in their utilisation of the hospital.

In June of 1935, Mrs Folland, (who may have been getting frustrated by now), made her final offer of Frondeg as a hospital. To further help the cause, she decided to purchase the necessary medical instruments and for three years, to donate £100 per annum, to the hospital to help with the running costs.

A series of events took place, to raise funds for the Hospital. The 16th of January 1936, saw a ball at Ammanford Drill Hall, organised by the staff of the Co-Operative Society. Another successful ball was held at the Haig Memorial Hall in Garnant on 27th of February 1936, organised by the Hospital Committee. The Amman Valley Chronicle reported on the event. The decorating of the hall was carried out by lady members of the committee and included huge clusters of multi coloured balloons overhead, while the bandstand had fairy lights placed between the laurel and ivy leaves. The event attracted 350 people, from as far away as the Gwendraeth, Dulais and Swansea valleys. Music was provided by Victor Haynes and his Lyricals, from Swansea. The band stopped suddenly, when the secretary brought forward the evenings special guest; Mrs Folland. The dancers formed a natural aisle for her to pass, whilst the band immediately started playing "For she's a jolly good lady!" The evening raised £50 for the hospital.

The following months saw much needed money coming from a variety of sources, some through organised events, others from personal donations. A drama at the Palace Theatre, held in 1921, by the Ammanford Dramatic Society, raised £70 for a proposed cottage hospital at Ammanford. The money from the fund was donated towards The Amman Valley Hospital in March of 1936. Mr David Richards, a J.P. who resided at Tirydail House, Ammanford, donated £100 to the fund and in April 1936, the Cwmamman Council proposed to subscribe £50 per year towards the running of the hospital.

One year on from Mrs Folland's final offer; at 2:30pm on the 3rd of June, 1936, the hopes of Henry Folland and the people of the Amman Valley were finally realised when Mrs Folland, along with a company of V.I.P.'s, took part in the official opening of the Amman Valley Cottage Hospital at Frondeg, Horney Road, Glanamman. That week, the hospital had made a "Brilliant Spectacle", with its multicoloured floodlights.

The 4th of June, 1936 edition of Amman Valley Chronicle, reported that Mr Dudley Folland, the son of Mr and Mrs Henry Folland, made a speech at the entrance gates, saying that he saw on that day, "the consummation of many hopes, much hard labour, and, he hoped, the end of the anxieties which had from time to time shrouded the fulfilment of the project." On behalf of his family, Dudley Folland handed over the deeds of the property to the Reverend Myles Griffiths, chairman of the committee, and added that the family's best wishes went with it. Reverend Griffiths accepted the gift and said that "words failed him to express the gratitude of the district for that magnificent gift". He warmly shook hands with Dudley Folland, who then opened the gates of the new Hospital.

Dudley Folland

The guests entered the grounds and were welcomed by the chairman of the Cwmamman Urban Council, Mr Evan Phillips at the front of the hospital. He paid tribute to Henry Folland. This was followed by bouquets of flowers being presented to Mrs Folland, Lady Firth, Mrs Taylor of Langland (Mrs Folland's daughter) and to Mrs Lavo. This was followed by a Welsh hymn being sung to the tune of "Cwm Rhondda" and a prayer by Reverend Myles Griffiths. The words of the hymn went as follows:

"WELE'N sefyll rhwng y myrtwydd,
Wrthrych teilwng o fy mryd,
Er o'r braidd yr wy'n adnabod,
Ei fod uwch gwrchrythau'r byd:
Henffych fore
Caf ei weled heb un llen."

The architect, Major Gilbert H. Davies gave a brief description of the building and presented Mrs Folland with a souvenir of the occasion. He then handed the proceedings over to Mrs Folland. She addressed the crowd and reminisced of when her husband, ten years previously, had intended handing over a fully fitted hospital on his return from Egypt. She continued by affirming her pleasure at being able to hand over the institution, before welcoming Sir William and Lady Firth and expressing her gratitude to them for coming from London to perform the opening of the hospital.

Sir William Firth

Lady Firth

Sir William Firth told the crowd of his association with Henry Folland and said that he hoped the hospital would be blessed. His speech was followed by a vote of thanks by David Davies, the honorary secretary of the hospital committee. Mr Davies then read out a message which had just been received from Mrs Folland, stating that her children, Dudley Folland and Mrs Taylor, had decided to make a joint gift of £5,000 to the hospital, as they believed that their father would have wanted them to do so. This was received with applause and thanks.

Lady Firth spoke to the crowd, saying that she had first visited Frondeg when she was first married, 27 years previously. She continued by conveying her favour for the hospital.

The building had undergone substantial work to make it suitable for use as a hospital, the contractor who carried out the work being Mr Ben Morgan of Glanamman. The opening ceremony proceeded with the handing over of the key by the building contractor.

It was a day of celebration such as Cwmamman had probably never known previously. The festivities were in stark contrast to the industrial depression which had taken hold and as the nearby Raven Tinplate works stood idle, remarks made by Major Gilbert H. Davies, J.P., caused Sir William Firth to accomodate the crowd with an explanation. He was head of the Richard Thomas tinplate combine and business associate of Henry Folland. He explained to the crowd why the British tinplate industry was in such a poor state, with foreign competition having taken the lead.

During the intervals, the massed Silver Bands of Cwmamman, Ammanford, Brynamman and Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen played, under the conductorship of Benny Jones, who had more than 30 years experience as bandmaster (see "Cwmamman Silver Band" page on this site).

When the doors had been opened by Sir William Firth, a doxology and dedication prayer was said by Reverend Tudor Jones. The words of the doxology were as follows:

"PRAISE God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, Angelic Host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

This was followed by Sir William Firth and guests entering the building and Lady Firth unveilling a Commemoration Tablet, before an inspection of the hospital was carried out by Sir William Firth, Lady Firth, Mrs Folland and her party. More than 400 guests were then given a conducted tour of the building. Among the notable figures who attended the opening were James Griffiths M.P., Lewis Jones M.P. and Mr W. A. Jenkins.

The Commemoration Tablet, unveiled by Lady Firth reads as follows:

1925 - 26
3RD JUNE 1936"

A fete and gala was planned for 4pm at Cwmamman Park (Garnant), with various games and sports scheduled, including an egg and spoon race, a tug of war, a dog show and an ambulance competition. The massed Silver Bands were to provide the music. This was, however, postponed until Thursday, 16th July. The 18th June, 1936, edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle, reported that an appeal had been made to the unemployed to complete the lido, in order that a swimming gala may be held on the same day. On the evening of the hospital opening ceremony, a dance was held at the Drill Hall. A Souvenir Program was also printed to commemorate the opening of the hospital. The Souvenir Programs were sold for 3d (3 old pennies) each.

The hospital, with everything in perfect working condition, was ready to accept patients from Thursday the 18th of June, with the first matron, Miss Constance Irene Parry in charge. She was selected from a short list of three and had previously worked at Croydon Mental Hospital in Surrey. Two local ladies had been appointed as Staff Nurses; Marion James of High Street, Ammanford and Letty Owen, of Tirycoed Road, Glanamman. The hospital was equipped with fourteen beds and two cots, with provision for twenty one beds in an emergency. The cost to Mrs Folland for the equipment was said to have been £10,000.

Miss Constance Irene Parry

The telephone number for the hospital was: Glanamman 26.

In the 2nd July, 1936, edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle, it was reported that two patients were recovering, following their operations at the Cottage Hospital.

Fundraising continued through the efforts of various committees in the locality and the hospital was able to start its life with a credit balance of £12,000, including the donations by the Folland family.

The first Christmas at the Amman Valley Hospital was celebrated with a concert held on Christmas night, which was attended by Mr Dudley Folland, his fiance Miss Stephens, and Mr and Mrs Taylor (Patti Eugenie Folland). The concert was given by Madam Lizzie James-Thomas' choir. Many local people also performed various musical pieces and at the end of the evening Mrs Taylor thanked everyone for their kindness and for the wonderful reception which they had received.

Mrs Taylor c.1936

21 Years Later:

In June of 1957, the Amman Valley Cottage Hospital celebrated it's 21st birthday. Mrs Lilly Folland had died the previous March, aged 83, having continued her generosity towards the hospital until 1948, when the National Health Service was formed. In 1950, Mrs Folland had attended the opening of the new Maternity Block and in 1952, she had performed the opening ceremony for a tennis court to be used by the hospital staff.

Portrait of Mrs Folland at Amman Valley Hospital

A letter was written by Mr Moelwyn Rees, Hon Sec of the Hospital Amenities Committee, to the Amman Valley Chronicle and printed in the 16th May, 1957 edition of the paper. It announced that the committee had raised sufficient funds to build and equip a canteen at the hospital. The letter conveyed the hope that a member of the Folland family would open the canteen on the day of the celebration carnival, scheduled for June the 8th that year.

On Saturday the 24th of May 1957, the Amman Valley Hospital Carnival Dance was held at the Haig Memorial Hall, Garnant. The event was attended by the National Ballroom Queen, Miss Gwenllian Bowen.

The hospital garden fete was opened on Thursday 6th June, by the wife of the late Mr D. John Davies, surgeon of Llanelli. The fete was organised by the amenities committee and a bouquet of flowers was presented to Mrs Davies by Mrs Olive Davies (nee Thomas), who, 21 years previously, had presented a bouquet to Lady Firth at the opening ceremony of the hospital. The fete was opened by Mrs Hamilton-Gregory, the daugher of Mr and Mrs Henry Folland (who had remarried, hence the change of surname) and the days events raised over £200 towards providing amenities for the now NHS hospital, with a prize draw alone, raising around £115.

Saturday June the 8th 1957, was a day of festivities for the people of Cwmamman. The Amenities Committee of the Amman Valley Hospital organised a procession starting near Glanamman Square, which marched to Upper Station Road in Garnant, over to Folland Road and ending at Cwmamman Park; led by Ernest Spowart, the chief marshal. The procession was made up of seven jazz bands, a dozen decorated vehicles and numerous individuals. The streets were lined with hundreds of spectators. The Carnival Queen, Miss Ann Saywell from Parcyrhun, Ammanford, was crowned by Mrs Constance Irene Parry-Jones, former matron of the hospital. The 13th of June 1957, edition of the Amman Valley Chronicle contained a photograph of Mrs Parry-Jones being presented with a bouquet.

Mrs Hamilton-Gregory returned to the hospital on Saturday the 7th of September 1957, to open a Sale of Work, organised by the Folland Welfare Guild. Admission to the event was 3d (3 old pennies). In 1957, the chairman of the Folland Welfare Guild was Clare M. Evans, secretary was E. Llewellyn and the treasurer was M. Davies.

In November, 1957, a new Sister was appointed. Miss Gwenda Hay, daugher of the late Mr W. A. Hay (former member of the Cwmamman Urban Council), commenced her duties at Amman Valley Hospital in early 1958. She was previously Sister at Morriston Hospital.

The Medical Officer of Health, Doctor G. M. Herbert, made regular reports to the Cwmamman Urban Council and information from their monthly meetings was printed in the Amman Valley Chronicle. Her reports show that in July 1957, there were 37 births at the hospital; 21 boys and 16 girls. Of these, 3 boys and 1 girl were residents of Cwmamman. The following month, there were 49 births at the Amman Valley Hospital; 27 boys and 21 girls. Of the August born babies, 3 were residents of Cwmamman.

A job advertisement appeared in the Amman Valley Chronicle, dated 13th June, 1957. The position advertised was for a Clerk/Typist at the hospital. The salary was £248 per annum at age 18, rising to a maximum of £515 per annum.

June 2008

In 2008, the National Health Service celebrated it's 60th anniversary and the Amman Valley Hospital was 72 years old. On Saturday the 14th of June 2008, the Daily Mirror printed an article, in which the first person born under the National Health Service gave an interview. Mrs Aneira Thomas was named after the Great Aneurin Bevan, the chief architect of the NHS and her name was chosen by the nurses at Amman Valley Hospital, where she was born at 12:01 am, on July 5th 1948.

The Amman Valley League of Friends which was set up following a public meeting at Glanamman on the 22nd of September 1948 is still active. It's interest is with the welfare and comfort of patients and staff of the Amman Valley Hospital. The League provides a fund and from the beginning, has intended to provide recreation, library and other facilities. By May of 1984, the League had spent over £25,000 on facilities for the hospital including such things as beds, curtains and lockers.

The Maternity Block which was opened about 100 yards (approx 100 metres), to the rear of the original hospital building is now derelict. It was formally opened on Saturday the 16th of December 1950 by the Right Hon. James Griffiths, M.P. who was the Colonial Secretary. The building contractor was T. Richard Jones (TRJ) of Betws and the architect was Major Gilbert Davies. The total cost of the Maternity Block was about £40,000. Mrs Folland's speech at the opening ceremony included a tribute to a former nurse in her employment; "Mrs David Llewellyn", a native of the Amman Valley, who first suggested to Mr Henry Folland that Frondeg would make an excellent cottage hospital. Mrs Folland also mentioned her disappointment that the word "Folland" had been removed from the name plate of the hospital as a gift of such magnitude was surely still worthy of that recognition.

The death knell for the Maternity Wing was sounded by the East Dyfed Health Authority at a public meeting on Thursday the 26th of April 1984, which was held at Brynseion Chapel, Glanamman. The disapproving crowd were told that changes were necessary for the following reasons: Shortage of money; only half the beds were used at both the maternity wing and main block and thirdly; the needs of the commmunity had changed. In the last year only 117 babies had been born at the hospital. The older part of the hospital was to become a day hospital for the elderly with physiotherapy, occupational therapy and out-patient departments.

Twenty five years later in April 2009, a baby girl was born at the Amman Valley Hospital when the ambulance crew decided that they didn't have time to make it from Brynamman to Glangwili Hospital. The Folland Legacy lives on.

The Derelict Maternity Wing 2011

Below is a short video clip of part of the opening ceremony which was recorded on cine film by Griffith Beynon. Among others in the footage, Mrs Folland can be seen holding a bouquet and Sir William Firth is seen giving part of his speech.

Please note that other items which follow are generated suggestions by You Tube and bear no relevance to this webpage.

The Amman Valley Chronicle
The Souvenir Program for the Opening of the Amman Valley Hospital
The Amman Valley Hospital - Personal Recollections of it's early history, by Eric Morgan
The Daily Mirror

Thanks to Mrs Dilys Jenkins (who was at the opening ceremony), for allowing me to use her documents and to Sera Beynon for supplying the video footage. Thanks also to Mr Paul Barnett, Carmarthenshire Hospital Trust for allowing me to display the portraits of Mr and Mrs Folland and the Commemoration Tablet.

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