|Some of the information in this section has been taken from the booklet “Reynoldston” by Robert Lucas. Other articles are the result of research by Hugh Jones and others.Reynoldston is a village with an English tradition dating back nearly 900 years. It was about 1100AD when the Norman invaders came, probably from across the Bristol Channel, and conquered Gower, making the area an Anglo-Norman Lordship……..Reynoldston is said to be named after Reginald de Breos, one of the early Lords of Gower, or perhaps Reginald or Reynald was some other Norman Knight who first held the Manor and founded the village.
(Taken from Reynoldston by Robert Lucas)
The Land of GowerMany suggestions as to the origins of the word ‘Gower’ have been made from time to time…We are inclined to adopt the form Gohir as likely to have been the foundation of ‘Gower’, an ancient British word signifying that the territory is long, outstretching, projected, which it very manifestly is as a whole, and particularly as it reaches out into the Bristol Channel.
We have the satisfaction of knowing that a notable philologist, Dr Thomas Nicholas, M.A., Ph.D, favoured this derivation, believing it to be ‘first used as a term descriptive of the country as a narrow and long tract and that the ancient British pronunciation made it to be two syllables Go-hir – far, out-stretching, long –at last softened into Gwyr.
The earliest form in which the word has been found is used in the writings of Nennius (ninth century) where it is variously given as Gucher, Guhir, Guher and Guir…the Annales Cambrae copies the spelling of its authorities at different times as Goher, Gohir and Goer. It is evident that these forms could only be based upon an original denomination consisting of two elements or syllables, such as Go-hir, the meaning of which is so aptly descriptive of the land….
Phil Tanner. The Last Gower Folk Singer
OBITUARY… The Gower Church Magazine November 1921
The Fair on the Higher Green by Allan Duncan
The census of the village in 1900 gives us a list of names, although probably not exhaustive. An interesting comparison with the village today.
This census gave the names, addresses and occupations of 71 people. Many of the house names are familiar to us today,The Croft, Field House, Pound Cottage, and Castle Ditty. Likewise, many of the surnames are still heard around these parts. There were four Bevans, four Davieses, three Clements, two Taylors and Three Tuckers. Others do not seem so familiar, notably the Hookaways of Brook Cottage.
The occupations of the villagers in 1900 naturally were very different, and it was apparent more people earned their living close to the village. The day of the commuter had not yet arrived. There were four farmers, two surgeons, fifteen labourers, a sub postmaster, three postmen and a mail driver, three masons and nine widows. Today we have lost the blacksmith, the wheelwright, the saddler and boot maker (two).
St George’s Terrace was home to a postman, a labourer, a brewery manager and a gentleman. Another gentleman lived in Green Lodge.That, some would say is two more than we have today !!
(Taken from an article written by Rob Vine)
Tommy Lee…”a man of the people”…1891 – 1951
From Kelly’s Directory of 1920
Childhood memories by Jenkyn Evans
“The Parish News”
The predecessor to the “Reynoldston News” was the “Parish News”. Originally a monthly broadsheet which was included in the Gower Church Magazine, it then became a full magazine. It was typed and printed in the village. Each edition ran to about 12 pages each month. In 1984, the magazine had the following “staff”:
Typing: Dorothy and Harold Williams, Sarah Francis and Ann Williams
Gestetner and Stapling ; (remember those machines?):Mel Williams, Ann Williams, Harold Williams. (The machine was housed in the attic room of the Village Hall. In those days, dark and musty!)
Distribution: Julie Orrin: Thelma Bartley: Dodie Jones: Beryl Ransome: Monnie Buckland: Janet Campbell: Jenny Arthure: Cynthia Jenkins: Olive Eason: Raymond Fisher: Enid Jones: Dick Beynon: Gina Abbott: Dorothy Emm; Dorothy Williams: Angela Bending and Rita Francis:
It is also worth mentioning that the “Parish News” often omitted a January and an August edition – unlike your current “Reynoldston News” which arrives in your letterbox every month of the year!
The Millennium Stone on the Village Green
In the year 2000, the Community Council placed the large Millennium Stone on the Lower Green. This followed a very old tradition. Standing stones were erected by the ancient inhabitants of Gower to mark important places and events, and particularly by the early Christians. So the erection of a stone seemed an appropriate way of marking the two thousandth anniversary of Christianity. The stone is a local boulder given by the John family of Hills Farm, where it may have been lying since the last Ice Age.
The stone was dedicated on Remembrance Day, Saturday 11th November 2000 by the then Rector, the Rev. Peter Williams.
A time capsule was buried under the stone, containing a few mementoes of Reynoldston in 2000. John Hayward organised the collection of items.
The Reynoldston Time Capsule
So far we have “uncovered” the following items placed in the capsule by the Reynoldston W.I…The W.I. Millennium Programme 2000, a hand painted dish by Margaret Allen, a W.I. badge and a written account of the origins of the W.I. movement.
T. Neville George
In 1901 (Swansea Memoir, p. 5; West Gower Memoir, p. 4) the Officers of the Geological Survey (R. H. Tiddeman and B. S. N. Wilkinson) discovered olive-coloured shales and mudstones in outcrops on Cefn Bryn, Gower. They considered these strata to be “succeeded naturally by Old Bed Sandstone”, for the larger outcrop is bounded on the south by brown sandstones and quartz conglomerates dipping southwards at about 30 degrees. It was therefore natural that these beds, apparently obviously older than the contiguous Old Red Sandstone, should be referred to the Silurian. Tiddeman obtained fossils from the shales which were identified by E. T. Newton as “Rhynchonella (like R. nucula), Bellerophon (like B. murchisoni), Modiolopsis?, Chonetes sp., crinoid ossicles, and entomostraca”. The evidence of the fossils thus seemed to confirm the conclusions made on the field evidence, though (as shown by the private records of the Geological Survey) Newton was doubtful of the precise age of the fossils and questioned their reference to the Ludlow.
Maen Ceti, Cefn Bryn
Arthur’s Stone, sometimes known as King Arthur’s Stone or Maen Ceti, is a Neolithic burial tomb dating back to 2500 B.C. and was one of the first sites to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882.
How to find Arthur’s Stone
Arthur’s Stone lays close to the road from Cilibion to Reynoldston, that traverses the length of Cefn Bryn. Near to the village of Reynoldston, an unmarked, makeshift and somewhat craggy car park marks the well trodden footpath that leads to the Neolithic monument. Suitable footwear is recommended as the footpath is often muddy and the surrounding heath, despite its elevation, is often waterlogged and boggy.
Perched upon a set of pointed supporting stones, the capstone is a 25 ton quartz conglomerate boulder, measuring an almighty 4 metres by 2 metres and 2 metres depth. However, previous to 1693 the boulder was much larger than this, until an incident knocking more than 10 tons of it to the ground in a clean break. Nobody is sure how this almighty event took place, but many theories exist. Some say that a miller attempted to remove a chunk of the rock to make a new millstone, but that the piece proved too heavy to move. Others suggest it was struck by lightening during a violent storm or that St. David, the Patron Saint of Wales, himself split the stone with his mighty sword in defiance of the Druid worship centred around it. Whatever the cause the broken part can still be found alongside the monument, demoted to the ground.
The monument has been a famous attraction for over half a millennium. In the 15th Century, for instance, it is recorded that Henry VII’s troops, having landed at Milford Haven en route to give battle at Bosworth Field, made a one hundred and twenty eight kilometre detour to visit the stone.
In the 16th Century the site was listed as one of the “three mighty achievements of the Isle of Britain” (the other two being the Stonehenge and Silbury Hill monuments), but despite such exaltation it is now believed that no great exertion was employed in erecting the monument. Although, the construction of this ‘portal dolman’ seems a magnificent feat, it is most likely that the Neolithic builders used a boulder conveniently deposited upon Cefn Bryn by a glacial ice sheet that during the last great Ice Age. The builders would have excavated beneath the immense rock, inserting the upright stones as they dug, creating two burial chambers.
It has also been claimed in Dewi Bowen’s book “Ancient Siluria” that a local astronomer, Richard Roberts, believes that Arthur’s Stone is part of a astronomical construct together with the alignment of other landmarks visible from Cefn Bryn.
The 17th century rector of Cheriton Church, the Venerable John Williams, was first to document the stone’s common name, Arthur’s Stone, in his letter to the antiquarian Edward Lhuyd:
“The common people call it Arthur’s Stone, by a lift of vulgar imagination attributing it to yn [sic] hero an extravagant size and strength.”
– Venerable John Williams
The famous Egyptologist, Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, was first to excavate the tomb in 1870 and claimed that the pathway followed by the ghostly apparition seen by many of King Arthur on a white steed, is the remains of a stone avenue.
King Arthur and other legends
Understandably, due to its ancient origin, there are many fables to accompany the stone. Legend says that the stone claims its name from King Arthur, who found a rock in his shoe and threw it all the way from Carmarthenshire, straight over the Burry Estuary, to Cefn Bryn. Touched by the hand of King Arthur, the stone physically grew with pride and the surrounding stones raised it high with admiration.
Another story bizarrely tells us that the stone travels over Cefn Bryn as the cock crows to quench its thirst at a local stream and Gower/druid tradition tells us that a young maiden could test whether the man she loved would remain faithful to her. Beneath the light of the full moon, she would offer the magical stone a cake made from barley meal, honey and milk and then circle the stone on her hands and knees three times. If the man she loved appeared before her on the final circuit she knew she had chosen a faithful suitor.
The First World War
Able Seaman Daniel James Taylor of Reynoldston
Daniel Taylor had served in the Royal Navy during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. A fleet of Royal Navy ships and Royal Marines had been sent to China to relieve Europeans besieged by Boxer rebels. He was awarded the China Medal and remained a Royal Nay Reservist.
Daniel was the son of James and Mary Taylor of Llangennith. At the time of his returning to the Royal Navy in 1914 (as a sub-mariner on the E5), he was living with his wife and three children Willie, May and Tom*, at Glen View, Upper Green, Reynoldston. Daniel was a postman and the local Scout Master.
*(Willie joined the police force, May married but died at an early age and Tom joined the Army, serving in Ireland).
Daniel transferred to the armoured cruiser HMS Good Hope after a few months on submarine duty.
The Battle of Coronel Sunday 1st November 1914
HMS Good Hope (launched 1901) was detached from the Grand Fleet, when war was imminent, to Halifax, Nova Scotia in the belief that German liners in New York were really armed merchant cruisers prepared to harass merchant shipping. When this was proved incorrect and German ships were detected off South America, Good Hope sailed to the South Atlantic.In the Pacific and South Atlantic, troop ships from Australia and New Zealand were being threatened by the German China Squadron, commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee. The German ships were modern and powerful. The Scharnhorst and her sister ship the Gneisenau were able to outgun the best the Royal Navy had, except for the latest Dreadnought battle cruisers. Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock, who had made the Good Hope his flagship, was well aware of the deficiencies of his ships and urged the Admiralty to send reinforcements. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty refused, because they had decided that all the navy’s modern assets were needed at Scapa Flow to keep the German High Seas Fleet penned in its North Sea bases.
Cradock’s Good Hope and the other old armoured cruiser Monmouth were manned almost entirely by reservists, only just called up and with no real gunnery practice. In contrast, the crews of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had won the German Navy’s top gunnery award for the past two years. Added to this, the old design of the British ships meant that their main armament was mounted too low to be brought into action in the heavy seas found in the area. The outcome of the encounter was inevitable. Cradock felt he had to fight to avoid accusations of cowardice. The German ships with their superior qualities waited until the British ships were silhouetted against the afterglow of the setting sun and sunk both the Good Hope and the Monmouth with the loss of 1,500 lives, including Cradock. No one saw the Good Hope sink but the Leipzig had steamed towards a red glow, thought to be the Good Hope burning, but when she reached the position only a few pieces of floating debris remained.
This defeat, at the Battle of Coronel, was the first time British naval supremacy had been seriously challenged since Trafalgar. The two battle cruisers Invincible and Inflexible, with five cruisers, were sent to the South Atlantic. Graf von Spee’s squadron (including the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Leipzig) was destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914, with the loss of 2,100 men.
The announcement of Taylor’s death in the Gower Church Magazine of December 1914 is surprisingly critical of the condition of the British ships and the inevitable result, given that it was written in time of war….
Reynoldston has already paid a heavy toll in the War. Two of the Benson family have been killed and now the sad news has been confirmed that D.J.Taylor, AB of the Flagship “Good Hope” went down with the rest of the crew and with that of the Monmouth in the naval battle off Valparaiso on the evening of Sunday November 1st. Unfortunately the British ships engaged were comparatively old and ill armed and had no chance of victory against the superior and up to date guns of the German cruisers. Early in the action the Good Hope caught fire but the gallant men served her useless guns for three quarters of an hour, until the magazine blew up with a terrific explosion and she went down, to be seen no more. The battle has been described as one of the most gallant fights against disastrous odds in the crowded and heroic chronicles of the British Navy. We are proud to think he died so nobly for king and country. Being a naval reserve man, he left for his annual training before the War and was one of the crew of Submarine E5, afterwards he was transferred to his boat the “Good Hope” in the Pacific Squadron. The deceased was a good type of British sailor, industrious, cheerful and hardy. He was Postman of the Oxwich and Penrice round and all there speak well of him and deplore his loss. He will be much missed also in Reynoldston where he was Scoutmaster and always ready to help in any way he could. He was one of our congregation and in the case of a lecture always worked the lantern efficiently. General sympathy is felt for his brave widow and her three children. Her grief is a heavy one and its only adequate comfort is the Christian faith but considerable consolation too can be found in the thought that she shares at this time, her sorrow with countless others, who like her, are giving their dearest and best to preserve our country’s life. RIP
A First World War Grave in Gower…. A Double Tragedy
The grave of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Earle Benson lies in the graveyard of St. George’s Church Reynoldston. Benson, of the family living at Fairy Hill, was a professional soldier who had served in the Boer War. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he commanded the first battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment. In September 1914 he was sent to France with his regiment where he led a full frontal and successful attack on the German lines at Aisne on the 20th September. Wounded, he was taken to a hospital in St. Nazaire where he died, age 51, on the 23rd September of tetanus and was buried in St. Nazaire. Benson’s brother, Judge William Denman Benson, travelled to France to bring his brother’s body back to Reynoldston for reburial. (this was allowed for senior officers and others who could afford the cost until the Government banned the repatriation of bodies). The private funeral took place on the 9th October when Benson was buried next to the grave of his father, General Henry Boxley Benson. Messages of sympathy came from the King and Queen and Lord Kitchener. The grave is recognised as a war grave by the War Graves Commission.
This was not to be the only tragedy to strike the Benson family. As Judge Benson returned from France with his brother’s body he learned of the death of his own son Captain John Penrice Benson at the age of 31. John Benson, who, like his uncle Richard Earle Benson, had served in the Boer War, had left the army in early 1914 to train for the priesthood. He was recalled to the East Surrey Regiment in August 1914 at the outbreak of war and left immediately for Belgium. Benson was seriously wounded in a skirmish before the Battle of Mons on 23rd August and taken prisoner. He died the following evening in the village school and was buried in the Hautrage Military Cemetery. Reports of the death were not released by the Germans for many weeks. John Benson left a widow, a young son and a daughter to be born in January 1915.
John Penrice Benson
Richard Earl Benson
The War Graves Commission headstone, erected in August 2016,
in St George’s Church, Reynoldston
The Ponies of Cefn Bryn
Mountain ponies have grazed on Cefn Bryn for centuries and in 1910 Arthur Davies registered Section A ponies with the Welsh Mountain Pony and Cob Society. These were among the first Welsh Mountain Ponies to be registered in the area and all the animals were given the prefix “Cefn” as they are still. His son Colin, who many of you know, was born in 1926 and since childhood would accompany his father to check on the ponies on Cefn Bryn. Then when he was nine years old the family moved to Bryn View where he still lives and works with the ponies. For several generations Colin’s family have had Commoner’s rights and over the generations have helped to manage the habitat of the Bryn by the action of the ponies. Their importance in trampling down the bracken, and using their front hooves to bruise the gorse so they can bite off the young shoots, do vital work in maintaining this important habitat.
Colin was made Honorary Vice President of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society in 2008 in recognition of his service to the Society and to the Welsh breeds. The long tradition of managing ponies and cobs on Gower is continuing to this day. The whole family are involved in their care and from a young age Colin’s daughters Susan and Irene, both took an active interest. Colin’s grand-daughter Alyson was born in Reynoldston and still lives in the house where she grew up with her late parents, Howard and Irene. She works alongside her grandfather in managing the ponies on the hill and has exhibited in the show ring. Irene was a very active member of the Cefn Bryn Pony Improvement Society, and like her father, a member of the panel of judges for the Welsh breeds. Since Irene’s death, Philippa Grove has made a vital contribution in ensuring the stud administration has been kept in good order.
Cefn ponies have won many awards over the years. In fact, since the animals were first registered they have won numerous prizes in shows all over the country – The Royal Show, The Royal Welsh, the Three Counties Show and many, many more.
The animals live to a good age, sometimes to 25 years or more. The majority foal and live their whole lives on the Bryn, but need a fair bit of care and attention throughout their lives. Since 2006 any ponies born must be microchipped by a vet by the time they are one year old and also require a passport for any movement around the country or abroad – an expensive business at around £35 per foal. They also need worming although this is not so great a problem for animals on the Bryn due to the salt in the sea air.
There are also a number of dangers which the animals are exposed to. One is obviously the traffic, which becomes a much greater problem when the pretty ponies are encouraged near the road by people feeding them, often from their cars.
Another danger is the dumping of mown grass which can give the animals colic, thereby poisoning them. There have even been pony rustlers, attempting to lead off a couple of ponies a few years ago and it was only the prompt action of Alyson which prevented this theft. Ponies sadly are also occasionally dumped on Cefn Bryn, which can be a danger to the Cefn stud as abandoned young stallions can upset the controlled breeding of the ponies.
All together there are about 80 ponies in the stud, all pedigree. They have a superb temperament which makes them perfect riding ponies particularly for children. Many are sold for driving, showing, riding and most importantly breeding and have in the past gone as far as Ireland, Holland, Australia, Germany and the USA – in 1956 for example, Cefn Susan was the first of Colin’s ponies to be exported to the USA where she subsequently won many championships.
This piece could go on much longer – in fact I think I could have filled the magazine with the story of the Davies family and the Cefn Bryn ponies and cobs. I must say I very much enjoyed talking to Alyson, Susan and Colin and thank them for the information they let me use. We all love to see the ponies on Cefn Bryn and their story is a long and fascinating one – I hope you enjoyed reading it too.