History

About Parc Howard

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Parc Howard Bandstand
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Gorsedd Stones
Entrance from Old Road
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Parc Howard lies on the northern outskirts of the town of Llanelli immediately to the west, and just off, the A476 road from Crosshands, at about 42 metres AOD. Before the town sprawled up to meet it, there would have been fine views of the surrounding countryside, the Loughor estuary and probably the sea from Parc Howard.

In the early nineteenth century the property, which was then known as Bryncaerau park/mansion/castle, (all three appear in documents), was the home of Mr R.T. Howell, a well known business man and Harbour Commissioner. Upon his death, the house passed to the architect James Buckley Wilson, who was a grandson of the Revd James Buckley. It was James Buckley Wilson who designed the alterations and extensions which transformed the building into the Italianate mansion of today. Comparison between the First and Second editions of the 25 inch surveys, 1878 and 1905 respectively, shows that the alterations to the ground plan were considerable. The entrance was altered from the south-west face to the south-east and a porte cochère was added to accommodate the new drive. The wing to the north-west was extended and the out buildings to the north-east were re-configured; there were also substantial changes in the layout of the garden. James Buckley Wilson was justifiably proud of Bryncaerau and included it in his application to be admitted a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In 1911, the mansion was sold by Mr J.F.H. Buckley to Sir Stafford Howard, for £7,750. Sir Stafford bought the house and grounds with the intent to gift them to the people of Llanelli to celebrate his marriage of the previous September. In January 1912, Sir Stafford and Lady Howard Stepney presented the mansion to the town, granting to the Council a 999 year lease for the rent of 5 shillings. As a condition of this gift, Sir Stafford required that the Council complete the transformation of the grounds into a public park within 8 months. There were two reasons for this condition; firstly, he wished the transformation to be complete and the gardens open on the first anniversary of his wedding. Secondly, he had a belief that local authorities were inclined to be somewhat slow, and this was a way of enforcing progress.

The work, which cost £4,500, would not have been completed but for an industrial dispute. The miner's strike in March 1912 had put thousands of men out of work, so the Council was able to employ additional labour, thus ensuring that all would be ready for the September deadline. On Saturday 21 September 1912, the grounds and the mansion were opened by Lady Howard Stepney on her first wedding anniversary. In 1915 the mansion was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers, with 40 soldiers occupying the 5 wards being attended to by 18 Red Cross nurses. In 1921 the mansion was let to the War Pensions Committee for a further 3 years. In 1965, the Borough Council completed the purchase of the Stepney estate for £350,000; this included Parc Howard and the surrounding 32 acres.

The Italianate mansion, which is of two storeys, faces south-east, and is clad with dressed Bath stone, with a port-cochère in the front centre. To either side of the central block are two small symmetrical extensions; on all the corners the quoins stand proud. The building is topped with a balustraded parapet with urns at the corners. Set almost centrally is a small tower, again with balustraded parapet and urns. To the rear, (northwest) were the stable and carriage blocks and service areas, which are now used as Council stores. To the front (south-east) are two sets of steps that appear to be contemporary, leading to the lawns and gardens. There are no other contemporary buildings within the grounds. The lodge that was to the south-east of the house has now been demolished.

The park now occupies an area of just over 24 acres to the north of the town of Llanelli. The geology and topography of the area has dictated the current land use of the park. To the north-east, south-east and south west of the house, the land is now gently sloping, being flattened in areas to allow for amenity uses. To the north and north-west of the house is an escarpment, behind which the land drops towards the marshy land fronting Pentreporth road. The flatter land is maintained to municipal standards, whilst the land to the north is more informal and there are kick-about areas.

Comparison between three 25 inch Ordnance Survey maps indicate the extent to which the gardens have changed. The surveys chosen were 1878, prior to the re-modelling of the house, the 1905 revision and a survey published in the mid 1960's. The earliest shows a formal enclosed rectangle with one main entrance to the south-west at SN 5087 0108. From here the drive ran mostly parallel to the south-western boundary until it reached the front (south-west) of the house. To the south-east of the house (now the front, but then the side), the somewhat formal gardens could be enjoyed from the paths that created a double U pattern. To the north of these gardens was a sun-dial, whilst to the south was a fountain and small U-shaped pond. To the north-west of the house (now the rear) were two more formal enclosed areas, the larger one, to the west, contained a glass house and probably a pergola that was approximately 8 metres long, running parallel to the southern wall.

By 1905 the gardens had become considerably more informal, less geometric, in their design. The area enclosed had been enlarged by nearly two acres and the new perimeter boundaries were curved and flowing. The formality and rigidity within the gardens also appears to have been swept away. Because the house front has now been moved to the south-east, the drive curves to this front from where it continues as a path in a semicircle so that it re-joins the drive just before the entrance. Only one other path is shown. The formal pond has been extended and now echoes the curves of the drive, this feature now being referred to as a fish pond. To the rear (south-west) of the house, the two enclosed gardens have also vanished, instead are extensive areas of glass and outbuildings.

During the 1930s, the Council was able to acquire more land, so that the park extended a further 5 acres to the north-east as far as the newly formed Parc Howard Avenue. A new entrance was made from Felin Foel Road and a perimeter path constructed around the new area.

The amount of time and labour required to undertake the initial landscaping work of 1912 suggests that these gardens were altered considerably over that period. Mapped evidence indicates that the many paths were laid out, as were the small sunken gardens to the south of the park. The bandstand and tennis courts were probably also part of these schemes. The lodge vanished some time between 1905 and the 1960's.

Today the park is very much as it appeared in the 1970s. There is an informal lawn of some 5.2 acres to the north-west of the house. A small, slightly formal grassed terrace to the front of the house, which is retained by a low stone wall and reached via two sets of steps to the north and two to the south. A pond area to the south of this lawn, which seems to be reserved for exotic water-fowl and there is a paved, sunken garden to the west of the pond. The octagonal bandstand is to the north-west of the sunken garden, has been recently restored.

To the west of the house are the bowling greens and tennis courts and adjacent there is a children's play area.

30 March 2006
Llanelli Borough Council, Parc Howard Mansion, (1991).
Ordnance Survey, 25 inch First Edition, (1878).
Ordnance Survey, 25 inch Second Edition, (1905).
Ordnance Survey, 25 inch, (c. 1970).

Mansion House

Parc Howard Mansion

A post card of Parc Howard Mansion (numbered 6) probably from the same series as that of the Bandstand.

Note in the photograph the balustrade around the top of the portico. If you go there today you will see it has been removed due to safety concerns. Which of course begs the question why has it been left to get in this state?

The roof of the portico is also leaking.

Parc Howard Mansion Balustrade

The Julian Tank by Idwal Davies

Local author Idwal Davies included a photo of a tank on display in Parc Howard in his 2007 book called “Gone, But Not Forgotten”. During a Parc Howard Open Meeting this year he told those present what he had found out about the tank and the people in the photo and how he had obtained the information. Idwal wrote down the story and it is included here in his own words…

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The Julian Tank

The Julian Tank was shown in Parc Howard in between the two World Wars – World War I and World War II.

 How did this World War I tank come to be on show in Parc Howard in the first place?

 In 2007 I published a book called “Gone, But Not Forgotten”, and this was about my growing up as a young boy in the 1930’s and as a teenager during the 1940’s and World War II.

 As a young boy in the 1930’s, my friends and myself played, many times, on and inside this tank and pretended that we were tankmen and were fighting the Germans.

When I wrote in my book, it was only natural that I would include this tank in the book as it had played a part in my life so long ago – and I also included a photo of the tank itself. The photo also showed a lady with a little girl – I would say about 4 years old.

A few months after the book went on sale, a letter appeared in the “Llanelli Star” from a gentleman who lived in Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, and he was asking if any of the readers of the “Llanelli Star” had any photos or information about this tank.

I spoke to this gentleman, on the phone, and the first question that I asked him was – “Why is somebody from Grimsby interested in a First World War tank that had been on show in Parc Howard between the two World Wars?”

He then told me that his name was Robert Scott and that he was a local historian, and that all those First World War tanks had been built in Lincolnshire. He also said that he was the president of a society dedicated to keeping the memory of these tanks alive for future generations to read about.

He then told me the reason why that tank was on show in Parc Howard. When World War I ended, approximately 270 of these tanks were given out to various towns and cities around Britain, but over the years these tanks were disappearing as more and more towns and cities no longer wanted them and were scrapping them. Robert Scott said it was now a race against time to garner as much information as they could about these tanks before they all disappeared altogether. I then sent him a photograph of the tank and also any other information that I had.

About ten days later Robert Scott phoned me up to say that since he had spoken to me on the phone, another person had got in touch with him about the Parc Howard tank and that it was a lady from Romford in Essex. He said that he had told the lady that I had an interest in this tank and that he had given her my name and address.

A week later I received a letter from this lady in which she said that her name was Madlen Davies and that the two people standing at the side of the tank were her relatives. The little girl was her mother and the lady was her grandmother. Her mother’s name was Dilys Mary Issac and her grandmother’s name was Mary Sophia Issac.

I then phoned Madlen Davies and had a long conversation with her and during that conversation she said that generations of her family had lived in 29 Glenalla Road for more than a hundred years.

I then told Madlen that I had lived in Andrew Street which is just four streets away and she then said that she had relatives living in Andrew Street and that they had lived in No 50 and No 52. As I was living in No 48 at the time then I was living next door to Madlen’s grandparents on her father’s side.

She – Madlen – then told me that as she had been living in Romford, in Essex, for quite a number of years, she had lost track of the Thomas side of her family and could I trace any of them in Llanelli.

I traced one of them to Chapman Street and his name was Watcyn Thomas and I was invited to visit them at home. I met Watcyn Thomas and his wife and during the conversation the subject of the Parc Howard tank came up.

Mrs Thomas then told me another story about the tank. When the tank came to Llanelli it arrived by train and it then had to be driven through the streets of Llanelli up to Parc Howard. However – on the journey up to Parc Howard – the tank engine kept breaking down and her father William Thomas was one of the tank crew – that day – who kept repairing and re-starting the engine until the tank finally arrived at it’s showplace in Parc Howard.

Finally – why was the tank removed from Parc Howard?

I asked quite a few people this question and received many suggested answers but having considered them all, there is one that I personally agree with – it had become a health hazard.

As young boys we could go inside the tank to play, and some of the boys would urinate and defecate inside this tank and it became very smelly and you never knew what you had stepped in and then taken around on your shoes outside the tank.

If only!!! If only someone had the sense at the time to have the tank hosed out, inside, and the tank welded shut so that no-one could enter, then maybe the tank would still be there and what a great attraction it would have been nowadays.

Idwal Davies

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Julian Tank World War I, Parc Howard

The lady is– May Sophia Issac                  }           Home address:
The little girl is – Dilys Mary Issac              }           29 Glenalla Road, Llanelli
 
Photo taken circa 1924

 

 

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Lady with necklace – May Sophia Issac
Little Girl – Dilys Mary Issac
Gentleman seated - John Issac: father of Mary Sophia Issac, grandfather of Dilys Mary Issac
Lady at back of photo – unknown
 
Photo taken circa 1924

 

 

 

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Dilys Mary Thomas (nee Issac) - little girl in tank photo
William Clifford Thomas
 
Photo taken 1949
 
Dilys Mary would be about 29 years old in this photo
Dilys Mary died in 2003 aged 84

 

 

 

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Lady – Maggie Thomas (50 Andrew Street)
Lady’s son – William Clifford Thomas (he married little girl in tank photo)
Little Girl – Madlen Davies (nee Thomas), daughter of little girl in tank photo
 
Photo taken 1956
 
William Clifford Thomas was a teacher in Bigyn School for 29 years
Maggie Thomas’s youngest brother was Watcyn Thomas – Captain of the Welsh International Team in the 1930’s

 

 

 

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William Clifford Thomas
(50 Andrew Street, Llanelli)

Married the little girl in tank photo - Dilys Mary Issac of 29 Glenalla Road
William Clifford Thomas was a teacher in Bigyn School for 29 years - mostly 1950’/1960’s

 

 

 

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 Madlen Davies – daughter of little girl in tank photo
Rhys Davies (son) 26
David Davies: Madlen’s husband
John Davies (son) 24
 
All 4 people in the photo are teachers. Madlen’s mother and father were also teachers.
Madlen and family now live in Romford in Essex

Park Howard Bandstand - Restoration Project


As a society we seem to have an increasing propensity to turn our backs on what we already have in favour of something shinier, newer, bigger and better. We live in a disposable world which leads to us undervalue the very things that are important to us. In the case of Park Howard, that thing happens to be our heritage, a gift given to the people of Llanelli.

2012 is the centenary year of the park, one hundred years have passed since that gift was handed to us. There is no better time then to initiate a regeneration for this wonderful amenity that is deeply valued by so many people. This green space that is so instrumental for the physical and social wellbeing of the town should be enhanced and promoted as a hub for community gathering. It is a common mistake during times of economic hardship to cut back spending on local parks resulting in vandalism, anti-social behaviour and damage that ends up costing more in the long term.

The catalyst for this change is a small building that has been slowly deteriorating over recent years, the grade II listed bandstand. The association has been working relentlessly to get the banstand restored and back in use again but were needing some professional assistance to gain momentum with the project. How wonderful then to be given the opportunity to restore this structure so that it can be used as an outdoor performance area once again for visitors to the park, both young and old from schools to local theatre groups.

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The restoration project will, as with most undertakings these days invlove a seemingly endless number of approvals and consultations but a pile of paperwork and numerous days later the work will involve the following:

• the cleaning and repair of stonework copings
• the repair and repainting of all existing ironwork to the bandstand
• the supply and fix of replacement balustrading panels, gates and rainwater gutters
• the repair of the stone steps
• the sanding and painting of all timberwork
• the cleaning and repair of roof covering
• the replacement of the floor deck
• landscaping works
• a new lighting scheme for night time usage

We are working hard to ensure that the bandstand does not have to wait too long before these works are carried out.  
 
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The current economic climate has led to an increase in the use of public parks, a return to nature, a return to what is important. Park Bandstands have been restored in Cardiff and, more recently Neath County Council were awarded £1.5 million of Heritage Lottery Funding for a regeneration of Victoria Gardens including the listed bandstand. A very successful example of park regeneration is to be found in Myatt’s Fields, Lambeth who have set up a community cafe with a kitchen garden and greenhouses forming a “garden to plate” facility promoting local food heroes and produce. The association hopes that the restoration of the bandstand is just the tip of the iceberg for the park. Watch this space!


Community participation is important to us. There is no better time to love our park!
  

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The Bandstand 1937

Bandstand 1937

A photograph of the bandstand which Barbara Willis believes was taken in 1937, the year of the coronation of King George VI. Barbara's grandfather, J. H. Williams, was Mayor of Llanelli at the time.

More information to follow.

Photograph supplied by Peter Owen Jones.

Click to enlarge

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