More digitised Welsh Newspapers freely available

For the first time since June last year, the National Library of Wales has added a significant tranche of newly digitised newspaper titles to the project website.

Several of these are of value to researchers interested in the Saundersfoot area. Firstly two regional newspapers, the Carmarthen Journal and The Welshman are now available for the first time as well as the short-lived Principality.

Secondly, newspapers digitised for the Library’s First World War project are now included on this site as well, making our life much easier. For Pembrokeshire this covers the Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph (HMHT) from 1914-19.

A status report provided by the National Library showing what newspapers and editions are currently provided with notes about planned additions is available here. This shows that there’s more to come in 2014 with the Tenby Observer and earlier editions of the HMHT being of particular interest.

And it’s all still available free of charge.

Researching the First World War using new digital content

On Thursday 28th November 2013, the Welsh Government Minister for Culture and Sport launched “The Welsh Experience of the First World War” website. This rather passed me by so I am grateful to a post on the Rootsweb forum for the news.

The website address is which is where you’ll find a brief description of the objective of the project. A useful blog accompanies the site and this includes a full list of the primary sources that will eventually be published on the site. Whether you have local and/or family history interests for the First World War period, this site should prove a good resource.

I say ‘should’. Currently the technology for viewing on-line content is flaky but, with the excellent pedigree of the Welsh Newspapers site behind it, this should only be a temporary inconvenience.

As ever, we want more digital material. While the Haverfordwest & Milford Haven Telegraph has been digitised, the two papers local to the Saundersfoot area, the Tenby Observer and the Narberth Weekly, have not. A quick search of the Telegraph’s content suggests that its coverage of Saundersfoot events and people is limited. For example, we’ll miss the in-depth reporting of the Narberth Rural Military Tribunal, a key feature of the Narberth Weekly.

Putting this to one side, we have much to be thankful for especially as access is free.

Zion Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Begelly

This was taken shortly before closure

Zion Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Begelly (abt 2005)

Fifteen months later than promised, here’s the second in an irregular series of descriptions of  some of the local chapels together with transcriptions of family history records related to the relevant chapel.

This one concerns the small Calvinistic Methodist (CM) chapel which sat next to the main Tenby to Narberth turnpike road in the ‘Begelly’ part of Begelly parish. (Cold Inn Baptist Chapel is in the ‘Williamston’ part). It was built on land leased to the trustees by James Mark Child of Begelly House at what appears to have been a peppercorn rent.

Zion’s early history is reasonably well-documented. In 1853 the then minister, Thomas Ashford, wrote about the chapel’s founding in 1828 and its continuing struggles. He noted that its sister chapel, Bethesda, was established two years earlier three miles to the south along the same road. What is particularly interesting is his commentary about the effect of the 1849 cholera outbreak. He reports a rush of locals to join the chapel, this increase in the congregation perhaps requiring a gallery to be added in 1851. As we perhaps would expect, we know from other sources that an injured miner, Philip Gunter, was around this time running a small school in the chapel, using “one square table…and ten benches”.

The building you see in the photo is not the original chapel. Instead this was rebuilt in the mid-1860s possibly as a response to the great religious revival of the earlier part of the decade. In April 1866 a special train was laid on from Tenby to bring worshippers to the re-opening event at which seven sermons were preached.

The chapel’s principal competitor was St Mary’s parish church a few hundred yards down the road towards Tenby. The Rev. Richard Buckby, the rector at the church between 1839 and 1884, had a strong reputation for keeping his church full. Analysis of baptism data bears this out. In neighbouring St Issells parish church, there is a gradual drop in the numbers of colliers getting their children baptised in the local church from 1830 onwards. In Begelly the figure remains high suggesting that the colliers at least had their children baptised and remained loyal to Buckby’s church, instead of turning to the chapel.

It would be useful to have some idea of the growth in membership of the chapel. Such data survive for other denominations in annual publications such as the Baptist Union Handbook and the Congregational Yearbook but I have yet to find a similar series covering the CM chapels. We know that, in the early 1900s, the congregation ‘was filling the chapel’ but by the 1930s it was in decline. Zion shut a few years ago and the building has now been converted into housing.

As for any records, little appears to have survived. Unlike Kingsmoor PM Chapel, I have not found any accurate lists of deacons or trustees. There is a baptism register covering the 1820-37 period. Although the title states it to be for Zion CM chapel, I surmise that it also covers Bethesda as there are several baptisms from the Wooden area. I have included a transcription of this register on the following attachment together with details taken from some of the gravestones (in the yard to the left of the chapel building in the above photograph) and also marriages reported in the gossipy Narberth Weekly newspaper.

Click on the following to download the Genealogical Data for Zion CM Chapel

Do let me know if you spot any errors by emailing me at


Above photo copyright of Humphrey Bolton under the Creative Commons licence.


Religious Census, 1851

Calvinistic Methodist Record, (March 1853)

History of South Pembrokeshire Calvinistic Methodist Churches, William Evans (1913)

The Story of Begelly, W R Morgan, Gomer Press (1980)

Updates to Two Digital Collections

Good news for Pembrokeshire historians: there have been two significant additions in the last week to the amount of digital material available on the web.

Firstly, with the project to digitise its hard-copy newspaper collections still in full flow, the National Library of Wales (NLW) has added copies of six newspapers to the site in the last couple of days. From a local perspective, the most important of these is The Cambrian, a regional newspaper that was first published in 1804. This pre-dates the first county newspaper, the Pembrokeshire Herald, already on the NLW site, by 40 years. Access to this excellent site is free.

Secondly, have posted a note on their site to confirm they have recently added 1.2 million new parish records to their Welsh collection. Unfortunately I can’t find any detailed information to tell us what is new but I have emailed the company asking for this. You need a subscription to view the transcripts or scans of these records.

UPDATE (2nd July 2013):

Please note that the online publication of the Cambrian on the Welsh Newspaper Archive site means that the Swansea Library ‘Cambrian Index Online’ which covers this newspaper is now largely superseded. It does still serve a key purpose. The NLW’s collection does not include a full run of the Cambrian so the Index, while itself incomplete, may refer you to articles which have not been digitised but which you can access elsewhere (e.g. the British Library).

An early Ordnance Survey map of the Saundersfoot area

One of the joys of researching history is serendipitously finding new sources of information. I only recently came across the British Library’s Online Gallery and, in particular, its collection of early Ordnance Survey (OS) preliminary plans. The Library has digitised the surviving 351 drawings made between 1780 and 1840 and these are available to view online for free.

Catalogued under ‘Tenby’, the plan of our area is one of them.  It often took several years for these drafts to be published. For example, the Tenby plan was surveyed in 1809 but not published for at least another ten years. The final version, part of what is known as the ‘Old Series’, is available through Cassini Publishing.

Click here to view the plan.

With the “Interactive zoomable image” option, you can look in detail at the plan although there’s no option to download it.

Bearing in mind that our area of Pembrokeshire is surprisingly well covered by late 18th and 19th century estate plans, how useful is this map? I think it is, if only for the fact that it is the first one to allow detailed study of the dispersed settlement pattern. There are problems of course. Inaccurate placename spellings  (e.g. compare the wonderfully phonetic spellings for today’s Coppet Hall and Errox Hill) suggest worrying inaccuracies. Moreover, historians of the coal industry would no doubt wish for more information about the local pits. We know from other sources that several were in operation around 1809 but you can’t tell this from the draft. In fact the location of the steam engine on Kingsmoor, recently installed, provides the only indication that there was any industry in the area at all.

National Library of Wales Newspaper Archive now available

The National Library of Wales has just launched its online newspaper archive under the branding of ‘Welsh Newspapers Online’.  Very good it is too – even if it is still in ‘beta’.

For our area two newspapers have been included at this initial stage:

  1. Pembrokeshire Herald, 1844 – 1910
  2. Potters Electric News, 1859 – 1868.

The Library has plans to post more material during 2013.

Click here to read more about this digitisation project and to see a list of the newspapers which are now available and others to be added in due course.

Click here to search the archive.

Have fun!

PS. It’s free!

Kingsmoor Primitive Methodist Chapel, St Issells parish

Of all the non-conformist chapels shown on this map, the one with the best archive available to researchers is that for the Kingsmoor Primitive Methodist Chapel in St Issells parish. The chapel was part of the Pembroke Dock Primitive Methodist Circuit which covered several stations throughout the southern part of the county. Circuit baptism registers have survived and these cover much of Kingsmoor Chapel’s existence. The circuit minutes and various other documents are available too. What is missing are registers for the first twenty years or so of the chapel’s life (from the late 1820s) together with anything covering marriages and burials. This is unfortunate because there was an extensive burial ground in use around the chapel although whether it was fully utilised is open to conjecture.

(Former) Kingsmoor Primitive Methodist Chapel - picture reproduced with permission of Rosemary Bevan

(Former) Kingsmoor Primitive Methodist Chapel – picture reproduced with permission of Rosemary Bevan

This rich archive attracted Dr David Howell, an historian with local roots, to write an assessment of the circuit’s history which, for anyone with ancestry in the Saundersfoot area in the Victorian period, is worth reading.Ref 1 He raises three points I will explore in more depth in this post. Firstly, Howell discusses the vicissitudes the chapels faced, particularly during the national economic stagnation of the 1870s and 1880s, together with the consequent waves of emigration that hit membership and therefore funds. Table One illustrates this problem: three of the 1868 trustees emigrated, two with large families to Australia (John & Thomas Waters) and one to the south Wales coalfield (David John). But what is also pertinent is that many of John Phillips’ children moved to Glamorgan and those of William Phillips have evaded detection in the census from 1871 onwards. Later newspaper reports confirm that two of them lived in the US, a point that chimes with the note in the circuit minutes that 25 members of the circuit left for the US in the summer of 1871 ‘owing to the Kingsmoor coalmasters ceasing to work their pits’. The chapel lost much of its ‘next’ generation.

Another point that stands out in Howell’s article is that the Primitive Methodists consisted of and, importantly, were run by a mostly working class membership. The registers bear this out as does the following trustees’ list. (The term ‘engineer’ here typically refers to a man working with a pumping engine at the local pits rather than the modern associations of professional qualifications). In contrast the churchwardens of Begelly church were mainly farmers of more than 50 acres.

Trustees at 31 July 1868

Alexander Waters Thomas Chapel Engineer
John Waters Begelly Engineer
Thomas Walters (sic) Kingsmoor Engineer
David John Stepaside Manager at Iron works
William Phillips Kingsmoor Coalminer
John Phillips Kingsmoor Coalminer
Henry Phillips Kingsmoor Coalminer

New trustees at 6 June 1896

John Roblin Norland House Joiner & builder
John Harries Brinn Alma Cottage, Kilgetty Engineer
George Brinn Kilgetty Engineer
Thomas Jenkins Hill Miner
Richard Lewis Kilgetty Miner
William Hilling Pentlepoir Miner
James John Fold Park Miner
Richard Thomas Hill Carpenter
William Thomas Hill Fireman

Notes on former trustees

Thomas Walters Kilgetty Engineer (Australia)
David John Pontycymmer, Bridgend Engineer
Henry Phillips Kingsmoor Coalminer (buried Sardis)

Table One: trustees of Kingsmoor Chapel in 1868 & 1896 Ref 2

Lastly, Howell describes the low membership numbers of the chapels on the circuit. In a small chapel with around 40 members it is not surprising then that certain families were cornerstones of chapel life. The Brinn family appears to have been at the heart of matters in the late 1800s. Brothers George and John Harries Brinn became trustees in 1896 as did their future brother-in-law, James John. In 1909 this same John Harries received a silver-mounted walking stick with ‘JHB’ engraved to mark his 35 years as choir conductor. He had also been a preacher on the circuit for 35 years, superintendent of the Sunday School for 30 and found time to be the treasurer both of the trust fund and the Band of Hope. He retired in 1915 as the railway engine driver for presumably Bonvilles Court Coal Co Ltd, the break, according to the local newspaper, being his first in 41 years.Ref 3

Unfortunately John Harries Brinn was also at the heart of some gossip that spread far beyond the parish pump. In 1883 national newspapers recorded that:

“Rev John Higley, Primitive Methodist Minster and singleman…eloped with the wife of Mr John Brinn, local preacher of the same denomination. Higley lodged with Brinn and on Wednesday, the runaways left for Carmarthen, Mrs Brinn taking her only child and a sewing machine. She left a letter for her husband stating that he need not inquire after her as she would not trouble him again.” Ref 4

By the 1891 census, husband and wife had been reunited. Of course we don’t know the full story but, even so, his death in the Cardiff Workhouse in 1920 attracts more than the usual sadness.

Small though membership was there are still close to 240 local baptisms recorded in the first circuit baptism register. This is an important resource for family historians so I have attached extracts from this register together with a list of burials conducted by Primitive Methodist ministers from the St Issells Burial Board Register as well as a few marriages I came across in the Narberth Weekly newspaper. If you find something of interest in these or have anything to amend or add, particularly marriages, please do let me know by posting a note here or contacting me on

Click on the following link to download the extracts (opens in MS Excel or compatible spreadsheet)

Kingsmoor Chapel baptisms & sundry marriages & burials data


1. D. Howell, “Primitive Methodism in Pembrokeshire: the chapel in a rural society”, The Pembrokeshire Historian, vol.7 (1981) pp.52-60

2. Pembrokeshire Record Office, DFC/M/8/88

3. Narberth Weekly newspaper, 25 March 1915

4. Lloyds Weekly newspaper, 11 March 1883