Blackmore Roberts

Victorian Llanelli

‘A short history of Llanelly’ written in 1897 describes how the town grew during the industrial revolution from a small village ‘inhabited principally by fishermen and colliers’ into a thriving town producing copper, steel, lead, iron, silver, chemicals, bricks, patent fuel, ships, iron, timber, anchors, ropewalks and pottery.  Its success was built on rich seams of coal underneath the town and the natural port from where the ‘vast resources of the Gwendraeth Valley can be shipped for export’.

Among the families who moved to Llanelli during that time were the Blackmores, descendants of Thomas Blackmore (1757-1830) and James Bartholomew (b1754) farm labourers from Somerset. It was probably the prospect of working their own small holding that brought James Blackmore (1835-1902) and his new wife Ann from the West Country to the Pembrey Mountain sometime around 1859. They remained in Llanelli for forty years until Ann’s death in 1893 when James returned to Somerset but three sons and five daughters remained.  According to my mother they were known as “the Blackmore beauties”.  “The Blackmores were all good looking” she said.

The market was described as ‘one of the finest in Wales’.  James Montgomery (1847-1890) had a drapery shop in Station Road and Alice Blackmore (1890-1956) kept a small drapery shop in the front room of her home in Trinity Road.   Gwyn Knight (1905-1955) had a greengrocers in New Dock Road and his widow Grace ran an underwear shop in the West End.  John Alan Evans (1935-1985) had a jewellers shop on Station Road.

Young ladies and gentlemen would parade along Stepney Street on Sunday afternoons and it was there that John Wells Roberts (1862-1932) met his wife Caroline Martha Blackmore (1871-1960).   It started to rain and he offered the protection of his umbrella.  The couple shared an interest in politics.  He was one of the first members of Keir Hardie’s Labour party in Llanelli. She would insist on all women in the family voting, as she felt it was a privilege.

John and Carrie Roberts, Tom, Jack and Frank

Richard Dewsberry (1841-1906) was one of the leading lights in Park Church, the English language chapel in Llanelli which catered for the growing number of English pottery workers who couldn’t speak Welsh.  It was gutted in an alleged arson attack in 2015.  He was also a leading member of the Liberal Club which opened in the town in 1885. He was considered a god-fearing man and a pillar of the community, unlike his curmudgeonly ovenman Thomas Roberts (1833-1904) who enjoyed playing whist at the Liberal Club. One evening Mr Roberts arrived to be greeted by the unctuous steward who asked whether he would like to make up a table with some elderly women who were waiting for a fourth.  “Whose playing?” he said.  The steward named names, and he famously said in his broad Staffordshire accent: “What them?  I’d rather have me arse rubbed with a brick”

What would Richard Dewsberry have thought if he knew that eighty years later his great grandson would meet Mr Roberts’ great grandaughter at the Little Theatre in Llanelli and that they would end up husband and wife? They are my parents

2 Comments

  • Judith Biggin
    March 11, 2017 - 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi Richard, I am from the Blackmore line, my Grandmother was Edith Elsie Chaplin. I have enjoyed reading your page. Thank you.

  • David Williams
    June 21, 2018 - 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Do you know what number Trinity Rd?

    My mother lives there and it’s said that her house had a shop run from the front room.

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