Children of Margaret Morgan

and Rhys Jeffreys, Penygraig, Coelbren

1. Howell Jeffreys (1884-1973) married Claudia Williams (1887-)

Originally a collier, Howell Jeffreys (Penygraig) features in many local history accounts (e.g. Lewis, 2003) as he was well known as a Mining Lecturer for the Glamorgan County Council, having put himself through Cardiff College to qualify.   He shouldn’t, however, be confused with his cousin (once removed), also Howell, or Hywel, but usually known as “Jeff Camnant” Jeffreys – from the Jeffreys, Camnant, family.  Both Howells shared the same grandparents (Howell Jeffreys, 1813-1879 and Elizabeth Benjamin, 1824-).

Howell Jeffreys, Penygraig, became a commissioned officer – a Lieutenant - in the First World War and wrote the postcard below (in Welsh) to his cousin, Maggie (herself aged about 12) in May 1918.  Note the “Colbren” spelling.  He was in the Royal Engineers and a newspaper report of 1917 mentions he was attached – perhaps appropriately to the Tunnelling Corps.  This was a specialised operation undertaken by both sides in the hostilities: they tried to burrow secretly under the other’s territory, to lay explosives and thus blow up the enemy from below.  The Lochnagar Crater in the Somme is the best-known example of British success in this sort of endeavour.  Sebastian Faulks’ novel “Birdsong” deals extensively with this activity, replacing south Walian miners with cockneys experienced in a different kind of  tunnelling - for the growing London underground network.

The picture is entitled “Ensemble de l’Hotel de Ville” and is a typical northern French town hall in the style found, for example, in the town of Albert, central to British operations in the Somme area (source: family)

This is lucky to have passed the censor because it is in Welsh.  It was allowed, maybe, because Howell was an officer: other members of his family were forced to write in English, and this didn’t come very naturally for some of them.  (source: family)

He wrote, in an impressively embellished English, to his bi-lingual uncle, Daniel Jones of Coelbren House, on the 24th December 1916:

“I crave the pardon of a generous heart for not answering your kind, and I can assure you, greatly valued letter sooner.

I am in the best of health and have been very fortunate in my new Company and I am quartered in very comfortable quarters at present.  It reminds of the days I used to wield the pick.  It is nearly so comfortable as living in a house, you could barely imagine how good everything has been arranged.  Also the food is as good as can be expected, plenty of meat, butter, jam and bread, with a tin of bully beef and biscuits now and again.  I think that I will bring you a tin of bully beef and biscuits back as souvenirs when I come home.  I had plum pudding from home today and the cooks are going to do something great according to their account.  Also the officers have clubbed up to give every man some few luxuries.   So you see Uncle, if we will have to dispense with the turkey, the tea-party and last but not least the concert in the evening amongst friends of boyhood days, we will not fare so bad after all.”

Howell Jeffreys is shown (front row, 3rd left, with some of his students in 1938).  Scanned from Davies (2004).  Thomas Lewis (author of “Ideal Miner”) is seated front, 1st right.

From “Strike” (Leeson, 1973): this book captures a number of first-person accounts from various people connected with the labour movement in the twentieth century.  Here is Howell Jeffreys in his own words:

“The miners suffered in those early days. To be on strike meant real hardship, though in our district, every miner had his garden and at least one pig, quite a number were miners and farmers, and so they were able to hold out better when they were on strike. And people would stand together. I can recall, during .the 1898 strike, a few people carried on working at the Abercrave Colliery and the miners and their families turned out in their thousands and marched on the houses where those people lived. I had just started underground as a boy in that year. My earnings were 1s 8d a day for a 54 hour week. We didn’t see daylight during the week at all. Many would have to get up between 4.30 and 5am and walk miles to reach the pit in time for work. Life was hard, but the sense of community was very strong. We would hold socials and entertainments. People would write essays, sing or give recitations. We would all be given numbers and when your number was called, you had to speak on a subject for three minutes. Some were good musicians and developed to Eisteddfod standards. Mabon1 who led the South Wales miners was a good singer, and on one occasion he sang ‘Land of My Fathers’ with Madame Patti [Adelina Patti: opera singer who lived at Crag-y-Nos castle] on the stage at the Eisteddfod. She said to him ‘Sir, you are a very good singer’, and he replied ‘Madame, so are you’. Mabon was a decent man, and so was Brace.2 Brace looked a real gentleman, as though he had never been underground in his life. Nearly all the leaders, like Mabon and Brace, were liberals and lay preachers. Everyone was a Nonconformist and voted en bloc for the Liberal party. Indeed, my grandfather [Richard Morgan], who lived on a little farm [Pentwyn, Pen y cae] on the Gwyn estate, and was a Radical, was turned off his farm during the first secret ballot [following the Ballot Act 1872] and that is why we came here to Coelbren. So, when I grew up there were only Liberals and Tories. The Nonconformists were mostly Liberals and most of the Nonconformists were miners. Mabon was in the old Welsh tradition of Liberal nonconformism, because the squire and the official church were Tory. Under people like Mabon the union and the chapel together were the conscience of the community in the valleys. Maybe they were a bit narrow-minded, but their moral influence brought South Wales together. I’ll give you some idea of this religious influence. When I was a boy, when the miners paused underground to give their eyes a chance to get accustomed to the dark, the men would gather to discuss things. On Monday it would always be the quality of the sermon preached in chapel the night before. The old men were real biblical scholars and the young men respected their word. The big challenge began to come to the leadership of this generation with what we called the ‘Rhondda extremists’, who blossomed forth around the time of the 1912 strike, men like Mainwaring and later Cook.  Conditions in the Rhondda were much harsher than here in West Wales and the struggle was fiercer. I think the extremists were to some extent anti-religious. I remember some of the Rhondda leaders saying all churches and chapels should be closed and given over to secular use. When the 1912 strike came I had already left the pits and had gone to Cardiff College as a mining student. Later I became a mining lecturer. Glamorganshire had a very good scheme by which classes were held in the evening when the miners came home. After the Eight Hour Day Act had come into force, young boys in Seven Sisters would attend classes. Quite a lot of miners never believed that the eight-hour day would come; in fact, one old man made a bet with me it wouldn’t. We had a little rhyme in Welsh, which went more or less like this:

Eight hours to work

Eight hours to play

Eight hours sleep

And eight shillings a day.

Eight shillings a day was considered a desirable goal in those days. Miners earning 30 shillings for a 54-hour week were thought to be well paid. Of course, mind you, things were cheaper. In the 1912 strike, soup kitchens were opened in the elementary school. I happened to be secretary of one and we worked out what a meal would cost per head; fourpence ha’penny - imagine that.”

1 Bardic name of W. J. Abraham, South Wales miners’ President for many years until 1912.

2 William Brace, succeeded Abraham.

W. H. Mainwaring later Labour MP. He died in 1971.

A. J. Cook, leader of the miners in the 1926 General Strike


David Eurig Jeffreys (1925-2001) (known as “Joe Beck” (Davies, 1994, p85)

Alun Jeffreys (1919-1997)

Geraint Jeffreys (d.2014)

2. Richard Jeffreys (1887-1962) married Gladys May Charles  (1899-)

As noted in the second paragraph of this newspaper extract (Llais Lafur, February 1916), Richard Jeffreys became a schoolteacher (further details in Davies, 1994).  His memorial at Nantyffin states he was headmaster at Cray (Crai) Primary School.   The couple married at Bedwelty, Monmouthshire in 1922.  In 1939, they were resident at Penygraig.


Richard Morgan, subject of the first paragraph, was the first of Richard and Gwnellian Morgan’s grandchildren to die in the first world war.

This extract of a letter, written in August 1916, is presumed to be from Richard Jeffreys, from India:

“This is Bank Holiday but nobody seems to be aware of it, I suppose it is the same with you.  There is no holiday in the army now.  It must be pretty hard on Dewi [perhaps a reference to his brother] now.  He has no-one to fall back on, to do the hay making and very likely few to help him.

We haven’t seen any great festivals here yet.  The natives have some very great ones at certain times of the year.  They are all very religious and ceremonious.  Dai and I and another chap went down to buy some things in a shop one day.  The proprietor was a Mohammedan and was on the point of closing the shutters for half an hour’s meditation or prayer.  We pressed him to serve us and wouldn’t have him close the shutters.  This sent him to go into an awful rage.  He swore and cursed us until he had his windows closed and we waited on the verandah until his devotions were over.  He then began showing us his wares and after a time when he didn’t see any sign of us buying, he let go a few more swear words until I bought a bottle of ink which soothed him considerably.  They all have the Jewish method of doing business.  You must never give more than half the price they ask for an article and sometimes you can get it for quarter price.

They’re greatly interested in football.  They had a match last night, I didn’t see it as I had to go to chapel.  They kick it without boots better than I could with them. 

Wat bach is still up the hills but he won’t be long before coming back, we will then I think be stationed at Indore, a big town about 12 miles from here.  We are a bit scattered about in 4 different places, 2 lots in the hills and 2 down here.   I don’t think we shall shift from here for some time.”

Children:  Elwyn Jeffreys ( -2014)

3. David Jeffreys (1889-1967) married Morfudd Davies (1902-)

David “Dewi” Jeffreys also became a schoolteacher.  He was aptly named given his birth date of 1st March.  Llais Lafur (“Labour Voice”) reported on the 26th May 1917 that his appeal against conscription was upheld, as long as he remained a schoolmaster.  They noted the service of his brothers, one of whom (Rice) - below - had already been killed.

He began his teaching career in May 1902 with a position as a thirteen year old “monitor” at Coelbren Primary school: for this he was paid £6 per annum (compared to the Headmaster’s salary of £100 pa and the Assistant Mistress’ £45 pa).  Schools often employed young assistants as a matter of economy, and David worked in this capacity alongside his second cousin Elizabeth Lewis (see Davies 1994).  On the 1939 register he is recorded as “Headmaster, Public Elementary School” and is living at Elmswood, Penycae with his wife and children.


Wyn Jeffreys              

Gareth Jeffreys (1930-2012), lived at Penygraig

Howell Jeffreys (1931-2014)

Aled Jeffreys

John Jeffreys (1936-2005).  Represented Wales in the Senior Schools rugby team (early 1950s).

Margaret Jeffreys

4. Elizabeth Jeffreys (1891-1969) married David Lewis (1894-1947)

This couple married in 1923 at Pontardawe.

No children


5. Rice Jeffreys (1894-1916) killed in WW1

Rice Jeffreys of Penygraig, Coelbren, was a Collier’s Boy, aged 17, in 1911, and probably had been so for the past three years - it was very likely as the next brother down, John, aged 14, was also such a boy in 1911.  We don’t know if Rice would ever have graduated to being a full-blown Collier, whether Haulier, Haulier, Fireman or, possibly, Overman (as all the men are variously recorded); our next record for him is his death in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq) on 27 December 1916, aged 23.    This was a particular shame and waste of potential as from his seven siblings – all children of a mining family  - we can so far identify among them, variously, a headmaster, mining engineer, lecturer & historian and successful local butcher. 

He wrote to his cousin Richard Jones, on 12 December 1916, two weeks before his death:

 “Well Dick I didn’t have a bad journey on the whole though rather a long journey.  It consisted of about [CENSORED] on the water and then about [CENSORED] on land.  The first boat that took us was champion as we had sports in the day and then concerts in the night and plenty of boxing contests which was worthwhile seeing.  Well Dick this place aint up to much, no towns or villages, it’s all wilderness though I have read about places I have been through many a time in Sunday School.  We were in the Garden of Eden but it puzzles me where Adam and Eve got leaves to make that suit of theirs and another night camped where Ezrah the prophet was buried.

I am writing this letter Dick a fortnight before Christmas but not in the same circumstances as last year.  I hope you and all the Colbren folk will enjoy theirs the same as usual and you can depend that I won’t be far back in enjoying my Christmas in Mesopotamia.”

6. Jack Jeffreys (1896-1973) married Mary Bevan (1903-)

Jack – unsurprisingly “Butch” - Jeffreys ran a butchery business from Dyffryn Cellwen and also had “a small corrugated shop opposite the Price’s Arms [Coelbren]”  (Davies, 2004).  In 1939 John Jeffreys is recorded as a retail butcher at 6 Main Road, Dyffryn Cellwen with his wife and some of their children. An abattoir was at Penygraig farm and was operating up until the 1980s.  The photograph above shows one of his employees – a Jack Williams, of Coelbren, uncle to WT Davies, mentioned in Davies, Vol.3: ”In addition to delivering meat, Jack worked as a slaughter man in the abattoir at Penygraig.”   Jack Jeffreys joined the same first world war 19th Welsh battalion as his cousin Daniel Jones and they appear to have been posted together.

At least of two of his sons, Lynn and Jestyn, carried on the butchery business and another son still farms the family land at Penygraig.

Before abattoirs and the whole meat-processing industry became much more strictly regulated and thus concentrated in fewer and larger establishments, small-scale farm butcheries like this would have been commonplace.  The Norton family of Henryhd, Coelbren, were also local butchers and were connected by marriage to the family via Daniel Jones.

The abattoir buildings at Penygraig are now derelict and may soon be demolished.  


The premises are set well away from the farmhouse, quite close to, but set back and somewhat hidden from the road in a slight dip  There are two buildings, with a holding pen in between them.  The main and larger building (right) appears to be the actual slaughterhouse. 


The ancillary buildings on the left (interior detail above) may have been store-rooms or meat hanging areas.


The animals would have been kept in this holding pen prior to slaughter.


The livestock would have been walked in through this back entrance to the slaughterhouse.  The resulting meat products would be taken out by the double doors at the front, perhaps on to the lorry for further processing at the Banwen shop, or maybe hanging in the smaller sheds.

All photos by G. Jones (2019), with kind permission of the family.


Lynn Jeffreys (1926-1990)

John R Jeffreys (1929-)

Jestyn Jeffreys (1930-2008)

Ceri Jeffreys

7. Llewellyn Jeffreys (1897-1939) married Gwen Lewis (1903-1975)

This couple married in 1923.  Probate information for his estate says that he died at Onllwyn No. 3 (Maesmarchog or Banwen) colliery.  His widow is shown at Glenview, Coelbren in September 1939 with daughter Mary (Mair) and two other (redacted) children.

An unusually simple and modernistic headstone records the burial of this couple and their infant daughter at Nantyffin graveyard.  Photo by G. Jones, 2014.


Edna Jeffreys (1929-1931)

Hugh Jeffreys 

Mair Jeffreys (1925- c.1993), married Alwyn Evans at Ystradgynlais in 1946.

8. Brycchan Jeffreys (1900-1982) married Annie Williams of Coelbren at Coelbren Church, 2 April 1934.  The couple were resident at Gwar-y-llyn, Coelbren, in September 1939.


Rhys Jeffreys 

© (the written content and authorial photographs) Gareth Jones 2015-20