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Story of Llanelli’s industrial revolution told through book on Victorian railway shed

22 Jun 2021 3 minute read
Nia Griffith, Huw Griffiths and (right) Richard Roper, in the Llanelli Goods Shed (pic by Richard Youle)

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

The transformation of Llanelli from a small and relatively poor town into a forge of the industrial revolution is being told through a new booklet about a Victorian railway shed.

Pupils and staff from Ysgol Pen Rhos and Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel have contributed to the booklet, about the Llanelli Goods Shed, which is being launched at an online meeting of local head teachers on June 23.

The learning resource was researched and produced on behalf of the Llanelli Railway Goods Shed Trust – the group currently restoring the cavernous building on Marsh Street.

It includes accounts of children who pulled corves – or baskets – laden with coal from underground to waiting trams.

One eight-year-old described the relentless heat while working at a furnace owned by English ironmaster Alexander Raby, who moved to Llanelli in 1796 and single-handedly changed the town.

The illustrated booklet covers copper and tinplate production, where workers were said to have drunk up to 40 pints of liquid during an eight-hour shift, such was the intense heat.

Another eight-year-old described how her 19-year-old uncle lost of all his teeth while pickling – placing sheets of steel into baths of acid – in a tinplate works.

Joe Cudd, head of Ysgol Pen Rhos, said of the booklet: “It does bring the town to life. It is a great resource.”

Mr Cudd said the pupils empathised with the conditions of their peers from the past, and had previously put on a play based on school diaries from many years ago.

‘Learned something new’ 

He also said he had learned something new from the booklet – namely that tinplate workers wore a special reinforced boot with which they kicked metal sheets across the floor.

The Llanelli Goods Shed was built in 1875 after railways began criss-crossing the land. Materials and livestock were unloaded from there into wagons and transported around the town. At one point there were nine tracks leading to the building and its yard.

The shed ceased operations in 1966, although the office at the western end locked its doors in 2000 after a stint as a rail training centre.

The goods shed trust was set up in 2011 with the aim of restoring the grade two-listed structure and bringing it into community use.

Work on the first phase of the restoration got under way earlier this year, thanks to funding from the Railway Heritage Trust, the Welsh Government’s targeted regeneration initiative, Carmarthenshire Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Pilgrim Trust.

The new booklet was financed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and was written by Graham and Ellen Davies. It is now available on the trust’s website.

Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, who is chairwoman of the trust, said: “I’d like to thank Graham and Ellen for inspiring this project and all those who helped make it a reality.

“As a former teacher, I know just how time-consuming it can be researching and adapting materials to meet new curriculum requirements.

“History is so much more relevant when it is local and you can see and relate to the places mentioned, and I hope that pupils will enjoy using these booklets.

“I have certainly enjoyed reading them and have learned a lot.”

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