Parc Howard CentenaryOne hundred years ago, on the 21st September, 1912, Parc Howard opened its gates to the public. For the next 999 years the house and grounds would be leased to Llanelli for the enjoyment of the townspeople. In the closing weeks of the of 1911, Llanelly Urban council had been negotiating with the solicitor representing the Buckley Estate over the acquisition of Bryncaerau Castle, the original name of Parc Howard, as a pleasure ground for the people of Llanelly.Events then took a surprising turn. Some councillors considered that the funds they had available would be inadequate for the both the purchase and the restoration of the mansion and gardens. So, a special meeting of the Urban Council was convened at the Town hall on Monday evening, 1st January – New Years’ Day, 1912. Mr. Herbert D. Rees, the Chairman, said that he hoped this would be the last occasion when a meeting had to be called on the first day of the year.
Mr. Rees said that he did not propose to dwell at any great length on the history of the negotiations for the purchase of Bryncaerau and felt sure that everyone present was anxious to know what communication he had to make to them and to give a reason for calling them together on New Year’s Day.
The Clerk to the council then read out a letter received that day from the Stepney Estate Office:
I am instructed by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard to say that they have been much interested in the proposals of the Urban Council to acquire the Bryncaerau property for the purpose of the public park."
“They gather it will involve considerable expense to the town to lay out the property for the purpose, in addition to the cost of purchase. As they are anxious to assist in providing open spaces for the people of Llanelly, they are prepared, if agreeable to the Urban Council, to buy the estate themselves for the price of £7,750 which they understand is the price the Council has provisionally agreed to, and let it to the Council for 999 years upon the following terms:
- The estate to be laid out by a competent gardener as a people’s park
- The house to be converted into a local museum or otherwise used for the benefit or enjoyment of the public
- The whole to be kept in order in order for the purpose to which it is devoted
- No intoxicating liquor to be sold on any part of the house or councils grounds
- The rent to be £5 per annum and the work to be completed (so) that the park can be opened to the public on 21st September, 1912
The Chairman moved the resolution that the Council unanimously accept, with their full gratitude, the handsome offer made by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard. Mr. Joseph Roberts seconded the resolution saying that he felt sure that the gift would be greatly appreciated by the inhabitants of Llanelly.
Comments in the local press three days later were suitably appreciative, but with reservations. The Llanelly Mercury on 4th January said:
“We hope that these conditions will be sufficiently safeguarded in the deed of transfer, so as not to allow any quibbling over matters in the future. We know that if some members of the Council had sole and absolute control over the Castle and grounds, they would not hesitate to pull it down, build workmen’s pill boxes with the materials, and let the grounds out for potato plots; and whilst we have this element on the Council, the more stringent the conditions are, the better it will be for the residents of the urban area as a whole. Whilst heartily thanking Sir Stafford and Lady Howard for their generous and most appreciated gift to the town, we know we are voicing the feeling of everyone in Llanelly.”
And a leading citizen, Mr. D. Watcyn Morgan, said in the Llanelly and County Guardian of the same date:
"Let every child be taught that every tree is to be kept undamaged for the joy of all visitors alike and not wantonly destroyed out of mere hooligan bravado. It is (through) this and only this that Llanelly will adequately show (its) appreciation of Sir Stafford and Lady Howard’s gift.”