A commemorative stone marking the completion of 22 houses built under the new building apprenticeship scheme set up after the Second World War.

On Wednesday 17th September 1947, a commemorative stone was laid in the crescent of Maeswerdd, Llanelli to mark the completion of 22 houses under the new building apprenticeship scheme which had been begun after the Second World War to help with the badly needed construction of new housing.

By the 1920s much of Llanelli’s housing stock consisted of buildings that were well over a hundred years old. These dwellings were considered to be ‘below standard’ and some could be described as ‘hovels’ and ‘slums’. Forge Row, Custom House Bank and Caerelms were typical of the settlements scattered around the town that fell into that category.

In 1921 a Llanelly Mercury headline read:

The New Houses. Progress Slower Than Anticipated. Llanelly Corporation had embarked on new council housing developments for the Llanerch, Trinity Road areas and later, the Lliedi Valley. These developments were to meet the housing shortage facing the town at the time [a].

Ten years later the housing shortage continued. In 1931 it was said that:

there were at present 293 applicants for Council houses, and of these, 60 or 70 were acute cases, in which more than nine persons lived in the same house. In one or two instances, 22 persons lived in one house, while cases of 11 or 12 in one house were fairly common.

To alleviate the problem the council embarked on a £100,000 Housing Scheme for the erection of 150 ‘workmen's houses’ in the Penyfan district of Llanelli [b]. While in the subsequent years orders for the clearance of Forge Row at Sandy and Custom House Bank at Seaside were issued [c]. The Council’s housebuilding scheme continued up to the late 1930s. In 1938, the Borough of Llanelly advertised for tenders for the erection of 92 Houses in the Lliedi Valley site at Felinfoel [d].

The start of the Second World War in September 1939 seriously affected the building trade: many skilled operatives were called up and the training of apprentices all but ceased. To make things worse, building materials were scarce because they were needed for the war effort, drastically affecting house building for almost ten years!

The shortage of skilled men and materials continued after the war. Commenting in 1947, the Chairman of the Welsh Board of Health, Captain Geoffrey Crawshay said that:

At the end of the war it was estimated that 25,000 apprentices were required each year to make good the normal wastage of building craftsmen. Due to the war, this sadly depleted industry was faced with the greatest manpower problem in its history [e].

To alleviate the problem Llanelly Borough Council embarked on a ground breaking project involving a Government Building Apprenticeship Scheme. It was a scheme that took young school leaving boys and immediately instructed them in the skills of house building on an actual housing site. On the very first day on the scheme they would be instructed in the building trades while leaving out all the usual ‘tea-making’ and ‘messenger running’ that was traditionally the duty of apprentices. It was claimed that “a boy could learn more in six months under the present scheme than in two years under the old method of training”. The housing site in question involved the construction of 22 houses in the Lliedi Valley district of Llanelli [f].

The scheme involved twelve experienced craftsmen, specially selected as instructors experienced in their respective trades, training six apprentices each. All were under the supervision of a general foreman. The scheme was controlled by Mr J Sidney Jones of Messrs Isaac Jones (Llanelly) Ltd., who was appointed as the Apprentice Master. The apprentices were allowed to attend the Mining and Technical Institute for one day a week where they received tuition in matters related to building works [g].

On Wednesday 17th September 1947, a crowd gathered in the crescent of Maeswerdd, Llanelli, to witness the laying of a commemorative stone to mark the completion of 22 houses under the building apprenticeship scheme. The stone bore the following inscription:

Borough of Llanelly-Government Building Training Scheme, 17 September, 1947 – This stone was laid by Ald. John Griffiths, J.P., Mayor. to commemorate the completion of the Borough’s first apprenticeship scheme. - D. J. Joseph, Chairman, Housing etc., Committee; D. J. Phillips, Town Clerk; F. E. Cull, Chairman of the Committee J. Sidney Jones, Apprentice Master.

Mr J. Sidney Jones, the Apprentice Master praised the lads saying...

I think the boys have done wonderfully well. We started the scheme twelve months last April. Some may say “It has taken them a long time” but it should be borne in mind that the boys when they came to this site knew nothing about building and that in the summer as well as in the autumn it rained almost every day, the rain being followed by terrific snowstorms. The winter was a very difficult and trying period, especially for the boys who had no experience of working out of doors in such weather. But I am glad to say that not one of them jibbed (applause). And to-day they look as happy and healthy as any boy could wish.

The Apprentice Master thanked the parents who interested themselves in the progress made by their sons and said that unfortunately all parents did not do so[h].

The training scheme was considered such a success that the corporation had selected Cefncaeau as being another site for house building. Here they planned to erect another 32 council houses.

To commemorate the laying of the tablet the, Mayor Alderman John Griffiths was presented with an inscribed trowel by Mr J. Sidney Jones, the Apprentice Master. Councillor Joseph and Councillor F. E Cull opened two new houses and each were presented with silver commemorative keys [I].

It is not clear how long the scheme continued but on 21st September 1964, a new Government Training Centre was opened up at the North Dock in Llanelli. Here it was planned to train apprentices in fitting, turning and basic electrical trades. While adults would be taught carpentry and bricklaying [j].

The Government Training Centre continued to skill the people of Llanelli until 1986 when the government scheme came to an end. However the North Dock training centre was purchased by the Llanelli Borough Council and renamed the Llanelli Community Resource Centre which was opened in April 1987, by the Under Secretary of State Mr Wyn Roberts [k].

Notes & Citations
[a] Llanelly Mercury 21 April 1921
[b] A Llanelli Chronicle by Gareth Hughes P360
[c] Llanelli Star 4 January 1936. Forge Row Clearance
Custom House Bank 20 April 1938
[d] Llanelly Star 29 January 1938
[e] ibid 20 September 1947
[f] Llanelly Guardian 25 September 1947
[g] ibid 11th September 1947
[h] Llanelly Guardian 25 September 1947
[i] Llanelly Star 20 September 1947
[j] Llanelly Star 19 September 1964
[k] The Chartered Borough of Llanelli 1913-1988 p 94 by David Francis Griffiths.

Training Centre views: Doug Simpson
Unveiling Ceremony 1947: Llanelli Star
Forge Row sketch: J. Wynne Hopkins