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‘Llanelli’s own version of Downton Abbey’

Jon Coles

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Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 09.50.41THE HERALD caught up with author Philip Thomas to talk with him about his new book, which is all about Parc Howard, its history, and its importance regarding Llanelli’s history. 

The Parc is a part of Llanelli’s identity. For readers who haven’t been to the Parc, Philip describes it as ‘Llanelli’s own version of Downton Abbey’,

In the book, Phillip explores the site’s long history in depth.

Philip says Parc Howard is ‘a jewel in Llanelli’s crown’.

His love for history stems from his childhood when he would spend time at the Parc. While there, his mother would tell him about the mansion and the Stepneys.

Philip’s great uncle, Walter Cole, who was a prominent artist in Llanelli, had personal dealings with Lady Stepney Howard as he painted commissions for her.

The book covers the history of the Parc and Mansion

Philip told us that his research was done through ‘a lot of reading and through interest’. He said: “When I was in the forces, I used to visit a lot of historical sites and you just absorb what people tell you and what you read.”

For Philip, the process of writing the book was stimulating.

He told The Herald: “It’s always been an ambition of mine and I’m in the process of writing another two books.”

When it comes to Parc Howard, its biggest benefactor is Lady Catherine Howard, who donated Parc Howard to the people of Llanelli.

Lady Catherine’s history is covered extensively in the book. Philip explained: “She was concerned with people’s welfare and was protective of the welfare of Llanelli people. At the time, the people of Llanelli were very impoverished. There were a lot of industrial disputes, political disputes and we had the Llanelli riots, miners’ strikes. She was a very caring person.”

Today, Llanelli owes her a great deal, Philip says of Lady Catherine’s generosity: “I don’t think the townspeople realise what she’s done for the town; apart from Parc Howard, she gave us our first coat of arms.”

Explaining about Lady Catherine’s commitment to Llanelli and to the Welsh language, he said: “She was passionate about the Welsh. She learned Welsh from a minister. At her wedding, everything was in Welsh. Welsh was the central theme of her life.”

For Philip, the prime reason for writing the book is as a gift for future generations: “My aim is to record something and this is why [the book] is registered with the British Library. In 100 years time, it could be used as a point of reference; someone could come along and they could write more and that’s fantastic!”

Philip is a member of the Parc Howard Association.

In September, the association will begin to host tours of the grounds, which will last for around an hour to an hour and a half. Philip told us that visitors can expect see ‘more than they will be able to take in’.

Philip has been busy preparing for the tours and people will be able to see and hear about the mansion.

People can buy Philip’s book from Llanelli Library, Parc Howard mansion, Barry Lewis in Llanelli Market and also from Philip Thomas himself.

All the proceeds go to the Parc Howard Association.

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

Carli Newell

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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Burry Port Harbour lighthouse overhaul tops council’s £2million investment

Carli Newell

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A £2MILLION investment in Burry Port Harbour is nearing completion, topped off with the iconic lighthouse getting a fresh lick of paint.

Carmarthenshire County Council is behind a range of improvements to maintain and restore the historic harbour which is one of the county’s most loved and well visited beauty spots.

Restoration of the Grade II listed harbour walls, undertaken under the guidance of CADW, will conclude within the next few weeks.

The council has also been working alongside The Marine Group, which operates the harbour, to improve mooring facilities. They are working closely with fishermen to bid for funding for new commercial pontoon infrastructure.

It will add to investment made over previous years which saw the council spend almost £1.5million on new pontoons, and over £300,000 in maintaining the harbour railings and bridge.

A local operator has agreed a lease for a cafe and public toilets on east side of Harbour, and the refurbishment of the old RNLI harbour office has recently started by The Marine Group (TMG) to create a harbour-side coffee house.

TMG has also invested in a state-of-the-art dredger which arrived at the harbour last autumn. Dredging is well underway and will continue until targeted depths are reached.

Boat lifting equipment and new fuelling points are also planned.

The council has introduced community safety officers to patrol the harbour assisting tourists and local people during the summer months, especially to advise around Covid regulations, as part of a tourism hotspot plan to take care of issues such as parking, litter, street cleansing, enforcement and signage.

Temporary car parking surfacing has also been laid on the east side along with new pay and display facilities ahead of a wider multi-million regeneration plan that will transform the harbour with a mix of housing, commercial and leisure space covering around 13 acres of prime development site.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We are proud of our continued investment in Burry Port Harbour. We are spending millions restoring and maintaining historic features that are much-loved by local people and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy what the harbour has to offer.

“We continue to work closely alongside The Marine Group and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council to plan and prioritise works and ongoing maintenance. We are as keen as everyone else to ensure it is well-maintained and continues to be a place people can enjoy.

“We appreciate that there has been some upheaval during these improvement works but we ask people to understand that our investment will make Burry Port Harbour an even better place for the future.”

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Government ban on knives, firearms and offensive weapons has come into force across Wales

Carli Newell

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A TOUGH ban on a wide range of knives, weapons, and specific firearms comes into force on Wednesday (July 14) as part of Government action to tackle violent crime and serious violence.

Cyclone knives, spiral knives and ‘rapid-fire’ rifles are among those covered by the ban, all of which have been associated with serious violence in communities across the country.

A new legal definition of flick knives, banned since 1959, also takes effect, resulting in more of these bladed weapons being outlawed.

All weapons banned in public by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, including zombie knives, shuriken or death stars and knuckledusters, will now also be banned in private, meaning people can no longer keep them at home.

Anyone unlawfully possessing a firearm covered by the ban will face up to 10 years in prison and those possessing one of the other weapons can be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment or a fine or both.

Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett said: “The harm caused to families and communities through the tragic loss of life relating to knife crime is devastating and that is why focusing on this issue remains a top priority for policing.

“We welcome the changes to legislation being introduced by the Offensive Weapons Act. These measures will help officers to seize more dangerous weapons, deal with those intent on using them to cause harm and suffering, and crucially, make it more difficult for young people to get hold of knives and other dangerous items in the first place.

“Knife crime is not something that can be solved by policing alone. We are working closely with partners and with groups such schools and businesses to educate young people and explain why carrying a knife is never the right choice. This early intervention plays a vitally important role in stopping young people from turning to a life of crime.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “There is no place in our society for violent crime and harm caused by such knives and firearms. Lives have been lost through serious violence, and this ban will help save lives by getting more knives and other weapons off the streets and out of the hands of violent criminals.

“The human suffering and hurt caused by the tragic loss of life through violent crime is unacceptable, which is why the Government will stop at nothing to give the police the powers needed to stop violent crime and protect the public.

“From today, anyone possessing one of these deadly weapons unlawfully will face the full force of the law.”

The provisions are set out in the Government’s Offensive Weapons Act, which received Royal Assent in May 2019.

From December 2020 to March 2021, the Government ran a scheme allowing members of the public to surrender to the police any items that fell within the new ban and claim compensation from the Home Office.

During the period, 14,965 knives and offensive weapons, 1,133 ‘rapid fire’ firearms (as defined within the Offensive Weapons Act) and more than 32,000 items of ancillary equipment were surrendered, with the Home Office receiving and processing 829 claims for compensation.

The Government is also reminding members of the public about forthcoming changes to the law around antique firearms.

The Antique Firearms Regulations 2021, introduced in March this year, provides for the first time a legal definition of ‘antique firearm’ to prevent criminals exploiting a lack of clarity in law to gain possession of such a weapon for use in crime.

Owners of firearms which have ceased to be antiques as a result of the 2021 Regulations have until 22 September this year to apply to the police for a firearms certificate, which allows them to own these weapons legally. Alternatively, they can surrender, sell or otherwise dispose of the firearm before 22 September.

Police continue to urge anybody to contact them should they know of anybody involved with illegal weapons to contact them via the website or by calling 101. Alternatively contact can also be made via Crimestoppers, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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