Fred S Price and The History of Llansawel

Fred S. Price, photographed about 1900

Fred S. Price, photographed about 1900

Frederick Samuel Price was born in Llansawel on December 16 1862, his birth being registered in the district of Llandilo fawr on January 15 1863.  His father, Evan Price, had been born on Bailey Vicar  (Beili Ficr) Farm, then as now the largest and most varied holding in the parish, and went on to own and run Llansawel’s drapers shop (Glynsawyl) for many years.

As a boy, Fred attended Ysgol Llansawel.  He was a clever child and, unlike his father who had only rarely left the parish, as a young adult he felt the need to spread his wings and so moved to Swansea.  He married an English girl, Rebecca, there in 1893.    His father died in 1896 but at least two of Fred’s three siblings had been helping to look after the shop for many years beforehand.  In 1898 Fred’s elder son, Evan Emrys, was born.  That was also the year in which he published the first of three local histories, all of which were about the places of his childhood – The History of Llansawel, followed in 1904 by The History of Caio, and, after a long gap, in 1934, The History of Talley.

Fred Price appears on the Swansea census of 1911, then aged 48, as an accountant and land valuer, employed by the tax office.  He died in Swansea in 1947.  A notice in the London Gazette in 1947 requesting claims on his estate (he did not leave a will) calls him a “retired tax assessor.”  It may be concluded from this that he spent his working life in this role.  In those days a job for life was desirable, even if not on the face of it a highly interesting or rewarding one.  Most ordinary people were glad of the stability and fulfilled themselves in other ways – through leisure interests.  Fred S Price was an accomplished amateur historian and his nostalgic interest in his old home persisted although there were no more Prices in Llansawel after his mother died – the old house Glynsawyl (now known as Sawyl House) had other occupants by 1911.

All three of his books are finely written in English and Welsh, and are full of information and impressive literary flourishes.   It is rare for three small communities to benefit from treatment by a good historian who also knew them intimately, and the books are therefore treasurable by anyone with either an interest in local history or a connection with any of the communities in question.

The books were all privately printed and are now difficult (and expensive) to get hold of.    Many copies are lost or damaged beyond repair and those which survive are normally prized by their owners and do not find their way into circulation.

 

You can see the shopfront of Glynsawyl or Sawyl House, the draper's, under the raised roof toward the far end of the terrace.  The photograph was taken around 1890, while Evan Price was still the proprietor.  Fred had probably gone to Swansea by this time.

This photograph is of Llansawel post office, but you can see the (dark) shopfront of Glynsawyl or Sawyl House, the draper’s, toward the middle of the terrace.  It was taken around 1890, while Evan Price was still proprietor. He is not pictured among the crowd outside the post office.  Fred was almost certainly living in Swansea by this time.

New Edition
With the help of the Carmarthenshire Landscape and Heritage Grant Fund, a new edition of The History of Llansawel is to be brought out this winter, with additional notes, maps and pictures.

The History of Llansawel records what was then known about the parish from earliest times until the date of publication (1898).  It contains a particularly good detailed account of the lineage of the local great house (Edwinsford) and the gentry (Williams) who had lived there since the 15th century.   It is still a reliable and fairly wide-ranging source of information about old times and well worth preserving .

Fred’s Other Works
Thanks to Mr Emrys Williams, Aberystwyth, we now know that Fred Price completed at least two other pieces of work, a literary index which won the Eisteddfod, and a memorial of the Rev Evan Davies, which we hope to track down presently.

Fred Price’s Family
Fred Price had two sons, Evan Emrys (b. 1897, d. 1971) and Wesley Owen (b 1903, d. 1983) (a third child died in infancy). Evan Emrys appears to have been a bachelor.  (Wesley Owen was the informant on his death certificate.)  He gained a BSc in science, and was a teacher in Swansea.  Wesley Owen qualified as an electrical engineer and he did  marry.  What became of his widow, Doreen Mary, and whether there were surviving children is not yet known.

Fred also had an older sister, Marian (b. 1859), a younger brother John Daniel (b. 1865) , and a younger sister Ada Eliza (b. 1866).  In the 1881 census, Fred, then 18, is listed as a scholar, while Marian and John Daniel helped in father’s draper’s shop in the village.   The 1891 census shows Evan and his wife Eliza in the house alone and the shop has become a drapers and grocers.  Eliza by the way was English, having been born in Stroud.   By 1901 she was living alone in the family home.  It is not known at present what became of the other family members.