Llanelli Maternity Hospitals 

How many 'Llanelli-ites' were actually born in Llanelli maternity hospitals? None, if they were born after 1975! That was when the town's maternity home was finally closed.During the Second World War there was a dire need in the town for a maternity hospital, and despite spending restriction being imposed on the local authority, they purchased a building in Goring Road, Llanelli, for the purpose of a maternity home. On October 10th 1942 it was announced that a building had been purchased and that a further expenditure of £440 was required to carry out renovations to the premises. 

It was reported at the meeting of Health and Maternity and Child Welfare Committee that there had been one objection to the further cost, by Councillor H. M. F. Combs who described the acquisition as “a bad bargain”. However the work was carried out without delay and the Maternity Home in Goring Road was formally opened by the Mayor, Alderman H. W. Bowen JP., on Tuesday 3rd November 1942.

Expressing his pleasure that at last Llanelly had been able to establish a maternity home, Dr. H. D. Llewellyn said:
while it did not satisfy them, the great thing was that it represented a step towards the kind of building that would satisfy them. It was the best that could be done in the circumstances, and after the war they could aim higher.
Mrs. A. J. Burns added:

they should not lose sight of the fact that Lady Howard Stepney was the pioneer of the Maternity and Infant Welfare Centre at Llanelly. It was for the women of the town to strive for a more adequate building in the future
This early maternity home was located at the bottom of Goring Road. It must be remembered that there was also another maternity home among the block of Grade 2 Listed Buildings at the top of Goring Road. This was a private concern.

But this was only the beginning of a maternity unit at Llanelli because, as promised, just two years later it was reported that the Llanelly Borough Council had purchased another building called 'Glasfryn', in Felinfoel Road, from a local tradesman Mr. Thomas Thomas, at a cost of £6000 for conversion into a maternity home. The building was set in one and three quarter acres of land which included six large glasshouses. Thomas Thomas owned a local bakery and operated a number of shops and confectioners in Llanelli.

The new acquisition was a wonderful adjunct to the town, as it would serve as two 'nurseries'. Not only was it a nursery for newborn babies, but it was also a 'nursery' for new garden plants for the Borough’s public parks especially the nearby Parc Howard!'

Glasfryn was to be converted into a maternity home consisting of a ground floor with rooms for six beds, a dining room, a sun parlour and an office, while the first floor would have seven beds, a separation room, bath rooms and operating theatre. Finally, the second floor would have four bedrooms and a box room. Meanwhile Mr S. J. Roberts the Parks Superintendent, had already been placed in charge of the glasshouses!

On Saturday 18 May 1946, The Llanelly Star reported that the big day had finally arrived, after the total expenditure of £8500 Glasfryn, had been officially opened by The Mayoress, Miss Doris M. Rees. She was handed a ceremonial key by the Mayor, Councillor Daniel Rees JP., who before a number of dignitaries had stated:
the establishment of a modern maternity home in the borough had long been overdue The Corporation were very fortunate indeed in being able to secure such commodious premises as Glasfryn for this purpose, situated in such an admirable position, with this large area of land attached. At a cost which is quite reasonable, compared with the erection of a new building, we are now in possession of a Maternity Home of which we feel justly proud. The officials were determined that only the best equipment should be installed and considering the difficulties that faced them they have been, from what I have seen, highly successful and are to be congratulated on their efforts. I am very sorry indeed that Lady Howard-Stepney is unable to be here today. She had worked exceptionally hard in the Maternity and Child Welfare movement and she is extremely interested in the establishment of this Home. We sincerely hope that she will soon be restored to her normal good health. It gives me great pleasure to hand this key to the Mayoress, in the absence of Lady Howard-Stepney to perform the official opening

Glasfryn Maternity Home went on to provide over twenty six years of good service to Llanelli mothers, where it was claimed that over 10,000 babies had been delivered, which is a credit to the local authority, the then Llanelly Borough Council, that they could open a maternity hospital so soon after the ending of the second world war.

In May 1974 there was some discussion that the maternity home was costing too much to run. Also, there had been some subsidence in the surrounding ground around the building which caused serious concern. On 18th April 1975, the home was closed and the civil engineering company, Thyssen Great Britain Ltd were consulted. Following test boring by the company, it was concluded that the ground movement was the result of old shallow coal-mine workings. Expectant mothers would now have to travel to Morriston, Gorseionon or Glangwili. Although the subterranean cavities had been grouted and filled in the authorities had decided not to reuse the building. Llanelli was then left without a maternity home.

There was much concern in the town, so much that Llanelli's midwives took up the fight and raised a petition calling for the reopening of Glasfryn or immediate alternative accommodation for maternity beds. There was an added problem, because according to a Nursing Officer Miss J. Fowden, who was addressing the West Glamorgan Area Health Authority:

patients who would normally have gone to Glasfryn were being cared for at Morriston and Gorseinon maternity units the post-natal ward at Morriston was almost continually blocked, resulting in severe pressure on staff and an unsatisfactory situation for patients

Various buildings were put forward including Cilymaenllwyd Convalescent Home in Pwll. The editor of The Llanelli News put forward a suggestion:

This may seem like humour but it is only to bring out the tragic/comedy of the situation. The editor of the Llanelli News was challenged at a dinner recently to find a tenant for Llanelli House which becomes vacant next September, which the Llanelli News has highlighted for preservation. Well, what better preservation with all the necessary precautions against fire, than for the Local Health Authority to take it over as the Town's maternity unit. Llanelli babies being born in Llanelli House, there is an appeal about it. It is central, has parking, and the area can be pedestrianised. Even if only on a temporary basis. It will have served the town and district well

On 24th July 1975 it was reported that the Dyfed Area Health Authority had decided to close Glasfryn Maternity Home and build a maternity ward at Llanelli General Hospital, a decision that was endorsed by the Llanelli Borough Council. In the meantime there were still calls in the local press for an alternative accommodation for Llanelli mothers-to-be, but no option ever materialised.

Many thanks to Lynwen Rees for lending us the silver key to photograph and Huw Lloyd for the invoice from the maternity home.

Addendum 21st. January 2014

Since publishing this article Mrs. Lynwen Rees has given the Silver Key, and other artefacts, to the Parc Howard Museum to be enjoyed by all. Lynwen's late husband Neville, was the nephew of Miss Doris Rees to whom the key was originally presented in 1946.

Lynwen (left) is completing the necessary paper work with Ann Dorsett, County Museums Manager.

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