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It always saddens me when iconic buildings with historical significance are destroyed. That sadness is compounded, however, when said buildings also have a personal connection to either myself, or to somebody I know, or have known.

A case in point is the ongoing demolition of a Cardiff landmark, ‘The Rise’, situated north of the city in Pontcanna, of which a photograph which was sent to me recently, shows.

Penhill House, built in 1861, by Lewis Charles, before being sold to Edward Bevan some years later, and remained in private hands up until the late 1960s, when it was re-purposed as a Cardiff City Council ‘Assessment Centre’, accommodating boys, aged between 11 and 16, from Cardiff, Barry, Penarth and the Rhondda Valleys.

It’s first owner was an Apothecary (Pharmacist), and it’s attached one-acre gardens were known locally as ‘Erw-yr-Apothercary’, which reflected it’s original purpose.

After it’s usefulness as an Assessment Centre came to an end, it was used right up until it’s closure, by Cardiff City Council to house the offices of the Youth Offending Team.

Pontcanna residents have campaigned for the building to be preserved, but the City Council, declared The Rise, a ‘Financial Burden,’ and it’s Director of Economic Development, decided in 2017 to dispose of the building at an open auction.

Another reason given by the Council was that it needed to be disposed of, to save ‘Running Costs’.

A letter to the South Wales Echo, from local resident Pauline Grainger, Reads:

‘We are told that the Council is powerless to prevent it’s demolition. Have they considered listing the building? I would have thought that there was a very good case to be made to save one of Cardiff’s oldest distinctive buildings dating back to the 1860s. Not to mention the loss of the mature treason the site, which we are now told are conveniently diseased’.

A Pontcanna Councillor, Iona Gordon, has pretty much agreed with the Council’s plans, saying “It’s unfortunate that the building  – just outside her ward – was not listed.’

But Cardiff Civic Society did actively work towards protecting this landmark from demolition, and even organised a protest prior to the bulldozers moving in, and have sent a letter to Cardiff Planning Department, outlining their concerns.

‘Cardiff Civic Society has noted the sale by auction of Pencil Rise on Penhill Road.

This is a landmark building on a prominent site in the local area. In response to representations by the local community, Cardiff Civic Society would like to urge Cardiff Council to preserve this interesting building, and the mature trees that provide a hughe local amenity, as well as absorbing pollution from the busy road.

Penhill Rise deserves to be sympathetically restored, and it’s tree-lined landscape to remain, as both elements add immeasurably to the character of the region. The property is adjacent to the Grade II listed park, Llandaff Fields, and any intrusive development would impact unfavourably on this well-loved green space. Furthermore, it is clear that any major development work on this site would inevitably cause traffic chaos and present a serious danger to pedestrians.

There is a precedent for preserving landmark buildings of character and history in the area. For example, the Vicarage Development on Severn Road, which was preserved thanks to the effort of the local community, and is now a hugely desirable residential property.

Cardiff has lost too many characterful, historic buildings for the city to be able to afford to lose any more.’

There is not much for Cardiff Council to argue against, in my opinion.

Despite the opposition to the Council’s plans , and the impassioned plea’s from locals, the sale of the building did go ahead, and the new owner, has I believe, made good on his plans to demolish the building.

The building attracted bids far and above the auction estimate of £595,000, and no doubt the City Council’s accountants were jumping for joy, when The Rise actually sold for £1.6 Million.

Interestingly enough, despite the local Councillor’s claim; “It’s unfortunate that the building was not listed”, a basic search on the BRITISH LISTED BUILDINGS website, would have shown her that Penhill House is (or was) certainly a Grade II listed Building, and has been since 1978.

If this Grade II listing is still in place, then it asks the question as to why the demolition of The Rise was allowed to proceed, and also why were both the Cardiff Civil Society and the local Councillors not aware of it, or did they simply not acknowledge it’s status, as after all, £1.6 Million is a serious sum of money.

Or was the listed status removed quietly, when the listing was amended in 2001?

As for my personal connection to this building?

I lived at The Rise intermittently, between September and December 1978, while it was still an Assessment Centre, it was the first Care Home I was a resident of.

Glamorgan Reformatory

Glamorgan Reformatory for Boys, Ty Segur, Neath 1874. Image: childrenshomes.org

The Glamorgan (or Glamorganshire) Reformatory for Boys was established in 1858 in premises at Hawdref Ganol, a few miles to the west of Neath. The site eventually proved to be too wild and inaccessible so more convenient premises were found in a location known as Ty Segur in the Mount Pleasant district of Neath where a 70-year lease was obtained on a farm of 42 acres.

A new building was erected — of stone, with blue brick dressings — and on March 12th, 1875, the property was formally certified for the accommodation of 70 boys. The existing inmates then transferred to the new premises Hawdref Ganol, along with some of the staff including the superintendent, Michael Farrah, and the matron, Jane Farrah.

Other staff were two assistants, Mr George Ewens and Mr E. Cowells, who also performed the classroom teaching, and a cook.

The boys chiefly worked on the farm and in the garden, and worked for neighbouring farmers occasionally. They also assisted in the kitchen, laundry and all the other work of the house. A tailoring shop was set up in 1878 where a few of the boys were instructed and made all the clothes for the establishment.

Apart from occasional cases of absconding and dips in educational performance, the School achieved consistently good reports, particularly regarding its agricultural activities. The livestock now included pigs, milk cows and horses. In 1885, it was noted that the sale of vegetables had generated and income of £280. There was a system of marks by which industrious boys could earn from 1d. to 3d. a week.

Mr Farrah died suddenly on October 29th, 1890.

He had been superintendent of the establishment for over 25 years. He was succeeded Mr G. Ewens, who had been farm bailiff for many years, with Mrs Ewens as matron. The School continued its good work under its new head. By 1892, 30 acres of rough grass and mountain pasture had been added to the 40 of arable land.

The boys attended one of the main churches in Neath twice every Sunday.

In 1896, half of the farm’s 40 acres were now being cultivated as a market garden, with the rest in corn and pasture. The farm had some well-built barns, piggeries and storehouses. Extensions to the laundry, drying store-room and bath were in progress. Classroom subjects included mental arithmetic, geography, history, recitation and singing.

A small museum containing minerals and other subjects of local interest had been added for use of the schoolroom. The farm stock consisted of four breeding sows (with about 50 young pigs), four cows, a horse, and poultry. There was a playing field of about ten acres on which the boys played football, cricket and other games. There was marching drill once a week and long walks were taken from time to time. Once a year, the whole School had a day’s outing at the seaside and about half a dozen half-holidays a year.

The School was provided with some illustrated papers, and there was a library of about 100 books, which were eagerly read by the boys on Saturday nights.

In 1898, geometrical drawing was introduced into the industrial training. In the same year, it was noted that some of the crops were suffering from the smoke of neighbouring works.

These was a major disruption to the School’s smooth running in 1903.

On July 9th, due to the ill-health of Mr Ewens, he and his wife left the institution to take a holiday.

On Monday, July 13th, and on the day, after, there were attempt by the a number of the boys to escape. Ten got away, with seven of them soon being recaptured and taken into police custody.

Serious rioting took place on the Wednesday night when the main building was attacked by boys carrying iron bars and heavy sticks. Windows were smashed and doors broken in. The officers, who were threatened with personal violence, concealed themselves.

All of the boys then ran away and proceeded to the summit of a hill, two mile distant. The police followed and then closed in, threatening to fell with a truncheon the first boy who disobeyed.

The boys eventually gave in and were marched back to the institution. Following the arrival of more police officers, ten of the ringleaders were taken into custody. On Thursday, following the arrival on the scene of Captain James Legge, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools, there were further disturbances and vandalism.

Amongst the most active perpetrators were seven boys who had been liberated by the police earlier in the day at Captain Legge’s request.

These were re-arrested, together with seven others and marched to Neath. At subsequent court hearings, the boys made accusations of cruelty by the superintendent.

These were denied by Captain Legge, although he admitted that due to the superintendent’s illness, discipline had been somewhat lax of late.

Each of the boys was given a month’s hard labour.

From July 16th to 23rd, charge of the School was taken by Mr Frank Goode, a house master at the Reformatory in Redhill, Surrey. He and his wife, Harriett, took over as permanent superintendent and matron on October 21st, 1903, in the interim, Mr and Mrs Waite oversaw the establishment.

In 1904, gas was laid on at the premises and the drains were completely relaid. Nightshirts were supplied to the boys and the diet improved. The boys were now being instructed in gymnastics.

It was noted that most boys went down the mines when they left the School.

In April, 1904, a boy fell into the wash-house boiler, burning his legs. He appeared to be doing well for a week then he suddenly died.

It was suggested that a platform be built over the boiler so that clothes could be removed with climbing on top of it. In 1907, the School was connected with the main town drain.

A pond was provided for outdoor bathing. Football and cricket matches now taking place against other local teams. Concerts and entertainments were being given by friends of the School. Slippers were provided for use in the School after work hours.

The institution was now known as the Glamorganshire Farm School.

In 1911, the staff at the School comprised the superintendent and matron, Mrs and Mrs Goode; schoolmaster, Mr F.W. Sewell; gymnastic instructor, medical officer, dentist, chaplain, master-tailor, gymnastic instructor, labour master, manual instructor, and cook.

Mr Goode was still superintendent in 1920 but died in 1926. In 1930, Mr A.L. Brackey was in charge of the establishment.

In 1933, the Glamorganshire Farm School became an Approved School, one of the new institutions introduced by the 1932 Children and Young Persons Act to replace the existing system of Reformatories and Industrial Schools.

Picture taken inside the GFS Minibus 1979

Picture taken inside the GFS Minibus 1979

The School accommodated up to 70 Senior Boys aged between their 14th and 17th birthdays at their date of admission. The training offered by the School included instruction in farming, gardening and carpentry.

GFS Staff 1979

GFS Staff 1979

Neath Farm

Dyffryn House GFS 1979

In 1973, the School became a ‘Community Home with Education’ (CHE) under the control of West Glamorgan County Council. (Later Neath/Port Talbot County Council)

Mostsof the original School buildings were demolished during the early part of the 1990s, Beaufort House became private housing, and a new secure unit, ‘Hillside’ for young offenders was erected on the site in 1996.

Hillside Secure Unit 2002

Hillside Secure Unit 2002

Hillside Secure Centre opened in November 1996. It is located within the County Borough of Neath Port Talbot. Responsibility for the management of the service rests with the Department for Social Services and Housing. The Council intends that the Centre should operate on a self-financing basis.

The Centre was purpose built. It accommodates 18 young people living in three separate living units of six beds. One of the units is routinely used for boys subject to Section 91 orders, who are serving custodial sentences of between one year and life.

The other two units house both boys and girls whose length of stay can vary from a few days to periods of around a year.

Those subject to secure orders and detention and training orders had sentences of between 4 and 24 months, half of which would be served in a secure setting.

It will cost £22,000 a week to house each youngster in the unit.

Since its inception in 1997, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) has taken responsibility for the placement of young offenders who are either being held on remand or have been given a custodial sentence.

The YJB has a service level agreement with Hillside for the provision of 14 beds. Priority for a place at Hillside is given to vulnerable young people from Wales.

The remaining 4 beds are purchased by authorities in England or Wales who require secure accommodation, applying for secure orders under civil law. At the time of the inspection the authority was renegotiating the Hillside contract with the YJB and extensive tender documentation had been submitted indicating the authority’s commitment to provide a service for a minimum period of 5 years from April 2004.

The process was due to be completed in December 2003 with the successful applicants beginning the new contracts in April 2004″.

SOURCE: Triennial Inspection of Hillside Secure Unit in Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council (2005)

After the 2008 financial crisis put an end to Iceland’s banking system and previous government, the country’s original constitution – created in 1944 – was deemed antiquated.

The country named 25 citizens as a Constitutional Council and were asked to help create the new governing document.

Through mass mobilization, the people toppled the government and instituted a radically new form of political participation, crowdsourcing.

The council took to the Internet to raise ideas and provisions from the public.

A first draft was made available online in April 2011 and citizens could comment through a Facebook page.

The council also remained open about decision-making posting status updates to Twitter and videos on YouTube.

In just three years, Iceland went from collapse to revolution and back to growth.

Instead of socialising the losses of the banks, making ordinary people pay for a crisis they never caused, the Icelandic model forced the bankers to pay for their own stupidity.

During the Icelandic crisis, all three of the country’s largest banks collapsed.

The government didn’t save them.

Key figures in the banking sector have been arrested and a former prime minister has been formally charged.