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

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)


  1. Rib from Gabalfa
    Rib from Gabalfa June 18, 2015

    I was in Neath farm from 1980 I have not seen anybody writing online about the place and it would be good to hear from others Who was there in those days . Rib

    • chris maidment
      chris maidment June 18, 2015

      yes i have googled for a long time to see if anyone i knew was about now because although hard it was also a lot of fun like going to the rugby ground to concrete new stand and getting case newcastle brown between us as payment and me driving tracter to get sawdust for farm with 5 or more boys on trailer haha and me with no licance i thought was very amuseing mr kenady asleep in trailer

  2. wyn williams
    wyn williams June 19, 2015

    I was sent there from caernarfon cus I wos to old for brynestyn I came on the bus with rob kinsella and were in aberdare house

  3. Benji
    Benji June 19, 2015

    Remember ‘Karate’ Evans, the martial arts expert who hypnotised loads of lads and that big dozy bastard from down Swansea who ended up chasing little green men all over the shop. jumping over desks and crawling on the floor in the dirt. I remember Les Parcel and Chang from the Rhondda valleys who were on the farm and Seamus O’Donnell from Beddau way who was a real hard case, some of the staff were scared of him. I was in Peter ‘One Ball’ Flemings carpentry Dept. What was the name of that massive black guy? Everyone called him BooBoo he was a fucking huge beast about 18 plus stones and six foot eight who kicked off and it took five staff to hold him down. I recognise D.A.R. Evans the class teacher and Chesterfield from the gardening Dept in that Staff picture and the bloke who was in the painting and decorating Dept, what was his name? That’s Pete Fleming in the van, was that taken a day out to the beach or up Brecon Beacons Or was it a work party? I was in Carmarthen House with AJ and Dave Gillard and others it will be good if others who were there posted here

    • chris maidment
      chris maidment June 19, 2015

      what year was that benji i remember a coloured boy nevil frances looked like guy of the green mile film ral big bloke strong as ox came just as i left he was in carnmarthen house did flemings wife have glasses?

      • Benji
        Benji June 19, 2015

        1980 or 81 if I remember back chris they threw all sorts of nutters into the place there were always tear ups going on Fleming had split up with his wife when I was there he bought a house in Cimla and he borrowed the minibus to move in and a load of us helped him. I never met his wife but we all knew he was knocking off the woman in the sewing room who repaired and altered the work clothes I wondered if she knew what he kept in his desk draw in the carpentry shop dirty bastard haha what year was goldfinch inquiry? I gave a statement to two coppers who were from the anti-terrorist squad what was that all about?

        • chris maidment
          chris maidment June 19, 2015

          that was operation goldfinch two came to me they were murder squad god knows why they used such weird cops for interview cant remmber year health reasons?? but u were there long after me in my day u never messed about unless daft? i was

        • chris maidment
          chris maidment October 27, 2016

          he had some nice photos i remmber someone taking one out

    • ADMIN
      ADMIN June 20, 2015

      That photo was taken the day we canoed down the river, through the docks and into the sea at Aberavon.

      I remember AJ and Dave Gillard, he was from Bristol.

      The big guy you mentioned was Robert something, I forget his surname, from Cardiff and some of the lads used to jump on his back two or three at a time to wind him up…. He used to run around with them hanging from his arms and neck.

      Les Parcel left the same week that I arrived and Chang left a month or two later.

      I remember Seamus, he is in the picture taken in the minibus wearing the grey shirt holding the plate, he left a few months after I was sent there.

      I am the one pouring water from the white jerrycan to his left.

      • chris maidment
        chris maidment June 20, 2015

        haha we used to canoe in ogmore out into the sea brill times then out on rescue nboat in yacht club in reservoir in margam i remmber gordon v christi stuck upside down after rolling sobbed his eyes out but he was safe??then home in the old grey bus singing the farm school song they give us 30 shillings and take back 29

    • Kristyna
      Kristyna January 11, 2016

      Seamus O’Donnell used to live in Tynant, Beddau and his nick name was Shammy. Although he was a bit of a tearaway, I always got on well with him. This would have been before he was in Neath Farm School

      • Shamy
        Shamy February 8, 2018

        Did yu live in fair view by any chance lol

    • Shamy
      Shamy February 8, 2018

      Haha hah I was there same time loved it there it was a scream .. Aberdare House

      • ADMIN
        ADMIN February 9, 2018

        Hi Shamy, in one of the photographs in the above article, the one in the Minibus with Peter Fleming (Carpentry) …. the lad wearing the white shorts is you. The one pouring water from the Jerrycan is me 😉

        It was taken at Sandfields beach in Port Talbot when we all went canoeing.

  4. Cory
    Cory June 25, 2015

    i was there in 1981 aberdare house

  5. Richy Reid
    Richy Reid June 30, 2015

    Nice article. I have looked for years for anything online about GFS and if any of the lads who were there had written about it or were in touch. I was there in 1982 until early ’84 and it would be cool if anyone else who was there gets in touch. Jimmy has my email address. Richy

  6. Richard
    Richard October 18, 2016

    My father was Mr David farm bailiff at GFS and we lived at the Farm Cottage.

    I had a very happy childhood at GFS and later Hillside Centre. I got on well with all the boys who seemed to have a positive experience, considering their backgrounds.
    I do recall being told to stay away from some boys, but the majority were absolutely fine towards me.

    One ex-GFS boy grew up to become a multi-millionaire. He came back to Neath and visited my father to thank him for helping to get him back on the straight and narrow.

    Most of the staff have passed away and all remaining records are sealed for safeguarding reasons.

    Much of the former GFS estate still survives.
    Aberdare House, Carmarthen house and Duffryn House were bulldozed to make way for a new secure centre.
    Beaufort House and the Villas along Groves Road and the entrance off Burnside are now rented properties belonging to NPT Homes.
    The playing fields have been developed for housing.
    The farm building were all demolished, but a new building has been erected by tenants who put horses out on the fields.

    I think I recognise the 4 members of staff having a tea break. From right to left they are:-
    Norman Holified (Painting and Decorating Dept.)
    Noel Williams (classroom teacher)
    Mervyn Chesterfield (Garden Dept.)
    Clive Hopkins (Farm Dept.)

    • chris maidment
      chris maidment October 27, 2016

      i was on farm with mr david and mr kennedy was good fun youer dad was a tidy bloke not that we saw much of him kennedy did most work with us

    • ADMIN
      ADMIN October 27, 2016

      Hi Richard. Which ex-staff members are now dead?

      The last I heard about them was during the Goldfinch Inquiry and Howard Davies the Headmaster was still alive then and Terry Samson, Bob Small, ‘Karate’ Evans and Noel Williams were too.

    • taff
      taff September 30, 2017

      Hi Richard, i was in school from 1979 to 1981,new your father,and yourself,you are right about the photo,but don’t forget Mr Burton,gardener Jones,must also say it’s karate Dave Thomas,and not to forget Mrs crow,Mr and Mrs Evans,Mrs Sally Williams,Mrs Holifield,Mrs Burton,and Mrs joshph,Mrs Davis the cooks at Carmarthen house and your mother who worked between both houses and all the other staff.
      I worked on the farm with all the other boy’s doing the hay in summer,cleaning out the pig’s every morning a very good time.
      I could go on for ever hope your keeping well all the best Taff.

  7. James Hacche
    James Hacche December 18, 2016

    A very interesting article.

  8. Janine
    Janine June 2, 2017

    Just doing a bit of research for my Grampy who was at the farm school late 1940 early 1950. Walter O’Sullivan age 86 from Cardiff, I still love hearing about his time there and his behaviour Any information would be much appreciated so I can pass it onto him, doesn’t appear to be much information when I google the farm school

    • ADMIN
      ADMIN June 2, 2017

      Hi Tia. You are right there does not seem to be very much information available online about the Farm School, other than what I have found and published on the Outlaw, and the recollections of the lads who were there …. a number of who have commented here as you can see.

  9. Michael Good
    Michael Good July 20, 2017

    Only there a short spell in 1983. Had so much fun doing things I’d never done before. A few things I can remember quite clearly 1 boy had a big pot of tea chucked in his face by one of the other boy. Walking down to the shop to buy tobacco on pocket money day. Working on the farm with the pigs and head butting fights with the little goat in the garden.

  10. Michael Clarke (Clarkey)
    Michael Clarke (Clarkey) August 4, 2017

    There’s a Facebook page for GFS old boys


  11. Kevin
    Kevin February 27, 2018

    I was there 1973 Aberdare house, Mr Jones was the House Master there, Mr Samson next door. Worked in the painting and decorating department with mr Norman Hollifield, the headmaster at that time was mr Lloyd. Howard Davies was deputy head. Mr Burton, building, Mr Thomas Carpentry, mr Chesterfield and mr Jones garden. The Colliers were in Carmathern house and mr C.P. Williams in Beaufort house. Although we would get into trouble there, it was a good place to be and the staff were fantastic.

  12. Sarah D James
    Sarah D James July 16, 2018

    Looking for any details on Gerald/Gerard Bennett from Birmingham, who would have been at the school mid 50s/early 60s. Can anyone help?

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