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.
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.
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 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)