Rees Davies: Masterbuilder
1867 - 1953

Rees Davies, the youngest of eight children, was born in Llansteffan. The children attended Llanybri School; he was the only one to cross the estuary to attend a Dame School to further his education. He trained as a builder and became a Master Builder, marrying Ann Parry, daughter of a Master Mariner of Llansteffan.

Mr. Davies lived in Carmarthen most of his life and was one of the best-known figures in the town and district, being held in high esteem. In his younger days he served on the executive committee of the Y.M.C.A. (situated on the site of the County Library) and campaigned for local reform with the temperance movement. He became Senior Magistrate of Carmarthen Borough, chairman of the Carmarthen Division Liberal Association and was senior deacon and treasurer for 45 years of the English Baptist Church. He was also one of the founder members of Carmarthen Rotary Club.

In the District Official Guide of 1932 the following advertisement for "Rees Davies Builder and Contractor" appeared.

 

This firm is very well known throughout the whole district. Many large contracts have been undertaken in South Wales and successfully carried out. Mr. Davies has had life-long experience in the trade, and can always be relied on to place his valuable Services before all enquiries. This firm enjoys, and deservedly so, the confidence of a large clientele.

Rees Davies's son, Victor Parry Davies, joined the navy with his great friend Cliff Jones, whose family owned the Owen Jones shoe shop on the corner of Lammas Street and Red Street. This was during the First World War; his father paid for him to become a midshipman. After the war he settled in Melbourne and married Clarice Ann Farquhar of Queensland.

They had three children, Gwynne, of Long Acre Road, Malcolm, who died in a naval accident, and Stephen, who was born in Carmarthen in 1939. Victor had returned from Australia, where there was a severe recession, in 1932 to help his father establish a laundry in Priory Street, where Denzil Evans's garage now stands. Victor was trained in laundry work in the Savoy Hotel in London. He was employed during the Second World War to decontaminate clothing in case of gas attacks.

 

Numbers 6 and 7 Penllwyn Park - the two houses on the extreme right.

Built c. 1900, No. 6, Redholme, has had bow windows added,

No.7, Llwynon, once had an attic window.

Cae Glas, on Monument Hill, where Rees Davies died

The old Midland Bank in Lammas Street, which Rees Davies regarded as his proudest achievement.

 

As builder and contractor Rees Davies was responsible for erecting a large range of buildings in Carmarthen and the surrounding counties:

The new wing of the County Infirmary, Priory Street

The Broadcast Hall (now known as the Parry Theatre), Trinity College

Four tutors' houses in Pentremeurig Road

The Principal's House, Carmarthen Technical College (now Carmarthenshire College of Technology and Art)

Numbers 6 and 7, Penllwyn Park

Parcmaen Street

Job's Well Road

Myrddin Crescent

The row of cottages and a house by the traffic lights on Monument Hill

Ucheldir, near the new Model School

The bandstand and grandstand in Carmarthen Park

Red Court House, opposite the United Counties Showground

Some buildings on the Wellfield estate

Brickworks at Dolgwili

Factories for milk products at Carmarthen and Merlin's Bridge, Haverfordwest

 

REES DAVIES - MASTERBUILDER
1867 - 1953

(Part 2 of the article by Marian Davies)

Rees Davies is still remembered by many inhabitants as having a forbidding appearance. He was always dressed in breeches and leggings. His offices were in Catherine Street, near the site of the old Model School. His secretary for forty years was Miss Owen, who lived in Picton Place. Meredith Williams was office manager; his daughter-in-law Fran Williams still lives in Morley Street.

The contract for installing electricity in his houses was given to Charles Chapman of Blue Street, who married Davies's daughter Dorothy (Dora). His other daughter Eleanor (Nell) married Professor Cuthbert Colin Davies, an Oxford don. Gas was provided by private companies before they were nationalised and sited in Morfa Lane, where Tovali and MFI are now.

The forebears of many of Carmarthen's present inhabitants worked for Davies. William Thomas Rogers, who died in April 1941, was a master plumber. He lived at Brookwood, 66 Parcmaen Street and was the grandfather of the late Noel Collins. Another plumber in his employ was Mr Ravenhill, who lived at 30 Parcmaen Street. His widow lives in Lime Grove Avenue. Mr Wilkins of Eryl House, College Road, a forebear of Henry Wilkins, of Hall Street, was one of the masons.

The architect and surveyor whom he mostly employed was Leonard Crabb of Lansdowne, Myrddin Crescent. The obituary for both men was printed on the same page of the Carmarthen Journal on Friday February 13 1953. However, the Broadcast Hall, now known as the Parry Theatre at Trinity College was designed by Bert Harby, a qualified architect employed as Head of Craft and Woodwork at the college. He lived for many years in one of the tutors' houses in Pentremeurig Road, which had been built by Rees Davies. Harby also designed "TheWing", the old residential block now known as Dewi Hostel and was responsible for the craft workshops and for remodelling the college chapel.

The Dolgwili Brickworks, which had two kilns, were built by Rees Davies sometime before 1919. From them came a stream of bricks for use not only by Davies himself but for many other builders in south and west Wales and beyond. The bricks came in three forms; "best" at 81 shillings per thousand, "seconds" at 73 shillings and sixpence and "selected" at 88 shillings and sixpence.

The Dolgwili brick was considered the hardest around and in 1920 was used in such prestige buildings as the Cawdor Arms, Llandeilo and Furness House. In June 1919 orders for seconds and bests were fulfilled for Mansel Street, Lammas Street and the Pentremeurig area, then largely undeveloped. Bricks went to Alltcafan Mills, Llandysul, the gas works in Whitland, Abergavenny, the Central Hotel in King Street, Bronwydd and Abergwili. In July 1919 ordes came from Abernant, Alltwalis, Llwynonnell, Llandysul, Narberth, Whitland, Pembroke, Henllan Amgoed, Newcastle Emlyn, Bancyfelin and J E Cowsell in London. The list of orders for the succeeding months is just as long and varied, including Tenby, Haverfordwest, Llandybie. Musgrove and Sons, Swansea and Edwards and Sons, Aberaeron placed big orders.

Llandyfaelog school was built with these bricks in 1919-1920. Peniel chapel and the Methodist chapel at Bancyfelin were built in 1921. Myrddin Crescent was built in 1932 and Job's Well Road, which cost 1,067, between 1934 and 1937.

Probably one of the last houses to be built by Rees Davies was Ucheldir, the large house just above the present Model School on College Road. Owned by Simon Lloyd Evans of Evans Motors until his death in 1956, it was subsequently used as the residence for the circuit judge. It was the acquired by the County Council for use by the College of Art, which moved from what is now Oriel Myrddin. When the College moved to purpose built premises on land owned by Trinity College Ucheldir became the headquarters of the Fire Service. The new Model School was built on its land.

 

 

Marian Davies

7 Penllwyn Park