PEMBROKE FAMILIES and BUSINESSES

JoyceColley.jpgMiss Joyce Colley

Joyce was the youngest of the large Colley family who were bought up in the Holyland Road. Her grandfather was a monumental stonemason who established an important business there. The family expanded into the east end of town with a large timberyard, coal merchants business and glass cutting.

This is Joyce's story.

Miss Colley remembers her mother and father, two remarkable people who gained prominence as one of the leading families of Pembroke. Her story begins in 1916. She was born in a house in Holyland Road where her father ran the family business.

"I was the youngest of 11 children; my father was Thomas William Colley and my mother Elisabeth Colley.

My grandfather was William Colley and he was a monumental mason. His father was one of three brothers who came down from Yorkshire and helped to build the Martello towers in the Dockyard. They also built the Dockyard Church [this would have been around 1820]. They were Master Stonemasons and I gather that they specialised in building marine buildings.

 

They settled down here and after that my grandfather started the Monumental Mason business in Holyland Road."

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Above left, the Colley bothers, Monmental Masons. Above right, The Colley family outside their house in Holyland Road.

 

A Leading Businessman

"After his death, my father took over the family business. He was only in his early twenties when his own father died and he had five brothers and sisters to take care of, so he set about expanding by setting up a builders merchants business just off the station so that the trucks could run straight into the yard.

 

In addition he owned three or four quarries and supplied all the stones for the County Council roads. He owned rollers, and Stephens Engineering [on East Back] had rollers as well - they overlapped there but co-operated: if one couldn't do the job the other would, and of course all the stones came from the quarries. When the County Council decided to do all the roads themselves he had to sell the quarries - one at Grove, [one at] Catshole and others.

 

So this became quite a big business which he started at Holyland Road; then in the Station yard which later became Reeves, and now is Jewsons."

 

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Above left: Elisabeth Colley and three daughters. Above right: Thomas William Colley with five of his children.

 

The Timber Business and Horse Power

"We were about the biggest employers in the vicinity - at one time we had 24 horses. Before motorised lorries came into being, wagons - each with a team of 4 horses - used to work in the woods to drag the trees after they'd been cut down. Then the wood had to be kept a few years to season the timber. We also imported timber; and in the old days when the old Pembroke Quay was in use we used to have ships coming in with cement and timber, and various things which were used in builders merchants. Then it was all hands on deck to unload them! There was lots of casual labour about then, and coal merchants as well delivering all over south Pembrokeshire. This was before the 1920s and, after that, when steam engines came into being, we didn't use the horses so much.

 

A different world then - it was lovely."

 

The First World War

"In the First World War, Father was appointed by the War Office to oversee the cutting down of trees as the governmernt needed the wood. He used to go around the estates selecting trees for felling, but whenever he took a tree he invariably planted back with the same trees. He bought Orielton Estate once expressly for the trees; but if he took an oak he had to replant an oak. Father was very precise about conservation. He always insisted that the timber be well seasoned - he would never use newly cut trees and gained a good reputation for timber. In the yard he had a purpose-built timber shed with vents in to air the wood."

 

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A Social Benefactor

Joyce remembers certain parts of the East End of Pembroke as very poor areas with much social deprivation.

 

"The East End was a poor area and I think Father and Mother used to take people under their wing - the whole of St Michael's Parish - and if anybody was in trouble they would go to Mother and Father. The doctors would say if the children were ill or undernourished, 'Tell Mrs Colley'. And Mother would be making milk puddings and all sort of things like that. We were a big family and any leftover clothes people were always glad to have them. My parents would always look after people and anyone in trouble would look to my father. He was a lawyer to them and he looked after everybody, nothing was too much trouble.

 

I remember Christmas Eve. Mother used to do up little parcels and we had to go off after dark, when nobody could see us leave. Most of the doors down there had funny little holes where you used to lift the latch, no doors were ever locked. People used to say 'Come in my dear'. We would give a parcel to each family but I remember it was after dark we had to go, and that was our Christmas Eve job.

 

I can remember Mother making soups and puddings - they really were wonderful ... if anyone was in hospital Father used to send someone up to see them and, at Christmas time, Father would always see that they had coal and some logs. A couple of weeks before Christmas they would be chopping up logs for people and the cart used to go around with them. They were marvellous, my parents - they had a big family of their own but they always had time to help somebody else."

 

Public Life

"My father became a Town Councillor and was twice Mayor of Pembroke: once when he was young, and then he gave it up, and then when he was older."

 

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Above: Joyce's father, Thomas William Colley, in Mayoral robes.

 

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THE HAGGAR FAMILY

THE HAGGAR CINEMA (BELOW) WAS ONCE MUCH-LOVED IN PEMBROKE - ITS LOSS IS STILL BITTERLY REGRETTED BY MANY

 

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The Haggar Family were ground breakers of the movie-making industry in Wales. William Haggar Snr had taken a keen interest in photography and toward the end of the 19th century started to experiment in cinematography. By the turn of the century he had perfected his technique sufficiently to enable him to shoot his first full length feature film, a famous Welsh folk story called The Maid of Cefn Ydfa. By 1914 the Haggar family had made more than 60 films and William Haggar was truly a pioneer of film-making in Britain

 

HAGGAR'S BIOSCOPE

William Haggar moved around the fairgrounds of Britain with his bioscope (a sort of travelling cinema) and theatre; but the Great War put an end to all this when his traction engines were requisitioned for the war effort. However his cinemas did become a feature of permanent buildings.

 

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THE HAGGAR TRACTION ENGINE

Haggar's movie-making enterprises proved so lucrative that he was able to purchase three traction engines (one is pictured below) in order to transport his travelling bioscope and theatre.

 

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THE HAGGARS IN PEMBROKE

Pembroke Cinema was acquired by William Haggar Jnr, who contributed much to the cultural and social life of the town. William was succeeded by his brother Walter who ran the cinema for a few years before his son Len took over in 1939. The building was refurbished to incorporate not only the cinema but also a ballroom and restaurant; and was for many years the main social centre of the town.

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Above: Len Haggar, proprietor of the Pemborke Haggar Cinema

THE PRESENT DAY

The end came slowly. Television was the first blow and this, followed by bingo and changing social expectations, led to falling audiences. Eventually the cinema was closed in 1982, and the building with its dazzling ballroom was stripped of its finery and converted into flats. Below is a picture of the cinema is all its splendour and majesty before conversion.

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Above: The interior of the Haggar Cinema before its conversion into flats

SCRIPT AND PICTURES BY KIND PERMISSION OF THE HAGGER FAMILY

OUR DEEPEST THANKS TO VICKI HAGGAR-DYER FOR ALL HER ASSISTANCE WITH THE COMPILING OF THIS WEB PAGE

 

The Stephens Family

Thanks to Peter and Felicity Hurlow-Jones we have information on a family which played an important in part Pembroke’s story. Peter is descended from the Stephens (on his grandmother's side) and from the Hurlow Jones (on his grandfather's side). In researching their family history, Peter and Felicity have uncovered photographs and documents relating not only to Victorian family life but also to industrial acitivity and life in Pembroke in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Above: Stephens & Son business letterhead. Above right: Standing outside the Stephens Engineering Works (picture from the Peter Hurlow Jones collection and used with permission)

 

Starting the business

Brothers Archibald and John Stephens started business as engineering smiths in 1870, in a premises in The East Back, Pembroke; and which later became Cartref Nursing Home (now closed).

 

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Above: Inside the workshop, East Back Works (picture from the Peter Hurlow Jones collection and used with permission)

 

"KNACKY" STEPHENS

Peter's aunt (now sadly deceased) wrote down some of the family history including the story behind the family nickname of 'Knacky'.

"John Stephens Snr [born 1816] was the village blacksmith in Castlemartin. He lived in a little house, Jericho, in the middle of the village. I think it is still standing. Presumably the smithy's was beside it. A competent and resourceful workman, John once repaired a badly damaged plough for a certain farmer named Roch of Linney, who being tight-fisted was delighted with the job because he didn’t have to buy a new one. Roch said, “Well done John. I’ll christen thee Johnny Knacky!" That nickname stuck through three generations. Your [Peter's] mother and I as kids were known as 'the little knackies'."

John's sons John and Archie were also very clever with their hands. Inter alia, they made the gates at Castlemartin Church – copied from the design at Sandringham. Archie also designed a new submarine shackle and brought out a patent for it, but it never got into production.

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Peter's aunt added how John and Archie

"...also bought what Edgar Humphreys told me was a Glasgow street bus and did trips to St Davids and Freshwater West and other places. They ran into a snag on St Daniel’s Hill outside Pembroke – the bus had one gear and a gravity feed petrol tank and went uphill backwards rather than forwards. So they designed a new gear box which was cast at Woodside Foundry at Wiseman’s Bridge. This bus, I believe, was sold to Grey’s Garages of Tenby – the forerunner of Morrisons. They introduced the Castlemartin bicycle to the district – bought the parts from Birmingham and assembled them at East Back Works. Auntie Bessie used to give lessons in cycling to the ladies. Then the cars came in - Auntie Bob was probably the first woman in Pembs to drive one.

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They did a lot of repair work for the Admiralty Dockyard at Pembroke Dock, hired out traction engines and threshing machines, had steam road rollers for hire by the local councils and ran for a time a limestone quarry by the river behind The Green in Pembroke."

The photographs below illustrate the extent of the Stephens' business.

ROLLING PLANT

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AGRICULTURAL MACHINERY

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MARITIME ENGINEERING

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MINE MACHINERY

 

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Removing a boiler from Hook colliery

 

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MECHANICAL ENGINEERING

 

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Running Pembroke's first taxi service

 

 

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A selection of motor cars

 

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and Motor Bikes

 

It is said that one of several Stephens Brothers-built motor vehicles, which were nicknamed locally as 'dreadnoughts', was used by the suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst for campaigning here in Pemroke (below).

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MORE ABOUT THE STEPHENS FAMILY

 

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Peter’s great uncle was Corbett Stephens (above left), son of Archie. At the age of five, Corbett’s hand (above right) was used as the cast for the handle on the gates of the engineering works. It is still there to be seen today. On the key held in the fist is the inscription “born 1888” (i.e., Corbett's birthdate).

corbettandsis.jpg The photograph on the left shows Corbett and his sister 'Dodo' as young children.

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Here is 'Dodo' with other nurses in the Military Hospital, Llanion.

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Below - The nurses' Pierrot group entertain the troops in 1916

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Below - Red Cross Certificate and medals awarded to Dorothy Stephens in recogition of her services in the First World War.

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Peter also has photographs of the interior of the Military Hospital

 

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These two photographs (above and below) show wards in the Military Hospital, Llanion.

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Below - The Operating Theatre

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The Chapel and the Rest Room

 

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