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Vol. 3, 1950

Four scenes in English Gower

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brooded before twisting upon the clenched rocks in moulds of pure
foam. Pebbles slid back with the dragrush, weed rubbed minutely
against cast-up pieces of oily wood and cork. Gulls glided and
bobbed well out from the disturbed fringe of whiteness.
He got up, leaned for a minute against the post and stepped
upon the surface of the road. He shaded his eyes with his right
forearm, the hand dangling limply, for the sun still had a segment
of sky to cover; he moved off down the road.
Frank Emery.
Any diehard isolationist, seeking historical justification for the
self-sufficiency of Gower, might well hark back to an episode which
took place in the mid-nineteenth century. The incident (or rather
series of incidents) was occasioned by the introduction into the area
of the new Poor Law of 1834, and developed into a conflict which
raged more or less fiercely for more than twenty years.
The new measure enacted that parishes should be combined into
unions for the purpose of erecting workhouses and providing other
necessities for the relief of destitution. In this way twenty-seven
parishes, including those of Gower, were combined in 1836 to form
the Swansea Union.
From the beginning there was opposition. A few weeks before
the union was formed, some ratepayers who met at Reynoldston
expressed an opinion, which persisted for the next twenty years,
that such a step would be prejudicial to the rural Gower parishes.
From the other side, a Swansea ratepayer was suggesting as early as
1838 that the Gower area should be separated, since the latter's
representatives, the guardians, in their profound wisdom," had
limited the salary of an officer to so low a level that no efficient man
could think of offering himself. He then recommended the
Welshery of Gower not to have any dealings at all with the Flemish
Gowerians, but to leave them seek their market in the island of Lundy,
or elsewhere." It is consoling to find that he agreed that, this
suggestion savours of exclusive dealing."
For the next five years the rumblings were stilled, but the high
rents and bad trade of 1843 helped to pinpoint the differences between
the agricultural and urban districts of the union. On 3rd October,
1843, some four hundred ratepayers met at the Rising Sun,"
Reynoldston, to discuss the possibility of separating the Gower
parishes from the union. One speaker thought that a small cottage
would suffice as a workhouse, and that it would be an advantage for
the country guardians, who were mute at the board and frequently
saw with dissatisfaction how the rates were expended," to control
the expenditure themselves.
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