Alfred Thomas (Lord Pontypridd) 1840-1927

Potrait of Alfred Thomas(Lord Pontypridd)

Pontypridd Fountain
Unveiling Mr Alfred Thomas’s Gift 04.10.1895

On Thursday afternoon the massive and beautiful fountain presented by Mr Alfred Thomas, M.P., to the town of Pontypridd was, unveiled by the hon. member for East Glamorgan, in the presence of a large concourse of people, in Penuel Square. A procession to welcome the hon. gentleman on his arrival in the town was organised by the Pontypridd District Council, amongst those present being representatives of the various local public bodies, chamber of trade, the townspeople, school children.

The architect is Mr Chas. B. Fowler, F.R.I.B.A. of High Street, Cardiff, and the sculptors are Messrs. Martyn, of Cheltenham. The copper work, including arms, jets, &c., was, conducted by Messrs. Sutheran, of Cheltenham.

The procession was, formed in Penuel Square, and marched to the fountain, headed by a posse of police, the Volunteer Band, and the tile brigade. Mr Alfred Thomas, M.P., was in a carriage and pair, accompanied. by his niece, Miss Primavesi, Cardiff, and Mr James Roberts, J.P. (chairman of the district council). The speeches were, then delivered from a wooden platform close to the fountain. Mr James Roberts, acting as chairman, on behalf of the Pontypridd District Council heartily welcomed Mr. Alfred Thomas, M.P., and thanked him for his gift. The fountain was then, uncovered.

Suddenly a hissing noise was, heard, and sprays of water burst for the first time from the gilded jets. Mr. Thomas and several other gentlemen partook of the water, and then Mr Thomas, who had a hearty reception, said he had such pleasure in, presenting them, with the gift. Mr. Fowler (architect) explained, the symbols and emblems on the fountain, after which Gwyngyll Hughes read some Welsh congratulatory verses which he had composed for this occasion. Mr. William Jones manager of Pontypridd Waterworks) next spoke remarking that future generations would bless that day.

Alderman W. H. Morgan said, their friend “Morien,” who was present, would tell them that the ancient cities of Greece and Rome were, celebrated for their fountains. He was pleased to see that Pontypridd had also become celebrated for its fountain. Colonel Grover also spoke, and was, followed by “Morien,” as Archdruid of Wales, who said, he was glad to be present, and the fountain was worth a place in the palace of the Duke of Westminster. Mr Alfred Thomas proposed a vote of thanks to the chairman, and with that the proceedings terminated.

A banquet was then, held in the evening at the e New Inn Hotel, Pontypridd. There was a large company, including both ladies and gentlemen, and Mr James Roberts presided, supported by Mr Alfred Thomas M.P., and others. Mrs. Miles catered with her usual success.

Drawing of the stone drinking fountain

The Death of Lord Pontypridd

People Wales will mourn today the death of Lord Pontypridd, whose career closed peacefully shortly after eight p.m. oil Wednesday, after a comparatively brief illness.

Lord Pontypridd held a warm corner in every heart throughout the Principality and creed had no boundaries for his popularity. He was a gentleman first, and foremost, and as such his personality appealed to all.

In his eighty-seventh year he had largely outlived his own generation as far activity in politics concerned, but the affairs of the University of as well as of the National Museum of Wales and the University College of Wales, and Monmouthshire, of both of the last two he had been president, occupied his attention up to a fortnight ago, when his last illness came upon him.

Holding a unique position in the national life of Wales, he was the last link with the genesis of several movements that appealed to every party in the Principality and his hold upon the trust and goodwill of the nation never slackened.

The following bulletin issued by the medical attendants on Wednesday night:

“Bronwydd. Cardiff. December 14, 1927
Alfred Baron Pontypridd passed away peacefully this evening at ten minutes past eight.”
James Robinson, Ivor Jones Davies.”

In Town and Council and Parliament

Photo of the stone drinking fountain today

Few men have won warm a place in the affection of the Welsh people as Lord Pontypridd, and deservedly so. Wales ever near his heart. His patriotism was not mere lip service; he was ever ready to do service to his beloved land. He did so in very many ways. Not only was he always ready to answer any call on him, but at all times he sought avenues wherein he could be of service. Also, the Principality owes him a lasting debt of gratitude.

A Welsh speaking Welshman, he identified himself with all achievements calculated to uplift the nation. His political and other views may not have apprehended themselves to all, but no one questioned his singleness of purpose and sincerity or unselfishness which characterised all his actions. He was aptly, described years as “a Liberal without a palimony, Nonconformist without bigotry; and a teetotaller (and a life one) intolerance.”

Native of Cardiff

Lord Pontypridd, who was born at Penylan Cardiff, on September 16, 1840, he was the son of the late Mr Daniel Thomas, who was from Rumney and who came to Cardiff late in the first half of the last century. The latter started business as a contractor, and was then, taken in hand by the Marquis of Bute. His first work of importance was the excavation of the West Dock, in 1851 he started the lime-works at Llandough, which was, carried, on by his son, who gave it up and ultimately devoted himself entirely to public and semi-public philanthropic work.

He was, educated at Weston School, near Bath, in those days he showed a preference for a commercial rather than a political one. One of his earliest duties as that of assisting in the construction of Rhondda Fach branch of the Taff Vale Railway, and the business training proved essential to him later, on in life.

It was not until 1875, that Lord Pontypridd, then (Mr. Alfred Thomas) took part in the municipal life of Cardiff, as the representative of the Roath Ward and he served in that capacity for many years. Then a comparatively young he soon made his mark. One of the first reforms which he was, instructed, in bringing about was to make it possible for a member of the corporation, accepting the chief magistrate, to be chairman of than one committee.

Bust of Lord Pontypridd

Bust of Lord Pontypridd Mayor’s office Municipal Buildings Pontypridd

Town Councillor

Of lasting benefit to Cardiff was the foremen, by him in the matter of water supply. Owing to the rapid growth of the town the supply had become quite inadequate, to meet the needs of the residents. The schemes which were then, advocated on such a restricted scale that. Mr Thomas (as he then it was then resolutely, opposed, to their adoption and insisted upon corporation looking further ahead. He was then the chairman of the waterworks committee; his insistent advocacy a larger scheme prevailed, and the upshot the adoption of the Taff Fawr scheme, whereby there, was, provided an ample supply of water.

During his mayoralty, the long and arduous struggle to secure the selection of the borough as a locale of the new university college for South Wales and Monmouthshire commenced. He threw himself heart and soul into the movement, and he himself subscribed £1,000 to the fund raised by the burgesses to convince the authorities of the earnestness of the town in its agitation. He was still mayor in October 1882, when the welcome announcement, was, made that Cardiff’s efforts had been, crowned with success, and the university college found no truer friend.

For Welsh Education

His services in connection with Welsh education, especially the University of Wales, were many and varied, and always helpful. In addition to the £1,000 donation already referred to, he subsequently subscribed the sum of £500 and another of £1,000. After working vigorously for years for the college he was, elected president in succession to the late Lord Tredegar, the late Lord Aberdare, and the late Dean Vaughan. He occupied the position when his Majesty the King laid the foundation stone of the new college buildings in Cathays Park. He continued to be intimately associated with every development of the college; he rarely missed council meetings; he was, looked upon at a permanent deputy president.

Then, again, when the authority I formed to establish the National Museum of Wales was set up, be became its first president, and the magnificent pile erected in Cathays Park is en enduring monument to his guidance as the first president of the institution. lie continued to take the keenest interest in the museum, and it will he recalled that he was present when it was, opened on April 21 by the King notwithstanding his advanced age. Up to the last one would have thought that he had still many years to live.

Another important event in his year of office se major was the opening of the Free Library and Museum and the Schools of Science and Art, where Sir Goscombe John, WA., the distinguished sculptor. commenced his career. Indeed, so manifold, and noteworthy became his services to the borough and to Wales at large that the council could not allow them to pass unrecognised. It, therefore, unanimously resolved to confer upon him the freedom of the borough, the ceremony taking place on August 13, 1888. On one name, that of the late Alderman Fulton, precedes his on Cardiff’s lengthy list of honorary freemen.

In Parliament

The Redistribution Act of 1885 gave East Glamorgan a member of its own, Mr. Alfred Thomas, was, returned by a majority of 2,800 over his opponent Mr. Godfrey Clark. He continued to represent that constituency until his retirement before the general election of January 1910. Always a keen and sincere politician, there was, as far back as 1897, the greatest unanimity as to the wisdom of his selection as the chairman of the Welsh Liberal party in Parliament in succession to the late Sir George Osborne Morgan. Mr. Lloyd George was, proposed for the chairmanship on that occasion, but he refused to allow his name to go forward in opposition to the claims of Mr. Thomas.

Notwithstanding his many calls and duties. those of religion wire felt to be imperative as not to, be, neglected by him. He was a zealous Baptist, like his father, and, when at home, regularly attended Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, the Hayes. where he had served as a deacon for many years. This church had been his religious circle from his boyhood, and during his younger years he acted, as its precentor.

Music had a charm for him, and psalmody was his delight. He was the composer of several hymn tunes, some of which found a place in the Baptist hymnals. He delighted to throw himself into the practical work of religion, l and had served as Sunday school superintendent. he was also a frequent attendant at the week-night prayer meetings at the Tabernacle. The South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff, found in him a ready and generous supporter, contributing £500 towards, its funds shortly after the removal of the institution from Pontypool.

In 1888 he was, elected to the chair of the Baptist Union of Wales; his presidential address being, delivered before the Aberdare Assembly in that year. He was also chairman of the Welsh Baptist Forward Movement.

Sound in Judgement and Cogent in Speech

Lord Pontypridd was, endowed with a sound judgment, both penetrating and logical. and he was a keen observer of men and things. His speeches were always cogent and healthy in tone, he had a good fund of wit and humour with which he enlivened his public and private utterances. As a man he was much beloved by all who knew him, owing to his constant bonhomie, and his radiant face was always an index to the benevolence of his heart.

When it was known that the late King Edward had included a knighthood for Mr Alfred Thomas in the Coronation honours, Sir Alfred was, deluged with congratulations from all ranks and conditions of men, and these were, repeated when his Majesty King George raised him to the peerage in January 1912.

He was a thorough representative of his nation, not only by the mere outward accident of being for many years leader of the Welsh Liberal Parliamentary party, but by reason of deeper and stronger ties, by the very instinct and gifts of nature, by the habits of life and by life-long associations. His popularity was general, opponents as well as friends being glad to do him honour. He cultivated quite a love for Parliamentary life, for according to his own testimony, the more he became accustomed to Parliament the more he liked it.

Closing Hours

Taken ill a fortnight ago, Lord Pontypridd’s condition soon gave rise to much concern, but his friends hoped his robust constitution would help him to withstand the attack. He rallied pluckily several times, but three days ago it was, realised that the end was near. Lord Pontypridd had three sisters and one brother, all of whom pre-deceased him, namely, the late Mrs F. Primavesi, Penylan House, Cardiff, the late Mrs M. A. Wass. Fairfield, Rumney; the late Mr Joseph Thomas, Shortlands, Kent, and the late Mrs. Primavesi, Merthyr.

“A Great Son of Wales”

News of the death of Lord Pontypridd was, conveyed to the Lord Mayor of Cardiff (Alderman A. J. Howell) just before the close of the proceedings at the Cardiff Technical College prize distribution on Wednesday night, he then referred to the loss of Wales in a few well-selected words. “Our old citizen and nationalist, Lord Pontypridd. has passed-away,” he said. “I feel it. I have known him since before he was Lord Pontypridd, and I can only say that Wales has lost a great son. A great national figure has passed-away. His sympathy with all is known to all.”

The gathering expressed its sorrow by standing in silence.

Old Colleagues’ Grief, Mr Lloyd George in “His Distinguished Service”
From our own Correspondent in London

Mr Lloyd George greatly grieved to hear of the death of his old friend and political colleague, Lord Pontypridd. and will be, represented at the funeral.

Mr. Lloyd George said that no one could have greater admiration than he for the long and distinguished service which Lord Pontypridd had rendered to the Principality in politics, religion, and other phases of public life.

Lord Clwyd

Lord Clwyd said: “I had the privilege of Lord Pontypridd’s friendship throughout my Parliamentary career in the House of Commons and served as secretary of the Welsh Parliamentary party during the period of his chairmanship. I was in the closest political contact and sympathy with him upon all political questions. I had the very greatest admiration for his character, his integrity, and his devotion to the true interests of Wales. I feel the news of his death very acutely. I was, I think, one of his most intimate Parliamentary friends. Indeed, he was something more than that to me, and I have heard of his passing with the greatest sorrow.”

Col. Watts-Morgan

Col. D. Watts-Morgan, D.S.O., C.B.E., M.P. chairman of the Welsh National Party, and in early life associated with Lord Pontypridd when he was Sir Alfred Thomas, said: “His loss to the county of Glamorgan will be keenly felt, and the long public service which he has rendered to the county and to the Principality will ever be cherished with gratitude.”

Mr. William Jenkins. M.P., chairman of the Glamorgan Education Committee and a member of the council of the university: “I feel, that major credit is due to Lord Pontypridd for his work in connection with Welsh education. His passing-away is a considerable loss to Wales in other directions.

Sir Beddoe Rees

“The death of my old friend, Lord Pontypridd,” said Sir Beddoe Rees, “fills me with regret. We had been associated in many ways for a great, number of years, I admired his energy in public work and his sincerity in all things.”

“Lord Pontypridd was a man who in many ways contributed largely to the public life of Wales, and his death is a serious loss to the Principality. I doubt if the present generation of Welshmen fully appreciate all that Lord Pontypridd did in his life for the cause of Welsh patriotism. He served unostentatiously and with the greatest devotion in many causes, especially that of Welsh education.

A Representative Welsh Gathering.

There were no fulsome eulogies at the funeral of Lord Pontypridd at Cardiff on Monday. Everyone who took part in the memorial service at the Tabernacle seemed to have uppermost in his mind, the simplicity and gentle moderation of the life that ended quietly in the mellowness of age, and spoke in harmony with that mood.

Throughout his four-score and seven years Lord Pontypridd, as a child and man, had worshipped in the Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, where he served as senior deacon and trustee. Even when in the zenith of his public career as leader of the Welsh Liberal Party, in the House of Commons, and afterwards as peer of the realm and head of great national institutions, he never allowed the sheet Hayes. The constancy of his attachment to the Tabernacle was within the knowledge of everyone present at the service, and that knowledge explained the emotional wave that stirred the congregation when the oaken casket enclosing the body of the beloved peer was borne into the chapel and placed alongside the rails of the sanctuary wherein he had sat for so many years.

Scarlet Roses on Coffin

Covering the coffin were his scarlet robes; at the head his coronet, and above the breastplate is coat of arms, and motto, “Bid Ben, Bid Bont” (engraved in silver by Western Mail Limited), the emblems of the heights he had reached in his country’s service and the witness to the religious stimulus that had steered h is whole career.

During those tense moments the thoughts of many swung over to the dead peer’s life sketch in the “Western Mail,” in which he was remembered primarily as a Christian gentleman, and to Huw Menai’s commemorative verses in Saturday’s issue headed “The Child’s Return,” beautifully expressed the idea that, young and old, Lord Pontypridd had remained the child of God:

One lovely day in Paradise,
Where he had been before,
A little child with large blue eyes
Came knocking at the door,
And to the Lord Who greeted, him
Said he, “I’ve come to stay
Lest my poor eyes should grow too dim
To ever find the way.”

The Lord said: “Children are my eyes,
The Way they ever know,
And e’en the Earth is Paradise
If they refuse to grow …….”
So to the Lord’s own Paradise
He thus returned one day –
A little child with large blue eyes
Although his hair was grey!

The family cortege from Bronwydd included Miss R. Primavesi (niece), Mrs. J. Thomas, Torquay (sister-in-law), Miss D. Thomas (niece), Mr. C. Wass, Mr. E. Wass, and Mr. A. Primavesi (nephews), Mrs. L. Crichton, Penylan House (grand-niece), Mr. A. Kennard (grand-nephew), the Masters Crichton (great-grand-nephews), Miss Hemming (housekeeper), Miss Hudson (nurse), Mr. G. Palmer (gardener), Dr. James Robinson and Dr. Ivor J. Davies (medical attendants), and Mr. J. E. Gladstone (solicitor).

On arrival at the church the cortege passed between the ranks of a contingent of police in charge of the Deputy-chief-constable (Mr. W. W. Harrison) and Supt. W. King, who afterwards joined the congregation.

Grave of Lord Pontypridd

Grave of Lord Pontypridd Cathays Cemetery

Late Lord Pontypridd, Great to the City of Cardiff
The Bulk of his Estate, Left Unconditionally to the Corporation

The unofficial report is that the bulk of his property, has been, left unconditionally to the corporation, and citizens, but that his lordship’s ideas at to it is disposition are within the knowledge of his executors. It is, expected, to be between £25,000 and £30,000.

Lord Pontypridd was, never tired of extolling the civic life, and amenities of Cardiff, of which he was mayor in 1881-82, and the oldest surviving honorary freeman, and the unconditional gift of the bulk, of his property is in keeping with his lifelong interest in its welfare. Mr. J. E. Gladstone was Lord Pontypridd’s solicitor. A special meeting of the council of the Cardiff University College, held on Wednesday, Mr. Cecil G. Brown, LL.B., in the chair passed the following resolution:

“That this meeting of the council of the college, desires to express to the relatives of the late Right Hon. Lord Pontypridd, its profound sympathy with them in their bereavement. The council further, desires to place on record its sense of great loss which the college since its foundation, as one of its benefactors, as its honoured president for many years, and for twenty-eight years, as one of its vice-presidents.”

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