Tragic drowning of nine people in the Upper Glyn Pond, Pontypool


I have mentioned the Fishponds in previous postings. That was the common name for them amongst the people of Pontypool, but their official name was the Glyn Ponds and they were separated by a short stretch of land. They are situated just off the Crumlin Road which is between the Mynydd Maen and the range of Tranch Mountains

On Thursday 23rd July 1868 there was a dreadful calamity causing a large loss of life when nine people were drowned. Three families were visiting the ponds when fourteen of them decided to take a trip on the water while the rest stayed on the bank. All went well until they were returning to the shore; suddenly, when not many yards away from the bank, the boat struck one of the stakes protruding from the bottom of the pond, making a large hole in the side and allowing the water to rush in. Stuffing a large shawl into the hole to stop the water did not work. The screams of the ladies on board as the boat sank alerted those waiting on the bank.

An artist’s impression of the tragedy

Other passers-by on the shore joined in the rescue. Some young men plunged into the water. One of them, Oliver Evans, struck his head against one of the piles and sustained a bad cut. He was later taken to the Full Moon inn where he was given a bed.  Some of the children and others were passed to the rescuers from the shore. In this way five of the fourteen who had been on the boat were rescued.

At that time Thursday was the early closing day for the shopkeepers of Pontypool but because it was well before cars became popular, there would have been a lot of people walking in and around the town centre, chatting in groups and attending various functions. It was about 9.00p.m. when the light was fading that the news suddenly spread that Miss Essex, the well known eldest daughter of James Essex, had been drowned in the Glyn Pond.

Soon afterwards, further tragic news broke about the drowning of others on the boat including several members of the family of Mr E.B.Edwards, the clerk to the magistrates.

Crowds of people left the town centre and made their way towards the pond some two miles away. By the time they arrived it was absolutely dark, not even any moonlight. Some people who had been on the bank when the tragedy had happened confirmed the fact that nine people had drowned, one of them being the boatkeeper who lived in a small cottage on the bank of the pond.

Despite the hazardous conditions within the pond, such as projecting piles and stakes projecting from the bottom, a party of men had gone out in another boat to try to find the victims of the disaster. These brave souls were: William Bird. Thomas Jenkins, Oliver Evans, George Joshua, Edmund Evans, Charles Redman and Jonathan Cooke.

One by one they discovered the bodies which were carried to the boatkeeper’s cottage. They were identified as:  Eleanor Essex, Miss James, daughter of Rev Dr James, Rector of Panteg,  Janet Sloper, Fanny Ion of Abersychan,  Campbell Edwards, Kate Edwards,  Jessie Edwards, Granville Edwards and  Luke Sanger the boatman. All the bodies were taken to the Sangers’ cottage.

The survivors were: J.F.Hiron, James Rowland Essex, Stanley Essex, George Edwards and a 12 year old girl Constance Sloper.

The inquest into the tragedy was held in Pontypool Town Hall under the Coroner Mr E.D.Batt. The only witness called was Mr James Rowland Essex. The jury returned a verdict of “accidentally drowned” and added a recommendation that, if the boat were to be used in future, it should be provided with buoys and other life-saving equipment. The other recommendation was that the posts in the bottom of the pond should not be longer than 15 inches.

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One Response to “Tragic drowning of nine people in the Upper Glyn Pond, Pontypool”

  1. Alan Black Says:

    James Essex was a Surgeon and Apothocary, he was born in Hesteny, Glamorgan about 1809. His wife Elizabeth was born in Bedwelty. On the 1851 Census for Pontypool Mon, Trevethin, District 2b, he is shown as having only one son, yet. The son’s age is not shown. They lived at 11, Caroline Street, Pontypool. Also shown as his Apprentice Surgeon and Apothocary is my Gt Gt Grandfather John Daly aged 36 years born in Skibbereen, County Cork. John had a practice in West Place, off Crane Street behind the later Sandbrook and Dawes shop.John Daly married Mary Ann Jones and they had a son, John Max Jones Daly in 1857. Sadly, Mary Ann died and is buried in St Cadocs churchyard, position lost. JMJ Daly was placed in the care of the nurses in The County Workhouse and was supported by his Father. JMJ Daly late married Mary Ann Cook and lived in 6, High Houses, Victoria Village, Abersychan. They had several children, one of them was my Grandfather Lewis John Daly. He was an Engineer who drove headings in the coal mines, he had a gang of men working for him. In the 1927 General Strike, he opened a level to dig coal and employed several striking miners on Ty Bwmkin Mountain near the Robin Hood pub. He was also involved with the lime stone quarry in Abersychan. He was an accomplished artist and several fine drawings and paintings still exist today. Amongst them were several underground horse scenes, The Folly, The Laughing Cavalier and The Blue Boy.

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