Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]



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Tell Them We Are Starving




Eyewitness to the Holodomor



More Than Grain of Truth



Manchukuo Incident





'Are you Listening NYT?'  U.N. Speech - Nov 2009


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Reporter and the Genocide - Rome, March 2009


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Gareth Jones 'Famine' Diaries - Chicago 2008


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War on Unemployment (viii) 


Building Development Prevented by Lack of Money

By Gareth Jones

Merthyr like Swansea has to bear the burden of its antiquity, for there are numerous houses built a century or more ago which are now unfit for human dwelling.

Out of a total of 16,000 houses, 1,000 are not fit and should be demolished. About 1,500 houses are occupied by two or more families.  There are still 138 cellar dwellings inhabited, while nineteen families live in sheds, vans, or tents.  Extensive repairs should be carried out in almost 1,500 houses. 

Where are the Merthyr slums?  In the town there is a district near the river which contains Temperance  Street, Bridge Street, and, Riverside.  In Temperance Street the houses are over 100 years old and while they are in good repair the ground floor rooms are stuffy from lack of air.

In Bridge Street, near the river, the conditions are also bad and there is over-crowding.  I visited a house where the husband had been ill in bed with silicosis for twelve months and where the whole family of seven lived in two rooms.  The wife explained to me: “The children have to sleep in a temporary bed in the kitchen it at night.”


When I asked whether she had made any attempts to move, she replied: “Yes, but I can’t get a new house because the owners of the houses always say: “You have got too many children.”

In Riverside, which once reputed as a rough centre, there are unsatisfactory houses but it is remarkable that there is no refuse in the streets.  Indeed, the slum-dwellers, and the health department are to be congratulated on the cleanliness of the houses and of the streets.

The oldest houses in Merthyr, which are to be found on the Tram road side (where Crawshay Bailey once had an engine) and are about 150 years old, have the defect that some of them lack back doors, back windows, and yards. The good gardens in front, which are well kept, do not make up for the bad ventilation caused by the absence of back openings.  In one of these old houses a family of seven was living in three rooms on £1/13s. per week of which 7s was paid in rent. There were no damp houses, however, and the repairs were good.

Near Glebe Street there are many defects, in the houses. Lamb Lane, for example contains no back-yard and the windows looking on the back are too small for the health of the dwellers.

There are in other parts of the town a number of black dingy bedrooms for which the only light and ventilation are provided by a small piece of grating opening on to a pavement through which the rain sometimes comes in.


If we climb out of Merthyr and go to Dowlais we find conditions which, I think, are still worse then in the town below.  One row, for example, standing almost under a dusty coal tip, has houses which are a disgrace to any country.  There is no back window and the coal cellar is usually in the house, which is built up against the earth of the hill.  In one house in this row which I chanced to visit there was a man and wife with six children sharing two stuffy rooms.  

In another row I saw most of the faults of slums.  There are back-to-back houses, dampness, lack of through ventilation, bad windows which are smashed in or which ate difficult to open and overcrowding.  The stuffiness of the buildings even outside in the yard, is oppressive.

Merthyr’s task of clearing these shuns is made especially difficult by lack of funds, due to the economic stress, which has hit Merthyr almost more than any other town in Wales. The depression has a twofold effect.  

It, firstly leads to non-payment of rent, which, in turn makes, it difficult for owners of property to carry out extensive repairs. 

Secondly it has caused a financial stringency which has prevented the corporation from taking advantage of the facilities offered under the 1930 Housing Act for the building of new houses








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