The Lost Plaques: Goscombe John's plaques to the memory of Alderman Thomas Jones, ship owner, coal exporter and Mayor of Newport in 1892-3

The Lost Plaques:
Goscombe John's plaques to the memory of Alderman Thomas Jones, ship owner, coal exporter and Mayor of Newport in 1892-3. 

A newspaper drawing of Thomas Jones' memorial plaque

When Thomas Jones died in New Zealand on October 18, 1903 his Welsh friends asked the Welsh artist Goscombe John to create two memorial plaques to commemorate his life in Wales. One of them was to be created in bronze. Questions come to mind. Who was Thomas Jones and why did he deserve this honour and where are the plaques today? However his story is relevant because just as we are trying to defeat Corona Virus he was trying to defeat tuberculosis a bacterial disease of which many people were dying in his lifetime. The disease had been known since ancient times but in the 18th and 19th centuries it increased due to the growth of industrialisation leading to large urban areas. It affected the rich and the poor and was not effectively defeated until and the BCG vaccine became available in 1953. 

Who was Thomas Jones? 
Thomas Jones was born c.1845 in Newport and was the second son of Thomas and Ann Jones. In 1861 Thomas senior’s job is difficult to read in the census but he was connected with the iron trade and was also an Newport Alderman. Thomas was then aged 16 and was recorded as an agent and his elder brother Richard was a ‘clerk to a coal company’. Born in Newport at a time when the iron and coal industries were enabling the port’s development the two brothers were destined to do well in life. Thomas’s brother R. W. Jones  was the founder of Richard W. Jones and Co. a company which owned mines and a fleet of ships with which to export iron and coal to an expanding market. It would seem that Thomas worked with his brother as a director of the company. By 1901 Thomas was recorded as a ‘Ship Owner and Coal Exporter’ and was living in some style in 2 Clytha Square Newport. Following his brother Richard's death, which as yet I have been unable to locate, Thomas became the managing director of the business. He was an Alderman and in 1892-3 became Mayor of Newport. 

The South Wales Daily News 4th November 1892 provided information about Thomas Jones   when he was Mayor elect.
The above portrait is from a photo. from
the studio of Messrs Dando and Sons, Newport.

'At a private meeting of the Council of the county borough of Newport, held on Thursday, the selection of chief magistrate for the ensuing year was made. The Mayor (Alderman Davis) presided. The Town Clerk read the minutes of the previous year, which recorded that Mr Thos. Jones had waived his right on that occasion in favour of Alderman Davis (the present mayor) celebrating his 50 years of municipal work by being elected to the chair. Mr H. J. Parnall proposed that Mr Jones be nominated as mayor next year; and Alderman Batchelor, in seconding the nomination, referred to his early association with Mr Jones, and also bore testimony to the sterling qualities possessed by Mr Jones. The motion was put by the Council and carried unanimously, and Mr Jones consented to take office. The Mayor-elect is a comparatively young man, and was first elected by the North Ward in 1880. He had since sat continuously for the ward, receiving the latest vote of confidence at the hands of the burgesses after a contest last November. He is the head of the firm of Messrs R. W. Jones and Co., shipowners and shipbrokers, of Dock street, and belongs to an old Newport family, his father, Alderman Jones, having done good service to the town years ago. The Mayor-elect is a pronounced Radical, and, like the Batchelors and the Mullocks, is of the sturdy progressive stock which has assisted to make Newport and Cardiff free and famous, as witness the monument in the Hayes to John Batchelor, the brother of the Alderman Batchelor, who seconded the nomination yesterday.'  

Thomas and his brother Richard were involved not only in the growth of industry and trade but also in the expansion of knowledge taking place at this time. Thomas Jones’s letters can be found in the archive of T. H. Thomas at Cardiff Library. Both Thomas and his brother Richard were close friends of T. H. Thomas and they were all members of Cardiff Naturalists' Society and were also members of the Geological Society of London founded in 1807 and which, after 1874, met in apartments at Burlington House London. In 1879 one of Thomas Jones’s letters to T. H. Thomas referred to the pleasure of spending ‘an evening in a calm atmosphere of science’. Both the brothers and T. H. Thomas attended a literary discussion club called ‘The Fortnightly Club’ which met in Cardiff and included many of Cardiff Naturalists' Society, lecturers from The University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire which opened on 24 October 1883 and other notable men. T. H. Thomas was an artist, naturalist and the first Herald Bard of the Gorsedd which was attached to the National Eisteddfod. Both Thomas Jones and T. H. Thomas worked on the Newport Eisteddfod Committee of 1897. 

("Who's Who In Newport" 1920.)
 Annie Jane Wilson Jones was born at
Newcastle-on-Tyne, and educated at
Bedford College, London. 
Although Thomas’s business flourished his personal life was more difficult. In 1869 he had married Rosa Ann Duffield from Risca, but the 1881 Census shows there were no children of the marriage and following Rosa’s death he married again. His second wife was Anne Jane Wilson Atkinson, born in Newcastle, and the marriage certificate dated 1898 shows she was a spinster eighteen years younger than her husband. It was a good marriage for Anne as Thomas was stated to be ‘a steam ship owner’ and was a Newport Alderman who had been Mayor of Newport in 1892-3. Happily the 1901 census reveals that Thomas aged 56, was living in 2 Clytha Square in Newport with his new wife Annie, aged 38, and with a one year old daughter, Annie Gwenllian Jones. 

His decision to travel to New Zealand
However, not everything was perfect as Thomas was suffering from tuberculosis of the lungs, known then as consumption. One wonders if his brother and first wife had also died of the same disease. He decided that the only way to prolong his life was to live in a better climate. He was fortunate that he had the resources to bring this about and so by December 1901 he had arrived in the southern hemisphere where he hoped the climate would improve his health. He began a series of letters to his friend T. H. Thomas which tell the story of his journey to Australia and then his life in New Zealand. By Christmas 1901 Thomas Jones had arrived in Queenstown in New Zealand. He had travelled via Sydney and had also taken the opportunity to visit the Friendly Islands. A doctor had advised him to stay in New Zealand and so he purchased a house at Waikato, Cambridge near Hamilton on the North Island. He named the house Clytha in memory of his home in Newport. He probably chose the area because the Te Waikato Sanatorium had been founded there. It had been established by the New Zealand government and was the first such institution in the country for the open air treatment of tuberculosis cases. Cambridge Museum's information on the sanatorium tells as, ‘So pressing were the demands of the applicants that patients were admitted in December 1902 (twelve months before the hospital was officially opened) and were forced to be housed in tents pending the erection of wooden shelters.’ However, we do not know if he was ever treated at the hospital but he was close to doctors and nurses who were experts in their field. He was probably treated by the first medical officer of Cambridge, Dr Roberts, who was distinguished for his unselfish and conscientious devotion to the needs of the sanatorium. He attended there in conjunction with his private practice in town.

Thomas Jones experienced bouts of lung congestion and particularly missed the members of the ‘Fortnightly Club’. He also spent time searching for manuscripts he had written whilst in Wales such as the one concerning Dyffryn Ewias, the steep-sided and secluded valley of the River Honddu, in the Black Mountains. However he had periods of feeling much better and the hotter weather helped and he was able to spend time working in his garden. He died on October 18th 1903 and was buried in Cambridge Cemetery at Hautapu. He is buried in Lawn 12 and his memorial ID is 124483959. Their knowledge about him is limited and so perhaps this article will help. 

Cambridge Cemetery at Hautapu, New Zealand 

His son Ellis Thomas Jones was born in New Zealand in 1903 but whether Thomas lived to see his son born is not known. The Waikato Independent newspaper shows his wife was still living in Clytha on Dec 14th 1905 and was selling hay from her two acre paddock. She eventually sold the property and returned to Newport with her two children. The 1911 Census reveals she lived in ‘Sea View’, 37 Stow Park Avenue, Newport close to the entrance to Belle Vue Park. 

The creation of the memorial plaques
His friends in Wales did not forget him and decided to have a memorial created by the renowned Welsh sculptor, Goscombe John. 

The Evening Express 24th July 1905 reported, 
'The memorial tablet which Mr. W. Goscombe John, A.R.A. had designed to the order of a number of Newport gentlemen as a memento of the late Alderman T. Jones, which is to be placed in the Newport Town-hall (with a replica in the sanatorium at Allt-yr-yn) has arrived at Newport. It consists of a bronze panel a, life-size portrait bust in relief, surrounded by a square design of Tudor roses and egg and dart ornament, enclosed in a frame of alabaster. Under the portrait is the inscription: -- "To the memory of Alderman Thomas Jones. Died October 18, 1903. Mayor of this Borough 1892-3. Erected by friends and fellow townsmen. A soul sincere, he broke no promise, served no private end." The panel shows the late Alderman in the mayoral robe and chain.' 

The Evening Express 19th October 1905 reported on the unveiling of the two plaques and provided a drawing of their design. 

 'The unveiling of two memorial tablets to the memory of the late Alderman T. Jones, shipbroker, of Newport, took place on Wednesday. The tablets, which are from the studio of Mr. Goscombe John, R.A., consist of facsimiles in bas-relief, and afford a striking likeness of the deceased. No more fitting place could have been selected for the erection of the memorials than the corridor of the Town-hall, opposite to the main staircase and the corporation hospital at Allt-yr-yn, in the inception and carrying out of which Mr. Jones took such interest. A committee had been formed to carry out the arrangements, and Mr. W. E. Heard, J.P., their chairman, performed the unveiling ceremony at the town-hall, whilst Archdeacon Bruce, formerly vicar of St. Woolos, Newport, acted in a similar capacity at the hospital. The tablets are identical in form, and bear beneath the profile the following inscription:- “To the memory of Alderman Thomas Jones, who died October 18, 1903; mayor of this borough 1892-3; erected by friends and fellow towns-men. “Of soul sincere, he broke no promise, served no private end." After an address by Mr. Heard, Alderman Greenland moved a vote of thanks to the committee and to Mr. Heard, and Mr. T. H. Thomas, of Cardiff, who, together with Mr. W. P. James and the Rev. D. Davies, formed a deputation from a literary society at Cardiff of which the deceased was a member seconded the vote. In doing so Mr. Thomas said the distinguished Welsh sculptor had caught the keen, quick, alert look, which was characteristic of the deceased alderman. Dr. Garrod Thomas, J.P., D.L., proposed a vote of thanks to the mayor and corporation for having placed at the disposal of the committee such an acceptable site. Mr. Lyndon Moore seconded the vote, and it was carried, and acknowledged by the Mayor (Councillor R. Wilkinson). Those present at the Town-hall ceremony also included Aldermen Bear, Goldsworthy, Canning, Howell, and Mordey. The proceedings at the Allt-yr-yn Hospital included an inspection of one of two shelters for the convalescent which the committee have been able to provide from the funds subscribed. Archdeacon Bruce paid an eloquent tribute to the deceased.' Mr. Heard acknowledged the vote.
Where are the plaques?
Sadly both buildings in which the plaques were displayed have been demolished. Newport Town Hall was demolished in 1940 and Allt-yr-yn Isolation Hospital, founded in 1896, was demolished sometime in the mid Twentieth Century. However, there is a picture with the above newspaper article that shows the design of the plaque. Perhaps no-one at the time realised they were created by Goscombe John and might not have realised the significance of Thomas Jones’ municipal contribution to Newport. However, even if the plaster relief was not valued one cannot imagine that the bronze plaque would have been just discarded. Memorialisation has been under review lately and perhaps one cannot expect that everything from the past deserves to be retained. I have checked with the Newport Museum and Art Gallery and enquired of the present Civic Centre but so far no-one has been able to discover it. It might have been removed to another of the Newport Hospitals as Thomas Jones had been connected to Allt-yr-yn Hospital, but given the present pandemic, now is not the time to ask people to search. Neither is it a good time to visit Cardiff Library and access his letters, or to search for a photograph of Thomas Jones in Newport Library which I am sure I have located in the past. Thomas Jones’s story is interesting because he was part of a wide movement to try and stem the spread of tuberculosis. Suffering the current pandemic we are reminded of this story of one man’s journey to try and defy death. 
Christabel Hutchings 

Newport Past 
Letters of T. H. Thomas, Cardiff Central Library 4.435/2. 
See also Christabel Hutchings (ed.): Thomas Henry Thomas, 'Arlunydd Penygarn' South Wales Record Society. 2012 
Welsh Newspapers Online / National Library Wales


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