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January 2020
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Dates for your Diary

Saturday 18th January 10.30-1pm - Coffee Morning – theme to be confirmed.

December 100 Club

No.  12            Mary Rogers      £20
No.  46            Mary George      £10

Annual Membership

At the recent AGM it was decided to keep the current membership fees at £6 for standard membership and £25 for Vice Presidents.  Annual fees are now due so please call at the museum to pay or send in a cheque made payable to Abertillery & District Museum Society and post to ADMS, Market Street, Abertillery, Gwent NP13 1AH.  And, if you are a taxpayer, please sign a gift aid declaration so that the museum can claim an additional 25% at no cost to you.  Without your support we would be unable to keep the museum going so thank you to all our members, Vice Presidents and volunteers for your support throughout 2019 and for your continued support in the year ahead.

Coffee Mornings

We had not one but two very enjoyable coffee mornings last month and both involved live music. The first was with members of Bethany Chapel who told us the story of Christmas and led us in singing carols accompanied by a keyboard player and a violinist.  The second was by the folk group Cleryn, who also played musical instruments and led us in carol singing.

Members at coffee mornings

Above left Bethany Chapel members and above right members of Cleryn Folk Group.

Diamond Wedding Anniversary


Congratulations to stalwart members and supporters, Trevor and Margaret Cook who
have recently celebrated their diamond
wedding anniversary.   Here they can be
seen with their card from Her Majesty
The Queen!



The Weather

What the weather is (or isn’t) doing is a National British conversation opener.  You know the thing;  ‘’s a bit chilly today’, or ‘Looks as though it could brighten up later’ and there again, ‘Where’s it all coming from?’ and ‘Oooo.... the sky’s full of it!’ and now and then, ‘’s too hot today!’

Whatever it’s doing, our British weather never seems to get it quite right, does it?  Once when an Indian gentleman was working in Britain he was asked by a colleague how conversations were started up in his native country.  Interestingly, he replied that the most recent religious festival would be mentioned and discussed - rather than the prevailing Indian weather.

Weather MapAnd now here is the Weather Forecast .......

Familiar words which we hear on a daily basis on the radio or TV. But have you ever wondered when  The Weather Forecast came into existence?  1st August 2011 was the 150th anniversary of the first public weather forecast published in The Times newspaper.

Maybe you can remember some of the more memorable ones.  Like the hard winter of 1947 and 1963.Or the famous storm of 1987 and the hot summer of 2018 not forgetting of course the torrential rain and flooding over the past few weeks.

The man who invented the weather forecast in the 1860s faced scepticism and even mockery. But science was on his side. 

Admiral Robert  FitzRoy is chiefly remembered as Charles Darwin's taciturn captain on HMS Beagle. But in his lifetime FitzRoy found fame, not from his time at sea but from his pioneering daily weather predictions, which he called by a new name of his own invention - "forecasts".

There was no such thing as a weather forecast in 1854 when FitzRoy established what would later be called the Met Office. Instead the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade was founded as a chart depot, intended to reduce sailing times with better wind charts.

With no forecasts, fishermen, farmers and others who worked in the open had to rely on weather wisdom - the appearance of clouds or the behaviour of animals - to tell them what was coming. This was an odd scenario - that a bull in a farmer's field, a frog in a jar or a swallow in a hedgerow could detect a coming storm before a man of science in his laboratory was an affront to Victorian notions of rational progress.

Yet the early 19th Century had seen several important theoretical advances. Among them was an understanding of how storms functioned, with winds whirling in an anticlockwise direction around a point of low pressure. Weather charts, another innovation, made it easier to visualise the atmosphere in motion. 

But despite this, the belief persisted among many that weather was completely chaotic. When one MP suggested in the Commons in 1854 that recent advances in scientific theory might soon allow them to know the weather in London "twenty-four hours beforehand", the House roared with laughter!  Yet today, the weather can be predicted up to a week or longer in advance.

Apparently, Supermarkets rely on weather predictions when deciding what should be stocked for the coming days.  If a heatwave is forecast then barbecue foods and soft drinks are increased on the shelves.  If temperatures are predicted to plummet then up go the stocks of crumpets and warming drinks.  Why not take a look next time you’re out shopping.

Maybe you have your own way of predicting the weather.  My own favourite is to look out from the bedroom window onto the flat roof over the kitchen extension.  If there are puddles on the roof and the water isn’t moving, then it’s rained in the night.  If there are large splashes and big drops in the puddles then it’s raining hard; small drops-then it’s just drizzling and if the roof’s dry then it’s well......dry!  If the roof is frosty then it’s well......cold!

Otherwise perhaps the cows are lying down in the field (rain); there are lots of berries on the holly tree (a sure sign of a hard winter); at midday there’s enough blue sky to make a sailor suit - then it will be a fine afternoon!

Whether you like it or whether you don’t, the weather will always be with us - a subject of endless fascination and despite all the science and technology that goes into making the forecasts, Mother Nature has always been and still does have the last word and as such is always standing by to surprise, us whatever the forecasts say.
Katherine Taylor

Wartime National Identity Cards

Even though it has been over five years since I lost my father, I’m still finding things of interest amongst his papers.  My latest find was a National Identity Card issued to my mother, Cicely Elizabeth Evans, in 1945.  Curiosity aroused, I decided to investigate further...

At the start of the second world war, it was decided it was necessary for all civilians (the armed forces had their own ID cards), to be issued with identity cards and so an act was passed by parliament, The National Registration Act, which was given Royal Assent on 5th September 1939. 
Forms were issued to every household and on 29th September 1939, the form had to be filled in by someone from each home, much like the Census we get now every 10 years.  Shortly after, officials visited each house, collected the form and issued ID cards on the spot.  Children were also issued with cards though it was permissible for it to be held by a parent or guardian.

Wartime ID Card

The front and rear of my mother’s card which, when folded, measures 3” by 5” (8cm by 12.5cm)

The main reason for their issue was to keep track of where everyone was and to identify bodies after homes were bombed. Plus the cards aided with the distribution of rations which was inevitably going to happen and indeed did from 1940.

Initially, all cards were a browny / buff colour but in 1943 they were changed to blue and all cards had a ‘Class Code’ designation.  There were 5 class codes altogether, but the main two codes were A for adults over the age of 21 and B for young adults aged 16 to 21.  In addition, those with a B classification had three numbers following the letter.  The first two numbers referred to the last two digits of their year of birth and the third number was either a 1, 2, 3 or 4 and related to the quarter of the year that they were born.

Once a child reached the age of 16, it was a requirement to have and carry his / her own card and so my mother was issued with this card shortly after her 16th birthday.  Her Class Code is B291 which says that she was born in 1929 and in the first quarter of the year (March in fact).

Wartime ID card

The inner view, with the Class Code B291.  The date stamp is 30th April 1945.

ID owner as a girlMy mother as she would have looked when the card was issued.


By early 1952, it was decided that these cards were no longer necessary and The National Registration Act was repealed in May of that year.  For some reason though my mother held onto hers and it is now on display at the museum in one of the WWII cabinets.  A real piece of history, do take a look on your next visit!
Sally Murphy


Victorian and Edwardian Children’s Clothes 1837 – 1910

Possibly the most notable thing about the way children were clothed in this era is that they were covered from neck to toe all year round – possibly a knee on show but certainly nothing skimpy.  How hot they must have been in summer but how glad of those layers in winter.  In those days rich children would have worn quite different clothes from the working class child but in Abertillery most children were from working class backgrounds so for the purpose of this short article, I will concentrate on what they would have been wearing.

The Victorian schoolboy would have worn a jacket and stout trousers, with younger boys wearing short trousers and long socks.  Shirts had large rounded collars and were stiffly starched; over the shirt they would have worn a waistcoat or jumper.  They would have had ankle boots on their feet (although let’s remember that some of the poorest children wouldn’t have had any shoes in hard times) and perhaps a cap on their heads.

The Victorian schoolgirl wore, most noticeably, a white cotton pinafore that did up at the back and was worn over their normal clothes to protect them.  The pinafores were more often than not made by their parents and covered a knee-length dress of a dark colour (often black) and of a cotton or woollen material and which was worn over long black stockings.  Footwear would be flat and boot-like.  More often than not their heads were uncovered, with perhaps a bonnet for special occasions, but white ribbons were widely worn in the long tresses that were the norm.

I should also mention that in Victorian times boys would often wear dresses until they were ‘breeched’, that is, given their first outfit including breeches or trousers – that was any time between the ages of four and eight.  Boys’ dresses were less fancy than those worn by girls and I have read that there were a number of practical reasons for their use, including that it made nappy changing easier.

It’s worth remembering that the concept of sewing machines emerged only towards the end of the Victorian period and until then there was no way of making clothes in bulk and cheaply.  Poor people had to make do and mend, and mend and mend again!  Hand-me-downs were what children wore until only suitable for rags.  Many children in these times would have been working rather than attending school and we have all seen images of these poor children in their grubby scruffy clothes - a world away from today’s throwaway society.

Moving on to Edwardian times, schoolgirls still wore pinafores, boys still wore jackets, shirts and trousers and boys were sporting ‘Peaky Blinders’ style caps.  The sailor suit was popular for younger boys but this was an expensive item. I wonder how many boys in Abertillery had such suits?

Clothes in the archive

Some of the items from our archive

We have a number of examples of Victorian and Edwardian clothing in our archives but due to their delicate nature they need to be kept in protective sleeves, however there are some items out on display in a glass case in our Bon Marche display.  Do a take a look on your next visit.
Jen Price

Big Ben

Big Ben is currently half-way through a sixty million pound, four year renovation programme and, as a result, only strikes on New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Day.  However it will strike at 11pm on 31st January this month, to herald the UK’s departure from the EU.

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