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February 2013
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Annual Dinner Friday 8th March

The recent snow meant a last minute change of plan and so the Annual Dinner will now be held on Friday 8 th March – same time, same place. Contact Peggy Bearcroft or call at the Museum for more details.

Lecture Programme - Please be sure to put the lecture dates in your diary!Our first lecture is on Wednesday 6 th February at 2pm at the Museum, price £2. Our speaker will be Steve Taylor talking about “My Life in the Media”. On 6 th March, Richard Dean is giving a talk entitled “What Lies Beneath?” Richard is a structural engineer and his talk will give a fascinating glimpse into how archaeological remains can be accommodated in new developments, and how archaeology can sometimes affect the engineering solutions.

Please be sure to come along – all are welcome. £2 entry; the lectures are held in the Museum and start at 2pm.  

Fund raising January – see next Newsletter

100 Club January

No.63 Morfydd Jones £25
No.17 Bill Tingle £10
No.34 Jill Phipps £5

Diary Dates

Wednesday 6th February My Life in the Media by Steve Taylor

Wednesday 6th March What Lies Beneath? By Richard Dean

Friday 8th March Annual Dinner at the Top Hotel, Llanhilleth.

Wednesday 10th April Intellectual Property is All Around You by Gail Ashworth

Wednesday 1st May Cwmcarn Dam Disaster by Tony Jukes

Wednesday 5th June Inn Signs by Bob Trett

Wednesday 3rd July The Story of the Hero of Newport Docks Disaster by Monty Dart

Wednesday 7th August Newport Transporter Bridge by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th September Garden Birdwatch by Mick Bailey

Wednesday 2nd October ( TBA) Robin Williams

Wednesday 6th November Stanley Spencer War Artist by Pete Strong

Get Well Soon, Don!

Our Curator, Don Bearcroft, has been in hospital recently but is now back home, and doubtless champing at the bit to be up and about. We wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to his familiar face in the Museum once more. We also look forward to a resumption of his page 4 for the monthly Newsletter.  

National Chip Week 18-24th Feb

The potato, now an important staple in the North European diet, was introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers at the end of the 16 th century. We tend to disregard the growth above ground but Marie Antoinette is reported to have been so entranced by the purple flowers that she put them in her hair, while Lois XVI put one in his buttonhole. We now eat potatoes prepared and cooked in a huge variety of ways. Crisps were an accidental invention in 1853 by George Crum in New York while the chips with which we are all so familiar came on the scene in Britain a few years later. This month sees a celebration of ‘the chip’, in National Chip Week. Did you know that 1.6 million tonnes of potatoes are made into chips in the UK each year, weighing the same as 4,000 jumbo jets? Did you know that the land required to grow all these potatoes is the equivalent of 47,000 Wembley football pitches? And did you know that over 250 million fish and chip meals are sold each year in the UK?

How did the popularity of fish and chip shops start and grow? According to one story fried-potato shops spreading south from Scotland merged with fried-fish shops spreading from southern England. Fried fish shops were part of the London scene in Dickens’ day and the first fish and chip shop is said to have opened in London in 1860. Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea coinciding with the spread of the railway network which allowed the easy and quick transport of fresh fish. Early fish and chip shops used a large cauldron of fat heated by a coal fire – a far cry from the clean modern chip shops we know today. Older readers may remember that ‘fish and chips’ was one of the few foods not subject to rationing in World War II.

Poetry Corner

“Blaina” by Dagworth Orville Charters  

The little town of Blaina, of many years ago

Loading out the colliery, in wind and rain and snow Standing on the crossing, to let the coal trains out People stopping for a chat, that’s what it’s all about The River Ebbw just a stream, its flowing waters light It had seen the Chartist days, when miners lodge gave fight Trying to save the language, the Baptists did their part Setting up a printing press, to keep Welsh at your heart There amongst the playing fields, the ironmasters’ spoils Brings to mind the furnaces, where even metal boils Women on the station, for Saturday morning trip Up to Brynmawr market, to try to find a snip Yes Blains has its history, of that you can be proud The workers of the iron and coal, spoke in voices loud Part of the valley spirit, felt by one and all These then are the memories, that I still recall.

The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross

There is an area in north Herefordshire/south Shropshire known as Mortimer Country with signposted trails for walking and cycling, and a 38 mile drive visiting various villages and sights. What is the story behind this battle on 2nd February 1841.

Edward, Earl of March, having spent Christmas in Gloucester, planned to fall back to London on hearing of his father’s death. However, when he learnt of the Earl of Pembroke’s plans to join Queen Margaret’s main army with his force of 4,000 men, Edward marched north to Mortimer’s Cross with his 5,000 men in an attempt to block Pembroke’s advance. Edward crossed the River Lugg and drew up in battle order. It was early morning and as dawn broke he and his men saw a strange meteorological phenomenon called a parhelion - three suns appeared to be rising. Edward took this as a sign from God signalling victory and later took it as his emblem – ‘the Sunne in Splendour’. Edward was indeed victorious but at a huge cost to both sides as it has been reported that some 4,000 men died that day.

Ancient Egyptians

Our Curator, Don Bearcroft not only knows a great deal about our local history, but also Egyptology and so this article is for him. Don already knows the history of the following people, but we thought the article would bring back happy memories of his holiday to Egypt and perhaps set him planning his and Peggy’s next trip there.

Egypt was responsible for some of the most significant achievements in man’s history and this was all made possible by the Nile as the river brought life to a largely rainless land; the shifting of its tributaries are associated with the rise and fall and even the relocation of some of the ancient cities which once stood along those banks of those secondary watercourses. Rich harvests were collected as taxes on behalf of the ruling pharaohs and enabled ambitious building projects, some of whose remains can still be seen today including the many tombs and temples which still flank the River Nile. Several hundred pharaohs ruled Egypt for over three thousand years from 3100 BC. Here are brief details of just two.

Tutankhamun reigned 1332 – 1323 BC Tutankhamun is one of the most famous of the pharaohs but this is largely due to the discovery in 1922 of his almost untouched tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter, and the priceless treasures found in the tomb, including the famous burial mask. This pharaoh began his short rule at the age of nine and died just ten years later. No-one knows the cause of death for certain but one theory is that as the child of an incestuous relationship, his premature death may well have been due to congenital problems. Tutankhamun is said to have restored the country’s fortunes following a less than successful period of rule under his father, but little of note occurred during the short reign of this young pharaoh.

Hapshepsut reigned 1479 - 1458 BC She was the longest ruling of Egypt’s female rulers and in many of the representations of this famous figure she wears a false beard to signify that her pharaonic power was equivalent to that of a man. She fostered a period of peace and prosperity and it was she who was responsible for the erection of twin obelisks at the temple at Karnac, in honour of her father. At the time, these obelisks were the tallest in the world and one still stands to this day. Her own memorial temple was carved into 300 metre high cliffs and remains an impressive sight. However, following her death her stepson ordered all reference to her to be removed from Egypt’s history and her mummy has never been found.

Local Voices

The Great Snow of 1947

At this time I was a young married woman and lived in Victoria Terrace, Penybont. I worked as a clerk at Barrell Bros., a large wholesale fruit and vegetable firm in Six Bells. I woke up one morning January (I think) to a massive fall of snow. It was about 2 feet deep. Being a conscientious worker, I decided I could make it to work, possibly being helped if I walked in the footprints of previous travellers. Suitably clothed and shod I set off. When I got to the old lamp rooms at the beginning of Tillery Street (the old lamp rooms were the remains of Penybont Colliery which had been closed for many years) I was confronted by a huge wall of snow. It was about the height of a house. I went back home

Meanwhile, my husband who worked at the level at Llanerch Padern in Cwmtillery, had set off for work at 5.30 am. In Gwern Berthi Road, the snow was as high as the bedroom windows of the houses. Other workers, too, got a path through this barrier. In those days if one did not turn up for work on time, one did not get any pay for that day. Trudging up the incline to the level he experienced ice burns on his hands from the metal machinery. These conditions went on for a long time .... more snow, more ice gradually being compounded by ashes thrown onto the roads in an attempt to get a footing on the icy surface. Well, eventually after many weeks of these conditions things got a bit better.

The problem the council could not tackle alone was the compounded layer on top of the road itself which was too thick and hard. The council asked every resident to hack up the hardened layer in front of his house and the ash lorries would collect in and dump it. This was done but the lorries were not like today’s sophisticated ones. In those days they were just flat-bottomed vehicles with a 2 foot barrier on the edge. I daresay the roads were damaged quite a lot. My father dug a sort of tunnel from the back door to the coal house. The space to put the dug-out snow was very limited but I thought this tunnel was really cute. Are we getting to be a nation of softies? The recent snow storm has taken over the news but it was, after all, nothing compared to 1947.

The Roving Reporter

Do you remember the snow of 1947? Please send in your recollections.

For Ladies’ Eyes Only

In 1943 a publication entitled Make Do and Mend was prepared for the Board of Trade by the Ministry of Information, and cost 3d. This was the advice in the booklet on looking after corsets.

Now that rubber is so scarce your corset is one of your most precious possessions. Be sure first of all that it fits. In particular, don’t wear one too small as this stretches the rubber and puts too much strain on it. Bones worn in the wrong place – either to high or too low – will break. The greatest enemies of rubber are sunlight and grease. Never let your girdle get really dirty. Wash it frequently, and, if you possibly can, have at least two corsets, and wear them alternately. If you have one corset that you wear only on special occasions, wash it before you put it away again – in a cool, dark place, not in the hot cupboard. Wear corsets over a thin undergarment, rather than next to the skin, so that they are protected from grease and perspiration. Watch them for the first signs of cracking threads and mend at once.

Don’t pull or stretch your corset any more than you must. A strong pull may be the quickest way of getting into a corset but it’s hard on the material. Roll a boneless corset before you step into it, then unroll it over your hips. If the girdle has bones or rigid supports, ease it gently into place, first on one side, then on the other.

If your corsets are back-laced or front-laced you will find they wear much better if you loosen the laces when you take off the corset, and tie the lacing afresh each time you put them on.

Frequent washing is good for corsets, but they should never be rubbed with a cake of soap, nor two parts of the garment rubbed together. Neither should they be left to soak. Before washing close zip fasteners, but open all metal clips and suspenders. Then press in a few soap flakes where the garment is most soiled, rub gently, and wash, right side out, in two or three lots of lukewarm soapy water by squeezing gently. Another method is to brush with a soft nail brush under the spoapy water. Rinse two or three times in lukewarm water until every sign of soap has gone, and roll the garment up in a towel to absorb the moisture. Do not wring. Hang to dry lengthwise on a line, away from fire and radiators. Never dry in the sun or strong light. Corsets should not be ironed, for they are fitting garments, and the fabric will soon take on its proper shape again.

Monmouthshire Merlin

3rd April, 1830

A Moderate Charge - A man died at Newport on Saturday of apoplexy. Mr. Tatham a surgeon, called on the man's wife to request permission to open his body. She, after some hesitation replied, "Well what are you going to stand?" Mr Tatham asked what she meant by "stand." "Oh," said the lady, "you know very well; if you give six pounds you may open him, but not without." The surgeon considered six pounds rather too much for a peep, left the corpse unopened

2nd July 1836

Midsummer Quarter Sessions - Hannah Willis and Edward Bryant were indicted for stealing a quantity of gin, a jug, and a bottle, the property of Alfred Williams the landlord of the Tredegar Arms, Newport. He missed some spirits in May Ist and suspecting Willis, he sent for Redman the constable who searched the box of Willis and there found a jug full of gin. She acknowledged that Bryant had keys which opened the cellars; Bryant was then taxed with the theft which he denied, but said that he had had some gin from Willis the night before. Redman corroborated the evidence so far given and said that Willis acknowledged having taken the gin and that Bryant acknowledged having taken it from Willis. Rev. James Coles stated that the examinations of the prisoners were taken before him and that they were not prevailed upon either by threat or promise to make confession. The confession of Willis made before the magistrate was then read in which she acknowledged having stolen the gin. Two witnesses were then called by Mr. Harding who gave Bryant a good character.

Lord C. Somerset in passing sentence on Willis said that in this case it was necessary to inflict a severe punishment. He hoped the punishment inflicted on the prisoner would serve as an example to other servants and deter them from the commission of a similar offence. His Lordship then sentenced Hannah Willis to seven years transportation and Bryant to twelve months imprisonment and hard labour.

31st December, 1836

The New Mayor - Our new Mayor for the coming year is Mr. John Frost, a draper of this town and we wish him well. We trust that his year of office will be free from any rancour occasioned by his strongly held opinions and that peace in the Council will prevail.


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