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February 2014
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Subscriptions due - £6

Your annual subscription for 2014 is due so please pay as soon as you can.  

Annual Dinner

As usual, the Annual Dinner took place at the Top Hotel in Llanhilleth and an excellent meal was much enjoyed by all who attended, despite a rainy journey to get there. Our guest speaker was Alun Davies AM who spoke about community and heritage and the important place they still have in our lives. Many thanks to Peggy Bearcroft and Margaret Dyer for organising this popular event.  

Lecture Programme

When you hear the name Rolls Royce you probably think of luxury cars but what do you know about the fascinating lives of Mr Rolls and Mr Royce? Come along to the Museum at 2pm on Wednesday 5th February and find out more from our guest speaker, Mr Roger James, who will give a presentation and a short film. Non-members are welcome; entry is £2.


St David’s Day Coffee Morning

100 Club January

No. Verley Phillips £25
No. Mary Hunt £10
No. Nicola Dean £5

Diary Dates

Wednesday 5th February 2014 Rolls and Royce by Roger James

Saturday 1st March 2014 St David’s Day coffee and cake morningwith poetry and song £1

Wednesday 5th March 2014 The Tonypandy Riots by David Maddox

Wednesday 2nd April 2014Manufacturing Fine Bone China by David Woodliffe

Saturday 5th April 2014 Coffee and cake morning “Adventures in the Andes” £1

Wednesday 7th May 2014 Military Band Archive and Music by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th June 2014 The Murder of KyminBet by Pete Strong

Wednesday 2nd July 2014 Swan Rescue by Ellen Kershaw

Wednesday 6th August 2014 A Brief Look at Vietnam by Jen Price

Wednesday 3rd September 2014 - The WW2 Blenheim Bomber Crash at Abersychan by Ken Clark

Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Introduction to Rag Rug by Jane Dorsett

Wednesday 5th November 2014 The Mysterious World of Bees by John Holden

Fund raising January - £433

Get Well Soon!

We send get well messages to Cariad Evans and Sylvia Matthews. We are also glad to see that Roy Pickford and his wife, Sylvia, are out and about again.

Museum Treasures

The Museum has a wealth of material in its Archives, including log books from Cock and Chick Primary School and Abertillery Girl Guides. Here are a few (mainly) ‘February’ extracts. It was in February 1926 that a Guides Company and Brownie Pack were started in connection with St Michael’s Church.


Abertillery Division Girl Guides

February 1932 – A Jumble sale raised £4.18.0d for District funds.

February 1st 1942 – Warship Week. In spite of a slight fall of snow which covered the ground, quite a strong muster of Girl Guides attended the Parade arranged by the District Council to give a good send off to Warship Week.  


During 1942 we have:

1. Collected and sent away 4,626 cotton reels required by the Air Ministry.

2. 3 parcels of used postage stamps for the Hackney Children’s Hospital.

3. Razor blades which are sold to aid the Red cross.

4. 2000 jam jars.

Saturday Feb 19th 1943 – This was the day the Monmouthshire pigeons were released at Newport by the County Commissioner. Several Guides attended the ceremony accompanied by Commissioner Dance. The same afternoon Mr T Carpenter held an examination for the Artists Badge at the Guide Hall.

Note: An accompanying newspaper article explained that on that same day at noon, in every county, pigeons were released to carry messages of peace to a central point in London, to be gathered there by Lady Baden Powell, the Chief Guide. It was also part of a country-wide campaign to purchase carrier pigeons for the war effort.

February 1944 – A very successful Laundress test was held at Brynhyfryd School when Miss Boothnan the C.D.S. mistress examined the Aberbeeg Guides in their Laundress Test.

What are your memories of Brownies and Guides? Please write in with your recollections.

And do you know why the Air Ministry wanted cotton reels – that is intriguing!

We would also like to hear your memories of primary school and hope you enjoy the following extracts from Cock and Chick log book.

Cock and Chick Primary School

February 5th 1935 – Milk Scheme commenced.  

February 25th 1935 – School closed on the instructions of the L.E.A. as a form of protest against the New Employment Act, in accordance with a request from the “Abertillery United Front”.  

February 4th 1938 The attendance is still very low, owing to illness and bad weather.  

29th February 1940 – Classes III, IV, V and VI accompanied by their teacher visited the Pavilion Cinema this morning to witness the film ‘Stanley and Livingstone’. The visit was arranged by the Education Committee.  

February 21st 1941 – Eleven boot vouchers have been distributed to children of needy parents during the last week. Details have been entered in the “Boots” book.  

February 21st 1946 – A victory tea, provided by the L.E.A. was given to all the scholars and thoroughly enjoyed.  

February 15th 1952 – School closed for the afternoon session as a token of esteem and love for his late Majesty – King George VI.  

February 13th 1953 – 71 scholars accompanied by all the teaching staff travelled on the 5.19 train to Newport in order to see the Pantomime “Cinderella” at the Lyceum Theatre. It proved a most enjoyable venture.  

February 3rd 1956 – Diane Woodland fell in playground at 1.15 pm, on some glass left by a builder and cut her leg below knee. Was given attention by me and sent to clinic accompanied by mother. Usual forms duly completed and sent to office.  

February 28th 1956 – At 1.15 pm several boys ran on to the road and into the path of a motor car. Richard Jones and Terence Smith were knocked down. The former appeared to be very shaken and suffering from shock and was taken home after examination by the driver of the car, (who happened to be a doctor), and myself. The latter sustaining a cut knee and after attention he was allowed to remain in school.  

February 4th 1963 – School re-opened. Water, to flush toilets using buckets, was drawn from houses above school by means of a long hose pipe.  

Recent Acquisitions

We have boxes of photographs and memorabilia from Abertillery Rugby Football Club. If you would like to see the photos please call at the Museum or contact Mrs Margaret Dyer who is cataloguing the photos. We hope you can identify the photograph of a young man whom we believe is wearing a Wales Schoolboy/Youth International Cap – E1931 is embroidered on the peak. Can you put a name to this face?  

Poetry Corner


Up to Brynmawr market
The valley used to go
Early on a Saturday
In wind and rain and snow.

Loaded up with shoppers
Up would come the train
And buses full of people
Whose bags would take the strain.

First stop the meat seller
To get the weekend roast
Chickens big as turkeys
You could hear him boast.

Go around the cheapjacks
Bound to get some snips
Sometimes a dinner service
Or your hair some clips.

You could get a saucepan
Cheaper than the store
Stew to feed the family
And a dozen more.

Soon the homeward journey
To every village round
Enough to feed the family
And only cost a pound.

Dagworth Orville Charters  

Love Spoons

We are all familiar here in Wales with wooden love spoons which are given as a token of affection or to celebrate a special event. The earliest surviving love spoon, dating from about 1667, is held at the Museum in St Fagans. Up until the early 19 th century young men would carve love spoons for their sweethearts. Sycamore was the wood most commonly used and the various designs had particular meanings. A twisted stem represented two lives joining as one, a diamond represented good fortune, and the links of a chain indicated how many children the suitor would like. How romantic!

Book Corner

Gwent County History: Vol 5
The Twentieth Century

The fifth and final volume of the Gwent County History covers the period from the beginning of the First World War to the present day dealing with the momentous changes that have taken place during that period.

The chapters on the First and Second World Wars deal with the effect the wars had on Monmouthshire and its people and the changes that came about as a result. The depression of the twenties and thirties and the improved economy of the war years and post-war period are dealt with in chapters on agriculture, industry and transport. The closure of the railways, the miners’ strike and the decline of the heavy industries all affected Monmouthshire, and all these are covered.

Local Government saw many changes during this period. Firstly it was Monmouthshire County Council as the first tier with rural and urban councils running local affairs. Abertillery was one of the largest of these and had its own Education Authority. In 1974 Newport Borough was added to Monmouthshire and formed the County of Gwent and then in 1994 the county was divided into five Unitary Authorities.

Events and changes as they affected Abertillery are covered including changes in employment and the labour market. There are also sections dealing with sport and entertainment.

The volume is well illustrated in colour and black and white with many of the photographs being published for the first time.

This volume together with the earlier ones is an interesting read for the general reader, students and researchers, who will find the extensive bibliography and notes very useful. It will continue to be of interest to future generations of local historians.
Jean Colwell 

Stow Maries Aerodrome

Museum Society member Mr Arthur Lewis O.B.E. now lives quite near this aerodrome in Essex. It is the only remaining complete WWI aerodrome left in Britain, consisting of 24 buildings, and about 18 months ago it received an English Heritage Angel Award. The aerodrome, which has Grade II* listed status, saw action in the First World War during the period that London experienced the first bombing attacks by the Germans, notably from Zeppelin airships and Gotha bombers. The airfield was abandoned in 1919 but recent years have seen its gradual restoration and plans include a museum. For more details look on the website

Museum Matters

Origin of pub signs

Most of us know of the origin of local Public House names such as; The Colliers, The Rolling Mill and Puddlers Arms. Bernard Hill brought to my attention that , public houses have been much more than mere drinking establishments. They have been meeting places for merchants, huntsmen, traders, artisans and sailors; resting places for travellers; staging posts for mail coaches; places of refuge, offering shelter, food and hospitality, as well as ales, wines and spirits.

All this is reflected in the rich variety of the names by which our pubs are known. Pub signs and names bear the traces of long forgotten local history; this is reflected in the names by which our pubs are known. Pub signs and names bear the traces of long forgotten local history.

Only since the 19th century has the word 'Hotel' meant a place to stay on holiday. Hotel was originally a French word for any large dwelling place (as in 'Hotel de Ville,' meaning Town Hall). About a hundred and fifty years ago, it became fashionable for publicans to use the word to make their establishment sound more upmarket, and many Inns became Hotels overnight.

It was the 'Inn' which traditionally provided food, drink and overnight accommodation, essential at a time when it took several days on foot or horseback to travel between cities. A 'Tavern' was the most basic alehouse (the word comes from the Latin 'taberna' meaning a simple hut or booth), offering no lodging and frequented by local people rather than travellers.

Incidentally, many pubs called “The New Inn” dates from Elizabethan, times when Her Majesty complained about the lack of decent places to stay when journeying around her realm, and instructed more to be built.

When pub signs were first used reading was a rare skill. Pictures served instead of words, objects were sometimes used Signs such as; A Magpie & Crown, The Whale & the Crow, The Razor & Hen, The Leg & Seven Stars, The Shovel & Boot represented these because they sounded like the publican's name or town. Two cocks could stand for Cox, a hare and a bottle for Harebottle, for example. The Pig & Whistle is believed to derive from two far more ancient words - Piggen & Wassail. 'Piggen' is an old word meaning 'pail and 'wassail' a greeting meaning 'be well' or 'good health' - an old equivalent of 'cheers!' At this sign, you might expect to dip your tankard into a 'Piggen' of ale, and cry "Wassail!" to your companions!

The Goat & Compasses, a more comical pair than most, reveals just how much words can change over time. It almost certainly began life as "O God Encompass Us" a prayer or blessing commonly found over the entrance of a wayside inn. The Fox & Hounds: A straightforward hunting reference, often the name of an Inn where the local hunt traditionally met.

The Dog & Duck: Usually painted as a dog retrieving a duck after a shoot, this sign refers in fact to a cruel (but commonplace) ancient village game. A duck with its wings pinioned would be released onto the village pond, and a dog sent to retrieve it. Bets would be placed on how many times the duck would dive before the dog fetched it back.

The Royal Oak refers to Charles II who escaped death at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 by hiding in an oak tree. The Red Lion, the badge of Scotland, became popular after the union of the Crowns of Scotland & England in 1603. Earlier it was the badge of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Today it is still the most common pub sign in the country. The Golden Lion was the badge of Henry I(1100-1135) and of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland. The White Lion was the badge of Edward IV and of the Dukes of Norfolk; the Blue Lion, that of Anne of Denmark, wife of James I; and the Black Lion, the emblem of Phillipa, wife of Edward III. The Bear LogoWhite Boar, a traditional sign was the badge of Richard III (who was known as the 'hog'!). After the battle of Bosworth in 1485, it is said that many a White Boar became a Blue Boar - because that was the crest of the Earl of Oxford, his enemy.

The Talbot is a hunting hound, which features on several crests - including that of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Often portrayed on old pub signs as a spotted dog, this is the closest we shall get to knowing what the creature looked like- it is now extinct. The Crusades inspired many pub names, such as The Turk's Head, or The Saracen's Head, and The Lamb & Flag. Such establishments may have served as mustering points for knights joining the expeditions.

Don Bearcroft Curator

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