Museum Logo
Home Page
About Us
Educational Activities
News And Events
Become A Member
Contact Us
Monthly Newsletter
Previous Month Button
March 2010
Next Month Button

Lecture Programme

The topic of our February lecture was ‘Going Down the Pit’.  John Evans gave us an illuminating account of life in the pits in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the role of children.  Mr Evans is a well known and well respected local historian and, as expected, his topic had been thoroughly researched.  Although most of the pits in the area have now closed, all those present were involved in or knew someone involved in coal mining and the talk was very well received.  

100 Club January 2010

No. 63              Morfydd Jones              £25
No. 87              Gwyneth Hillier             £10
No. 27              Sylvia Matthews            £5

100 Club February 2010

No. 127            Neil Winmill                  £25
No. 31              Margaret Gilson            £10
No. 40              Sylvia Pickford              £5

Fund raising February  - £470

Raffle prize

Items needed, please, for the hamper which will be the main raffle prize at the Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture on 5th May.

Diary Dates

Wednesday 3rd March 2010A Trip to Ethiopia by Amanda Davies

Wednesday 7th April 2010 Victorian Internet by Malcolm Johnson

Wednesday 5th May 2010 – Owain Glyndwr by Chris Barber

Saturday 8th May 2010 Cake Decorating –Coffee Morning 50p

Lectures start at 7.00pm in the Metropole Theatre, with teas and a chat downstairs in the Museum afterwards. Entry is £2 and the public are most welcome.


A few of our members have had or are about to celebrate their eightieth birthday:

Bernard Jones turned 80 the other week
Margaret Phillips is 80 on 1st March
Gwyneth Hutchings will be 80 on 7th March.

I’m sure everyone will agree that they all look much younger than they evidently are.  Could it be an added bonus of membership of the Museum Society?

Poet’s Corner


Who’ll keep their lordships rich,
and pay the chairmen’s bonus,
now the collieries are closed,
and the steel works are gone.

What minions will do their bidding,
or work the whole year round,
What industry will make a profit,
to maintain the riches of this land.

Can modern technology fill the gap,
with inventions, and more to come,
Will production lines turn them out,
cheap enough to supply everyone.

Can the rich grow much richer,
with working conditions now clean,
Will their profits keep on rising,
with the pricing being kept so keen.

How can our economy survive,
when manufacturing output is low,
Without producing so much to sell,
how can we maintain a cash flow.
Gordon Rowlands, Feb 2009

Behind the Scenes

The Museum can perhaps be likened to an iceberg in the sense that what you see is but a small part of what goes on.  That is true of every Museum but what is special about ours is that it is run entirely by volunteers; our band of workers carry out a range of tasks which are undertaken at other Museums by professionally qualified staff.  We have to meet those same high standards. It requires a great deal of dedication but those who regularly help say they have a great sense of achievement, satisfaction, and friendship.  The amount of time our volunteers can spare varies from one individual to another, but all are welcome as are any new volunteers who might wish to come forward.  We have the benefit of professional advice and help when we need it, notably from our Curatorial Advisor Frank Olding and from Cymal, the latter organisation also often helping with grant aid for particular projects.  One project which has recently been completed, and which was a mammoth piece of work, was a report on all the Museum’s textiles by Emma Telford, a specialist Textile Conservator from Hereford and who conserved the Burma Standard for us.  Each textile has a separate record sheet with description, condition and recommendations.  Plenty for our volunteers to be getting on with!

Brinley Gravenor? New Era Union?

We recently received the following letter from Mr Mike Everley.  If you can provide any information please let us know and we will forward it to Mr Everley who has kindly offered the Museum a CD of the transcript of the New Era Union minute book when completed.

My maternal grandparents were John Henry (Jack) Hutchings and Martha Hutchings (nee James).  They lived at 13 Clarence Street, Gelli Crug.  Jack was one of five brothers.  Harry emigrated to Australia in 1914, Sam lived in Adams Street, Gelli Crug and was the father of Stan Hutchings the butcher and Marie Page (nee Hutchings)the headteacher, William was killed in the Vivian colliery in 1921 and James married Mary Ann Adams the daughter of Moses Adams the builder.

William, Sam and Jack were very active in politics and William worked closely with Ness Edwards.  They were involved in the New Era Union in Abertillery.  I remember my grandfather telling me that they had running battles with the blackshirts in the thirties when they tried to break up their meetings.  I am transcribing a minute book from the Abertillery New Era Union that I copied from the original held in the University Library of wales.  It mentions many Abertillery people of the day.

Martha James was the great granddaughter of William James who ran the Somerset Inn in 1881.  Her siblings included Mabel, who moved to run a guest house in Torquay, Margaret Priscilla, William, Fred, Brinley, Frank and Ernest (Ernie) who ran a bookies illegally in the town and paid a local policeman to tip him off when a raid was due, my uncle as a boy often passed betting slips under the toilet door in a local pub.  Margaret Priscilla (Maggie) married James Gravenor and their son Brinley Gravenor became a well known snooker and billiards player and a bowler.

On my father’s side, my paternal grandparents were William George Everley and Ethel Minnie Elizabeth Sutton.  William was orphaned in Wiltshire and sent as a Home Child to Canada. He met my grandmother on a visit to Wales and settled in Abertillery to work in the mines.  Their children were Edgar Mervyn (Bill) Everley, my father, Mavis, who married Les Atkins from Cwmtillery and Ronald (Ron).  Ron’s son Robery Everley was a policeman, now retired, and his son Adam Everley died tragically quite recently.                            
…..I hoped you might be able to provide some additional information, particularly in respect of the New Era Union and Brinley Gravenor’s career.Mike Everley

Firing Line

‘Firing Line’ is the name given to the new £1million museum which opened at Cardiff Castle on 22nd February.  The museum – Cardiff castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier – is a joint collaboration by 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and The Royal Welsh.  It traces the history of the Welsh soldier at war over the last 300 years, spanning conflicts from the battle of waterloo to Iraq and Afghanistan today.  The Director, Christopher Dale, says ‘it will tell a story of years of fortitude, humour and courage under fire’. 

The new museum will take over the entire lower floor of the interpretation centre at Cardiff Castle and will offer a mix of historical information, a programme of living history events and hands-on activities.  The aim is to give visitors an understanding of why ordinary people are prepared to do extraordinary things and carry out extraordinary acts of bravery.  Among the famous actions highlighted is the story of the nine men of the 24th Regiment of Foot who won the Victoria Cross for their defence of the supply depot at Rorke’s Drift in 1879 – the greatest number of VCs ever awarded in a single battle.  The museum also boasts an Afghan pennant and sword taken in Afghanistan in 1919 during what is reputed to be the last cavalry charge made by the British army before tanks and other armoured vehicles replaced horses.

Exhibits commemorating the attack by the 38th (Welsh) Division at Mametz Wood, france, in 1916 and the late Sir Tasker Watkins’ celebrated assault on a German machine gun post in Normandy in 1944 will also be on display.

The new museum sounds as if it will be well worth visiting.

Archaeology revisited

If you were listening to Radio 4 on Mondays in February you will have heard two programmes produced by Sian Price (daughter of Jen Price) which looked at the excavations of Maiden Castle and Sutton Hoo and how the initial interpretations of those sites have been challenged by more recent investigations.  It was a fascinating insight into how archaeologists look at sites and finds and how they try to interpret (and re-interpret!) them.  Well done, Sian.

Book Corner

by John Williams-Davies £2.75 – as the name says, this is a history of Welsh sheep and the uses found for their wool. 

The Trent Aegir

You’ll have heard of the Severn bore but have you heard of the equivalent phenomenon on the River Trent? Tidal waves, or bores, naturally appear in rivers with large tidal ranges and can be seen in the lower reaches during high tides.  A bore is formed when the tide rises in a narrowing channel with a rising river bed forming a funnel shape.   The Severn Estuary has the second highest tidal range in the world with a difference of 14.5m between the highest and lowest tide in any one day and is the right funnel shape– hence its spectacular bore.  The Severn bore travels at an average speed of 16kms an hour and has been known to reach two metres in height.  The Environment Agency publishes a booklet giving the times and dates of the bores and even awards a star rating – there is just one 5 star bore predicted for the Severn this year and that will be on Monday 1st March, but there are plenty of 4 star bores through the year and they should be worth watching as even a 1 star bore is predicted to have a height of about 4.5m.

The name ‘bore’ comes from the Scandinavian or Icelandic word ‘bara’ meaning a wave or swell. The ‘aegir’ of the Trent is named after the god of the seashore or ocean in Norse mythology.  Like the Scandinavian sailors in the myths, river people would also fear the aegir as it is very unpredictable and would sometimes surface to destroy ships.  Sometimes the tide merely changes the flow of the river, but at its best, the wave beaks with fury as it passes by.

In the days of small craft, it was custom to shout ‘Ware Eagre’ to warn of its approach.  In 1013, the Viking King of Denmark, Svein Forkbeard, together with his son Canute arrived with an army to conquer The Danelaw and ultimately England.  He moored many ships in the haven at Morton Bight near Gainsborough, and marched his force to the nearby camp on Thonock Hill.  When Svein died a year later, Canute became king and it has been suggested that it was the Trent Aegir that was responsible for Canute getting his feet wet by trying to turn back the tide, not the sea.

The most reliable time to see the aegir is after a long period of dry weather.  It usually appears during the spring tides but winter floods and above average water levels can reduce its size quite significantly.  It can be viewd from around Derrythorpe where the rivers narrows and the river bed is slightly steeper, up as far as Gainsborough.  Again, the Environment Agency publishes the dates and times of the aegir and gives star ratings (no 5 star ones expected this year).
Source: Environment Agency

Museum Matters

Six Bells Monument

I was contacted some time ago by Miar Sheen and Bethan Trapnell from the Six Bells Communities First.

Monument statueThey asked for my input and help for the proposed new Six Bells Colliery Disaster Monument.

On Tuesday 23rd Feb Peggy and I were invited to with others with connections to the project and the colliery disaster to a Coffee Morning at St Johns Church Six Bells to view the model and portraits of the final design.

Miar gave a talk on the project, outlining the design plans for the opening ceremony and future projects for the site. It was a nerve racking time for her but everyone was pleased with the results. I personally think it is a magnificent memorial and that Miar and her team are to be congratulated on bringing such a prestigious project to fruition.

The memorial itself entitled "The Guardian of the Valley's" is a corten steel statue standing on a pennant sandstone plinth. A metal band around the plinth will contain the names of those who lost their lives and an inscription which reads. "To all people affected by the mining industry" thus ensuring it is a memorial for the whole region. The memorial which is 20m high will be the largest in Wales and will be positioned on the colliery site.

During the coffee morning as I was talking to Ceri Thompson, the Curator of Big Pit Mining Museum, I related a story of how as a mining electrical apprentice not long after the disaster my first job underground was in the Disaster district. "You must write that down he said for the records". There are many people who have memories of this event so I am asking them to come into the museum and write them down when we hold our museum exhibition. Or write them down and hand them in at the museum, they will be copied and passed on to the monument committee for their use also.
The opening ceremony will be held on 28th June at 10am the 50th anniversary of the disaster. A minutes silence at 10.45am the actual time of the explosion will also be held.

For more information Access the website 

Museum French Schoolchildren Visit

Last month as part of the Twinning of the Town of Abertillery and the French Town of Royat two groups of children from College Dupanlous visited our museum. They were accompanied by two adults Roger-Paul Cardot and an English Teacher Francoise. Most of the children spoke no English and I and our volunteers spoke no French. On occasions I was left with the children and no interpreter! But with a combination of mime, signs and a smile we got on famously. Children are Children the world over. I did manage to add two words to their English/Welsh language, "Mangle" and "Butty".

French School Group

They were well behaved very polite; they loved our museum and thought that we were lovely. Personally I look forward to the next group from France to visit our museum.

Bear LogoIt is the interaction of children from different counties and cultures that break down barriers and hopefully prevent future misunderstandings and conflicts.

Don Bearcroft Curator


Top Of Page



Registered Musuem Logo

© Abertillery & District Museum 2010