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April 2011
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Lecture Programme

Our March lecture was a success so please keep coming. Make a note in your diary for the first Wednesday of the month, starting at 2pm, in the office at the Museum. Please call at the Museum for a ticket or ring to reserve a place. Entry will be £2.

100 Club – February & March

Please call at the Museum.

Spring Raffle

We will, as usual, be organising a spring raffle which will be drawn at the Memorial Lecture in May. Can you please help with raffle prizes- hamper items etc.

Fund raising March - £329

Gwent County History Volume 4

Industrial Monmouthshire 1780-1914

This fourth volume in the authoritative county history of Gwent, recently printed by the University of Wales Press, deals with the explosion of industrial development from 1780 to the First World War. Its comprehensive treatment encompasses social and economic development, cultural and language changes, and political and religious movements, all in a period that saw the transformation of a rural county into a hub of the South Wales Coalfield. At the same time, the population expanded at a greater pace than ever before, with migration of industrial workers that altered the linguistic and cultural make-up of the county.

Diary Dates

Wednesday 6th April ‘Then and Now in Photographs’ by Don Bearcroft, 2pm at the Museum

Wednesday 4th May Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture ‘Medieval Herbs and Medicine’ by Adrianne Jones, 2pm at the Museum

Marine Colliery Pumping Engine

If you travel north to Ebbw Vale from Aberbeeg you will see this engine which is now a scheduled ancient monument. Built in Leeds, this large steam-pumping engine could deal with 50,000 gallons an hour and cost £4630 to install. Built entirely of cast iron, it was rescued when the site was being cleared and has since been repainted. It is a rare example of a colliery pumping engine surviving intact from the late 19 th century.

Get well soon!

Gwyneth Hutchings and Margaret Gilson have had spells in hospital recently. We all send our best wishes and hope they will soon be up and about once more.

Crumlin Hall and Abertillery Education

In 1852 the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway invited tenders for the construction of a viaduct across the deep valley of the River Ebbw at Crumlin in the former county of Monmouthshire. This was won by Kennard Brothers of Blaenavon Ironworks who proposed a wrought and cast iron structure partly fabricated at Blaenavon and at their other works at Falkirk, using the recently patented Warren Girder to span tubular columns. A unit called the Crumlin Viaduct Works Co. was formed to construct the viaduct and it would take from 1853 to 1857 for this formidable task to be completed. John Kennard’s eldest son Thomas (1825-1893) was to supervise the construction and he also claimed to be the designer. The third Kennard involved was Henry Martyn Kennard (1833-1911) who together with H.N Maynard acted as managers of the project.

Thomas Kennard was responsible for building Crumlin Hall to be a residence for himself while building the viaduct and as a longer term family home. Designed in the ‘Swiss Style’ it was one and a half miles south of the viaduct and sited to take advantage of the beauty of the then unspoiled countryside. The first length of cast iron column was erected on 3 rd December 1853 and the completed viaduct opened on 1 st June 1857 to a spectacular opening ceremony when small cannons specially cast for the occasion were fired to announce its being ready for use. Later the cannons were displayed at Crumlin Hall and formed a permanent feature of the property.

The Crumlin Viaduct Works Co. was intended to be a long term business and initially flourished with orders from all over the world. Over 200 men and boys were employed at Crumlin together with design staff, managers and erection gangs but by 1877 the company was in serious trouble. Due to a combination of late payments, bad debts and lack of credit facilities they were unable to finance the short term funding of the business. The company ceased trading in 1878 and was forced into liquidation in that year.

What of Crumlin Hall and Thomas Kennard? Following completion of the viaduct he did not settle long in Crumlin. The Illustrated London News announced on 27 th November 1858 that shortly after the bridge was completed he departed to the U.S.A. “Messrs T. Kennard and George Francis Train arrived by ‘The Persia’ and have gone railroad prospecting to the west, taking dogs and guns along”.

By 1913 the manpower of the South Wales coalfield was almost 233,000 and in this year it reached its highest output of over 57 million tons. The only technical or adult education at that time was provided by Mechanics Institutes or Literary and Scientific Institutes and there was a shortage of suitable people for middle and senior management in the mining industry. The Coal Owners Association opened a School of Mines in Treforest in 1913 and obtained sites for similar school in Crumlin and Swansea. Crumlin Hall was purchased in 1914 and provided courses for qualifications in mining, surveying and engineering. The demand was considerable as only 40% of mine managers and under-managers had the qualifications required under the Coal Mines Act 1911.

In 1928 the mining industry had been seriously affected by the economic downturn and the funding for the Schools of Mines was so depressed that the Coal Owners association decided they could not continue to maintain Treforest or Crumlin.

Monmouthshire County Council as Education Authority agreed in 1926 to establish six Junior Technical Institutes as ‘feeder’ schools for Crumlin Mining School, one of which was at Abertillery. A new, architect designed school building and workshops with landscaped gardens was built at Springbank, providing preliminary courses for both full and part time students who would later study at Crumlin.

In 1928, Monmouthshire CC agreed to assume responsibility for the mining school which became the Technical College of Monmouthshire. Here full and part time students studied a range of subjects and additional temporary buildings were needed. Later the hall became seriously affected by mining subsidence and plans for a new college were disrupted by the Second World War. Land was later identified at Crosskeys, and a new College opened in 1961 becoming Wales’ first Tertiary College. The Junior Technical Institutes were combined with Secondary Schools to form Grammar/Technical Schools later to be incorporated into the Comprehensive System.

Crumlin Viaduct, probably the most famous structure in the Coalfield was demolished in 1966 and Mr Kennard’s Crumlin Hall in 1967. The Technical Institute at Springbank now functions as the Magistrates Court.
Laurence Hale

Poet’s Corner

‘Cathedral Thoughts’

Trees sigh as leaves rustle,
making a corridor of this path,
chilled, hidden from summer sun,
still damp from yesterday’s rain.

Between here and the cathedral wall,
grave stones lean towards each other,
seeking company through long years,
as if whispering to each other in awe.

Click and clack of wrought iron gates,
intrude on disturbing quiet of a place,
that send shivers up many a spine,
driving them to seek the modern,
turbulent outside world again.

But I turn to enter and marvel at
the grandeur of an ancient edifice,
created by unaccountable man hours,
financed by wealthy noblemen
hoping to buy entry to heaven.

Gordon Rowlands, May 2008


Kindly gave us a grant for most of the cost of the new ‘pub’ display in the Museum. They encouraged us to approach them for help with the cost of the proposed chapel display and so we have our fingers crossed that our application will be successful.

Local Voices

I remember when I was a child toothpaste was in a flat round aluminium coloured tin with a solid pink substance inside. One wet the toothbrush and rubbed it along the pink stuff. It was called Gibbs Dentifrice.

I remember my mother using a primitive sort of clothes peg, probably made and sold by Gypsies who used to regularly come around the houses selling various things. These pegs were in two pieces and sort of curved, the inside very smooth and the outside less so. The two pieces were joined together at the top with some sort of metal band.

The Roving Reporter

What do you remember from your younger days? Why not share your memories. Call at the Museum for contact details for the Newsletter or ring Jen Price on 01633 482851 (evenings).

The Devil’s Pulpit

Those of you familiar with Tintern will know that on the opposite side of the valley from the Abbey there is a rocky outcrop which gives a wonderful view back across the River Wye to Tintern Abbey. The outcrop is known as the Devil’s Pulpit and legend has it that the Devil taunted the monks at the Abbey from this rock pinnacle.

Clues to the Past

The prehistoric remains of upland Wales have been subject to much of investigation over recent years thanks to funding from Cadw but interpreting those remains can sometimes be difficult. Take a cluster of huts or enclosures at a site in the Brecon Beacons, built from rough blocks of local limestone, and including about 100m of wall which stretches in an arc and with enclosures attached to it, and some cairns further along. It had been thought that these ‘wandering walls’ may be connected with clearing stones to allow crops to be planted, but there haven’t been enough examples to be certain. It had long been assumed that these features dated to Bronze Age times when the weather was warmer and the uplands would have been better adapted to all year occupation. However, local farmers rounding up their flocks to take them off the mountain told the archaeologists studying this particular set of remains that they had always assumed the structures had been built in the recent past to manage the sheep! As none of the examples in the Brecon Beacons have been excavated there is no way of knowing at the moment whether the archaeologists or the farmers are right.

Secret War

The Forestry Commission has recently unearthed a WW2 bunker at a site between Caerphilly and Cardiff. This was no ordinary bunker – it was one of a series of secret bases to which members of ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’ could retreat and carry out military operations if the Germans invaded. The bunker has been restored and fitted out as it would have been back in the 1940s. Although hidden from general view, the bunker occupies a strategic position with commanding views over the Bristol Channel and South Wales and could have housed up to 8 men who would have lived off the land and their rations. The bunker was close enough to industrial sites to have acted as a base for sabotage missions. There were numerous such bases set up but we know of only a few – they were secret and many of those who knew about them have died with their secrets undisclosed. Fascinating stuff!

Museum Matters

An Away Bird

Last month I wrote about pigeon fanciers of Abertillery, after I had wrote it I was given an article on someone who had become interested in the sport as a boy in Abertillery and continued after he had moved away.

He was a relation of Bernard Jones who past this newspaper article to me to be included in the newsletter.

Arthur HaytersArthur Hayters first introduction to pigeons was as a lad in his home town of Abertillery, South Wales. He purchased a couple of pairs from the local market at 6d each. These increased to a dozen and were fed on chicken corn. The war came and Arthur had to give them up as he couldn't get corn. Arthur's interest was kept alive by his fancier uncle who invited him around regularly to see his race birds come home. After the war he went to London and a few years passed but the interest was still there. He lived in lodgings and flats, but on getting married he bought a house with a garden. Arthur says it was an act of fate.

PigeonOne evening he found a stray with a damaged wing on his front doorstep. On reporting it, the owner told Arthur he could keep it and he recalls it was well bred, being TPRA registered. A fellow Welshman, workmate Len Oram, provided him with eight good youngsters, so he was on his way. This was 1967; he joined the Southall RPS in 1968 with encouraging results. His first winner was in 1969 which he said was amusing in itself. When he went to take the clock down the garden to wait for the returns, he found the seal wire on the clock was broken, the birds were due so he jumped on his bike and raced down to the Club HQ to get the Club's spare clock. On picking up the clock he pedalled like hell to get home in time. On running down the garden his pigeon pitched on the loft, he clocked it and recorded his first winner. He won from every race point on the North Road including Thurso twice. He turned South Road with young birds in 1981 with the Cranford SR Club, winning the young bird averages in 1982 and 1983.

1983 was his best ever season winning several firsts including 1st West Middlesex Federation three times, his biggest thrill was winning Thurso in 1971 when he only sent the one pigeon to win. The Hayter Bricoux and Dordin pigeons were housed in a 12ft Kidby loft and were raced on the natural system, in the summer of 1983 Arthur and his wife had to travel to Wales for a wedding and friend Ray Maybey offered to clock the birds from Weymouth that Saturday. Ray clocked the young pencil blue cock, The 67 Blue Cock to win the West Middlesex Federation with 1,261 birds competing. '67' was a Cattrysse and a gift bird from Arthur's old friend Herbie Wiggins of Southall. This fine cock also won 4th Club Exeter, 5th Club Plymouth in 1983 as a youngster. Arthur's other1983 young bird Federation winner was the blue hen, The 63 Hen. She was a daughter of the outstanding racer, biue cock '38', winner of many top prizes including 1st Club, 4th Federation, 6th SMT Combine (3,843 birds) Plymouth and 1st Club Pontefract. '38' was a son of the sire of Arthur Hayter's loft, The Dutch Cock which was the sire and grandsire of many winners for Arthur both Pigeonracing and in the show pen. This handsome blue cock came into Arthur's loft as a stray and on reporting him, he received the ring card and a note saying 'Good Luck' from the breeder, H. Vestjons of Holland.  

The Dutch Cock had wan many firsts in the show pen including best in show at the West Middlesex Federation show in 1982.

Arthur was a coach builder with London Transport and he couldn’t afford fancy prices for stock, with most of his best birds being bred from gift birds. He was always striving to achieve fitness in his birds at all time s. He liked his old birds to race up to 500 miles, his yearlings up to 300 miles and the youngster’s right through the card to 200 miles. He maintained you can tell good health and condition by the eye. Arthur often told novices of a remark once made by Mr Cecil of Ramsgate, Learn from other people's mistakes, there's no time to make them yourself. Most of his best birds were tame; he didn't like wild erratic pigeons. Arthur's prize birds were the mealy hen Mealy 09 she topped the West Middlesex Federation from PigeonExeter with 2,436 birds taking part. Another was the mealy hen '94' she won many firsts in the show pen and 3 x 1st racing, her sire won 1st Thurso for the Hayter loft.

Arthur Hayter of Southall, one of the best all round fanciers you could hope to find! He had to give up as he could not cope with them as a pensioner.

Arthur was proud of his pigeons and never forgot Abertillery his family Bear Logogave a donation of £35 to our museum after his funeral.

Don Bearcroft Curator

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