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April 2019
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Dates for your Diary

Saturday 27th AprilCoffee Morning – The Girl Guide Movement

Wednesday 12th June 6pm – Ralph Richardson Memorial Lecture - Workers, Warriors and Waywards: Women in Gwent in the Second World War.

March 100 Club

No.  50            Bernard Jones                     £20
No.  11            Vera Smith                            £10

If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month. Ask at the museum for further details.

Coffee Morning

Our next coffee morning is scheduled for 27th April and we will be looking at the Girl Guide Movement.   Following the coffee morning, there will then be an exhibition of Girl Guide related artefacts which will run until the next coffee morning. 

Do you have any suggestions for topics for our coffee mornings?  If so we would love to hear from you!


It is with deep regret that I have to report that a long-standing supporter, Mr Martin Budd has passed away.   I have known Martin for most of my life.  As well as being my music teacher at school, he was also a family friend – our families went on holiday together in 1969 and that is a story in itself!  I last visited Martin and his wife Chris in November as I had had an idea for an article for the newsletter (The School Choir – Dec ’18)  and wanted to know how he would feel about the playing of his music at coffee mornings in December as well as putting a song or two on the museum’s Facebook page.  He was very happy for us to do both and was pleased his music would be getting an airing again after all these years.  He rang me in December, to thank me for the article and I was pleased to be able to tell him that lots of people were again listening to his music thanks to the wonder of the internet. I know he was touched. Please join with me in offering sincere condolences to his wife and family.

Thursday 11th April 1pm – 4.45pm

Gwent Archives, Steelworks Road, Ebbw Vale, invites you to an afternoon of exciting talks and an exhibition to celebrate the culmination of their Wellcome Trust funded hospital records cataloguing project.  The event is free but booking is required, please tel 01495 353363.  Refreshments will be available for a small charge.

A History Of Bread

Unless you’re on a diet or have some type of allergy the chances are that, like me, you will be eating some form of bread today.  Maybe you had toast for breakfast, or a sandwich for lunch and perhaps a nice crusty roll with some soup for supper.  We all take bread for granted don’t we?  It’s always there in the shops and is a staple part of the British diet.  But where did bread begin and how has it been developed and modified over time?

The bread making process originated in ancient times.  According to history the earliest bread was made around 8000 BC in the Middle East, specifically Egypt.  Grain was crushed and the bakers produced what we now commonly recognise as chapatis (India) or tortillas (Mexico). The ancient Egyptians are credited with making the first leavened bread, using yeast for the dough to rise.

Maybe you bake your own bread.  A friend of mine used to bake two loaves every Sunday to last the week, the wonderful smell of freshly baking bread was unforgettable.  She doesn’t bake it now though preferring instead to visit the local bakery and letting the baker do the work for her!

In the past communal bread ovens were quite commonplace in Welsh communities - everyone taking their loaves to the local bake house for them to be baked together.  It was also a place to congregate and exchange news and gossip.  On Sundays, the Sunday joint could be left at the bake house on the way to church so it was nicely cooked during the service and collected on the way home.  Richard Crawshay, the ironmaster who built the terraced houses at Rhyd-y-car, also built three communal ovens for the tenants' use.  The entrance would have a stone-slab door, sealed with either clay or cow-dung to ensure a good baking.

We take sliced bread very much for granted today.  In the UK, the first slicing and wrapping machine was installed in the Wonderloaf Bakery in Tottenham in 1937, and by the 50’s the sliced loaf accounted for 80% of the British bread market.

You will know there are many different types of bread:- sourdough, baguette, rye, whole meal, seeded, white, soda and chapati to name but a few!  You will be able to name several more yourselves I’m sure.

And just to finish-a simple bread recipe you might like to try at home, kindly given to me by Jen Price, who assures me it tastes delicious!.......Just pretend you’re an ancient Egyptian while you’re baking it!
Kath Price


1 cup flour ( approx 4½ ozs)
½ cup natural yoghurt (approx 4 ozs)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ tablespoon olive oil (or 1 dessertspoon)
Pinch salt
Water if needed

1. Add flour, baking powder and salt to bowl and mix.
1. Add yoghurt and oil and squish to a dough.
3. Knead on a floured surface.
4. Squash flattish and split into two.
5. Wet the surface with your finger and place in an oiled pan.
6. Cook two minutes on each side to brown.

Editors note.  Before printing, I tried this recipe myself and found it simple to do and very nice, especially when eaten still warm from the pan!

The Chocolate Rabbit Song

This song was sung to me by my mother as a child.  Does anyone else remember it?

Chocolate RabbitI got a brand new Easter outfit
I got a hat and all the rest
But there was one thing more
From the candy store
That I really loved the best…
I got a chocolate rabbit
For a special treat
A great big chocolate rabbit
Sweet enough to eat
So I ate his ears on Sunday
His nose I finished Monday
And Tuesday I nibbled on his feet
I ate his tail on Wednesday
Thursday I kept on
By Friday he was going
Saturday he was gone
Oh I loved my chocolate rabbit
From the moment that he came
And if I get another one
I’ll love him just the same!

You can listen to the song, posted by James Albright,  on this YouTube link:

Happy Easter!  Sally Murphy

Another Severn Bridge

Further to the article last month on the two Severn Road Bridges, does anyone remember a third bridge a few miles upstream – the Severn Railway Bridge?  It crossed the river between Sharpness and Lydney and was originally built in the 1870s to carry coal from the Forest of Dean to the docks at Sharpness but in later years also carried freight and passengers and was in service until 1960.  Construction of the bridge was started by the Severn Bridge Railway Company but when they got into financial difficulties, the Great Western Railway company together with the Midland Railway company took over construction.

The bridge comprised a swing bridge over the Sharpness canal and as many as 21 iron spans over the Severn so it is perhaps not surprising that there were a number of collisions given the difficulty of navigating the Severn with its shifting sandbanks. 

In 1960 the bridge was hit by two barges trying to enter Sharpness Docks in a sudden thick fog and two of the spans collapsed into the river, with the loss of five lives from the boats.  While a decision on repairs was still under consideration the bridge suffered another collision.  In 1965 it was decided that repairing the bridge was not an economic proposition and with a road bridge across the Severn already under construction, it was decided to demolish the railway bridge.  The demolition began in 1967 but it took three years to complete and remove the debris.

Picture of the bridge before
The bridge before disaster struck
© By Ben Brooksbank, CC BY-SA 2.0

There are now only a few traces that it ever existed – a masonry tower near the former swing bridge over the canal, some stone foundations visible on the river banks at low tide, and traces of the former route of the railway line on the ordnance survey map, but you can see from the photos what a splendid bridge it was.  It was irresistible to some RAF pilots who used to fly under it! The practice was, of course, highly irregular and the RAF police encouraged local residents to note and report the identification numbers on the planes. There were a few courts martial and the practice stopped, but what a sight those flights must have been!
Jen Price

Picture of the bridge after
The bridge, damaged beyond repair
© By John Thorn, CC BY-SA 2.0

Editors note At the same time as this bridge was constructed, 14 miles downstream, a railway tunnel was also being constructed by Great Western Railway.  The tunnel was started in 1873 and was completed in 1885.  It is regarded as the finest achievement of Sir John Hawkshaw, who was the chief civil engineer of GWR at the time.  In December 1886 the first passenger train travelled through it.  The tunnel is still in use today.

Treasure hunt family
One of the families that took part in our half-term, ‘Find-The-Smileys’ Treasure Hunt!

Amazing Mazes

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I have no sense of direction and can get lost anywhere!  In fact I once got lost in a 10 foot square tent, though in my defence it was full of thick fog and I had a zombie for company! Being ‘directionally challenged’ as my daughter puts it, might explain why I absolutely adore mazes! There are many different types of maze but the most common is the hedge maze.  Mazes have been around for centuries and can be found at many stately homes.  Originally they were not built to confuse but were designed as single pathway, usually in a spiral, leading inwards to the centre.  These mazes were known as ‘unicursal’ or single path mazes unlike the ‘puzzle maze’ that we know and love today.

The oldest hedge maze in Britain today, and undoubtedly the most famous, dates back to around 1700 and can be found at Hampton Court Palace.  It was designed by George London and Henry Wise and commissioned by King William III.  It covers a third of an acre and, on average, takes around twenty minutes to reach the centre.

The record for the largest hedge maze in Britain is held by Longleat in Wiltshire.  Indeed it is said to be the largest hedge maze in the world with paths totalling over 1.5 miles and consists of around 16,000 yew trees.  It was designed and built by Greg Bright in 1975 for the Marquis of Bath and included six bridges which the visitor could climb over and pass under.  However when I visited the maze in 2017 I was disappointed to find the bridges were gone, which in my opinion made it less difficult.  On average it takes over 90 minutes to reach the centre and, due to its size, there are many ‘Lift if lost’ signs dotted around the maze.  At the centre is a raised platform from which you can watch as others try to reach you.

Jubilee Maze Another great hedge maze, and one much closer to home, is the Jubilee maze at Symonds Yat in Hereford.  It is so called because it was built in 1977 to mark the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was built by two brothers Lindsay and Edward Heyes who keep the hedges immaculate.  These two brothers still meet and greet their visitors at the entrance.  They are always smartly dressed in striped jackets and sport boater hats and they give you a short talk on the maze and the history of mazes before you enter.  Reach the centre of the maze and you will find a path leading to the ‘Museum of Mazes’ along with various puzzles to solve, a gift shop selling puzzles, plus a viewing platform from which to observe the maze from above.

Even closer to home is the maze at Caerphilly Castle.  This maze, made of fencing rather than hedge, only opened in August 2018. Named ‘Gilbert’s Maze’, it challenges adventurers to dodge obstacles, solve clues and uncover secret passageways in order to capture Caerphilly Castle without being caught by Gilbert de Clare  - its 13th-century owner!  Educational as well as fun.

The picturesque village of Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswold, is home to the Dragonfly Maze.  Again it involves solving puzzles in order to find the dragonfly hidden at the centre of the maze.  But a maze like no other is The Forbidden Corner which can be found at Leyburn in North Yorkshire.  It was designed and built in the 1980s by architect Malcolm Tempest for a local millionaire, Colin Armstrong, and was designed to amuse and entertain Mr Armstrong’s friends and family. Due to public pressure it was opened up to the general public in 1997.  While this attraction has won awards it is not suitable for the faint of heart as it is quite dark, scary and claustrophobic in places and, of course, as it was never intended for the general public, it was not built with pushchairs or wheelchairs in mind.

At the entrance you are given a ‘map’ which is not so much a map as a list of things to find.  This maze has no centre so to make sure you don’t miss anything, you need to make sure you find absolutely everything on your map.  The garden, which has sculptures, statues and a tower also features a traditional hedge maze, but so much more lurks beneath… literally!  Much of the maze is hidden underground where you will find labyrinths featuring water fountains and even a revolving room with doors leading off.  Behind each door is something new to explore, with one passage leading to a waterfall blocking your path.  There is a way to turn off the water to get through but can you find its secret?  Are railings blocking your path?  Then move the railings!  Beware the crypt of Count Dracula and watch out for hidden sensors or you may get wet!  This maze truly is amazing!
Sally Murphy

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