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May 2009
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Coffee Morning Saturday 16 th May

The topic will be the Centenary of the Institution of Structural Engineers. There will be display boards telling us something of the Institution and the work of its members, and the South Wales Chairman, Matthew Evans of Ove Arup Consulting Engineers, will give a short presentation.

Social Evening Wednesday

Margaret Cook has once again organised a Social Evening for Members and friends. The venue this time will be at the Salvation Army Hall and tickets will be £3 which will include refreshments. The evening will feature guest artists Kevin Smith and Sarah Butcher accompanied by Jackie Bryant, and there will also be a ‘supporting cast’. Please come along – it promises to be a most enjoyable evening as well as an opportunity to raise funds for the Museum.

Craft Fair Saturday 30th May

This will be upstairs in the Metropole and if last year is anything to go by, there will be some very interesting stalls and craft items to buy. The Museum will have a stall so please contact Peggy if you can help with the manning rota and to hand in craft items for sale.

100 Club


No.29 Verley Phillips £25
No.40 Sylvia Pickford £10
No.2 Sylvia Matthews £5

Please encourage family and friends to join.

Diary Dates

Wednesday 6th May 2009 Unusual Memorials for the Fallen by David Woodliffe (Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture)

Friday 8th May 2009 Field trip to Avebury . This is part of the archaeology course which Frank Olding, Blaenau Gwent Heritage Officer, has been running at the Museum. Places on this trip are available to members of the Museum Society.

Saturday 16th May 2009 Coffee Morning celebrating the world of engineering, with guest speakers. Call at the Museum for details

Wednesday May 2009 Social Evening . This will be held at the Salvation Army hall, Tickets £3, starting at 7pm.

Saturday 30th May 2009 Craft Fair upstairs in the Metropole.

Saturday 4th July 2009 Children’sWW2 Street Party starts at the Museum at 10am.

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.

The National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales has been in the news recently, not least for announcing that the exhibition area will no longer be open to the public on Saturdays. However, a more encouraging piece of news issued recently was that millions of old newspaper reports and magazine articles dating back to the 18 th Century are to be made available on line. The work started last autumn and is expected to be completed by 2012. The releases will include first-hand accounts from the Chartist March on Newport, and the Rebecca Riots, as well as items of more local interest. Just to give you a taster, look at the reports below from the Star of Gwent; the first account relates to Newport Docks:

Star of Gwent. 16th July, 1872

Trade of the Port
The arrivals during the past week have not only been numerous but various, among which we noticed the "Corsair" steamer, direct from Charente, with about 3000 gallons of brandy, consigned to Mr. William Webb of Aberbeeg. We learn that direct importations would be more frequent were there more extensive vaults and warehouses for bonding wines and spirits at the port. The "Chesapeke" steamer is now loading 1000 tons of railway iron for foreign ports at the Spit, her length being too great to admit of her entering our docks, without making a Level and this the Dock Company will not do at neap tides.

Star of Gwent. 20th April, 1870

The Baby Railway Traveller
On Sunday afternoon a little girl between three or four years of age was the cause of no small dilemma to Mr. Cambell one of the guards on the Monmouthshire Railway. On arriving at Pontypool a passenger drew his attention to the fact that a little girl was unclaimed in one of the compartments, quite composed and contented, like an experienced traveller. Anxious inquiries made of her elicited that her name was Jenny West, and that she lived in Mary Street, Blaenavon, and she had entered the carriage to follow her brother Joe who had gone to Pontypool. She admitted that "Ma" and "Dad' knew nothing about her trip, and that she had slipped into the train unobserved, as she did not know there was anything to pay, and she had no money. The good-natured guard realised he must take charge of his erratic passenger until the return journey from Newport; but he telegraphed to the Blaenavon Station for the parents to be informed. During the hours that the little passenger remained in the hands of the kind strangers at Newport, she was quite self possessed and contented. On her return journey she was taken in charge by her fellow travellers and returned to her anxious parents a very tired little girl .

Fund raising - March £459
Fund raising - April £451

The Museum Society is very grateful to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council for their generous grant of £3,000 towards museum running costs under the Voluntary Sector Scheme.

A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening

I recently experienced a very enjoyable evening. I attended a meeting of an organisation to which I belong and the guest speaker was GORDON ROWLANDS.

Gordon is closely associated with the museum and a short while ago he produced an anthology of his poems to raise money for the museum.

Gordon read several of his poems from this book but also some others which I had not heard before. He gave a brief outline of the inspiration for some of these poems. He remembered incidents from years ago which prompted him to write particular poems. What a wonderful treasure we have in our museum. Gordon’s poems are often featured in the Museum Newsletter. Did you know that Gordon has written over 400 poems?

The Roving Reporter

Poet’s Corner


Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss takes eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid

It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Author unknown, supplied by Rose Smith



It was at a Scout Rally in 1909 when Baden Powell was approached by a group of girls who wanted to join. Baden Powell asked his sister to help start the GIRL GUIDE movement. So in 1910, the Girl Guide organisation was formed and it celebrated its centenary in 2010. However, it was in 1943 when Trefoil Guilds were formed. There are Trefoil Guilds in every country in the world where there are girl guides. There are 1122 Trefoil Guilds in the British Isles but it was in 1988 when retired guide leaders formed a guild in Abertillery. Membership of Trefoil guild is open to anyone over 18 years of age even if they were not in the guides or scouts but they must subscribe to all the aims and principles of the Guide Association.

Abertillery Trefoil Guild meets on the second Friday of the month at Tabernacle Church. They have very interesting speakers and are involved with other guilds in the county. While Abertillery Guild was visiting a house of historical interest, they met some people who were visitors from New Zealand. One person from the party was attached to Cossgrove Trefoil Guild in Christchurch, New Zealand. Abertillery guild is now twinned with this New Zealand guild.

The aims of the guild are:

  • To keep alive among members the spirit of guides and scouts
  • To promise to carry that spirit into the communities in which they live and work.
  • To give practical, financial and moral support to Guides.
  • To offer and receive friendship and fun.

The Roving Reporter


We were very sorry to hear that Mrs Moira Brown had passed away. Mrs Brown had been a supporter of the Museum for many years.

Celtic Manor Resort

The hotel which stands on the skyline at the entrance to the Chepstow side of Newport has its origins in a much more modest building. The original building, known as Coldra House, was built in the 1860s and was the home of Thomas Powell who formed the Powell-Duffryn Company. He only lived there a few years as in 1869 he and his wife and young son were murdered while on safari in Abyssinia. The Monmouthshire Merlin reported that Thomas’s brother Henry went out to investigate but although the bodies of the parents were found, there was no trace of their young son – something which gave rise to speculation that the party had been attacked by cannibals.

The house was then leased to various tenants until 1915 when it was sold to Sir John Beynon, a coal and shipping entrepreneur and son of Thomas Beynon, a former Mayor of Newport. Sir John added a new wing and fitted a staircase with panelling and several stained glass windows.
In the 1930s Sir John gave the house to the local health authority and on 1 st January 1940 it opened as the Lydia Beynon Maternity Hospital, in memory of his mother. Over the next 35 years more than 60,000 babies were born there! Many subsequently used the same venue for wedding receptions and other events.

After the Lydia Beynon closed in 1975 the house was boarded up and there were fears that it might have to be demolished. It was eventually put up for sale and was purchased in 1980 by Celtic Inns who converted it to a hotel and a golf course. The hotel has since been much extended, as have the golfing facilities and are now of a sufficiently high standard to have been selected for the Ryder Cup Golf Tournament in 2010.

There must be a number of ladies in the Museum Society who had their babies at Lydia Beynon. What do you remember of it? Please write in with your memories.


Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoint was due to reopen on 11 th April following completion of the elevated walkway. This will provide all ability access to the historic viewpoint at the Rock. Other improvements at the site include the removal of vegetation on the ramparts which form part of the iron age hillfort.

National Parks Diamond Jubilee – the Act which paved the way for the establishment of our national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and generally facilitating access to our beautiful countryside was passed in 1949.

Museum Matters

We have a target bow in our toy collection in the museum and we all know the story of the Battle of Agincourt and the Bowmen of Gwent's part in it, but what do we know of the weapons.

In Henry V time, the National Arsenal was housed in the Tower of London with his plans for war with France he restocked this. In 1413 he had forbade the sale of bows, arrows, arms and artillery to the Scots and other foreign enemies, he also appointed a fletcher, Nicholas Mynot, to be keeper of the king's arrows in the Tower. Mynot set to work making arrows, and orders were placed with other London fletchers, such as Stephen Seler, who was paid £37 10s (more than £15,500 at current values) for supplying twelve thousand arrows produced in sheaves of twenty-four. Each archer was armed with between sixty and seventy-two arrows, carrying two sheaves in his canvas quiver, the rest stuck in his belt, ready for immediate action. Additional supplies were carried on wagons; boys were employed to act as runners to bring more to the archers on demand . The archer's greatest strength was his speed of fire: an archer who could not fire ten aimed arrows per minute was not considered fit for military service.

In a battle situation the arrows he carried were only enough to keep him supplied for a seven- minute bombardment at most. The rate of fire by professional archers could rise as high as twenty per minute, his supply might last him for only half that time.

There were two types of arrow in common use for military purposes at the time of Agincourt. The first was for long-range use, had a wooden shaft over thirty inches long made from a light wood, such as poplar, and an iron arrowhead shaped like an aeroplane, its 'wings' bent back to form barbs, which lodged in the victim's flesh. It was highly effective against unarmoured men and horses up to a distance of around three hundred yards, especially in a coordinated volley. The second kind of arrow was developed for use against plate armour. It had a slightly shorter and heavier shaft, often made from ash, and a fearsome arrowhead called a bodkin, which, was like a long, thick needle with a hardened and sharpened point. Fired at a closer range of less than 150 yards, these arrows could even penetrate the thickened steel of a helmet. Arrowheads intended for use in war were forged with the hardened steel tips with the edges enclosing a softer iron core which absorbed the shock of impact and made the shaft less likely to split or break off. Military arrows used flights made out of goose feathers, which were fixed to the shaft with glue and bound in place with thread. At times of crisis, the king would send an order out to the shires to provide goose feathers and, for the Agincourt campaign, in December 1418 Henry V commanded his sheriffs to find him 1,190,000 by Michaelmas. In February 1417 he ordered twenty southern shires to provide six feathers from every goose. In England and Wales, the preferred bow for military purposes was the longbow, the crossbow. was never popular in England, except for hunting animals, they were extensively used in Europe especially by the Genoese who were renowned crossbowmen serving as mercenaries in French armies. Longbows were lighter and faster to operate, cheaper to make than crossbows. The cost in 1413-15 ranged from less than 1s or 2s when an archer earned 6d (half a 1s) a day on campaign. Bear Knight

The quality of a bow depends on the wood from which it was made; the English yew was unsuitable for bow making (church property was exempt from requisitioning) The best bow staves came from Spain, Italy or Scandinavia, 6 feet long, tapered with Nocks made of horn glued at either end to hold the string. Regular waxing and polishing was required to keep the bow supple. Bow-strings, made of hemp or gut, were also waxed or oiled to keep them weather-proof, to prevent their bow strings getting wet archers kept them on their heads under their helmets', hence the expression 'keep it under your hat'.

Evidence from the wreck of the Tudor warship the Mary Rose suggests that the commonest draw-weight of a medieval English military longbow was between 150 and 160 pounds, capable of firing an arrow weighing 4 ounces over a distance of 240 yards. To achieve this, regular use was essential

Edward III Act of 1363 made archery practice compulsory for all able-bodied men between the ages of sixteen and sixty. Every Sunday and feast day they were to go to the butts to 'learn and practice the art of shooting, whence by gods help came forth honour to the kingdom and advantage to the king in his actions of war' . Novices would begin with lightweight bows and arrows, progressing to heavier ones as their skill and strength increased. 'I had my bows made me according to my age and Archer Drawingstrength', Bishop Latimer later wrote; 'as I increased in them, so my bows were made bigger and bigger, for men never shoot well, unless they be brought up to it' He had learnt, he said, 'how to draw, how to lay my body in my bow, and not to draw with strength of arms as other nations do, but with strength of the body'. The twisted spines and increased bone density of the over-developed shoulders, upper arms and elbows of the Mary Rose archers are testimony to the physical effort required to use the military longbow. They also explain why English (Welsh, Men of Gwent) archers were feared throughout Europe

Don Bearcroft Curator

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