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May 2013
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Lecture Programme

Our April lecture unfortunately had to be cancelled but we hope our speaker, Gail Ashworth, will be available to give her talk some other time. Our May speaker,Tony Jukes, is coming along on Wednesday 1st to tell us about the Dam Disaster at Cwmcarn and in June we have a talk on Inn Signs.

Please be sure to come along – all are welcome. £2 entry; the lectures are held in the Museum and start at 2pm.  

Coffee Morning 29th June

The theme for this event is ‘ Holiday Time’ and you are invited to bring along any unusual holiday items you may have, and take part in a postcard quiz. Tickets are £1 – a modest sum for tea, cake and a bundle of fun. We will also have a sale table and would be grateful for donations of quality items and crafts and, of course, cakes.


This event is spread over several weeks, with lots going on in the town. The Museum will have a stall at one or more of the events and would be grateful for volunteers to man it. Please contact Peggy Bearcroft if you can help.


we are an independent Museum and despite our small size and being run by volunteers, we achieved full accreditation from CyMAL some years ago. The standards to be met are high but we are pleased to announce that our accreditation has recently been renewed. A big thank you to all our volunteers for their hard work, much of which is behind the scenes but which is invaluable.

Fund raising April – £250

100 Club April

No.45 Mary Roden £25

No.. Cariad Evans £10

No.92 Margaret Phillips £5

Museum Trip

Sorry but we have had to drop this for the time being as not enough people put their names down. We need someone who can organise a half day trip in the local area – could you help?  

Diary Dates

Wednesday 1st May Cwmcarn Dam Disaster by Tony Jukes

Wednesday 5th June Inn Signs by Bob Trett

16th June – 6th July Aberfest, various events in the town

Saturday 22nd June Aberfest Fair outside the Museum

Saturday 29th June Coffee morning – Holiday Time with unusual objects (please bring yours along) and a postcard quiz. Tickets £1

Sunday 30th June Six Bells Pit Party

Wednesday 3rd July The Story of the Hero of Newport Docks Disaster by Monty Dart

Wednesday 7th August Newport Transporter Bridge by Anne Gatehouse

Wednesday 4th September Garden Birdwatch by Mick Bailey

Wednesday 2nd October ( TBA) Robin Williams

Wednesday 6th November Stanley Spencer War Artist by Pete Strong

Local Voices

‘Sunday Bus Trips to Barry Island’

When I was a child it was customary for children of members of Working Men’s Clubs to take the children of those members on a trip to Barry Island together with 5 shillings to spend (today worth 25p). My Dad was a tee-totaller and did not belong to a club so I could not go. On my way to morning chapel that particular Sunday I was so envious. There were crowds of children, many of whom were my friends. I used to think there were about 20 'buses but was that a child's perspective? Probably 10 was more accurate. However, West Bank Methodist Chapel used to organise a trip to Abergavenny. I think it was usually on market day. We would get on the train at Abertillery station and go as far as Brynmawr where the G.W. R. line ended. We then crossed to another station L. M. S. and that took us to Abergavenny.

What an exciting journey. The track was cut into the steep sided mountain and there were one or two tunnels to go through. The track can be seen from the Heads of the Valleys Road going down Black Rock. One could walk along the disused track and even go through the tunnels but I think the tunnels have now been closed for safety reasons. When we arrived in Abergavenny we visited the castle, market, river bank etc. We then congregated for our tea..... our own sandwiches of course. The tea was taken in the chapel opposite the car park. In those days I do not think it was a car park as there were not many cars around. The officials of this chapel kindly let tea be made and some cakes were whom I do not know. We probably bought some trifling nick nacks as money would have been short. What a lovely day we had. Sometime during the school holidays my Mam and Dad somehow scraped up enough money to take my brother and me to Barry Island. I think the railway used to run special excursions (cheap). My lasting rmemory of Barry Island was not the shows - we could not afford them - but seeing notices ''TRAYS FOR THE BEACH'. This consisted of a pot of tea and cups and saucers taken of course with our own food. We later had one pennorth of chips in paper before returning home. I wonder if today's holidays abroad will be remembered with such loving recollections as mine of those cheap holidays of one day at Barry Island. Roving Reporter

Welsh Newspapers online

The National Library of Wales can now offer access to 1 million pages of Welsh history to 1910, free and online at  

Award Night

We are pleased to announce that Mrs Enid Dean recently received an award for her ‘Services to the Community’ from the local Community Council. The nomination was made by Museum memebers in recognition of Enid’s work as fund-raising secretary for nearly twenty years and, in particular, her efforts to raise funds for a new museum building when we lost our home in the Library. Enid wrote individual letters to a large number of former residents, and personally visited businesses in the town in her efforts to gain funds and sponsors. She also ran the 100 Club for very many years. All in all, a very impressive achievement and her award is well deserved.

Enid Receiving Her award

Mrs Enid Dean receiving her award

Subscriptions Reminder - £5

Subscriptions were due in January and so if you haven’t yet paid, please do so as soon as possible.  

Jubilee: The Parish of St Paul, Cwmtillery 1923 – 1973

The following Summary is taken from the above pamphlet which is available to read in full in the Museum.

In its pre-parish days St Pauls was much concerned with repaying the debt incurred in building the church. The debt was finally cleared in 1915 and a united service of thanksgiving was held in St. Michael’s.

There is little evidence in St. Paul’s records to show what life was like in the village at this time but it is known from other sources that the pit was prospering (although times were not always peaceful and the Washery Riots took place just after the turn of the century). In its heyday the pit employed well over 1600 men. There were also over 200 pit horses and ponies. The horses were occasionally pastured on East Side and sometimes escaped to terrorise the village. The miners themselves could do their bit to liven up the community; some are reputed to have settled their differences on the Cefn (to avoid the local bobby), and the hollowed-out ‘Bloodstone’ (now outside the Museum) was thought to have been used for washing bruised knuckles with rainwater.

By 1904 the Eucharist was celebrated fortnightly and by 1906 Easter communicants had risen to 54.

In 1906 an organ fund was launched to match a £150 donation from Andrew Carnegie. The new organ by Sweetlands of Bath was dedicated in 1907 but proved a constant source of trouble and was eventually sold to a Baptist Church in Cardiff.

In 1912 the first rumblings of discontent about disestablishment and disendowment were heard, but disestablishment came about in May 1920.

The War does not feature to any great extent in parish records. Only 8 fathers of baptised infants are recorded as being soldiers for the years 1914 – 1018, but whether this was because few miners were conscripted, or because serving soldiers spent long periods with no home leave and with a consequent effect on the birth rate, it is difficult to say.

If you would like to know more, please ask to see the pamphlet at the Museum.

Do you know anything about the ‘Washery Riots’ referred to in the pamphlet?

Recent Acquisitions

A few examples

Telegrams dating from 1946

First Aid in English

Mothering Sunday postcard

Netting doll’s hat

Weaving needles

Photos of the Cwmtillery end of the tunnel carrying water from Grwyne Fawr Reservoir.

Did You Know?

In 1250 Marcher lord Walter Clifford, on the Welsh borders of Herefordshire, took exception to a rather abrupt letter sent to him by Henry III. He forced the king’s messenger to eat the letter, along with the royal seal. Henry III condemned Walter Clifford to death for this defiant act but subsequently relented and granted a royal pardon.

Does Offa’s Dyke really extend along the whole of the Wales/England border? Research published in 2003 by D. Hill and M. Worthington suggests that Offa only built a central section of the Dyke, to protect his land from raids from Powys, and that other rulers were responsible for the sections of dyke to the north and south.

Sculpture Trail

The six mile long Homfray Trail at Bedwellty Park in Tredegar, due to open very soon, will feature 15 sculptures, depicting figures from Tredegar’s history such as Aneurin Bevan. The figures will be life-sized and made from laser cut stainless steel, standing on plinths made from locally quarried stone.

Book Corner

Alchemy of Water by Tony Curtis and Grahame Davies, published by Gomer £19.99.

This is a book with stunning landscape photography and “jewel like” poems.


Viking Cuisine

runic inscriptions The runic inscriptions suggest that a Viking was a man who left his homeland for adventure and profit abroad, with the implication that he planned to return home with his newly won fortune and fame. The word existed in both a noun form (víkingr, the person travelling for adventure) and a verb form (víking, to travel or participate in one of these adventures).

The Vikings are mostly known for their bloodthirsty raids but they were also settlers over a wide area overcoming sea trials and difficulty setting up home in foreign lands.

Iceland 800 miles from Norway in the northern latitudes the long dark months of winter posed a challenge. Much ingenuity was required to ensure enough foodstuffs were preserved from the short summers to carry them through the winters. The food would be indigestible for us, but nowadays the traditional dishes are consumed by the hardy during the midwinter festival of Thurseblot , and the sights and smells of the accompanying buffet the Icelanders call Thorramatur are an insight into their past.

Viking Ship

Easiest for us to eat are the dairy products like skyr, a kind of yoghurt. There are various cheeses the flavours familiar enough. It is the meat and fish with its sensory of taste and smells, lamb and mutton were popular, some of it called hangikjo t, is dried or smoked much like prosciutto . At the hardier end of the spectrum is lamb preserved in a way that can be described as gamy or high, if not actually rotten, it tastes like stale sweat and smells like a waist bin that has not been collected in the summer. The rancid smell permeates into clothing and hair for days.

Viking CookingThe taste of pickled fish is familiar as is the dried cod or, klippfisk which is like a pungent salty pub snack. Surstromming is herring pickled in brine and sealed in tin cans often bulging from the pressure of the ongoing fermentation within. Icelanders prefer to open the cans outdoors due to the odour that is released, the smell so strong people swear they can see it. Scientists in Japan rated it as the most putrid smell in the world and several airlines will not allow cans of Surstromming onboard for fear of explosions.

Popular with some modern Icelanders is horsemeat stored in barrels of whey, the cloudy liquid that separates the curds when the milk sours. Also available for those with a strong stomach is hrutspungar , rams testicles cured in lactic acid; svith , boiled whole sheep’s head complete with eyes and tongue, and also blothmor, or blood pudding.

Sword FishA dangerous dish if not prepared properly is the fermented shark meat dish called hakarl , from the Icelandic word for Greenland or basking shark.

The flesh of the freshly caught animal is naturally toxic due to high urea content but the ingenious Viking hunters persevered, once caught and beheaded the shark’s corps was buried on the beach preferably in coarse gravely sand. Heavy stones were then piled on top so that the natural fluids and toxins were pressed out of the flesh. The whole process might take as long as 3 months but by the end the putrid meat was ready to be sliced into strips and hung in the air to dry.

Eating it gives a sensation of a combined aroma of and flavour of the runniest, bluest Stilton cheese you have ever tasted, with the eye watering breath taking hit of ammonia in old fashioned smelling salts. It is like eating rancid fishy fat marinated in carpet cleaner. To say it clears the tubes is an understatement.

And we worry about Horse Meat!!!

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Don Bearcroft, Curator

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