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June 2008
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Lecture Programme

The Ralph Robinson Lecture in May was given by Frank Olding who spoke about the Lost Pubs of Abergavenny.  Gone are the days when there was a licensed premises for every 171 of the population!  As well as featuring the pubs of the town, the slides showed the many historic buildings that were lost in the mad rush to ‘modernise’ the town in the late 50s/early 60s – buildings that would be treasured today as a precious part of our heritage.  To learn more, dip into one of Frank’s books about the town of Abergavenny.

Coffee Morning

There will be a coffee morning on Saturday 19th July and the topic is ‘Postcards’.  Don is hoping to stage an exhibition of some of the postcards in the Museum collection but we would also like to have your postcards to display so please start rummaging in those drawers and cupboards.   As usual, it will be a sociable affair with tea and cakes (and, as usual, donations of cakes will be very welcome).

Fund-raising May - £419

Diary Dates

No lectures June, July or August but look out for details of coffee mornings and exhibitions.

Saturday 21st June Aberbeeg Hospital Party- ADMS members invited but please give names to Peggy

Saturday 28th JuneStreet Party for the children’s Saturday Club – see Peg for details. Also needed, volunteers to man the Aberfest museum stall (and donations of good bric a brac).

Saturday 19th July Coffee Morning ‘Postcards’ please start looking for your special cards for this temporary exhibition (not too saucy, please!)

Wednesday 3rd September 2008Merthyr Artist 1900 by Scott Reid

Wednesday 1st October 2008Coal Shipping at South Wales Ports by Tony Jukes

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.

100 Club

1st         66        Pat Carter         £25
2nd        44       Sian Price         £10
3rd        119      Melanie Dean   £5

Poet’s Corner

ON THE BUSES (Henley’s – Who Else)

It’s quite a fuss getting on the bus
for those of us not too neat on our feet.
Some with whom we have to compete
put their bags inside on the inner seat;
as if to say, “Hop off, go away.  Can’t
you see I’m old and you may have a cold.”
It’s a little bit mean but, luckily,
they’re few and far between.

Better by far are those who leave their bags
on the outer seat as their faces say,
in a kindly way, “You do look dead beat,
I’ll move my bags and you have the seat.”
Then, on the inner seat there’s a thoughtful few
who are getting out earlier so change with you;
though even this holds up the queue, who
are struggling on sticks to reach a pew.

While we are shuffling there’s cheery chat,
Gordon & Co. will see to all that.
At last we’re off and away – a scenic tour today?
Since the bridge is gone there’s no other way.
Then getting off can be quite a fright
if you don’t remember to hang on tight;
Though everyone helps as you pass up the aisle,
with friendly hands and many a smile.

However, what really keeps you hopping
is how to hang on to your bags of shopping.
Did I want this, Do I need that?  Enough
for a mansion not a two-bedroom flat!
So it’s “Goodbye Gordon” or “Goodbye Reg”.
See you tomorrow if I say my prayers.
Oh dear, what’s that rolling down the stairs?
Is it the apples and pears?  Oh no, it’s my veg!

Hooray for the Senedd, Hooray, Hooray!
Because if you’re old there’s nothing to pay;
So I can buy more veg another day.

Janet M. Preece April 2008

Blaenau Gwent Heritage Forum

In June the Forum will issue a reprint of the History of Tredegar, which has long been out of print.  Jeff Darkins, a Forum Member, has written this review:

Powell’s History of Tredegar

“Evan Powell wrote the History of Tredegar for the Tredegar “Chair Eisteddfod” held 25th February 1884.  The Tredegar Cymmrodion Society gave permission for Evan Powell’s son, who was also called Evan, together with the Tredegar Workmen’s Library to reprint the history on 19th March 1902.  Tredegar’s history from 1884 to 1900 was written by Evan Powell junior and his uncle David Powell, and the complete history was to be in one volume.  This complete History of Tredegar provides a valuable source for anyone wishing to know more about one of the important industrial towns that developed in the Industrial Revolution.
The History of Tredegar provides a comprehensive account of the development of the ironworks and coal mining from 1738 to 1900.  There is a chronological description of the events and changes in this period.  The language is clear and precise and the story of Tredegar is well told with plenty of factual detail and enjoyable digressions into popular events and gossip.  The complementary history 1884 -1900 is given a thematic structure.  This relies too much on the compilation of facts and figures but there are helpful insights into life at the end of the 19th Century.  Despite the evidence of drunkenness and trade disputes, overall it appears that Tredegar was a good place to live and work.  However, a note of caution should be sounded when it is discovered that a bye law was passed to stop ‘furious cycling’.

The book cover is very striking with its use of one of Michael Blackmore’s pen and ink drawings of the St David steam engine at work in the ironworks.  The artist has also generously allowed the use of other illustrations in the book.  The reprinting has been done in larger and clearer print than the original book and good quality paper has been used.  Two weaknesses of Powell’s History of Tredegar were the lack of any maps and an index.  Both have been tackled successfully; John Hilling, Architect, has produced two specially drawn maps of Tredegar in 1800 and 1840 which show devilment in the town; Roger Burchell has produced an exhaustive index which will enable readers to use the book effectively.
The book is the first effort by the Forum at reprinting local histories and it is hoping to do the same for Hilda Jennings’ History of Brynmawr in the near future.  The book is a fine achievement and has been produced at a reasonable price.  The support of the local councils together with a generous grant from the Communities First funds have made this possible”.

The Heritage Forum goes from strength to strength…In June it will publish the third issue of its Journal.   The aim of the Journal is to record information that would otherwise be lost to future generations.  Contributions for future issues are welcome.  The third annual Day School will be held on 4th October 2008 at Blaen-y-Cwm School, Brynmawr.
Copies of Powell’s History (£10) are available along with further information on the above events from the Blaenau Gwent Forum c/o Tredegar Library, Tredegar, Gwent.    

Jean Colwell

Local Voices

‘Building at The Duffryn (continued)
Summer 1951

During the summer of 1951 we came to know the residents of Duffryn Row quite well.   Some of the women walked to town every day – for shopping and socialising.  Once they were over their initial suspicion of us and realised that one day we would become neighbours, they always stopped for a chat.

Gwynneth relaxing for onceI often bought odd bits and pieces from the corner shop owned by Mr & Mrs Coles and their daughter Gwyneth.  Although a lot of food was still rationed, Mr Coles would sell us a couple of eggs from his chickens or a lettuce from his garden.  He and Gwyneth became very interested in our building and would often stroll up the hill to view our progress. 

Two years later they had their own bungalow built, named Coronation Bungalow for obvious reasons. By mid-August the window frames were in place and the lintels cast.  These were very heavy, being reinforced with steel, but once again, coinciding with the school holidays, Eric was on hand to help lift them into place.

Ray busy glazing!We had decided on a steep gable roof with the intention of expanding upwards as the need arose.  Ray cut every stud himself but for the actual construction he was helped by Jack Davies, a builder and carpenter who lived in Gladstone Street.  The gables and chimneys were completed and then the tiling which Ray did on his own, ensuring every other tile was nailed into place.

It was then the turn of Tom Wayne who had recently gone into business on his own.  Tom did the lead flashing around the chimney and, hey presto, by the end of September we were ready to celebrate.  We had the roof on, the glazing completed, and we’d beaten the onset of winter.  The weather could now do whatever it wanted…we would be working indoors!!!

To be continued.....               

Gwyneth Hutchings

Spring Field Trip

A coach load of Museum members set off on Saturday 24th May for a two centre visit.  The first stop was Castell Coch – that magical fairy tale castle visible from the M4 at Cardiff and which so many of us plan to visit ‘one of these days’.  After a couple of hours seeing the splendours of the castle interior with its highly decorated rooms, the group moved on to Cosmeston Country Park where a splendid lunch was available in the restaurant.  The Country Park has parkland and a lake formed from a former quarry, but the highlight of the tour was a visit to the reconstruction of a mediaeval village.  The Museum party was given a guided tour by a mediaeval ‘monk’ who explained something of the history of the village and the life of those times.  There are a number of buildings available to visit (such as the beehive type pigsty complete with pigs), and throughout the year practical demonstrations of skills such as archery are staged.  The good weather completed a very enjoyable day.  A big round of thanks to Roy Pickford for organising the trip. (More about the trip next month).

‘Bringing Up Baby’

In the 1950s and 60s when I was a young mother, the routine and protocol for bringing up baby was very different from today.  New mothers were expected to stay in bed for 7-14 days and the first outing was to chapel or church.  All babies were put into flannelette nightgowns which had a tie around the waist firmly secured in the front.  After about six weeks the baby could be “tucked” and could now wear little dresses or rompers.  I understand when I was a baby little boys wore dresses too, until they started to walk.

Terry napkins were all that was available in those days and every day as baby was changed nappies would be put in a pail of water to which ‘Napisan’ had been added.  Next day after being rinsed and washed on a rubbing board, they were put in a large saucepan kept especially for that purpose, or a tin boiler.  Whatever method was used this was boiled on the fire or on top of the cooker.  What a lovely sight to see the finished result blowing in the wind.  Rubber pants were available to put over the nappy in an attempt to keep the outer clothes dry.  It was not very successful as the rubber pants tended to leak at the sides.

At bedtime baby still slept in a nightgown – no ‘babygros’ then.  Unlike today’s advice we put babies on their side with a rolled up towel by their tummy to stop the baby rolling over.  Babies seemed to be very prone to throwing up some of their milk – probably because they were greedy little so and so’s and drank too much.  If they were on their side and vomited they could easily dribble it out of their mouths whereas if put on their back they might choke.  What different advice today.

Miniature hot water bottles ensured baby went into a warm cot when put to sleep.  Like babies of today they usually woke at night for a feed.  In my day that entailed going downstairs half asleep and shivering.  There was no central heating and multiple bottle making was unheard of.  Mam or Dad had to wait for the kettle to boil (and it always seemed to take longer at night).  After making the feed it had to be put in a basin of cold water to cool.  How easy it is today to just pop a pre made feed in the microwave for a couple of seconds.

In the morning a strong smell of ammonia would greet the nostrils when taking baby from his cot.  Everthing was wet – nightgown and cot sheets etc Ugh.   I suppose this was the reason babies were usually bathed in the mornings – to make them smell sweet.

In the 1950s when we had television, oh what a blissful 15 minutes with Andy Pandy or Bill and Ben.  I wished the programme could have gone on for an hour and fifteen minutes.  Today, children’s TV can be watched for hours on end; maybe the limited time available in the 1950s wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Babies in those days weren’t weaned until they were 7 or 8 months old but today they are given sloppy food at a very early age.

One thing that hasn’t changed in bringing up baby is the instruction to give him or her plenty of LOVE.            

A young mam’s recollections of 1950s/60s

National Botanic Garden of Wales

The National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGW) opened in 2000 and if you haven’t visited it since then, you are in for a treat.  The planting in the outdoor and walled gardens has matured, as have the plants in the Great Glasshouse, making for a very different experience eight years on.  The NBGW is dedicated to plant conservation and was created primarily for that purpose; it is particularly entrusted with conserving the native plants of Wales.  This is vital as Wales is home to over two thirds of Britain’s native plant species. 

The NBGW is situated on the former Middleton Estate, initially owned by the family of that name who came from Oswestry.  Debts forced the sale of the estate and it was transformed by its subsequent owner, William Paxton.  He built one of the finest mansions in South Wales and although that was destroyed by fire in the 1930s, the impressive servants hall still remains, as do the magnificent gardens.  The gardens were centred on a ‘necklace’ of ponds, lakes and streams which have been lovingly restored following a period of neglect when the estate suffered financial problems in the early 1900s, and the later draining of the lakes in the Second World War to remove a landmark used by German bombers.  Some restoration work took place in the 1970s and 80s under the auspices of Carmarthen County Council, but it was not until the site was allocated as the National Botanic Garden that its transformation truly began.  That restorative work is still going on but in the meantime a great deal has been achieved and there is plenty for the visitor to enjoy, both indoors and out.  If you feel a day on your feet may be rather tiring, there is a small train to take you around, and plenty of opportunities to sit and enjoy the many marvels the garden has to offer.

If you are making your own way there, just drive to the western end of the motorway and it is a few miles further on, well signposted.


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