Museum Logo
Home Page
About Us
Educational Activities
News And Events
Become A Member
Contact Us
Monthly Newsletter
Previous Month Button
June 2014
Next Month Button

Happy Birthday to us!

Our Museum Society is 50 years old this year. Who would have thought then that we would have the wonderful Museum we run today. It is an occasion to be celebrated and so on Thursday 24th July we will have a 50 th birthday buffet for members and invited guests. We hope to have musical entertainment as well as refreshments. More details in next month’s Newsletter.

Lecture Programme

Our May lecture was something of a foot-tapping affair as the topic was ‘Military Band Archive and Music’. Our speaker, Anne Gatehouse, spoke of the collection which her late husband put together and which has continued to grow since his death some twenty years ago. The collection – The Jerome Gatehouse Collection – is highly regarded and attracts visitors and researchers from all over the world. It includes recordings, programmes of military events, photographs, paintings, prints, videos and artefacts including uniforms, models, instruments and banners.

The next talk will be at 2pm on Wednesday 4th June at Abertillery & District Museum in Abertillery town centre. The June speaker will be Pete Strong who will give a talk with the intriguing title of ‘The Murder of Kymin Bet. Non-members are welcome; entry is £2. Please come along and support the Museum.

Ash’s Display and Biffa Award

The official opening of the new Ash’s Window Display will take place at 2pm on Wednesday 11th June so please come along and see the new display for yourself. One window features original items from Ash’s, the other has toys from the Museum’s own collection. Inside we have our own Museum shop, and the photo archive station. We still need to raise funds for the mural but most of the cost of the new display was funded by a generous grant from Biffa Award and we are very grateful for their support.

£1000 needed

We need to raise £1000 for the cost of the mural in Ash’s display. Ideas welcomed, as are more volunteers!

Diary Dates

Wednesday 4th June 2014 The Murder of KyminBet by Pete Strong

Wednesday 11th June Official opening of Ash’s shop display

Sunday 28th June 2014 The Guardian Festival

Wednesday 2nd July 2014 Swan Rescue by Ellen Kershaw

Saturday 5th July Aberfest Day (the Museum will man a stall in the town)

Thursday 24th July 2014 50 th Birthday Buffet at the Museum (Members and invited guests)

Wednesday 6th August 2014 A Brief Look at Vietnam by Jen Price

Wednesday 3rd September 2014 The WW2 Blenheim Bomber Crash at Abersychan by Ken Clark

Wednesday 1st October 2014 – Introduction to Rag Rug by Jane Dorsett

Wednesday 5th November 2014 The Mysterious World of Bees by John Holden

100 Club May

No. 99 Peggy Bearcroft £25
No. 45 Mary Roden £10
No. 78 Jennifer Tuck £5  

Local Voices - Miners’ Strike 1984

More from the account by volunteer Beryl Fury of a typical day at Abertillery food centre which distributed over 4000 food parcels every fortnight.

Right, two vans away, 430 food parcels out, another 3500 to get on the road. “Heather, do you think we have enough parcels done to cover that number? If not, you can leave that sorting and start filling the bags again”. Round and round those tables, filling the carrier bags, one of each product in each bag, it’s enough to make you travel sick, just walking around and around. There’s only 114 2lb bags of sugar in stock – see how many corned beef are left – and tea and milk, I’ll slip up to Cash and Carry and get the rest together.

Mr Watts, the manager, is there – good. I can now talk about what we will require for next week. About 3000 corned beef, 170 packs of sugar, 3000 milks, tea and soups, 170 boxes of margarine. Mr Watts has been trying to get a cheaper brand of tea. Delivery date is not guaranteed, though. But he has stocked up with mixed fruit jam at only £1.95 for a box of six.

Back to the food centre. I see Tess arriving – she must be tired, working nights in the hospital. Phone ringing again. Fellow wants me to address a meeting for NUPE in Newport at 7.30 tonight. Now to get Nantgarw’s 380 parcels on the van, and push Ynysddu’s 35 parcels with it – they go to the community centre and must be there by twelve o’ clock. “Lorna, there’re two customers asking for the jumble shop, perhaps if we put the legs on those beds we might get a fiver each for them”. They won’t sell otherwise. Perhaps we should shut the shop on a Wednesday as it is our busiest day on food……….

Right, that’s the last bag on, get the baby food on, and that van’s away. Diane is talking about her husband, away picketing, he’s in Bideford for a week. Lorna’s husband is in Radstock. The others are laughing and telling them that their husbands must have girlfriends down there. Heather comments on the weather being good for them. Picketing she means.

Everything has gone quiet. The 11.30 news has come on. We all listen. It’s mostly about the strike. Everybody is now voicing their opinions about how long it will last, and what they, as individuals, will do when things return to normal. Comments such as “I won’t be able to stick in the house all day” reach me as we again parade around that long table. Heather wants to be a Lollypop Lady, Lorna thinks she could run Marks & Spencer, and I’d like to re-organise the police force……..

Polio scare 1957

This is a copy of a letter issued by Mr W.H.Jones to parents and children of Abertillery Urban District on 17 th July 1957.

As Chairman of the Abertillery Urban District Council, and father of four children, I have been asked to draw your special attention to the small outbreak of Poliomyelitis in the District and to urge that everyone will cooperate in endeavours which are being made to abate this disease….

Your attention is drawn to the undermentioned points which will assist in reducing the possibility of spreading the disease, and it is with every confidence, therefore, that I appeal to you in this matter.

The following steps have been, or are suggested should be taken, viz:

1.Children under the age of 16 years should not collect in groups in such places as swimming baths, cinemas, dance halls, children’s parties or on omnibuses.

2. Dance Halls should be closed to all children up to 16 years of age. Children under 16 years of age will not be permitted to attend dances at the Market Hall, Abertillery, until further notice.

3. The County Council are considering the closing of the dental clinics in the area and to reduce the number of ante-natal and baby clinics.

4. All schools are now closed.

5. It is essential that everyone should wash their hands on each occasion before preparing and eating food – this applies particularly to children.

6. Parents are warned that if any child seems “off colour” it should be put to bed at once because physical exercise increases the damage done by the disease.

7. Once a bottle of milk is opened it should be boiled or properly covered.

8. Drinking water should only be taken from the household tap.

9. There should be no open air bathing in pools or in streams by children. Children under 16 years of age will not be permitted to attend the swimming baths at the Abertillery Park until further notice.

10. Children will not be permitted to attend the County Public Library.

Whilst it is not desired to unduly alarm anyone, everyone will, I feel sure, appreciate the need of great care in these matters at this time.

Finally, may I make a personal appeal once again that you will assist general medical practitioners and other medical gentlemen, the Council and all concerned, in helping to abate the disease.

Yours faithfully

W.H. Jones

Chairman of the Council

Abertillery County School

Scholarship Examination 1898


Time…One Hour Answer any 5 questions

1 Write what you know about any two of the following :- Sir Walter Raleigh, Shakespeare, Mary Queen of Scots, Arabella Stuart, Pilgrim Fathers, Archbishop Laud, Duke of Monmouth, Duke of Marlborough, General Wolfe, Nelson, Duke of Wellington.

2. Write an account of one of the following:- (1) Spanish Armada. (2) Civil War. (3) American War of Independence. (4) Indian Mutiny.

3. Give an account of the persecution of Protestants in the reign of Mary.

4. Relate what you know of The Plague and the Great Fire of London.

5. Give an account of some two important inventions since 1688.

6. Say what you know concerning 2 of the following:- Perkin Warbeck’s rebellion, Destruction of the Monasteries, Wyatt’s rebellion, Gunpowder Plot, Petition of Rights, Rye House Plot, Trial of the Seven Bishops, Great South Sea Scheme, The Liberator Frauds, Chartist Movement, Repeal of the Corn Laws.

7. Write a pretty careful biography of one of the following:- Queen Elizabeth, Oliver Cromwell, W.E. Gladstone.

Concert 1865

The British School in Abertillery held a concert of vocal and instrumental music at the schoolroom on Monday 24 th July 1865. Tickets were one shilling each. The profits were to be used for building the boundary wall of the school.

Happy Birthday 1946

The Museum has a decorative postcard with the following written on the front:

A Bright and Happy Birthday to my Wife
Sincere though small
This wish aspires
To bring you all
Your heart desires”.

The reverse carried the words:

“To my dear wife Em, wishing many happy returns and many to come, Love Tom”. The card, inscribed with 15 kisses, was addressed to Mrs E Edgell(?), 3 Morley Road, Abertillery. The postmark was dated 3 rd December 1946.

Home & Colonial

The Museum has an advert (no date unfortunately) for the following three types of margarine on sale:

Regal – superfine quality of unrivalled excellence

Sunstar – in fresh rolls (unsalted), for table use

Blue Star – slightly salted, splendid for cakes and pastry

Do you remember these products?

Firing Line - Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier

We often tend to make special trips to see museums and other places of interest, but what about those nearer to home such as this museum in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. Firing Line is a world-class exhibition commemorating over 300 years of proud and distinguished history including the Battle of Waterloo 1815, Rorke’s Drift against the Zulus 1879 as well as recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan today . The Museum also has temporary exhibitions throughout the year. The current exhibition is about “Nurses at War” and covers the period from the Crimean to the current day .

Entry £10.50 seniors including the keep and castle grounds, £2.50 extra to tour the house.


Ashes Shop

Ashes Shop

At the turn of the 19th and 20th century Abertillery was the second biggest shopping town in Monmouthshire the first being Newport. The mines, tinworks, foundry and steelworks brought in workers from all parts of Britain. They had to be fed and clothed so the associated service industries grew in Abertillery. We have included these in our museum with displays such as The Bon March, and The Express Café.

Thank to a grant from Biffa Award our new display will represent the oldest business at present in Abertillery, “Ashes shop” in the Arcade. It started as “Ash The Sadler”, this is their story written for me by their family.

History of S.M.Ash In 1850s Robert Ash moved from Wiltshire to Newbridge to work on the construction of the Crumlin viaduct, he later found work in a colliery in Newbridge repairing harnesses for the pit ponies and took on an apprentice, his son Sydney Mortimer Ash. Sydney later became a journeyman saddler working the local farms making and repairing saddles and harnesses.

On January 1 st, 1900 Sydney opened a saddlers and leather factors in Oak St, AAshes Shop Inside 1bertillery next to the Station Hotel, S.M. Ash. In 1915 he moved premises with his sons Robert and Ivor Ash to the Arcade opposite St Michaels church, they stayed there for 2 years before moving up the Arcade to the shop where we still are to this day, the shop has two entrances at 3 High St and 4 The Arcade.

They opened a shop in Blaina where Ivor worked and his brother Robert ran the Abertillery shop; Sydney passed away in 1936. The shop continues to be run by the same family. Robert was joined by his nephew Desmond Emanuel (whose picture you see here) in the late 1940s and his brother Colin Emanuel worked, at the Blaina shop eventually taking over from Ivor and joined by Colin’s wife Lesley. The Blaina shop sadly closed in 1998.

Ashes Shop Inside 2Desmond's wife Patricia also worked at the shop and their son Robert came to work in the shop in the mid Sixties , he introduced new lines of sports goods and toys and the business continued to thrive. Robert's sister Elizabeth Wiles joined in the late 1980s and her son Stephen joined in 1992 and runs the shop today. The business's evolution continues with Liz, Robert, Robert's wife Zena, Stephen and his wife Kathryn. We are still serving the people of Abertillery and beyond and we would like to thank all our customers past and present for their continued support throughout the generations. We wonder what Robert Ash and his son Sydney would think of us today.

The family gave a lot of items from the shop to our museum ranging from the time they were a Ashes Shop Inside 2saddlers and leather factor to the days when they sold toys and sporting goods. These artefacts have all been documented and set into the new shop exhibit in our museum.

The star of the display is the painting by Geraint Derbyshire. However,

we failed to obtain a grant for it. If you are impressed with the painting perhaps you would like to make a donation towards it

Bear Logo

Don Bearcroft curator.



Top Of Page



Registered Musuem Logo

© Abertillery & District Museum 2014