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June 2016
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

Saturday 4th JuneCoffee Morning with readings by Margaret Cook.  Those who have been to other readings by Margaret will know that we are in for a treat!  We are guaranteed a very entertaining and enjoyable morning.

Monday 13th JuneMuseum Dinner (Lunch). This will be held once again at Ty Ebbw Fach in Six Bells and will be a lunchtime event with guest speaker.  If you would like to come along, please contact Peggy Bearcroft to book your place and make your menu choice.

Saturday 2nd July – Aberfest including a ‘Father Christmas Summer Party’ in the space outside the museum. The museum will be putting on a children’s treasure hunt, serving refreshments and running a museum stall outside the museum.

Wednesday 7th September at 6.00pmRalph Robinson Memorial Lecture.  More details later

May 100 Club

No. 67    Sharon Saunders    £20
No. 45   Mary Roden               £10
No. 50    Bernard Jones         £5

Annual Dinner (lunch) 13th June

This will be held at  Ebbw Ty Fach where we went last year.  It should be another enjoyable occasion.

Six Bells Pit Party    

This was cancelled due to bad weather but will hopefully take place in July (when volunteers will be needed, please).    

Fundraising May - £176

Local Voices

“Lllanhilleth – the Beginnings”

Mr Arthur Lewis O.B.E. sent in the following article.
Leslie M Shore of Ulverston, Cumbria sent me a copy of his book “Peerless Powell Duffryn of the South Wales Coalfield” (price £24.99, postage £5).  It stated that Thomas Powell’s days as a coal owner began near Llanhilleth in the Mynyddislwyn Coal Vein (see Don Bearcroft’s  Abertillery write up).  Maps show St Illtyd’s Church and Blaen Cyffin Colliery.

Leslie’s father-in-law Jack Edwards worked at No. 6 Area NCB H.Q. Abercarn and East Wales Area NCB and was involved in Electrifying Colliery Winding Engines, doing away with coal fired Lancashire Steam Boilers.

Leslie’s next book will be about “Tredegar Iron and Coal Company”.  It will be interesting to me as I was an NCB Group Safety Engineer for 8 of their collieries, of which Oakdale and Waterloo Collieries trained Bevin Boys.  Two of the colliery managers were from Abertillery.

Mr Lewis now lives in Essex and has had some health problems but he sends his regards to the Museum Society and friends.

British Summer Time

2016 is the 100th anniversary of the introduction of British Summer Time. The idea of summer time, or daylight saving time, was first suggested, not altogether seriously, by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. It was established in Britain by the Summer Time Act 1916 after a campaign by William Willett (variously described in reports as a keen rider or a keen golfer) who was incensed at the ‘waste’ of useful early daylight in the summer months.  His original, rather complicated, intention had been to move the clocks forward by 80 minutes, in 20 minute weekly steps on Sundays in April and losing 80 minutes in the same way through the month of September.  He died in 1915 and did not see the introduction of the one hour change which, in 1916 established that the clocks would go forward on 21st May and go back on 1st October.  The measure, which means that for a period of the year from spring to autumn legal time is one hour in advance of Greenwich mean time, has been the subject of discussion and controversy, and occasionally some change, ever since.

The Germans adopted daylight saving in 1916 and the UK followed within a few weeks, anxious not to be disadvantaged at a time of war.  Within a few years, most countries reasonably north or south of the equator had also adopted Daylight Saving Time.  During the Second World War, British Double Summer Time (two hours in advance of GMT) was temporarily introduced and was used for the period when, normally, ordinary summer time would have been in force. During the winter, clocks were kept one hour in advance of GMT. With the war over, Britain returned to British Summer Time as before except for a brief trial between 1968 and 1971 when the clocks went forward but did not go back. The trial was deemed unsuccessful and abandoned.

The duration of British Summer Time was changed in 1998 to bring the date of the start of summer time into line with that used in the rest of the European Community.  British Summer Time (BST) is used in the UK between the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. The clocks change at 01:00 GMT.

British Summer Time is simply part of life these days but take your mind back a couple of hundred years – how did people know the time and how did it come to be standardised throughout the country?

The introduction of the railways provided the stimulus for standardisation.  Until then, local mean time was the time kept by clocks rather than the sun and so there were inevitably some variations from one place to another, even though clocks had become quite accurate and had largely replaced the sun dials which were commonly used until the end of the eighteenth century.  It was a very real problem for railway timetabling that times could differ significantly at either end of the line and so in the 1840s railway companies started using London time.  This practice became more and more widespread and in 1880 an Act of Parliament made Greenwich mean time the legal time for Great Britain.

ClockWe have come a long way since the days of sun dials, not to mention the establishment of the Prime Meridian through Greenwich (something vehemently opposed by France at the time).  So how do we (or I should say the scientists) measure time now?  Here is a technical explanation.
Since 1967, the International System of Measurements bases its unit of time, the second, on the properties of caesium atoms. SI defines the second as 9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation that corresponds to the transition between two electron spin energy levels of the ground state of the 133Cs atom.      


Book Corner

I was walking with a friend recently on a route which went over and around the Sugar Loaf.  I thought I had climbed the Sugar Loaf from most directions so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that most of the paths were new to me.  I had another pleasant surprise – the boundary enclosure of a medieval deer park.  The enclosure was unmistakeable – a very noticeable mound and ditch.  The sight reminded me of a talk by Frank Olding some years ago on landscape features in the area. I remember him telling us about the deer park but I had never before seen any trace of it.  The deer park covered an area of 500-600 acres and belonged to the Benedictine Priory which was founded in Abergavenny between 1087 and 1100.

This brings me on to ‘the book’.  A good source for learning more is Frank Olding’s book entitled Discovering Abergavenny – Archaeology and History”, price £10.  It was published a few years ago but is still available from booksellers.

Chelsea Flower Show

I’ve never been to this show but I watch the television coverage and I was interested to read that this year’s show is the 103rd that the Royal Horticultural Society have put on, mostly in the grounds of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, although the history of this flower show goes back originally to 1862 with the RHS’s ‘Great Spring Show’ at Kensington.  The show was held at various sites before settling at Chelsea in 1912 and taking place there annually, with just a few breaks, thereafter.  The show has long been a favourite with the Royal Family and in 1937, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth celebrated their Coronation Year there.  In order to mark the event, an Empire Exhibition was staged featuring plants from around the world.

The show was cancelled during the Second World War because the land was needed by the War Office for an anti-aircraft installation.  When the war ended there was a big question mark over whether the show would resume.  Stocks of plants were low, staffing levels were low, and it was difficult to obtain fuel for greenhouses.  Despite these setbacks, the show resumed in 1947 and was a great success.  Just a few years later, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II saw an extra special show which reflected the mood of celebration.  Most of the Royal Family visited the show but not the Queen herself due to her many other pressing commitments!

The show goes on and is considered the most prestigious horticultural show in the country.

Census and Other Information

The census records are a valuable tool for those researching both personal family histories and social and economic history and now that so many records are available on line, it is so much easier and quicker to look up census material than when that meant a trip to the county archive office although these offices still offer an invaluable resource for the researcher.
In order to get the wider picture of, say, Abertillery or Blaenau Gwent, as well as information on individuals, you may find it useful to visit a website called ‘A View of Britain Through Time’ which covers the period between 1801 and 2001 using maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions.  You can access the collated results of census entries, and much more. The following pieces are taken from or based on entries on this website.
Abertillery was described in 1870-72 by John Marius Wilson in his Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales as “a village in Aberystruth parish, Monmouth; 5 miles N of Crumlin.  It has a station on the Western Valleys railway, a post office under Newport, Monmouth, and a sub-parochial church”.

The first official census took place in 1801.  The basis of the information in the censuses is people – for example, how many, what sex, what age, where do they live, where were they born?  The census gradually widened over the years to cover other topics and from 1951 the census included questions on housing conditions such as water supply and WCs.
Information on housing density, essentially the number of persons per room, was first collected in 1891 when overcrowding was defined as over 2 persons per room.  By 1931 this threshold had dropped to 1.5 persons and by 1961 to 1 person per room.

The nineteenth century census combined and confused information on the work an individual did and the nature of his employer’s business.  The first census of 1801 divide the population into those ‘chiefly employed in agriculture’, those ‘chiefly employed in trade, manufacture of handicraft’ and others.  From 1841 onwards more detail was taken and this resulted in over 3,000 different occupational titles being listed. The number of categories was subsequently reduced and the information was significantly rationalised from 1921 onwards.

The website also has a database of travel writing with geographical areas listed for each author and this too makes fascinating reading.

Museum Matters

The Smile

We were thrilled when I received an invitation to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. We booked our hotel, the Double Tree Hilton in Westminster, travelling up on Sunday to allow time for us to recuperate before the main event.


Tuesday came and we took a taxi to the Palace special disabled entrance. After we had gone through the main gates of the palace we walked to the garden entrance (I was using my three wheeled walker), a man in uniform came to us and asked me. “Wouldn’t you prefer a wheelchair, the gardens are large” I said yes he then offered us a soldier to push me around for the day. Peggy and I declined this so he took my walker to the band stand for a bandsman to look after. He then told us where the Queen and her family would enter from and that after we had our tea he would arrange for us to be taken by a golf buggy around the grounds. (He also said that he is the Queens Colour Sergeant and would be on hand if we wanted him He is responsible for the flags on the Palace and the Queens Car which he also drives). We waited until the Queen entered from the palace after which we got our tea from the tea tent. We then went and had our tea on the lawn. Prince William and Kate did an informal walkabout talking to young people.
It was time now for us to go for our ride around the gardens; the young lady who drove the buggy told us that she applied on line for the job. It’s more like a dream than a job she told us, pointing to her window of her flat in the palace where she lived. We then started our journey around the gardens with her commentary.

The Buckingham Palace Garden has undergone many changes over the years. It covers nearly 40 acres, including a 3 acre lake. The north side occupies part of the original site of a mulberry garden laid out by James 1 in 1609. In 1703 the Duke of Buckingham arranged for a more formal layout and in the 1820s George IV commissioned William Townsend Aiton chief gardener at Kew, to remodel the gardens completely. It was he who created the lake and the broad stretches of lawn. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth cleared much of the dense Victorian shrubberies and planted a wide selection of decorative flowering trees and shrubs - notably the tremendous 170 metre long Herbaceous Border. The shrubberies have been continuously improved and in 1961 The Queen added a curved avenue of Indian chestnut running from the NW corner of the palace. There are more than 200 mature trees in the garden, with London plane predominant. There are fine Waterloo Vasespecimens of choice trees, most of which are labelled, and the commemorative trees planted on different occasions over the years by Members of the Royal Family. Although very much a spring garden, recent additions have provided more plants for summer colour like hoheria, agapanthus and hydrangea. The Rose Garden contains formal beds of hybrid tea and floribunda roses and behind the Admiralty Summer House there are shrub and climber roses. In the centre of the Rose Garden stands the imposing Waterloo Vase made from carrara marble* and positioned here in 1903 (*This is the same marble that was imported from Italy and used for the counter from the Abertillery Italian cafe, now exhibited in the museum). Originally made for Napoleon, it was given by King Edward VII. A small waterfall was installed in 1991 to circulate the lake water.

The garden is a nesting site for many native birds and the great-crested grebe has nested on an island in the lake for the last few years. The lake also provides a refuge for water birds including coots, moorhens, shelduck, mallard and geese. Captive birds include red-breasted geese, ruddy shelduck and emperor geese. There is a distinct "long grass" policy in places to provide a range of habitats for wildlife. Since 1991 all of the grass clippings, pruning’s and leaves gathered in the garden as well as some of the horse manure from the adjacent Royal Mews are recycled on site.

We were sat on the lawn when a gentleman in a top hat and frock coat approached us and told us to go and stand at the side of the Palace as the Queen and the royal family would be passing soon. We did as we were asked and were not there long before a group headed by the Queen came towards us, stopping now and then to talk to people, when it was our turn her majesty asked me, “Did you enjoy the party?” very much Ma’am I replied. Peggy said it was beautiful, the Queen smiled (a beautiful smile) and moved on The Duke nodded as he passed and behind him came Princess Beatrice and Eugenie, they said how much they liked the bright colours. Princess Alexandra the Queens cousin accompanied them chatting to everyone, they were all very kind. Afterwards Peggy went to fetch my walker, returning with the Queens Colour Sergeant who told me to stay in the wheelchair as he would take me out through the main gates Bear logoto the taxies. This he did and when we arrived at the gates there were hundreds of people queuing for taxies, showing his pass he arranged for a taxi for me as the wheelchair had to be returned.

Thus ended our dream.

Don Bearcroft, curator.


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