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June 2018
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May 100 Club

No.  08             Audrey Osland                        £20
No.  59             Mike Purchase                        £10

If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month. Ask at the museum for further details.

Aberfest & the Museum

Aberfest is on Saturday 9th June this year and the museum will be playing its part in the festivities.  We need donations for our White Elephant stall and cakes (on the day) for our café.  Anything you can spare will be gratefully received.  We will be hosting a children’s ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ (bring your own Teddy) between noon and 4pm with sandwiches, crisps and jelly and ice-cream.  If you can spare an hour or two to help out, it would be much appreciated.

Coffee Mornings

Our last coffee morning scheduled for 19th May was cancelled due to it clashing with the Royal Wedding.  Our next coffee morning (on Aberbeeg Hospital) will be on Saturday 16th June and the cancelled Hobbies & Crafts coffee morning will hopefully be held later this summer.

Food Hygiene Course 18th June

At time of printing, I have to report that this course is now fully subscribed.  However, if you would like to put your name on a reserve list in case someone drops out, then please email me at   Such has been the response to this course that we hope to run other courses very soon.

What’s On

Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, St Davids Road, Cwmbran, is holding an exhibition of paintings by Abertillery artist, Roger Cecil (1942-2015).  The exhibition is on now and will run ‘til 21st July 2018.

Free ‘Drop-In’ IT sessions!

Do you have a laptop computer, smart phone or tablet but are not making the best use of it?  I am a former IT tutor, teaching IT skills to adults in the community.  I will be at the museum from 10.30 to 12.30 on Friday 22nd and Friday 29th June.  Drop in for ten minutes or stay for two hours, the choice is yours.  Just bring along your device and I will do my best to help.  
Sally Murphy

Biscuit Barrels

Biscuit barrel made of laminated blocks of wood You know you are getting old when something you use on a daily basis is now featured on antique websites!  I’m referring to my biscuit barrel.  Youngsters today don’t seem to use a biscuit barrel but I wouldn’t be without mine!  Pictured here, it was made in England by a firm called Cambridge Ware out of laminated blocks of wood and features a wipe clean plastic inner and a piece of cork attached to the underside of the lid to help keep the biscuits fresh for longer, though mine are never in there long enough to go soft!  I bought it in the early 1980’s from our very own S.M. Ash of Abertillery and, if my memory serves me right, I paid £12 for it.

mahogany biscuit barrel The mahogany biscuit barrel pictured here belonged to my parents.  My sister and I bought it for them one Christmas in the 1970’s as a replacement for their cracked one.  It too, was bought from Mr Ash and I recall it cost £9 which was quite a lot back then!  This particular one was also made in England but by a company called Lancraft Woodware.  It is made from laminated wood with a plastic inner, but unlike mine, it has a decorative metal lid with no cork.


1930's biscuit barrel This biscuit barrel is from the museum’s archive and is not dissimilar to the cracked one of my parents that I refer to above.  It belonged to a Mr & Mrs Riseley and was presented to them by Llanhilleth Playhouse in October 1930.

It was donated to he museum by their son in January 2000.  Apart from the knob, which broke and was replaced, it is in excellent condition.


pineapple’ inspired biscuit barrel The further back in time you go, the more ornate biscuit barrels become.  This beauty, a ‘pineapple’ inspired biscuit barrel, with its hallmarked sterling silver rim, lid and handle, belonged to my maternal grandmother and was made by Locke & Co in their Shrubb Hill Works at Worcester. 

Edward Locke and his friend James Hadley had worked for Royal Worcester until, in 1896, Locke left and set up his own company.  He also rented some of his factory to James Hadley and the pair went into production in 1898. 

Locke biscuit barrel In 1902, Locke and Hadley were sued by Royal Worcester, who were concerned that their products could be mistaken for those made by Royal Worcester.  The culmination of the court proceeding was that Locke & Co were forced to change their backstamp to include the words ‘Shrubb Hill’, thus differentiating their products from those of Royal Worcester.  I have researched the story on the internet and found two conflicting stories.  In one version, it says the factory went into decline and was closed in 1914, and in the other, it was taken over by Royal Worcester.

This particular piece, now in the care of my sister, has the ‘Shrubb Hill’  backstamp and so dates somewhere between 1902 and 1914, making it over 100 years old.  Given the short production life of the Locke factory, this biscuit barrel is quite a rarity.
Sally Murphy


Last month I wrote about the NHS at 50 – this should, of course, been 70!  Having just returned from Florida where my husband had to pay $260 to see a dentist and $359 for anti-biotics (over £450 in total), I now have an even greater respect for our NHS!

Memories by Esme Heal

Having been asked to pen a second batch of “Memories”, I hope older readers may recall my first “epistle” a few years ago.

I’m sure many of you will remember my parents (Edwin and Gladys Cook) who adopted me in 1943.  Mum was one of the “Ford” family – her father (Tom) owned the two outfitters’ shops in Church Street opposite Mr Cavacuiti’s Express café.  I remember my grandfather very well – when Mum and I visited my grandparents he always sang hymns and read the bible.  He was choirmaster at Blaenau Gwent Chapel, his daughter Ethel being the organist.

By a coincidence, one of the younger Cavacuiti family runs a hairdressing salon here in Weston!

I’ve kept up contact with school friends in Abertillery and we meet up periodically.  In recent years, sadly, I’ve visited Abertillery to attend funerals of some of my father’s contacts including Cyril Hardwick and Jack Brickell, the latter being Dad’s former plumber.  I had previously met up with Jack during one of my visits to the Museum, not too long before he died.

One of my happiest memories is of the Grammar School Prize-giving in 1958 with the trophies being presented by a Member of Parliament – subsequently “Mr Speaker”.  Yes, you’ve guessed I’m sure – George Thomas, such a lovely man, later to become Lord Tonypandy.  He told me he and my father had been at Caerleon College together – how’s that for a coincidence!  Many years later George Thomas preached at my local church in Weston, (no use of a reference book by him!) and he shook hands with many, including me.  There followed some “tittering” when, unbelievably, he recognised me from the Prize-giving but was sad to learn that “Eddie” as he referred to my Dad, was no longer “with us” as he put it.

My father was initially a teacher at Swyffryd and Six Bells Schools, finally Head Teacher at Queen Street School.  For several years after his retirement, he received Christmas gifts from pupils and ex-pupils.
My late husband, Brian, was an England Schools Rugby International – I still have the programme for the last game he played – against Wales!  He was a Club and County player but understood my allegiance to Abertillery when they played here at Weston.

I helped with after-match catering and particularly recall when Abertillery came to Weston with their three wonderful international players – Alan Lewis, Haydn Morgan and Alun Pask.  People thought Haydn and I were related as we both had auburn hair (I never denied it!)  I’d go with the team to Abertillery (to support Weston) but vice versa when Abertillery played here!

I have one prized possession with which I will never part - Alun Pask gave me his lapel badge engraved “B.I.R.U.T. 1962” (British Isles Rugby Union Tour 1962) the last year, I think, before South Africa’s apartheid.  The tragic loss of Alun in the dreadful house fire* is one of the saddest things imaginable.

I show my Welsh scarf in my window whenever “my team” are playing.  What a wonderful display in this year’s Six Nations;  I was almost hoarse shouting at the TV.

Over the years I’ve received several “sympathy” cards at the “demise of Welsh rugby” – (excuse the pun but it’s on the other foot now!)  I obviously do not reciprocate, as much as I’d like to - one has to rise above what is clearly jealousy
(Mrs) Esme Heal (nee Cook)

Editor’s note – Mrs Heal has been one of our Vice Presidents for many years and though she now lives in Weston, she is still one of most devout supporters.

*Alun Pask was a Wales international rugby Union player and captain and he died at a fire at his home in Blackwood on 2nd November 1995 at the age of 58.

Holiday Tips

  • If you are going on holiday and you have leftover bread, don’t throw it away, pop it in the freezer before you leave and you’ll have bread to come home to.
  • Pack essentials you might need during a flight (biro, reading glasses, tissues, headphones etc) in a small bag and place the bag inside your cabin bag.  Once on board the plane, take out the smaller bag before stowing the larger cabin bag in the overhead locker.
  • To protect your clean clothes from dirty soles, pack each pair of shoes in a clear plastic bag. The shoes will also be easily identifiable when unpacking at your destination. I leave mine in the bags until I choose to wear them.

If you have any holiday tips to share, please email me at

Museum Matters


‘As workers we have nothing to gain from war and we had no part or lot in the making of it.  But tens, yea, hundreds of thousands of men who have no quarrel with anybody may be slaughtered like dumb cattle. Millions of pounds of debt will be piled up, to be paid for with the blood and sweat of labour’.

These words of George Barker, the Miners Agent proved most prophetic.

1914-1918 ALF PAYNE M. M.

Picture of Alf Payne He lived at 80 Arail Street Six Bells and worked at Six Bells and Penybont Pits. During the Battle of the Marne in the First World War Alf and five others were ordered to hold back the German right flank attack.  Three survived to tell the tale. Alf the five other men and a Lewis Machine Gun held up the German right flank for a whole day.

‘They came in hordes at us, it started at dawn about 3.30am and we held out until the South Lancashire Regiment relieved us at 9.30pm in the evening.  They came at us with Trench Bombs trying to blast us out; I thought that sooner or later we would be killed.  We were running short of ammunition until sergeant Charles tied some around his neck and body and crawled back to us. At the battle of the Somme Alf Payne went over the top.. I don't know whether I was lucky or whether God had wanted me to do something better with my life’.

Alf  Payne was the exponent of the Abertillery Poppy Fund.

1916 Corporal William. J. Hodges M. M.

Picture of William James Hodges On 21st February the Royal Munster Fusiliers to which Corporal W. J. Hodges was attached with the Trench Mortar Section, attacked a German trench that was giving them trouble.  After vicious fighting the Germans gave way and the Fusiliers were in occupation, little knowing that the trench was mined.  A short time afterwards the mine was exploded imprisoning about 100 men. This was the signal for the big guns to open up, then all hell broke loose.  Corporal Hodges turned his mortar to cover the broken trench and fired shell after shell until he had no more, but by then the men had managed to get out with their wounded and returned to the British lines.

About two days later still under heavy fire the CO sent for him further down the line and asked what had happened out there. On being told the story he said it was good thinking to cover the men but unfortunately one of the mortars had not been found, (at that time it was a big thing to lose a gun to the enemy), whereupon Corporal Hodges stepped up onto the firing platform in the trench and was immediately told to keep his head down because a sniper was playing havoc with that part of the line. 

After studying the line for a few minutes he turned and said ‘I have a rough idea where it could be’ and went straight over the top onto his stomach then very slowly he started to crawl towards the German lines.  He was gone for some time when one of the soldiers near the CO  said ‘he's coming back’ and surely he was, returning with the missing mortar fastened to his body.  For this act he was awarded the Military Medal.

Corporal W. James Hodges South Wales Borderers, fought in the battles of  Neuve Chapelle, La Bassee, Festubert, Givency Mons, Somme and Loose etc.  Awarded the Military Medal in March 1916.

Don Bearcroft Curator.

Why are there wars?

Trench gunner picture


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