Dates for your Diary
Currently we are only Saturdays 10-1pm though we hope to return to three day opening soon.
Museum opening times
The Museum is open to the public, free of charge:
Saturday only 10am – 1pm
100 Club is back!
When we suspended our 100 Club draws, we never thought we would be closed this long. Our last draw was in March 2020 and therefore we thought it would be easier to restart the draws from April 2021 as if the last year never happened (we wish!). So anyone who had money placed on the April 2020 draw was entered into the April 2021 draw and so on. The draws for April and May took place on Saturday 22nd May and were kindly drawn for us by members Yvonne and Peter Rosser and the lucky winners are as follows:
No. 97 Jen Price £20
No. 15 Lyn Bearcroft £10
No. 90 Graham Webb £20
No. 57 Paul Pratley £10
If you are a member of the 100 Club whose subs have run out don’t forget to top up or 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.
Happy 90th Margaret!
Our Secretary, Mrs Margaret Dyer, will be 90 this month and we wish her a very happy (restriction free hopefully) birthday celebration!
Our Deputy Curator, Mr Richard Gilson, has unfortunately left us. His work as a teacher keeps him very busy especially in these trying days and therefore it is with regret that he has felt it necessary to resign from his post. We thank Richard for all his work and support over the years and wish him well for the future.
We finally opened our doors again after 14 long months and even the sun shone for us after two days of torrential rain. The photo below shows our first visitors for over a year enjoying a cuppa from our café.
It wasn’t quite business as usual what with ‘track and trace’, sanitising stations and table service only in our café but it was a relief to be able to welcome visitors back to the museum if only on a Saturday for now.
It’s happened again – we came last this year and the only country with ‘nil points’. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking our score had less to do with our song or singer and more to do with Brexit and vaccine envy! We can still hold our heads high though thanks to some unbeaten records as I pointed out in last June’s article which you can read again by clicking here.
Varosha - Ghost Town of Cyprus
During the early part of the 1970s the city of Famagusta on the eastern side of Cyprus, with its suburb Varosha, was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Attracting the likes of celebrities such as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to name but two, Varosha boasted the best beaches of golden sand on the entire island and its 36 hotels with over 6000 beds, accounted for 50% of all tourism on the island. Its population of 45,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived and worked peacefully together. Until, that is, 1974….
Cyprus had been a British Crown Colony until 1960 when it was given its independence. In the years following independence, tensions started to surface between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots with some Greek Cypriots wanting the island to be unified with Greece and to this end the Greek army launched a coup on 15th July 1974. Five days later, in defence of the Turkish Cypriots living on the island, the Turkish army invaded Cyprus and occupied 3% of the island before a ceasefire was declared. The Greek military junta responsible for the initial coup collapsed and a democratic government was put in its place.
Then in the heat of the morning of 14th August 1974, in the middle of the busiest month of the year for tourism, the Turks launched a second invasion. The people of Famagusta had just an hour’s notice. The story goes how locals and tourists alike fled the city in a panic with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Uneaten meals were left on tables; clothes were left hanging on washing lines and tourists fled minus their belongings and many without even their passports! Many thought it would only be a short time before things would return to normal (shades of 2020!), however they were never to return and much loved family homes were now in the hands of a foreign power.
The conflict itself was short lived with a ceasefire being called the same month but it left the Turks with 37% of the island and still today Cyprus remains a country of two halves with the southern half being part of the EU (they joined in 2004) and the northern half part of Turkey. The line that divides the two halves is 186 miles long and stretches from west to east and is known locally as ‘The Green Line’; so named after an imaginary line drawn in green pencil on the map of Cyprus by Britain’s Major General Peter Young way back in 1963 at the start of the troubles. This ‘Green Line’ is a hard border with various checkpoints and is guarded by UN soldiers who act as peacemakers. The line (see map below) runs right through the island’s capital city, Nicosia, making it the only remaining divided capital in the world. Following the conflict many Greek Cypriots moved south of the Green Line while the Turkish Cypriots moved north.
As for Famagusta, the once thriving heart of the Cypriot tourism industry, it remains part of Turkey while the southern suburb known as Varosha, remains in dispute to this day; and has become a ghost town surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by armed soldiers.
For many years it was only possible to view the decaying hotels from the sea but now tourists are allowed to walk the beach. As a regular visitor to Cyprus I have crossed the Green Line (passport required) and have walked the beach at Varosha and can testify to the eeriness of the deserted and dilapidated hotels that line the golden sand. We were told if we were to take photos we risked being shot at so, alas, I have none to show; the photo here of the empty hotels is from Wikipedia and there are more to view using the link at the end of this article, including one of an abandoned home with a child’s decaying teddy in the garden.
By TomasNY at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5,
With the loss of Famagusta, the Greek Cypriots turned their attention to nearby Ayia Napa with its beautiful Nissi beach and it could be said that Ayia Napa is the ‘Phoenix’ that rose from the ashes of Famagusta and is now the number one tourist destination on the island.
For more photos of Varosha, use this link:
Pick of the Bunch
All the museum volunteers have a favourite item (or two or three) in the museum collections and this month I am going to tell you about my favourite which, without hesitation, has to be the bronze axe head or ‘palstave’.
It was discovered by a dog in Cwmtillery and fortunately the dog's owner, Mr Bill Deasy, was very interested in local history and recognised the dirt covered object for the precious artefact it was - nothing less than an axe head from the Bronze Age which, in this country, covers the period 2500 – 800 B.C. Mr Deasy was one of the founder members of the Museum Society and the axe head, which is believed to date from between 700 – 1000 B.C., was an important item in the early days of the museum. Sadly, Mr Deasy passed away many years ago.
As well as being significant for the founding of the museum, the axe head simply fires my imagination. Who lost it? How did he (I presume it was a he) lose it? What were the repercussions of its loss? Was the person punished? Did they somehow have to acquire a replacement? How did they manage without it? We will never know the answers to these questions but we can imagine several possible scenarios. Did it maybe simply drop from his belt? Was he being chased and lost it while running to escape? Did he put it down and then simply forgot where he had put it? Did someone steal it, intending to retrieve it but for some reason never did?
What did Bronze Age Cwmtillery look like and what were the lives of the people who might have lived or passed through there? We can assume it was a heavily wooded valley. In the early part of the Bronze Age the weather was warmer than it is now, allowing crops to be grown on the tops of mountains once cleared of trees – something that is unthinkable in our climate today. The higher slopes of the mountains were also used for summer grazing, with cattle and sheep being taken to lower slopes during winter. As the Bronze Age progressed, the weather became colder and wetter leading to many of the higher mountain slopes being abandoned. The resulting competition for the best land predictably led to conflict and the building of hill forts. As far as I know, there is no evidence of a hill fort or Bronze Age settlement anywhere near Cwmtillery so the loss of the axe must remain a mystery and your guess is as good as mine! Maybe Cwmtillery will yield more secrets in the years ahead.
The axe head is on display near the entrance; take a look on your next visit.
If you have a favourite item, we would love to hear from you!
There I was, in the garden, pegging out clothes using a few different sorts of pegs, when I wondered about their history. My pegs are all the small modern type with a spring but I remember my grandmother using wooden dolly pegs, some of which were bought from the gypsies who used to come around the doors selling them in days gone by. These were simple two-pronged pegs with a metal band at the top to hold the peg together. Surely those simple dolly pegs were a design in use for hundreds if not thousands of years, but no, pegs are a modern invention. My researches on the internet reveal that there is no sign of dolly pegs being used before the early 19th century. Until them, it seems that people simply hooked their washing over a line and hoped it stayed put, or they draped the washing over bushes.
Does the name Jeremie Victor Opdebec ring a bell? No? I thought perhaps not and you aren't alone. He is Belgian and he took out a patent for the dolly peg in 1809 but no-one seems to know anything else about him. His peg was made out of a single piece of wood.
Fast forward to 1853 and we meet Mr David M. Smith, an American, who invented the first "spring clamp for clothes lines" – the modern clothes peg. Some 34 years later, Solon E Moore, another American, introduced an improved design incorporating a "coiled fulcrum of wire" – this is the basis of the clothes peg (called a clothespin in America) which we all know today.
The concept of the clothes peg has been used for various other types of pegs and clips used, for example, to hold sheets of paper, or any two objects together. Then there is the use of the peg to keep nasty smells at bay – "put a peg on your nose". Does anyone ever do that? Did they ever? If your fancy runs to a giant clothes peg, head across to the United States. Jack Crowell, the last owner of a clothes peg factory there, has a 5ft high granite stone in the shape of a clothes peg to mark his grave. Or if you go to Philadelphia you can see a giant clothes peg sculpture which is sited across the street from City Hall and which featured in the film called 'Trading Places'.
So, there is more to the humble clothes peg than you might think!
Debenhams – End of an Era
Last month saw the last of the mighty Debenhams stores closed forever after over 200 years of trading. It is yet another heavy blow for Newport town centre which has now lost its last big department store.
Debenhams roots date back to 1813 when William Debenham invested in a London store owned by one William Clark. Clark had opened his store in 1778 to sell quality bonnets, gloves and parasols. With William Debenham onboard, the store was rebranded as Clark and Debenham with the first branch to open outside London being Cheltenham in 1818. In 1905 the brand was re-named Debenhams Ltd and by 1950, Debenhams had 110 stores and was the biggest department chain in Britain. It continued to expand and had stores all over the world including one in the capital city of Cyprus; Nicosia, the only divided capital city left in the world (see article on page 2). This particular store had a café on the top floor from which you had a viewpoint into the Turkish held part of the city. Debenhams opened its final store in Melbourne, Australia just 4 years ago in 2017.
Debenhams has been struggling for some time. Weighed down by heavy rents and business rates for its huge stores, it just could not compete with the surge in internet shopping and the many months of forced closures due to the pandemic, were the final straw.
Newport waited many years for the promised arrival of Debenhams which was hailed as ‘Newport’s saviour’ and it finally happened in November 2015 with the opening of the much heralded ‘Friars Walk’. Alas its salvation was to be short-lived.
Photo shows Debenhams at Newport with its first floor restaurant overlooking Friars Walk.
For more on the history of Debenhams, see link:
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