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July 2011
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Lecture Programme

The Wednesday lectures have proved popular and so we are continuing with them for September and October.

Summer Trip

Roy Pickford has organised a trip to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales on Saturday 16 th July, price £16. If you haven’t already put your name down, please call at the Museum or contact Roy on 01495 213377. If you have visited the gardens before you will know you are in for a treat and if you haven’t been there, well, put your name down quickly.

100 Club – June 2011

No.137 Neil Winmill £25
No.4 Mary Hunt £10
No.125 Elaine Roles £5

Best Wishes

Joan Richards is making a good recovery from the fall when she broke her femur. She is now out of hospital and has moved in to her new home near her daughter in Dover. We wish her a speedy recovery and good wishes in her new home.

Bric a Brac

We need good bric a brac for various events coming up. Please drop items off at the Museum.

Diary Dates

Saturday 2nd July Street Party 11.30 -1.30

Saturday 16th July Summer Trip to the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Saturday 6th August - Coffee Morning with Poetry Readings by Robin Tranter

Wednesday 7th September Newport Wetlands

Wednesday 5th October Medieval Weaponry

Author’s message

Last month we mentioned a new book – “The Dead of Mametz” by Jonathan Hicks featuring the investigations of a military policeman. Dr Hicks has contacted us, and here’s what he had to say:

I was delighted to see your synopsis of my new novel 'The Dead of Mametz' in your latest newsletter as my great grandfather owned the post office and a shop in Cwmtillery, as well as building Fielding and Winifred Terraces (the latter named after his daughter).

The second novel in the series will feature a character based on his son Ossie, after whom Osmund House in Cwmtillery was named.

Local Voices

David Jones sent us the following tale which is the story of the Aberbeeg North Colliery life. “When I delivered papers from Poole’s shop as a boy I would talk to an old couple who lived in River Row and who told me they had both worked there years before, so for the many cups of tea I had in their house, I hope you enjoy this tale. You can still see the concrete seal on the shaft and the water entering the Ebbw today”.

The Wind of Change

The woodman’s cottage sat in a idyllic place of beauty, surrounded by the woodlands and the wild animals of the forest, deer and rabbits often could be seen around, they had no fear of man, but the wind of change was moving over the land, the industrial revolution now had a need for coal and metal ore to be turned into iron, the first sign of the change was seen by the woodman when he saw someone looking at the land in front the cottage, seeking a place to sink a shaft to mine the coal, then workers came and started the excavations, ever deeper went the shaft, but the damage to the surrounding area was easier to see, the wild animals no longer came near hiding deep in the forest, the river ran first very muddy as the work continued, earth from the shaft was spread all around in piles the grass no longer grew in these area's making the land around appear as a barren wilderness, and the woodman life also changed as now he was expected to fell trees to be used for the mine, wood for the pit props and shoring up the shaft, wood for the buildings, sleepers for the dram rails to run on, each tree that was felled was like losing a friend, many he had seen grow over the years, then the colliery opened and the peace of the surrounding area became a continuous noise, the river that once had trout swimming happily in its waters now dead of living things, on its banks rats now appeared, he watched young children going down the mine many looking thin and emaciated, every day they would return to the surface wet and bedraggled as the mine leaked water and had to be pumped from the shaft, more houses sprang up around as the mine took on more people, coal taken down to the canal at Crumlin to be transported around the country, the forest slowly withdrew further and further as no replanting was being done, the woodman saw it all from his little cottage working on his garden, but his life had changed, he would still go to what remained of the forest and eat the food his wife had prepared for him, and wondered what to do, to move was pointless as the mines were springing up all up the valley and suffering from the same attack, they would just have to make the best of it and try to adjust their life while keeping faith with nature, so they lived in the shadow of the mine for many years, saw its demise as it suffered closure, slowly nature started to reclaim the land, a concrete cap over where the shaft had been, the pumps still removing the water from the workings, it would be many years more before the river would flow clean as other industrial sites would continue to pollute it, but once more the fish would swim in the waters of the Ebbw, and conifers would replace the oaks and ash trees but if you search you will still find a few amongst the firs a legacy of the woodman and his wife who lived in the cottage through the wind of change.

Dagworth Orville Charters

The Lure of the Small Mine

Britain ’s 19th century Industrial Revolution was powered by the steam engine and steam was raised by the burning of coal, so if landowners of this period had coal seams on their property they considered it money in the bank. Also, the knowledge that a desirable coal seam may exist in nature beneath one’s feet and its successful extraction may make one wealthy was an inspiration to early speculators. The reality was usually very different and many would-be entrepreneurs fell by the wayside because there was always a strong element of gamble about investment in the coal trade. A successful outcome of the exploitation of coal resources depended on the correct mix of geology, capital and transport. Most early speculators made little impact on history even with simple easy to work, low capital levels and their names survive only on leases relating to failed ventures.

The valley setting where seams of coal outcropped on the hillside or at the boundaries of the saucer shaped coalfield presented early opportunities. These initially took the form of ‘patch’ working where coal cropped out on the surface and where coal getting was more akin to quarrying than to mining. Only a very restricted production was possible because the dip of the seam soon made the removal of surface soil above the seam uneconomical. Its modern equivalent is opencast mining still practised in South Wales even though most other mining has disappeared.

A more practical method of gaining access to the coal was by levels driven into the sides of the hill. Where geological conditions were right it needed only a small initial outlay of capital and it also made for low working costs. The level permitted economical drainage and ventilation and as the workings became too large for these problems to be solved it was often better to abandon them and open out a new level. Because of the elevated position of the upper seams it was possible to use low cost gravity tramways for the descent of coal output to the valley floor where horse drawn tramways and later canal transport and railways delivered it to customer or port. Initially the needs of the iron industry were met together with local house coal demand from a rising population and farmers for lime burning.

Two main coal seams were initially exploited in the Llanhilleth/Abertillery area, the Mynyddislwyn to the south which outcropped near Aberbeeg and the Tillery seam. The former was a highly prized house coal while the latter was ‘highly bituminous, free burning and makes a cheerful fire’. Each seam consisted of two leaves of coal, the Mynyddislwyn being 36” – 48” and 24” – 33” at Blaencuffin and at Cwmnantygroes the Tillery seam was 16” and 32”.

Cwmnantygroes, Six Bells, was a typical example of a medium sized level operating in the Tillery seam from 1840-1890. It employed 24 men underground, 6 on the surface and was owned by Clapp and Williams. Its output descended by gravity tramway to sidings at the rear of the Six bells Hotel which were still called the ‘Clapp sidings’ long after the demise of the level. Coal working was by ‘Pillar and Stall’ which only allowed partial extraction of the seam, leaving pillars of coal for roof support. This was considered a safe method and was general practice throughout the district. In 1857, T. Dyne Steel was appointed manager and he set out to increase extraction by use of the ‘Longwall System’ in which a coal face of 900 yards in length was initiated. There was much opposition from the workmen on safety grounds and some colliers were recruited from the Somerset coalfield where this method was in general use, to assist in its introduction. The new system worked well and it was eventually accepted as a better method, becoming almost universal practice in British mining.

By 1878 the working of lower seams by deep mines had replaced the level as the main source of the ever increasing demand for coal but levels continued to be worked, often by local families long established in the coal trade. Names such as James and Emmanuel, Thomas salt, Badman Bros, Gilson and Bennett, Harrhy Bros and W.M. Desmond found a ready domestic market and continued to operate and develop small mines. During the 2 nd World War, the mountain top upper seams between Llanhilleth and Abersychan were intensively worked by opencast method but there still remained sufficient coal to enable levels to work long afterwards. Indeed, this area had provided coal for Thomas Powell in 1830, helped to fuel the 2 nd World war and continued to yield coal at Penyrheol level near Hafodyrynys until 1995, long after deep mining had ceased.

In the 19 th and 20 th centuries, between Crumlin and Blaina there were some 90 mines of which 71 were small mines or levels but apart from overgrown shale tips near the collapsed entrances they have all but vanished.
Laurence Hale, November 2010

Poet’s Corner

“A foreigner’s first view of Wales”

It has stayed with me,
That first time…
Oh! The memory,
the magic of that sunny, Sunday afternoon.
It was like an adventure story
and we would all be off very soon.

“Let’s go for a spin.”
Said my father,
and so we all piled in
and the little car breathed out
to make room
for those lean and others stout.

The poor engine puffed and panted
under the strain;
up hill and down dale
and all the time the sun shone,
and it never rained
for we were finally off to Wales.

Such anticipation, I could barely stand;
before us, the new Severn Bridge lay,
beyond that, my first sight of a foreign land
for that was how it felt to me that day.

Signs beside the road
in unpronounceable words,
shops and houses, and people,
fields and hedge rows
factory and church steeple
all went whizzing by.

Standing in a row,
terraced cottages snuggled together,
for me a day trip
out with memories
to last forever.

In the shop people spoke
In accents far not near;
and to think we’d only
come across the new bridge,
a stone’s throw from there to here.

And now that I live in Wales
has the magic worn off?
No! for magic and memories mingle
so that here and now, there and then
no longer matter,
but the two have become one
and distant days are scattered.
Robin Tranter

Robin will be reading a selection of his poems at our coffee morning on Saturday 6th August.

Museum Matters

Carmel St Welsh Calvinistic Methodist ChapelThe new displays, The Royal Oak Pub and the Carmel St Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel have now begun. This is a short article about the chapel.

The date and from where Methodism came to Abertillery is not clear but on August10th, 1823

Mr James Roles, who had been sent by the Oakengates Circuit to mission Blaenavon and having laid the foundations there he spread the word to neighbouring towns and villages. During 1811 and afterwards, worship was carried out in one of three or four cottages, which became the site of the Great Western Railway Company's stables, at the junction of the Cwmtillery branch line with the main line. Mr. William Fairclough, a lay preacher residing at Nelson, in Glamorganshire on taking up residence in Abertillery in 185? came and ministered until his death. Difficulties occurred when the cottage became unavailable for worship, and their activities had to be abandoned.

Mr. Thomas Preece, an ardent young Yeoman Farmer, who, finding the Conservatism of Herefordshire uncon­genial, migrated with his wife to Brynmawr and he took on the missioning of Abertillery. Difficulty of finding a home in which to worship was due to the intolerance of the period to English Non­conformity; Thomas Preece, provided a solution, if work of any sort could be found for him in Abertillery, he would reside there and allow his house to be used for the purpose of worship. This resulted in Mr. Preece establishing his household at the "Old Court Farm," Cwmnant-y-groes, and providing at the same time a home for Primitive Methodism.

Having established a regular centre for work and worship, their numbers quickly increased, and a Sunday-school was formed thus a change of residence on the part of Thomas Preece from the "Old Court Farm" to Pant-y-pwdyn Farm. Soon however, it was found difficult for the younger children, in bad weather, to attend School at the Farm, a way out of the difficulty was provided by Mrs. Beecham, a Wesleyan migrant, of Pant-y-Arael Farm, placing her large kitchen at the disposal of the teachers. The school was thus transferred; although the adult worshippers remained at Pant-y-pwdyn. The churches differed in their views of theology, hence the different denominations.

The Calvinistic Methodist Church  

John WesleyWas born out of the  Welsh Methodist revival and the preaching of Hywel Harris  in the 18th century and seceded from the  Church of England in 1811. It formally formed itself into a separate body in 1823 with the drawing up of its Confession of faith and produced its own monthly periodical Y Cenhadwr. It is distinguished from the  Methodism of  John Wesley by the  Calvinistic nature of its theology; Calvin was a French exile in  Geneva Although much of Calvin's practice was in Geneva, his publications spread his ideas of a "correctly" reformed church to many parts of Europe. Calvinism became the theological system of the majority in  Scotland.

The Calvinist theology may be stated in a number of ways, the best known summary is contained in the five points of Calvinism. 

1 Total depravity is the fallen state of man as a result of original sin. Asserts that people are by nature not inclined or even able to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, but rather all are inclined by nature to serve their own will and desires and to reject the rule of God.

2 Unconditional election  is that before God created the world, he chose to  save some people according to his own purposes and apart from any conditions related to those persons.

3 Limited atonement  that Jesus Christ substitutionary atonement on the  cross is limited in scope to those who are  predestined unto  salvation and its primary benefits are not given to all of  humanity but rather just believers.

4 Irresistible Grace that the saving  grace of  God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the  elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the  gospel, bringing them to  faith in  Christ.

5 Perseverance of the saints, as well as the corollary - though distinct - doctrine known as "Once Saved, Always Saved", is a teaching that once Bear Logopersons are truly saved they can never lose their salvation.

William Booth originally a Methodist founded the Salvation Army which has 10 Doctrines.

Don Bearcroft Curator

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