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August 2011
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WW2 Street Party

The WW11 street party held in the car park outside the Museum as part of the Aberfest celebrations was a huge success.  Well over one hundred visitors came to see the museum itself and the weapons display organised by Don was an added attraction with both adults and children.  After visiting the museum many people joined in the street party afterwards.  As well as sandwiches crisps and cake there was jelly and blancmange to round off. Games were organised for the children which added to the fun of the day. 

A big thank you must go to ‘Tesco’ who funded the event for us, with special thanks to Tesco Community Champion Karen Lewis who spent the morning at the museum helping prepare the party and running the event. 

Thanks to Communities First who set up gazebos and carried tables and chairs ready for the party and took it all down at the end of the day, heavy work which we could not have done ourselves.

 Thanks to members and supporters who helped put up bunting, organised the games, prepared the food and the long suffering group in the kitchen who spent the morning making tea and coffee for the many visitors.
Peggy Bearcroft

Message from Roy

The intended July trip to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales had to be cancelled as there simply weren’t enough names for the trip to be economic.  A number of people were away that weekend and so Roy is now looking into organising something for the latter part of September.  If you think you might be interested in what at the moment is a mystery trip (details to follow in due course) then it would be helpful if you could register your interest at the Museum.

Coffee Morning

A reminder that we have a poetry theme for this month’s coffee morning on Saturday 6th August. This promises to be a treat so please come along.

Diary Dates

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

Wednesday 7th SeptemberNewport Wetlands

Wednesday 5th OctoberMedieval Weaponry

100 Club – July 2011

See next month’s Newsletter.

Fund raising July - £469

DVDs on sale at Museum

The Museum has stocks of the DVD ‘Ten of the Most Important Buildings in Wales’ with commentary by Dr John Davies.  The buildings include Tintern Abbey, St David’s Cathedral and Newport Transporter Bridge.  The DVD is aimed at both historians and lay people and is well worth seeing.  Why not treat yourself, or maybe it would make an unusual birthday present?  Price £8.99.

Poet’s Corner

‘A Welsh Laugh’

Then strove the judge with main and might
The sounding consonants to write; 
But when the day was almost gone
He found his work not nearly done,
His ears assailed most woefully.

With names like Rhys ap Gruffydd Ddu,
Aneurin, Iorweth, Ieuan Goch,
And Llywarch, Hen o Abersoch,
Taliesin ap Llewellyn Fawr
And Llun ap Arthur Bach y Cawr.

Until at length in sheer despair,
He doffed his wig and tore his hair,
And said he would no longer stand
The surnames of our native land.

Take ten, he said, and call them Rice;
Another ten and call them Price;
Take fifty others, call them Pughs;
A hundred more, I’ll call them Hughes;
Now Roberts name some hundred score
And Williams, name a legion more.

And call, he moaned in languid tones,
Call all the other thousands – Jones.

Thanks to Marion for sending in this poem.

Camping Holidays

We used to go to Pendine camp for a fortnight.  We used to sing:

In Pendine camp we’re up like a lark
We go to bed before it’s dark
We lay our sleepy heads on our little straw beds
And we’re early on parade in the morning

When you’re feeling rather funny with a pain in your tummy
And you’re rather off your food and you’re crying for your mummy
There’s a lady neat and dandy with a bottle always handy
And she’s early on parade in the morning.

(Taken from ‘Voices of Abertillery, Aberbeeg and Llanhilleth).

Welsh Cakes

Mr Arthur Lewis sent the following letter in response to the recent Welsh cakes article.

My wife, Morfydd, used the following Welsh cake recipe in her lifetime, and it is still used by the family.  In 2004 it was requested of her at a local church meeting and given to a senior citizen, a lady author and winner of cooking competitions.  She uses it to raise monies at local W.I. meetings.  Local ex pats were not familiar with using honey in their recipes.


1lb self raising flour
1 teaspoonful baking powder
4oz lard 
4oz margarine
6oz sugar
3oz currants
2 eggs beaten
Pinch of salt
A little milk to mix.


Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.  Cut up the fats into small pieces and rub into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and currants and stir in the eggs.  Mix to a stiff dough adding a few drops of milk if necessary.  Place on a floured surface, knead lightly and roll out to a quarter inch thickness.  Cut with a fluted 2 inch cutter.  Cook on a pre-heated lightly greased griddle over a slow heat until golden brown on both sides.  Cool on a rack, serve fresh.

Thanks to Mr Lewis for his contribution. 

Are there any other variations on the Welsh cake recipes we have featured?  A quick look on Google under ‘Welsh Cakes’ throws up quite a few variations, and suggestions as to their origins.  One entry suggests that Welsh cakes were originally made as one large cake about nine inches in diameter.  When my grandmother was alive she used to make a batch of fruitless bakestones, as well as the usual fruity ones.  The plain ones were made slightly thicker so that once cooked they could be sliced open and spread with jam – mmmm, gorgeous!  They didn’t keep as long as the usual fruit ones but then they didn’t  need to as they were quickly eaten. 
Jen Price


The following article is taken from a booklet on the Dovecote at Eardisland which is one of the Herefordshire black and white villages and well worth a visit.

In around 1600 there were more than 26,000 dovecotes in England, each with an average of 500 nests, one for each pair of pigeons.  Although called dovecotes, the birds it housed were actually what we recognise as pigeons.   Although the Greeks built special houses to rear these birds for the table, it was the Romans who brought the practice to Western Europe.  It suffered a decline when the Romans left but revived with the Normans in the 11th century, after which every manor had its pigeon house.  The ownership of dovecotes was limited to lords of the manor (lay and ecclesiastical).  Huge fines, even the death penalty, could be imposed on those found killing or stealing pigeons.  These laws were gradually relaxed and by the 18th century anyone who could afford a dovecote could have one.  Less well off members of society tried to rear pigeons by incorporating nest boxes into their houses or barns.

Once established, the dovecote provided an almost continuous supply of fresh meat.  The squabs – young birds about four or five weeks old and unable to fly –were eaten mainly between April and November when they were available; a pair of pigeons will breed about seven or eight times a year.  The squabs were boned, stuffed and roasted and were eaten in vast numbers.  The Earl of Warwick and his guests were known to have eaten 4000 birds at one feast in 1471.  The eggs were rarely eaten as the hatchlings were too highly valued.

The birds also had other uses – the droppings provided fertiliser and was also used in tanning and in the production of gunpowder, while the feathers were used for stuffing bedding.

Few new dovecotes were built in the 18th century.  Improvements in agricultural methods led to increases in food production and less reliance on pigeon meat.  Another factor was recognition of the damage the birds caused to crops – it has been calculated that a pair of pigeons ate a bushel of grain a year.  A thousand pairs could wreak havoc in the surrounding countryside.  This, together with the changing relationships between landlord and tenant farmer, the decline in the rural population, and the increase in the cost of wheat, tended to make the dovecote redundant.

By the 19th century pigeon eating was going out of fashion and was gradually replaced by pigeon fancying and pigeon racing.

Book Corner

Gwent County History Vol 4
Industrial Monmouthshire 1780 - 1914
Edited by Chris Williams & Sian R Williams

This 4th Volume of the Gwent County history deals with the development of the County in the industrial age from 1780 to the eve of the First World War in 1914.

It shows how the County was transformed from a mainly rural area into a centre of the coal and iron industries which became a significant part of industrial and commercial Britain.  There are 18 chapters written by 16 authors who include professional historians and independent scholars which cover the social and economic developments in the County.

During this period the population expanded with an influx of workers from neighbouring English Counties as well as other parts of Wales.  This migration altered the linguistic and cultural aspect of the County and many of these changes remain with us today.  This population growth also had a major effect on the growth of the education and local government systems and the development of leisure and sporting activities.  Other chapters deal with the coal, iron and steel industries, the rural communities, communications and the development of the transport industry.  It also covers the growth of political and religious movements in the County.

The invention of photography during this period allows the inclusion of visible evidence of the area at this time.  There are also statistical tables, maps and diagrams to illustrate the industrial development and consequent population growth of the County.

This volume brings the history of our County nearer the present age and we can look forward to the fifth and final volume in the near future.
Jean Colwell

Best Wishes

We send our best wishes to Mary Hunt who is making a good recovery in hospital and will hopefully soon be home.

Museum Matters

Last month I wrote of the chapel in the new design this month it is the turn of other section; “The Royal Oak Public House”

The Tinworks started in 1846 and the settlement of Abertillery grew around it on a place known as The Twmp. The Royal Oak served this settlement. Before their first church was built the Anglicans of Abertillery worshiped at St Peters Blaina but during inclement weather they used a room in the Royal Oak.

The Royal Oak Public House

The Royal Oak was used up until 1983 when it became the home of BLAENAU GWENT RFC, this is a short history of the early days of the team.


Back in the mid 1860s a group of men got together and decided to form a rugby side. The meeting was held at an address in Preston Street, after many hours of debate they still couldn’t come up with a name for the proposed side. It was then that one of the men present looked out of the window and looked at the church that stood on top of the hill overlooking Abertillery.  

The church in question was Blaenau Gwent which in fact was the first Baptist Church in Wales. [Founded in 1660] It was then decided that the name of the new Rugby Club would be Blaenau Gwent RFC, after the church which dominated the area with its size and splendour. In the early days their home ground was the Gas Works Field, fixtures included such teams as Pontymister, St Peters, and St David’s Blaina, this was long before the days of the motor car, it was a common sight to see horse brakes collecting colliers from local pit heads and transferring them to various local pitches.

1880 saw the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union and by this time the club was strong enough to be running three sides. The Juniors, The Raglans and the Seniors.

In 1895 the club moved from the Gas Works Field to a place named Barns Field and on that day they played their first of many fixtures against BLAINA RFC.

At this time they formed Blaenau Gwent Wednesday’s and the Lillywhites. Why they were named such, (could it be that the) Wednesday’s only played on a Wednesday and the Lillywhites were named because they were all miners, thus not seeing the sun they therefore had lillywhite faces. They also played some colourful named teams such as, Blaenavon Black Watch and the Abertillery  Scarlet  Runners. 

1900 saw Barns Field renamed Abertillery Park and the club moved to a field in the Roseheyworth  area on which became Roseheyworth Tenants  Club.                                   

1914 Saw the start of war it was impossible to fulfil fixtures due to most of their players and their opponents being sent to war, tragically many not returning and their ground being changed into allotments for the war effort. The club went into hibernation, but they still held meetings and kept minutes starting again in 1919 as strong and determined as ever.

1921 saw the country in turmoil yet again as this was the time of the Great Strike which put thousands out of work, and having so much spare time on their hands, they set about renovating the Bottom Extension  and their efforts were rewarded some 2 years later, when in April of 1923 they were given use of the field as their home ground and in 1927 they moved to Abertillery  Park.

In 1938 saw the start of World War 2 and George Prosser led the side for 3 seasons, until finally in 1940 when rugby throughout the world came to a halt. Once more Blaenau Gwent was forced to go underground and there they remained until in 1945 when under the captaincy of A. Lewis, they rose again.

1969-1970 Blaenau Gwent celebrated their Centenary a remarkable achievement by any clubs standards.            

The early 1970s another Milestone in the clubs history was when the club was granted Full Welsh Rugby Union Status, the same status as enjoyed by the mighty Newport and Cardiff Clubs. A fitting reward for the efforts put in by the Committee, Players .and Supporters.   

Bear Logo

It was in 1983 before Christmas that the Royal Oak was first used asBlaenau Gwent RFC clubhouse. It was used upuntil 1990 when theymoved to the Rolling Mill pub. Blaenau Gwent RFC is now amalgamatedwith Abertillery RFC. Items donated by the club will form part of the new design.

Don Bearcroft Curator                                                                                               


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