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August 2021
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Dates for your Diary


Thursday to Saturday 10am – 1pm

Museum opening times

The Museum is open to the public, free of charge:

Thursday* to Saturday               10am – 1pm

July 100 Club

This month’s prize numbers were drawn by Vic Meredith & Denise Ewers and the lucky winners are:-

No.  02             Denis Osland                       £20
No.  113           Nicole Dean                          £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.


With Covid restrictions relaxing, thanks to our amazing vaccines, I’m pleased to announce we are now open three mornings a week and throughout the school holidays we are hosting a ‘Pokemon Hunt’ and a ‘photo quiz’.  It costs just 50p per child and parents can relax in our café with a pot of tea or coffee while the children have fun!  Do pop in soon!

A family enjoying museum activities

Above, one family enjoying the activities while in the background, members relax with a cuppa.

Museum Website

It is now easier than ever to read past editions of this newsletter.  Rather than having to use the ‘Previous Month’ button to reach past editions (which was a laborious task if you wanted to go back several years), our website manager, Gary Martin, came up with the innovative idea of creating a newsletter archive page.  This new page has a ‘Click here to read latest newsletter’ button but also has direct links to all past editions right back to August 2007.  Simply click on the date you require and hey presto!  Use this link to try for yourself! 

What Might Have Been…

Festival Park – At the end of June I visited the Ebbw Vale Festival site and what a sorry sight it was; every shop bar one empty.  The only remaining shop being Sports Direct and they are in the process of looking for new premises.   The children’s play area is closed and succumbing to weeds, likewise the Giant Tube Slides. 



So what happened to what was a thriving shopping centre?

Three things really led to this point; the first being the loss of the M&S store in January 2019.   M&S had been a big draw for the site but once gone, footfall to the site went down considerably in 2019 even before the second blow which was the storm damage to the A4046 in early 2020 causing the road to be closed and effectively cutting off vital customers from the Aberbeeg end of the valleys.  This meant a long detour via Brynmawr or Tredegar and, with the draw of M&S gone many people, myself included, felt it not worth the extra miles.  The third and final nail in the coffin for Festival Park was, of course, the pandemic.

However, it could have been so different…

Festival Park plans

Plan for what should have been the NEW Festival Park.

In September 2019, I picked up a leaflet from what had been the Clarks shoe shop.  The otherwise empty unit was being used to showcase big plans for the site.  The company behind the project was a London based firm called GWM Capital and it was to be a massive project that would have put Ebbw Vale on the map!   Entitled The New Festival Park Ebbw Vale, the plans included a 2400 square metre hotel with 35 rooms per floor, 4-6 screen cinema, high ropes course, zip wire course down to the lake, BMX circuit, circular climbing wall, Tree House accommodation, petting farm, community orchard, adventure castle, mountain bike circuit, botanical garden, events centre, and extensive food outlets!  I can only guess the lockdowns meant the plan was abandoned.

Overhead site plan

Above, an overhead site plan and below, an artist’s impression of the new site.

Artists drawing of festival park

Up for sale, Blaenau Gwent council were looking to buy the site but then pulled out.  Then an article in the South Wales Argus dated 19th February 2021 reported that the site was ‘close to being bought’ and it was hoped that the sale would herald a ‘new start for the shopping site’ however things have gone ‘quiet’ on that front; we can but live in hope!
Sally Murphy

The Owl Sanctuary

The Festival shops may be closed but there is still one thing there that needs our support – and that’s the Owl Sanctuary. 

Run by Malcolm Jones and his helpers, the sanctuary has been there since 1998 and occupies what had been the Woodland and Craft Centre at the 1992 Garden Festival.  Malcolm is very knowledgeable about birds and, although the name of the sanctuary suggests only owls are accommodated, he is willing to rescue any injured, abandoned or unwanted bird of any species.  All rehabilitated birds that come from the wild are released back into the wild where possible however for those that need it, the sanctuary can be home for life.

Visitors to the site are welcome to handle the birds too, under supervision of course.

Owl santuary

Above, Malcolm and two of his helpers plus a resident owl.

The sanctuary is open all year round apart from a few days at Christmas and is free to visit.  For more information and opening times visit their website.

Jeanette Fulton

Picture of Jeanette FultonJeanette Fulton is a name you may have heard mentioned before in this newsletter.  She was an American living in Mississippi, who was a pen friend of both my mother, Betty Wayne, and also of recently deceased member, Mrs Vera Smith and it was Vera who began to send Jeanette the museum newsletter.  The newsletters must have made an impression on Jeanette as, although she never visited the museum, she made several substantial donations during her lifetime and on her passing in 2012, we found she had left the museum a very generous bequest of $5000 (about £3600 at the exchange rate at that time). 

Plaque dedicated to Jeanette Fulton

The donation was, in part, used to purchase a large glass cabinet which currently houses our WWI display.  It’s been a long time coming, but we now have a plaque on the cabinet which reads:


Cabinet Purchased with Kind Bequest From JEANETTE FULTON
of Mississippi, USA. 



Do take a look on your next visit.

Text Speak

With the huge popularity of ‘texting’ among the young, a language code of its own has developed such as LOL (Laugh Out Loud), TTYL (Talk To You Later) and TTFN (Ta Ta For Now).  Well now someone has come up with a few for us older folk….


At The Doctor’s


Lost My Glasses


Bring The Wheelchair


Forgot Where I Was


Gotta Go, Pacemaker Battery Low


Got Heartburn Again

And last but not least


When I Was Your Age…

Sally Murphy


Old pair of roller skates Not long ago a friend of mine asked me if I used to go roller skating. Not being particularly well co-ordinated I never took to roller skating and replied no and why had she asked? Well, apparently there was a roller skating rink in Abertillery at about the time I might have used it. This was news to me so I turned to the ever useful internet to see if I could find out more.  Indeed I could, as on the website 'Out of the Blue Artifacts’, there was an article by Mr Graham Bennett on roller skating at the Empress and other venues in Abertillery. The author has kindly given me permission to use the information and images so here is a brief account.

It seems the Empress Hall in Carlyle Street was originally built as a roller skating rink in 1909 (I certainly wasn't around then) by the owner of the Pavilion Theatre, Mr Tilney.  This was to be a permanent rink to meet the demand for rinks at the time, temporary rinks having been provided at The Metropole, The Pavilion, Alexandra Hall (Six Bells) and the Colliers Hall (Cwmtillery).

It seems to have been a rather grand building and people flocked to see it when it opened - the rink was decorated in green, cream and crimson, and it had a refreshment bar and cloakrooms. The maple floor measured 62ft by 65ft and the felt underlay made the rink almost silent. There was an instructor from whom you could learn plain skating for 2s or fancy skating for 4s an hour. It had a music licence, a band, ran four skating sessions a day and closed at 10.30pm. Despite the initial craze for roller skating, it seems to have been a short-lived one and in 1910 the Empress was turned into a Picture House.

Roll on to the 1950s and I noticed on line that someone had said that the Drill Hall was the place to go for roller skating – Wednesday evenings and possibly also Saturdays? That might have been the rink my friend's friend had in mind but I have no recollection of a rink there. Do you?  It would be fascinating to know so please get in touch if you have any information to share.  And photos of course!

This article wouldn't have been possible without the information in the website 'Out of the Blue Artifacts’ and I heartily recommend you to look at it as it has lots of articles on various topics relating to Abertillery and is regularly added to and updated.  Mr Bennett set the site up for people to share and learn about Abertillery's past – take a look!
Jen Price


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