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October 2010
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Museum Trip 25 th September

Roy Pickford arranged a visit to Swindon Railway Museum, with time afterwards to visit the shopping outlet in an old station building. The day was a great success with something for everyone. Thank you Roy for once again organising a really good trip.  

Table Top Sale 16 th October

This is being held in Ebenezer and we have arranged for the Museum to have a stall there instead of the Coffee Morning we’d planned that day. The sale will be on between 10am and 1.0pm so please come along to help (and to buy things and raise funds).


Please help with contributions for the Christmas Fayre which is coming up on 13th November – we need all the usual items such as crafts, hamper, tins, sweets, toys, bric a brac, bathroom, bran tub gifts, and cakes nearer the time. It is not far off now so please start knitting/sewing/crafting and rummaging.

We will also want craft items for the Museum stall at the Craft Fayre upstairs in the Metropole on 27th November.  

Another date for your diary is the Winterfest on the afternoon of 7th December; the Museum will follow a Victorian theme with a display of Victorian toys, and we will be selling items from the Museum shop.  

Please help – we need helpers as ‘stallholders’ as well as contributions. 


The Museum still needs old cotton sheets for its costume collection but we now have plenty of wooden hangers; thank you everyone.

100 Club

Please continue to support this!

September 2010 – 1st No.45 Mary Roden £25, 2nd No. 29 Verley Phillips £10, 3rd No. 56 Rose Smith £5

Fund raising September - £246


We were very pleased indeed to receive £1000 from the Museum Federation and £1000 from the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO). If you call at the Museum we can explain the development and conservation work that is going on and the proposed new projects for which we have applied for funding.

Diary Dates

Saturday 16th October Table Top Sale at Ebenezer at 10am

Saturday 13th November our Christmas Fayre at Ebenezer

Saturday 27th November - Craft Fayre at the Metropole; the Museum will have a stall

Tuesday 7th December (pm) Winterfest ; the Museum will have a stall with a Victorian toy theme

We also have regular coffee mornings. Please call at the Museum for more information.

Warm Wishes

Glenys Lee has been unwell lately and following a spell in hospital she is now starting a course of treatment. Glenys is a popular member of the Museum Society and we wish her well.

Local Voices

‘Gran’s gone to heaven’

Gran had always lived with us. Dad was away fighting in the war. One Sunday evening when I was 11 Mam had gone out leaving Gran to look after me.

I liked that arrangement because I could make toffee, in spite of sugar rationing. I would put some sugar on a tin lid and put the poker in the fire. When the poker was red hot I would put it on my sugar, there’d be a sizzle and a smell of burning but then my sugar would turn into little squiggles of toffee. Well, sweets were rationed; 3/4lb a month.

This Sunday evening, however, I didn’t make my toffee. Gran was in one of her moods. She was sitting in her wooden armchair with me sitting next to her, in front of the fire. She started telling me she was going home to her mother and father. Oh no, that usually meant she’d put her hat and coat on and go outside and I’d have to go with her, walking around the streets talking to her until, when she got out of her mood, I brought her home. Tonight it was cold and dark.

I got my comics out of the cupboard and started to read her a story. She didn’t say anything for ages. I looked up at her and I knew something was wrong.

I ran into the street and knocked on the door of Mrs Brennan’s house. It took ages for her to answer as she was in bed. She took me inside. I heard Mam’s voice in the street. She screamed. I was kept at Mrs Brennan’s and put into bed with my friend Sally. Mr and Mrs Brennan went to help Mam.

The next morning, I sat on Mrs Brennan’s knee as she explained that Gran had gone to heaven. Then she took me home.

Our house was very dark. The curtains were closed together. Gran hadn’t long gone to heaven, she was lying on a long table in the front room. Visitors would pull the sheet down to look at her so I looked and I got frightened when I saw a grey stone face.

My school friends came to see Gran but Mam said they were too young and they went to play. I wanted to go with them but I wasn’t allowed.

“Someone will follow her”, they said and I heard my Uncle Frank tell Mam he’d dreamed of another coffin the size of the windowsill.

I didn’t want to die and have my face turned into grey stone. There was something I must do.

After the funeral, when everyone had gone home, Mam and I were alone. Mam went into the bathroom. Now was my chance.

I rushed to the window and lay on the sill. I didn’t fit, I was too small. What a relief!

Nora Rowlands

The above article has been reproduced from the 1995 Spring Special edition of ‘Yours’.

Poet’s Corner


Above the crew is the pestering crow’s nest
Beneath is the unkempt cabin where many ruffians rest,
Beyond is the determined navy, fading from the distant,
Beside our vast ship are the adorable dolphins,
Behind is my honoured home country where my heart is!

Angharad Rose Evans

Angharad is the grand-daughter of Museum members Margaret and Graham Evans and she wrote this poem when she was just 9 years old – clearly a talented young lady.

Knitting Reminder

‘Knit for Peace’ is run by a registered charity. They are appealing for children’s hats, scarves, mittens, blankets and jumpers/cardigans to send to Afghanistan. If you knit them, I’ll send them. Jen Price

The Vikings

Sian Price, Jennifer’s daughter, has produced and directed a documentary on the Vikings for Time Team. The documentary goes out on Monday 11 th October at 8pm on Channel 4 and promises to be an illuminating programme which will shed new light on these Scandinavian invaders and show how they shaped Britain.

Well Done!

Emily Clark, Ron Selway’s grand-daughter, gained 3 A*s in her A levels and is off to Warwick University to study history.

The Building Club in Valley Housing

The early development of the iron industry at the heads of the valleys and the later coal industry within the valleys created an urgent need for housing where few dwellings existed. Both ironmasters and coal companies initially found it necessary to build houses for their workers. The properties were very small and had more in common with the cottages of farm labourers, being intended to provide basic accommodation for minimal expenditure. Whilst some industrialists built houses, the estate owners did not, being satisfied with the income from ground costs for no outlay by themselves.

Later there was a need for more substantial housing with better space and sanitary arrangements as public health concerns needed to be met due to more stringent local by-laws. As industrialisation progressed the need for better class housing, more suitable for larger families and those with higher incomes was often met by private sector builders, although the valley setting did not provide easily developable land.

Within the house building sector of the valleys the Building Club was an important contributor and responsible for about a quarter of the houses built in South Wales after 1878. Clubs were most prominent in those times when incomes would be relatively secure and money could be borrowed more easily.

Each club was an association of potential home owners who collectively obtained mortgages and other loans to pay for the building of their houses. Eventually the club would be dissolved and each member would become an owner, usually with the benefit of his own mortgage. The origin of such clubs is obscure but there were Building Clubs in Lancashire in the 1870s. The earliest known building in South Wales was at Club Row, Abersychan, completed around 1840.

The club operated on a share basis, one share being equal to the cost of building a house plus a small sum to cover administrative overheads. Each member made a down payment which together with loans from local banks enabled an advance to be paid to a contractor. Members then paid on a monthly basis and there was a system of penalties to encourage prompt payment and no arrears. A member could hold more than one share and typical payouts around 1900 were a down payment of £5 and a subscription of 10 shillings per month, a sizeable proportion of the wage at that time. Such payments were sufficient to enable individual mortgages to be raised and the paying off of interest and capital sums. The houses were usually simple terraces and the Club would own the houses until all liabilities were settled and the Club was wound up. This usually took place after about 15 to 25 years and the order of occupation was decided by drawing lots.

A substantial number of Llanhilleth houses were built in this way and an office called ‘Station Chambers’ was established in Commercial Road to administer the business of a number of such clubs. The list of participants displayed outside included names like Caefelin, Maes-y-Cnew and Soffryd, named after the groups of houses its members had built. The office was operated by agents Gorman and Son who were represented by resident clerk Mr Bernard Davies and a staff of rent collectors. The predominantly mining community suffered serious economic problems in the 1920s - 30s and where mortgage problems occurred houses were rented to tenants to secure continuity of income. The building club as a house building entity was responsible for the area known as ‘The Fields’ and many substantial terraces within its built up area. They probably became established here around the turn of the century and the last properties were sold off in 1968 and the offices closed. Latterly there was much competition from Council housing estates which were developed on a more comprehensive scale and offered economic rents but in valley communities the Building Club was an important contributor to the housing of its population before the days of Permanent Building Societies and sub-prime mortgages.

Laurence Hale, April 2010

Museum Matters

Tour de France by Coach

Cities, Cathedrals, Churches, Castles, Volcanoes, Lakes, Cuisine, (both French & Portuguese).

Peggy and I had only visited France by day trips or when passing through to another country so when we heard of a holiday that was a tour of France we thought it an ideal opportunity to discover the country and the people for ourselves.

Our first stop was Paris where we had an opportunity to see the city by night with a river trip on the Seine, next day we visited Notre Dame, and la Sainte Chapelle, (built to house a piece of the Crown of Thorns). It consists of two sanctuaries, one on top of the other, in the beginning; the relics were displayed and worshipped in the upper chapel. Only the king, his close friends and family, and the canons leading the services entered it via the outdoor terrace, which at the time was connected to the Palace. The lower chapel was the place of worship for the palace staff. The basilica-type layout with a semi-circular apse was very simple. It was to be used as a model for other Holy Chapels, including those of Vincennes and Chateaudun. The Upper Chapel is a sumptuously decorated reliquary. Sculptures and windows glorify the Passion of Christ and create a feeling of entry into the Heavenly Jerusalem, bathed in light and colour. The Sainte-Chapelle is famed for its stained glass windows. The 1,113 scenes depicted in the 15 stained glass windows tell the story of mankind from Genesis through to Christ's resurrection. Fourteen of the windows, depicting episodes from the bible, read from left to right, from the bottom upwards.

Hospices de Beaune Hotel-DieWe then continued on our journey to Beaune in Burgundy where we visited the hospices of Beaune, the Roman town of Autun and attended a wine tasting . The Hospices de Beaune Hotel-Die, a Palace for the poor, and a work of charity perfectly preserved from the Middle Ages. The Hospices de Beaune Hospital was built in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor of Philippe-le-Bon, Duke of Burgundy. In the wake of the Hundred Years' War, Beaune was suffering from poverty and famine. Three-quarters of the town's inhabitants had no supplies. The Chancellor and his wife, Guigone de Salins, decided to found a Hospice for the Poor ("LesPovres"). They endowed it with an annual income (a saltworks) and its own resources (vines), and engaged a large number of artists in its decoration. During the periods he spent in Flanders (of which the Duke of Burgundy was also Lord). He commissioned Beaune artisans to build "Les Povres", his Palace for the Poor (Jean Rateau, master mason and Guillaume La Rathe, master carpenter, who built the spire). The multicoloured tiles are thought to have originated in central Europe. The style proved so popular that it gradually spread through Burgundy and became typical of this province. From the Middle Ages to the 20th cen­tury, countless sick were taken in and cared for in several of the large rooms by the Sisters of the Hospices de Beaune. The Hotel-Dieu rapidly gained a great reputation amongst the poor, nobles and middle-class alike. In 1971 its medical activities were transferred to a modern hospital, but the retirement home was retained. The Hospices run 61 hectares of vineyards inherited over the centuries and each year since 1859 have organized the most famous wine auction in the world.

We continued on to the Auvegrne visiting volcanoes, lakes and numerous Cathedrals Norman churches and Abbey’s until we reached Royat Twinned with Abertillery. From here we visited Le Puy en Velay – pilgrimage city of Auvergne where the 1 st day of le Roi de l’Oiseau (Festival of The Birds) had began. A week long archery contest during which adults and children dress in medieval costume, local and visiting musician’s play in the streets and cathedral.

Next we visited Clermont-Ferrand and its neighborhood, which has been inha­ bited since prehistoric times. The Celts probably settled here around the IV century BC . During the conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar was confron­ted with strong resistance led by the Arverne Chieftain Vercingetorix,(Asterix) being beaten by the latter at the battle of Gergoviahe Gergoviaoppidum close to the present-day city of Clermont-Ferrand. Christianity came to the area due mainly to Saint Austremoine. The first cathedral was built inside the city walls by Saint Namace in 450 AD; the Cathedra l is of gothic style reminiscent of the north of France, built with the local Volvic stone giving it its name the Black Cathedral.

Holding up Welsh Flag at the cemeteryThe last stop was at Boulogne- Sur-Mer where we visited a local cemetery where 12 Welsh Guards were buried after the WWII. As there were 24 of us we laid a white rose each on the graves, the Welsh flag was unfurled and Roger Paul played the Welsh National Anthem on his clarinet, it was a simple but emotional tribute that was a fitting end to the holiday. It was a hectic holiday (too much for me) but was Bear Logogood value for money as we visited more places than I could fit into this article. Don Bearcroft curator

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