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October 2016
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Diary Dates

Ongoing – WW1 Exhibition in the Museum

October 100 Club

No. 24             Mary Coles                  £20
No. 18             Renee Morgan             £10
No. 90             Graham Webb             £5

Coffee Morning Success

The coffee morning last month was a very enjoyable affair.  There was a lot of chat and plenty of good natured fun when it came to the quiz which Sharon and Dale had compiled.  Thank you to everyone involved.

All day Xmas Fayre Tuesday 6th Dec 

Once again we are having our Christmas Fayre at the same time as Winterfest. The plan is to run it as an all day affair and to provide refreshments available to those attending whatever attractions will be available in the car park alongside the museum. We will need volunteers to man the museum and the café and stalls throughout the day.  We don’t expect you to stay all day, but if you can spare a little time to go on a rota then that would be a big help.  Please call at the museum to put your name down.  We will also need items for the stalls – toys, bric a brac, bathroom items, chocs and sweets, books, tins, raffle prizes and, on the day, cakes.

Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture

We were pleased to have Frank Olding as our guest speaker this year and pleased also to have a good attendance for what was a very enjoyable lecture.  Frank’s subject was “The Archaeology of Upland Gwent” and marked the very recent publication of a book of that name which Frank has written for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.  Aided by excellent colour slides, Frank took us on a journey through time, starting with the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age whose people left the earliest evidence of habitation in the form of flint tools.  The flints were from Wessex and so these Stone Age ancestors of ours were clearly trading far and wide almost 10,000 years ago – food for thought there.  Move on through time and Frank also told us about the Iron Age and Roman forts and the lack of such structures in the deep South Wales valleys. Why? Perhaps they were not considered useful by or against the native warriors who used guerilla tactics to make sudden attacks and then disappear back into the deep wooded valleys.  We moved gradually through time into the Middle Ages, and then the emergence of industrialisation, right up to the present day and reflections on old colliery buildings and how they might be saved and re-used.  It was a fascinating lecture and the time went all too quickly but I have the book and so I can re-live the lecture at my leisure.  The book is priced £15, is packed with coloured photos, and would make a very good Christmas present for anyone with an interest in local history.  Thank you to everyone who came along. 
Jen Price

Obituary - Arthur Lewis O.B.E.

We were all very sorry to learn that Mr Arthur Lewis passed away in early August.  Mr Lewis had been closely involved with the museum for very many years, as readers of this Newsletter will know from reports of his activities and from the many articles which he himself contributed.  Although Mr Lewis had moved to Essex to live near his family, he maintained close and regular links with his Abertillery friends and he will be much missed.

Fundraising September £228

Local Voices

Shoes, Shoes

Did you have a pair of shoes you still particularly remember? I will tell you about two.  The first pair, although actually I had a pair each year for several years during my childhood, were Clark’s sandals.  They weren’t sandals as we now think of sandals because they were really like a full shoe but with some of the leather cut out at the front.  They were made of very stiff leather and always bought from the Clark’s shop in Newport, a visit to which always involved an intriguing look at your feet through those now-banned X ray machines.  That was the best bit as the ‘sandals’ were invariably uncomfortable and blistering for quite a while before they were broken in.  You certainly wouldn’t have worn them without socks.  Not only was it simply not done to wear that sort of sandal without socks, it would have been agony.  They were always white and so they needed a once over, at least once a week, with a tube or bottle of whitener that came with a sponge applicator.  The same stuff was used on your plimsolls, daps I always called them.

My favourite shoes, which I still remember with great affection, were my first pair of ‘heels’.  They weren’t really heels as the heel was very low and slightly chunky but I felt very grown up in them.  They were wonderful – made of white pearlised leather, very soft leather, like kid gloves.  They had pointy toes and a bow and I loved them.

I remember that my mother, in the fifties, had a pair of lizard skin high heeled shoes.  They seemed very exotic and glamorous and I would totter around in them when dressing up in one of my mother’s old ‘cocktail’ dresses, or whatever you called those dresses that people wore to the annual Police Ball and the like.  There seem to have been regular dances in those days. Jen Price

We need you!

We need more people to join the 100 Club.  Go on! Just £1 a month and you will be in with a chance of a cash prize as well as helping Museum funds.

Halloween and Pumpkins

The name ‘jack-o’-lantern’ (meaning, literally, man with a lantern or a nightwatchman) was also the nickname given to a natural phenomenon also known as ‘will o’ the wisp’, the mysterious blue lights sometimes seen flickering over bogs at night and, understandably, associated with all sorts of folklore.  By the late 1800s people were using the same name of ‘jack-o’-lantern’ for the turnip lanterns which were made for Catholic children as they went begging door to door, on All Saints Day (Hallowmas) on 1st November and on All saints Day on 2nd November, for soul cakes to commemorate the dead.  As the tradition spread to North America, pumpkins, which are much easier to carve, came to be used in place of turnips.  In my childhood we used swedes and I can still remember the awful smell they gave off once the candle was lit.  The tradition continues but if you use a pumpkin, there is no need to discard the ‘scoopings’ from those pumpkins.  You can gently let the seeds dry and store them to grow more pumpkins next year and you can use the flesh to make this lovely moist cake:

Pumkin and Ginger Cake


9oz pumpkin flesh                                                 
2oz treacle                                                                 
5oz golden syrup                                                 
5oz soft brown sugar                                      
100ml milk                                                              
4oz  chilled diced butter                                                  
8oz self raising flour                                                     
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda                                      
1 tablespoon ground ginger                                           
2 teaspoons mixed spice                                              
2 eggs (add a little more flour if using large eggs)


1. Heat oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a 2lb loaf tin.
2. Gently cook the pumpkin, drain well and mash.
3. Put treacle, syrup, sugar and milk in a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved; allow to cool a little.
4. Sift the dry ingredients, add butter and mix until the texture of breadcrumbs.
5. Mix the pumpkin mash and beaten eggs into the lukewarm syrup mixture, then stir into the dry ingredients.
6. Pour the batter into the tin and cook for about 45 minutes.

And then enjoy it!

Rules for Good Ageing

Vera Smith sent in a list of 21 such Rules (which someone had given her).  Here are a few of them.

Don’t stress over the little things.  You’ve already overcome so much in your life.  You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present.  Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now.  Small issues will soon be forgotten.

Regardless of age, always keep love alive.  Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbour and remember “A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection”.

Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as  part of the cycle of life we are all going through.  Try to minimise them in your mind.  They are not who you are, they are something that life has added to you.  If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.

If you’be been offended by someone – forgive them.  If you’ve offended someone – apologise. Don’t drag around resentment with you.  It only serves to make you sad and bitter.  It doesn’t matter who was right.  Someone once said “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die”. Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.

Poetry Corner

Some verses of the 16th and 17th centuries, translated from Welsh

A North Wales girl was once my passion,      
She’d got two costumes, both in fashion,          
Two matching hats as well, the peach,                  
And two false faces under each.

Place your hand before you leave me                      
Neath my breast, and then, believe me,                 
You shall hear, this trouble taking,                        
A  little sound of something breaking.

I thought if only I could marry,                                   
I’d sing and dance and live so gaily;                         
But all the wedded bliss I see                                  
Is rock the cradle, hush the baby.

On the sea shore lies a boulder                                
Where I loitered with my lover.                               
There, where wet sea winds are blowing                 
Thyme and rosemary are growing.   

Bonfire Night 

In Britain, Bonfire Night invariably means Guy Fawkes Night on 5th November. The ‘guy’ is a reminder of Guy Fawkes and the bonfire and fireworks a reminder of his failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Why did he do it? Catholics had not been treated well while Elizabeth I was on the throne and when her successor, James I, took the throne on her death in 1603, they hoped that with his mother having been Catholic, life would become easier for them.  Unfortunately that proved not to be the case and a group of thirteen men, led by Robert Catesby, decided to take action.  They decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament and thereby kill the king and those Members of Parliament who were against the Catholics. The conspirators acquired 36 barrels of gunpowder and stored them in a cellar under the Houses of Parliament.  But then it seems, one of the group became concerned at the likely loss of innocent lives and sent a letter of warning to a friend not to attend Parliament.  The letter made its way to the King and Guy Fawkes (the group’s explosives expert) was found in the cellar, with the gunpowder, when the cellar was stormed on 5th November.  Fawkes was arrested, tortured and executed.  Meanwhile, on that same night of 5th November, people lit bonfires to celebrate the safety of the king and the tradition has persisted.

The foiled plot also led to something which still takes place to this day, namely, an inspection of the cellars under the Houses of Parliament before the once yearly occasion when the reigning monarch enters the Houses of Parliament for its State Opening.


Who can forget the terrible tragedy at Aberfan fifty years ago?  On 21st October 1966 a coal tip collapsed, sending thousands of tonnes of colliery waste down the hillside to engulf a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.  Half the children at the school died; it doesn’t bear thinking about but think on it we must.  It was one more instance of the terrible price paid for the coal mining industry in South Wales but usually the victims were those engaged in digging the coal out of the ground, men such as the miners lost in our own Six Bells Colliery disaster.  Miners from all the South Wales Valleys held themselves available to help at the disaster site, clearing the slurry by hand in an attempt to reach those buried below.
In October 1966 a tribunal was appointed to look into the causes of the disaster.  The tribunal sat for 76 days and laid the blame firmly at the door of the National Coal Board and its lack of a tipping policy.  The Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969 belatedly sought to prevent a similar tragedy.

Museum Matters

Tredegar House families

Tredegar house set in 90 acres is the finest restoration house in Wales and for over 500 years the estate (including Ruperra Castle) was the home to the Morgan family one of the most powerful and influential families in the area. 

Amongst the family names were a number of people well known in the area to Historians.  John Morgan was created a knight c1448.  Later when Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII it greatly benefited the Morgan’s who were supporters of Henry.  Sir John received a reward for his early support on 7th November 1485 he was appointed by the new king to the office of sheriff of Wentloog and Newport and made steward of the Machen commote.

A branch of the Tredegar Morgan’s included 3 brothers, Thomas, Robert and Edward. Sir Thomas Morgan served in the commonwealth forces Pirate Flagduring the English civil war 1642--9. He was made governor of Gloucester in 1645. (After the Battle of Naseby, King Charles I visited Tredegar House in 1645) In 1665 he became governor of Jersey. He died at St Hellier in 1679.  He was married and had 9 sons of which Robert Morgan who was father of Henry Morgan who became a successful privateer and pirate in the Caribbean.

In 1715 the family’s wealth increased when John Morgan a wealthy merchant from London inherited the estate, he had also purchased Ruperra Castle near Tredegar. His son William succeeded him in 1719. He employed black servants in fine livery, bought expensive table ware, hired musicians including a harpist and two clarinettists. His extravagances included cock fighting, dice and horse racing, a great silver punch bowl, building a horse course at Cardiff and a Cock Pit at Newport. Williams extravagant life style used up most of his inheritance. In 1724 he married Lady Rachel Cavendish daughter of 2nd Duke of Devonshire.The following year he was made a Duke but died in 1731 at the age of 30.

Lady Rachel Cavendish

His beautiful young wife lived another 50 years, her oldest son died and she spent 19 years in the court of chancery against her brother in law Thomas Morgan for her daughter’s inheritance. She lost and is said to have cast a curse on her in-laws that the name of Morgan would die out.
In 1792 the estate passed to their sister Jane, her husband Sir Charles Gould was granted the name and arms of the Morgan family by Royal licence. Sir Charles was President of the world’s first equitable life assurance society. His financial successes increased the family wealth; he used the income and land from the estates exploiting the mineral rights to sink coal mines. He built iron works, railways and canals, and tramways. And promoted the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canals, he constructed Sirhowy to Newport tramroad a mile of which passed through Tredegar Park and became known as the Golden Mile due to the revenue received from the traffic using it. His son with several industrial projects established Newport as an important trade centre establishing the Tredegar Wharf Company.             

He altered the house to accommodate more servants introducing coal instead of wood fires, his eldest son also consolidated the family’s influence on the political and economic issues of the county, they secured a baronetcy in 1859.

His 2nd son Godfrey succeeded him and in 1854, Godfrey Morgan fought in, and survived, the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. Godfrey was 22 and Captain in the 17th Lancers. His steed, Sir Briggs, also survived and lived at Tredegar House until the horse's death at the age of 28. The horse was buried with full military honours in the Cedar Garden at Tredegar House. The monument still stand stands there today. In 1905 Godfrey was created the first Viscount Tredegar.    

Painting of Charge of the Light Brigade  

He never married and on his death the estate passed to his nephew Courtenay, his son Evan inherited in 1934. Both were extravagant with eccentricities. Evan kept a menagerie of animals in the Park including parrots and a boxing kangaroo.

Bear logoAfterwards weighty death duties seriously depleted the family's financialassets throughout the next three generations. John Morgan, 6th BaronTredegar died childless in 1962 aged 54. His death signalled the end of the Morgan ’s of Tredegar. In 1951, Tredegar House was stripped, theremaining contents were auctioned, and the estate was sold. After 1951 the house was bought by the Catholic Church as a convent school with boarders, later. It was bought by the Newport Corporation Council in 1974, giving rise to its then status as "the grandest council house in Britain". In December 2011 the National Trust signed an agreement with Newport City Council to take on the management of the building, as well as the 90 acres of gardens and parkland on a 50-year lease from 2012
Don Bearcroft Curator


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