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October 2018
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Dates for your Diary

Ongoing – WWI Exhibition in the Museum (ends 11th November)

Saturday 6th October – Coffee Morning – Celebrating 100 years of the RAF

Wednesday 7th November at 3pm - Ralph Robinson Memorial Lecture "The Great War" by Martin Cook. Price £3

Monday 12th November at 5pm – AGM

Winterfest Tuesday 4th December - all day event.

September 100 Club

No. 16 Don Bearcroft £20
No. 55 Sally Murphy £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.

World War I Exhibition

Some of the items on display in the World War I cabinet have been on a four year loan to commemorate the centenary of World War I. That loan is due to end on 11th November so if you haven’t yet seen the World War I exhibition do come along and have a look before it is too late! And on that note, we also have a temporary exhibition of art work by the pupils of the Secondary Campus at Abertillery. It comprises models and paintings as part of a school project to mark the centenary of WWI. It will be displayed at the museum for several weeks so do pop in and see what talented youngsters we have in Abertillery!

WW1 Models

Models made by the pupils of Secondary Campus.

Beatrice Green 1895 - 1927

Beatrice Green (nee Dykes) was born in Abertillery and was only 32 when she died but she packed a lot into her short life, helping improve the health, welfare and education of those around her, especially women and children. If you would like to know more about this inspirational woman,
please come along to Ebenezer Church, Abertillery on Saturday 20th October at 2pm for a service dedicated to this remarkable lady. The keynote speaker will be the academic and writer, Lowri Newman of Glamorgan University and Andrew Bailey, Beatrice’s great-grandson, will speak on behalf of the family. A plaque for Beatrice will be unveiled by her granddaughter, Margaret Bailey. The main sponsor for the event is Abertillery& Llanhilleth Community Council.

700 Cooking and Household Recipes

That is the title of a small booklet in our archive store – it cost 3d, the pages are yellowed and the print is tiny but it is packed full of recipes and advice including some medical advice… Here are a few items from
the booklet under the heading “Childish Ailments”.

Choking – Give the child water and make him gulp it down. Try tickling the throat with a feather or a finger, or administer an emetic. Colic is relieved by a dose of castor oil, hot drinks, and hot fomentations.

Convulsions – Put the sufferer immediately into a hot mustard bath, and send for the doctor.

Quinsy Throat – Cover a piece of toast with almost a pipeful of tobacco, pour boiling water on, lay on a clean rag, and put it on the throat, tobacco next the skin, overnight. In the morning the quinsy should have disappeared. There were also “Toilet Hints” and the“Preparations” listed included a cure for freckles and the following “Lotion for Wrinkles”. Boil 3oz pearl barley in water until the gluten is extracted, strain through a
muslin rag, and add, drop by drop, 25 drops of benzoin, stirring well all the time. Apply this daily to the face, rubbing along the line of the wrinkles, which it not only eradicates to some extent, but prevents others forming.

I can only say “I Wish!”
Jen Price


We have a wealth of local documents in the museum archives including some papers relating to the local Fire Brigade. According to a booklet setting out “Rules and Regulations” the Fire Brigade in Abertillery was established in 1896 (although the Chamber of Commerce was active in 1891 in getting a volunteer force established). Most of the booklet makes for very dry reading, the 36 Rules being very detailed, but Rule 23 is perhaps indicative of a time when a rather paternalistic attitude was not uncommon, stating “A member of the Brigade when on duty must promptly and cheerfully obey the orders of his superior Officer and …he must not accept money or refreshments from any person, or enter any Inn or Refreshment Room, or smoke, without the consent of the Officer in command…”. I wonder how many men ‘cheerfully’ obeyed orders?

Rule 36 set out a scale of charges if the Fire Services attended outside the local Council area and the payment for officers and firemen, the latter being paid 5s for any call-out and 1s for any hour after the first hour.

In 1948 a set of Brigade Orders was issued (revised 1961) and the copy in our archives also contains a booklet issued to all firemen–Civil Defence Handbook No. 10 “Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack”. The 24 page booklet, issued in 1963, sets out advice which was meant to reassure but how realistic that reassurance was is surely open to question in these days when we know so much more about the long lasting and long term effects of radiation. (Think of the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster). The booklet advises people to establish a ‘fall-out’ room blocked off as much as possible for use“in the first critical hours when the radiation from fall-out would be most dangerous”. The booklet lists essential items which should be kept ready for use, and contains a lot of illustrative sketches. It makes for interesting reading and is available in our archives should you wish to see it.
Jen Price

Christmas Fayre

Our Christmas Fayre this year will coincide with Winterfest as usual, which this year is on Tuesday 4th December. Donations of tins, bottles, chocolate bars, toiletries, cakes (on the day), brica-brac, toys, handicrafts, raffle prizes etc will all be very gratefully received! Please bring to the museum at your earliest convenience.

John Loudon McAdam

I wonder how many people know who first created roads as we know them today? Without him our lives would be very different. John Loudon McAdam is a name that has disappeared into the mists of time but it was he who pioneered Tarmacadam - Tarmac.

John MacAdam was born in 1756 in Ayr, Scotland and was the youngest of ten children. His original family name was McGregor but this was changed to MacAdam as it was felt to sound more biblical. In 1816, John MacAdam was elected Surveyor General of Roads and in 1823 his views on road building were adopted by the public authorities. His construction method was the greatest advance in road construction since Roman Times and became known as MacAdamisation. John MacAdam argued that roads needed to be raised above the surrounding ground and constructed from layered rocks and gravel. He also added a camber.

The first MacAdamised stretch of road was Marsh Road, Ashton Gate, Bristol, just over the Severn Bridge. In North America, The National Road - also MacAdamised - was completed in the 1830’s. Most of the main roads of Europe were subject to John MacAdam’s process by the
end of the 19th Century.

Imagine for a minute, life without Roads. We wouldn’t be able to travel from place to place so easily. We’d certainly get very muddy and dusty. It would be more difficult to transport food and other goods around the country - we would be going right back in time. What do you suppose John MacAdam would think today if he came back for a look around. Can you imagine what he’d think of the M4 motorway; the runway at Cardiff Airport and the busy Gabalfa Interchange?

John MacAdam’s ideas have outlived him but maybe we should just stop and give him a thought next time we’ve crossed a road; been for a drive in a car or taxied along a runway.
Katherine Taylor

Animals in the Tower of London

After reading Richard’s article on keeping animals as pets in last month’s newsletter, l was reminded of our visit to the Tower of London and something l learnt.

From 1200s until 1835 the Tower of London held the Royal Menagerie. These were a group of exotic animals never seen before in London. They were a well known attraction in the City and crowds queued to see them.

It all started because of the tradition of medieval monarchs giving rare and strange gifts to each other. In 1235, Henry III was presented with three leopards, (these were probably lions but they are recorded as leopards) by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick the second. These were kept in the Tower in what became known as the Lions Tower. Henry took the three lions as the Plantagenet crest. This is the forerunner of the three lion crest seen on the England football strip today.

The lions flourished and inspired Henry to start a zoo in the Tower. In 1255 the King of France sent him an elephant. Again this was a big attraction. The monk and historian Matthew Paris travelled all the way from St. Albans to study and draw this creature. He drew his keeper Henricus de Flor with him to show the difference in size. Little was known about elephants and their care so it soon died. Later elephants in the winter were only given red wine to drink in large quantities. I don’t know where they thought elephants would find that in the wild! The menagerie grew over the years . The King of Norway sent a polar bear. It was allowed to swim and catch fish in the River Thames on a collar and chain.

Gradually though, through neglect and the smell of the animals, the visitors stopped coming to the Tower until in 1826 the Duke of Wellington, Constable of the Tower, dispatched 150 animals to a new home in Regents Park. This was the start of London Zoo. The Lion Tower was demolished. Today if you visit the Tower you can see life size models of these animals by the sculptor Kendra Haste. A new attraction for the Tower.
Judith Williams

British Legion Talk and Buffet

The Abertillery branch of the British Legion are hosting a talk on the 2nd South Wales Borderers. It will be held at the Corner Club (51 Somerset Street) at 7pm on Monday 15th October. A buffet will follow the talk and both the talk and buffet are free of charge!

History of British Universities

MortarboardIt’s that busy time of the year for me when I have to help another set of students choose where to go to university. One of their considerations is always the tradition and history of the university so I thought it would be interesting to chart a history of Britain’s universities.


The only two universities set up in the medieval period were Oxford in 1167 and Cambridge in 1209. These two were instrumental in preventing the spread of higher education for several centuries as they always successfully opposed the building of new universities. For example, a university was established in Northampton in 1261 but was closed in 1265 to protect the interests of Oxford. Even Henry VIII himself was unable to succeed in his plan to put a university in Durham in the north of England. It was not until 1832 that a university was established in Durham. This was quickly followed by University College London (UCL) in 1836 and shortly after King’s College London was established.

The two oldest universities in Scotland are St Andrews established in 1410 and Glasgow in 1451. Edinburgh followed some time later in 1582. As Scotland was an independent state at the time, Oxford and Cambridge were unable to affect decisions made north of the border. The first
university established in Wales was in Lampeter in 1827. This was revolutionary in that it was the first Anglican university to teach the arts and provide a more general university education.

The first decades of the Twentieth Century witnessed a spread of universities to the provinces. The University of Birmingham was a project of then mayor Joseph Chamberlain who wanted to create a grand
Oxford style campus for the people of the west Midlands. It was opened in 1900 and soon followed by universities in Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. Time and money were committed to making the architecture of these buildings incredibly impressive to inspire students. There was a determined effort to make these universities to look as
impressive as Oxford and Cambridge. However, rather sneeringly, Oxford and Cambridge labelled these new provincial universities “redbrick”. Although originally intended as a slur, the prestige of these universities is now such that the term“redbrick university” is actually a term synonymous with a top quality institution.

After the Second World War, there was a massive demand for more universities to train the doctors needed for the newly established National Health Service and to accommodate the expansion of public sectors jobs such as teachers. As the economy became more highly advanced and
reliant on new technology so more universities were established. The 1960s in particular witnessed a massive expansion in the number of universities. The more modern appearance of these universities, in
stark contrast to their redbrick counterparts, led to the term “plateglass universities” such as the universities of Warwick, York and East Anglia. These universities quickly established themselves as some of the best in
the United Kingdom and indeed, the world.

As students try to navigate the myriad of choices of university on offer, it is clear that the history of the university is just one consideration. They are lucky that Britain is home to around 30 of the world’s top 100 universities and one of these is just down the road in Cardiff. Some of these world class universities date back to medieval times whereas others were established in the 1960s.
Richard Gilson, Deputy Curator

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