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November 2009
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News Update

The textile conservators have been working in the Museum.  Don can give you more details – there is always something that needs attention.

Roy Noble

Always entertaining on the radio but how much more so in real life!  He was a popular choice for the October lecture. Well done Marge.

Free Coffee Morning Sat 7th Nov

Come along and share your experiences with a group of young people who are starting a project on how life has changed over the years in Blaenau Gwent.  If you have any photos of local industries or people at work please bring them along to be photocopied.

Craft Fair 28th November

This will be upstairs in The Metropole; the Museum Society will have a stall so please help with handicrafts to sell.

Christmas Fair 14th November


We will have the usual range of stalls – Christmas/crafts, toiletries, books, toys, crackers, handbags, tins, lucky dip – so please knit, sew, crochet etc and rummage!  Unwanted gifts would be much appreciated for the bran tub.  We will also need donations for the Christmas hamper.  Can you please drop your donations off at the Museum.

Annual Dinner

Friday 22nd January

Once again this will be at the Top Hotel – always a popular venue.  Please contact Roy Pickford (01495  213377) or call at the Museum to book.

Fund raising October - £190                   

Diary Dates

Saturday 7th November 2009Coffee morning (see opposite for details)

Wednesday 7th November 2009Finding Thomas Milne by David Woodliffe

Saturday 14th November 2009Museum Christmas Fair at Ebenezer Chapel

Saturday 28th November  2009Craft Fair, Metropole

Wednesday 2nd December 2009 The Life of Field Marshal Robinson by Richie Rudd

Friday 22nd January  2010Annual Dinner at the Top Hotel, Llanhilleth

Lectures start at 7.00pm in the Metropole Theatre, with teas and a chat downstairs in the Museum afterwards. Entry is £2 and the public are most welcome.

Please call at the Museum for more information or watch the Newsletter for coffee mornings and other events.

100 Club October

No.137             Neil Winmill                  £25

N0. 53              Marge Rogers               £10

No. 18              Jean Morgan                 £5

Please encourage family and friends to join; this is a valuable regular source of income (and fun).

Book Corner

The Making of Modern Wales by John Davies

This fully revised and expanded edition of The Making of Modern Wales by John Davies traces the evolution of the Welsh landscape from pre-history to the present day.  There is also a new chapter that discusses the changes in Wales during the last 25 years.

The landscape of Wales has been shaped and influenced by many people over many years and that development continues today.  It began with the hunter-gatherers and the reader follows as they became farmers using stone and then bronze and iron for their tools and weapons.  This period was followed by the influence of the Romans with the creation of the first townships and the Normans with their extensive castle building.  During the 15th and 16th Centuries there was legislation that changed the shape of Wales, the dissolution of the monasteries and the Civil War; all these events saw a largely rural Wales change to an industrial landscape; the railways and canals brought new features to the landscape in the form of viaducts and bridges.  The development of the coalmines and other industries saw new townships developing.  Local features mentioned in the text include Christ Church, Aberbeeg, Crumlin Viaduct and the Round Towers at Nantyglo.

The two world wars and the depression of the 1920s and 1930s had a great impact on the country and the coming of the motorways and dual carriageways has brought many changes and vast areas of land have been reclaimed and redeveloped.

The book is well illustrated with over 300 coloured photographs, many maps and black and white line drawings.

This is a welcome introduction to the history and development of Wales and the interaction of the population with the landscape. Jean Colwell

Poet’s Corner


Suddenly the wind comes soft,
as light begins to fade,
While echoing quiet replace
music that birds have made.

An impenetrable blackness forms
where day's shadows grew long,
As from a moonless sky,
a multitude of stars look down.

Now clouds slowly obscure them,
Dozens disappearing each minute,
Bringing a chill into my bones,
though I fight to resist it.

Peace of night is broken,
by faint nocturnal cries,
While through boughs and leaves,
a lightest breeze softly sighs.

A rustling betrays creeping mice,
as they avoid talons that kill,
But far away a scream of death
makes my blood run chill.

Suddenly this night seems cruel,
Dark forests a place of dread,
So I desire a well lit room,
or warmth of a comfortable bed.

Gordon Rowlands

Local Organisations

Yoga Classes

This Hindu philosophy is aimed at complete relaxation  and tranquillity through mental and physical exercises

Classes are held at Llanhilleth Institute on Tuesdays at 7.00pm till 8.30 pm. and on Thursday afternoons at.1.30pm till 3.00pm.

It is said that yoga gives one a strong healthy body and relieves stress and anxiety. It stimulates internal organs and increases muscle flexibility and focuses on breathing.

Every one works within their own comfort zone. At the end of each session, one is given 15 minutes of complete relaxation to soft music 

This sounds an ideal cure for today’s stresses but I think one has to learn to relax and believe in Yoga for any real benefit to be found.

Why not give it a go and decide for yourself if you feel better.

You are advised not to practise Yoga if you have eaten a heavy meal within two hours, or if you are feeling unwell or in any pain. 
Roving  Reporter

Abertillery – in a Different Vein

The following extract is taken from The Architects Journal dated 14th September 1988.

What happens to pit towns when the mine closes down? This is the dilemma facing many valley towns in South Wales, including Abertillery.

Laura Wiles reports on efforts to find a solution.           

The scenery is spectacular – if the village was in the foothills of the Pyrenees or the Alps, people would trek there for their holidays.” said architect Jim Grove. But the village is question is ABERTILLERY, a former mining centre about 20 miles north of Cardiff. Not the kind of place that tops the average holidaymaker’s list of resorts.

But things are looking up for Abertillery and its population of 19,000                                                                                                 

The town is the subject of a recently published study.  “Abertillery – A New Start” a joint initiative between several local authorities and The Welsh Development Agency (WDA).   Urbed, the Urban and Economic Development group was commissioned to identify problems facing the run-down town and suggest ways to overcome them.

Grove, one of a number of specialists consulted by Urbed, believes that Abertillery does not conform to the usual valley town image. “It is more of a Derbyshire or Yorkshire Dales type of hill town.” he said.

The problems facing Abertillery are, according to Grove, more of an urban design than a planning nature.  It is under exploited, buildings are neglected, with upper storeys lying vacant. There is a shortage of certain types of housing. Nearby former industrial land lies unused and there is a general lack of parking space in the town.

The Urbed report on Abertillery is important because it could provide a blueprint for other valley towns, which also fall under the recent Welsh Office WDA South Wales Valleys Initiative. “We are the first project to benefit from this” said Grove.

The revitalisation could take two lines of attack, with major ‘flagship’ schemes carried out on a long term basis and, in the shorter term, pilot projects which are both quick and cheap to implement.

The latter group of schemes could be implemented “by targeting currently available money in a coherent way to schemes with good design standards and to proposals which would have the biggest effect” said Grove.  These might include restoring the vacant upper storeys as flats for rent, improving traffic management and carrying out some planting.  The buildings in the town centre are “quite attractive” according to Grove, and, because a move for a conservation area was defeated some years ago the area is free from the usual planning constraints.

Marketing drive

In the town centre, the proposals include a new market square in the main street, Church Street. The weekly market was originally sited here before being moved to a car park on the edge of town – using up parking space so desperately needed.  Grove suggests a new multi storey car park, ingeniously slotted in to the hillside, The top deck, with pedestrian access, would be level with the shopping area and new market square, and the bottom level with the valley floor.

Housing at the upper end of the market is something else Abertillery is short of.  According to Grove, there are quite a lot of people who find that when they want to move from their terraced house, there is no suitable house or site.

To combat this the report suggests a new village on restored land at Cwmtillery, just outside the town. Formerly the squalid pit head, the site could hold around 100 dwellings.

Nearby industrial land is being eyed up by developers for an out of town retail centre, but the report suggests it would be better used as a business park. “…and the owners would make a fair amount of money and have no planning battles on their hands”.

The report is now being studied by the various agencies, which are expected to reach a decision on its implementation within several months.

Footnote by the Roving Reporter. Well, folks what do you think of that report of 20 years ago? Some suggestions have been implemented BUT a lot can be done to encourage shops in the town centre to re-open. We are badly in need of a household/ linen shop. At present one cannot buy a decent tea towel locally. Also is there a niche for “Welsh  nick nack” shop? Barbara Clothier traded for many years in such a shop as did Ash’s. Sadly, local people like to go in their cars to big outlets but perhaps they should cast their minds to the future when they are too old to drive their cars…….they would then, like me wish they could shop locally.

Did you know?

Tea in the Second World War and beyond.

On 9th July 1940 just as the battle for their island was about to begin, Britons learnt that their national drink, tea, was to ‘go on the ration’.  The basic tea ration stood at 2 ounces per week rising to 4 ounces for one week in December 1940.  Victory did not bring an end to rationing which was finally announced on 3rd October 1952 and the British people were able to enjoy unlimited ‘cuppas’ for the first time in twelve years.

Museum Matters

This year is the 170th Anniversary of the South Wales Chartist Rising on November 4th 1839. Celebrations are being held across South Wales to mark this event. Peggy and I who is also a member attended the Gwent Local History Society Day School held at the Blaenavon Workmen's Hall. The theme this year was the Chartists and as usual the guest speakers were excellent.

The first speaker was Chris Barber MBE FRGS

"A Tribute to Alexander Cordell", Cordell was a personal friend. I attended Chris Christmas Lectures at Monmouthshire County Hall years ago Chris has published many books, his new book, "In The Footsteps of Alexander Cordell", price £12

The second speaker was Les James, "Has William Jones been given a bad press". Les teaches at the University of Wales Newport and runs the University's Chartist is currently researching the Chartist Trials at Monmouth. His research to date has revealed some of the myths that surround the Chartist. There was a Newport contingent from Pill involved on the march; three others were arrested as well as John Frost, William Jones and Zephaniah Williams,

The third speaker T Eric Davies BSC, MA in Regional and Local History and Archaeology at Winchester,

He was awarded a MPhil at Swansea, "The Ironmasters", Ironworks and people of the North west Monmouthshire Area, 1780 to 1850.

Many reasons caused the rising to take place; from the outset of their ministry the Whigs had shown themselves the same as Tory predecessors ready to suppress unrest. Revolt in south east England, and industrial insurrection in Merthyr Tydfil were defeated and punished.  The government faced opposition from a working-class determined to defend its rights to organise trade unions; with no union to oppose them, the employers had control of the workforce  The New Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834  replaced the authority of the parish with that of a new local body, the Board of Poor Law Guardians; policy recommendations began the abolition of outdoor relief and the introduction of the workhouse system within which all relief would ultimately be distributed. The legislation threatened to remove the distinctions of poverty, lumping temporarily and permanently poor in the same category.

The workhouse, with its labour and segregation of the sexes, implied that all those seeking relief were irredeemably idle and promiscuous. The radicals' campaign against the Poor Law was expressed in the radical press limited to press freedom. Journals and sheets which printed news were subject to stamp duty; this and duty on paper, put prices beyond the reach of a working-class audience. Government watchdogs prosecuted articles that were judged seditious doctrines.  Newspapers that survived had financial backing but they were biased towards the Establishment, whether Tory or Whig.

In 1832  the Merthyr Guardian sheet was launched, funded by Conservative Association members, aided by the personal finances of Lord Bute, also the journal Y Gweithiwrl, The Workman, a bilingual monthly published in Merthyr in 1834. Its editors were Both Unitarians; the journal's support for trade-union organisation made it a mouthpiece for the movement. The disappearance of Y Gweithiwr was no doubt connected with threats of prosecution.

In 1837 radicalism in Britain increased, the London Working Men’s ‘Association's Political programme joined with the Birmingham Political Union in the People's Charter, with its six points, Universal male suffrage, Annual parliaments, the Secret ballot, the Removal of property qualifications for election to Parliament, Salaried M.P.'s, Equal electoral districts- embodied in the form of an Act of Parliament.'

Chartism came to Wales through the flannel-manufacturing districts of Carmarthenshire, and Montgomeryshire promoted by Hugh Williams, a radical lawyer from St. Clears; later he became the force behind Rebecca's campaign against the toll-gates. Williams had meetings from the outset with the London group, and also had contact with Birmingham. Delegates attended the People's Convention in 1839 to present the Charter to the Commons. The first major Chartist demonstration in Wales in Newtown on 10th October was attended by 3,000-5,000 people. A rally was planned for Christmas Day 1838, copies of the National Petition were circulated in Bear Logoadvance near10,000 people arrived  on the hills despite the intimidatory tactics of magistrates and loyalists. Under the rule of a government which showed no sympathy to the working-class in the words of one of their movement's pamphleteers,

"The good that is to be must be begun by ourselves".

Don Bearcroft curator.


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