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December 2008
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Don – National Heritage Hero!

The award ceremony took place at 11am on 11th November at the Tower of London, there were eleven contenders from all parts of the UK, including England, Scotland, and Ireland with me representing Wales.

The winner was selected by a panel of judges made up from Nationwide, the Heritage Lottery and also a young winner from last year.

The BBC, TV Newsreader Nicholas Owen was the presenter awarding the prizes jointly with a representative from Nationwide and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The picture is taken on Tower Green (this is where the executions took place) with the White Tower in the background. Just out of sight to the left were a pair of the Ravens that nest in the Tower. Legend has it that if the ravens leave the Tower, the Tower and England would fall.            

Don Bearcroft

I am sure that everyone will agree that Don Bearcroft, our Museum Curator, was a worthy winner of this prestigious national award, beating contestants from all over Britain and Northern Ireland – a well deserved honour for his long commitment and service to the Museum Society and the establishment and running of our current museum.  Don is the first to protest that we couldn’t have achieved all that we have without the support of the membership and the wider community and local organisations.  It is equally true that Don has been the spearhead of our campaign for the wonderful museum we now run and that his enthusiasm and sheer determination to overcome the many obstacles we faced along the way were crucial to our success.


7pm for 7.30pm

COST £17
Please contact Roy Pickford  on 01495 213377 as soon as possible to book your place.

Thank you Biffaward 

You may recall a recent announcement that Biffaward were generously awarding us a grant of £5,000 towards the cost of providing a new ‘shop front’ to the Express Café in the Museum.  The project has started but owing to the specialised nature of the work it is taking a little longer than expected.  If you have been in the Museum you will see that the project is well under way and will be officially opened some time after Christmas – call at the Museum or watch the Newsletter for details.

Fund raising Oct/Nov - £735

Christmas Fayre 

This was a great success and raised £400.  Thanks to all those who helped in one way or another.

European Archaeology

Frank Olding will be running another series of 6 adult lectures at the Museum starting on Friday 16th January 2009 at 10.00am.  You can pick and mix at £3 a lecture or sign up for all six at a reduced fee of £15.  Frank’s previous lectures proved popular and so you can be sure of an entertaining as well as educational couple of hours.

Guess Who?

Who am I?The smart young man in this photo, taken in the early 1930s, is none other than Arthur Lewis, about to set off for Tredegar Park, Newport for an inspection of the South Wales Cadet and Senior Brigades of St John Ambulance by Princess Marina of Kent.

From 1887 First Aid became necessary in coal mines and from the early 1900s laws made first aid a must in coal mines at all levels, workmen to managers.  It is worth considering how Abertilery and District would have fared without St John Ambulance to provide courses and certificates (valid for 3 years) in First Aid.    W.A.Lewis O.B.E

Thank you Margaret

Margaret Cook received a well deserved round of applause at the end of the Social Evening she so ably organised for the Museum Society recently.  It was a resounding success and very much appreciated.  It was a light-hearted and very entertaining evening.  Margaret and Rose Smith delivered poems and prose, and guest singer Cynthia Vaughan, with accompanist Jackie Bryant, charmed her audience with some well known tunes with which we were invited to sing along.  Add a couple of quizzes, an excellent buffet, congratulations to Don on his awards, £90 raised, and what more could anyone want!  Please, Margaret, can we have another Social in 2009?

Christmas/New Year closure

Close Monday 22nd December, reopen Tuesday 6th January.

Hunt the Cracker

This is an event for children on Saturday 13th December, so please spread the word.

Diary Dates

Wednesday 3rd December 2008A Woman’s Lot in Tudor and Stuart Times by Susanne Allen

Saturday 13th December  - Hunt the Cracker – all children welcome

Saturday 10th January 2009Lunch Party for members and invited guests to celebrate Don’s Heritage Awards

Friday 16th January 2009 -  First of 6 lectures on European Archaeology at 10.00am at the Museum. £3 per lecture or all 6 for £15

Friday 16th January 2009 – Annual Dinner at the Top Hotel, Llanhilleth

Wednesday 4th February 2009Unusual Memorials for the Fallen by David Woodliffe

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.

Local Organisations

Abertillery Ladies Guild

The Guild evolved from The Townswomens Guild - a nationwide  organisation;   Abertillery branch was formed during WW2.  Various sections were established, such as a drama group, choir and craft group.  Over the years, due perhaps to the exacting standards demanded by The Townswomens Guild, or a decline in membership and rising financial costs, Abertillery branch severed its links with the national guild and  the present Abertillery Ladies Guild was formed.

The group originally met in The Oddfellows Hall in Queen Street (remember this?) and then in Joseph Simon Pensioners Hall.  Later, when those premises were in jeopardy the Guild moved to Davy Evans Court in Castle Street for its monthly meeting.  After a short business meeting, there is usually a guest speaker or demonstrator, all very enjoyable and interesting.  The afternoon is, of course finished off with …. you’ve guessed it. TEA and BISCUITS.  The social activities include lunches, day trips, afternoon teas and visits to the local Metropole for musical performances.

In the autumn a modest Harvest Service is held, followed by some sort of short activity – a quiz, or a member may recollect some unusual event. At the A.G.M. members bring food for a buffet.

I think membership is limited due to the size of the meeting room but to date I do not know of anyone who has been turned away. If the allotted number is complete, they go on a waiting list until a vacancy occurs, This is really a good afternoon out, cultural and full of friendship.  I can personally recommend it.

The Roving Reporter 

Well done, Sian

Sian Price, (Jen’s daughter) and production company Tinderbox, recently received an award from the Association for International Broadcasting for best radio current affairs documentary – a Radio 4 programme of Sian’s called ‘Where Next, A Soldier’s Journey’, which looked at how three soldiers who were injured in the war in the Middle East, were coping in the aftermath.

‘Make it Snow’ (extract)

by George Wither

So now is come our joyful feast,
Let every man be jolly;
Each room with ivy leaves is dressed,
And every post with holly.
Though some churls at our mirth repine,
Round your foreheads garlands twine,
Drown sorrow in a cup of wine,
And let us all be merry.

The Duffryn 

The Duffryn cont……..

The Spring passed quickly –as time does when one is busy - but on 1st June 1952  we moved into what was no longer just a house  but our HOME.  It was by no means finished.  We still had the beech floors to lay in the lounge and a bedroom and numerous other small jobs were waiting to be completed. We named our house RAYGWYNNE and had a marble nameplate set into a pillar at the end of our crazy paving path.

To start off our garden, Mr Oulton, the chemistry teacher at The County School (later named the Grammar School) gave us a rhododendron bush which flourished very well. Mr. Oulton always had a soft spot for Ray, perhaps because he was an interested and attentive pupil.

Mr. & Mrs. Coles and Gwyneth the daughter were still considering having a bungalow,  built and in 1953 went ahead with their plans. It was built at the bottom of the road by Watkins, a local builder. They moved into their new home in 1954 and called it Coronation Bungalow.  At the same time Mr J Fear the local coal merchant, decided to follow Ray’s suggestion and purchased the remaining Glebe land on the road. This was eventually divided into ten building plots, the first one next to Coronation Bungalow being purchased by one of the workforce of Watkins, the builder. In 1956 we sold a plot at the top of the road, followed by two more the following year, still leaving us with about 140ft. of road frontage. The buyers are still our good neighbours. Within a few years every plot on the road was being developed.

At the time of all this activity, I had noticed a small blonde child with her mother. One day we met in our corner shop and started talking. This led to friendship, coffee, and spending time together, such as going to a weekly whist drive at Tillery Court and an occasional visit to the pictures ( what we now know as the cinema). The mum and daughter were Enid and Jennifer Dean. The friendship forged in those early days has lasted for almost 50 years and is as strong now as it was then. 

Gwynneth Hutchings

Happy Christmas and New Year wishes to all our members and friends.


Museum Matters

In July of this year I won the Nationwide and Heritage Lottery Fund, Heritage Hero Award for Wales, I then went forward to represent Wales in the individual National Heritage Hero Award. The award ceremony took place at 11am on 11th November at the Tower of London I was asked to write an account of it.

Peggy outside Tower Hotel, where we stayed

I was chosen as the National Winner for my work with the Abertillery & District Museum and my contribution to heritage. I was presented with a beautiful crystal trophy, £500 of gift vouchers for myself and £2,500 to donate to the charity of my choice, Cancer Research UK (this together with the £500 I had already donated totals £3000).

Before the awards ceremony took place at 11am we all stood and observed the Two Minuets Silence for Armistice Day. Standing in the New Armouries Room in the Tower, hearing the chimes of Big Ben striking the hour and the notes of the bugle sounding the Last Post was truly a memorable occasion. It was even more poignant when Nicholas Owen told us that the room we were in was the very place where King George V signed the official document for Britain's ceasefire in 1918.

The Nationwide awards supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund cover eight categories. Nicholas Owen dealt with each category individually, reading out the names of the contenders and their projects, at the end of which he would say. "The winner is! A short film would then be shown of the winner saying his or her name and the nominator talking about talking about their subject.      


It was an emotional moment for Peggy and me when my face appeared on the screen.

I was presented with the award by Nicholas Owen and representatives of Nationwide and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Posing for photographs we then moved outside to the Tower green, (This is it I thought! It’s the place where the chopping block is!) There my photo was taken with Nicholas Owen and the Chief Yeoman Warder (Beef Eater) we then went inside for the meal.

All of the people were very kind, congratulating me on my award. There were other Welsh people there representing other categories they commented on my film interview, telling me that I was a marvellous ambassador for Wales.

After the proceedings were ended we were given the freedom of the Tower where we visited the Old Armoury in the White Tower and also saw the Crown Jewels. It was a wonderful experience and still find it hard to believe that I have won such a prestigious award, thinking that I will wake up and realise that it was a dream!      


While we were in London we visited Tower Bridge, walking across the two catwalks and viewing the immense engine that lifts the bridge. We took a trip on the river to Greenwich where the Aircraft Carrier HMS Illustrious was in dock and we also visited the Imperial War Museum. Peggy and I were impressed with the WWI Trench and also the Blitz Experience of the Second World War.

It is good to have this award brought to Wales, Blaenau Gwent and our valley but as Nicholas Owen said, all those who took part, English, Scottish, Irish and the Welsh were all winners.

Bear logoDuring these hard economic times Nationwide and the H.L.F has to be congratulated for funding these awards giving encouragement to volunteers all over the country.

Don Bearcroft, curator.


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