Penybont and District History Group Notes

4th April 2022

Main Topic: A History of the Hotel Metropole – Norma Baird-Murray & Humphrey Morgan

Geraint opened the meeting with a thank-you to the Hall Committee for installing a new Public Address system. Norma and Humph are the guinea-pigs for trying it out.

 Geraint asked Derek to explain what was happening at the Thomas Shop and Ithon Terrace. Derek explained that historically flooding has been a problem in the village and reports up to the 1960’s, prior to the installation of the weir in the Ithon, of flooding meant that the cottages at Ithon terrace would have their windows open at the front and back to let flood water ‘in and out’. The weir and a small alteration in the river when the new bridge was built rectified the problem and no flooding occurred until 3 years ago and we have had significant flooding in each of the subsequent years. This has impacted particularly badly on the 2 end cottages in the Terrace. There are 4 sources of flood water. A sewage pipe, water direct from the river, water from the road, and water pouring down from the Common. Powys County Council, after consulting with Atkins, obtained finance from the Welsh Government, are currently installing a system of pumps that will come into action automatically when flooding is likely. This has involved digging a 6 metre deep hole and other systems in the drive. The contractors have installed a temporary car park for residents. Customers to the Thomas Shop have been asked to park at the Severn Arms for the duration of the work, 2-3 months.

Elizabeth gave advance notice of 2 events: An illustrated talk at Dolau; and a joint event between Radnorshire Society and the Mortimer Society in Knighton on the 14th May.

Geraint asked Shirley to advertise our next event, on the 9th May, the 2nd Monday in May, when she will be talking about “Royal Celebrations” locally. Shirley asked members to rummage in every cupboard to find any material that might be relevant.

Main Topic: A History of the Metropole Hotel

Geraint introduced our 2 speakers and referred to the fact that the Metropole was once run from Penybont. We are very privileged to have, as one of our members, Norma Baird-Murray who has an immense knowledge from her direct involvement in the management of the Metropole for so many years. Humph agreed to support Norma by introducing the subject before handing over to Norma for her in depth knowledge of the Metropole.

  1. Humphrey Morgan

Humph started by thanking Ray Price for the numerous picture postcards that he had been able to copy. He also thanked Mary Davies for information on Banking and Business Directories that he found invaluable.

When Humph looked around Llandrindod Wells for the first time he wondered about all the Hotels, all the buildings that used to be Hotels, and the substantial Guest Houses, and where the prosperity might have come from to support these undoubtedly successful businesses. Well, three things contributed to the prosperity: 1. The mineral waters within the locality; 2. The Enclosure Act of 1862; and 3. The coming of the Railway in 1865.

  1. The Mineral Waters

To have an understanding of the mineral waters we have to step back in time some 425 million years ago and how the specific geology of the area laid down rocks in this part of Wales. Geological maps are somewhat colourful, as we see in this map of Great Britain:

The map of Wales illustrates a similar romance:

But little by the way of explanation. Humph thought he would ask our renowned Geologist, Dr Joe Botting, for his explanation. Joe’s only comment was that: “It’s complicated!” Humph decided to leave the explanation at that, but reflected on the fact that there is a significant coming together of the factors that create the mineral waters in this part of Wales. Very locally there are Wells at Llandegley, and Blaen Edw, and slightly further afield at Builth Wells, Llangammarch Wells, and Llanwyrtyd Wells. The geology is complicated and there are a number of mineral waters that appear in different places around Llandrindod. These are: saline, sulphur, magnesium and chalybeate. In Llandegley they had sulphur and saline springs. Access to chalybeate water is still available in Rock Park.

Though the existence of the spa waters had been known about before things took a turn in the middle of the 18th century when a solicitor from Shropshire, William Grosvenor, described as a ‘man of sporting tastes’, stayed at Llandrindod Farm and hatched an idea for an Hotel that would accommodate 300 guests and have dances that could attract 1000 people. How William Grosvenor got to Llandrindod Farm remains something of a mystery as there were no roads across the Common only muddy lanes, a bit like this:

The Hotel opened in 1749 and a description of this, the only hotel, in Llandrindod was:

“Here was accommodation for the invalid of whatever rank and distinction, field amusements for the healthy …balls, billiards and regular assemblies varied the pastimes of the gay and fashionable. The grounds were ornamented in a style of elegance. There were fishponds, a cockpit and race grounds. The systematic management prevailed in the interior of the house… Like a Metropolitan hotel it had shops for milliners, glovers and hairdressers…. etc.”    

Obtaining finance for this fairly extraordinary development in this remote part of Wales may have been helped by John Price of Penybont who before becoming one of the very early Bankers in Wales was known to have been a ‘money lender’. His Bank started in 1772 and was active until just before he died in 1798. Other Banks were also available in Kington, Brecon and Aberystwyth.

 In 1754 a German Physicist, DW Linden, sparked the real transformation of the area when he visited in an attempt to cure his scurvy. After taking the waters his scurvy was cured! This led him to write a scientific article, an extensive treatise, about the benefit of the ‘waters’ and their curative powers.

While some considered him a bit of a quack, many would follow in his footsteps to take the waters and hopefully receive a cure. As it evolved the cure would be a three week ‘treatment’ of: saline before breakfast; sulphur in the morning and afternoon; and chalybeate after every meal. A more dramatic form of the ‘cure’ was illustrated as:

‘Cure for a fever – sit in the water butt and let the spout run on your head until you feel better.’

  • Enclosure Act 1862

The next big change was the Enclosure Act of 1862 that released Llandrindod Common from the restrictions over the potential to build. Ellen Rosenman has written more generally about this radical change to Common Land:

“Between 1750 and 1850, approximately 4000 Enclosure Acts were passed converting commonable land into the exclusive private property of large landowners. According to the working-class politics of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these acts impoverished small farmers and destroyed the agrarian way of life that had sustained families and villages for centuries. Historians have debated this account of their effects, but for the politicized working classes the Enclosure Acts represented a profound trauma, an extended moment in a narrative of dispossession that undergirded resistance to aristocratic power and urbanization.” https://branchcollective.org/?ps_articles=ellen-rosenman-on-enclosure-acts-and-the-commons

The map below shows Llandrindod Common before the Enclosure Act:

This early map shows the Common between what is now the Automobile Place (5 Ways) and Howey; and Llanerch Common from 5 Ways  to what is now Railway Crossing.  

  • The Coming of the Railway 1865

Bringing a railway line through the heart of Wales was largely due to the investment of Sir Richard Green-Price. He brought the railway initially to Knighton and then on to Penybont and Llandrindod. A Temporary Halt, Llanerch Halt, was built at Llandrindod as it was not until 1868 that the line was extended through to Llanelli. The current station was built in 1905 to serve the now expanding town of Llandrindod Wells. Sir Richard also invested in building the Rock House Hotel one of the many hotels springing up in Llandrindod. It is probably worth mentioning, before we focus on the Metropole Hotel that the first of this wave of hotels was the Pump House Hotel that had an earlier history: “Built by 1805 on the site of the farmhouse of Mrs. Jenkins (who was the first person to promote the spa waters of Llandrindod c.1732); may have started to fill the gap left by the decline of the Grosvenor Hotel; originally just known as “The Pump House”, it was extended early in the 19thC, and again in 1840 under John Cane, who was the first to call it an hotel; customers were divided into first- and second-class, and the two groups were known as the “House of Lords” and the “House of Commons”; in 1888 the Old Pump House was demolished and a new luxury hotel was built.”

What is left of that old hotel which included the Lake in Llandrindod, can be seen in the grounds of the Powys County Council buildings.

With these three changes in the vicinity Llandrindod was ready to expand dramatically and the landowners were quick to exploit its potential.  Land was sectioned off into plots and sold off. It looked something like this showing the particulars of the sale for Temple Fields House and Coleman’s Hotel, which will come into Norma’s presentation, and a parcel of land with a frontage to the Turnpike Road, now the main road through Llandrindod and past the Metropole Hotel:

The railway was consolidated in 1905 when Llandrindod was given its own station:

Before handing over to Norma, Humph finished with 2 maps showing Llandrindod in 1887 and as it is today:

The population of Llandrindod increased from 300 in 1871 to 2800 in 1911. It is now 5309.

  1. Over to Norma Baird-Murray

Norma started with a cry of No! when Geraint asked her to do this talk. “I am too old and my memory is all but disappeared!” “You are warned”, she added. Her first mistake was to think she was only to talk about the Wilding family and their connection to the Metropole. She only discovered on ‘Face Time’ that she was to give the talk on the Metropole. In a way this was better as there are far too many of the Wildings.

As Humph has told us above, Middleton-Evans was a very wealty man who owned land  across Llanbadarn fawr Farm, Noyadd, Trefonen, and Wernoch. By 1900 his entire estate was sold after a ‘slow start’. Middleton-Evans needed people with a vision to spend their money on Guest Houses, shops, etc and to create their own wealth out of this piece of Common Land.

In 1870 Edwin Coleman was an early developer who was brave enough to invest his capital.

The Coleman family who had settled in Howey some years prior to Edwin Coleman purchasing the land for the first Hotel in 1870. While she had hoped to find a connection between Thomas Coleman and the Mustard Colemans, she did find that he had been paid £1 12s 3d for iron work on Howey School in 1857/8. It was however Edwin who bought the 3 plots in 1870 opposite Temple Gardens and on a bit of a track, certainly not a road:

This link with Howey in those early days highlighted the rivalry between the two places. Howey initially saw itself as more important than Llandrindod. The rational being that the postal service was managed from Howey after being sorted in Builth. Indeed the address for Llandrindod was ‘Llandrindod near Howey’. Letters came by coach from Builth to Howey. At Howey they changed to another coach that went to Llandrindod and Cefnllys. Howey and Penybont were, at this time, the important villages in the area and both had their own Post Office. The coaches always travelled during the day because of the danger of being intercepted by Highway Men. However when the trains came, and the mail came directly to Llandrindod, Howey was relegated and became ‘Howey near Llandrindod’. (Norma told us that these were “Recollections of John Jones” who was born at Disserth Inn.

Middleton-Evans sold three sites to Edwin Coleman with certain  conditions:

  1. That all mines, mineral deposits discovered on the site to be used for the benefit of E. Middleton-Evans and his heirs
  2. That no building be erected without the approval of elevation by Middleton-Evans or his Architects.
  3. That no building be used as a private lunatic asylum or any other offensive trade.

On the three sites Coleman erected a three-story building, this he divided into three semi-detached houses. One he called Tem[lefield House and the building nearest the Pump House he called Coleman’s Hotel.

  By 1872 the hotel was ready to open. It probably had accommodation for about 40 guests. There would not have been any single room occupancy or ensuite facilities. Coleman did take out a licence but was hit by new rules on early closing. It may not have been too much of a problem as Llandrindod was in the very early stage of development and the only other licensees were the Llanerch, the Ridgebourne, and the Middleton. The Pump House was too Grand to admit people from the ‘working Classes’.

The Hotel built up a reputation as a reliable, family and Commercial hotel, which was probably well provided with home grown food from the big garden behind the Hotel and with groceries from the family shop in Howey.

Edwin, at the age of 35 yrs., lost his first wife and was left with the Howey Shop, Coleman’s Hotel, four young sons and an infant daughter. Not surprisingly he found himself a second wife Eliza Meredith from Llanwrthwl. The Meredith family had been settled in the Parish for several centuries.

When Edwin himself died the Meredith family were keen to sell the Hotel and put it on the market with several Agents.

 Enter the connection with Penybont. John Wilding,

Owner of the Severn Arms, bought Colemans Hotel in 1885 for £2,200. John wanted to provide a sound source of income for his large family. John Lewis Wilding is still alive, living in Wicklow and he is in regular communication with Norma, and Jennifer Lewis.

William Wilding took over the running of the Severn Arms and it was said that he was a wonderful fisherman and no fish was safe. He saw the potential of ‘Ye Wells’. Unfortunately, John died on the very day he arranged for his children to become the owners of the Hotel. His wife and the family ran the Hotel for the next 10 years alongside the Severn Arms. At some point during this period they changed the name of the Hotel to The Bridge. The name seems to relate to a small bridge over the Arlais Brook that ran across the road near the Autopalace.

On 1st December 1897 Mrs. Elizabeth Miles bought the Bridge Hotel from the Wildings and in her time until she died in 1930 she would enlarge the Hotel 5 times and increased the number of guests from 40 to 100. Her descendants still run the Hotel today.

Elizabeth was the youngest of 14 children born to Chadwick Miles an Innkeeper in South Wales. She was a somewhat formidable lady with a vision that saw the Hotel become the biggest in Wales in her time. Elizabeth, according to Ruth Jones, who interviewed a neighbour, Frank Edwards, kept a very close eye on the development of the hotel. She would inspect the work of the builders who were extremely skilled and were expected to lay 800 to 1000 bricks a day. The dust would rise as soon as she appeared. The most telling story of her time was her trip to Norfolk to the closing down sale of the ‘Metropole Hotel’, where she bought a considerable amount of linen, cutlery, crockery, as well as a large number of carpets. Getting to Norfolk by car at her age was an achievement but getting back to Llandrindod having made these purchases must have been something else for a lady who was well past her prime, albeit she did have a chauffeur. When she arrived back at the Hotel still called The Bridge in 1911, her son pointed out that all of the items had been made with a large monogram ‘M’. It was at this point, or so the story goes, that she changed the name of the Hotel to the Metropole. What maybe less certain is that some of the rooms were built to the size of her new carpets.

Not everything has been plain sailing for the Metropole. Norma had not been able to find much information about the 1st World War period but, while the family continued to operate the Hotel, they sold off most of their properties in South Wales.

The Depression of the inter-war years was an extremely difficult time and as they appeared to be coming out of this bleak period the 2nd World War came along. All the large hotels in town were taken over by the Army Authorities for use as Officer Cadet Training Centres or as Hospitals. The Metropole was requisitioned, at a fortnights notice. The contents of the Hotel were sold off at a considerable loss from a marquee on the back lawn– nobody wanted hotel cutlery and linen.

The Hotels were handed back to their respective owners during 1946/47 in very poor condition and totally inadequate compensation. The Metropole was riddled with dry rot which cost £8000 to eradicate. The compensation for the use of the Hotel during the War period was, would you believe, £8000. To re-open the Hotel the family did not find a sale in Norfolk to go to and had to manage with local second hand sales. Rationing and shortages was the order of the day. There were no carpets to be had, no central heating, obsolete kitchen equipment and little prospect of an upturn in the low numbers of people and businesses looking for hotel accommodation. The Hotel was put on the market for £20,000 but there were no offers!

This was a resilient family however and Norma then gave some family background. Elizabeth had 2 sons, William, the eldest, qualified as a Doctor and was very much like his mother, a very shrewd man. The younger son, Francis, not so, he was very good with horses and an expert Polo Player – so she has been told.

Until her death, Granny Elizabeth was very much in charge. She employed mangers – some were good, some not so. After her death the family continued with difficulty through the war years, employing a succession of managers, until David came along. Oops! Lets go back a bit. Dr. William had 3 children through his marriage, Spencer, Elizabeth, and Mary. Elizabeth married Douglas Baird-Murray and they had 2 sons, David and Miles.

Here we got to the really exciting bit! Norma said: “David married ME!” She was Norma Knill. David and Norma, having married in 1958, had 4 children: Sarah, Knill, Justin and Emma.

David came back to the Hotel in 1954 after completing his National Service and then working in hotels in France an Morocco. His mother was ill and the Manager of the Hotel decided to leave. David, at the age of 24, took on the management of the Hotel and became the youngest Licensee in Wales. After his marriage to Norma, they lived in the Hotel for 8 years, between 1958 and 1966. These years were not easy. The Hotel was in poor shape, with very little furniture. They had to do everything themselves. There was no money for improvements, very few rooms to let, it was more like a Boarding House, Norma and David just got on with it. The population locally is very sparce and they had to rely on local business as best they could.

A short season began to emerge, the attraction of Llandrindod Wells to the Victorians had long gone, and it was at Easter that the Governing Body of the Church in Wales would come for their get-together. The season would then end in late September when the Governing Body would again come to the Hotel. These were particularly exciting events as the Hotel would be full and buzzing.

During this period David joined Best Western, a world-wide consortium of independent Hoteliers, who were able to purchase in bulk and share advertising.

David realised he had to take the initiative and begin to attract people to Mid Wales and to Llandrindod Wells. He became involved in a number of organisations connected with the hotel and catering industry. He also joined local groups and the Wales Tourist Board. He visited Coach Companies to persuade them that they could not afford to miss out Llandrindod Wells on their itineraries. He became an activist and chaired the Committee for ‘Sunday Opening’. During 1961 he ran the campaign for Sunday Opening. “Why should we be different from the rest of the country, how embarrassing when you had to turn people away, who called for Sunday lunch, but you could not serve them a drink.”  He would take Norma to the NEC in Birmingham and spend many hours persuading people to come to Wales.

This work of promoting not just the Metropole, but persuading people to come to Llandrindod and Wales goes on today. Justin and Judy go to many Shows just to do this. They have had a focus towards Car events selling the Metropole and Wales as the best place to come for weekend meetings.

Sarah and Justin have continued to make improvements to the Hotel and add even more to it. They purchased Worcester House next door, and there is a new Conference suite ‘The David Spencer Suite’. This you can enter straight from the Car Park. The restaurant and Wedgewood Meeting Room have been enlarged with a conservatory. The bedrooms have all been modernised and there are 109 rooms plus 8 Tower Suites. The swimming pool with all mod cons add to making the Metropole a modern hotel.

Returning to her favourite occupation, telling stories, Norma showed the above slide of the hotel chimneys. She was given this photo by Mrs Dug Jones. The black blob near the top of the ladder is Mr Dug Jones the Blacksmith working, without any Health and Safety, high up on the Hotel.

 Back to cars: The Wildings had built, behind the Hotel, coach houses, barns and whatever their customers of the time required. Great Granny, being the lady she was, was already preparing for the arrival of the motor car in 1910, even before the arrival of the Model T Ford, the first popular car. She asked the Urban District Council for permission to build a row of garages, probably where the stables were, and put in 2 petrol pumps. Possibly the fist petrol pumps in Llandrindod.

David took over what Granny had started and in early 1970 the chimneys were all removed – the story goes that there was enough stone to build three small cottages. The stone was used as hardcore for a new car park. That brought an end to the to the garden, the glass houses and a row of garages. The hotel now has a car park to encourage car clubs to come to Llandrindod.

Norma finished with 2 lovely stories about the Metropole.

In 1951 and 1955 the Monte Carlo Rally came to the Metropole. Along with the cars came Raymond Baxter, the television voice of motor cars. It was a very cold evening when Mr Baxter started his commentary from the Wedgewood Suite. His opening comments were:

“Here we are in Llandrindod Wells, the three coldest places in the World – the North Pole, the South Pole and the Metropole.” Norma said it was true – Central Heating had not yet been installed.

The final story was one that Justin had told to Norma. Peter Walker, then Secretary of State for Wales, Justin met him on a train, his comment was: “The Metropole is like Crewe Station ….. everyone has been there but no one can remember quite why!”

I must mention the Wisteria at the front of the Metropole. Norma did, but not sure when. It was planted in 1923 and is quite the most beautiful plant you could see anywhere when in full bloom:

Geraint thanked Norma and Humph for their talk which was clearly very well received by the group. Geriant felt it was probably the most enjoyable session we had had in the last 10 years! Mary was also asked to thank our two speakers.

Hope to see you at our next session when Shirley will be talking about the Royal Celebrations in the Area. The Meeting will not be on the first Monday of the month but on the 9th May in the Hall.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

7th March 2022

Main Topic: A Radnorshire Miscellany – Dr Marion Evans

Geraint opened the meeting, with about 50 people present, and started with a minute’s silence to reflect on the tragedies that are currently being perpetrated on the people of Ukraine.

 After welcoming members to the meeting Geraint reminded us that the next session will be ‘The History of the Hotel Metropole’ with Norma Baird and Humphrey Morgan taking the lead. We will discover that it all started in Penybont. Norma and Humph will have the benefit of a microphone assisted PA system curtesy of the WI.

The May session, which will be on the 9th, requires the help of members as Shirley is taking the lead in presenting “Royal Celebrations in this Community”. Shirley would like members to let her know of any stories, artifacts, pictures, etc that people may have. Shirley was only 3 years old in 1953 so she would love to have anything to do with earlier celebrations, particularly if any members can go back to 1902!

In September we are planning on having a session to record the impact of Covid 19 on our own community. Geraint again wanted to enlist the support of members who have anything to contribute to this session. Shirley mentioned that Dolau School are already engaged in making records of their community, and before we all forget.

Annette mentioned a special Spring Concert at the Albert Hall on Saturday 12th March featuring our very own Holly Richards who is singing with the Rhayader Male Voice Choir. Tickets are £10.

Derek mentioned that he also needs help with the Christmas Programme as Geraint has asked him to write a Play about a Christmas Banquet at Cefnllys in 1468. Derek is looking for people with talent and skill who are willing to perform at the December event.

Main Topic: Radnorshire Miscellany – Dr Marion Evans

Marion introduced her talk as ‘odds and sods’ with some rarebits and some mysteries that she has come across in the Radnorshire countryside.

  1. Sheela-Na-Gig

This little beauty is a rare stone carving, the only one of its kind to be found in Wales this complete. Currently she is residing in the Radnorshire Museum. Shockingly Marion discovered that it was Geraint who had found it, and had it removed to the museum. It was face down in the Old Church at Llandrindod lying in the coal bunker! It has been said the Geraint found it ‘distracting’!

Another similar but incomplete carving can be found in Llanbadarnfawr Church.

But this one has not been positively identified as a Sheela. Not all Sheela’s look alike:

This one on the left is from Kilpeck Church in Herefordshire. There is an interesting article at: https://kilpeckchurch.org.uk/the-intriguing-tale-of-shocking-sheela-na-gig-and-its-art-references-by-candy-bedworth/

 While there are a number in Britain and across Europe, the biggest number are in Ireland. The picture on the right is one that is mounted on the wall of Mac Gilla Padraig Castle at Cullahill Co. Laois. http://laoisarchaeology.ie/galesquarter-sheela-na-gig/

There are many theories and myths associated with Sheela-Na-Gig and experts continue to disagree about them. See:  https://sheelanagig.org/theories/

Essentially a Sheela-Na-Gig carving is of a woman showing, in a rather graphic fashion, her genitalia.

Myths Associated with Sheela-Na-Gig

Some people see it as an Irish phenomenon, and there are over 100 examples in Ireland but they can be found in many European countries. The name Sheela-Na-Gig is Irish and it was first used in documents in the mid-nineteenth century and possible had a very local connotation before then. Na-Gig can be translated as a rude name for female genitalia. Some people have suggested that in a similar way to the Misericords they were a sort of carving prank but this is unlikely. Some people see the Sheela as ‘the Hag of the Castle’. This maybe how Sheelas have come to be seen but it is unlikely that it is the intention of the carving.

Theories Associated with Sheela-Na-Gig

The most common explanations for Sheela-Na-Gig relate to them originating in the pre-Christian Pagan world. Though this is a popular there is very little evidence to support this theory. There is a school of thought that suggests that Sheela carvings support Matriarchal cultures while others she her as a symbol of fertility, a sort of talisman for Mid-Wives. Then taking more or less the opposite position Sheela can be seen as a warning against lust or even a protection against ‘evil’. Indeed, Sheela can be seen as a Roman Catholic expression of the need to control women. The only ‘good woman is a ‘virgin’. Female Saints had to be virgins. Ordinary people were expected to limit the sexual desires, with No Sex on Sundays, Thursdays and Fridays. There were even fines and punishments if children were born at times when sex was not allowed and the children would be referred to as ‘Bastards’.

Marion finished this section with the suggestion that some Christian iconography shows Christ Transcendent appearing from a Mandora shape, or nut like shape, representing the female vulva.

  • Steorfan

An old English word, Steorfan, meant starve or stiffen. In Radnorshire there was a description:- People ‘Starve from the Cold’. This seems particular to Radnorshire.

  • Curious Incident of the Murder of St Thomas Becket 1170

During the reign of Henry II, Thomas Becket, a close friend of the King, worked closely with the King to restore order in the country and to establish a fair legal system for the common man including radical ideas like ‘trial by jury’. This conflicted with another legal system that operated under the Catholic Church, Canon Law which allowed Priests to be judged by fellow Priests. When Henry appointed Thomas Becket to the role of Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, he had assumed that Thomas would bring the Priests into line with his reform agenda. The appointment however led to a monumental change in Thomas and he took on the mantel of a deeply religious man in support of the Catholic Church, the Pope and its structures.

Tensions became so great that Thomas fled to France, albeit he still carried on as Archbishop. The King is a moment of exasperation is alleged to have said: “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” The King’s exasperation with Thomas was taken up by 4 Knights, unbeknown to the King, and they challenged Thomas in the Cathedral and he was hacked to death.

The consequences of Thomas’s death were that the 4 Knights were Excommunicated from the Church by the Pope but then allowed to serve as Knights in the Holy Land. The King begged for forgiveness, and Thomas Becket was made a Saint.

He was made a martyr and was highly acclaimed throughout Europe, albeit not in Wales. The exception to this was in Radnor where the alter was dedicated to Saint Thomas Becket and there were 5 panels celebrating the life of the Saint.

This all came to a head in 1538 when King Henry Vlll banned all Icons celebrating Saint Thomas Becket. The Priest at the time was somewhat terrified by this turn of events. He did however get away with the scandal.  

  • King’s Rent Hole – Llanbister

On a stormy, snowy day on the 20th January 1913, Hiliary Monday, Edward Owen the First Secretary of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and constructions in Wales and Monmouthshire (now known as the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales), visited a site near Tyn-yr-ynn (NPRN: 423735) in Llanbister parish. He went there to witness an annual event to appoint the Collector of the King’s Rent in the Parish of Llanbister. This ancient custom was probably not unique to Llanbister but by this point in history it was the only one still happening. Llangunllo and Discoed may also have had a Rent Hole. The custom finally came to an end in 1922. The following is an account of the event by a local resident Mr. Thos. Williams, of Crossways farm, at the age of 80:

“ From a time when the memory of man runs not to the contrary, there has gathered at this spot on Hilary Monday, a company of the resident householders within the manor of Melenydd for the purpose of electing one of the occupiers as ‘ Collector of the King’s Rent.’ From every holding in the manor a small rent is due to the King, who [through His Majesty’s Department of Woods and Forests] must yearly receive a total sum of £19 18s. 7d. from these rents. The ‘ Collector ‘ is the man who will take the cess at the lowest figure per head ; anything over the total, calculated at the accepted rates, becomes the ‘ Collector’s ‘ vails. As the hour of noon approaches, any resident of the manor who proposes to bid for the collection or cess, enters the hole by way of a small sunken track, repeating, as he slowly walks, the formula which has been in use from time immemorial—” I have come here to take His Majesty the King’s rent for one year, the year , at —•—• on all married occupiers, half-price on single occupiers and widows and on all bitacks [bye-takes], the occupier living inside the manor, and full-price on all occupiers residing outside the manor.” While repeating this form of offer the bidder has walked the 10 feet of track and reached the centre of the hole, when he turns round to face the audience, standing bareheaded in the hole, ‘ in the eye of light.’ Should another candidate for the collectorship be forthcoming who is prepared to take the poll tax at a lower figure, he goes through the same ceremony. This continues until the exact hour of noon, when he who has offered to collect the cess at the lowest poundage becomes Collector. He is at once called upon to find guarantors in four residents within the manor. These being forthcoming, with a fifth resident as ‘ King’s Witness,’ all stand in the Rent Hole, and the four bail-men, clasping one another by the wrist, and laying four hands on four hands, agree to go bail that the sum of £19 18s. 7d. shall be duly paid by the Collector to the Official Receiver of Crown rents. The fifth man, the King’s Witness, places his right hand on the top of the other right hands, and his left hand beneath them, thus making in all ten hands in the pile. The ceremony is then over, and the company disperses for another twelve months. All is done by word of mouth, there is no Avriting of any kind, and no case of defaulting has been known within memory. Some years see a larger attendance than others, especially when there is likely to be a keen contest for the collectorship.”

The particular fact about the ceremony is that there is no evidence that the ‘contract’ sealed in the hole was ever broken.

The following is a link to 1958 footage of the King’s Rent Ceremony is part of the ITV Cymru/Wales Archive at the National Library of Wales, unfortunately there is no sound:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xZa3lnk2fM 

  • A Medieval Mystery or Two
Eagle Public House

Marion then took us on a journey that she has been exploring in the depths of New Radnor. The journey starts with the question: ‘Why is the pub in New Radnor called The Eagle? This is not a common name and it is difficult to see why this has happened.

The Eagle is often associated with St John the Evangelist:

This is where it all gets quite confusing. St John the Evangelist is the Disciple of Jesus who wrote the fourth Gospel. Then of course there is Saint John the Baptist who came before Jesus. And then, there is Saint John of Jerusalem. John of Jerusalem was born c. 356 and died 417. He was a Catholic Bishop and Theologian. A complex set of circumstances followed when in 603 Pope Gregory commissioned a hospital in Jerusalem. In conjunction with the Hospital a Church Military Order of Knights was established. They were known as Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem, or the Knights Hospitaller.

Subsequent developments that have led to St John’s Ambulance are documented at:

Sufficient to say here that the Knights moved to Malta in 1522 and were responsible for the Island until 1798 when Napoleon expelled them. It was the Maltese Cross that drew Marion away from the simple question about the Eagle to the Knights of St John.

Marion in her investigations had become aware of at Maltese Cross in a wall in New Radnor.

No one seems t know why this cross is there but it is said that it came from the ‘Old Church’.

This led to Marion to, in her own words ‘ferreting about’, looking at the Town Charter for New Radnor of the Tudor period, the poems of Lewis Glyn Cothi, and the life of Ieuan ap Llywelyn of Crug Eryr.

The Havotry or summer house and pasture, referred to in the poem would seem to be further up the hill from a Farm adjacent to Crug Eryr. The house sounds very grand and could have walls like this:

And the house could be something like:

Marion also found a reference to the possibility of a St John’s Chapel near Llandegley.

She finished by presenting the members with 3 questions:

Marion is hopeful that aerial photography might throw some light on these questions. Maybe this will shine some light onto why the pub in New Radnor is called the Eagle. It has been fascinating to follow Marion’s line of thought, pulling together a number of strands relating to the history of New Radnor and while she has posed some challenging questions for future research, there may be, however, a possibly simpler explanation as to why the pub is called the Eagle. It could just be that the pub might have taken its name from Crug Eryr, the Eagle’s Mount or Nest, nearby. Marion’s journey however is much more interesting.

 Discussion

  • There was some discussion about the Rent Hole and the fact that there was no written contract for the Collector. The ritualised process seemed to ensure a sense of ‘fair play’.
  • During International Women’s Day Celf o Gwmpas held a session encouraging Women Artists to complete a piece of art based on Sheelah. The Exhibition of the work is still on display.
  • There was some discussion about the reference to ‘white walls’ and whether the walls might not have been white washed. This led to discussion of different colours that were used to cover stone buildings. In Carmarthenshire animal blood was used to create a red wash that was used on some buildings. There is a Black House at Beguildy.
  • There was some further discussion about the St John’s Chapel near Llanfiangel Nant Melan and a link to Geraldus Cambrensis coming through the area in 1188 with Archbishop Baldwin and tythes that were paid to a St John’s Hospital.
  • There was a question around the historical accuracy of events related to the confusion over the Saints John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and John of Jerusalem. It would appear that even Queen Victoria got it wrong when she dedicated St John’s Ambulance to John the Baptist! Marion said that this was not that uncommon.

Mary thanked Marion for a most interesting talk that would open up many areas for further research in the future.

Next Meeting will be on Monday 4th April in the Community Centre in Penybont at 10.30 a.m. when Norma Baird-Murray and Humphrey Morgan will present ‘A History of the Metropole Hotel’.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

7th February 2022

Main Topic: Llanbadarn-Fawr Parish in the Nineteenth Century – Jennifer Lewis

Geraint welcomed a coming together of 60 people to this the first meeting of the History Group in 2022. He explained that there was little or no structure to the History Group, other than to 4 people who come together from time to time to make decisions, but that everyone was welcome and welcome to contribute. He apologised that he had not printed enough cards with the years programme of events and he would print some more. There were one or two events in the coming year that he wanted to highlight at this stage:

  1. On 9th May we will be celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Shirley has undertaken to pull together a programme that highlights how the different celebrations of the Queen’s reign have been celebrated locally. Shirley could do with help from as many people as possible who have memories or items of interest. We will also liaise with the Village Charity Group who are organising an event, including the Tractor Run, to celebrate the event.
  • On 5th September we wanted to pull together an historical record of how the Covid 19 Pandemic has impacted on our lives in our area. Here again we will be relying on members of the community telling us their stories. We are particularly interested in stories from Penybont, Llandegley, Crossgates, Dolau and Cefnllys.
  • Our next meeting, which is on the 7th March, is a ‘Radnorshire Miscellany’ with Marion taking the lead. She was giving nothing away, so we shall have to be there to discover all there is to know about a Radnorshire Miscellany.

One of the members, John Phillips had brought a weighing scale. These scales had been Land Army and (later) Prisoner of War hostel at Briarfield in Crossgates, and has subsequently been used to weigh babies ever since. Geraint felt he might be too big to be weighed at this time.

Main Topic: Llanbadarn-Fawr Parish in the Nineteenth Century.

Geraint introduced Jennifer as a retired School-Teacher who was born locally within a family whose ancestors have a long history in this area. Her talk he told us was based on a dissertation written by Jennifer as part of her Teacher Training. The theme she wrote her Dissertation too was a history associated with where she lived. Technically Geraint thought this might have been Llandegley as the boundary between the two Parishes ran, at that time, along a small brook, or trickle of water that came from a Spring under the Common in the Thomas Family’s yard and reached the river between the Thomas Shop and the Terraced Cottages. The boundary has since moved to be the River Ithon.

Jennifer started, by shattering our delusion that Geraint was infallible, by telling us that the Dissertation had nothing to do with her Teacher Training! She had in fact escaped her child-care duties, thanks to her husband, to attend an Evening Class, some 25 years ago, run by Aberystwyth University in the Further Education Building in Llandrindod, opposite the Doctor’s Surgery.

The Dissertation/ Project, which she wrote in 1998, she has given to our History Library based at the Thomas Shop. It was written under the programme: Local Studies in Wales 1830 – 1960 and had the Title: “The History of Llanbadarn-Fawr Parish as seen through the Censuses 1841 – 1891”. So, if you want more detail of Jennifer’s study you can find it at the Thomas Shop.

She then gave a warning to the members present that she had found herself having to give this talk, only after offering her Dissertation to the Local History Group Library, whereupon Geraint said: “Well of course you can do a talk on the subject!” Beware!

Jennifer started her talk with a picture of St. Padarn’ s Church before it was rebuilt in 1878/9. The picture below shows both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ church.

A quick snapshot of the Population figures from the census show how the Number of houses, families and Population changed between 1801 and 1901.

The fairly stable situation in the early part of the century changed quite dramatically with the coming of the trains around 1864.

The need for a census arose in the 17th Century when there was concern over having enough food to feed the population.

There was also concern over how fit young men might be if they were called upon to enter a war.

Early census figures only gave the three columns, houses, families and Population. It was not until 1841 that each person was identified alongside their age and occupation. From a Family History perspective these documents become much more useful. Dates of birth have proved to be particularly important.

The 1931 census was destroyed in a fire and a register was carried out in 1939. This helped with the issuing of ration books and identity cards during the war period.

Collection of the information was done by an ‘Enumerator’. Enumerators would go out and knock-on doors with their sheets. The work had to be completed in one day. Jennifer believes that it was a J. Price who was the first Enumerator for the Parish. It is very difficult to see how he managed to complete the Census in one day for Cefnllys and Llandrindod. By 1881 there were 2 enumerators to cover the Parish.

Jennifer highlighted the way in which the Enumerators carried out their work over time in the following chart:

The documentation associated with the Llanbadarn-Fawr came under the District of Rhayader and the sub-District of Nantmel:

The Enumerators would complete documents as shown below. The 1941 Census however did not state the place each person was born, only if born in Radnorshire. From 1851 the place of birth was stated. Also, in 1841, ages were rounded down, and the relationship to the head of the household was not asked for. Though the ages were put in correctly from 1851 Jennifer told us we had to be careful as, in many cases, the ages were guesstimates, or even told wrongly for a variety of reasons. There can also be similar issues about where people were born.

In 1891 a question about the Welsh language was introduced. More recently Ruth Jones, who established Bon Marche  in Llandrindod and was very involved in the Victorian Festival, undertook establishing an archive library on behalf of Powys Family History. She transcribed records for 1891. This identified 60 people who could speak Welsh in the Parish, 24 people worked in the Central Wales Emporium, and there were 11 Railway staff. It is thought that dissent in the 18th century started the decline in the number of people speaking Welsh. Jennifer told us that Phil Bufton, would be happy to send information from the Powys Family History Archive to anyone who asked.

1851

1891

Starting with Penybont Hall it is interesting to note the number of Domestic Servants associated with the Hall and their varied occupations.

The aim of Jennifer’s study was to expand our knowledge of the Llanbadarn-Fawr community in Radnorshire through an analysis of the Censuses from 1841 to 1891 when the names of people living in the Parish were recorded. At the time she carried out her study the 100 year rule on disclosure only allowed her to study up to the Census of 1991. (It may be useful for someone to look at the next 20 years now that 2 more census data have been released.)

The origins of the Parish probably corelate to the building of the original St. Padarn’s Church around 520 A.D. The name Llanbadarn-Fawr was at the time of the study some 1470 years old.

In the 1841 Census the Parish is described as having 2 townships: Kevenlleece and Brenhyfedd. By 1851 it is described as the whole of the Parish of Llanbadarn-Fawr including the village of Penybont, west of the River Ithon.

The first thing that Jennifer highlighted was, as mentioned above, the coming of the Railway. Originally the Central Wales Railway came to Penybont in 1864.The Station was quite important as engines were serviced there and the Post Office used the station as its main parcel and goods centre for the area. These changes led to an influx of people, houses being built and facilities developed in Llanbadarn-Fawr. These included a Post Office to deal with Goods and Parcels, and a second Inn, the Builders. There were 26 new houses recorded on the census of 1871, 33 new families, and an increase in the population of 114 people. These changes were supported by 23 new jobs.

The education of scholars was the next area of interest that Jennifer discussed. The 1841 census did not identify any scholars but it is known that an interest in the education of children was beginning to develop. Between 1841 and 1851 there was a school that met in the Church Belfry. The 1851 census identifies 38 scholars but no teacher. During the 50s a new Church school was built and by 1861 the census records 83 scholars and 1 schoolmaster. The combined impact of the 1870 Education Act and the coming of the railway saw another jump in the census record, the number of scholars is now 119 and there are 2 teachers. In 1891 there were 2 teachers and a schoolmistress. The Church School building was replaced around this time by the Board School building which is now the building that has become the Crossgates Community Centre.

The pattern of expansion of education around the needs of the scholars is reflected in the occupations available to people locally.

The number of people employed within agriculture dominate the figures in 1841.

The Sopman Jennifer thinks is a soap maker and the Green Joiner would probably have made furniture using green timber.

The pye-chart  below gives a sense of how people were employed.

There is very little change by 1851. The dominance of agriculture related occupations remains about the same. As mentioned above we have the emergence of 38 scholars, but the other big change is the number of people, 6, linked to church occupations. Geraint felt they were grossly over-represented.

There were also 4 people in occupations connected to the road system – Road surveyor, Assistant surveyor, Road Labourer and a Turnpike Keeper.

Major change was still waiting to happen in 1861. Agriculture remains dominant, and there are not so many clergy. The Chelsea Pensioner is someone who had served in the army or navy and is a generic term.

It was not until the 1971 Census that change became the dominant theme.

The industry of the Parish during the Victorian period was primarily agriculture. Farms would grow wheat, barley, oats and root crops. Hay was also grown to feed stock. Flax had been grown in the previous century mainly to make men’s shirts. A Thomas Jarvis was the last known manufacturer but by the 1841 census he no longer was present.

The numbers of farms did not change much but the increase in other opportunities were largely as a result of the railway. The 1870’s was not a good time for farmers. The price of grain collapsed and with cheap imports from America agriculture did not improve significantly until well into the 20th century. Llanbadarn Fawr was to some extent protected by the increase in the work opportunities brought about by the coming of the railway.

When we look at law and order within this rural community there are some very peculiar statistics relating to Bailiffs. In 1851 none were recorded, then quite suddenly in 1861 there were 13, but by 1871 this was back down to 1 bailiff and 1 water bailiff. While crime was generally very low in the area, there was a general assumption that salmon poaching was the right of anyone born in Radnorshire. However, at 11 p.m. in 22nd November 1878 two water bailiffs were met at Clewedog Rhoss, near Crossgates, by a number of men with their clothing turned inside out and their faces covered. The men pushed and kicked the water bailiffs and ran off escaping into the Clewedog Public House. Two of the men were recognised and brought before the Penybont Bench, where one was fined £1 and the other discharged.

Then again in 1880, the Chief Constable reported that a number of Rebecca Riots had occurred in different Parishes nearby, including Penybont. The Chief Constable’s account of whatever went on in Penybont was challenged in a letter to the Hereford Times which read as follows: –

“I see by the report of the Radnorshire Quarter Sessions in last week’s Hereford Times that the Chief Constable stated there had been a riot, in amongst other places at Penybont, in connection with salmon poaching. Allow me, through your columns, to ask the gentleman to kindly give the date of the alleged riot. None of the inhabitants of the place ever heard of anything approaching a riot.”

Two men did appear in court over this but were acquitted to the great glee of the community.

Another illegal activity was the art of fighting with knuckles. In 1896 a fight took place in a lonely spot for a prize of £50. There was a knock-out in the 22nd round and the Police were none the wiser.

During the period that Jennifer covered the census there were no policemen living in the Parish. The Headquarters of Radnorshire Police was in Penybont, and there were Police Cells, but these were within Llandegley Parish.

Employment was generally good in Llanbadarn-Fawr throughout the period. Jennifer wondered whether, in addition to the jobs that came in from the railway and managing the road system, the conditions in the workhouse were such that people chose to work. The number of paupers mentioned within the census were:

1841 three paupers

1851 eight paupers, one relieving officer and a tramp

1861 none

1871 one vagrant

1881 one pauper

1891 one pauper

The Parish was within the Rhayader Union and in 1881 census there were 2 people in the Rhayader Workhouse who came from Llanbadarn-Fawr. Jennifer wondered if the high employment rate was encouraged by the way in which people were treated in the Workhouse. Marion said that New Radnor had a much higher number of people surviving in the Workhouse at Kington.

Jennifer then turned her attention to the origins of people living in Llanbadarn-Fawr Parish. The Census of 1851 began to record the place where people were born.

We can see a fairly stable and local population at this time. There was some movement that Jennifer referred to however. Farmers would often try to move down from the hills where the conditions were better and the land more fertile; however to find a wife they would look back to the hills where life was tougher and the work was harder!

The census figures did not change significantly in the next few decades, but as we have seen from other factors there was a significant rise in the number of people coming into the area in 1871 with the coming of the railway.

The only significant change by 1891 was the appearance of 2 people who were born in India.

Jennifer mentioned that it was important to retain some scepticism about the place of birth. In some instances, people who may have been born in Hereford did not want to be identified as being born outside of Wales. Marion said this was particularly true in New Radnor as many children were born in Kington.

We have talked in previous sessions about the vital role that Nurse Gittings played in assisting new births in Penybont. She told us that while three of the children in her family were born with Nurse Gittings in attendance, a fourth child had her Grand-mother managing the birth.

Mary went on to thank Jennifer for a most interesting talk on behalf of the Group.

As mentioned above, our next Meeting will be on Monday 7th March 2022 in the Community Hall at 10.30 a.m. when Marion will talk on the title: Radnorshire Miscellany. Hope to see you there.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

6th December 2021

Main Topic: Local Christmas and New Year Traditions

Geraint welcomed everyone to a festive session around local traditions. Geraint explained that when it was decided to make this our topic for this year, we had hoped to be able to find evidence of some very local traditions that we could explore and renew, however very little has been found. Undaunted the programme that follows covers a number of traditions that we can assume might have had a place within the local culture and some that we have adapted from nearby areas.

  1. Early Carols

First up Geraint covered the chants and carols that people would have listened to or sung over the centuries. He took us back to a time when the Abbey at Cwmhyr was the dominant power within the area. Whether founded in 1143 by Llywelyn Fawr, or 1176 by Cadwallon ap Madog, the Abbey, whose nave was described as sumptuous, was one of the largest in Europe. It would have exerted considerable influence over this area. When the Marcher Lord, Roger Mortimer, began to exert his influence around 1200 he also became involved in the development of the Abbey. Geraint played some early music that would have been chanted by the Monks as part of their worship at Christmas time. Still staying with the Abbey Geraint played songs that the monks would have led in services that were more open to people living in the Penybont area. These sung in Latin were well known to the local population and were in a simple style that would have been understood by the people who joined in the singing. Coinciding with this the Churches locally, at that time Catholic, would-be celebrating Christmas and early carols began to emerge. At each stage Geraint played a range of music appropriate to the time. This was a delightful introduction to what was to come, as described below.

Geraint then introduced Lizzie Evans, from Burryport, who introduced us to Plygain, which was a very strong tradition in Montgomeryshire and many other parts of Wales. There is evidence that Plygain services took place in Presteigne in the 1890’s, but we have been unable to find any reference to Plygain in our own area.

Plygain may be a very ancient tradition dating back to pre-Christian times but this is uncertain. It came to the fore in the 13th century as part of the Catholic Christmas / New Year custom in Wales. The Plygain songs were sung, not in Latin, but in the Welsh language. They evolved as a way of teaching the people of Wales the Bible stories. Virtually every Book in the Bible, Old and New Testament, was represented in the songs. These songs were not presented by a priest but were brought to the services by families. Plygain is not a Welsh word but is taken from the Latin. It translates as Cock Crow. Services would start at 3.00 a.m. Individuals and small family groups would come prepared for the service which would consist of 2 rounds of singing with a sermon in the middle. A critical rule was that no song should be sung more than once. Participants singing near the end of the 2nd round of songs would need to be prepared to change their song if they had heard someone else sing it earlier. Some services started at 6.00 a.m. to allow for farmers to carry out their animal husbandry.

Though the songs were initially sung within the Catholic tradition, Plygain is one of the few traditions that evolved to be embraced within the Church of Wales and also the non-Conformist religions. Indeed, it probably survived most strongly with the Primitive Methodists. There was a very strong revival of the tradition in the 17th century and even today Pygain services are held in many parts of Wales, albeit they have moved to the early evenings. There was some naughtiness also associated with Plygain as some family members would stay up drinking until 3.00 a.m. and were rather the worse for wear by the time of the service.

Lizzie emphasised that the Plygain songs were, and are, considered sacred and should only be sung in Churches and Chapels. She did, however, sing from 2 Plygain songs, one, ‘Ar Fore Dydd Nadolig’ a very early song where the music, influenced by the Gregorian Chant, had unusually been written exclusively for the song and one, ‘Croeso Fab y Dyn’ a more recent song.

  • Mari Lwyd

In a complete change of mood, Shirley, ably assisted by Janet and Geraint, introduced us to the Mari Lwyd tradition.

 Shirley had taken on the task of researching Mari Lwyd, ‘The Grey Mare’ or in older traditions possibly ‘Sacred Mary’, and, as with those before her, had found nothing local. Undaunted she set about making up Mari Lwyd as a costume to be worn by Janet. She did not however find a dead horse, have its head removed, cleaned and built into a costume. The costume was however as good as the ‘real’ thing and much less smelly! The first we knew Shirley was leading this horse like Mari Lwyd from the back of the Hall. Janet took to the part and nuzzled many members on her way to the front, much to the joy of everyone present. Having reached the front Shirley knocked on an imaginary door, behind which Geraint was waiting. An exchange occurred in which Shirley tried to gain access and Geraint resisted, accusing Shirley and Mari Lwyd of just wanting to have his beer.

This lovely interlude was followed by Shirley giving some background to this ancient Welsh tradition that may, or may not, have been acted out locally in times gone by. It is suggested that this was mainly a rural tradition that brought people together during the shortest days of the year. In many instances the exchange between the householder and the Mari Lwyd was carried out in rhyme and could go on for some time until one was declared the winner. Access to the house was dependent on Mari Lwyd being the winner, otherwise they would have to move on to the next house with the hope of a better result. Access to the house would mean there would be food and drink a plenty. In some traditions the Mari Lwyd would bring the drink and so there was mutual benefit in gaining access. Part of the repartee would usually refer to the undesirability of having a ‘smelly’ horse enter the abode. This was part of the exchange in Shirley’s event, fortunately Janet did not take offence when Geraint was being uncharacteristically mean!

  • Traditional Carol Singing

Geraint introduced Holly Richards who sang 2 traditional carols – beautifully.

  • Last Sleeping Dragon in Wales

Jenny Bowman recited her poem that she had written for the WI a few years previously. The poem celebrated the local legend that the Last Welsh Dragon is asleep in the Radnor Forest protected by 5 Churches that are dedicated to St. Michael. This proved to be an apt introduction to the final act in our morning of ‘local traditions’.

The Poem is entitled: “The Ballad of the Last Welsh Dragon”

In the Forest, ringed by Churches, sleeps the Dragon, mystic Dragon.

Ringed and caged by ancient Churches, lest it wakens, stalks the forest.

Though as yet, the time is not here,

Someday, soon, the land will need it.

People came across the centuries. Ancient people built their Cursus.

Worshipped trees and rocks and rivers. Fashioned tools in bronze and iron.

Romans came and marched and conquered,

But the Land it turned against them, soaked their horses, rusted armour.

Bards there were with incantations. Nowhere straight for Roman roadways,

Made them twist through mist and mountains,

Sunk their roads in bogs and ditches. Roads and Castles lost and ruined

Forts are fallen, towns forgotten, stones robbed out for other houses.

Farmsteads grow around the Forest, life is peaceful, Land is kindly

Sheep’s eyes glow like fireflies, thronging the land where Romans stood.

Harvests golden, make men merry, Dragon stirrings come so seldom

Kings and Princes war at distance, mighty Powers rise and perish.

Still the Dragon sleeps unhindered, sleeps like Arthur ‘neath his mountain

Slumbering ‘til his people need him. Slumbering while the Land is peaceful.

Sunlight warms the hills and farmsteads; Christians bless their Land of Plenty

‘One God only’ says the Bible

The Ring of Churches holds the Dragon.

But deep thoughts still know the Dragon, let it flow throughout the language

Word and song in the Eisteddfod keep alive the ancient wisdom

Reawaken the old wisdom, that the Land itself is magic

Though in places they have spoiled it, used it roughly, mined and robbed it

Land can heal itself and flourish. Land takes back where man has plundered

Trees and grasses grow on slag heaps,….. flowers bloom where man made barren

Families rise and fall in fortune, One day Lord, the next a Pauper

Magical the Land before us, magic earth and rock beneath us

The Dragon represents the life blood. Nature works through Old Gods’ wisdom

Land was there from the beginning, Land and earth, and soil are magic

The start and end of every journey. The start and end of all the stories

Man about the stars keep dreaming, missing magic strewn all around him.

It is Time, its all about Time People now are in transition,

Forebears knew the ancient wisdom – must look backwards to go forward,

Knew ‘twas Earth that held the magic

Eons pass, but Lo, the Earth wins

  • Mummers Plays

Derek had been asked to research any local traditions involving Mummers Plays. As you will know by now, he did not find any evidence of Mummers Plays in this area. There was some evidence in some parts of Wales that Mummers did come and perform. Mummers Plays were performed by people in masks or elaborate hats that disguised who they were. The stories told in these plays were generally very English. They revolved around St. George and the Dragon and had characters such as Robin Hood. There would be a fight, a death and a resurrection brought about by a Quack Doctor. The plays were in rhyme and were performed in the street or in pubs to raise money. In Wales they were sometimes chased out of town by the Plygain singers for celebrating English culture. In England they were banned in some places as the Mummers were somewhat riotous in their behaviour and ‘up to no good’.  Mummers plays have similar routes to Pantomime and emerged across Europe and became associated with England, Ireland and in many of the former colonies.

Derek decided that it was time to write a proper Welsh, albeit in the medium of English, Mummers Play. While Derek was talking some of the members were getting into costume and when Derek said they welcome to the World Premiere of ‘Let Our Sleeping Dragon Lie’ the Mummers came through the members ruffling hair and generally being somewhat mischievous.

‘Let Our Sleeping Dragon Lie’ by Derek Turner

 Characters:                                               Cast

St Patrick                                                     Derek Turner

Archangel Michael                                      Marion Evans

Caratacus                                                    Elizabeth Newman

Emperor Claudius                                       Shirley Morgan

Giraldus Cambrensis                                  Jill Willey

Archbishop Baldwin                                    Mary Davies

Roger Mortimer                                           Steve Millward-Cox

Llewelyn ap Gruffudd                                 Chris Millward-Cox

John Morgan Evans                                   Jenny Bowman

Yardley Warner                                           Janet Mathews

Archdeacon Henry De Winton                   Geraint Hughes

Rev Geraint Morgan Hugh Hughes          Ellen Turner

Scene 1:

Enter St Patrick shamrock in hand

You will know by the shamrock that St Patrick is my name

Born in Wales, it was in Ireland that I gained my fame

Having chased the snakes of that fair land

It is with a dragon I need to lend a hand

Environmentalists I am told

Love their dragons to behold

No love for dragons have I

This dragon must surely die

Enter the Archangel Michael

As the Defender of the Faith and official Dragon Slayer 

I, the Archangel Michael, would ask you to defer

There is but one dragon left in our fair land of Wales

A dragon that is hiding in the Radnorshire hills

No need to kill our dragon for he has gone to sleep

A ring of my churches will this dragon keep

You can visit them this Christmastide

Between Cefnllys; Nantmelan; Rhydithon; Cascob; and Discoed our dragon does reside

This dragon sleeps contentedly they say

As long as my churches are open to those who pray

Enter Roger Mortimer carrying a sword

Well, there you have it in a nutshell

But it is I, Roger Mortimer, who will this story tell

A dragon sleeping could arise

So, I will plan his/her swift demise

Scene 2:

Enter Caratacus carrying a leek

It is not dragons that we need to slay

The invading Romans seem to want to stay

Usurping land and houses for their second homes

Our language and culture threatened we must send them back to Rome

But it is I, Caratacus, that has been sent away

An Emperor Claudius to sway

Aside: All Hail the Emperor Claudius!

Enter Emperor Claudius

What a nice boy come all this way to entertain myself, the Emperor Claudius

This splendid youth, this very talented Caratacus

And he sings so very, very well

He could pass for a future day Bryn Terfel

Enter the Archangel Michael

Caratacus maybe in Rome

But I am very much at home

Do not worry I am not asleep

A dragon sleeping, it is my duty to keep

Scene 3

Enter Roger Mortimer carrying a sword

Time moves on but I, on behalf of the King, am still here

That Michael and his dragon still have something to fear

I will slay dragons wherever they can be found

Both here and on Holy ground

Enter Giraldus Cambrensis

I, Giraldus Cambrensis, have been in Radnorshire once before

But this ended badly in the church at Llanbadarnfawr

The priests would not the laws of Rome obey

As Archdeacon of Brecon, I simply wanted them to pray

They would have none of it however

And to escape I had to be quite clever

 I am now coming up from New Radnor

With Archbishop Baldwin to Crug Eyryr

Fighting dragons is his game

But in lands that have a foreign name

Recruiting for the third Crusade is his main endeavour

Cadwallon ap Madog’s wife will not let him go however

“Make way for Archbishop Baldwin!”

Enter Archbishop Baldwin

You have met my friend Giraldus from Wales

A polymath, chronicler and teller of tall tales

We are close, he could even be my brother

Two clerics striving to support each other

We have walked up to this castle in Maelienydd

Near to where, I am told, a dragon sleepeth

My attention is drawn to foreign shores

Hopefully we will not hear how the dragon roars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 4:

 

 Enter Roger Mortimer carrying a sword

Well, here I am again and ready for a fight

A dragon slain is not a pretty sight

Maelienyth has no dominion in these parts

Llewellyn ap Gruffudd is just a young upstart

He may think he has won the siege

But at Cefnllys I will gain even more prestige 

From not one but two castles on a rock

Will reverberate a terrible shock

Everywhere blood and gore

And the dragon will be no more

Enter Llewelyn ap Gruffudd also carrying a sword

They say I, Llewelyn, am the Last Prince of Wales

But have they forgotten about Prince Charles?

It is you Roger Mortimer I would depose

While the dragon continues its deep repose

They fight and Llewelyn drops to the ground dead!

Enter the Archangel Michael

Shock and horror everywhere

But good people do not despair

I the Archangel Michael am still here

Llewelyn will soon reappear

I am sure he is not dead

A Doctor is what is needed instead

Is there a Doctor in the house?

A Bone Setter would do if we have no choice

Enter John Morgan Evans – Bone Setter / Doctor

I, John Morgan Evans, am a bit ahead of my time

But how else could I get into this rhyme

Who is this man upon the ground

Whom the Archangel Michael has just found

Llewelyn ap Gruffudd I am told

He is quite a sight to behold

Dead is he not, like the dragon he is just sleeping

And now back to the Faldau and to more bone setting

Llewelyn Ap Gruffudd rises

There you see I am resurrected

That Bone Setter should be respected

Mortimer’s ambitions have not come to an end

To kill a dragon, he will just suspend

But beware he has a future plan in hand

At our Hiring Fairs he just might take a stand

Scene 5:

Enter Roger Mortimer still carrying his sword

You might think that I have gone already

But as a Marcher Lord I remain quite steady

If this sleeping dragon will not die

When he wakes up, I just might try

Enter Yardley Warner

I am Yardley Warner the Freedman’s Friend

It was at the Pales that my journey came to its end

The dragon awakes I know not how

These hiring fairs should be stopped right now

The vice and the sin make me quite cross

 But my Quaker control leaves me at a loss

To America I will return           (Pulls out the flag Stars and Stripes)

Never once having used the cane

Enter Archdeacon Henry De Winton

As Archdeacon Henry De Winton Rector at Holy Trinity

All I was doing was trying to save some money

With the roof off at Cefnllys

The dragon sensed a quick release

To get things back on track

I soon had the roof put back

With our dragon snoring again

Let’s finish with a Christmas refrain

Happy Christmas one and all

The Archangel Michael might come to call

Enter Archangel Michael

My five Churches must endure

A diverse future to secure

A dragon sleeping is my aim

A rich ancient culture to sustain

Even Owain Glyndwr’s daughter

Would you believe, married a Mortimer

Scene 6

Enter Rev Geraint Morgan Hugh Hughes

My name is Geraint, but you will know that already

Whoever heard of a dragon sleeping in Llandegley

Maybe an aeroplane taking off perchance

Taking mythical dragons back home to France

From Llanbadarn Fawr the children I took

To the top of Cefnllys, just to have a look

From Gorseinon to Oystermouth and on to Llanbadarn Fawr

As Dean at Brecon, to keep the dragon sleeping was surely in my power

Retirement brought me back to lovely, gentle Penybont

Where the Local History Group has ensured the dragon will not be forgot

The youth of today have dragons of their own

A climate to master and windmills to drone

I have given my all, as a man of the cloth should

Other people coming first, is the dragon’s best food

(Apologies to the cast who had practiced their bows for the end of Scene 5. Geraint did not know about Scene 6 and so this came as, hopefully, an uplifting surprise and no bow was possible!)

This brought our session to an end and we were reminded that the programme for next year has not yet been put together, all suggestions welcome.

The next Meeting will be on Monday 7th February 2022, when Jennifer will be talking about research she has done into the history of Llanbadarn Fawr.

Happy Christmas to all and best wishes for 2022.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

1st November 2021

Main Topic: Our Community in WW II – Geraint Hughes

Penybont and District History Group Notes

1st November 2021

Main Topic: Our Community in WW II – Geraint Hughes

Geraint opened the meeting resplendent in his RAF Uniform and distinctly proud to be still able to wear it after so many years. How many can say that!? (Actually, I can! My only suit was bought when I was 18 years old!)

His exhibition set up for members in the Hall was put together last year to celebrate VE Day but then had to be cancelled due to the Covid Pandemic. He is delighted that new items have been brought this morning by Humph and others. He paid tribute to Graham who had also come in uniform – Army.

The Exhibition:

Lost Lives

 Before starting his talk, Geraint asked Derek, Shirley and Mary if they had anything they wished to impart to the group of over 40 people who had come to the Meeting.

Derek invited members to participate in a Mummers Play he had written for our next meeting. Several people agreed to attend a ‘rehearsal’ to be held at the Thomas Shop on Tuesday 23rd November.

Shirley reminded members not to put their chairs away at the end of Geraint’s talk as they need to be sanitised.

Mary said it was smashing to see so many new faces.

Geraint then told the group of the coming events.

6th December will be a Christmas Extravaganza looking at how Christmas has been celebrated in and around the District in past years.

7th February Jennifer is going to talk on some research she has done on the Parish of Llanbadarn Fawr.

The ’Management Team’ will then hopefully come up with a programme for next year. Any thought or volunteers would be most welcome.

Main Topic: – Our Community during World War ll.

Geraint started his talk with a picture taken in Penybont at some point between the two Wars.

The Cenotaph can be seen in the distance commemorating the people who had been lost in the first World War. There was no electricity in the village, albeit the telephone had arrived. The was no running water and village people would have gone to the village well for their water. Geraint described the village at this time as being a ‘lovely, quiet and gentle’. Very little had changed. Geraint quoted from a book –  “A history of Somborne – a Dorset Village” a section that could equally apply to Penybont:

“The Second World War caused more changes in the village than any previous conflict. The village must have seen Roman soldiers trampling through, Norman Lords making major changes, plague, floods and famine, and many casualties in the First World war.  But nothing in the past had such a deep and lasting effect on our village as the 1939 – 1945 conflict.“ 

In August 1939, the local paper described the Radnorshire Show as being the ‘best ever’.

  The general feeling was that the War would be terrible but that ‘over there’. Dolau had a Christmas Party for the Sunday School children with Father Christmas and a tree.  Llandegley had much the same but the children did surrender their Christmas presents, to be bought from the Dr Morgan Evans Fund, to donate to the Red Cross funds.

Rock Chapel went ahead, on Good Friday 1940, with their two centuries concert and had the Coronation Singers from Rhayader.

Locally and Nationally the atmosphere was very different. Local papers were still carrying headlines that reflected community life. The national papers however were much more focused on the War.

With the fall of France and the Battle of Dunkirk everything changed by early June 1940. There was a very rude awakening when children needed to wear gas masks and rationing was introduced.

The impact on rural communities saw new additions to the local diet and Geraint quoted from a book: Henfryn, written by George Lewis from Abbeycwmhyr:

“…The first ration books went into operation in the second week of January 1940, less than six months after the declaration of war….in May 1941 cheese was included in the rationing….in 1942 the allocation of eggs was 29 per person for the year.”

“…One animal outside the rationing process was the rabbit, but after endless meals of roast rabbit, fried rabbit, casseroled rabbit, and stewed rabbit we became a bit fed up with poor bunny…”

The severity of rationing may explain why people needed to find ways of supplementing their diet. It is hard to imagine how families could survive on these measures.

Rationing began on 8th January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. By 1942 many other foodstuffs, including meat, milk, cheese, eggs and cooking fat were also ‘on the ration’.

This is a typical weekly food ration for an adult:

Bacon & Ham         4 oz

Other meat            value of 1 shilling and 2 pence (equivalent to 2 chops)

Butter                      2 oz

Cheese                     2 oz

Margarine              4 oz

Cooking fat            4 oz

Milk                       3 pints

Sugar                    8 oz

Preserves            1 lb every 2 months

Tea                        2 oz

Eggs                     1 fresh egg (plus allowance of dried egg)

Sweets                  12 oz every 4 weeks

The other immediate impact were the Blackouts that began to be enforced and hit hard on social activities.  The WI and the Mother’s Union both managed to keep going. John Abberley, at the Faldau described how ‘black’ it was when he looked out from the Faldau. Every building was blackened.

The Evacuation of children had a huge impact on the community.

The ladies of the area became very involved in managing the welfare of the children.

Eva Coates, who lived above J.O. Davies shop in Llandrindod, wrote in her diary:

September 5th (1939): “A special train conveying children & mothers from the Liverpool area arrived here on Tuesday, Sept 5th. They were met by Councillors, officials & members of the committee who were most helpful to the teachers who accompanied the large party. Coaches, charabancs & motors were in readiness to convey the children on the next stage of the journey which was to Builth Wells & the surrounding rural parishes, it was a lovely day & had a good view of them from our windows, crowds watching, all along the street, they were all very bright & happy, waving their hands.”

The number of children attending Llandegley School doubled over night:

Llandegley School Evacuees

Arrival                  Name                              Address               From                    

8.7.40                   Sheila Carter                 Ffaldau                 Willenhall             

8.7.40                   Peter Pope                     Carnau                 Willenhall             

8.7.40                   Valerie Pope                  Carnau                 Willenhall             

27.8.40                 David Crossley              Red Cote               Hove                   

9.9.40                   Joyce Bladen                 Swydd                  Brynmill, Swansea   

9.9.40                   Peter Myers                   Redcote                Brighton                   

2.12.40                 Patricia Abbot                Carnau                 Coventry                      

2.12.40                 Josephine Abbot           Carnau                Coventry                       

7.1.41                   Annette Ward-Hicks     Carnau                 Walthamstow                

7.1.41                   Wendy Ward-Hicks       Carnau                 Walthamstow                

9.1.41                   Forden Burke                Ffaldau                 Seaforth                             

9.1.41                   Thomas Burke               Ffaldau                 Seaforth                             

13.1.41                 Mavis Wright                  Little Graig Seaforth              

23.1.41                 Patricia Cunningham    Vicarage               Seaforth                   

23.1.41                 Mary Cunningham        Vicarage               Seaforth                   

23.1.41                 Edith Dwyer                   Vicarage               Seaforth                   

15.1.41                 Mary Kinsella                 Larch Grove         Seaforth                   

15.1.41                 Alice Kinsella                 Larch Grove         Seaforth                   

15.1.41                 Ann Kinsella                   Larch Grove         Seaforth         

15.1.41                 Gerrard McCabe           Rhonllwyn            Seaforth                   

29.1.41                 Raymond Downey        Caedildre             Seaforth                   

3.2.41                   Ros, Rita & Norma James     Gt Trewern Seaforth                   

17.2.41                 Harold & William Pritchard   Pales          Seaforth                   

25.3.41                 Glanville Dacey             Carnau    Bonymaen, Swansea

31.3.41                 Michael & James McCarthy        Bwlchycefn          Bootle        

31.3.41                 Robert & Gorge Roberts            Nantddu           Bootle                  

5.5.41                   William Gooridge          Rhos House          Portsmouth

20.5.41                 Beryl, Ken & Peter Humphries Trewern Villa    Bootle                  

10.6.41                 Richard Doughty           Lower Trewern    Anfield                   

2.3.42         Winifred, Patricia, Maragert, Teresa Thomas   Tybryn   Seaforth    

2.2.42         Garry Shawn                 Coednewydd                 Seaforth         

10.6.42                 Robert & Philip Scullin  Dean Cottage      Bootle                   

15.1.41                 Mary Smith           Penybont Shop              Letterton                   

14.1.41                 Madeline Berry              Haulfryn               Letterton

13.1.41                 Joyce Wright                  Little Graig           Seaforth                             

14.1.41                 Sydney Smith                Eaglestone           Crosby                             

14.1.41                 Margaret Melsant          Cornhill                 Letterton                             

14.1.41                 George Nelson              Cornhill                 Letterton         

Overall this meant that the children at Llandegley school were:

Arrived:         1940………….8          1941………..34       1942………..7               Total: 49

Returned:      1940…….3    1941……..21    1942……..19   1943………6        Total:    49

Length of stay:       One year  or less:  43    Two years –  5     Three Years – 1

Origin:     

Liverpool  –  40    South England – 5    Coventry – 1   Manchester – 1  Swansea  – 2

One group used the Chapel in Penybont for their lessons.

The next slide shows Neil Richard’s house, Larch Grove, with his mother-in-law and a group of evacuees.

The next slide is of Alice who was an evacuee:

Another evacuee:

This boy still visits Penybont regularly:

This is Bibly and his sister:

Life as an evacuee was not a torment for the children who came to Penybont. Some loved it and one wrote elegantly about her time here:

Some evacuees said they loved living in Penybont. Some said they were happy and enjoyed their time. Geraint felt the same when he came here first, and perhaps still does!?

Sandbags were one of the first things that people noticed. They went around buildings like Llandegley School, remembered by John Abberley. The next slide shows a typical building in Whitchurch covered in sandbags.

The war did have an impact on rural life in Radnorshire fairly early on in the war. The following are some quotations from communications at the time.

Radnorshire in Wartime

1939

 September 3rd: Britain declared War on Germany Sunday 11 o’clock Sept 3rd 1939. Hundreds of sand bags outside the Post Office, Police Station, Electric Light works & everyone has to darken their lights on motors etc at night & houses too must not have a any light showing from outside dark curtains or brown paper put up & shops too, liable to be summoned by the police if they do not obey orders, cinema at Pavilion closed for a week, shorter hours.

September 15th: Sunday night a rural district in Wales has its second air-raid within 2 months, 17 high explosive bombs were dropped in a straight line within a distance of three-quarters of a mile, there were no casualties as most of the bombs fell in open fields, one farmer had 3 sheep killed & another farmer’s fowl-house was struck with pieces of shrapnel, another dropped in a orchard 30 yds from a farm, damaging a hedge & pear tree & bringing down several telephone wires on a main road, a cottage 60 yds away had 2 windows broken by the blast,  2 bombs dropped in a meadow in front of another farm house and broke several of the windows of the lower rooms. We hear the planes over most nights ( pm & 10 or 11.30 but have not had any bombs dropped on Llandod but not far away like Llanbister & near Rhayader & Knighton.

 While this was going on the other thing that held people’s interest was the ‘call-up’. The ‘boys’ went off to ‘somewhere in England’ for training. Everything was top secret and very few photos were taken at the time.

At the Drill Hall in Llandrindod there was considerable activity:

There was also a growing debate within farming communities about sons going off to war. Should farmers go to war? In the first World War Tribunals had been set up to decide. We often forget how families were affected by these decisions.

There was however considerable enthusiasm for the war effort:

Geraint was himself ready to go with a particular draw to the Battle of Britain!

Following the ‘call-up’ the attention of many groups turned to raising money and making things for the troops. It was not long before the newspapers were reporting on: Mother’s Union, in Llanbadarnfawr, running a Jumble Sale, followed by a Whist Drive and a Social Evening with dances to raise money to purchase knitting wool to make comforts for the troops. They raised £10 on this occasion; In Penybont an Annual Concert and Dance was held in the Iron Room on Boxing Day with money being raised to send to the troops from Cefnllys, Llanbadarnfawr, and Llandegley parishes; Under the heading ‘Comforts for Soldiers’, a special meeting was held in the Iron Room in October. It was decided to make collections in each of the three parishes as mentioned above to knit comforts for the troops serving at home and abroad. Wool would be purchased from the British Legion factory in Llanwrtyd Wells (This newspaper article also included a piece on ‘The Horse Fair in Penybont described as one of the oldest Fairs in Radnorshire); On January 25th the Comforts and Gifts Committee met in the Severn Arms at Penybont where it was reported that Postal Orders had been sent to all the men who had signed up. Thanks had been received from many. Members were urged to raise more money to further support the troops; Poppy Day collections locally raised £31 1s 11d with Crossgates having raised £5 16s 11½, Penybont having raised  £5 5s 11½ and Llanbadarnfawr Church collection was a further £5 2s; a parcel of Comforts from Penybont included 11 mufflers, 5 pullovers, 11 helmets (balaclavas), 17 pairs of mitts, 23 pairs of socks,1 cap and 2 pairs of gloves; in the same bulletin the Sports Committee encouraged the ladies to make arrangements for entertainment on Boxing Day to raise funds for more Comforts; In another press cutting the WVS received a further 39 articles from Penybont –  3 mufflers, 1 pair of steering gloves, 1 helmet, 22 pairs of socks and 12 pullovers; The Comforts and Gift Fund Committee gave £1 each to the 51 men and women engaged in the war effort; The children of Llanbadarnfawr school raised £1 15s for the ‘Smokes for Soldiers Fund’. Geraint commented that if the bullets did not kill them the cigarettes would!; and finally a Canteen was organised by Revd Brunsden, Vicar of Llandegley, on the Common, staffed by volunteers, offering refreshment and company to the soldiers.

Geraint then turned his attention to Marriages.

The accounts of weddings which seem to have more to do with what the bride wore than anything else.

Most weddings had a connection to the military personnel and some were with people from far off lands who had come to the area with the troops of their own country.

Violet Cox’s wedding to a member of the Pioneer Core had a Guard of Honour. Unfortunately her husband was to leave on D-Day and died at the Ardennes.

Another wedding, photographed on the Dole

Geraint then turned to Civil Defence and ARP (Air Raid Precautions). Everyone was involved and lectures were given to the population to ensure that the Black-out  and other procedures were followed.

PC Neville Walters was a key person:

Moving on to Farming, Geraint started with another quote from George Lewis’s ‘Henfryn’:

“…In September 1939 we listened to the news of the invasion of Poland. For once officialdom moved with surprising speed, issuing instructions as to how many acres we should plough and what we should plant……. Our acreage under plough was increased to virtually double what it was before. Fixed acreages were to be planted with potatoes, wheat and barley….. If planted in the wrong soil wheat and potatoes can yield less than the amount of seed planted, but appeals to the War Agricultural Committee were useless…… artificial manures were rationed by shortages… vegetables apart from potatoes was the one area where we could grow and eat as much as you were able.”

“… slaughter of any livestock on the farm was prohibited and all livestock had to be taken to the local sale yard and graded.”

“…Anyone with over 21 laying hens were required to take their eggs to the Egg Packing Station..”

The emergence of the NFU was relatively new:

All stock had to be graded for the Ministry, there was to be no more haggling over prices, one of the graders, Emlyn Pugh is still alive today:

The Young Farmers were given instruction in how to produce the food needed. Wood Pigeons were seen as the super-pest:

And then the Land Army arrived!

In the beginning they were not treated very seriously.

They soon however became essential to survival, some farmers locally did not know how to drive a tractor, but the girls did!

A Hostel for the Land Army women was opened at Crossgates

One girl was killed when her tractor turned over on the steep Radnorshire hills.

A young woman of 16 went out riding and was so sore afterwards that she could not sit down – she had ber britches on back to front!

Shirley’s mother-in-law had worked in a Vick Factory. She had never seen an animal before she arrived here.

The YFC gave the women free membership when they arrived. The membership included:

Crossgates Women’s Land Army Hostel

Accommodation for 26 Land Army Girls.

          London                          4

          Derbyshire                    5

          Liverpool                       7

          Manchester                   6

          Yorkshire                      2

          South Wales                 2

Anne McCaffery was 16 when she was posted to Crossgates in 1942. Half the girls worked in the fields and half worked machinery – ploughing and harvesting machines.

When the War ended one of them said: “Well, there’s nothing for it now, girls, we will all have to get married”. And they did.

The section covered Geraint’s own ‘War Effort’ – collecting Posters. He flicked through many with headlines like: “Dig for Victory”; “Make Do And Mend”; “Be Like Dad, Keep Mum”; “Help Win the War on the Kitchen Front”. And:

Meanwhile as the War continued the focus for fund raising had shifted. A huge amount of money was raised at Llanbadarnfawr for Prisoners of War:

Geraint’s next slide was of a Review that was held in New Radnor and we had the enormous bonus of having one of the cast in the room: Jennifer Searle;

Jennifer performed with her friend Malcolm Edwards chorus. She had been evacuated with her mother to New Radnor and later came back to live in New Radnor.

Text Box:  A recurring theme in Geraint’s talk was the amount of money raised in the local community to support the War Effort. As the War progressed towards the Battle of Britain a new fund was set up in Radnorshire – The Spitfire Fund:

The Rev Venables collected £19 4s in Llanbadarnfawr Parish and a further £18 9s 8d was collected by Councillor C. Evans of Homefield around Llanbadarnfawr for the Spitfire Fund. Also in Penybont:

Cenotaph services carried on with even greater poignancy:

A Thanks-Giving Day was celebrated following the Battle of Britain:

The War might still feel far away but there are reports of local activity that kept everyone tied in to events locally, Eva Coates Diary records:

1940

September 8th: Sunday morning 2 a.m. while asleep in bed, the bugle woke us all up in House, wandered whatever was the matter, soldiers soon up & dressed & out. J.O. Davies went out & Jack up to Town Hall did not return until 6.30 a.m., had heard a message that there were some Parachutes about trying to land somewhere, we were all so frightened & couldn’t sleep for hours, the 2 Cadets lodging here went out, cars & motor-bikes racing about, thank goodness they were discovered by a farmer who gave the alarm.

July 30th: Early Tuesday morning woke us all up, enemy aeroplane over frightened us all when in bed & one or two more dropping bombs at Llangynllo near Knighton, only …..  miles away, but we heard the noise, fairly shooked the bedroom as if it was quite near & a picture of field in the W Journal & the large craters in ground which the bombs had made, 5 were dropped in a field of oats near a farmhouse, windows in cottages were shattered & a little girl scratched by flying glass, 26 cattle & several horses were grazing in another field, but none were injured, another bomb tore up part of the hedge on roadside, we hear some every night, the enemy are aiming for the Viaduct near Knighton.

Mrs JO Davies’ 6 soldiers gone end of June & all the others to the Hotels, cheaper & better in many ways, the boys do not like it half as well, food not so much & sleeping on boards, rougher, they are coming and going all the time, about 300 fresh ones cadets came by train beginning of July. Government commandeered Ye Wells, Metropole, Broadway Hotel, Berkley, Pump Hse, Plas Winton, Central Hotel, Plas Dinam, County Club.                                        

 (Eva Coates’ Diary)

The papers started to record in their weekly bulletins the people who were lost in battle:

Then there was the local ‘hero’ from the Thomas Shop in Penybont:

Also from Penybont:

And then from Dolau:

More losses are listed at the end of Geraint’s talk.

Leading into ‘service at home’ we have:

Neil’s Mother working in the Military Hospital in Llandrindod:

Neil’s wife’s Grandfather in the Home Guard

Neil’s Grandfather, also in the Home Guard:

Inevitably the Home Guard was led by the Bank Manger!

Each village had it’s own Platoon:

Villages were very proud of their Home Guard Platoons:

Each Platoon carried out training in rifle shooting and military exercises, held parades, but also ran dances and held sports activities.

However things were never quite straight forward, as in another quotation from George Lewis’s Book Henfryn:

“It was not long before the Local Defence Force was formed. We were issued with armbands with LDV stencilled on them and drilled with broom handles. As most of us farm people had 12 bore shotguns so these gradually replaced many of the broom handles… the next piece of armament that arrived was a Lewis machine gun which had a magazine holding 97 rounds. After a crash course it was off to the firing range. It was my turn to fire and when I released the trigger it kept firing until we had used up the whole of our ammunition allowance in a matter of a minute……Rifles were conspicuous by their absence until one night when there was a scare and a dozen rifles arrived… then someone noticed that we had just ten rounds of ammunition between the 12 rifles….One night a large bundle of uniforms arrive, dumped in through the door of the hall. Bits of uniform were soon spread out on the floor from the door to the far end of the room, all mixed up and all different sizes.”                             

It all came to an end very quickly after Victory was declared:

Home Guard Stand-Down Dinner

A Dinner to commemorate the Stand-down was held by ‘C’ Company 2nd Radnor Battalion Home Guard at the Llanbadarn Hotel on July 25th 1945.

Members of all the  platoons attended.

Major T O Nicholls proposed the Loyal Toast. Rev Fowler proposed the toast to ‘The Armed Forces’.

Capt. Dalton recalled some of the activities of ‘C’ Company.

Geraint then went on to talk about the soldiers who were in Penybont during the War. There were some who lived here and served abroad:

Basil Griffiths who was a Major in the Comandos

David Davies who was involved in the Burma Campaign

A Newsletter was developed in Llandrindod that was sent to people serving in distant places. It was called the ‘Roamer’:

The story however could not leave out the 20,000 troops who cam to Penybont and camped on the Common. This was a top secret part of the preparations for D-Day. Troops lived and trained and even went to dances in Penybont. Geraint only knew of one photograph that was taken of troops in Penybont:

The extraordinary thing was recounted by Ray Price who went to school one morning and when he came home in the afternoon it was as if the Troops had never been there.

Later evidence of their training exercises would be found:

One of the battalions on the Common was known as the Polar Bears as they had been based in Iceland. Geraint was able to show a letter that was written describing their time in Penybont:

The military Archives hold information about all of the Troops activities:

A somewhat bizarre ruling came into force in order to give the illusion of normality, (Not altogether unusual in politics!):

Despite all the secrecy, the troops ‘on the Common’ were not separate from the village, there was considerable integration:

Church life was shared:

There were social events in the Severn Arms:

The Comforts and Gifts Committee became the Comforts, Gifts and Welcome Home Committee.

Geraint then turned to the ‘Prisoners of War’ who were held in Crossgates:

 Twenty-Six German Prisoners of war were accommodated at Briarfield in Crossgates and worked on local farms.

Jim Griffiths remembers that they wore a coloured patch on their backs. None of them wished to escape as they would have been sent back into the army.

The Rector of Llanbadarn (Revd Evan Morgan) became their Chaplain and they attended Llanbadarn Fawr Church – one of the prisoners reading one lesson in German and translating the service for his colleagues. They sang the hymn tunes without saying the words.

One prisoner did not go home. Gustav Poetzl married Gladys Goodwin and became a faithful member of Llanbadarn Fawr Church. He came from the Sudetenland which had been annexed by Hitler.

At least one prisoner, named Ernie, came back to visit after the war. He had worked at the Pentre near Llanddewi.

Briarfield, as it is now:

In addition to Posters Geraint’s War Effort also included collecting Cartoons:

Then it was 8th May 1945 : – ‘KEEP CALM AND CELEBRATE VE DAY!

Bonfires were common and people turned on their lights, the papers locally reported it in a subdued manner:

Then it was 8th May 1945 : – ‘KEEP CALM AND CELEBRATE VE DAY!

But they really knew how to put on a party in Dolau:

Each Community began to celebrate:

V E Day in Crossgates

On May 23rd about 150 children and mothers were entertained to tea in the Village Hall, Crossgates, given by the Parish Council of Llanbadarn Fawr. The tea was provided by the ladies of the district and afterwards Sports were held in the field lent by Mr C D Phillips, Guidfa Farm.

The Sports were in the charge of Mr A W Breeze, Headteacher of Llanbadarn Fawr Council School. Rev C D Venables was Secretary. At the close of the event Mr T J Powell presented prizes to the children and adults.

On the Sunday after V E Day a Special Service of Thanksgiving was held in the evening at Llanbadarn Fawr Church.

V E Llandegley Party

In June 1945 a Garden Party and Sale was held in the Vicarage Gardens in aid of the ‘Penybont & District Welcome Home Fund’. Among the competitions were Quoits, Darts, Cake Competition, Toy Elephant, Guess the Pig’s weight (won by Mrs Hollis).

This was followed by a Concert in the Iron Room, Penybont (by kind permission of Mr & Mrs W C Collard). During the Concert two bananas given by Mrs S T Brunsden were auctioned by Mr R P Hamer and realised £2.9.0.

Yes, Penybont went Bananas!

In the Evening there was a Concert in the Iron Room, Penybont (by kind permission of Mr & Mrs W C Collard). During the Concert two bananas given by Mrs S T Brunsden were auctioned by Mr R P Hamer and realised £2.9.0. for the Welcome Home Funds.

(£103 in today’s money)

Celebrations by the lorry load in Crossgates:

Well Tom Price had to be in on the celebrations, here with Glyn Thomas and Olive’s Father:

Geraint as a boy was then in Lampeter and he described the events, albeit his spelling was a little wayward! But he ‘injoid’ the celebrations.

With the War over and having celebrated Victory the emphasis shifted to remembering and honouring those who had fallen.

And this continues up to the present day around the Cenotaph in Penybont:

Geraint finished by honouring each of those who had fallen:

HUGH BRYSON

R.A.F. Flight Sergeant Pilot 1344005.

Killed in Cumberland in the U.K. during a training flight July 23rd 1943 aged 21 years.

Joined up in 1940 and by the time of his death had logged up 333 flying hours. He served as a flying instructor at Redhill in Surrey

Lived at Baileymawr. Only son of William and Margaret Bryson. His father was the Estate Land Agent for the Ormathwaite family.

The family moved here from England in 1938.

He was buried in the cemetery in his family’s home town Rutherglen in Scotland.

James William Cox

Lance Corporal 7015058 in the Pioneer Corps.

Came to Penybont in 1940 as a cook with an advance

party to set up a training camp on Penybont Common.

They camped behind the Severn Arms when they first

came to Penybont.

Married in Penybont Chapel on November 13th 1940 to

Violet May Cox who lived in the village.

He left with his unit in 1944 on the D Day invasion and

was killed in the Uden Forest on November 5th 1944. Age 32

Service Number: 7015058

Buried in the Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.

EDWARD INGRAM     

Guardsman in the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards.

Killed August 25th 1941 in the UK when a gun exploded in training. Age 26. Service Number: 2736377

Buried in Nantmel Churchyard.

Son of Thomas and Ada Ingram.

Husband of Alice Ingram, Cwmfelinfach, Monmouthshire.

ROBERT MILLER

Captain Robert David Miller, Master of MV Canadian Star

(London). Merchant Navy.

Sunk by enemy  action March 18th 1943. Age 38.

Captain Miller went down with his ship.

The Canadian Star was an 8,000 ton

refrigerated/passenger/cargo vessel managed by the Blue

Star Line. In March 1943 she was part of convoy HX 229

returning from the USA to Britain escorted by seven

destroyers and four corvettes. She was attacked in the last

successful massed U-boat battle of the Second World War

by over forty U-boats. A large number of merchant vessels

were sunk – the last one being the Canadian Star, sunk by

U-boat U221. 23 crew members and 7 of her 90

passengers were lost – the remaining crew and passengers

were rescued by Royal Navy vessels.

A full account of the action is recorded in “Under the Red

DusterThe Merchant Navy in World War II by William J

Lewis. (Airlife Publishing 2003.). The author records the

words of a survivor:

We saw the skipper go down with her. He stayed aboard to

 make sure that everyone had got off alright. He was

hanging on to the rail of the boat deck as she went down.

He never stood a chance. Good bloke, too, that skipper.

He’d got married just before the ship sailed from Swansea

and had everything to live for. His only concern was for his

 passengers and crew.”

Captain Miller was posthumously awarded the Lloyd’s War

Medal and the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

Son of Robert Bushell Miller and Edith Alice Miller, Windy

Ridge, Penybont and husband of Doris Mary Miller, of

Prescot, Lancashire..

There is a memorial to Captain Miller on his parents’ grave

 in Penybont Chapel Cemetery. He is also named on the

Tower Hill Memorial which commemorates over 32,000

seamen lost in the Merchant Navy during World War II.

IVOR J MORRIS          

Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) 207 Squadron R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve.

                              Killed July 29th 1944. Age 21

                              Service Number: 1430151

                              Buried in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany.

                              Son of James Leonard and Clara Ann Morris, Llandrindod Wells.

                              Before the war he drove a bread van for Cecil Lloyd, Cross Gates.

                              Lived at New Lodge on the Llanddewi Road.

Ivor joined the RAF in 1940 and trained as an air gunner

as part of the crew of a Lancaster bomber. His plane

was shot down with a full bomb load on a raid on Stuttgart.

The crew all died and were buried in a mass grave near the

crash site before being moved after the war to Dumbach

War Cemetery.

LEONARD A A SMITH

                              Royal Navy. Served on HMS Neptune.

 Sunk by enemy action December 19th 1941.

Service Number: D/KX114320

Named on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

Attended Llanbadarn Fawr School.

His widow later married Jim Mason, Swydd.

HYWEL TUDOR THOMAS  

Captain Merchant Navy. Master of SS Empire Jaguar

(London) 5,057 tons. Drowned with 35 members of his crew

when his ship was torpedoed by submarine U103 on

December 8th 1940.  Age 36. His name is recorded on the

Tower Hill Memorial.

Son of Alfred and Sarah Thomas, Penybont Shop.

Married to Lilian Thomas of Fenham, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Captain Thomas was earlier master of SS Empire Toucan sunk by submarine U47 on June 29th 1940 with the loss of two members of his crew. He and the rest of his company were picked up by a British Destroyer and brought back to Portsmouth.

He wrote to his parents to say that “the commander of the submarine came and spoke to me. He shelled us first and then torpedoed us giving us about eight minutes to leave the ship and get into the boats…”

He was then required to report to the Admiralty in London and was unable to come home to see his family before he was ordered to take command of the Empire Jaguar and sail again for the USA.

He wrote to his parents from Swansea where the ship docked to take on fuel for the voyage. His ship was sunk by submarine U103 on December 8th 1940 with the loss of all hands.

ALFRED THOMAS WILLIAMS

                              No 2 Platoon E Company 1st Battalion Radnor Home Guard. Killed in a training exercise on  Llanyre Hill by a grenade.

                              September 13th 1942. Age 17.

                              Buried at Llanbadarn Fawr Church.

                              Lived at Trelawgoed Mill.

CYRIL WILLIAMS

Sergeant Air Gunner RAF Voluntary Reserve.

His Lancaster crashed near Dolgellau, North wales on July 6th 1943. Age 21. Service Number: 1410983

Buried at Beguildy Church and there is a window there in his memory. He was brought up at the Inn in Beguildy and at Llanbadarn Arms (now the Builders) Cross Gates. His brother Robert later ran a butcher’s business in Cross gates and also later in Llandrindod, where his son Bruce continues the business.

Derek thanked Geraint for a brilliant talk.

Our next meeting will be on 6th December at 10.30 a.m. in the Village Hall when we will celebrate the history of Christmas Celebrations in the area.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

4th October 2021

Main Topic: Lorries and Buses, Early Motorised Transport in the area – Neil Richards

Penybont and District History Group Notes

4th October 2021

Main Topic: Lorries and Buses, Early Motorised Transport in the area – Neil Richards

  1. Geraint welcomed about 35 people to Penybont Community Centre and to the talk to be delivered by Neil Richards.

He thanked Tom and Liz for the coffee and cake that they had provided and explained that Derek had been summoned to a meeting and for the first time in the history of the group was unable to be with us. He was praised for the quality of his minutes in the past. A big thank-you to Chris Millward-Cox who had been ‘volunteered’ to take the Notes in his absence.

Geraint once again thanked Marion for giving the group the projector but unfortunately just at the vital moment it had exploded. (It was subsequently discovered that a safety device within the projector had come into play and, hopefully, it will be ready for our next talk – to be given by Geraint himself.) Shirley came to the rescue and went home and fetched her own projector.

  1. The rest of the Autumn Programme will be:

November 1st –    Our Community in World War II – Geraint Hughes

Geraint would welcome any relevant memories or memorabilia of that era and suggested that people may like to dress up!

December 6th –    Local Folk Carols and Ceremonies – Shirley, Mary, Derek and Geraint

  1. Forthcoming Events

Elizabeth thanked people for attending the Radnorshire Society’s last talk at Penybont village and informed us that the Society’s next talk was to be held on Friday 8th October at New Radnor Community Centre at 7 p.m. The talk is by Philip Hume and covers the history of The Welsh Marcher Lordships and Radnor Forest. The talk is free and everybody is welcome. The Society would welcome suggestions for future speakers.

On Saturday 9th October, the Society is having an outing to Montgomery. At 2 p.m. the members of the Montgomery History Society are leading a walking tour of Montgomery followed by tea at a secret location.

  • Lorries and Buses, Early Motorised Transport in the area – Neil Richards

Geraint introduced Neil who he said he had known since Neil was an angelic choir boy some 50 year ago!

2.1 Horse drawn vehicles

Neil told us that until 150 years ago Horse drawn vehicles were the only form of transport available in our area. Turnpike Roads required places where horses were changed and passengers and freight loaded. Penybont became an important transport hub for stage coaches.

We were shown many interesting slides about the history of heavy transport in this area. He commenced with pictures of the coach and horses which provided a service between Llandrindod Wells and Penybont.

There was a similar service operating between Rhayader and Penybont.

Captain Cecil Otway established a regular coach service between Kington and Llandrindod in 1875, and revived a service between Aberystwyth and Presteigne in 1876.

As well as people being transported goods were also on the move:

The next two slides show Mr. Coates delivering bread in Crossgates and then Bill Abberley delivering milk

:

The final slide in this sequence shows the more domestic side of horse transportation and features Mary’s grandmother and one of her aunts:

2.2 Steam

Neil then progressed to the era of STEAM. The earliest steam powered car was built by a French inventor,Nicolas Cugnot, in 1769.This was a three-wheeler designed to pull a cannon. Steam powered lorries were first seen in this area before 1900.Steam Rollers were operating here until the late twentieth century. The first lorries and traction engines were seen in this area in 1878. Some of the lorries looked incredibly modern:

The Traction Engines were altogether different:

Maybe they are getting ready for ‘trotting races’????

The races in full swing!?

Coming through the town – the drama of steam.

Transforming the countryside:

Radnorshire Highways Department were not to be outdone and had their Steam Roller in operation by 1900 Registration Number: FO1010.

And of course there is the lovely group of men working ever so hard:

Good to see the horses still on hand to do the real work!

Even in those early days road maintenance was a high priority:

But the Steam Rollers were changing the countryside and they were put to good use in making new roads:

Then, of course, there are the men leaning on their shovels

These steam rollers were a source of great pride. Here we see the whole family have turned out to celebrate the wonderful machine!

One of the interesting functions of the Steam Rollers was to test the strength of bridges. Neil showed a Slide with steam Rollers at Llanyre

And another one of the new bridge in Penybont:

Things did not go altogether to plan at Llanbadarn Fawr:

Oops!

Petrol

The next big change was the arrival of Petrol. The first Internal Combustion engine was invented in 1876, (In 1872, American George Brayton invented the first commercial liquid-fuelled internal combustion engine. In 1876, Nicolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, patented the compressed charge, four-stroke cycle engine. In 1879, Karl Benz patented a reliable two-stroke gas engine.) Earliest Lorry 1895, Earliest Motor Bus 1898.

In introducing his section on Lorries, Neil showed a slide of Llandrindod Wells showing how much was changing but also how little has changed.

Mr. A.E. Gough set up his Haulage business in Llandrindod with some of the first lorries in the area. Here he is with Neil’s wife’s Grandfather, John Thomas, with one of his lorries:

Note that the telephone number is Penybont:

Things have moved on a little for A.E. Gough and Sons Ltd.:

Albert Oakley established a furniture removal Company, Hammond, in Penybont:

Then came the infamous ‘Pop-up Lorry’ that delivered Lemonade, Soda Water and Ginger Beer from the Llandrindod Wells Mineral Water Company:

As we move into the era of colour photography the vehicles began to have a more familiar look:

And this little Hillman pick-up:

A picture of Harold Hargest from Dolau also featured Barry Jones who created a degree of excitement as Barry was in there in the History Group. Barry went on to work at the Auto Palace in Llandrindod. The name of the young lady, also in the photo was unknown:

Knills, ever the entrepreneurs, had their own transportation Company and the garage and facilities at Crossgates that we all know today. It was a bit different when it started however, more like a shack, according to Neil, but already providing services:

And from the air:

Their lorries busy in the area and beyond:

And more recently:

And of course there was the elephant – we have had elephants arriving on the train but, not to be out done, Knills were there to do their bit:

Radnorshire was on the move:

Milk

And, of course, sheep

Then there was our own Graham Middleton, featured here:

And not forgetting our very own Neil Richards outside Roxbury, Penybont:

And again:

The final section of Neil’s talk would cover the buses that evolved within the area and also some that came into the area to provide services. By 1930 bus services were being advertised:

By 1932 the buses left from ‘Emporium Square’ with the link to William Thomas of Penybony

Bus companies included: Pritchards;

Ithon Valley Motors;

Yeomans;

YEOMANS BUSES
A little History

We are a family run coach company that has been serving Hereford & it’s County since the 1920’s. H.H Yeomans of Canon Pyon started using his cider lorry to carry passengers into Hereford for the Wednesday market. Later in the year he ran twice weekly to Hereford and weekly to Leominster and by 1931 nineteen stage carriages were in operation and covering a wide area.

 We continued to expand to become a major presence in the English Marches Area and a well respected Company within the Coaching Industry.

The famous Black and White Company;

Neil finished with Crossgates Motors and Neil had been a driver for them. He said he did not really enjoy driving buses and tried to be as scruffy as possible so that he did not have to drive the coaches on touring hoilidays! He kept driving for as long as necessary without taking any breaks, adding in an undertone that if the weather was hot, he would just tie the door open!:

This is Fred Philips from Builth

This is Pat Thomas who was born in Penybont

This is Tom Harris from Llandrindod Wells

A general discussion ensued about how the buses had transformed people’s lives and how there was such excitement over Sunday School outings and mystery trips. Later this all changed once people bought their own cars.

Mary thanked Neil for a most interesting and enjoyable talk.

The concluding slide, slipped in by Geraint said:

“Time to go home

Bus leaves in 10 minutes

Neil will be driving!”

Our next Meeting will be on Monday 1st November in the Community Centre at 10.30 a.m. when Geraint will talk about Penybont in World War II.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

6th September 2021

Main Topic: History of Penybont United Football Club – Ray Price

  1. Geraint welcomed about 40 people to Penybont Community Centre for this our first full meeting since Covid 19 struck in February 2020. Geraint expressed the hope that it might be possible to return to the Thomas Shop at sometime in the future. The Autumn Programme is however planned to be held in the Hall where social distancing can be observed.

1.1 The Autumn Programme will be:

October 4th –        Lorries and Buses, Early Motorised Transport in the area – Neil Richards

November 1st –    Our Community in World War II – Geraint Hughes

December 6th –    Local Folk Carols and Ceremonies – Shirley, Mary, Derek and Geraint

1.2 Elizabeth reminded people about:

The rearranged, because of Covid, presentation by Lloyd Lewis

celebrating the remarkable contribution that people local to us made to the development of the United States. This will now be held in the Penybont Community Centre at 7.00 p.m. on Friday 17th September.

She also mentioned that Jason and Julienne Braham at Far Hall were participating in Herefordshire Art Week, next week. Follow the pink signs.

  • Main Topic – A History of Penybont United Football Club – Ray Price

Ray started by thanking Geraint for all the work he has done in setting up the Powerpoint for his presentation.

Ray then covered his own history with the club. His fist game for Penybont United was in 1950, at the age of 14 years. Having played rugby in the morning his Dad told him to get a move on and walk to Builth Road for his first football game. He enjoyed his playing career for the club where he enjoyed meeting lots of people. It was nice to play against his friend John Cox, a wonderful footballer who played for Hundred House, Llanwrtyd and Builth. It was particularly good when Penybont won 4-3 at Hundred House. (John was with us in the Hall to hear Ray speak)

While the English Football League did not start until 1888, a Penybont  Football Team had its first match against a team from Llandrindod Wells in 1884. They lost 1-0 in Penybont and 4-0 in a return match in Llandrindod Wells. Not a great start!

The Teams were pictured below:

       v       
     
      

Above Llandrindod Team formed in 1883            below          Penybont Team 1884

 Other than this event in 1884 we do not have any detailed knowledge of football in Penybont before WW I albeit a club is known to have been active. It was in 1921 when Penybont United was formally established making it 100 years old this year. A photograph of the Team was taken on Boxing Day 1921 and it included:

From Back left: WC Collard; Tom Brown; Bill Brown; Jack Lloyd, A. Bufton, schoolmaster; John Hamer; Jack Powell; Referee? Unknown; Tommy Jones, Undertaker; Basil Jenkins; Ivor Price, Larch Grove; Evan Huhges; Cyril Nicholls, Llanddewi Shop; Not Known; Frank Lloyd?; Harry Jones, worked in Boots.

A photograph of the surviving members of the 1921 Team who played in the very first match was taken some years later:

    

The next United Team to be photographed were the Team of 1925:

But who is this? Ray would love to know.

The Club did not play matches during WW II but the Home Guard did play some friendlies that were written up:

When the Home Guard was disbanded their nets and footballs were handed over to a new Village Club which had its first meeting on 4th July 1946. Those present included: A Oakley; Jack Price; Ken Price; Charlie Gordon; Sid Bufton; and Ivor Lewis. At this first meeting a resolution was passed: ‘That a team be got together’ and ‘that a team be entered in the first division provided that no second division be formed. K. Price to act as Captain for the season’.

The Minute Books from July 46 to May 57 are kept by Ray, and he was able to tell us of 2 early resolutions:

  • October 7th: ‘That M. Powell be asked to sign for Penybont’.
  • December 3rd: ‘That a Whist Drive & Dance be held. Bucknell Dance Band to be hired’

For the first 2 seasons the Team only one 1 game – they beat Talgarth 2-1. After this however they went from strength to strength winning 75% of their matches. In those days the Team was very local. Players were essentially from the village and included: Albert Edward Oakley; Jack Thomas; C.A. Lloyd, Baker; and Hughes from Dolswydd.

In these early years after WWII the Club would meet on a weekday evening for a ‘practice match’. Two teams made up of any one who turned up played against each other watched by members of the Committee. Later that evening the Committee met in the Severn Arms to pick the team for the next Saturday. This process could take a few hours!

The other appointments made were 1) Team Captain and Team. 2) Linesman. 3) Official to blow up the footballs ready for the match and erect the goal nets. 4) Person to mark out the pitch with sawdust on the morning of the match.

Players were responsible for providing and washing their own kit. From 1956 Numbers were sewn on.

The Ladies’ Committee arranged the Annual Dinner. They included Betty Price, Ray’s Grandmother and Mum, Mrs. Jack Middleton and Vera Brown. Vera is the only member of the Committee who survives today. She can be seen on the left at the back:

  

The Ladies would prepare and serve 100 people at the Annual dinner which was set out in 2 tables within the Iron Room:

On one occasion the Team had lost so badly that the assembly felt that the Ladies Committee would have done better! The Team however was on the rise and were already training up the youth of the area for future success. In the first Photo there is Vincent Lloyd and Bill Brown. In the second we have: Bill Watson; Jack Bufton; Avil Phillips, alive and living in Jersey; Bill  Collard, licensee.

Team selection was still in the hands of the Committee:

Only Emlyn Pugh is the only surviving member of this group.

In 1951 Penybont United were league champions:

           

Two years later the Team in the photograph below won the Charity Cup and a number of other cups. There are no survivors of this team:

It was in 1951 that the Team hit the headlines when they again won the League, but this time they did it without losing a single point. This record has never been equalled. Some years late Knighton reserves got to the last match of the season without losing a point. The final match was against Penybont United, and United beat them to hold on to their record.

         

In 1957 Penybont United once again had a very good Team:

There were 5 Prices in this Team but none were related. Doug Price had hoped to be at the meeting to hear Ray speak but unfortunately was unwell and could not come. Ray, you will see, has made his entrance into the Team, and again:

There are only three survivors of the 1957 Team – Doug Price, Ray Price and Frank Price.

     

Ray then turned his attention to the era of the Penybont Football Queens:

Derwyn Powell
Sylvia Price, Ray’s wife
Margaret Thomas

The Queens are: Derwyn Powell; Sylvia, Ray’s wife; Pat Lloyd; and Vera Lewis. This all got completely out of hand when Margaret Thomas became the Queen! She was also the last Queen – times had changed!

      

As well as looking after the Ladies the club were taking care of their youth and we can see Robert Evans as a Goal Keeper for the Youth Team and as the First Team Keeper in 1977.

      

You may be thinking by now that this is all very interesting at a club level but were there any ‘real stars’ playing for Penybont United. Three players did get international honours during their football careers but Ray’s brother Ken, C.K. Price, was the only one who got an international cap for Wales Youth Team when he was still playing for Penybont United. When you look at the England team they were playing against you will notice the likes of Nobby Stiles who was then playing for Manchester United and Geoff Hurst who was playing for West Ham United.

    

For a £5 benefit R.P. Hamer, of the market and other activities in the village over many years, was persuaded to turn out for Penybont United by Harold Edwards, also an auctioneer. See picture of R.P. below:

The next photo is a bit more modern and shows Ray himself, Bill Brown, and John Middleton.

At home Ray has a composite photo that shows the Teams representing Penybont, Crossgates and Llanddewi. Ray is happy to share information about the Team members for anyone trying to identify a family member:

Two other local heroes: Miah Lewis and Joe Watkins, on his back:

                   

The next series of slides are more recent Teams. Ray says that he knows the players grand-fathers rather than the young people themselves.

   

Then there is a Youth Team from Crossgates with the best Manager ever seen in the area – Geraint Hughes himself, far right! Geraint in a fit of modesty said it might have been something to do with the trainer, Brian Bufton, and the Team did win the Llandrindod League.

Winners of the Llandrindod League
          

It is great to see the Penybont United Girls Team doing so well and playing against some prestigious Clubs:

         

The final set of photographs are more recent Teams as Penybont United goes from strength to strength and feature Geraint’s, that famous Football Manager, Grandson.

The team in current history does come from a wider area than in previous years. They recently beat Builth Wells 3 – 0.

Finally, the home of Penybont United Football Club:

Traditionally the colours for Penybont United were Black and Red Stripes but this has changed over the years.

A descendent of Mr. Sid Bufton told us about his invention to mark out the pitch for matches. He felt that traditional systems were much to expensive so he used a cider barrel attached to a child’s push chair. The white wash was in the cider barrel and poured onto the wheel of the chair. It worked very well. He was an inveterate inventor. The 1st shower in Penybont worked through a system of barrels that sent the water through a watering can nozzle.

In an extraordinary act of generosity, Marion gave her projector to the History Group. The Group have been using the projector for a number of years thanks to Marion’s generosity. Derek thanked Marion on b ehalf of the Group.

Geraint thanked Ray for an excellent talk.

The next meeting will be on the 4th October when Neil Richards will talk about Lorries and Buses locally.

Penybont and District Local History Group – Lost Buildings Walk

Village Walk July 5th 2021. “Lost Buildings in the Penybont Area” led by Geraint Hughes

About 28 people assembled in the Thomas Shop garden for refreshments before setting out on the Walk to see the buildings that no longer exist.

Manor House August 1906  

The Old Manor House

Why was this house called the Manor House? Last recorded occupants 1871 – Joseph Larman 39 Repairer. Hannah Larman 41 Dressmakesr. Thomas Powell 16 Carpenter’s Assistant. (In 1861 a blacksmith and shoemaker, 1851 Shoemaker and carpenter, 1841 Shoemaker and Cabinet Maker).

There was a large barn opposite where the new barn is now.

It was just a case of walking across the A44 and entering the gate opposite to enter the courtyard where the Old Manor Houses used to be. Nothing is left to see. There were 2 fairly humble dwellings but why they had a somewhat grandiose title we had no further information. There was some discussion about an old road system that may have come via current Thomas Shop entrance and through the courtyard and then up and across to the Common to join the Knighton Road. But this is unclear. Mary Davies had a memory of receiving Postcard from Mr Ted and Miss Mary Stone of 2 Manor House telling her that “Your Mother and chickens did not come home from the Common”. (? Still missing?)

Shady Grove

Pictured are Tom Jones and his sister Miss Jones. They were the last residents and died here in the mid 50s.

In 1841 occupants were Jonathan Briton a tailor and wife and children, James Edwards a Journeyman and William Lewis agricultural labourer. 12 persons in total.

In 1871 there were thirteen occupants. Mr & Mrs James, Coal and Lime Agent and their six children (oldest 10) and Mr & Mrs Morgan and three children.

We walked on through the yard and up the hill and then down to the left and across a field to a sheltered area where found the ruin as pictured.  As the name suggests this was a ‘shady grove’ in a very pleasant spot. There was some discussion about the way in which houses were built on the edge of a Common and the ‘house in a day’ system. There was a general principle that if you could build your house in a day and have smoke coming out of the chimney within 24 hours that you then had the right to live there. It was suggested that, while this system was used in many parts of the country, it did not have any legal position. It did often suite the landowner to have people adjacent to the Common but they would expect the new tenant to pay rent. Percy Severn was known to be a fairly tolerant Landowner who sought good relations with his tenants. The ’cottage’ is on Rabber Land a farm that is also on the edge of the Common but it is still a functioning farm. The name Rabber indicates that it is situated where the is a confluence of water sources. The last use of the building, after the Jones’s left was to house pigs that Ray looked after when he finished school for the day.

Sunny Bank

In 1871 occupied by 8 people. Benjamin Williams Retired blacksmith aged 71 and wife, Mary Williams 44 Charwoman and one child. An agricultural labourer and child. The last residents were Mr & Mrs Penfold who moved to Dolau in the early 60s.

We then walked on up the hill adjacent to the Common to another possible ‘house in a day’ cottages. (A challenging walk for some of our members.) The was no road access to this property. Mary remembers, as a child, being somewhat romantically in awe of the property. Though, as she called them, Auntie Iris and Sid always welcomed her in, and despite being very poor, they gave her tea. But she particularly remembers their Cob pony, Postboy, on whose back 2 or 3 children might arrive in the village. (The cob had been retired from post duties.) There were 6 children in Iris and Sid’s family – Mary, Keith, Glyn, Brian, Shirley, Hayden. Mary often envied these children and their freedoms on the Common and particularly the Cob.

4. Penybont Calvinistic Methodist Chapel

Built in 1822, enlarged in 1885. A school room was added in 1938. In 1914 the chapel had 45 communicant members, 40 children in the Sunday School, 6 teachers and an average Sunday attendance of 112.

The chapel was demolished in 1989

We then walked back down, and took the public footpath onto the A44 just above the site of the old Chapel. All that is left is a stone of commemoration. The reasons for the demolition of the Chapel in 1989 were that the numbers attending had dropped to a very few people, and the Council wanted to replace the old bridge across the Ithon with a new bridge and the Chapel removal facilitated this change. In 1942 Mary Davies’s mother played the organ in the Chapel on Sunday mornings.

5.  Estate Carpenter’s Shop

6. Penybont Court

Built by Middleton Jones in about 1789, 34 years after the building of Penybont Hall. It was sold in 1806 when an advertisement in the Hereford Journal describes it as:

‘To be sold by auction at the King’s Head, Kington on Wednesday 6 August, or in the meantime by private contract, all that freehold messuage with good Kitchen and Pleasure Garden, Plantation and Barn, Beast House, Stable and about 20 acres of Meadow, Pasture, Arable and Woodland, called Penybont Court. The dwelling house is modern built and containing in the ground floor two Parlours, Kitchen, Pantry, Dairy, Brewhouse and Laundry detached. On the first floor four good Bedchambers and Dressing Room and on the Attic story three rooms. It has lately been erected for the residence of the proprietor and is fit for the immediate reception of a small genteel family. It is situate in the centre of Co. Radnor, a pleasant sporting county abounding with game; two packs of Harriers are kept in the neighbourhood, also a good fishery. There is a considerable number of oak, ash, fir and other wood growing on this estate. The Turnpike (Hereford to Aberystwyth) runs through Penybont village and a London Post passes 3 times a week. For particulars to treat for same apply (if by letter, post paid) to the proprietor at Penybont Court or to Messrs. Cheese and Davies, Solicitors, Kington, or to Messrs. Powell, Palmer and Pugh, 3 Grays Inn Square, London.’

In about 1850 it was purchased by John Cheesment Severn and probably demolished by him. Stone from the old building was used to build cottages at Ffosybontbren. Tom Price spoke of finding pottery on the site.

A walk up the A44 heading towards Crossgates, we came to a gateway set back a little from the pavement, and then across a field we came to the empty site of The Court. Unlike the Old Manor, this had been a grand affair. Set on a hill above the village it was quite distinctive. Geraint assured us that when there is less growth it is possible to see the outline of where the building had been, but in the true spirit of the walk, there was nothing there.

Penybont and District History Group Notes – Heritage Story Walks

7th June 2021

Main Topic: Heritage Story WalksEllen Turner

Just over 30 people attended over the two sessions held as the first meeting since the Covid 19 restrictions were imposed. The meetings were held outdoors at the Thomas Shop. We were rewarded for our efforts with a lovely summer day and Geraint was there to welcome people back, a whole year older – all of us. Geraint told us that the plan is to have a walk on 5th July that will start at the Thomas Shop, with refreshments, and explore around Penybont buildings that no longer exist. He assured people that it would not be a long walk – about 1 mile.

We will then hope to meet, after the August break, in September, October, November and December. It is most likely that these meetings will need to take place in the Community Centre as it is not possible to meet safely, for the time being, at the Thomas Shop.

Geraint reminded members that the last meeting in March 2020 had been on Penybont Market, led by Derek with a panel of local experts Miah Lewis, Bev Watkins and Gareth Lewis. Notes are available on the website: https://penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/penybont-and-district-history-group-notes-2nd-march-2020-main-topic-penybont-market-derek-turner-and-panel/

Geraint has been very busy over ‘lockdown’ and has written a number of new books which were available at extraordinarily low prices.

A few moments were given over to remembrance of Gwen Lawrence who sadly died during this period. Gwen was a constant regular member who contributed so much to the group and will be dearly missed.

Geraint asked Shirley to introduce Ellen (Ellie)

Main Topic: Heritage Story Walks

When Shirley first met Ellie about her Project she did not have any idea what Ellie was talking about and she thought, well she seems to know what she is doing and I had better just let her get on with it. What on earth is a QR Code anyway. Fortunately for Shirley her granddaughter had more idea than she had and Shirley began to understand just how much work that Ellie was doing and how exciting it is and will be.

The Project started when a friend sent Ellie a link to a funding opportunity with just a week to complete an application. The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Welsh Government, and Cadw had put a sum of money together for a 15 Minute – Heritage Fund Grant. The idea was to celebrate heritage that could be accessed within 15 minutes of your front door. It was a direct response to Covid 19 and had been conceived at a time when we were all living in lockdown. They emphasised that Heritage is not just about ‘castles’ it is about the ‘corner shop, the park, Nature and environment, or what might have been’ and the stories that emerge from everyday life. With a background in outdoor arts and participation this funding opportunity appealed to Ellie.

Ellie thought that the project could be designed not just in conjunction with the Local History Group but that it could appeal to people who did not go to LHG meetings, it might engage with people who had to work and could not attend Meetings, and it might draw in younger people or more ‘Tech’ interested people who might enjoy a different way to access  history & heritage or people who didn’t think they had an interest in history & heritage at all.

The initial concept was to enable individual people and ‘bubbles’ to be able to get out of the house safely and to explore their local heritage. It was hoped by the Lottery that this would also have an impact on wellbeing. Projects were due to go live to the public in March but the Lottery decided to move this back to the end of May as they had had feedback that people were struggling with the impact of Covid and getting meaningful projects off the ground.

Five sites were chosen: Penybont; Penybont Common; The Pales; Llandegley; and Cefnllys; and Ellie, after discussions with the Local History Group and Penybont and District Community Council, set about enlisting the help of an Artist, Christine Haslock; an Animator, Jim Elliott; a Geologist and Entomologist, Dr Joe Botting; a website designer, Tom Turner; and help from a wide range of local people and particularly members of the Local History Group, Geraint, Shirley, Mary and Derek.

Ellie explained how the QR Codes work and some items including the website were shown via a large a screen while others were read.

Most people had a go at using the QR codes and went away feeling confident that they could have a go at accessing them themselves. In fact many were surprised at how easy it was.

The whole site can be seen at:

www.penybontcc.co.uk/heritagestorywalks 

or by simply going on to the Penybont Community Council website and clicking the button for the Heritage story walks.

The instructions for accessing the website at the location sites via the QR codes are as follows:

The QR Codes are on signs located in:

  • Penybont
  • Penybont Common
  • The Pales
  • Llandegley
  • Cefnllys

The codes give you access to animations, videos, audio recordings, worksheets, photographs, and text about the Heritage of each place.

To access all this exciting information, you will need a smart phone or tablet that can connect to the internet via 3G or 4G i.e. connect to the internet in the locations.

Most phones just need the camera be pointed at the QR Code, like you were going to take a picture and then either the web link will appear on the screen and you click it to go to the website or with some phones it might take you straight there.

If you have an older smart phone you may need to download a QR Code reader which you can find for free at the App or I store.

If you use the app then open the app and it will look like your in the camera, point the camera at the QR code and as above it will likely pop up the website which you can then click on to take you there.

The poster and flyers have a QR code that takes you to the index page of the website. This is the main website landing page which is the whole map designed by Christine Haslock, which includes all of the 5 sites.

You will see a small picture of a QR Code symbol at each of the sites. If you click on the small QR Code symbol it will take you to the page that is about that site.

The QR codes located in at the sites will take you to the page about that site. For example, the signs in Llandegley take you to the page about Llandegley, the signs in Cefnllys takes you to the page about Cefnllys.

When on a page about one of the sites you will then see a close up of the map and a number of small QR code symbols. The location of the symbols on the map relate to where there is content on the website. For example there is a QR symbol located at the Old School in Llandegley.

When you click on that QR code symbol a popup box will open which lists the content about that exact place.

So, If you go to the school in Llandegley you will find a sign with the QR code and you can scan it and then select to get the pop up with a list which includes an animation, an audio recording and a photograph. Simply select which one you want.

So sites are noisy, like Penybont village and you might benefit from having headphones to be able to listen more easily.

If you do not have a smart phone or lack the mobility to get to the site, you can access the same information on a computer by going to:

www.penybontcc.co.uk/heritagestorywalks

You may also choose to visit the website via a computer before you go so you can make sure you know how to navigate it or look to see where you would like to make a trip out to.

Joe Botting’s worksheets are better off downloaded and printed off before you go to make the most of them.

Joe Botting will be delivering a Webinar via Zoom as part of the project on Thursday 15th July 6pm – 7pm titled ‘Rocks: our oldest history books, and how to read them’.

Ellie is setting up an online booking system but it was only confirmed today and so isn’t quite ready to circulate this. So if you would like to attend please let Ellie know by email on ellie@ellieturner.co.uk and she will make sure you get the Zoom link.

Heritage Story Walks Evaluation.

Ellie asks that please, whether you have looked at the website at home on a computer or visited the sites it would be incredibly helpful to complete the survey.

You will find a button which says ‘Survey’ in the footer of the website. Just click this and it will take you to an online survey. It’s very easy, completely anonymous and should only take about 5 minutes to complete.

The survey button will be there just until the end of July, when the evaluation report will have to submitted.

Evaluation is such a huge part of funding and it will improve our chances greatly of getting more funding in the future for this project or any other if we can complete a good evaluation which demonstrates people having taken part.

The next meeting of the History Group will be led by Geraint and will be a walk around the Penybont area looking at buildings that are no longer there!! Meet at the Thomas Shop for coffee on Monday 5th July at 10.00 a.m.

The Autumn Programme will be in the Community Centre and will be circulated soon.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 2nd March 2020 Main Topic: Penybont Market – Derek Turner and Panel

Geraint welcomed another crowded room to the meeting.

Derek started by making a plug for a Community Council Public Meeting to be held at the Community Centre on 24th March at 7.30 p.m. to discuss the possible development a Play Area for the children and Climate Change. (This was subsequently cancelled due to the Covid 19 Virus)

Main Topic: Penybont Market

When Derek went to Powys Archives, he met Ginny Guy who is regularly involved in research. She said that she had been looking into Penybont Market and had found virtually nothing. With this ‘good start’, Derek knew that he had a challenge but luckily had had a Panel of learned people who had direct experience of the market. More of this later.

Derek said he would start by looking back to Cefnllys and give a background to the Market before handing over to the Panel.

The first Market in the District was the Market at Cefnllys which was chartered in 1297, a few years before it was given Town status in 1304. The Market Charter would have been given by the Marcher Lord, Roger Mortimer, some years after he was subject to a siege by Llewellyn in 1262. The Marcher Lords were given great powers over the Welsh population and could impose their own laws through a court system that they managed.

Interestingly the Market Charter came at the end of a period of prosperity. The 12th and 13th centuries the climate was very benign and good for agriculture, the population was well fed and this led to a boom in the population. The 14th century however was not so good and had many of the elements that we seem to have been struggling with in recent months. There were terrible rains leading to famine and this was accompanied by plague. The population went into serious decline.

The next big influence was the Drovers who came here from Strata Florida, via Rhayader, and on to Crossgates and Penybont. The significance of the Drovers cannot be under-estimated. They were not the ‘cowboys’ that they are often portrayed as, they had to be licenced to act as a Drover on behalf of the wealthy Landowners. They did business for the Landowners and they carried money. When Edward Price started a shop in Penybont he must have had an eye on the Drovers. The fact that his son John did so well financially must in part of been due to the Drovers. The land around Penybont is very poor and though he acquired lots of property by lending to farmers, John Price must also have made a part of his fortune by trading with the Drovers.

The next reference that I came across was in 1805 and referred to a farmer, Mr Mottsey, from Cwmbrith Farm who sold cattle at the ‘Fair’. That night he heard a disturbance downstairs in his house. When he came down he was confronted by burglars who shot him dead. His daughter had the presence of mind to throw the money from the sale in the ash bin and the burglars got away with nothing. They were subsequently caught and hanged at Presteigne.

In 1878 and 1890 there were references to the Radnorshire Agricultural Society Shows being held at Penybont.

Then again in 1894, 1906 and 1910 there were specific references to  Penybont Fairs and to the sales of stock. In 1910 there was reference to ‘good stock fetching fair prices, and poor stock, little demand’.

By 1904 there were 4 Market Towns in Radnorshire. These were Presteigne, Radnor, Rhayader and Knighton. The arrival of the trains would have brought buyers to the County and it is clear that trading was going in informally in and around Penybont and District.

An amusing incident occurred in 1906 when Harold Williams of the Gwystre Inn was summoned to Penybont Petty Sessions for ‘allowing a goat to stray’. He pleaded ‘not guilty’ as he had been offered the goat as payment for a debt. He refused to accept the goat as payment and therefore was not responsible for the goat. He was found ‘not guilty’.

Intriguingly the Chief of Police for Radnorshire, himself a resident of Penybont, made a public statement in 1911 that Penybont should have a proper  market. What prompted this statement is not known but it could be that informal sales arrangements led to disputes and challenges for the Police.

Planning for a Market in Penybont was clearly under way by 1918 as the Farmer’s Union declared that united action was needed over the question of a grading station. What is less clear is whether this had something to do with the grading that had been going on since 1914 or the market that would open in 1919.

R.P. Hamer was the prime mover is setting up the market. In Powys Archives I was able to see the Sales Books attributed to R.P. Hamer from 1925 to 1945. The sales figures showed a buoyant trade developing over the years for cattle and sheep.

Derek then turned to YouTube for a brief introduction to the Market showing the Penybont Christmas Fatstock Market in 1991.

As Miah Lewis appeared in screen Derek turned to him as one of the Panel members and also introduced Bev Watkins and Gareth Lewis. (John Bufton the fourth member of the Panel had given his apology as he was unwell.)

Derek then asked the Panel to introduce themselves and address the following ideas:

  • Introduction and Earliest Memory
  • Memories of RP Hamer
  • The Market Days
  • The War
  • Getting Animals to market
  • Most amusing Story

Miah understood that R.P. Hamer built the Market on what had been Common Land. He remembered them as powerful characters in those days who could make things happen.

Miah remembered the ‘grader’ and Bill Griffiths who had been the grader was  present at the Meeting. During the War time there needed to be 2 graders, the old man George Griffiths, of Cellws, Noel Lewis of Rhayader was from the Butcher’s side. They would do the assessing. Prior to that Miah remembered his father at the Bryn at Nantmel farming in 1931. In 1933 he walked lambs from there to Penybont Market, he made 12s 6p a lamb. Collard of Rhayader, the butcher at Rhayader, bought them. His father then walked the 20 lambs back to the Bryn and after a fortnight Collard came to get them and gave him 1 lb of sausages for his trouble. There wasn’t much money passed in them days.

A big revolution was when the cattle market was going well and they used to walk the cattle to and from the station. When you think about it now, you could never walk a bunch of cattle on the roadway. The Market was a very important part of the community and it should never have been closed. At the end of the day it was a centre and it was bringing people together. Before the market we always had a drink just to give us an appetite, if we had a good trade we celebrated, and if it was bad we drowned our sorrows. Everything was sorted out at the Severn Arms and it was amazing what you learned, different ways and different angles. That is all gone. It really was the centre of the community, especially the farming community. It always disgusted me to think that a farmer was the chairman of Powys CC and even our own farmer County Councillors voted for it to be closed. So sad, it was foot and mouth, and most markets have recovered. It is easy to say, but finances come into it. Old RP Hamer when he started, he never said fifteen – he would say ‘pipteen’, and a shilling was a ‘shin’. I was trying to imitate him when I was selling the fruit and vegetables after the Harvest Thanksgiving at Rock Chapel, and I was going 1 shin, 1 shin, 1 shin, and then pipteen, pipteen, and Ray’s grandmother was in the front row and the tears were coming down her cheeks. Both the cattle and the sheep markets were so sad to go as the quality was first class.

Bev was only 7 or 8 when he first went to the Market. Father would come and our family would be involved in dealing in those days. Uncle Jack at Heartsease would buy a lot of cattle at Penybont and quite often I would have to walk the lambs home to Dolau, or they would be loaded on the train to go to Baxters in Birmingham. Dad would buy a lot of animals at the market. Dad would bring me to the Cattle Market. Dad and Uncle Jack Watkins, who were dealers, and would stand under the box. They would be alongside Bill Burgoyne who was a really big cattle dealer and when you were amongst them you could see that the dealers did not really like each other but they would tolerate each other. But then a cousin of Bev’s married a Burgoyne and that really set it off. They would buy 30 or 40 cattle and then walk them home to Dolau. This was before there were lorries to take the cattle. Reginald Knills was the first to have a lorry. He would take the cattle to Archie’s, the other side of Knighton, he would keep them for a while but then he would deal in them. Bev was not sure this was right but that was what used to happen. Sometimes they might make a lot of money but then again they might lose money. Bev did not remember walking sheep home as the lorries were then able to take them. Bev remembers after the war going to the different markets where his dad was dealing in lambs at Penybont, Rhayader and Builth. The worst thing about it was that they would buy these lambs but then have to keep them until Sunday morning, I was then never allowed to lie in on a Sunday morning, I would have to get up to move those bloody lambs. I did not like Penybont Market that much in those days. My dear wife was not very happy about it all. Then later when I was farming myself I would be with other farmers and we would be in constant debate with the graders like Ted Green over the weight of the lambs, ½ a kilo or there would make a difference. Some were easy to please but others were very awkward. In the end it boiled down to if you had a good trade you were all happy but if not, the graders would be blamed. My nice memories of Penybont Market were, as Miah said, the camaraderie. There were some people who were quite serious, others who could give a lot of cheek, they thought their lambs were better than yours and that sort of thing, but this was generally in good humour as some lambs were undoubted better than others. My more amusing stories were to do with arguing with the buyers. They would still want to sell our lambs but they would be arguing over maybe 10 or 15 pence. Mostly the lambs would sell.

Gareth remembered that a lot of people used to drive their cattle here. Miah would bring 200 cattle to each of the auctions. The March Auction, the August Auction would be the day before Penybont Races, then there would be the October Auction. There would be a serious amount of cattle at these auctions. When RP Hamer, sometimes known as Percy Hamer, brought his own cattle to market, they would be commission free, as when he sold the market to Campbell and Edwards he made a deal that meant he did not have to pay any commission.

John Edwards was the principal auctioneer after his father, who was Edwards of Cambell and Edwards.  His mother had come from Scotland and settled at Gwernargllyth. They had brought all their stock and machinery by train from Scotland to Penybont. He then drove all the stock up into the Radnor Forest to Gwernargllyth. From Miah’s recollections of RP Hamer it was RP who started the Market and in 1947/8 he sold the Market to Campbell and Edwards. He had told Miah that he had inserted the clause into the agreement that he would not have to pay commission when he sold his cattle or sheep through the market. Campbell and Edwards had not anticipated RP going on to do business at the market for so many years. Some other farmers were annoyed about this arrangement, but it was just good business. Penybont missed RP when he stopped trading as he had always put a strong consignment of principally cattle in the centre of the market. This would attract the buyers to come from out of the area to get outlying animals, they would be out all winter. These were not available elsewhere and this attracted the Miss Kilverts  and others from Hereford. This helped with all the sales. There would regularly be 800 head of cattle for the August sale. Many of the cattle would be walked in from Llanbister.

Miah then told us about the war period and how the Ministry would buy up the sheep and cattle. Two or three of the characters who had long sticks and while their sheep were on the scales they would flip their stick onto the scales to up the weight while they would be looking elsewhere to distract attention. Noted buy a few, but it was never spotted by the Ministry. A true story about RP Hamer was that quite often people would be helping RP Hamer but money never passed between them. When Mr Brick was at Dolswydd, he had three sons who would go and help RP. This however meant that there was no money coming in. The sons eventually persuaded their father to buy Stove Farm at Knighton and to break this tradition.

J

ohn Edwards, when he took over from his father, was, according to Bev, a tremendous character. When he was selling lambs he would always have a comment to make, whether you liked it or not. He was very witty. Some days it was not easy to sell lambs, he would keep it light-hearted and they would sell in the end. The rule was that the items would be sold under the hammer, but when John Edwards had finished, there would be bartering going on and there would be an attempt to buy and sell without commission – that is farmers, and that is farming. Miah added that John Edward’s sense of humour filtered through. He had been at school in Shrewsbury and was a contemporary of his was one of the top comedians of the day, William Rushton. Bill Brown was also in this group. John did a lot for the market and it broke his heart when they sold it.

The change from Campbell Edwards to Brightwells was essentially just a change in the name. John Edwards became a Director of Brightwells. Ironically, Brightwells sent a letter to all of the local farmers in 2001 asking them to support their local markets. It was only a few months later, when Foot and Mouth was over, that they announced the sale of Penybont Market.

The challenge on market day with lambs was to get them to the central ally in front of the auctioneer. You would have to be up very early to get the best spot. Bev remembers a queue of lambs stretching back to the Bank in Penybont. There could be as many as 2000 to 2500 lambs. On a Saturday, once a month in the winter time, there would be a market for older ewes. On this particular Saturday there were so many ewes that they were putting up pens in the car park and everywhere just to contain them. Norman Bagley started this market but it brought many farmers out from Bwlch Sarnau and Pant-y-dwr. It was always a good time with chicken and chips at the pub. David Evans would be sat at the clock-tower in Rhayader and some of the old boys would be bringing in just one ewe. They were going to go to Penybont Market come what may. The Saturday sale a Penybont started with Miah who had mentioned to Norman that he was taking old ewes to Welshpool as there was nowhere else to take them. That started the Market, and it became a big success, once a month. The publican would be able to tell you that it was rather a good day.

Neil perked up and asked if the panel remembered Aly. Neil would take the lambs up for Aly as he had to answer to his three wives!

The characters according to Miah were the Drovers. He went back to a time during the war when it was really quite sad. His particular memory was of a Drover called Archie. Archie the Drover had a dog with him and he was a professional footballer with Aston Villa. Drink unfortunately got the better of him and he was turned out by Aston Villa. He came to this area and became a notorious character. This was a period when families also turned out people who became tramps. They came to this area and they slept rough in the buildings. Miah’s family had a tramp who, if you will excuse the expression, was known as ‘camphor balls’. This was because he sold camphor to keep clothes moth free. He would go to the River Ithon every morning to have his wash. They were characters but they were also well-read characters. It was a shame, they were just people who took to the drink. Jim Bush Lewis was remembered by Bev, he was a local chap. He would be really helpful at the market with tending to the cattle. He would pen them and look after them for you. He would get 10 bob for doing it. He was marvellous, but a hard-tough man. Neil remembered taking him home in the back of a stock box. He liked his drink as well, but he was a bloody good chap.

Geraint asked about the system of ‘grading’ which he has never quite understood. Bill was an expert grader but unfortunately due to a stroke he was unable to tell about his skill, he was however able to reinforce what others might say with a nod of the head and an endearing smile. Miah told us that grading was the ‘confirmation of the animal’. It was all done by feel. He would check the loin and pass judgement on the quality of the animal. There was no use arguing with him when he said the lamb might be too thin. They were graded by number but one of the tasks would be to identify lambs that might be 30 kilos being sold alongside 40 kilo lambs. Bill would not allow that. He would try to get the average weight right and also the ‘confirmation’. He would check the shoulder and the ribs and if he could feel the rib then he knew the lamb was not very fat. It was quite a skill. If it was not a quality animal, he would not let it through. Bill was a very fair grader, but lambs that were turned down might appear again the next week and the discussion would go on. Better lambs would sell for more per kilo. If the lambs were not in good condition, they would be sold a store lambs and they would be bought by people ‘down country’ to feed them up. Bill worked for the Ministry. Geraint then mentioned that during the War there was a Ministry Grader, and a Farmer’s Grader, and they had to agree or disagree on the quality! The Government would guarantee a price. If they made 80d a kilo and the guarantee was a £1, the Government would make it up. The Graders had a lot of responsibility. They could not let rubbish go through, it had to be done right. Grading still goes on today and it is still done in the same way. Rhayader and Knighton have their graders. Geraint was sure that it would never go to ‘artificial intelligence’.

Other things were sold at the market.  There would be a Harvest Festival Sale, there were furniture sales, house property sales, and some of these were done at the Market. There were charity sales with the Churches involved in persuading the Markets to support the Church. Bev remembered a sale to help with the famine in Ethiopia. A huge amount of money was raised at Penybont with farmers giving lambs. During the War they had a collection at the Market for the Royal Legion. Mentioning no names, Miah remembered that one wealthy farmer gave an ‘old ewe’, Miah’s father was involved in tending to the ewes for this sale, and he remembered that the old ewe died in the pen. The wealthy farmer said: “The old ewe was not that bad when she came from home.” He was not reimbursed! There were some tight-fisted characters around in those days.

Bev remembered the connection between the Hiring Fairs and the Market that his father would tell him about. The Market would be the day before the Fair when men and women would be hired for the coming year. He remembered it as a ‘wonderful old system’ for manging the Farms.

Miah remembered Penybont Fair very fondly with Noah’s Ark and all the rest of it. There were different characters on different rides, but he always remembers Reg Knill and Ivor Swydd, both with bowler hats on, pretending to race each other on the dodgems and everyone loved it. All unrehearsed humour. A tremendous number of people used to come to it. A lot of these things have just passed by. Penybont still has a sense of community but these things brought a number of other people from the wider community that made it even bigger. Bev loved Penybont Market. He has to be honest in saying that they sold 90% of their stock here. Rhayader has now taken off again

Miah remembered an old character up on the golf links called Charlie Emrowshow, Penrow Frank was the place, and he walked a cow all the way from there to the Market. John Edwards was selling and Charlie was biding to push the price up. John Edwards turned to Charlie and said: “Do you want the beast back or not?” Charlie did not sell it. Charlie said: “I will walk her back home, but say what you like, I brought you a good cow”. Nobody bothered in them days, wasn’t it funny.

Geraint said it was now impossible to imagine driving cattle along this main road. Gareth remembered driving Cattle down from Larch Grove where Neil lives. Les Morris told Bev that they used to drive all their cattle from Linddu, some very big cattle. There was no other way of getting them to market.

John Edwards would go to Chepstow selling race horses. He had a picture in his house selling through-bred race horses.

Derek asked about the Pattern of Markets

In the early days there were 2 in the month. There was a market every Tuesday when there was a big supply of sheep ready. They might close the market for a month or two if the business was slow. Then they would start about June until the middle of February. Farming changed and people kept their animals longer and then the market needed to be open a bit longer. The better months would depend on the trade. If you could sell them in June you would have a good trade. You try to sell them in the middle of October you might have a hell of a job getting rid of them. October/November were the poorest months and this related to supply and demand.

Did you sell many poultry asked Elizabeth? She asked the question as she had some nice pedigree ducks, some years ago, which were ready for breeding but before this happened the Mallard had his way. The ducklings came out very nice with unusual colourings. They were lilac and when the lifted their wings they were lemon underneath. These ducks disappeared one night and that seemed to be the end of that. However, a fortnight later they crossed the road in front of her. She asked the farmer about them and he said he had bought them for his wife at Penybont market on Saturday!? There was no explanation for this amongst the panel.

Geraint then remembered an incident when Miah had bought a duck at Penybont Market. Miah remembered it well. It was very comical – Miah happened to go into the Severn for a few tots and while he was in there the duck disappeared. Somebody had come to have a look at the duck and didn’t shut the door properly and the duck escaped. The duck was rescued in a culvert up by the Garden Centre. The duck was Geraint’s and there had been an auction in aid of the Church. Geraint had no lambs to sell so he put the duck into the auction. Miah bought the duck and took it into the Severn Arms for a drink. (Me and the duck said Miah). The duck escaped and went up the road to try and get home and went into a culvert under the road. Geraint was passing the next day and saw his duck by the edge of the field. He tried to catch it but the duck nipped back into the culvert. Basil Griffiths came along, he said he knew how to get the duck out. He had been a Major in the Commandos!  He made a little float and put some paper on it and pushed it into the culvert to see if it would push the duck out. You could hear this duck coughing away there but she was not going to come out. Geraint went back home and got the drake and penned the drake at the entrance to the culvert. He wound a piece of string around its leg and pegged it so that he would not disappear as well. RP Hamer came by and saw this old drake tied up and he thought “There is Miah’s duck!” He went and took the drake and took it to Sheila, who said “Why on earth have you bought this old drake!” Eventually Miah did get the duck back.

Miah then told a story that told of a time when people looked after each other more so than perhaps they do today. Father rented the Carnau Hill down near Llandegley, off a Mrs Mills who he was friendly with. Mr Brick at Stow asked Mrs Mills if he could rent the Hill because it would keep his only son out of the Army. It was true and Father gave it up – and Miah has often felt that you would not see that happen today.

Geraint then mentioned that the market, as it came across, was a great leveller. You might go to the market thinking you were the best in the world but you would meet people and realise that there were other people in this world. Bev remembered how you would meet people who were sharper than you, meaning they had good ideas, but some were also capable of giving a bit of cheek. There was a farmer who always made out that his lambs were better than mine. He refused to agree with me, but I always won.

Christmas Fatstock, according to Miah, was always brilliant. That was another very social event. He always remembers the time when he had the prize for the speckled lambs. I was naturally quite pleased. This gentleman came up to me and he said “I don’t think you deserved it.” No, perhaps not replied Miah, the judge decided. Miah asked “Where are your lambs?” He was 2nd, and we went round and had a look at his lambs. So, I said I don’t understand the judge, yours are much better. So then this gentleman began to argue the other way. He went on the convince me that I should have had the prize. There was often a lot of controversy over the judging but it was all in good humour.

Unfortunately on the night of the Fatstock and my son Howard was to take part in the concert as part of the Festival and representing the school. Miah celebrated out of someone else’s cup and when he got home he had to go to bed. As a result he did not go to see Howard’s first concert.- and the wife has never forgotten it. Miah was not too proud of that to be honest.

There would be times when in the 90s a lot of exporting went on to Italy and Spain. They wanted lean lambs, Bev had this year a lot of lambs that were not the best, but we took a fair number and Bill did not like them a lot at the grading, and they, on that particular day, made a lot more money than the good lambs. Bev could hardly face his fellow farmers in the pub afterwards. They gave Bev quite a hard time. The next week they were all bringing them!

Miah remembers bringing lambs to market in the mid-fifties, on a trailer, with lambs from Church Farm, Mr Griffiths, and nobody wanted them. His Father often reminded Miah that in the 30’s ‘it was good to have a customer’. The price was almost irrelevant. Bev said that was why his family started buying lambs for a Company, Baxter in Birmingham. Some farms had to sell direct to the buyers from out of County and then it crept into the Market as well.

Miah’s family have always dealt with the Market until quite recently when his farm became organic. Since then he cannot sell in a livestock market. This was a bit of a shock to people, but it only applied to sheep. Cattle can strangely, and Miah does not understand why, he has never been given an explanation. He has to take the sheep direct to the abattoir, for Waitrose, at Llanidloes but he would rather bring them to Penybont. Bev said it would be Rhayader but he would never forgive Brightwells for closing Penybont. Miah said that the compensation was that with organic lamb you do not need mint sauce. Bev said he would not be able to argue about this.

To a question about the buyers and where did they come from, Miah mentioned a Mike Rowlands, from Llangerreg, who was a splendid man, but there were not many in the 1950’s. Mike would come whatever the conditions. Then there were the Edges brothers from Llanfair Caereinon.  They are still going today. Peter Badger came from Ross, who would buy for the abattoirs. There could be 7 or 8 buyers at a market who would be buying for different firms. Bev said that at one time there would be just one buyer at Rhayader but now there could be six.

Mary raised a concern about the lambs being stressed and she had been told they could lose weight. Most do go straight to the abattoir. Miah mentioned that the bigger concern was live exports. Miah mentioned that this was a big issue with a lot of people. It is however only 26 miles across the Channel whereas no-one complains about lambs being taken from Scotland to an abattoir in South Wales or even Cornwall. Bev said that the modern lorries have water for the lambs and they only allow so many in a pen. There can be 4 or 500 in a lorry but they all have to be unloaded when they get to the continent. The French like to have live lambs as they then go the French abattoirs giving the work to their facilities. The market on the continent has become much smaller than it was. Everyone declined to discuss the impact of Brexit.

Mary then told a story about her Aunt Freda who met a man at the hospital and he told her that his job was to open and close all the gates in the way to Penybont Market. As he came into the village one day, Polly Lewis would be making tea  at Brynithon by the Iron Room, now the Community Centre. Polly Lewis’s gate was open, which caused him some concern until he looked up and saw a cow looking at him out of the window. He went in to get the cow out, but what amazed him was that there was carpet on the floor – he had never seen carpet before! A reminder of how poor this area had been for some of the local people.

Bev remembered walking sheep back from Llanbadarn to Dolau when he was not very old, 8 or 9 years.  When he got to Llanbister he was walking in front of the sheep, and round the corner came this van full of rabbits. When the driver saw Bev and the sheep in the middle of the road he went straight over the hedge. This frightened Bev to death and he ran like hell for home.

The first stock lorry that came into Radnorshire was Miah’s namesake from Llanyre, Miah Francis. He went to Builth and there on the side of the Lorry was MJF. One of the farmers spotted this and said “I did not think you were a very bright lot from Llanyre, you cannot even spell”. Why? You have not spelt your name right”. If you look in the Bible it is Niah Miah John Francis.

Graham Middleton was a great buyer. He had 1000s of lambs out of Penybont. He was from Penybont originally. Knills had several stock lorries. Mary remembered on one occasion Knills had an elephant in the back of a stock lorry.