Penybont and District History Group Notes 1st July 2019 Main Topic: Llandegley, Now and Then – A Virtual Tour with Shirley Morgan and Geraint Hughes

Penybont and District History Group Notes

1st July 2019

Main Topic: Llandegley, Now and Then – A Virtual Tour with Shirley Morgan and Geraint Hughes

Geraint welcomed everyone with an apology for having decided to change the original plan for today – a walk around the village of Llandegley. Due to ground conditions when he did a rekey 3 weeks ago in the pouring rain, and a number of other factors Geraint decided, having consulted with Shirley and Derek, that it would be better to put a slide-show together with photographs of Llandegley and, in effect, conduct a ‘virtual walk’ around the village.

Annette made a couple of announcements about events in Dolau. One related to an Open Garden event that is coming up very soon, and the other for a Concert featuring the Builth Male Voice Choir and the Dolau Mixtures which will happen this coming Friday at 7.30 p.m.

When Neil was asked if he had anything to contribute, for the first time in history, Neil had ‘nothing to say’!

Derek asked if the group would put together a display board relating to Penybont and World War 2 at the Tractor Run next June. It was agreed that this was something we would insert into our programme for the year ahead.  Geraint does not at this moment have many photos but it was agreed that we would attempt to work on it over the year ahead.

Recently Geraint was contacted by a Belgian family whose Grandparents had come to Bryn Ithon in 1915 as refugees. Geraint had a picture that the family had sent which was a bit faded. He planned to send the family a picture of Bryn Ithon as it is today. Mary wondered if Polly Lewis might have known something of this family. Elizabeth said that a number of Belgian families came to Kington at that time and wondered if this family might have had some connection to this group.

Geraint reminded members that the next meeting will not be until 2nd September when Judy Dennison will talk about Llanbadarn Fawr School. Geraint mentioned that Judy would be pleased if anyone in the group has, or knows, of any material relating to the school. Please, if they could contact her or bring their information on the day.

Main Topic: Llandegley, Now and Then – A Virtual Tour

Geraint and Shirley started with the by now infamous sign that has given Llandegley an international profile. This wonderful piece of spoofery has bemused and befuddled people for several years to the point that the sign has now been ‘listed’. Neil thinks that Terminal 2 is at his place as he has so many callers asking about the whereabouts of the International Airport. Nicholas Whitehead, who dreamed up the idea one snowy night while visiting friends in Llandegley, could not have imagined that the sign would still be attracting so much attention 7 years on. At one point the sign was taken down but this signalled a public outcry to have it put back, and back it is. John Abberley remembers, as one of the most exciting days of his life, the day during the 2nd World War that 2 USA planes did land at Llandegley, in his father’s field behind the Ffaldau. They only stayed for a couple of hours but at that moment Llandegley was an International Airport after all.  

If the International Airport sign had ‘some’ claim to historical accuracy, Geraint, a proud Welsh Speaker, was less sure about the historical basis for the Welsh version of Llandegley on the sign, Llandeglau?

This Tythe map emphasises the tiny nature of Llandegley as a village.

Featured on the Map are:

St. Techla’s Church,

The Graveyard


Ty’n y Llan

Burton House


Two Wells are shown and there was some discussion about other wells that may have been associated with particular houses, Geraint was sure that there was a well within Pound House that got concreted over, and wells that were village wells.

The Vicarage is just shown off to the west with a lane, Frog Lane, going down to the Brook.

LB was thought to refer to the Letter Box in the village.

The letter P, which features twice, stumped us, perhaps they might refer to Village Pumps, as opposed to wells.

Some of the sheds at Ty’n y Llan would have been knocked down when the bypass was constructed as they would have been in the middle of the road.

When we look at the village ‘then’ and ‘now’ the big change is the bypass which sweeps around cutting off the farm Ty’n y Llan from the village. The bypass was created during the 1920’s when some farm buildings were lost as one of the sheds would have been in the middle of the road. Shirley told us that the original vicarage, which is marked on the Tythe Map, had been described as something of ‘hovel’.

This picture of Llandegley Rocks, by Gareth Rees-Roberts, is one of many that illustrate the beautiful setting that the village is fortunate enough to enjoy.

We have in previous notes documented the history of the Pales Meeting House, this photograph, looking up into the Radnor Forest taken from the Pales, also show the village in its setting.

Here we have the village again, as seen from Llandegley Rocks. At the top of Llandegley Rocks is the great Pearl Rock overlooking the village with an air of distinction. To a question about the name ‘Pearl’, Shirley believes that it is so named because you can find Quartz Crystals and she remembers collecting crystals for her grandchild.

These two pictures show Persondy Field, the field under the Church, the field under the Church. Geraint said there had been an archaeological dig carried out in the field but he had no details of what they had found. CPAT have done a survey of the village however and this can be found at:

Getting closer to Pearl Rock the path is well defined as the postman delvers mail her to Pearl House:

In Geraint’s time as vicar he knew a Mr Barker who lived in this remote and secluded property. He was something of an innovator, who made his own fridge, tapped into a spring to get water for his bathroom, and he had his own generator for electricity. He had worked in the aircraft industry in Coventry. His daughter married into the Duggan family but tragically died at the age of 28 years. Mr Barker was the first person in the area to own and drive a Land Rover.

Pearl Rock can present as a dramatic mountain feature:

From a book, ‘Railways of Radnorshire’ Geraint had found this map:

There is reference to Llandegley Halt. This map covers proposed railways prior to the reversal of Government Policy and the Beaching cuts that never happened. It does show the Heart of Wales Line running down from Hopton Heath to Garth. Companies planned their own routes independently. A line running from New Radnor to Llandegley, one might presume, would go on to Pen-y-bont, whereas it veers off towards Hundred House and to somewhere marked as Capel Bethesda, a name not known to anyone in the group. Similarly, there was no knowledge of the two Gunstone Junctions that embrace a link between to two Lines?

Shirley and Geraint then took us back to the Pales Lane where Neil’s grandparents used to live. The had a ‘cosy cottage’ that has now gone completely. The photo below hardly does justice to ‘cosy’ however:

Near to the house was the corn mill that had an over-shot wheel. It stopped working in 1861. The before and after photos are as it was in 2005 and how it is today. Unlike today, corn was widely grown locally along with barley for beer.

The footpath past the mill goes sharp left and you come across another mystery – a bridge over the Mithil River. It looks a bit like a military bridge with huge metal girders. There is no hand rail and it does not join up with the paths or tracks.

In our previous Notes we have written about the Spa and its connection with Burton House. The Spa building has all but disappeared the pictures below are 2005 and then now.

Back to the centre of the village and the before and now are in stark contrast to each other in one remarkable way. Can you spot the difference?

Well, of course there is the Telephone Kiosk, now a Defibulator Kiosk, but more significantly it is the lack of people in the recent photograph. The loss of amenities in villages has had a dramatic impact on village life. No longer are people walking to the shop, having conversations in the street, informal social interaction has died up as people go off to the bigger towns in their cars. Ray and Sylvia, within their collection of photos, and having run the Post Office in Penybont see this everywhere.

Another view of the centre of the village also throws up some amazing changes. How many can you spot?

Burton House, formerly Burton Hotel, featured in one of previous talks, and is dominant in many of the photos in the centre of the village. Here it is from 2 different sides a few years ago and followed by one recent photo.

Neils’ Grandmother used to talk to him about the joy of coming down to the village as a child to watch the coaches arriving and leaving from the Burton Hotel.

Across the road was the carpenter’s shop:

Inside there are still some of the Carperter’s paraphernalia:

Somewhere adjacent was a carpenter’s shop and it may have been in one of these buildings:

The cobbled yard would have come across the road. The farm was noted for being very boggy.

Primrose Cottage has been mentioned in previous despatches and was originally three separate dwellings:

Joy was able to tell us that her sister was born on the kitchen table as a ‘blue baby’. If it had not been for the intervention of the by now infamous, Nurse Gittings she would not have survived.

Joy also remembered that her dad, who was 6ft 4in, got so fed up banging his head on a door frame that he cut a section out  of the frame so that he could get through more easily. The family eventually moved to Birmingham but Joy then returned to the village.

There are still 3 staircases in the house.

Percy Bufton lived there in the 1960s. Percy had the most wonderful aviary. He had been batman to Sir Peter Scott. John Abberly always contends that Percy kept a monkey there as well. Percy arranged a trip to Slimbridge for all the children, which was a great treat.

Next we come to the school:

The building, designed by Lingen Barker and dating from 1871, has not changed very much over the years as seen above. This picture, taken in 1885, is at:

A canteen was built on in 1944, but water and electricity did not come until the 1950’s. The in-going most dominant feature of the school as you read through the log books was the state of the privies. They were a constant source of irritation. Located over the stream with a partition separating the boys from the girls, and when the water froze, they had to close the school. Luxury was having a 2-seater.

Moving on to Pound House where the village ‘pound’ would have been located and possibly stocks and a whipping post to boot. The House itself became a Traveller’s Resting Place for vagrants and other travellers. This was not a workhouse, as the one for this area was in Kington, and it was not a church initiative, but something inspired by the community to do their best for ‘tramps in transit’.

Mrs Bennett is widely remembered as someone who lived here for a period and in a way carried on the tradition. She is remembered for being an ideal hostess who would lavish coffee, cakes and sweets on any passing visitors. A comment was made that it was a wonder that anyone had a tooth left in their head!

Church House had been the cobblers shop. In our archives we have a book of accounts for the shoes being sold by the cobbler all set out according to the needs of every farm locally. In the back of the book their was a record of deductions that were made according to the circumstances that prevailed at each farm. The Insall family, who featured in a recent talk, also lived in Church House.

1959 saw a major development in Llandegley when the Council Houses were built. Built by Deakins the design was considered ‘dreadful’. They did however, much to the delight of the headmaster at the school, bring in 17 additional children.

Moving to the main and most dominant feature of the village, St Tecla’s Parish Church we see that the towers have changed. The old tower collapsed in 1947 and the rebuild was finished in 1953 using stone from Llwynbarried Hall, Nantmel.

There is more information at:

Geraint felt he could ‘bore’ us for at least 2 hours, Neil thought that this was about the same as his old sermons! Geraint simply told us that the Font was Norman in origin and the bell dates back to 1630.

The exact date that the original church was built is not known as there are no records before the Norman conquest in 1066. The first reference to a church in Llandegley was when Geraldus met the Abbott in 1190 and this link with Cwmhir Abbey is also in the  cusped South Door, which it is thought came from the Abbey.

The first vicar appointed to the Church was in 1401 just before the Battle of Pilleth in 1402.

A recent alteration has been made at the back of the Church. A balcony with rooms for the Sunday School, supported by Shirley, and a kitchen have been added.

In the graveyard there is a tomb for the MacIntosh family who were the ancesters of Julian Fellows and the link to Penybont Hall and Downton Abbey.

The first ‘Dr’ in the area was Dr Evans was really what was known as a ‘bone setter’ and unqualified. His skill in helping people gave him the name Dr. His son did qualify as a Doctor and the Ffaldau was used as the surgery for many years.

Francis Payne, who lived in Jane’s house, and was Curator if St Fagan’s Folk Museum in Cardiff, is also buried in the churchyard. Francis wrote a ‘History of Radnorshire’ but strangely had as dislike of Wales before he came.He then became a fluent Welsh speaker and a great advocate of the Welsh language.

Eileen Mary Jones was the daughter of an Americain GI and born during the first world war. Very unusual in the area, she was black. She was a remarkable surviver and ov ercomer. At that time being illegitimate and black were both subject to prejudice, but she overcame the challenges that life had thrown at her. She became known to be a delightful person. She progressed to become a nursing sister. Sadly she died of breast cancer quite young, at 36 yrs in 1981,  .

The Old Vicarage was sold by the Church for £1000 in the 1940’s for £1000 alongwith 20 acres of land. It was sold again recently and there is a lot of work being done to restore the house and the grounds.

Cornhill Chapel, we have mentioned in previous Notes, was a Primitive Methodist Chapel but is now sadly something of a ruin and becoming more ruinous each year. The early picture was taken in 2005 and then the second picture this year. The Chapel is included albeit it is technically in the Llanfiangel Nant Melan Parish.

In some ways the delapidated state fits with the picture of the chapel in session and ducks wandering into the service.

As you proceed towards the Pales, Rhonllyn Farm is adjacent to the junction on the way up from the village.

The Pales, which we have in the past covered in detail, has had a face lift in recent years. As one of only two thatched Meeting Houses in the UK, it looks quiet resplended in its newly thatched roof.

Larch Grove, where Neil Richards lives, and on the way up into the Radnor Forest can become snow bound, as happened in 1981.

Then there is a building that has completely dissappeared, the Loggin where John Abberley’s uncle lived in a building on the main road, that was just before the Old Vicarage. The river ran just behind it and when Shirley went there as a child for the butcher’s shop, she was in awe of the chickens running about and playing.

And finally, the beautiful setting for Spring Rock fishing lake.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 3rd June 2019 Main Topic: The Insall Family and the early history of the Royal Flying Corps – Shirley Morgan

Geraint opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and reminding members that next month we are due to have a walk around Llandegley. The plan is to meet here at the Thomas Shop for coffee at 10.00 a.m. and then travel up to Llandegley where Shirley will lead the walk.

There will be no Meeting in August and our next Meeting will be on 2nd September when Judy Dennison will give a talk on Llanbadarn Fawr School.

 Geraint was both excited and amused to help Ray in the last few weeks with an enormous box of diverse papers relating to Jim Smout’s life and interests. Ray had been given them and Geraint was trying to help sort them. They related to 3 facets of Jim’s life:

  1. His Family life
  2. His relationship to the Roman Catholic Church
  3. His life as a Signalman

Geraint remembers Jim very fondly as a man who went out of his way to help other people. He remembers his ringing around the country to try and find a lost handbag for a lady; and then there was the instance of a tortoise on the level crossing. Jim stopped the train to have the tortoise moved to one side; but then they could not find it. A year later, possibly the same tortoise, well they thought it was, was found by his children. They tried to return it to the original owners, but they were happy for the children to have it! All happy in the end.

Geraint then asked Shirley to take centre stage and to talk about a subject she had known nothing about.

Main Topic: The Insall Family and the early history of the Royal Flying Corps

Shirley started by apologising to any experts who might be present as she has done her best to research something that she had never expected to be exploring. She was not sure if it was a ‘divine intervention’ but on a wet day she and her family had a change of plan and decided to go to the Bristol Aerospace Exhibition at Filton to see Concorde.


This to her astonishment included an amazing exhibition of very old and pioneer planes. Suddenly some of the things that she had been reading about, which had made little sense, became clear. Shirley had been reading about how in the very early days of flight they used linseed, dope and very basic materials. This meant little to her until she saw the aircraft at Filton and saw how the canvas (dope) and other materials were used in making the Bristol Boxkite.


Her second divine intervention came on a trip to Tesco when she found a second hand book on the History of the RAF. – It transpired that the divine intervention had come through Elizabeth who had given the book to Tesco. This helped her to get a good understanding of the history before tackling the book written by John Algernon Insall – Observer.

In her talk Shirley decided that it would be best to cover the history of the Royal Flying Corps first and then introduce the Insall family and their contribution to that history at the end.

‘Don’t fly too close to the sun’ was the refrain that heralded Icarus’s attempt at flying. This led to disaster as far as Icarus was concerned but did not halt the aspirations of mankind to take to the air. There were even Biblical references to Elijah and Elisha relating to flight. It was not however until the developments of the first airship in 1852, leading to the use of the German Zeppelin in the First World War, and then the internal combustion engine 1859, that things really began to progress.

Flight as we have come to know it took a major step forward when the Wright Brothers, on 17th December 1903, took to the air for all of 12 seconds, getting up to 59 seconds with practice. This was the first sustained, controlled, powered flight in an aircraft that was heavier than air. It took place in Kitty Hawk, Carolina. Wilbur and Orville invented a wing warping system that generated lift and manoeuvrability and after a long period of trials with gliders their first flight was witnessed by only three people; a coastguard, a local business man and a boy from the village.

While in 1908 the British Government were banning experiments with flight, in France Henri Farman and Louis Bleriot were collaborating with Wilbur Wright. In 1909 Bleriot flew across the Channel from Calais to Dover in 37minutes.

The British Government’s decision did not last long and in 1910 Brooklands motor racing track, through its owner, made room for a runway in the middle of the track. This first aerodrome had sheds for Sopworth, Vickers, and Whites. By 1914 they had a school for pilots and they trained more pilots than anywhere else in the country.

While many of the major powers in Europe embraced these new flying machines the British Government were still reluctant to embrace aviation. In 1910 a frustrated Royal Field Officer tried to demonstrate their importance to the defence of the Realm when he flew a Bristol aircraft over army manoeuvres. For his efforts he was reprimanded for spooking the horses. Despite political procrastination attitudes did begin to change and with the potential of war on the horizon the British Aeronautical Service was created in 1911. It had a Military Wing, a Naval Wing, a Central Flying School, and a Royal Aircraft Factory. The new service was given Royal approval in 1912 and the Royal Flying Corps was formed as the military wing of the British Army. Its motto was: Per Ardua ad Astra – Through Adversity to the Stars.

With the outbreak of war in 1914 the Royal Flying Corps expanded dramatically under the leadership of their notable Commanders Sir David Henderson and Hugh Trenchard.  From 1 squadron in 1914 they had 5 squadrons in 1918. In 1914 they had 105 Officers and 63 aeroplanes. They had biplanes and monoplanes that had been adapted for use and a general-purpose plane such as the BE2 had a top speed of 70 m.p.h.


By the end of the war the planes were being purpose built and included SE Fighter:

The SE Fighter was powered by a 200hp engine and could fly at 138 m.p.h. The other big change during the war was that in the early planes the propeller faced backwards and pushed the aircraft, whereas they changed to a ‘tractor’ layout where the propeller faced forward and pulled the plane.

The primary function of the aircraft at the beginning of the war was reconnaissance, no guns were mounted on the planes, and it was only the crew who carried guns and rifles. Planes at this stage were not used to carry bombs. The planes flew over the battle field to see what was going on and reported back to inform battle planes. They were often fired at by the enemy leading to the need to change the insignia as the Union Jack proved difficult to identify and planes could be shot at by their own ground troops.

As the war progressed pilots got drawn in fights with enemy pilots, guns were mounted on the aircraft and bombs began to be dropped on enemy installation. Aircraft were not the decisive actors in WW1 that they would prove to be in future conflicts but the shape of things to come had emerged.

A new industry emerged to improve and manufacture more and better planes. More women became employed, mainly women who had been in domestic service, and they proved to be quick and accurate workers. The materials used in making the planes was very basic: wooden trusses overlaid with linen. They used Sitka Spruce, Ash, Douglas Fir, all of which were cheap and available. Linen production went up threefold in Ireland. The linen was ‘doped’ with cellulose nitrate to shrink the fabric but about 180 yards were needed for each plane. This would last for just 12 flights.


Photography was a whole new concept in relation to warfare and its introduction was quite controversial. Some Officers expressed the view that it was “an ungentlemanly into the private affairs, breaching the unwritten code of chivalry in warfare.” The enemy had no such inhibitions when they launched the first gas attack at Ypres in April 1915.

Initially there were no specialist cameras that could take vertical and oblique photographs.

The development of the A-Type camera was a major step forward but by 1917 they had gone on to the L-Type and the photographer just had to press a trigger for the exposure to be taken automatically.

A School of Photography was established at Farnborough where expert personnel were trained in printing plates, enlarging prints, showing lantern slides, preparing maps, and maintaining the cameras.  The real skill was in interpreting the photographs for military use. With developing skills, they were able to identify battery positions, mortar and machine emplacements, wire, sniper posts, headquarters, tracks of troops, and many other factors to assist the war effort.


Radio was well established before the war and the transmission of Morse Code was by this stage in common use, the Marconi Transmitter fitted into an aircraft could send a Morse signal to the ground, and with the technological advances in radio reliable voice communication was also possible. Planes had operators with portable transmitters that could quickly warn ground troops of enemy positions and gas attacks.


Planes quickly moved from being lumbering artillery spotters with no weapons to becoming more robust structures manned by Fighter Pilots. Guns were mounted on the fuselage that used a ‘synchronization gear system’ to fire between the propellers.

Frontline pilots soon devised ways of dropping bombs by hand over the side of the plane and by 1915 bomb racks were fitted which could be released by pulling s cable in the cockpit. Bombing raids on ground troops became increasingly hazardous as troops learned the art of deflection shooting at slow moving planes.

The Pilots

On the whole the pilots were from privileged backgrounds, some of the mechanics did become pilots, and if anyone happened to have any previous experience of flying, however little, they were also directed towards being a pilot. The living conditions for the pilots was somewhat above those of the other services. They ate and drank well, the latter possibly accounting for over 50% of the 14,000 pilots lost during WW1, most of these during training. Death and loss were all around the pilots leading to a certain desensitisation and they just moved into someone else’s seat at the table when death occurred. They would routinely carry a pistol as this was considered to offer a better alternative to being burned to death. Parachutes were not used by the service as there was a concern that this might give rise to a wave of cowardice.

The concept of Aces amongst the enemy pilots with pilots like the Red Dragon becoming folk heroes. The British Pilots did take on the idea and any pilot who shot down 5 enemy planes was considered to be an Ace. One such Ace was Gilbert Insall, the brother of Algernon John Insall who came to live in Llandegley. Gilbert appeared on the Ace Cigarette Cards:

Gilbert was awarded the VC and the MC. At one point during the war he was captured and imprisoned. He made, what was described as a ‘miraculous escape’. He was then shot down and badly injured over enemy lines, and in a set of circumstances that led to a coincidence of war, he was taken to a military hospital and while he was on a stretcher one of the stretcher bearers recognised him.  The Stretcher Bearer had been a member of a hockey team from Germany who had come to Paris before the war and had played against Gilbert.

Algernon John Insall (Jack)

It was Jack Insall who promoted our interest in the Royal Flying Corps, he was not a native of this area and only came to live in Llandegley, with his family, in the 1960’s. Jack with his wife Mary and son Malcolm moved into Church House.

Jack was actually born in France. His father had moved to Paris and had developed a thriving Dentistry Practice in the city. Jack, his older brother Gilbert, younger brother Cecil, and his sister Esme, were all born in Paris. Gilbert and Jack enjoyed cycling and would regularly cycle out to an airfield on the edge of Paris where Louis Bleriot and Maurice Farman were experimenting with their new flying machines. On one occasion the boys were treated to a trip in one of the planes.

Educated in Paris both boys went on to University at the Sorbonne and they were very aware of the growing tensions across Europe as Germany were responsible for several acts of aggression before, on 28th June 1914 the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, triggering a full-scale invasion of France in the August. Dr Insall and his family became acutely aware that being British nationals could be hazardous and they managed to get places on the last boat leaving for Britain. Hoping that tensions would quickly die down Dr Insall was shocked to discover, the next morning, written up on a blackboard, while still on the boat, that Britain were at war with Germany.

On their arrival in Britain both Gilbert and Jack joined up, enlisting in The Royal Fusiliers ‘University and Public Schools Brigade’ and began their military training. During the Spring of 1915 an Officer read out an urgent appeal for volunteers to join the Royal Flying Corps. Their Platoon Commander had become aware that Gilbert and Jack had had ‘flying experience’, albeit a couple of pleasure flights that lasted about 10 minutes, and encouraged them to volunteer. Three weeks later they were at Brooklands where they were no longer Privates in the army but 2nd Lieutenants in the Flying Corps. From Brooklands they went to Netheravon where Jack’s training progressed well but after a bad landing, when he badly gashed his knee, he developed a phobia in relation to landing. Jack decided that he would modify his training to become an Observer rather than a Pilot. This role was no less dangerous as he still went up with a Plane and he would be responsible for: compass bearings; spotting troop movements; communications; photography; and operating machine guns.

Jack chronicled his exploits and these have been published in a book: ‘Observer’. He was involved in hundreds of missions some of which were extremely dangerous. The Observer has been an important source for the history of the Royal Flying Corps.  In it he recalls nearly falling out of a plane while taking photographs, and the dark days when the Fokker Eindecker planes with their synchronised, or interrupter, shooting method were a real challenge for the British planes.

The cardinal rule that pilots operated to was ‘Go into the attack – whenever you see the Hun, no matter where he is, be he alone or accompanied – go for him and shoot him down’.

He talks fondly of the loss of his comrades, amongst them Albert Ball, a British flying Ace.

Albert Ball was from more humble stock than many of his comrades. He preferred to live in a bell tent and tend his garden, rather than having high class quarters.

Jack described some of the crashes he witnessed and how a plane could be reduced to a heap of dust and debris in a matter of seconds. In 1916 Jack was promoted to an RFC administrative post on the Somme. Seeing the filth, death and deprivation that soldiers faced was quite an eye opener for Jack. Nobody who was in France at the Somme would ever forget it.

Jack was seriously injured while at the Somme. A box of faulty ammunition exploded when it fell off a table in his office. He was rushed to a field hospital where the Colonel in Charge told the New Zealand Medical Officer to whip out Jack’s injured eye and throw it away. The MO from New Zealand begged to try and save the eye. Jack describes how, despite having none of the right equipment he removed the eye between his fingers and thumb, secured it with a pair of pliers, and trimmed away the protruding bits from the iris with nail scissors, and then pressed the eye back into position and bandaged him up. Jack never saw the New Zealander again but remembers his extraordinary kindness at a time when there were so many deserving casualties from the battlefield for the MO to attend to.

Jack’s younger brother Cecil, after working for the Red Cross helping misplaced persons, joined the RFC in 1918, just before the end of the war. His parents and sister returned to Paris where Dr Insall re-established his dentistry practice. His mother and sister also did work for the Red Cross.

Jack continued to work for the RFC and then the RAF and was pensioned out in 1927. During WW2 he had a desk job and was a founder member of the Imperial War Museum with special responsibility for aircraft exhibits.

While he was working at the museum, he met many people who told him stories of their war time experiences. One of the visitors was a quiet little man whose experience was very closely related to Jack’s experience as an Observer.  His name was Richard Hesketh of the Thornton Pickard Photographic Manufacturing Company. At the beginning of 1915 it had already become evident that the cameras being used by the Observers were inadequate. Richard, a civilian, was summoned to London from Altringham, in Cheshire, on a Friday in February 1915 to meet with the senior officers from the Photographic Department of the RFC. Discussions took place as to the requirements of a purpose-built camera for aerial photography. At midday Mr Hesketh sent a telegram to Altringham for a car to meet him at the station, and for two Works Foremen to be at his house. They discussed the design implications until dawn the next day. Shortly after 9 a.m. modifications were being made to the first prototype, and production began. Within 3 days the finished camera was in London. Minor modifications were needed so this delayed production slightly, but by Saturday, just one week later, the camera was being used over France.

Jack Insall was recognised as an authority in aeronautical history and he wrote widely for the technical press. When he and his family came to Llandegley in the sixties he enjoyed fishing and wrote for a fishing magazine. When he died in 1972, he was buried in Llandegley Churchyard.


John Abberley knew Jack very well. He described him as a lovely neighbour.

Shirley had been at school with Jack’s son Malcolm and in a twist of fate Shirley’s house in Penybont is the one that Malcolm and her mother moved to after Jack died. Malcolm was a draughtsman and was described as very bright but something of a recluse.

When Shirley did some research on her house, she discovered that Jack had drawn up plans for a house that was never built. A more modest bungalow was built after Jack died. Shirley had to do extensive renovations to the bungalow and in the process found some rather posh silver spoons that had been used for stirring paint.

Geraint, who lives next door to Shirley had been involved in helping to shut down the house after Malcolm died, he did not find the spoons. Malcolm was a single gentleman so it was all a bit sad shutting up the house.

Geraint thanked Shirley for a wonderful talk that explained quite clearly how ‘Penybont had won the war!!!’

Geraint asked members to think about topics for next year’s programme as we will need to be planning it in the coming months. In the plan he felt that it would be important to think of a topic for Shirley that ‘she knows nothing about’!!!

Penybont and District History Group Notes 6th May 2019 Main Topic: Dams that did NOT Happen – Richard Rees

Geraint welcomed John and Amelia Worth as newcomers to the History Group. John is Mary’s brother and of course a direct link into the Thomas Family and the life of Penybont.

Gill from Rhayader was also welcomed to this session, as was Diana Duggan who now lives in Hereford.

Shirley mentioned a new initiative for the village. Following the last Macmillan Coffee morning she and a few others noticed that people were reluctant to leave. They had the feeling that there was a need for an opportunity for people in the village to meet up. They are starting a Coffee Morning on 20th May in the Village Hall and this will be on-going on the 3rd Monday of every month.

Shirley will also be the Main Speaker at our next meeting on 3rd June. The focus of her presentation will be the Insall Family and the beginning of the Flying Corps.

In July we will walk around Llandegley.

No Meeting in August but Judy will be our Main Speaker in September and she will be talking about Llanbadarn Fawr School.

Main Topic: The Dams that did NOT Happen – Richard Rees

Geraint welcomed Richard to our meeting and thanked him for coming all the way from Lanwrda, in Carmarthenshire, to give us the benefit of his research into Victorian Plans that could have reshaped much of Mid Wales.

As an engineer Richard has an interest and passion for what was historically known as the Central Wales Railway, and is now known as the Heart of Wales line. It was in pursuing this interest that he came across an anomaly that has led to research into the Rivers and Waters of Mid Wales. A map of the rivers of Wales:

shows the concentration of rivers within Mid Wales.

In his research Richard discovered a plan to divert the Central Wales Railway and this intrigued him and he decided that he needed to find out more. As he began to look, he discovered more and more about the Victorian plans to get water for London from Mid Wales. Richard’s research took him to National Library of Wales, House of Lords, Kew Archives and many other establishments that helped him to put together the complete plan to draw water to serve the needs of the growing population in London.

It was the plan to divert the railway between Cilmeri and Llanwrtyd that drew his attention. This potential major change to the railway line was estimated to cost £140,930 in 1898, a not insignificant amount. This puzzled Richard. The diversion of the line would take it North of Garth and about 1-mile East of Llanwrtyd. But this was only the beginning! What was going on!??

The need to improve the water supply for London was identified around 1894. The Chief Engineer for the London Council, Sir Alexander Richardson Binnie, took on the challenge. He saw Mid Wales as an area rich in water, and with a very sparse population, and therefore providing the potential for a major scheme that would meet the needs of the city dwellers in London. Binnie looked at Mid Wales as a resource, not as farms homes, and a resource for the people of Mid Wales. He saw a multitude of rivers and he had the engineering potential to draw them together into an opportunity to meet the needs of Londoners.

Binnie was a man who got things done, knighted for his engineering achievements he saw Mid Wales as the solution to the water needs of London.

The Wye and its tributaries were his target. The particular rivers included Towy, Usk, Irfon, Ithon, and Edw Rivers. These are just few of the 42 rivers that came into Binnie’s plans. When we think of the Elan Valley providing water to Birmingham, this was dwarfed by Binnie’s vision and would have supplied about 5 times the amount of water to London.

The impact on the area would have been enormous but the reservoirs would be only one aspect of this. One town and 30 villages would have been submerged or cought up in the scheme. Richard notes that 60% of Brecknockshire, 50% of Radnorshire and large parts of Carmarthenshire would have been severely impacted by Binnie’s scheme.

If we start in the north, there would have been a reservoir on the northern edge of the Elan Valley stretching up the Upper Wye Valley. The one that would have had the most impact on Penybont area was a reservoir that was almost square that would stretch from well north on Llanbadarn Fynydd down to Llanddewi. Below this and also very close to Penybont would have been a smaller reservoir in the Edw Valley that would have taken in Hundred House and Franksbridge. The Chapel on the Hill at Franksbridge would have been on the edge of the reservoir.

The main catchment area was associated with the Towy and Irfon where a vast reservoir would be created. This would be in the region of about 3 times the size of the area encompassed by the reservoirs in the Elan Valley. This would extend into some smaller reservoirs along the Usk and over towards Llangorse where the reservoir already there would be raised by 98 feet making it of similar size to the Ithon Valley reservoir. Between the reservoirs there would be tunnels and aqueducts constructed to take water from one system to others and as part of keeping the river waters flowing.

Creating these tunnels and aqueducts would swallow up more land. One of the tunnels would have cut through from the Ithon reservoir at Llanddewi close to Crossgates. Then there would have been an aqueduct in the Edw valley near Bettws. All of this infrastructure would have necessitated an enormous amount to compulsory purchase and Binnie had plans for all these purchases drawn up. While there would have been opposition locally there were also opportunists. The owners of the Epynt House Hotel, now known as Lake Hotel Langammarch, rushed an extension into being, using very basic materials, in order to get more compensations should the scheme have gone ahead. It is also worth remembering that it was not only the properties affected by the reservoirs and the infrastructure that were affected. Huge areas of land and properties that could potentially pollute the water supply were also subject to compulsory purchase.

Richard gave us a hint at the scale of the impact to the area when he listed the destruction in the Irfon Valley alone:

69 farmhouses        212 houses

20 cottages             2 mansions

37 shops                 9 workshops

3 hotels                   7 public houses

3 blacksmiths          5 water mills

4 railway stations     3 schools

9 chapels                 4 churches

1 brickworks            1 public hall

For some years we, at the Thomas Shop, had been reading William Thomas’s advertisement for his ‘Steam Laundry’ at the Thomas Shop as a joke, but the talk by Richard brought home how this scheme must have been a hot topic of conversation during the latter end of the Victorian Era and into the Edwardian Era. William Thomas wrote in 1905:

“W.T. has been fortunate in securing a competent Trained Staff and excellent Management. The Water Supply is perfectly suited for the requirements of a Laundry, and is the same as the Londoners are so anxious to obtain.”

Having done all the preliminary work to start the scheme there was the small matter of getting it accepted and then trough Parliament. Binnie felt that it would not be a problem to get the water from Wales. His plan included building an aqueduct 192 miles from Garth to Boreham Wood, London. Water would travel by gravity, albeit this did mean some extensive tunnels through the Cotswolds. There would be a holding reservoir at Boreham Wood.

An investigation into the scheme was conducted into the scheme in 1896 and this was compared with an alternative scheme based around Staines. The latter scheme would have been cheaper to build but much dearer in the long term. London CC then appointed a Chemist William Dibdin to give a report on the state of the water coming from the Thames against that from Wales. He found that samples obtained from Wales at the end of the winter, as the water had been flushed by winter rains, from Wales were much better, but that this was an unfair comparison. He discovered that there was much politicking over control of the water by the water companies and this was underpinning the decisions being made. Despite this London CC recommended that it should go to the next stages.

The next stage would be to take the matter through Parliament where a Bill had to be prepared and subsequently voted on. At the same time that this was happening a Royal Commission had been set up to compare the water scheme that Binnie had prepared with the Staines scheme mentioned earlier.

Richard explained that the preparation of a Parliamentary Bill required a degree of accuracy that was found to be very challenging in this scenario. Many landowners across parts of Mid Wales were Welsh speaking and many had the same name. In a celebrated situation a John Jones was not given notice relating to one of his fields, and it was discovered on investigation that two different John Jones lived on 2 adjacent farms. Despite these difficulties, and alongside considerable stress across Wales, a Bill was prepared and received assent at its first reading. A growing concern that this was progressing before the Royal Commission had reported on its findings. The second reading was delayed and Binnie, in order to give the Bill a greater chance of succeeding, made some modifications to the scheme.  This meant moving the Irfon Dam further upstream and submerging Beulah and Abernant.

It was on the 29th March 1900 that the Bill was placed before Parliament for its second reading.  By this time the Royal Commission had reported and came out against the Binnie proposal. The tide had in fact turned and opposition to London CC had even turned in the Greater London area. The opposition in Wales had gained momentum as it was recognized that there were water needs for towns and Cities in South Wales that would be compromised by the scheme. The scheme was rejected by Parliament.

In discussion Richard Davies commented that: “If ever there was a justification for a ‘Free Welsh Army’, this was it.”

Geraint thanked Richard Rees for his ‘magnificent’ talk. It is fair to say that the research that Richard has undertaken in this matter has been thorough to a level that is quite outstanding. This write up only attempts to sketch through some of the detail that Richard has uncovered. Richard has written a small book on the subject, a copy of which is in our archives.

Shirley will be with us on the 3rd June to talk about the Insall Family and the birth of the Royal Flying Corps.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 1st April 2019 Main Topic: New Angles on Abbeycymhir – Roger Coward

Geraint welcomed members and one new member from Rhayader, Helen. Helen is new to the area and is keen to learn about the history and to meet people.

Geraint invited members to make announcements about local activity.

Trevor Powell made a passionate plea for members to support his on-line parliamentary petition on behalf the British Expeditionary Force who went to the defence of France during the 2nd World War. Their contribution and sacrifice has never been properly recognised and he has initiated this petition.

Sylvia has tickets for a Male Voice Choir who will be singing in the Hall on the 14th April.

Roger, today’s speaker, mentioned a talk being given my the Abbeycwmhir Heritage Trust on ‘Cwmhir and the Mortimers’ that will be at the Philips Hall in Abbeycwmhir on Thursday 4th April at 7.30 p.m.

Geraint then drew attention to the number of members who now had significant roles in the Radnorshire Society.

Geraint then introduced our speaker, Roger Coward, from the Abbeycwmbir Heritage Trust. Roger has done, with other members of the Trust, some very detailed work relating to the Abbey, and the Abbey, before it’s dissolution, in turn would have had a hugely significant impact on the surrounding area, including Penybont. Roger who is Chair of the Trust has published a book – Abbeycwmhir , and copies are available.

Main Topic: New Angles on Abbeycymhir

The Abbey at Cwmhir was a Cistercian Abbey, the daughter House of Whitland Abbey in Carmarthenshire and in turn the Mother House of Cymer Abbey in Gwenedd.

Roger opened his talk by asking a question about the reasons why people are keen to attend Local History sessions rather than join the Heritage Trust. Clearly the Trust is very active and has done a large amount of work on Abbeycwmhir but they were few in numbers. After some hesitation some members did say that they were a bit intimidated by the academic rigor of the Trust. Roger admitted that he was keen on the research side of the Trust’s work and did, as Chair, promote this side of the Trust’s activity.

Roger started his talk with some recent slides taken by drone that have exposed, within the embankment surrounding the Abbey, a possible grave. Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust CPAT are planning to do some exploratory work on the grave later this year. A 2010 photo shows the extent of the Abbey but it has been necessary to look at a drawing relating to St. Mary’s Abbey in York to get some idea of how the Abbey and the precincts gave the working environment for the Monk’s and their need to be self-sufficient.

This shows a:

Chapter House where meetings relating to the work of the Monks and the Community would be held and might include ecclesiastical courts.

Scriptorium & Library where the Monks might have written documents.

Monk’s Dorter or dormitory, sleeping quarters for the Monks.

Monk’s Frater, or dining room for Lay Brothers and Monks

Lay Brothers Quarters for the Un-ordained Brothers who worked the land, often referred to as ‘separate but equal’, unlike the Monks who had more ‘spiritual’ duties. The CPAT site:

Shows the suggested enclosure around the Abbey and the ridge and furrow areas within the precinct.

Roger then posed four questions for his talk:

  1. Why is the nave of the Abbey so long?
  2. Who built the Abbey?
  3. Which of the two suggested dates was it founded?
  4. Why is there no choir area?
  1. Why is the Abbey so long?

The abbey nave at Cymhir is extraordinarily long and is the longest Cistercian Abbey in Europe. Not just long in terms of Strata Florida and in Wales but long in terms of the national and even international perspectives.

The longest nave of a Gothic Abbey or Cathedral in the world is the Winchester Cathedral nave at about 170 meters. The nave at Abbeycwmhir is only marginally shorter than this. The nave in abbeys and cathedrals is often measured in ‘bays’:

Winchester has 10 bays; as does Westminster; Hereford Cathedral has 6 bays; and Strata Florida had 7. Abbey Cwmhir had a massive 14 bays. Why such a large Abbey was built in this part of Wales, and was probably never completed, remains a mystery. Maelienydd, as part of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, was strategically important to both the Welsh Princes and to the Marcher Lords. The Abbey may have been seen by both sides as making a statement about their power in the area.

Clearly the Abbey was built to make a major statement in the area. Maelienydd was quite strategically placed and would have been important to the Marcher Lords as well as the Welsh Princes. The Kings around this time were often preoccupied by their lands in France and even Spain and so they looked to the Marcher Lords to at least keep the Welsh Princes occupied so that they were not a threat to their interests on the English side of the Marches. The Abbey was built to have about 60 Monks and the King would have hoped that the power of the Church and Ecclesiastical Law would have helped in this regard. Equally Cadwallon ap Madog Llewelyn Fawr might well have had similar hopes and they would also have valued the prestige that this brought to Maelienydd.

In their research the Heritage Trust have drawn upon Monastic Chronicles, Cistercian History and more secular documents but these were all written some time after the building of the Abbey.   

  • Who built the Abbey?

As we approach this question it is worth thinking about Elystan Glodrydd who featured in our previous notes of 6th July 2015. We know how Elystan’s descendants have had an influence on so much of British and Welsh history. In exploring Abbeycwmhir we see his great grandsons playing a significant role, albeit there is still considerable debate about some of the specifics. Probably the most debated date is that of 1143. There are suggestions that an Abbey was started by Maredudd ap Madog, Prince of Maelienydd, and one of the great grandsons of Elystan and a cousin to Rhys ap Gruffudd (The Lord Rhys, King of Deheubarth), in 1143. Tradition suggests that this was at another site, Ty Faenor, about 1 mile east from where the Abbey was built in Cwmhir. What does appear to be more certain is that the Mortimers in 1144 gained the upper hand in Maelienydd and whatever had been achieved came to an end. Maredudd, it would appear, was killed by the Mortimers in 1146. Research into this starting point is unclear. There are documents that refer to considerations about building a church but what actually happened, if anything remains uncertain.

Maredudd’s brother, Cadwallon ap Madog, did however play a significant role and is regarded as the Founder of the Abbey. He was given charge of Maelienydd from Madog, his Father, with another brother Einion Clud having charge of Elfael. Gradually Cadwallon took control of the whole of Rhung Gwy a Hafren. One of Cadwallon’s bases was at Cymaron Castle. He built a number of Castles and it is thought that one of these might have been Crug Eryr, which is not far from Llandegley, and which featured in one of our History Group walks on 3rd July 2017.   Though no Charter has ever been found to consolidate the Founding of the Abbey it is widely accepted that Cadwallon started to build the first wooden Abbey at Cwmhir in 1176. The Abbey would have added to his ability to keep the Mortimers at bay. He was however killed by Roger Mortimer in 1179. Roger Mortimer was imprisoned by King Henry ll for his part in this crime.

The Abbeycwmhir Heritage Trust, within which Roger Coward is a key player, has an excellent article on Cadwallon.

Another interesting feature of Cadwallon was that he had supported Geraldus Cambrensis and it may have been that it was Cadwallon who rescued Geraldus when he locked himself in Llanbadarn Fawr Church. See our notes of 7th April 2014:

Roger Mortimer then held sway in Maelienydd until 1215 and the earliest known Charter was prepared by him in 1200, only discovered in 1956 when it was about to be turned into a lampshade. Intent on sweeping away any Welsh claims, he makes no mention of Cadwallon. The Abbey was clearly important to Roger Mortimer and he is one of the people who may have commenced building the stone Abbey at Cwmhir. The view of the Heritage Trust has moved towards Roger Mortimer having the best claim. The Charter gave to the monks considerable land adjacent to the Abbey and access to all common pasture throughout Maelienydd.

Fortunes turned back to the Welsh with the arrival of Llewellyn Fawr, Llewellyn the Great or indeed Llewellyn ab Iowerth. As the Prince of North Wales he became the dominant force across most of Wales and in that sense a true ‘Prince of Wales’. Llewellyn had married the illegitimate daughter of King John and this gave him some political advantage in his disputes with the Marcher Lords. Politically things were never straightforward as Llewelyn sided with those against the King and made King John sign the Magna Carta and begin the process of endorsing democracy and human rights. Llewelyn saw the Abbey as being advantageous to him and had plans to crown his son Dafydd as Prince of Wales. The building of the Abbey clearly overlapped with his time but whether he started the build or not remains disputed. This was a period of relative peace under Llewelyn albeit King Henry lll threatened to burn down the Abbey when the Abbott misdirected the King’s army into an ambush. Things changed quickly and in 1232 the King gave the Abbey a more generous writ of protection in an attempt to get them on his side against Llewelyn. In the same year the Pope intervened with the running of the Abbey when he gave it the right to administer the sacrament to local people due to the rurality of Cwmhir and the lack of Parish Churches. This was something that a Cathedral might do.

There is a third claim to who might have taken the initiative in building the stone Abbey. Some people would say that King John had the most to gain. King John became increasingly worried by the power that Llewelyn was gaining across Wales and it can be argued that it was the King who saw the Abbey as an opportunity to have a presence at this strategic point. In 1214 King John did take the Abbey into his possession and confirmed its status as an Abbey and extended the rights that the Abbey had over land and its activities.

The Welsh dominance of the area declined with the death of Llewelyn in 1240 and Mortimers were back in control. It was Ralph Mortimer who consolidated his tenure by building one of the Castles at Cefnllys. Though Ralph died in 1246 the Mortimer influence continued until 1262 when Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the ‘Last Prince of Wales’ brought took back control into Welsh hands. Llewelyn regained Cefnllys Castle in 1262. Having consolidated his position across most of Wales Llewelyn refused to attend the coronation of Edward l in 1274 and found himself excommunicated despite overtures to the Pope by the Abbot of Cwmhir Abbey not to do this. Disputes over the imposition of English Law over Welsh Law continued and in 1282 Llewelyn was killed near Builth. His head was taken to the King but where his body was taken is uncertain. Roger Coward thought that it was possible that bits could have been taken to different places as was common practice. One theory is that his body was taken by the Monks at Cwmhir and buried at the Abbey. This theory is uncertain due to his excommunicated status. A recent drone photograph has revealed a grave sized plot outside the precinct of the Abbey which has caused some interest and it is hoped to excavate this site and see who or what might be buried there. A Memorial Slate, Carreg goffa, to Llewelyn was been placed within the Abbey.

A ceremony is held each year on the 11th December, the date of his death, to commemorate the last true Prince of Wales.

  • Which of the two dates was the Abbey Founded? 1143 or 1176.

The Heritage Trust Study Group have delved into old documents to try and establish a definitive date for the Founding of the Abbey. Looking atr Monastic Chronicles the Annales Cambriae do not contain any reference to the Abbey in 1143, but documents relating to Gruffudd  ap Llewelyn Fawr in 1248 do mention this early date.  These documents were not originals and so the group decided that they could not be considered reliable. Within Cistercian History documents there is reference to 1143 in a document written by a Dutch Abbot, on 1642 a document gives both dates, 1143 and 1176, in 1877 another document also mentions both dates. William Dugdale in 1693, writing from a secular perspective, gives the date as 1143.

Roger would say that despite the many statements about 1143 the 1176 date is more credible.

  • Why is there no choir area?

This is another unresolved mystery. Normally the Choir area is the first area to be built for a new Abbey. It represents such a core spiritual activity for the Monks and therefore assumes a priority status. A recent drone photograph has shown the outline of a previously unknown building at the east end of the Abbey and this has opened up the possibility that this might be the room where the choir performed.

By 1282 Edmund Mortimer was back in charge and it was not until Owain Glyndwr came along in 1401 that the Abbey was ‘spoiled and defaced’. By this time the Abbey was seen as being part of the Mortimer’s Estate and loyal to the King.

It was Henry Vlll, in 1536/7, however who turned the Abbey into a ruin with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The work of the Heritage Trust is to try to find answers to the questions that have been raised about the Abbey. A new analysis of the hard stone used in the stone carvings that have been found has been commissioned and it is hoped that this might give some new insights into the riddles that exist within the history of Cwmhir Abbey.

Roger Coward then talked about some of the finds from the old Abbey. These include a stone Tympanum which was found at Home Farm and would have been originally over the Door of the Abbey. Like many of the stones found around the Abbey the Trust have initiated a project to make 3-D prints of these stones. In a more ambitious way, they are also appealing to landowners across the territory to bring stones that may have been taken from the Abbey to have them 3-Dprinted as well. It has been questioned as to why there is so little stone at the Abbey itself? It would appear that farmers from a wide area, and even locally to us in Penybont, took the stone for their own needs.

Mabli’s tomb lid, which has been discovered recently, has a very unusual type of writing. It says simply ‘Here lies Mabli, on whose soul be merciful’.

An example of the Common Seal of the Abbey, used in 1533, just before the Dissolution, has been found. It depicts the Virgin Mary holding the child Christ and is typical of Seals used by the Cistercians. The Seal is quite elaborate and contains the arms of France, England, Anne Mortimer, Richard of Cambridge, and the Duke of York.

Mentioned above, the Annales Cambriae did not refer to the founding of the Abbey but it would appear to have been written at the Abbey for about 8 years. Within it during these years there are many references to place names in the local area. For example, the is reference to Cefnllys in 1262 and Llewelyn ‘trudging through the snow’.

The Book, “Abbeycwmhir – History, Homes and People” that has been published by Abbeycwmhir Community Council is a brilliant source information on the Abbey and the Community of Abbeycwnhir.

Geraint thanked Roger for his excellent talk. The next session will be on Bank Holiday Monday, 6th May when Richard Rees will give us a talk on ‘The Dams that did not Happen’.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 4th March 2019 Main Topic: Friendly Societies and their Contribution to our Community – Dr Marion Evans

MGeraint welcomed another full house to this month’s gathering.

Before handing over to Marion he brought members’ attention to the up and coming meetings planned for the next few months.

In April, on April Fools Day, we will welcome Roger Coward who will be talking about the recent research into the history of Abbey Cwmhir. Abbey Cwmhir is just outside our district but it had enormous influence on the area as a whole.

On 6th May Richard Rees will talk about the Dams that did not happen in the area. This fascinating topic will explore what might have happened to Penybont and other local areas if plans that were drawn up had come to fruition.

Shirley will be presenting on the Insall Family and the history of the Royal Flying Corps, a subject that she ‘might or might not devote the rest of her life to’, on June 3rd.

Judy made a plea for any information, photos, etc., for her talk on Llanbadarn Fawr School. She has plenty of information from over 100 years ago, and from her own time at the school, but from 1919 the information in the Powys Archives cannot be released.

Derek said that he had been asked, or another member of the group, to talk to the Rhayader Local History Group about the Penybont Group. This group is being facilitated by Elan Heritage and Stephanie Cruise the Heritage Officer. The meeting will be on 2nd April at 7.30 p.m. at CARAD. Alan who has been to their meetings said that they did need some help. Maureen said she had modelled the Painscastle Group on Penybont and that this had worked very well. Geraint said that Brecknockshire had a group in almost every village but Radnorshire was just beginning to catch up. He felt that there were many ways for groups to run and be supported. He felt that Penybont was almost too small for a group going into the longer terms and it might be useful for villages to club together in the future.

Mary had her daughter home last week during half term and they visited the Penybont graveyard. They were particularly drawn to an unmarked grave of Mrs Cowley who had been evacuated to the village in the early part of the 2nd World War. She died in her first week in Penybont. When she was buried a promise was made to the family that there would be flowers on the grave as she had loved flowers so much. Mary and her daughter were delighted to see the grave a mass of snowdrops.

Main Topic – Friendly Societies and their contribution to our Community – Dr Marion Evans

  1. Marion started with a confession – this was not a topic of her choice. She would agree that historically Friendly Societies are of great interest but the research is largely about accounting and this in itself does not make for a great presentation!

However, Marion had done a considerable amount of research into the social position of Friendly Societies and she would then, in conjunction with Geraint, lead a discussion on how this applied, or might have applied, to the situation locally.

Friendly societies date back a long way but they began to play a more significant role in Victorian life from around 1830 onwards. They were/are mutual aid societies where people put money into the society in order to be able to take money out at times of need. The primary needs were an insurance against burial costs, sickness, child birth, pension. Friendly societies became popular in village life before there was a welfare state to support people but these positive benefits have to be seen against the challenges within small communities to manage the bookkeeping.

Poor Law and the Workhouse

In earlier times the monasteries were responsible for giving aid to the poor of the country but when Henry VIII dissolved them this source of aid came to an end and there was a noticeable increase in poverty with people found begging and homeless.

In 1601, in the reign of Elizabeth 1, a Poor Law was passed making each Parish responsible for the poor in its own area through the imposition of a Poor Law Rate. It was not long before people realised that some Parishes were richer than others and this led to considerable migration to these richer Parishes. In 1662 a Settlement Act tried to deal with this and made Parishes responsible for people who were born in their Parishes. Pauper relief was largely mitigated by expecting people to work. If visitors to a Parish had not shown sufficient industry within 40 days they could be sent away. In 1697 the Law required visitors to a Parish to show a ‘settlement certificate’ showing the Parish that had responsibility for their welfare.

Alongside the management of the Poor by labour the Workhouse Test Act 1723 gave Parishes responsibility for establishing Workhouses for people who were less able to work, people who were ill, elderly, and children. However, workhouses were often too expensive for single parishes to afford. Neither Presteigne nor Rhayader built on under this act. There was one in Kington but the governess there was noted as being incapable of maintaining control of the unruly inmates!

The Poor Law Rate was set and managed through the Vestry in each Parish. Some Parishes were clearly much wealthier than others. Poor Parishes often meant that the money raised was insufficient to cater for the needs of the Poor. There were other anomalous challenges in the management of the rates. A story that had emerged from Rhayader than considered the needs of two women with very similar backgrounds and requirements. One woman received significantly more than the other. When asked why this was the case it emerged that one woman would shout louder and make a scene and so she was given more to keep her quiet.

There were particular pressures by the middle of the 18th century. There was a significant rise in the population combined with rising food prices as a result of the French Wars; enclosures were taking place depriving people of the means for subsistence living; and changes were taking place on farms with early mechanisation; and improved fodder crops: – such that less labour was needed.

One of the most significant changes came as a result of the increasing availability of the humble potato. More children survived as a result of this availability and this drove the increase in the population. In some parts of Britain these extra mouths were soaked up by the early industrial revolution, but research shows that this was not the case in Radnorshire where a permanent cadre of unemployed began to build up. This put extra pressure on the poor rate and provided an extremely low standard of living for the unemployed. This was amplified by the fact that working men were often paid part of their salary by being allowed to grow a few rows of potatoes on the farmer’s land. Once they lost their jobs, even this small form of nutrition was lost to them.

 If families could no work they were in deep crisis. Sometimes Parishes that had no work available for the Poor would agree with a neighbouring Parish to give people work. The alternative was the workhouse. But as noted, only Knighton built one in this area – and it was described as riotous!

Emphasis on the Workhouse as the solution to the problem of poverty became more extreme following a Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws in 1832 that led to the New Poor Law of 1834. Interestingly the Chair of the Commission was Thomas Frankland Lewis, who had been M.P. for Radnorshire. The focus of the Commission’s investigation was to cut the costs associated with the Old Poor Law of 1601. The Commission put the emphasis on the Workhouse and away from expecting the Poor to work for landowners.  It is perhaps interesting to note that in contrast to cut costs in this situation, it was Thomas Franklin Lewis who had complained so bitterly about the cost of the tolls between his home in New Radnor and Hereford.

Friendly Societies

Alongside this Poor Law system people planned to offset the risks common to many people and to avoid falling into the Poor Law system. Friendly Societies evolved to provide mutual support by insuring against sickness, child birth, and old age.

Some of the early Friendly Societies in this area were:

Knighton 1787

Nantmel 1787

Presteigne 1805

Rhayader and Llansainffread Cwmtoyddwr 1824

It would appear that most had an association with a Public House in their area. They generally covered quite a small area and therefore were vulnerable to going bust. Actuarial tables were not available to the people running them and this also led to their vulnerability. The factor that began to increasingly put them under pressure evolved as young members, (the average age of the members who set them up was just 32 years), got older and the demands on the funds increased.

Penybont Friendly Society

New Friendly Society of Rhayader and Llansantffraid Cwmdauddwr was the largest in the area by 1906, but the Society in the Penybont area had 466 members.

Penybont Friendly Society Banner

“This painted silk banner was made by George Tutill.”

The information given within this website is:

“In 1879 the society had 466 members and £1,928 in funds. The Society was dissolved in May 1885 and a branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters was formed in shortly afterwards Description

Established on 1 September 1826, members of this Friendly Society paid a shilling a month into the funds. They could pay additional contributions to cover the costs of meals. They could also receive fines of sixpence for cursing, being indecent in dress, being rude, noisy or drunk and for divulging society business to non-members.

The most important event of the year was the “club feast “, which was held in Pen-y-bont every May.”

The Friendly Society Movement represented a huge change in the way assistance was provided to people in need. The ideas of self help were considered to be a very positive move by the ‘establishment’ or Ruling Classes. They were also viewed with suspicion by the same people as employers. While it was good to see the working classes taking responsibility for their own welfare, this coming together of the labour market was seen as the possible beginning of Trade Unionism and they did not want that.

The Poor Law Act of 1834, as discussed above, led to a significant increase in the number of Friendly Societies but by the turn of the 20th century and a number of Acts these small societies at parochial level gave way to larger more national bodies. In the 1895 Act the Societies and their activities were defined as:

“societies for the purpose of providing by voluntary subscriptions of the members thereof, with or without the aid of donations, for the relief or maintenance of the members, their husbands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, or wards being orphans, during sickness or other infirmity, whether bodily or mental, in old age, or in widowhood, or for the relief or maintenance of the orphan children of members during minority; for insuring money to be paid on the birth of a member’s child, or on the death of a member, or for the funeral expenses of the husband, wife, or child of a member, or of the widow of a deceased member, or, as respects persons of the Jewish persuasion, for the payment of a sum of money during the period of confined mourning; for the relief or maintenance of the members when on travel in search of employment or when in distressed circumstances, or in case of shipwreck, or loss or damage of or to boats or nets; for the endowment of members or nominees of members at any age; for the insurance against fire to any amount not exceeding £15 of the tools or implements of the trade or calling of the members”

This is taken from:

This article gives an in-depth insight into how legislation evolved during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries as recorded by the Encyclopaedias Britannica in 1911.

As we move into the 20th century the small societies died out and were replaced by larger and national societies such as the Foresters.

Some of the smaller societies grew out of particular areas of common ground. There were Temperance Societies, and Maureen was able to tell us about a Welsh Language Friendly Society in Painscastle that was formed in 1846. This only survived a few years but it is interesting to note that the Welsh Language was still spoken in Painscastle in the middle of the 19th century.

In many ways the Friendly Societies modelled themselves on the Free Masons. They were ‘secret societies’, they had handshakes, and other rituals. There was regalia and banners, as seen above for Penybont.  Even their names mirrored the Masons – The Ancient Order of Foresters was formed in Rochdale in 1834. The making of banners and other regalia could be expensive – banners in the region of £30 – and this led to criticism about how money was managed.

There was definitely a social element sometimes leading to riotous behaviour.

“All who are familiar with friendly societies know very well that they mean   a   great   deal   more   than   the   mere   payment   of   certain   premiums and  the  reception  in  time  of  need  of  certain  equivalent  benefits.    They know  that  they  are  clubs  in  another  sense  of  the  word  also.    The name is associated in their  minds  with  bands  and  banners,  and  processions  with  scarves  and  rosettes,  with  public  house  dinners  and  all  their  natural  concomitants.    Too  often  the  Club-day in a village means a day of drunkenness, a day on which respectable people shut up their houses and keep indoors, or take the opportunity of paying a visit to friends at a distance”

In Penybont the Friendly Society would gather at the Severn Arms on their ‘feast day’ in May and they would march under the banner to Llandegley Church. After a service they would march back to the Severn Arms. Percy Severn might be there for the meal but would withdraw to allow the riotous behaviour to take over.

Even in later times the Foresters and Oddfellow Societies would hold a ‘bash-up’ at Crystal Palace where they might host 70,000 people. According to Marion a certain amount of canoodling went on.

As we look ahead to the beginnings of the Welfare State, Friendly Societies would consult a panel of Doctors, and the larger societies would have such panels all over the Country. The Doctors would advise in health matters and ascertain whether someone claiming to be ill and unfit for work was really ill. The downside to this was that the Societies wanted to protect their funds and would often dispute the Doctors’ opinions.

Another downside for some people was the need to pay their dues every month. This could in some instances lead to debt, and debt could lead to fines and a vicious circle. There was nothing for people in this self-help system of they could not pay their dues.

Most societies were entirely male but a small number of women’s societies did come into existence, some in South and West Wales where there were some ‘independent women’.  There is an article on ‘The Fraternity of Female Friendly Societies’ at:

“Although the  returns made following a survey of friendly societies in 1803–04 are inaccurate in  regard  to  women’s  societies  (which  were  not  always  distinguished  from  those  for  men)  Bohstedt  noted  that  6000  of  the  9000  women  in female friendly societies in 1803 lived in towns where riots occurred. He Daniel Weinbren concluded that while the men were turning to more quiescent political activities, the female societies may have served as ‘a source for cohesion in riots.”

So, while Friendly Societies increased in number throughout the 19th century the concerns over the administration by these small organisations led to consolidation and one or two of the Societies began to absorb the smaller groups and as we move into the 20th century the Foresters, Oddfellows had become national organisations with the ability to manage their investments and liabilities in a much more professional way. This professionalism had a significant side effect in that some people became employed locally and even developed careers within these organisations that took them out of poverty. The Friendly Society Acts of 1875 and 1895 consolidated these trends, and this led to more regulated insurance opportunities including Old Age Pensions and Child Welfare insurance. An Article in the Times in 1889, written by a London Coroner criticised child welfare insurance suggesting that parents might maltreat or neglect their children to get insurance pay-outs!

There was also a growing governmental interest in Friendly Societies in the latter part of the 19th century following the Crimean War. The need to recruit troops to fight on behalf of the Crown highlighted the very poor health of the nation. Alongside the increasing population, brought about partly by potatoes, the nation’s died was extremely poor.

The beginnings of a Welfare State emerged in 1911 with the National Insurance Act and some friendly societies, alongside Trade Unions, and commercial Insurers became Approved Societies in the administration of the funds obtained through employers being required to pay into the insurance fund.

A Punch Cartoon of the time indicates some ambivalence about the Act:

‘Patient (General Practitioner) “This treatment will be the death of me.”

Doctor Bill “I dare say you know best. Still there is always a chance”’

Beveridge had a somewhat romantic view of Friendly Societies as fostering brotherhood and self-help but as the 20th century progressed things were changing and although even in 1942 Beveridge seemed to be supporting the voluntary status of Friendly Societies in the administration of National Insurance their status as Approved Societies was removed in 1943 and in 1944 the National Health Service was proposed and came into being in 1948.

Marion rounded off her talk by reminding members that it is often thought that National Insurance Contributions go to the Poor, but this is a misunderstanding, as it never did work that way.

  • Geraint thanked Marion for her comprehensive survey of Friendly Societies and the huge amount of research that she had done. Marion and Geraint then together opened up a discussion about how this impacted on people in Radnorshire and in Penybont.

As we have seen from above the Society in Penybont was formed in 1826 and by 1879 had 466 members. It followed the national pattern with the Society being dissolved in 1885 leading to a Foresters group being established.

There were about 15 Societies in the area and in Presteigne, the New Friendly Society had 300 members. The Penybont Society clearly drew people from a wide geographical area. What is remarkable is that in an area where there was not great wealth that in order to avoid the challenges of Poor Law administration that so many people were able to may the 1 shilling a month dues but they could also face fines for:


Being indecently dressed


Being Noisy

Being Drunk

Divulging secrets of the Society to non-members

A comment was made this could be seen as a fine for ‘living’!

A newspaper report of 1876 commended the Society for its membership of 430 members. Having assembled at the Severn Arms members marched to Llandegley Church for a Service. The members then marched back to the Severn Arms for the annual Feast. J.P. Severn addressed the meeting and gave £463 for the death and sickness fund. One can only speculate that it was after Percy Severn withdrew that the fun and games began! These annual events were quite significant in the area. The Schools would be closed. They had a status similar to other days such as the Agricultural Fairs.

Geraint was able to give us an example of how people benefitted from the Society. A lady, Hannah Jenkins, who paid in 1 shilling a month for her dues but she then had payments of 10 shillings when a child was born in 1864; 10 shillings for another child in 1865; and £1 for her husband’s burial in 1866.

Neil was able to tell us of his relative Evan Richards who was a member of Foresters for 54 years when he died in 1943.

  • Girls Friendly Societies

Discussion moved on with some photographs, see below, supplied by Joy of the Girls Friendly Society in New Radnor. Though they use the same terminology Girls Friendly Societies had nothing to do with Friendly Societies as we have discussed above.

Concerned by the plight of young women and girls leaving home to work in-service and in urban factories Mary Elizabeth Townsend officially established Girls Friendly Society on 1st January 1875 with the support of the Anglican Church. At the start girls could join by the age of 12 years but this was reduced to 8 years in 1882 when girls were allowed to be associate members.

There were some similarities to the Friendly Societies above in that they encouraged mutual support amongst the girls. Elizabeth Townsends main focus was on prevention, she said:

‘When we see what wonders are accomplished in worldly matters, by the power of organisation, association, and cooperation, when we know how strong are the links that bind together the members of Freemasons’ Clubs, of Benefit Societies, the members of different professions, and the like, surely we cannot but feel that this mighty lever should be used for the purpose of moral and spiritual benefit, that the children of this world should not be wiser in their generation than the children of light, and that every means should be tried, if only we may, by God’s mercy and blessing, save some.’

An important element of the Societies work was in proving hostel accommodation. One of these was located in Ithon Road in Llandrindod Wells and it was run by Miss Partridge.

Joy remembers that the Society in New Radnor was linked to the Church, it was run by a Mrs Griffiths, and she particularly remembers a train trip to Swansea.

More locally Geraint asked Judy to talk about her experience of the local group at Llanbadarn Fawr. Her most vivid memory was making rabbits out of some blue material.

Shirley remembers meeting regularly at the church and she remembered that Geraint had a hand in running it. Geraint could remember the three ladies sitting together Judy, ……. All those years ago sitting making rabbits and sitting together just like today!

Liz had been involved in setting up a group in Worcestershire.

  • Old Poor Law in Radnorshire

Marion brought us back to reflecting on the Old Poor Law and how this impacted on the people of Radnorshire. In 1740 Radnorshire had the highest illegitimacy rate in Britain. In Wales the rate was 1 child in every 13, in Radnorshire it was 1 child in every 7. This on its own had an impact on the Poor Law Rate. The reasons for the high illegitimacy rate are uncertain but there is some suggestion that there was a courtship practice in this part of Wales known a ‘bundling’, caru ar [or yn] y gwely, or ‘love on [or in] the bed. 

Bundling entailed a young couple spending an evening, and frequently an entire night, together, unsupervised, in bed, typically in the home of the young woman. If and when the woman conceived, marriage was the expected outcome.’

This practice could have been a type of ‘trial marriage’ but in some cases it led to children being born out of wedlock.

From about 1837 onwards, for unknown reason, the illegitimacy rate began to fall.

Geraint took us back to the humble potato which can be challenging in the poor soil conditions in Radnorshire. It was however a crop that would grow and give reasonable yields. While this did not give poorer people a healthy died, and there was much malnutrition, poorer people were often given access to a land to grow a row of potatoes. This even applied to Vicars. Geraint remembers when he first came to Llanbadarn Fawr Church that the Griffiths family at Church Farm told him that it was traditional for Vicars of the Church to cultivate a row of potatoes on their land. As a result, Geraint did have his own row on their farm.

Marion reinforced her previous concerns that the enclosures put a stop to this practice.

Liz had researched experiences in Worcestershire where illegitimacy had a link to the lack of housing and it was often only when housing became available that the marriage would go ahead. In Radnorshire there was a shortage of housing and to avoid financial penalties a couple might not declare the name of the father until they were ready to marry. In a more general sense, the feeling that comes through is that illegitimacy in Radnorshire in the 18th and early 19th centuries did not carry the stigma that came along in the Victorian era, and the word ‘bastard’ similarly did not carry stigma with it.

Reference was made to the Mr Wilding looking at the Severn Arms with a view to Managing it and recording in his diary that it ‘seemed like a good place’ and that ‘he would talk to his girlfriend about the accommodation there and maybe ‘they could now get married’.

In the closing minutes there was reference to family situations only a few generations back whose lives reflected the challenges of child birth and experiencing an accident that made working impossible. Marion finished by saying how a man living in Llandegley, quite well with 8 hounds, was claiming from the Poor Law Rate but as he was born in Llanbister the Llanbister Parish had to pay for him.

It had been an excellent session and Geraint thanked Marion again for preparing such an interesting talk.

The next meeting will feature Roger Coward who will be talking on the Recent Research into Abbey Cwmhir on 1st April 2019.

4th February 2019 Main Topic: Postcards of Penybont and District – Ray Price

Geraint opened the meeting and welcomed members to a new year’s programme. The room was packed as we entered our 8th year. Geraint explained that he, Mary, and Derek had initially started the group and had taken responsibility for guiding it over the years. Just like good shepherds who know that the sheep are really in charge. (Our understanding, or lack of understanding of democracy.) Shirley, as the youngster among us, has been asked, and she has agreed, to become a shepherd.

Though the room was full there were no new members.

The next session will be on Friendly Societies and Marion will address this topic. In thanking Marion for having agreed to cover this topic, he thanked Marion for the projector which she has made freely available to the Group. Geraint treats it as though it were his own, and he confessed that he also used Suzanna’s laptop in a similar way.

Geraint also mentioned that he had been in touch with Philip Jones, at the Radnorshire Museum, as Philip has done considerably more work on War Memorials, including the information on the Penybont War Memorial. Geraint has discussed with Philip updating his Booklet as he would like to bring it up to date as – Nothing Known is Know Known!

Elizabeth informed the group that Alan Stoyel is giving a talk in New Radnor on 12th April 2019 on the Mills of Radnorshire. Alan is retiring after this talk so, if any of the members missed his talk to our own group, this would be the last time to hear him. Elizabeth mentioned that Alan had been awarded an MBE for his work in keeping alive the history of Mills across Britain.

Marion is giving a talk for charity in the hall at New Radnor on 15th February at 7.30 p.m. on the Renaissance Gardens of Italy. Those attending will be invited to give a donation.

Main Topic: – Penybont and District Postcards

With Ray getting to his feet, and Geraint on the Projector, Geraint started the talk on the ‘Art of Deltiology – Collecting Postcards’.  See:

Postcards are the third most popular item to collect and there has been a long history of people communicating short messages on what can be described as transitory writing materials. At Hadrian’s Wall a number of stone tablets have been found dated between A.D. 85 and 160: – one reads:

“”On the third day before the Ides of September, sister,” to cite one letter, “for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival.”

In the 18th century decorated visiting cards and trade cards became popular. In 1840 William Mulready designed an envelope that had a pictorial element to it and, while it was derided as being over-elaborated, it became linked to the establishment of the 1d post and even more elaborate envelopes were designed. It was however in Germany in 1865 that the first postcard was designed by Heinrich von Stephan. The universal appeal of the postcard quickly developed leading to a ‘Golden Age of the Postcard’ between 1898 and 1919. They became so popular with collectors that jokes were told of how they were a ‘disease, epidemic, leading to insanity’. The cryptic messages, often in a type of code, on them were seen by some as a threat to good English. I winder where we have heard that recently!?

Postcards unlike stamps are unregulated, anyone can make them, from small specialists turning out a few, to huge companies printing 1000’s. There were some small companies locally and some much larger companies producing cards in this area. Some early postcards had no room for writing as the address area was only for addresses. By 1870 the Post Office had plain postcards that they sold, and subsequently an address and writing area was allowed on one side of the card.

Geraint explained that Deltiology – the study of Postcards. The third most popular collecting hobby in the UK – after stamps and coins. This comes from:

Deltion    diminutive form of  deltos   a writing tablet.   Latin – Tabulae

Postcards unlike stamps were produced in a decentralised and unregulated manner.

Hand produced drawings and reproductions of pictures appeared in large numbers from an early date and some may have been sent enclosed within a folded written letter.

The London Penny Post dates from 1680 and the Uniform Penny Post was established throughout the UK in 1840.

Postal Cards (plain cards for writing only) were sold by the GPO from 1870

Francis Firth started producing illustrated postcards from 1894

Raphael Tuck produced illustrated cards from 1866 and Postcards from 1900

Judges Postcards 1903 to present

Wallace Jones of Builth from 1905         

Bamforth Cards from 1910

Percy Benzie Abery (Builth Wells) from 1911    

Valentine & Sons from 1911

Ray has a ‘vast’ collection, 1000+ of cards from this locality and Geraint handed over to Ray.

Ray started by thanking people for coming to the talk and he thanked Geraint who had done all the technological work to have the cards projected on the screen.

Postcard 1.

Rather appropriately the first and second postcard is of the village, including the Thomas Shop, taken from the field opposite the Thomas Shop, and looking down the hill. This postcard is Park Newtown Card from 1911 and is No1. In the Penybont Radnors series. Park cards a rare as they were a small family business that operated under the motto: “Park for People”.

The post mark on this card says “Penybont Station”, and referred to the Post Office in Crossgates.  This title became a problem as Penybont itself was to have its own Post Office. The name was changed to Llanbadarn Fawr Post Office, and then subsequently to Crossgates Post Office.

Of note is the fact that the stamp is upside down, the card was sent to Breconshire, and read:

“Dear Cousin, Just a line to let you know as Dick is getting about a little again, I have no time to write, I will write the end of this week, Dad is here now. With love to all. MG”

Postcard 2:

The second card we looked at was very similar to the first one – the same picture but with a hint of colour. This card was also a Newtown Park Card but Series 2.

It was how ever the back of the card that excited members as it had been sent by Nellie Bufton who had lived in Ithon Terrace.

The angle of the stamp is again interesting. What is going on?

The card sent to Cardiff is addressed to:

Dear Bessie and Tom, I hope you are keeping alright and not pinning away. I shall be home at 11.0 on Friday night for the Colliery Job. Have my grey day suit ready for me, as I have to catch the 7.17 a.m. train on Saturday morning and expect to finish and be back home by the night then I will have Sunday at home and return here on Monday. Edith is improving and hopes you are both well, and sends her kind love. Albert sends his best respects. Tell you more when I get home. Nellie

(The words not in italics are my best guess.) The card demonstrates quite a lot of journeying for Nellie and the importance of family caring alongside other commitments.

Postcard 3 – First Bridge in Penybont

Another Newtown Parks Postcard, this time showing the rather beautiful Suspension Bridge with Bank House in the background.

 Postcard 4 – Severn Arms 1905

This postcard shows the Severn Arms Inn and the Iron Room, this is an another early Park Card

Postcard 5 :- Towers at Penybont Hall

This card shows the 2 towers, one of which was taken down some years later. It also shows what was described as the Squire’s Pitch, the road, that went past the front door of the Hall.

Postcard 6 – Lake at Penybont Hall

The man is the foreground of this Park Card picture of the Lake was thought to be a helper with the photographer. The picture evoked memories of over 100 people skating on the lake and Lord Ormathwaite whizzing around at 100 mph.

Postcard 7 : – Severn Arms with Stage Coaches

This picture probably dates back to about 1870, but was not mounted on a postcard until the early 1900’s.

Postcard 8 : – Severn Arms and gathering

This card of 1910 shows a postmark that is ‘Penybont’. It is a simple direct communication that would have been delivered the same day:

“I hope to see you tomorrow, but am afraid I cannot come before the afternoon train. Love Dores”

Postcard 9 :- Severn Arms – Front  Door

“Dear Cousin, Just a line to let you know Aunt got hear alight. Ma met her at the station along with the Boy, they drove in the cart. With Love from Mag They are going to Cefnmawr on Friday”

Postcard 10 : – Severn Arms and RAC Sign

Postcard 11 and 12 :- Severn Arms viewed from field opposite

Spot the difference between these views of the Severn Arms. It shows how different companies used the same photographs, they only had to change the caption.

Postcard 12 :- Severn Arms with War Memorial

Showing the War Memorial, erected after the 1st World War, it is further out than at present. It was moved back during the 1960’s when the road was improved. The Iron Room is still attached to the Severn Arms.

Postcard 13:- Post Office 1905

The photographer’s mate is featured again outside the Post Office.  The lane he os standing in would have taken you down and across the River onto the Ddole and on to the Blacksmith’s.

“My dear old Reg, I’ll leave on Monday for home Your loving sister Lil You can guess how excited I am”

Ray mentioned that the cards often showed that people travelled a lot.

Postcard 14:- Penybont Hall with twin Towers 1905

Postcard 15:- Post Office 1914

This was Ray’s home for 35 years. The gentleman in front of the Post Office is Mr. George Bufton from Gladestree, and the little boy was Tommy Jones, Keily and Barbara’s father. The Postcard was produced by Wallis Jones of Builth.

“Dear Marion, Sorry I shall not be able to come to Rhayader tomorrow, Hope you are all well and that your ……… with love from Aunty Amie”

Here again we see how quickly people expected their cards to be delivered.

Postcard 16 – Village view from the Knighton Junction

Changes from the present day would be the lack of pavements and the horse manure on the roads. Of course, the village had regular markets with the animals being driven through.

Postcard 17 – Village from a similar perspective

Postcard 18 – Village from opposite direction

Postcard 19 – Same View a few years later , now with pavements and a village noticeboard

Postcard 20 – Calvinist – Methodist Chapel

Postcard 21 – Village Blacksmith

The life and soul of the village.

Postcard 22: – Post Office and Bank

Railings have arrived on the front of the Post Office

Postcard 23:- The New Bank

With House built originally for the Bank Manager, Mr Thomas. Nurse Gittings had the other house.

Postcard 24:- The Central Wales Emporium

It was William Thomas from the Thomas Shop in Penybont who built and ran the Emporium, some times know as the Harrods of Mid Wales.

Postcard 25:- Severn Arms Advertising

As with the Emporium above the Severn Arms were quick to see the potential advertising benefits of producing a postcard.

Postcard 26:- First Bridge close-up

Postcard 27:- Testing for the New Bridge (2nd Bridge)

The photograph features Neil’s wife’s Great-Grandfather as the driver of the traction engine. Neil spent years trying to beg, borrow, or steal a copy!

Postcard 28: – Suspension Bridge and Chapel

Photograph also shows the tennis court just over the river. Neil’s father played against Jean on the court.

Postcard 30:- The New Bridge and Chapel

This Bridge split Chapel meadow with the tennis court being opposite the Chapel on the right. The older suspension bridge was further to the right.

“South View, Llandrindod Wells 24Sept 32

Hope this finds you much better – We are enjoying everything and find ourselves very well fixed. Lovely weather until today……… Place full of clergy for the conference and the Chapel Folk have one too. We have had some delightful walks. …. Love from Hel”

Postcard 31:- Footbridge to Ddole

Postcard 32:- Footbridge Taken from Other side

Postcard 33:- Outside Severn Arms

Older photo taken before the building of the Bank and the Manager’s House.

Postcard 34:- Pen-y-bont Station

Postcard 35:- Station with Locomotive

Postcard 36:- Llanbadarnfawr School 1920’s

Postcard 37:- Cross Roads at Crossgates

Postcard 38: – Chalet at Crossgates

It was moved subsequent to this photo and demolished more recently.

Postcard 39:- Crossgates, the Village

Postcard 40: – Crossgates Post Office known originally as Penybont Station Post Office

Features HQ Coates bread delivery vehicle with JO Davies

Postcard 41: – Not Penybont – Crossgates

Postcard 42: – Crossgates/Penybont Station Entrepreneurs

Postcard 43: – The Hotel in Crossgates

Postcard 44: – St Padarn’s Parish Church

Neil pointed out the chimneys that have since been removed – he pointed at Geraint as the villain of this desecration.

Postcard 45: – Llandegley

Village before the construction of the bypass

Postcard 46: – Llandegley – similar view

Postcard 47: – Llandegley Church

Photograph taken by McCaig of New Radnor, who travelled around on a motorbike and sidecar taking photos. The Burton Hotel is in the foreground and it shows St Techla’s Church with the old tower.

Postcard 48: – Primrose Cottage and Post Office

Postcard 49: – Llandegley School Photo

Postcard 50: – Parkes Card of Llandegley Parish Church

Postcard 51: – John Mantle – The Bank at the Church Gate Llandegley

Neil has the original photograph of this Postcard.

Postcard 52:- Church Choir Llandegley

Geraint said that they sounded a lot better than they looked!!!

Postcard 53: – Vicarage Llandegley

Postcard 54: Llandegley School

Ray remembered the day he entered the school in 1940 trough the door on the left.

Postcard 55: – Alpine Bridge

Postcard 56: Alpine Bridge

“Dear Fanny, We are having awful weather up here. I think Lily and I are going across this bridge some day. It looks very nice don’t you think. With love from Elsie”

Postcard 57: – Forest Inn

Ray finished by telling us about a particular postcard that highlights for him some of the excitement in the world of Deltiology. Some 30 years ago a gentleman, who then lived in London, bought a postcard from Ray when he was running the Post Office. The gentleman would send this postcard to his mum in Cardigan. Many, many years later Ray received a Postcard from a fellow Deltiologist who had picked up a postcard in a sale in Bloomsbury that he thought Ray might be interested in. He sent it saying he hoped Ray might like it?

When Ray opened the Postcard it was the same postcard that Richard Davies had bought all those years ago. He was able to return the card to Richard. A job well done!

Geraint thanked Ray for this most enjoyable and interesting look at our area through the medium of Postcards.

Our next meeting will be on Monday 4th March and will feature: Dr Marion Evans who will be talking about “Friendly Societies and their Contribution to the Community”.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 3rd December 2018 Main Topic: Penybont and District Antiques, Bygones, and Curiosities – Items brought by Members and Commented Upon by Michael Winterton


3rd December 2018

Derek opened the Meeting to yet another packed room by referring to Geraint’s loss of his daughter Deborah. Geraint was attending the funeral today in Swansea. Words could not express the loss that Geraint has had to endure over the last few months. Members were encouraged to sign a card for Geraint.

Shirley circulated cards to members that Geraint had put together with next year’s programme, and these were very positively received.

Derek introduced Michael Winterton, who had come all the way from Abbeycwmhyr. Michael has an auctioneering background and his nephew is currently one of the antique specialists on television programmes.

Main Topic: Penybont and District Antiques, Bygones, and Curiosities – Items brought by Members and Commented Upon by Michael Winterton

Michael was an auctioneer in Litchfield within a family run business that dated back to the 1864. His Great Grandfather was approached by the town to open a market in conjunction with his butchery business. Michael joined the business in 1955 and specialised in the sale of livestock. His most famous relative was Major General Sir John Winterton who was Governor General of the Free Territory of Trieste just after the end of 2nd World War (1951-54).  See: and

More recently Richard Winterton, Michael’s nephew, joined the business and he has subsequently gained celebrity status as an antique expert on TV. See:

In Richard’s career he had some memorable times as a auctioneer in Smithfield where he met the Queen Mother, who was extremely knowledgeable. Life was good and he was able to fit regular hunting into his routine. On one occasion he managed to do 12 days hunting in 14 days by nipping over to Ireland!

Michael brought with him a couple of silver items. His own silver christening mug and a couple of silver grapefruit spoons.  He started by talking about the volatility of the market. Prices go up and down and this makes it difficult to put a value on things. He did also bring his spyglass with him though he does not do much in the way of valuations these days.

Having watched his nephew and others on the television antique competition shows his advice to the members was to go for items that at not very expensive. Often people are drawn to expensive items but it is very difficult to make any money on these. The less expensive items have much more potential.

Getting pictures of each individual item proved to be impossible but some general pictures will hopefully give you a sense of the things we looked at.

Image A
Image B
Image C


Image D
Image E


Image F
Image G


Image H
  1. The first item to be looked at was a Tantalus brought by Mary Davies. This had been given as a wedding present to Mary’s Nain, a much-valued possession, kept in the Top Kitchen, by a tea total family. Michael said that the Tantalus had fallen out of fashion for a period, but was now back in again as there was a vogue for having port after a meal.  
  • Mary also brought with her a very charming music box that still worked. It had a little wood-worm. Michael said that this was quite a rare item and that its value would be likely to increase substantially over the years, as long as children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were not allowed to play with it! (Image ‘D’)
  • Two great lumps of black metal with a handle end and a curve were identified as Blacksmiths tools from the Dolau Blacksmith Shop. It was felt that the tools were probably hand-made by an apprentice as one of the first tasks. They were probably spanners that the Blacksmith used in relation to wheelwright work. Anecdotally it was reported that the Blacksmith had to move in a hurry as he was a known poacher on the Squire’s estate. (Image ‘A’)
  • Marion brought a moustache cup, not just any moustache cup, but a moustache cup featuring the Sir George Cornewall Lewis, 2nd Baronet, PC (21 April 1806 – 13 April 1863), Memorial in New Radnor.  Not a memorial that Marion greatly likes, but a memorial that dominates the entrance to the village.

The moustache mug had been invented by Harvey Adams in 1860 as the moustache had become the fashion of the day, and even the British Army got involved between 1860 and 1916 when soldiers were required to grow them.

The Memorial was built in 1864 to celebrate the MP who lived at Harpton Court, New Radnor. He had been an MP for Hereford between 1847 and 1852. He returned to parliament in 1855 as MP for the Radnor Boroughs when he was immediately made Chancellor of the Exchequer. His Government Posts included: Chancellor of the Exchequer 1855–58, Secretary of State at the Home Office 1859–61, and Secretary of State at the War Office 1861–63. His main claim to fame lies in persuading the Government not to intervene on behalf of the Confederates in the Civil War in USA, despite opposing views held by Palmerston and Gladstone.

Marion was able to tell us that the moustache mug was found by a friend of hers in a junk shop in London. While this in itself is surprising it was probably not as surprising as the size and scale of this monument, when it was opened in 1864, to the residents of New Radnor. The monument had been designed by John Gibbs and might have been situated on top of the Castle Mound. Fortunately, this did not happen.

  • The next item to review was a coffee set that had been made by the Potter, David Weekes, in 1965, when he was living at the Old Police Station, in Penybont. David was a very fine potter, and penny-farthing cyclist, who had been Head of Art at Llandrindod Wells High School. Judy remembered that David had made mugs to commemorate the Investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales. Every child in District was given one of these mugs. Judy still has hers, a treasured possession. (Image ‘A’)
  • The first picture to be looked at caused a bit of a stir when Michael announced that it could be worth £30,000. The picture had been found in a house after the new owners of the house had bought the house. Evidently the picture had been hidden away by the lady of the house as her husband did not like it!
  • A silver bracelet that had been handed down through the family was the next item. Michael, who clearly has a penchant for silver, enjoyed this item. (Image ‘A’)
  •   Books by David Davies dated 1898 had been a wedding present. They gave a history of Radnorshire and were given by a family to the maid on her wedding day. These are now worth a couple of hundred pounds. (Image ‘E’)
  • A very well used toasting fork was next. This had a history that went back to a great grandfather, and had been given to grandchildren over successive generations. Memories were of hot toast and dripping after school.
  1. A small silver vespa case was the next item. Michael said that though these were designed to take matches they were sometimes used as snuff boxes. When matches were first developed in the 1830’s matches could be hazardous and the vespa case gave some safety as well as being valued items that said something about the person who owned them. (Image ‘D’)
  1.  Referred to as pop-up sprung candles, the next item was brought partly because it was not known why there was a sprung mechanism within the candle holder. The mechanism was simply a way of removing the candle safely. (Image ‘D’)
  1. The next two items were found as a result of using a metal detector. (Image ‘A’)
  1. A piece of metal was found near to Shaky Bridge. The hope had been to find something religious and pertaining to this particular site. It was a piece of metal that did not come up with any serious idea of what it might have been. It was more like a hand grenade than There has been a subsequent suggestion that it might have had a past as part of a fishing rod.
  2. Judy brought in another piece of metal much smaller that the previous one. This was found in Crossgates. Following a discussion that included the suggestion that it could be a piece off a caster for a setee, this hitherto ‘curiosity’, that had a hole through it, there was a consensus that this had been associated with weaving on a loom and had been on the end of a stick to give it some weight. The same principles for weaving have been used right back to Saxon times.
  1. This was a picture of the Church at New Radnor. Michael looked immediately for any writing on the back of the painting to see if there were any clues to it’s origin. The Church, as it is today was rebuilt in 1843-45, see:

The old church was said to be ‘falling down’ and the Borough of New Radnor raised £1400 on the Rates to pay for the Church to be rebuilt. (Image ‘F’)

  1. Derek had brought in a few items from the Thomas Shop Museum:
  2. The very first donation to the Thomas Shop in 2003 were a pair of tailor’s scissors. In the first week that the shop was opened a gentleman came into the shop, all the way from the Isle of Wight, and said with the history of the shop we must have a pair of tailor’s scissors. A few days later these scissors arrived in the post. (Image ‘B’)
  3. The most recent addition to the collection was a 1912 Ever Ready Safety razor, in its original box with spare blade. Made in USA it came with a note, unsigned, hoping it might be of some interest. (Image ‘B’)
  4. Another early addition to the collection was a Gunter’s Measuring Chain. Designed and introduced in 1620 by Edmund Gunter the chain measured 22 yards, this becoming a s and was divided up into 100 sections. See: Michael became quite animated over this item as it took him back to his school-days when he would be taken out unto the cricket pitch to measure a chain with a ‘chain’ becoming a standard unit of measurement. (Image ‘C’)
  5. The next 2 items were both given to the Thomas Shop by Miss Freda Thomas and both belonged to her father, Alfred Thomas. The first was a small snuff box. (Image ‘B’)
  6. The second item was a gambrel that has Alfred Thomas’s initials carved into it. Mary was able to tell us that the family kept and butchered pigs. The gambrel would have been used to hang and stretch the carcasses. (Image ‘B’)
  1. Humph brought a musical jug that played the Ashgrove tune. It had been made in Ammanford and he thinks it is about 150 years old. Michael could not wait to wind it up and to have the music ringing out across the room. (Image ‘C)
  1. Also brought in by Humph was a Roasting Jack that had hung in his grandmother’s hallway. (Image ‘C’) (Humph himself can be seen in Image ‘B’)
  1. An intriguing picture of a soldier from the 1st World War was the next item. Michael thought the soldier’s uniform was probably cavalry, and that might help in trying to trace more information about the soldier. The picture was very similar to the image that Geraint had as a possible boyfriend of Miss James. It would be good to compare the two images with Geraint.
  1. Patricia brought in another item that also probably dated back to the 1st World War. It was a delightful little ceramic letter-box with and inscription that read: “Can’t get a letter from you, so I am sending you the box.” Patricia had felt that this was probably a mother writing to her son, the son having not written home after being posted to the front. (Images ‘G’ and ‘H’)
  1. Marked as a “Present from Penybont” the next item, thought to be about 100 years old, was a pair of ceramic boots that were used to display flowers on a dressing table.
  • The next ceramic item had an image of Caban Coch reservoir in the Elan Valley, thought to have been made in the 1890’s. (Image ‘A’)
  • Two ancient books of Radnorshire were next. The Radnor Red Book was a directory that gave details about everything that was going on in 1910. This was an unusual edition as Radnorshire was often included in other local directories rather than having one of its own. The other leather-bound book was a more legal document setting out the statutes particular to Presteigne.
  • Elizabeth brought in a Conveyance Indenture with an interesting story behind it. The nature of the conveyance as an ‘indenture’ was that the document was in 2 parts and the legality of the document was held in the fact that the 2 parts with their ‘indentured’ side had to fit together. In this case Elizabeth had both parts. The Conveyance referred to a commitment made to the building of a church, that has now disappeared, and to the payment of £5 a year to cover the cost. The sons who inherited this commitment were horrified to learn of the debt. In the end they managed to renegotiate the debt and agreed to contribute 10 shillings to the church and a one-off payment of £5 to the poor of the Parish. (Image ‘E’)
  • Mary brought in some photographs of, and found in, her grandfather’s 8-day grandfather clock. Michael was intrigued with the clock than the photos. Mary was able to explain that she still has the clock which was originally in the Top Kitchen at Maesyfed – to protect it from flooding. The house had a ‘traditional’ top kitchen, middle kitchen, and lower kitchen. Michael wanted know if the chimes still worked and was reassured to know that they did. It had been a bit of an issue when it started to chime at 2.00 a.m. but then it could not be stopped! (Image ‘D’)
  • The final items were 2 books. The first was a recipe book much in the same vein as Mrs Beaton. It had belonged to the great grand-parents. The second book was a Herbalist dating back to 1653. Michael stressed the importance of keeping these in good condition.

Derek thanked Michael for his contribution to making this a most interesting session. He also thanked the members for the items they had taken the trouble to bring in.

The next meeting will be on the first Monday of February – 4th February 2019. Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.