Penybont and District History Group Notes

5th December 2022

Christmas at Cefnllys in the year of our Lord 1468 – A Play Written and Produced by Derek Turner

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Thou Good and Faithful Servants,

Peasants and Serfs From

The Township of Cefnllys Castle in

The Year of our Lord 1468

We have a Tortuous Tale to Tell, But Tarry

Awhile, Forsooth, I Place Securely For Whom

the Bell Tolls in my Trusty Baldrick

But Hark, Who Goes There? A Crowd

Comes Hither, Maid Marion a Jester and

Father Hugh , the Chaplain.

Mother Superior and Two Novice Nuns

From the Silent Order of Cistercian Nuns

From Llanllugan Priory.

5 Pilgrims Wishing to Partake in the Revelry

Of the Christmas Banquet, And Another Nun

No Doubt who will Ensure Nothing Goes Amiss,

Sir Stephen Cox, Knight Hospitalier

And Mine Host, Iuean ap Phylip, Constable

Appointed By Richard, Duke of York, His Two

Armed Guards and his

Guest, Lewis Glyn Cothi, The Famous Welsh

Bard Who Will Delight Us With His Poem.

Attend Good People To Our Tale, What

Derring Do and Secrets May Be Revealed

God Save The King!

Words of the Herald by Janet Swindale seen below with our esteemed Chaplin, Geraint

Ieuan opens proceedings:

As your Constable, Ieuan ap Phylip, I welcome you all

To come join with me, and my friends, here in  Cefnllys Hall

I am a proud Welshman, descendent of Elystan Glodrydd,

The great King of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, including Maelienydd

For Richard, Duke of York, I act as Receiver

And for King Edward IV, I am no deceiver

But Lewys Glyn Cothi, has come to recite

A poem he has written for us, and our delight

In the Welsh language, his words are a blessing

In our plain English tongue, they remain very pleasing

 

Jester leaps to his/her feet cutting Ieuan off

Lewys Glyn Cothi, our celebrated Bard

Who finds nothing in rhyme, to be very hard

He will captivate you now, as you sit in this Hall

By his eloquent words, about this building so tall

You will find, that there isn’t, a word out of place

But if you are looking for rhyme, it may lack a certain grace

 

Lewys Glyn Cothi’s Poem

 

“Pa wal gystal am gastell

Ar wal bur Caergloyew bell

Caer with ochr uchr uwch cwrt Ieithawn”

“What wall as fine around a castle

As this pure white wall like the wall of fair Gloucester?

A white castle above the full white pool,

An eight-sided fort above the banks of Ieithon

A Greek fort in twelve encircling bands

The family name of the place is Cefnllys

The name of that fortress shall be found

In the great chronicles of the Mortimers

It is the largest fortress of their family

Ieuan remembered by all as the son of Phylip

All in velvet. He claims this

He caused with stones a wall to be made

And with lead work made a palace

A high healthy place

The mountain larks in May

Towards the sky they turn

And the eagle way at the beginning of summer

 Seeks for the highest place

So Ieuan in his zeal

Like a sturdy stag on a high bank

The famous man on this island

In the Parish of Cefnllys

A hundred lofts above one hall

With his castle court at the edge of the bank

This pile shines brightly; Light shines from Ieuan’s church

From this hall he distributes rents

To all who come

He is good, giving alms to the weak

God is Ieuan’s keeper and defender

                                                            Translation by: G Caffell in a Transactions article in Vol 42 (1972)  p 19

Jester acknowledging the applause and adulation of the crowd

 

What did I tell you, Lewys’s words are sublime

Eagles and stags, he can charm, with his rhyme

He is not quite so sure, of the King in his tower

Jasper and Henry, he would see gaining power

But now for something different, from our Chaplain so gay

With music to celebrate, our Christmas today

The Monks from the Abbey, will sing songs from Cwmhir

So, join in if you can, and bring some good cheer

 

Chaplin with songs from the Abbey

 

Songs

Jester

You will never believe, what we have for you next

Five Pilgrims are here, on some amazing pretext

Chaucer had many, we have but a few

But they each have a story, they will tell to you

So, listen carefully my children, there may be something to learn

As, in coming from Strata Florida, they each take a turn

 

 

Five Pilgrims in turn tell their stories

Cefnllys Tales

  1. Hope

Starting my Pilgrimage, I had no one to travel with

But I met an old lady, in the village of Cwmystwyth

Her tale, she would tell me, as we walked along

And it gave me great hope, so I have written this song

She had a lovely daughter, whose name was Elenor

Elenor married Deiwyn, and it seemed like a prayer

They hoped to have a child, indeed children, and many

But try as they did, they could not have any

Elenor loved children, and soon she found plenty

Her neighbours and friends, were glad of a ‘nanny’

She played with these children, and taught them new skills

And even looked after them, with their childhood ills

She was happy and fulfilled, but Deiwyn was not

He was ready to throw his toys, right out of the cot

Deiwyn wanted Elenor, for himself alone

These children, were not his, for him to atone

He was cross, he was angry, and Elenor was caught

But before they fell out, someone else was distraught

The parents of poor Pedrog, one of her children

Both killed in an accident, when their cart hit a chicken

Pedrog himself, was injured as well

His legs would not hold him, I am sorry to tell

When no one came forward, with Pedrog in mind

Elenor said, I love Pedrog, Deiwyn be kind

Deiwyn said no, he is not our concern

It is time for his family, to now take their turn

Then build him a cart, so he can once again, get-about

And teach him to use it, so that he can go in and out

Deiwen said he would, but then he must go

To someone in his family, who might teach him to sew

Deiwen started to build it, and Pedrog was near

Pedrog had shed, not a single tear

He held many of the tools, for Deiwen to use

And soon he was helping to build, the cart that would cruise

A friendship was building, even quicker than the cart

Their love for each other grew, and this was only the start.

I am Deiwen and this my story

From despair to hope is my Pilgrimage journey

  • Connection

A parhelion is rare, three suns in the sky

The Earl of March senses, a Yorkist victory is nigh

Jasper Tudor is cold, and his men are not ready

At Mortimer’s Cross, the ground is quite heavy

Many will fall before sunset, and his father will be executed

The Lancastrian cause, will need to be resurrected

Lewys Glyn Cothi, one day, will put it to song

And to hear it yourself, you won’t have to wait long

One of the fallen, a close friend of mine

Lived in Rhayader with Cristin, his wife at the time

Her grief was unending, as she cried and she wailed

A life all alone, was what this entailed

Friends could not help, as she rejected them all

And I was just one, who happened to call

A year has gone by, and here I am again

Trying to see, if I, can assuage her pain

She is not in, at this time, the time of my passing

Where can she be, where she does all this crying

Waiting is not easy, as I remember her distress

Then she approaches me quietly, in a very pretty dress

She smiles and she tells me, that things have quite changed

Thanks to a woman called Morfydd, and others she engaged

Morfydd’s story is strange, but also quite thrilling

At Mortimer’s Cross, her Yorkist husband lay dying

She became aware of my plight, and was unsure how to help

Till she knocked on my door, it was a first step

Hearing the knock, then hearing it again and again and again

I did not want to answer it, surely it would only, exacerbate my pain

I opened the door, to a person so persistent

 It was a woman I had known, to some little extent

It was her loss I remembered, was the same as my own

Her husband, a Yorkist, died at the Cross all alone

Why had she come, at my door to stand

She did not say anything, she just took my hand

Into my house she led me, and we just sat in silence

I don’t know what happened, it hardly made any sense

Holding each other’s hands, we made a connection

A connection so meaningful, there was no fear of rejection

She introduced me to others, who had lost someone they loved

And we all found a way forward; our grief was transcended.

My Pilgrimage was off, to a very good start

Connections will help me begin to take part

  • Discovery

My Pilgrimage is looming, and before setting out

I will visit the Abbott, and discover, what it’s all about

The story he told me, I will now reveal to you

And you may find, as I did, that it is very true

All sorts of people, come and visit the Abbey

With all sorts of reasons, that have left them at sea

Some want forgiveness, others spiritual enlightenment

Then there are those that need, some food, as a supplement

But then there was one man, who we could not atone

His name was Arthen, and he lived by himself, all alone

The voices he heard, frightened other people away

And it is true, that he did not, want them to stay

When he came to the Abbey, he just banged on the door

Again and again, till his hands were really quite sore

When we let him into the Abbey, he could not explain

The reason for his visit, or the source of his pain

Time and time again, Arthen would come, and abuse us

Leaving us fraught and bewildered, with no sense of purpose

He claimed to be Jesus, and threatened us with damnation

He shouted and screamed, we were the source of his persecution

Becoming threatening and violent, he tested our patience

Till we removed him from the Abbey, and then, prayed in silence

A trainee Monk, Cadwaladr, saw him the very next time

And did something naughty, that turned out quite fine

You’ll never believe it, but he shouted at Arthen

“Go and learn about your voices, and only come back when

You have discovered, how you, can begin to manage them

And treat other people, with some respect and decorum”

You’ll never believe it, but with help from Cadwaladr

He went to the tavern, where he caused quite a stir

A group had assembled, who thought voice hearing a ‘gift’

And when they welcomed Arthen, it gave him quite a lift

They learned from each other, what helped and what hindered

What voices were helpful, and what voices, better rejected

My name is Arthen, and my voices are still many

But thanks to Cadwaladr, my options are plenty

I have learned to discover, how to work with my friends

To find new ways to manage, and even make amends

As I set off, on my Pilgrimage Journey

It is a journey from alienation to personal discovery

  • Resilience

 My Pilgrimage I knew, would bring me close to Cefnllys

But it was at Rhyd-y-Cleifion, where I would find Generys

Generys is a woman, whose life story I would tell

Though she herself thinks, that it is nothing special

All her life she has lived, where the River Ithon meanders

A River just a trickle, but quite different when the rain pours

It can sweep away trees, and flood across the terrain

It has taken people with it, who have never been seen again

Generys loved the river, with its salmon and trout

The otters playing in the water, made you want to be out

Swydd Common was also, an important attraction

She would go over the top, to find pools she could swim in

Her house was nearby, built by her father

Put up in a day, she would never need to go further

Then something happened, that made her so sad

A man attacked her, he was clearly very bad

Even worse was to follow, when her tummy did swell

He had left her with something, that made her feel quite unwell

She needed to stop it, and stop it quite soon

Or her wedding to Meurig, would be the talk of the town

There was a woman in Rhayader, who would know what to do

 She did it, she stopped her,       and Generys was even more blue

She was bad, she was very bad, and she deserved punishment too

In her own mind only, she knew this to be true

Her marriage to Meurig went ahead with no hitch

And children they came, one two three,    four five six

A boy, then another, and they all came the same

 No girl Meurig wanted, it was a terrible shame

Generys was convinced, the punishment was real

No girl would she have, it was all quite surreal

She was bad, she was very bad, and she deserved punishment too

In her own mind only, she knew this to be true

Then the wounded started coming, from Battles all over

The Roses were at war, and there was blood on the clover

Generys responded, with love and compassion

She strived day and night, to the point of exhaustion

Her goodness was heralded, in Cefnllys and beyond

And her badness receded, allowing her to carry on

Her family supported her, and in turn she took a stance

She had found her resilience in her love and endurance

I am Meurig, Generys is my wife

My journey is from self-doubt to resilience in overcoming strife

  • Taking Control

My name is Aaron, I am as scatty as they come

I will ask the Abbott for guidance, before I leave home

He told me to go to Eluned, and listen to her story

And she is a lady, who happens, to live in Llandovery

I found her at home, and she welcomed me in

It was clean, it was warm, and she gave me biscuits from a tin

I thought to myself, this is all very nice

But what can she tell me, in the way of advice

She smiled, and she laughed, before she started to tell

You will find that things, were not always this well

After a good start, my parents were loving

They both died of a fever, when no one was looking

To my grandparents I went, all sad and dejected

For a year it got better, but then Grannie departed

Leaving Grandpa old, and unable to cope

With an hysterical 4 year old, all alone with no hope

Begging and stealing, and trying to live off my wits

An Uncle and Aunt found me, all covered in nits

They could not have me, they had children needing feeding

To Strata Florida they took me, kicking and screaming 

The Abbott did not want me, in an Abbey full of men

It would have been better, if I were    a goat or    a hen

The Abbott relented, he would take me in

I would have to live in this place, a  place   with   no   sin

I was frightened, I was angry, I screamed and I spat

I even bit one of them, for being such a prat

The Abbott he told me, they would not let me go

Until I knew all, that I needed to know

I was very unhappy, but I did what they asked

I cleaned, and I cooked, sewed and mended, however tasked

Years went by, in this cold austere place

I felt very alone, and always in disgrace

Then out of the blue, Cenydd, a trainee Monk came

He brought something different; things were never the same

He started by asking, “What would you like to do?”

I carried on cleaning and washing, as they had wanted me to

But it all seemed quite different, than it was before

I no longer stressed, about escaping, through the  big  black  door

Cenydd then helped me, to look after the goats and the sheep

But it was the chickens, that grabbed me, and I wanted to keep

Monk Griffi was quite happy, for me to lend a hand

Even though once, I had bitten him, just to make a stand

It was then that I asked Cenydd, if I could go through the door

“It is you that must decide”, I could not have asked for more

But a fear welled up inside me, it had just arisen

If I made a mistake, I could end up back in prison

Cenydd said do not worry, “If you make a mistake

Mistakes are the beginning, of new roads you can take.”

Eluned had shown me how to take control

I am now ready go on my Pilgrimage stroll

 

Jester

My friends, have our Pilgrims, told you anything new

I know they have left me, in a bit of a stew

But my foot is quite sore, and my head has a pain

So, my Pilgrimage will only, allow me to complain

It is now time, to celebrate Christmas again

The Chaplain is ready, with a musical refrain

This time, I am told, you cannot join in

For the choir might make       a bit of a din

Chaplain introduces the ‘Silent Order of Monks’

Jester 

Now that has left you thinking, what might come next

I would tell you if I could, if I only had the text

There is a lady who has, and who may know how to tell it

But I am really not sure, of her very strange habit.

The Prioress’s Tale – told by a Nun

You have probably been over, to a town called Presteigne

And the place of a Battle, you may not have seen

The Battle of Pilleth, or to some Bryn Glas

Where so many Englishmen, would soon breath their last

Owain Glyndwr’s Army, were at the top of the Hill

Their position an advantage, if they kept very still

Reigning down arrows, on Sir Edmund Mortimer’s men

There was nowhere to hide, not even a pen

Owain was Triumphant, while Edmund was captured

However, it was Edmund, who soon became enraptured

Owain’s daughter Catrin, had captured his heart

They married soon after, and made a new start

The battlefield however, was the scene of much carnage

As the women of Wales, reaped their terrible revenge

The bodies of Englishmen, were being ripped apart

Even before Red Kites, could make their hungry start

Sitting in the field, where the cowslips once grew

Was a young woman, who was unsure what to do

She had travelled all day, from the Priory at Llanllugan

To do a good deed, as an aspiring young Nun

It was hard to believe, the scene that she saw

So many dead and wounded, it was the last straw

Till she saw all these women, with their axes and knives

It was so awful, it brought tears to her eyes

She spoke to these women, quite softly at first

Tis the wounded that need healing, she said clenching her fist

It really does not matter, whether they are English or Welsh

Indeed, it was hard to tell, which one was which

The women put down their knives, and their axes

Even though they were, so fed-up paying taxes

They took to their task, helping the men who were wounded

While our Nun took charge, of the ones who were tormented

The work of this novice, from the Priory at Llanllugan

Changed the lives of the men, and also the women

Some 54 years later, we remember her story

While she is now Mother Superior, still in the Priory

Jestor

With the Mother Superior, back in her stall

It is time for music again, one and all

Chaplain – More Christmas Music

Jestor

Hopefully by now, you will know what is to come

A tale that will show you, that we can overcome

The might of those English, the source of our woes

And how we in Wales, can look after our foes

You will not be surprised, If I tell you, there is even more

A Knight has come tramping, across mountains and moor

Sir Stephen Cox has journeyed, from Pembrokeshire

To tell us his story, and give us good cheer

The Knight’s Tale

The Commandery at Slebach, have sent me this way

But Ieuan has diverted me, to come and have my say

It is a pleasure to be here, in these beautiful surrounds

To celebrate Christmas, in one of St. Michael’s compounds

Michael has a duty, to protect the last Dragon from harm

While he sleeps contentedly, amongst the sheep on a farm

I am a Knight of the Order, of St John of Jerusalem

Protecting Pilgrims, and David’s passage, under the elm

I am here to collect Tythes, from Michael’s estate

At Llanfihangel Nant Melan, I will soon learn my fate

But you may have forgotten this story, the story I will tell

About a battle that happened, on this Cefnllys hill

Another Mortimer was involved, but this time it was Roger

He came face to face with the Prince, the Prince who would conquer

Llywelyn ap Gruffydd the Great Prince of Wales

Would tear down the castle, it was just one of those tales

Of course, you will know this, know it already

But this you may not know, I will tell you the story

Of how the Knights of St John, would come in a hurry

They came to a field, on the edge of the Ithon

The name of it you will know, as Rhyd-y-Cleifion

And there they would tend, the men who were wounded

In this place by a ford, where peace was resurrected

It is 200 hundred years since, and my Knights of St John

Are still ready and waiting, at every new dawn

Who knows in the future, what will come to pass

In a world that is uncertain, but still covered in grass

My Knights of St John, will continue to be

There for the wounded, wherever they may be

It is time for me to go now, to Llantfiangel Nant Melan

Sure, in the knowledge my Knight’s will always, do what they can

Jester

Well, there you have it, if you are not asleep already

There is just time, for one more Christmas ditty

The Chaplain will lead you, in a round of merriment

Then out into the cold, you will all be sent

A very merry Christmas, to you one and all

And Ieuan will, I am sure, be around to call

Discussion:

There were many people to thank after production.

Geriant was the inspiration behind the idea of producing something that had some authenticity with the 1468AD. He pointed Derek towards Chaucer and the rest followed. Geraint then played the part of the Chaplin and managed the music for the occasion. He even had to fill in for the snow-bound Abbeycwmhir monks who could not join us for the performance.

Derek wrote 5 Pilgrim Tales, a Prioresses Tale, and a Knight’s Tale but that is where the association with Chaucer ended. The Pilgrim’s Tales have since been labelled ‘Cefnllys Tales’ and are based on the mental health work that he did working alongside Helen Glover from Australia. Helen has analysed the stories of people who were told there was ‘no hope’ for them because of their Mental Health challenges. Helen’s story and the other stories she looked at highlighted 5 themes that recurred in the stories of people who refused to believe there was no hope. The Cefnllys Tales represent each of these 5 themes. Some of the stories are amalgamations of different experiences and two of them are almost the same as the experience of two people known to Derek. They are stories of hope and recovery. The two other stories grew out of the Tales and the history of the time.

Janet wrote and played the part of the Herald and was the inspiration behind many of the costumes.

The Pilgrims were ‘recruited’ from a pilgrimage that took place recently to celebrate and look forward to a ‘new’ future for the Pales, with Addoldai Cymru. The walk was from Cae Bach to the Pales. It got halted at the Thomas Shop where Derek took advantage of their situation. Their experience and performances really did add something special to the occasion.

The other parts were played by members of the History Group. Jill carried the part of Lewys Glyn Cothi brilliantly giving more authenticity to the role by introducing the poem in Welsh. Dr Marion played the Fool/Jester to perfection and held the whole performance together. As well as performing the Nun and Knight Christine and Steve helped with the production in so many different ways.

Then, never to be forgotten, were the Silent Order of Nuns, Mary, Anne and Humph, who gave the whole proceedings much need jollity for this Christmas celebration.

As with so many things in Penybont, Shirley toiled away with the scenery and generally helping to make the Play a success. She had many other helpers, who know who they are, but have not mentioned in person.

Thank-you all.

There will be no Local History Group Meeting in January but we hope to see you all on 6th February when the talk will be on Penybont Police Station by Michelle Jackson.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

3rd October 2022

Main Topic: Restoring Llandegley Old School – Chris and Michelle Rose

Thirty-five people were present, excluding the 2 speakers and 2 visitors from Abbeycwmhir who were trying to trace a family member. To assist in this mission, they also brought a dog. Derek and Liz sent apologies as they had tested positive for Covid 19. Thanks to Christine for agreeing to take the Notes at very short notice.

Announcements:

At next month, 7th November, Marilyn Morgan will give us a talk on Penybont Hall

The following month, 5th December, will be our Christmas event. Derek has written and will produce the show with the assistance of Geraint who is the Musical Director.

Geraint then introduced our speakers for the morning, Chris and Michelle Rose. Geraint has been calling on the couple every week-end and he always finds them working on the School Building.

There were 3 people, amongst the members, who attended the school. A fourth member had wanted to attend but he, Denis Abberley, very sadly died last week. John was however with us.

Main Topic: Restoring Llandegley Old Schoolhttps://www.theoldschoolhouse.wales

Chris and Michelle viewed the property in August 2020 and moved in during March 2021. A move made all the more complicated by the Global Pandemic. It was not helped in the first instance by the sale of their house in Warwick falling through and then no Central Heating oil being available. Both Chris and Michelle worked for Warwick University, jobs that they gave up on moving to Llandegley.

Rev. William Thorne was the minister at Llandegley in 1862 who commissioned the building of the school for the sum of £324.

Edward Lingen-Barker, a well-known and talented Architect from Herefordshire won the commission. He was noted for his economy and low costs for buildings. He therefore had many commissions, designing over 300 buildings. They can be seen in Presteigne Cemetery. He built a number of chapels with a similar architecture to Llandegley, plus other buildings in Beguildy, Rhayader, and St. Harmons. 

Plans for the School were shown showing a large singular schoolroom.

Children and teachers through the ages:

Miss Miller in 1930

1930

Mrs Gould in 1937

Presentation to Mrs Thomas and Mrs Evans in 1971

Headteachers

1873-1877Lizzie Morris
1877-1887Mary OsbornMore
1888-1901William E. HillMore
1901-1902William Wager
1902-1919John VickeryMore
1920-1927Edith M. Barrow
1928-1929Ethel Louisa Curtis
1930-1953Dinah Ann Pugh
1954-1971Catherine I. Thomas
1971-197?Harry William Capp
197?-1977Cecelia Williams

Chris and Michelle are currently living in the house part of the buildings while they renovate the school. The house has its own separate private entrance. Once the school is completed, they will move into the school and start to work on the house.

The walls of the school are mainly built with stone but the wall at the back of the schoolroom was built in brick, a cheaper option. In 1944 a canteen was added but there was no water, flushing toilets, etc until this was resolved1955. Further improvements were made in 1961 when the schoolroom was divided into several rooms.

The School was extended in the 1960’s

 In 1963 the toilets were improved again, before finally being closed in 1977.

There is evidence of some additional extensions but the dates for these have been lost for now.

Some further slides were shown, including a slide showing the ventilation system and how it worked. Moisture was stored in the walls and dried out and warmed by the sun. There were plenty of draughts!

Modern materials were introduced into all sorts of places. This trapped moisture and this has caused so many of the problems that Chris and Michelle are trying to put right. All of the damage is water related. Once the modern materials have been removed the building will start to dry out. This is now beginning to happen.

A picture was shown of the inside at the time they moved in. It shows lots of damp and rotting skirting boards. The soil level on the outside also helped to trap moisture and prevent the building from dying out.

A picture of the inside of the house showed that the kitchen was under the stairs. The stairs have very steep steps which need to be replaced. There is one original fireplace still intact.

Some pictures of the school then began to reveal a much worse situation with water leaking into the building but also evidence of dry rot. Michelle’s foot had gone through floor on their very first day!

There had not been much of a viewing, because of lock down. Chris and Michelle were beginning to wonder what on earth they had bought! The ceilings of the pupils toilets were missing and the whole area cordoned off! Here again adding modern building materials did not help.

In tackling the toilets, they started by removing the rotten material from the roof – it was a big job.

When it was safe to work in the toilets they took out the sink and the toilets, putting them to one side in the hope that they can go back again at a later date. They have now knocked down all the partition walls, and taken out doors and effectively gutted the toilet area.

Chris and Michelle have no previous experience to knocking down walls etc so they rely on U-tube videos.

The flat roof on the toilet was replaced by a local builder as this would have been beyond the expertise of Chris and Michelle. The insulation for the roof had to go on the outside as there was no space inside due the fact that the toilets had been designed for children!

There had been a lean-to bike shed with a tin roof, that had to be taken down by C&M Took, to give better access to the school.

The next challenge was to tackle the schoolroom. It was full of damp and dry rot making it quite unsafe. The cladding and the floorboards were stripped out. Chris and Michelle then removed the sliding partition, with great difficulty. It is probably the most solid thing in the entire building. They then took the wall surfaces back to the original stone work.

Why stop there, they then removed the suspended ceiling leaving the rafter exposed. This revealed a beautiful room with no woodworm or rot in any of the rafters, all in great condition.

The cloakroom was smaller version of the schoolroom and also back to the original rafters.

The Slate Roof had to be completely restored. This required professional builders until the scaffolding arrived and Chris found himself asked to go to the top of the scaffolding, despite his fear of heights, to discover that more scaffolding would be required. Roofing was done over the winter months.

Bat friendly insulation was installed at this stage. The crosses at each end of the roof were replaced.

The next job they need to tackle is the floor. It will need to be removed. They hay have no fully decided how to redo the floor. They are thinking of installing a floor ½ way across the schoolroom dividing the room between ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ classes. This will be easier to keep warm and could provide the opportunity of creating a ‘granny annex’.

Essentially Chris and Michelle are doing their best to restore the building as sensitively as possible.

Geraint thanked Chris and Michelle for a very interesting talk.

A question was raised about whether bats were in residence. There are bat droppings and there do appear to be holes which allow the bats to come and go but there is no evidence that they are in residence.

John Abberley who was at the school in 1936 was able to say that the false ceiling was already in place at that time.

Elizabeth wondered if the windows were originally arched. There is no evidence of arching in the stonework.

There was a question about where the stone had come from to build the school. Geraint thought that local farmers would have brought it from Graig Quarry.

Somebody wanted to know how the building would be heated. Chris and Michelle have entirely decided on this but they are thinking about a digitally controlled electric system.

Our next meeting will be on 7th November when Marilyn Morgan will give us a talk on the History of Penybont Hall.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

5th September 2022

Main Topic: Recording the Covid Pandemic in the Community – Shirley Morgan

Geraint welcomed members back after the Summer Break.

The coming programme has had to undergo a change due to participants commitments.

October 3rd will now be: Restoring Llandegley School – Chris Rose

November 7th will be: Penybont Hall – Yesterday and Today – Marilyn Morgan

December 5th remains: Christmas in Cefnllys Castle – in the Year of Our Lord 1468

February 6th: Keeping Law and Order in Penybont

Two other events are happening in the next few weeks that are also linked to our Local History Group:

Friday September 23rd at 7.30 p.m. the Radnorshire Society, in conjunction with our History Group are hosting a session by Ernie Hussen – Photographing Radnorshire featuring his work over many years.

Saturday 1st October, at 2.30 p.m. in the Community Centre, Chris Milward Cox has, with others, organised a fund-raising event on behalf of the Church and the Hall, called ‘Tea & Tunes’. Homemade Tea and songs. Geraint explained that he had been ‘slightly frustrated’ that due to Covid our session on VE Day had had to be postponed. He then started playing with war time songs and converting them into ‘local songs’ – ‘The Penybont Musical Ensemble’ had been born. This will form the basis of the Tunes event and hopefully more such events to follow.

Archives – Elizabeth explained that, having been prompted by Geraint, she has been exploring ways in which a more professional archiving system could be established. The Radnorshire Society has taken the idea under its wing in the hope that Local History materials can be preserved and made available for future generations.

Geraint was beginning to wonder if we, Penybont and District Local History Group, are gradually moving towards being:

A Civic Society or a Heritage Group?

But he agreed that it is really important to ensure that Linda’s Scrapbooks, and other materials that are about the ‘present’ are preserved for the future. Recording the Present is an important part of the role of the History Group.

This was by way of an introduction to today’s Main Topic. Covid 19 has been the biggest event affecting the entire population since World War 2. In many ways, living here, we have been very fortunate, but people have experienced financial problems, the effects have been far reaching, and our lives have changed as a result.

Main Topic: Recording the Covid 19 Pandemic in our Community

Shirley made it clear that we would not be making any Political comments, the attempt is to record how the pandemic impacted on everyday life.

It was, however, a seismic event, it came suddenly, without much in the way of a warning. There had been other scares in recent years, Sars, Chicken Flu, etc. but these did not really affect our lives. This time we did not know what to expect. Spanish Flu was the last big episode but it did not have the same general impact on the population as a whole.

The first impact for Shirley was her birthday celebrations. She was going to be 70 years, indeed that did happen, but the celebration, and a night with Elvis in mid-March 2020, had to be cancelled. Whatever happened to Elvis!!!?

New words entered our everyday language:

PPE, Shielding, Social Distancing, Contact Tracing, Herd Immunity; Mortality Rate; Self Isolation

Alongside the appalling fatalities some good things were happening:

Slower pace of life: Working from home

More consideration of others: wearing a mask to reduce risk of passing on the virus to others

Respect for people working in challenging jobs to the benefit of others: NHS Staff; Refuge workers; Emergency Services; Shop workers; etc.

There was time for Reflection.

Vaccine development happened in record time.

Geraint then gave a brief chronological history of the spread and management of Covid 19

Shirley started her reflection by going into Dolau School, spending time with the children and collecting their stories.

 She picked a selection of these to read out:

From Charlie:

From Lois:

From Francesca:

From Tyler:

Shirley then called on a series of members to tell us about how Covid 19 had impacted on their lives:

First up was Steve Milward-Cox who told us about the great Fish n’ Chip initiative. Having heard about another initiative he with the help of Linda’s Penybont Facebook Group contacted 24 people who all felt they would love to have fish n’ chips once again. Steve phoned the Fish n’ Chip shop at the Ridgebourne where they were only too helpful. Originally from Poland the owner went out of his way to be helpful. When asked to put up 24 helpings of Fish n’ Chips he said “no problem”. The fish and the chips went down really well so they did it again giving people the option of Fish, Chips or Fish n’ Chips. It was only when things began to open up in July that it came to an end.

Geraint commented that the chips were really very good.

Next to contribute was Linda

Linda started by showing a number of slides of a Closed Down Penybont. No cars, no people, no visitors. Lots of community activities cancelled.

Properties in isolation

No people, no cars

Thomas Shop closed

Severn Arms and Garage closed

Community Centre closed

On the 27th March 2020 Linda received a Text from Genevieve saying that she was thinking of making ‘scrubs’ for the NHS. Linda got onto her Facebook Page and sent out a call for members of the community to join in making scrubs.

 She also sent out a plea for sheets and duvet covers. Bags and bags of material started to arrive. A man with a van would bring them.

Patterns were found on-line.

There were 16 pieces to each scrub and soon there were all sorts of shapes and colours.

The challenge was in fitting the pockets. They were extremely large, probably to hold medical equipment. Most went to the NHS but some also went to special schools and nurseries.

Geraint drew our attention to Linda’s Facebook – Penybont Memories, which holds all the information on our History Group amongst a lot of other very valuable information. He also drew our attention to the fact that Linda was furloughed from her job at The Bell as part of the impact of Covid 19. Even when The Bell was able to open the impact was huge, as with the whole of the Hospitality Sector. Linda told us that people could only be served outside, only 4 people could sit at a table and they were required to take people’s details for Track and Trace. She described an incident that happened when some people came in a said they could not do the Track and Trace. When asked ‘why’ they were at first hesitant to reply. Eventually they said they had come from Birmingham. As only people living in Wales were allowed to travel in Wales. Linda had to tell these people they would have to leave. Pubs and other hospitality venues were regularly checked by the Police to ensure Covid 19 rules were being adhered to.

Geraint said that his Sunday lunch would appear on a wall outside – a bit like in a ‘leper colony’!

Elizabeth was then able to tell us of a totally different impact that Covid 19 had on their book business. Like everyone else she was shocked when Boris announced a shut-down and told everyone to ‘stay at home’. She and Peter started to think that maybe they should use the opportunity for a ‘not so early’ retirement. Peter, an Antiquarian Book Seller, could not believe that by the next day the orders started to stream in from all over the world. People, now locked down, wanted to read and many wanted to treat themselves to purchasing books they might only have dreamt about previously. Suddenly Peter was making more money than ever before. He did not need help offered by the Welsh Government. He was buying and selling books and the only problems that occurred were in picking up books in lock-down situations.

Elizabeth was concerned by the similar explosion businesses of selling puppies and kittens at a time when people had suddenly loads of time but equally there were no classes to teach puppies and their owners necessary social skills.

She particularly wanted to thank Geraint for his newsletters and Sunday prayers which she felt were a lifeline to many people in our community. He made a real difference.

The next person to tell their story, in what Geraint euphemistically referred to as a ‘beauty parade’, was Annette.

Annette told us that, when she lost her husband 6½ years ago, he had made her promise not to sit grieving at home, but to go out and become involved in the life of the community. When he died, she took this on board totally, and got involved in everything she could. That was great! Then in March 2020 everything was shut down. Everyday was the same. It really was, particularly as she was not ‘on the internet’. Children were at home but heir focus was in doing things on the computer. Even the Churches were closed. She did get some respite by going to a church ‘over the border’ near Presteigne. She feels the Church in Wales ‘got it wrong’ when people could not go into their churches for silent prayer. Lots of older people ‘lost out’. A factory was bought to be a mortuary – it was never used. She is pleased now that our Local History Group has a full programme and hopefully there will be no more lock downs.

Derek then told us about the fact that lock-down periods had very little effect on their lives in some ways. Goats and other animals in their woodland needed attention twice a day every day. Yes, the Thomas Shop was closed but the Welsh Government’s generosity meant that a lot of work was done in the garden to prepare for when they would be open again. Derek’s main memory of opening up was sitting at a table opposite the only open door into the premises and squirting people with hand sanitizer as they approached. Track and Trace, wearing masks, keeping behind screens and sanitizing everything became a feature of everyday life. People did not want to come into the buildings to see the museum and galleries. Business was conducted in the garden. One of the benefits of this was changing from Bank Card Machines to the type of machine that was developed for street, or market, traders. These are so much cheaper to use, and unlike the Banks, they do not have any add-ons. Cash was a worry, as it might carry disease, and now many people are concerned that cash could disappear altogether. More and more people carry on the Covid tendency to only pay by card.

Bernie, from Bank House, was next to tell us something completely different.  Bernie was a ‘retired nurse’ when Covid 19 hit us all. When the vaccine came along, she became involved in the administration and delivery of the vaccine.  She was delighted to be able to use her skills again in such an important way. She could not tell us stories about individual cases, and there were many, due to patient confidentiality. But it was lovely to be able to talk to people while collecting the information that was necessary to ensure the vaccine could be delivered safely. She has had the summer months off, but is back next week. She loves it. She encouraged us all to sign up for the next round of vaccine and ‘green ears?’. Geraint said that her injections were entirely painless.

Lucy then told us about her experience of moving, during lock-down, from West Sussex to Mallard in Penybont.

MY COVID STORY:  by Lucy Cannon 4/09/22

My Covid story begins not here but in a small village, slightly bigger than Penybont, in West Sussex. Coldwaltham has a church, a school, a pub called the Labouring Man and a village hall with a part-time post office. Best of all it has a nature reserve called Waltham Brooks. From here the sweeping views along the river Arun to the nearby South Downs are lovely.

During very wet winters the whole area can take on the appearance of an inland sea. Just the odd treetops show above the floodwater like tiny islands. The railway line on its causeway is the only transport route that remains entirely above the water level.

2019/2020 was one such winter, with the main road flooding to the north and cutting us off twice. At the time other parts of the country like Wales and Yorkshire and nearby Surrey were experiencing far more devastating floods.

In early March 2020 I attended a local hospital for laser surgery on my eyes. At the time only staff were wearing masks and there was one bottle of hand sanitiser on the reception desk.

As an aside the surgery was a success and I have had no more eye problems to date!

However, about a week later I got a cold – or was it flu? After a couple of days rest I felt better, the weather was good so I did some gardening. The effort left me exhausted and put me in bed for two days feeling decidedly unwell.

By this time the panic over Covid was really taking hold and there was a lot of misinformation in the media. I found the newly set up Zoe Covid-19 website and compared their lists of symptoms for colds, flu and Covid. I realised that although I did not lose my sense of taste or smell I had other key symptoms; the dry hacking cough, extreme sore throat, unusual fatigue and bad headaches to start with.

I duly phoned the NHS Covid line and was advised to stay home and self-isolate as I was not considered ill enough to need hospitalisation. A few days later the first total lockdown was imposed. Having already been poorly I had had no chance to go out and stock up with supplies before the panic-buying frenzy set in and supermarket shelves were empty.

Our Parish Councillor and his wife rallied round for volunteers to set up a help scheme. The villagers who had been furloughed acted as runners to do shopping and get meds for those of us who were isolating or vulnerable. Also the pub landlords quickly set up a shop selling basic supplies and introduced a take away and delivery meal service.

I am truly thankful for this community support at such a difficult time. In addition I contacted some of my regular on-line grocery suppliers and managed to get some priority deliveries. Although the pressures on them were enormous so they were not always able to meet my needs.

A couple of times my sister Jenny, who lived in Hampshire at the time, did a 100 mile round trip to drop off shopping to our parents and me. She left groceries with mum and dad in Lancing, then came to me and ate her packed lunch in the garden before driving home again. She was not on total furlough but working reduced hours. To keep herself occupied she started making masks and face bands for nurses. Then she went into full scale production of scrubs when they found out she could sew! People donated old bed sheets and duvet covers to a central collection hub from where they were distributed to a network of volunteers. Even my brother-in-law helped by pressing and packing the finished products as they came off the assembly line. He was shielding and unable to work so it gave him something meaningful to do too.

For me the hardest part of early self-isolation was not being able to hold a telephone conversation due to the dreadful coughing. But being used to living on my own the isolation aspect did not affect me unduly. On the plus side the lack of road, rail and air traffic made sitting in the garden gloriously peaceful! I could hear the buzz of the insects and the rustling of birds and animals in the undergrowth. I am thankful for the lovely weather prevailing for most of that time.

I signed up to the Zoe C-19 research App on March 24th and have logged daily reports since then. As time went by it became clear from the data that there were far more symptoms to Covid than previously indicated.

Eventually I realised that I had long Covid as the overwhelming fatigue, breathing problems and strange skin conditions went on for months after the initial acute symptoms had passed. Some days were easier to cope with than others.

In the meantime my family were embarked on the lengthy process of relocating out of the Southeast. The plan was for my sister and brother-in-law to sell their house, our parents to sell theirs and find somewhere with a ‘granny annexe’ to all live together. This became fraught with all manner of logistical problems once Covid restrictions affected every aspect of our lives. With the sale of two properties (and their chains) to co-ordinate the whole process dragged on for a very long time.

Eventually they all settled into their new home in Fleetwood by the end of October 2020.

With no family left in the southeast I was now free to think about moving elsewhere. My brother-in-law persuaded me to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday and move asap.

And so begins the next part of my story

I spent many hours online looking for suitable property in either Dumfries and Galloway or Mid Wales. To cut a long story short I narrowed it down to Mid Wales, lined up a few properties to view and in August 2020 came to take a look.  I really liked a bungalow near Aberaeron and had an offer accepted in principle. I finished my short motorhome tour and headed back to Sussex. A few weeks later the owners withdrew from the market citing difficulty in finding a suitable onward property. By this time Covid restrictions were getting ever tighter due to effort to control the spread of the epidemic.

Meanwhile the local estate agent I appointed to sell my bungalow knew his stuff and had a plan. I accepted an offer for the full asking price before it was actually put on the market. The buyer had just been outbid on another bungalow in the same estate and was eager to snap mine up. Such is the popularity of rural villages in Sussex!

After more searching, many phone calls resulting in “sorry we sold it this morning” or similar I was getting desperate. In December my luck changed and I saw a very promising property. The estate agent’s website was not working properly, but eventually I managed to find Mallards on Google Maps street view. I had a strong suspicion that this could be “the one”. I duly rang the agent and was taken completely by surprise by the question “when would you like to view it?”

So on the Thursday before Christmas I headed for Wales. The entire hospitality sector was closed and the nearest cheap accommodation was the Travel Lodge just south of Hereford.

I arrived at Mallards in Penybont on Friday morning about ten minutes before the estate agent. After a quick look round the outside of the property in the drizzle I fell in love with the location. The rest, as they say is history.

After a quick look around the interior of the property I just knew that this was to be my forever home. I took lots of photos for future reference and headed south again. I stopped on the way to call my Estate Agent in Sussex with the news. He advised me on some pertinent questions to ask the Llandod agent before making an offer.

Within hours of being back in the Southeast it was announced that all borders to Wales were now closed indefinitely. Phew I made it just in the nick of time!

After increasing my initial offer, it was accepted by the Munroe family. I spent Christmas 2020 on my own for the first time in many many years.

As I mentioned in my introduction the local area was somewhat inundated with floodwater. But I joined a friend and her dog for a short sunny walk/paddle over Waltham Brooks in the morning. Followed that with a tasty lunch, then phone calls and video chats with my family and as many friends as possible. 

On Boxing Day I started sorting and packing my belongings. My buyers were keen to move in as soon as possible. This fact and the dawning enormity of relocating on my own sent me into a bit of a panic. Mindful of the stresses ahead I decided on a course of action to ease some of the pressure. I tried to find a rental property somewhere near Penybont for six months while the purchase of Mallards was going through.

Another round of making phone calls, sending emails and waiting for delayed responses ensued. It soon became clear that renting for anything less than 12 months was impossible. Normally a few places offering seasonal accommodation could be obliging in the low winter months, but ALL were closed due to lockdown. The Estate Agent fully understood my predicament and tried to help, but even with his contacts nothing could be found. I asked him if the family would consider allowing me to move in and rent until completion.  He persuaded them that I really was a genuine buyer and helped with drawing up a rental contract which came as a huge relief.

Now I could concentrate on the thorny issue of how to dispose of my surplus goods and chattels. With charity shops closed, their warehouses full, council tips highly restricted or completely closed what was I to do? A lot of old timber, paper and documents got fed into the fireplace to eke out the coal and firewood.

I boxed up hundreds of books which were eventually stored in a neighbour’s summerhouse until shops opened again. Like me she couldn’t bear to see good books burnt or thrown away. I sold or gave away a lot of furniture to reduce the bulk to be moved. Through another neighbour I found a couple with a van for hire who came round and removed rubbish and good stuff alike. It was cheaper than hiring a skip and they could collect as instalments were ready.

A good friend helped me with the contents of the garage and took away lots of tools that I had never quite got around to sorting out since my husband died.

I loaded camping gear and gas bottles into my motorhome and drove it to friends who kindly offered it free board and lodging on their farm while I moved. Another friend followed me and gave me a lift home. We then loaded her car with some of the plants I had been minding whilst SHE was in the process of moving. Little did we know at the time of offering that I would be settled in Wales before she finally completed her move in Portchester!

At last, a date was set, a removal company booked and the final countdown could begin.

In the last week I said my goodbyes to many friends and neighbours in person, but with some who were isolating it had to be a phone call. The weekly coffee morning in the village hall had long since been abandoned and I did not even know where some of the people lived. My real friends were happy for me and understood my reasons to move. But some neighbours clearly thought I was barking mad and could not comprehend my choosing to move to ‘the middle of nowhere’.

The removal guys, five hard-working Polish men, spent all day Saturday packing my belongings. On Sunday February 14th six men with five vans (just in case) loaded everything into the vans and drove off to their lock up near Slough for the night.

Meanwhile a whole posse of my lovely neighbours descended to help me clean the place out ready for the new occupants. By now I was running on empty and barely functioning. When another good neighbour arrived to bid me farewell, I could tell something was wrong. She told me that her dog had died the day before and apologised for not coming round sooner. I threw caution to the wind and gave her a big hug as I could see she was hurting at the loss of Bas. A whispered thank you was all the confirmation I needed to know that I had done the right thing.

After a final round of thanks and hugs I collapsed into the car and left Coldwaltham. I somehow made it to Portchester far later than planned to spend my last night in the Southeast. The friend whose plants I had been minding fed and watered me. She was camped out in her son’s vacant house, along with all her belongings, whilst waiting for the ‘right property’ to come along. We talked far too late after an already late dinner but had lots of catching up to do. Needless to say I was too keyed up to sleep well despite being exhausted.

The final part of my story starts on Monday February 15, 2021

I set off at 5.30am in the dark with torrential rain, sheets of water and fog to contend with until I neared the Severn Crossing. The weather improved as I drove up through the valleys, Abergavenny and neared Builth Wells. As I approached the roundabout by the Showground a complete rainbow spanned the hills behind. I took this as a good omen and put the awful journey behind me. Most definitely a ‘welcome in the hillside’.

It was already past 10.00am and I wondered if I would still get there before the removal men. Fat chance with their Slough depot located just off the M4.

Upon my arrival they were just unloading the last of the outdoor stuff into the sheds and garden. Whilst they shuffled the vans around I unlocked, put a room plan on the wall and ran round labelling the rooms with numbers. Six pairs of muddy boots trampled muck everywhere as they brought all the furniture, boxes and bags indoors.

Mostly my numbering plan worked and stuff more or less ended up in the right rooms.

I think it was about mid-afternoon on Monday February 15th when I waved off the removal team. That was when I first met Lynda, who just happened to be walking past. After introductions and a quick chat I went indoors and put my feet up with a cuppa to enjoy complete silence and a fabulous view.

The next few weeks passed in a blur of emptying boxes, watching the birds and taking stock. I gradually got to know more people as they called round to introduce themselves or stopped for a chat in passing. I must mention Lynda again as she helped put me in touch with local trades and services and signed me up to the Penybont Facebook page.

One sunny day I was out walking on the common when my phone pinged to tell me that the Thomas Shop had opened again for business. I was eagerly looking forward to exploring the museum and was a tad disappointed to find only the tea shop garden was open. However, the delicious home-made cake served by the river more than made up for that.

The Penybont Open Gardens event provided the opportunity to meet fellow gardeners and pick their brains on what to grow. Having gardened on light sandy soils for thirty years the switch to heavy waterlogged clay was going to be interesting. I needed all the help and advice I could get for the challenges ahead.

I soon joined the Sewing Goup when they started meeting again. A weekly excuse to indulge in more home-made cake whilst chatting and helping each other with projects.  Then came visits to the History Group meetings with more friends to be made.

Apologies to Chris for taking so long to attend a Coffee Morning, but random appointments and trips away often seem to clash with that particular Monday of the month.

As the deadline for the stamp duty holiday was fast approaching, I resigned myself to missing it. I was relieved when it was extended to the end of June to deal with the huge backlog of property sales in progress.

It turned out that I needed those extra months and completed with just days to spare.

At last I was the proud and privileged owner of a tiny piece of Wales!

During my life I have lived in many different places and travelled overseas but never really felt homesick until I came here. Each day at Mallards feels like a holiday, surrounded by such lovely scenery and blessed with friendly neighbours. When I go away to visit friends or take a turn looking after my parents I long to be back here in Penybont.

I feel like I belong in Penybont now and look forward to making more friends, having old friends to stay and finishing the renovations. 

Gill Holt’s Poem, about the experience at Midway Nurseries through the Pandemic, was then read by Jill from Rhayader.

“Covid at the Garden Centre, Penybont”

It spread out slowly, like a creeping vine

Affecting everything, all down the line

Stockpiling customers grabbed what they could

Fearing a tough time, as well they should.

It was quite surreal as we were told to close

Staff stood down; the economy froze

But plants still grow and cannot wait

For Mark Drakeford to open the gate.

With zero footfall, the phone started ringing

Facebook was hot, emails were pinging

We did our best and booked a time slot

For people to come and pick up their lot.

We spent all our time trying to answer each call

Pick orders, pack boxes, deliver them all.

Whilst everyone else was in lock down mode

We were heading for work overload.

When told to open, at Government insistence

The masks went on, and we kept social distance.

Hands were sanitized, trolleys were wiped clean

Tempers were frayed, and I served through a screen.

The firebreak lockdown and Christmas closed

Were some more of the measures imposed

But this time was quiet, it wasn’t high season

We tidied up things and potted some trees on.

But what a long wait, not selling a thing

Until we opened once more in the Spring.

After jabs, boosters and strong vaccination

We ended our Covid stay home vacation.

Of course, we couldn’t believe our luck

Until the Omicron variant struck

As our busiest work time started to tire us

We all went down with the dreaded virus.

Closed once more, we worked on through

Pricking out seedlings, sweating with flu

By following isolation rules to the letter

We all recovered and felt much better

It may not yet be completely behind us

Covid will still try to seek out and find us

But the NHS army is ready once more

And we are prepared as never before.

Geraint did a summary of some of the main impressions left by Covid 19.

Geraint then asked a few pertinent questions:

PENYBONT AREA COVID SURVEY

How many people from the Ithon Valley do you know of who have been infected with the virus?

Quite a significant number of the members had had the virus.  

How many people from the Ithon Valley do you know of who died from Covid 19?

 Not so many people, died but a few did.

 How did the pandemic affect your life?

 The pandemic impacted on everyone’s life as we have seen in the stories above.

 Did you suffer significant financial loss from the pandemic?

As came out in the reports some people had more difficult times while others benefitted.

 How well did our community react to the pandemic?

There is no doubt that the pandemic did build a greater sense of community.

Geraint thanked Shirley for another excellent morning where we learnt at lot about ourselves and how we face adversity.

The next session is on 3rd October at 10.30 a.m. will be Restoring Llandegley School – Chris Rose

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes

6th June 2022

Main Topic: Medieval Llanbadarn Fawr – Castle, Mill, Church and Village – Geraint Hughes

Geraint welcomed members to another History Group session where he is to be the main speaker.

He announced that the next meeting on 4th July will be a walk that is based on this mornings talk. The plan for the Walk is to meet at Llanbadarn Bridge at 10.00 a.m. and to explore the ancient settlement as far as Alpine bridge.

We do not meet in August.

At the 5th September meeting we hope to record the experience of living through the Covid years and to document this for future historical record.  Please can members record their experiences of the pandemic and how they or their family and friends were affected by it. Ay the session we hope that members will read, or speak to this. It would be wonderful if members know of someone whose life was affected, if they could interview or record their story. Shirely has been involved with Dolau School and the children are doing something across their different age groups.

Elizabeth brought member attention to two Radnorshire Society events: Friday 10th Talk by Philip Hume at New Radnor Community Centre on; The Ludlow Castle Heraldic Roll followed by visit on Saturday 11th to view it and a trip around Ludlow Castle area.

Main Topic: Medieval Llanbadarn Fawr – Castle, Mill, Church and Village

Geraint started by encouraging members to pretend that we are all back in the 11th Century. To take us back there the first slide was a brilliant picture that had been painted by Christine Haslock representing the ancient Norman village and its surrounds:

 In making sense of the topography it is important to recognise that going upwards from the map is to go south, with the Roman Road to Castell Collen near Llanyre , and North to Caersws, a significant Roman settlement. The road to the East takes to the important Roman town of Wroxeter, an important Roman town on the edge of Shrewsbury.

Geraint was bemused by the fact that he lived within this very place and while being involved with the church, and aware of the Mill and the castle, he knew nothing of the history, or even the existence, of the ‘village’.

  1. The Old Castle – ‘Diniethon’

Thanks to the amazing aerial photography of Julian Ravest we can now begin to see the Old Castle quite clearly down in the bottom left corner with the Motte and going out from it the Bailey towards the farm. The river provides protection and the steepness of the Motte becomes much more apparent at ground level:

The steep sides, unlike in the article: http://www.elystan.co.uk/castles

Does give rise to this being called the ‘Citadel on the Ithon’ was referred to by Elystan Glodryth, 1010 AD, as a castle in a lovely little valley, built very much in the Celtic tradition, the Normans much preferring their castles on high ground like Cefnllys. The Celts preferred to fight and defend their territory on open ground. The Mortimers did however sometimes occupy the old Celtic Castles such as the Mortimers who occupied and rebuilt the Cymaron Castle as their base for ruling over the Cantref of Maelienydd. https://mortimerhistorysociety.org.uk/the-mortimers/mortimer-castles/cymaron-castle/

 Geraint’s research identified more specific information relating to Diniethon Castle:

According to a Sixteenth Century manuscript known as Llanstephan 56  it is listed as a “Cestylh Elystan Glodrydh” (died 1010). Named as “Castell Cebhyn y lhys o bhywn Melendh, ac yno yr oedh hen gastelh o’r blaen”.

Cymaron also listed as belonging to Elystan. Re-Built/Captured between 1093/5 by the Marcher Lord Ralph de Mortemer (1070 – 1104).

Ralph was born in Normandy and was granted lands in Herefordshire and Shropshire by William the Conqueror before 1086. He established his castle at Wigmore. He had two sons, Roger and Hugh.”

The illustration of the Mortimer’s home Castle at Wigmore shows a very impressive fortified structure which may have been thought about for Diniethon before the developments at Cefnllys took precedence.

The tumph in this sketch is not unlike the one at Lanbadarn Fawr and Geraint speculated that this might have been the ambition before Cefnllys took precedence.

All that is left a Wigmore today is:

The tump at Wigmore is clearly seen by the steep sides that fall away from the entrance. The Normans illustrated the defensive nature of this type of construction in this tapestry:

If we look at the photo below we can see a similarity in the Old Castle, Diniethon, at Llanbadarn Fawr.

The fortifications were enhanced by the River Ithon. The Old Castle sweeping down to the spectacular Alpine Bridge.

The History of the Castle goes back to a time when the Welsh Princes were in the ascendency.

“Old Castle was captured by Madog ap Idnerth (1056-1140) in 1134/5

It was rebuilt by Madog’s son Cadwallon in 1165.

 It is not mentioned after Cadwallon’s death in 1179.

Old Castle was in use from ?1000  to 1179 (180 years)

Old Castle was replaced by Ralph’s great-grandson, another Ralph Mortimer (1198 – 1246) with new fortifications at Cefnllys in 1242.”

  • Trelowgoed Mill

We are not quite clear on the date the Mill started but the building is old if we go by the thickness of the walls. Geraint speculated that it might have been built during a similar period to the Old Castle. The picture below shows the Mill with its wheel.

The Mill House, referred to as “Ye Olde Mill” is seen in the slide below having groceries delivered from the Emporium in Llandrindod.

G.W. Ridyard in his “Supplementary Notes on the Water Mills of Radnorshire – Part IV” has a section on Trelowgoed Mill.

He refers to the fact that the Mill was working into the 1940’s but by 1950 it was no longer active.

The leet is described as very short, about 100 ft, comes from a weir nearby. Geraint says that even today the leet brings water lapping at the front door of the house in heavy rains.

The wheel was an ‘over-shot’ wheel, described by Ridyard as not the most efficient, and can be seen here with Artie Lewis and his sister in the 1930’s:

And showing the wheel in more detail:

There is more detail on the ownership and occupants of the Mill in the 19th Century at: https://welshmills.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/G-W-Ridyard-Supplimentary-Notes-on-the-Watermills-of-Radnorshire-Pt-IV-Melin-13.pdf

As a minor deviation, Geraint put up a slide of an old Tythe Map of the area around the Mill, which also identified a ‘Parsonage’.

The property has completely disappeared, and Geraint is glad that he did not have to reside there.

  • St. Padarn’s Church, Llanbadarn Fawr

The Church is ‘home’ territory for Geraint, but there are lots of questions that still arise about its origins. The Old Church:

Looks to be quite a simple construction but, if it dates back to the time of the Castle, then maybe the ambitions were for something much greater. The doorway certainly suggests that it had ambitions, as with the Castle, to rival its namesake near Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, which has been described as one of the most important early Christian settlements in Wales. (Interestingly, Gerald of Wales describes spending a night in Llanbadarn Fawr Church, Aberystwyth, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Baldwin, in 1188. The same year that the pair also visited  Crug Eryr when recruiting for the 3rd Crusade.)

https://historypoints.org/index.php?page=st-padarn-s-church-llanbadarn-fawr

Coming back to the Old Church here in Radnorshire, it was demolished in the Victorian era, and rebuilt in 1878/9. The Architect, Stephen Williams has sometimes been described as being responsible for ‘5 ugly’ churches in Radnorshire. Geraint feels that this is an unfair assessment of the man and his churches.

The doorway has however remained and is a subject of academic interest. The article by Rita Wood and David Stephenson, printed in Archaeologica Cambrensis Vol 156 2007 pp 51-72, is a must read. http://www.rwromanesque.co.uk/pdf-2018/LLANBADARN%20FAWR%20paper%2022%20-%20Copy.pdf  

Geraint would say that ‘the Norman Church was built in the early years of the 12th century while Ralph Mortimer I was holding Castell Dinieithon (Old Castle). The Carving is believed to have been done by members of the Dymock School of carvers’. Rita Wood does, at one point in her article, postulate that the quality of the carving did suggest this, but later in the article she questions this in relation to what she believes was the carver’s adherence to local clerical interventions. What is clear is that the carving displays a quality equivalent to that of the Dymock School. This was a ‘grand entrance’ to a very modest church.

The tympanum is one of only two to have survived in situ in Wales – the other is at Penmon in Anglesey. (Another one was found in a farmyard at Abbeycwmhyr.)

The carving depicts Paradise with the tree of life in the centre and two lions. The suggestion is that the cats head is the head of a risen and triumphant Christ. The star then represents Christ as the light of the world.

Carvings of dragons below represent the devil.

The two figures to the left may be Adam and Eve OR Padarn and Reaus his servant whom he healed (Geraint is not convinced by this explanation relating to St Padarn).

The Norman head may be Ralph Mortimer. Geraint asked if we thought it looked like him?

The dragon eating its tail, the Ouroboros, emblematic serpent of ancient Egypt and Greece, represented with its tail in its mouth, continually devouring itself and being reborn from itself. A gnostic and alchemical symbol, Ouroboros expresses the unity of all things, material and spiritual, which never disappear but perpetually change form in an eternal cycle of destruction and re-creation.

Then there is the Roman Stone reused following the demolition of the Old Church is possibly from Capel Maelog, the ancient Church near the Lake in Llandrindod Wells, the stone having come from the Roman Fort, Castell Collen, situated between Llandrindod and Llanyre.

High up above the doorway there is an additional carving, possibly from the Old Church, that has been put ‘out of the way’. It appears to be a ‘Sheela Na Gig’, but it only has a part of a full Sheela and has therefore not been classified as such. (See: https://penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/2022/03/20/penybont-and-district-history-group-notes-7/ )

There is an old Font in Llanbadarn Fawr Church, standing beside a new Font. It has features that relate back to the Norman Period. The Cover, dated 1678 is particularly fine.

There are a number of dedications that are worthy of mentioning:

John Price who had taken on in 1734, what has subsequently become known as the Thomas Shop, the original shop started by his father in 1730, at the age of 11 years, and who became a publican, then a Banker, and who served as High Sheriff, is commemorated as:

John’s elder daughter Elizabeth is also mentioned. She died before John, who, despite never marrying, had a second daughter, Mary Ann. She married John Cheesement Severn and they are also commemorated in the Church:

John and Mary Ann’s son John Percy Severn, who qualified as a Barrister, is then also commemorated:

The Severn Vaults are accessible and Geraint remembers visiting them, somewhat tentatively, with Neil’s father.

A whole family of Rectors is also commemorated within the Church, three generations of the Jones family who all served within Llanbadarn Fawr Church:

They seem to have succeeded each other deservedly!

  • The Village of Llanbadarn Fawr

The last item on Geraint’s list was the idea of a village associated with the Church. He was able to tell us that a eminent Professor Bowen, in his book ‘Settlement of Celtic Saints’ that settlements of Celtic people were generally not beside their Churches. He felt that Llanbadarn Fawr was typical of his theory.

The field beside the Church certainly does not look like the site of a village?

The recent developments with aerial photography have questioned whether this is in fact true. Julian Ravest locally, who gave a talk to our group ‘New Angels over Penybont’ in December 2018, ( https://penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/penybont-and-district-history-group-notes-5th-december-2018-meeting-main-topic-new-angels-on-penybont-julian-ravest/ ) may have disproved Professor Bowen’s theory.

When we look at a picture taken by Julian’s Drone of the same field we get:

Julian uses Lidar resolutions to get 3d effects within his photographs. This gives an even more graphic picture of the same fields:

Geraint is convinced that these diagrams indicate road systems that connect people, dwellings and businesses operating in Llanbadarn Fawr alongside the church. The field that we saw in the initial photo gives a clear indication of ridge a furrow cultivation, this again suggests people living adjacent.

Another factor that might suggest that there were medieval buildings in the ‘village’ are some of the timbers that have been reused in adjacent barns:

The lattice work in the barns raises similar questions, why would they have done this if it was not for a dwelling:

We will walk to these examples next time and draw our own conclusions.

  • Discussion

Marion said that she was not entirely convinced that the Old Castle would have been stone, it was more likely to have been wooden and it was amazing what could be done with the materials on hand. No excavations have ever been carried out. Geraint said he had explored with a metal-detector but had only found 3 horse shoes!

Mo wondered why the Church was dedicated to St Pardarn, a 6th century Celtic Saint? He derived from Arkonfield in Herefordshire, had links to Brittany, and then to Aberystwyth.  No one knows the answer to this, in many ways the natural Saint would have been St Michael.

Somehow, this led on to a discussion about the Battle of Brecon in 1093, when Rhys ap Tewdwr was killed, and how History is written by the conquerors. The Celts are often portrayed as living in the ‘wild west’ in somewhat uncivilised conditions. The truth was that the Celts were highly sophisticated and well organised. Their Castles were enclosures rather than the Norman defensive castles designed for war.

Harold then asked: ‘What about the Saxons?’ New Radnor was Saxon. Motte and Bailey Castles were Norman, they often used the sites of ancient Welsh Castles, but the Norman’s were intent on defending their positions and dominating the territory they had dominion over.

Geraint finished by encouraging the members present to get out and dig for Llanbadarn Fawr!

Derek thanked Geraint for a brilliant talk and we all look forward to the walk next time. 10.00 a.m. at Llanbadarn Fawr Bridge on Monday 4th July 2022. See you then.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

Platinum Jubilee Edition

9th May 2022

Main Topic: Royal Celebrations in the Locality – Shirley Morgan

Geraint welcomed a smaller than usual group to the meeting and explained that today’s talk was part of getting together a display for the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations on 3rd June on the Ddole. Geraint encouraged members to still find any memorabilia for the display after the session this morning and also pleaded for help in setting up the display in June as well as ‘manning’ the stall in the afternoon.

Our next History Group is on the 6th June when Geraint himself is leading a talk on ‘Norman Llanbadarn Fawr – Church, Castle, Mill & Village.

On the 4th July will be our annual walk when we will meet at Llanbadarn Bridge and take in the Old Castle, Alpine Bridge, Llanbadarn Fawr Church and Village.

For the session in September Geraint made a special plea for help in pulling together ‘experiences of the Pandemic in the area’. Geraint hopes that we will be able to record the experiences of businesses, families, and the community and how life was impacted during this extraordinary time.

Derek mentioned that hard copies of the Notes of our Meetings are no longer being printed off as the Notes run into many pages. They are on line and can be accessed through Google, and the Community Council website. Derek also said that he sends and email copy to anyone who gives him their email address, and if members register on the site a copy is automatically sent to them.

Main Topic:- Royal Celebrations in this Locality

 Shirley opened by thanking several members who had been a great help in putting the presentation together: – Marion, Barbara, Norma, Lynda and many more.

Shirley started by considering the celebrations that are coming up at the beginning of June this year, 2022, and posing the question: “What is it that makes the monarchy in these lands so enduring?”

It has not always been plain sailing; the monarchy has had to navigate some tricky situations and undergo harsh scrutiny from the media of the day. However, through good and bad times they have remained probably the most influential monarchy in the world.

So, what is it that draws us to this archaic institution with its quaint rules and customs? Shirley wondered if we were hoodwinked by the ideology of romance and sentimentality? A recent Yougov poll over 65 percent of people in the UK strongly and enthusiastically supported the monarchy. Maybe, Shirley wondered, if we were ‘hard-wired’ to respect the throne? Or, is the soap opera format: Elizabeth and Philip; Posh and Becks; a supposed idyllic family, warts and all: or maybe it is the pomp and ceremony; the glorious music; what will it be like next time?

Britain’s only flirtation with Republicanism was not a success, so perhaps the enduring popularity is simply due to its own success. In more recent times they have adapted to new  technology: – George V made the first Christmas broadcast and the Queen has become adept at using Zoom with ease and this has brought the monarchy into our own homes.

Then again; maybe it is just ‘party time’. Party time and memorabilia are the occasions that often seem to define us as a nation. Festivities encourage a community spirit when people come together to have fun decorating, baking, etc. Parks, and streets are sometimes named after a particular event. A good example is the arch at Cwmystwyth that was built to mark the Golden Jubillee of George III in 1810 by Thomas Johnes, owner of the nearby Hafod Estate.

https://www.stayinwales.co.uk/wales_picture.cfm?p=3454

Probably, most remembrances have been ceramic, mainly mugs, and coins. Easy and cheap to reproduce they were everywhere. Then and even today they generally have no commercial value but do provide an important link to important occasions.

In Charles II’s reign a shipload of pencils had been ordered from China. When they arrived the had spelt Jubilee as Jubly! Things have since improved, and people keep these objects of memorabilia for sentimental reasons. Marion’s Mum had obtained 53 different newspapers and magazines produced for the Coronation of Elizabeth. These she wrapped up and preserved them in prime condition.

This new Elizabethan age started in 1953 and heralded a fresh start after the traumas of 2nd World War. Rationing was still a fact of everyday life and many bomb sites had not changed much since the end of the war.

Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother provided very strong links to what very soon became a bygone age. Elizabeth and Philip had become the ‘Posh and Becks’ of what was very quickly to become ‘the new Elizabethan Age’.

They were already seen as an idyllic family and presented as ‘iconic’! Elizabeth would become Queen. The Coronation would be perfect. There would be glorious music, out of this world fashion, beautiful flowers, a pageant on a global stage.

But it rained on Coronation Day! Did it matter, No! 3 million flag waving people were there to witness the event. Many camped out with no plastic for cover. It was a day of celebration on the street with pomp and ceremony inside Westminster Abbey where Elizabeth took the Oath and was anointed Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, in her Norman Hartnell dress that symbolised the Commonwealth.

1953 really was the beginning of a new era, the New Elizabethan Age, so many things were changing: Everest had been conquered; Rock n’ Roll was sweeping the country and; while rationing had not quite ended, there was a new optimism about what this new age would bring.

This Coronation was the first to be televised and, while it boosted sales of televisions, only a small percentage of homes had one to watch. People often crowded into friend’s and relative’s homes, all squashed together, to watch a tiny box in the corner of the room.

The film of the event went all around the world, indeed I remember still my first visit to the cinema, in Belfast, to watch the Coronation. Those watching on television or in a cinema would probably not have had the order of service document, now something of a collectors must have:

More available would have been this booklet covering the events in London:

The Coronation took 14 months to organise and we can see from local records that they took nearly as long here in Penybont and they were almost as complicated as in London!

Local Authorities and Local Committees, set up for the purpose, made presentations to the children:

Every child in Radnorshire got a New Testament, but what they were given more locally varied. Shirley got a China cup and saucer in Cefn Llys.  Books, hats, coins, and stamps were other options.

In order to get things right the was a certain amount of bureaucracy developed with complex pro forma documents to complete. These all went to a Mr. Beynon, Director of Education, who showed a sense of deference, honesty and diligence, which Shirley feels is often absent today.

Taken at Bryn Thomas this photo shows, Margaret, Gerald Bufton, Shirley, herself, Shirley’s Sister, Her Dad and Mum when the children were given their cups and saucers as well as Crepe Paper Hats.

Mr Beynon then compiled lists, some of which Shirley shared with the members:

The Llanbarnfawr list:

As well as a list of names Mr. Beynon also wanted to know if the child would want a New Testament in English, Welsh or a Roman Catholic version.

Three children in the Parish requested the Welsh translation but none the Roman Catholic version.

In Llandegley there were 2 children who requested the Welsh translation. This related to families who had come to work on the Duggan’s farm who were Welsh speaking.

Mr. Beynon had some challenges due to the boundaries with English local authorities. This letter is not in this area, but it illustrates the point and the precise cost. 1s 6¾d per memorial spoon multiplied by 34 children came to £2 13s 2d.

Mr. Beynon was receiving letters from different communities who were experiencing problems. In Dolau it was to help with a newly born infant:

In Bleddfa there was a Roman Catholic Child on two lists:

From Cefnllys he received a form with all the right information but none of it in the right place:

In Llandegley there was excitement building to present the New Testaments and tea sets, including cup, saucer and a plate, to the children at a tea party for 300 guests, the suggestion was to include the presentation of the New Testaments being supplied by the Local Authority:

When the event was reported in the press the saga of the New Testaments continued as they did not arrive, they were ‘lost in transit’?!

It was good to note however that John Abberley was mentioned for his prowess in coming in 3rd in 440 yards race, and 2nd in the mile race. There was also good news for the children, there was money left over from the event and those that could would be taken to the cinema to see the Coronation, and any left over after that was given to the children.

Not only did Dolau have a ‘High Tea’ but they were also treated to a Children’s Drama – ‘Grandma’s Hundredth Birthday’ before going into the inevitable Sports event. John Bufton did well with a mention in the 12 and under race and coming first, he was 3rd in the sack race, 2nd in the wheelbarrow race and the John Bufton Team won the 7 a-side football. Carol Richards also got a 3rd in the 3 legged race.

Llanddewi by contrast had a ‘Meat Tea’.

Radnorshire had a programme of events for the county covering May, June and July. The only event in our district was a tea and sports event at Cefnllys at the end of June.

The only souvenir of this particular event that Shirley could illustrate was:

Fun for all the family!

Street Parties and mugs were back!

Shirley’s next slide came as a bit of a surprise and we wondered on the connection to the Silver Jubilee, but it seemed important to the B&R at the time:

Shirley’s next slide came as a bit of a surprise and we wondered on the connection to the Silver Jubilee, but it seemed important to the B&R at the time:

The next 3 slides take us beyond our boundaries to Llandrindod Wells but Shirley brings us back home when we realise that this was all building up to the role of Rev Geraint Hughes in taking the Prayers and Rosemary’s role in cutting the cake.

Shirley then came closer to home and took us to Crossgates where the former Primary School building was given to the community to be a Community Centre.

In Crossgates they also celebrated with a carnival:

While the Queen was taking the salute in London, it was at Bryn Thomas that Cefnllys celebrated the Golden Jubilee. A local boy, Captain Nicholas Ulvert, of the Gibson-Watt family, was involved in the State Procession on horse on the big day, and not being a ‘horsey boy’ he never wanted to see a horse again.

On the 12th June 2002, as part of her Golden Jubilee Tour, the Queen came to the big event of the her reign, when she arrived by steam train at the much admired Dolau Station to meet the children of Powys in Watkin’s field.

To conclude her talk Shirley would show the Frank Morgan film of the event and a short BBC film can be seen at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03rm1z9 

But before then we need to celebrate the next 10 years of her reign.

There was a “Queen’s Jubilee Service at Llandegley Church at 6 p.m. About 45 people attended.

On the Monday: Party on the Race Course at Penybont with Sports, Races, Football and Tea. A large crowd of people from the area were there to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.

Fun for all the family:

And, who is this? Geraint and Rosemary getting into the swing of things.

Suzanna celebrating in style:

Shirley finished her talk with this statement of intent from the Queen.

The film of the Dolau event in 2002 concluded a talk full of nostalgia and community spirit.

In the discussion that followed Marion referred to a memorial bread knife that belonged to her mother. Steve Milward-Cox topped everything by talking about the fact that his father he was in the Household Cavalry in 1953 and was there for the Coronation. Wow!

Don’t forget Geraint will be talking on the subject of ‘Norman Llanbadarnfawr – Church, Castle, Mill & Village’ on Monday June 6th in the Community Centre. Not to be missed and a great way to finish a celebratory week-end. Hope to see you there.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

4th April 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Main Topic: A History of the Metropole Hotel

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

  1. Humphrey Morgan

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

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

  1. The Mineral Waters

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

The map of Wales illustrates a similar romance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Enclosure Act 1862

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

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

The map below shows Llandrindod Common before the Enclosure Act:

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

  • The Coming of the Railway 1865

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Over to Norma Baird-Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Enter the connection with Penybont. John Wilding,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norma finished with 2 lovely stories about the Metropole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penybont and District History Group Notes

7th March 2022

Main Topic: A Radnorshire Miscellany – Dr Marion Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Topic: Radnorshire Miscellany – Dr Marion Evans

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

  1. Sheela-Na-Gig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myths Associated with Sheela-Na-Gig

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

Theories Associated with Sheela-Na-Gig

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

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

  • Steorfan

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

  • Curious Incident of the Murder of St Thomas Becket 1170

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

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

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

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

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

  • King’s Rent Hole – Llanbister

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

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

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

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

  • A Medieval Mystery or Two
Eagle Public House

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

The Eagle is often associated with St John the Evangelist:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the house could be something like:

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

She finished by presenting the members with 3 questions:

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

 Discussion

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

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

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

Penybont and District History Group Notes

7th February 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1851

1891

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1841 three paupers

1851 eight paupers, one relieving officer and a tramp

1861 none

1871 one vagrant

1881 one pauper

1891 one pauper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penybont and District History Group Notes

6th December 2021

Main Topic: Local Christmas and New Year Traditions

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

  1. Early Carols

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mari Lwyd

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

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

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

  • Traditional Carol Singing

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

  • Last Sleeping Dragon in Wales

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

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

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

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

Though as yet, the time is not here,

Someday, soon, the land will need it.

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

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

Romans came and marched and conquered,

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

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

Made them twist through mist and mountains,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘One God only’ says the Bible

The Ring of Churches holds the Dragon.

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

Word and song in the Eisteddfod keep alive the ancient wisdom

Reawaken the old wisdom, that the Land itself is magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knew ‘twas Earth that held the magic

Eons pass, but Lo, the Earth wins

  • Mummers Plays

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

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

‘Let Our Sleeping Dragon Lie’ by Derek Turner

 Characters:                                               Cast

St Patrick                                                     Derek Turner

Archangel Michael                                      Marion Evans

Caratacus                                                    Elizabeth Newman

Emperor Claudius                                       Shirley Morgan

Giraldus Cambrensis                                  Jill Willey

Archbishop Baldwin                                    Mary Davies

Roger Mortimer                                           Steve Millward-Cox

Llewelyn ap Gruffudd                                 Chris Millward-Cox

John Morgan Evans                                   Jenny Bowman

Yardley Warner                                           Janet Mathews

Archdeacon Henry De Winton                   Geraint Hughes

Rev Geraint Morgan Hugh Hughes          Ellen Turner

Scene 1:

Enter St Patrick shamrock in hand

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

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

Having chased the snakes of that fair land

It is with a dragon I need to lend a hand

Environmentalists I am told

Love their dragons to behold

No love for dragons have I

This dragon must surely die

Enter the Archangel Michael

As the Defender of the Faith and official Dragon Slayer 

I, the Archangel Michael, would ask you to defer

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

A dragon that is hiding in the Radnorshire hills

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

A ring of my churches will this dragon keep

You can visit them this Christmastide

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

This dragon sleeps contentedly they say

As long as my churches are open to those who pray

Enter Roger Mortimer carrying a sword

Well, there you have it in a nutshell

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

A dragon sleeping could arise

So, I will plan his/her swift demise

Scene 2:

Enter Caratacus carrying a leek

It is not dragons that we need to slay

The invading Romans seem to want to stay

Usurping land and houses for their second homes

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

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

An Emperor Claudius to sway

Aside: All Hail the Emperor Claudius!

Enter Emperor Claudius

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

This splendid youth, this very talented Caratacus

And he sings so very, very well

He could pass for a future day Bryn Terfel

Enter the Archangel Michael

Caratacus maybe in Rome

But I am very much at home

Do not worry I am not asleep

A dragon sleeping, it is my duty to keep

Scene 3

Enter Roger Mortimer carrying a sword

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

That Michael and his dragon still have something to fear

I will slay dragons wherever they can be found

Both here and on Holy ground

Enter Giraldus Cambrensis

I, Giraldus Cambrensis, have been in Radnorshire once before

But this ended badly in the church at Llanbadarnfawr

The priests would not the laws of Rome obey

As Archdeacon of Brecon, I simply wanted them to pray

They would have none of it however

And to escape I had to be quite clever

 I am now coming up from New Radnor

With Archbishop Baldwin to Crug Eyryr

Fighting dragons is his game

But in lands that have a foreign name

Recruiting for the third Crusade is his main endeavour

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

“Make way for Archbishop Baldwin!”

Enter Archbishop Baldwin

You have met my friend Giraldus from Wales

A polymath, chronicler and teller of tall tales

We are close, he could even be my brother

Two clerics striving to support each other

We have walked up to this castle in Maelienydd

Near to where, I am told, a dragon sleepeth

My attention is drawn to foreign shores

Hopefully we will not hear how the dragon roars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 4:

 

 Enter Roger Mortimer carrying a sword

Well, here I am again and ready for a fight

A dragon slain is not a pretty sight

Maelienyth has no dominion in these parts

Llewellyn ap Gruffudd is just a young upstart

He may think he has won the siege

But at Cefnllys I will gain even more prestige 

From not one but two castles on a rock

Will reverberate a terrible shock

Everywhere blood and gore

And the dragon will be no more

Enter Llewelyn ap Gruffudd also carrying a sword

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

But have they forgotten about Prince Charles?

It is you Roger Mortimer I would depose

While the dragon continues its deep repose

They fight and Llewelyn drops to the ground dead!

Enter the Archangel Michael

Shock and horror everywhere

But good people do not despair

I the Archangel Michael am still here

Llewelyn will soon reappear

I am sure he is not dead

A Doctor is what is needed instead

Is there a Doctor in the house?

A Bone Setter would do if we have no choice

Enter John Morgan Evans – Bone Setter / Doctor

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

But how else could I get into this rhyme

Who is this man upon the ground

Whom the Archangel Michael has just found

Llewelyn ap Gruffudd I am told

He is quite a sight to behold

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

And now back to the Faldau and to more bone setting

Llewelyn Ap Gruffudd rises

There you see I am resurrected

That Bone Setter should be respected

Mortimer’s ambitions have not come to an end

To kill a dragon, he will just suspend

But beware he has a future plan in hand

At our Hiring Fairs he just might take a stand

Scene 5:

Enter Roger Mortimer still carrying his sword

You might think that I have gone already

But as a Marcher Lord I remain quite steady

If this sleeping dragon will not die

When he wakes up, I just might try

Enter Yardley Warner

I am Yardley Warner the Freedman’s Friend

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

The dragon awakes I know not how

These hiring fairs should be stopped right now

The vice and the sin make me quite cross

 But my Quaker control leaves me at a loss

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

Never once having used the cane

Enter Archdeacon Henry De Winton

As Archdeacon Henry De Winton Rector at Holy Trinity

All I was doing was trying to save some money

With the roof off at Cefnllys

The dragon sensed a quick release

To get things back on track

I soon had the roof put back

With our dragon snoring again

Let’s finish with a Christmas refrain

Happy Christmas one and all

The Archangel Michael might come to call

Enter Archangel Michael

My five Churches must endure

A diverse future to secure

A dragon sleeping is my aim

A rich ancient culture to sustain

Even Owain Glyndwr’s daughter

Would you believe, married a Mortimer

Scene 6

Enter Rev Geraint Morgan Hugh Hughes

My name is Geraint, but you will know that already

Whoever heard of a dragon sleeping in Llandegley

Maybe an aeroplane taking off perchance

Taking mythical dragons back home to France

From Llanbadarn Fawr the children I took

To the top of Cefnllys, just to have a look

From Gorseinon to Oystermouth and on to Llanbadarn Fawr

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

Retirement brought me back to lovely, gentle Penybont

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

The youth of today have dragons of their own

A climate to master and windmills to drone

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Christmas to all and best wishes for 2022.

Penybont and District History Group Notes

1st November 2021

Main Topic: Our Community in WW II – Geraint Hughes

Penybont and District History Group Notes

1st November 2021

Main Topic: Our Community in WW II – Geraint Hughes

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

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

The Exhibition:

Lost Lives

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

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

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

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

Geraint then told the group of the coming events.

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

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

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

Main Topic: – Our Community during World War ll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a typical weekly food ration for an adult:

Bacon & Ham         4 oz

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

Butter                      2 oz

Cheese                     2 oz

Margarine              4 oz

Cooking fat            4 oz

Milk                       3 pints

Sugar                    8 oz

Preserves            1 lb every 2 months

Tea                        2 oz

Eggs                     1 fresh egg (plus allowance of dried egg)

Sweets                  12 oz every 4 weeks

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

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

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

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

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

The number of children attending Llandegley School doubled over night:

Llandegley School Evacuees

Arrival                  Name                              Address               From                    

8.7.40                   Sheila Carter                 Ffaldau                 Willenhall             

8.7.40                   Peter Pope                     Carnau                 Willenhall             

8.7.40                   Valerie Pope                  Carnau                 Willenhall             

27.8.40                 David Crossley              Red Cote               Hove                   

9.9.40                   Joyce Bladen                 Swydd                  Brynmill, Swansea   

9.9.40                   Peter Myers                   Redcote                Brighton                   

2.12.40                 Patricia Abbot                Carnau                 Coventry                      

2.12.40                 Josephine Abbot           Carnau                Coventry                       

7.1.41                   Annette Ward-Hicks     Carnau                 Walthamstow                

7.1.41                   Wendy Ward-Hicks       Carnau                 Walthamstow                

9.1.41                   Forden Burke                Ffaldau                 Seaforth                             

9.1.41                   Thomas Burke               Ffaldau                 Seaforth                             

13.1.41                 Mavis Wright                  Little Graig Seaforth              

23.1.41                 Patricia Cunningham    Vicarage               Seaforth                   

23.1.41                 Mary Cunningham        Vicarage               Seaforth                   

23.1.41                 Edith Dwyer                   Vicarage               Seaforth                   

15.1.41                 Mary Kinsella                 Larch Grove         Seaforth                   

15.1.41                 Alice Kinsella                 Larch Grove         Seaforth                   

15.1.41                 Ann Kinsella                   Larch Grove         Seaforth         

15.1.41                 Gerrard McCabe           Rhonllwyn            Seaforth                   

29.1.41                 Raymond Downey        Caedildre             Seaforth                   

3.2.41                   Ros, Rita & Norma James     Gt Trewern Seaforth                   

17.2.41                 Harold & William Pritchard   Pales          Seaforth                   

25.3.41                 Glanville Dacey             Carnau    Bonymaen, Swansea

31.3.41                 Michael & James McCarthy        Bwlchycefn          Bootle        

31.3.41                 Robert & Gorge Roberts            Nantddu           Bootle                  

5.5.41                   William Gooridge          Rhos House          Portsmouth

20.5.41                 Beryl, Ken & Peter Humphries Trewern Villa    Bootle                  

10.6.41                 Richard Doughty           Lower Trewern    Anfield                   

2.3.42         Winifred, Patricia, Maragert, Teresa Thomas   Tybryn   Seaforth    

2.2.42         Garry Shawn                 Coednewydd                 Seaforth         

10.6.42                 Robert & Philip Scullin  Dean Cottage      Bootle                   

15.1.41                 Mary Smith           Penybont Shop              Letterton                   

14.1.41                 Madeline Berry              Haulfryn               Letterton

13.1.41                 Joyce Wright                  Little Graig           Seaforth                             

14.1.41                 Sydney Smith                Eaglestone           Crosby                             

14.1.41                 Margaret Melsant          Cornhill                 Letterton                             

14.1.41                 George Nelson              Cornhill                 Letterton         

Overall this meant that the children at Llandegley school were:

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

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

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

Origin:     

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

One group used the Chapel in Penybont for their lessons.

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

The next slide is of Alice who was an evacuee:

Another evacuee:

This boy still visits Penybont regularly:

This is Bibly and his sister:

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

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

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

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

Radnorshire in Wartime

1939

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

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

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

At the Drill Hall in Llandrindod there was considerable activity:

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

There was however considerable enthusiasm for the war effort:

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

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

Geraint then turned his attention to Marriages.

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

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

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

Another wedding, photographed on the Dole

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

PC Neville Walters was a key person:

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

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

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

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

The emergence of the NFU was relatively new:

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

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

And then the Land Army arrived!

In the beginning they were not treated very seriously.

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

A Hostel for the Land Army women was opened at Crossgates

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

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

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

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

Crossgates Women’s Land Army Hostel

Accommodation for 26 Land Army Girls.

          London                          4

          Derbyshire                    5

          Liverpool                       7

          Manchester                   6

          Yorkshire                      2

          South Wales                 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cenotaph services carried on with even greater poignancy:

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

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

1940

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

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

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

 (Eva Coates’ Diary)

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

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

Also from Penybont:

And then from Dolau:

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

Leading into ‘service at home’ we have:

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

Neil’s wife’s Grandfather in the Home Guard

Neil’s Grandfather, also in the Home Guard:

Inevitably the Home Guard was led by the Bank Manger!

Each village had it’s own Platoon:

Villages were very proud of their Home Guard Platoons:

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

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

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

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

Home Guard Stand-Down Dinner

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

Members of all the  platoons attended.

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

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

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

Basil Griffiths who was a Major in the Comandos

David Davies who was involved in the Burma Campaign

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

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

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

Later evidence of their training exercises would be found:

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

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

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

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

Church life was shared:

There were social events in the Severn Arms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Briarfield, as it is now:

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

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

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

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

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

Each Community began to celebrate:

V E Day in Crossgates

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

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

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

V E Llandegley Party

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

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

Yes, Penybont went Bananas!

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

(£103 in today’s money)

Celebrations by the lorry load in Crossgates:

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

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

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

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

Geraint finished by honouring each of those who had fallen:

HUGH BRYSON

R.A.F. Flight Sergeant Pilot 1344005.

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

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

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

The family moved here from England in 1938.

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

James William Cox

Lance Corporal 7015058 in the Pioneer Corps.

Came to Penybont in 1940 as a cook with an advance

party to set up a training camp on Penybont Common.

They camped behind the Severn Arms when they first

came to Penybont.

Married in Penybont Chapel on November 13th 1940 to

Violet May Cox who lived in the village.

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

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

Service Number: 7015058

Buried in the Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.

EDWARD INGRAM     

Guardsman in the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards.

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

Buried in Nantmel Churchyard.

Son of Thomas and Ada Ingram.

Husband of Alice Ingram, Cwmfelinfach, Monmouthshire.

ROBERT MILLER

Captain Robert David Miller, Master of MV Canadian Star

(London). Merchant Navy.

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

Captain Miller went down with his ship.

The Canadian Star was an 8,000 ton

refrigerated/passenger/cargo vessel managed by the Blue

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

returning from the USA to Britain escorted by seven

destroyers and four corvettes. She was attacked in the last

successful massed U-boat battle of the Second World War

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

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

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

passengers were lost – the remaining crew and passengers

were rescued by Royal Navy vessels.

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

DusterThe Merchant Navy in World War II by William J

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

words of a survivor:

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

 make sure that everyone had got off alright. He was

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

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

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

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

 passengers and crew.”

Captain Miller was posthumously awarded the Lloyd’s War

Medal and the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

Son of Robert Bushell Miller and Edith Alice Miller, Windy

Ridge, Penybont and husband of Doris Mary Miller, of

Prescot, Lancashire..

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

 in Penybont Chapel Cemetery. He is also named on the

Tower Hill Memorial which commemorates over 32,000

seamen lost in the Merchant Navy during World War II.

IVOR J MORRIS          

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

                              Killed July 29th 1944. Age 21

                              Service Number: 1430151

                              Buried in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany.

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

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

                              Lived at New Lodge on the Llanddewi Road.

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

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

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

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

crash site before being moved after the war to Dumbach

War Cemetery.

LEONARD A A SMITH

                              Royal Navy. Served on HMS Neptune.

 Sunk by enemy action December 19th 1941.

Service Number: D/KX114320

Named on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

Attended Llanbadarn Fawr School.

His widow later married Jim Mason, Swydd.

HYWEL TUDOR THOMAS  

Captain Merchant Navy. Master of SS Empire Jaguar

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

when his ship was torpedoed by submarine U103 on

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

Tower Hill Memorial.

Son of Alfred and Sarah Thomas, Penybont Shop.

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

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

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

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

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

ALFRED THOMAS WILLIAMS

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

                              September 13th 1942. Age 17.

                              Buried at Llanbadarn Fawr Church.

                              Lived at Trelawgoed Mill.

CYRIL WILLIAMS

Sergeant Air Gunner RAF Voluntary Reserve.

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

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

Derek thanked Geraint for a brilliant talk.

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