Penybont and District Local History Group – Lost Buildings Walk

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

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

Manor House August 1906  

The Old Manor House

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

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

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

Shady Grove

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

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

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

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

Sunny Bank

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

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

4. Penybont Calvinistic Methodist Chapel

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

The chapel was demolished in 1989

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

5.  Estate Carpenter’s Shop

6. Penybont Court

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

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

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

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

Penybont and District History Group Notes – Heritage Story Walks

7th June 2021

Main Topic: Heritage Story WalksEllen Turner

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

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

Geraint reminded members that the last meeting in March 2020 had been on Penybont Market, led by Derek with a panel of local experts Miah Lewis, Bev Watkins and Gareth Lewis. Notes are available on the website:

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

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

Geraint asked Shirley to introduce Ellen (Ellie)

Main Topic: Heritage Story Walks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The whole site can be seen at: 

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

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

The QR Codes are on signs located in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heritage Story Walks Evaluation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geraint welcomed another crowded room to the meeting.

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

Main Topic: Penybont Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek asked about the Pattern of Markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penybont and District History Group Notes 3rd February 2020 Main Topic: The Romans in Radnorshire – Dr Marion Evans

Geraint welcomed a record number of people to the meeting – 54 people.

Derek mentioned a Community Meeting that is to be held on 24th March AT 7.00 the Penybont Community Hall to discuss the possibility of having a Play area for the children and also the community’s response to the Climate Emergency.

Derek also mentioned that Richard Rees would be talking about “The Dams that did not Happen” at Carad in Rhayader on Thursday 6th February.

Geraint welcomed Marion back once again and thanked her for so willingly suggesting and taking on topics of interest.

Main Topic: The Romans in Radnorshire

Marion started by saying that she had just completed Geraint’s homework for this year in preparing this talk.

She posed these 2 questions:

  • So, what did the Romans do for us?
  • They came, they saw, but did they conquer?

Marion started by exploring the context in which the Romans came to Britain. The was no country called Wales, and indeed, no country called England. Such territories as did exist were tribal and these tribes were prone to tribal conflicts.

Before the Romans came the tribes were more interested in trade with the Romans and generally this went pretty smoothly. The Celtic Tribes lived in small iron age settlements much like the village the Iron Age in Hampshire – Butser: Butser Ancient Farm, Chalton Lane, Waterlooville,     Hampshire PO8 0BG,

Julius Caesar invaded Britain on two occasions, first in 55 BC and again in 54 BC. The first incursion into Britain was with a very small force and concerns over the weather and the tides, which he was not used to, led to an early withdrawal. His second attempt was with a much bigger force of 5 legions and 2000 cavalry. They faired a little better but led to another withdrawal taking his forces with him. Caesar had been particularly interested in iron, lead and tin and his time in Britain did open up trade between the Celtic Tribes and Rome.

By 43 AD when the Emperor Claudius was going through a period of political turmoil he decided to boost his fortunes by going for a military victory in Britain. Unlike Julius Caesar he was much better prepared and knew a lot more about this far off land. After initial opposition at the Battle of Medway, led by Caratacus, the Tribe leaders capitulated and surrendered without further bloodshed. There were other uprisings in the years that followed, most notably Boudica in 60/61 AD, but in ruling of Britain they moved into an era of comparative peace.

The Silures in South West Wales were putting up fierce resistance in AD 47. The Romans had more success in AD 60 when they marched across Wales and destroyed the druidical centre at Anglesey in what became known as the Menai Massacre. In 78 AD they defeated the Ordovices and completed their control of Wales by getting Anglesey to sue for peace.

Fighting was an expensive business and Rome preferred to enter into pacts that led to systems of administration and peace was the order of the day from 150 AD until their departure in 410 AD. They built forts and road systems in England and to a lesser extent in Wales. The roads made it possible for troops to get around the country quickly if and when needed. Wales was more difficult terrain and the road system was mainly just tracks.

To create a Fort or settlement the Romans needed open land, land on a slope for drainage, and most importantly they needed lots of water. Open land was land where battles could be fought and where they would not be drawn into having to deal with guerrilla tactics. Good drainage meant that the land was serviceable and not boggy. Every 8 soldiers had 2 servants and 2 mules. There were mounted soldiers and many other people working in different capacities to keep the fort working, so water was very important.

Major parts of Wales could not provide these conditions.

The blue areas were unsuitable due to the nature of the landscape.

There were routes across Wales:

In major parts of Wales the Romans could not find the right conditions for their roads or their forts.

Marion then turned to the local area and in particular to the Roman Fort at Hindwell Farm in Walton.

The Fort at Hindwell was one of the earliest Forts in Wales, from 50 AD TO 80 AD. There is nothing to see now as the Fort was under the Farm House. The site was about 1 hectare which is small for a Roman Fort. It would have supported about 500 soldiers.

The lay-out of the Fort would have looked something like:

Forts were all built to the same design. In the middle would be the offices and the arsenal with the standards and statues. All forts would have a granary. Men and horses would share accommodation at the front of the barracks. Hindwell would have been a wooden structure with watch towers.

In recent times a road leading south has been discovered, this would have led to the Marching Forts. There were 3 at Hindwell. The soldiers would each come with a stake and by placing each stake in turn they would build a fence around the Marching Fort. The Marching Forts at Beulah were much bigger – 15 Hectares with 7,500 soldiers. By 80 AD these Marching Forts had disappeared.

The third facility that the Romans needed were their Practice Camps. These had the function of giving the soldiers activity during times of peace. Many people were needed to build Hadrian’s Wall but it was then important to keep these people occupied. The Practice Camps served this purpose. There were many Practice Camps at Llandrindod:

There is nothing much to see here, but the Jewel in the Crown is the Fort, Castell Collen, that is situated just outside Llandrindod on the way to Llanyre. This still has elements of the Fort that give something of an outline of the Roman Structure. This has been extensively researched and the site covers about 2.4 hectares. There is a Clwyd-Powys Archaeolgical Trust Report from 2011 at:

The Fort was first built around AD 70 in wood, but later rebuilt in stone. It was then abandoned, and then once again rebuilt smaller than the original Fort. Details from an article in Radnorshire Society Transactions can be found at:

Based on the 3 archaeological digs this diagram has an unusually big Hall rather like a gymnasium. The 2nd Augusta Legion was based here and these Legionnaires were crack troops that had been recruited from the Iberian Peninsula. Legionnaires were made ‘free citizens’ of Rome after 25 years service.

The settlement in the bottom right hand corner was a small town that would have grown up beside the Fort to provide services and trade for the men living inside. Though the Fort has been extensively researched and Roman residue has been found, including copper and beads, some from the Danubia area, the town site has not been researched.

To the left of the town area was the Roman Bathhouse. This highlights the need for the Fort to have been built near to water – River Ithon. Water was needed for Bathing; Men; cattle, horses and mules; and to deal with effluent.

Very little is known about the activities at Castell Collen after AD 80 as the Roman writers had little interest.


Noted for their metalled roads there was probably only one made in this way to link Castell Collen to Lientwardine. This crossed Penybont Common quite close to the current road.

The other roads were one layer with gravel on top. One of the roads would have been from Beulah to Castell Collen but it does not lead directly to the Fort.

A north-west road has been lost as has the road to Caersws.

With the lack of written evidence the roads give an indication of where the Romans had an interest in exploiting the natural resources of an area. The system looked a bit like this:

But did they Conquer?

They had control of Wales between about 75 and 300 AD. Their rule might suggest that it was mainly to manage the Welsh border. They did get some gold and around the Severn estuary. Some gold jewellery was found at Rhayader, that is now in the British Museum:  

Near Usk and from the Severn Estuary they found lead and copper. With the costs of maintaining the Forts they would not have found their presence in Wales profitable.

So, what did we get from the Romans?

Not much! We did get turnips, carrots, cabbage and leeks. Recent evidence also now tells us that the Romans did introduce rabbits.

We learnt about grinding stones, custom posts and taxes.

Wine was produced but banned or heavily taxed as it upset the Italian wine industry.

Coinage – Roman coins have been found almost everywhere though comparatively few in Wales.

Mary was staggered to learn that the Romans had mined under the Menai Straits.

Marion finished by introducing us to the DNA analysis of the people of Britain, and while there is a great diversity within the genes there is no trace of the Roman gene. The Romans unusually did not integrate with the local people.

Geraint thanked Marion for her excellent talk.

The next Meeting of the History Group will be on Monday 2nd March when Derek will introduce a panel who will tell us about their experiences at Penybont Market.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 2nd December 2019 Main Topic: Traditional Cottage Crafts of the Area – Liz Turner

Geraint welcomed members to our Christmas meeting and after saying some highly embarrassing things about the Turner family he asked Derek to introduce his wife. This done, Liz moved swiftly to the main topic:

Main Topic: Traditional Cottage Crafts of the Area.

Liz started by indicating that ‘her intentions were honourable’, in that she intended to keep the talk short and fairly light. She introduced her 4 helpers who were each demonstrating a current cottage craft.

Patricia Munroe   – Penybont – Rag Rug

Sylvia Laws – Dolau – Quilting

Jean Price – Walton – Hooked Rug

Yvonne Rea – Nantmel – Spinning

Behind Liz was an exhibition of craft items that had been collected from mainly local sources, with particular thanks to David Lewis from Dolau who was also a mine of useful information.

So, what does Craft Mean?

In old English craft had different spellings ‘craeft’, ‘creft’ meaning power, physical strength, in Welsh ‘crefft’. It probably derived from Germanic origins Kraft meaning strength, virtue or skill, or from the Norse, kraptr, meaning strength or virtue.

Different meanings then evolved in old English to include: skill, dexterity; art, science, talent” (via a notion of “mental power”), which led by late Old English to the meaning “trade, handicraft, employment requiring special skill or dexterity,” also “something built or made”.


In Radnorshire towns and villages were self-supporting with spindle makers, tallow candle-makers, pattern makers these had largely died out by the 1830s, while wheelwrights, coopers, saddlers, blacksmiths, boot and shoe makers, thatchers, clock makers, and so on where gainfully occupied until the 1870s and 80s and beyond.

Liz had been to Powys Archives and from, Census 1841 and 1851 for Cefnllys and Llanbadarn Fawr, households identified wheelwrights, coopers, masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, milliners, tailors, glaziers, shoemakers, dressmakers, a watch maker, a nurse, and a butcher.

Farmers, their labourers and servants, predominated within the statistics but there were many examples of tailors, dressmakers and milliners. There were masters in these professions but also journeymen and apprentices that indicated future occupational opportunities for these crafts people.

In addition to ‘occupational crafts’, there evolved a range of skills associated more within the ‘home’ than occupation, these included:

basket making,




cheese making,

candle making,

besom broom making, etc., etc.

By contrast some of the cottage crafts lent themselves to being more of a business. Tailors and Glaziers would ply their craft from house to house and village to village along with the village pedlars. A significant part of their trade was in taking news and gossip from Parish to Parish and in addition many craft people also became matchmakers.

The Industrial Revolution heralded a major change with the economy demanding very different skills. Locally part of every community since the 14th century would be a fulling mill and a corn mill. These were in full swing into the 18th century but by the 19th century the fulling mills in Radnorshire had all closed down.

The fulling mill in Dolau had turned out a course, grey woollen cloth that was very popular locally for its warm durable qualities. At least one of these blankets survives but is unfortunately no longer available locally.

“From the medieval period, the fulling of cloth often was undertaken in a water mill, known as a fulling mill, a walk mill, or a tuck mill, and in Wales, a pandy. In these, the cloth was beaten with wooden hammers, known as fulling stocks or fulling hammers. Fulling stocks were of two kinds, falling stocks (operating vertically) that were used only for scouring, and driving or hanging stocks. In both cases the machinery was operated by cams on the shaft of a waterwheel or on a tappet wheel, which lifted the hammer.”

There was a Corn Mill at Llandegley that had been associated with the Burton Hotel but was situated on land within the farm at Tynllan.

Crafts and Craftmanship included a mixture of skilled traders and individual makers. Generally there was some economic element in both categories.

E.g. The ‘followers’, womenfolk, of the drovers were said to knit stockings as they walked behind the beasts (Using knitting Sheaths page 346, J. Sey). They would sell their wares in places where the animals came to be sold.

At Powys Archives Liz looked at the entries relating to:

  • Radnorshire Agricultural Society Show 1937 in Penybont
  • Crossgates WI Annual Programmes 1951 to 1982

Both of these organisations highlighted the competitive nature that crafts had become with many categories open to different groups of people.

At the Agricultural Show the craft categories were open to:

  • WI Members
  • Children over 11 years, and children under 11 years
  • Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies and Cubs
  • Classes open to local people
  • Open Classes

There were however restrictions and some horticultural and other classes were not open to professional gardeners or groom gardeners.

The 1937 programme on the Dole in Penybont included best in making:

  • Bee Hive
  • Hoover Hive (a type of bee hive, see below)
  • Whisket made from home grown wood (Basket, see below)
  • Shopping basket made from home grown wood
  • Beedle (see below)
  • Shepherd’s Crook with metal ends
  • Walking stick with wood from the hedgerow
  • Hay rake
  • Article in wood for the home


Note: According to St Fagan’s, the Basket on the left, in the picture below, is a Whisket (term used in Brecon and Radnor) in Wales the name for the basket was ‘gwyntell’ or a  ‘cyntell’. The basket made from local materials has an oval shape made mostly with willow and hazel. The basket shown on the left has a hazel oval rim, split hazel ribs, and woven with willow. Their primary use was agricultural but they could be used for carrying coal and even babies. David Lewis’s grandfather would make them for their farm.

The other frame basket (locally called a Spelk) is another agricultural basket made from splitting boiled oak poles 6 inches and 4 inches in diameter. The thicker ones were used for the warp and the thinner for the weft. More commonly used in other parts of the British Isles.


The Beedle or Beetle, according to St Fagan’s, was a wooded mallet made from crab apple timber, very hard, and it had a slanted collar that meant it self-tightened in use.

The Beedle is a corruption of the name Beetle and was a sophisticated mallet made from apple wood, usually crab apple, which has a distorted grain that is less likely to split in use. It would be reinforced with a tapered metal collar that ensured that it tightened in use.  The apple wood was delivered to the Blacksmith who made up the mallet with its metal ring. The mallet shown in the picture is a simple mallet made from a single piece of wood. It would have a limited life span depending on how it was used.  The beetle or beedle was slightly bulbus in appearance unlike more traditional mallets. (See: Country Craft Tools by Percy Blandford.)

The evolving nature of craft had 3 main components:

1. Traditional Skills

2. Findings solutions to problems within the home and community

3. Using local materials 

Craft Today

Nowadays crafts are often kept alive by Hobbyists as few people in the general population have the skills, interest, or give value to handmade objects and crafts. Few people have been able to make a living from making craft in recent times due to the escalating costs of living and the time needed to perfect skills and make hand crafted items. Few members of the public are then in a position to pay for items made in this way.

But all is not lost there is lots to see here ………

Craft is essentially the use of indigenous, or accessible, materials in the solving of problems that have a practical application in the home, farm, or local community. This did sometimes give rise to the use of machines such as the lathe that could easily turn wood. The one shown on the extreme right of the picture above was found in a skip at Hereford Art College. The sewing machine was again used to facilitate home craft. David Lewis talked about the use of holly to clean chimneys and the use of the 12- bore shot gun to release the soot first.

The ‘Tickler’ Mole Trap

Wooden mole traps and squirrel traps were made locally by the Wilson Brothers. The mole trap was triggered by a pole lathe mechanism when the tickler was triggered. The trap was inserted into a mole run with the hoops at the bottom.

Pig Spreader and Scrapper

It was not uncommon for households to keep and kill a pig. The picture below shows the pig spreader that Alfred Thomas used at the Thomas Shop along with the pig scrapper that was used to remove the hair after the carcass was scalded with boiling water. The carcass would then be salted down with the salt that came in 28lb blocks.

Wool Collecting Basket

Wool would be collected by the Drover Followers and villagers from the hedgerows, and anywhere wool had attached itself to, in rugby ball shaped baskets as shown in the picture below (left). It was tucked under the arm so that two hands were free to collect and store the wool. This is a good example of how communities wasted nothing. Wool would collect in the hedgerows as sheep grazed and then enterprising people would come along with their basket to collect it for cleaning, spinning for weaving and knitting, and often to provide the filling within homemade quilts. These baskets were very common across the British Isles, right up to the Outer Hebrides. 

Weaving and basket making are some of the oldest crafts with the traditions established in Mesolithic times.  Everything from small houses to boxes, and even shoes were made using weaving techniques.

The small basket on the right of the picture above is a replica of a basket that was used by the grandmother of a lady from the village who would have shopped at the Thomas Shop.

Skimming pan and skimmer for collecting cream, for clotting and/or butter and cheese making

The items shown for skimming milk are not dissimilar to those used today as the processes have not changed when cream, butter and cheese are made on a domestic scale.

Some farm houses in Radnorshire had a square lead-lined table that sloped towards a drain hole in the centre of the table. (Lead poisoning may have been a by-product! Butter was worked on a slightly sloping wooded table that sloped backwards towards a drain hole. As the butter was worked away up the slope the moisture was drained away to keep the butter fresh.  

Rabbit Netting Tools

Catching rabbits and squirrels for the pot was common practice and nets were made with the handmade wooden implements seen below. The Wilson Brothers made them in the locality.

Bread Making

Bread making was an essential skill in almost every household. Many farms had bread making ovens. Fires were built in the ovens principally from gorse faggots which burnt very hot. This long fork, as seen below, would originally have had a wooden handle was used to get the faggots into the oven and the flat paddle, known as a peel, was used to extract the bread. When tins were used the tins had legs to avoid scorching the bottom of the loaves on the very hot surface of the oven. David Lewis talked to Liz about baking bread in a peat fire. The peat was heaped up and over the pot.

Cooking Implement

By contrast the smaller two-pronged fork was used for handling roasting meat at Far Hall, Dolau.

Bee Keeping, honey, mead, candles, beeswax cottage crafts

Bees were originally kept in skeps made from straw. Often farm workers would use the opportunity of inclement weather during harvest to make baskets and skeps from straw. The diameter of the straw core was determined by a keeper which often a piece from a horn. The skep would be stitched with de-thorned, split bramble using a goose leg bone, which is hollow, as a needle.

The homemade hoover referred to in the classes at the agricultural show was a type of wooden bee hive named after the American who invented it and developed a company who made them commercially. As with the vacuum cleaner the name became associated with a wooden beehive. Hoover Hives are still available today.

The wax collected from the bees had many uses. It has been referred to as the ‘plastic’ of ancient times. This is interesting as there is a revival in the use of waxed cloths to cover and ceil food as an alternative to plastic. Beeswax had multiple uses that included the making of candles, polish, health products and cosmetics.

 Rushes, which have a pith, were dipped in tallow to make candles


We had no examples of old pottery but we did have examples of David Weake’s Pottery (cups on left of picture below) who lived at the Police House in Penybont and as well as being Head of Art at Llandrindod High School, a well-known uni-cyclist, he was a celebrated potter. There was a memory from members of every child in the Parish being given  a brown and white mug in slipware in memory of the 1969 Investiture of the Prince of Wales. He died in the late 1990s. Currently at Far Hall in Dolau Jason Braham (Items on left of picture below) is also a stoneware potter of considerable repute and like David Weake he was a Head of Art, but he was at Harrow School. The tradition of pot making extends back in time as vessels of all shapes and sizes needed to be made by hand. There is a link between basket making and pottery in these early days basket forms would provide a frame for coiled pottery. When this was fired the basket was burnt away and the pot was left for use.


Milk water and any pale would be carried using a yoke, made from beech, as seen below.

Pitch Fork

Very common in time gone by, pitch forks would be cut straight from a tree to make a pitch fork. This shows the ingenuity and observational skills of people in finding things that could have an important purpose. The one in the picture is a single piece of ash. In a similar way an ash tree was sometimes manipulated to make one side of a ladder.


“Stockmen and Veterinarians would use fleams for letting blood.

Bleeding of animals and humans was much practiced in the past and believed to be a remedy for many ailments.

To bleed and animal the vein would be raised and the chosen blade of the fleam (as seen below) placed above it and given a sharp blow with a ‘blood stick’ (as seen below on the right) or a clenched fist.

The cut was pulled together by a pin which was then secured with a length of hair wound round in a figure of 8.” (Radnorshire Museum)

Turf Cutter

The turf cutter was used at Pant-y-Dwr. Turnberry was the area at Pant-y-Dwr where turf was cut locally. The end sections are shown in the photographs, but there is a long flat shaft running between them.

Roofer’s Pick

The picture below shows a Roofers Pick that had two functions. The pointed end was used to split stone to make the roofing tiles, while the sharp end was used to make oak pegs to hold the tiles in place.

Scythe Sharpening

The ‘horn’ and ‘ripe stick’ were hung around the neck of the person using a scythe and used in the sharpening process when using the scythe. Tallow was put in the horn, the tallow was applied to the ripe stick by inserting it into the horn. The picture below shows the ‘gritstone’ (Sandstone in a block) from a quarry 17 miles north of Shrewsbury. Sand grit from the stone was then put into the ‘leather pad’ where the ripe stick, tallow and grit would be rubbed together. The ripe stick was then ready to sharpen the scythe.

Besom Broom

House holders would make besom brooms for use in the house and grounds. They were made using two circles of willow or wire. Fine birch twigs were packed into the circles and lastly a wooden handle would be driven into the top to tighten everything up. David Lewis remembers making them but the one in the picture below was made in a cottage industry that supplies besom brooms to the Queen and Harry Potter.

Geraint mentioned the particular role that the Blacksmith, Tom Price and his father before him, played as craftsmen who were central to the functioning of the village.

The items that the Blacksmith would make included:

  • Donkey shoes
  • Horse and mule shoes
  • Bullock shoes and nails
  • Hoof picks
  • Horse bits
  • Farrier Tongs
  • Farriers hammers
  • Ox shoes
  • Bill hooks
  • Veterinary Fleams
  • Branding irons
  • Sprung tined shears (these were replaced by large scissor shears in the 18th century, the blades were connected by a hoop of spring steel which sprung apart between cuts
  • Salmon spears
  • Gate hangers spanners
  • Lasts
  • Bolsters

The Wheelcar or Whilcar (As referred to in Tom Bullough’s brilliant book Addlands)

This contraption was developed specifically in Radnorshire and would have brought craftsmen together to make it. (It has been featured in Radnorshire Transactions, Stuart Fry, 2017, LXXXVII The photograph shows a Whilcar that Stuart has restored.) The Whilcar was designed to cope with the very steep slopes that farmers had to contend with when working in the landscape. The centre of gravity was very low making it much more stable than traditional carts. It is a good example of the creativity and ingenuity of people who lived in rural Radnorshire who applied their craft to overcome challenges in day to day life.


There has been a strong tradition of quit making in Wales for many, many years. Liz’s talk finished with the unrolling of a quilt – Ashgrove. The quilt was 1 of 12 quilts tops that were made within a quilting bee that ran between 2010 – 2012. There were 12 quilters, 6 from the local area, and members of the Sewing Group that regularly meets at the Thomas Shop. The other 6 quilters were more widely spread around Britain, with 1 person resident in Singapore. Each quilter made a small patchwork square, 1ft square, to start the process off, to give the quilt a name and some guidelines for the quilt to that would eventually come back to them to do the quilting. This small square was then sent in turn to each of the other quilters for two-month periods. The quilt tops were not seen by their owners for 2 years. Liz’s quilt was the Ashgrove. The quilt won first prize at an Exhibition run at Cae Hir Gardens near Lampeter. Liz talked about how some of the other quilters interpreted the Ashgrove. One of the quilters first interpreted the Ashgrove as an Elderly Person’s Home, but then discovered the wide cultural and historic associations. One quilter embroidered in the first verse of the poem, Ashgrove.  


Liz acknowledges the support she received from David Lewis who not only explained the many craft practices that were common in our area but also lent a significant number of the items that were on display.

Gareth Beech, Senior Curator: Rural Economy, St Fagans National History Museum.

Powys Archives

Roger Kite

And numerous other people who contributed to the discussions on the subject.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 4th November 2019 Main Topic: Medieval Land Cultivation on Penybont Common Julian Ravest

Geraint welcomed Julian back to the group to follow up on the talk he had previously given to the group on the 18th February 2018 – “New Angles on Penybont”.

Julian told us that since his last talk he had been excited by the interest relating to the his study of the Common, so when he had a summer of brilliant weather from an aero/archaeological perspective, and he had acquired new software to play with, he was keen to come back to the Common and see what might emerge.

Julian said he wanted to be able to show how these amazing new tools could give new insight into landscapes that have hitherto been unreadable from the ground. The new techniques of photogrammetry were used. This enabled hundreds of photos of an area to be combined to build a 3-D digital model.

Julian explained that he wanted to demonstrate to us the power of this new technology by first looking at a range of sites that he has had previously looked at.

  1. Farm at Beulah was within a Roman Fort. An initial photograph showed this in outline but then using the power of photogrammetry this built into a 3-D image of the Fort and its Vicus, (civilian settlement),
  2. It was possible to see, with other images of the site, how different directions of light on the model could be brought together to show that ploughing had been carried out and where the old field boundaries were positioned.

These new techniques are beginning to reveal deeper insights into archaeological sites.

  • Nearby it was possible to reveal
    • Parch markings from a Roman camp
    • Interior buildings and drainage marks
    • Julian remarked how excavations of the site appeared to show that the drainage system went underneath the fort

One of the really useful features has been the fact that all of the information comes with very accurate GPS information.

  • Near Offa’s Dyke Julian has been able to show evidence of a defended enclosure and the possibility of a pre-historic ridgeway that lead past the entrance to the enclosure.
  • Before getting too carried away by this data it is important to recognize that the imagery is still to some extent superficial and confined to the surface of an area. There is still the need to carry out archaeological digging to get more evidence about the people who lived on these sites.
  • Closer to home at Howey, near the Garden Centre and close to Caer Du, the techniques have revealed an enclosure and some evidence of an earlier circular enclosure.
  • Near Strata Florida the basic photograph of an iron age hillfort did not identify anything of interest. In building the 3-D picture with colouring we begin to see house platforms with the reddish colour identifying the higher features and the green the lower ones.
  • On Offa’s Dyke the 3-D model showed tracks that pre-date Offa. It showed how the Dyke was built digging out on both sides. It then identified a square feature underneath the Dyke. Archaeologists now think that there was a Roman Signal Station on the Eastern slope with a Beacon visible from the English side. These would have been very advantageous if they were under attack.
  • At Llanbadarn Fawr Church field structures have been identified with significant ridge and furrow cultivation. More interestingly it shows a medieval field system apparently going underneath the Norman Church site. It suggests the possibility of a more ancient Celtic Holy site. When the Norman church was built, they may have moved from the possible Celtic site nearby to a drier situation and away from the boggy dampness. Without this 3-D modelling this would never have been discovered.
  • At Painscastle Julian has been able to show a range of features around the Castle and the different elevations. He has also been able to identify features of rebuilding by Henry lll that shows the quarrying of the outer earthwork to make a new entrance.
  • At Strata Florida a pre-historic site has been identified next to a garden area. There is a lot still to be found here and an adjacent dig has already taken place.
  • On a ridge to the east, Julian has applied the same techniques to Lidar images taken from an aeroplane.  These images effectively get rid of vegetation and even buildings and so reveal the underlying ground shape. After processing and exaggerating changes in height, a long sinuous earth bank was revealed for the first time.  This had not been seen before because the changes in ground levels were very subtle. It is not thought to be a hill fort.
  • At Abbeycwmhir Julian has exposed a number of features including a burial ground. In December 1644 Parliamentarians stormed the Abbey where a Garrison of Royalists were stationed. A number of defensive measures were taken across the grounds that showed up in Julian’s 3-D images.

Turning to Penybont Common and Coed Swydd Common Julian explained that he has laid his pictures over an Ordinance survey map. The ancient Roman Road and the three plantations provided reference points.  Julian showed an image taken from the 1840’s Tithe map that identifies the Roman Road being used as a Toll Road. 

He has used Lidar imagery to guide his drone survey:

“Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging)

Airborne lidar (light detection and ranging) measures the height of the ground surface and other features in large areas of landscape with a very high resolution and accuracy. Such information was previously unavailable, except through labour-intensive field survey or photogrammetry.

It provides highly detailed and accurate models of the land surface at metre and sub-metre resolution. This provides archaeologists with the capability to recognise and record otherwise hard to detect features.”

In using this system Julian has been able to work with 2m resolution, the best currently available for this area, but he is hopeful that in the near future 1m will become available.  This contrasts with the 2cm resolution of Julian’s drone photos. He has been working with Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust who have a particular interest in Penybont Common as it is one of the lowest upland commons in Wales.

The first image shown taken near the village shows fields surrounding the common but the enhanced image shows a medieval system of fields within the Common.

Going a bit further North on the Common the imagery shows further field systems going down towards the stream. Julian did not see this as an ‘open field system’:

“The open-field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe during the Middle Ages and lasted into the 20th century in parts of western Europe, Russia, Iran and Turkey.[1] Under the open-field system, each manor or village had two or three large fields, usually several hundred acres each, which were divided into many narrow strips of land. The strips or selions were cultivated by individuals or peasant families, often called tenants or serfs. The holdings of a manor also included woodland and pasture areas for common usage and fields belonging to the lord of the manor and the church. The farmers customarily lived in individual houses in a nucleated village with a much larger manor house and church nearby. The open-field system necessitated co-operation among the inhabitants of the manor.”

The system here seems to suggest a tenant system where individual families managed an area for themselves. Some of the lines that emerge suggest that bracken was harvested. There has previously been some Archaeological research in this area which identified platforms in this area suggesting that there was a farm at Caertwch in medieval times – the only sign of habitation on the Common.

The 13th Century was a time when the climate conditions in this part of the world were favourable to growing crops and this was accompanied by a population explosion and there are no features on the Common that might suggest an older settlement. The small circular features shown on the imagery were cattle feeding stations not hut circles! The field systems identified would have been capable of supporting 20 to 40 households. There are however no signs of this level of habitation. Where have the people gone??

Julian then moved across the Common to the ‘circle of trees’, an old plantation. This is the area with the field system with the characteristic S shaped furrows. Here there are no platforms. The field systems extend down to the boggy bottom. The is about 1 km of field systems along the ridge which is very extensive and still we have the problem; where did the people live?

Perhaps the question is: where did they go? The 14th century in contrast to the 13th was a terrible time with poor harvests, famine, the ‘Black Death’ in 1349. An average of 30% of the population died of the plague having been weakened by the poor harvests and especially the great famine in 1315-17 when between 5% and 25% died. This had a dramatic impact on the social, economic and religious structures within the community. Priests who attended the sick often then became ill and died.  The plague, often seen as a ‘punishment on the wicked’, consequently hit the clergy particularly badly. In this area the records are sparse but more generally there was a 1st pestilence in 1349, a second in 1359, and then again in 1370.

By 1400 there was considerable disquiet and the rise of Owain Glyndwr put further stresses on the population.

At some point, with these potentially multiple causes, the Lords of the Manor appear to have moved tenants off the land and replaced them with sheep that were seen as easier and more economical to manage.  In this way the medieval field system revealed in this survey was abandoned.

Julian finished by saying that the Common here is quite unique and there is nowhere in Wales on this scale and history.

Finally, he mentioned an exhibition of his photos which are currently being displayed in the Radnorshire Museum with 100 photographs entitled ‘Marks in the Landscape’. The exhibition is on until Christmas.

The following set of photographs show, to some extent, the different ways that Julian has been able to manipulate images to identify features in the landscape that have archaeological significance. This first photograph is an ordinary image showing the landscape around Caertwch where we now know that there are platforms showing that this was a site of a small settlement around which there was a field system. This single image is flat and it can be quite hard to identify the features that lie within it. 

The next three photographs show different manipulations that Julian has done combining many aerial photographs. The images then give a 3-D effect and by using colour and other techniques he can get spectacular results.  

This next image is a close-up showing the platforms.

This next image is of the area around the ‘circle of trees’, one of the old plantations on the Common.

The final image is another single image of the area of land adjacent to the ‘circle of trees’ that gives a good impression of the field systems that were so extensive across the Common.

The next meeting of Liz Turner talking about the Domestic Craft will have been and gone by the time this is published. The first meeting of the New Year will now be on Monday 3rd February 2020 when Dr. Marion Evans will be talking about ‘The Romans in Radnorshire’. Hope you all have a great Christmas and Best wishes for 2020.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 7th October 2019 Main Topic: The Geological Basis of Local Natural History – Layers of History on Penybont Common Joe Botting

Geraint opened the meeting by welcoming another well attended meeting.

He invited Elizabeth to make a couple of announcements:

On the 18th October Bill Saunders will be giving a talk on behalf of the Radnorshire Society at Crossgates Village Hall – “Saving Burford House” at 8.00 p.m.

Elizabeth then launched an idea for next year. It is the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. She would like to have an event with talks and a visit to the Pales to celebrate this anniversary. It turns out however that nobody from Radnorshire went to America on the Mayflower. Elizabeth was able to tell us that the Radnorshire Quakers did things their own way. They hired a boat from a grocer in Carmarthen and the Grocer took them across the ocean to America! Lloyd Lewis is going to give a talk on the Radnorshire Quakers and their American adventures. Elizabeth is hoping that some of the descendants of these early pioneers might be able to come over for the event.

Derek mentioned that for the 2nd month his Notes were over 30 mb and as a consequence he could not send them out by email. They can be found, with all the Notes going back to when we started in 2012, at: 

Derek then introduced Joe Botting, our speaker, to the group. Joe is not just a Geologist, he is a Palaeontologist, and an Entomologist, (3 ologies for the price of one!). He is one of the people who leads the Transition Town Group in Llandrindod and as part of this he helped in the setting up of the Repair Café, one of the first in the UK. On top of all this he has the audacity to be an excellent Harpist.

Main Topic: The Geological Basis of Local Natural History

Joe explained that he would be looking at geology based on his experience of Penybont Common where you might be lucky enough to see Peregrines, but he would be looking at things that are much, much smaller.

When thinking back is historical terms we often think of the iron age artefacts, Roman Roads, and even Neolithic arrow heads. Joe said that a few had been found on the Common but none of our members had seen any.

Joe then explained that he wanted to take us out of our comfort zones and explore the things from our deep past that impact on the natural world (focusing on insects) we have today. To do this he will have to introduce us to different layers and timescales:

Ecological timescales

  • Modern management (most recent few years)
  • Recent management (decades)

Historical timescales

  • Land use over centuries (chemistry modification, vegetation)

Climatic timescales

  • Recent geology and climate cycles: thousands to tens of thousands of years
  • Landscape and drainage
  • Biogeographic distribution

Geological timescales

  • Geology defining the basic composition of the soils, the nature of the drainage patterns, and what can happen to it in all the stages above…

Geology is about learning a new language – the language of rocks. If you learn the language then you can begin to learn a new history by reading the rocks.

One of the exciting things about the language is that it is most often laid down in layers one on top of the other, each layer taking you back intime. The combination of layers therefore tells a story…

In going back in time about 450 million years this particular area has the advantage that it has not as yet been geologically mapped, and is the last area of Briton that needs to be done. The colours below show what has been done but for us this is virgin countryside.

When we look at the landscape around Penybont and up into the Radnor Forest, this is not an ancient landscape in geological terms, it is only about 20,000 years old. It was created during the last ice age. We need to look much further back.

This landscape could be said to have been made ‘yesterday’. The landscape looked very different in the Jurassic Period around 175 million years ago:

In the Permian Period around 260 million years ago it would have been:

And then in the Devonian Period around 400 Million years ago:

These slides show some of the influences that have led to the kind of landscape we have today. The Devonian period deposited the sandstones and pebble beds of Herefordshire in a land of semi-arid rivers. During the Permian Period the red desert sandstones used in the construction of the Cathedral at Shrewsbury were laid down. And the smooth hills of Mid Wales are the end result of 400 million years of erosion.

It was however in the Ordovician Period, about 460 million years again, that volcanos gave rise to the layers exposed in the Llandegley Rocks. Joe has a particular interest in these rocks and this period, indeed that is what brought him to Llandrindod in the first place. The rocks of Penybont Common were laid down during the following period, the Silurian, named after one of the ancient tribes of Wales (the Silures)—  as, of course, were the Ordovician Rocks.

It is in these rocks that Joe’s palaeontology comes to the fore and the first signs of life on the Common can be found. In the rocks are the fossils of graptolites.

These slides show some of the influences that have led to the kind of landscape we have today. The Devonian period deposited the sandstones and pebble beds of Herefordshire in a land of semi-arid rivers. During the Permian Period the red desert sandstones used in the construction of the Cathedral at Shrewsbury were laid down. And the smooth hills of Mid Wales are the end result of 400 million years of erosion.

Swalla, B.J.; van der Land, J. (2019). Hemichordata World Database. Cephalodiscus nigrescens Lankester, 1905. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at: on 2019-11-02

The pioneering work on this area of study was carried out mainly in Wales and Scotland in the decades around 1900, and they rapidly became a critical tool for dating the sequences of rock in the Ordovician and Silurian periods Joe’s wife Lucy is one of the few remaining specialists on graptolites: handy, when you need to work out the age of the rocks containing them!

If we look at these timescales from the ‘Big Bang’ onwards then the Big Bang happened about 13.8 billion years ago. The Sun is a third-generation star, and our Solar System formed around 4.5 billion years ago. Life had probably evolved by about 4 billion years ago, and most major groups of animals arose around the base of the Cambrian Period—a mere 542 million years ago!

The rocks of Radnorshire saw an early part of the evolution of animals through the Ordovician, Silurian and into the Devonian periods. By about 230 million years ago in the Triassic Period the dinosaurs appeared and the birds we have today are their descendants. Feathers evolved initially for insulation and display before giving rise to flight. The rocks of the Common are Silurian in age, at about 420 million years old: around the time that the first simple land plants were getting established.

Going back to earlier times, and following the evolutionary explosion of the Cambrian Period, the Ordovician Period saw a spectacular diversification of species and ecosystems, including the origin of coral reefs. As we trace the development of ecosystems these are also subject to mass extinction events and large-scale climate changes.

 The map of the world was a very different to the map of today.

Reproduced with permission from (Paleomap Project) – The Ordovician World

In the Silurian Period, most of Britain formed the core of a microcontinent called Avalonia; to the north was the last remnant of the long-lost Iapetus Ocean separating us from Scotland, and to the south the equally-lost Rheic Ocean between Avalonia and most of Europe. Scotland and the north of Ireland by contrast are attached to North America. The impact of this for Penybont Common is:

As Britain moved northwards it moved through a range of climatic zones that would affect the nature of the rocks we see today. Wales and the borders were generally under water and this gave rise to the limestone areas such as around Wenlock. The evidence for these changes is found in the fossils and the rocks. History has been kind with regard to this as the fossils are found in layers that tell us how and when things were happening.

Stuart presented a nice example of part of a nautiloid about 10cms long, dropped outside his house but originally from the Pales! These shelled relatives of squid and octopus would have been swimming in the seas around here and would have been high up in the food chain: quite possibly the top predators. The ancestors of these modern predatory cephalopods were straight-shelled, and conical, and they were generally common in Silurian seas.

Another beastie of the Silurian Period that you should not expect to find many of here is the trilobites. These were abundant in shallow waters, whereas the waters around here were much deeper. Nonetheless, there are some layers that preserve significant numbers of trilobites, and a few have been found on the Common.

The crinoids are wonderful fossils, related to starfish but living on a tall stalk, with feathery arms that filtered the water. The skeletons of these plant-like creatures fell apart rapidly after death, so complete skeletons are extremely rare. These are abundant in the limestone of the Wenlock area, but remains of deeper-water species are also common in this area, especially washed down-slope in thin layers of shelly debris. Some beautiful complete specimens are even known from The Pales and nearby sites.

All these fossils and shells add to the lime content of the rocks, which translates into the soil of an area. The Common has almost no limestone, but enough shelly fossil layers to change the chemistry a little, and prevent it from being an acid heath environment. In shallow seas like at Wenlock, the Silurian Floor had a diversity of beasties and would have looked a bit like this:

The shape of the land then comes into play and the Limestone gets swept down into deeper waters:

What does all this add up to? Well there are fossils to be found, but relatively few. When we were deep in the ocean we were too far from land and reefs. So, while there might be a little limestone the Common is not acidic, does not have peat bogs, but there are certainly not the classic conditions for a chalk grassland-type flower meadow. The soil is clay with poor drainage, on a homogeneous sequence of clay-rich rocks that is several kilometres thick. In contrast, the Llandegley Rocks are composed of complex layers of hard Ordovician volcanic and sedimentary rocks. When the glaciers came along, eroding rocks and depositing a layer of boulder clay, they planed down the Silurian geology into rounded masses. Note the contrast to the jagged lumps of the Ordovician landscape. For the Silurian, this means rapid drainage on slopes (and hence drying), and boggy pools at the bottom. The slopes are just perfect for the many ant hills that are found on the Common slopes.

In understanding the vegetation on the Common we then have to consider the most recent land management. Poor land is used primarily for grazing. There has been little in the way land improvement measures, no drainage, and sheep are allowed to graze widely. This inevitably curtails the wild flowers as they never get a chance to reseed as the sheep do like to browse. This is hardly surprising as when you look at the map below it is easy to spot the Common land by the pale colour of the land which is only suitable for grazing. 

In two surveys on the Common only one species of bee was found, where several White-tailed Bumblebees had managed to find a small cluster of lousewort.

This does not mean the Common is not interesting to explore; it just means we need to focus what we look for. The rushes are wonderful for insects, as are nettles and thistles, and green woodpeckers can regularly be seen on the Common. The gorse also likes these conditions and is a good stable habitat that has been growing for a long period and this is colonised by a number of locally scarce species, including the Gorse Lacebug which is about 3 to 4 mm long.


Close-cropped fine grasses also provide a habitat for a wide range of different species of leafhopper:

This last little beauty, below, that prefers limestone areas is one that Joe recorded as an unusual find in Radnorshire. The other three all appear to be new records for the county!

Also on the Common are areas where the sheep don’t get to, such as steep slopes, and here he has found spider hunting wasps that paralyse and then lay their eggs on the spiders.

Insects are starting to appear in Radnorshire and on the Common that normally live in warmer parts of the UK, such as the ground bug Peritrechus lundii. The previous distribution pattern shows it in warmer places but we now have it here. The appearance of these insects are a clear indication of Climate Change.

Another species now found on the Common is the Slender Grasshopper.

It likes thistles and vetch.

These plants are best found in the boggy areas where the sheep are not keen to enter. Some of the bugs that have been found include:

Some of the Ladybird species have been in steep decline but this little one has been making an appearance on the Common and in Members gardens.

The Hieroglyphic Ladybird, Coccinella hieroglyphica

The Hieroglyphic Ladybird has been in steep decline nationally, but  has been making an appearance in Members’ gardens as well as on the Common

In general, the conditions that suit most of the creatures best are undisturbed environments that have not been ploughed and are a bit untidy. Each species has its own preferences, though, and there are many that depend on undisturbed dead wood. An area of the Common that lends itself this is the old plantation, and this also yielded surprises.

Shake the branches and you may find some other local rarities in the form of certain wood-boring beetles:

The message from Joe was: “Give Nature a Chance”.

In Summary what does all this tell us about the Common:

  • Over 100 insect species from two days of surveying (mediocre)
  • Hardly any bees or hoverflies… because, sheep. Not enough flowers to support them.
  • Very nice fauna on the extensive, feral gorse bushes – long undisturbed.
  • Dry, largely unimproved grassland with remarkable, overlooked leafhopper fauna new to Radnorshire – all feeding on the grasses.
  • Very nice wetland fauna (too wet for the sheep), including scarce ladybirds and bugs (all down to the geology and glacial drift).
  • New incoming species popping up in sheep-free places, whether that’s bogs or woodland.
  • Strange mix of mainly acid grassland species (normal for siltstone), with occasional calcareous grassland species due to the lime-rich layers.

Much more interesting than Joe had expected.

Geraint thanked Joe for his excellent talk and said how prviledged we were in Penybont to have had such a valuable piece of work done on the Common.

Our next meeting will be on Monday 4th November 2019 when Julian Ravest will show more pictures taken by his drone revealing “Medieval Land Cultivation on Penybont Common”. We are gradually building up a complete picture of Penybont through time!

Penybont and District History Group Notes Sept 2019 – Judy Dennison

Geraint welcomed another full-house and reminded members that we need to plan the programme for next year so that he can distribute it at our December meeting.

Geraint made a public declaration of our funding position, as we do not hold any audited accounts. Following an event held in the Village Hall 2 years ago there was a small profit of £102 that is held by Richard Davies on behalf of the group. Geraint has made a payment from this to Derek as he had paid Richard Rees, who spoke on the Dams that did not Happen, a fee, travel expenses, and purchased a booklet, amounting to £40.

Shirley mentioned that there is to be an event in the Village Hall in aid of the League of Friends of the Hospital in Llandrindod in 28th September. Shirley and Annette have tickets, £6, for afternoon tea and some entertainment that includes a theatrical performance.

A very rusty piece of metal was brought in from Bank House to identify. It had the appearance of a small machete, that might still be useable, after a great deal of work, to slow down the New Zealand Rugby Tea,

Sadly, we had a moment or two of silence to remember Billy Davies. Geraint expressed our combined sense of loss to Joy who was present.

Derek mentioned that Gina had brought in a Microfiche machine that had become surplice to requirements at Weobley Historical Society. Our thanks to Gina and the Society for this interesting piece of equipment and the range of slides that have come with it. The machine and slides are on a table in the Gentleman’s Outfitters within the Thomas Shop.

Derek also mentioned that the widow of the Rev. Wilkinson who was visiting the area for a family baptism. Rev. Wilkinson had followed Geraint as Vicar of the Parishes of Llanbadarn Fawr, Llandegley, and Cefnllys. Geraint said that Rev. Wilkinson had been a very popular Vicar. His widow now lives in Swansea near the All Saints Church on the Mumbles, where her husband had also been the Vicar. By a strange piece of fate, the Vicar, Rev Christopher Lee, in the Parish that Derek had lived in prior to coming to Penybont, Tytherington, South Gloucestershire, had also gone to be Vicar at All Saints on the Mumbles. Another very popular Vicar!

Main Topic: Llanbarn Fawr School – Judy Dennison and her elegant assistant, Bob Dennison

Judy explained that she would give some background to the evolution of schools in Radnorshire before going on to talk about the school itself and show a number of photographs that will hopefully bring back some fond memories. Two of the photographs had only just arrived via Facebook from Kent!

Judy started by referring to a very interesting article by Robert Bevan in the Radnorshire Transactions – Radnorshire Schools in 1818.

He refers to the socio-economic situation in Radnorshire in that people were very poor and while families often wanted education the children were needed to work on the land. The impact of the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution meant that many powerful people feared educating the Poor and so investment in education was limited. He describes the situation in 1818 as being ‘sombre’. The Church was largely responsible for such education as did exist and this was probably to ‘golden age of Sunday Schools’.

Things were however beginning to change; the Industrial Revolution was under way and the pressure for education was beginning to grow in the Cities.

Things were however beginning to change; the Industrial Revolution was under way and the pressure for education was beginning to grow in the Cities.

In 1816 Henry Brougham led a Parliamentary Committee in investigating the state of education in London. The worrying results from this investigation led to the Committee carrying a much wider investigation including Radnorshire. They contacted mainly the Church officials in each Parish to make a return. These returns show differing results in our three Parishes.

In Llanbadarn Fawr Rev. Evan Powell’s return stated: “the working classes are very desirous of education, of which they are totally without means; a Sunday School was established, but has been discontinued; and the curate suggests that if a small quantity of instructive books could be procured, much good would arise.”

The Rev. John Jones at Llandrindod, which in 1818 had a population of just 171 souls, and Cefnllys, both had day schools kept at the expense of the parents. Llandrindod had 15 pupils while Cefnllys had 30 pupils.

Llandegley boasted “a school in which 14 pupils are taught free, the Master of whom has £11 per annum left for that purpose and about the same sum for extra scholars”.

By the 1830s the move for social change had gained momentum. The rapid industrialisation took more and more people off the land and into the cities. The working class started to make more demands for better conditions. The Chartists were demanding the Vote. In the rural areas of Mid and South Wales the Rebecca Riots started in 1839 to complain about injustices of the Tolls and Turnpike Roads but they also protested in relation to the social conditions in these very poor rural areas.

In 1846 William Williams MP, a self-made man from Wales, spoke in the House of Commons about the need for a radical change to education policy for Wales. A further enquiry led to the publication of the Blue Books.

Three Barristers from England had conducted the enquiry. They interviewed people from the churches and described the education available to people in Wales as ‘appalling’. In 1846 there were 23,000 people in 49 Parishes with 719 children attending some form of day education in 43 schools when they were not needed on the farms. The total number of children in Radnorshire were 3183. In Llanbadarn Fawr there were 419 people with 11 boys and 4 girls at day schools and 96 registered for dissenting Sunday School, but none in Church Sunday schools.  Just about a quarter of the children in Llanbadarn Fawr were receiving some form of education.

The Blue Books were somewhat controversial, they painted a picture of immoral Wales, particularly in Cardigan and Radnorshire, and they were particularly damning of the Welsh language. Sometimes referred to as the Treachery of the Blue Books:

Blue Book

“The evil of the Welsh Language, as I have stated above, is obviously and fearfully great in Courts of Justice. The evidence given by Mr Hall (No 37) is borne out by every account I have heard on the subject; it distorts the truth, favours fraud, and abets perjury, which is frequently practiced in courts, and escapes detection through the loopholes of interpretation. This public exhibition of successful falsehood has a disastrous effect on the public morals and regard for the truth.”

The 1847 Report stated that:

‘girls..are more imperfectly instructed, if possible, than the boys. The effect is observerable in the gross ignorance of the female peasantry.. especially in Cardiganshire and Radnorshire’

The Rev. Harrison at Builth Wells was more concerned about the immorality of the teachers. He suggested that if you could get no other work, were a drunkard, and could read a bit then you would qualify to be a teacher. The Report said:

No person.. Will doom himself to the worst paid labours and ..least appreciated office to be met with in the country’

It went on to refer to a particular incident:

‘I was obliged to send for a constable to remove a drunken fiddler in the street, and he proved to be the headmaster of Aberedw, and some of the bystanders blamed the constable for doing it. Another came and offered himself to me for a schoolmaster whilst apparently under the influence of liquor’.

 In what was referred to as the Pupil-Teacher System, teachers were recruited from the pupils of the school. They would have had some training as a monitor – an older pupil looking after a class of younger pupils. Training for teachers might not amount to any more than 1½ days each week. Grants to schools for funding were based on the number of pupils and the qualification of the teacher.

It is at this point that our hero of many of our sessions makes an appearance. John Percy Severn was a large donator to the establishing of a school at Llanbadarn Fawr, at what is now the Grange, in 1858.  

The Grange

The Voluntary and National schools of the period were generally managed by the Church as was the case in Llanbadarn Fawr. The first teacher in 1861 was a Mr Trinder but the school proved to be too small and when under the Elementary Education Act of 1870 Board Schools were to be set up in every Parish a new and purpose-built school began to take its place in 1875 with John Percy Severn elected as Chair of the Board. Mr Severn had given the land for the school at Cefnprisky Farm, laid on water and supported the building of the Headmaster’s house. The school opened in 1877.

The 1870 Act expected schools to:

  • That local education boards should inspect schools to ensure there were sufficient places. 
  • That elementary education must be provided for children aged between five and 13.
  • That schools should be publicly funded.
  • That parents had to pay for their children’s education, unless they could not afford to.
  • That attendance should be compulsory.
  • That religious teaching should be non-denominational, and that parents could withdraw their children from religious education.
  • That schools should be regularly inspected to maintain the standard of education

It was the ‘non-denominational’ religious education that proved to be controversial, but it was the compulsory nature of attendance that was left to local discretion. In a rural area like Llanbadarn Fawr the were endless reasons for having a school holiday and John Percy Severn was generous in his interpretation. As well as the usual needs to do with the farm there was the Fairs, the circus, seasonal jobs in Llandrindod, etc.

The system of education as set out within the Act was:

  • From Standard 1 to Standard 6
  • Reading, Writing, Arithmetic
  • Promotion to higher standard by merit

Many children did not complete all the Standards

The school was built by John Speake and Pip Woodcock’s Great Grandfather, Aaron Moseley, Agent for the Castle Vale Estate at Llananno who lived at Criggin, was a signature to the legal Bond in 1877 to have the school built along with Edward Hamer, Lower Esker in the parish of Llanbadarn Fynydd. Pip, who now lives in Canada, sent Judy a transcript of the Bond and mentioned that her Grandfather, Cyril Howard Moseley was born at Brynthomas, Penybont in 1904. He lived there until 1919 but she does not know if he attended Llanbadarn Fawr School. This is an extract from the original Bond and below is the transcript  using the original spelling and punctuation used in the Bond document:

“Know all men by these presents that we John Speake of the parish of Llanbadarnfynydd in the County of Radnor, Builder. Aaron Moseley of the parish of Llananno in the said County, Farmer and Edward Hamer, of Lower Esker in the parish of Llanbadarnfynydd in the said county, farmer, are jointly and severally held and firmly bound to the School Board of Llanbadarn Fawr in the County of Radnor their successors and assigns in the p? sum of one thousand pounds for which payment to the  well and truly made we bind ourselves and each of us and any two of us and our ? each of our heirs executors and administrators and every of them jointly and severally by these presents Sealed with our seals dated the 17th day of April 1877 (then each has signed at bottom of page and witnessed by a John James

Page 2:

And in such case the above written Bond or Obligation shall become void otherwise the same shall remain? In full force and virtue provided always that it shall be lawful for the said Board and their successor from time to time by writing under their seal to extend the time for fulfilment of the terms and conditions of the said contract for such further period or periods as they shall think expedient or to give time for the payment of money by any of the parties hereto And that not withstanding such extension of time or any Rules of Law or Equity to the contrary this security shall remain and be in full force against the said John Speake Aaron Moseley and Edward Hamer and each of their heirs executor and administrators of each of them and shall be capable of being enforced in the same or like manner as if such extended period or periods had been originally inserted therein.

Page 3:

Whereas by a Contract or Articles of Agreement and a Specification and writings therein referred to bearing evendate with these presents the said John Speake, Builder has contracted to build a certain School and teachers residence at Llanbadarn Fawr in the county of Radnor and the whole of the works to be done in relation thereto with the appurtenances? And for other the purposes and agreements therein mentioned. And whereas ? ? treaty ? for such contract it was stipulated and agreed that the said John Speake Builder and the said Aaron Moseley and the said Edward Hamer should enter into the above mentioned Bond or obligation for the due performance of the said Contract Now the Condition of the above written Bond or obligation is such that if the above founder John Speake his executors or assigns? shall and do well and truly in all respects observe perform fulfil and keep the term and conditions of and the matters and things contained in the said contract on the part of the said John Speake then ?”

The school however was not very well built and there was continuous flooding throughout its history:

The School

Judy described the toilets as appalling. For 50 years the main comments about the school referred to the state of the buildings. There was quite a high rate of teacher turnover and this may have been one of the reasons. Neil was able to tell us that he had been involved in the demolition of part of the Teacher’s house.

In trying to track down the life of the school Judy has tried to gain access to the school logs that were kept by the Teacher in Charge. The detail provided has been very variable. Often teachers referred to ‘usual things’ as their entry. During the 1st World War women were in charge of the school and they did give a more comprehensive picture of the life of the school. After 1919 there is very little access to records due to the 100 year limitation on access to information within the County Archives system.

As mentioned before ‘absenteeism’ was a major concern. When Percy Severn was the Chair of the Board he turned a blind-eye to it as he knew that his tenant s needed the children to help out on the land. . In the School Log, the teacher notes the high incidence of absenteeism and that reporting this to the Board ‘serves no purpose’ as no action is taken.

When the school opened in 1878 there were 67 children enrolled whose ages were between 6 years and 13 years. Numbers rose quickly and in the next year there were 141 children. The Correspondent to the School Board comments on the state of the buildings.  The Log notes  that some of the children are, ‘not at all particular about damaging the fixtures’.

The early years were dominated by:

  • Regular days off to attend local events, these could be many and varied and would include the local Fairs, of which Penybont would be a very big event, circuses, shows, and farming activities.
  • In the build up to war there was a focus on singing patriotic songs and even choruses of “Hooray for England!”
  • Teachers had an interest in showing unusual objects to the children, these objects seemed to have little or no connection with Radnorshire.
  • There was a serious shortage of supplies: – paper, books and when these were asked for, they would often not be forthcoming.
  • Sickness amongst the children and outbreaks of measles and other childhood illnesses affecting the whole school, which would close when badly affected.
  • Then of course there were the usual concerns over poor drainage, poor lavatories, poor heating, and poor cleaning. Getting and keeping cleaners was a significant problem. Heating would be on but it would often be just above freezing in school. A comment on the times was that ‘button holing’ was very weak.
  • Then in 1898 there was the serious disturbance when a boy was caught chasing girls and kissing them, even though he had been strictly told not to. He  got 2 slaps on the hand for this misdemeanour.

At the beginning of the 1st World War the Head Teacher, Mr Jones, was called up on the 23rd September and had to be ready to board the train by 28th September. Rev. Jordan took all of the children from the school to the station to waive him off. A poignant time albeit the expectation was that the war would be over in a few months.

Mrs Jones took over the running of the school and went through a very steep learning curve. In October Belgian refugees whose homes had been bombed arrived by train were welcomed by the scholars. Meanwhile Mrs Jones was rapidly learning woodwork skills and how to work with raffia. An innovation during this period was the arrival, for 2 weeks, of a van from which cookery lessons were delivered by Miss Randle to the 22 young scholars.

Cookery Scholars and Van

Mary was able to see her mother, Myfanwy Thomas, amongst the children. This was just part of the ‘patriotic activities’ that would lead to a ‘War Saving Certificate’.

Inside the cookery van


The following photograph was taken around 1920 and includes Eric and Emily Philips from Guidfa Farm. Eric famously lost all his hair by the age of 17 years!


The next photograph, 1922, was posted to Facebook  by Gary Wood, who now lives in Kent, it includes his mother Eleanor Hamer who is the child 3rd row from the front and 4th child from the left.


During this year the school was closed for 2 weeks due to an epidemic of mumps. Also taken in 1922 was this photograph:


This photo includes: Eleanor Hamer, her sister Freda Hamer (later Goodwin) and Mary Goodwin (later Thomas)

Front row, extreme right sitting is Eric Phillips of Guidfa Farm.

The next photograph, taken in 1925, Judy only received yesterday.


This photo also includes Eleanor Hamer and her sister Freda. Mary Goodwin ? mother-in-law and Joy’s mum who is the child on the extreme left of the front row.

During the 20th Century there was an increasing interest in the health of the children now attending school. The Boer War had raised concerns about the general health of the new city dwellers and the peasantry. In 1905 the Board of Education said:

 ‟opportunity should be found in connection with the curriculum in elementary schools, for imparting to the children who are to become mothers and fathers of the race, the broad principles of healthy living‟

There were lectures to both teachers and children on healthy living, regular health checks, there is a reference, in 1936, to the Dentist being at the school all day checking on teeth, also regular eye tests. In 1937 the Government introduced 1/3 pint of milk each day, which for the first few months was pasteurised in the school by the teachers using two gas burners to heat the milk. Mild s was not free until 1944. Dr Johnson came in regularly to test for TB (known as consumption) and Miss Thornley would give lectures on health, hygiene, and Temperance.

Late 20s

The picture above, taken in the late 20s shows Mr Jones as the Head Teacher on the right.

The 1920s and 30s was a period of social change. There was an annual Music Festival in Llandrindod and the pupils were given music lessons and encouragement to participate in these activities. When Sir Walford Davies, musician and composer, gave a talk in Llandrindod the school was given a half day off school to go and listen to his talk on music. 

There would be an annual talk for the boys on ‘citizenship’. The same talk was repeated each year. Before the 2nd World War there was no place for gardening within the curriculum. The thing that did remain the same were the days off as documented above.

The picture below was taken in the period 1930/2 and has:


Back row left to right: ?, Alan Gough, Clifford Smout, ?, ?, ?, Jimmy Watson, Bill Worthing, Ted Faulkner, Les Evans:  Front row left to right: Derwen Pinches, Annie Richards, Gladys Goodwin, Margaret Hammonds, Gwen Lloyd, Mary Goodwin, Betty Worthing

During the 1930s there were a number of factors that highlighted the changing world that children were witnessing. Today we would not be aware or interested in a teacher who was taking a driving test. This was a big event for the school children. The driving test had been introduced in 1935  and by 1937 the teacher was required to take her test before being able to drive by herself. We don’t know if she passed or not! She probably did as I am sure we would know if s failed.

The WI was gaining momentum as an organisation and they were becoming quite adventurous, they arranged trips to London, Bourneville and Chester.

A new Headmaster was appointed who upset the teaching staff. He was a disciplinarian and was unhappy with the day to day practice in the school. Against this Teachers were becoming more professional and set higher standards for the children, A Supply teacher, Miss Eadie would come to school in an Austin 7. She was a good teacher and was described as a lovely woman.

Attempts were made to improve the conditions at the school. A new water supply was installed but the lead pipes were a problem, prior to this water was drawn from a well in the wood.

In 1938 the football team had their photograph taken:


Names shown on the photograph are:

Back Row left to right: Mervyn Davies, Fred Williams, Fred Brick, David Smout, and Head Teacher Mr Hayward

Front row left to right: Austin Jones, Bob Williams, Reg Bufton, Dennis Brick, Alan Davies, Jim Goodwin, Telford Williams

The beginning of War in 1945 heralded in many changes to life in Llanbadarn Fawr. The wireless suddenly became very important in the home and in school. The wireless helped people keeping in touch with what was going on with the war, but they became important sources of information in schools. Members reminisced about the joy of making a crystal wireless.

One of the big changes in school was the new interest in gardening and growing food.

Once again, the school received evacuees, this time from Bootle. Children were between 3 and 9 years old. One family, a mother with two children, a boy and a girl, wrote about the very happy time they spent in the area. Nan Thomas put them up initially but they later moved to Woodside Cottage.

Socially the big change saw women in increasing roles and responsibilities.

In 1944 there was a new Education Act which established the Primary and Secondary Education System. Llanbadarn Fawr Elementary School, taking children up to 13 years became Llanbadarn Fawr School taking children to 11+. Schooling would go up until 15 years.

Photograph taken 1944/45:


Extreme left:

Mr Breeze (Head Teacher) and on extreme right the teachers are Miss Bufton (the older person) and Miss Jones

Back Row left to right:

Fred G (don’t know what G stands for), Peter Smout, Ralph Oakley, Lyn Williams, Fred Morris, Glenville D (?), Roy Davies, Stuart ?, Brian Oakley, Charlie Phillips, Brian Richards, Michael Lloyd, Cecil Phillips, Hilton Jones (note that there are 15 children in the back row, but only 13 names??) So who is unnamed?

2nd row from back left to right: Miah Lewis, Bill Griffiths, Russel Davies, Glenys Jones, Elizabeth Williams, Margaret Evans, Norma Moorhouse, Dily Smouth, Lilian Bishop, Caroline Morgan, Vera Lewis, Vanessa Brown, Gerald Hope, David Davies, Gwynne Stephens

3rd Row from back (2nd row from front): Irene Lewis, Barbara Jones, Netta Evans, Diana Lee, Josie Collins, Barbara Evans, Jean Hammons, Sheila Lawrence, Jackie Collins, Bunty Lewis, Sylvia Abberley, Helen Jones, Kath Williams

Front Row from left to right: Basil Lewis, Ken Middleton, ?,?, Ralph Williams, Derek Halford, Ray Middleton, Jonathan Morgan, George Griffiths, Vincent Lloyd, John Owens, ?,?.

Photograph 1945/46

Teacher on extreme right is Miss Jones (later Mrs Harry Brown)

Middle Row includes: Derek Halford, Austin Jones, Violet Price

Photograph 1944/5?


Teachers are Miss Jones and Mr Breeze

Back Row: ?, ?, ? Derek Halford, somewhere on this photo is Dai Davies, John Owens, Dough Winwood, and Vincent Lloyd

Middle Row: includes Basil Lewis, George Griffiths (4th from left), Ken Middleton (on extreme right)

Front row: Kath Williams (on extreme right), ? Lewis, Sylvia Abberley (3rd from left) also Pauline Lucas,

Photograph 1946?


Miss Jones is the teacher

Back Row from left to right: Derek Halford, Dai Davies, John Owens, ?, Ken Middleton, ?, Ralph Williams

Front row: ?, George Griffiths, Irene Lewis, Katherine Williams, Sylvia Abberley, Pauline Lucas, Vincent Lloyd

Photograph Early 1950s

Teacher is Mrs Walters

Photograph 1954


Teacher is Mrs Walters:

Back row left to right: Anthony Jones, ? Evans, Valerie Mills, Sheila Brooks, Leslie Whitehead, Julie Middleton, Nancy Williams, ?, ?, ?

Middle Row: Delia Evans, Douglas Bayliss, Elizabeth Bayliss, Haydn Bufton, Marlene Campbell, Gwyn Phillips, Rosemary Morgan, Leonard Weale, Christine Heppel

Front Row left to right: Jackie Reynolds, David Morgan, David Green, Bryndley Jones, ?, John Phillips, ?

Photograph 1950?


Teacher is Mr Breeze

Photograph 1958?

Back Row left to right: Roger Watson, Dennis Davies, Barbara Harris, Sylvia Watling, Maureen Robinson, Leslie Powell, ?, Desmond Powell, Neil Richards, Andrew Stephens, Gaynor Lewis and standing on extreme right is Ivor Goodwin

Front row left to right: next to Roger Watson is Stephen Warren, Jackie Pemberton, Joy Harris, Susan Goodwin, Janet Morgan, Pamela Faulkner, Toni Pemberton, Ann ?, Helen Hughes, Nigel Robinson

Please note: Neil Richards makes his first appearance!

Photograph 1960?


Back row left to right: Dennis Davies, Roger Watson, Christine Morgan, Movita Reynolds, Caroline Lawrence, Christopher Lewis, Judith Stephens, Leslie Powell, Diane Robinson, Laurie Pemberton, Gregory Warren, Gaynor Lewis

Front row left to right: Sylvia Watling, Desi Powell, Ivor Goodwin, Neil Richards, Anne ?, Andrew Stephens, Maureen Robinson, Joy Harris, Barbara Harris, Toni Pemberton, Anne ?, Pamela Faulkner

Please note that we now have both Judy and Neil in this photo.

Photograph Late 1960s

Back row left to right: Joy Harris, Linda McDermot, Maureen Robinson, Gaynor Lewis, Rowan Collins, Ivor Goodwin, Neil Richards

Middle Row left to right: Tony Stephens, Janet Morgan, Pam Faulkner, Helen Hughes, Diana Davies, Stephen Warren

Front row left to right: Nigel Robinson, Graham Clark, ? Powell, Clive Green, ?

Photograph Late 1960s

The group had obtained their cycle proficiency – including Neil!

Photograph Early 1970s

Adults are:

On extreme left: Mrs Joyce Mills and on her left  Mrs Dot Green and extreme right is Mrs May Phillips, all members of the school cook team Mrs Phillips was the chief School Cook.

The teachers in the middle in second row from the front are Mrs Matcher, Mr Thomas and Miss Sue Davies

Some of the teachers include:

John Howat  1878-9

Henry & Helena Davies 1880-92

John and Alice Jones 1900-1930

Mr Hayward 1931 to 1940 (or later?)

Mr Breeze died very suddenly

Mr Warren 1959

Mr Thomas…

Judy commented particularly favourably on Mr Warren who had been a navigator during the War. He died at the age of just 50 years and is buried at Rock Chapel.

When the school bell rope rotted away a letter was sent to the Secretary of Education. The solution was to use a whistle.

Mrs Matcher was something of a celebrity as she was godmother to Cliff Richard. She was a lovely lady, and she wore gold bands.

Judy’s sources included:

Sylvia and Ray Price

Llanbadarn Fawr School Logs

HMI Reports

Lingen, Symons, Vaughan Johnson (1847) Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales

Oliver, RCB (1971) The Squires of Penybont Hall

Bevan, R (1990), The State of Education in Radnorshire in 1818, Radnorshire Society Transactions 1990

There were no log books after 1940. The HMI Reports could be very informative and have gems like: “More Hat Pegs Needs”.

Comments after the talk:

A general comment was made about how different the value of education was seen for different families living in quite different circumstances.

Books were often given to the children as prizes but these had very little relevance to life in Radnorshire. E.g. ‘Brave Soldiers of the Empire’.

Good attendance at school was bizarrely often rewarded with time off school.

Judith mentioned that Geraint has been trying to persuade her to write a booklet on the school. Colin Hughes is due to give a talk to the Radnor Society on Radnorshire Schools.

Geriant went back to the Treachery of the Blue Books and congratulated Bob Dennison on receiving an award at the National Eisteddfod for a category in the Welsh Language.

Llanbadarn Fawr School was not the only school to get strange comments from the Inspectors. At Nantmel they commented on the pig in the classroom and in another school, there was a cow.

Geraint thanked Judy for her brilliant talk.

Our next meeting will be on the 7th October when Joe Botting will talk on ‘The Geological Basis of Local History’

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

Penybont and District History Group Notes

1st July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured on the Map are:

St. Techla’s Church,

The Graveyard


Ty’n y Llan

Burton House


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to access llandegley.pdf

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

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

Pearl Rock can present as a dramatic mountain feature:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Across the road was the carpenter’s shop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are still 3 staircases in the house.

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

Next we come to the school:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is more information at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

The Pilots

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

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

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

Algernon John Insall (Jack)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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