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,
Ty’n y Llan
Two Wells are shown and there was some discussion about other wells that may have been associated with particular houses, Geraint was sure that there was a well within Pound House that got concreted over, and wells that were village wells.
The Vicarage is just shown off to the west with a lane, Frog Lane, going down to the Brook.
LB was thought to refer to the Letter Box in the village.
The letter P, which features twice, stumped us, perhaps they might refer to Village Pumps, as opposed to wells.
Some of the sheds at Ty’n y Llan would have been knocked down when the bypass was constructed as they would have been in the middle of the road.
When we look at the village ‘then’ and ‘now’ the big change is the bypass which sweeps around cutting off the farm Ty’n y Llan from the village. The bypass was created during the 1920’s when some farm buildings were lost as one of the sheds would have been in the middle of the road. Shirley told us that the original vicarage, which is marked on the Tythe Map, had been described as something of ‘hovel’.
This picture of Llandegley Rocks, by Gareth Rees-Roberts, is one of many that illustrate the beautiful setting that the village is fortunate enough to enjoy.
We have in previous notes documented the history of the Pales Meeting House, this photograph, looking up into the Radnor Forest taken from the Pales, also show the village in its setting.
Here we have the village again, as seen from Llandegley Rocks. At the top of Llandegley Rocks is the great Pearl Rock overlooking the village with an air of distinction. To a question about the name ‘Pearl’, Shirley believes that it is so named because you can find Quartz Crystals and she remembers collecting crystals for her grandchild.
These two pictures show Persondy Field, the field under the Church, the field under the Church. Geraint said there had been an archaeological dig carried out in the field but he had no details of what they had found. CPAT have done a survey of the village however and this can be found at:
Getting closer to Pearl Rock the path is well defined as the postman delvers mail her to Pearl House:
In Geraint’s time as vicar he knew a Mr Barker who lived in this remote and secluded property. He was something of an innovator, who made his own fridge, tapped into a spring to get water for his bathroom, and he had his own generator for electricity. He had worked in the aircraft industry in Coventry. His daughter married into the Duggan family but tragically died at the age of 28 years. Mr Barker was the first person in the area to own and drive a Land Rover.
Pearl Rock can present as a dramatic mountain feature:
From a book, ‘Railways of Radnorshire’ Geraint had found this map:
There is reference to Llandegley Halt. This map covers proposed railways prior to the reversal of Government Policy and the Beaching cuts that never happened. It does show the Heart of Wales Line running down from Hopton Heath to Garth. Companies planned their own routes independently. A line running from New Radnor to Llandegley, one might presume, would go on to Pen-y-bont, whereas it veers off towards Hundred House and to somewhere marked as Capel Bethesda, a name not known to anyone in the group. Similarly, there was no knowledge of the two Gunstone Junctions that embrace a link between to two Lines?
Shirley and Geraint then took us back to the Pales Lane where Neil’s grandparents used to live. The had a ‘cosy cottage’ that has now gone completely. The photo below hardly does justice to ‘cosy’ however:
Near to the house was the corn mill that had an over-shot wheel. It stopped working in 1861. The before and after photos are as it was in 2005 and how it is today. Unlike today, corn was widely grown locally along with barley for beer.
The footpath past the mill goes sharp left and you come across another mystery – a bridge over the Mithil River. It looks a bit like a military bridge with huge metal girders. There is no hand rail and it does not join up with the paths or tracks.
In our previous Notes we have written about the Spa and its connection with Burton House. The Spa building has all but disappeared the pictures below are 2005 and then now.
Back to the centre of the village and the before and now are in stark contrast to each other in one remarkable way. Can you spot the difference?
Well, of course there is the Telephone Kiosk, now a Defibulator Kiosk, but more significantly it is the lack of people in the recent photograph. The loss of amenities in villages has had a dramatic impact on village life. No longer are people walking to the shop, having conversations in the street, informal social interaction has died up as people go off to the bigger towns in their cars. Ray and Sylvia, within their collection of photos, and having run the Post Office in Penybont see this everywhere.
Another view of the centre of the village also throws up some amazing changes. How many can you spot?
Burton House, formerly Burton Hotel, featured in one of previous talks, and is dominant in many of the photos in the centre of the village. Here it is from 2 different sides a few years ago and followed by one recent photo.
Neils’ Grandmother used to talk to him about the joy of coming down to the village as a child to watch the coaches arriving and leaving from the Burton Hotel.
Across the road was the carpenter’s shop:
Inside there are still some of the Carperter’s paraphernalia:
Somewhere adjacent was a carpenter’s shop and it may have been in one of these buildings:
The cobbled yard would have come across the road. The farm was noted for being very boggy.
Primrose Cottage has been mentioned in previous despatches and was originally three separate dwellings:
Joy was able to tell us that her sister was born on the kitchen table as a ‘blue baby’. If it had not been for the intervention of the by now infamous, Nurse Gittings she would not have survived.
Joy also remembered that her dad, who was 6ft 4in, got so fed up banging his head on a door frame that he cut a section out of the frame so that he could get through more easily. The family eventually moved to Birmingham but Joy then returned to the village.
There are still 3 staircases in the house.
Percy Bufton lived there in the 1960s. Percy had the most wonderful aviary. He had been batman to Sir Peter Scott. John Abberly always contends that Percy kept a monkey there as well. Percy arranged a trip to Slimbridge for all the children, which was a great treat.
Next we come to the school:
The building, designed by Lingen Barker and dating from 1871, has not changed very much over the years as seen above. This picture, taken in 1885, is at: http://history.powys.org.uk/school1/llandrindod/school3.shtml
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: http://www.cpat.demon.co.uk/projects/longer/churches/radnor/16829.htm
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.