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 p.m.in 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, https://www.butserancientfarm.co.uk/
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:
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.
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:
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.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulling
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:
Children over 11 years, and children under 11 years
Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies and Cubs
Classes open to local people
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:
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
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
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 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.
By contrast the smaller two-pronged fork was used for handling roasting meat at Far Hall, Dolau.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
Horse and mule shoes
Bullock shoes and nails
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
Gate hangers spanners
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.
And numerous other people who contributed to the discussions on the subject.
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.
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),
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.
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. 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.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-field_system
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.
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 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.
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:
Modern management (most recent few years)
Recent management (decades)
Land use over centuries (chemistry modification,
Recent geology and climate cycles: thousands to
tens of thousands of years
Landscape and drainage
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
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.
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
scotese.com (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
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
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!
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
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
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
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!
Topic: Llanbarn Fawr School – Judy Dennison and her elegant assistant, Bob
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!
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’.
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:
“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
The 1847 Report stated that:
imperfectly instructed, if possible, than the boys. The effect is observerable
in the gross ignorance of the female peasantry.. especially in Cardiganshire
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
It went on to refer to a
‘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 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
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
That parents had to pay for
their children’s education, unless they could not afford to.
That attendance should be
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
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.
system of education as set out within the Act was:
“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
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
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:
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
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.
During this year the school was
closed for 2 weeks due to an epidemic of mumps. Also taken in 1922 was this
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
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
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
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
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:
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,
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, ?,?.
Teacher on extreme
right is Miss Jones (later Mrs Harry Brown)
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,
Miss Jones is the
Back Row from left to
right: Derek Halford, Dai Davies, John Owens, ?, Ken Middleton, ?, Ralph
Front row: ?, George
Griffiths, Irene Lewis, Katherine Williams, Sylvia Abberley, Pauline Lucas,
Photograph Early 1950s
Teacher is Mrs Walters
Teacher is Mrs
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
Teacher is Mr Breeze
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!
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 ?,
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,
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
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
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
Mr Breeze died very suddenly
Mr Warren 1959
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
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
Lingen, Symons, Vaughan Johnson
(1847) Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in
Oliver, RCB (1971) The Squires of
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
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
Our next meeting will be on the 7th
October when Joe Botting will talk on ‘The Geological Basis of Local History’
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
As you proceed towards the
Pales, Rhonllyn Farm is adjacent to the junction on the way up from the
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
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.
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.
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:
His Family life
His relationship to the Roman Catholic Church
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.
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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’!!!