Visiting Speaker: Dr. Colin Hughes who heralds from Tonmawr (of Richard Burton fame). He was a history teacher at Builth High School. His doctorate is in History of Education. He became the history GCSE Examiner for Wales.
Mary Davies was unable to be present as she has broken her ankle.
Present and been before: Rev Geraint Hughes; Derek Turner; Lynda Price; Ray Price; Carol Bufton; John Abberley; Richard Davies; Jenny Jones; Bryan Johnson; Gwen Lawrence; Jean Lewis; Norma Baird Murray; Marion Evans; Hugh Jefferies; Neil Richards; Rosemary Hughes; Jesse Hiscox; Neil Hilliard; Gina Harley
Present and new:
Julien Lovell from Abbeycwmhir – Interest in local History and the Landscape
Bob and Carolyn Kennard from Dolau – Particular interest in all things organic
Shirley Morgan from Llandegley
Jean Vann from Crossgates. Lived here over 7 years – Was a Geography and IT Teacher
Humphrey Morgan from Llandrindod
Geraint and Derek both welcomed people to the meeting.
Geraint introduced Lynda’s scrapbook of 2012. This was passed around to encourage members to contribute items.
The Cattle Drovers in Radnorshire – Dr Colin Hughes
Though Colin has written a number of books – on subjects such as ‘crime and punishment’ and ‘health and medicine’ – he would not describe himself as an expert on the Drovers. He and his wife became interested a few years ago and he has been driving around in his open top KA to picture buildings and trees associated with the drovers.
He would recommend some books that he has found very useful:
• The Welsh Drovers of Wales – Richard Moore Colyer
• The Drover Roads of Wales – Shirley Toulson and Fay Godwin
• The Drovers – Shirley Toulson
Colin started with some slides showing sculptures of Drovers. One in Newbridge, one in Llandovery and one of the Drover and his dog at Smithfield. Cardigan and Pembrokeshire Corgis were the dogs of choice as they nipped the heels of the Welsh Black cattle to keep them moving along.
Estimates would suggest that some 30,000 cattle being taken from Wales to London around 1700.
There were very many routes that the Drovers used across Wales. The poor soil meant that Welsh farmers exported their stock to the English markets in London, or the Midlands, to make their living. They were known to have swum the Menai Straits to get to the fattening grounds in the English Midlands. They travelled at a speed of about 2 miles per hour. The cattle would then be kept for about three weeks in the SE England before finally going to market. In the latter part of the 18th century routes were developed to avoid the Tolls. Halfpenny fields became associated with the tolls where for every score of cattle the Drovers were charged 10d.
It is difficult to talk about Drover’s Roads as they followed routes which tried to avoid tolls and crossed lands where landowners were helpful. Colin prefers the word routes. He went on to trace 4 routes that went through Radnorshire and on towards Hereford.
1. Beulah – Newbridge – Hereford
The route would have come up from Tregarin to Beulah and on to Abergwesyn and then down to Newbridge where originally the Drovers would cross the Wye where it was calm and shallow. There were six pubs in Newbridge. Merry Hall was a Cider House and became known as ‘Merry Hell’. There is also a Halfpenny Field nearby.
From Newbridge the Drovers would progress through Green Lane to Disserth where they would cross the River Ithon. The Farm at Disserth was previously an Inn used by the Drovers. It is said that the singing in Disserth Church could lead to an instant conversion. On from Disserth they would make their way towards Howey with its two pubs, one called the Drovers, and crossing the main road at Crossways. This would take them via the ancient town of Cefnllys and on to Franksbridge where, as well as the Inn, where there was Franks Shop and blacksmith. From there they would cross Gilwern Hill to Cregina on the River Edw. The cattle would be shod here, Black Lion Inn, with cattle shoes (ciws), some have been dug up in the area. Glascwm would be the next stop with its three pubs and then on to Colva, where St David’s Church is one of the highest churches in Wales, and the Star Inn. Crossing the Welsh –English border they would proceed to Huntington and Hereford or they would go through Gladestry to Kington.
2. Monks Trod – Rhayader – Llandegley – Kington
The Monks’ Trod links the Cistercian abbeys at Strata Florida in Ceredigion and Cwm Hir in Radnorshire, and is thought to have been the route used by monks travelling between the two abbeys. The section between Strata Florida and -Pont ar Elan passes over a wonderful stretch of remote, little visited moorland at the top end of the Craig Goch reservoir. This section has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, and a Special Area of Conservation.
At Aberhenllan they would proceed to Glynllyn and Cwmdauddwr, where there would be a toll, and on to Rhayader. There were six Toll Houses in Rhayader, a factor that led to the notorious Rebecca Riots of 1843.
From Rhayader on to the Severn Stars Inn at Nantmel and to Crossgates. Where there were several Scots Pine trees as way-markers at junctions and to identify pubs and Inns. In the BBC series, “The Trees That Made Briton”, they mention pubs with three pine trees, some with 5 trees, as a way of classifying the place, a bit like tourist board star grading!
There were more marker trees at Penybont where there was a regular market and the present Severn Arms, built in 1840, was used by Drovers.
The route would then have followed the A44 passed the Ffaldau, 1450, to the Burton Arms in Llandeley, and on to The Drovers, Larch Grove, where there was a smithy to fit the cattle with ¼ inch ciws. On up past Gwernarglwydd Farm and the motte and bailey castle. There was a Toll House at the Forest Inn before reaching a Georgian Farm House at Trewern. Here again we find the Scots Pines before reaching Hergest Ridge, Stanner Rocks and Kington.
3. Erwood via Paiscastle to Rhydspence and Hereford
The Drovers coming from Mynydd Epynt the Ferrymen, Tom Evans and Jack Morgan, near the site of Erwood Bridge, would take the cattle across the Wye in their flat-bottomed boat. In an infamous incident Little Tom drowned saving the cattle that were tipped into the river, but failed to save the raft.
They then moved on over Llandeilo Hill past Penrhiw and into Painscastle where there were six inns. One of the Inns is now known as the Roast Ox Inn but had previously been called the Black Ox Inn where there was another smithy and a halfpenny field.
From Paiscastle the drovers would cross Clyro Hill to Rhydspence and on to Hereford.
4. Erwood – Cregina – Newchurch – Hereford
As in 3. above, the Drovers approached Erwood, which was the principal crossing place near Builth. The crossing point was between Aberduhonw and Llanfaredd. There is a well-defined Drovers track up Aberedw Hill which took them on to Cregina, Glascwm, Colva, Newchurch and then on to Rhydspence or Hereford.
Banking System in Wales
Linked to the needs of the Drovers saw the birth of the Banking System in the late eighteeth century with the Old Bank at Brecon being founded in 1778. (John Price’s Bank in Penybont was founded at about the same time.) A ten pound promissory note (1838) issued by the Black Ox Bank (1799) in Llandovery had the symbol of the Welsh Black Ox on the note and was signed by William and David Jones and Sons. Richard, retired Banker, was able tell us about how the banks in Wales had, from an early date, developed networks that linked them to larger banks in London. Following a merger the Black Ox became the Black Horse and Lloyds was founded. In Aberystwyth and Tregaron there were similar developments with the Black Sheep Bank (1811- 1814). (The Bank established in Penybont by John Price did not survive long after his death in 1799.)
As referred to earlier Colin paid specific attention to the Scots Pine which was used as a way-marker and to indicate places that would provide accommodation to Drovers. Their height and distinctive red bark made them ideally suited for this purpose. Many of the Inns in the area still have Scots Pines as they are long lived, up to 500 years, and very tall, up to 65 feet.
End of the Drovers
According to Geraint three things contributed to the end of the Drovers, the coming of the railway that provided an alternative means of getting to London, turnpikes that imposed tolls on the Drovers, and the enclosures that made movement across the countryside almost impossible.
The old cattle pens can still be located alongside railway stations such as Rhayader (1905), Builth, and Painscastle (1900). (and Penybont)
Affection for the Drovers, which had previously been associated with trust and a well licensed business, drifted away and terms of abuse became linked to them:
• “Rogues and swindlers”
• “Pack of thieves”
• “Swindling Drovers”
Colin finished by giving a booklet to the group that covered the ground covered in his talk. (This will be available to the group on the Local History Table at the Thomas Shop.)
Geraint thanked Colin for his most enlightening and excellent talk.
The next session will be led by Derek Turner who will explore the history behind the Thomas Shop with support from Mary Davies.
Next session is on the second Monday in April as the first Monday is Easter Monday. Monday 8th April 2013 at 10.30 a.m.