Geraint welcomed members, with a particular reference to Susan from Bank House as a new member. We were once again a goodly number with extra chairs needed.
Geraint reminded us that we had two presentations this morning. He welcomed Chris Carpenter who was going to talk about ‘Milestones’, and then Nigel would be giving the second part of his previously prepared presentation on: ‘The Home Guard’.
We were also reminded that Richard Davies would lead a session on the 3rd March on Banking in Penybont.
Geraint thanked Jenny for the excellent work she has done on transcribing the Admission Records from School. Names that feature strongly in the record are those that we expect: Abberley; Bufton; Duggan; Evans; Hughes; Jones; Lloyd; Owens; Price; Powell; Watkins; Williams. In one section there is beautiful ‘copperplate’ writing and details giving date of birth; parent, residence, and including occupation; and standards achieved by the young person. A copy of the transcription is located with the other History Group items in the café at the Thomas Shop.
1. Milestones – Chris Carpenter
Chris has been a member of the Milestones Society since shortly after it was formed in 2001. The Society, which publishes regular Newsletters and has an excellent website, (http://www.milestonesociety.co.uk/index.html) ,
“Established in May 2001, we aim to “identify, record, research, conserve and interpret for public benefit the milestones and other waymarkers of the British Isles”.
“‘Milestone’ is a generic term, including mileposts made of cast iron. Such waymarkers are fast disappearing; around 9000 are thought to survive in the UK. Most were removed or defaced in World War II to baffle potential German invaders and not all were replaced afterwards. Many have been demolished as roads have been widened, or have been victims of collision damage, or have been smashed by hedge-cutters or flails.”
The objects of the Society include: the protection of milestones and to publicise their continued importance as it relates to the enjoyment they give, and for the historical information that to which they are connected. The Society runs local and national projects and is constantly looking for people to help with the preservation of the known milestones and to locate and record new finds. Chris is one of a small group who take responsibility for local (Crossgates to the Herefordshire border) milestones.
It was the Romans who introduced milestones and the concept of a ‘mile’ (about 1617 yds) – 1000 running paces or double-step. 117 of these early Roman milestones still exist. After the Romans the milestones and ‘boundary markers’ became increasing important until railroads became the dominant mode of transport. In 1555 local Parishes became responsible for boundary markers by Act of Parliament. In 1697 Justices were required by statute to erect ‘guideposts’ at crossroads. As Turnpike Roads became increasing important in the 18th Century the need for better signage was recognised and in 1767 it became compulsory for all Turnpike Roads to have mileposts and to indicate both direction and mileage. This was a great help to traveller and to the coach operators.
The ‘mile’ has had an interesting history. During the reign of Elizabeth1 (1592) the statute mile became 1760 yards in England, but it was not until 1959 that this became a national standard. The Scots mile was longer than a English mile and though there were variations it was most generally 1976 yards. The Irish mile was longer still 2240 yds. Derek wondered if the mile in Ireland was more of a cultural phenomenon. It has become synonymous with the advice given to travellers when they ask for directions. It being impolite not to be seen to be helping the advice is most often: “Sure it is only a mile down the road.”
The ‘stone’ was generally made from local stone, about 5 ft to 6 ft in height and cylindrical. Some early stones were wooden, in North Wales they used slate, and more latterly metal plates were used.
The importance of the stones was reflected in the punishment that could be meted out to anyone tampering with stones – between 10 shillings and £5 or 1 month in jail.
The oldest milestones, the Roman ones always had a dedication to the Emperor. Most of them are now in museums. The old road from Chester to Cardiff and went through Upper and Lower Chapel was a Roman Road and two of these early Roman milestones canbe seen in Brecon Museum.
A brief history of the requirements laid down in statute included:
1773 All crossroads were to be marked with a fingerpost
1781 Parish boundaries were to be marked
1830 Turnpike Trusts were set up in all regions
1880 Turnpike Trusts were abolished
1941 Government decreed that all milestones were to be removed or hidden in case of invasion
More latterly the responsibility was devolved to Highway Departments within the County Councils and many of the ancient waymarkers became Grade II listed.
There are 11,000 stones or markers listed on the national database. Volunteer groups take on responsibilities through the Milestone Society for stretches of road linked to the old County boundaries.
There are only 2 members in Radnorshire and Chris has responsibility for the A44 between Crossgates and the Herefordshire border. Chris’s responsibilities include;
• Measuring the dimensions of stones/waymarkers
• Recording any inscriptions
• Noting any names on the reverse side of the stone/waymarker
• Taking the grid reference number
• Trim grass and keep the site in good order
Aim is to try to ensure the dreaded ‘verge slayer’ does not destroy any stones. In 2012 a car at Cornhill flattened one of the stones. Others can be stolen and some turn up at antique auctions.
Milestone Society Newsletter 5 extract 2003
“Radnorshire – Tony Boyce reports that seven members attended the group’s January meeting at Penybont. Good progress on the recording of this old county’s milestones was reported. Although some are missing and a few badly damaged, generally the situation is quite encouraging. During the course of one Rhayader member’s survey a milestone was smashed into by a lorry and so the photograph recording its existence is of the damaged and dislodged stone.
Gwyneth Guy, who previously has carried out milestone listing work in
Radnorshire for Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments, is the group’s new coordinator. Now that the society has arranged for insurance cover, Powys County Council is happy for members to paint or carry out minor repairs on milestones, as long as these are not close to the carriageway and provided a work schedule is drawn up beforehand. Any conservation work by the group will be held in abeyance, however, until a milestone database for Radnorshire has been completed.”
“The turnpike or toll road from Knighton to Penybont was built in the early 19th century with a tollgate at either end. This section of the road from Penybont SO1158764086 across Rhos Swydd to SO1346065660. It is not shown on the Original Surveyors drawings of 1817 but is on the 1″ to 1 mile map of 1833. The new road takes a route across the common that curves further to the south than of the former road, NPRN 86841, presumably to avoid the very wet, boggy area in the centre of the common. The road is still in use as the A488 and two milestones still remain, NPRN 511965 and 511967. J.J. Hall, Trysor, 23 June 2011”
“Uplands Initiative – Radnorshire Small Commons 2010-2011
Despite the proximity of some of the south eastern survey areas to the English border and the 8th century Offa’s Dyke, there are no known sites dating to the Early Medieval period in the Radnorshire Small Commons study areas.
One site of possible Roman date was encountered, which was the putative Roman Road which crosses Rhos Swydd (Area 8), near Penybont. The Penybont Roman Road (NPRN 86841) is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM RD258) and has been described in the NMR as having a prominent camber and flanking ditches. It has been proposed as the road which linked the Roman fort at Castell Collen with Mortimer’s Cross, Herefordshire. It should be pointed out, however, that there is no record of archaeological excavation being carried out on this stretch of now disused road. It may yet prove to be of later date. Whatever uncertainties exist about the presence of a Roman road beneath Rhos Swydd common, a post-medieval road is shown here on early 19th century Ordnance Survey maps. The road (NPRN 512220) was in use as the main route across Rhos Swydd until a turnpike roadwas built just to the south and it was still in use as a trackway until the late 19th century, although parts of the road line have now become very wet and boggy and it can no longer be used along its whole length. It is not impossible that this roadway predates the post-medieval period, and it may indeed overlie a Roman road, but without archaeological excavation its history remains unclear.”
“the work of the Radnorshire Turnpike Trust in improving and realigning the county’s then very poor roads, for which purpose it met regularly in Presteigne’s Shire Hall. In the Trust’s first Order Book for the years 1767-1801 the name Edward Lewis, esq. appears frequently in minutes relating to road works and the erection of toll gates to meet the costs involved. The first turnpike road to be built, and referred to as ‘The Great Road’, ran across the county from Presteigne to Rhayader via New Radnor and Penybont, so having to take in its course parts of the high Radnor Forest. One of the very early entries in the Order Book, dated 4 August 1767. listed those Trustees, all of whom were local landed gentry of some wealth, who had subscribed sums of money to the credit of the tolls at a rate of � 4 and later � 5 per cent per annum.”
John A knows of a stone that was by a style that is now at Baileymawr Farm – Ted Shepherd.
Between New Radnor and Penybont there are 8 stones. One of these has Penybont on the stone, the others all have Presteigne.
On the Knighton Road there are 5 stones within half a mile.
Chris looks after 7 stones and 2 boundary stones.
Last year 3 stones were found in a ditch near Knighton. Two have been restored and one is still in bits. The oldest local stone is on the road between Builth and Llandrindod (1759). There is one at Wrexham from 1752. On Angelsey there is a stone designed by Thomas Telford. The one at Craven Arms is 18 feet high There is one at Brampton Bryan that is metal and was made by the local blacksmith.
“At Tywyn St Cadfan’s Stone stands in the north west corner of the church, near a much later monolithic stone that once served as a sundial. This stone has a rounded top carved with a semi-circular sundial, and a later 17th century inscription below. It is possible that it was brought here from a nearby abbey.”
Unusually some stones in Denbighshire were sometimes marked in miles and furlongs.
Some modern stones have been commissioned to celebrate events such as the Queen’s Jubilee
The milestone was created by Ducklington sculptor Alec Peever and installed in Long Hanborough’s Main Road, Oxon.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was a truly remarkable event in our nation’s history. Not since the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 has a reigning monarch achieved 60 years on the throne. Such an event is widely felt to merit lasting commemoration and over the long Bank Holiday weekend 2 – 5 June 2012, with its street parties, Thames Pageant and beacons, this was shown to be true.
On 24 November 2012, at Wall in Staffordshire, a lasting monument to the event was unveiled alongside Watling Street, close to its junction with ancient Ryknild Street where once stood a milestone of the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Claudis (268-70).
This feature, a replica of an Imperial Roman milestone (effectively an ‘honorific pillar’), was the idea of The Milestone Society which aims to restore and maintain historic milestones and finger posts throughout the country. Inscribed in Latin to reflect sixty years of the Queens Reign, it is the only one of its type to be installed since the Roman period. The work was commissioned in conjunction with Wall Parish Council.”
Geraint thanked Chris for his most illuminating talk. Interest in the work of the Milestone Society is welcomed.
2. The Home Guard –Nigel Topley
Nigel started his talk by telling us of stories he had heard from his Granny about the antics of the Home Guard. One such story was about an encounter with a neighbour who having challenged the Home Guard about what they were doing on his land, and being told they were on manoeuvres, found them scumping apples from his trees. They had left their rifles at the bottom of the trees to climb up. He confiscated their rifles and took them home.
These stories, fuelled by ‘Dad’s Army’ are the prism/lens that most of us tend to view the Home Guard. The reality is more difficult to get hold of. School Log Books are not available. Nigel acknowledged the work that Geraint has done in the past and he has had to draw heavily on this work in putting together this talk.
By 1940 the mood in the country had become nervous and edgy. There was feeling that something was going to happen. The Germans were getting closer, there were shortages of basic commodities such as timber. There were already fears about a 5th column emerging. Evacuees were coming from the South of England. ‘Enemy Aliens’ were arrested – Italians community in Wales was badly hit by these new policies.
So when Anthony Eden called for Defence Volunteers, under the slogan “Look, Duck, and then Vanish”, people turned up at their local Police stations to register. “People answered the Call” much to the surprise of a bemused Police Force who were totallyunprepared.
By 25th May 500 people had enlisted in Radnorshire. Their equipment consisted of 70 rifles and 300 rounds of ammunition. Farmers, who were in a protected occupation, possibly had some additional armaments. Other people from protected occupations and older people made up most of the troop. Radnorshire Home Guard was 5th zone of the North Wales Group. Their badges were however from Herefordshire. An objection was lodged and members bought themselves new badges. The Penybont detachment was part of E-Company. The senior officer was Glynn Thomas the Bank Manager – Dad’s Army again! Stan Owen had been in the Great War, Jack Price, Ray’s father, was sergeant.
The Detachment in Penybont met either at the Chapel in Penybont or in the Iron Room. On Sundays duties included: polishing boots; marching; dressing up.
Radnorshire Company had more substantive duties: protection of Hobson’s Aircraft Component Factory; Railway Lines; Viaduct at Knucklas; Elan Valley Dams; enemy aircraft; suppression of a 5th column; cooperation with the Police and the Troops who were training on the Common in Penybont.
Mary told the group how members of the Home Guard would plat snooker in the Old Laundry at the Thomas Shop and how they would pop out from time to time to see if ‘Gerry was about’!
Richard spoke of Bill Bayliss, from Dolau, and of his experience in the Home Guatd at Dolau.
Dolau Home Guard had 25 members, Penybont had 35 members. It started in Croissgates, organised by Col. Philipps.
i. Three members of each troop combined to attend a training week-end with the Regular Army.
a. Penybont sent Glynn Thomas(Commander), Arthur Owen and Duggan
b. Dolau sent Bill Bayliss, Fred Evans, Percy Lewis
At 28th May 1944 they reported to an army camp near Deal:
• Greeted by being given a blanket and a sack which they filled with straw
• Won a shooting match against the Army
• Enjoyed a glorious 1st June Sports Day – food and beer
• Volunteered to defend the coast of St Margaret’s Bay
• Enjoyed an Army Dance in Deal with the Regular Soldiers who left the following day to go to war!
During the period 1942 – 4
Dolau Home Guard planned an attack to take over the Severn Arms. Penybont had to defend. Bill was challenged by a sentry: “Stop who goes there!” He was then shot in the arm by a blank round and suffered a very painfull bruised arm! (Damp blank cartridges).
Another incident occurred on the aquaduct at TynDdole when a Jack Davies lost an eye having been shot in the face.
An even more serious incident occurred during training at Llanyre when Fred (Alfred Thomas) Williams 17 yrs (possibly from Penybont Home Guard, was killed in 1942 when a hand grenade went off. During the same exercise pistols were fired. A formal enquiry was held. Fred’s funeral stretched from Llandrindod to LlanbadarnFawr Church. This was organised by Major Stan Owen (Dot B’s father). Fred’s name is on the War Memorial in Penybont.
Another small group of members of the Home Guard were the evacuees who were old enough to join but not old enough to join up.
By the October of 1940 the Home Guard equipment list included battle dress, arm bands and hats. There was a growing threat of incursion and orders were given to shoot anyone in irregular uniforms.
In 1941 the Home Guard had leather belts, coats, shoulder flashes and by 1942 they had rifles, bayonets, water bottles, boots. Motor cycles and pedal cycles were not issued but some of the men had access to bicycles.
Now that the Home Guard are armed there are reports of improvised target ranges of 200 or 280 yards. Comment that the ‘scoring was not poor’. Lectures were held to give information and guidance. One comment was about ‘another gas lecture’. There was also reference to ‘embossing identity cards’.
A report from Aberystwyth mentioned someone being ‘attacked, arrested, and tied up’. The report went on to say that some members of the Home Guard were ‘taking it too seriously’. But the lens we are now beginning to see the Home Guard to is less ‘Dads Army’ but people adapting there behaviour to potentially have to deal with a real threat. Nigel has become interested in whether there were people selected into a secret group called Auxiliary Units. Information about these Units is very hard to come by. They were sworn to absolute secrecy and they had a brief to cause as much disruption after an invasion as possible. They were not expected to survive more than a couple of weeks. Nigel asked if anyone had any information but no one had.
The Home Guard had its last parade on the 19th March 1944. They were formally disbanded in December 1945, and they had a final dinner in the Iron Room in 1946 when there was a charge £1. 100 people turned out.
The National Committee carried on and in 1957 there was a national suggestion that they might be reformed but this did not happen and the the Committee was finally wound up in 1965.
Susan wondered if the gun turret at Carreg Di was connected with the Home Guard. Nigel who is a volunteer ranger at the Elan valley thought it was and he was also aware of a pill box under the road across the water.
Ray has an exercise that gives minutes of the Home Guard winding-up meeting which refers to the dinner and the disposal of equipment. This included table tennis equipment and football posts. It was only one meeting held in 1945.
Geraint thanked Nigel for once again giving a most interesting talk and stirring up lots of comments from the floor. There was a suggestion for a further session to cover the work of the Land Army.
Next Meeting: Monday 3rd March – Richard Davies – Banking in Penybont