Penybont and District History Group Notes 6th November 2017 Meeting Main Topic: Water Mills of Radnorshire – Alan Stoyel

 

Geraint welcomed a very large group to the meeting. Sadly there were so many that 2 people were unable to stay for what would turn out to be an excellent talk on the subject of Watermills. We were privileged to have Alan Stoyel to talk to the group. As a national ‘expert’ he has written extensively on the subject. Elizabeth had kindly invited him to speak and she introduced him to the group. Alan now lives in Kington but his origins were in Kent.

 

Some of his publications include:

 

The Windmills of Thomas Hennell

 

Memories of Kentish Watermills: The Rivers Cray and Darent (Landmark Collector’s Library)

 

Images of Cornish Tin (Co-Author Peter Williams)

 

Perfect Pitch – The Millwright’s Goal: Aid to the Interpretation and Dating of the Working Parts of Watermills and Windmills

 

Bindon Mill and Mill House, Wool, Dorset: Analysis and Assessment of the Buildings and Mill Machinery (Research Department report series)

 

There is also an on-line catalogue at:

https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/stoyel-alan

 

Alan took us through an extensive number of pictures of Mills pointing out features that relate to the period they were built, and describing the mechanism/water system that applied to each of the Mills. Unfortunately this blog cannot do justice to Alan’s talk and may come across as a list, and without the pictures! It will, I hope however, show the wide range of Mills that once were the heartbeat of the community here in Radnorshire.

 

Monaughty Mill has been converted into a house and the mill-stone can be seen as a feature in the garden. At another waterwheel site at Monaughty the threshing machinery was driven by a long rotating shaft. Said to have been a ‘bit lethal’! Picture at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Monaughty+mill&client=firefox-b&dcr=0&tbm=isch&source=iu&pf=m&ictx=1&fir=d7vzEqD5AyAmcM%253A%252Cegbz3DzGRPbw6M%252C_&usg=__lKXlqCOwuSaBBS3GB1B6bYHavZw%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWyOuk483XAhVFIsAKHcfnCQEQ9QEIUDAH#imgrc=d7vzEqD5AyAmcM:

 

 

Bleddfa Mill is a three story building containing some fine 18th century machinery. An important feature is the very wide loading door. There is a brief reference to this mill at: http://www.cpat.org.uk/ycom/radnor/bleddfa.pdf

 

Bettws Mill demonstrates a good example of a leat which can be still seen. As a corn mill it probably had a roasting kiln at one time. See: https://archwilio.org.uk/arch/query/page.php?watprn=CPAT17240&dbname=cpat&tbname=core

 

Parkstile Mill west of Kington has an oatmeal roasting Kiln

 

Argoed Mill has the loading door, as above and an aqueduct at the rear. It once had a 26-foot waterwheel. There is also a kiln which Alan feels was adapted for the purpose. See: http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/eng/work/ew_mills.php

 

Tregoyd Mill has an ‘overshot’ wheel, using the weight of the water to do the turning. In this type of wheel the head of water is more important than the volume.

 

To get diagrams and explanations of the different types of wheels see:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_wheel

 

Mortimer’s Cross Mill is a breast-shot wheel – in this system there is a high volume but the head is low.

 

In more recent times some Mills have been converted to efficient turbines but some of the water mills were themselves extremely efficient. The High Breast wheel where the water enters about ¾ of the way up the wheel was very efficient. The estate at Abbeycwmhyr operated a turbine-driven Saw Mill.

 

The mechanism for different wheels was generally quite similar. The water wheel would turn the pit wheel and in turn a number of gearing wheels could get the spin of the wheel up to high speeds in order to turn a central shaft. Several mechanisms could often be run off the same shaft.

 

There is a short article on the water corn mills of Radnorshire in the ‘day out in Powys series’ at:

 

http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/eng/work/ew_mills.php

Contributed by Geoff Ridyard of the Radnorshire Society

 

A further article by CPAT:

 

Later industries were mostly involved with the processing of agricultural produce, and generally involved the use of water power. Two early water corn mills are recorded at Hay in the 1330s, one being mentioned in the 1340s as operating on a leat diverted from the Dulas Brook. Numerous other mills are recorded, many for the first time in the later 18th or early 19th century, including the following: one on the Cilonw at Llanigon; one at Llowes using the stream in Garth Dingle; three mills on the Clyro Brook, Pentwyn Mill, Paradise Mill and Clyro Mill itself, to the south of the village which ceased operating in about the 1920s; Little Mill, east of Maesllwch, operating on the stream running through Cilcenni Dingle, first mentioned at the beginning of the 17th century; at least four mills on the river Llynfi at Glandwr, Pont Nichol mill, Porthamel and Three Cocks; Trebarried Mill on the Dulas and at Felin-newydd on the Triffrwd, a tributary of the Dulas west of Bronllys. The history of some of the mills is reasonably well documented, though little is known of some of the others, such as former in Felin Cwm on the Nant yr Eiddil south of Talgarth. Only one corn mill within the historic landscape area was sited on the Wye itself, a mill by the bridge at Boughrood, though a water-driven sawmill was built on the north bank of the Wye at Glasbury. The function of some of the mills changed through time. Talgarth Mill, for example, is thought to have started as a weaving mill, but was later used as a corn mill and then as a mill for animal foodstuffs, and finally ceasing operation in the 1970s. In a similar way, Tregoyd Mill began life as a corn mill but was converted to a sawmill which operated between about 1920-60. The water supplies to many of the mills were poor or seasonal and many ceased operation in the later 18th to early 20th centuries due to competition with mills elsewhere once better road transport available. By 1900 only about six or seven water corn mills remained in operation in the area, at Clyro, Talgarth, Three Cocks/Aberllynfi, Hay, Llanigon, Trebarried, all of which ceased to be used for milling corn during the first few decades of the 20th century.

 

Water power was also harnessed at an early date to power fulling mills, which had hammers for beating cloth after weaving in order to clean and consolidating the fabric. A handful of these mills are recorded in the area in the 14th century including one in the parish of Glasbury, one in Bronllys, probably on the Dulas, one in Hay, probably on the Dulas Brook, and one in Talgarth, probably on the Ennig. Some of the fulling mills had probably already disappeared by the end of the medieval period, although a mill at Bronllys continued in operation until the 1760s. Several paper mills were built on the Dulas Brook, one near Llangwathan and one near Cusop, both of which were probably short-lived and had probably ceased production before the end of the 19th century. Water power was occasionally harnessed for use on farms. Old Gwernyfed Farm included a water-powered threshing barn installed in 1890s, fed by leat.

 

A number of 18th- to 19th-century stone mill buildings survive, as in the case of Talgarth Mill, some of which have been converted to other uses, as in the case of Llangwathan Mill. Tregoyd Mill is one of the few mills within the historic landscape area which retains former machinery. Traces of ancillary structures such as weirs, leats and millponds have survived in many cases, even where the buildings themselves have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished”. http://www.cpat.org.uk/projects/longer/histland/midwye/mwindust.htm

 

The Mill at Bleddfa has very nice 18th century machinery that shows how the different controls  manage the separation and speed of the stones and at the same time the amount of corn passing through the stones.

 

At Rhoscoch Mill a listed building:

When it was Listed in 1995, Rhos Goch Mill was described as an unusually well-preserved watermill with its machinery intact. It had worked until the 1950s, one of the last Radnorshire mills to do so. It was a combined mill and mill house of two storeys, built of rubblestone with a roof of stone tiles. It had an overshot iron waterwheel on a wooden axle, a cast iron pit wheel, cast iron wallower and spur wheel on a wooden upright shaft, and there were two pairs of French burr stones. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40317/details/rhos-goch-mill-rhos-goch-mill-rhosgoch-mill

 

“The best and most popular stone ever discovered for grinding wheat into white flour is the French Burr. This stone is a freshwater quartz and was quarried at La Ferte sous Jouarre near the town of Chalons in the Marne Valley in Northern France, the stone from this district became world famous. The remarkable thing about this stone from La Ferte sous Jouarre was that it was only found in small pieces ranging from about 12 to 18 inches long, from 6 to 10 inches wide, by 5 to 10 inches thick, usually embedded in layers of clay. There were sometimes pieces of a larger size, but none large enough to make a complete millstone of the usual size 4 feet to 4 feet, 6 inches diameter, so that the French millstone of popular size, had to be built up. One reason why French stones were so successful was their high percentage of porosity. Some pieces were simply a mass of porous cells and as the stones wore away, new cutting edges appeared which could be worked without being refaced or redressed. Other pieces of La Ferte sous Jouarre stone were extremely hard and of close texture. The more porous pieces of stone were often light brown in color and called “nutmeg” burrs. The hard, close textured pieces were usually of lighter color and called “white” burrs. French stones produced a whiter flour from wheat because the extremely hard nature of the stone was far less abrasive than any other stone used. An abrasive stone tends to shred the outer part of the grain of wheat, the bran, into a powder. This fine powdered bran dresses through the fine mesh silk or woven wire of the flour dressing machinery or bolters together with the white part of the wheat meal and the flour thus produced is of a darker color.” http://www.angelfire.com/journal/pondlilymill/paper.html

 

The Three Cocks Mill has some millstones outside which come from the Penallt area of the Wye valley. These stones show where ironwork was fixed in the central part to enable the stone to turn. The pattern of this ironwork can be used to date the stones. The patterns in a millstone at Mortimer’s Cross suggest that it is older than the mill, i.e. earlier than about 1750.

 

French burrs were the best millstones. These were made using many stone blocks, jointed with plaster of Paris and then clamped together by bands of steel.

 

Rhayader Mill is shown on: http://history.powys.org.uk/school1/rhayader/wyemill.shtml

It had two Water Wheels. One had a single-step drive to the millstones, as was used in Roman times.

 

New Mill at Presteigne has been converted into a house but it includes the machinery in the Drawing Room, and the vertical shaft can be seen in one of the bedrooms. More information can be found at:

http://history.powys.org.uk/history/prest/newmill.html

 

Boughrood Mill still has the basic machinery inside and 1 wooden water wheel. More information about this and othe Corn Mills can be found at: http://www.glasburyhistoricalsociety.co.uk/lifestylecornmills.htm

 

A mill at Aberedw is a former corn mill that has been converted into a domestic house. A picture was shown of the mill during conversion to a house, with discarded machinery on the ground outside.

 

Alan was somewhat sad about the Rhosgoch Mill which had been well preserved but is now in quite a state. At one time the owner had been quite antagonistic to Alan and other people concerned about the preservation of the Mill. It is currently being converted quite sensitively. It was one of the last Mills in Radnorshire to still be working and only stopped operating in the 1950s.. There was a mill and two storey mill house built of rubble stone. The roof was made with stone tiles. It has an overshot iron waterwheel on a wooden shaft, a cast iron pit wheel, cast iron wallower and spur wheel on a wooden upright shaft, and there are two pairs of French burr stones. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40317/details/rhos-goch-mill-rhos-goch-mill-rhosgoch-mill

 

The Mill at Hundred House is a Grade 2* building that has been converted into a domestic building but Alan has not been inside to see the results of this work. One of our members’ grandfather was the miller at this Mill.

 

Coed Trewernau Mill is a remarkable survival. The ancient mechanism can be seen: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Coed+Trewernau+Mill&client=firefox-b&dcr=0&tbm=isch&source=iu&pf=m&ictx=1&fir=wbQxCd1ejkeipM%253A%252CR2_UDSd–_NO7M%252C_&usg=__OAdZ-d-qRvGdHT3hYi56lQgECRw%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjcloPJ9MzXAhUIBsAKHd33DU8Q9QEIRTAF#imgrc=DpGl5a_58ub3aM:

 

It has a very old domed millstone.

Neil confessed that he had had the Bible and a cupboard from Sam Brown who was at the mill.

 

The Mill at Discoed, known as Walk Mill, was a ‘fulling mill’ for felting woven woollen cloth. There were once in addition: Dye-House, Carding and Spinning machines, Weaver’s Looms, with Drying Racks and Workman’s Cottages. They specialised in felted blankets for insulation purposes. For more detail see: http://history.powys.org.uk/history/prest/walkmill.html

 

There was another Woollen Mill at Knighton – Silurian Mill, A detailed article on this Mill can be found at:

http://terrydrayton.wixsite.com/knighton/silurian-woollen-manufactory

 

Another use of Water power were the tanneries. There was a Tannery in Presteigne, for details see: http://history.powys.org.uk/history/prest/barkmill.html

 

The Rhayader Tannery is now at St. Fagans in Cardiff. https://millsarchive.org/explore/mills/entry/12361/tannery-rhayader#.WhLyJzenzIU

 

Another use of the water wheel was to drive a Saw Mill. Court Farm Mill at Evenjob was a saw mill with a waterwheel by Meredith at Kington. For more details see: http://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/420930/details/saw-mill-court-farm-evenjobb

 

Alan finished his excellent talk at this point and Geraint thanked him on behalf of the group.

 

Alan was asked about Paper Mills which is a particular interest of his. He has not come across any in Radnorshire but there were 4 such mills in Herefordshire. https://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/herefordshires-past/the-post-medieval-period/agriculture-and-industry/herefordshire-industry/mills/

 

There is a suggestion that a Silurian Paper Mill did exist at Knighton, see:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/c/F200445

 

Alan was asked about Talgarth Mill which was of course restored thanks to funding that came through the Lottery in conjunction with a BBC television series. Alan had reservations about the authenticity of the restoration, but it is at least now a working Mill. See: http://historypoints.org/index.php?page=talgarth-mill

Neil Richards is from a family of Millers who were involved locally at Llandegley and at Howey. Information on Llandegley Mill can be found at: https://archwilio.org.uk/arch/query/page.php?watprn=CPAT34967&dbname=cpat&tbname=core

There is a picture of Howey in: http://a-day-in-the-life.powys.org.uk/eng/work/ew_mills.php

 

Patricia formerly lived at Trelowgoed Mill which has a clearly defined leat and some features in one of the bedrooms. More information at: http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40320/details/trelowgoed-mill-near-crossgates-penybont

 

Alan was asked about the early history of Mills and he told us that the Romans introduced them to Britain.  The article by CPAT gives a fuller history but it also has a comprehensive list of Mills in the area. http://www.walesher1974.org/herumd.php?group=CPAT&level=3&docid=301365661

 

In Bedfordshire there were some extremely powerful mills, one with 8 pairs of millstones.

 

John A had no memory of the Water Mill at Llandegley except to say that the metal in the mechanism was taken for the war effort in 1939.

 

There is a Welsh Mills society which can be contacted through:

http://welshmills.org/

 

Finally Jackie Smith lives at Haines Mill at New Radnor. Alan had been to visit but he saw Eric who showed him round. Jackie welcomed him to visit again. For information see: http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40294/details/haines-mill-new-radnor

 

Geraint, after thanking Alan again, reminded members that we would meet again on 4th December 2017 when Lizzie Evans will give a talk on the Myths and Legends of Radnorshire.

 

 

 

 

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Penybont and District History Group Notes 2nd October 2017 Meeting Main Topic: History of Penybont Station – Mary Davies & John Watmore

Geraint welcomed newcomers to the meeting. A group had come especially for the Main Topic – the Penybont Station Group. Much praise was given to this group for the work they have put into making the Station Garden so splendid.

 

Geraint also welcomed Denis Abberley with the noteworthy comment that the two brothers,  John and Denis, sat at opposite ends of the room.

 

Geraint mentioned that our next meeting would be about the Water Mills in the Area by Alan Stoyel on 6th November.

 

Geraint handed the baton to Mary who in turn introduced John Watmore who would be delivering the 2nd half of the talk. John had come from Chepstow but he had previously lived in Station Cottages.

 

Mary has now moved out of the village and is settled in Llandrindod Wells. She was however born in the ‘best room’ at the Thomas Shop. Living in London Mary has memories of visiting her grand-parents and going by train to visit her Nain and Taid.

 

She particularly remembered the excitement growing as they entered Penybont Tunnel – ‘nearly there’, and smoke in the carriage. Another of Mary’s memories was looking out of the Thomas Shop window and watching the cattle walking up the road from Penybont Station to the auction yard every week – more excitement. In thinking about the cattle she pondered the fact that the word ‘cattle-truck’ has disappeared from the language. Now they are only seen in ‘train-sets’.

 

A memory from London was the chickens sent to us for Christmas. Mary’s Uncle Jack ran a chicken farm from the Thomas Shop and the chickens were a very welcome treat each Christmas. Mary’s only specific memory however was that occasionally they might have a chicken that had ‘gone bad’. It is perhaps unfortunate that this is her main memory of this Christmas luxury.

 

Penybont would not have had a station if it had not been for the entrepreneurial flair of John Price, that man again! In 1755 he built Penybont Hall and through his influence  he impacted on the prosperity of the whole community. As a Trustee of the Radnorshire Turnpike he arranged improvements on the roads between New Radnor and Rhayader. No doubt he would have supported the comong of the railway but it was sometime yet before this would happen.

 

In 1804 Benjamin Heath Malkin, a writer and associate of the poet William Blake, when travelling in Wales, wrote that there was no post chaise (a travelling carriage that could be hired to go from one staging post to the next) in the County of Radnorshire, except at Rhayader.

 

By 1807 there was ‘regular communication’ open across the County due to the post horses at Penybont and a Mail coach system. By this time the Post Office was distributing mail across the country and Penybont would see a mail coach from London came through Penybont 3 days a week , and from London to Rhayader once a week.

 

In 1829 the coach from Welshpool to Llandrindod, called the Royal Dart, took just 7.5 hour!

 

Inevitably with the coming of the railways there was railways going to be competition with the road network. Nowhere showed this more clearly than the intersections that occur at Crossgates.The A44 crosses “the A483 very close to where there would be a railway crossing. Years later the Rev. Dr Jordan wrote in his book about Llanbadarn Fawr that the four main roads in the County joined one another inly a short distance from the Church”. He refers to the railway – by then the London Midland and Scottish Railway – as “being near the Church School and intersecting the village of Llanbadarn”. Mary felt that he was anticipation his congregation swelling due to people being able to travel to the area more easily.

 

In 1834 Johm Cheesement Severn, who had married John Price’s daughter, Mary Ann, in 1811, and had succeeded his father-in-law as a Trustee of the Radnorshire Turnpike Trust, built a new road from Crossgates to Penybont. The old road ran very close to the Hall and John Cheesement Severn had it moved to its current position. He had to pay for the re-routing of the road himself as the land near Bank House was very steep and know locally as ‘the Squires pItch’.

 

Traffic on these roads peaked in about 1837. In 1840 the Severn Arms was advertising Post Chaises, Flys (one horse hackney carriages), and gigs (2 wheeled, one horse carriages) could be supplied. At short notice, with “steady horses and careful drivers”!

 

Tolls were established by the County  Road Board as a way of improving the roads. But by 1845 the excitement had shifted to the possibility of rail travel. A suggested railway link from Hereford would take in Kington, New Radnor, Penybont, Rhayader, and on to Aberystwyth, would be called the Silurian Line.  This came to nothing in the end because of the expense of taking the line through the Radnor Forest.

 

When in 1854 building began in the Kington Railway Station a public holiday was declared in the area.

 

Markets for the Welsh Black sheep in Mid Wales and Cardiganshire opened up when the line between Leominster and Kngton opened in 1857. Farmers for the first time had access to the London markets.

 

Church Bells rang out in Knighton in 1858 when an extension to the railway was announced. Later in the year the Brass Band greeted the arrival of railway engineers!!

 

Construction of the railway took a significant step forward when the Commons were enclosed in 1862 releasing land for buildings and the railway.

 

With work started on the line past Penybont, and with the start of major building works in Llandrindod Wells, trade in the shops in Penybont was very good and shop-keepers became quite prosperous at this time.

 

John Percy Severn, son of John Cheesement Severn, happened to be a Director of Central Wale Railway, and he used this capacity to ensure that the railway did not come too close to the Hall. He gave land, part of Cwmtrallwm Farm, for the construction of the Station, in 1862, about half a mile from the Hall towards Crossgates which has meat that the Penybont station is situated even further from the village.

 

When on the 10th October 1864, the line between Shrewsbury and Penybont opened, the station was known as Crossgates Terminus. The journey from Llandrindod Wells to Euston Station in London  was 5¼ hours. The station was later renamed Pen-y-bont, the ‘correct’ spelling of the name, and the only way you will find the station in the internet timetables today.

 

Mary reminisced about Penybont tunnel which always filled her with excitement as a child. It meant she had almost reached her destination to spend her holidays in Penybont. The line through the tunnel was a single track. The construction was carried out by Messrs Hattersley and Morton. Mr George Morton, who was a railway engineer, was living at Grove Villa, which is situated by the bridge, nearest to the garage. The London and North West Railway Company were responsible for the development of the line which cost £12,000 per mile. It was the Company who owned Grove Villa, and Miah Lewis has said that the buildings were used for parcel storage. When the Villa was sild in 1919 the particulars of the sale mentions stables and a slaughter house.

 

In 1865 the section to Llandrindod was opened and the station was initially known as Llanerch Halt.

 

Also in 1865 an article in the Hereford Journal that suggested that the Directors were thinking of abandoning the Central Wales Line. The motivation of the Directors was to link the industrial sites with the minerals to be found in South Wales, they were not so impressed by the beautiful scenery to be found all along the line.

 

By 1868 the whole line between Shrewsbury and Swansea, 121.5 miles, had been completed. The early boom that accompanied the linking up of South Wales with the industry of  the Midlands, providing access to the fashionable Spas, started to decline as sea bathing became more and more popular.

 

The line was double track through Llandrindod but at Penybont  there was a wagon layby on the ‘upside’ of the track, and on the ‘downside’ there was a goods yard.  The tunnel at Penybont is 404 yards long.

 

There were a couple of other schemes to expand the line, but these never materialised.

 

It took more than 30 years to complete the line and Mr Morton said that having successfully engineered his way through Radnorshire, he could now contemplate working anywhere. They had estimated it would take 2 years to build the line between Llandrindod and Llandovery, but  it was not an easy route, and actually took 8 years to complete.

 

Amidst all this excitement stagecoaches were by this stage running regularly to and from Radnorshire. They were however very slow, achieving speeds of no more than 4 m.p.h. This contrasted with the same coaches on English roads that made the dizzying speeds of 6 m.p.h! Once the railways had become established, in the 1870s, road traffic started to decline.

 

Before 1889 five different companies were involved in the Central Wales Line, these were then amalgamated into the North Western and Great Western Railways. This survived until 1948 when British Rail took charge.

 

It is difficult to imagine today, but in the early part of the 20th century 20 trains passed through Penybont on most days. To manage this there was a staff of 12 people including a station master, 3 signalmen, porters, and clerks.

 

The station yard had animal pens, and the manure probably helped to keep the station gardens looking resplendent.

 

The line, by 1911, had 18 up and 19 down passenger lines and a stop would be made at Knighton for a ticket inspection. The station at Builth Road became very important as 70 men were employed to maintain the rolling stock. This was a significant source of employment in the area.

 

Mary had memories of a yellow cab, with a triangular shape, at the front of the train – “passenger luggage in advance” and wondered if anyone else could remember this.

 

The 1920’s saw hard times and Councils had very little money to the extent that the bridges over the railway were not maintained. A local bus service, Crosville Buses, the passengers at  Penybont and Llanyre had to get off the bus and walk across the bridge.

 

Secondary education was dependent on the trains at Penybont. Mary remembers her family members having to walk to the station to get the train to go to school.  This of course was easier than for many children who might have had to walk several miles to go to school.

 

The 1939 – 1945 War brought additional activity to the trains. The movement of troops, families and evacuees brought people to stations all along the line. There was an Officer Cadet training unit at Llandrindod Wells.

 

Mary’s father stayed in London during the war, but her mother was evacuated to Penybont. Somehow or other her mother had 3 children during the war, her sister, her brother, and herself, despite only meeting up with her father on three occasions during the period of evacuation!

 

After the War, in 1948, as mentioned previously, British Rail was launched, but it was in 1962 that Beeching changed the way the system would be run.

 

In 1964/5 Penybont became ‘singled’, and a year later freight traffic was stopped. The name changed to the ‘Heart of Wales Line’ in the hope of attracting tourists. The station was no longer staffed, and the station became a ‘request stop’ – a charm all of its own.

 

At about the same time the last steam train passed through Penybont on its way to York, from Swansea.

 

Some people from Penybont who were part of Penybont Station included:

 

Bill Middleton who was  cook in World War 2 for an infantry regiment, He became secretary of  Ithon Road Chapel and his connection with Penybont Station started as a signalman latterly becoming Station Master.

 

Mike Fussell from Upper Graig

Gordon Morgan

Tony Williams was a relief signalman at Llandrindod Station

Charlie Thomas, who was born at Rhos, Llandegley, was a gunner on HMS Centurion. It is said he missed the train as he was having a pint in Builth.

 

No talk on the Heart of Wales Line would be complete without a reference to Kelsham and his brother who are currently stationmasters/ticket suppliers to most of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They bought the station 18 years ago and have been able to provide the most amazing service to local people and people who phone in from all over the country.  Their knowledge of the network is quite extraordinary.

 

Mary then introduced John Watmore to the group.

 

John’s Grandfather was Rev. Charles Donald Venables, he lived at 5, Station Terrace. He was a first class Signalman and a Presbyterian Clergyman.

 

The family tree that led to John and his siblings is:

 

Charles Donald Venables   87yrs  1893 – 1980  and Winifred Ellen Venables   64yrs   1893 – 1957 had four children: Winifred Margaret (1918 – 2002) who married WALTER WHATMORE (1917 –  1984); Nell who married Jack Jackson; Edith who married Rev. Hugh Pryce-Jones; and Milton who married Dolly.

 

Winifred and Walter had five children:  Sheila Ann b 1/12/42; John Milton b 17/01/44; Jean Diane b 1/04/47; Joy Elizabeth b 03/03/50; Sylvia Jane b 16/02/63.

 

 

Sheila and Joy (who now lives in Crossgates) were in attendance for the talk and John felt sure that Sheila, his older sister, might put him right on some of the finer points. (This did happen more than once, but John felt he did get one back later in his talk). Sheila and John were born at 5 Station Terrace, but the family then moved to Llandegley, to Primrose Cottage, where Joy and Sylvia were born.

 

One of the main duties of the Signalman was to manage the exchange of the Staff with the fireman on the train. Trains could be travelling up to 50 m.p.h.  Only once did the exchange  not happen and the train had to stop before entering Penybont tunnel. The Staff was eventually found under the train and they were only then able to proceed.

 

More detailed information on the history of the line can be found in:

Craven Arms to Llandeilo: The Heart of the Wales Line (Country Railway Routes) (Hardcover); by John Organ (Author) 

 

It was the Stationmaster who was in charge, he lived in 1 Station Terrace. This was a detached house indicating the higher status. As children we would always look to see if the Stationmaster was in his house. While he was otherwise engaged, we children could get up to all kinds pf mischief. Some children would like to play in the cattle trucks and jump from the grain silo. On one occasion Gordon the Porter found us on the way to Swansea and we knew we would be in trouble when we were taken from the train in Llandrindod to face the music with the Stationmaster.

 

John’s father, Walter, and mother, Winifred got married during the war. His father was an electrical engineer and Sargent in the army. They moved to Primrose Cottage and then to Aston, Birmingham.

 

A survey of Penybont Station was carried out in 1903 and John showed a diagram of the station. It had the double track, goods yard, a crane, 40 waggons, pens for all manner of livestock, a signal box, and he red and white signals for the two lines. The signal on the ‘up-line’ from Shrewsbury was quite difficult to see. The bridge was a great place to get views of what was going on at the station and the steam trains as they sped through.

 

Every week day a shunting engine would travel from Craven Arms to Builth Wells and stop at every Station, to deliver or collect goods from the sidings. This involved  loading and unloading vari0us goods and repositioning the wagons on the sidings. Penybont had 4 lines of Track for this purpose including one  which went into the  main storage shed. The “Shunter “ called at Penybont at 12 midday going south and at 4pm returning to Craven Arms. Quite often The Engine Driver asked if I would like a ride on the engine whilst he shunted the wagons up and down.

 

  The Penybont Station of the fifties was a bustling hive of activity. Up to 60 trains a day would pass through..Coal Trains from the mines…Mail Trains delivering post to all parts of Wales, the Midlands and the North of England (and Penybont)….Fish Trains  from the south Wales Docks…….Troop Trains transporting Soldiers to and from Training Camps…..Steel Trains carrying  bulk metal to the North …….Milk trains delivering the countryside  harvest to the cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool ; to say nothing of the  Passenger trains which connected  Mid Wales to all parts of the UK.

It was a living  community where Local Farmers  brought their animals to be transported to Market, and called to collect their  serials and foodstuffs  for the farm, and the machinery to operate it. Penybont in those days was part of, and a contributor to, a countrywide service and communication system.

 

 It was also a place where local, and visiting young children could play, and have the time of their lives.

 

John shared with us his particular memory of the day when one of the engine drivers asked him if he would like a ride on the train. He went on to have several trips, which he described as ‘heaven’.

 

Geraint thanked both Mary and John for an excellent morning. He reminded the group that the nesxt meeting would be on 6th November, when Alan Stoyel will talk on the Water Mills of the area.