Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 6th February 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: History of Llandegley School Rev. Geraint Hughes

 

Record numbers attended this, the first meeting of 2017. Fifty five people squeezed into the room where members were treated to their usual teas and coffees, but chairs appeared from the museum and the house to ensure that everyone had a seat.

Programmes for the year were made available for everyone but Geraint apologised that some did not include an amendment that involved a change in May and June. It should have:

1st May       Shirley Morgan – ‘Sale of Ormathwaite Estate’

5th June     Andy Johnson – ‘The Old Walkways of Radnorshire’

Despite the large number of people present there were only 2 new Members: Sue and Tony Cook from Crossgates.

Geraint welcomed Jenny back to the fold after some personal challenges. He paid tribute to the work that she has done in transcribing the Admissions Book from Llandegley School. Despite the challenges she has faced, Jenny has made significant progress which Geraint described as more of a ‘work of art’ rather than simple transcribing. Jenny told us that, while the writing was often in beautiful copperplate handwriting, the wording had faded and it was a long process of examining each word and line with a magnifying glass before she could make sense of what was written. One of the challenges however she attributed to a grandchild who had managed to get a Remembrance Day Poppy into the mechanism of her printer! Geraint explained again, to ease concerns of some members that the Admissions Book was in transition from the Oak Chest in the Church to Powys Archives. He has just slowed the movement down to obtain a transcription due to the concern that once it is in the Archives it may become very difficult to gain access to it again as any information about ‘children’ can be blocked. Geraint told members that they could look at Jenny’s transcription later in the morning and see for themselves how brilliantly she has included, not just the straight transcript, explanations about the context she has found in the Admissions Book.

It being Norma’s ‘21st birthday’ we wished her many happy returns.

Main Topic: Llandegley School – Geraint Hughes

Education in Llandegley, as in other places, did not start with a school. Schooling would have gone on from time immemorial informally in the home, in churches, and with private tutors. Schools have formalised the process of education but people have always invested in their children, and children have wanted to learn from much earlier times. It was in the middle of the 16th century that the first interest in the promotion of educational opportunities in Llandegley began to show itself. A Will witnessed by David ap Rees ap Ieuan Athro in 1572, and prebends, church tithes, were collected in Llandegley to provide education for a Prebendary at Christ College, Brecon (founded in 1283). The Prebendary, Thomas Huet, who had no direct connection with Llandegley, later collaborated with Richard Davies and William Salesbury in the translation into Welsh of the New Testament in 1567, particularly the Book of Revelation.

By the end of the 17th century and into the 18th century schooling in this part of Wales was almost non-existent. The Churchwardens at Llandegley wrote in 1694:

“we have neither hospitall, alms house nor any school in our parish, no doctor of physick, midwife nor chirurgeon”.

By 1721 things were no better across the Diocese, Eramus Saunders wrote:

“there are no Welsh schools and but rarely any English ones, except it be in market towns”.

During this period there was a movement in Wales towards the development of schools. In 1674 Thomas Gouge’s Welsh Trust led to the establishment of 400 schools. A further 180 schools were set up in 1699 by the SPCK, and in a separate initiative the Revd Griffith Jones of Llanddowror founded Circulating Schools, in 1737. These latter schools were set up to cover certain seasons rather than a permanent presence. One did visit Llanbadarn Fawr  over a few winters, but there is no record that they ever came to Llandegley.

In the same year that Erasmus Saunders raised concerns about the state of education in the diocese, Samuel Williams died, 1721. He was a Churchwarden of Llandegley and in his Will he left £40 to the Vicar and Churchwardens:-

‘for ye educating and teaching of some poor children of ye parish of Llandegloy’.

Intriguingly Samuel Williams signed documents with a cross, which would suggest that he was illiterate. This however might not be the case. Geraint himself had a relative in the past who also signed with a cross. He was literate but did not want to be seen as someone who was acting above his station, or putting his head above the parapet.

His generosity did lead to the school being developed. In 1738 The Vicar and Churchwardens purchased 17 acres and a house at Port -ys-y-Gyrthe to provide the salary for a teacher. School met in the church tower or in a room at the west end of the church.

Geraint is convinced that some education would have been taking place in the Church prior to that date but there are no records of this period.

When, in 1772, Charles Thomas was appointed to the role of schoolmaster it is of note that his qualifications were:

“qualified to teach an English school with writing and accompts”

The schoolmaster’s teaching, it can be assumed, was in the medium of English whereas his pupils spoke Welsh.

Within the Topographical Dictionaries of Wales in the early 19th century there are references to the community of Llandegley.

  • Benjamin Heath Malkin 1804
  • Nicholas Carlisle 1811.
  • Samuel Lewis 1842

In one account there is reference to the ‘obliging manners, and degree of intelligence, that might be expected, displayed by the people in Llandegley, which is very much to their credit.’

The next significant change that impacted on the school was in 1834 when the school that was being held in the church became a Church of England School within the National School system. The National Society for Promoting Religious Education established a system of National Schools in England and Wales to provide education for the poor. Education was based upon the teachings of the Church of England.

As a National School the school at Llandegley has the same aspiration of other National Schools to provide a system of elementary education to the poor children within its Parish. In 1847, however, the school was found somewhat wanting when an Enquiry into the state of Education in Wales was carried out. The Report on the school stated:

“10 or 12 children in a room at the end of the nave entered through the tower which formed the shed for the calves pastured in the churchyard and in a filthy state….. The children reading to an old man….incompetent to teach anything…there could scarcely be a more wretched school”

This ‘Enquiry’ was not entirely objective. It was set up following a speech by William Williams, a Coventry MP, who was originally from Wales. He questioned the state of education in Wales and the role of the Welsh language. At that time 70% of people spoke Welsh as their first language. The Enquiry, as well as deriding the use of the Welsh language in schools contributed to the introduction of the hated ‘Welsh Not’ that has such a negative impact on the language of Wales over the next 100 years.

The inspectors were not well received at Llandegley, in fact the Vicar’s wife told them not to come. The inspectors however came and let themselves in and, when 3 girls could not answer questions on a passage from the Bible, them referred to the ‘wretched school’.

There were some complaints locally from a local farmer, John Duggan from Trewern, who had commented that there was ‘no proper school’. Most of the local schools were criticised and some like Nantmel were given more damning reports.

Geraint referred very briefly to another educational establishment  that had an impressive but short history in the area. A school ran at the Pales from 1867 – 1886. We have discussed the Pales at a previous meeting so this was not explored on this occasion.

At Llandegley things took a turn for the better when Walter William Vaughan was appointed Vicar 1862. He was largely responsible for the building of the new School in 1873, new Church 1876, and a new Vicarage 1884.

The building of the new school, and subsequent extensions (Extension 1886 (architect F Roberts) and the Canteen 1944) became an imperative as a result of the Education (Foster’s) Act of 1870.

What did the Act bring into force?

  • Local education boards were established to inspect schools and to ensure there were sufficient places available in the local area
  • Elementary education must be provided for all children aged between five and 13.
  • Schools were to be publicly funded through local rates
  • Parents would be required to pay for their children’s education, unless they could not afford to.
  • Attendance at school should be compulsory.
  • Religious teaching should be non-denominational, and parents could withdraw their children from religious education.
  • Schools should be regularly inspected to maintain the standard of education.

– See more at: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/synopsis-of-the-forster-education-act-1870#sthash.zAWLjo15.dpuf

 

The new school (at a cost of:  £386.2.0) opened on 3rd February 1873   with a new Head Teacher:  Miss Lizzie Morris. 1873 who was in post until 1887. There was an average attendance of 31 pupils. The Boards supported 20 free places for the children of poorer families. Other families had to pay charges that ranged between 4d and 6d a week.

The introduction of compulsory education from 1878 was a challenge in a rural arear like this as children were needed to help on the land and in the kitchen. This persisted over many years. Examples of the many ‘excuses’ are held in the school records that are now held by Powys in the Archives.

The work of the school was underpinned by the use of monitors and pupil teachers. The latter were sometimes kept on and given a small honorarium.

The Head Teachers at the school were:

1873 – 1877       Miss Lizzie Morris

1877 – 1887       Mrs Mary Osborn

1888 – 1901       Mr William Hill

1888-1901           William Hill

1901-1902           William Wager

1902-1919           John Vickery

1920-1927           Edith Barrow

1928-1929           Ethel Curtis

1930-1953           Dinah Pugh

1954-1971           Catherine Thomas

1971-         ?                 Harry Capp

197?-1977           Cecelia Williams

Assistants: 1954          Mrs Evans;                   Georgie Duggan

Holly Richards was asked by Geraint to read his transcript of the interview he had recorded with her great-grandmother Mrs E.M. Richards:

 

I began my studies at Llandegley School at the age of five in 1887. Each morning I walked to school from Mill Cottage where my father, the local carpenter lived. In wet weather my mother gave me old stockings to put on over my shoes as the roads were very muddy, and then I would take these off when I got to school. On my way I passed the cottage where Mr Jones the shoemaker and his son had their shop, and the shop where Mr. John Price the stone-mason, our church organist lived; then past the ‘Lodging House’ near the churchyard gate where Mrs Clayton kept a home for poor travellers at 1d per night. There might be time to call in the village shop near the school gate, kept by Mrs Caldicott, or stop to speak to some of the women on their way to the village well below the church. The boys would always linger at the blacksmith’s shop by Tynllan or stop to watch a coach getting ready for its journey outside the Burton Arms, but whatever the temptation when the bell rang at 9 o’clock in to school we had to go.

Once inside, we took our places in the long benches and desks which filled the main classroom, all facing teacher’s desk by the door. The infants stayed in the small classroom which is now the porch, and were taught by Miss Agnes Jones, a girl of 19. All around the big classroom were maps and pictures – I remember there was a large picture of Queen Victoria on the wall next to the school-house – and the school clock, which often held our attention.

When I started at school, Mrs Osborn was the Headmistress. Soon after I started Mr Hill came from Dolau. He had a paralysed right arm, but he managed very well, even playing the school American Organ. Mrs Hill helped her husband by teaching needlework.

Every morning school began with a hymn and prayers,and then our first task was to copy down three or four sums from the blackboard and work out the answers on our slates. When our answers had been checked, we had to copy them into our copy-books, which had to be kept carefully and taken home when they were full. Every pupil had to buy his own books, paper, pencils, slates, slate pencils, and sponges from the teacher. I am afraid that some of the children were not able to afford all that they needed.

Each child had to take turns reading aloud in front of the class; usually from the Bible or the Prayer Book. Some of the other subjects were: spelling, dictation, history, geography – which usually meant making a copy of one of the large maps which hung on the wall, singing – using the sol-fa chart, and on two afternoons a week, sewing and knitting. The boys wrote essays or worked in the school garden on these afternoons.

Before going to dinner we all said together: “Be present at our table, Lord, be here and everywhere adored, all creatures bless; and grant that we may feast in paradise with Thee.” I went home for my dinner, but most of the children brought food with them. We used the porch at the back of the school where there was a wash up on a stone slab and water was carried from the village well. Our toilet was an open ditch with two long planks over it divided down the middle by a wooden wall and with five holes in each plank; the boys used one side and the girls the other.

Discipline in school was very strict; anyone who came late was kept in at play-time, talking or Laughing in class was punished with a hundred lines, copying with a tap on the hand and more serious offences with seven or eight strokes over the desk. Mr Hill administered this most effectively with his left hand.

Most of my school friends left school when they were 14 to go back to work at home or go into service. Some went on to college or other schools. I can remember William Charles Caldicott and James Mackintosh who went into banking and William Mackintosh who took his father’s place as agent for Lord Ormathwaite.

I am sure these years were the happiest of my life, and I will always remember with pride my days at the little Church School at Llandegley.”

To add to the poignancy of this interview related by Holly, Geraint was able to show a picture of Mill House, derelict now,  where the family lived.

Geraint then showed a number of photographs of the school and pupils over the years and members were able to identify many from the photos that were taken more recently.

He finished his talk with a list of the children who were evacuated to the area during the 2nd World War and who were an important part of the school community at the time.

Llandegley School Evacuees

Arrival        Name                            Address     From          Return

8.7.40        Sheila Carter                Ffaldau      Willenhall   14.2.41

8.7.40        Peter Pope                             Carnau      Willenhall   4.10.40

8.7.40        Valerie Pope                Carnau      Willenhall   4.10.40

27.8.40      David Crossley            Red Cote   Hove           14.7.41

9.9.40        Joyce Bladen               Swydd       Brynmill      18.10.40

9.9.40        Peter Myers                  Redcote     Brighton     10.4.41

2.12.40      Patricia Abbot              Carnau      Coventry             30.7.42

2.12.40      Josephine Abbot                   Carnau      Coventry             31.7.42

7.1.41        Annette Ward-Hicks    Carnau      Walthamstow      1.8.41

7.1.41        Wendy Ward-Hicks     Carnau      Walthamstow      1.8.41

9.1.41        Forden Burke               Ffaldau      Seaforth              7.2.41

9.1.41        Thomas Burke             Ffaldau      Seaforth              1.8.41

13.1.41      Mavis Wright                Little Graig Seaforth              31.7.41

13.1.41      Joyce Wright                Little Graig Seaforth              31.7.41

14.1.41      Sydney Smith              Eaglestone Crosby               3.12.42

14.1.41      Margaret Melsant        Cornhill      Letterton              25.7.41

14.1.41      George Nelson            Cornhill      Letterton              25.7.41

23.1.41      Patricia Cunningham  Vicarage    Seaforth              22.11.41

23.1.41      Mary Cunningham       Vicarage    Seaforth              22.11.41

23.1.41      Edith Dwyer                  Vicarage    Seaforth              31.3.42

15.1.41      Mary Kinsella               Larch Grove Seaforth           31.3.42

15.1.41      Alice Kinsella               Larch Grove Seaforth           3.12.42

15.1.41      Mary Smith                   Penybont Shop  Letterton              28.5.41

14.1.41      Madeline Berry   Haulfryn              Letterton              28.5.41

15.1.41      Gerrard McCabe          Rhonllwyn                    Seaforth              24.10.41

29.1.41      Raymond Downey Caedildre                  Seaforth              12.3.43

3.2.41        Ros James         Gt Trewern                    Seaforth              9.6.42

3.2.41              Rita James                   Gt Trewern                   Seaforth              9.6.42

3.2.41        Norma James     Gt Trewern                   Seaforth              9.6.42

17.2.41      Harold Pritchard   Pales                 Seaforth              14.11.41

17.2.41      William Pritchard            Pales                 Seaforth              14.11.41

25.3.41      Glanville Dacey  Carnau                Bonymaen          17.6.44

31.3.41      Michael McCarthy  Bwlchycefn     Bootle                  17.12.43

31.3.41      James Mc Carthy   Bwlchycefn    Bootle                  17.12.43

31.3.41      Robert Roberts      Nantddu           Bootle                  1.7.42

5.5.41        William Gooridge            Rhos House    Portsmouth                   4.7.41

 

20.5.41      Beryl Humphries  Trewern Villa      Bootle                2.4.42

20.5.41      Ken Humphries  Trewern Villa      Bootle                            2.4.42

20.5.41      Peter Humphries  Trewern Villa      Bootle                2.4.42

10.6.41      Richard Doughty           Lwr Trewern     Anfield                 11.9.41

2.3.42        Winifred Thomas    Tybryn                      Seaforth              23.12.42

2.3.42        Patricia Thomas     Tybryn                      Seaforth              23.12.42

2.3.42        Maragert Thomas   Tybryn                      Seaforth              23.12.42

2.3.42        Teresa Thomas      Tybryn                      Seaforth              23.12.42

2.2.42        Garry Shawn      Coednewydd               Seaforth    29.1.43

10.6.42      Robert Scullin     Dean Cottage     Bootle        22.12.43

10.6.42     Philip Scullin       Dean Cottage     Bootle        22.12.43

 Totals

Arrived:1940……8   1941………..3     1942………..7       Total:          49

Returned:1940….3   1941……..21      1942……..19     1943………6

Length of stay:  One year  or less:  43  Two years –  5     Three Years – 1

Origin:      Liverpool  –  40    South England – 5    Coventry – 1   Manchester – 1  Swansea  – 2

Geraint ended his formal talk at this point and invited members who had been pupils at Llandegley School.

First up was John Abberley. He started at the school in 1936 and was there through the war years until 1943. John’s most vivid memory was of the state of the roads, or as they were seen as then lanes, with children having to walk miles in all weathers along the very muddy lanes. They were often wet through by the time they got to school. A tortoise stove was all there was to get them and their clothes dried out.

School started with a religious assembly, followed by sums, arithmetic, spelling, history, and geography. John hated it! If there was an opportunity to work in the school garden John would be first in the queue. When Ted Brown came to do some building work at the school John would volunteer to help. He remembers well mixing the concrete – 3 of sand to 1 of cement. John most successful ‘academic’ achievement was when Ted Brown told him he would take him on when he finished school. It did not happen as John went in other directions. The other exciting activity at school was playing football. The pitch was in the ground where John now lives.

Una was next to tell us about achievements at the school. She remembers how proud the school would be of successes at the 11+. These older children went on the Llandrindod and she remembers that they were a great loss to the school.

Ray Price however remembered the cane been the instrument of discipline used by Mrs Gould and Mrs Pugh. Discipline was the top priority of the school as he remembers it. Ray is still shocked by the incident when John Price faced the cane d ue to something he had done. As the cane came down he caught the cane; he then broke it in half. Silence reigned with nobody quite knowing what would happen next!? What did happen next opened up a mystery that remains unresolved to the present day. Mrs Gould sent John out into the woods to cut another cane and bring it back. John went off, but did not return until the next morning. A kind of hush invaded the school as no one has ever known how this matter was resolved between Mrs Gould, John, and his parents??

Ray passed his 11+ and went off to Llandrindod – a very different experience.

John started school at 4 years old and was at the school until he joined Trotter’s Transport. He has memory of Lilly Thomas sitting on the bar of a bicycle and falling off. He found writing a problem during his school years and this was probably not helped by the repeated cane across his knuckles, which was supposed to help him improve. He has fond memories of ‘chips’ for dinner.

Shirley Morgan joined the school in 1954 when Mrs Thomas was the Head Teacher. In Shirley’s time no one was ever caned. Shirley described Mrs Evans the Classroom Assistant as being near to being a ‘Saint’. She wore high heels and nylons and was ‘very glamorous’. Shirley enjoyed her school days at Llandegley, albeit she thinks, having trained as a teacher herself, that the education was probably not too good – even dire! She remembers struggling with long division and multiplication and still his anxieties over – ‘where did that zero come from?’ It was a gentle time.

Lynda Price attended the school for a short period before its closure in 1977 during the time of Mr Harry Capp and then Mrs Cecelia Williams. There were only about 10 to 13 pupils in those latter days.

Factors leading to the closure of the school included the small number of pupils. A lot of work was done to try to keep the school open. There had been no water, no electricity, no canteen, and a hole in the ground served as a toilet. Having overcome these obstacles the school was closed and most of the children, including Lynda, transferred to Crossgates. Geraint, in hindsight, feels that despite the efforts of the Vicar, David Wilkinson, to keep the school open, its time had come – progress?

Geraint related a few items from the log book that gave an insight into the eccentricities of school life:

One of the teachers entered into the log book that the book that contained all of the answers to the arithmetic items for the exams had been lost. It was later found in the possession of one of the boys.

Children who were late were made to say: “You must not be late.”

A girl who was very frightened having swallowed a pin was made to drink lots of ‘salt-water’!

Mary mentioned the important role of samplers. She had come across one that was done by Granny Gould in 1840 which had the letters of the alphabet and the numbers.

When Marion mentioned that girls and boys were taught to knit during the war years, Geraint declared he had been properly brought up!

Geraint was thanked for a ‘brilliant’ session.

Jane and Shirley mentioned that there will be an event in the Community Centre to share experiences of living and working in Llandegley on 25th February at 5.00 p.m. There will be a Bring and Share Tea.

Our Next Session will be on Monday 6th March at 10.30 when Richard Davies will lead the Main Topic on “Local Place Names and their Meaning”. If anyone has a house or property name that they want interpreted please let Richard know.

 

 

 

 

Penybont and District Local History Group 5th December 2016 Main Topic: Penybont Hall and Extreme Weather Conditions

Geraint opened the meeting which was held in the Billiard Room at Penybont Hall. Richard and Marilyn Morgan welcomed us to the Hall which has been their family home since 1984, 34 years. Richard was a local boy with family connections in Llandrindod, but when he and Marilyn first saw the Hall their first impression was that it was too big. Their desire to move from Carmarthen was completed however when they decided to buy it. It was structurally sound, albeit in a very poor condition inside. Richard was offered an old, worn, large carpet which he decided was too large. The carpet was then sold for at auction for £1000! Richard and Marilyn feel that the Hall is very special place, with a special history, and that they are just caretakers for now, and for its future.

Marilyn then gave us a short history of the Hall.

It was our ‘old friend’ John Price who build the Hall in 1755. While there is some uncertainty about this date, as the Stone which was found at the Hall with the date on it, could equally have been from the New Inn that he also built at about the same time. The stone is now used as a door stop! The general view is that they were both built at the same time. John, took over the shop in Penybont, established in 1730 by his father Edward Price, in 1734 after his father died. He was just 11 years of age but his entrepreneurial flair became evident quite soon and he went on to be a publican in 1755, and then became one of the first Bankers in Wales in 1772 (Another date with some uncertainty). He never married, but when he died in 1798 his substantial estate was left to his daughter, Mary Ann, who was just 6 years old. Mary Ann’s mother was rather dismissed with a small inheritance when John died and Mary Ann’s upbringing became the responsibility of Guardians appointed by John. At the age of 18 years a wealthy gentleman Barrister, John Cheesement Severn spotted Mary Ann in a carriage when he was passing through the village in another carriage. After a ‘whirlwind’ romance the couple were married. It is said that an Ox was roasted to celebrate Mary Ann’s coming of age. Mary Ann had 4 children, who were all brought up in the Hall and stayed on as adults. None of them Married! There were 3 girls and 1 boy. For fuller details of the Severn Family see our Notes of 9th May 2016 when Mary Davies gave us some excellent insights into this family and how the Hall had such an impact on village life here in Penybont, but also how they and the Hall subsequently became an inspiration for the series Downton Abbey. https://wordpress.com/post/penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/104

John Cheesement and his son, John Percy, invested significantly in the rebuilding and development of the Hall. Richard and Marilyn have architectural drawings on the wall of the Billiard Room, previously the Breakfast Room, showing the grandeur of the Hall at that time. The drawings of the subsequent ‘downsizing’ that took place in the 1930’s, when Lord Ormathwaite (6th Earl) purchased and became the 6th Squire at the Hall, are also on display. The original building, as well as being about a third larger than the current building, had two Follies, a square and a circular tower. The square tower still stands but the circular one became unstable and has been lost.  Richard and Marilyn’s teenage grandchildren delight in parties and sleeping at the top of the tower. The House has significant cellars under the building that provided cheese and wine parlours. The cellars are supported by some very large timbers.

Within the grounds there is a large lake which was celebrated for its salmon, and the largest Heronry in Radnorshire. We visited the Heronry earlier in the year during July, see our Notes: https://wordpress.com/post/penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/108

Neil has a picture of frogmen searching the lake in 1984. A large sale of items from the house was conducted from a marquee. Security was put in the hands of some young lads who subsequently got drunk and many items were lost, probably to USA. The Police searched the Lake to try to find some of the items. Geraint subsequently had a go with his metal detector in the area near the Lake, but found nothing!

With the days of horse drawn coaches being long gone, Richard and Marilyn have converted what was the extensive Coach House into accommodation but tried to retain the relationship to their history.

Marilyn then turned her attention to the more recent interest in Penybont Hall and its relationship to the Television series Downton Abbey. This has been referred to in earlier Notes, but Julian Fellows has acknowledged that his Great Grandfather was Patrick MacIntosh who came down from Scotland to become a General Manager of the Severn Estate. He and his family lived at Bailey Mawr. Julian Fellows, who is now seen as a chronicler of the ‘aristocracy’, came from ‘lowly stock but through successive ‘good marriages’, and acquiring a title, is now himself seen as a well-established member of the aristocratic classes.  It was an aunt of Julian’s that regaled him with stories of the goings on at Penybont Hall and the lifestyle of John Percy Severn. This connection does draw people from all over the world, particularly the USA, to Penybont Hall, and Richard frequently has people ‘knocking on the door’ for information.

The Severn’s exerted quite a lot of influence on the development of roads and rail in the area. Originally the road to the village from Llanbadarn Fawr followed the driveway through the Hall grounds and very close to the Hall itself. Through their involvement within the Radnorshire Turnpike Trust they had the road moved to its current location. This became known as the ‘Squire’s Pitch’ and was a very significant change to the approach into the village. A proposed rail link to New Radnor was aborted as a result of their intervention. Near Neil’s house, and farm, there is a ‘station field’ which had been part of this proposal.

Turning to ‘wildlife’ there are 90 to 100 bats living between the house and the Folly. John Messenger recorded the first sighting in Wales of a rare bat. Where there are bats there could of course be ghosts. Marilyn’s sister is convinced that she had encountered a ghost in the attic! Richard and Marilyn are not so sure!

One of the features of the Hall is its magnificent chimney pots. Some, about 12, have had to be taken down. They are 15ft tall, and metal plates have had to be inserted to stop birds nesting in them. Jackdaws still manage to get in! Richard remembers the first time he had a Chimney Sweep. He told the Sweep that he would need rods that were 51 feet long. The Sweep was not amused as he had no boys to travel up and down the chimneys to clean them!

Fir Tree Cottage had been the Gamekeeper’s Cottage originally. Bill Miles the gardener lived there more recently. Members remembered the long greenhouse where peaches were grown. The number of staff involved on the estate was in double figures. These included the Blacksmith, Carpenter, Estate Agent , as well as the staff in the house, manning the grounds, and being responsible for the animals and coaches. They made up a significant ‘community’ in their own right.

Richard and Marilyn then guided the group into a tour of the ground floor of the Hall. They explained that the building was dark, with a dominant coat of battleship green paint, when they bought it. One side of the building had no windows and so there was an impression of a very dark and somewhat foreboding interior. In the Hall they introduced a ‘sun tunnel’ which has made a vast difference to the entrance which is dominated by a huge front door. They spent several years renovating tackling one room at a time. They have been able to introduce double glazing as there was a period when the building was not Listed, as it is now. Otherwise they have tried to restore or reuse the features within the original structure. They have done a beautiful job in restoring the roses around the light fittings and the trim cornice around the rooms. The Living Room, previously the Lounge, has a comfortable woodburner.  They have reused the old cast-iron radiators wherever possible.

Taking on a building like this imparts a huge responsibility but also the necessity to manage it. The 18 acres of woodland and the gardens are managed in a way that demands a minimum of maintenance while at the same time trying to ensure that the historic features and planting are maintained.  The site is in a bowl and well sheltered from the wind. This allowed John Percy to incorporate some exotic features and trees into the woodland.

Main Topic – Extreme Weather Events

  1. Earthquakes

Much in the news this year, Neil remembered the great earthquake of the late eighties when everything ‘shook’ . There were no casualties – ‘shaken not stirred’. Mary reminded us that there are no nuclear bunkers in the area where people might take shelter!

  1. Floods

Well there are almost too many to mention. They were a feature every year. Members remembered the water rising 2 or 3 steps up the stairs.  Some seasons there could be more than one flood in a week. In mid-winter there were occasions when icebergs were seen floating down stream. Buses would often be cancelled, much to the delight of young people who would have a day off school. Mrs Bufton’s tea service went flying on one occasion when the bus was forced to stop suddenly.

Richard showed a picture of Miss Freda Thomas standing in the kitchen at Maesyfed in her Wellington Boots and cooking on an electric stove that had been raised on bricks.

The building of the Weir in the late 60’s made all the difference. John worked on building it.  A lot of trees had to be cut down.

  • Lightening

A tragic incident occurred when a  Vicar’s son was killed by a flash of lightening. It struck the fishing rods he was carrying.

  1. ICE

In 1961/2 the Ithon froze over with big lumps of ice.

  1. SNOW

In 1940 there was an ice storm and a number of trees simply cracked. There was also the story of the Mail Guard who had to stay for a time at the Forest Inn to recover from exhaustion. He ploughed on for another 5 hrs to get over the top where he met another Guard who took the mail on further.  From Penybont he had to press on, on foot, to eventually get to Llangurrig. He could not get to Llanidloes on foot so he hired a car. Finally he was then put to bed for 50 hours and rubbed to get him warm again before setting off again in the freezing wind by Plynlimon. He was commended by the Postmaster General for his efforts.

Neil passed around some of his wonderful set of photographs that record many of the snow bound times in the area.

Geraint thanked Richard and Marilyn for their wonderful hospitality. The programme for Next  Year was circulated.

1947 was a very hard winter, so hard that farmers were reluctant to take the collies out. Prisoners of war were deployed to dig out the snow. Some made igloos for the children.

In 1948 the Vicar wrote of the terrible times that included the snow of ‘47 followed by foot and mouth, and then more snow. Times were very hard.

Geraint thanked Richard and Marilyn for their hospitality, and members for their contributions to the discussion. He reminded members that the next meeting will start the New Year in February with: “A History of Llandegley School” led by the ‘effervescent’ Geraint! (6th February 2017 at the Thomas Shop, 10.30 a.m.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penybont and District Local History Group November 2016 Main Topic: History of Postal Services – Derek Turner

 

Geraint opened the meeting to another packed house to remind members of our next meeting which will be held at Penybont Hall. Richard Morgan has invited us and they will provide coffee for a 10.30 a.m. start. In a addition to a tour of the Hall we will try to cover ‘Extreme Weather Conditions’ – Please bring any photos or memories.

Also in the agenda is the Video evening in the Community Hall on Tuesday 15th November. There will be a £3 charge to cover costs. There will be 3 videos: 1990 Races; 1990 Fatstock Sale; 1990 Opening of the Community Centre.

Geraint, Mary and Derek will be meeting on Friday when they will try to bring together a programme for next year. Ideas and offers to take on a session would be more than welcome.

Jennifer brought to the attention of members a Radnorshire Society Meeting on Sat at 5.00 p.m. in the Metropole on the life and artistry of Thomas Jones of Pencerrig.

David gave a short introduction the work of the Repair Café that will this Saturday 12th where items that might need repairing will hopefully be fixed. Volunteers ‘experts’ are on hand to help with a wide variety of items. It is held at the Celf building on the way into Llandrindod. They also act as a collection site for ‘Tools for Self- Reliance’. Tools that are useful to the 3rd World are repaired and passed on to the countries that can make the best use of them. Tools that are not needed are sold to raise funds to keep the Charity running.

Jane also mentioned that the Peace Choir at the Pales will be giving a recital to celebrate their 7th birthday on Saturday 19th November at 3.30 p.m.

Geraint reminded members that it is Remembrance Sunday this coming Sunday and that a service will be held at the War Memorial at 10.00 a.m. The Hall Social Committee has very kindly lain on refreshments in the Hall for after the service.

Main Topic – History of the Post Office in the Area – Derek

National Developments

Derek started by recognising that there were people in the room who knew more about the Post Office than he would ever know. He is hoping that members will contribute to the talk and add to our collective knowledge.

The Royal Mail Heritage website has an excellent Timeline that guides own through the history from its inception as a service that was initially established to serve the King’s needs.

http://royalmailheritage.com/main.php

At that time it was King Henry VIII. Brian Tuke was appointed ‘Master if the Posts’ in 1512 and in 1517 he became ‘Governor of the Kind’s Post’. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.72.html

In 1533 he made a pronouncement on behalf of the King that would underpin the importance of the service for generations to come. “In pain of life” the service was to be at a state of readiness to convey the mail expeditiously from town to town. Horses would be ready but of course this was not the only problem. Roads at this time were often not more than muddy tracks and subject to the vagaries of the weather.

It did however prove to be a successful venture and in 1635, in the reign of Charles1, Thomas Witherings built on the work of Brian Tuke and established the first Public Postal Service. The first ‘post house’ was created in London in 1637, and by 1637 John Taylor published his ‘Carriers Cosmography’. This gave details of the postal buildings, ships and other facilities that were already in place in England, Scotland, Ireland, and even the Netherlands. The first mention of Wales is also included:

“The Carriers of Monmouth in Wales, and some parts of Monmouthshire; do lodge at the Saint Paul’s Head in Carter Lane. They do come to London on Fridays.”

The postal services evolved gradually over the years that followed and despite Civil Wars it became a Unified Service across England, Scotland and Wales, but it would be over 100 years before Penybont would see a service in the village. The first major reorganisation of the postal service took place at about the time Penybont was ready and able to open its doors, with horses at the ready. In 1782 a Theatre Proprietor from Bath, John Palmer, who had developed a system for moving theatre sets between different towns thought that he could radically change the method of managing the mail across the country. Up to this time the mail was taken by horse or cart across the country from town to town. At each stop the Postmaster would sort out their mail and it would be then sent on to the next postal town where the process would be repeated. Palmer introduced a system whereby the mail was pre-sorted and simply dropped off at post towns while the horses were changed. This change reduced the time that mail was taking to be delivered by up to a third. It in addition improved the relationship between the travelling public and the postal services as the carriages more practically carried passengers as well as the mail much more efficiently.

The safety of the mail on these hazardous journeys across country was of paramount importance. The Mail Coach Guard would sit alongside the driver with a duty to see the mail through. He would be heavily armed with two pistils and a blunderbuss to see off Highwaymen. He would sound his horn to give advance warning in the Post Towns that horses needed to be got ready for the onward journey, and most importantly when the coach was approaching the Turnpikes Gates. Stopping the coaches at these points could leave the mail vulnerable so the horn would be sounded to ensure that the gates were opened to allow the coaches through. Mail coaches were exempt from toll charges. The coaches must have been quite a sight going through the countryside but they could cause quite a bit of excitement in the towns. Sadie Cole in the Radnorshire Transactions of 2002 describes the scene in 1835 in Kington:

“Hours before the coach arrived for the first time on a Friday evening in May the streets were crowded and when at last the sound of the horn was heard in the distance children shrilled with delight. When the horses were detached at the Oxford Arms a group of brawny young men surged forward and hauled the coach to the Swan Coach Office to rapturous applause of the on-lookers.”

 

The bravery of the Mail Coach Guards was quickly recognised and volunteers from amongst their members were recruited into the Army. A specific regiment was established: Post Office Riffles 1816 – 1921. When they were disbanded they became the backbone of the Territorial Army in its early days.

The next century saw the Post Office develop into the multi-faceted organisation that was eventually broken up in the second half of the twentieth century. Letter Carriers were given a uniform in 1793 as a way of ensuring that they did not loiter, frequent ale-houses, and interrupt the speedy delivery of the mail.

Payment for postal services was originally a tax on those people who received the post. This could vary depending on the route taken. The earliest service to Aberystwyth from London came via Montgomery but this was a 11d as opposed to the service that subsequently came via Kington and Penybont which was just 10d. In 1839 a uniform postage system was introduced based upon a penny rate. The following year the postal service took a major advance when Rowland Hill developed the first adhesive stamp – the penny black. In that year, 1840, 68 million stamps were purchased.

With the onus now on the sender to pay for postal services the introduction of pillar boxes in 1852 made the process much simpler and more efficient. The history of pillar boxes can be seen at: http://www.royalmailgroup.com/sites/default/files/Royal%20Mail%20Post%20Boxes%20Heritage%20Agreement.pdf

The first sign of the Post Office services to come started with the Post Office Savings Bank where people were encouraged to save money in postal towns where there were few banks as yet. This was followed closely by an increase in personnel when three cats were recruited, on probation, to seek out mice in the Money Order Office. A budget of 1 shilling a week was put aside for this purpose.

Adjusting to technological advances the Post Office Telegraph service was established in 1870; Postal Orders were introduced in 1881 to support poor families who had no way of sending the small amounts of money that banks would not deal with; a parcel post in 1907; and the separate private phone services were brought together and nationalised at a cost of £12,515,264, as the National Phone Service, in 1912.

Penybont Postal Services

During this period of development the postal service in Penybont was initially catching up with the national picture, and more latterly running as part of a developed service.

There are suggestions that Penybont may have become a Postal Town as early as 1767 when John Price, of Thomas Shop and Penybont Hall fame, was asked by the newly formed Radnorshire Turnpike Trust to survey the road between New Radnor and Clewedog. The Turnpike Trusts were established to improve that state of the roads, as these roads, as we have seen, were extremely important to the smooth transfer of post between towns. It is probably unlikely that postal status was given to Penybont, or as in those days Pont Rhyd-y-Cleifion, before Aberystwyth, which was given this status in 1769. The earliest date known that confirms that this status has been given to the village is 1784. (Welsh Post Towns – MA Scott) At that time the cost of mail to London was 4d with the mail being brought on horseback to the New Inn/Fleece Inn, owned by John Price, which was then on the other side of the river to the current Inn.

Mr D Davies is referred to as Postmaster and Innkeeper of the Fleece Inn at Pont Rhyd-y-Cleifion in 1807. (The Squires of Penybont Hall – RCB Oliver) This association between Postmaster and Innkeeper at the Golden Fleece/Fleece/Severn Arms would endure until 1891. By the time J. Griffiths came into these titles (1818) the name of the Inn had changed to the Severn Arms (1814) and we begin to read of the village of Penybont rather than the older name Pont Rhyd-y-Cleifion. Roads had been improved by the Turnpike Trustees and Post coaches arrived at Severn Arms at 11.a.m., to depart again with new horses at noon, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

By 1828 Mr Parton is Postmaster at the Severn Arms, still on the same site. JT Llewellyn Pritchard’s Cambria Balnea reports

“A ride or drive due north, and afterwards inclining easterly, for four miles leads to what may be considered a miracle in this district – a genteel village; for such Pen-y-bont most assuredly is, although on a confined scale. Through it runs the London Road, rendered lively by the daily passing of coaches; and across it, the River Ithon, remarkable for its picturesque meanderings, and the excellence of its numerous scaly inhabitants ……….. Looking suddenly to the right we are agreeably struck with a pleasing sight, the truly elegant mansion of JC Severn, Esq. ………. Lower down, on the left hand side of the road stands the Severn Arms Inn, and Post Office, a superior looking tenement, where the coaches change horses. It is kept by Mr. Parton, who by his attention, civility, and good accommodation gives the best assurance that he merits the good success of his business.”

The next Postmaster came in 1832 and oversaw a period of rapid change. In 1835 the Mail Coach would be introduced as a daily service between Kington and Aberystwyth, and in 1840 the Severn Arms moved to its current site on the other side of the River Ithon. Mr Stephens placed an advert in the Hereford Journal referring to;

“Post chaises, Flys and Gigs supplied on the shortest notice with steady horses and careful drivers. The London Mail daily via Cheltenham; also Sovereign Post Coach via Worcester, where it meets coaches the same evening for the Birmingham railway.”

The Sovereign Coach was a seasonal service and did not operate through the winter months. Postal charges at this time had risen to 10d. This period was not without its controversy however, Sadie Cole, as referred to above, recounts the concerns raised by Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Lewis, who lived at Harpton Court, New Radnor, to the Government Officer responsible for contracts relating to the horses. In a letter written on the 7th January 1835 he reported the contractor as being unfit as the service did not run with any degree of regularity and only at the whim of the operator when he might simply send a horse rather than the cart he was supposed to. The operator who was from Rhayader was in very derogatory terms described as a ‘Welsh Speaker’ as though that explained his lack of responsibility. So incensed was the MP that he wrote again one day later a reported that the operator was known to be a drunkard, ran his horses out of control, he did not treat the mail with any degree of security, and that he suffered from the ‘sin of the lower classes’. The operator lost the contract.

Two years later  on 22nd June 1837  in the Parliamentary Select Committee Papers the Rt Hon TF Lewis reported his concerns about the state of the roads in Radnorshire, the limitations on the capacity of the Turnpike Trust to raise sufficient revenue, and on the very high charges on rural businessmen in traveling from New Radnor to Hereford:

“As far as I know and believe, no money has been raised in the County of Radnor under the Highway Act. The reason I conceive to be this, all important lines of road are included in the Turnpike Act; there are no by-roads sufficiently important to make people think it worthwhile to raise money for the purpose of repairing them, and we are prevented by a clause in the Highway Act from laying out the parish money on turnpike-roads, which are the only roads of any great or essential use to us.

Would it be possible, by raising the tolls to provide money sufficient to repair the turnpike-roads, so as to prevent the necessity of calling upon the parishes for any additional assistance? – The tolls are already extremely high; we pay 6d on every horse drawing, and 1½d on every horse ridden; it should be remembered that many of our horses are very small, and draw but little weight. In the rugged roads of our mountainous districts, broad wheels cannot well be used, and in these districts narrow-wheeled waggons are in general use…. My residence is 24 mile from Hereford; a waggon with five horses, would pay 12s 6d toll for travelling that distance; ……. my persuasion, therefore, is, that the tolls are already such in amount, that it would be of serious injury to the commerce of the county to increase them……

What would be the effect of postponing this Act to another Session? – We have already been 2 years in Radnorshire without means of applying any money to the roads, which, as I have already described, are the most important roads in the County; they are already very much gone out of repair, and I apprehend, if we are left for a third year in the position in which we have been placed for the last two years, that the mail-coach which has been established between London and Aberystwyth, in Cardiganshire, and for the establishment of which a private subscription exceeding 600l. has been already subscribed and expended, must cease to go; I verily believe that the road could not be kept another year in such condition as to enable this coach to pass during the winter; and that, I am informed, would be deemed a most serious injury to Cardiganshire, Radnorshire and Herefordshire.”

The next major change to the services provided by Penybont occurred with the coming of the trains in 1864. As the mail started to arrive on the trains and the role of the Postmaster became incompatible with that of the Severn Arms. In 1891 the Post Office opened and mail was sorted into rounds and delivered to the people of the locality.

Penybont Post Office as a Sorting Office continued until 1950 when the responsibility for managing the service moved to Llandrindod and Penybont became a Sub-Post Office.

  •                   Mr and Mrs William Boulter

1926 – 1941                 Mr and Mrs Edward Bufton

1941 – 1954                 Mr and Mrs A.N. Edwards

1954 – 1965                 Mr Stan and Mrs Millie Price

1965 – 1999                 Mr Ray and Mrs Sylvia Price

& Lynda Price

1999 – 2003                 Mr Ian and Mrs Sandra Langstaff

2003 – 2004                  Mr Peter and Mrs Amanda Jones

Derek had interviewed Ray Price and the following are the notes taken from that meeting. There is more information about Ray and Sylvia’s time at the Post Office in Rev Geraint Hughes – Penybont, A Village History.

Ray and Sylvia Price – Penybont Post Office 1965 – 1999

Ray was born in Llanddewi but moved with his family to Ludlow on Penybont Common very early in life. He married Sylvia in 1963. Sylvia was at that time working for Radnor District Council and had a good steady job. Ray by contrast had been a versatile agricultural worker who, like the agricultural workers described by Shirley in our last meeting, could turn his hand to most things. While he had plenty of work, on top of his small-holding at Ludlow, he did not have the stable income that a young man with responsibilities might aspire to, so when Dillwyn Powell, who was then manager for Fosters the Seed Merchants where Ray’s brother Ken worked, offered him a job as a driver he took the job, albeit he had never had a driving job before.

Having to walk past the Post Office every day he became aware quite early on that Stan and Millie Price wanted to retire. They had come to Penybont, from Builth, a few years earlier to take on the Post Office as a sort of retirement ‘hobby’, but they now needed to move on. This attracted Ray and after convincing himself that this was a serious opportunity he put it to Sylvia that they should buy the Post Office. Initially Sylvia thought he was mad, however Ray remained convinced, and they continued to talk about it, and eventually Sylvia came round to the idea, mainly because their respective work commitments meant that they were able to spend very little time together.

Ray made an offer based on what he thought he and Sylvia could afford but Stan turned it down as he had had a better offer. It was Gwynn Hughes the Manager at the Bank in Penybont that made all the difference. He looked at Ray’s resources and gave him a figure and told him that he must not go higher. So when Stan asked Ray if he was still interested Ray was able to tell him exactly what he could afford and a deal was struck there and then over a hand-shake. A few steps away was the bank and Ray was able to confirm the deal with Gwynn Hughes and he and Sylvia became proud owners of the Post Office. Sylvia became the Sub-Postmistress and for a few years Ray continued to work for Fosters until he sold Ludlow. During this time Dillwyn was a great help to Ray as he helped him to manage the transition from Small-holder/Driver to being full-time, and working alongside Sylvia in the Post Office.

Running a Post Office was not a soft option. They worked very long hours in the Post Office (initially from 7.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. and then later from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 a.m.) and then had a considerable amount of administration and stock control to attend to. Ray describes it as ‘hard’ but clearly he and Sylvia quickly developed a close bond with the community they both grew up with, and they enjoyed the contact with the people they knew and loved. Lynda was born in 1967 and it was not too long before she became an important part of the staff team.

From the beginning they felt supported by the community and they took their opportunities to go the extra mile. Geraint told a story last month of how Ray and Sylvia had an ‘emergency’ request for Epsom salts, as a farmer had a cow that had a swelling that made it seem the animal might ‘explode’. They were able to find in stock the Epsom salts that saved the day and the cow. The farmer concerned was a regular customer for years and years after that. This exemplifies their approach to the business. They were there to provide a service, and because people recognised this, the business prospered.

Another example of this and how to turn adversity into service provision, and hence profit, was during the ‘great’ snow storm of 1981.  In those days they got their bread from Hereford.  It was a Friday and he had about 30 to 40 bread orders to fulfil and the bread delivery van had got to the Forest Inn and could not move in any direction. The week-end was a challenge for everyone and they even closed the Post Office on the Saturday morning. During Sunday the road  via Witton was unblocked and Ray set off for the Forest Inn on the Monday morning. Getting there Ray decided to take not just his own order but as much of the bread in the delivery van as he could fit in. Returning to the Post Office, not only was he able to meet the needs of all his regular customers but he was sold our very quickly. Ray ws then to to get a delivery from Oswestry, but when the van arrived the driver explained that he had been unable to deliver to other shops including Dolau and he had a full van. Ray decided to take all that he had, and once again he was sold out very quickly, and he gained customers long term who were so grateful that Ray and Sylvia kept their shop open.

Then there was the year of the ‘great sugar shortage’. A van driver arrived at the Post Office with an order for Mr Jones! Ray had been expecting an order for 40 parcels so he assumed the order was for him and they simply had the name wrong. So he took the order! The next day another driver arrived with the 40 parcels of sugar for the Post Office. By this stage there was no sugar to be had anywhere and Ray had 80 parcels of sugar. Well it was bonanza time. People came from everywhere to buy sugar. They were soon sold out. A gentleman from Llanbister  bought some sugar and was so pleased he placed his order with Ray and Sylvia every week.

As part of a side line to the Post Office Ray has developed a particular interest in old postcards. Sylvia and Ray had previously developed within the Post Office a set of post cards with scenes in and around the village. He told me of a remarkable story that involved Richard Davies. Many years ago Richard visited Penybont with Mary and while he was there he bought from the Post Office a postcard to send to his grandmother in West Wales. The completed card was franked in Penybont and duly sent. Many, many years later Ray received from a friend in London who was also a ‘collector’ a card that had a Penybont frank on it. The card was the very same card that Richard had sent to his grandmother. Ray has been able to return the card to Richard.

Ray referred to the range of businesses in the village, other than the farming community, that all had a connection with the Post Office. There was an Ironmonger (in Glen Ellen); the Blacksmith with Tom Price and his father before him; Tom ‘Cash’ Stephens sweet shop, in Suzanna’s House; a Sadler behind the Post Office; Midland Bank; Market; Severn Arms; Police Station; 2 houses did Teas including Brynithon; and Fosters the Seed Merchants.

Fosters was a significant business in the village, having been for a time in the wooden building at the Thomas Shop it moved to the yard where the Council depot is today. There were 8 people working in the yard, they had three lorries taking orders out, three Reps were based at the yard. The business was very busy covering over to Aberystwyth and Leominster.

Ray would say that the secret of their success at the Post Office, over and above hard work, was proving a service to the local community and having a trusting relationship with his customers. He is rightly proud that when they left the Post Office all those people who had ‘accounts’ with him cleared their debts. He did almost however run into difficulty with the Post Office by extending his service beyond the official times of opening to accommodate a group of people who wanted to manage their football coupons as a syndicate and came in very early to get them sent off. While he was in the middle of helping them the Postmaster from Llandrindod came into the Post Office. Fortunately he turned a ‘blind eye’ and nothing was said. It was considered quite a serious breach to open out of hours in those days.

After the Post Office closed in 2004 an attempt was made to open a facility within the Thomas Shop Museum in 2005. A connection was made by the Post Office managers with Sarah Mason who ran the Post Office in Newbridge and they administered a service for a short time. The Opening was attended by Kirsty Williams AM and a limited service was provided over the next year.

Llandegley Post Office

Derek admitted that he had not managed to find out any information that was not already in Geraint’s Book. A Post Office operated in Llandegley, out of Primrose Cottage, from 1817. In 1871 Evan Evans ws the Postmaster and working for him was a Post Messenger – Charles Jenkins. When Penybont became the Sorting Office there is only John Evans, described as Postman, working out of Primrose Cottage.

Derek hoped that the members present could add to what is already known.

Crossgates Post Office

Derek confessed that he had been unable to find any information in what has been an important service in the area and he hoped that information would be forthcoming now that he had finished his presentation.

Geraint thanked Derek for the presentation and for illustrating our local service within the development of the national picture, and the floor was opened for members to contribute.

A story emerged in relation to Mr and Mrs Edward Bufton, Mrs Bufton, Auntie Beatty was a teacher at Llanddewi School but it was their Cob that was remembered with by several members. Maureen was aware that Mr Bufton was important in the Trotting scene and had become important in this sphere from 1921. The Cob was appropriately called ‘Post Boy’ and Mary had remembered him as a source of great envy. The family had moved to Sunnyside on the Common and the Post Boy would bring the children of the household into the village and to the shop. Mary would have loved to be one of these highly privileged children.

Mr Edwards, in addition to taking on the Post Office was also a coal merchant. Mary remembers some concern that the Post Office was now selling groceries and provided some competition to the Thomas Shop.

Stan and Millie Price had a reputation for serving the children sweets and 5 Woodbine would be a common purchase.

In the last few minutes a number of references were made that need to be followed up that mainly related to Crossgates:

Una’s Mother-in-law

Trewern Villa

Frankie Jones and Ted – the Waltons

Millie and Edgar Morgan

There was a reference to the van in the photo taken outside the Crossgates Post Office – Bread being delivered from Henry Quarterman Coates from Llandrindod

Tony and Lynne Eckleston were at Crossgates. Tony is now living in Howey.

Lynne and Rod Hill also at Crossgates

There was a memory of Mr Edwards at the Post Office in Penybont supplying ‘black market’ sweets that were meant to be on ration.

Geraint reminded us of the range of things that have been lost in recent history:

  • Blacksmith
  • Cattle and sheep market
  • Tennis Courts
  • Water Mills
  • The Station that serviced the engines on their way through
  • Police Station and cells
  • Friendly Society (In its day the largest in the whole area
  • The Post Office itself was more than just a facility, it was a social centre and meeting place

David is living in the ‘Old Post Office’ in Llanbister. There is clearly a long history associated with this facility. He would welcome any information and anecdotes associated with the Post Office.

Geraint mentioned that there was a problem for pensioners similar to the trouble we all have with pin numbers and passwords. In Penybont the problem was resolved by having a list of all the Pension Pin Numbers pinned to the wall behind the counter!

In another memory of Steve the Postman who would pick up mail along his route and if someone had no stamps he would take them anyway and stamp the letters himself.

John A., who was unfortunately not with us to add to the memories, had previously told us of how the Christmas mail was delivered on Christmas Day. He was challenged to get through his round as he was invited in to enjoy the ‘hospitality’ of each home.

The next meeting will be at Penybont Hall at 10.30 a.m. on the 5th December. A new programme for next year will be sent out as soon as possible.

 

 

Notes of 3rd October 2016 Meeting Main Topic – The Lives of Agricultural Workers Shirley Morgan

Geraint opened the meeting to another full house and welcomed , in particular the ‘throng’ from New Radnor – Marion’s Team of Jennifer, Robin and Susan. Rachel, who came from Kerry, is new to the area and to the group. Geraint also pointed out that Elizabeth had: ‘brought her husband along’! Peter. Peter mentioned that they were settling in to the Old Rectory in Dolau and that they were still setting up their Book-selling business’, Castle Books.  Reference was made to the ‘Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire’ which is available at the Thomas Shop.

Geraint indicated that it is time to draw members attention next year’s diary. He, Mary and Derek, are looking for suggestions.  The next meeting will feature Derek who will be talking about the history of the Post Office.  The Meeting on the 5th December will be at Penybont Hall when there will be a focus on ‘extreme weather conditions’.

Mary confessed that she and Richard have ‘retired’ from the village and they are currently staying in a Bed and Breakfast facility in Llandrindod before moving into their new house as soon as it is ready for occupation.

Geraint has been talking to Frank Morgan about showing some of his ‘movies’ of Penybont alongside some of the new slides that Geraint has had given to him over the last year. This will be an additional session on  15th November .

Lynda has opened a Facebook page for PenybontRadnorshire, and it is hoped that this will provide a better way of managing the numerous pictures that are now in Geraint’s collection.

Main Topic – “The Lives of Agricultural Labourers” – Shirley Morgan

Most of us have an Ag Lab as an ancestor. Who were they and where did they originate. Shirley wondered whether we looked back at a ‘romantic age’ and mourned the loss of a rural cultural identity as in the books of Thomas Hardy.

They emerged with the Enclosures, where cottagers with land and common rights were powerless to prevent exploitation by wealthy landowners. Up to that point there was a culture of co-production on the common land that was managed by the community in strips that were prone to disease and were not as productive as farm management systems that were coming in.  After the Enclosures Act of 1801, families who had lived for generations on their small-holdings with commoner’s rights were deprived of their holdings and forced to become a landless working class employed by the landowners who created large farms. The Agricultural Revolution saw the rise of capitalist farmers who adopted better farming processes – drainage, crop rotation, animal husbandry, machinery, increased production of winter fodder – (turnips), leguminous plants: based on the principles developed by Jethro Tull in the early 18th century. All these needed labour, so that by the time Victoria came to the throne farming had in many places had become a business instead of a means of subsistence. Villages came to have a hierarchy – squire, tenant farmer, and the landless labourer, who was at the bottom of the social scale.

The general social unrest of the 1830’s was felt among agricultural workers. The harsh workhouses instituted by the Poor Law had a marked effect in the country areas and combined with low wages and fear of increased mechanisation, riots and rick burning, and the destruction of threshing machines broke out in many areas. 1834 saw the protest by the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who founded ‘The Friendly Society of Labourers’. Their sentence of transportation was reprieved and their courageous actions  helped pave the way for the creation of trade unions and the protection of labourer’s rights.

As the century progressed agriculture saw increasing prosperity. The period up to 1870 has been described as the ‘golden age’ of Agriculture. The Crimean War and the increase in the number of urban dwellers caused the price of agricultural goods to rise sharply. The development of the railways provided quick transportation. The Great Exhibition of 1851 showcased the wide variety of machinery, wages rose and social unrest declined.

However, it was short-lived as from 1873 inwards the long depression in agriculture set in. Animal diseases and wet summers took their toll, but it was the cheap imports of American wheat caused the price of wheat to fall. Refrigeration ships brought Argentinian beef and Australian lamb and canning processes improved. Labourers suffered, many left to work in urban jobs, and again there was an attempt to form unions .Joseph Arch, a farm labourer, founded the National Agricultural Labourers Union which encouraged striking. He visited Presteigne in September 1874 and spoke

He was the first labourer to be elected an MP in the election of 1885. He visited Presteigne in September 1874 and spoke for an hour to a crowd of 5000. The demands for higher wages were considered outrageous by the farmers, but public opinion forced them to make concessions and wages rose by one to two shillings. Emigration was very high among agricultural labourers, in Radnorshire in 1869 a liver fluke epidemic caused wholesale destruction of the sheep flocks so there followed a wave of emigration to the USA.

The beginning of the new century saw moderate prosperity for farmers with the introduction of new breeds of cattle – Friesian, Shorthorn; and new grass strains, but this meant nothing to the labourer.

The landslide victory of the Liberals in 1906 brought a large number of changes, Old Age Pensions took away the fear of the Workhouse for agricultural labourers who had made up a large proportion of the elderly occupants. It was the threat of the Incremental Value and Underdeveloped Land Bill of 1909 which caused the massive changes to the way of life in the countryside. It started a flood of sales of the larger estates. Many land-owners, including the Severn’s and Ormathwaite’s, saw their land as poor investment so they unburdened themselves of their vast estates. In many cases it was tenants who bought a farm; often employing family members and perhaps one or two hands. Shirley’s Great Grandfather was one such farmer who took  advantage of ‘cheap’ farm land prices but had to raise a mortgage of £900 – equivalent to £1,000,000 at today’s prices!

The 1901 Census shows that within 10 years 50% if farm labourers had left the industry. Move to the increasing opportunities in towns and cities was one factor, but education was undoubtedly another. There were the adults of working age who benefitted from the 1870 Education Act. Indeed some critics blamed education for destroying country life. One farmer lamented that ‘boys kept at school to 13 years of age became accustomed to a warm room and dry feet and showed no liking for a cold north east wind with sleet and rain, and mud all over his boot-tops carrying turnips to the sheep.

In the eve of the Great War Britain was only producing a fraction of the nation’s food – 4 out of 5 slices of bread were made of imported wheat, and 3 out of 5 spread with imported butter. One of the first things that happened was the establishment of War Agricultural Committees. The drain of young men to the forces has been well documented and must be one of the saddest things to impact on farm labourers.  Civilians from all walks of life were drafted in to the industry – farmers complained about having chocolate makers and piano tuners, etc.; prisoners were also used for agricultural work; but the Women’s Land Army made its first appearance, sometimes romanticised they were useful in the land.  The War Years are remembered for the first appearance of farm tractors, many of them home produced, but their influence was limited due to the lack of operating and maintenance skills.

Farm workers experienced a decline in wages during the War, returning soldiers were reluctant to return to the land. For some there was no alternative and possibly  with new confidence they returned optimistically thinking that the new found strength of the unions would enhance their prospects. Unions experienced a revival possibly because of the radical attitude among returning soldiers, but fragmentation of workers and bonds between employer and worker calmed it down. The 1921 Census shows a huge reduction in the number of agricultural labourers. There was mourning for the passing of a way of life and a realisation of how precious and skilled agricultural workers had been. – Thomas Hardy.

The thirties saw the fastest decline in the labour force than in any other decade. Wages were lower, there was little job security, hours were long and holidays were rare.

At the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Britain found herself again relying on foreign imports, but this time she was more prepared in other areas. – War Agricultural Committees were in place, there was a reserve of fertiliser  and machinery and targets were set. Experienced farm workers  were exempt from conscription and industry was prohibited  from employing agricultural workers.  Three months before the outbreak of war the Women’s Land Army was rushed into existence and by 1943 it had reached 100,000. They had distinctive uniforms and received 28 shillings a week. We must not overlook the part played by prisoners of war who in 1946 formed one sixth of the labour force.

How Did Agricultural Labourers Find A Job?

The Hiring Fairs were very common in Radnorshire, and were generally held in May. Farm servants who lived in were generally hired in this way. Girls wore aprons and the boys and men wore smocks or had an emblem of their trade; e.g. cow hair or sheep’. The agreement was clinched with a shilling known as ‘earnest money’. Hiring Fairs continued to be held in Rhayader, Knighton, Builth  and Penybont well into the 1940’s. Newspapers and word of mouth also played a part in advertising a vacancy.

Wages have always been a cause for contention. Children put out to work on farms sometime got nothing for their first year and £1 for their second.  In 1868, a strong capable girl could be had for £3 per year. Servants were completely at the mercy of their ‘masters’, their terms of employment had to be completed. Until 1875 absconders were punished with heavy fines or imprisonment. Very often it is hard to calculate a labourer’s wage as perks were often included; e.g. buttermilk, potatoes, or meals at the farmhouse in busy times. If a cottage was provided it would probably be cramped and basic. The idyllic view of a farm labourer returning home to a picturesquely furnished house and glowing log fire was false.

Sime idea of the wages paid by a farmer is shown by the diary of John Stephens who kept a pocket book covering 1895 -1905. No record of wages for his housekeeper Evangeline Jones. John Williams was recorded as receiving £41 per year; but other Agricultural workers got just £14 and Lizzie only got £6.

Food was basic – potatoes, bread and flummery were staples. Beef and mutton didn’t appear on the labourer’s table.

Clothes saw smocks disappearing throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. Men’s clothes had to be serviceable in all weather. Moleskin, corduroy and Derby tweed were used for trousers and waistcoats with collarless flannel shirts. Waterproof clothing was invented in the 1820’s and wellingtons in the 1850’s, but they didn’t become affordable or generally available until the 1940’s. George Lewis says that the common wet weather coat was a Gopsil Brown sacking slung around the neck and fastened with a piece of wire called a ‘bad uck’. Rubber wellies were preceded by hob-nailed boots and gaiters or trousers simply tied with a bit of string. Boots would have to be checked regularly and repaired at home.

Jobs were many and varied. A general farm workers life would be characterised by  hardship and lack of opportunity. Young boys  known as ‘lumpers’  were expected to assist  in  the whole range of tasks, lifting and carrying, and all the time learning until they were able to do all the labours of a man. The trademark of a good labourer was versatility, he would sow seeds, hoe, weed, mow, make hurdles, cut chaff spread dung, thresh, hedge, ditch, and mend roads.

Horsemen (waggoners) were expected to take a pride in their animals. Their day would begin at 5 a.m. when they had to feed and harness the horses  for work by 7.00 a.m. Work would vary with the seasons – ploughing, harrowing, muck spreading, general carting, and harvesting.  They would be expected to feed and bed down the horses after the long day’s work. Chaff had to be cut the night before and soaked to make it more digestible. The coming of mechanisation meant that this lovely partnership of horses and men rapidly became a thing of the past. Scenes remain poignant.

Cowmen had an early start. Milking was dine inside and outside. Calving had to be supervised  so this meant long unsociable hours were worked. Foddering, watering, and mexing had to be done whatever the day.

The Shepherd’s role was often romanticised by artists, but it was a hard one. Lambing was done out of doors and lambs often needed help to survive. Sheep washing, dipping, and shearing were hard work.

Harvest was a hard time for labourers.

The hay harvest moved from being wholly manual to mechanised – one of these could do the work of 4 labourers with scythes. It was turned by hand or horse rake, put into cocks and loaded onto a gambo. The years after the war saw the gradual mechanisation of hay making – balers.

Oats were harvested mostly in the area. Again it was cut by scythe and hand tying of sheaves before the introduction of reaper binders after WW1. The building of ricks for hay or straw was a skilled one which died out with the advent of French barns in the 50’s. Again a precious labourer’s skill was lost.

Local Agricultural Labourers

In the Penybont / Llandegley area the only farms independent from the estate were those owned by the Duggan and Watkins families. These employed several labourers that might include: Waggoner; Agricultural Labourer; Sheppard; Servants – Often about 8 people.

Most of the farms in the area were small and rented from the Penybont Estate and these employed at least one or two  farm servants. But as we have seen  the 1909 Land Valuation Act which heralded the break-up of the Ormathwaite Estate. Tenants were given the opportunity to buy their farms  and so tenants became owners. If there were no family members to work the farm then help was employed.  This was often a young boy – lumper, who lived in and was paid minimal wages with keep provided. The lot of these young people varied greatly depending on the generosity of the farmers and their wives. The social position of these farmers  was no higher than their servants. Lots of evidence to suggest there was a happy, respectful, co-existence between  the boss and the labourer. Refer to George Lewis  being taught to read by the waggoner, Emrys and Emlyn living as part of the family in the Elan Valley. However there are stories of harsh treatment – Nantmel and another labourer now nearly ninety who started work at the age of 15 years in 1943, earned £50 a year and never ate with the family.

We are going to look at the lives of some local labourers, obviously I have not been able to talk to anyone older than ninety. Hopefully this will reflect some of what has gone before.

 

Norah Morgan

Norah was born in Salford, Manchester in 1926 and cane down to Crossgates with the Women’s Land Army. Based at the hostel she worked on numerous farms around the area. She recalls never having seen a cow or sheep and remembers a farmer putting her on a , and after she had fallen off, he slapped its backside and off she went. As the war progressed she learned to drive a tractor, plough, and do the work that men could do. She even sang with a band in Rock Park. A parade pf the Land Army young ladies caused quite a stir.

Richards Family

Evan, born 1915, went into service around the Clungunford area when he left school, and as you will hear worked with horses. His parents, our grandparents,  bought Baileyshonllwyd just before the war and he spent his working life  there before retiring to Baileymawr in 1986. We listened to a tape of Evan speaking of his life as an Agricultural Worker. Starting in 1936 he worked with sheep, cattle, and poultry. They made milk and butter.

Evan was able to tell us that he worked for a cousin who farmed at Cornhill. The work included sheep, cattle and poultry. They were also involved in milk and butter. Work over the years also included ploughing and growing mangels; cutting turf for the winter. He worked a lot with horses – this involved very long hours from 5.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., for pay that was just 10s per week. He did manage to save up the buy a car for £3 which was equivalent to 3 heifers and a calf. The farm was 85 acres. When he moved to Bailey Mawr this was just 14 acres and not enough to provide a loving. One of Evans favourite duties was to break-in horses at about 18 months old. Horses were generally bought at Newbridge or Radnor sales in October and November. Evan lived well, keeping busy and taking his luck until he was 95 years.

Tom born 1928 worked Old Castle, but later worked for the Davies Swydd and he received his long service medal from the Queen. Tom is Carol’s Dad, he lived on the Common, here in Penybont, where he kept sheep dogs. Tom enjoyed telling people that he had a hand that shook hands with the Queen!

Ann and Les Davies

Les started work for Lord Ormathwaite in 1950 and after their marriage in 1950 they moved to the newly built Waindu Cottage. Lord Ormathwaite had just inherited the title of Vl Baron Ormathwaite and what remained of the once large estate. Ann think that he had been involved in the aircraft business in Bristol. In 1973 Les was promoted to Farm Manager when the moved to Waindu. She recalls work as being hard with irregular hours, but fondly remembers Lord Ormathwaite as being a kind and thoughtful employer who treated them as though they were his own family. Lord Ormathwaite was Godfather to their youngest son, Clive on the condition that he didn’t have to make a speech! Les received his long service medal on 1986 from Cledwyn Hughes and retired in 1993. His catch phrase was: “What are we going to do today?” Hours were long but he found the work to be very rewarding.

John Abberley (Unfortuantely John was not with us today to add to his already colourful picture)

Born at the Ffaldau to Bill and Margaret, they rented the farm and they concentrated on milk production. Milking, bottling, and delivery were all done by the family. John did deliveries on his bike. John worked at home but found that neighbouring farms needed help occasionally, so be became an itinerant farm labourer at 10 shillings a day. It became evident that there was no future for him at the Ffaldau as it was rented, so he took employment at Pritchard’s Garage. This was the time when the farm labourer was becoming a thing of the past. John’s working life is a good example of how so many far

John Bufton

One of a rare breed as he spend his whole life on the one farm. He started work in 1957 moving between Dolau Farm, Tyddu Farm, and Tanhouse Farm. He lived in as one of the family even though his home was nearby. Wages were £1 10s a week plus his keep. He worked there for 10 years and wages rose to £9 10s. The day would begin at 7.30 a.m. and would go on as long as was necessary. One perk was that he could sometimes go home on Saturday and they didn’t believe in working on Sundays.

A Year on the Farm with John

Jan             Hedging – he learned to hedge with YFC

Feb            Laying Roads

Mar             Lambing

April            Lambing and sowing oats and mangolds

May            Spreading manure and slag, turn cattle out and washing sheep

June                    Shearing, harvest

July            Dipping

August                 Sheep sales

Sept           Knighton Sheep sales, sheep taken by train

Nov            Cattle in

Dec            Cattle cleaned by hand

1966 married Carol and took a job in a Herefordshire Farm. Life was a bit different here, the farm produced potatoes, milk, beef, corn, sheep, and he drove the trailer with loads of apples into the city for Bulners. Here, Carol and John had a house and 2 weeks holiday. But he cannot h explain why he came back! By the took a job with a house in Llanbadarn Fynydd and there he stayed for 38 years, John received his long service medal in 2007.

Geraint thanked Shirley for her talk and insight into the changing rile of Agriculture and the lives of Farm Labourers.

Gwen was able to give us additional insights as she grew up a farmer’s daughter and was expected, and did, much the same work as her brothers.  She had a hand in milking, making butter, salting bacon, picking fruit, making pickles, cutting corn, making sheaves. Then binders came on and she took a hand in this too.

As a Land Girl and mother she had to make ditches by hand – a dreadful job.

Tom was a waggoner and cowman late into the 50’s.

There was discussion of the practice on Sundays  – Particularly at harvest time. Crops could be ruined if they did not work on a Sunday. Some did and some didn’t. Some, as Jennifer had found out, gave the appearance of not working, but did work where they could not be seen from the road.

In another family ‘Father’ would not work on Sunday until the Vicar came to tea and declared when asked: “Why not!”

Notes of 5th September 2016 Meeting Main Topic – Group Projects Review

Geraint welcomed members back to this the Michaelmas Term. There was just one new member – Elizabeth Newman from the Old Vicarage at Dolau. Elizabeth has already completed a piece of work into the history if the Vicarage and the ‘goings on of an infamous past Vicar of the Parish – Rev. Richard Pugh. He was de-frocked due to scandals that it was felt better not to go into – Perhaps another time??

Elizabeth explained that the Monkey Puzzle Tree that has been a feature of the Old Vicarage garden since Victorian times was discovered to be dead, and has had to be taken down for safety reasons. She has engaged a carver to make a sculpture and much of the timber has gone to wood-turners.

Contemporary History Record – Lynda Price

Geraint asked Linda to report on her year in the history of Penybont and District. Linda has put together some beautiful scrapbooks that contain photographs, posters, and flyers, for local events. These were available and stirred a lot of interest within the group.

Llandegley School Records – Jenny

Geraint then reported on the project that Jenny has undertaken relating to the archives of Llandegley School. Jenny has been transcribing them so that the originals can be deposited with the County Archives.

(To a question on the status of the County Archives, they are currently in the process of moving to the Industrial Estate, it is providing a limited service direct to the public, but the new facility, once It is ready, should be very good.)

Unfortunately Jenny was nit well and so she was unable to tell us about how she has been getting along.  Geraint reported in the quality of the work being done by Jenny. She has been making notes alongside the transcription that reference things that are missing, the type of script, and if sections are unreadable. It will be an extremely useful and professional piece of work once it is complete.

The school records cover the period 1873 to 1953, though the school closed in 1977. There are other records of the work of the school including an acquisitions book that is quite interesting as it details the purchase of chalk and the range of materials used on a daily basis within the school.

Amongst the members present there were a few ‘old boys’ and ‘girls’ who were pupils at the school.

John A started in 1936 and conceded ‘it  was not all bad’! John remembered the war time evacuees from Liverpool who were billeted locally, some with his family. He had a particular memory that they were ‘tagged’ and he found this very sad. A particular highlight of his school career was the building of the school canteen when he was allowed off lessons to help make cement. The toilets were less than salubrious and involved burials in the garden twice a week. He remembers that there were 35 pupils in 2 classes. The infants, up to 8 years, were taught by Mrs Bull. The older children had Mrs Pugh. Mrs Pugh was a sister of the Bishop of St Asaph and Brecon. She was alleged to have had a ‘special’ relationship with the vicar – here again it is probably best to keep off this subject – Geraint agreed. Her daughter Eileen is still alive today. John had a particular memory of the distances that some of the pupils walked to get to school – anything up to 5 miles in all weathers. They and their clothes would regularly need to be dried out on the tortoise stove.

Mrs Higgins came as the school cook.  She was only 11 years when she started. Food was bought locally, though much of it was given by the local farmers. John’s family supplied milk to the school in 1/3 pint bottles. Geraint mentioned that the schools were, albeit run by the state, were seen as local charities and fund raising was a regular part of the school and community events. The harvest festival was a particular event that was part of the school calendar. John left school at 11 years just before the 1944 Education Act (Butler Act) raised the leaving age to 15 years.

Shirley’s school career started in 1954. Unlike John she and her 2 sisters enjoyed the school experience.  The teachers during her school career were Mrs Thomas and Mrs Evans, who was the wife of the Vicar. One of her memories was the punishment for swearing. A black mark was put on the tongue of the erring child. Shirley did, and passed, her 11+, which was a source of great pride for her, her family, and the school. She went on to the Grammar School with no preparation for this huge change. The first year was quite difficult.

Neil remembers that 14 was the age when most children left school after the Act came into force.

When Lynda joined the school the teachers were Mrs Duggan, Miss Williams and the cook was then Mrs Edwards.

Village Museum/Display – Geraint

Geraint was in confessional mood when he told of his spending of the proceeds of the slide show done earlier in the year. He spent the money on a set of display boards before he had discussed it with Richard who pointed out that he had mixed up Gross and Net profit and had forgotten about VAT! As a result he had to find, personally, and with some help from Richard, an additional £20.

The Boards are at the Thomas Shop where a cupboard will be made available with a view to working towards a ‘village museum’ at some point in the future.

Recording Memories – Judy

Initially called the Oral History Project, Judy said that some people were put off by the idea that anyone might be interested in their history of dentistry! Better is the ‘History of the Spoken Word’. It is not a new  idea – people have been passing on stories  for ever. Some have been turned into books. However most people do not record their memories and their stories in many instances die with them.

Recording is an easier method than writing but it is often difficult to get people to accept that their memories are worth recording, that they are in fact unique, of interest, and important.

Judy’s interest in recording stories started when she volunteered to do recordings for a Food Project being run by Ashfield. Judy was to learn that it is quite a challenging piece of work to undertake. Ashfield trained 15 people and she was the only person who fully completed her task.

The challenge includes:

  • Identifying new people
  • Setting aside time to do the recording
  • Transcribing the recording (This is more complicated than copying as in some instances this will not make sense)
  • Producing written summaries
  • Agreeing with the interviewee that they have been represented correctly

The format for storing the final material is also important. Radnorshire Museum carried out a project in 1977 when they recorded the memories of local people on cassettes. It is now not possible to listen to these cassettes as there are no longer machines to play the cassettes on, the quality of the recordings has degraded, and they have had to send them to a specialist company at serious expense to see if they can access them.

If we think that in 1000 years time people might want to access the recordings we are making it is impossible to have any idea what systems will be used. We now know that CD’s only have about a 5 year shelf life.

Writing the recordings up takes a lot of time – 1 hour of recording can take 10 hours to transcribe. Even paper degrades and so in the end Archive Paper is the best way to keep a record that will remain accessible to people almost  indefinitely.

Judy has found it best to have a topic to talk about. People find it much more difficult when they are given very open questions to answer.  The sort of question that works best is:

“Tell me about ….”

Judy would encourage everyone to record.

So far she has completed three recordings. She has prioritised older people but younger members of the community have much to add to local history.

Two short extracts from Interviews

  1. In one of the interviews with Ray Price he talked about his early experience of running the shop and of a particular instance that concerned a bullock and Epsom salts. He had a phone call from a farmer asking him if he had bey any chance some Epsom Salts for a Bullock that had swollen up to the point that he looked as though he was going to explode. Ray searched the shop and found that he had some 4oz tubs. The Bullock was saved and he had a customer for life.
  2. Ruby Griffiths spoke about family bread making during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s . Ruby was the only daughter in a family of 11 children. Bread would be made once a week. A 72 lb bag of Spiller’s flour was put into a galvanised bath, mixed with water and 4 oz of yeast. After kneading the dough would be left for 1 to 2 hours to rise. There was a bread oven in the wall that would take 5ft long shafts of wood. It was hot enough to cook the bread when it was too hot to put your elbow in the oven. The dough was split into lumps and placed on the oven floor. The loaves were about twice the size of shop loaves today. She remembers it as very satisfying bread – unlike bread today.

Geraint thanked Judy for the work she had put into this important project and for her update. He has regretted not getting Tom Price to record more of his memories – he will have to wait until they meet again!!!

A discussion followed on the many ways in which words and pictures would be best held. Paper / Vellum / electronically  / web / cloud / Facebook.

Though there were concerns about moderating it effectively it was agreed that access to the materials would be enhanced by developing a Facebook Presence. Lynda agreed to explore setting this up.

Future Events

Geraint said that Frank Morgan had agreed to show some of his videos in an event similar to the slide show event in last year’s programme.

Shirley is leading on our next meeting on the 3rd October 2016 when she will talk on “The Lives of Agricultural Workers”

Derek will talk about Local Post Offices on 7th November 2016.

Notes of 5th September 2016 Meeting Main Topic – Group Projects Review

Geraint welcomed members back to this the Michaelmas Term. There was just one new member – Elizabeth Newman from the Old Vicarage at Dolau. Elizabeth has already completed a piece of work into the history if the Vicarage and the ‘goings on of an infamous past Vicar of the Parish – Rev. Richard Pugh. He was de-frocked due to scandals that it was felt better not to go into – Perhaps another time??

Elizabeth explained that the Monkey Puzzle Tree that has been a feature of the Old Vicarage garden since Victorian times was discovered to be dead, and has had to be taken down for safety reasons. She has engaged a carver to make a sculpture and much of the timber has gone to wood-turners.

Contemporary History Record – Lynda Price

Geraint asked Linda to report on her year in the history of Penybont and District. Linda has put together some beautiful scrapbooks that contain photographs, posters, and flyers, for local events. These were available and stirred a lot of interest within the group.

Llandegley School Records – Jenny

Geraint then reported on the project that Jenny has undertaken relating to the archives of Llandegley School. Jenny has been transcribing them so that the originals can be deposited with the County Archives.

(To a question on the status of the County Archives, they are currently in the process of moving to the Industrial Estate, it is providing a limited service direct to the public, but the new facility, once It is ready, should be very good.)

Unfortunately Jenny was nit well and so she was unable to tell us about how she has been getting along.  Geraint reported in the quality of the work being done by Jenny. She has been making notes alongside the transcription that reference things that are missing, the type of script, and if sections are unreadable. It will be an extremely useful and professional piece of work once it is complete.

The school records cover the period 1873 to 1953, though the school closed in 1977. There are other records of the work of the school including an acquisitions book that is quite interesting as it details the purchase of chalk and the range of materials used on a daily basis within the school.

Amongst the members present there were a few ‘old boys’ and ‘girls’ who were pupils at the school.

John A started in 1936 and conceded ‘it  was not all bad’! John remembered the war time evacuees from Liverpool who were billeted locally, some with his family. He had a particular memory that they were ‘tagged’ and he found this very sad. A particular highlight of his school career was the building of the school canteen when he was allowed off lessons to help make cement. The toilets were less than salubrious and involved burials in the garden twice a week. He remembers that there were 35 pupils in 2 classes. The infants, up to 8 years, were taught by Mrs Bull. The older children had Mrs Pugh. Mrs Pugh was a sister of the Bishop of St Asaph and Brecon. She was alleged to have had a ‘special’ relationship with the vicar – here again it is probably best to keep off this subject – Geraint agreed. Her daughter Eileen is still alive today. John had a particular memory of the distances that some of the pupils walked to get to school – anything up to 5 miles in all weathers. They and their clothes would regularly need to be dried out on the tortoise stove.

Mrs Higgins came as the school cook.  She was only 11 years when she started. Food was bought locally, though much of it was given by the local farmers. John’s family supplied milk to the school in 1/3 pint bottles. Geraint mentioned that the schools were, albeit run by the state, were seen as local charities and fund raising was a regular part of the school and community events. The harvest festival was a particular event that was part of the school calendar. John left school at 11 years just before the 1944 Education Act (Butler Act) raised the leaving age to 15 years.

Shirley’s school career started in 1954. Unlike John she and her 2 sisters enjoyed the school experience.  The teachers during her school career were Mrs Thomas and Mrs Evans, who was the wife of the Vicar. One of her memories was the punishment for swearing. A black mark was put on the tongue of the erring child. Shirley did, and passed, her 11+, which was a source of great pride for her, her family, and the school. She went on to the Grammar School with no preparation for this huge change. The first year was quite difficult.

Neil remembers that 14 was the age when most children left school after the Act came into force.

When Lynda joined the school the teachers were Mrs Duggan, Miss Williams and the cook was then Mrs Edwards.

Village Museum/Display – Geraint

Geraint was in confessional mood when he told of his spending of the proceeds of the slide show done earlier in the year. He spent the money on a set of display boards before he had discussed it with Richard who pointed out that he had mixed up Gross and Net profit and had forgotten about VAT! As a result he had to find, personally, and with some help from Richard, an additional £20.

The Boards are at the Thomas Shop where a cupboard will be made available with a view to working towards a ‘village museum’ at some point in the future.

Recording Memories – Judy

Initially called the Oral History Project, Judy said that some people were put off by the idea that anyone might be interested in their history of dentistry! Better is the ‘History of the Spoken Word’. It is not a new  idea – people have been passing on stories  for ever. Some have been turned into books. However most people do not record their memories and their stories in many instances die with them.

Recording is an easier method than writing but it is often difficult to get people to accept that their memories are worth recording, that they are in fact unique, of interest, and important.

Judy’s interest in recording stories started when she volunteered to do recordings for a Food Project being run by Ashfield. Judy was to learn that it is quite a challenging piece of work to undertake. Ashfield trained 15 people and she was the only person who fully completed her task.

The challenge includes:

  • Identifying new people
  • Setting aside time to do the recording
  • Transcribing the recording (This is more complicated than copying as in some instances this will not make sense)
  • Producing written summaries
  • Agreeing with the interviewee that they have been represented correctly

The format for storing the final material is also important. Radnorshire Museum carried out a project in 1977 when they recorded the memories of local people on cassettes. It is now not possible to listen to these cassettes as there are no longer machines to play the cassettes on, the quality of the recordings has degraded, and they have had to send them to a specialist company at serious expense to see if they can access them.

If we think that in 1000 years time people might want to access the recordings we are making it is impossible to have any idea what systems will be used. We now know that CD’s only have about a 5 year shelf life.

Writing the recordings up takes a lot of time – 1 hour of recording can take 10 hours to transcribe. Even paper degrades and so in the end Archive Paper is the best way to keep a record that will remain accessible to people almost  indefinitely.

Judy has found it best to have a topic to talk about. People find it much more difficult when they are given very open questions to answer.  The sort of question that works best is:

“Tell me about ….”

Judy would encourage everyone to record.

So far she has completed three recordings. She has prioritised older people but younger members of the community have much to add to local history.

Two short extracts from Interviews

  1. In one of the interviews with Ray Price he talked about his early experience of running the shop and of a particular instance that concerned a bullock and Epsom salts. He had a phone call from a farmer asking him if he had bey any chance some Epsom Salts for a Bullock that had swollen up to the point that he looked as though he was going to explode. Ray searched the shop and found that he had some 4oz tubs. The Bullock was saved and he had a customer for life.
  2. Ruby Griffiths spoke about family bread making during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s . Ruby was the only daughter in a family of 11 children. Bread would be made once a week. A 72 lb bag of Spiller’s flour was put into a galvanised bath, mixed with water and 4 oz of yeast. After kneading the dough would be left for 1 to 2 hours to rise. There was a bread oven in the wall that would take 5ft long shafts of wood. It was hot enough to cook the bread when it was too hot to put your elbow in the oven. The dough was split into lumps and placed on the oven floor. The loaves were about twice the size of shop loaves today. She remembers it as very satisfying bread – unlike bread today.

Geraint thanked Judy for the work she had put into this important project and for her update. He has regretted not getting Tom Price to record more of his memories – he will have to wait until they meet again!!!

A discussion followed on the many ways in which words and pictures would be best held. Paper / Vellum / electronically  / web / cloud / Facebook.

Though there were concerns about moderating it effectively it was agreed that access to the materials would be enhanced by developing a Facebook Presence. Lynda agreed to explore setting this up.

Future Events

Geraint said that Frank Morgan had agreed to show some of his videos in an event similar to the slide show event in last year’s programme.

Shirley is leading on our next meeting on the 3rd October 2016 when she will talk on “The Lives of Agricultural Workers”

Derek will talk about Local Post Offices on 7th November 2016.

Notes of 11th July 2016 Meeting Main Topic – Walk to Penybont Hall Heronry and Sideland Nature Reserve, Cwmroches

Members assembled at the Thomas Shop for Coffee and announcements before setting off to meet Richard Morgan at Penybont Hall

Geraint welcomed everyone with special mention of Daniel MacIntosh who has joined us for the first time.

Derek referred to two contacts, with historical links to the village that were made over the last month.

  1. Keith Martin, now in his 80s, was an evacuee during the 2nd World War. He and his mother initially left London for The Gower but soon discovered that German pilots would off load any unused bombs, that were meant for Swansea, on The Gower. They then found their way to Penybont where they settled in Ithon Terrace. Before becoming a broadcaster and pioneer DJ for Radio Caroline Keith had some very fond memories of his time in Penybont. The stories he recounted tended to feature the Thomas Family and the Chapel where his abiding memory was of ‘Hell Fire and Damnation’. He remembered Mary’s mother, Mrs Worth, running a small school for evacuees, and including a few village children, in the parlour, which is now my office. He had a soft spot for Jack and the chicken farm. One of the chicken sheds was converted into a playroom and he seemed to remember Jack meeting his mother there.
  2. An email was received from a Jeannie Elgar who wrote to say that her Gt. Gt. Grandfather, Thomas Davies (1820 – 1903), was gamekeeper at Penybont Hall, and subsequently became Head Gamekeeper for the Severn Estates. Thomas Davies is buried in the graveyard at Llanbadarn Fawr Church and he is mentioned in the book on the Church by Rev. Albert Jordon. She had a particular interest in trying to find a photograph of Thomas Davies. – Enquires at Penybont Hall have not been fruitful but Richard would be happy to meet Jeanie.

Geraint mentioned that the next meeting will be a reporting meeting bringing together the activities of members:

  • Judy Dennison – Narratives from older members of our community
  • Lynda Price – Photographs of Community Life
  • Jenny Bowman – Archives Llandegley School

Geraint asked members to consider volunteering to mount an exhibition of local history on display panels.

Richard Morgan met us at Penybont Hall. As he had damaged his leg he introduced us to Carlton Parry who, as a keen environmentalist and ornithologist would guide us through the woods at Penybont Hall to the Heronry.

Carlton, who lives in Kington, is actively involved in conservation across Powys and wider afield. He is a bird ringer at Llangorse and helps to track the numbers of species and birds that frequent and visit the area.

He started with a couple of happenings he had encountered in the last few hours. He had shot a grey squirrel and left it lying on his lawn and within a very few minutes a red kite had swooped down and taken it. Also in rummaging through his boot he had come across a dead ‘yellow underwing moth’, which is just as described on the tin. To the question – What do they eat? Carlton was able to look it up to find that they ate a wide range of herbage including brassica and docks.

Carlton mentioned that the Herons would have finished raising their chicks by now and that it might be a good idea to plan a walk next year 6 weeks or so earlier. His other concern was that for reasons unknown the herons do not appear to have made use of the heronry this year. The walk through the wood was delightful with lots of bird song to identify, at least for the discerning few.

As we walked through the grounds of the Hall and into the woodland our auditory senses became aroused to the bird calls that were all around us. These were a group of tits. Carlton explained that with the breeding and chick raising finished the tits come together for safety and to forage, and would include Great Tits, Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits.

The birds that would have been nesting in the woods would include:

Wood Warbler; Willow Warbler; Chiffchaff; Blackcap; Spotted Flycatcher; Gold Crest; Wren; Robin

As we looped around to turn back towards the Hall we could see a number of very tall conifers that were set back from the path. Carlton was able to find the remains of one nest very high up in one of these trees. Carlton was at a loss to know why the Herons had not used the heronry this year. He thought they might have found an alternative site nearby. He is also involved in ringing herons in a woodland adjacent to the Royal Welsh Showground. They have nested there as usual. He is hopeful that they might return again to Penybont next year as there are still many herons in the area. He encouraged the group plan a visit for May next year.

There was discussion about the frequent visits to the village by Egrets. There seemed to be a breeding pair here this year. He said that with global warming they can be found more and more across Wales. They nest in the ‘middle’ storey below the herons. The first egret in the area was spotted at Bryn Thomas about 20 years ago.

Ringing the herons is quite a task with people being winched up, these huge trees, collecting the young birds, and then abseiling down. They then had to repeat  the process and return the young birds as quickly as possible to their nest.

Attention was drawn to a gold crest that was singing away, and then to a wren.

A question about whether nightingales might be in the area. Carlton said that the last sighting of a nightingale was at Fownhope in Herefordshire during the 1970s.

Geraint thanked Carlton for his excellent ramble through the wood and looked forward to the possibility of following this walk up with one a bit earlier in the year, perhaps May next year.

We then walked up from the end of the lane past the Hall to Cwmroches Farm. Turning down the lane into the farm we crossed through some fields and found ourselves outside Sideland where Radnorshire Wildlife have a sign welcoming visitors to this ancient woodland. A ramble around this woodland is worth an hour of anyone’s time. We were a little late in the season for the best of the wild flowers but one of the features that drew our attention was the pollarded trees that had clearly been cut at a height that protected the young shoots from grazing cattle.

Radnorshire Wildlife encourage people to visit Sideland for the ancient trees that include older dead decaying elms that give way to, and harbour, a wide diversity of invertebrates, mosses and lichens.

The understorey of blackthorn and hazel encourage many species of bird life, flowers, which would also be better seen in May. The Ordinance Reference Number is: SO104638. See:  http://www.rwtwales.org/reserves/sideland

There is no meeting of the History Group in August so our next meeting will be at the Thomas Shop at 10.30 a.m. on Monday 5th September 2016.