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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Mike Fussell from Upper Graig

Gordon Morgan

Tony Williams was a relief signalman at Llandrindod Station

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


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


Mary then introduced John Watmore to the group.


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


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


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


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



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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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





















Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 3rd July 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: Walk from Castell Crug Eryr to Blaen Edw with Derek Turner, Ginny Guy, and Maureen Lloyd

The History Group met at the Thomas Shop and, after tea and coffee were served, Derek welcomed Geraint by way of a change. Geraint was not well enough to join the walk and the group wished him a speedy and complete recovery. Geraint reminded members that there would be no meeting in August and that the next session would be on the 4th September 2017 at 10.30 a.m. in the Thomas Shop. Derek will be talking about the Pales Meeting House as part of the 300 year anniversary of the founding of the Pales.

After making arrangements for the 5 mile journey along the A44 to Gwernargllwydd Farm, the group reassembled in the field that holds the ‘Eagles Mound’ / Castell Crug Eryr. It was a bright, blowy July morning as we assembled on the site of the Castle with the fantastic views down and through the Edw Valley, up over Llandegley Rocks to the Cambian Hills, and even down towards Brecon. It was a perfect morning for a walk. A few members elected not to walk and they made the journey from Crug Eryr down to Blaen Edw by car.

From the Motte we were able to see Blaen Edw and to track our journey down and back up through the piece of woodland owned by Liz and Derek. The journey would track through several History Group talks we have had on a variety of different subjects, but also take in some new findings.

  1. Castell Crug Eryr (The Eagles Mount)

When Marion led the talk on the Castles of the Ithon Valley, Crug Eryr, not being in the Ithon Valley, was not covered. It is however very similar in style to the ‘Welsh Castles’ as described by Marion. Most are high up on top of a hill which gave great strategic advantage, and they were easy to defend.

The origins of Castell Crug Eryr are not entirely clear. Some date it from around 1150 AD but others suggest that fortifications could have been here from a much earlier period. It clearly had some strategic significance in the latter half of the 12th century as it was visited by Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), who was accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Baldwin, when the set out on a pilgrimage to recruit for the Crusades.

“Gerald of Wales records the visit in 1188 of Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury to what he calls ‘Cruker’ Castle, during the recruiting trip around Wales for the crusade. The party spent two nights at Crug Eryr after their visit to Radnor Castle, where they had been joined by Rhys ap Gruffudd, Prince of Deheubarth (‘The Lord Rhys’) and his son in law Einion o’r Porth Prince of  Elfael, son of Einion Clud, who had married Rhys’s daughter Susanna. At twilight on Saturday 5th March Maelgwn ap Cadwallon, Prince of Maelienydd and son of Cadwallon brother of Einion Clud arrived at Crug Eryr.  Gerald records that the Archbishop spoke with the Prince and he is said to have been signed by the Cross, as his cousin Einion o’r Porth and The Lord Rhys had done before him. The party then headed to Hay on Wye on Monday 7th March.”

You may want to refresh your memory here with Jennifer’s talk on “Elystan Glodrydd and the Princes of Maelienydd”. Elystan’s off-spring not only held many of the Princedoms in Wales but they have also populated positions of importance across Britain.

In discussion one of our members, Gill, raised an interesting point as to whether there could be another meaning to ‘Eryr’. A close relative to this word exists in an older Welsh Language which has the meaning ‘boundary’. So another possible meaning could be a castle mount that defines a boundary. We might need to look at the boundaries within ‘Rhwng Gwy a Hafren’ ( the land between the Severn and the Wye) that divide Maelienydd and Elfael to see if there could be merit in this theory?

From the Motte two of the three roads that have characterized this area could be seen. The current A44 road could be seen twisting around numerous bends, and below it the track that was the former road. The old road came passed the farm at Gwernargllwydd and rose so steeply that the Turnpike Trust changed the route to ensure that the Post got through. The date of the change is still not know to us but Ginny had access to an 1830 map that already had the new road in place. The challenge to the Turnpike Trusts to ‘get the Royal Mail through’ can be seen featured in the talk we had on the Post Office:

Hidden in the trees, on the castle side of the old track, is a third road, the Drovers Road, as described by Colin Hughes in his talk on the Drovers in Radnorshire. This is the route from Strata Florida through Abbeycwmhyr; coming up through Crossgates, Penybont and Llandegley; up and over the Radnor Forest by ‘Water Break Its Neck; down through New Radnor and on into England.:

What a lot of history from one vantage point!

  1. Trackway down to and including Settlement

From the Castle there was an increasing steep and gullied road down to a quarry that appeared to have a number of badger set holes high up in its face.  The 2500 acres of the farm had 5 miles of track within it, but this is an ancient track that appears to provide a link to what was our next surprise.  Part of a circular settlement could clearly be seen on a flat area of ground. Ginny had found some aerial photos of this which highlighted a circular enclosure that had been cut off across its diameter at some point in history- possibly then a hedge line and then beyond this a previously ploughed area. The nature of the markings on the land would suggest that this is an older settlement  than the Castle – possibly Iron Age. No Archaeological investigations have been carried out to date. An even better example of the settlement was to be found in the adjacent field, separated by a small recent woodland plantation. Here at least two houses could clearly be seen. Overall there is evidence of a significant settlement here from early times. It is worth reflecting that even in relatively modern times 25 people were employed on the farm. A nineteenth century map that Ginny had found also referred to three separate farms in this area that have completely disappeared. What looks like a ‘timeless’ landscape has seen extraordinary changes over the centuries.

The relationship between the settlement and the Castle is unclear. In the case of Cefn Llys Castle, (in Marion’s talk as above), which took over in significance from Crug Eryr in the next century, a settlement was clearly linked to the castle. Here it is less clear. In this case it would seem that the settlement may have pre-dated the castle. What the relationship was to the Castle is unknown and even whether they coincided historically remains a mystery.

  1. Blaen Edw Spa

We then took some of the farm tracks down to the site of the old farm house at Blaen Edw, which has now been demolished, then up past the new house, and down to the Spa hidden in a small wooded area by the main track and beside the Edw ‘stream’. The Spa is a stone relic, and while the roof and much of the walls have collapsed there is the clear outline of the Spa. Ginny  explained that the sulphurous waters were mainly used for skin complaints, and so the spring emerging by the river was at one time contained within a shallow bathing pool. The only remains today are the ruins of the stone hut built to shelter the pool. This stone building probably dates to the mid C19 and was a replacement for an ancient timber and thatch shelter as described in ‘The Cambrian Balnea’, published in 1825.

A newspaper article, written on 30th September 1967 by Cynric Mytton Davies, in the Express and Times Gazette, was circulated. This included a picture of the Spa complete, and also a picture of the old Farm House, which it describes as “one of the loneliest houses in Radnorshire”. The content of the article is as follows:

Blaen Edw – the Mini-Spa

Mr C.J. Prosser, Secretary of the Kilvert Society, has discovered a min-Spa!

It came about through explorations in the upper valley of the Edw, which was the country of his wife’s people. The house they wanted to discover was the one of her great-grandparents had lived, which was Blaen Edw, an extremely remote and isolated farm, which is among the headwaters of the Edw. They found it – and to their amazement discovered a miniature spa.


Blaen Edw is situated in an angle between the Penybont road and the Hundred House road, where they diverge at the Forest Inn, a piece of country that is very difficult to reach. When you come to it, it’s a tangled, almost secret terrain of low lying sodden fields and bogland, silent patches of woodland and everywhere rivers and streams.

To get to Blaen Edw you have to go first to Gwernarglwydd, the big farm at the foot of the escarpment where the bends start after you leave Llandegley.

Gwernarglwydd means The Lord’s Moor, but which the early Welsh lords gave it the name. It belongs to Mr G.S. Thompson, who lives a Towcester, and Mr Archie Lloyd farms it.

Gwernarglwydd and Blaen Edw comprise more than 2000 acres. I asked one of the men if anyone remembered Blaen Edw being occupied and farmed, and he said that someone lived there until about nine years ago. But he could not recall anyone having recourse to the sulphur spring.

No Clues

Blaen Edw is a difficult house to date for it has so little in the way of architectural features for clues, but it seems to be early Georgian or perhaps even Queen Anne.

Structurally it was in good repair as were the farm buildings opposite – good solid stone barns and byres.

The big rooms have solid flagged floors, solid ceiling timbers and elaborate Victorian grates.

The stairs had once been magnificent and had a lovely arch at the turn, but they had decayed badly. All the upper rooms were decayed and the attics and staircase leading to them looked beyond rehabilitation.

The spa was a little way from the house, across a field and alongside the river.

But we found the spa easily. There was a small stone building with brick dressings, but very dilapidated. Inside the floor was a mass of rubble, and a deep trough about four feet by one and a half, was chocked with debris. But the source was still trickling, filling the whole building with a perfectly horrible smell of rotten eggs. This was indeed a Sulphur spring!

Obviously people use to come here, and we got the impression there may at one time have been a little drinking garden below a mound, in the shade of rowan and alder-buckthorn trees. But how did people get at it, and did they stay at Blaen Edw farmhouse?

Mr Prosser said that there had once been a road from Franks Bridge through Cwnaerdy, but it no longer runs through. In any case it would be about four miles long. The only approach now is through Gwernarglwydd. And it is impossible to cut a new road by any other shorter route beause you are faced with the steep escarpment along the main road. Blaen Edw is indeed virtually inaccessible by any route.

The owner, Mr Thompson, in a response to a letter asking for information, said his great-uncle, Major Samuel Nock Thompson, of Newcastle Court, bought the property from Sir Herbert Lewis, of New Radnor sometime between 1910 and 1915.

He said Sir Herbert had great confidence in Blaen Edw Spring and regularly took course of baths there. He was the last person known to use the bath, and on these courses of treatment used to stay at the farm house.


Major Thompson had the spring water analysed when he acquired Blaen Edw and the analyst’s report was very favourable. He seriously considered bottling the water and marketing it, but nothing came of the idea. But he would take the waters himself, drinking a glass from the spring whenever he past near the spa house. Occasionally he managed one of his guests to try it, but none of them ever came back for a second glass!

Another man with personal memories of Blaen Edw and Gwernarglwydd is Mr Fred Brown, licensee of the Severn Arms Hotel at Penybont, for his family lived there from 1920 till1933 and he lived there with them until he went to Brazil in 1929.

He says the spa-house was dilapidated when they went to Blaen Edw, but visitors still kept coming for the waters. They were not local people. One he remembers came from Leominster, but others came from much further afield. Many of them brought stone jars to fill with water.

One of the visitors had a skin complaint, while another suffered from rheumatism. Both believed that the sulphur waters were efficacious for curing these ills. But none of them ever used to bath. Mr Brown couldn’t date Blaen Edw farm house any more precisely than we had been able to, but he agreed that it was most probably built at the beginning of the 18th century. But he mentioned something we hadn’t found, and that was a pool that teems with wildfowl between the farm and Llandegley Rocks, hidden from sight at the farm by a ridge.

I asked him if he had ever seen a white dog which I have been told haunted Gwernarglwydd, but none of his family had ever seen or heard him. But he had found the stone circle which I had failed to locate on an earlier expedition.

Howse makes a brief reference to Blaen Edw, so does Jonathan Williams, but neither gives anything of the history of the house or spa. Apparently Llandegley Spa had a vogue in the late 18th century, and at one time almost as well known as Llandrindod – though that seems unlikely.

Mail coaches stopped at the Burton Arms and people stayed there to take the cure, so perhaps Blaen Edw flourished in the same period, But it seems strange that nothing of its history has survived.”

A question to Ginny, who had given the talk on Llandegley and Blaen Edw Wells, gave rise to a discussion about Llandegley Geological Faults.

Ginny then explained that water could travel miles and miles from distant areas, more or less latterly along volcanic plates, until they hit upon an fault and a possible way out. As we learnt in the session on the Archaeology of Penybont Common, the Ordovician Rock that forms Llandegley Rocks is a very ancient rock (450 million years old). It has fissures within it that lead to the waters being able to escape from their underground channels. It is hit and miss as to which of the mineral salts are present in the particular water that emerges at any place.


At different times, in the 18th and 19th centuries people tried to make businesses from the waters that emerged on their land. There are tails of people coming to Blaen Edw but there were few ‘home comforts’ at either Gwernarglwydd or Blaen Edw farms.

  1. Walk back and Drovers Road

The walk back up from Blaen Edw rose very sharply initially, but at the crest of this initial hill we had views back over Gwernarglwydd, that were glorious, with the 2500 acres spread out in front of us. We were treated to the site of 2 Welsh Cob mares, each with a foul, and very handsome they looked.

Rather than walking around the farm we branched right and then left towards the woodland under Castell Crug Eryr. The contrast between the open pasture and the dense woodland was dramatic.

The walk had taken a little longer than expected and so most of the members took the very steep track through the wood back to the A44. A few dipped under the trees to see the beautifully preserved Drovers Track.

Hope the summer goes well for everyone and that we see you all on 4th September for our next meeting – “300 years of The Pales” when I hope to have prepared something of interest.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 5th June 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire – Andy Johnson

Geraint started by welcoming Andy and Karen Johnson, of Logaston Press, and thanking them in particular for the contribution that they had made to the history and culture of the local area by publishing an extraordinarily rich set of books.

He then welcomed 2 new members:

Rita who he had not seen in years, remembering her as a ‘little girl’, she now lives in Bishop’s Castle – ‘Welcome home!’

He then welcomed Sharon Mills from Cefn Bronllys Farm, Llanddewi. Sharon was originally from Knighton, and teaches part-time in Newtown.

Geraint then turned his attention to the ‘leasehold acquisition of the cupboard in the Laundry, at the Thomas Shop, which will now formally be available for the sole use of the History Group. He went on to announce to the assembled members, and in front of Rosemary, his wife, that she is formally required, at the ‘end of his day’, to re-locate the piles documents, and other materials, in the said cupboard. Neil Hilliard asked about cataloguing and found himself volunteered to head a team of archivists to catalogue the contents of the cupboard! Elizabeth Newman agreed to assist on team. The suggestion that ‘Neil R’ should assist was formally rejected by Geraint saying that: “While there were many things that Neil could assist with, this was not one of them!” Neil’s response was: “And you were once a vicar!”

Mary was asked if she had any matter to bring to the meeting, and she said she was particularly looking forward to trying out the ‘walks’ in Andy’s book and getting some exercise.

Derek then proceeded to confuse everyone about the proposed walk for next month, explaining that having chosen, with Ginny and Maureen, a suitable sunny afternoon to do a ‘recce’, the heavens opened and they only managed to visit the Castel Crug Eryr site. The plan for Monday 3rd July is to meet for coffee at 10.00 a.m. at the Thomas Shop, when all will hopefully be made clear, and then proceed to the beginning of the walk by car.

Main Topic: Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire Andy Johnson

Andy started by saying that he would say something about the history of the Logaston Press before going on to talk about the specific book – ‘Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire’.

He explained that from a very early age he had had a dream of finding a derelict farm and ‘doing it up’. At the age of 13 he visited Herefordshire, from his home in the south-east, and immediately thought that this would be the place where he might one day fulfil his dream. And so it happened, in his mid-twenties he sold a property in the south-east and acquired, from Mr. Jones, a cottage with some ground at Logaston. All the advice he had been given from his friends about taking on the farming life was: “Don’t do it!” But he did it anyway. He decided to ‘have a go’. Living in Herefordshire he quickly became interested in the history of the area and, in walking through the beautiful countryside, he started to explore. The difficulty was that there were almost no books that linked the history and walking. Sitting in a cold building in winter evenings in front of an open fire he started to research, and make notes. Talking to the people in Almeley he became aware that hardly anyone had any idea about how to read a map, and that footpaths in the County were very poor. And so a book emerged; ‘Walks & More; a Guide to the Central Welsh Marches’, 1985.  He knocked it out on an old typewriter, and found a printer in Worcester. Marketing the book became frustrating, and writing to publishers did not elicit any responses, so Logaston Press was formed. People started to hear of Logaston Press and approach him with ideas, including Geoffrey Hodges, a history teacher from John Beddoes School. Logaston Press began to publish circa 2 books a year. Farming was not paying the bills and after Andy took a 2 year contract with the County Council to manage a programme for people with Learning Disabilities, he jumped to 18 books in a year, and the business was formed. Karen was running a 2nd hand bookshop in Weobley at this time and was looking for something new. She joined him in running the business, and before long they got married. They enjoyed similar pursuits and ’Walking in the Old Ways of Herefordshire’ with 52 walks, one a week, emerged. The challenge in writing this book was to spread the walks around Herefordshire, to find walks that were open and accessible; and walks that also took in a variety of aspects of history, and were visible (not behind a hedge). Fortunately there were many features including an Iron Age farmstead; a canal; and sites with connections to the different wars. Unexpectedly they found that people used the books in different ways. Somebody who lived in Herefordshire but barely knew Ross used the book to explore the town and its surrounds; someone who had lived unknowingly close to a Saxon wall used the book to explore their own local area; people used the book in ways that suited them.

Having done Herefordshire they turned to Radnorshire which was equally loved and enjoyed. History was however more complex. There were less physical structures, very little stone work. Visible history was generally around the edges and half of the walks reflected this. The history that became interesting and different in Radnorshire was the ‘pre-history’. It was sometimes difficult to discern if a feature was a stone circle or remains of a burial chamber. Examples were often difficult to find amongst the heathers and gorse in the landscape. Often sites had not been excavated so very little was known. The Walton Basin was classically difficult – hugely exciting but often nothing to see. What they tried to do was to give people an opportunity to reflect on what it would have been like in 2000 BC. The Palisade at Walton is the 2nd largest in Europe, with a 1½ circumference covering 35 hectares. Standing there now there is almost nothing to see, but what they have tried to convey is: – What would it have meant to people of the time? They have tried to create a sense of ‘wonder’. They have also been able to connect the walks with the archaeological finds, and for example at Walton there have been a number of excavations over the period, and excavations that relate to different periods of history. Twm Tobacco’s tomb with its plaque in the hills above Painscastle/Aberedw has excited a similar sense of wonder. Was it connected to the import of ‘tobacco’; connected to the ‘Rebecca Riots’; was it to commemorate a Shepherd? No-one knows!  Near Llanfiangel nant Melan there are two farmsteads (Lluests meaning upland pastures) ‘Black Yatt’ and Pant Glas, that have  interesting histories. In the 17th and 18th Centuries adjacent landowners sought to establish claims and rights to open hillsides. These were arbitrated by the court leets to establish occupation between the 15th May and 15th August. Pant Glas is still occupied whereas Black Yatt was blown up in the making of “It Happened Here”, a film depicting what might have happened if a German Invasion of Brittain had been successful in 1944.

The most recent Radnorshire book is “Early Birds and Boys in Blue – A Century of Radnorshire Aviation” by Phillip Jones, which, like “Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire”, is available at the Thomas Shop. Phillip Jones is an avid researcher and the big problem with him was to stop him at a point when a book might be published. He has covered in this book almost everyone who was involved in some way with early flying in, out of, and into Radnorshire. The first plane to land in Radnorshire was on its way to be the first plane from Britain to land on Irish soil, a Bleriot XI flown by Corbett Wilson, and which incidentally hit a hedge at Logaston on the way. The plane was refuelled with a mix that included ‘castor oil’. Within a few miles of Logaston it had to make an emergency landing in a field in Radnorshire, not appreciated by the farmer, as they had used the ‘wrong’ sort of castor oil! Once again they refuelled the plane made a detour from crossing via Holyhead and made the journey successfully from Fishguard.

Also featured in the book are the exploits of Reginald Percy Bufton who had an adventurous career in the RAF, and one that also included importing tropical fish by strapping a water tank close to the engine of the plane!

Andy and Karen are about to embark on a new phase in their life. They have identified some people who they believe will take on Logaston Press in the spirit that they have run it. Andy and Karen have things and places to explore. Andy has a particular interest in, the controversial and influential, Sir John Oldcastle, a son of Ameley, 1378 – 1417. He had several claims to fame:

  • His friendship to Prince Hal – later to be Henry V
  • His military career
  • Member of Parliament
  • A member of the Lollards, a political group that sought Protestant type changes within the Roman Catholic Church
  • As a Lollard he initiated rebellion, was indicted, reprieved by the King, continued to forcibly promote his views, was sent to the Tower, escaped, and eventually hung, drawn and quartered.
  • His name was adopted by Shakespeare and then changed to the infamous Sir John Falstaff.

Andy hopes to find the time to ‘write’! Don’t we all!

After a number of questions relating to footpaths, that included:

  • The relative merits of going through a field with a ‘friendly bull’ to a field with a furiously protective cow with a calf
  • How the racial prejudices of a Parish Council contributed to their objection to opening footpaths
  • A how Colonel Zog managed to get farmers to consider rights of way when threatened with the imposition of a 3 metre strip created by a Combine Harvester

Elizabeth Newman was asked by Geraint to express our thanks to Andy and Karen for a most informative session. Elizabeth thanked Andy not only for the talk but for the contribution that he and Karen have made to the local area. The books go all over the world bringing Hereford and Radnorshire to a wide audience. She had been particularly pleased that he had used Radnorshire in his titles and not ‘Mid Wales’. Radnorshire has an appeal way beyond the non-specific alternative. She also mentioned the invaluable work that Andy and Karen had initiated by involving offenders in the environmental work of restoring and maintaining footpaths. Thank-you.

Next Meeting will be at 10.00 a.m. Monday 3rd July for the Walk.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 1st May 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: The 1919 Sale of the Penybont Estate – Shirley Morgan

Geraint welcomed Mike Fussell from Upper Graig – Mike unfortunately received a telephone call at this point and was called away.

He also welcomed Gordon Morgan, Richard’s brother.

There was a surprising large turnout considering it was the Bank Holiday Monday!

Jennifer mentioned a Family History event that will be held on the 18th May at 7.00 p.m.

In introducing Shirley once again to the group he also welcomed Alice who had come as Shirley’s ‘technician’ to manage the powerpoint presentation.

Main Topic: The 1919 Sale of the Penybont Hall Estate

Shirley started by telling us that there have been 3 sales over the years affecting the size and scope of the Penybont Hall Estate. Shirley said that she would be focusing on just the one as there was so much material to cover in the 1919 sale, Future talks might well look at the subsequent sales in 1926, and 1945. Catalogue’s for the sales were present as Richard Morgan had brought copies of all three.

As a preliminary exercise Shirley asked the members to visualise an acre. Humphrey was able to put it in perspective as it is the size of a football pitch (4840 sq yds).

The auction was held in the Iron Room in Penybont and as an event it was very different to auctions of today. There was a sense of enjoyment and participation that went beyond the bidding process. As we shall see later in Shirley’s talk the proceedings were often punctuated with spontaneous applause!

In conducting her research Shirley has had access to the catalogue that was used on the day but none of the copies still include the detailed map that they would have had as part of the defining information for prospective buyers. Even the catalogue in the Powys Archives does not have the maps.




In order to understand the reasons underlying the sale of the Whitehead Estate in 1919, we have to take a look at some of the things that were going on in Britain at that time. The country was still reeling after the expensive and traumatic war, and the rural community were feeling the effects of  cheap foreign agricultural imports. Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget of 1909 had introduced unprecedented taxes in Britain’s rich and landowning communities in order to fund social welfare programmes. During Victorian times the vast wealth of the ‘landed gentry’ was hardly taxed at all, but although the Land Valuation Tax did not really take off, it did generate huge controversy:

“The Tory cry is – ‘Hands off the land!’

The Liberal policy is – Taxation of land values and the best use of the land in the interests of the community!”

However, the introduction of the ‘Super Tax’ on the wealthy, and the increase on ‘death duties’ meant that ‘the sun began to set over the British Aristocracy’:

“A ‘super tax’ (or surtax) of 6d in the pound was to be levied on incomes over £5000 (payable on the amount by which incomes exceeded £3000).

In addition, there were steep increases in ‘death duties’ which had been introduced in 1894.”

This was the first budget that had at its core the ‘redistribution of wealth’ and was initially blocked by the House of Lords.

“They are forcing a revolution and they will get it – who made ten thousand men the owners of the soil and the rest of us trespassers in the land of our birth.”

Ironically it was the Coalition Government, Headed by Lloyd George that repealed the Land Tax!

However, in Penybont the owner of the Penybont Estate, Mrs Sarah Whitehead, was undoubted feeling the effects of these taxes when, in 1919, part of the Estate, of some 24,000 acres, that had been built up initially by John Price (who we now know quite well from his exploits as Shop-Keeper, Publican, Banker, High Sheriff, and Trustee of the Turnpike Trust), was put on the market. The Estate was extended  by John’s son-in-law, John Cheesement Severn, who we have also come across before, and who was a London Barrister. He was known to have been buying up land, which was relatively cheap, in the Penybont area from 1808. He had become acquainted with the area through his step-sister Sarah Augusta, who had married Edward Rogers of Stanage. In 1811 John Cheesement married Mary Ann Price, John Price’s daughter, who, despite the nature of her ‘illegitimate’ birth, had inherited her father’s vast fortune and Estate. John Cheesement also gained land through enclosure, though in practice this was not enforced as harshly as in many places, on the poor tenants of Penybont. After the death of John Cheesement, in 1875, his son, Percy Severn, became the Squire of Penybont. He carried out improvements to the Hall and lived the life of the ‘Country Squire’ at Penybont Hall. At this stage Percy, and his three sisters, Sarah, Emily Augusta, and Julia, were all middle aged, unmarried, and childless. Sarah died in 1891, Percy in1900, Emily Augusta in 1906, and finally Julia in 1907. With no children in direct line to inherit the Estate passed to the line followed by John Cheesement’s step sister, Sarah Augusta and Edward Rogers, and to Major General Robert Children Whitehead (The Widowed Sarah Augusta later remarried to Rev. Whitehead.)

The Major General had a long military career in the Crimea, India, and South Africa. He retired in 1892 and settled at the United Service Club in London. He was 73 years old when he inherited the Penybont Estate, and he had recently married an ‘employee’ at the Service Clup who was 25 years his junior, Sarah Jones. The Major General was only able to enjoy his inheritance for a few years as he died in December 1910. Apart from a small annuity, which he left to his brother, the entire Estate passed to his wife. The Estate at that time was valued at £116,000. Following on from the considerable charitable works of the Severn’s, Sarah continued this tradition. She was not always present at the Hall, and the 1911 census shows only a skeleton staff at the Hall and Mrs Whitehead is not recorded as being present.

The Estate was not immune to the problems that beset every aristocratic family in the land. The auction houses were flooded with the sales of estates, and so it is not surprising that by 1919 a portion of the Penybont Estate came up for sale. An advert was placed in the Brecon and Radnor on the 18th September by the Hamer Family as Estate Agents/Auctioneer. This advert was headline news taking the whole of the front page of the paper. The two subsequent sales saw a decline in the significance of the Estate – in 1926 the advert was a ½ page, and in 1919 it was much smaller again.) The Hamer family had had 3 generations as Agents to the Estate and they were now prominent Bankers.

A very detailed catalogue was  produced containing the details, including the acreage, of the 42  properties up for sale. This would have meant a careful survey needed to be carried out across the area, which included farms in the Parishes of: St Harmon, Abbeycwmhir, Llanddewi Ystradenni, Llandegley, Cefn Llys, Llangunllo, Painscastle, Michaelchurch, and Lyonshall.

The general notes at the front of the catalogue highlighted the ‘excellent grouse shooting and fishing rights’ at the St Harmon properties. It is interesting that the catalogue draws attention to this because of their altitude and extensive watershed, ‘lots 1 & 2 had been looked at under the London Water Bill as being suitable sites for reservoirs – they still are!

A sale was only accepted if a deposit of £10 was transferred at the signing of the Contract. The Buyer was responsible for arranging and paying for the conveyance – possibly the first time many had had to engage in the services of a solicitor.

In addition to the deposit Buyer’s had to agree that all disputes over boundaries would be settled by the auctioneers, and that their decision would be final!

The Brecon and Radnor for the week following the sale printed a report as follows:

“On Wednesday afternoon Messers Campbell and Hamer were announced to offer about 9000 acres comprising the outlying portions of the Penybont Hall Estate, by auction, by directions of Mrs Whitehead who succeeded to the Estate in the death of her husband, the late General Whitehead, who was the heir of the late Mr J Percy Severn. The agent/autioneer Mr James Hamer, and the Solicitor, Mr H Vaughan Vaughan offered several farms to the tenants at reserve prices, which were very low. Further Mrs Whitehead intimated to each tenant that she was prepared to leave mortgages on each farm charging 4½% in such sums as were agreed upon. This generous offer was received with great gratitude by the tenants, and prior to the sale. 16 tenants bought their farms prior to the sale and further tenants purchased them at the auction and subsequently.

As the auction was getting under way, Mr Campbell said that he had been asked over and over again why Mrs Whitehead was selling this part of the Estate. He was sorry to say that she did not enjoy the best of health and did not want to be worried with the cares of property more than she could help, and her idea was that by selling the outlying portions of her Estate, wht remained would be more consolidated and earier to manage. He did not believe that there had ever been a better family in the County, or in any other county, than the Servern family (followed by applause), and the late General Whitehead and Mrs Whitehead had fully upheld the noble traditions of the Servern family (more applause). The Estate had been exceedingly fortunate in its Agent, Mr James Hamer, (again more applause) and better relations between tenant and agents could not exist, than what existed in this instance. (Yet more applause) It had been Mrs Whitehead’s wish that tenants should be given first chance of purchasing, and 16 farms had been purchased by the tenants. (Even more applause) Sime of the farms had been rented very much below their true value and the reserves were very low.

£30,000 was raised through the sale!

Shirley then took us on a tour of some of the farms that were sold in the auction. She took us round Llandegley rocks taking in The Ffaldau and round the Rocks and back to Rhos House. Shirley had physically gone on this tour and had interviewed many of the current residents, and also taken up to date photos to compare, where possible, with the photos of the time of the auction.

  1. Caedildre

The building is no longer there, the walls can only be seen from an aerial photo. The building was nocked down to build a bungalow. It had been a traditional long-house and dairy. The tenancy covered 52.61 acres and was bought by the Council for £1000. A Morgan family rented it and coincidently a completely different Morgan family have it now!

  1. The Ffaldau

It was sad that John Abberley was not present as the Ffaldau was his childhood home and the centre of many stories associated with his father’s dairy business. Shirley remembered the milk being delivered to the school when she was a child. One of her particular memories was getting a lift with the milk one morning on the way to school. Her bike had just had a puncture. The current house is much altered from the original which was rented at £60 per year.

Shirley then took us along the Graig Lane to three properties all with Graig in their title:- Graig (Mills); Graig (Price); and Graig (Hughes)

  1. Graig (Mills)

Bill Davies had the Mill and it comprised of 100 acres. It was rented at £65 per year. Jason lives there now and sadly in a recent tragedy he lost both of his parents in very quick succession.

  1. Graig (Price)

This was an 84 acre plot at £55 per year rent.

There is now a tree growing through the building.

Shirley told us about Stan and Alan Price who set off to deliver butter to her home on a scooter. One of them had his foot down all the way and his shoe was completely worn away when they arrived. They then discovered they had forgotten the butter! They were however welcomed with open generosity. They were fed tea and cake before setting off home again!

Stan joined up for the War and became Batman to Major D. Jones. He saw a lot of suffering during the War.

Alan did not join up, he was the local ‘butcher’ and specialised in pigs. Neil was able to tell us the he, Neil, has the set of knives that Alan used. He had a set of knives with black handles which he would roll out to select the one he needed for the job at hand.

  1. Graig (Hughes)

Now known as ‘Upper Graig) and Mike Fussell, who was mentioned above, now lives there. It was 143 acres and also rented.

Shirley had a picture of the building that was taken in 1940’s.

  1. Bwlchycefn

The plot was 324 acres. The current house was built in 1901 and it replaced a cruk-house where strays were taken in. Ivor Hughes died at Shirley’s House and so she had a lot affection for this place. His second wife brought Shirley into the world and was the ‘most delightful lady’. Ivor sin jack was a founder member of Young Farmers and his dedication to the organisation led to a building being named the Jack Hughes Centre. Robert and Doreen Owen, who are descended from the Hughes family are still farming, have Bwlchycefn now and they are still farming.

  1. Bwlchllwyn

Moving along towards Hundred House this plot was 169 acres and id did not reach its reserve.  It is now a holiday cottage.

  1. Waen Arthur

There is no trace of this plot now at all. There are records of children who came to the school but with no roads or access it is not surprising it has disappeared.

  1. Nursery Cottage

This is just off the Hundred House Road, quite close to where Shirley used to live. A Mrs Mansfield lived there, she was considered quite eccentric – she kept goats! Shirley wondered if there was something else in the milk – she did not have any more.

It is now very well kept.

  1. Sunnybank

Coming back around we come to Dilwyn Powell’s old family home. Shirley can remember camping at Sunnybank and Neil’s wife who also camped particularly remembers the thunderstorms. They camped next to the sheep wash pool.

Sunnybank’s front door was always open in Dilwyn’s Parents time. His father was often there ready to receive any news that might be passing. They were known for the New Year’s day ‘Gifting’ tradition. They would shut the door when the singing started.

  1. Rhos House

Sold for £300 with 3.1 acres. Shirley did not know if it was sold to the tenant but Neil, who lives more or less next door said he would find out.

Gareth who lives there now follows on from his great-grandfather. Gareth used to deliver gas throughout the area in the past, but he has not changed the house at all over the years.


Shirley wondered whether the ‘social revolution’ proved to be a success. Owning your own small farm gave status and prestige, but times to follow in the 20’s and 30’s were very tough. Shirley referred to a couple of books that underlined the challenges of the period.

  1. Haber Nant Llan Nerch Freit: by George F. Lewis (Gwen’s brother)
  2. The Valley by Elizabeth Clarke (Shirley’s husband used to service Elizabeth Clarke’s husband’s car)

Neil said that even 20 years ago ewes couldn’t be given away!

Geraint thanked Shirley for an excellent talk.

As indicated in the Notes for April at our June meeting on the 5th June Andy Johnson will talk about ‘Walking in Radnorshire’.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 3rd April 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: History of New Radnor Marion Evans

Geraint welcomed what he suspected was the entire population of New Radnor!

Derek mentioned that plans were well under way for the walk in July.

The Next Meeting on the 1st May will be in the Sale of the Penybont Hall Estate. Shirley, who will be giving the talk indicated that there is too much information to cover all three sales and that she will be concentrating on the 1919 sale.

Geraint mentioned two sad losses that had occurred recently in the Village.

One of our members, Marlene Carpenter died, our thoughts were with Chris.

Also tragically the Haslock family had lost, in a cycle accident abroad, Anna’s partner. A loss of ‘international’ significance, that has brought great sadness to the community. Anna had been one of the artists who had previously had premises within the Thomas Shop complex.

After a moment of reflection – we moved on to the Main Topic:

Marion Evans – “A History of New Radnor”

New Radnor a TOWN in Radnorshire!!! Barely a village, but because of its strategic importance, it has been understood to be a Town. Marion emphasised that she will talk on ‘A History …’ and not ‘The History ….’ As, within much of the writings, there is considerable supposition, much is still unknown, and many commonly written about facts, are clearly wrong.

The site of the Norman Castle is the most significant feature but the area and the fortifications were important long before the Normans arrived. The site overlooks the fertile Walton Basin that has, as we know from a previous talk, has a 7000 year history of agriculture and settlement. On the other side of the castle is the gap that leads into the Radnor Valley. New Radnor provided a strategic defensive position albeit that this was not the typical Welsh Hillfort site, New Radnor provided something different. Nothing much is left of the old fortifications but there was a dyke running along the line from the Vron Fram to Water Break It’s Neck Waterfall. It is unclear whether the dyke kept the ‘Welsh Out’ or the ‘English In’. Summergill Brook was another boundary which as its name suggests became an underground stream during the summer months.

Following the death of Hywel Dda in 948, and a settled period for most of Wales, his descendants fought over territory and New Radnor was destroyed in 991 AD.

Meredydd (ab Owain), grandson of Hywel, and Prince of North Wales, succeeded for a time in forcibly usurping the sovereignty both of South Wales and Powys, dispossessing of his territories his nephew Edwin (ab Eineon ab Owain), great-grandson of Hywel, who in his difficulties obtained the assistance of an English force. With the aid thus received, Edwin drove back Meredydd into his district of North Wales; but the latter recruited his forces with such rapidity that in the following year, 991, he invaded the possessions of Edwin, spoiled the district of Glamorgan, and destroyed the town of New Radnor.”

In 1064 a wooden castle is attributed to the Saxon, Harold. Following the defeat of Harold by William in 1066, William built many motte and bailey castles across the country with the biggest concentration along the Welsh Marches. As in other places it is likely that the Castle at New Radnor replaced existing fortifications. In earlier times there would probably have been a settlement under the Castle, the beginnings of New Radnor, or Maesyfed.

It remains unclear who built the Norman castle, or exactly when. It is understood that Philip de Braose, in 1095, had responsibility for the Castle. When Archbishop Baldwin and Giraldus Cambrensis were welcomed by Rhŷs ab Grufydd, Prince of South Wales, to start their Welsh campaign to recruit for the Crusades in 1188, they chose New Radnor as their starting point. This would suggest that there was a community of some standing at this time. Life in New Radnor itself however was about to become more turbulent as in 1194 Rhys, as above, was deprived of his land and territory by the Norman, Roger Mortimer. By 1196 Rhys had gathered an army together and took the Castle at New Radnor. Mortimer returned, but after a fierce battle, Rhys routed the Normans. Marion had visions of the people leaving their homes in Syria when she considered the ups and downs of life in Radnor over the next 80 years. In 1216 the Castle was destroyed by King John when  Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, refused to support the King. By 1231 King Richard had left the Marches in the protectorate of Hubert de Burgh when Llewelyn attacked and destroyed Radnor Castle. The Castle was rebuilt in 1233 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, but was again destroyed in 1263 when Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, and the two sons of the celebrated Simon de Montfort, attacked and destroyed the Castle. It was again rebuilt but its final demise came in 1401 when Owain Glyndwr sacked the Castle in an offensive that also saw the destruction of the Abbey at Cwm Hir. There are some references to a castle beyond this period but it seems likely the a decline in its fortunes seems to have followed Glyndwr’s visit and the brutal execution of 60 people who formed the Guard. In 1538 there was ‘not much of the Castle’.

The Town itself, largely thatched, was laid out in a grid pattern by the Normans as was typical of the medieval period. Other towns locally and further afield were built to the same system, including Ludlow and Cefn Llys. Marion had to confess that she had never thought she would settle in New Radnor, which she described as a ‘failed town’, with an ugly church and war memorial cross, despite its size. Despite these shortcomings New Radnor did become the ‘County Town of Radnorshire’ in 1536, albeit it was no bigger than it is now. It did however have a gatehouse that could be converted into a prison – having a prison does now seem to have been the key to New Radnor’s position within the Shire. In 1562 Queen Elizabeth granted the Borough status with 25 Burgesses within an area of 28,000 acres. Only the Burgesses had the vote at this time.

1645, when Prince Charles visited Bush Farm after the Battle. The poverty of food he found at the farm led him to rename it Beggar’s Bush. The story has its origins as related in:

The Diary of Sir Henry Slingsby (p.167-8):

“In our Quarters we had little accommodation:: but of the places we came to, the best at old Radnor, where the King lay  in a poor low Chamber, & my Lord Linsey & others by the kitchen fire on hay: no better were we accommodated for victuals; which makes me remember this passage; when the King was at supper eating a pullet and a piece of cheese the room outside was full, but the men’s stomachs empty for want of meat; the good wife troubled with continual calling upon her for victuals, and having it seems but the one cheese, comes into the room where the King was and very soberly asks if the King had done with the cheese, for the Gentlemen without desired it. But the best of it was, we never tarried long in one place, & therefore might the more willingly endure one nights hardship, in hopes the next night might be better” [spelling modernised].

In 1731 a new charter was granted to the Town albeit there were now only 7 Burgesses. The status of New Radnor was important not just to the inhabitants and particularly the Burgesses who could raise Taxes, but to the two MPs who were elected, one to represent the Town, and the other to represent the Borough. These MP’s were not from New Radnor, or even Radnorshire, but they lobbied to keep their positions right up to the 19th century. An analysis of these MP’s contribution to Parliament showed that nothing of importance was ever brought forward by these MP’s.

These Acts of Charter are summarised in:

“The government is vested by the charter in twenty-five capital burgesses, who must be selected from burgesses resident within the borough. It is their duty to elect from among their own number, annually on the first Monday after the feast of the Holy Cross, a bailiff and two aldermen, who act as magistrates for two successive years. They also elect a recorder, who holds his office for life. There are thus seven magistrates, who preside both at the quarterly and the petty sessions, and act within the limits of the borough, to the exclusion of the county magistrates, in all matters, and with respect to all crimes and offences not punishable by death. They are assisted by a town-clerk, a coroner, two chamberlains, and two serjeants-at-mace; and are empowered to levy on all property situate within the limits of the borough a rate of the nature of a county rate, out of which the town-hall and gaol, the borough bridges, and all other lawful corporate expenses, are provided for. The charter requires them to hold a court weekly for the recovery of debts and the determination of pleas not exceeding 40s.: at this court the bailiff presides, assisted by the town-clerk. The petty-sessions are held every Monday.”

The general shift towards Presteigne being the Town responsible for Administration is also documented in this document:

“This borough returns a member to parliament in conjunction with the boroughs of Knighton, Rhaiadr, Cnwclas, and Kevenlleece, to which the town of Presteign with a large adjoining rural district was added by the act passed in 1832 to “Amend the Representation.” The right of election, heretofore vested in the burgesses generally, is now, by the act just mentioned, vested in the surviving members of the former constituency, if resident, and in every male person of full age occupying either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or premises of the annual value of not less than £10. The number of voters within the limits of the borough of New Radnor, in 1847, was 137; and the total number of voters, including the contributory boroughs, 515.”

Kevenlleece, or as we know it Cefn Llys, became a ‘rotten Borough’ as in due course it had no Burgesses. New Radnor also failed as a Town and Borough. The early significance of its strategic position became less important and the Town simply failed to grow. In Radnorshire, Presteigne established itself through the Court, and Kington thrived as a market town just a few miles away. Kington did have 4 markets in the year including: Cattle, Horses, a Winberry Fair, and a Goose Fair; but these had gone by the end of the 19th century.

Marion related a story that has its origins around the Battle of Naseby, in

Moving towards the 19th/20th Centuries, as well as the Markets, Marion was able to tell us about the 5 pubs: The King’s Arms; The Oak; Ludlow Arms; The Eagle; and the Cross Inn. New Radnor was on the Drover’s route, and from one of our earlier talks the route from Strata Florida, through Abbeycmwhir, and on to Penybont, over the Radnor Forest down into Hereforshire by way of New Radnor.

In 1876 the trains did come to New Radnor on the Eardisley Line. The opening was described as a ‘massive’ event, with a roasted Ox luncheon at the Eagle, a band, and fireworks. The line was not however a success commercially and closed in 1951, even before Beeching could do the honours. It had been hoped that the line might extend to Aberystwyth but that never happened. The Railway Station became the Post Office following closure.

Turning her attention to the Monument, Marion had to confess that though she thinks it is fairly hideous, she has become more affectionate towards it as it now signals that she has arrived ‘home’. Extraordinarily it was built by ‘grateful subscription of the people’ following adverts in the London Times and was built in honour of The Right Honourable Sir George Cornewall Lewis Bt who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer (1855 -58) and Home Secretary (1859 – 1861)! (His father Sir Thomas Franklyn Lewis from Harpton Court had been MP for New Radnor and we referred to him in a previous talk on the Postal Service.) The original plan had been to site it on the mound in a prominent position, an awful thought!?

Having spoken out against the Monument, Marion dealt with the Church, which also offends her senses. Unlike Old Radnor Church that has been unchanged over the centuries, the Church in New Radnor was rebuilt.

The church was erected in 1843-45, ‘an extreme case of unsuitable rebuilding’ according to Haslam.”

So Marion is not the only one with reservations about the Church architecture!

The decline in facilities available within New Radnor is similar to many other rural small towns and villages, like Penybont. With only one shop, the Picture Framing business of Michael Capstick, and a mobile Post Office left, as well as the pubs mentioned above there were 6 or 7 shops, including, a dressmaker, grocer, butcher, bakery, forge, and a cycle shop. A feature of the village has been its musical links and through the Partingtons, and others, there was a connection with the Halle Orchestra that has led to free concerts, and while this may not be quite on a par with what it was in the past, the is still a musical tradition that persists.

Geraint contributed that in 1745 Welsh was still spoken in New Radnor but that by 1810 no Welsh was spoken.  As indicated above, and in previous records, there were some strong links  between Penybont and New Radnor when the Turnpike Roads were being developed at the beginning of the 19th Century. One of the former vicars of New Radnor, Dean Merryweather, was referred to by Geraint as ‘another doggy vicar’ – no other information given!

Geraint thanked Marion for yet another excellent talk.

The next meeting has already taken place whe Shirley Morgan gave a brilliant talk on the Sale of the Penybont Estate. So our very next session will be on Monday 5th June when Andy Johnson will be talking about Walks in Radnorshire.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 6th March 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: Local Place Names and their Meaning Richard Davies

Geraint welcomed another large gathering, with particular reference to some new members.

Dorothy Baynham is a retired Civil Servant

Graham Cox lives in the house beside where Tom Price had his workshop

Paula and Alison are neighbours and live at Trewern

Marion presented Geraint and the group with a book she had obtained – Hidden Heritage – Potters Guide, She felt that this would be a great asset  to the group.

Alan brought members attention to a new U3A initiative – Curious Traveller. This is a joint initiative by Aberystwyth and Cardiff Universities and will include educational visits to gardens and castles in Wales. It is being launched in Wrexham but the administrative site will be at Hay.

Alan mentioned 2 other U3A initiatives coming up in the next month. One on astronomy, and a reading and discussion event on Abbey cwm Hyr.

Derek told the group that the War Memorial site is to get an upgrade. The Memorial itself is to be cleaned and the lettering repaired. The access to the garden will also have an upgrade to make it disability friendly.

A QR Code is to be fixed at the gate to give instant access to Historical information via the internet. Geraint has looked at the information available and is pleased that they have traced some new facts. Some do have tenuous links to the village. One person from Llanbister referred to Penybont Station as his address, for example.

Main Topic: Local Place Names and their Meaning – Rochard Davies

Bore Da – Good morning, though literally it means Morning good.

In accepting Geraint’s kind invitation to take on this subject Richard had not expected it to be quite so challenging.

He has read several publications on the subject:

  • He was almost overwhelmed by the 1958 publication on the subject, that was prepared by “The Languages and Literature Committee of the Board of Celtic Studies”, of the University of Wales”.
  • Then there was “Welsh Place Names and their Meaning” by Dewi Davies (1976)
  • And, of course “Radnorshire” by WH House (1947)
  • But the real challenge was “The Original Place Names in Wales . Monmouthshire (1887)

Quite heavy stuff!!!
Richard then explored a map of Wales pcking out some of the key towns and cities:

Newport                        Casnewydd-ar-wysg             Port entrance

Cadiff                            Caerdydd                               Fort/castle

Porthcawl                     Porthcawl                               Harbour gateway

Swansea                      Abertawe                                Mouth of R. Tawe

Kidwelly                        Cydweli                                  Union/Junction

Tenby                  “`      Dynbych-y-posgod               Fishing fort/area

St David                        Tyddewi                                 House of David

Fishguard                     Abergwaun                                      Sheltered Mouth

Cardigan                       Aberteifi                                  Mouth of Teifi river

Newquay                      Cai Newydd                           New Structure

Aberystwyth                 Aberystwyth                           Mouth of R. Ystwth

Caernarfon                            Caernarfon                            Castle Field

Holyhead                      Caergybi                       Castle Field!

Bangor                          Bangor                          Monastic College

Conway                        Conwy

Colwyn Bay                  Bae Colwyn                           Bay of Colwyn

Holywell                        Treffynnon                                       Town of Waterfall

Flint                               y Fflint                                     Rock

Radnorshire                 Sir Maesyfed                         Rich Water Meadow
The Welsh Language in Radnorshire

Today very little Welsh is spoken by the natives of Radnorshire, unless, perhaps it is spoken in a few remote homesteads on the Cardiganshire/Ceredigion border. Yet at the beginning of the 18th century Welsh was the popular language of the County and almost universally spoken.

To find out what happened it is necessary to understand what was happening in the middle of the 15th century when Presteigne became the centre for the Courts of the Council for Wales and the Marches. This eventually carried out all its official business in English. The officials that were appointed to manage proceedings were increasingly English. The Welsh gentry, as a result, began to communicate in English to the exclusion of Welsh, and this set the scene for Welsh being seen as a ‘lesser’ language than English, and its gradual decline.

George Barrow, either the Civil Servant or the Geologist, not sure which, stayed in Presteigne, and it is said that he asked the Maid of the Radnorshire Arms if Presteigne was in England or Wales. The Reply was allegedly: “Neither Sir, it is in Radnorshire.”

Another significant contributor to the decline in the use of the Welsh language was the role played by the Established Church following the Reformation. The Parishes of Presteigne and New Radnor, taking in Old Radnor and the Chapelries of Kinnerton and Evenjob, remained in the Diocese of Hereford, and they only appointed English speaking Parsons.

By 1730 an enormous change could be noticed; all of the above named Parishes held their services in English, and this also included the Parishes of Beguildy and Heyop. All of the churches east of this line had English services.

The impact of the decline in the use of the Welsh language can be seen in the names given to farms. Many of these dropped the use of the old Welsh names in favour of English names, and by the middle of the 17th century the pre-Norman Welsh names for towns started to change.

e.g. Knighton was previously called Tref-y-Clawdd, which meant town of the dyke.

Old Radnor was called Pen Craig, meaning summit of the rock

New Radnor was called Maesyfed, with two possible derivations – territory of Hyfraid (a 6th century Welsh Chiefton) of a field that was easy to reap, a fertile field)

Up to 1745 most churches had Welsh Prayer Books and Bibles but Llandrindod, Llanfiangel Helygen, and Llanddewi Ystradenny had no Welsh Prayer Books or Bibles.

There were exceptions however and the members of Glencwm Parish petitioned the Bishop to remove the existing Vicar because “he could not officiate in the tongue understanded by the people.” He was in fact replaced by a Welsh speaker.

By the latter half of the 18th century the Welsh language was still spoken but the decline continued, and with the improvements to roads, and the coming of the railway, most Parishes saw Welsh banished. St Harmon was an exception however. A social divide became apparent. The Radnorshire Gentry almost entirely spoke English, whereas the country folk preferred to speak Welsh. In a report of 1910 and elderly woman from Radnorshire (93 years) spoke no Welsh, her parents both spoke Welsh but preferred to speak English, by contrast her grandparents were also bilingual but preferred to speak Welsh.

The Rev Dr Jordan, Rector of Llanbadarnfawr, published the following piece in 1926 on:

“The Decay of the Welsh Language

It is thought that the introduction history of dissent was the cause of the decay of the Welsh Language in the Parish and the County, for it is known that the pioneers of the different sects, such as Methodists, Independent Baptists, Wesleyans, and Quakers were English-speaking people and came from England, tough some of the sects were foreign in their origin, as for example, the Baptists came from Holland and Germany to England. The Calvanists Methodists originated in Geneva in Switzerland and came to England, and the Wesleyans, Independents and Quakers came directly from England.

If dissent was really the means of causing the decay of the beautiful old Welsh language in this county in the 18th century, it is, perhaps, remarkable that the 20th century should witness the decay of that very dissent itself, at all events, in the country parishes of Radnorshire, and the Church of Wales, which was in existence eighteen hundred years ago, becoming once more the Church of the people. How true is the old saying: “Man made the Chapel, but God made the Church,””

In 1936 Welsh was spoken by farmers in Cwmdauddwr who lived on the Cardiganshire border. Welsh hymns were sung at certain services in the parish church.

Before engaging with members on place names Richard referred to Welsh surnames with the following accounting for more than 80% of the local population:

His own name, Davies, is probably the most common, then Jones; Lloyd; Powell; Price; Pugh; Williams; Bowen; Griffiths; Hughes; Lewis; Meredith; Morgan; Owens; Phillips; Pritchard; Probert; Prosser; Roberts; and Thomas.

Then to a lesser extent:

Bufton; Hamer; Havard; Mills; Morris; Stephens and Watkins.

Practically every place name in Welsh has a meaning, with this applying to: towns; villages; mountains; valleys; lakes; rivers; farms; and fields.

Sometimes it requires a little imagination and some ingenuity to arrive at the meaning of Radnorshire names. Many have become ‘unstuck’ under the influence of the English tongue. Welsh pronunciations, more often than not, have more have more affinity to French and Latin.

A particular feature of the Welsh Language is the tendency to mutate the initial consonants of words, for example:

Father – tad

My father – my nhad

His father – ei dad

Her father – ei thad

Penybont Names:       Head of the Bridge (Bridgend)

Pont Rhyd y Cleifion   Bridge by the field of the wounded/lepers/invalids

Ty Fair                 Mary’s House

Bryn Ithon           Looking over the Ithon

Bryn Hyfryd        Pleasant slope

Haulfryn              Sunny slope

Dol Swydd          Meadow where people work

Coed Swydd       Wood where people work

Swydd                 Administrative centre (where)

Coed Mawr Farm         Farm with large trees


Llandegley                   Church of St Tecla?

Trewern               Settlement on a rough meadow or Common

Gernargllywdd    Lord of the Alder

Castell Crug Eryr                   Castle of the Eagles Nest/Crag

Tynllan                House by the church





Cellws                 Small monastic cell

Llanbadarnfawr  Large Church of St Peter


Cefn Llys            Behind

Neuadd               Court House

Cym Brith            Valley of


Common parts of names:

Afon                     River

Allt                        Hillside or wood

Ardal                    Area

Beili                      Enclosure

Bettws                 House of prayer

Bwlch                  pass or gateway

Hafren                 Summer residence

Meslyn                Peat bog

Pentref                Village

Powys                 Tribal name derived from pau – country

Rhayader            Anglicised version of Rhaeadyr –  waterfall

Rhos                    Moorland

Rhyd                    Stream

Tal                       end of

Tan                      below

Tref                      Town

Tre                       Home


Richard also found Dr. Jordan’s “History pf the Church and Parish of Llanbadarnfawr had many local names with notes as to their origins, this is reproduced below:

Bayley Glas                  Probably ‘Beilli Glas” – the Green Mound

Betting bach                 Little – Hand cut sods for burning

Blaenycwm                            Top of the dingle

Blaenycymmawr                   Top of the green dingle

Blaenyplwyf                 End, or top, of thr Parish

Bryncrech                     Rugged hill

Bryncwtta                     From ‘cwta’ – short; Short Hill

Bryngwyn                     White Hill or Fair Or Blessed Hill

Brynhafod                    Upland summer dwelling

Brynhunlle                    The glowing hill

Brynllefrith                    The variegated or motley bank

Brynllugoed                  Probably “Brynllwydcoed” Ridge of the grey wood

Brynllwyd                      Grey Hill

Bryn Maurig                  Probably “Brynmeirydd” Steward’s Hill

Brynoveth                     Should be “Brynhafaidd” Summer like hill

Brynyffin                       Boundary Hill

Bwlch y diars                Probably “Bwlch y dias” Windy Gap

Cabin                            Should be “caban” A cottage or booth

Cae cleifion                  Lepers field

Clewedog                     Should be “Clywedog” the humming stream

Cwmtrallwn                   Probably “Cwmtrafwnc” draughty dingle; or

“Cwmtrallwngc” quagmire dingle

Cwmroches                  Probably “Cwmrhocas” Dingle youth

Cwmyrhendy                The old house dingle

Cwm Ferin                    Should be “Cwm merin” the trickling dingle

Dildre                            Probably “Dol-dir” meadow land

Dol Fallen                     Sodden meadow

Dol Llwyd                      Grey Meadow

Dol y felin                     The Mill meadow

Dol y waun morfydd    Meadow of the marshy dale

Dolaujenkin                  Jenkins’ meadows

Dolygreen                     Meadow of the village green

Dolgeid                         Probably “Dolycoed” Dole in the wood

Erw Rhys                      Rhys’ acre

Erw gerrig                     Stone acre

Fallet Grucca               Crooked enclosure

Fallet wood                   An enclosed wood

Fran Llwyn Garden     Crow’s grove garden

Fron                              From “Bron” breast of a hill

Ffosyffin                       Boundary ditch

Gabalfa                         Probably “Ceubalfa” ferrying place

Gendy                           Probaly “Geudy” draught house

Gilfach                          From “Cilfach” Nook or grove

Gilly                               Probably “Gelly” from “Celli” grove; or

It could be “Ciliau” recess or corner

Guidfa                           An erroneous term for “Coedfa” woodlands

Glancerrig                     Stone bank

Glanclewedog              The banks of the humming stream

Glannant                       Brookside

Gwalia                           Wales

Gwarm y dol                 From “Marin” trickling meadow

Gwaunyffald                The Fold Meadow or Pound Meadow

Grafty                            Probably “Croft” a little field adjoining a dwelling

Gwernau                       Swamp or mead; or Alder Trees

Hernog                          From “Gwernog” Alder Grove

Hirney Meadow           Probably from “Gwernau” Swampy meadow

Kilfan meadow             Probably from “Cilfan” a sheltered meadow

Kiln Meadow                Meadow for drying

Knap Penlan                Should be “Cnap” a round-headed hill

Llanbicca                      From “ Pigfa” steep sideland or bank

Lan Forgan                            Morgan’s bank

Lan Lwyd                      Grey bank

Lindies                          Probably “Llindys” caterpillars

Layn                              Probably “Llain” a long slip or slang

Llanbadarn-fawr          Church of St Padarn-Great

Llanerchafod                From “Llanerch” Summer dwelling area

Lletty Gwydd                Irishman’s abode or woodman’s abode

Llewyn wastad             Should be “Llwyn gwastad” flat grove

Lluast                            Should be “Lluest” a cottage

Llwyn                                      A grove of bush

Llwynhir                        Long grove

Llwyngwernduon                   Black alder grove

Llwynmell                     Far hill

Llwynmelyn                  Yellow grove

Llwynmorfil                             “Llwynmorfa” marsh grove

Nantllech                      Flat stone dingle

Orls                               Radnorshire word for Alder trees

Penlan                          Top or head of sideland

Penybank                     Top of the hill

Rabber                          Should be “Yr Aber” the fall of a river into another

Cynaron falls into the Ithon at the Rabber

Rhos                             Moorland

Rhos Swydd                Swydd is a place of administration, possibly where people work – Moorland where people work

Rhydllyn                       Ford of the pool

Rhyd y briddell             Should be “Rhyd y brithhyll” trout ford

Rhoslowddy                 Bright black boggy ground

Schuber nwydd           Probably “Ysgubor newydd” New Barn

Telpin                            Should be “Telpyn” little lump or hillock

Telpyn y bwch             Goat’s hill

Telpyn cae saydd        Little hill of the arrow field

Tinygofed                     Probably “Ty yn y gofod” House in the open or space

Tinyllwyn                      “Ty-yn-y-llwyn” House in the grove

Tir Bach                        Little land

Tirygloveried                Probably “Tir y clover” clover land

Trefonen                       Homestead of the ash tree

Trelowgoed                  Probably “Trellwydcoed” Homestead of the grey wood

Tynddole                      An abbreviation of “Ty-yn-y-ddol” the house in the dale

Tyncoad                       “Ty-yn-y-coed” House in the wood

Ty Newydd                   New House

Tynylone                      “Ty-yn-y-lone” House in the lane

Vron Vary or Vari         Should be “Bron mieri” Briery Hill

Wannyclodion              Should be “Waunnytlodion” poor people’s meadow

Werngoch                     Should be “Gwerngoch” redmead

Richard also had amongst his notes the following non-attributable translations.

Rhyd Ithon                    The ford of the Ithon

Maes-y-llyn                            The field of the lake

Llanbedr                       The church of Peter

Glan-yr-afon                 The bank of the river

Cae-dan-ty-mawr         The field under the big house

Dol-ger-y-felin              The meadow near the mill

Tref-y-clawdd               The town of the dyke

Fron-las                        The green bank

Bettys-y-crwyn             The chapel of the skins

Rhiw-fawr                     Large slope

Cytiau Gwyddelod       The Irishmen’s huts

Gwern-yr-arglwydd      The Lords’s Adler Grove

Gil-fach                         The little retreat

Tre-Faldwyn                 Baldwin’s town

Geraint thanked Richard for is excellent and wide ranging talk.

This posting is much too late to late to announce the exciting presentation that Marion has already given the group on New Radnor. (It will be written up and posted as soon as possible. We are already eagerly waiting our next session on Bank Holiday Monday – 1st May 2017 – when Shirley Morgan will be goving a talk on: “The Sale of Penybont Hall Estate”. Shirley will be focusing on the particular sale in 1919 on this occasion, as there have in fact been 3 sales of the Estate over the years.














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:


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


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.