Notes of 6th June 2016 Meeting Main Topic – A History of the Decline of the Welsh Language in Radnorshire – Dai Hawkins

Geraint welcomed everyone, and particularly Freda who was attending for the first time. Freda comes from Watford.

In thinking about people who were not able to attend special mention was made of Marion who has broken her leg.

He reminded members about the Heronry walk which will now be on 11th July.

For those who had not been able to go Geraint spoke eloquently about the finding of a house in the ancient settlement at Caertwch on the Common. There is a danger that he might move in soon, if he can find it again under all the grass.

Derek gave his usual apology for being late with notes but they have now been posted.

As Mary and Richard are on holiday, he then introduced Dai Hawkins our speaker for today on the topic: The Decline of the Welsh Language in Radnorshire.

Dai initially made reference to a two day Conference of the Radnorshire Society that will be held at Cwrt Hergest on the 25th/26th June – Welsh Poets and Scholars and their Patrons between Wye and Severn 1300 – 1600.

Dai’s talk is based upon a talk that he previously gave at the National Library and that was following two articles that can be seen in the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Radnorshire Society Transactions.

Dai started by addressing the extraordinary relationship that exists between Radnorshire and the rest of Wales. A friend arrived at a B&B in London where he was greeted by a woman from Aberyswyth who asked him where he had come from. He said he had come from Radnorshire, to which he was asked: “Did you have a good voyage?”

There is something of a ‘black hole’ when it comes to the history of the Welsh Language in Radnorshire. As the people of North Wales were often stereotypically referred to as ‘Gogs’ the people in this area were often seen as ‘elvish’. They were unreal and a fantasy people – they do not really exist!

The scholar, linguist and pioneer of St Fagan’s Museum, Ffransis Payne did of course live in Llandegley – in fact he lived in Jane’s house which at the time had a flat roof, which according to Neil leaked regularly. Ffransis, in the 1960’s wrote a book in Welsh entitled “Exploring Radnorshire”. Dai was very grateful to the Radnorshire Society for publishing in the 2008 and 2009 Transactions his translation of the book. In the 2013 and 2014 editions of Transaction Dai has also written Part one and Part two of “History of the Welsh Language in Radnorshire”. (I suspect that Part three will be in the 2015 edition?)

As Ffransis Payne ‘explored Radnorshire’ he commented on the use and decline of the Welsh language. In the 2008 edition, Part one, he starts his journey in what is now Hereford, and explores the evidence of Welsh culture that can still be found in this ancient part of what had been Radnorshire. In the early part of Part two (2009) he is to be found wandering through Penybont from Dolau, he crosses Rhos Swydd Common, into Penybont and then proceeds up through Llandegle and on to the Pales where he comments on the decline of the Welsh language.

He refers to a Lewis Morris who visited Penybont in the middle of the eighteenth century who had commented on the quality of the Welsh spoken by the children. It was clear to Lewis Morris that the children were in fact bilingual. He mentions that many of the children, were at this time, no longer first language Welsh speakers.

Dai told us of an outburst of civil disorder in Rhayader in the Congregational Chapel on Bridge Street in 1851 over the use of the Welsh language between the older and younger generations. In Penybont the tradition for the Welsh Language in the Calvinistic Methodist Church was not followed in the early part of the 20th century.

From around 1830 there was a recognisable challenge to the old order of Welsh being spoken by grand-parents, to the bilingualism of the parents, and then a further move away from Welsh altogether by the children.

Importantly the area known as Rhwng Gwy a Hafren (Between the Severn and the Wye) got split up in the Act of Union 1542/3. The new administrative area, Maesyfed or Radnorshire had lost Ceri (Kerry) to Montgomeryshire, Clun and parts of what is now Shropshire, as well as Kington and area to Herefordshire. In the south west it lost the area around Builth to Brecknockshire. At this time Welsh would have been the language spoken throughout the whole of this area. The change brought about through the Act of Union was a major blow to the Welsh language and the decline seems to have gradually spread west across the whole of the County from that time. By 1700 it had reached the new border between Wales and England. Ffransis Payne on reaching the Pales refers to the implications of the Quaker school and the educational side effect of its impact on spoken Welsh from around 1712. By 1866 an Englishman, William Knowles, was appointed as the head of the school. By the middle of the 19th century the decline had reached Rhayader, and by the turn of this century the Welsh language had retreated from all but a few parts of the County.

Dai referred to work that his wife had undertaken on the history of the Welsh language. Before she unfortunately died of cancer she had been a strong support an advocate for the cultural history and identity of Wales.

Tracing the history of the language of today is complex and to some extent controversial as there are very few texts before the Romans arrived to give a clear understanding about the different influences that have given rise to what we now call Cymraeg.

The earliest influences on language began as the last ice age made Britain suitable for human habitation and there was migration of hunter gatherer groups from Europe during the 9th millennium BC – Mesolithic period. Very little if anything is known about the languages of this period and how they impacted on each other.

During the Neolithic period 7000 BC –  2000 BC archaeologists have been able to piece together more information on the culture of the more settled farming communities from the quantities of pottery that have been found. Two main strands of language developed the Uralic Languages of Northern Europe that underpin Finnish and Hungarian; and the Indo-European Languages that include Sanskrit, the Germanic Languages, and the Celtic languages. An early form of Celtic language (Proto-Celtic) was probably spoken during the  Bronze Age (from about 1250 BC) There would appear to be two branches within the Celtic groups:- i. Goidelic and ii. Brythonic. It is from the Brythonic group that Welsh emerges, whereas Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic are linked through Goidelic.  A Common-Brythonic language was spoken across England Wales and Southern Scotland at the time of the Roman invasions. Latin did have some influence on the language at this time but it was the coming of the Saxons that heralded the use of the English Language which came through the Gaels and Germanic cultures from the 5th century. By the 11th century the Brythonic languages had disappeared from most of England other than Cornwall.

In the 5th century the Brythonic people had either migrated to Brittany or they had been pushed into Wales. At about this time the language underwent some significant changes and what emerged is the Welsh Language in its primitive form. Unfortunately there are no written records of Welsh from this period. What is now known as Old Welsh is the language spoken in the middle of the 8th century. The earliest written text from the 8th century is written on the Tywyn Stone.

As we enter the Middle Welsh period in the 12th century there is Book of Llandaff, written in Old Welsh, and drawing from material back in the 6th century, but it was in the Middle Welsh period that we begin to learn more of the bardic tradition that has long been part of Welsh cultural life. This was a largely oral tradition and the manuscripts that appear at this time in Middle Welsh tell of earlier times. The Laws of Hywel Dda, Taliesin, and the Mabinogion were created long before 12TH Century but were not in manuscript form that has survived until later centuries.

It was however the Historia Regum Brittanniae, written by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and that gave rise to the Arthurian legends, that had most influence on the culture of Mid Wales as Rhwng Gwy a Hafren.  In a twist of fate it was these very legends, and their association with Rhung Gwy a Hafren, that brought my wife and I to Penybont in the first place. A Hungarian Architect, Imre Makovez, was asked by the Prince of Wales to create a building for an exhibition in London. He, Imre, did not want the building to remain in London and had asked that it should find a home in the Arthurian country Rhwng Gwy a Hafren. When the exhibition was cancelled Liz brought Imre and his wife to the area for a week as consolation. Liz fell in love with the area and the rest is history.

Getting back to Dai and the story telling of the bards he told about the time when Einion Clud, son of Elystan Glodrydd, was resident a Crug Eyryr. He met with Gregory of Wales and Archbishop Baldwin at New Radnor and signed up for the Third Crusade. When he got back home the next day with his distinguished guests his wife had persuaded him not to go on the Crusade. This probably cost him a heavy fine but Einion had an unfortunate end when he took part in a jousting tournament and, having defeated Roger Mortimer convincingly, Roger Mortimer was not at all happy about this and ambushed, with others, Einion on this way back to Crug Eyryr, when Einion was killed.

On page 89 of 2014 edition of Radnorshire Transactions Dai has a map showing the many homes of the patrons of the Welsh Bards in the period from 1000 to 1600 AD across Radnorshire. The Bards were people of status in Wales, their status was equivalent to that of their patrons. They would travel on horseback across the hilltops where travelling was easier to visit the homes of their patrons. The Bards or Poets gave richness to the oral traditions of Welsh culture that give rise to and are carried on in the Eisteddfods of today.

More factual information about the Welsh language can be obtained from the Court records and also the records of the visits of the Bishop of Hereford. From these we can say that, despite attempts to colonise Radnorshire in the 14th century the area of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren was almost 100% Welsh speaking. The English speakers were mainly in the towns and even here the numbers showed a significant decline.

In the following two centuries the Bards chronicled the lives of their patrons and the Welsh culture. It is interesting to note that a fifth of all the material recorded by the Bards related to Radnorshire.

The decline in the language that followed the Act of Union as chronicled above is punctuated by the fact that the last Eisteddfod to be held in Radnorshire was in 1777, but there was still enough Welsh being spoken for William Thomas in Penybont to advertise the Central Wales Emporium with a poster in Welsh sometime around 1900.

My attempts to learn Welsh have faltered and I cannot do justice the Dai’s talk on the dialect of Welsh that was/is spoken in Radnorshire. He spoke of his concerns that the new wave of Welsh speaking that is coming out of the schools is a more standard, even correct, Welsh, and is mainly being spoken by ‘incomers’ more that the indigenous population in Radnorshire. His ability however to articulate the dialect was remarkable and it is to be hoped that he can instil his passion for the language of Radnorshire in others.

Geraint thanked Dai for his excellent talk.

The next meeting will be for the walk on Monday 11th July for the walk to the Heronry and on to Cwmroches. Members are asked to meet at the Thomas Shop for coffee and then we will start the walk from there.

Notes of 9th May 2016 Meeting Main Topic – A History of the Severn Family – Mary Davies

Geraint opened the meeting welcoming everyone. He reminded members that the next meeting would be on 6th June when Dai Hawkins would be talking about the Welsh Language in Radnorshire. The meeting in July has had to be rescheduled from the 4th July to the 11th July when we will be visiting the Heronry at Penybont Hall, at the invitation of Richard Morgan, and then on to Cwmroches Reserve.

Derek confirmed the arrangements for the Walk on Penybont Common when we hope to find evidence of: the Settlement at Caertwch, Ridge and furrow land usage; a sheepfold; the Roman Road; and the Bronze Age Barrow.

Geraint welcomed Mary to talk on the Main Topic: The History of the Severn Family

  1. John Cheesment –        Sarah Grace

1731to 1783 (London)                      1765 to 1795 (Ireland)

We know from a previous talk concerning the Thomas Shop and the life of John Price that his daughter Mary Ann, albeit illegitimate, was just 6 years old when her father died in 1798 and inherited the bulk of his considerable fortune. While she was still under the guidance of her legal Guardians at the age of 18 years she met John Cheesment Severn, aged 30 years, and was greatly smitten to the extent that he saw off all other suitors and they were married in Worcester on 30th December 1811, during a terrible storm. As was the way of things pertaining to the family all was not straight forward. Having obtained permission to marry from the Guardians and subsequently moved to Penybont Hall, John found that one of the Guardians was resident at the Hall. A court case was to follow after John evicted the family and the wife of the Guardian died. That Julian Fellows crafted Downton Abbey on the goings on at and around Penybont Hall had its foundations from a very much earlier time. The parentage of John Cheesment Severn also has an air of intrigue. His father Captain John Cheesment of London was 47 when he met his wife to be. She, Sarah, was just 17 years old and from Graceville, Castle Dermot, Co. Kildare in Ireland. Capt John died just three years after his marriage. John Wesley, who was a friend of John Cheesment Severn, wrote about Capt. John’s death and referred to the lifestyle of his friend’s father. Capt. John had become a wealthy man who, having lost his fortune only to be rescued by his friends, went on to make another fortune, and John Wesley wrote:

“A few years ago he married one equally agreeable in person and temper. So what had he to do but enjoy himself?” Geraint seemed to agree!

Capt. John was described as a Commander of the Britannia East Indiaman, and Master Mariner of Mile End. Fortunes were made on the ‘silk road’ and Capt. John clearly did well from modest beginnings. His older brother Joseph remained in the North East and was said to be a cordwainer or shoemaker of Sunderland.

The Cheements/Cheesmans could not be described as gentry but within the historical records Edward Cheesman was a cofferer for Henry VII; that is he managed the King’s budget or coffers. A portrait of Edward is displayed in Penybont Hall.

Capt. John did not have a long time to enjoy his fortune and his new young wife. He died after only three years of marriage. Sarah, now only 20 years, and with the young John Cheesment to bring up, went on to marry a wealthy Scandinavian timber merchant, ship broker and banker, George Wolf. They lived in the Parish of St. George’s near Wapping Dock. (By coincidence Mary had her own connections with St George’s Parish and teaching classes of 45 pupils.) The area was in social decline at this time and the Wolf family moved to Baltham House in Surrey.

  1. John Cheesment Severn –        Mary Ann Price

1781 to 1875 (Londodn/Penybont)               1793 to 1876 (Penybont)

John lost his second parent, his mother Sarah, by the time he was 14 years old. Two surviving children were born to Sarah and George, Sarah Augusta and Inger Maria. Three other children died young. John’s step-father however continued with his education and John was elected to Eton in 1796, a year after his mother died, and he went on to study at Oxford. He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1801 and called to the Bar in 1807 a year when he also became MP for Wootton Bassett. He was a founder member of the Carlton Club. The mystery and intrigue around John and the change in his name from John Cheesment to John Cheesment Severn is also associated with 1807, for it was in this year that he:

“… being desirous out of affectionate regard to the memory of William Severn late of Pall Mall, Esq., diseased to take and use the surname of Severn in lieu of his present surname of Cheesment was authorised by Royal Liceince dated August 1807 to do so.” (Squires of Penybont Hall –R.C.B. Oliver). Who William Severn was, and why he played such an important part in the life of John Cheesment, is largely unknown. A William Severn married a Sarah Hyde in the Parish of St. George’s in 1803. Sarah’s family residence was Hopley Court, Worcestershire. It is probably not a coincidence that John Cheesment (now) Severn married Mary Ann Price in St Nicholas Church, Worcester. Despite the fact that John had probably paid handsomely for the privilege of becoming an MP for the ‘Rotten’ constituency, he had applied successfully to be a ‘Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds’, a euphemism for being allowed to resign his seat in Parliament. Corruption associated with the constituency of Wootton Bassett seems to have been associated with this seat, but whether it applied to John Cheesment Severn is not known. The use of the word ‘rotten’ might suggest something untoward but in this case a rotten constituency referred to a constituency that had insufficient population to support an MP. The MP who succeeded John to this constituency was a Benjamin Walsh who was declared bankrupt having spent £4000 in securing his seat in Parliament.

In marrying Mary Ann Price, John Cheesment Severn was able to substantially increase his estate and within three years of his marriage he had risen in Radnorshire society to the office of High Sheriff, 1811 and following in the footsteps of his father-in-law John Price, 1787. In the same year he also became Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County. In addition to his property John also became involved in Banking and was associated with the Bank at Kington which his father-in-law also had dealings.

Prior to his marriage John did have connections, and did acquire some land, within Radnorshire as his step-sister, Sarah Augusta Wolf, had married Edward Rogers who had a property near Knighton – Stanage. It is not known whether it was through this link that the couple met, other theories include possible meetings in Worcester or London. John’s other step-sister, Inger Maria Wolf married Rev. G.D. Whitehead whose grandson, in a twist of fate, came to Penybont Hall some years later.


John and Mary Ann’s marriage was fruitful and Mary Ann gave birth to four children, Sarah (1812), Percy (1814), Emily (1815), and Julia (1817). None of these four children were to marry. John had Penybont Hall largely rebuilt by 1818 into what was described as a fine Classical Georgian or Regency House. As a Country Gentleman John took on duties to do with the management of the Turnpike Road and became a Magistrate. In addition to his duties John also found himself on the receiving end of the Justices. In 1822 he was found guilty of causing damage and injury to crops and vegetables of a Septimus Minton; and in 1849 he was fined for three separate encroachments on Rhos Swydd Common.

In 1830 John, notwithstanding having only completed 1 year in Parliament in 1807/8, entered Parliament again for the Constituency of Fowey in Cornwall. This was another ‘rotten’ Borough and the constituency was dissolved in 1832.

In 1833 there is reference to a visit to Penybont Hall by Capt. Sir John B. Walsh. Capt.  Walsh describes Mrs Severn as a ‘quiet, ladylike woman’, but he refers to Mr Severn as ‘not very popular’, ‘rather near’, and ‘ostentatious’. This however was qualified by Capt. Walsh as he went on to say he was ‘obliging’ and ‘gentleman like in manners’. He was clearly a man who looked after his own interests, in pursuit of which he is best remembered for moving the Golden Fleece Inn, established by John Price in 1755 as the New Inn, from being adjacent to the Hall on the other side of the River Ithon, and to its present site as the Severn Arms Hotel (1840). This new facility gave rise to the Annual Card and Dancing Assembly, otherwise known as Penybont Ball, in 1841.

The movement of the Inn gave some added privacy to Penybont Hall. As a Trustee of the Turnpike, John had also been involved in the realignment of the road past the Hall in the 1830s, this again giving more privacy to the Hall.

As Magistrates, John, and his son Percy, were called into action to in 1843 to discuss with the Rebecca Riots in the Severn Arms Hotel. The Rioters entered Rhayader and pull down 4 gates and a toll house. The ring leaders were sentenced to 20 years transportation, but the ensuing Royal Commission made significant concessions to the grievances of the rioters.

Mary mentioned that John’s father had a close connection with John Wesley but John’s affiliations were not to the Methodist Church but to the Anglican tradition. There is evidence of his presence in the Churches at Llanbadarn Fawr, Llandegley, and Cefn Llys. Mary Ann was a considerable contributor to Charity and in supporting the local Churches she was also a known to have been generous in her contributions to Rock Chapel.

John was 94 when he died; Mary Ann survived him by 1 year and was herself 83 years. This meant that their 4 children were middle aged by the time of their parents death.

  1. John Percy Severn

1814 – 1900

Percy, like his father, was a graduate of Eton and Oxford where he achieved an MA. He travelled widely in his youth and was described as courteous, cultured, and intelligent. Unlike his father he was popular in the community. Percy also practiced as a Barrister at Lincoln’s Inn; and travelled across South Wales as a Revising Barrister sitting in Cardigan, Pembroke, and Brecon.

Percy followed in his father’s footsteps on other regards. He was a member of the Carlton Club; he became High Sheriff of Radnorshire (1873) and was also a Deputy Lieutenant. As mentioned earlier he was also a Magistrate. He was very much the Country Gentleman and Squire. He hunted, liked shooting and kept dogs, he bred Welsh Cobs and was a staunch supporter and founder member of the Radnorshire Agricultural Society.  His father had planted a number of trees and shrubs around the Hall and Percy added to the collection. He took a keen interest in the heronry that had established itself within the grounds. After his father died Percy extended the Hall to add a third floor and ‘Victorianised’ it by building the gables into the roof. He also added the 2 ‘folly towers’ that were detached from the main building.  One tower was round and the other square. It is said that Percy would sometimes retreat to the round tower. This tower was taken down more recently whereas the square Tower is still a feature of the property today but the round tower has been taken down.

When John Cheesement Severn died he left his children well endowed for the future. He had probably hoped that his daughters would marry but this was not to be. It was the churches in the locality that benefitted hugely from the patronage of the sisters and Percy.

The church at Llanbadarn Fawr was completely rebuilt in 1878/79 due entirely to the generousity of the sisters. This was a few after the church at Llandegley was similarly rebuilt by the Severn family in 1874/76.  Percy supported the rebuilding of Llanddewi and and Cefn Llys. The interest in Rock Chapel continued from their mother and Percy supported the development of the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel in Penybont. There was a schoolroom within the Penybont Chapel and a school did run here for a short period. Percy was actively involved in the support and development of school facilities in the area. He was Chair of the new Llanbadarn Fawr Board School 1878 and was still Chair when he died in 1900. An annual ‘Scholars Tea’ was given by Percy to all of the scholars at the school and this merited a day’s holiday. Holidays were fairly frequent as, despite the introduction of compulsory education, labour was needed on the land. As a magistrate Percy would meet some of the families in Court but he would be very reluctant to act against them.

In researching Rhos Common another story reflecting Percy’s humanity came to light in that he was reluctant to take action against people who were found to be encroaching onto the Common. It was said that this was because he did not want to appear unpopular but equally he was probably also concerned about the second and third sons of local farmers who could not find land to work on and to stay living in the locality. These young men would be very important to the overall management of his 4000 acres and therefore he had a vested interest in their ability to find land of their own.

While Percy as a person, landlord, and public figure was widely respected, the decision he made with respect to the railway, in the period 1862 to 1866, was to have on the future of the village as an important centre in Radnorshire. He was concerned that the railway, of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, might pass close to the Hall so he gave a part of Cwmtrallwm Farm as a free site for Penybont Station. This meant that the station was built about 1 mile from the village; this single decision probably heralded the slow decline of the village in favour of Llandrindod Wells, and the gradual loss of amenity within the village.

Very little appears in the literature about the three sisters other than their good works associated with the local churches. Julia was said to be something of a recluse. They all lived long lives: Sarah was 79 years when she died; Percy 86 years; Emily 91 years; and Julia 90 years. Geraint who has also researched the family feels very frustrated as there are no dairies or journals from the three sisters and he feels that they must have written them. Emily succeeded her brother and inherited the estate, living on a further 6 years. She followed in the footsteps of her older brother in some respects. She was Chair of the Board of Llanbadarn Fawr School and President of the Radnorshire Agricultural Show. Her country roots were similar to those of her brother and she was a supporter of the Sheep Dog Trials.

  1. Emily Augusta Severn

1815 -1906

When Emily Augusta died in 1906 the praise for her life and charitable work was written up by Dr Jordon as a delivered by the Rector of the time. Famously he quoted Proverbs xxxi. 29 – “Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” He describes her “pre-eminently stands out as one who could and should inspire us with emulation to go and do likewise….gracious presence……infinite sweetness…nowhere else but in lovely Wales…..At what cost Miss Severn and her two sisters restored Llanbadarn Church is neither fitting to the time to say here, but it is right to say that it was a labour of love, a lasting monument to a beautiful life, that was spent within her tenantry of late years as the “Lady of Shunem”……Her great heart is built into these sculptured stones, into the beautiful new organ, and the new vestry! Generations which will follow our own will see these offerings made to God. How beautiful it all is!”

  1. Julia Severn

1817 – 1907

The youngest of the sisters Julia lived in Llandrindod for the last 25 years of her life. She lived in Tremont House as a virtual recluse. She left a considerable sum to the Cottage Hospital in Llandrindod.

These various philanthropic acts have continued through Charitable Trusts that still goes on today. Geraint has been involved over the years in administering one of these Trusts in Penybont for the ‘poor of the Parish’, a task that he remembers with some affection. He and Lord Ormathwaite (who became Squire of Penybont Hall) would meet around Christmas time in the Snug at the Hall. There would be a roaring fire, sherry, 50 £1 notes, and envelopes all prepared to distribute to the needy in the Parish.

Talk of these deaths led to a discussion about the Severn Vault in the Churchyard at Llanbadarn Church. Neil was most interested to know if Geraint had been into it. He had and he ventured in with Neil’s father. An eerie place shrouded in yew trees.

  1. Major General R.C. Whitehead –        Sarah Ann Jones

1833 – 1910 (Cumberland/Penybont) 1858 to 1926 (London/Penybont)

The Severn Family came to an end with the death of Julia but Emily had passed on the inheritance to Major General Whitehead who was the youngest grandson of Capt. John Cheesments wife Sarah and her second husband George Wolf, who Mary had referred to earlier. John Cheesment Severn had two step sisters Sarah Augusta and Inger Maria. All of Sarah Augusta’s children died before their father Edward Rogers. Inger Maria married Rev. G.D. Whitehead and had three children. The eldest Col. George never married, but was said to have ‘gone native’ in India and had 4 children. Her second son died without having any heirs, and so by force of circumstance the Major General inherited with his wife Sarah Ann (Jones). The Major, who had lost a leg battle, was seen as respectable, albeit he had married a barmaid.

  1. Downton Abbey

To complete the picture Mary returned to the fictional characters associated with Downton Abbey and Julian Fellows interpretation of life at Penybont Hall. The Daily Mail article ‘I?’ – “And Downton Abbey is modelled on the aristocratic pile Penybont Hall, where Lord Fellowes’ ancestors were not masters – servants.”

If one goes back 150 years you would find Julian’s great grandfather Pat McIntosh as a working class man from Scotland working his way up to becoming the manager under Percy of the 4000 acre Penybont estate. Pat and his wife had 4 children who probably all worked at the Hall from time to time. One of the children, Emily, told Julian of life at the Hall and inspired the stories that were to make Downton Abbey such a success. The Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, in the series was said to have been based upon the character and activity of Percy. (According to Rev. Geraint Hughes, a local historian, life at Penybont Hall was similar to Downton Abbey!)

Marion referred to an ancestor of hers who had, at the time when Capt. John Cheesment was engaged in the silk trade, been also been involved with the East India Company and had possible connections with John Cheesment. Marion has an Anglo-Indian background and her family returned to the UK due to complications with a snake bite.

In thanking Mary for her excellent talk Geriant told a story about the Bishop who often dined at the Hall. Children would be invited to come to the table for the dessert course. He would entertain the children with a mechanical toy which would be concealed under the tablecloth.

Geraint also told members of a change to the Programme in July. The walk to the Heronry will now be on the 11th July as Richard Morgan from the Hall has kindly agreed to guide the walk in the Hall grounds. We will then go on to the Reserve at Cwmroches.

The next Meeting will be at the Thomas Shop on 6th June at 10.30 a.m. when Dai Hawkins will talk about the decline of the Welsh Language in Radnorshire.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes of Meeting 4th April 2016 Main Topic: The Archaeology of the Radnor Valley – Mysteries of the Walton Basin Speaker: Dr Marion Evans

Geraint welcomed another packed room  and a number of new people, some whom had come specially for this topic which has an appeal beyond the District.

Derek said that the Notes on the last session would be out soon.

Geraint welcomed Marion who having overcome the challenges of a new projector and having fallen, chipped a bone in her leg, introduced the topic by referring to a picture of the Walton Basin.

The picture which can be found at:  page 5

shows a central circle of land with a 5 kilometre diameter with the Radnor Forest to the West and climbing steeply in the north-west. New Radnor lies to the west of the area, with Old Radnor to the south. To get a really good view of the Walton Basin is worth going to the Harp Inn at Old Radnor and the basin lies in front of you as you look over the edge. A brook runs through the centre of the Basin running from West to East (Summergill Brook running into Hindwell Brook. Burfa Bank, where there is an Iron Age Hill Fort, lies to the East.

Marion explained that she would be talking about the Basin over an 8000 year period and it is important to keep in mind how small the population was over this time. Over the last 800 years the landscape has changed considerably and the area would have been wooded prior to this time.

The Basin is not a glacial feature but, geologically, it was formed in the Silurian period some 440 to 420 million years ago when this area was under the sea, and in the Southern hemisphere. There was glacial movement  20,000 years ago that  brought clay down onto the easterly section of the basin. This is illustrated in dry summers when the Summergil Brook dries up in the west but there is generally water all year round in the east. The most dramatic picture illustrating the impact of the glaciers are the hanging valleys that can be seen looking West from Beggars Bush towards the Whimble.


Marion explained that there were a number of sets of evidence of social activity within the Walton Basin.

Pre-Historic Evidence

  1. Water movement through the Basin

Water moves slowly through the Basin from West to East in Brooks that eventually join up and enter the Lugg which gives way to the Arrow before joining the Wye. The Summergill Brook dries up most summers near New Radnor whereas the Hindwell Brook runs continuously throughout the year with the Hindwell pool providing a constant source of water. Archaeological sites mentioned below, are concentrated in the Eastern section of the Basin wherethere is ready access to water..

  1. Stone (lithic) tools CPAT pages 10, 11

These have been found in over 200 sites within the Walton Basin and the scatter can be seen on page 10 of the CPAT site. The earliest finds, 11,000 years BC (Palaeolithic), are single items found in the New Radnor area. There are examples from the Mesolithic ages stretching from 9,600 years BC through to 3000 BC, as well as from the late Neolithic period from 3000 years BC to 2300 years BC, and even barbed arrowheads from the Early Bronze Age, 2300 years BC to 1500 BC.

The scatter on the map of these tools cannot necessarily be taken as an accurate representation of where they dropped. Modern agriculture could well have moved them around appreciably.

The range of artefacts would suggest that there was considerable change going on in the Walton Basin over the period. Starting with nomadic hunter gatherers and gradually moving towards more settled communities in the area.

Neolithic Period

  • Aerial Photography

Since the first photograph taken in the 1980s aerial photography has shown a wealth of Neolithic and later features. They can be compared to the more prestigious site at Stonehenge. The features however in the Walton Basin are below ground. The identified sites are shown on the map on CPAT page 12. These Neolithic features are:

  • Womaston Causewayed Enclosure
  • Walton Green Cursus
  • Hindwell Cursus
  • Walton Palisaded Enclosure
  • Walton Double Pit Alignment
  • Walton Double or Treble Palisaded Enclosure
  • Hindwell Palisaded Enclosure
  • Hindwell Double Palisaded Enclosure
  • Walton Court Ring Ditch

Some of these structures, which are described below, involved the movement of extraordinary amounts of material and wood. There was a theory that maybe peoples from other parts of Europe had come in to construct these structures but an analysis of DNA would suggest that they were largely built by the indigenous population. Why, and what for, largely remains a mystery.

Cautionary Note

Marion raised a note of caution in respect of Archaeological statements, particularly in the media. She has found that some archaeologists have ‘pet theories’ and try to make the facts fit their theory.

One of the main facts, despite all the evidence of Neolithic activity, is that we know very little. For example there is very little evidence of pottery, and/or other artefacts that would suggest that people lived in the Basin at this time; but this does not necessarily mean people did not live there. There have been many theories about why they were built including: Processional Site/Astronomical significance/ ancestor worship/ceremonial site/buffer zone. The reality is that we do not know.  The sheer size of some of these features mean that many people over a considerable length of time needed to have been involved in their construction.  What brought them together, and why they created them, remains a mystery.

  1. Radio-Carbon Dating


  • Womaston Causewayed Enclosure – Charcoal in the ditches is dated between 3700 and 3300BC
  • Walton Green Cursus – not as yet determined
  • Hindwell Cursus – Dated between 3900 and 3500BC from charcoal
  • Walton Palisaded Enclosure dated between 2800 and 2400BC
  • Walton Double Pit Alignment
  • Walton Double or Treble Palisaded Enclosure dated from charcoal between 2800 and 2400BC
  • Hindwell Palisaded Enclosure dated from charred oak between 2800 and 2400BC
  • Hindwell Double Palisaded Enclosure dated between 2600 and 2400BC
  • Walton Court Ring Ditch charcoal in the base gives a date in the region 2500 – 2300BC


  1. Items Found

Plant and cereal grains have been found at the Womaston Causewayed Enclosure suggesting that agriculture may have been carried out in the Basin or elsewhere. Excavation of this site has revealed fragments of early Neolithic pottery.

The Hindwell Cursus has also had excavation work carried out and they have found the charred remains of plants including grass rhizomes, vetch and cinquefoil with hazel nuts, apple pips and fragments of acorn shell. The absence of cereals and wood charcoal suggests that this was not area where there was a settlement at this time, but as Marion pointed out before absence of evidence does not necessarily mean that there might not have been settlement.

A plain sherd of Grooved Ware pottery was found within the Hindwell Double Palisaded Enclosure which suggests that the Enclosure was in use during the Late Neolithic period.

  1. Geophysical and Excavations Explorations


Magnetometry (Measurement of variations in the magnetism of the soil)

Magnetometry has been used to survey some of the features on the site. Cesium vapour magnetometry (  ) is a more sensitive type of magnetometry in volving the injection of cesium gas. It has given some excellent geophysical results for Hindwell Palisaded Enclosure that has helped in establishing its extent and the manner in which the oak posts were erected,  but has been less effective in the study of the cursus which is a sunken feature.

Excavations of the Wormaston Causewayed Enclosure have shown a U-shaped profile about 2.3 metres across and up to 1.8 metres deep. There is some evidence that there was re-cutting suggesting that there were a number of periods of activity.

The Hindwell Cursus (cursus is an exceptionally long Neolithic parallel ‘ditch’) is one of the largest monuments of its kind; it encloses an area of 27 hectares. The excavations have helped to show that it is 4.6 kilometres long. The ditches are over 50 metres apart, and up to 74 metres; and the ditches are 1.8 metres deep. From the excavations it is thought that the spoil was banked on the inside of the ditches.

Excavations of the Walton and Hindwell Palisade Enclosures have shown post ramps were used to lever the posts into position in the Walton Palisade whereas the posts in the Hindwell Palisade were levered directly into steep sided pits.

  • Farming

While farming, and in particular ploughing has moved the surface soil over the years, levelled the ground and probably destroyed some features. It is the combination of Aerial photography and crop marks have identified many of the features including; entrances to the Palisades; the Walton Court Ring Ditch and how it intersects with other features. Ploughing has also exposed, albeit not necessarily in the right place, some of the artefacts found on the site.


  • Scale

Very little of the Neolithic features within the Walton Basin have been explored as yet, but it is number and scale of the features that make this site so important.

We have mentioned the size of the Hindwell Cursus above; the Hindwell Palisaded Enclosure covers an area of 34 hectares. The oval shaped feature is at least 750  metres long and up to 540 metres wide. The oak posts which provided the structure of the palisade were between 60 cms and 1 metre in diameter and could each have weighed 4½ tons. With potentially 1410 posts they would have needed 6000 metric tons of timber.


Late Neolithic to Bronze Age

  1. Barrows( CPAT pages 40 – 45) and Standing Stones (CPAT PAGES 46,47)

There are a number of Neolithic and Bronze Age Barrows across the site. They are well spread out and may suggest that family groups had their own Barrow. This leads to the suggestion that by the late Neolithic and early Bronze age there may have been some ownership by families  of land.  As well as the Barrows down in the Basin there are a number on the hills to the North West. These may also indicate that there was some association between the Barrows and possible grazing rights.

A cluster of four standing stones, from a similar period to the barrows, are thought to be part of a ‘four-poster’ stone circle and probably had some form of ritual purpose. Local folklore understands that the four stones are in the habit if going down to the Hindwell Pool to drink at night.

There are a number of single standing stones scattered across the Basin that are probably from a slightly later period, 6 of which are still standing.

The stones are all erratic glacial boulders with rounded tops. The ancient font in St Stephen’s Church in Old Radnor is said to have been carved from one such stone around 800AD.

  1. Settlement in the Basin – Ditched Enclosures and Iron Age Hill Forts ( CPAT Page 48 – 53)

While there is insufficient evidence to say exactly when people began to settle in the area the evidence for settlement begins to become more certain in the period from 1800BC to 400AD.

There are about 25 ditched enclosures within the site that have been identified by cropmarks and they probably represent small farms within the Basin.  Their shapes are less regular than the Neolithic  enclosures. A gateway can be identified with one enclosure but most have been lost in the course of farming. Very little work has been done on these features as their significance has been overshadowed by the Neolithic and Roman findings. One of the challenges is that no evidence has been found of smelting and other activity that you would expect to find in an Iron Age settlement. Against this pottery from Malvern has been found suggesting that trade been areas was already established.

Some thought and work has gone into how these sites may relate to earlier features and it is it may be that the Walton Green cursus would still have been visible at this time. Speculation about alignment of some of the Neolithic features with these Iron Age features is probably due to mutual alignment with the waterways rather than any other significance.

Burfa and Castle Ring Hillforts lie on the eastern edge of the Basin occupying strategic position for defense purposes. Burfa enclosed a 6 hectares site while Castle Ring encloses just under 1 hectare. This was an area of strategic importance with three Iron Age Tribes territories converging. It is not known which of the the Ordovices (Mid Wales), Dobunni (South West Midlands), or the Silures (South Wales) were in occupation.

Roman Walton

The tribal significance of the Walton Basin probably had a direct bearing on the Roman occupation of this area. Their occupation of Britain was more or less complete when they more or less wiped out the tribal infrastructure within the Marches and beyond.  There are two parts to the archaeological evidence within the area.

  1. Roman Marching Camps and Signal Station (CPAT pages 54 to 57)

Between 50AD and 80AD there was a period when the Walton Basin became very important to the Romans as they consolidated their power over Wales and Britain. There is an estimation that as many as 150,000 troops were involved in the Marching camps which were a distinctive part of their training and readiness for battle. Tens of thousands were specifically based in the Walton Basin. They marches for 5 hours a day then dug ditches where they pitched their tents. This involved a massive effort by the soldiers every day. Camps were built near water and the 5 known camps; two at Hindwell were aligned near the spring at Hindwell pool; and the three at Walton were aligned along the Riddings Brook.

Aerial photographs show the Hindwell I camp to occupy an area of about 17.6 hectares. The second camp at Hindwell is small and is 3 to 5 hectares. The three camps at Walton are smaller again and are between 2 and 3 hectares.

Despite the evidence of this Roman activity there are still many questions that have not been answered. E.G. Did they destroy their camp each day just to build another one the following evening?

  • Roman Fort and Civil Settlement (CPAT pages 58 – 61)

Aerial and geophysical surveys have identified a Roman Fort that was situated across the area of the Hindwell Palisades occupying 2.3 hectares. It dated from about the same time as the Marching Camps about 55AD and was still in functioning beyond 80AD. It is not known when it was decommissioned. Trial excavations and geophysical surveys have identified the extent of the civil settlement or vicus. Some of the dating of the site have come from pottery and coins found within the curtilage. A piece of pottery is found on site is stamped with the name of a pottery in Southern France.

There is a complex of Roman roads emanating from the site linking with other Roman settlements. This includes Castell Collen and so to the road across Penybont Common. Interestingly there were problems with the swampy route at Hindwell as we had previously seen on The Common.

Geraint thanked Marion for her excellent talk. Though it took us out of our area, it is such an interesting and important site that it was important to cover it. Marion said that there were more layers to the unravelling of the site but these will need to wait for another occasion.

There is a Walk across Penybont Common on Tuesday 17th May led by Derek Turner. Meet at the Thomas Shop.

The next Meeting will be on Monday 9th May when the topic is the ‘History of the Severn Family’.

Penybont and District Local History Group 7th March 2016 – Thomas Shop Main Topic: History of the Women’s Institute Speaker: Liz Watkins

Geraint welcomed another full house and in particular Lyn Danby, as a newcomer, to the Meeting. Lyn is living in Bill Bayliss’s former house having moved (run away) FROM Port Talbot. She has a background in research.

Derek read something silly from the Ladybird Book on Mindfulness!

Geraint welcomed Liz Watkins who has supported the WI in the area for many years.

Liz explained that she had had a number of challenges in preparing her talk. The minutes of Penybont WI are held in Powys Archives; the Llandegley Minutes are more scattered. Penybont and Crossgates joined forces for a period but then split up again over concerns about the loo.

The origins of the WI Movement

A set of unfortunate circumstances brought together two people who in turn set up the first meeting in Stoney Creek, Ontario.

Adelaide Hoodless (nee Hunter) came from a farming background and was the youndest of yhirteen children. Her father died when she was a few months old, and her mother was left to run the farm and a very large household. Perhaps it was the hard work and isolation on this farm that inspired her to take up the challenge of domestic reform later in life! Adelaide attended a Ladies College where she met and married John Hoodless (a furniture manufacturer) and she lived in Ontario. The couple had four children but tragedy struck when her youngest child died suddenly, probably having drunk contaminated milk. As a result of this Adelaide established Domestic Science courses to educate young women, while also giving talks to women’s groups. At one of these talks she met Erland Lee who would be her partner in establishing the first WI.

Erland Lee was a Canadian Farmer, teacher, and government employee. He was secretary of the Young Farmer’s Institute. It was their Annual Ladies Night. Adelaide was the guest speaker for the evening. It was Erland who suggested that a Women’s Institute similar in form to the Young Farmers might be set up. A week later, on the 19th February 1897, 101 rural Canadian women agreed to create a Women’s Institute. The movement brought women from isolated communities and homesteads together and offered training in home economics, child care, and those aspects of farming that were traditionally associated with women. E.g. poultry rearing; and small farm animal husbandry.

From the first meeting in 1897 it would be another 18 years before the first WI meeting would be held in Great Britain. In 1915 the movement had progressed in Canada with 800 groiups having been formed.

A Canadian, Mrs Madge Watts, joined the WI in 1909 and was appointed unto the Committee of Agriculture to encourage the formation of WI’s. This led to the movement obtained offial recognition in 1911. Madge, having lost her husband, brought he two sons to England in 1913 to finish their education. She set about trying to enthuse others about the benefits of the WI but found it an uphill struggle. However with the outbreak of War in 1914 women began to see the benefits of working together to sustain communities and to grow food. Madge attended lots of meetings organised by the Agriculture Organisation Committee (AOS), and even then there was a feeling that the women felt that their husbands would not approve of them joining a Women’s organisation. The activities of the Suffragettes did not help with the development of the this kind of women’s initiative. Before one of the meetings Madge spoke to Colonel Stapleton-Cotton of the AOS, was a relative of Lady Angelsey. Madge had talked to a group of ladies on Angelsey who were really interested in starting a WI group on the Island. On the 11th September 1915 the first WI group met on Llanfair PG.

The WI in Radnorshire

New Radnor and District was the first WI to meet in Radnorshire. Its first meeting was held on the 19th January 1918. The District of New Radnor included Old Radnor, Kinnerton, and Llanfiangel nat Melan. Mrs Duff Gordon, later Lady Duff, was President; Miss McKaig was Honorary Secretry and Treasurer. At this Meeting it was decided that the Annual Subscription should be 2 shillings (10p).

Early records show an enquiry about hiring a cheese press, 30 -40 gallon cheese tub and one milk churn to hold 40 gallons. Cheese making must have been successful as it was passed by the members.

Home economics, home nursing, renovating old garments and talks on the importance of vaccination were some of the topics covered during the meetings.

Unfortunately records for this WI were lost and this information was taken from the 75th Anniversary WI Book.

Old Radnor went on to open their own WI in 1921 and Kinnerton in 1940.

Peny Penybont and District / Crossgates WI

Penybont and District / Crossgates WI was formed in 1928 with 53 members, 18 on the Committee. At the front of the first record book are the names and addresses of all the members.

The meetings were held alternatively between Penybont and Crossgates and had demonstrations and and competitions much as is done today .The Committee Meetings were held in the Iron Room at Penybont.

In 1933 the following was proposed and carried unanimously:

“We the President and members of the above Institute do unanimously request the Post Master General to hasten the fulfilment of his scheme of installing a telephone kiosk at Llandegley which was published 2½  years ago. We consider that this particular District is in urgent need of it, seeing that there is no kiosk or Post Office between Penybont village and New Radnor, a district of 9 miles.”

In 1941 it was decided to hold future Committee Meetings alternatively between Crossgates and Penybont.

In 1942 it was decided to treat 70 of the patients from the Military Hospital in Llandrindod Wells to tea on Wednesday 17th September, Secretary to secure transport.

During the War members started a canteen for the troops who were at Battle School Camp on the Common.

They had a flourishing Drama Group and Choir, both of which helped various Charities.

Llandegley WI

The formation of Llandegley WI was held in the school on the 21st January 1860 at 7.30 p.m.

In spite of a heavy snow storm there were 11 prospective members present as well as Miss A Davies VCO who gave a brief history of the WI.

The resolution to form a WI was drawn up, names of those present placed on ballot papers for the election of Committee at the next meeting.

The weather deteriorated and the meeting closed. Next Meeting was to be held on the 17th February. Due to continuing inclement weather the 2nd meeting did not take place until the 11th March when a letter from Lady Dyer, President of the NFWI was read. Mrs Morgan VCO explained the duties of committee members and members were duly elected. Olive Waters, President; Vices – J Bufton and Mrs Dixon; Committee – Mrs Abberley, Mrs J Bufton, Mrs P Bufton; Mrs Dixon; and Mrs Lawrence. Note – Age of joining was set at 13 years.

One of the first issues discussed at their next meeting was the rural inn service – how inadequate it was!

The membership fee was 3 shillings and 6 pence.

Juniors – 12 and upwards – to be admitted on payment of an annual subscription of 1 shilling until they reached the age of 16 years.

Events and Achievements of the WIs locally

Children’s Party Penybont

These were held annually in the School Room at the Chapel in Penybont and there could be anything up to 50 children. It did not happen during the war and in 1989 when the Chapel was demolished as part of the building of a new bridge over the Ithon. With the loss of the schoolroom the parties became ‘nomadic’.

Friendship evenings were regular and they gave ‘famously good suppers’.

Members did a survey of field names and surveys of local graveyards, and indeed they won the ‘Best kept Graveyard’ competition.

Charity work was a force behind creating a local community and the resources needed to sustain this.

Trips and outings were also regular features and members present remembered the abundance of skylarks and buzzards. Neil had taken a lot of photos on the Llandegley outings and there was concern how he might have become a member. His Grandmother who was heavily involved might have had her hands full in keeping him in order.

Current Position

Small group in Llandegley

Penybont finished about 15 years ago

Active group in Dolau

Crossgates have just started with between 20 and 30 members.

Drama still plays a prominent part in the activities of the WI locally. This year a Panto will be performed at the Albert Hall in Llandrindod entitled Robin of Radnorshire. This has been written by Gill from the Garden Centre.

Last year the WI celebrated 100 years in Wales and the UK. Representatives went to Beaumaris on Anglesey, and 2 people went to Buckingham Palace. The journey to the Palace had its challenges with people needing to change their clothes at Reading Station.

WI introduced the canning machine during the war and were canning all manner of fruit.

Neil wondered what the difference was between the WI and the Mother’s Union. Geraint explained that the Mother’s Union was set up in the 1870s to support young women of the Parish. It has more of a religious, and charity focus, wanting to provide support and education to the child-rearing young mothers from poor backgrounds. It spread all over the world thanks largely to the wives of Service Personnel. Probably needs another talk sometime in the future.

There was a question about the WI banners and where was the Penybont one. It was thought that it might be in the Hall. There are about 50 Banners in Radnorshire.

The WI are also a Campaigning Organisation and lobby Government on issues voted on at a local level and taken to national meetings. This work has been very important in social reform over the years.

Geraint thanked Liz for her excellent talk and on supporting a very useful discussion.

Next Meeting will be on the 4th April and will cover the Archaeology of the Walton Basin led by Marion.

Marion reminded us of the upcoming talk on Islam to be held in New Radnor Village Hall on the 6th April.


Penybont Local History Group Notes 1st February 2016 Local Churches and their Stained Glass Robert Bevan

Geraint welcomed another packed house to this the first session ot the New Year.
Jennifer was invited to advertise an event on the 18th February 2016 when Lloyd Lewis will give a talk on the Influence of Quakers emigrating from Radnorshire on the development of USA.
Marion then gave an update on an event to take place at 7.00 p.m. in New Radnor on 6th April 2016. This will be led by a Professor of Islamic Studies who will give a talk on Islamic Culture.
Geraint then told us the sad news of Marion’s loss. Her son has died aged just 43 years.
Main Topic: Geraint introduced Robert Bevan who is very well known to him as he served as a Church Warden during the time Geraint was at Holy Trinity.
Robert was very grateful for all the efforts that had gone into getting his presentation to work, and they were considerable, as he has a reputation for potentially being explosive around technology. He made a disclaimer that the photos he would be using were definitely not his, another dangerous area of technology, but they were taken by his wife.
Like the best of speakers Robert acknowledged that he intended to go off piece and he would in addition to covering stained glass also talk a bit about the stonework and woodwork , and what could be learned from each of these aspects of church design.
John Betjeman described himself as the doyenne of ‘church crawlers’. Robert sees himself as following in this great tradition. “There is no greater pleasure.” You meet many interesting people who harbour a great deal of invaluable information, and then of course there are the Rectors, not all of whom were complimentary. Robert remembers visiting a Church in Worcestershire. He asked the almost inevitable question: Do you get many visitors? The short reply came like a bullet out of a gun: Yes, but we shoot them on sight! Some people have a general interest in churches while others delve into single features. For example the prominence of towers draw people in to study this particular feature, but then some are drawn in by particular types of tower. The study of round tower churches has it’s own society.
Keeping close to his brief, Robert thought he would start with a local church – just down the road in Norfolk! You can see the many flint stone towers in Norfolk that show how some churches developed styles that were dictated by the materials available. Flint was difficult to shape for sharp corners so it was more natural to build round towers:
Some of the cruciform churches, churches built in the shape of the cross, have their towers in the centre.
Both Yarpole and Pembridge, more locally, are examples of Church towers that are detached: and
Many churches were of medieval origin but were built within the precincts of more ancient Holy Ground. The Churchyard and Llandefalle is such a church. There is evidence of a pre-Norman round churchyard where the Holy Men or Monks would come together for meetings and worship.
A very special church in Herefordshire is St Margaret’s with its extraordinary tower that resembles a hen-coop.
By way of an introduction to Church Glass, but finishing this section on towers is one of our own churches, Old Radnor, albeit it is in the Diocese of Hereford. There are so many treasures inside this church, the font, the glass, the organ case which is reputed to be the oldest in Britain.
i. Church Glass
Clear Glass
Radnorshire has never been a wealthy county and as such the funds available to embellish churches often meant that instead of commissioning stained glass they very often ‘made do’ with clear glass. WH Howse, our local chronicler expressed his particular preference for this ’radiant and unstained’ glass. Robert himself found many of these windows ‘agreeably clear’.
Sir Donald Sinden, the Actor, who also carried an interest in churches described himself as not being aa devotee of these coloured windows and went on to say that with regard to stained glass windows he was ‘colour-blind’.
Churches that are good examples of clear glass include:
Cwmdu: ;
St Faith’s Church, Berrow, Worcestershire: ;
Llanbister: These three churches are all examples of glass that dates back to 12th and 13th century.
Llanfiangel Helygen Church has glass from a little later in the 13th to 14th century:
There is a fine example of clear glass from 12th to 13th century in Bredwardine Church:
Coloured or Stained Glass
When thinking about the introduction of stained glass into churches it is important to remember that churches before the Reformation were generally covered in decoration. The Reformation from about 1530 was a period of great destruction and aa second wave, during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, carried this a stage further. The decoration in the churches was removed and a lot of the sculptures attached to churches were also destroyed. Many widows were also torn out. Some were remade years later and some built out of the broken glass that had been ripped out.
One of the windows in Old Radnor Church, St Stephen’s, with glass dating back to the medieval period includes a ‘black figure’ and the rose emblem of the House of York. This would date put the glass as being from the reign of Edward 1V. This particular window in this church is the only medieval window left and it may have been repositioned in the Victorian era.
Llandefalle Church has a window that has been reassembled from its medieval glass. It was thanks to Geraint’s father, who had been Rector of the Parish, that this window has been restored and preserved.
Madley Church in Herefordshire has some outstanding stained glass.
One of the windows in Banningham Church in Norfolk has an example of medieval humour, we will see more of this humour later when we look at carvings and sculpture.
Churches saw a great revival in the Victorian era. The country was prosperous and there was money available to commission new windows. A number of artistic schools sprang up that were specifically dedicated to stained glass windows.
A good example can be found in the church at Old Radnor. The East window or St Stephens Window and this like many windows is quite elaborate. The problem for stained glass artist is that their canvas is broken up in to small sections. This window, made in the Hardman School 1882 works very well in depicting scenes from the life of Christ.’S+CHURCH,+OLD+RADNOR/?&sort_typ=description&sort_ord=1&show=all
Buguildy Church has some good examples of 20th century stained glass windows by Celtic Studios in Swansea. There are three pieces with the middle as as Christ the Light of the World.
Beulah Church of the Lamb of God has a number of excellent windows that were commissioned in the 20th century, a triple by Clayton and Bell, windows by a range of studios. One of them was by Kemp from Newbridge who always marked his windows with a sheaf of corn.
Aberedw Church of St Cewydd has some good quality glass showing Christ with Simon: St Cewydd is the Patron Saint of water.
All Saints Church Cwmbach, Glasbury has some very good glass depicting St George:
St Michael & All Angels, Lyonshall has some narrow slit windows that are stained very effectively. They were a contrast to some very beautiful narrow slit windows seen earlier in clear glass.
Church of St Mary, Abbey-cwm-hir, Powys has very high quality stained glass and is an example of how in a poor parish the patronage of a wealthy family impacted on the church. The Phillips family invested heavily in this church:
Holy Trinity Church has windows that were designed by Celtic Studios – one is of the Nativity and another of the Assentation – both Robert referred to as being sensitive in their use of colour.
ii. Stone
Having talked about the periods of destruction that hit the churches during the Reformation and Oliver Cromwell period, Robert told us that there were three main periods when churches were built or indeed rebuilt. The Norman’s were responsible for the first of these in the late 11th and early 12th century. This was followed by ‘grand’ period of development from the 13th to the 15th century and referred to as the Perpendicular (Gothic) Period of architectural heritage that was characterised by slimmer stone mullions and allowed for more scope for stained glass windows.
The third period was the Victorian period which has meant that so many churches have survived. Some restoration during this time was sensitive but some was not.
In dating churches it is wise to be careful as one can easily be misled. Bredwardine Church has sometimes been referred to as having older Saxon origins but this may not be the case as the herring bone features, that are associated with a Saxon style, were taken on board by the Romans, or indeed they employed Saxon craftsmen. Tufa stone was used for the quoins and doorways.
There is a spectacular multi-shafted west doorway in St German’s Priory in Cornwall. The decoration on the top rim of the doorway as a zig-zag pattern is very typical of Norman design:
The Priory Church of St Mary in Chepstow has a West Door that has similar 12th century Norman features that include the zig-zag pattern:’s_Church,_Chepstow the side arches remain but the sculptured figures are no longer present.
In the Church of the Lamb of God in Beulah there is a ‘modern’ font of 1878 but beside it is an ancient font that was found in the Rectory Garden where it had been used as a garden pot. Unfortunately this photo only show the Victorian version.
Old Radnor Font was roughly hewn out of a glacial erratic boulder possibly as early as the 8th century. It has been in continuous use from early times:
Beguildy Church has a Holy Water stoup of the 14th/15th Century, an early 15th century candle holder. Featyres are recorded at:
Robert referred to a grotesque carving on the church at Avebury as a good example of how the stone masons of antiquity enjoyed themselves. While I could not find an image of the one he showed from Avebury examples can be seen from around the world at: or
This was by way of introduction to Kilpeck Church, , which Robert described as a Romanesque Church of national importance. Dating from about 1150 AD there is Saxon evidence of a site that was active by the mid-7th Century or earlier. Water plays an important The influences on this Church however are much more generic and within the stone carvings on the pillars of the South Door there is evidence of Norman, Viking, Celtic, Saxon and Middle Eastern cultures. The ouroboros ancient symbol of regeneration with the snake or serpent eating its own tail is featured along with many other contemporary and pre-Christian symbols including: green man; dog and rabbit; fiddler The official site, as above has within it an you off the necessity to see this Church for yourself.
iii. Wood Features and Carvings
The south porch of St. Andrews Church in Bredwardine is a 14th century wooden feature:
Berrow has a very fine Chancel door with iron work:
Buguildy Church has an ancient chest (13th century) that has 2 metal locks. This is unusual as thee would normally be 3. The keys would be held by the Rector and the two Church Wardens. All three would have to be present to gain access to the valuables within.
Robert then turned his attention to the roof structures which are such a feature of so many churches. He chose llanfihangel helygen church to illustrate: This arched roof structure with collar beams owes a lot to a former curate who was responsible fo preserving and restoring the roof.
Robert however wanted to draw our attention to the church rood screens which are the most embellished feature of pre-reformation churches. Unfortunately, as with the stone carvings, many were destroyed during the reformation.
Buguildy is again a good place to start as it has a lovely screen:,_Radnorshire_01.JPG This screen has a mixture of the 2 schools that were making screens locally – the Welsh School and the School of Hereford and Gloucester. The mainbeam is original but other parts have been restored.
A particular favourite of Robert’s, and also John Betjeman is St Margaret’s near Abbeydore. Robert warned would be visitors that it very difficult to find, so go well prepared. The rood screen is of white wood with white decorations.
Rood screens gave protection to the choir, a sense of mystery to the crucifixion, and the miracle of transubstantiation. They started as Beams that were embellished, and often they had a loft for a minstrel gallery added later.
Locally the Church at Llananno: is a very fine example.It was made by the Newtown School of Architecture. Most is original and shows Christ in the centre with the Apostles on one side and Patriarchs on the other side.
Robert finished his excellent talk by encouraging us all to visit churches locally and further afield. He recommended the Pevsner Library books as a must have Architectural guide to Churches. He also recommended the essential equipment you might need – a torch and an ordinance survey map. The challenge is to visit all 16000 of the churches in England and Wales.
Geraint thanked Robert for his excellent talk and reminded members that the next meeting would be an Open Meeting in the Village Hall at 7.00 p.m. on 15th February 2016 when he would be showing photographs of the area showing how the villages have changed over time – Changing Places. The next meeting at the Thomas Shop will be on Monday 7th March 2016 when Liz Watkins will give a talk on ‘The History of the WI’.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 7TH December 2015 Main Topic: Games We Used to Play – Rev. Geraint Hughes

Once again we had a good turnout for this fun event at the end of the year. Geraint led the session and reminded members about the ‘homework’ they were to do in thinking and writing down games they used to play as children. He also thanked his highly qualified assessors, Marion and Jennifer who were, as he spoke, scrolling through the lists of indoor and outdoor games that had been drafted by the assembled group.
Mary indicated that the topic was highly appropriate as a national survey suggests that the LD1 postcode area came out as the ‘happiest’ place to live in the UK???? (In the famous words of Michael Howard – “Poverty Works”, or something like that)
Geraint started by reminding the group that games in the past were much more gender specific, and that girls and boys seldom played together. School playgrounds were divided in to Boys and Girls areas. Geraint never even met a girl as he attended a boy’s only school!
Girls tended to play with dolls, doll’s houses, prams, doctors and nurses, dressing-up, wearing high heels, and had an interest in learning wild flowers.
Boys, by contrast, (in Geraint’s mind) were interested in dens, trees, tree houses, skates, slides, fishing, rabbiting, collecting, bird’s eggs, and stamps. Bird’s eggs raised a few eyebrows but as Geraint remembered it was ok in those days to collect a single egg, making sure there were others to hatch out from goldfinches and even kestrels. Stamps and collecting in general was a particular past-time of Geraint’s. He is particularly proud of his Christmas stamps which go back to 1966. More recently he was shocked and delighted to find out that the 50p piece is a modern day collector’s delight. Some are already quite valuable. A 2011 wheelchair volleyball coin is already worth £200. There is also interest in the £2 coins and a 2007 Commonwealth coin featuring England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is worth £250.
Collecting of all kinds was a passion – cigarette cards, train numbers, autographs, feathers, shells, fossils.
Geraint’s obvious delight in the relatively passive collecting arts was counterbalanced by an equal desire to engage in the ‘killing arts’ so enjoyed by young boys of the time. These included: bows and arrows; cowboys and Indians; cardboard shields; catapults; pea shooters; sago bombs; itching powder; rose hips; and tracking, catching and killing almost anything! The Scouts perhaps gave some order to this rampant killing and encouraged collecting and looking after tadpoles, but it also aroused a certain enthusiasm for more explosive games. Exploding caps on the top of double decker busses to make girls jump gave particular pleasure and led on to experimentation with potassium permanganate and tin can carbide devices.
Gosh there was so much to do and some of these activities had some educational value, Geraint’s expertise and skills developed through skimming stones; making and following paper trails, making dams, playing hair and hounds, learning about knots, building crystal/cat’s whisper radios, building bonfires and roasting potatoes.
The girl’s, not to be out done were meanwhile engaging in pastimes some similar to the boys but favourite activities included: skipping; hop scotch; rhyming songs and games; throwing balls against the wall and catching games; puppet theatres; and decorating almost anything.
Underpinning some girls games were worrying rhymes such as:
“Be good
Be a good girl
Choose a good husband
Be a good wife!”

But then to counterbalance this you might have:
“When you get married
When you get lost
Pick up the poker
And say “I’m the Boss!”

Geraint then turned to our esteemed Assessors who had selected, from the numerous games listed on the sheets filled in by the members. a few games to be discussed.
From Llandegley a game called ‘London’ was identified as a variation on a game played much more widely in the playground. One person faced a wall and spelled out LONDON while the other people attempted to creep around the wall. The object of the game was not to be caught moving. In another part of the country this was called ‘Creep Mouse’.
Another local playground game – Office Office AH – which involved children climbing on the backs of other children and then being shaken off.
The Assessors were surprised to note that Mary, of good Baptist stock, had listed roulette and betting on horses, as some of her favourite pastimes.
British Bulldog featured widely as a game usually played in a Hall. A small number of children would take up the space in the centre of the Hall. The other children would assemble at one end of the Hall and then the object of the game would be to get past those in the middle to get ’home’ to the other end of the Hall. Each person caught would add to those in the middle for the next run.
The War was an significant feature in childrens’ play activity in this period just after the war. Those in the group talked about how bomb sites became children’s play areas and places to find shrapnel. Tanks would feature strongly in these games. Paper planes were a great source of fun, at which point Geraint made one and it flew ever so well around the room.
With all this talk of war games the ladies reminded us of the joy of cotton reels which could carouse around the floor with a simple match and elastic band. They could also be converted into a tool for French knitting. Alongside this type of knitting there was great fun to be had with making a Cat’s Cradle.
Jennifer attended Llanbister School where there was no playground. This did not inhibit the children. The Hare and Hounds Game was regularly played over a very wide area with no boundaries. Often they found themselves half a mile from the school.
New Radnor did have a yard but this did not stop children heading off to the brook to play.
The group was getting excited by now and great lists of games that were suddenly recalled began to flow. There were lots of ‘tag’ games, whipping tops, mushroom and carrots, sometimes leading to broken windows. Bar skittles, jacks and even hula-hoops got a mention.
The group then calmed to hear a description by one of the lady members of making a whistle from a twig of Rowen with a pocket knife. Start by removing the bark, cutting the top off, making a notch, hollowing out the twig, making a slit, and putting the top back on.
The group then turned to some indoor activities, such as: Hangman, and Jean regaled us with:
“The Big ship sails on the Ally Ally Oh
The Ally Ally Oh, the Ally ally OH
Oh, the big ship sails on the Ally Ally Oh
On the last day of September”

But before we could get into “Oranges and Lemons”, Humph brought us back to Boy’s games and the Illegal things that were all part of growing up.
To his own shame he remembers collecting some small examples of Roman pottery from Castell Collen. Cardboard milk bottle tops were an attraction, and there were certain activities associated with Woodbine and Capstan that maybe should not be mentioned?
Mr Thomas of Llandewi was not too happy with boys pinching apples.He was ok aout the cider apples but the attraction was to get the eaters when he was not looking.
Then we got on to ‘marbles’ and of course there were different games that people played. But it was the names that people had for different marbles that captured the attention of the group.
Local names included:
• Crystal for clear marbles
• Bulls eyes for opaque marbles
• Twirls for ones as described
• Rainbow for multi-coloured ones
With marbles exercised it was time to sing!
We started with a variation on; One, two, three O’Leary which went on
Five, Six, Seven I saw sister Sarah
Eight, nine, ten, Sitting on a pomperero,
Eating a …………

And then
Inky Pinky Ponky,
Daddy bought a donkey.
Donkey died, daddy cried.
Inky Pinky Ponky!

Then we had:
‘In and out the dusty bluebells
In and out the dusty bluebells
In and out the dusty bluebells
Who shall be my partner?
Tippity, tappity on your shoulders
Tippity, tappity on your shoulders
Tippity, tappity on your shoulders
You shall be my partner.’

This led into rhymes that selected people for other games:
One, two, three, four,
Mary at the cottage door;
Five, six, seven, eight,
Eating cherries off a plate;
O-U-T spells out!
Followed by the acceptable version:
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
My mother told me
To pick the very best one
And you are [not] it.
Geraint was desperate to sing Ging Gang Gooley so we all had a go albeit complaining that this was a Scout thing and not really relevant?
Inevitably Health and Safety raised its weary head when the virtues of riding a bicycle with no hands came up, and then there is the new phenomenon that conkers are somehow dangerous. Marion told that there was no law requiring goggles to be worn. Geraint is still looking for his best conker which has somehow disappeared. I have a suspicion that it was composted by Rosemary, but do not tell Geraint.
While some of us were dying to play tiddly winks Geraint reintroduced us to charades as a ‘guess the employment’ version, and a naming game based on parts of the human body.
Sime of the clues to naming body parts were:
Tall trees Ammunitions Receptacle
Shell Fish Ships Extravagance
Plumber A measurement Young animal
Sacred Building A Fruit Scholar
Part of a hill Flower Negative
Answers on a postcard please, but not to me!
A good time was had by all, thanks to another excellent session hosted by Geraint.
Geraint reminded us about Carol singing at the Severn Arms and at Dolau.
Marion gave advanced notice of an information session at New Radnor on Islam that she is arranging in February. She has a guest speaker who has written a book on the subject.
The Next session of the Local History Group will be on 1st February 2016 and Robert Bevan will lead a session on local Stained Glass Windows.