What was in PenCambria: Issue 36 Winter 2017

EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 36 Winter 2017 

Dear PenCambrians

 

The Welsh migration in the 1860s to Patagonia to form a colony that spoke only Welsh, worshipped as they chose and celebrated their own culture free from the restrictions of the English government, in essence to form a new Wales, is pretty well known, especially after their 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015. What is possibly not so well known is that originally what is now the state of Pennsylvania was to be a Welsh colony in North America and that for over 100 years prior to the Patagonian migration there had been a constant trickle of Welsh people, especially from rural Wales, to North America desperate to escape the grinding poverty of their homeland. In this issue we read about one of those communities, built in the heyday of the slate industry, which, despite its decline, has managed to maintain its Welsh culture due to the determined efforts of the minister at the local chapel. The history of the Rehoboth Chapel is a very welcome feature in this edition.

Life in Wales is a constant flow of people coming in and going out and also in this edition we have the extraordinary account of a couple who retired here from Lincolnshire but who arrived there having escaped the worst excesses of Partition in India in 1947. Lyn Wells, who related her account to Diana Ashworth as part of Diana’s In Living Memory oral history project, and her husband Clarrie, have also been in the news this year for having been married in the same year as the Queen and having received a suitably royal card of congratulations from Her Majesty earlier this year.

To begin with, however, we have a portrait of the Reverend John Idloes Edwards and his connection with the Llanidloes Debating Society sent in by his granddaughter Julie Evans who has very kindly furnished us with E. Ronald Morris’s translation of the Reverend’s obituary in “Y Blwyddiadur 1905“ Deaths of Ministers and his Will and also a piece about him from The Children’s Treasury 1904.

Andrew Dakin comes to the end of his very entertaining and informative series of articles chronicling his researches into his family history.

The fight to save St. Mary’s Church at Pont Llogel which was damaged as the result of a nearby plane crash during WW2, is very much on Val Church,s mind.

Brian Poole reflects on the part that the ox and bullock have played in our history.

A daredevil attempt by the Marquess of Powis and her maid to spring her husband William Maxwell from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for his part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 is beautifully told by Lawrence Johnson.

Meanwhile Dr David Stephenson provides us with the historian’s perspective of the legend of the massacre of the bards of Montgomery which appeared in the last issue of PC.

Love makes the world go round they say, and love has to be proved by various deeds, or at least some sort of effort, so Chris Barrett has been looking at Welsh courting customs as presented by Catrin Stevens in a book of the same name some years ago. 

40 years ago here in these quiet backwoods of the United Kingdom at Carno, the world’s biggest drugs bust took place. Code-named Operation Julie, Jim French takes us through the whole business from the history and the arrival of the drug manufacturers and their dealings to their eventual arrest and imprisonment.

Meanwhile in the Dragon’s Crypt Norma Allen eavesdrops on a group of locals who have heard that not all the drugs were recovered during the heist and that big rewards may be paid to anyone who finds them.

The Royal Commission is going from strength to strength in its goal to make its facilities available to all and their programme of events is a must-to-attend for all those interested in the history and heritage of Wales.

Finally in the non-fiction section although who knows? I succumbed to Michael Apichela’s persuasive techniques to include something personal in this very eclectic publication.

Elsewhere in the Dragon’s Crypt Julia R. Francis takes us on a walk through the year, “Eeyore” laments the closure of Lloyds Hotel and I leave you with a tale for Halloween inspired by a picture hanging in a friend’s back room, the stories that came with it and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Spooky! 

CONTENTS 

Reverend John Idloes Edwards and the Llanidloes Debating Society Julie Evans

The Demise of the Dakins of Llanidloes : Part Two Andrew Dakin

The Long Arm of the War Val Church

Oxen of Bullocks? Brian Poole

Castle, Cottage and Tower Lawrence Johnson

The Tragic (and Completely Untrue) Story of the Bards of Wales D. David Stephenson

Fred Carno’s Army: the Story of Operation Julie Jim French 

In Living Memory : The Partition of India Diana Ashworth

Rehoboth Church : A Piece of Wales in Pennsylvania Gay Roberts with Sterling D. Mullins

Courtship the Welsh Way! Book Review by Chris Barrett

Gay Roberts : a Woman of Many Parts a Profile by Michael Apichela Ph.D

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales 

The Dragons Crypt

The Reward Norma Allen

Walking the Year Julia R. Francis

No More Room at the Inn Bruce Mawdesley

The Cobblers Field Gay Roberts  

THE LONG ARM OF THE WAR

Val Church 

During the last week of June we learned, with some sadness, that St. Mary’s Church at Pont Llogel, in the parish of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, has been closed. The reason, we understand, is that it is no longer safe, and cannot be insured until certain repairs have been carried out. Needless to say, the necessary repairs are expensive, and the church authorities feel that with the current decline in congregation numbers, the cost of maintaining the fabric of the building is not warranted. Until and unless the problem is solved, services are being held in the village hall. 

The nature of the safety problem lies in the visible bowing of the main church window, and requires its removal and re-setting, together with some modifications to the surround. The cost is currently set at about £1300.  However there is also electrical work to be done, and additional money needed to pay current debts and ensure future maintenance. It is estimated that the total amount needed to save the church is in the region of £30,000. 

There may be a clue to this misfortune, which dates from the Second World War, some seventy-five years ago. Apparently the RAF was in the habit of carrying out anti-submarine sweeps over the Bay of Biscay and along the French coast. On at least two occasions the Wellington planes used for these sorties had to be abandoned, once because of engine failure and a second time because the plane ran out of fuel. Details of one of these disasters were recounted in a publication called Wings over the Border, a History of aviation in North-east Wales and the Northern Marches, by Derek Pratt and Mike Grant. 

It is suggested that on each occasion bad weather caused the planes to become hopelessly lost, and to overfly their home base in South Wales. One of them crashed in Dyfnant forest. Piecing together reports from several RAF monitoring locations, signals from the plane had been picked up in the area two or three times before being lost , and the dates and times recorded from these posts match the discovery of its remains at a currently unknown spot in the forest. 

According to the account given in the book mentioned above, discovery of the debris was made by one Pte. Watkin Jones, a member of the Llwydiarth Home Guard, who was making his way back from seeing a security film in the village hall, past Parc Llwydiarth to Tynfedw, his home. Suddenly he stumbled over a large cylinder lying across the track. By the dimmed light of his torch he could make out the word Oxygen stencilled on the side. 

Looking around by the light of his torch, Pte. Jones saw debris of all kinds scattered over the forest floor, and suspended from trees. He noticed that many of the trees had been neatly topped as if by a giant scythe. 

Upon his arrival home, he was naturally anxious to know if anyone had heard anything strange, but nothing but the howling of the wind in the chimney had been heard by his family. He felt, however, that the matter should be immediately reported to the authorities, and dutifully braved the storms and darkness to make his return journey to the village where he telephoned his superiors in the Home Guard. Meanwhile the Intelligence base at Wrexham were receiving reports of an aircraft crash, and of a German pilot who had baled out of his doomed aircraft, and been taken prisoner by the Home Guard unit guarding the Vyrnwy dam. Other reports told of German parachutists in the vicinity of the hairpin bend at Boncyn Celyn down river from the dam, resulting in a full-scale invasion alert. Several arrests were made of survivors of the crash, all of whom turned out to be members of a Polish air unit stationed in Pembrokeshire. The last person to leave the aircraft before it crashed was the Polish pilot. He broke his leg on hitting the ground and was in such pain that he forgot the few words of English he knew, which would have enabled him to explain his predicament. 

Since the plane had crashed into a heavily forested area, the impact on the plane itself was relatively light. The bombs and depth charges it was carrying did not explode. However it was necessary that these weapons of war should be destroyed, and this was done by means of a series of controlled explosions. A day and a time was fixed, people advised to leave doors and windows open, and to lie flat on the ground outside their houses. 

Some damage was done to local houses, and here I quote from the book: Nothing could be done about the windows of St. Mary’s parish church, Llwydiarth, even today many of them still show traces of bowing, severe in places, as they withstood the blast. It was not certain then, and is even less so now, whether all ordnance had been removed from the wrecked aircraft. 

The War Damage Commission was set up to organise compensation for damage done to property and buildings as a result of enemy action. Responsibility for payment was taken over by local authorities, and the scheme finally wound up in 1964. Had a claim been made in the early years it is likely that repairs would have been paid for, but it is probable that the scheme was not widely known about, particularly in small rural places far from the heavily bombed areas. 

Whether the damage done to the church windows has worsened over the last seventy-five years we do not know. It is likely that health and safety issues are taken more seriously today than in the past, and maybe today the bowed windows pose no greater threat to the public than was the case in 1942. 

However, the building cannot be used if it is not insured, so, as matters stand today St. Mary’s Church faces an uncertain future.

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 33 Winter 2016

EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 33            WINTER 2016 

Dear PenCambrians,

In this issue we are crossing a lot of bridges. Brian Poole has been musing on river crossings in Mid Wales, be they bridges or fords in both their Welsh (pont, rhyd) and English context, since we are so close to the crossing points both physically and culturally. Lawrence Johnson plunges us onto far more insecure crossing – Shaky Bridge, near Llandrindod Wells. Jim French meanwhile, avoids river crossings where he can by going down our ancient pathways.

This month sees the conclusion of E. Ronald Morris’s definitive booklet on the Chartist Riot in Llanidloes in 1839 with the sentences passed on the rioters, what became of the protagonists in all camps and the modern memorial erected to Thomas Powell in Newtown.

In a politically similar vein, after hearing about Chloris Mills from Brian Poole and her niece, Elizabeth Day in two recent editions of PenCambria, in this one we finally get a glimpse of Chloris herself speaking in a short memoir she wrote about a suffragette meeting she attended, and also her abiding affection for Mid Wales in a poem published in the Dragon’s Crypt.  Brian also uncovers some more memories of her from Glyn Jerman of Oakley Park, who still thinks fondly of her.

100 years ago Rhayader, like everywhere else in the country, was deeply immersed in the war effort. The report of a local boy acting as a despatch rider in the Balkans was one of the gripping episodes Brian Lawrence has turned up in his extraordinary collection of data chronicling the Great War period in Rhayader.

With Powys County Council divesting itself of all responsibility for maintaining public health in the county in the form of a public lavatory network, Reginald Massey has written a paean of praise to the toilets in Llanidloes as he found them as they were lauded 30 years ago in places far beyond the boundaries of Mid Wales. What have we come to when the executive body of our elected representatives has chosen not to carry on providing such a basic essential of civilised society?

Mid Wales is a rural area with few major centres of population, consequently land use is a vital element in our economy and Chris Barrett has looked at the changes in agricultural practices as noted in a  research project being conducted by the Farmers’ Union of Wales using the Tithe records from  175 years ago. On a totally different track, she has also come across Beatrix Potter’s early impressions of Mid Wales on a visit here in 1888. Hmm…

Our retired lady and gentleman in Llawryglyn enjoy the fruits of their country pursuits. Meanwhile Diana Brown has come across a delightful booklet recalling Richard Hughes of Efailrhyd, near Llansilin, Dyn Gwallt Mawr (the man with big hair) as he was known, who travelled the roads of north Montgomeryshire, working from farm to farm, never sleeping indoors, and remembered above all for his wonderful bass singing voice.

Continuing the musical theme, in the first of a series of pen portraits Richard Meredith provides us with more information about Y Millsiaid, that extraordinary family of music makers of whom he is a descendant, who put Mid Wales and Llanidloes in particular on the national musical map.

The Royal Commission  on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales has very lively and interesting programme of events which should certainly get you out and about during the dull days of November. They are also very busy settling in to their new premises in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and improving their national online catalogue and its availability.

What treats there in the Dragon’s Crypt this month! We have poems from our youngest contributors so far, although they are 25 years older than they were when they wrote these delightful verses for a compilation published to raise money for Llanidloes County Primary School in 1990. Chloris Mills sings of the beauties of Mid Wales. Bruce Mawdesley remembers days of his boyhood spent in church and the gift of a butterfly. Finally, strange things are discovered at Hallowe’en – read Norma Allen’s short story if you dare…

The Season’s Greetings to you all.     Gay Roberts

 

CONTENTS

Pontydd or Bridges? Brian Poole

Ancient Trackways – a Gentle Ramble Jim French

Chartism in Llanidloes: Chapters 6, 7 and Epilogue E. Ronald Morris

Memories Chloris Mills

Evan Mills and his Family Brian Poole

Rhayader, Life during World War One: November 1916

Over the Shaky Bridge Lawrence Johnson

“Not We from Kings but Kings from Us” Gay Roberts

The Llani Loo Reginald Massey

Letter from Andrew Dakin

Wales and Agricultural Land Use Chris Barrett

Beatrix Potter’s Wales Chris Barrett

Newtown Textile Museum

Put Out To Grass – Part 20: Festive Fish – Big Ones In Small Streams Diana Ashworth

In The Footsteps of Richard Hughes: a memoir reviewed by Diana Brown

Lesley Ann Dupré – an appreciation Gay Roberts

The Battle of the Somme – Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Living Memory Project Update

The Mills Family of Llanidloes Richard Meredith

Llandinam Village Hall; Montgomery Canal

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales

  The Dragons Crypt

Reflections: some children’s poetry on the theme  of Water

Toccata and Fugue Bruce Mawdesley

A Song of Mid Wales Chloris Mills

The Hallowe’en Dare  Norma Allen 

OVER THE SHAKY BRIDGE

Lawrence Johnson 

And they say you should never mix your drinks….

I decided on three “shots” in little plastic glasses – sulphur, magnesium and saline. A bargain at 30p each. Result? My system seized up for 48 hours as the competing minerals fizzed around my innards like a mad-scientist potion. I can only be thankful that the lithium and radium were no longer on offer – I would have glowed green, a Mid Wales Incredible Hulk. So my first visit to Llandrindod Wells, Pump Room and town was not a success. I found only one pub (my criteria for assessing places need expanding) and was put off by the Victorian and Edwardian hotels and shops, signs of the once booming spa. At 30-odd years of age I was old enough to think I knew what I liked but too young to appreciate experiences outside my comfort zone. Then September 2015. Better-travelled, relatively more open-minded and only the chalybeate well to assault my intestines. The town was now the capital of Powys and even boasted a micro-pub, the sun was shining and walking was a pleasure. Past the drive leading up to the County Hall, past the Welsh Assembly outpost, the lane climbs past Bailey Einon and swings to the right. The ground drops sharply to the looping River Ithon on its journey from the hills south of Dolfor. To the right a wooded top, Cwm-brith Bank. To the left a church and, rising steeply behind it, Castle Bank topped with earthworks above the bracken. A great view – almost a shame to come down into it and cross the Shaky Bridge.

A structure of the Smith and Joiner’s art

Of which the smith may claim the greater part

Chains thrown across secured to posts and trees

That swung aloft the acrobat’s trapeze 

Arthur L. Davies of Upper House, Howey was moved to write this because the bridge was destroyed in a flood in 1940 and rebuilt 2 years later. The present model is shaky no longer – sturdy, no more fun and games crossing the planks held together by chains.

Emblem thou art of life’s tremendous span

The time on earth allotted unto man

This poem and a picture of the old Shaky Bridge can be viewed in St. Michael’s Church, below the Castle Bank. (There is a car park by the bridge.) This is all that remains of the borough of Cefn Llys other than grassy hummocks between the Ithon and the hillside. One of many churches in this part of Radnorshire dedicated to St. Michael the dragonslayer, the site shows clues to a pre-Norman origin, a circular llan with yew trees. (Northwest of Llandrindod Wells is Llanfihangel-helygen, St. Michael in the Willows, tiny and beautiful.) Seen from the church the Castle Bank is steep and forbidding but most strongholds have a weakness. From the churchyard gate go straight up to a bigger gate giving access to a track which climbs steadily up to the left. This eventually leads to a farm but a fence on the ridge before the farm can be followed up to the right where a short rise takes you on to the northern end of the hilltop. As you walk along the ridge the view takes in not only the meandering Ithon but also a panorama spoilt only by the conifers on top of Cwm Brith Bank. The strategic value of this site in the 12th century is clear. This is where the March, the eastern parts of Wales under English control, met Welsh Wales ruled by native princes.

Radnorshire is rightly loved for its rolling hills, tiny villages and small towns – for its tranquillity. In the years after 1066, however, it was a battleground with Norman lords pushing to seize control of the area then called Maelienydd, a Welsh cantref or hundred. The Mortimers, with estates in Hereford and Shropshire, played a huge part in these “private enterprise ventures”[1] for centuries. The Kings in London had granted them land on the basis that they performed services – principally keeping the Welsh down and even better, pushing them back further west. (We might think of this today as a kind of “outsourcing” or a “public-private partnership”.) Ultimately, in the fifteenth century, a Mortimer became King of England, but as far as their Marcher activities were concerned there were many ups and downs before they could feel in control.

A splendid landscape long fought over. It is not always easy to read about, however. There was intrigue and treachery on both sides of the divide, with Wales especially prone to division between north and south leaving the central areas vulnerable. Marcher lords were fierce rivals too and the fifteenth century’s Wars of the Roses split the English aristocracy. Castles were built, destroyed, rebuilt and re-destroyed. The Ralph Mortimer you read about on one page is often not the same Ralph you were meeting a page or two earlier. This is why a visit to such a magnificent site as Cefn Llys is so important – it makes the dry words come alive.The whole stretch of the Ithon hereabouts was of strategic significance. The hilltop of Castle Bank shows grassy ramparts from the Iron Age which Norman castle builders were happy to use. To the north near the Alpine Bridge where the river has carved a narrow gorge, is a mound believed to be the site of an 11th century motte put up by Roger Mortimer as he established a toehold in Wales. (This area is accessible via a lane from Llanbadarn Fawr which goes on to Cefn Llys, but parking could be a problem). This family came over with William the Conqueror and prospered.[2]

By the 13th century a sturdier stronghold was needed to defend against the rampages of Llywelyn the Great. From 1242 to 1246 a stone keep and bailey went up on the northern end of the Castle Bank. This made use of the Iron Age earthworks and the Ithon loop but was by no means impregnable as Llywelyn ap Grufydd (the Last) proved to Roger Mortimer twice in the 1260’s. Much of the work of twenty years earlier lay in ruins. Persistent Roger used the stone to build a new castle with tower at the southern end. Here, the slope down to the Ithon is very much steeper and though the flat top of the bank was a help to attackers, the new structure was reinforced by a ditch hewn out of the rock. This effort proved more durable and at some point the summit’s name went from Castell Glyn Ithon to Cefn Llys – the Ridge of the Court. The Mortimers were wielding much of their Marcher authority from here. One sign of this was the clearing of forest to ease travel and deny the Welsh cover.[3] The castle was able to withstand Owain Glyndwr early in the fifteenth century and undergo some rebuilding.

The end of this history is full of ironies. When the direct male line of the Mortimers ended in 1425 the castle came under the control of a royally appointed constable, but in 1461 Edward, Earl of March, Lord Mortimer, became King Edward IV. Cefn Llys was now Mortimer and royal – “Not we from kings but kings from us”.[4] This was their high point – but nothing lasts. The Wars of the Roses ended badly for the Mortimers with a Lancastrian triumph at Bosworth in 1485 and, supreme irony, Henry VII, born in Pembroke, founding the Tudor dynasty. Not only were many Mortimer lordships lost but the March came increasingly under royal control until, starting in 1536, England and Wales were united. The Marcher lordships were abolished as Wales was divided into counties. In any case, as Ludlow had advanced in importance so Cefn Llys castle had declined and was in ruins by the late 16th century. The long standing struggle between the Mortimers and the Welsh had ended in a way none could have predicted. Poetic justice if the Mortimers were indeed responsible for the death of Llywelyn the Last back in the 13th century.

Cefn Llys was more than just a castle. Down below by the church, 10th, 11th or 13th century according to sources, but possibly with those earlier origins indicated by its circular enclosure and yew trees, a borough had developed from the late 13th century to serve the rebuilt castle. Symbiosis – the castle got its provisions and services, the burgesses got a livelihood with protection. There was a market charter, a mill and 25 tenants.[5] By 1332 there were 20 of them. As the castle lost its significance the borough declined. Its distance from major trade routes and lack of exploitable farmland sealed its fate.[6] Nevertheless the Act of Union of 1536 that created Radnorshire also made it one of 7, later 5, contributing boroughs which together made up one Radnorshire boroughs seat in parliament. By 1831 the population was 31 and in the middle of the 19th century there were only 3 houses there. (That, however, is highly democratic compared to classic “rotten boroughs” like Old Sarum in Wiltshire and Dunwich in Suffolk which had no inhabitants at all but still sent members to Westminster.) Rotten or “pocket” boroughs were small enough to be easily exploited by rich landowners. The justification of such a system was that it gave those who had the largest stake in the well-being of the country the biggest say in it. This essentially medieval and rural mindset was challenged by the middle classes of the rising industrial and commercial centres like Manchester which had no MP. This pressure led to the 1832 Reform Act. However, between 1832 and 1885 there was never an electoral contest and from 1869 to 1880 the MP was the Marquess of Hartington, heir to the Duke of Devonshire. A further act of 1885 ended the Radnorshire Boroughs seat and it was merged into the County constituency.

I left Cefn Llys and followed the Ithon through the Bailey Einon Nature Reserve to the Alpine Bridge and on to Llanbadarn Fawr. The only drawback in a pleasant walk was arriving at Penybont station almost an hour early but even then there was a happy outcome. After about half an hour a spaniel trotted on to the platform and decided to keep me company in that unconditional way animals sometimes have. When the train came slowly around the bend, the guard considerately allowed him time to trot over the tracks back home – very much a non-corporate courtesy and all the more welcome.

Reflection as the train makes its steady way to Llandrindod. The castle on top of the hill, looming and ominous, was power at its starkest, enforced at sword point. Down below – the rotten borough is a much less direct but nevertheless pretty blatant exercise of authority by the landed classes who succeeded the Mortimers. Back down the lane just up from Fiveways are the Welsh Assembly buildings or, better still, turn off up the driveway to County Hall. Here you see a lake and trees with a remnant of old spa architecture adding to the modern structures. This is the modern source of power and authority but heavily disguised. Franz Kafka would have a lot to say.  In the space of a couple of miles we can see how we have progressed from ruling first by naked force, then through pseudo-democratic dominance to control by forms and emails issued by the faceless.

‘NOT WE FROM KINGS BUT KINGS FROM US’

Gay Roberts with thanks to Lawrence Johnson for sending in Ian Mortimer’s article 

According to Ian Mortimer in an article entitled ‘The Supposed Mortimer Family Motto’, written on 12th May 2015, there is no basis for the claim that the phrase ‘Not we from kings but kings from us’ was the motto of the Mortimers of Wigmore. This phrase is painted on the side of Upper Bryn, a house in the parish of Hendidley, just outside Newtown, but the house belonged to the Baxter family and following the phrase are the initials R.B. and the date 1660. R.B. probably refers to the then owner Richard Baxter who was a Puritan and the date is the year of the Restoration of King Charles II. The Baxters are not known to have any connection with the Mortimers of Wigmore. The attribution seems to have come about after E. R. Morris wrote in an article in Montgomeryshire Collections volume number 59 entitled G.R. Wythen Baxter, Upper Bryn, Newtown 1814-1854 “ – the proud motto of Ann Mortimer but which seems meaningless in the context of the Baxter family history.”  Anne, last of the Mortimers of Wigmore, married Richard Earl of Cambridge and died in 1411.It should also be noted that family mottoes did not come into general use until long after the death of the last Mortimer of Wigmore in 1425, and the only Mortimer family with a motto being the 17th century Scottish family of Auchinbadie (Burke’s General Armoury)

Instead, bearing in mind the date on the house, it more than likely refers to the Restoration. It was occasionally used as a Stuart motto and as their name implies, Stuart/Stewart, they were stewards to the Scottish kings before rising to become the royal family itself. Thus it fits their trajectory perfectly. Although why a staunch Puritan should display a motto recognising a monarch from such a controversial family raises another very interesting question.

 

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 25 Spring 2014?

Eliza, Julia and Henry-a Victorian Triangle Val Church

“The One I Don’t Go To” Lawrence Johnson

The Trouble with History Diana Ashworth

My Roots Part 5: Salmon Poaching Richard Meredith

Torri Mawn: Peat Cutting in the Uplands of Mid Wales Brian Poole

Farming Between the Wars 1920-40, Part 2: Men’s Work R.M. Williams

1st World War Centenary Commemoration Gay Roberts

Put Out To Grass: Part 12 Left-Handed Challenge Diana Ashworth

How Not To Kill Yourself in Borth: a meditation on the Welsh hills by a flatlander Veronica Popp

Monastic Wales Diana Brown

Jottings of a Mid Wales Tourist Peter Watson

The Dragon’s Crypt:

Three Ladies Bruce Mawdsley

Back to the Smoke Gaynor Jones

In Time of War: A Trilogy Part 1: Selina’s Birthday Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 25 by Gay Roberts

Well, after such a soggy winter, what a lovely spring we are having at the time of writing. We all love a good scandal and we start this issue with a splendid example of a Victorian marital disharmony and a wet lettuce – just read it and find out. Val Church tells us the extraordinary history of Eliza Williams of Dolanog, her friend, Julia Davenport and Julia’s husband Henry Crookenden.

Lawrence Johnson has been looking into the culture of the Chapel in mid Wales. Once Non-Conformity became legal and the Bible was printed in Welsh and English, people could interpret it and preach more or less what they liked. In Wales, which has always been a very religious and thoughtful country, a whole variety sects with their attendant chapels mushroomed and one could choose which group to attend, which group to avoid and to chop and change as the fancy took.

Prior to this, the invasion of the Normans in 1066 was followed in the 1130s by colonisation of the country by the monastic movement, which, in Wales, was overwhelmingly Cistercian. Professor Janet Burton of the University of Wales Trinity St David’s has created a database and website which will eventually provide a fully comprehensive archive of all material including a bibliography of primary and secondary sources relating to this phenomenon – a must for anyone research this fascinating topic. Diana Brown has been studying it and gives us a most interesting account of what she has learned.

It is thanks to the Chartists that we have the parliamentary democracy we enjoy today. Llanidloes played a small but notable part in this campaign and, taking the two main historical sources, Diana Ashworth manages to present an account that does justice to both sides.

Tracing his roots once again, Richard Meredith regales us with his youthful salmon poaching adventures on the river Severn.

Peat cutting is one of the great unsung crafts of the uplands of mid Wales. Brian Poole touched on it in his article on Capel Gerisim in the last edition of PenCambria. This time he does full justice to it through the oral history of the area and his own interest in and understanding of the technical side of these activities.

Meanwhile on the lower slopes and pastures R.H. Williams describes men’s work on the farm between the two world wars.

It is lambing time in Llawryglyn and our retired lady grasps the mettle, or rather the back legs of her sheep by the hand and attempts to administer all kinds of pills and potions to keep her flock in tiptop condition.

The last episode of recent television programme thriller “Hinterland” set in Aberystwyth included a murder in Borth. A few days later Veronica Popp sent me this delightful piece about one of her experiences as a student at the University in Aberystwyth entitled “How Not to Kill Yourself in Borth”. I won’t spoil it for you. Just enjoy it for yourselves.

Peter Watson had a holiday in mid Wales last year both for leisure and for research and here is his affectionate account of his travels.

The RCAHMW have been very busy with their activities to preserve our heritage and to make sure that we are as fully aware of them as is possible. One of these is the creation of computer 3-D animation reconstructions of complex archaeological sites, especially the Swansea Copper Industry, for which they have received an award. They have also managed to provide a conclusive date for the construction of Tredegar House, one of Wales’ great until now unsolved archaeological mysteries. And they are asking for our help in providing what information we can about our own areas, specifically when it comes to place names. They are also putting on a full programme of events open to the public which are very enjoyable and informative, so do go along if you can.

Mid Wales Arts Centre and Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit are offering a wealth of creative and spiritual opportunities and you can read all about their activities as usual.

In The Dragon’s Crypt Bruce Mawdesley entertains us with his pen portraits of three women; going back to the smoke Gaynor Jones expresses what so many of us feel about have to leave mid Wales for a life elsewhere; and Norma Allen begins a three-part story set in the time of the First World War as the opening to our commemoration of this event, which will be published in the next issue.

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 24 Winter 2013?

Pillow Talk Lawrence Johnson
The Shrewsbury Drapers and the Mid Wales Cloth Trade Dr. David Stephenson
Out & About with the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments in Wales
Capel Gerisim Brian Poole
An Evening with R.S. Thomas Glyn Tegai Hughes
Sir William Jones Reginald Massey
1st World War Centenary Commemoration Request
In Living Memory – H.B. ‘Gurra’ Mills Diana Ashworth
Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit
Cefn Gaer & Owain Glyn Dŵr Gay Roberts
Cefn Gaer : visit by the Arwystli Society Gay Roberts
Christmas at Dolwen Gaynor Jones
My Roots : Part 4: Polecats & Pigeons Richard Meredith
Put Out To Grass : part 11 Pumpkins, Myths and Toadstools Diana Ashworth
Farming Between the Wars 1920-40 part 1 Women’s Work R.M. Williams
A Good Read : two books reviewed by Norma Allen
Newtown Local History Group Honoured by the Queen Joy Hamer
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Wales

The Dragon’s Crypt:

Portrait or a Policemen Bruce Mawdesley, illustration by John Selly

The Parish Hall R.M. Williams
Back of the Bus Siôn Rowley
The River Severn in December Gaynor Jones
Final Choice Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 24 by Gay Roberts
With all kinds of interesting things in this issue, we begin with Lawrence Johnson, who has been walking the wilds of mid Wales again, going rabbiting, so to speak, investigating the pillow mounds above the Elan Valley.
Once Wales finally came under total English rule and disputes over sovereign territory were at an end, mid Wales wool producers began a war, of words rather than arms, over the monopoly of their wool sales enjoyed by the Shrewsbury Drapers, and Dr. David Stephenson, who I am very pleased to welcome back to the pages of PenCambria after a couple of years’ break, puts the case for the grievances of both sides.
The chapel traditions that mushroomed in Wales after the 1689 Acts of Toleration allowed Non-Conformists to practise their faith without fear of penalty, are remembered with the example of Capel Gerisim, high in the peat-cutting district, between Bwlchyffridd and Adfa, by Brian Poole, whose wife grew up in that parish. R.S. Thomas was greatly influenced by these isolated communities, and his thoughts were often part of the conversations that he had with Glyn Tegai Hughes, who shares some of them with us now, at the end of this year, which is the centenary of the great poet’s birth.
Yet another forgotten Welsh genius has come to Reginald Massey’s attention. This is the noted linguist, lawyer and orientalist Sir William Jones, whose family hailed from Anglesey.
A genius of quite another sort has been tracked down by Diana Ashworth. Gurra Mills was, among other things, a footballer of international quality who despite offers from several professional teams including Arsenal, Swansea and Shrewsbury, could not bear to leave this area, which he loved so much.
Owain Glyn Dŵr has been conspicuously absent from the pages of PenCambria as no suitable article has been forthcoming. This month, however, we have an account of a visit by the Arwystli Society to the house he owned in Pennal, near Machynlleth and where in 1406 he wrote the famous Pennal letter asking the king of France for aid in his campaign to secure his position as Prince of Wales. He also asks the pope at Avignon for help in establishing an independent Welsh church and two universities. The house is built on a Roman fort and is full of history. To accompany the account of the visit, I have included a very brief history of Owain Glyn Dŵr’s life, how he got to that moment and what might have been going through his mind as he wrote the letter.
The delights of a growing boy’s life in the 1950s are fondly remembered by Richard Meredith; Gaynor Jones relishes memories of Christmas during this time at Dolwen; while the joys of grandchildren and Hallowe’en in the 21st century are fondly related by our retired lady and gentleman from Llawryglyn.
Women’s work in St Harmon Parish between the two world wars is detailed by R.H. Williams. With no electricity or modern conveniences such as the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner, it was an entirely different life from that of today – and a hard but uncomplaining one too.
The RCAHMW has had a very active and interesting six months finding a Roman fort from cropmarks in a field near Brecon, restoring a bridge over the Kymer canal near Kidwelly, engaging with the Somalis of the Butetown, young and old, in tracing changes in their community using the Britain From Above material; and finding a long-lost carved medieval stone at Silian. They have also launched a new dimension to their access system, Coflein, which now allows users to search the National Monuments Record directly and explore the collection in far greater depth.
Norma Allen has found two excellent books to read and has reviewed them for your delectation.
Meanwhile in the Dragon’s Crypt there is lots of good reading, starting Bruce Mawdesley who remembers, in his own inimitably lyrical fashion, the village policeman, and once again it is illustrated by the delightful drawing of John Selly.
As well as a chronicler of the changes in St Harmon Parish R.H. Williams is also a dab hand at a bit of verse and here is the ballad he wrote for the centenary and the demise of the Parish Hall at Pantydwr.
Siôn Rowley, a new writer who I am very pleased to welcome to the pages of PenCambria, tells a story about a schoolboy who finds the courage to overcome the bully on the bus.
Gaynor Jones has also turned her hand to poetry this month, inspired by the river Severn in December.
Finally, a ghostly revenge from the pen of Norma Allen.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 22 Spring 2013?

April: a Playful Month Cynric Gwrol
Saint Richard Gwyn: Our Local Saint Diana Brown
Bell, Bones and Stones Lawrence Johnson
The Fowlers of Abbey Cwm Hir and the Lloyds of Clochfaen Cecil Vaughan Owen 
History Matters at Ty Mawr Medieval Hall Gary Ball
My Roots Richard Meredith
Everyone Can Sing Norma Allen
Powys Paradwys Concrit Cymru Brian Poole
Driving and Drovers Routes R.M. Williams
How Aberystwyth Became Norma Allen
A Trip to the Seaside Gaynor Jones
The Old Forge Bruce Mawdesley
Put Out To Grass part 10: Safe in the Gleam of Tony Blair’s Smile Diana Ashworth
The Second Rebecca Riots Brian Lawrence
The Oldest Working Brewery in Britain: Three Tuns, Bishop’s Castle Diana Ashworth
Mid Wales Arts Centre – A Sense of Place

Another Journey for the Little Red Dog Lesley-Ann Dupré
The Voice Lesley-Ann Dupré
Wartime Wedding Diana Ashworth
Nemesis Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 22 by Gay Roberts

What a fickle Spring this has been! So many things seem to have conspired to prevent me to get this edition on time that I began to wonder what disaster have I avoided by being late! Because of the snow, car repairs and snow again, I have been house-bound for two of the last three months and with more snow forecast for Easter, it could be still more days tucked into my blissful but tricky little dingle. As a result, not only have I been unable to get this issue by Easter but there are also a few photographs that I have been unable to pick up unless I put back publication for even more weeks. I decided on balance to put it out with my profound apologies to Gary Ball and the Royal Commission for pictures omitted. I am sure I will be able to find a space for them in a later edition. Despite these setbacks, there is quite a light-hearted tone to begin 2013.
For one of our number, Cynrig Gwrol, the beginning of April seems to be a particularly inspirational time of the year. However, it was October that spelt doom for Llanidloes’ St Richard Gwyn who, on 15th of that month in 1584, was executed for high treason. Diana Brown brings us the grisly details. It is the ancient past that has taken Lawrence Johnson’s arm and led him into the wilds of Llangurig to an area called Cistfaen, not far from Cwm Clochfaen. The history of Clochfaen Hall and its occupants was described very entertainingly by the late Cecil Vaughan Owen in An Arwystli Notebook Part One, which the Arwystli Society have very kindly allowed me to reprint in this edition of PenCambria.
Historical re-enactment is all the rage these days and in one instance it goes hand in hand with the development of Ty Mawr, a medieval hall rescued and reconstructed by Powis estate and Cadw. Gary Ball tells all about it.
Richard Meredith is looking back to his boyhood and the debt he owes to Llanidloes’ great choral tradition. Norma Allen, in one of three highly entertaining items, tells us, on the other hand, all about the coping mechanism of that rare creature: a Welshman who cannot sing.
Brian Poole praises the contribution of concrete to the architecture of Powys, another pioneering venture started in Mid Wales.
R.M. Williams wanders far and wide with the drovers of Mid Wales, particularly the routes of Radnorshire.
Norma’s second piece looks to Rudyard Kipling and Ted Hughes for inspiration to speculate on the origins of Aberystwyth. This makes the perfect introduction to new writer Gaynor Jones’ remarkable memory of a trip to the seaside at Aberystwyth aged just three years old. Meanwhile Bruce Mawdesley waxes lyrical once again about crafts of the countryside, this time about the skill of the blacksmith.
Our retired lady at Llawryglyn finds herself coping with the emergency services and a clutch of new-hatched chicks.
Salmon poaching, that time-honoured tradition of the Welsh countryside, caused riots in Rhayader in the 19th century. Brian Lawrence tells us all about them.
The Three Tuns brewery is one of the four oldest breweries in the country and although it is in Bishop’s Castle, nevertheless it is close enough to interest us here on the Welsh side of the border. After all, with the various border changes over the years, it may well have wandered
into our jurisdiction at time or another. Diana Ashworth recounts its history after having spent an aromatic morning there.
The Royal Commission has been busy last year, especially with its future as an independent body in the balance. You can read all about their activities in the second Friends’ newsletter which they have very kindly allowed me to print in this edition of PenCambria.
Mid Wales Arts Centre has a lively and inspiring programme of events scheduled for this year and I do hope you will go along and enjoy some if not all of them.
I was unable to get in touch with the Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit in time for this edition but do get in touch with them or visit their website (see page 10) to find out what is going on. They will be delighted to see you and to hear from you.
The Dragon’s Crypt is full of good things, as usual, with more from about the travels of Lesley-Ann Dupré’s Little Dog and a complementary poem about the finding of a voice; Diana Ashworth brings the poignancy of a war-time wedding to life; and Norma Allen brings this edition to a close with a cautionary tale of chance, hope, jealousy, revenge and retribution.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 21 Winter 2012?

The Upheaval: the Clearance of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys 1892 Diana Ashworth
John Paddison Gay Roberts
The Welshman and the Kilt Lawrence Johnson
Bacheldre Mill Reginald Massey
The Good Life: “It’s Been Such Fun” Doreen Gough talks to Lesley-Ann Dupré
Mother’s Aberystwyth Mariners Gay Roberts
Grand-dad, What was it like in the Olden Days? Part 2 David Jandrell
Getting the Best from Britain From Above Natasha Scullion
The Species Habitat Protection Group Brian Allen
Superorganisms Tony Shaw
Talking with the Dead Professor Peter J. Conradi
The Bedtime Apple Lesley-Ann Dupré
On the Move in Radnorshire R.M. Williams
The Wildlife Artist of Llanidloes Reginald Massey
Put Out To Grass part 9: Green Sheep & the Rout of the English Knights Diana Ashworth

Winter Memories of Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams
October Thoughts Janet Williams

War Wounds Tyler Keevil
The Devil’s Dues Norma Allen
The Little Dog : Growing Up Lesley-Ann Dupré
Evensong Bruce Mawdesley, illustrated by Jane Keay

Editorial PenCambria Issue 21 by Gay Roberts

Welcome to the final issue of 2012. It will also be my final year as the general editor of PenCambria. After eight years in the big chair it is time to let someone bring in fresh ideas. That someone is Lesley-Ann Dupré who has been helping me as commissioning editor for this past year. She has already made some welcome changes to the layout as well as some very imaginative contributions to The Dragon’s Crypt. I am very grateful that she has agreed to take on the task of encouraging our established writers and finding new ones to help fill the pages of this magazine and you will find her contact details on the contents and back pages. I shall still be in the background, on the production and publication side and dealing with various technical and subscription matters and I shall still be delighted to hear from those of you who wish to keep in touch with me.
We have quite a personal tone to this issue with several articles of biography and family history. Diana Ashworth has been talking to John Pugh about how the Elan Valley clearances in 1892 affected his family, as described in the memoir of his ancestor, Emiline Price.
John Paddison was a remarkably talented sculptor who retired to Llanidloes from Wolverhampton in 1993. He was a great friend of Dr. Andy Scrase, who has allowed me to use an essay about him, written by Roger Holloway, as the basis of a profile that I hope you will enjoy as well as pictures of some of his sculptures, his “other children”, which appear on various pages of this magazine.
In 2009 we had a series of essays about Robert Owen, the great philanthropist from Newtown. Lawrence Johnson has followed these up with an article on a neglected aspect of Robert Owen’s vision – the kilt as an essential garment to a satisfactory and comfortable life.
Mid Wales is remarkable for its ability to nurture entrepreneurs. Two such are Matt and Ann Scott who came to Montgomery from Hampshire and established Bacheldre Mill, whose organic stone ground flour now enhances the lives of so many of us. Reginald Massey is so impressed that he has written a profile of them. Reginald has also been talking to Chris Wallbank, the wildlife artist who lives is Llanidloes and whose work is often seen in exhibitions at Maesmawr Art Gallery. You will also some of his delightful pictures seen on pages in this magazine.
Another person who is active in the preservation of wildlife if Brian Allen. He has written an article all about the protection of wildlife habitat, in particular, barn owls in the Llandinam area and his photo of a barn owl must be one of the most delightful that I have had the privilege to publish.
Professor Peter J. Conradi, who wrote that wonderful book about Radnorshire At the Bright Hem of God, has just published a book about a most extraordinary poet and wartime helper of the partisans in Yugoslavia, Frank Thompson. This is story we should all know about.
David Jandrell finishes his answers to questions posed by his granddaughter about life in the ‘Olden Days’. This will be his last work for us for the time being. David, you have kept us entertained with your travels round the Hafren Circuit, and your various family memoirs for four years. I shall miss you, I know, and so will so many of our readers. But if the muse does strike you again, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Joy Hamer has completed the third volume of her remarkable family history researches. This time we go to sea with Mother’s Aberystwyth Mariners.
Transport in Radnorshire from the horse drawn carriage to the coming of the railway and now the motor car has been on the mind of R.H. Williams. The Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales has acquired a huge archive of aerial photographs of Britain taken between 1919 and 2005 which they are very keen to share. You can find how to do so and see an example of Llanidloes in 1932.
Tony Shaw discusses how the bee functions as part of a single body, superorganism, as opposed to an individual and how this relates to human society.
Doreen Gough came to Old Hall to lead ‘The Good Life’ in 1981 and she tells Lesley-Ann Dupré all about it and how things have changed since then.
Diana Ashworth entertains us with yet another episode in the life of the retired couple from Llawryglyn.
Joel Williams has some more winter memories of Llandrindod Wells and Janet Williams shares some October Thoughts.
Gripping reading, as ever in The Dragon’s Crypt with Tyler Keevil’s War Wounds, Norma Allen giving the Devil his due, Lesley-Ann Dupré’s Little Dog and Bruce Mawdesley and Jane Keay bring the year to a close with Evensong.

What was in PenCambria Issue 11 Summer 2009?

Things That Last Forever Diana Brown
In Living Memory: Sustainable Farming Diana Ashworth
Yr Hen Garchar, The Old Roundhouse Gay Roberts & Richard Meredith
The Hafren Circuit: Stage 2 Kerry Hills and our Radnorshire Cousins David Jandrell
Robert Owen: part 2 Margaret Cole
An Afternoon at the Old Ffinnant Bruce Mawdsley
The Great Fire of Llanfair Caereinion 1758 Part 1 Bryn Ellis
The Lost Clywedog Valley Brian Poole
In living memory: Antediluvian Tales of the Clywedog Valley Diana Ashworth
Pigs, Paddle Boats and Paper Petticoats: Llandrindod Wells 1940s and 1950s  Norma Allen
LLandidrod Wells, Sheikh Joseph Audi Joel Williams
When Shropshire Belonged to Powys Dr David Stephenson
The Welsh People in Patagonia: part 2 Living in South America David Burkhill-Howarth
The Gentleman Hood: part 10 Tyler Keevil

Midge Bellingham Michael Brown
Dogroses and Harebells: two poems for Summer Roger Garfitt
Loyoute Sans Fin: chapter 3 Brian L. Roberts

Editorial PenCambria Issue 11 by Gay Roberts
Mid Wales has given birth to a remarkable number and variety of great men for such a small and sparsely populated corner of the world. Robert Owen from Newtown whose life we are celebrating at the moment, was perhaps the world’s greatest social visionary; David Davies, the philanthropic industrialist of Llandinam and his son, David the first Lord Davies, who amongst countless philanthropic deeds was instrumental in setting up the League of Nations which, despite its apparent failure, eventually grew into the United Nations; Owain Glyndwr, who very nearly achieved independent nation status for Wales; Sampson Lloyd the Second of Dolobran who set up the great banking institution that we know today as Lloyds TSB, which despite its current troubles is still thought of as the country’s most reliable bank; Murray the Hump, the Chicago gangster whose life has been enthralling us for the past nine issues, was very protective of his Carno ancestry, and with his outstanding intelligence, ruthlessness, sense of strategy and achievement, he could have left such a different legacy had the government of the United States, and particularly local government not been so corrupt; we can only mourn the loss of his talents to society as a whole.
Talents that are much less sung in public are those of the women of Mid Wales. Reginald Massey has done the world of literature a great service by getting the works of Newtown’s Eluned Lewis back onto the book shelves; however the women in PenCambria do tend to be written about in their private capacity rather than for their public achievements. This is understandable bearing in mind that until recently ‘history’ meant the history of men and their politics and battles with women being noted for the most part for their deeds or lives that encroached on these areas. (Do discuss and comment. I shall be pleased to publish your responses.) So this month sees the first in a series to bring some balance to this view. Diana Brown is researching the business women of Mid Wales and in this issue celebrates the life of Laura Ashley, the designer, who, from designing tea towels at her kitchen table went on to build one of the world’s biggest dress, fabric and household design and production companies. Her primary aim was to provide work for the people of mid Wales, specifically, Carno, and she maintained this until her death at the age of 61. It is worth noting perhaps that Laura Ashley’s aim and area of industry was not a million miles from that of Robert Owen, although educational aspect of Robert Owen’s dream had been fulfilled by the state by the time Laura Ashley began her career.
Our other Diana, Diana Ashworth, continues her quest for the oral history of the Llawr-y-glyn area. With the drive towards sustainable living these days she has discovered how countryfolk lived sustainably for hundreds of years, until very recently in fact; and to
complement Brian Poole’s journey back through the history and prehistory of the Clywedog Valley before it was flooded in the 1960s, Diana Ashworth also finds out what life was like for the inhabitants before the arrival of the Clywedog dam, the winter of 1947 being an especially memorable time.
A Llanidloes building with a fascinating history is Yr Hen Garchar or the Old Roundhouse. Built as a gaol in 1838, it fell into disuse as a place of penal confinement and then became first a rented residence, then, after coming into the hands of John Jones Meredith, the filter house for the town’s water supply, then a storage place for Council bits and pieces and now, back in the hands of the Meredith family it has been reconverted to a residence.
We follow David Jandrell on Stage 2 of the Hafren Circuit, which takes us from Snead to Dolfor along the Kerry Ridgeway, out to the Bryn Dadlau Wind farm and down to Abbey Cwm Hir.
Bruce Mawdsley captures the magic of a musical afternoon at the Ffinnant in Trefeglwys
Bryn Ellis brings to light the Llanfair Caereinion Great Fire of 1758 and the losses incurred by one of its residents.
More memories from Llandrindod Wells both of childhood from Norma Allen, whose home it was and, courtesy of Joel Williams, of a very exotic pre-WW2 regular summer visitor – Sheikh Joseph Audi.
When the question of where the Welsh Assembly should be sited was mooted, although it was not taken seriously, Shrewsbury was suggested. With Dr David Stephenson we find out just why this was not quite so outrageous as it might have seemed at the time.
David Burkhill-Howarth takes us deeper into the hinterlands of Patagonia and Tyler Keevil shows us just how Murray made a mint in Las Vegas.
In the Dragon’s Crypt Michael Brown tells us a cautionary tale about the perils of PC (not PenCambria), Roger Garfitt’s poems have just the right aroma for summer and Brian L. Roberts brings his story of social and political change to a rousing conclusion by taking us storming down the pages of Chartism in Llanidloes.
Finally, please let me apologise to Robert James Bridge for getting his name wrong in the introduction to PC10. I inadvertently introduced him as Robert Shoebridge. I am pleased to say that I got it right on the story, Kinmel Revisited, itself.