A recent post gave a long list of questions about Pontypool which I received in an email from C.J.Welsh. To avoid publishing an overlong post I divided the email into two parts. I was able to answer a number of the queries myself and several visitors very kindly posted answers to some of the other questions.
Below I now post the rest of the email containing a good many questions. I’m sure some visitors will be able to supply answers.
“ Merchant’s Hill, Pontnewynydd
What existed at the bottom of Merchant’s Hill (where the “new” houses are now)? I remember the houses being built, but can’t remember what was there before them. I also believe there was a pub there at one time – was the pub situated in the house perched on the edge of the bridge? I remember the old bridge (where the cycle path is now); did the two lines run parallel?
I always remember these being lush and beautiful; on a recent visit to Pontypool, I was dismayed to see them looking like an absolute mess. Does anyone have any old photos of it in its glory days?
On a side note, does anyone remember the Argus hut just above it opposite St. James’s Church?
All I remember of these from my youth was a mass of overgrown trees – a shame, since I always expected it to be something exotic/glamorous. I noted on a recent visit that it hasn’t changed much. What did it look like?
Clarence Bus Station
As well as the Town Hall, there was a large purpose-built bus station on the site of the current Tesco garage. The bus station was in operation until the mid-1980s. If I remember correctly, buses from there would operate to Usk, Abergavenny, Hereford and the next valley (Crumlin, Blackwood, Ebbw Vale, Tredegar, etc.). Does anyone have any memories/photos of this? There doesn’t appear to be anything online, apart from ANCIENT photos of charabancs parked outside the old Free Press offices!
Crane Street Baptist Church
A few questions!
1) Why was it built of Bath stone? It looks very out-of-place for Pontypool!
2) What is the church’s connection with Dame Gwyneth Jones? I know she is from Pontnewynydd, but that’s pretty much it.
3) What is Laura Ashley’s connection with the church? I know that her company/foundation used to provide the church with financial donations, as well as fabrics for various projects.
What existed here before the flats (now replaced by houses) were built? I remember them (and the road) being built, and a relative of mine was apparently one of the first people to purchase a maisonette there!
I’m guessing it was old forges at one point, but they closed LONG before the flats were built.
The Pavvy Hill, Pontnewynydd – and the industrial estate
I recently found out that the Pavvy Hill isn’t the original! It used to run immediately to the left of the Horseshoe pub, with another pub at the top on the right – the name of which escapes me). Does anyone have any photos of this? My grandfather used to sell newspapers outside The Pavvy cinema when he was a boy, and would get extra money from waiting crowds by walking up The Pavvy Hill and back on his hands!
Regarding Pontnewynydd industrial estate, what used to exist there? Something to do with mining I guess, since there are evidence of mine workings behind St. John’s Crescent, and I know the “top line” used to run there. What was there before the industrial estate leading up to Waunddu?
I have ancestors that worked in Blaenserchan, Tirpentwys and Llanerch pits; does anyone have any maps/pictures, since I know nothing of these, other than the general areas (NO idea about Tirpentwys!). I have one ancestor who was involved in Tirpentwys’s famous pit collapse, and several others who were killed in the famous Llanerch pit explosion.
Other than Dame Gwyneth Jones, there doesn’t seem to be anyone of particular note from the area! I know that Edwin Stevens (inventor of the hearing aid), Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton attended West Mon for a time, but they weren’t born-and-bred. Do we have anyone else, of whom we can be justly proud? Yes, I’ve checked wikipedia, but there’s no one particularly interesting featured!
Lower George Street Sweet Shop
I remember my grandmother telling me that the last building on what currently remains of Lower George Street (just after the vet, where the little path goes down to Osbourne Road) was a sweet shop. I’m guessing it was something to do with Truman’s sweets in the town market (any association with the Pontnewynydd minibus firm?), but I have a memory of her telling me it was something to do with Welch’s Toffees – of which Geordie actress Denise Welch is the heiress. Can anyone shed any light on this?
Lower George Street
I remember there being several shops here between the existing jewellers and physio clinic; there was a Chinese, a hairdressers, and possibly a clothes shop and a record shop. I think Davis Wallpapers was further down? There were apparently flats above these shops; on the opposite side of these buildings was the northbound Osbourne Road bus stop, where I spent many freezing hours in my youth waiting for a “top road” bus to Abersychan!
Osbourne Road – large old building?
The fairly grand stone building next door to the White Hart – what was it? It’s been closed for as long as I remember. My grandmother seems to think it was the old Conservative Club (before its present site more or less opposite).
Who remembers this fruit and veg wholesaler opposite Johnny Gould’s? It always smelled of fresh cabbage leaves outside!
Does anyone have any photos of the interior in its hayday? My mother was married there, but all her photos were taken outside!
Griffithstown and St. Luke’s Road – other hospitals?
I distinctly remember as a child driving along the “top road” of Griffithstown and seeing a gate and a sign on the right (southbound) to a hospital of somekind; can anyone shed any light on this? New-ish houses currently stand there.
I also remember a similar sign on the left of St. Luke’s Road (northbound) just before that enchanting gateway to the private house.
I have the name “Glengariff” in a picture in my brain – what has this got to do with it?
What existed on this site previous to these opening? Any photos?
Italian Influence – let’s have a quick coffee before I close!
As we all know, South Wales at one time had the best Italian restaurants, cafes and gelateries outside of Italy! In Pontypool I remember: -
- Cafe Commerciale, Commercial Street (always smelled of strong coffee)
- Mario’s, George Street (always smelled of old chip fat, had sweet jars in the window, and billowing clouds of cigarette smoke every time the door opened)
- ???, Osbourne Road (always smelled of fresh tobacco)
- Sidoli’s, Crane Street (the ONLY place to go for F&CH! They used to give my dog a sausage every Friday!)
- Ferrari’s Bakers, Crane Street (sadly gone)
Are there any I’ve forgotten about?
Maps – a final suggestion?
I would LOVE to be able to draw! Unfortunately, the best I can manage is a woman with a perm, and I have to be on the phone to draw it properly…
It would be lovely if someone was able to create/draw/superimpose/photoshop a map for each decade in Pontypool, with clickable icons on notable landmarks (pits, forges, old roads, pubs, shops) to see how things have changed in Pontypool over the past century or two. Maybe even create a 3D Pontypool tour for each decade? I should copyright this idea and sell it to the museum!
Any questions? I’m happy to help if I can! If you need any information on Talywain, my grandmother is an AUTHORITY on the area, and probably personally knows every person that’s lived there since the dawn of Time!
C. J. WELSH”