November 26, 2011
A FEW WORDS OF WELCOME BEFORE YOU BEGIN READING MY BLOG
Since starting this blog I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors I’ve received which at the time of writing stood at well over 26,000; since then it has more than doubled. I wasn’t expecting anywhere near this number. Another surprise has been the number of comments received, many of which have been helpful to visitors in tracing family members etc.
But the most pleasing result has been the number of emails I’ve received, some from friends I knew long ago when living in Pontypool. Many of those emails are private of course so don’t get put on the blog. A few days ago I even received a phone call from a lady living in Canada who’d bought my book when visiting relatives over here and wanted to say how much she enjoyed it. Just a reminder that my email address is: email@example.com.
If you would like to be emailed whenever a new post is added you can do this by clicking on the “+ Follow” sign at top right of the heading of the blog. This is relatively new but quite a number of visitors have already done this.
Finally, if the memory of any old friends need jogging (as mine does from time to time) I append below a 1947 photograph. I won’t scare you with the latest version !
Best wishes as you walk down memory lane. David (Dewi) Hughes
PAST POSTINGS WHICH HAVE BEEN AMENDED
Since starting this feature I have amended so many of
my postings that the list would be very large and, the
more amended posts in the list, the more pointless
the list would become. Visitors can now assume
that the majority of the posts have been amended
in one way or another.
BECAUSE THERE IS NOW SO MUCH INFORMATION ON THIS BLOG
I HAVE ADDED A SEARCH FACILITY WHICH YOU WILL FIND
JUST UNDER THE COLOURED BANNER HEADING – TOP RIGHT
November 22, 2016
As regular visitors will know, I started this blog eight years ago. Since then almost all my emails and the people I’ve met from Pontypool have been saddened by the present state of the town which, in my boyhood days was a happy bustling town. Most people describe its present state as “dead”!
Imagine my sadness today when I received an email from a visitor giving me the URL of an article from today’s Guardian. I
A health worker in Pontypool told me what happens when people lose their sense of purpose. “You don’t get up in the morning. You might see a spiral in depression,” she said last week. “You lose contact with the outside world.” The dismal list went on: no self-worth, no self-confidence. As she talked, I realised her description didn’t apply only to people. Places and communities can be stripped of their purpose too. That is certainly what’s happened to Pontypool.
If I could send Theresa May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond, anywhere before tomorrow’s autumn statement, it wouldn’t be to some love-in with big business at a swanky London hotel – but to this south Wales market town. It might make them think.
The story of Pontypool is a story of riches squandered, of dynamism blocked, of an entire community slung on the slagheap. Sat atop vast deposits of iron ore and coal, it was probably the first industrial town in Wales. For a time, under Victoria, it was richer than Cardiff. Even now, to look along its skyline is to see traces of wealth: the park with its Italian gardens and bandstand; the covered market with its olde price list for snipes or a brace of pheasants; the 25 listed buildings that make this one of the most sumptuous small town centres in Britain.
Then look down. On a typical weekday, the indoor market is a desert. Those bits of the high street that aren’t to let are betting parlours, vaping dens and charity shops: the standard parade for hollowed-out towns across Britain. The reason isn’t hard to fathom: the mines shut down decades back; the factories have pretty much disappeared. Those big employers still left aren’t big employers any more. One of the staff at BAE tells me that when he joined in 1982, it had 2,500 workers on its shopfloor; now, he reckons, it has 120.
Swaths of Pontypool and the surrounding region of Torfaen now rank among the poorest in all Britain. On part of one of its housing estates in Trevethin, 75% of all children under four are raised in poverty. Over half – 53% – of all households who live on that stretch are below the poverty line. With that come all the usual problems: families that can’t pay the rent, that are more likely to fall prey to a whole range of sicknesses, from mental health to cancer. Those people can expect to die 20 years before their near-neighbours in some of the better-off areas in Pontypool. First the economy died out, now its people are too.
Pontypool is like the rest of south Wales, like many other parts of Britain I have reported from. It’s what politicians and economists call “post-industrial”. That term, though, implies something coming after; here, hardly anything has come after. A few years ago Pontypool town centre was declared on the verge of death by a local councillor, who bore a coffin lid in a mock funeral procession.
It’s a similar story in Hull, Sunderland, in so many places across Britain. For three decades Tories and Labour thought they could buy the acquiescence of residents with benefits and public-sector jobs. Then came the 2008 crash and the cuts that have followed. Then came the Brexit referendum.
I visited Pontypool a few weeks before that vote – and it was on that trip that the suspicion dawned that the remain camp didn’t have it in the bag at all. True to form, Torfaen voted nearly 60% to 40% to leave the EU.
Aditya Chakrabortty. The Guardian.com 22/11/2016 Reproduced with permission.
To read the full article go to:
September 11, 2016
Recently I’ve received a few emails from Leigh Priest. In the first one he says:
“I came across your fascinating blog a few days ago and wondered if you knew anything about the houses in St James Field, Pontypool.
We bought the house recently and it would be wonderful to hopefully discover some of its history.
It’s a three storey Victorian / Edwardian semi detached house with some beautiful original features.
We’ve been told ‘it’s a Hanbury house’….’it was a school’….’built for the railway managers’ etc but unless I can find out myself it will remain a mystery.”
I’ve made some brief enquiries of people who have lived in Pontypool for many years and none of them have ever heard of St James’ Field. When I attended West Mon, I know that St James’ Church was noted for its youth club which was very large and very successful; that was in the days when teenagers actually went out to meet friends in person not online. It was in the heyday of the youth club movement mostly in churches.
I remember one day when I was in standard three at Town School we had a new boy who sat next to me. He was Geen Williams, the son of the new vicar of St James’ Church. He went to West Mon and became a member of the cricket team.
If any visitor can help Leigh with his enquiries about St James’ Field, please email me or make a comment.
April 13, 2016
I’ve recently received an email from Neil Roberts – published below – whose mother remembers a trip to Pontypool during WWII. If you are able to help him with any information, please make a comment.
Last week we had a glorious short break in Newcastle near Monmouth which reminded my mum of a trip to Pontypool during WWII to stay with the grandparents. All she can remember was that she had a wonderful time and that the row of cottages were built into the hill/mountain and to get to the back garden she had to go up one floor and then out the back door. The toilets and the wash rooms were in a separate block along from the row of cottages and there was a river or canal in the front of the cottages.
Her Grandad’s name was Fullard and he worked in the steel works. She believes it was called Forge Row or something similar. It would be great to get some feedback on this if possible so I could take my mum back there and hopefully show her roughly where it was.
Hoping you or your readers can help us?
December 30, 2015
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report.
December 20, 2015
SINCERE CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
TO ALL VISITORS TO MY BLOG
The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:1-20New International Version (NIV)
October 27, 2015
I’ve received yet another enquiry about a person who lived in Pontypool in the sixties; this time from Beryl Kennedy. I’ve highlighted some of the descriptions she gives hoping they might ring a bell with someone who might recollect the place.
I’m trying to locate my aunt who lived in pontypool in the 60 when I last visited her home I remember she lived down a steep path with a wall around where there was a tap in the wall where I used to drink loads of water from as it tasted lovely her name was Barbara not sure of her married name but maiden name was Davies I remember her front garden (or even back) was very steep. There was a hill by her house that had sheep roaming. She had a daughter Stephanie and 2 more children. I would love to know if she is still alive and where this is she lives as I’m longing to come there one day to see her hopefully and where she used to live. Grateful for any help you can give.
Please make a comment if you have something relevant. I’ve already received 117 comments. Another one from you will be welcome.
October 20, 2015
Last week I received an email from Eric Deigon who has ancestors who lived at Gibson Steps. I append below his email enquiring about this matter. If any visitors know anything about the people mentioned please make a comment.
“I have recently come across your blog about Reminiscences of Old Pontypool, in my search for information about my great-grandmother and two half-great-uncles who lived in Pontypool, and I have a question for you about where they lived. Do you know anything about an address of 2 Gibson’s Steps in Pontypool? I know that this relates to information before your time, but perhaps you can still help. Sorry for the long email about this.
I have been searching for years for information about this part of my family, and only recently got a breakthrough when a relative who was also researching the family history got a new clue. I knew from my father that my great-grandmother (born Abigail Wakeman in London, and later named Abigail Schwartz and Abigail Gibbs by marriage) had married again after her second husband Joseph Gibbs had died, and that she had gone on to have two sons, one of whom had died in World War 1. My father had thought that their surname had been King, but that has turned out to be wrong, and is where the story becomes complicated.
It turns out that Abigail was married to an Edward Evans, and their older son (also named Edward) was killed in WW1 in 1914 at age 17. Edward Evans Sr., however, also went by another name, John Williams (or John William) under which name he enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1914 at age 39, giving an address of 2 Gibson Steps, Pontypool.
In a Google search, the only other reference I can find to Gibson Steps or Gibson’s Steps in Pontypool is this:
EVANS, EDWARD, Private, No. 1682,2nd Battn. Monmouthshire Regt. (T.F.),
elder s. of the late Edward Evans, by his wife, Abigail (2, Gibson’s Steps, High
Street, Pontypool); b. Cardiff, 2 7 Oct. 1897; educ. National School there;
enlisted early in 1912, and was killed in action in France, 30 Dec. 1914. Capt.
L. P. A. Rolls wrote : ” Your son had been my servant ever since the beginning
of Oct., when we were in Northampton, and had been with me till he met his
death. I cannot tell you what a good willing lad he was in all that he did for me.
He was killed like so many other—nobly doing his duty in the trenches.”
So this fits the connection with my family. And then I came across notes on your blog about Gibson’s Square and Donkey Steps, so I wondered if there was some connection of Gibson’s Steps to this area.
Thank you for any insights you can provide!”
September 16, 2015
Back in the 1930s the entertainment on offer was limited; there were cinemas of course but we had to pay to visit those; the wireless was free, once you’d bought it and were prepared to pay the annual licence fee of £1. The BBC was set up in 1922 so it was a fairly new experience.
As a result there was quite a lot of local amateur entertainment put on by churches, Sunday Schools, Brotherhoods, and youth organisations etc. I remember that at Park Terrace Methodist Church there was the annual Sunday School Anniversary with three services on the day during which the scholars sang and recited. There were generally a few “socials” during the year, such as the Harvest Social which took place on the Monday after the harvest services. There was a small charge to attend in order to raise church funds.
Some of the major events were put on by the two Pontypool Choirs: the Pontypool Choral Society and the Pontypool Male Voice Choir each having well over 50 members. Recently, while sorting out my collection of thousands of photographs I came across two photos of these organisations which I include in this post. If you can identify anyone please either make a comment or email me.
Pontypool Choral society
Both my parents belonged to this choir. My father is in the seated row third from left and my mother is immediately in front of him. The only member I recall them talking about was George Ashman. One of his relatives might identify him if he is in the photo.
Pontypool Male Voice Choir
My father was also in this choir and is seated in the front row third from right. If any visitor knows anything about either photo I’d be pleased to hear about it.
July 24, 2015
I’ve just received an email from Kate Tressider who also provided me with a photograph of six young men, one of whom is her Great Uncle Alf. Below I reproduce her email and also a copy of the photograph. If you recognise anyone on it please either make a comment or email me and I will pass on the information.
I came across your wonderful website and thought I would send you an email. I have a very long line of ancestors from Pontypool and the surrounding areas, dating way back to the 1800s. I have recently been researching my family history, and have found, among many other things, the attached photograph.
The photograph is of my Great Uncle (Alfred William Hart – pictured on the top right hand corner, turned slightly inwards, with the striped hat on) He was born in 1922, so I would estimate that this photograph was taken between 1934-1940… I would love to know if there is anybody who recognises the other people in the photograph, or if they have surviving ancestors. My Great Uncle was known as Alf to his friends; sadly he died in the Second World War on 8th June 1944; he volunteered to join the Royal Navy in 1943. He had an older sister, Irene, who was born in 1920. They lived at 19 Crumlin Street (Pontypool) with their grandparents.
I would be very grateful if this could be added to your website perhaps? Let me know if there is any other information that you think would be helpful – and apologies that I can’t provide much more at the moment.
Thanking you very much in advance,
July 18, 2015
I’ve recently been sent a link to a newspaper article about the Pontypool synagogue. If you have the facilities you can view the article using this link:
However, if you do not have such facilities, here is a photograph of the newspaper article: