Archive for June 6th, 2008

The Folly Tower, Pontypool

June 6, 2008

The new Folly Tower

My pastel painting of the Folly Tower

The Folly Tower is built on a ridge so that it can be seen for many miles around and, conversely, it commands magnificent views of the surrounding countryside; it is claimed that seven counties can be seen on a clear day.

It was built by John Hanbury in 1772 as a summerhouse for him and his family. My earliest memories of the tower in the 1930s recall that it was in a state of disrepair, though worse was to follow.

I remember the surprise I had one day in the war when, on Tuesday, 9th July 1940,  I came home from school and walked down the garden path at my home in School Lane, Wainfelin. Usually, looking to the right it had always been possible to see the Folly standing up on the crest of the hill, but on this particular day it looked as though someone had cut it in half from top to bottom. It had been rumoured that the tower would have to be taken down because German bombers used it as a marker to try to locate the ordnance factory near Usk, known to Pontypool people as “The Dump”.

I don’t know whether they hadn’t used enough explosives to complete the demolition or whether they needed to demolish it in two stages, but soon the job was completed and the Folly was no more, just a heap of old stones.

A promise had been made at the time that, when the war was over, the tower would be restored but it was many years after the war before that promise was kept. In 1990 a committee was set up with the aim of restoring the old tower and was successful in obtaining funding for the project from various organisations. As it was destroyed to further the cause of freedom throughout Europe I think it was appropriate that the E.U. should have contributed to its restoration. The “Campaign to Rebuild the Old Folly Tower” (CROFT) was launched and finally raised enough money for the work to start in 1991. Three years later it was completed. It was officially opened on 22nd July 1994 by the Prince of Wales, almost exactly 54 years after I’d seen it demolished.

The Folly Tower has always had a special place in the hearts of the people of Pontypool. When travelling home by train you knew, when you came in sight of the Folly, that you were almost there.

From time to time I pay a visit to some of my old Pontypool haunts just to see if anything has changed. On one visit to the Folly, I was pleased to see that it had been restored to its former glory. I therefore made a return visit to paint the above pastel painting of the scene. For those who might prefer a photograph instead of my painting above, I append below a photograph of the Folly I took on the day I did the painting.

The restored Folly Tower

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Hello Pontypool!

June 6, 2008

I started at West Mon Boys’ School in Pontypool during the war in 1942. During one of our music lessons, our music master, “Toot” Steven informed us that we were going to borrow the Harrow School Song for our own use. I remember the opening verse very well:

Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along.

I remember, at the time, feeling slightly nostalgic when I heard the words and thinking what a far-distant time we were singing about; although I did wonder how far flung we might all be and what we might be doing in forty years’ time.

Now I’m looking back, not over forty years, but well over seventy and I really do wonder what all those boys are doing and where they are. So I decided to start this blog. It’s possible that some of those old school friends might see it. I expect that there are old westmonians not only scattered all over the UK but all over the world. They might like to recall those “visions of boyhood” of yesteryear.

It’s not my intention to make this blog another “history of Pontypool” as there are plenty of those about already. This will be an intensely personal collection of recollections, almost at random as they occur to me; and I don’t want them necessarily to be only my recollections. If any visitors have any they’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them. This doesn’t mean only old westmonians of course, but everybody who’s ever lived in Pontypool and its surroundings.

Any visitor wishing to do this can either make a comment after any of the posts or they can email me at david.hughes43@ntlworld.com