Osborne Cottage at Pontnewynydd

OSBORNE COTTAGE AT PONTNEWYNYDD

Osborne Cottage by Fred Hando 1960

Most people in Pontypool will know of Osborne Road; some of the older ones might remember Osborne Forge, but fewer will know of Osborne Cottage. If you walk down Mill Street in Pontnewynydd and turn left over the bridge, you will see Osborne Cottage to your right at the bottom of Church Lane, which is the old Roman Road which continues over the hill to Mamhilad passing near the Folly Tower. The river Avon Llwyd runs alongside.

I understand the name “Osborne” to be a curruption of  “Osmond” which was the name given to an iron which was produced in Northern Europe many centuries earlier. A proclamation by Charles I in 1630 declared that, as English wire was made of the finest Osmond iron, the importing of foreign wire was prohibited. When the iron industry started in Gwent, Osborne iron was produced at Tintern Wire Works in 1763. This was drawn out of a furnace in thin square bars.

Osborne Cottage, which is now well over 400 years old, has a special place in my memories of Pontypool because for many years it was the home of my paternal grandparents and, later, of my aunt Eve who survived them. Originally the building had been two separate cottages but, when I knew it, it was joined together as one. The fact that there was a staircase at each end of the building was evidence of this.

My brothers and I often visited the cottage. You can imagine the fun three young boys would have chasing one another around a house with a staircase at each end. It was a glorious place to play hide-and-seek. Also, it had a very large garden where pigs, chickens and ducks were kept. Water ran into the garden from the hills behind  providing a small duck pond and a permanent “flush” for the outside toilet which led directly into the river.  There was also a spring which we called “the well” which supplied all the water for those living in the cottage. Of course it had to be carried up the path to the cottage in enamel pails. It was really pure water and very, very cold; after drinking it my throat would often feel frozen. But one good thing about it was that, even in severe drought conditions it had never been known to dry up or even reduce much in volume. The overflow maintained a constant supply of water for the watercress bed on the lower part of the garden. These wet conditions produced a large supply of blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and loganberries. We were told by our grandparents to help ourselves to this fruit – so we did.

The other water supply was a very large butt of rainwater which you can see at the right hand side of the building in Hando’s drawing above. It was kept constatntly full from the guttering above. It was not pure enough for drinking but was used for washing garden tools and utensils and watering plants etc. My aunt always washed her hair in it and she had a wonderfully soft head of hair right into her nineties.

A few steps down from the cottage and to the left was the wash-house with a small coal-house at the rear. The coal was shovelled in through a small window facing the lane outside. My memory tells me that the wash-house was somewhat larger than the building depicted in the Hando drawing. (This is borne out by my 1948 photograph below.) As its name suggests, its main use was for doing the laundry and on wash-day it was a hive of industry. The water would be boiled on the fireplace in a huge iron cauldron and poured into a wooden washing machine which was divided vertically into three sections and lined with zinc. The clothes and boiling water were placed in the first section and soap added. This had a lid which, when closed, enabled a wooden paddle to be agitated to clean the clothes. They were then transferred into clean water in the second section and the soap washed out. Finally they were led through a large mangle with huge wooden rollers into the dry third section. Sometimes I was allowed to turn the handle to do this job. The clothes were finally pegged onto a wooden rack which was hauled up to the ceiling to enable them to dry. This was a very early precursor of our present day washing machines.

Osborne Cottage 1948

Another use of the wash-house – every single day – was to boil the swill for the pigs. All the family kept our vegetable peelings and odd food to be taken to the cottage for the pigs. It was boiled in the cauldron, then a bran mash was added; I can recall that wonderful smell even now. The pigs, in their stye at the bottom of the garden, would soon get a whiff of their food and would set up a continuous squealing until it was delivered into their trough. It was a source of amusement for us to see them put their feet in the trough as they ate the food.

From time to time one of the pigs would be slaughtered by a friend of the family who was trained in the job, and I remember seeing the huge sides of salted bacon hanging in the living room from the stout beams. We were often given pieces of this meat to take home for our own pantry at Wern Terrace.

One of my favourite sights was the collection of tiny chicks which were kept in a small wire-netting run with their mother hen on the little lawn in front of the cottage. I shall always remember one visit when my grandmother was cradling in her lap a cracked egg. Soon a little yellow chick’s head popped out to be followed by the rest of him. I was thrilled.

To the right of the small porch on the front of the cottage was a narrow border. One of the items growing there was a large fuchsia bush. When I bought the house I now live in, I was looking for bushes for my front garden and was given some pieces of the root of this fuchsia. They are both still growing just outside my front door, and, each year, when they flower, I have a constant reminder of Osborne Cottage.

A photograph of Osborne Cottage taken round about 1957.
The two figures are my father and Aunt Eve.

My rendering of Osborne Cottage as it is today in 2008

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11 Responses to “Osborne Cottage at Pontnewynydd”

  1. Pamela Jones Says:

    Hello
    I very much enjoyed reading you entries as both my family and my husband’s family have connections with the places you mention. My husband was brought up in Wainfelin and his grandparents moved to School lane after his grandfather had an accident in the pit (he came from a family of miners) they died when they were in their nineties. My husband and son both attended West Mon School and I worked in the IT dept there for may years. I typed the history of West Mon, ‘Serve & Obey’which was published for the centenary celebrations in 1998. I am particularly interested in your article on Osborne cottage. I know it well I walked passed it every Saturday going to the morning matinee in the sixties, in the Pavilion cinema now sadly demolished. We went to Pelopida’s cafe and the swimming baths and walked home near the mill pond. I am the chairperson of the recently formed Pontnewynydd History Society we meet in Zion Hill Community Centre (the old junior school) and our last meeting attracted 40 members! we would like to put together a book of reminisences of the area and I would be very interested to hear more of your memories and those of your readers if you would like to contact me by email.
    p.s we still walk by Osborne cottage through to Pontypool on the weekend.

    • Terry Stundon Says:

      If you still look in Pam, please get in touch. I have a collection of old photographs that will interest you.

      • Pamela Jones Says:

        Hi Terry

        I haven’t been on the site for ages as you can seel I only just noticed your message regarding old photos. I would like to know more. Thanks Pamela

    • lyndon jones Says:

      pamela ive just come across your name reguarding pontnewynydd site does this still exist thank you lyn

  2. Pontypool’s big freeze of 1941 « Reminiscences of Old Pontypool Says:

    […] either to take my mother’s grocery list to Wheeler’s shop or to visit Osborne Cottage (https://oldpontypool.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/osborne-cottage-at-pontnewynydd). I wrapped up warm against the freezing cold and set out. Naturally there were all sorts of frozen […]

  3. Ceri Griffiths Says:

    How lovely to hear the history of Osborne Cottage. I found this site whilst trying to research the history of my own home, Middle Farm on Stafford Road Griffithstown. So far I have been able to gleam that the main memories for people in the area are passing the old farm on the way to the lido which was nearby, but very little else. I would love to hear of any memories you or your readers may have?

  4. lyndon jones Says:

    about 12 years ago a chap that worked with me at county hall for i believe monmouth council was renovating this cottage,and has done agrand job it seems to me keeping this wonderfulm building safe for more years

  5. Terry Stundon Says:

    Hi Pam, I’m sure that if you contact the blog admin, he’ll be good enough to pass my email address on to you.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    I remember Osbourne house, alway spike and span with the white outer walls, we as children lived in Penygarn. We all use to walk through Church Wood and across the playing field to reaching Pontnewynydd.

    Saturday the Old Pavie Picture House and in the summer swimming baths the water was as cold as ice, but we all love it. The little fish and chip shop, best chip I ever tasted, they were the days.

  7. terry leonard Says:

    hi,my name is terry leonard, i’m looking for some history on the criket pitch behined the cottage and when it was turnned into a football pitch and why,please can you help thanks.

  8. Lee Parker Says:

    Hi My name is lee Parker my grandmother was Dorothy Connop she was related to your aunt Eve I could remember going to see her with my grandmother and I would like to find out more

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