Archive for February, 2011

More news about Gibson’s Square

February 18, 2011

It’s always a bit of a thrill when someone either emails or phones me with some information or some memory of Pontypool which I knew nothing about or had almost forgotten; a few words and the memory comes flooding back. So I was very pleased to receive from Clive Barnby, in this morning’s post, copies of photographs of the Bell Inn, Pontypool and also of the Mason’s Arms which was in the vicinity of Gibson’s Square. I’m inserting below the photograph of the Mason’s Arms.

 


The Mason’s Arms, Pontypool. This was somewhere near Gibson’s Square.

By way of explanation about the photographs I quote below Clive’s letter:

“I’m sending you (in the post) a copy of a picture of what is thought to be the Masons Arms pub & Gibson’s Square. It’s from “Pontypool’s Heritage” (Vol 2) by Arthur Crane, Bernard Derrick & Edward Donovan. To the left of the pub, there is a remaining cottage/s (one or two appear demolished) which, I think, may be Gibsons Lane. There is also a map in the book which shows the Masons Arms on the left side of High Street (looking towards the Bell Pitch) & it looks as if it was on the corner of what is now East View with High Street, or it could have been on East View itself as it predates the latter.

The map shows there may have been some buildings – perhaps more cottages in Gibson’s Square – running along the end of The Broadway opposite (I think) the Six Bells Inn (as distinct from The Bell). As I’ve indicated, in my boyhood the Gibsons Square area was almost completely derelict – there were remains of a wall at the High Street end of The Broadway, and opposite remains of a wall (presumably of the Six Bells) between the “Donkey Steps” and The Bell. I’m told that during the War there was an air raid shelter or something on the old Gibsons Square site, & after the War children used to play in this, but I have no memories of it. It had perhaps gone by the 1950s when I was a child & would have wandered down that way. There is now a house on the site, & the area looks quite small – difficult to imagine it having accommodated a pub & a no. of dwellings, but perhaps Gibsons Square covered part of what is now East View and The Broadway, & was demolished to make way for those developments in (I would guess) the early 1920s.”

Like Clive, I have no memory of an air raid shelter on the site of Gibson’s Square but my friend Eric Smith tells me that he does remember one which was built further back than the site where the houses were, that is towards Gibson’s Lane . My memory of that area around the Donkey Steps was one of derelict buildings. To the left of the steps going up, the buildings were almost completely demolished having little more than their foundations remaining. Further to the left, lining the Bell Pitch, and just above the Bell, there were a few houses with their shells still intact but completely ruined inside. We often went inside to play, despite being told it was dangerous, and it was still possible to go up the stairs into the bedroom areas.

On the other side of the Donkey Steps were other wrecked buildings with the odd foot or two of walls standing. This is probably why I now remember the few houses in Gibson’s Square; they were the only ones in good condition and occupied. Incidentally, I often wonder who Gibson was.

News of Gibson Square

February 14, 2011

Since my last posting on this blog a week ago there has been quite a flurry of activity and I’ve received a number of emails containing some valuable information and photographs.

First of all I should like to thank Jeff Oates who supplied me with a 1917 map of Pontypool which quite clearly shows the whereabouts of Gibson’s Square. I print a copy of the map below. If you locate the top of Bridge Street and Franketti’s chip shop, the Donkey Steps are just on the other side of High Street (or The Bell Pitch as we referred to it). Just a short way up the steps on the right was a low wall and behind it were a few houses accessed by a gap in the wall. When walking up the steps it was possible to look over the wall and down into the houses below. As you will see on the map, that was Gibson’s Square.

I have coloured Gibson’s Square in red and Gibson’s Lane in green

Strangely enough, when I originally asked my friend Eric about this matter he made the suggestion that Gibson’s Square might have been in that very place; that was before his neighbour told him it was at Trevethin. I had no idea where it was. Perhaps Eric had been told the whereabouts many years ago and it suddenly surfaced in his mind. Our brains are strange things when it comes to memories of long ago.

A narrow lane leads from the bottom of the houses and runs alongside them up to where Broadway was eventually built.  It’s marked as Gibson’s Lane on the map above. According to the Google aerial map of that area it looks as though the lane is still there. It also seems as though all that area down to the bottom of the Bell Pitch is now a green area. Anyone living there might be able to confirm that.

In my last posting I published the email from Jan Davey asking the whereabouts of Fairfield, Tin Town and Gibson’s Square. Because of the help I’ve received she now knows all three.

But there is also a bonus !  Apart from the information about Gibson’s Square, Jeff Oates later sent me a photograph – taken in 1931 – of Town School folk dancers who had won trophies. You can see the photo below which was published in the Free Press. On the left is Mr Petty, about 10 years younger than when he taught me, and on the right is the headmaster Mr Lewis. I don’t know who the two women are but they were not on the staff when I attended the school, nor was there any folk dancing.

Town School folk dancers with their trophies. Photograph taken in 1931
Mr Petty on the left and Mr Lewis on the right. No other names known.

Jan told me in her email that her mother spoke about being in Mr Petty’s class. She also thinks that the girl in the front row second from the left bears a resemblance to her mother, so, taking both ideas into account the girl is probably Jan’s mother. She doesn’t have any photographs of her mother at that age.

Since receiving the above information I have been sent a huge collection of well over 300 photographs from Terry Stundon. Some are very old and some taken recently, but I was delighted to receive them and, subject to copyright, I shall be publishing some of them on this blog in the appropriate postings. Because of this I would urge visitors, once again, to retrace their steps through the blog as I am constantly adding information and illustrations. Also there are comments added, especially over the last few days.

If any visitors recognise anyone who is not named in any photographs on the blog I should be pleased to know their names and, where possible, hand on the information to relatives. Any relevant photographs would also be welcomed.

Parts of Old Pontypool that have vanished

February 7, 2011

It’s only natural for any town to evolve. Buildings get old, outdated and no longer of use and are then demolished. This has happened in Pontypool. I looked on a street map of the town recently to find Moreton Street and discovered it had vanished and now has another name.

From time to time I receive emails that ask about old Pontypool and some of its residents in an effort to find out what happened to them. These emails are not usually put on this blog, but I do what I can to help the senders.

Just a few days ago I received an email from Jan Davey about things that happened some time before I was bornl, so, initially I was unable to help.  Below I quote Jan’s email:

Dear David, just been reading some of your articles and messages regarding yours and others memories of Pontypool and wondered if you could help me in my quest for information. My mother Violet Taylor was born in Pontypool in 1920 at 9 Gibsons Square. She attended Town School between 1925 -1934 with her bother and sisters. Her father was a war Veteran and fought at the Battle of Rorkes Drift and was wounded as a result. Due to his injuries ( a spear hole through his leg) and ill health he was unable to work in the latter years of his life and so himself and his family had to survive on the small disability pension he received from the army. At some point between 1922 and 1935 (when he died) they moved to 8 Fairfield, Pontypool.  David I have been trying to find out exactly where these places were situated but havent been very sucessful to date. Obviously they no longer exist but I wonder if anyone could provide any information regarding either or both of the addresses?  My mother rarely talked about her home life and and am starting to wonder if she may have been embarrased about their living conditions. The reason behind my thinking mainly comes from information I have recently gained from a long lost Aunt. The last property they lived in at 8 Fairfields she described as being down by the park, and near to the river. i think she also said it was behind where the old Labour Exchange and Post Office were? She described the house as having a rounded roof similar to that of a Nissan hut?  Where could these houses have come from because I cannot find any info relating to them other than from what my aunt described – damp and run down! When making enquiries locally an elderly lady said that she remembered some properties down by the area I described as being called Tin Town.  Could they have been ex-army accommodation been left over from the WW1?

Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated.   Many Thanks in anticipation.   Jan Davey

Fortunately my friend, Eric Smith, who has lived in the Pontypool area all his life, was able to help. Apparently Fairfield is that area to the left after crossing the river bridge just past the Park Cinema. When I lived in Pontypool it was generally referred to as “The Fairground”. It was just past the Labour Exchange and was a quite large flat area covered in a mixture of earth and ashes. I think there are some new houses built there now. The roads are Park Road and Church Wood Road.

I remembered the name “Tin Town” which I heard my father use. I assume it was a nickname. Eric informed me that it was a row of houses built specifically for workers at the Town Forge Tinplate Works. I don’t know whether this was the reason for the “Tin” name or whether it was because some of the buildings had “tin”, that is corrugated iron, roofs. If you are standing with your back to the Park Cinema you can walk across the road and into a lane which leads to the Town Forge. It’s a dead end but I seem to remember some steel steps near the Forge which led up onto Osborne Road. The name of the present road is Forge Lane.

Eric told me that he didn’t know the whereabouts of Gibson’s Square, but today he phoned again to say that a neighbour of his in New Inn, who had been in the same class at Park Terrace School, had just told him that it was at Trevethin somewhere between the church and the Italian Gardens. The square was demolished  before the new estate was built at Trevethin. When I was in the Cubs we met in a room above the arch where the Pontypool Museum now is, but, on one occasion we were taken up to the Italian Gardens and sat around our camp fire. I remember seeing several red squirrels in the trees.

If any visitor to my blog has any information about Violet Taylor, please get in touch ( email:  david.hughes43@ntlworld.com ) and I shall pass on the information to Jan. Also if anyone has any photographs of any of the places mentioned above I’m sure she’d like to see a copy of them. They can be included in an email as a jpeg file.