Archive for March, 2011

Old photographs of Pontypool’s shopping centre

March 29, 2011

When I lived in Pontypool during the 1930s and 1940s the shopping centres of most towns, large and small, were roughly somewhere in the middle of the town. There were no “trading estates” on the outskirts of towns. Most people wouldn’t have had a car to reach them if there had been. Shopping was a more cohesive experience in that everything you wanted you could usually get in some shop or other in the town centre. On the other hand shopping was not an all encompassing experience so that you could get almost everything you required in one shop as in today’s supermarkets.

So my theme for today’s photographs is Pontypool town centre shops etc in Commercial Street and Crane Street.

J.Knapp’s grocery shop

This looks like a very old photograph of the grocery shop of Mr J.Knapp. This was in Commercial Street and can be seen in the third photograph. Presumably that is Mr Knapp and his two assistants standing in the doorway. Flanked on either side and slightly above them there appears to be two sides of pork.

Commercial Street

Judging by the clothes on the young man in the centre of the photograph and the sepia toning of the print, this too is a very old photograph.

Commercial Street

This photograph shows a longer stretch of Commercial Street. I should say it’s slightly later than the photograph above but is still quite old. Mr Knapp’s grocery shop is in evidence though, of course, we don’t know whether Mr Knapp himself was still running it or whether one of his young assistants might have taken over.

Looking down Crane Street

The attire of the boys and the lady in black seem to indicate a photograph more or less contemporary with the second photograph above. On the left we can clearly see the sign for Walker’s Restaurant and the sign above Morgan’s shop. The young boy on the right is standing outside the top entrance to the market.

The shop of E. Fowler and Son

This shop was always referred to as “Bottom” Fowler’s because around the corner and higher up in Crane Street there was a “Top” Fowler’s. I went into this shop with my mother on many occasions and the thing that really fascinated me was the overhead wire which carried all the money flying to a central cashier who put any necessary change in the container and sent it back for the customer. Farthings were in use in those days and Fowler’s were very fond of putting up prices which were just one farthing short of the shilling; such prices as “one-and-eleven-three-farthings” which was only one farthing less than two shillings. For the sake of any visitors under the age of 40, perhaps I should explain that there were 4 farthings in a penny, 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound.

More about the Robin Hood pub

March 27, 2011

In a recent post I dealt with three Pontypool topics,  namely The Robin Hood pub, the Pontymoile park gates and the Donkey steps.

Jeff Oates said that he had discovered from the 1911 Census that his grandfather had kept the pub. It now seems that another email correspondent, Harold Clarke, has discovered that some of his relatives also kept the same pub. He has also sent a photograph of some of them. Added to this is some surprising information I have received from Harold just today, namely that there was a Benjamin and Ann Gregory who had an adopted daughter with an address given as Robin Hood, Cwnnatddu, Cwmfrwdoer. I have no knowledge of this particular Gregory but visitors who have read my earlier posts will have read of my Uncle, Percy Gregory who ran the shoe shop in Hanbury Road not far from the Robin Hood.

Because Harold’s research might be of interest to other visitors I am publishing the contents of his three emails below:


1.  “My wife’s grandparents, Albert and Mary Powell, kept the Robin Hood pub in late 1920s into the thirties and brought up nine children at the pub. One of these children was Annie who married Stanly White. They had four children one, Wilfred, born at the pub. At about two years of age Wilfred had his own small glass and would go around for the men to put some beer in it. The beer was served straight from barrels set on stone shelves to the rear of the bar.

The pub consisted of four rooms, two up two down, with one room downstairs being used as the bar. The water for the pub came from a spring on the other side of the railway. This was a spur line which ran past the bottom of the alley. It meant the water had to be carried some two to three hundred yards, no mean task bearing in mind all the children and what would be needed for the pub.

The pub was owned by the Rumney Breweries. In the 1970s we tried to purchase it from them. It was then still standing but they would not sell it. Approx twenty years later they offered to sell but by this time it was not salvageable.

In early 1950s it was kept by the Allens, and my wife still visited with her parents on a summer evening. The path leading up to the pub was known as the alley.

The photo below is of Stanley White and Annie Powell at the top of the Alley. Stanley later married Annie and as stated above she lived at the pub for some time with her parents.”


2. “I was hoping to have come up with a photo of the actual pub.  At the moment I cannot do that but I believe I have located the brewery records at Glamorgan Record Office. I am afraid I will have to wait for a response from these as you can only contact them via email or snail mail.

A Little more information for Jeff and maybe, if you decide to put it on the blog, someone from the Allen family might pick up on it as when they were there most people would have had cameras, also the Curtis family, that is why I have given the names.

Using dates, we believe that the Richards kept the pub prior to my wife’s family the Powell’s who we know were there in the late twenties early thirties. Then  one of the Allen family took it over till it closed mid nineteen nighties. Albert Powell’s wife, Mary Powell, nee Curtis we think gave up the licence when at the age of ninety Mary was knocked down by a train walking the line to shop at Cwmffrwdoer. She survived this but passed away some time later in Snatchwood.”


3. “The wife got me working overtime on this and I just came across something which might be just coincidence but you refer to connections with the Gregory family.

In the 1891 census there is a Benjamin Gregory born 1835 in Somerset. His wife Ann, buried at St Cadocs, had an adopted daughter giving her address as Robin Hood Cwnnantddu Cwmfrewddoer.

I have also got Florence Mabel Gregory married to William Phillips and I thought it might be of interest to you.”


Well, that’s the story of the Robin Hood public house so far. If anyone has any further information or photographs to add I’m sure Jeff and Harold would be interested and so would I.




Old photographs of Clarence area

March 22, 2011

I’m trying to establish some sort of theme for these old photographs in case some visitors might have a special interest. Last week the theme was the Pontypool carnival. This time there are only three photographs and they are about the Clarence and Rockhill Road slightly beyond it.

Clarence corner

This looks like a really old photograph of Clarence corner. Notice the cloud of smoke coming from the gasworks over on the right. On the left two people are standing. I remember that area quite well because it was somewhere about there that Dr Siddons had his surgery. I visited the place on a number of occasions with my mother, sometimes in a state of fear and trembling. I recall that he had his own dispensary adjoining the surgery. I think my parents used to pay 2/6 a quarter to be members of his surgery and this included any medicines which might be provided.

The Clarence Hotel

The Clarence Hotel was considered to be the “posh” hotel in Pontypool. On the left you can just see the RAC sign of approval.

Corner of Rockhill Road

This looks like a very old photograph of Rockhill Road. I assume it IS Rockhill Road; I can’t think of anywhere else that looks like this picture. I imagine that the Pontymoile park gates are down to the right on the road in view.


Information and a request

March 17, 2011

One enjoyable aspect of writing this blog is the number of emails I receive from people who either give me information or ask for it. In this post there’s a bit of each.

A short while ago I received an email from Jeff Oates asking for information about the Robin Hood pub at Cwmffrwdoer. He says:

“I recently discovered from the 1911 Census that my Great Grandfather Oliver Richards born 1869, lived in the Robin Hood Public House, Cwmffrwdoer, with his wife and 10 children. A few weeks ago I managed to find and photograph the ruins of this pub. I have learned from several sources, that the pub was still open in the 1950s, but I have been unable to find any photographs of it. I would love to hear from anyone who may have such a photo or indeed any memories of this pub.”

If anyone can remember anything about this pub please email me ( and I will pass on the information to Jeff.


Another email came from Harold Clarke who had some interesting information about the Donkey Steps which from time to time have had several mentions in this blog. He says:

“With reference to the park gates I did first get told of the blacksmith committing suicide over missing one bunch of grapes when attending George Street School and have heard the same story many times. I would think it correct.

The Donkey Steps that have always gone by that name as long as I can remember are not the true Donkey Steps. These are buried under the Road surface and were a series of long shallow steps so that the horses pulling the drays up the Bell Pitch well all the way from the Globe Hotel could be hitched one behind the other with extra horses being brought in at the bottom. This put them on relatively flat ground which enabled them to be pulled up the very step gradient. I am trying to find a write up on this in one of my books. I am sure I still have it.

The picture of the Masons pub brought back a conversation, many years ago with my father who said there were two pubs long gone from the end of Broadway. I am sure one was the Masons, I might remember the other some time. My father would have been familiar with this part as he was born in Nicholas Street.

I am sure in the back of my mind there was an air raid shelter on the end of Broadway also a Static Tank same side as the houses but if I am right it would have been one of the first removed after the war as I do not remember playing in or on this one as we did at the bottom of Broadway and the Circle Brynwern”

If any visitor has a picture of the Donkey Steps I would very much appreciate a copy to add to my ever-growing file of photographs of Pontypool.


Old photographs of Pontypool carnival in the park

March 15, 2011

Here are some more of the photographs sent in by Terry Stunden. These are all about the carnival which was held in the park. I’ve also included a photograph of the park gates at Pontymoile. If you have a good look at these gates you will see that there are several bunches of grapes on it. One of them is missing! When I was at West Mon I remember one of my teachers talking about this and he told us that the Italian artist who had made the gates didn’t notice his omission until it was too late to rectify his mistake and, as a result, he committed suicide. I don’t know how true this story is. It sounds rather drastic to me.

For those visitors who like to look at these old photographs, I plan to post more on the next two Tuesdays at 11.00 a.m. So, if you are collecting these photographs you now know the day and time to look for them.

The park gates at Pontymoile

The park lake was another favourite playing place for my friends and I. Apart from the lake itself, there was a stream above which fed into the lake and below the lake another stream, all of which afforded a lot of fun making dams and jumping from one side to the other. There was also a variety of creatures which lived in the streams and the lake. In one of my very early posts I mentioned that I wrote my first poem about this lake.

Pontypool park lake

Below are four photographs of the carnival. Two are of the carnival queen and her court ladies. The quality of these old black and white photographs was not very good in those days. I’ve tried to enhance them slightly on my computer so there might be some ladies in the photographs that someone might recognise. If so, please let me know who they are.


Pontypool carnival queens

It looks to me as though these photographs were taken just in front of the grandstand, assuming that it was there at that time. Behind the groups you can make out the bank where we used to sit to see all the carnival activities. In the lower shot you can see the path along the bank. If any eagle-eyed visitor can help to date these photographs that would be great.

Two photographs of the carnival

I’m not sure what is going on in the above two photographs but it looks to me like part of the general procession which used to wend its way through town and end up in the park where the judging took place.

I hope you enjoyed the photographs. See you next Tuesday.

Surprises in disguises

March 14, 2011

Visitors who have been following the posts in this blog for some time might remember one about my secret society. If you need reminding or if you haven’t seen it, just copy the address below and put it in your address bar to view the post:

In that post you will see two pictures of the books I bought. One of them is called “Detection and Disguise”. It contained all manner of advice about how to disguise yourself as somebody else so that even your close friends won’t recognise you. This was the sort of thing that Sherlock Holmes often did in the stories we were so fond of reading. He was so good at this that even Dr Watson didn’t recognise him. Eric and I spent hours reading through the disguise techniques recommended in the book.

Also, on page 121 of the same book a disguise outfit and instruction book was advertised as in the picture above. The picture below gives the contents of the disguise outfit which are quite comprehensive. Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to get the 4 Quaker figures and save up the 3d to send for the outfit

One of the recommendations in the book was about making yourself look a lot older, so, as we were only about 14 or 15 at the time, this sounded like a good idea. It recommended one of the ways to do this was to pad your shoulders out with newspaper, and also do the same with your chest and stomach. This was intended to make us look slightly taller and a bit more corpulent. Under some pretext or other we both managed to borrow overcoats and trilby hats from our fathers as these would offer comprehensive covering over our assorted newspapers which might stick out from beneath our own jackets.

Having assembled all our kit we decided to try it out for the first time under cover of darkness. In Eric’s front room we busied ourselves padding our anatomies with newspapers by tying on large bundles with string so that they would stay in place. When we’d finished this we were fairly satisfied that we looked a lot more bulky and when we put on the overcoats and trilby hats we were quite thrilled. By sticking on the false moustaches we were absolutely satisfied that our transformation was complete.

By then it was reasonably dark so we crept out of the house and down Wern Terrace eventually making our way down the Bell Pitch and into town. As the shops were shut there were not many people about and those we passed didn’t even give us a second glance. The trouble was that we didn’t see a single person that we knew and that would have been the acid test of our enterprise. Having reached Woolworth’s we decided to stick to our plan and walk further, so we went up Osborne Road. As we approached the vicinity of Merchants Hill we heard running footsteps behind us, then a child’s voice shouting “Daddy! Daddy!” Immediately a little boy of about six ran up to Eric’s side and looked up at him. It was only then that he realised that Eric wasn’t his daddy so ran off again. It was just as well he did because we both almost collapsed with laughter at the event.

There was a certain amount of satisfaction as far as we were concerned. At least we must have looked like grown up men. Now, I don’t know whether it was the result of shaking with laughter or all the movement involved in walking a couple of miles but, as we turned up Merchants Hill some of our newspaper stuffing and bits of string worked loose and fell down onto the ground. This, of course, caused more laughter with the inevitable result that more newspaper stuffing started to work loose and fall down. Eventually we ended up with large bunches of newspapers under our arms making us look like latter-day Argus sellers.

Our moustaches had stuck manfully to the job. The only trouble was removing them before we returned home. Just trying to pull them off proved rather painful but by applying liberal quantities of spit we finally managed it. We found a suitable place to ditch our newspapers and then returned home. We were reasonable satisfied with our exercise in disguise but we were realistic enough to allow that Sherlock Holmes definitely had the edge on us.

Old photographs of Pontypool

March 12, 2011

Recently one of the visitors to this blog, Terry Stunden,  kindly sent me a large collection of photographs of Pontypool and the surrounding area. Some of them were fairly modern and some were very old. Terry has waived the copyright as far as posting any of the photographs in this blog is concerned as many of the photos are his own. He also doesn’t think there is any copyright applying to the other photos. I therefore plan to publish some of these photographs. I have certainly never seen some of them before so I expect a lot of visitors won’t have seen them either.

If the copyright of any of these photographs is owned by any visitor to the site, please let me know and I will remove them.

In this first batch of photographs I am including some very old shots. If anyone has any information regarding any of them, I should be interested in hearing about it with a view to publishing the details later.

Aerial photograph of Pontypool


Abersychan Police Station


Old fire engine


The Three Cranes, Crane Street

Well, that’s the first lot. I hope you find them of interest. If there are any young people studying the history of Pontypool in school they might find them useful. I shall be publishing more photographs soon.