Donkey Steps & Gibson’s Square – a revised sketch and more information

I’d like to thank Clive Barnby for his comments regarding the last posting about the Donkey Steps. I found them very helpful in jogging my memory. It needs jogging these days! He says:

“A neat sketch, David. In “my day” there was a butcher’s to the right of the steps as you looked up. Whether it was immediately to the right, I’m not sure. Think there may have been a house on the left.”

I’d forgotten the butcher’s shop when I was drawing my rough pencil sketch, but Clive is absolutely correct. There was a butcher’s shop just a little way down from the steps. It wasn’t immediately to the right of the steps. There was some sort of large structure in that place and, after thinking about it, it must have been some part of a boundary wall around the Gibson’s Square houses. I’ve printed below a rough watercolour sketch showing my revised thoughts. The butcher’s shop must have been built below the foundations of the Gibson’s Square houses. This suggests that it might have been just one storey but I cannot be certain about this; it might have had living accommodation above it.

This is my revised rough watercolour sketch of the area, again drawn from memory
of over 70 years ago.  I’ve put the little figure in the red coat to give some scale to the picture.
He is looking over the wall and down into the basement of the house.

When speaking to my friend, Eric Smith, about the Gibson’s Square houses we both thought that there were probably three of them, although there could have been six semi-detached houses as the structures were very large, probably much larger than those drawn in my sketch. The anonymous building to the left of the steps I simply cannot remember in any detail but Eric Smith says that he remembers that it was a house and that he recalls seeing a man in a wheelchair who used to sit outside it.

In my sketch I have placed the butcher’s shop next down to the large wall but it might have been a little further down the hill. As I passed it four times every school day I vividly recall looking into the window of the shop and seeing joints of meat and large trays of tripe. I would have been quite small at the time but I remember that the shop window was quite low and I think the building was constructed on a step area which I’ve tried to show,

Lower down were several small cottages also built on their own “steps” and a little way back off the pavement. One of them belonged to Watkins the tinsmith who featured in an earlier posting.

Clive further says:

 “The house at the top had disappeared; there was little evidence of houses there but my memories are from the 50s.  Remember a hedge running along the top to the right as you walked up, think some of the land the other side of it was used for the growing of vegetables during WWII.”

This comment really jogged my memory and I now recall the area at the top of the steps where the path flattened out. This was opposite the ruined buildings bordering Broadway. On the right there was a wire fence bordering some allotments. There might well have been a hedge inside the fence.These were used before the war so we can be certain that they would have been used during the war when we were all urged to “Dig for Victory”.

Clive’s final comment is this:

“Not sure whether from the bottom of the steps, you could see the top. Think the top curved out of sight but it is a long time ago !! Also seemed quite long but, then, things seemed longer, bigger. On returning in adulthood, it is surprising how small many of the places are.”

I’m sure this is correct too. That is why I queried the curve of the steps in my last posting. I couldn’t seem to remember being able to see from bottom to top of the steps. In my revised sketch I’ve made the steps curve around more to the right.

I think this revised sketch of over 70 years ago is about as far as we can go with information about this area unless there is someone who remembers further details or possibly might have a photograph or a drawing made many years ago.

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2 Responses to “Donkey Steps & Gibson’s Square – a revised sketch and more information”

  1. levant29 Says:

    just had an email off a family member quote- about 10 familys lived in gibson square,the first inside the Wall two Tramps lived there they were Kilka & Hardboil, Both were Drafted into the Army, Kilka became a Sergeant and later got married, done well for him-self, think hardboil returned to Pontypool.

  2. amos2008 Says:

    As a result of this comment I have made an amendment to my much earlier post about “Pontypool Characters”. Visitors can revisit that post to see the amendment. It’s pleasing to know that these two characters made good later in their lives. I imagine that the discipline they received in the army enabled them to lead more disciplined lives.
    David.

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