Information requested about old Pontypool. Can you help?

Last week I received a long email from C.J.Welsh who describes himself as a “thirty-something whippersnapper”. He was born in Pontypool and thinks that four or five generations of his family lived there.

He asked all manner of questions about Pontypool and, with the assistance of my friend, Eric Smith, I was able to answer a number of them when I replied to his email. However there are quite a number of enquiries which I couldn’t answer or perhaps only in part. As C.J. said I am welcome to quote his email in my blog I now do so below. If you can supply any of the requested information please make a comment on the blog.


 “Cae Brest or Caer Brest

Looking at several census records, it appears that one branch of my family lived on/worked on/owned a farm of the aforementioned name (the writing on the records isn’t the best!). Does anyone know where this is/was? I’m guessing from the running order on the records that it might be on the western side of the valley between Lasgarn and Trevethin – but this is only a guess! What was the farm like and what was its function? Does anyone have any info/pictures? 

 Machine Meadow

My grandfather, who “upgraded” from Trosnant to Machine Meadow (out of the frying pan…) often joked that the area was referred to as the “Packman’s Puzzle” – i.e. because all the houses in that area looked so similar, no one apart from the locals was sure where anyone lived… Which was great, since many of them were avoiding debt collectors, bailiffs, etc. My grandfather is still exceptionally proud of this fact, much to my grandmother’s chagrin! 

 Pontnewynydd Swimming Baths

I remember the pool being there (albeit drained), but never saw it in its glory days. My grandfather always speaks fondly of it, and my mother and her brother remember playing there as children. Does anyone have any pictures/stories? 

 Park Terrace Nursery

My late grandmother ran her own successful private nursery from her home in Park Terrace for many years, until she had a heart attack and had to close it. Does anyone remember attending? 

 Abersychan/Old Penygarn

Bear with me – it IS relevant! A piano teacher, Ruth E. Williams, lived in Brynderi, Old Penygarn (what was regarded as probably the poshest house there), for many many years until her death in late 1999. She trained at the Royal Academy of Music and bought her first car before driving tests existed! 

 She had two daughters, both of whom were famous actresses. One is Jennifer Daniel, who married the late actor, Dinsdale Landen. Jennifer starred in many of those dodgy 1960s B movies! I believe Jennifer is still living somewhere in London…

 Her other daughter’s name escapes me, though I know she was much more high profile than Jennifer, and moved to Mexico, where I believe she still resides. 

 I never knew Ruth’s husband, but I’m guessing he was quite well-to-do, judging by Brynderi! 

 Anyway! Ruth’s maiden name was DANIEL; she was the daughter of (what she modestly described to me many several times as) a shopkeeper in Abersychan. When I discussed this with my grandmother, she shrieked! Apparently the Daniel family had a massive reputation, and were considered VERY well to do. Ruth was always exceptionally well-spoken, and I’m guessing the family must have been well-off to send her to RAM! 

 Does anyone know anything further about the Daniel family, or have any contact with Ruth’s daughters? 

 Church Wood – The Clampetts

As a small child, I often used to walk and play in Church Wood, and remember a large old house next to the big waterfall near Ty Nant Ddu (NOT the cottage next to Pontnewynydd Legion), that had loads of abandoned rusty cars outside and hundreds of barking mongerels! I was always told to stay away from the house because “the Clampetts live there, and like to eat little children!” How old was this house? What were its origins? Little remains of it now, save a few bits of rubble and a slight clearing in the growth. 

 Church Wood – villa

On entering Church Wood from Park Road, one can see a large white mansion house directly in front, which has rear access from the Riverside road. I remember a lovely, very tall old lady called Mrs. Murray used to own it, but she eventually moved to Griffithstown. What are the origins of this house? 

 Church Wood – name

Why is it so named? No church exists there, and my grandparents certainly don’t remember one. I have a vague memory of my great-grandmother telling me a story about it being something to do with Trevethin/St. Cadoc’s Church. Was that area of land owned by them? I know that Trevethin was the registration centre for Pontypool at one time.  

 Lower Park Gardens

At the entrance, there is evidence of some kind of gateway. What did this gateway look like? Was it an entrance to the Hanbury estate (the park)? 


Again, seemingly unrelevant, but bear with me! 

 One branch of my family apparently lived in Usk, before relocating to Pontypool. Apparently one of my ancestors (Harris) ran the town’s fist newsagency, and one of his ancestors (Moss?) opened the town’s first fish and chip shop – which still exists to this day! The family relocated to Pontypool in the early 20th century, though I’m not sure why. “


There are other queries which C.J. makes but I’ll leave the rest to another blog which I’ll post quite soon.

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One Response to “Information requested about old Pontypool. Can you help?”

  1. Laurie Oliver Says:

    From my recollections, Cae Brest was the hill where the Grotto is situated, or the land to the south of it, looking over the Turnpike.

    I spent many a happy hour at Pontnewynydd baths – which was ice cold and fed from a mountain stream. For a time I went out with a beautiful girl who lived on Lewis Terrace, just across the stream from the baths. Happy days!

    I believe it was called Church Wood because the land was owned by the church. I knew Mrs Murray and her daughter Mary Murray was at school with my elder sister and was a good friend of hers. Mary had a brother who died tragically quite young.

    Lower Park Gardens – There is a footpath leading through what I believe was a walled garden belonging to the Park House and the remains of an ice house also. I believe this has been restored in recent years.

    kind regards

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