Pontypool barbers. Who was YOUR barber in Pontypool?

Although I’ve mentioned a number of traders in Pontypool I’ve never published a post specifically about barbers, with the exception of Mr Biby whose shop was next to Town School. He was the one I usually visited, often with my friend Eric Smith.

I have a rather vague memory of what I believe was my first visit to a barber in Pontypool. My mother took me there at the time so I must have been quite young. Also I remember being very scared of the electric cutter which made a very loud noise. I think that barber’s name was Ray Long and his shop was right at the top of Crane Street tucked away in a corner almost under the railway bridge on the right hand side going up Crane Street. It was almost opposite the gents’ toilet. Does anyone else remember this barber’s shop and do I have the correct location? I understand that, later on, he moved further down Crane Street.

At the top of George Street was the barber’s shop of Mr Amos. I only visited it on one occasion. Mr Amos asked the man before me how he wanted his hair cut and he replied, “Cut it to the bone Amos. Cut it to the bone.” That fashion has recently returned with a number of young men having all their hair cut off; little wonder that so many of them now wear some sort of woollen hat.

There was a very small-fronted shop close to Woolworth’s. I believe it was called Pillips. The part immediately inside the door was a tobacconist’s and also sold a few unusual fancy goods. A door through a partition led into the small barber’s area; I only remember visiting on a couple of occasions.

Those are the only four barber’s shops I can recall but, I imagine, there must have been quite a few more. If you know of them please add a comment.

In those days all gents’ barber’s shops were staffed by men and, apart from being able to get a haircut, men could also have a shave. It always puzzled me why some men chose to pay for a shave rather than take the cheaper option of shaving themselves. Admittedly you can’t give yourself a haircut but you can give yourself a shave; and safety razor blades were available at that time. Some men also had their hair singed. To do this the barber held a lighted wax taper and burned the very end of the hair; I think the idea was to avoid split ends. There was a very definitive smell when this was done.

Today quite a number of gents’ barbers are women and the title of the shop has been elevated to a salon. There are no shaves or singeing. Also none of them now repair umbrellas which used to be a side-line of some barbers. I suppose this was done when there were no customers who wanted a hair cut.

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12 Responses to “Pontypool barbers. Who was YOUR barber in Pontypool?”

  1. Craig Smith Says:

    Ron & Alf’s on Market Street, opposite the Comrades Club and up the side stairs. Would walk down from West Mon and get a five bob hair cut. I think they more or less cut my hair every year I was at school in the ’80s. I paid £27 for a haircut in London recently…

  2. Harold Clarke Says:

    I am not sure of the barbers name on Osborne Road might have been Morgan or Jones I remember having hair cut there teddy boy fashion I suppose and each time somebody of my age went into the chair the old boys sat their would make there comments I am one of the old boys that make the comments on the young of today things do not alter another barber was Jim Munday on the corner next to Park Terrace School cost a shilling then 5p todays money I think children were six pence 21/2p todays money

    • John Owen Says:

      I used to have my hair cut on Osborne Road in a building that I think now houses a take away Chinese restaurant across the street from Wetherspoons. I believe the barbers surname was Morgan. When I first went there he had a colleague Ron who subsequently moved to Phillips next to Woolworths. The other barber I remember was Peadon across the street from Barclays Bank which seemed to be the choice of West Mon boarders.even though I never went there myself.

  3. Glenys hughes Says:

    Now I am entering my 81st year there are many memories of pontypool ,I thought it was a lovely place to live,I too remember ray long I used to go there for a perm that entailed being strung up to a contraption for ages,and the smell of ammonia was overpowering.remember the corn stores bottom of high street and bob trumps shop opposite he had another in market street. What about the penny bazaar,long staffs,could go on forever.

  4. L.Larcombe Says:

    What about Jimmy Mundy’s?

  5. L.Larcombe Says:

    Don’t stop now Glenys…..

  6. Jeannette (Osborne) Randall Says:

    Yes Glenys, I too can remember my mother having her hair permed by Gwen Long and having to wait what seemed like hours while my Mum Phyl Osborne was plugged in to those awful contraptions. Gwen was also my hairdresser and I believe was distantly related to my family.

  7. Lionel Barrell Says:

    Next door to Woolworths was Phillips’ barbers. Bill Phillips was the boss, I think, ably assisted by Alf and Bob. Alf always talked rugby with me. He lived ‘up the Pant’, I believe. Even with a lot of men waiting, there was never any queue-jumping. To accommodate little boys, a special ‘plank’ was put across the arms of the chair, for the child to sit on.
    There was another barber just down from the Clarence, on the top side of the entrance to the dairy, but his name escapes me.

  8. Clive Barnby Says:

    Jim Mundy is the one I remember – the one I went to, my grandfather went to. I can confirm it was along Upper Park Terrace in the direction of Town School from Park Terrace School. Remember being dragged there by my grandfather on a few occasions. Can’t remember which house. Went there till I was about 11 by which time my parents had moved to Pontnewydd & then got hair cut (not very often) in the village in Pontnewydd.

  9. Clive Barnby Says:

    I remember the plank now to which Lionel referred. This was also employed by Jimmy Mundy as well as Phillips’ barbers.

  10. Louise Rourke nee Nichols Says:

    Ray Long was my 2nd cousin once removed. He married Gwendolin and was described on his marriage certificate as ‘hairdresser’. He lived in Crane Street at this time and married Gwendolin. He died in 1943 aged only 32 yrs.

  11. Dennis Williams Says:

    Goodness, this brings back memories! Yes, I remember the barber shop next to (or close to) Woolworth and the tobacconist. I’m pretty sure that in the late 1960s it was being run by a father and son but I think it had gone by 1980. I went there occasionally but when “Ron and Alf” set up in Market St my father and I used to go there. I think Ron was also a “Phillips” but I don’t know if he was related to the Bill Phillips referred to in another post. Ron lived in one of the terraced houses at the bottom of Merchant’s Hill in Pontnewynydd. I remember there was also a barber shop opposite Woolworth somewhere by Nat West and the Chinese takeaway.

    My grandfather, on the other hand, always used to go to Alfie Hopkins who was know as “the starving barber” – he had a shop in Pontnewynydd for many years.

    I remember the barber shop opposite the Clarence Hotel as it had what was probably the first female barber in Pontypool working there (this would have been the mid to late 1970s) and some of you may remember an urban legend that grew up about that shop at that time, The story went that the female barber had hit a male customer across the head with a mirror, inflicting a wound that needed stitches, following a misunderstanding with the customer who was innocently polishing his glasses under his cape (I won’t go into further detail on a family forum but you get my meaning!).

    Such was the notoriety of the story that the police even visited the salon, and it was reported in the “Free Press”. The story was a complete fabrication, but the publicity did them no harm at all!

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