Archive for the ‘Places around Pontypool’ Category

What have they done to the NEW Pontypool???

November 22, 2016

As regular visitors will know, I started this blog eight years ago. Since then almost all my emails and the people I’ve met from Pontypool have been saddened by the present state of the town which, in my boyhood days was a happy bustling town. Most people describe its present state as “dead”!

Imagine my sadness today when I received an email from a visitor giving me the URL of an article from today’s Guardian. I

 

 

A health worker in Pontypool told me what happens when people lose their sense of purpose. “You don’t get up in the morning. You might see a spiral in depression,” she said last week. “You lose contact with the outside world.” The dismal list went on: no self-worth, no self-confidence. As she talked, I realised her description didn’t apply only to people. Places and communities can be stripped of their purpose too. That is certainly what’s happened to Pontypool.
If I could send Theresa May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond, anywhere before tomorrow’s autumn statement, it wouldn’t be to some love-in with big business at a swanky London hotel – but to this south Wales market town. It might make them think.
The story of Pontypool is a story of riches squandered, of dynamism blocked, of an entire community slung on the slagheap. Sat atop vast deposits of iron ore and coal, it was probably the first industrial town in Wales. For a time, under Victoria, it was richer than Cardiff. Even now, to look along its skyline is to see traces of wealth: the park with its Italian gardens and bandstand; the covered market with its olde price list for snipes or a brace of pheasants; the 25 listed buildings that make this one of the most sumptuous small town centres in Britain.
Then look down. On a typical weekday, the indoor market is a desert. Those bits of the high street that aren’t to let are betting parlours, vaping dens and charity shops: the standard parade for hollowed-out towns across Britain. The reason isn’t hard to fathom: the mines shut down decades back; the factories have pretty much disappeared. Those big employers still left aren’t big employers any more. One of the staff at BAE tells me that when he joined in 1982, it had 2,500 workers on its shopfloor; now, he reckons, it has 120.
Swaths of Pontypool and the surrounding region of Torfaen now rank among the poorest in all Britain. On part of one of its housing estates in Trevethin, 75% of all children under four are raised in poverty. Over half – 53% – of all households who live on that stretch are below the poverty line. With that come all the usual problems: families that can’t pay the rent, that are more likely to fall prey to a whole range of sicknesses, from mental health to cancer. Those people can expect to die 20 years before their near-neighbours in some of the better-off areas in Pontypool. First the economy died out, now its people are too.
Pontypool is like the rest of south Wales, like many other parts of Britain I have reported from. It’s what politicians and economists call “post-industrial”. That term, though, implies something coming after; here, hardly anything has come after. A few years ago Pontypool town centre was declared on the verge of death by a local councillor, who bore a coffin lid in a mock funeral procession.
It’s a similar story in Hull, Sunderland, in so many places across Britain. For three decades Tories and Labour thought they could buy the acquiescence of residents with benefits and public-sector jobs. Then came the 2008 crash and the cuts that have followed. Then came the Brexit referendum.
I visited Pontypool a few weeks before that vote – and it was on that trip that the suspicion dawned that the remain camp didn’t have it in the bag at all. True to form, Torfaen voted nearly 60% to 40% to leave the EU.
Aditya Chakrabortty. The Guardian.com 22/11/2016 Reproduced with permission.

 
To read the full article go to:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/22/just-about-managing-pontypool-south-wales-poverty-post-industrial-truth-britain

Do you know anything about St James’ Field Pontypool?

September 11, 2016

Recently I’ve received a few emails from Leigh Priest. In the first one he says:

“I came across your fascinating blog a few days ago and wondered if you knew anything about the houses in St James Field, Pontypool.
We bought the house recently and it would be wonderful to hopefully discover some of its history.
It’s a three storey Victorian / Edwardian semi detached house with some beautiful original features.
We’ve been told ‘it’s a Hanbury house’….’it was a school’….’built for the railway managers’ etc but unless I can find out myself it will remain a mystery.”

I’ve made some brief enquiries of people who have lived in Pontypool for many years and none of them have ever heard of St James’ Field. When I attended West Mon, I know that St James’ Church was noted for its  youth club which was very large and very successful; that was in the days when teenagers actually went out to meet friends in person not online.  It was in the heyday of the youth club movement mostly in  churches.

I remember one day when I was in standard three at Town School we had a new boy who sat next to me. He was Geen Williams, the son of the new vicar of St James’ Church. He went to West Mon and became a member of the cricket team.

If any visitor can help Leigh with his enquiries about St James’ Field, please email me or make a comment.

Do you remember the Fullards of Forge Row?

April 13, 2016

I’ve recently received an email from Neil Roberts – published below – whose mother remembers a trip to Pontypool during WWII. If you are able to help him with any information, please make a comment.

Hello
 
Last week we had a glorious short break in Newcastle near Monmouth which reminded my mum of a trip to Pontypool during WWII to stay with the grandparents. All she can remember was that she had a wonderful time and that the row of cottages were built into the hill/mountain and to get to the back garden she had to go up one floor and then out the back door. The toilets and the wash rooms were in a separate block along from the row of cottages and there was a river or canal in the front of the cottages.
 
Her Grandad’s name was Fullard and he worked in the steel works. She believes it was called Forge Row or something similar. It would be great to get some feedback on this if possible so I could take my mum back there and hopefully show her roughly where it was.
 
Hoping you or your readers can help us?
 
Regards
 
Neil Roberts

Do you remember Barbara Davies of Pontypool?

October 27, 2015

I’ve received yet another enquiry about a person who lived in Pontypool in the sixties; this time from Beryl Kennedy. I’ve highlighted some of the descriptions she gives hoping they might ring a bell with someone who might recollect the place.

I’m trying to locate my aunt who lived in pontypool in the 60 when I last visited her home I remember she lived down a steep path with a wall around where there was a tap in the wall where I used to drink loads of water from as it tasted lovely her name was Barbara not sure of her married name but maiden name was Davies I remember her front garden (or even back) was very steep. There was a hill by her house that had sheep roaming. She had a daughter Stephanie and 2 more children. I would love to know if she is still alive and where this is she lives as I’m longing to come there one day to see her hopefully and where she used to live. Grateful for any help you can give.

Please make a comment if you have something relevant. I’ve already received 117 comments. Another one from you will be welcome.

Was “Gibson Square” and “Gibson Steps” the same place?

October 20, 2015

Last week I received an email from Eric Deigon who has ancestors who lived at Gibson Steps. I append below his email enquiring about this matter. If any visitors know anything about the people mentioned please make a comment.

“I have recently come across your blog about Reminiscences of Old Pontypool, in my search for information about my great-grandmother and two half-great-uncles who lived in Pontypool, and I have a question for you about where they lived.  Do you know anything about an address of 2 Gibson’s Steps in Pontypool?  I know that this relates to information before your time, but perhaps you can still help.  Sorry for the long email about this.

I have been searching for years for information about this part of my family, and only recently got a breakthrough when a relative who was also researching the family history got a new clue.  I knew from my father that my great-grandmother (born Abigail Wakeman in London, and later named Abigail Schwartz and Abigail Gibbs by marriage) had married again after her second husband Joseph Gibbs had died, and that she had gone on to have two sons, one of whom had died in World War 1.  My father had thought that their surname had been King, but that has turned out to be wrong, and is where the story becomes complicated.

It turns out that Abigail was married to an Edward Evans, and their older son (also named Edward) was killed in WW1 in 1914 at age 17.  Edward Evans Sr., however, also went by another name, John Williams (or John William) under which name he enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1914 at age 39, giving an address of 2 Gibson Steps, Pontypool.

In a Google search, the only other reference I can find to Gibson Steps or Gibson’s Steps in Pontypool is this:

EVANS, EDWARD, Private, No. 1682,2nd Battn. Monmouthshire Regt. (T.F.),
elder s. of the late Edward Evans, by his wife, Abigail (2, Gibson’s Steps, High
Street, Pontypool); b. Cardiff, 2 7 Oct. 1897; educ. National School there;
enlisted early in 1912, and was killed in action in France, 30 Dec. 1914. Capt.
L. P. A. Rolls wrote : ” Your son had been my servant ever since the beginning
of Oct., when we were in Northampton, and had been with me till he met his
death. I cannot tell you what a good willing lad he was in all that he did for me.
He was killed like so many other—nobly doing his duty in the trenches.”

So this fits the connection with my family.  And then I came across notes on your blog about Gibson’s Square and Donkey Steps, so I wondered if there was some connection of Gibson’s Steps to this area. 

Thank you for any insights you can provide!”

Newspaper article about Pontypool synagogue

July 18, 2015

I’ve recently been sent a link to a newspaper article about the Pontypool synagogue. If you have the facilities you can view the article using this link:

http://newspapers.library.wales/view/3402626/3402634/49/Jewish%20Pontypool

However, if you do not have such facilities, here is a photograph of the newspaper article:

Newspaper article

Do you remember a synagogue in Pontypool?

July 3, 2015

Do you remember a synagogue in Pontypool?

I recently received an email from C.J.Welsh who is researching his family history. He’s found some interesting sites about Jewish families in Wales. Here is a quote from one of the sites (JCR-UK) in question:

‘On page 46 of the book edited by Ursula R.Q. Henriques, The Jews of South Wales, Historical Studies (1993) there is a map of Jewish settlements. Those places which had a synagogue are underlined. It appears to be complete but  for short periods at any rate two other places had synagogues; these were at Pontypool and at Neath. I was alerted to these two by letters printed in the Jewish Chronicle, in 1867 and 1868. They were written by Henry D. Marks, of Cardiff, and were based on his visits to various places in South Wales.  In the first letter, referring to Pontypool, printed in the JC on 1 March 1867, p. 6, he noted that  the congregation was very small ‘consisting, in fact, of three families only, with sufficient males to form a “minyan” .’  He went on: ‘I am proud to say they consecrated a place of worship for themselves last week, and have engaged the services of Rev. D. Rosenthal, who acts as Hazan [in Hebrew] and Shochet [in Hebrew], and Teacher to their children’. The consecration took place on 10 February  1867. The writer, Henry Marks, noted that the opening of the synagogue was due to the efforts of  Rev. Nathan Jacobs of Cardiff who also gave ‘a most thrilling and appropriate sermon on the occasion’, which was reported in a copy of  ‘a local periodical’ which he had included with his letter to the editor. This was the Pontypool Free Press of 16 February – a copy of which I obtained through the good offices of the Archivist of the  Gwent Record Office. It contained a very full report of the consecration, amounting to several thousand words. The building was one which had been occupied by Mr Philip Hambleton, a builder and farmer, who appears in the 1851 Census as living in Wain House. The newspaper report stated that the two upper rooms had been ‘thrown into one’  and in the centre was a reading desk, opposite which was the Ark containing a Sepher Torah. ‘A portion of the room is railed off for the accommodation of the female members’.


C.J.Welsh also says:

“The Census records of Jewish families in Pontypool at that time throw up the surnames Solomon (pawnbroker), Bloom (pawnbroker), Jacobs (jewellery pedlar), and Crawcour.”


If any visitors have any of these surnames or can remember anything about the Pontypool synagogue, please make a comment or email me. I just wonder whether Wain House might have been in the Wainfelin area.

Cwmffrwdoer Infant School – a commemorative plate with an illustration

March 25, 2015

Recently I’ve received an email from Stuart Baldwin regarding the Cwmffrwdoer Infant School. He says:

 “Following your recent blogs on Cwmffrwdoer Infant School and my clear confusion (even though I attended the school) as to it being located in Pontnewynydd, the picture I have sent confirms it in my mind, this plate I have walked under many time as it hung on my Nan’s wall but never really took in what was written on the plate, sadly now the plate is in my possession as my Nan sadly passed away recently, but thought it right to e-mail the pic of this commemorative plate which is linked to some of your recent blogs.”

I attach a copy of the plate below as some visitors have asked whether a picture of the school was available. The one on the plate is a stylised sketch but it will be of interest to those who knew it.

cwmffrwdoer plate

The plate

An unknown Pontypool poet. Do you know him?

January 7, 2015

I am indebted to Craig Smith for sending me a copy of a poem he found when he bought a postcard on eBay. I enclose below the handwritten copy of the original poem. All we know is that the poem was written by someone with the initials H.M. and that it was written in 1935. Craig and I both think that, because of the style of the writing, the poet was probably a man. We might not be correct, of course.

The second illustration is a typed copy of the poem for ease of reading, and for the third illustration I’ve made it into an illustrated version on parchment with the idea that some visitors might be keeping a scrapbook of Pontypool, in which case they might like to use it.

If you think you know who the poet is please either email me or make a comment. He might be an ancestor of yours or a friend of the family.

A happy New Year to you all.

Screen shot 2015-01-05 at 00.21.19

 

THE FOLLY TOWER



O’er mountain breast to Folly Tower
Speed exiles’ thoughts in lonesome hour
Bold on the crest, it scorns the gale
And dominates Gwent’s fairest vale



Seven counties charms here cheer the eye
Gwent’s noblest hills point to the sky
An epic scene delights the mind
Here downcast souls can solace find

The winding Usk with silv’y sheen
Between the graceful trees is seen
Hill, field and wood in one huge page
Are here unfurled to human gaze

Rome’s cohorts bold, in days of yore
Paused here to rest, ‘ere on they bore
And on this panoramic view –
Feasted – they passed to conquests new

And from this hill since that far day
Legions have gazed – passed on – away
Their spirits cheered in this fair sphere
Faced life anew with vision clear



H.M.
(May 1935)

 Folly poem on parchment

Photographs of Tirpentwys Colliery

August 16, 2014

A number of visitors have expressed an interest in Tirpentwys Colliery. I’ve received from Dot Jones some photographs of it which are published below.

The first coal extracted from Tirpentwys Colliery was in 1894. A tragic accident occurred there in 1902 when eight men and boys were killed when a winding rope broke and the cage plunged to the bottom of the shaft.

When I lived in School Lane our next door neighbour worked at the colliery. His name was George Bright and he had a wife named Clarice. Some visitors might remember him.

TirpentwysColliery

TirpentwysColliery3

TirpentwysColliery2