Archive for the ‘Pontypool people’ 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

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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!”

Pontypool choirs in the 1930s

September 16, 2015

Back in the 1930s the entertainment on offer was limited; there were cinemas of course but we had to pay to visit those; the wireless was free, once you’d bought it and were prepared to pay the annual licence fee of £1. The BBC was set up in 1922 so it was a fairly new experience.

As a result there was quite a lot of local amateur entertainment put on by churches, Sunday Schools, Brotherhoods, and youth organisations etc. I remember that at Park Terrace Methodist Church there was the annual Sunday School Anniversary with three services on the day during which the scholars sang and recited. There were generally a few “socials” during the year, such as the Harvest Social which took place on the Monday after the harvest services. There was a small charge to attend in order to raise church funds.

Some of the major events were put on by the two Pontypool Choirs: the Pontypool Choral Society and the Pontypool Male Voice Choir each having well over 50 members. Recently, while sorting out my collection of thousands of photographs I came across two photos of these organisations which I include in this post. If you can identify anyone please either make a comment or email me.

Pontypool Choral Society

Pontypool Choral society

Both my parents belonged to this choir. My father is in the seated row third from left and my mother is immediately in front of him. The only member I recall them talking about was George Ashman. One of his relatives might identify him if he is in the photo.

Pontypool Male Voice Choir

Pontypool Male Voice Choir

My father was also in this choir and is seated in the front row third from right. If any visitor knows anything about either photo I’d be pleased to hear about it.

Do you remember Alfred William Hart or his Pontypool friends?

July 24, 2015

I’ve just received an email from Kate Tressider who also provided me with a photograph of six young men, one of whom is her Great Uncle Alf. Below I reproduce her email and also a copy of the photograph. If you recognise anyone on it please either make a comment or email me and I will pass on the information.

 

Dear David,

I came across your wonderful website and thought I would send you an email. I have a very long line of ancestors from Pontypool and the surrounding areas, dating way back to the 1800s. I have recently been researching my family history, and have found, among many other things, the attached photograph. 

The photograph is of my Great Uncle (Alfred William Hart – pictured on the top right hand corner, turned slightly inwards, with the striped hat on) He was born in 1922, so I would estimate that this photograph was taken between 1934-1940…  I would love to know if there is anybody who recognises the other people in the photograph, or if they have surviving ancestors. My Great Uncle was known as Alf to his friends; sadly he died in the Second World War on 8th June 1944; he volunteered to join the Royal Navy in 1943. He had an older sister, Irene, who was born in 1920. They lived at 19 Crumlin Street (Pontypool) with their grandparents.

I would be very grateful if this could be added to your website perhaps? Let me know if there is any other information that you think would be helpful – and apologies that I can’t provide much more at the moment.

Thanking you very much in advance,

Best wishes,
Kate

Alfie and friends

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.

Pontypool people. Do you recognise any relatives?

May 10, 2015

I’ve recently received some emails from Julia Jones who is the daughter of my wartime schoolfriend, John Paine who is mentioned in some of my posts. Julia has been sorting through some family photographs and has sent some to me for this blog.

One school photo contains a photograph of her uncle Frank Paine when he was in school, probably in Town School, but possibly George Street School. Julia says:

“I have been looking through some old family photos and have come across the following which may be of interest to some of your followers. 
The photo of the school children is I think of George Street School sometime in the latter half of the 1930’s.I have tried to attach the names to some of the faces but the only ones I can be certain of is that of my uncle, Frank Paine, and Margaret Booth Frost.”

Julia says in a second email about the same photo:

“Frank’s date of birth was May 1925, this seems to date the photo more towards the early thirties. I think they started school about four or five years of age. The sign in front says Babes 2. I expect this was the infant class.”

School photo

This could be George St School or Town School.
The names might be too small to read, but from left to right they are:
Frank Paine, Les Haines, Malcolm Durham, Charlie Phillips,
Billy Jones, L.F.Vaisey, Ivor Morgan, Doug Smith, Harold Gardener.
Betty Griffiths, Thelma Haddock, Margaret Booth Frost, Edna Young.
Hazel Jones, Flossie Edwards. Holding sign “Babes 2”.

 Frank 1

Frank Paine as army despatch rider

Mr Pearson & 3 friends

Mr T.B.Pearson (in dark clothes) with three friends and car.
Mrs Paine was Mr Pearson’s housekeeper at “Trosnant” in School Lane.

If you recognise anyone in any of the photos please either email me or make a comment. A lot of visitors to this blog are researching their families so some useful information might arise.

Cwmffrwdoer Infants School. Do you recognise anyone?

January 20, 2015

It’s always pleasing to receive emails from visitors to my blog especially when they write from other countries where they are now living. It’s amazing how far flung are some of the people who were born and brought up in Pontypool.

Just recently I’ve had some emails from Garry Taylor who lives in Portland USA. He says “Portland is a very beautiful place and in many ways the people often remind me of the Welsh- very kind, open, honest and willing to stop and pass the time of day with a conversation.”

Garry went to Cwmffrwdoer Infants and Junior School and also Twmpath. He has kindly sent me two photographs of some of the Infants children which I enclose below. Garry has also sent me the names of the children he can remember so it’s possible that some visitors might remember either themselves or a relative in one of the photographs.

If any visitors have any other photographs of Cwmffrwdoer Junior and Infants School please let me have copies in an email and I can add them in a later post. I know Garry would like to see them.

infants school

Cwmffrwdoer infants school about 1970 [ish]
Teachers, Mrs. Roper lady on right of image with white hair,, Mrs.
Cleaves sat directly behind her.
Christine Rappel, Linda Probert, Sally-Ann Price, Martin Leighton, Simon
Curzon,”Snakey” Kevin Price, Stephen Jones, Ian [or Neil] Foxwell, Sean
Edwards, Curt Hamer, Chris Williams, Lesa Jones [the daughter of the
Benny Jones who recently died], Sharon Young, Andrea Hill, Alison
Redman, Karen Osmond, Gareth Strange, Ann Rudick, Michelle Hurley, Alan
Hancock, Maxine Richards, Brenda Hanratty, Judith Read, Ian Watkins,
Andrew Gasconge, Paul Lamrick, Ian Francis, Michelle Hurley, Michele
Gittins,

infants school 2
The second image with paper flower
Ian Francis, Judith Read, Maxine Richards, Alison Redman, Dionne Nutt,
second row down, Clare Jones, Karen Osmond, Garry Taylor [me] Paul
Lamrick, and not sure,
front row, Steward Mathews, Linda Peacock, and

Anthony Taylor.

I don’t have any images from Junior School- I think the annual photo
must have been lost along with my many travels.