Posts Tagged ‘West Mon School’

Old photographs of New Inn, The Grotto and West Mon School

January 11, 2015

Once again I am indebted to Craig Smith for supplying  the three photographs below. If you have any information about them please either email me or make a comment.


This is a very early photograph of the Grotto
before it was vandalised and railings
were put around it.

highway new inn

Judging by the style of the cars parked in the road
this photograph must have been taken in the 1920s.

I’m puzzled by the title: “The Highway Pontypool Road”. 
I always thought “Pontypool Road” referred to the
railway station.
Was there a road in New Inn by that name?

west mon

For visitors unacquainted with West Mon, perhaps
I should explain that, when I went there in the early
1940s, the left hand building housed
the lower aged boys; the quad is behind it and on
the far side were the boarders’ quarters.
The central building with the storm roof, housed
the swimming baths in the lower storey and the
gym on the top storey. Behind it was a large shelter
where we often assembled during break time
if it was raining. Part of the roof is just visible.
The building on the right was known as “The New
Building” and housed the laboratories and the
older boys.

West Mon personalities

October 22, 2013

I was recently reminiscing with my friend Eric Smith about some of the personalities who taught us at West Mon in the early 1940s. Two of them we spoke about at length:

Professor Alfred J. Thompson of Bristol was blind from birth and came to teach at West Mon about 1943. He was always accompanied by his wife who had to guide him everywhere. As the piano was on the hall stage, that’s where we had our music lessons with him. I remember being totally amazed the first time I saw him play the piano. I was learning the instrument at that time. He just placed his hands on the keyboard to find the keys and then he just played effortlessly and, of course, from memory. Later he wrote the school song which is featured elsewhere on this blog. Music lessons with “Toot” Steven had always been rather irregular and perfunctory but with Professor Thompson we really got down to it.

He lived just a few doors down from Park Terrace Methodist Church and held music appreciation classes at his home. Eric attended these and Professor Thompson gave him 40 records and a walnut record cabinet.


Miss Orella Jones was the glamour mistress at West Mon. As teenage boys we had an eye for this sort of thing and frequently talked about our mistresses’ qualities in a way which had little relation to their teaching abilities. Gilbert Garnett was frequently seen talking and laughing with Orella. I also remember Jehoida Brown – a prefect when I started at the school – when he visited the school in his army uniform earnestly chatting to her in the school hall. I suppose he would have only been about six years younger than Orella. She was leaning against the wall and Jehoida stood a couple of feet to the side with his hand leaning on the wall about a foot from the side of her head. I remember wondering what this cosy little tête-à-tête might have been about.

Orella was engaged to Tom Churchill who took me for French in Six Arts (written about earlier in this blog). Unfortunately he died quite young and Orella transferred to the Girls’ County School. Eric told me that she never married which I found quite surprising.


If any visitor has any recollections or photographs of either of these two members of West Mon’s staff I should be pleased to hear from them.

Aerial views of Pontypool, Griffithstown and West Mon

February 28, 2013


I enclose below a selection of aerial photographs of Pontypool, Griffithstown and West Mon. They come from the massive collection of photographs now available on the Internet taken between 1919 and 1955. If you wish to see more of them just visit the website at:

General view Pontypool

General view of Pontypool


Another view of Pontypool

Griffithstown general view

General view of Griffithstown

Griffithstown railway

Railway at Griffithstown

West Mon

West Mon School

Aerial photographs of Pontypool

June 25, 2012


Many visitors might have heard on the TV news today about the large number of aerial views of the UK which has been put on line. When I opened my emails about an hour later I saw that Craig Smith was really on the ball and had found some interesting photographs of West Mon School and some general shots of Pontypool. Craig sent some comments together with the URLs for accessing the photographs. I am most grateful to him for doing this; you will find his comments on the post about West Mon.

The people who are constructing the website concerned would like to know the dates of the photographs and details about them, so below you will find a selection of the photographs. I have mostly given each one a number. If any eagle-eyed visitors can email me with dates and any other details I shall edit this post with the details published below the photographs. (My email is:

Photograph 1

Photograph 2

Photograph 3

Photograph 4

Photograph 5
This is a photograph of West Mon School taken from the rear.
It shows a cricket match in progress on the school cricket pitch.

Photograph 6
In the top half of this photograph is a distant view of West Mon.

Photograph 7
Another shot of West Mon. This time from the front.

Photograph 8
This is Pilkington’s Glassworks.

 Photograph 9

Photograph 10

Some Pontypool Baptists in hot water

February 3, 2012

Many children and young adults now living in Pontypool will remember the Trevethin Comprehensive School which was opened in 1982 and closed in 2007. Before this, for 85 years, it was the home of Pontypool Girls’ Grammar School, known locally as “The County”. When my friends and I from West Mon were walking home through the town we invariably saw a long string of girls from The County, in their green uniforms with large wide hats, walking the other way.

The old, regency style building was built about 1835 as a Baptist College for the training of Baptist ministers and I expect it turned out many effective Baptist ministers in its time. However there was one occasion when some of the senior students behaved in a very un-ministerial way. Whether these students were influenced in any way by the publication of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” by Thomas Hughes which was published just after the college was opened, I cannot say. But certainly some of the senior students, instead of being role models for the younger ones, started behaving rather like Flashman, the bully  in “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”, and tried to make the junior students their servants even to the extent of sometimes beating them for disobeying their commands.

Apart from this they also saw fit from time to time to smash the college crockery and to cause all manner of disturbing noise at unreasonable hours.

As a result of all this totally unacceptable behaviour, the Principal, Dr Edwards, charged the students concerned  with insubordination. His charges were confirmed by the junior students and, at an extraordinary meeting of the college executive committee, 17 of the senior students were instantly expelled.

I made this pencil sketch of the college so that visitors who might not
 seen the it, particularly those living in other countries, will
some idea of what it looked like. 

To put things into perspective a little, and to convince my many Baptist friends that I am not just “having a go” at them, I’d like to point out that high jinks in ministerial colleges is not a new thing. My greatest Methodist hero was the late Dr. W.E.Sangster. I have both volumes of his excellent sermons and also the story of his life as recounted by his son Paul Sangster in his book about his father, “Dr Sangster”. He recounts the following tale about W.E.Sangster and some of his fellow students:

“In the college at that time was a student from darkest Wales who developed a graveyard cough which kept his corridor awake all night. ‘Look here —,’ said a furious fellow-student, ‘if you go on coughing like that you’ll cough your inside out.’ The Welshman’s suffering face blanched. ‘I won’t, will I?’ ‘You certainly will.’ And in that evil moment a plot was formed.

“My father dispatched a student to the local slaughter-house for two pennyworth of sheep’s intestines. The revolting mess was placed gently on the sleeping Welshman’s counterpane the next dawn, and the rest of the men, who had dressed silently in the half light, crept stealthily down to breakfast before the gong should wake their victim.

“He did not appear at breakfast. The jokers conferred. Had they, perhaps, overdone it a little. Was he really ill? They resolved to go and see him.

“But they were too late. As they reached the hall a figure tottered down the stairs, clutching the bannisters for support. ‘It happened !’ quavered the figure. ‘What?’ they asked, relieved to see him walking and delighted at the success of their joke. ‘My inside ! I coughed it up !’ Murmurs of deep sympathy broke from them all as they hid their grins. ‘But it’s all right,’ continued the figure. ‘By the grace of God and with the aid of a small toothbrush, I have succeeded in putting it all back.'”

By the way – don’t try this at home !