Memories of Shirenewton & Mynyddbach
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These memories of Shirenewton & Mynyddbach were compiled by Winifred Jones, Betty Knox, Thelma Moore & Ivy Wells in ?? (TBA) and published as a Church Booklet. It is reproduced in its entirity here.
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Much has been written by historians about the history of Shirenewton and Mynyddbach and interesting accounts of life in a small but important village have been recorded.
We have set out to recapture aspects of the past with the help of some of the oldest inhabitants, and how they have seen change in their lifetime.
We publish this booklet so that we may record and preserve some of the customs of life, as it was in the early part of this century, and perhaps one day, this too may find a place in the history books.
Local inhabitants were interviewed by:-
Winifred Jones, Betty Knox, Thelma Moore, Ivy Wells
Born 14th June 1905 at Church Cottage, Shirenewton
The family moved to Mynders Cottage then to Caldicot as his father worked at Caldicot Castle.
After some time, came back to Mynyddbach at Pear Tree Cottage.
Attended Mynyddbach School during the time the family lived in Caldicot. He stayed with his grandmother at Mynders Cottage.
Bill drove into Chepstow with his grandmother in a cart drawn by a donkey. They stabled it at the Royal Oak in Welsh Street.
He remembers driving his grandmother to a funeral in Earlswood.
Whilst his grandmother went to chapel, Bill read the bible to his grandfather.
He left school at 12 years.
His first job was on a farm cutting thistles out of the corn. He then worked piecework cutting out Swedes.
With his father he drove a team of horses. Whilst in Chepstow Park cutting out wood, there was a violent thunderstorm; the lightning ran along the chains of the horses then up a nearby holly tree, which was killed.
Another time, they had to pick up two loads of cattle. They picked up two, and then at the next stop, put the two out on the road, whilst collecting the others. One ran over to a cottage, which had a low roof and climbed up to the top! Nobody could think how best to get the bullock down. Fortunately, it decided to come down. He earned £1.10s. a week.
Soon after this, Bill took up steam waggoning for Peter Scott. He drove twice a week to London. He took tin plate from Llanelli to Southall in London; stone from Park End to Baker Street, and sometimes to Herne Bay. Then he build two houses near Caldicot School.
Bill then went to work for Reg Reece, hauling stock, meal, flour, etc., then for three years, he worked as chauffeur for Mr. Jack Spence Thomas; once a week, he drove to Wolverhampton to the steelworks owned by Mr. Jack Spence Thomas.
There were 4 or 5 cars to clean. Bill now earned £2.8s.5d. a week. When war broke out in September 1939, Bill went back to work for Reg Reece. The lorries had head lamps blacked out with just a thin line of light shining through. All signposts had been taken away. It was important to know your route. Many a time Bill drove to London in an air raid.
In 1953, Bill went to work for Dendix in Chepstow. When he retired at 70 years old he had driven the same lorry for 22 years, an indication of the care he took of the lorry, which he drove all over the country (372 miles round trip in a day). He went back to Dendix in 1954 to do some gardening.
He also gardened for his daughter’s mother-in-law and for Mrs Wicks, Mrs Price, and Mrs Cook, until his recent illness, in 1993.
Bill was a bell ringer at Shirenewton Church, together with his brother, Ivor, for many years. There were 16 bell ringers. Eight rang one Sunday, eight the next. Bill also wound the clock twice a week and cleaned the belfry.
Bill remembers the names of all his horses – Violet, Blossom, Captain, Lester, Darling, Kit, Trouper, and Duke.
Bill remembers when it was customary to carry coffins from the house to the church. This happened when Barbara Davies’s grandfather, Edwin Davis, died; the coffin was carried from Hawthorn Cottage, Mynyddbach, to Shirenewton Church.
Bill was known to be the strongest man around.
Born 9th November 1919 at Govilon
Came to work in Shirenewton in 1933.
Mavis worked for Mr and Mrs Bert Benjamin in the house and on the farm. It was a long working day, 6.30 am – 10.00 pm; housework, feeding chickens, carrying the milk and cooling it, sometimes milking the cows.
Mr Benjamin also had a butcher’s shop in Shirenewton. Mavis went with him to deliver meat, twice a week, to Itton, Devauden and Llanfair Discoed. The big houses had meat delivered every day.
Haymaking time, Mavis took food and drink to the men in the fields.
In 1935, there was a violent storm in the night. The glass was smashed in many windows. The men were in the barn across the road seeing to a cow with milk fever. Mavis was so frightened, she rushed into Mrs Benjamin, jumped into bed and buried her head under the bedclothes! Next morning, the devastation caused by the storm could be seen everywhere. The Cwm Road was broken up, right down the middle. Some of the holes were deep enough for a man to stand in. At the racecourse there were piles of enormous hailstones.
Later on, Mavis went to work for Mrs Jack Spence Thomas. She worked in the Kitchen and Dinning Room. Three indoor staff were kept and a gardener.
Mavis married Bill in 1937.
Mavis continued working at Caepwcella in the evenings, cooking the dinner and working during the day at Benjamin’s.
Whilst living at No. 1 Hillside, Mynyddbach, water had to fetched from a tap along the lane by Morgan’s Cottage. Also, water could be fetched from Webb’s Well just beyond the Green. But the best water for washing clothes came from the Spout, halfway up the hill to Shirenewton. No.1 Hillside had a pigsty, chickens, and Bill grew all their vegetables.
Mavis and Bill moved to 2 Hillside in 1953. Electricity and water was laid on soon after; until 1975 they had a cesspit.
When “Treetops” was built, the builder, Mr Shore, was not allowed to use the lane. His lorries had to use Dolly’s Hill. Nowadays, large lorries come bouncing along the lane.
There was a good bus service into Chepstow – more frequent than now.
Mavis and their friends used to walk to St. Arvans, Itton and Devauden for dances.
The old Institute was used a great deal. The W.I. put on many plays.
The Village Produce Association was always well supported.
Born 24th July 1898
Parents: Thomas Cule and Margaret (nee Williams)
Grandparents: William Williams lived to be 102 years, Margaret Williams lived to be 80 years
Great Grandfather was a paper-maker and originated from Thornbury.
Grandmother’s sister, Mrs Ridler, kept the Tredegar Arms at the beginning of the century.
Six generations are buried at Shirenewton Church. Gwilym was actually born in Ponypridd but came to this parish when six months old.
The family immigrated to Australia in 1908 and returned in 1913. Upon return he attended Mynyddbach School and subsequently passed an examination to attend Lydney Secondary School at the age of 13 years. (This was the nearest Secondary School).) He walked to Chepstow and then travelled by train to Lydney.
He left at 16 years and returned to Mynyddbach as a pupil teacher (approx. 75 pupils). At 18 years, he joined the Army (First World War). By January 1919 there was a shortage of teachers, so the Education Authority had him released.
He commenced work at Chepstow Boys’ School, then Monmouth Boys’ Pentwynmawr and Newbridge Schools; during this time he cycled to work (approximately 35-40 miles per day). He finally went to Crumlin School, where he stayed for 43 years until his retirement in 1963. During this period he got married and lived in the area (Blackwood), but came home most weekends to be with his mother, therefore keeping a strong link with Shirenewton. (His mother was by now a widow.)
He married Florence Pearse at Mynyddislwyn Church on 4th August 1924.
His grandparents visiting relatives in Bath would walk to Sudbrook and catch the ferry from Blackrock and the train on the other side. Return journeys would depend on the tide.
The peppermills at Pandymill were considered to produce good paper – in fact, supplied the bank of England.
People who were ill would attend the Poor House in Chepstow (Regent House, known as the workhouse) and there was a special ward set aside (like an emergency ward) otherwise they would attend St. Woolos, Newport. There was also a “Poor House Farm” in Earlswood, which was run by the Parish Council, which took in homeless and the poor and less fortunate young girls in distress. I think this was in the late last century and was in the vicinity of Caerhyddy.
His grandmother grew corn, which was taken to the Mill at Bullyhole, which was ground whilst they waited and then carried home to make the bread.
The shop man came out from Chepstow and took the order, which was then delivered at the weekend by horse and cart. The same thing with supplies of paraffin, candles and hardware.
The butcher in the village killed and sold meat (Mr. Benjamin).
The carpenter (the coffin maker) a Mr Tom Richards, was a distant relative who lived and worked at the Triangle Cottage, now called Ashfield Cottage. He died in 1936 and was buried in The Friends’ Burial Ground. His mother was a staunch Quaker and so it was allowed – being the last burial there.
The Quakers were tanners and kept the Tan House (this is it’s name now) and had a flourishing business there.
There were many wells in the area and all water was carried by the cottagers to their homes.
The Spout was considered the best water. During the last war – or just after – Mr Liddell brought the water down Weyloed Lane from his own private water supply, for which they were very grateful.
Most houses in Shirenewton belonged to the Estate, but some people on Mynyddbach owned their cottages. Curre tenants were given their houses for 1s.6d per year rent, if unable to work through ill health or age.
Mr Lowe, Estate owner of Shirenewton Hall, was responsible for the “Primrose League”, a forerunner of the Conservative Party, which employees were encouraged to support, and, after his death, every Palm Sunday, a wreath of primroses was places on his grave.
Before N.H.S., people had a choice of Sickness Insurance and were entitled to Sickness Benefit (after weekly contributions): Foresters Oak 12/- weekly, Hearts of Oak £1 per week, Oddfellows 9/- per week.
Skilled workers earned seven pence halfpenny per hour
Unskilled workers earned four pence halfpenny per hour
School outings from Mynyddbach usually to “Beachley” – by horse and cart or any other vehicle. Mr Scott, a farmer (and kept the Post Office) was a School Manager/ Governor, and during the First War he allowed children to leave school at 12 years to work on the farms (mainly his). Parents didn’t object because they were glad of the money. There was very little crime, but should anyone steal a bike, they were automatically sent to prison for six months.
When Mr Cule was 21 years old, his mother called him one evening because grandmother had a ‘nasty turn’. He then cycled into Chepstow to fetch the doctor. He waited in Chepstow for the doctor to return in case he prescribed pills and medicine, so that he could take them straight home and not waste any time. Alas, when the doctor returned, he told him grandmother had passed away. He now had to contact the undertaker, Mr Richards, to make the coffin and then the gravedigger, and arrange with the vicar a suitable day and time; then the six bearers – some from Itton and Earlswood – all this was completed on his bicycle.
Grandmother was carried from their home in Mynyddbach to Shirenewton Church – hence the six bearers.
At 21 years he was the man of the house.
Shirenewton is considered to be a perfect example of a medieval village. The crossroads in the centre of the village, the church dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, and a Rectory.
Shirenewton Hall is nearby, probably built on the site of Bishop Bleddyn’s Country House.
Mr Fred Davis, born in Brecon, came to Shirenewton in 1955 to work for Mr Liddell as a gardener. Mr and Mrs F. Davis lived in Church Cottage. The Liddells owned Shirenewton Hall from 1900.
In 1955 Mr Liddell owned most of the cottages in the village. During Captain Liddell’s time he had 15 or 16 men working for him. The staffing at the Hall was modest. The butler and his wife, who was the cook, lived in the Lodge. There was a daily help, two gardeners and an Estate carpenter.
There were many wells in Shirenewton. At the Hall there were two wells in the Kitchen Garden and another just inside the inside wall. A spring on the side of the Earlswood Road ran into a water tower and then underground to Shirenewton Hall, to a large underground water tank just below the Kitchen Garden. The water was then pumped up to tanks in the roof of the Hall. When Mr Fred Davis first lived in Shirenewton, the water was pumped by a ram pump. Subsequently, an electric pump was installed.
The ram pump wasted a lot of water but this was diverted to the Japanese Garden.
The Kitchen Garden was used as a Market Garden. In the summer, the village people bought vegetables, tomatoes and flowers.
Mr David Liddell took over the Hall. He had previously farmed at Coal Pits Farm, the Great House Farm.
Mr Fred Davis and Mr Richard Bowen stood for the Parish Council. Whilst canvassing, a resident of Earlswood asked how long they had lived in the village. It was six years and seven years respectively. “Not a hope”, said the man, “I have lived here for twenty years and am only now accepted!”
Despite this, both Fred Davis and Richard Bowen were elected.
The Parish Council had limited powers but as Planning Applications began to be made, for example, Clearview and Tan House Court, the Parish Council was given the opportunity to comment on Planning Applications. There was a strong community spirit in both Shirenewton and Mynyddbach.
In 1974, Shirenewton Hall Estate and all properties were sold. At his point, a way of life ended. A lot of community spirit has gone, especially as many newcomers use the villages as dormitories. This was mostly due to the Severn Bridge.
(Visited and Recorded on January 16th, 1993, by Winifred M. Jones.)
Mr Reginald Arthur Dickman, White House, Shirenewton, was born in 1919 in Sudbury, Suffolk. His mother was a farmer’s daughter and his father came to work on the family farm.
In the early 1920’s, they moved to Crossway – near Home Farm, Shirenewton, after his father served in the First World War. He became a shepherd at Home Farm for Captain Liddell. After a while, Capt. Liddell gave up keeping sheep, so the Dickman family moved to the cottage at Shirenewton, next to Mrs Jones, on the Crick Road.
Mr Cowell was farm bailiff for Liddells and they let him, i.e. Mr Cowell, have the land around Black Buildings, about 90 acres, for two-and-a-half to three years, and Mr Dickman senior worked there for 2 ½ years. Black Buildings (now Owl Barn) was named after the black Aberdeen Angus cattle, which were kept there.
After working at Black Buildings, he went to Dinham factory, putting up fences.
In 1935, the Dickmans moved to White House (it was then white), the house in which Mr. Reg Dickman now lives. He proudly showed me the electric cooker which his mother bought in 1955, when electricity came to Shirenewton, and which he still uses today.
Mr Dickman went to school in Mynyddbach where the schoolmaster was Amos Jones. Mrs Davies was a governess, and infant teacher Miss Olive Bryant – Bill Bryant’s sister – and the Intermediate teacher was Miss Connie Cule. When he left school he went to work at Lower House Farm for Mr Clements, then afterwards at Troutfield Poultry Farm, The Glyn, Itton. In the evenings he went to Usk College to learn poultry keeping, where Mr George Purvis was Principal. He stayed at the Poultry Farm for 3-4 years, and kept poultry himself as a spare time occupation.
He used to carry water from the Spout with two buckets, the Spout never ran dry. However, his father built him a trolley so that he could fetch 15 gallons in 5-gallon drums.
He remembers they kept 1,000 chickens on 3-4 acres, and they would kill over 100 chickens for Christmas, all being hand plucked. This would have been 1945-1950. After a while when poultry keeping became less financially secure, they reduced numbers.
In 1977 they sold the field for houses to be built and only kept half an acre for themselves as a Market Garden. In 1957 they bought 3 ½ acres nursery gardens at Itton Court; it had extensive buildings and greenhouses. He remembers Lady Curre very well. She died in 1955.
Both Mr Dickman and his father worked the Market Garden at Itton; they used to walk from White House to Itton. They grew rhubarb and 200-300 lbs of tomatoes, which they sold in Newport.
He went to work at Dinham Factory in 1957 as a crane driver and later as a driver, and retired at sixty.
In January 1978 Mr Dickman received the Imperial Service Medal from Her Majesty The Queen, “In recognition of the Meritorious Services which you have rendered”. The award hangs in a frame in Mr Dickman’s dinning room, of which he is justly proud.
He was in the Church choir and he would go to church three times on a Sunday, including choir practice. Meetings were held in the Church Hut (now demolished), where the Summerhouse is now.
Church Fetes were held at Shirenewton Hall by kind invitation of the Liddell family, and at Caepwcella, the home of the Spence Thomas Family.
The village shop was in the dinning room of the Tredegar Arms. The Five Bells was a public house and on the end of the Five Bells there was a blacksmith’s shop where they used to shoe horses. Outside the shop was a big iron ring where the blacksmith used to put the bands on the wagon wheels. Opposite the Five Bells was a Coach shed and rough land where Mr Packer, the blacksmith, kept all his wheels, wrenches and tools. The rough land was called The Pound.
On the land where Mrs Knox now lives was a farmyard belonging to Mr Benjamin, but it formerly belonged to Peter Scott who used to keep 2-3 steam lorries there. His father farmed the Coal Pits Farm.
A few yards from Newton Lodge was a butcher’s shop and also a Police Station opposite the church. At the cottage next to where Mrs Noble now lives (Barn Cottage), Mr Stephens used to carry on a business as a boot repairer.
Barn Cottage, Shirenewton
Mr Elliott was Road Sweeper and Grave Digger for Shirenewton. He was 91 years old when he died. His wife worked in Caepwcella; one strange thing about her was that she always wore a hat. They had four children – Cliff, Ruby, Bill and one lad who were 14 years old when he died.
When they were young, they played in the Square; in winter – football, sending the ball through the opening of “The Barn”; in summer – cricket was played with markings on the wall of “The Barn”.
In the Square by the wall was a tap where the folks drew their water. When water was put in the houses and the old tap was no longer of use, Mr Elliott gave the key to the Landlord of the Tredegar Arms, and it is hung up in the Bar.
Many years ago “Barn Cottage” was a Fever Hospital, people came to see their relatives by just looking through the windows, and food was left on the doorstep. Not many years ago, when the cottage was empty, on taking up the floor covering, an open drain was found, where dirty water could be filtered away.
When the tap in the Square was frozen in winter, the folk had to go down to the Spout as that kept running as it does today.
When the children were playing in the Square, they often saw a very old car, it was an Austin Seven. It had stained glass windows; it belonged to a Mrs Williams from Earlswood. She always drove in the centre of the road.
At the “Five Bells” during the First World War, soldiers were billeted in the Club Room. The family also lived there. A white line was drawn across the kitchen floor, one side for the soldiers and the other side for the family.
A little girl who lived there was given a suet pudding by the Army cook, which she took to school.
Interviewed April 11th 1994 by Winifred M. Jones
Mr Ivor Jones, who now lives near Shirenewton Church, was born at The Grondra Farm, Shirenewton in 1906, where his mother lived until she was 91 years of age.
He was lived for 26 years in the village on his retirement, but his first recollection is of the Coronation of George V in 1911, where the were celebrations in the Hall Gardens, and where he received a Coronation Mug, an orange, and a packet of sweets.
His education started at Mynyddbach School and he remembers picking blackberries and also conkers during school hours, this being for the war effort 1914 – 1918. They also did a lot of gardening because the school had a very big garden.
He then went to West Mon. School and can remember 1920 as being the wettest summer and 1921 being the driest summer, because it was his first year home from school, and they had cut the hay crop one day and hauled it in the next day.
They used to go to Newport every Saturday with the horse and trap, which they would leave at the King’s Head Hotel in Newport, which they did until 1920. They would take their produce of butter, cheese and poultry to sell in Newport Market.
On the farm at the Grondra, their first tractor was a Massey Harris, purchased during the War to enable them to plough for their crops of wheat and oats, which they ground themselves for cows and horses.
Before the coming of tractors, they had six horses working on the farm. Mr Ivor Jones can well remember his father buying a mare in Abergavenny, which he rode home to The Grondra, where he put her in a field with the other horses. However she managed to get out and four of them on bicycles eventually found her at The Star, Llansoy, which was the route she had travelled from Abergavenny!
During the First World War, Mr Jones’ father would not allow any work on Sundays to gather the hay or corn, even if it looked like rain, but Mr Ivor Jones can remember getting up at 4.00 am to harvest the corn on a Monday and had three loads of corn on wagons before labour arrived a 6 am. In those days it was the custom to hand cut thistles in growing crops and on one occasion, they even had five children to do this work.
Their water was a private supply from a well, and this used to supply the two Grondras as well as the Rhewl Farm. Luckily it was a good supply of water and only once, in 1921, did the supply fail, although another well at the bottom of the yard never went dry. In the terrible winter of 1947 they were shut in for one month and were able to walk on the top of the hedges, the snow being so deep.
Coal came by truck through Chepstow Farmers to Chepstow Station, where they fetched it with a wagon and horses.
Mr Jones well remembers Tom Richard, the village carpenter, who had a long white beard and is buried at The Friends’ Burial Ground. Also, Ned Packer, the blacksmith had his smithy at what is now The Five Bells and it is here that the Jones family would take their horses to be shod. On one occasion, Ned Packer shod the horse and let it go to find it’s own way home to Grondra Farm.
Shooting pheasants on tenanted land on the Curre Estate was strictly forbidden; anyone found doing so would immediately be given notice to quit the farm by the Squire, Sir Edward Curre.
Born at “Ashfield”, Shirenewton.
Piped water came to Shirenewton in 1953, until which time water had to be carried from either a tap fitted on the wall of the cottage at the entrance to the funeral path, or “The Spout”. This can be found below the Tan House in the hedgerow of the road to Chepstow – a stone structure fitted with a spout – giving its name to Spout Pitch.
The Tan House was once used for tanning hides. In the field below was a cider mill. Cider was made there and sold at the Engineers’ Arms, now a private house, further up the road.
Electricity came to Shirenewton also in 1953. Until then oil lamps were used, needless to say there was no central heating – any warmth in the rooms was provided by open fires and beds warmed by hot water bottles.
Most houses had ‘black leaded’ grates with an oven where the cooking was done. Clothes were washed in a boiler, again heated by a small fire underneath.
The Village Shop was what is now the lounge of the Tredeger Arms.
The Five Bells was a public house prior to being a shop.
Newton Lodge was Post Office until about 1914. What is now the garage of Newton Lodge was a butcher’s shop.
Shirenewton always had both football and cricket teams, also a tennis club – all very well supported.
The Church Hut was situated on the ground in front of “The Summer House”. Here, Sunday School was held. The Boy Scouts met there, as did the Girls’ Friendly Society. On Good Friendly, the girls all met and, taking a picnic lunch and hot cross buns, picked primroses with which to decorate the church for Easter.
Weekly Whist Drives and frequent Dances were held in “The Institute” – the hall adjoining the Old Rectory. There were eliminating rounds for both whist players and dancers – the finals for the area taking place in the Public Hall, Chepstow.
The Church Fete was held for many years in the “Daisy Field”. We bought the top half of the field in 1956 and built our house, “Hightrees”, the first house to be built for many years.
During the war, soldiers were stationed at a gun site near The Mynders Farm. Two soldiers from there were wonderful pianists and often played the organ in Shirenewton Church. An unexploded bomb was found in the back garden of “Newton Brae”, where my parents lived at that time. Caepwcella was converted into a Maternity Hospital.
Until 1984 we had our own Rector who played an important part in village life, as did the village ‘bobby’.
The Church Bells were regularly rung – there being a band of bell ringers – many of whom were also in the Church choir.
Born 20th June 1921
In 1939, Gladys and her husband, Frank, moved into Shirenewton.
They lived in The Row for about five years; during this time, Gladys had to go to The Spout for water, about a quarter a mile away. There was a tap in the Square, but it needed a key. A key could be bought for 2s.6d. a year from Mr Liddell. When Gladys and Frank moved to Wycliffe View, now known as Barley Hill, there was water in the house. There was no sanitation; at the end of the garden was a closet.
Gladys attended Mothers’ Union. At one of the meetings, Mrs Nita Kent’s mother spoke about the desirability of having two white sheets, a bolster case and pillowcases in a drawer ready for ‘laying out’. Gladys went straight home and put sheets, bolster and pillow cases in the bottom drawer of her chest of drawers.
Some years later, Gladys’ sister bought a Group to act a play in the Institute. They called at Gladys’ house and one by one paid a visit to the bottom of the garden, the cause of great hilarity!
Then the Group asked Gladys if she would lend them a pair of white sheets for their play; Gladys reluctantly admitted she had a new pair but they were for laying out. To this day, Gladys’ sister’s friends tease her about her laying out sheets.
Mrs Gladys Lloyd and Mrs Maisie Preece were caretakers of the Institute in the village. They kept the place spotless – black leaded the fireplace and polished everything.
The Institute was very busy. Regular whist drives, W.I., Youth Club. Mrs Rosa Bowen put on concerts. During the war, Elsie and Cecil Baines started Sequence Dancing. Later, this continued at Earlswood Hall until Mr and Mrs Baines moved away.
On one occasion, a Wedding Reception was held in the Institute for 80 guests.
In later years, a big drawback to the Institute was lack of parking.
Gladys Lloyd and Maisie Preece also looked after the Rectory Room. This was where the house, “Summer House” now stands. The Rectory Room was used for meetings of Sunday School, The Parochial Church Council, Mother’s Union, and Girls’ Friendly Society, also teas for the Church Fete.
Carnivals were held in the grounds of Shirenewton Hall. Most people dressed up and there were a number of floats.
One float Gladys remembers vividly was when members of Shirenewton Women’s Institutive were dressed as “the Old Village Choir”.
There was always a Carnival, including Musical Chairs on Horseback and Baby Shows.
When the war ended in 1945, there was a big show put on at the Institute. A highlight was a football match – women versus men.
Frank Lloyd worked for Mr Benjamin for 25 years. He then worked for Philip Price at Lower House Farm as Manager.
In 1953, electricity was laid on at Wycliffe View (now Barley Hill).
For the last 26 years, Gladys and Frank have lived in Blethyn Close, from when the houses were built. But there was no sewerage until 1975.
During the 1962/63 blizzards, when the village was completely snowbound and cut off from Chepstow, etc., many tales and lessons could be learned from that time.
I lived in the Police Station and with the onset of the bad weather the baker; old Joe from the Co-op Shop made a delivery of bread and prompted me to accept extra loaves in case conditions worsened. He brought in baskets of bread and piled them in the office, almost covering one wall. My heart sank when I saw so much bread, thinking I would be making puddings for the rest of the year!
No lists of names or money changed hands and within a few days all the bread had gone. What a wise old man, but then, he fully understood country ways, and at a later date told me every loaf was accounted for with no money loss.
Mr Dan Prince, formerly of Earlswood, arrived with his pony, which was covered with icicles and with milk churns strapped around her. He carried off about 59 loaves and set off across the fields, as the roads were impassable, delivering bread to farms and cottages on the way.
What a community spirit prevailed in such adverse conditions.
Mrs Maisie Preece recalls the Queen’s Coronation, when the women versus men played football on the recreation field and a chamber pot was awarded as the winning cup!
One Winter’s evening when leaving the Institute after locking up, and in complete darkness, she was confronted with four white legs moving towards her. It was a Friesian cow, followed in the distance by Farmer Nevil Richards carrying its calf. What a fright!
Dingle Side, Mynyddbach
Interviewed by Winifred M.Jones
Mr Bill Thomas was born in 1904 in the present last remaining cottage on the top of the hill in Mynyddbach. He had one brother who was six years younger, who was killed in the 1939-1945 war.
His father, Mr Alfred Thomas, died when he was 35 years old form the ‘flu epidemic' which took so many lives at that time. He was an engine driver at Shirenewton Hall and later worked for Sir Edward Curre at Itton court. His mother, Sarah Anne was born in Herefordshire and died when she was 86.
In his early years when there was no transport to the village, Mr Thomas recalls how his mother had a pony and trap and used to go to Chepstow to fetch the coal in the trap from Hollins Yard which was situated in Bridge Street close to the present Lydney Trading yard.
School started for Mr Thomas at Mynyddbach when he was 5 years old and he left when he was 14. There were 95 pupils in the school, which went up to Standard 7. There were three or four teachers, one by name of Mrs Ellis Jones, and her husband. One family of Doyles had 10 children. Everyone went home for their dinner. For a special school treat they would go for a walk to Dinham and on one occasion Mr. Thomas remembers going to Beachly in a horse-drawn wagon, which was kindly supplied by the Sainsbury family of Llyn-celyn Farm.
Mr Thomas left school in December 1917 on a Friday and started work the following Monday at Mullins Stores (which later became Chepstow Farmers) as a clerk. His wages at that time were six shillings a week and he worked under Mr Tom Rees, who lived at Pandy Mill. He travelled to work on a push- bike and well remembers going to farms with accounts from the Stores, to local farmers who with so many others in those hard times, found it difficult to meet their obligations, so they would send in corn to the Stores to pay off their debts. The working hours were from 8 am – 6 pm Mondays to Saturdays, with a half-day off on a Wednesday. His duties also included looking after the shop during his dinner hour.
After two years he left to work at Fairfield Shipyard as an apprentice template maker for one guinea a week. At that time, the Shipyard employed thousands of men and Mr Thomas can well remember Fairfield constructing six ships for the Italian Government, each one 10,000 tons. Eventually they turned over to more construction work involving welding, which didn’t need as many workers.
He was employed there for 53 years and progressed to owning a motorbike to go to work, in fact he had three motorbikes before he proudly owned a car. His working hours were from 7.30 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday and in later years when there only three template workers left at Fairfield, he worked 10 years for 7 days a week but came home for his Sunday dinner! Most people took their own sandwiches to work, but there was a canteen.
Mrs Bill Thomas was born in Llanishen, near Chepstow, where her father was a cobbler. Sometimes they would go with their daughter for a holiday in Herefordshire, but in later years they went on a coach tour to Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
When young, Mr Thomas attended Sunday School which was held in Shirenewton Church and which was attended by many Children.
Later on he became a bell ringer and was in the choir for over 20 years; at that time the bell ringers used to ring in the New Year.
When Mr and Mrs Bill Thomas were first married they lived for one month in their parents’ home and then moved to Hawthorn Cottage, where they lived for 20 years. After that he built his own bungalow in which he now lives and has lived there for 30 years.
Mr Thomas well remembers carrying water in two square buckets in a very dry summer from the well in Horsemeadow Field, the Spout, or Cox’s Well.
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