Radnorshire Society Notes and Queries Number 2

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Radnorshire Society Notes and Queries Number 2

As we remember VE day, memories from an evacuee who came to the Crossgates area in 1940, once again courtesy of Geraint Hughes, \” after 2 years in Penybont we moved to the Fron to a cottage called Woodside Cottage owned by a very old lady called Miss Jones. She had a heart of gold, and had 4 cows, hens and a pig. Her neighbours were Mr. And Mrs Phillips who lived in the smallest cottage I have ever seen called Nutshell Cottage. She had a pig and hens.  We played in the woods and loved going down to the river by a waterfall where we saw salmon leaping the falls.

We went to Llanbadarn [Fawr] School walking every day, rain or shine. In Fron village was a sweet shop owned by Mr. Meredith. The grocer was Mr. Lloyd and the bakery was owned by a Polish man who came to the school each day and sold bread to the children at playtime. It was always hot fresh bread, Mr. Phillips had 2 greyhound dogs and took us to catch rabbits. Mrs Phillips took us to collect hazel nuts and winberries in Dolau.

Near the end of the war we saw a Wellington bomber on fire flying very close over our house. We saw the crew parachute out to safety but the plane crashed by the river. It blew up and killed a cow. Each Sunday we went to Llanbadarn Church. My mother worked in Llandrindod in a cafe. For a special treat we would go and have a meal there. It was always fish and chips or faggots and chips.

Afterwards we would go to Llandrindod Lake to see the rowing boats. Then we walked along the main street to have a look in the toy shop and then Boots the Chemist on the corner. Mum would buy a tin of Gibbs toothpaste, then we got the bus home.

Life in the country was very exciting for us children. Dad worked on the docks in Bootle and could only come and see us once a month as his work was vital. He always brought us sweets and a small present.

We were in Rhayader in 1945 with mother when the news came through that Germany had surrendered. There was great excitement everywhere. People were hugging each other.

At last  the War was over.\”

Early buses in Radnorshire

In 1920 the Hereford Motor Company ran charabanc trips from Hereford to Aberystwyth picking up on the way. The bus was a 28 seater solid tyred Vulcan. The adverts said daily tours [no Sundays] subject to sufficient passengers and circumstances permitting. These trips went to Elan Valley, Hay, Builth, and Llandrindod. It was probably open topped, with a fold up hood, but the passengers travelling along the bumpy narrow roads would get covered in dust, and wet if it rained, not to mention discomfort from the solid tyres. Crosville Motors in 1925 were running a service from Llandrindod to Crossgates, Penybont and New Radnor, and later onto Kington. In  1949 Yeomans ran buses from Knighton under the name Radnorshire Motor Services, with grey buses before changing to the Cream and green Yeomans livery. One service  ran daily from Knighton to Cardiff and back, 180 miles.

Builth Road railway junction

A grand plan for a railway from Manchester to Milford Haven was dreamt up, consisting of a number of local lines through Mid Wales including the Llanidloes to Llandovery Branch, but the Manchester and Milford Railway Company  went under after a decline in railway investment.   A short section had been built from south of Llanidloes to Llangurig. Other grand plans of going onto Llandovery were shelved and there was just an unfinished section to Newbridge and a spur off to Llangurig that went nowhere. Undeterred the Llanidloes to Llandovery continued to go south hoping to reach the South Wales Coalfields through Brecon. They reached Three Cocks in 1864 where there was a connection with the Hereford, Hay & Brecon line. They had become the Mid Wales Railway Company. Meanwhile the London & North Western Built a line from Knighton to Llandrindod, also completed in 1864. And 4 years later reached Llandovery. Both lines went through very rural Wales, with small halts and stations, but as on line went north west to south east and the other north east to south west where could they cross ?

This is how Builth Road came into being, an area of woodland and small farms with Cwrt Llechryd at its centre.  The Mid Wales Railway built a small station there and a community to service it grew up around it. In 1866 the Central Wales Line arrived. It followed that each company would keep to themselves and they both had their owns goods yards, buildings, with their own employees as well as other small businesses setting up close by. The Builth Road High level was a station of some importance, housing  both district operating and permanent way superintendents of the line.  More houses were built and the community grew, large gardens meant families were self sufficient in vegetables, eggs etc.  An Alexander and Duncan ‘tin tabernacle’ provided a chapel and Sunday school room.

In 1964 the Mid Wales line closed, but the Central Wales line continues to this day as the much loved Heart of Wales line.

The start of Local Government in Radnorshire

In 1894 as a result of the Local Government Act the Rhayader Parish Council came into being, the third tier of local government to cover Rhayader, the others being Radnor County Council and Rhayader District Council, all with different responsibilities.  Being bottom of the pile the Parish Council was determined to have an influence in local democracy and make a difference for the town and people of Rhayader.  As a new Council they asked the Vicar for the Parish documents, such as the Enclosure Award to be handed over to them. He sent the Enclosure Award [the written part], and the Vestry Minute book, but not the Enclosure Map.  Arguments over this go on for years, especially when the Council wants to use the map and award to prove some lands were ceded to the parish at Enclosure.

The Council asked James Mansergh for assistance in providing a better water supply for Rhayader which led to disagreements, different ideas, and the Rhayader Water Supply plan goes on for years, while the supply of an adequate supply together with disposal of waste and rubbish in the town takes up most of the council time.  James Mansergh was the Chief engineer for the Elan Valley Waterworks and aqueduct and had a house in Rhayader but his main home was in Westminster. He was 62 years old and had been appointed Overseer for the Parish. He did not like this and appealed against the appointment to the Quarter Sessions in Presteigne in 1896. The Council did not oppose this, and the Court of Quarter Sessions quashed the appointment.   However by November 1897, Mansergh was writing to the Council requesting a street lamp outside his house.  “Gentlemen, I write to say that I think there ought to be a lamp in the road going down the hill towards my house, and that if it is erected so as to throw light on to my gateway I am willing to pay half of the cost of keeping it lighted. We are very much troubled often until quite late with tramps who come to enquire their way to the Workhouse, in fact they often ask if Bryngwy is the Workhouse. If the lamp is put I propose to paint he gate white and put the word private upon it with the hope of stopping the nuisance.”  The Council agreed to this despite a couple of brave members proposing that the Council turn the request down.

In December 1897 an anonymous letter appeared in the Montgomeryshire Echo which angered the Council and so they agreed to respond to the paper.

Rhayader beats any town in England or Wales


In your issue of Dec 18th 1897 we notice a letter under the above heading signed by An Old Inhabitant of Nantmel Parish & it seems to us that he might more appropriately have signed himself An Inhabitant of the cave of Abdullam, because he seems to be ashamed of his own name.

His letter shows that he knows nothing about Nantmel Parish otherwise he would know that Rhayader is part of Nantmel Parish. The Vicar of Nantmel is Patron of the Chapelry of Rhayader. History say that the town of Rhayader Gwy extended to Cefncido in the East and in the same proportion on the other three points.

Why should not the inhabitants of Rhayader & neighbouring enjoy the rights which they formerly did from time immemorial.  All public quarries, paths & fishing should be left open to the public. Why should the public be robbed of their ancient rights.  An Old Inhabitant of Nantmel Parish seems anxious to gauge the honesty of Rhayader Parish Council but if he will only come from under a cloud & sign his own name, we shall then be able to meet him & see whether he can stand the test.

The illiterate Rhayader parish Council has been fired at by the Birmingham Corporation water works chief engineer & by the learned Radnorshire County Bridges Surveyor & no doubt they will survive the firing of the Nantmel pop gun.

The County Bridge Surveyor mentioned here is Thomas Wishlade who had a very Radnorshire way to test the safety of his new bridges. There are photographs of the testing of Llanyre Bridge  here 6 road rollers and a number of steam lorries loaded with stone were all driven onto the bridge to ensure it was able to bear the weight and not sway. This also happened with the bridge he built in Penybont.

In 1945 the Radnorshire Constabulary produced a General Orders and Regulations, listing everything a local bobby would need to know in rural Radnorshire.  A hardback book of 63 pages, it lists offences, nuisances, powers of Police and the rules for the members of the force including their police housing.  Of interest are the lists of the By Laws of each market town, and their slight differences, whereas they all had a clause saying that the occupiers of building must cleanse the footways outside their premises, it was each week day in most but only Wednesday and Saturday in Rhayader. In Knighton it was extended to snow clearance and removing any salt thrown on the snow.

Applying to the whole County was CB 18 \”Loitering at Church Doors “ No person shall wilfully and persistently loiter at or near the entrance to any church, chapel or other place of public worship to the annoyance or obstruction of any persons going to, attending at, or returning from divine service in such church, chapel or other place of public worship”.  In Llandrindod “Every person who rides or drives furiously any horse or carriage or drives furiously any cattle”, commits an offence.  In Presteigne there are by laws regarding the general conduct of the public in the pleasure ground known as the Warden.

Books to add to your Radnorshire Collection.

Still in print and reasonable prices we recommend the following:

Mike Salters books  www,follypublications.co.uk

Castle of Mid Wales – £5.95

Churches of Mid Wales – £5.95

Medieval Churches of Wales – £9.95

Abbeys, Priories and Cathedrals of Wales – £7.95

Keith Parker  The Story of Norton – £5   Logaston Press   www.logastonpress.co.uk

Johnson – Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire – £2.95

Philip Hume – On the Trail of the Mortimers – £7.50

Smith – The Drovers Roads of the Middle Marches – £10

Brown – The Elan Valley Clearance – £12.95

Jones – Early Birds and Boys in Blue A Century of Radnorshire Aviation – £12.95

Conradi – At the Bright Hem of God – £9.99 – Welsh Books Council gwales.com

Veasey –  Thomas Jones of Pencerrig – £12.99

Gregory – Radnorshire A Historical Guide £7.50

Sinclair and Fenn – Marching to Zion, Radnorshire Chapels £7.95


Is your run of transactions complete ?

The Society still has some back copies of the transactions, £5 each + post or collection from Dolmynach when it is reopened.

We also have some of the offprints done in the past, and we will provide a full list for sale  once it has been completed, but include things like

The Castle Borough and Park of Cefnllys

Archdeaconry of Brecon Wills

The Dry Way over Smatcher [a story of sheep stealing]

John Howard and Radnor County Goal and Radnor County Gaol the last decade 1868-78

Llandewi Hall

Brian the Society librarian has been filling his time reading books as you would expect. He send this thought to end Notes and Queries number 2.

“I got into conversation with an old rustic whose face resembled a shrivelled-up apple. There were deep furrows in it, well filled with loam, where a respectable crop of potatoes might have been grown without any difficulty. Both men, and women in Wales, but especially the latter, are remarkable after a certain age for their shrivelled-up appearance. Girls lose their good looks after twenty years of age, and are quite weird at thirty”.

Extract from, “By Celtic Waters: Holiday Jaunts With Rod, Camera, and Paint Brush”, by Charles Kent (CK). Published in 1894, by J. Davy & Sons, Dryden Press, London.