Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 - Bring it on

Radnorian wishes all readers, and especially those who take the trouble to leave comments, a happy and prosperous - ok fat chance of that - New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

They have a dream ......

It's December 31st 1965 and the Labour government has just received a report it commissioned on the building of a new town in Mid-Wales. The report recommends a town of some 60000 stretching 17 miles between Llani and Newtown. It looks like the dream of various businessmen, council officials and local politicians is coming to fruition. Then in March a bomb explodes at the nearby Clywedog reservoir, followed in July by Gwynfor Evans' victory at Carmarthen .... the plan to extend the West Midlands into Mid Wales is quietly dropped.

Never mind there are other cards to play and in the meantime we can all enjoy Brumbeat legends the Applejacks ... the Honeycombs might have had a girl drummer but the Solihull group had Megan Davies on bass.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some More Radnorshire Surnames

Addis - A surname that turns up in Radnorshire as early as 1634 and which was found mainly in Bugeildy parish well into the 19C. The name is said to derive from a pet form of Adam and occurs most commonly in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Gloucestershire, see here. Ade also occurs as a Welsh patronym - the Werdutvil daughter of Ade of Bleddfa in the tax assessment of 1293 and a local princeling Meurig ab Ade, fined 100 marks for rebelling against King John in 1211, are examples. It could be that the Radnorshire families owe their origin to this forename and their name is as patronymical as their Price and Cadwallader neighbours.

Minton - The surname can be found in the 1670 Hearth Tax for Colva and was there as early as the 1650s. Researchers might miss it though since it is omitted from the index to the tax published in the 1991 Radnorshire Society Transactions. The family may have originally come from Minton in Shropshire, although by 1688 John Minton was happy enough to see his daughter christened Gwenllian in Colva parish church. There were still Mintons in Glascwm, Rhiwlen and Bryngwyn in the 19C although others had migrated to the coalfield. I'm not claiming any Radnorian connection with this "date from hell" mind.

Wozencroft - Can there be a local surname with more spelling variations: Woozencroft, Worsencroft, Wosencraft, Wostencraft, Wostencroft, Wozencraft are just some from the 1841 Census. It's a name that was found in the Radnorshire parishes of Bugeildy, Llanbister and Llanyre in the 1670 Hearth Tax, having come into the county from Montgomeryshire where it crops up in Llanidloes as early as 1578. Said to originate from the Lancashire placename Wolstencroft it no doubt entered Wales as part of the Elizabethan plantation in Western Montgomeryshire. The 19C censuses show that Wozencroft and Wozencraft are overwhelmingly names associated with Mid Wales, see here for example. Who knows, perhaps the family of the author of the book on which this cult movie is based - it's available to view on youtube - came from Radnorshire.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We will come if we are fetched......

Although Powlett Milbank, the Tory elected to serve Radnorshire in Parliament in 1895, decided not to contest the 1900 election because of ill-health, he continued as Lord Lieutenant of the county until his death in January 1918. It was in this capacity that in 1915 he expressed his keen disappointment that the men of Radnorshire were reluctant to join the army and go to war. When Sir Powlett challenged them they would respond "we will come if we are fetched."

The Military Service Act of 1916 ensured that reluctant Radnorians were indeed fetched to the colours, although in the case of the Davenport brothers, Len and Ernie, this was unnecessary, both having joined the South Wales Borderers before the start of the War. Indeed 1914 found Len in China participating in the Japanese led attack on the German controlled port of Tsintao. Later he would serve in Gallipoli before being killed in France in July 1917. His brother Ernie was gassed during the retreat from Mons and discharged as being medically unfit. Ernie died in Mardy hospital a few days before his older brother. Eighteen year old Arthur, the last surviving Davenport boy, was killed in France on 28th October 1918.

All three names are recorded on the War Memorial in Llandrindod - the loss of three brothers was not at all unusual, indeed the same memorial lists the names of three Hope brothers who also died in the First World War. The Davenport names can also be seen, although spelt incorrectly, on the memorial in St David's church Howey.

Years ago I read some letters belonging to the Davenports - a little notebook Len had used when hospitalised in England, containing snatches of conversation written down, perhaps because he was deaf. There was a bitterness about the war in various hands as well as comments that suggested that the unangelic nurse is not just a modern-day phenomenon. A fatalistic letter to his sister sent a couple of days before he was killed expressed Len's gratitude that at least his discharged brother Ernie would survive the war. As it happened Ernie had died just a few days before the letter was posted. There was a bombastic letter to his brother in France from a youthful Arthur describing a cinema newsreel he had seen and a letter to their sister Gwladys from the matron of the hospital where Ernie had been treated. "Your brother suffered a great deal before he died" it explained with a good deal more honesty than compassion.

How wise those Radnorians were who informed the bellicose Sir Powlett that they would only come if they were fetched.

Monday, December 26, 2011

D-Day Dodgers

We're the D-Day Dodgers out in Italy
Always on the vino, always on the spree

My father, with the 'tache, doing a bit of D-Day dodging out in Italy, although I suppose it might be North Africa. He would have been 100 today!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Putting on Weight

The Radnorshire Society Transactions - and many thanks to the National Library for making so much historical information available on-line - has a couple of references to a murder committed in 1554 by a William Treylo of Ackhill. William had killed one John Hebbe in Presteigne by striking him a single blow to the head with a hedge bill.

Another Treylo - a name probably derived from a local placename Maes Treylow near Discoed and responsible for modern day surnames such as Traylor, Trelloe and Trillo - who fell foul of the law was John Treylo, also of Ackhill, who was seemingly pressed to death in 1578, the punishment reserved for those who refused to plead and sometimes chosen in order to avoid a guilty verdict and the subsequent confiscation of family property by the crown. Pressing continued until 1741 while burning at the stake, a punishment by then reserved for women, wasn't abolished until 1790.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Welsh in New Radnor

How to reconcile these two quotes:

"New Radnor was planted as a Saxon colony by Harold, after his victory here over the Britons, two years before his death at Hastings. This people have never since had any sympathies with the Welsh in language, nor many in habits .." - Sir William Cockburn of Downton House, evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, February 1847.

"... all English here, New Radnor is not four miles from hence, where there is nothing but Welsh." - Lewis Morris in a letter written from the King's Head, Kington, February 1742.

Of course Cockburn is correct in believing that there was Saxon settlement in the area, local placenames provide abundant evidence of that, but he is certainly wrong in believing that this was a district where the Welsh language never flourished. The local gentry were patrons of the bards until the 17C and a quick glance at the Lay Subsidy of 1543 should settle the matter. Nor was there any great divide between those with English style surnames and those with patronyms. Wills from the period and names like Morgan Hoddell or Dyddgu Stones - an interesting local surname probably derived from the Four Stones at Walton - are evidence of that. And what of Anne Sasnes - Anne the Englishwoman - who witnessed a New Radnor will in 1548, a strange name in a town which had no sympathy for the Welsh language.

Perhaps Cockburn thought he was doing his neighbours a favour by disassociating them from any taint Welshness. After all this was a time when the Eton boys who were the leading Liberal political bigwigs in the area believed the Welsh to be a race of "miserable Celtic savages."

So what then of Lewis Morris? Some Welsh academics have doubted his evidence but it seems to me that it was consistent with what we know. In 1827, while describing the Welsh dialect of Llandrindod, the correspondent of the monthly magazine Y Gwyliedydd informs us that the language had retreated twenty miles in living memory - more than enough to encompass New Radnor some 80 years before. James Beaumont of the Gore, the Methodist exhorter who died in 1750, was said to be happier preaching in Welsh than in English. In 1744 a traveller to Llandrindod encountered an old man in Bleddfa who could speak no English, and between there and Llanfihangel Rhydithon heard little Engish except for an innkeeper who spoke the language "indifferent good". If the language survived in these two parishes, which from surname evidence had seen a good deal of in-migration, why not in New Radnor which had not.

Finally Sir William Cockburn might have considered the field names of Downton itself. When the railway came to New Radnor around 1860, local fields such as Pwll Mawn, Clos y Garreg, Plocau Melyn and Maes Downton were mentioned - evidence of a Welsh speaking past and a fairly recent one at that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Musical Interlude

With a German hegemony likely in the EU will this be the future of popular music? These girls are getting bigger and blonder and those serial-killer smiles even more unsettling. I like them and at least we'd get good beer and good sausage. Of course we might get this, in which case scrub the beer and sausage.

The Stately Homes of Radnor

Did you miss this characteristically snobbish headline in the Daily Mail from a couple of weeks ago? It suggests that Downton Abbey - a popular television entertainment - is based on an "aristocratic pile" in Radnorshire. I doubt if the series would have had much success if creator Julian Fellowes, his grandmother was from Llandegley, had called the blockbuster Penybont Hall. Perhaps in coming up with the name Fellowes had in mind two other Radnorian houses - Downton House and Abbeycwmhir Hall?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book of the Week

Real Powys, that's a good one, for a county dreamt up in the 1970s by bureaucrats with a passing but imprecise knowledge of medieval history. Anyway it's part of a series from Seren Books that includes Real Llanelli, Real Merthyr and the like, so we can excuse the faintly oxymoronic title.

The paperback consists of 39 offbeat pieces based around towns and districts in the county, some 200 pages in all. As well as the expected, Richard Booth and Adelina Patti, we also get more rootsy stuff, Harry Tuffin's, or a day at Penybont races for example. Mind you I could have done without the author's exploits with a hairy 'lumberjack' in the Abergwesyn pass.

Mistakes? Well you don't have to ford the Ithon to get from Cilmeri to Llanynys but Parker certainly knows his subject. There's an I-spy game for Gogs to while away the happy hours on the A470 - 3 points if you see a car scrape it's hubcaps on the metalled kerbing going on to Builth Bridge.

Who should read this book? Certainly the author's soap-dodging, dream-weaving, down-shifting, white-flighting, Guardian-reading, gastro-pubbing incomers. Also locals who like to read other viewpoints on the familiar, Llandrindod's fresh air for instance is "Patchouli, with faint opiate top notes." Yes we've all caught a whiff of those. At £9.99 it might also make a useful Christmas present for whichever public servant was responsible for an information board recording "the legend of Prince Llewelyn."

Verdict. It's not Paul Theroux but it'll do.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Innes Ireland - The Golden Age of Motorsport

Since the blog started I've posted a lot about Innes Ireland, the Grand Prix driver who once lived at Downton House, New Radnor, so I guess I shouldn't ignore this hour-long documentary which has just appeared on youtube.


Charitable Radnorians will be pleased that the journal Brycheiniog is now available on the Welsh Journals Online site, see here.