Cyril Highman (1922 – 2016) Founder Member of Friends of Tredegar House


Cyril Highman(1922 – 2016) – an   appreciation.

Cyril Highman, who died on 4th December 2016 after a long life well lived, was one of the founding committee members of the Friends of Tredegar House. He was a man of integrity, humour and kindness – and my uncle.

He began life in Tredegar and the family moved to Newport in 1932. Cyril attended Newport High School and at the age of 15 sat the  entrance exams for the Civil Service – something that his father decided would be a good career for him. It meant moving to London to take up employment in the Home Office. He would often talk about the fact that his father had decided his career. He had no complaints about that, saying that of course in those days a steady job, with a good retirement pension, was the dream of   many.

With the outbreak of the second world war, Cyril was keen to join up   and applied to the RAF to work as a radio mechanic. He was eventually released from his reserved occupation work at the Home Office in 1942. Most of his time in the RAF was spent at various stations in the UK working with radar, but his unit was sent to Germany at the end of the war. He was there for some months and the sights he saw made a very deep impression. He had loved German lessons while at school thanks to the teaching of Mr. Dawson and had had a German landlady  at the start of his working life in London.

On his return to the UK he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent to the sanatorium at Cefn Mabley, where he spent 18 months and where he met his wife (also a patient), my father´s sister Betty, who was a Newport  girl.


September 24th 1949 Malpas Church

Fortunately, Betty and Cyril both recovered and they were married in 1949 at St. Marys Church Malpas, Newport.

Much of their married life was spent in Walton-­‐on-­‐Thames to accommodate Cyril working in London, but the pull of returning to Newport was too strong to resist when a job possibility arose for him. On his return to Wales, Cyril became involved in various societies. He was the secretary of the Newport Civic Society for many years and   both he and Betty were keenly involved in the Friends of Tredegar House from the very beginning of the Society. He was meticulous in keeping records for the Friends and was secretary for a number of years. He had always enjoyed learning about local history and put this interest to very good use with these societies. He was also one of the first supporters of the Ruperra Conservation Trust.

His fascination with technology – radar, hi-­‐fi equipment (building his own speakers at an early age) -­‐   also meant that he  was very  interested in computers. I remember that when he bought his first one he asked someone to come and tell him about the workings – and he meant  the  technical  workings  rather  than  how  to  operate  the machine! It was a wonderful form of communication for him in later years and he used to keep the family up to date with each other by passing on various emails we had written to   him.

We are fortunate that he decided to write his memoirs, (dealing with the years from 1922 – 1949)which make fascinating reading and are even more impressive as they were written when he was in his eighties without recourse to diaries or journals, which he never kept. He loved cycling, regarding it as one of the best forms of transport,   and his longest trip was from Barnes to South Wales over a period of two days in 1940. Music was another love, especially popular songs from the famous Big Band era of the 1940s.  He was a fine pianist himself. Cyril also enjoyed listening to Welsh hymn singing, no doubt due to his Methodist  background!

One of the letters of condolence after his death described him as a man with an ”historic memory, and a precise, properly concerned constitutionalist who would have made an excellent local government official”. In a way Cyril could be said to have taken on some of that  work in a voluntary fashion. Two examples are his involvement with   the Blue Plaques scheme for the Newport Civic Society and the fact     that he never feared to write to the South Wales Argus if he felt a point needed making.

His mental ability, kindness and humour were with him to the end. We will miss him!

Helen Davies

Many thanks to Helen for providing this lovely account of her uncle Cyril for Friends of Tredegar House

CPL Highman in Gatlow JUly 1946

Cpl. Highman in Gatlow July 1946


George Gould Morgan and The Alford Family



We recently received this wonderful account of The Alford family from Judith Coupar – it tells us of George Gould Morgan – George is part of The Morgan family we do not ever hear of.  It is very intersting account.

My name is Judith Coupar and I live in Perth Western Australia, having migrated here with my parents in 1949, aged 3 years.  My great grandfather, James Alford, was butler to Godfrey Charles Morgan, 1st and last Viscount Tredegar from about 1875 to about 1914. 

When Viscount Tredegar’s mother, Lady Rosamund Morgan (was made Baroness Tredegar on 16 April 1859 died in 1883), he was was installed in one of the Morgan family’s London houses (11 Cambridge Square, Hyde Park) to look after Lord Godfrey Morgan’s youngest brother, George Gould Morgan (born 15.9.1845, died 3.3.1907). he carried out his duties for almost 27 years.

George Gould Morgan was physically and mentally impaired,  

I do not believe James and Elizabeth Alford returned to Tredegar House following George Gould Morgan’s death in 1907 as they continued to live at the Cambridge Square House even after “Godfrey the Good’s” death in 1913, and probably until their deaths in the 1920/30 era.  This London house continued to be  used by other Morgan family members and acquaintances when they visited London, and George & Elizabeth Alford “kept” this house for the Morgan family, along with another housekeeper (Ada Spendlove) who lived with them there, and whom James Alford “hired” at the age of 15, when, in 1885, he found her crying on the steps of the Cambridge Square house, asking for a job.

Ada Spendlove lived with our family for 60 years, never married, looked after 3 generations of our family, and died at our home in Hanwell, West London,  on Christmas eve, 1945, when I was one month old. 

James Alford married a dairymaid, Elizabeth Player in March 1885 and they had an only child, Ethel Alford, my grandmother.  Ethel was born in December 1885 whilst they lived at the Cambridge Square address and she only left there when she married John Douglas on 30 May 1914.
Ethel told us that it was quite a task for her parents, looking after the Hon. George.  He was prone to fits and was quite gullible.  Apparently, the housemaids along Cambridge Square would “egg him on”.  George had no sense of values, giving sometimes expensive presents and then, just the stub of a pencil.  Ethel also said he would often say ….. “Pack my bags James.  I am going to elope”.


Mirror & butler serving dish


Hon. George Gould Morgan was born on 15 September 1845.1 He was the son of Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan, 1st Baron Tredegar and Rosamund Mundy.1 He died on 3 March 1907 at age 61, unmarried1.Hon. Fanny Henrietta Morgan+3 d. 2 Sep 1887

2.Hon. Georgiana Charlotte Morgan4 d. 22 Apr 1886

3.Hon. Mary Anna Morgan+3 d. 14 Aug 1924

4.Hon. Selina Maria Morgan1 d. 31 Mar 1922

5.Hon. Rosamond Marion Tredegar+3 d. 15 Jan 1883

6.Charles Rodney Morgan1 b. 2 Dec 1828, d. 14 Jan 1854

7.Godfrey Charles Morgan, 1st and last Viscount Tredegar1 b. 28 Apr 1831, d. 11 Mar 1913

8.Hon. Frederic Courtenay Morgan+1 b. 24 May 1834, d. 9 Jan 1909

9.Hon. Ellen Sarah Morgan+5 b. 1836, d. 19 May 1912

10.Hon. Arthur John Morgan1 b. 27 Aug 1840, d. 9 Nov 1900

11.Hon. George Gould Morgan1 b. 15 Sep 1845, d. 3 Mar 1907



At the Edeny Gates

Hi Annie and Monty
Annie a big thank you for the photo’s you sent me.

Article for the website.

August 15th 2013 is a day I will always remember. I received an email from Annie Parker,
ref an email she had received through the website from Elizabeth Rassmussen who
lives with her husband Paul in the United States.

Elizabeth’s sister & brother had visited Tredegar House & had seen the photo of John Evans the chauffeur (my grandfather) on the wall.

Her sister mentioned to Elizabeth about this & Elizabeth sent the email to the website.

After a couple of days Annie passed on Elizabeth’s email address to me. I was then able to send an email with the family history which goes back three generations of working at Tredegar House.

Elizabeth & I have been in contact ever since

Elizabeth’s connection to the Evans family is through John Evans’ older sister; Lucy who married William Henry Lyons in Newport. They had three children – Elizabeth’s father Hayden Desire Lyons plus two Daughters. Hayden then married & moved to Birmingham. He was an oboe player in the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra…

I happened to mention to Elizabeth about a talk at Tredegar House about the servants in the 1900,s by Monty Dart which was on June 11th.  I was overjoyed when Elizabeth & Paul said they would be coming over to visit family & friends & would be visiting Newport for two days and could
to come to the talk & also to meet up for the first time. I travelled up from Christchurch in Dorset &
met up with them at her brothers in Bristol. They then travelled with me to Newport.
In the evening we went to a wonderful talk by Monty who used some of my photos.
Elizabeth’s brother & sister from Bristol also came over, also my brother from Newport.

The next day I took Elizabeth & Paul to see the house that the Evans family had lived in for over 120 years.

Elizabeth was taking a photo of the house when the owner walked up to us.we explained about house and the connection to us.
We then were invited inside what is now one large house. It used to be four cottages.
To sit in what would have been Nan & Pops lounge for the first time in 40 years for me &
Elizabeth it was so wonderful.
In the afternoon we were invited by Monty & Annie to go around Tredegar House & the
gardens, we were overjoyed. We then went back to my brother & sister in laws for the evening. What a wonderful 2 days.

Martyn Evans

Elizabeth and Paul

Elizabeth and Paul
At the Dining table
In the Brown Room

‘Fantastic mum’ had big impact on Newport’s Tredegar House

‘Fantastic mum’ had big impact on Newport’s Tredegar House

 Article In The South Wales Argus    8:14am Friday 31st January 2014 in News


A STALWART supporter of one of Newport’s biggest visitor attractions has died following a short illness.

 Phyllis Mary Roberts (nee Soffe), 91, was a founder member of the Friends of Tredegar House and part of a team of women who made and restored many of the soft fabrics which still adorn the house.

 Today the registered charitable organisation aims to conserve and spread public interest in the historical importance of Tredegar House.

 Mrs Roberts had a very active role as a founding member of the organisation and took part in re-enacting the history of the house.

 Her son Christopher Roberts said she loved playing the part of a parlour maid alongside her husband Frederick, who acted as a butler, during tours of the house for around 20 years.

 He said she was saddened when she grew too old to participate.

 Mrs Roberts, brought up in Pill, Newport, was the fourth child of five born to Sylvester Jesse Soffe and Frances Emilina (nee Williams).

 She had ambitions of becoming a pharmacist, but the financial climate meant she had to leave school before taking exams, to find work to help support the family.

 The Second World War intervened, and Mrs Roberts was employed in the office at the Royal Ordnance Factory off Corporation Road, where Bofors anti-aircraft guns were manufactured.

 Later, she recalled night shifts with dancing during the mid-shift meal break. The war exacted a heavy toll on Mrs Roberts and her family.

 Her brother Frederick (Ted), who had joined up along with her eldest brother Jack, was killed while working as a wireless operator when his aircraft crashed with the total loss of the crew.

 And later, her boyfriend Brynley Capel, who was in Bomber Command, was shot down and killed over Germany. In 1945 Mrs Roberts married Frederick and they had two children, Mr Roberts and Jane Paske.

 They lived in Malpas and later Gaer and, when she was in her 80s, she moved into Monmouth Court on Bassaleg Road leading an active life despite health problems.

 She enjoyed flower arranging and always loved poetry, reciting many pieces from memory, including Shakespeare’s sonnets.

 She had two grandchildren, Daniel and Chloe, and lived to hear of the birth of her great granddaughter Cordelia Lily (Dilly) on January 20.

 Christopher Roberts said: “She was a fantastic mother.”

 Her funeral will be held on February 12 at 1.30pm at the Gwent Crematorium.

Mary Courtney MBE 101st Birthday



Link to South Wales Argus Tribute to Mary(click here)


1st July 2013

Mary Courtney MBE of Aneurin Bevan Court, woke this morning to scores of ‘happy birthday’ cards. It isn’t every day that you are 101 years old. When she joined her fellow residents in the lounge for morning coffee, little did she know that not only would she receive a present, but that she would be making a presentation herself, to Newport’s Mayor, Councillor Cliff Suller, who was accompanied by his wife Christine.

Last year an email was received by Monty Dart archivist for the Friends of Newport Transporter Bridge – coincidently, she is also archivist for the Friends of Tredegar House, the email read:

 I am the current Historian for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s (SDSMT) American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) chapter.  Our chapter recently acquired what appears to be a cigar cutter from the Newport Transporter Bridge.  An alumni of SDSMT bought this cigar cutter at an antiques store and had it on his mantle for several years.  In 2007 he donated it to SDSMT.  He recently sent us a letter and was wondering if we still had it.  We found it.  The alumni would like us to get it to someone who will appreciate it, hopefully its rightful owner. SDSMT ASCE  Historian.

Brian Ruppelt

The cutter ties two famous Newport icons together –  Tredegar House and the Transporter Bridge, or three icons if you include Mary!

The cigar cutter was given to Viscount Godfrey Morgan by the contractors Alfred Thorne Ltd of Westminster on the occasion of the opening of the Transporter Bridge, Godfrey Morgan was of course Viscount Tredegar of Tredegar House. The handle that opens the cutter is a replica of the handle Viscount Tredegar would have used on the Transporter Bridge, to send it on its first journey across the Usk on 12th September 1906.

Mary worked as volunteer for the Friends at Tredegar House until the age of 98. She was a founder member (now honorary member of the Friends of Tredegar House) for over 30 years and on the occasion of her 101th birthday was pleased to present the cigar cutter – on behalf of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology – to the Mayor, who accepted it gratefully on behalf of the City of Newport. He then led the assembled company in a rousing chorus of happy birthday. Mary acknowledged the singing saying that ‘she was very pleased to be able to present the Mayor with such a unique gift’.


Mary presenting the Cigar Cutter to the Mayor



Newport’s Mayor, Councillor Cliff Suller, with the Cigar Cutter












I spoke to Newport Museum Curator Oliver Blackmore and he said they would be pleased to have it but again, couldn’t promise to display it but it would be available for people to see on request. So that was better than nothing!  I took it to the Museum on Monday and Oliver was so thrilled to receive this unique object that he has moved things around in one of the cases and it has already gone on display! Those who can’t visit Newport Museum can see it on this short animation made by Tom my husband on the link below

Monty Dart (Archivist FOTH)

Link to the Opening of the Transporter Bridge(click here)

Motor Cycle Training at Tredegar House

Harold Roberts

Mr. Harold Roberts, Training Organizer – 1960’s & 70’S


Motor Cycle Training in the Grounds of Tredegar House

 Article submitted by Steve Barber

During the 1960’s and through the 1970’s I was involved in training people to ride motorcycles on the Home Farm Roads of Tredegar House.  Most of the instructors were provided by experienced voluntary members of a Newport motorcycle club under the auspices of the Royal Automobile Club and the Auto Cycle Union.  This training scheme was a branch of a national organisation, with similar schemes taking place over the U.K.

The local scheme was also run with the help of the then Newport Borough Road Safety Department, controlled by a Sergeant of the Newport Borough Police force.  Theory lectures were given to the trainees, once a week, in the Police lecture room at the Newport Civic Centre, with training films also being shown.  Members of the Newport Police Motorcycle Patrols also assisted with instruction, and shepherding the trainees on the roads surrounding Tredegar House.  The practical training was, for many years, organized by a Mr. Harold Roberts (see photograph).

Many of the trainees used their own machines, but for those who did not possess a motor cycle, the Scheme had about three small training machines for pupils use.  These machines were kept in the old stable block at the rear of Tredegar House, with the permission of Mr. Cullimore of Home Farm.  Who also allowed us use of the farm access road, running through to St.Brides Road.

The usual courses lasted about three months and the practical training took place on two evenings a week.  Lectures and training films were usually given on a Monday night in the police Lecture Room at the Civic Centre.  Fees charged for the courses were minimal, usually between two or three pounds.

The training scheme ended with a practical test, held at the Tredegar House venue.  Pupils were tested for their riding ability on the private and public roads.  They were expected to demonstrate skill in riding and controlling the machine, including being tested in maneuverability control in slow riding.  They were also tested for their knowledge of the Highway Code and expected to have an understanding of elementary maintenance of motorcycles.  The appointed Examiners were all experienced motorcyclists, members of the R.A.C. and a police officer for the Highway Code.

The tests were quite strict and only the trainees who showed a high level of skill received a pass mark.  All trainees who received a pass were presented with an ornate certificate and a button-hole badge.  These awards were presented at a special prize-giving event, held late in the year, at Newport Civic Centre.  Presentations were made at this event for the annual Newport Road Safety Rally, school children’s Safe Cycling Awards and the Motorcycle Training Scheme.  Newport’s Mayor, members of the town Council and the Chief Constable and Road Safety Officer attended this event.

Pupils who passed out successfully on this course normally had no difficulty in passing the Ministry of Transport Driving Test.  However, responsibility for training motorcyclists was eventually taken over by the road Safety Department of Gwent County Council.  Training in the grounds of Tredegar House then ceased.



Your Personal Stories of Tredegar House


Have you any interesting stories of Tredegar House.

  • Did a family member work at the House?
  • Were you a pupil there – A Visitor?
  • Attending an event – or other stories
  • The FOTH has a small database of servants and estate workers can you help to add to it with photographs and any memories that have been passed down in your family?

    Please do not send any original photos or documents we can arrange to have them copied.

If you have,  please forward, for consideration, to:

_____________________________________________                          _____________________

Albert Edward Powell   Tredegar House Groom

Visitors Betty and Peter Powell from Swansea enjoyed their visit to Tredegar House in July 2012


Albert Edward Power Groom at Tredegar House
(here you see him in front of the Edney Gates with Tredegar House in the background)

Peter Powell writes this is my grandfather Albert Edward Powell, born 1886 in Fishpond, Chermouth Dorset. He was a groom at Tredegar House, he met his future wife Cecilia Elizabeth Wheeler, born in Magor, Newport in 1885, when she was a maid at Tredegar House and they married in 1908.

In the 1911 Census Albert is registered as a groom but by then he was living in Blewitt Street, Baneswell, Newport and may have been working as a drayman for Phillips Brewery.


Archivist for FOTH; Monty Dart was thrilled to receive this photograph


John Edwin Hobbs  (Sawyer)

John Edwin Hobbs was buried at Woolos Cemetery, Newport, which has the inscription:

 In loving memory of John Hobbs. Died at Granville St Sept 15 1877 aged 34 years.
Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.

John Hobbs Grave


When I was researching my family history I came across a very interesting gravestone. It is the gravestone of the brother of one of my ancestors.The gravestone has a two-man saw carefully carved on  it. The carving of a tool on the stone is so unusual I felt there had to be a story behind it and sure enough, I did a newspaper search and found the reports of his death. The carving of the saw implies that he was a sawyer which he was, as were his father and two of his brothers. The newspaper articles tell us where he worked and the tragic circumstances of his death.

Here is some family background: John Edwin’s father John Hobbs was born in Bridgwater, Somerset and his mother Ann was born in Bristol, but both of them for some reason moved to Newport where they married in 1840 and they were living at Mellons in 1841. However they soon moved back to England and John Edwin was born at Margotsfield, near Bristol in 1843. The family moved to Weston Super Mare by 1861, but John’s mother died in 1862. Some time after their mother’s death, John Edwin and his brother Charles Albert (a dock labourer) moved to Newport. John Edwin married Elizabeth Perry in 1867 and they lived at 10 Granville Street in 1871.

The following reports from the Western Mail (Cardiff) inform us that John Edwin worked for Lord Tredegar at Tredegar house, and he contracted rabies (hydrophobia) from a dog bite. For some reason the early report calls him Emanuel, but this, and other mistakes were corrected in the later article:

Monday Sept 17, 1877, Page 3 :

Death from Hydrophobia at Newport.

‘On Saturday a shocking case of hydrophobia terminated fatally. The victim was Emanuel Hobbs, of Granville-Street, who had worked at Tredegar House. About two months ago Hobbs was bitten by one of Lord Tredegar’s dogs on the arm, and the dog was killed. No ill-effects were noticed until a few days ago, then the worst symptoms developed themselves. Several medical men were called in, but they were unable to save the afflicted man, and he died, as we have stated, on Saturday. Deceased leaves a widow, but no children.’

Thursday Sept 20 1877, page 3:

The Late Case of Hydrophobia at Newport.

‘We have been informed that the dog which bit John Hobbs (not Emanuel) on Lord Tredegar’s estate was not the property of his Lordship, but a stray animal which one of the men had caught in consequence of a reward of £1 offered in the Evening Telegram for a missing dog. It appears that the dog was tied up in a stable at the park, and whilst it was there was a good deal teased. On or about the 12th of July John Hobbs went into the stable with his shirt sleeves doubled up, and was about patting the dog on the back, when it flew at him and bit him on the arm. He had his arm dressed at Newport the same day, and from that time he was always apprehensive of something serious. The dangerous symptoms began to show themselves on Wednesday in last week, and the result was death, as we had previously reported. The dog was a brown retriever, and was destroyed. Besides Hobbs, it bit another man on the leg.’

His death certificate confirms that he died at 17 Granville Street, of hydrophobia (rabies) of 5 days. He had been attended by Doctor Richard Henry Dowse, of the Newport Infirmary. His brother Charles Albert Hobbs (of 2 Upper Jeddo Street) was the informant on the death certificate, and was present at John Edwin’s death.

John Edwin did not have children, and his wife remarried the following year. His middle name Edwin is not used in his death certificate, which appears to be the source of the information on the headstone. I do not know who commissioned his headstone; it would have been expensive – could his family have afforded it? When was it erected? Could it have been paid for by Lord Tredegar? Perhaps a record search will eventually find answers to these questions. I am thankful that the terrible disease of rabies was eventually eradicated in the UK.

Heather Stevens



31 July 2012



Here is an account sent in by Mr.  Cyril Highman (a founder member of Friends of Tredegar House)

Regarding the barrage Ballon installation at Tredegar House


In the early hours of 13th September 1940, pilot Oberleutnant Harry Wappler and his crew of three were returning south in their Heinkel  aircraft to their home base near Paris after a successful bombing mission to Ellesmere Port and  had reached a point somewhere in the night skies above Tredegar Park when disaster struck.   Not through contact with an RAF nightfighter or shell fragments from anti-aircraft gunfire but through a new and unexpected danger.  This time their entanglement with Newport’s recently installed balloon barrage.  Severe damage to the right-hand wing sent the Heinkel into an uncontrollable spin drive forcing the airmen into immediate ejection parachute drill.   But only the pilot succeeded in escaping and managed to parachute down safely near the British Legion headquarters in Queen’s Street off Cardiff Road.  The remaining crew of three injured airmen, however, found themselves trapped and unable to escape as the Heinkel continued its fatal downward path towards the urban streets of Newport.

It crashed onto 32 Stow Park Avenue, a house occupied by businessman Harold Phillips, his wife Marjorie and their two children, Malcolm, age 17, and his sister Myrtle, age 14.  Both the children who were installed on the ground floor died in the ensuing fire but the parents managed to escape from their first floor bedroom using a rope of knotted sheets.   Both the youngsters were buried in the Jewish  section of St Woolos Cemetery.  The three airmen also died in the crash.

There were many bombing raids on Newport in late 1940 but this particular incident was noteworthy in that it was the first recorded occasion in Britain when an enemy plane was brought down by the balloon barrage system of defence, and in this case by a unit of the Balloon Barrage Squadron which had just installed the equipment in the home park alongside the Oak Avenue in the grounds of Tredegar House.

My personal interest in all this survives because Malcolm and I became friends during our primary school days at Clytha School in the 1930s and my being able to enjoy in those halcyon years the privilege of visiting No. 32 and sharing our mutual pleasure in working with his magnificent train set!   We could never have believed then what a cruel fate lay in store for him, his sister and his family just a few years later.

Cyril Highman


Further information of this story & other interesting accounts during World War Two they can be found at the following website – go to Newport During Wartime



This was the breaking news in the South Wales Argus Sept 4th 1980.

In fact it was an RAF Vulcan bomber that caused the damage during the military spectacular on 2nd August that year. ‘In the flypast at rehearsal the bomber flew much higher than on the day’ said County Councillor Ron Jones, then Chair of the Leisure Services Committee.

As it made a low pass over the roof of Tredegar House, the vibration set up by the noise cracked a number of ceilings. Apparently a photographer on the roof seriously thought that the House would collapse because of the noise and vibration.

The damage was on the ceilings of the north-west corner of the House, which was an area undergoing restoration. Councillor Jones further stated ‘The ceiling in the Pink Room has a large crack in it, there are minor cracks in the ceiling of the Brown Room and in the Gilt Room the ceiling has flaked. We cannot put a price on the damage because we do know, but if any of those ceilings collapsed the cost of replacing any one of them could be astronomical.

Measurement rods were put into the Gilt Room ceiling and the Council was looking at their insurance policies!

A claim for damages was put in to the Military Defence – emergency repairs were estimated at £5,000 though this would not be the end of the matter, especially as the Gilt Room had just undergone a £12,000 refurbishment.



Memories of Tredegar House  by Shaun McGuire

Brought up at Park Drive, Maesglas in a catholic family but not really a practising catholic family I attended St David’s school from about 1952 to 1958. Most of my friends in the area were/are Catholics with one whose life ambition was always to become a White Father missionary priest following in his uncle’s footsteps and this he did and still is today. Because of this religious connection some of my older friends were invited to help set up the annual St. Joseph’s girl’s school fête run by the nuns at Tredegar House where one of my sisters attended and took place around the second Saturday of July and so at the age of seven I was also invited by them to go and help.

On my first day there I remember being at the rear door of Tredegar House where the kitchens were  as the jobs were being delegated they came to me , I was given a stool and a knife and asked to weed between the cobblestones in the yard. This I did and spent many hours at the job and I continued to go there helping until the day of the fête where I also got in free.

Probably many will remember these fête’s where by the 1960’s about 10,000 people used to attend and which was very well advertised around Newport’s town centre (when we had one) and the corporation buses used to run back and forth to the house bringing the visitors and it was a time when the people of Newport could enjoy Tredegar House and the estate and the entertainment of the fête. Boat rides were also available on a previous lifeboat with a small outboard motor on and go-cart rides.

Leading up to the fête, we used to go there some weeks before to prepare the boat for the rides such as giving it a lick of paint and spending many hours in the boat and another one that we called the Gondola as it was a punt type boat with a large spike sticking out from the front and dragging the lake with grappling hooks to remove large quantities of weed that would clog the propeller of the outboard motor. Other jobs included the erection of the stalls and children’s rides the day before the fête and staying overnight in the marquee to prevent any vandalism.

Eventually this led to about eight or nine of us boys being allowed to go down Tredegar House in the summer at any time but being kept well away from any of the girls especially the borders.

This carried on for quite a number of years, in fact until I was twenty but during that time we also used to set up the Corpus Christie procession that was held there for a number of years and most weekends we were at the house doing some sort of jobs for the Nuns such as painting, gardening or creosoting the large gates at the side of the house. For our labour we were allowed free roam of the estate and used the tennis courts that were at the rear of the stables, the use of the two boats although I do remember there being two Canadian canoes, one being irreparable or go to a mass of some type of cane that was like a large bush which you could walk over or bounce on like a trampoline. This was near to other tennis courts with a thatched summer house and was built over by the later new St. Josephs high school. Often we visited the memorial to Lord Tredegar’s horse Sir Briggs and some family dogs. Also part of this memorial was a small canon on a carriage that was used during the Crimea war and has now gone missing.

The Nuns looked after us well and brought out large urns of tea at various times during the day and copious amounts homemade marmalade sandwiches which I detested but was usually so ravenous that I eat them.

Recently one of my older friends who went there related a story to me that I had never heard about before. He and two others one being the now Professor Sir Hadrian Webb were asked by the Nuns to clear an area of overgrown brambles and bushes in the menagerie of the estate near the second lake which we called the Red Lake because of its colour. Cutting into this area, they found a WW2 American Jeep complete with a star on its bonnet and having four flat tyres. After completely clearing this vehicle, they obtained some tools, took the four wheels off and carried them up to Fosters garage at the bottom of Gaer Road at Maesglas and inflated them and they stayed inflated. Taking them back to the Jeep they refitted them and a day or so later they had managed to obtain a battery and some petrol. To their amazement the Jeep started when they pressed the button and for some days they used it to drive around the estate, not bad for some 16 year olds. They last they saw of the vehicle was it being used on Cullimore’s farm.

Another event that happened one day when I went down to the house by myself midweek, I was asked to help an itinerant that the Nuns used to take in occasionally named Tom. In one of the buildings off the rear courtyard surrounding the sunken garden there was a very old washing machine. This appliance sat in the middle of a large room, was made of wood probably by a cooper as it consisted of two wooden barrels, one revolving inside the other and driven by a belt that reached to a pulley in the ceiling near the outer wall and was rod driven by an electric motor two rooms away which itself drove the rods by a belt to the ceiling. It took a couple of days to remove the driving rods and motor and also the washing machine which we broke up and were rewarded with a couple of hundred buttons. At the end of this building at the court yard end there is a small clearing and this was used by the Nuns to grow tobacco for the priests, at least that was what I was told. The plants were huge far taller than myself at the time and certainly were well concealed by the surrounding walls.

At another time we were asked to clear a large amount of dirt, straw, possibly dung from a corner in the barn in the court yard. This had been there for numerous years and after getting half way through it I saw a packet of 10 Black Cat cigarettes which I had never heard of before and imagine my surprise when I opened them and it was full although not smokable. Probably not as big a surprise that the bloke who lost them got many years earlier when he found they were missing!

These are just of some of many happy memories as a small child growing up when you have a country house estate to yourself where you could go riding (on a push bike), fishing for eels, there was no fish in the lake in those days, playing tennis and being told when you were using the boats to stay up at the island end as the Nuns were going swimming.

During this time I had taken a small number of photographs which have gone missing over the years. They included photographs of the swans which were silhouetted by the two lions that were at onetime part of the lake wall and are now missing. One photo did turn up in the last few years and although bad quality shows some of the lads working on the Gondola in the court yard. This was outside the end building of the barns which we knew as the Yard Boathouse and housed the oar rack and other rowing items such as the rowlocks and in the room above accessed by a ladder, the Canadian canoes

Shaun McGuire

Working on the Gondola in the court yard.
This was outside the end building of the barns which we knew as the Yard Boathouse and housed the oar rack and other rowing items such as the rowlocks and in the room above accessed by a ladder, the Canadian canoes



Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar House

The Connection With

Samuel Homfray Tredegar Iron Works

By Cyril Highman



In the industrial revolution that swept Britain and parts of Western Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries, its innovators and entrepreneurs could generate great wealth for themselves, their families and the companies they established.   They often came from modest backgrounds or business roots but what many yearned for was to climb a further wrung on the ladder of recognition by elevating their social status in what was still a very class-ridden society.

Samuel Homfray, born 1762, was a member of a Midlands family of industrialists who saw the huge opportunities available by exploiting the rich iron belt in South Wales running from Hirwaun to Blaenavon. They concentrated first on Merthyr Tydfil where they established works at Penydarren. Samuel then set his sights on the area some miles to the east where the belt crossed the upper reaches of the Sirhowy Valley. But first he had to contact the landowner, Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar House, some 20 odd miles down the valley near Newport. Just rough farm tracks existed through the then verdant valley, but Homfray mounted his horse and found his way to Sir Charles’ palatial home where he was permitted to lay out his plans.

Sir Charles, already well known for his business acumen by his involvement in developing the port of Newport, immediately appreciated the new opportunities which could be opened up were he to take advantage of  Samuel’s proposals. With minimum delay and on most attractive terms, Samuel secured the lease from Sir Charles of some 3,000 acres of land on which to build his iron works.

Work started on the site around 1815 and in recognition of his generous landlord he decided to call it the Tredegar Iron Works. The workers cottages adjoining the site formed the nucleus of a growing town which acquired the name of Tredegar.

Samuel’s friendly association with Sir Charles and the family members at Tredegar House brought with it additional fruit. He became acquainted with Lady Mary Jane Morgan, the widowed sister of Sir Charles which blossomed into marriage. As a successful ironmaster he already had plans to purchase a farm site not far from his works on which to build in 1818 a mansion set in a 24 acre park to provide a fitting home of which he and his wife could be proud. It was called Bedwellty House, and it still stands today as a prominent and now publicly open feature of this former steel and mining town.

On his death in 1822, Samuel’s remains were interred in St Basil’s churchyard in Bassaleg, identified today by a very modest stone covered vault close to the path leading from the lychgate to the entrance porch.

Its’ exact site was revealed to me recently by our Archivist Monty Dart.

Samuel had realised his ambition to become a successful industrialist crowned by entry into the ranks of the gentry. It can be said that ‘he made it’.


Cyril Highman


Copyright © 2012 Friends of Tredegar House