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:

annie.parker@friends-of-tredegar-house.co.uk

monty.dart@friends-of-tredegar-house.co.uk

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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

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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

Sydney

Australia

31 July 2012

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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

WORLD WAR 2:     A FIRST FOR 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

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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

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TREDEGAR HOUSE CRACKING UP!

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.

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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

 

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Sir Charles Morgan of Tredegar House

The Connection With

Samuel Homfray Tredegar Iron Works

By Cyril Highman

SAMUEL MADE IT IN THE END

 

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