Bulletin 379

February, 2014

Brampton Bryan Visit, 2:30pm, 14th March 2014

About half the members who expressed an interest in the visit to Brampton Bryan Hall are yet to submit their donations (£15 per person) for this visit. Can I please request you forward your donations to either John Potts or myself, Mark Wheatland (opposite the War Memorial). Payment confirms your attendance and I have been informed by Edward Harley that all donations this year are going to the upkeep of Brampton Bryan church.

Edward requests that we all arrive on the day promptly with the visit starting at 2:30pm at the Victorian Dairy.  For many of us coming from Kington we will approach Brampton Bryan from Knighton. As you enter Brampton Bryan, on your left you will see a small lodge followed by the long yew hedge. Turn left through the lodge gate and take the second left, down a ramp into the tarmac car park. The Victorian Dairy is the columned building at the far end of the car park.  Edward and his wife Victoria will be there to meet us, again I emphasise 2:30pm prompt, and will give us a short introductory talk setting the scene for what we are about to see. Please ladies/gents, no high heels and if the weather is wet Edward requests a change of footwear before entering the house. Following the tour we return to the Dairy for tea about 4:30pm.

Once again can I please request your donations as soon as possible to confirm your attendance? For security reasons I have been asked to provide a list of those attending by the end of February. Mark Wheatland

A Talk about Presteigne by Duncan James

Of the three small Middle Marches towns of Kington, Presteigne and Knighton, Presteigne probably has the most secrets which can be demonstrated to an informed inquirer.  Although ‘peripheral’ in a manor of speaking, all were at busy river crossings, intersecting route ways into Powys, later Central Wales.

All, of ancient foundation, have been affected by various external (or internal) influences – ranging from near destruction – following the disasters of the 13 and 14 hundreds, – to the surge of rebuilding in the recovery from the effects of the Plague etc., and more settled conditions after the Wars of the Roses, with mainly locally sourced timber, and increasing prosperity demonstrated by the preparation and decoration of exposed internal and external woodwork.

Continued development (in various guises) led to preservation and / or modification of many of these houses, but the original design and layout can be revealed often when either rebuilding or repairs take place.  In the case of Presteigne, more really interesting and important early houses can be demonstrated there now, in spite of the effects of a widespread fire in the 1600s.

The earliest surviving building in the town is the Church of St. Andrew, of ‘Saxon’ origin, but its circuitous churchyard precinct is a legacy of the Northumbrian progenitors (labeled ‘Columban’) – ultimately derived from Iona.

Nothing else is known to survive from before the middle 1400s, when recovery from the plague etc. ‘incentivised’ town building, and the current ‘Hall house’ type of occupation continued, but very quickly adapted to add on spacious box framed upper floored wings with ‘solars’ at the status ends and also the use of upper floor jetties, especially towards street frontage – a form of obvious decoration.

Presteigne during this period was blessed with relative stability, and its focus as a market for the surrounding countryside, and also the fact that Wales to the (wild) West provided a disincentive for the forces of law and order and commerce to venture further.

Apart from the town houses – mainly in Broad Street and the High Street, there are a number of truly interesting and elegant country properties of similar age, within a few miles of the town centre – ‘Old Impton’ near Norton, – ‘Upper Dolly’ towards Whitton – and ‘Old Wegnells’ to the east, which could almost be described as satellites, and all demonstrate conspicuous decoration.  By contrast ‘Carters Croft’ in Stapleton is a plain old fashioned hall house, somewhat modified, but the basic structure is beautifully worked – an illustration of the attention to detail allowed at the time, and the quality of the materials and the workforce available.

In the town, ‘Whitehall’ just off the centre in Hereford Street is a late hall house (1463) with a cross passage included in the service end to save space in the crowded burgage plots.  The original thatch roof was plastered on the inside, and fitted with central louvers for the hall fireplace.  All the wind braces were cusped, and later an elegant Tudor ceiling was installed.

At the ‘status’ end there is a jettied cross wing for upstairs accommodation, provided with braziers for heating.  All this has been later disguised by external plastering, and the addition of gables on the street front.

The prosperous 1800s are represented by the Shire Hall / Judge’s lodging, in Broad Street, but there are no secrets there.

The Victorian craze for municipal aggrandisement gave rise to the Market Hall complete with Venetian campanile, but sadly the brickwork of the tower shows that originality has been let down during subsequent repairs.

We shall visit the town in the company of Duncan on Sunday May 18th, and see it all for ourselves.

Review by JR.


Some 19th Century Population Trends in an area of the Teme Valley By Dr. David Maund, Friday 21st February 2014

Dr. Maund will throw light on the population movement during the 19th century. The conventional thought of this period is that there was massive movement of the population from the countryside to the town.  In a small area of the middle Teme Valley this does not seem to be quite so obvious and an interesting pattern emerges.