Bulletin 415

October, 2017

Friday 15th September. Talk by Sue Gee author of Mysteries of Glass and how she researched the details of Kington for the book.

It was a good turn out for our first night back into the programme and a very inspiring evening for all who attended.

Sue Gee was very generous with her information and how she starts her novels.   We all got a quick lesson in Creative writing, which was fascinating in itself, but when she started on the Kington aspect of the book we all realised how much she got from our now President, Vera Harrison, who was then the KHS secretary. Vera started by sending Sue some local names for her to use as characters in the book and then a shop by shop account of the High St in 1860.   Sue obviously fabricated some of the events, but the social history of the era gave her a wide scope to make the book alive with the history of the time. She found the Skarratt Diaries and Parry books

invaluable for putting some colour into the story she was writing and her own background knowledge of the church and farming just added to the whole affair and made it all so much more believable.   Her search into the past history of her cottage also added to the intrigue as it was owned by the Diocese of Hereford and a curate named Allen was on the circuit at that time so the picture unfolded even more. She read many local Radnorshire books and was able to get the whole County feel in to the story. Her descriptions of the railways, the dress of the day and the language is all from social history books and Dickens “Hard Times” which was set in Victorian times and perfect for the story. Sue makes the novel very believable as she wrote most of it sitting in the very rooms of the cottage that the young curate would have sat, watching the cows in the top field and walking the paths that have not changed much over the years. The only thing missing was the noise of the railway, the smell of the coal and steam, but as a very established author Sue was very competent in making that real too. In the book you can hear, you can see, you can smell all the things she describes, good and bad, so even the market gets the pungent smell of the animals over your sensory glands. The Prayermint just goes to show the power of belief in this book and the skill of the author making us all think it is a real flower.

I am not sure if I totally understood the reasoning behind the title but I guess all authors are allowed some artistic licence.   The talk was both warming and inspiring, informative and enjoyable, intriguing and sensual, just like the book.   If you have not read it yet please make some time to get hold of a copy I can thoroughly recommend it. Thank you again Sue for a super insight into writing this novel “Mysteries of Glass”.

Review by Nancy Wheatland

(It was a happy day for the Society when Sue came in carrying a reading lamp which had just been repaired by Tom Bounds.   Our quarters were at the library then and we had many visitors.   Of course, we were pleased to help with any local colour. Sue borrowed many familiar names and you will meet them again in the book wearing the apparel of the 1860s. All Kingtonians will recognise Tom Bounds as a cheeky little boy running around Lyonshall, and other names in different guises).   VH.

There is much more than Sue’s book to be reviewed, as the day following her talk members were invited to her cottage and all had a wonderful time.   There is not enough space left in this Bulletin for a full report, and therefore the review will appear in next month’s issue.

Dates for your Diary

Our October meeting is on 20th and is our AGM and discussion of future of Kington History Society – 40 years old this year! There will be a display of local postcards, courtesy of Dunfield House. Please come and join us as there are some important things to discuss, and the committee really needs some more volunteers to help keep the Society running.

The meeting will be at 7.30 in Kington Primary School, Mill Street as usual. Members are free, visitors £2, which includes tea or coffee, biscuits and a cake for our 40th birthday.

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Bulletin 414

August/ September, 2017

Having no reports of talks and visits this month, it is hoped that the following extract will find favour with you.

From Memories of Kington by William Edwards

Remembering a Kington Artist

  1. Mr. Charles Job Humphreys, A.R.A., was a printer and bookbinder, bookseller, etc., and owner of the Kington Gazette. He had a high and deserved reputation as a portrait painter. In the magistrates’ room at the Police Station you may see one of his paintings, a police magistrate who lived 100 years ago. He told me he was commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Hawkins in the Grammar School, but he could make nothing of it. Would I have a look at it. I found it in a deplorable state, for it seemed to me that the old boys had made a target of it. Many years later I visited Hampton Court (1916) where I saw a vast number of ladies’ portraits of bygone reigns exhibited and stored. I did not see Lady Hawkins’s portrait, but I feel sure it was there. I saw very little difference in all the ladies of the Elizabethan age.

Mr. Humphreys borrowed from Lord Oxford of Eywood one of his very valuable paintings so that he might paint a copy, and he lent him his favourite painting “Lady Oxford and her Child.” The young lady became Lady Langdale, who in 1869 sent five or six of her paintings to be cleaned, in which duty I was called to help him. At the time I was his printer’s devil, dating from 1868. I had no idea that the paintings were worth thousands. After putting them to soak, he said “Give me down Lady Oxford.” I wondered what he would do to it as I understood he had finished it years ago. I watched him take it out of the frame and paint in blue the name of the painter of the original. I quarrelled with him for not putting his own name. He laughed heartily at my earnestness and explained fully that it was a copy only, and he put the artist’s name in so that in time to come it might be sold for thousands. I made mental reserva­tions, but I did not buy it. A lady bought it for 30s. Later she sold it for 3.15s., and the buyer sent it to London where it was sold for £2,800. (I write from memory.) Naturally his daughters were vexed because they had passed through years of scarcity, but had recently received welcome news of an allowance from Australia. Probably from Mr. Hall or her nephews, Harold and John Humphreys, when the Mount Morgan gold mines were sold. Miss Humphreys wrote me a long letter asking to do what I could, if the painting was sold publicly, to keep her father’s name before the public as the real painter. I never told them that I saw him paint the name. I have the letter, but cannot get it just now to give fuller details.

An amusing incident occurred when Mr. Bufton, of Lyonshall Post Office, had his portrait painted and I took it over one Sunday afternoon. Everybody who then saw it said it was very life-like. It was really an excellent likeness, yet two weeks later he called and said many folk said it was a failure. Will you touch it up, Charles, just a bit? So, back it came, and I hung it up for six weeks, when he called for it. He was delighted and so were his daughters and friends. It had never been touched.

Books and Bric-a-Brac sale Monthly at the Museum.

To assist funding, the KHS runs a stall every third Saturday to help with the (heavy) expenditure of both the Museum and the Society.   If you have any items which you can spare, please get on the phone to Julia, number above, who will give you further particulars.   The stall is situated under the Museum’s canopy, so you can be sure that your offerings do not get wet.   Any items more suitable for St. Michael’s Hospice will be transported there by Julia. Come along about 10.30.

Talk 15th September; visit to Parkstile on 16th.

Our next visit is to Parkstile Cottage in Lyonshall on 16th September, followed by tea in the cottage. If you would like to join us please phone Nancy on 01544 230691 as soon as possible.

The evening before, 15th September, Sue Gee will be talking about the research into her novel “Mysteries of Glass” in the Lyonshall area, which starts in Parkstile Cottage. The talk will be at 7.30 in Kington Primary School as usual. Do come and join us – members are free, visitors £2, which includes tea or coffee and biscuits.

As was mentioned at our recent meeting, we would also welcome more members on the committee, in particular with arranging future speakers and visits. Do phone if you feel you can help. Thank you.

Subscription changes.

Owing to increases in all our expenditure, the subs. are changing (euphemism!) on October 1st.

Bulletin 413

June/July, 2017

Monday 8th May Tour of the archive room at Hergest Croft

This event was a rare opportunity to see the archive room at Hergest which is not usually open to the public and therefore was well attended by our members on both the morning and the afternoon tours.

Heather Pegg, the archivist, gave a full history of how the Banks family arrived at Hergest and the start up of the archive room in 1925.

We all recognise the significance of social history and how it influences the outcome of how and what we are, but back in the 18th & 19th century it was even more important and verbal stories handed down needed to be written and clarified for future inheritance and the like. The archivist pointed out the union between the Harley and the Banks families and how land and titles get “blurred” when records are not available.

On display, were scrap books, diaries, school reports, photographs, a small part of the huge fossil collection, shells collected by the family, hand-made lace items and lots more.   This display was well received and enjoyed. It was obvious that the work done in the archive department is a lifetime’s work and there is still more to be discovered and exposed, as not all the old books and documents have yet been explored.

This was a wonderful step into one family history and brought to light the times they endured and in which they lived.

Review: Nancy Wheatland.

Increase in Annual Subscriptions. An announcement from our Treasurer.

Dear Members,

Our Annual Subscriptions are being increased as of 1st October 2017. Single Membership will rise to £12.00 and Family Membership to £17.00. The increase is owing to an increase in the room rental at the Primary School and paying for the Library room in the Museum. Speakers are now charging higher fees and some asking for travel expenses. To keep our Society going this increase is essential. If you wish to pay your subscription through your bank our details are: HSBC, 1 Broad Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8BU   Sort code 40 28 13 account no. 21154419. We do hope you will still think we offer good value and will continue your association with us.

Dates for your Diary.

Our next visit is to Parkstile Cottage in Lyonshall on 16th September, followed by tea in the cottage. If you would like to join us please phone Nancy on 01544 230691 as soon as possible. The evening before, 15th September, Sue Gee will be talking about the research into her novel “Mysteries of Glass” in the Lyonshall area, which starts in Parkstile Cottage. The talk will be at 7.30 in Kington Primary School as usual. Do come and join us – members are free, visitors £2, which includes tea or coffee and biscuits.

As was mentioned at our recent meeting, we would also welcome more members on the committee, in particular with arranging future speakers and visits. Do phone if you feel you can help. Thank you.

 

Bulletin 412

May, 2017

Timber Framed Buildings from a talk by Duncan James

Oak framed houses of every size are prominent in the Western Midlands, and their design and building matched contemporary styles and skills over many centuries, from the basic ‘long house’ of the early Middle Ages, to the elaborate and highly decorative mansions of the Tudor era. As the supply of suitable timber dried up, the superior craftsmanship of the carpenters became veiled by plaster, and replaced by building in brick and stone.

“The Rodd” near Presteigne, a prosperous Gentry farmhouse along the old road between Hereford and Presteigne, via Stansbatch, has a building date of 1629, so is of stone with a brick front and chimneys, and a tiled roof, and the basic linear layout includes an addition redolent of the period – a library! The doors and their cases, and panelling, and any interior beams are all richly but tastefully worked in ovolo moulding, but the greatest skill and design has been shown in the carving of the overmantels, with heraldic shields, and in one room, representations of Adam and Eve with all due modesty, and a lurking snake with an apple displayed, and perhaps a foretaste of “the future”, – a dragon. The ceilings are now plastered, between the nicely worked strops, and in a bit of a throw back, there is a nice apotropaeic symbol in the attic, to ward off evil spirits.

The barn is entirely of the period – oak framed and boarded, but now contains accommodation for many cattle, as a better food supply has been developed, allowing them to survive the winters, and near the stabling for valuable horses, is a sleeping platform, with nicely chamfered beams in attendance.

“Upper Dolley”, upstream of Presteigne, complete with the new ‘water meadows’ of the late 1500’s, is a contrast – initially a strongly decorated timber framed farm, demonstrating Presteigne’s rise in prosperity, strikingly jetted and gabled, but falling on hard times – much became plastered over, and ancient solid barge boards, are being reused to support staircase steps. Even later, it got more plastered over, and needed a serious rescue operation, but we can still relate to the original carpenter, as he left an outline of his hand, greeting our arrival, engraved on a bracket of the jettied porch.

Eyton Court, near Leominster, long associated with the prominent Hakluyt family, is similar in age (1530), with a close studded jetty, and lots of careful mouldings, with a brick cross wing added later, but demonstrating best of all, the highly decorated plaster work used in ceiling panels, and at every intersection, a beautifully carved boss – all completely different.

On a totally different scale, up country in Shropshire, is Pitchford Hall, of 1549, – once everyones’ conception of a Tudor Mansion, described as “one of the most beautiful and romantic of all timber framed houses”, initially with vertically framed ‘close studding’, but with additions creating a “dazzling display of diamond and herring bone work”. Fortunately, any restorations were carefully done, preserving the graceful ageing of the timber work, and all is crowned by numerous brick chimney stacks, with over 250 separate flues, demonstrating the size and affluence of the old estate, but the problem now is that the property has been empty for more than 20 years, being described as “at risk”, but hopefully there will be a handsome prince along sometime, to rescue this sleeping beauty.   Review JR.


The Hymns Farm, Walton, Powys, LD8 2RA‎ (it’s just off the Kinnerton Road from the A44). This is one of the properties that Duncan James referred to at our last meeting. The gardens are open to the public through the National Gardens Scheme on 20th and 21st May from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Sadly the house will not be open but there will be a print out of Duncan’s notes on the outside of the building. The WI and Old Radnor Church will provide refreshments and there will also be pottery, books, plants etc. for sale. Entry is £3.50 in aid of the NGS cancer related charities. It would be great to see KHS Members there.

After Easter we start our summer outings with visits to Hergest Croft Archives on 8th May (some places are still available for the afternoon tour) and Parkstile Cottage in Lyonshall on 16th September, followed by tea in the cottage. If you would like to join us please phone Nancy on 01544 230691 or Julia on 01544 231663 as soon as possible.

As was mentioned at our recent meeting, we would also welcome more members on the committee, in particular with arranging future speakers and visits, as Nancy will be stepping down as Programme Secretary in the autumn. Do phone if you feel you can help. Thank you. Editor, Vera Harrison.

Bulletin 410

March, 2017

February Talk by Ian Cole

Our talk on Friday the 17th of February was “Finds under your feet in your own back yard” by Ian Cole. The appeal of such an intriguing title attracted a good crowd, including a number of new faces. Members had fond memories of the late Sadie Cole, Ian’s mother, who used to attend our functions.

Ian divided his talk into several parts, illustrating these with actual objects and excellent photographs on the screen. He started by explaining the principles of a metal detector, indicating the range of the electro-magnetic field it produces. The penetration into the ground of this field was described as a “pudding bowl” effect, where the rim of the bowl was formed by the coils in the circular base of the detector. Successfully locating a buried object depended on a number of variables, so a great deal depended on the experience and skill of the operator.

When working across ploughed areas a number of Ian’s finds were just lying on the surface. In particular worked flint tools brought him special pleasure since his handling of them was the first time they would had been touched for thousands of years. Of course no metal detector was of any use for locating non-metallic items.

Coins were amongst the most exciting finds, and, if they are in reasonable condition, they could generally be dated with a degree of accuracy. Many coins were illustrated, and their features discussed. These ranged from the Roman period up until the 19th century, and some were beautiful, both in their design and their state of preservation. Various other objects were demonstrated, including a wide variety of buckles, buttons, spindle whorls and other metal artefacts. One photograph Ian showed on the screen put things into context, however, by showing a mountain of useless rubbish which his metal detector had discovered. He referred to this as “and the rest”, but urged discoverers not to discard items too hastily.

Ian stressed how important it was to record the finding of objects, particularly if something of possible significance had been discovered. Proper recording means, not just noting details for your own interest, but also putting this information into the public domain. The easiest way to do this is to contact Peter Reavill, the local Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities scheme for advice. This is particularly relevant if you have discovered something which could be interpreted as a “hoard”, but Ian explained some of the problems inherent in the system, once your find has been classified.

Most of the finds shown had come from within a 10-mile radius of Kington. Members had their own favourite items. The most popular seemed to be the medieval artefacts, in particular one or two of the coins and a beautiful green strap from an early book. Some objects were naturally difficult to identify. Ian illustrated this by showing a picture of a small whistle, which, much later, was classified by a relevant expert as a rare and precious hawking whistle.

It was quite clear from the number of questions from the audience that the talk had proved popular, stimulating and thought provoking. When refreshments were being served the cluster around Ian and the table on which were displayed many fascinating objects, demonstrated the success of the evening. Full marks to Nancy Wheatland for arranging it. Review: Alan Stoyel

March Meeting. Our next meeting is on 17th March 2017 at 7.30 as usual in Kington Primary School on Mill Street, Kington. This month we have a more agricultural flavour to our history as David Protheroe will be talking to us on the topic of The History of the Hereford Cattle Association. Do come and join us – members are free, visitors £2, which includes tea or coffee and biscuits after our talk. Carolyn Giles

Editor:   Vera Harrison.

 

Bulletin 409

February, 2017

Tales from Old Herefordshire

Based on a talk by Valerie Dean and David Phelps

Herefordshire is noted for its amount and diversity of folklore, which is helped by its site as a border county, encircled by Wales, Shropshire, Worcester and Gloucestershire. The landscape is varied – hills and pastures and woods, with mountains beyond, and winding rivers and streams everywhere, but in particular, because of its mixed geology, with numerous caves. So there are influences from all sides, but the movement of people has tended to be constrained through history.

The best early full account of “The Folklore of Herefordshire” was a book by Ella Mary Leather, published first in 1912, and republished in 1991 by Lapridge Publications, of Kington, members of our Society until recently.

Folklore originates by definition with “people”, and Herefordians originally had a rather mixed ancestry. We know about Celts, and later Saxons, but it has been suggested that early on, there were remnants of an Iberian tribe, originally from South Wales (the Silurians), who were small, fierce, with dark curly hair, and possibly clothed in deer skins, with the hooves still attached, and may well have made use of the caves, and they feature in a story about a later King HERLA, who was due to marry a French princess, and had contacts with these people, in which much time was spent in a cave, but subsequent memories erased, possibly due to the consumption of copious strange libations connected with a Silurian wedding.

Other stories are often about “fairies and fairy rings”, but as “fairies” are a Post Conquest introduction, they obviously came later, and are said to affect the Welsh side mostly.

This ties in well with a story about a girl from Knighton (not Wigmore), Mary Powell, who was very keen on dancing, and insisted on coming (or going) to Kington, suitably clad shoewise, in which the “dancing gates” here, are mentioned. Needless to say, she didn’t get home, and when finally ‘rescued’, blamed the fairies for her predicament, and subsequently avoided boys and did her dancing in her dreams.

A later one in the same vein concerns a boy from Woolhope now, who got mixed up with the fairies locally, but ends up waking in a wine cellar in Hereford, surrounded by many empty casks, and is due to meet his fate on a gallows, but is rescued by the fairies, who pop a special cap on his head – which makes him invisible – (? any offers).

With later more intensive farming, we hear of a shepherd near Longtown, who is so careful of his flock, that they grow and outnumber his neighbours, who are said to have then murder him, but in the presence of a flock of crows – whom he had never disturbed. They follow the various parties into town, and their activity provokes confessions, which ultimately leads to a trip to the gallows, with the crows still in attendance.

Much later in origin is the best known story concerning Kington – about the Vaughans and Hergest Court. The Vaughans arrived there in 1422, but Thomas (Black) Vaughan was killed after the Battle of Banbury in the Wars of the Roses, in 1469, and subsequently buried in the famous Vaughan Chapel of Kington Church. This monument was so famous that the Church proclaimed it as a site of pilgrimage for some time. Vaughan was supposed to have had a large black dog, who makes a subsequent appearance.

Perhaps as late as the 1700s, Vaughan’s “spirit” is being blamed for all sorts of mishaps, especially to travellers passing Hergest and its pool, on the way into Kington, and the dog gets blamed for some problems too.

A story is concocted of these evil doings becoming so troublesome, that a mass exorcism is arranged (said to be held in Presteigne Church, ? why) and the “spirit” of Vaughan is summoned up, and by various incantations is reduced in “volume”, to fit into a small snuff box (these only available after 1695), and subsequently immersed at the bottom of the pool in front of Hergest Court – (despite Parry reporting that the nearby pools in the Arrow were frequented by bathing parties of ladies from Hergest!).

The snuff box is subsequently recovered during a drainage scheme (and we have seen it in the Resource Centre of Hereford Museum).

The noxious content were supposedly reburied under an oak tree nearby, but that was “conveniently” cut down in 1830 – possibly releasing the remains to resume their previous activities – which mainly concern severe disruption to travellers there on market days – especially later in the day.

All this ties in very neatly with disruption to travel towards Kington from over the Arrow – when the town bridge was swept away in 1767, and despite some repairs, had gone again in 1795, so wasn’t in operation again until 1810. This coincided with the advent of turnpikes, and their gates, and meant that travellers to market had to cross the Arrow at Hergest Bridge, and by coming into town across the site of the playing fields, avoided the turnpike at the end of Hergest Road, by the Church, to the financial detriment of the Trust. Eventually, in the mid 1800s, the turnpike gate was moved down next to Hergest Mill, but by then the story had taken hold, and that with the activities of the Black dog of Hergest, spawned the various ‘Hound Tales’, made famous by Conan Doyle – whose wife’s family came from Clyro, and would have known all about it from their trips to Kington market.

So there is obviously room for another ‘folk tale’ featuring Kington – to fill the space.

Bulletin 408

January, 2017

December Meeting.

On 9th December a goodly number of Kington History Society members and friends braved the unkind weather to enjoy our Christmas party and of course our traditional quiz which our President Vera Harrison kindly prepares every year. It was a lovely evening and many thanks to Nancy Wheatland too for the delicious food.

Vote of Thanks.

This vote of thanks is for Carolyn Giles, who has bravely taken on the duty of listing the forthcoming programmes. Nancy Wheatland has performed this office until the present time and we give her our thanks for the long hours spent in keeping us posted and for reviewing the outdoor meetings. So, thank you Carolyn and Nancy for keeping the flag flying.

This seems to be the appropriate moment to thank all members of the Committee and those members who assist them, people, like Thelma, who beaver away the whole time; all our unsung heroes. This includes, in no small measure, the work done by our erstwhile Chairman Dr. John Rerrie.   There is scarcely a meeting regarding local history in the whole of the county which Dr. John has not attended, and his monthly reviews in our Bulletin reflect the personal interest and further research which he undertook to bring life to the sometimes mundane talks.

I point out here, though, that our lectures are very seldom boring. Come along, do, to experience the interest shown to our lovely town by the erudite lecturers who have given their time to uncovering Kington’s mysteries and charm.

If you have suggestions for future talks and visits, please let our Secretary know.

Items for the Annual Papers.

Every year I send out a request (nay, an appeal!) for local items which would offer some interest and enliven the articles for our members.

You will appreciate that as time goes on the material for our Papers dries up a little. We have searched, even scoured, our local villages for items, and even the most tenuous of stories relating to Kington have been insinuated into “local” news. Every lamp post, railing, doorway, roadway, brick and person of interest has been recorded. Yet, yet there must be numerous untold tales abiding in trunks, attics, basements and hearts. t was dear Liz Thomas who told me about Armstrong and the furore the trial caused in the town; she was there! So many of you must have similar stories in your memories, told to you, although less gruesome. Please sort them out and send them to me! VH.