Bulletin 391

April, 2015

The Wye Trow Project

By Commander A. G. Wynn. LVO MA

The Georgian Kings loved waterborne Pageants – the sort for which Handel wrote his “Water Music”, and in 1747, the year after the victory at Culloden, another took place on the Thames, depicted by Canaletto, like much else of London at that time, with a numerous flotilla, and so, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen, a similar event was proposed for 2012, with 1000 boats taking part, and representation from each County requested.

Herefordshire is an inland County, with no particular nautical history (except possibly of the Danes coming up the River Wye), so a trading vessel associated with the River was suggested, as Chepstow had quite extensive overseas connections – with Bristol and beyond, and bulky or expensive merchandise was often consigned by river, for Hereford, but higher up than that was unusual due to the fluctuating depths of water. In addition, there were problems with weirs and mills on the river, and also the interests of fishermen, but few or no bridges below Hereford.

There was a history of trading vessels on the Severn and Wye – barges really – flat bottomed, but although with rigging and sails, had to be able to be towed from the river bank, which limited their size. So the choice had to be between quite a variety of suitable vessels – barges, brigs, hoys, trows, sloops, snows, or even a ‘frigate’, but there was a good history of the use of Trows and so one had to be recreated – first using a museum model for arrangements, and a ship wreck for measurements of structural timbers. Historic ship restorers in Gloucester Docks prepared drawings, cut outs and then templates, and timber from local estates was given, including a nice Douglas fir for the mast.

In addition to this, a crew had to be found – oarsmen, capable of handling 15 foot (carbon Fibre) oars – but help here was at hand, with a small ‘outboard’ secreted for relief of weary limbs. If that was an historic anomaly – then there was even another – a small ‘convenience’ – subsequently much appreciated by many more than its own crew.

The real skill in the recreation, was in uniting a planked flat bottom with a ‘clinker’ framed hull, (as in lifeboats), and of course this boat will have to be in water a lot, and hopefully in use, to prevent the timbers drying out.

As there are lots of bridges to contend with on the route down the Thames, the mast has to be unshipped easily, but its height was always an advantage, otherwise when under tow, the hawsers passed from the towing team to the masthead would foul riverside obstructions.

So, after launching in Gloucester Docks, the Trow was named the “Hereford Bull”, with liberal dispensation of cider in the High Town, and was off to Kew, to prepare for their journey down the Thames, as part of the enormous flotilla headed by the Queen, and watched by THOUSANDS from the river banks, (and of course it rained).

For the Royal Visit to Hereford, the boat was on display in the Riverside playing fields, but has subsequently been available often, at a mooring near the Cathedral, and its use by School parties and Sea Scouts, hopefully will revive interest in the Counties waterborne trade (which includes the Hereford Gloucester Canal – the Leominster Canal, and for us here, the Monmouth Brecon Canal. Which contributed so much to Kington’s story in the 1800s.

Dates for your Diary

Friday 24th April  Nigel Jones on The Radnor Valley (Please note date).

Summer Recess – See Visits.

Sunday May 2015  Train Ride at Titley Junction.

Sunday June 2015  Tour of Old Impton Farmhouse, Presteigne.

Thursday 19th July 2015  David Bennet Hay on Wye Tour, including the Armstrong Walk.

(Further details of these visits in the next Bulletin.)

Editor:  Vera Harrison

Bulletin 390

March, 2015

February Talk. Titley Railway Station by Mrs Lesley Hunt

Kington was once a RAILWAY town – four branch lines converged here, as successors to the horse drawn tramway of the early 1800s.

The first arrival was from Leominster in the 1850s – financed largely by local people, and all the stations were well outside any town or village limits.

Later extensions appeared from Presteigne, and Eardisley, converging towards Kington at Titley, which in the nature of all the best English Railway Junctions, was miles from anywhere, yet served over 30 trains a day, with a staff of at least a dozen. Titley was actually lucky to become a Junction, as the Kington and Eardisley Railway originally toyed with a separate route into Kington, and also in a moment of grandiosity considered becoming part of a scheme linking South Wales with the Midlands via a connection at Craven Arms. In spite of these splendid ideas, it was the first to suffer closure, becoming abandoned during the First War, and again during the Second, after a period of interwar respite.

The one branch that could actually have prospered and survived in more rational times, was the New Radnor extension from Kington, via the quarries at Dolyhir, which had been well served by the original tramway, and the idea was floated that the extension to New Radnor could be the start of something great – eventually fetching up in Aberystwyth (next stop New York?), but Radnor Forest got in the way, so New Radnor Station was a lot further than a bowshot from the little town.

So Titley Station became a busy junction, but the trade that was best served by all this activity was the cattle and sheep sales, which took place in the meadows near Kington Station, and for which the G.W.R. would provide great numbers of cattle and sheep wagons for maybe half a dozen trains per market.

However closure came in the 50s and 60s, and the station buildings were at least subject to re use for other purposes. Titley Station was being ‘restored’ for more than a dozen years before Lesley and her husband acquired it, and since then have re-laid more track towards Bullock’s Mill, with that rescued from Moreton on Lugg sidings, and replaced the signal box, (which had an unusual encounter during its arrival, as the Hunt was out that day, and there was a confrontation, as the horses wouldn’t go backwards, and the box couldn’t go back).

Mobility is provided by a Peckett steam tank loco, accommodation by a diesel Railcar trailer, all in use for Period Reenactments, or open days for Charity Events, and holiday lets in between. The icing on the cake for the owners of the Station, is that the Railway is insured as a ‘Garden Railway’ only – what more could any true enthusiast wish for? JR

Dates for your Diary

Friday 20th March 7.30pm at Kington Primary School

‘The Wye Trow Project’ presented by Commander A G Wynn LVC MA. This talk will describe the Wye Project and explain how Herefordshire was represented in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant by a replica of a Wye Trow carrying the Lord-Lieutenant. It will follow its story from then in 2012 to its present purpose and its future. Commander Wynn has a long Royal Naval record of 18yrs His last sea-going appointment was 1984 on HMS Ark Royal. In 1988 he returned to Eton college as Assistant Bursar till 2011. Upon retirement he became involved in the Wye Trow and has been fully involved in its development since. Hi is a trustee of the Manifold Trust, Secretary of the Little Marcle branch of the Royal British Legion, member of the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust Board of Governors and subscriber to the Founders Fund of the New University of Herefordshire. I think we shall be in for a fascinating evening so hope you can make it along and share the evening with us.

Friday 24th April. Radnorshire’s Walton Basin by Nigel Jones BA MCIfA Senior Project Archaeologist, Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. Since the mid 1990s the Trust has been conducting a programme of evacuation and survey which has gradually revealed one of the most significant complexes of prehistoric monuments anywhere in Britain.   A series of large Neolithic enclosures include some which are amongst the largest of their type in the country. Although there is little visible trace of these sites above ground recent work has uncovered important new evidence demonstrating how and when these monuments were constructed. (The last talk before the Summer recess).


Sunday May 2015. Train Ride at Titley Junction. Date to be confirmed.

Sunday 21st June at 2 pm. Tour of Impton House, Presteigne Private Elizabethan Farmhouse.   Date now confirmed so names please for the tour and afternoon tea. Cost will be approx £10 inc tea.

Hay On Wye Tours. Sunday 19th July 2015. We are booked to go on two tours of Hay, a Heritage Trail and the Herbert Rowse Armstrong tour. We will need to know numbers as if we are over subscribed we shall have to book another tour guide. A poster explaining the tours will be circulated at each meeting till April 24th. You are invited to put your names down and show your commitment by paying in advance.

Editor:   V. Harrison

Bulletin 389

February, 2015

Old Photo Required

Has anyone an old photo of the Vaughan & Davies premises? It has probably been photographed many times, so hope you can help. No harm will come to it.

Audrey Beavan

It is with deep regret that we report the passing away of Audrey in December. She had been ill for many months and had been greatly missed by all for some time. Until her illness, she had been a solid member of our monthly lectures. We extend our condolences to her family and all her many friends.

What the Tourists Missed in Southern Spain

A talk by Alan Stoyel

This is based on an account from working in mining engineering in and around Andalusia during the 1970s, when the Country was about to undergo major changes, and visitors from abroad to the south especially, were becoming more numerous.

Our views of Spain vary, depending on your outlook – if historian, ranging from the Armada to Gibraltar, or if a prospective visitor – concentrating on the Mediterranean seaside, with perhaps visits to Seville and Granada. However this investigation, mainly of industrial archaeology has a much broader remit, and very timely too, as the changes are sweeping much away.

The very earliest legacy from history is of the Carthaginians from across the sea (hence Cartagena), and they were followed by the Romans, mainly interested in precious metals like gold (now exhausted), but even more in useful metals like copper, tin and iron, and the legacy of these are vast mining pits, and huge areas of mining spoil, or deep narrow tunnels towards the centre of the earth, with the products being basketed up. More scenic remains of the period are the huge aqueduct, dams, and bridges, and public buildings – from Salamanca to Segovia, and Merida to Cordoba.

Later, came the Moors from North Africa, whose main legacy, apart from the architecture, is irrigation. They made canals in the fertile flat valleys, with undershot waterwheels which lifted a small proportion of the water which drove them. This was then distributed to crops.

Wind powered mills (from Cervantes) and irrigation were present, but the sails made to rotate in an agreeable anticlockwise direction. These would be either conventional (squarish) sails, or jib (triangular) sails – as on boats, and one wonders if this was a help in promoting navigation, as in 1492, when the Moors left Spain, another nautical expedition left Palos near Cadiz, in the opposite direction.

Throughout this period, a manufacture of European importance was steel from Toledo – used for swords of those who could afford them – but now, no more.

Local products needing preparation, were olives, first broken up, then pressed to release the oil (not unlike cider making) and straw, needed threshing, using a heavy board with inset numerous sharp flints, under animal power, who also provided the transport in ox carts, and also maize (post-Columban) for grinding, and pigments for pottery production, ground by a donkey worked mill.

Huelva was once a busy port exporting metal ores. It also saw the entry of materials and man power, mainly from Northern Europe, in the 1800s – engineers and equipment for the mines coming particularly from Britain. Machinery and locomotives were supplied by various British companies, including cranes from Bath! (Stothert and Pitt). All were put to work using rather poor grade Spanish coal, resulting in huge plumes of black smoke. A few locos survive, but only on plinths somewhere, or heaped together in disused sidings.

On the Atlantic coast there are tide-mills, little noticed nowadays. Tourists are more interested in the products of fermentation and distillation than in historic engineering. Review by JR

Titley Junction Railway Station

Friday 20th February 7.30pm at the Kington Primary School

Lesley Hunt will be giving us an insight into the history and restoration of this delightful iconic railway station which happens to be on our doorstep. We hope to follow this talk up with a “train ride” in May, so watch this space for details to come. Why not come along and be transported back to a steam age of long ago? Some of us will remember them and maybe share some “steam stories”. NW.