London’s Great Grab

Again the Heritage Centre drew a crowd for one its regular evening events. On this occasion a talk given by Richard Rees regarding a largely forgotten proposal by London County Council to provide “pure Welsh water to the residents of London”.

The plan was to capture many of the rivers of Mid-Wales, divert them to huge impounding reservoirs and then transport this by gravity to London, 180 miles away. A headline of the Evening Express of 7th November 1895 stated;

HOW THE LONDON WATER SCHEME WOULD AFFECT WALES?.

VAST TRACKS OF LAND SUBMERGED.
TOWNS, VILLAGES, CHURCHES, AND CHAPELS DISAPPEAR.
LLANGAMMARCH SWALLOWED UP.
DEVELOPMENT OF LLANWRTYD  PREVENTED.
ABBEY CWM HIR WIPED OFF THE MAP.
488 SQUARE MILES OF COUNTRY RENDERED USELESS.
LARGE POPULATIONS DISPLACED.

A proposed damn located near Garth would have flooded the Ifron Valley and the creation of the Irfon Reservoir resulting in the drowning of the villages of Garth, Beulah and Llangammarch Wells and the demolition of Llanwrtyd Wells. Although Llanwrtyd would have been saved from flooding it would have be demolished to prevent potential pollution of the stored waters.

The development would have been huge, four times greater that the Elan Valley reservoirs built to provide water for the growing city of Birmingham.

The plan was close to becoming reality but was defeated in the House of Commons in 1899 (in part because of the cost of buying the six existing London Water Companies) and the threat largely forgotten.

Richard has spent extensive time researching London’s Great Grab and his talk was an intriguing insight into a great Victorian civil engineering scheme which could have changed the face of mid-Wales.

Heritage & Arts Centre – September Programme

During September we shall be presenting an exciting and varied programme of exhibits by our local network of Irfon Valley Artists and Artisans. Paintings by 15 artists in a variety of media and styles will be on display throughout the month in the upstairs gallery. Downstairs members will be present each weekend to show and demonstrate their crafts and skills.

Saturday 23rd      Beryl Smith              Cards
Sunday 24th         Maggie Oliver          Weaving

Saturday 30th      Barbara Thomas    Weaving
Sunday 1st              Barbara Thomas    Weaving

These artist and artisans will be sharing the downstairs facilities with Richie Dean Digital Art who will be exhibiting for the whole month. This will be the second time that Richie, who lives in Rhandirmwyn, has exhibited at the Centre this year. Richie creates imaginative images from locations within Wales, often melting different images together to create something new within his mind’s eye. His last exhibition proved to be very popular and we look forward to welcoming both Richie, on his return visit, and Irfon Valley Artists and Artisans.

Monthly talks on the first Wednesday of each month will also be restarting in September – please see separate notice in Grapevine.

And don’t forget about our new shop at the Centre, which provides a selection of good quality products made in Wales, including soaps, creams, pottery, jams, chocolate, cards and articles made from slate. Remember that this shop is not just for visitors but for you as a resident too, especially if you are looking for gifts for family or friends!

Railway Station’s 150th Year Anniversary.

Llanwrtyd Wells has just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the opening of its Railway Station on 6th May 1867. After congratulatory speeches over 100 members of the community crowded into the station building for afternoon tea arranged by ‘Friends of the Station’, a group of volunteers who look after the planting at the station.

The establishment of rail link was an important event in establishing the development of Llanwrtyd Wells as an important spa town. Soon trains were bringing thousands of visitors from South Wales and elsewhere for their summer holidays and to ‘take the waters’. As a consequence the town grew rapidly to accommodate these large numbers of visitors – many of the buildings that one sees around the centre of the town were built at this time during the late 1800s.

An interpretive board situated at the railway station describes how things have changed since then when a station master, a booking clerk and two porters were on duty to meet five passenger trains arriving each day. Older residents can remember the town at that time with over 30 shops, two golf courses and a bowling green – so hard to believe now! Visitors to the Heritage and Arts Centre are able learn more about this fascinating period in Llanwrtyd’s history and listen to members of our community talking about their memories.

Mr John Price (in the centre of the photograph with ‘Friends of the Station’ and children from Ysgol Dolafon) was the last signalman, employed from 1969 until 1986 and often also deputising as station master/porter/booking clerk/parcels clerk/public relations officer too!). At 20.15 on 6th July 1986 John filled the kettle as usual so that up and down train drivers could make a can of tea when they arrived, and then, for the last time, walked up the platform to operate the necessary points and signals and walked back to hand over a ‘train staff ticket’ to each of the drivers to allow the two trains to proceed along the next section of the line.

The station has remained unmanned ever since.

Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines’ Visit

Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, who was one of the children rescued by the late Sir Nicholas Winston when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938 and who came to school in Llanwrtyd Wells, paid another visit to the town on 27th April. She is currently associated with a project to erect on 27th May a memorial in Prague Railway Station to remember the selfless love and sacrifice of the parents who sent their children to a foreign land and into the arms of strangers fearing they may never see them again. The memorial will depict a railway carriage window with the hands of parents on one side and those of the children on the other. Most of the parents perished in the Holocaust.
The story of the children’s arrival in Llanwrtyd Wells is one of the many incredible stories of the town’s history exhibited in the Heritage and Arts Centre. Accompanying Lady Milena on her visit was a film crew who are making a documentary of the story to be broadcaston Czech television.

Llanwrtyd Wells has enjoyed a long and fruitful association with the former children who were at school at the former Abernant Hotel, now an adventure centre for schools. Children attending the centre nowadays learn about the tragic story of the Holocaust and the Czech children who came to safety in Llanwrtyd.

Llanwrtyd Wells is twinned with Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and a meal was held in the Neuadd Arms Hotel with members of the Town Council and Twinning Association to celebrate Lady Milena’s (pictured second from end of table on left) visit with members of the film crew.

Heritage and Arts Centre reopening in April

Following last years successful first summer the award winning Heritage and Arts Centre will reopen its’ doors on Thursday 13th April at 10.00am. The Centre will be open throughout the summer and autumn from Thursday to Sunday between 10.00am and 4.00pm.

In November 2016 the Brecon & Radnor Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales presented us with its ‘Rural Wales Award’ for the community effort in the revitalization of an old building and delivering a complex project which promotes an awareness and understanding of the local heritage. Visitors have regularly congratulated us on the quality of the refurbishment and the interesting and well-presented display.

The Art Gallery will provide added interest in the coming year with a series of month-long exhibitions by different artists and crafts people who will often be present to demonstrate and discuss their work. See our What’s On section for further details.

You will find a warm welcome awaits at the Heriatge Centre in Britain’s Smallest town so why not pay us a visit.

Entry to the Centre and Art Gallery is free and the display area is accessible to all.

150 years ago

150 years ago in May 1867 the County Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser ran the story:

“The new railway is now open to Llanwrtyd, a very nice fishing station on the Irfon, not far from Builth; you can get very comfortable quarters there, very fair trout fishing, which is open, and the scenery among the mountains is most picturesque.”

The small village of Pont Rhyd y Fferau – where visitors alighted for the Llanwrtyd Wells – had a new name.

Already a popular spa resort, with the arrival of the railway visitor numbers blossomed as it was now possible to travel to Llanwrtyd Wells directly from the industrial towns and cities of South Wales.

Four months later the growing status of the town was marked by the opening of the new board school.

This provided places for up to 80 pupils. It advertised for:

“A certificated Master, with wife or sister to teach sewing, House and coals. Salary 30p.”

Whilst Llanwrtyd Wells was rapidly growing, a newspaper report of the time stated of its neighbouring parish Llangammarch:

“There is nothing attractive in the parish to studious persons. Nature seems to be half slumbering here amongst peat bogs and rushes, scattered villages, and smoky and dingy cottages.”

Although a momentous year for Llanwrtyd Wells, daily life continued as always:

“BEER-HOUSE OFFENCE.—John Hughes, Abernant Inn, Llanwrtyd, was charged by P.C. Edwards with keeping his house open during illegal hours, on the night of the 13th February.”

And:

“A farmer residing at Gellyfelin, near Llanwrtyd, was summoned for removing two steers from his farm to Llanwrtyd village without having first obtained a license, authorising him to do so.”

Not to mention:

“This gay, lively, and fashionable watering place was all alive on Tuesday last, on the occasion of a cricket-match which took place that day between the Llandovery, and Llanwrtyd and Builth clubs, including their summer visitors.”

And:

“Philip Jones and John Hughes, Llanwrtyd Wells, were charged with having in their possession an unclean and unseasonable salmon, at the parish of Llanwrtyd,”

The old Congregational Chapel which is home to the Heritage & Arts Centre also first opened its’ doors in 1867. The Centre re-opens its’ doors again to the public in April.

Why not come and discover some more of the town’s history?