Friday, 21 November 2008

Lost in time . . .

Penrhiwmelin - once a home . . .



I needed to delve into the 1881 census last night, to find out for a neighbour who was living at her cottage at that time. Of course, it didn't end with that cottage, and I tagged various neighbours and printed them off so I had a picture of our little hamlet at that time.

Family groupings were obvious - the Griffiths clan lived down by the bridge (including my neighbour's cottage), though their Blacksmith's forge was occupied by a lady of my age who was a charwoman. I'm still trying to get my head around this - I've seen inside several blacksmith's forges, and they didn't look terribly homely, but I suppose if that alternative was a barn or the hedgerow, the warmth of the forge would look very welcoming.

The head of our farmhouse had a hard road to travel. With both parents dead she was farming 195 acres with the help of just one indoor farm servant and one outdoor Ag. Lab, and a general servant. Under her care she had an older sister and brother ("Handicap: Idiot" written against each name), and also a nephew and niece of 11 and 9 respectively. From what I understand, she later married Mr Moses, who held a farm on the other side of the valley. He set up in the retail trade but his name went against him and so he changed it to his wife's maiden name. You are probably familiar with the John Lewis partnership . . .

Big families and small cottages were the rule rather than the exception and one tiny two bedroom cottage up the valley had parents and 9 children under its roof. The head of the house farmed 80 acres single-handed. 50 or 60 acres is considered a one-man farm in these parts.

Some cottages have disappeared entirely from the landscape, even more so than the half a brick left at Ffosgrach, where the Lewis family lived with their three little girls, Anne, Joice and Mary. Where was Brechfau with its 40 acres? There is some river-land with an old barn by the woodland, but no longer 40 acres of grazing there - much of it is wooded now - but a definite hollow-way approaches the barn . . .

This week when out walking down by the mill I photographed the ruins of Tynewydd, which was home to a sawyer and his wife back in 1881. Not much of it remains.



Pretty little Llettygariad, tiny, on its triangular plot on the river bank, now just low mossy stone walls overwhelmed by trees. A widow-woman, Ann, lived there with her two daughters.



Opposite was the acre plot and cottage of Pantydinas where another Ann, also widowed, lived with her son. Both women were charwomen and I imagine they were good friends. Up the lane a little was another Ann, also widowed, who lived in a cottage and plot a similar size to Pantydinas, with her daughter Ann, both hosiers by trade. Calling out "Ann" in those days must have been pretty confusing!



Pantydinas


It is hard not to wander into the past when out on my walks, when I see a cultivated rose in a hedgerow; periwinkle growing wild on the banks of Llettygariad; a tin bath abandoned in woodland which was once a garden and grazing; a gateway to nowhere. I see two widows sharing what little they had, their children playing together as they gossiped; a charwoman making her bed beside the embers in the forge; a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders who had to lock her "idiot" brother and sister in the attic for safe-keeping whilst she was about her business on the farm. There are several doors with locks on in this house - the kitchen, the "back room", a front bedroom, and the attic - which was boarded over and a stout door added and the saddest feelings still echoing on the landing . . .

5 comments:

hen said...

What an incredible post. I was transported. How hard life must have been then, but the bonds made must have been deep.

Really good post, really good.

Thank you BB.

hen
xx

thelma said...

Absolutely lovely BB, made me want to cry, especially with all this darkness drawing in each night. Wales has that beautiful melancholy of the past, vestiges of lives lost. Miserable grey chapels and just loads of water like that last photo.....Haul out R.S.Thomas for a poem ;)

Rowan said...

Another really fascinating post BB, I think I must do the same for the area where my house is which in the 1840s would have been just fields I think. It's so interesting to look back into the past and wonder about people's lives, I do it a lot especially when I'm travelling. Manchester city centre is, on the surface, full of modern shops and a thoroughly now sort of place but if you look up you see things like Corn Exchange carved in stone on the building. As for the Ann's - I'll bet one was an Annie and another one was Nan and so on. Really enjoyed this post as always.

Mam said...

I've had these same reactions in old places. A bittersweet reminder of someone - most likely a woman - doing the best she could to keep and beautify a home for her family.
This last photo is certainly powerful and dramatic!
Nancy

Bovey Belle said...

It would have been so hard for folks Nancy. They had so little. I walked five miles the other day and was able to rest when I got back. Women round here had to walk 10 miles to market, laden with produce on the way out, and laden with things they needed on the homeward journey.