The Hafod Blog


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* Interesting History

* Benefits

* Legends, myths and mysteries in the mystical Glyn Valley.

* How much is a billion?


Interesting history!

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families
used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken &
Sold to the tannery.......if you had to do this to survive
you were "Piss Poor"

But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't
even afford to buy a pot......they "didn't have a pot to
piss in" & were the lowest of the low

The next time you are washing your hands and complain
because the water temperature isn't just how you like it,
think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about
the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their
yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by
June. However, since they were starting to smell . ..... .
Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour.
Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man
of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then
all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the
children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so
dirty you could actually lose someone in it.. Hence the
saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no
wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get
warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs)
lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and
sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof...
Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the
house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs
and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence,
a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top
afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other
than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The wealthy had
slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet,
so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their
footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until,
when you opened the door, it would all start slipping
outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way.
Hence: a thresh hold.

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big
pot that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit
the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly
vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the
stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold
overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew
had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence
the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas
porridge in the pot nine days old. Sometimes they could
obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When
visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show
off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home
the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests
and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high
acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food,
causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with
tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were
considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt
bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests
got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination
would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days.
Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and
prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen
table for a couple of days and the family would gather
around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake
up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running
out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins
and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the
grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins
were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they
realized they had been burying people alive. So they would
tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the
coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night
(the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone
could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.

And that's the, whoever said history was boring!!!




We have received some e-mails from an ex Bont Pren resident now living in London - Marion Clucas (nee Young).


"I lived in Hafodyrynys from 1958 until 1971. My address was Rivendell, Bont Pren, a house which my father built.


I moved to Hafodyrynys from Six Bells, where I was born. I went to school at Park Terrace in Pontypool, then Monmouth School for Girls and then went to LSE. In 1971 I got married and set up home in London.

What I remember most about Hafodyrynys is the total freedom my brothers and I had to roam around, for miles, without my parents having the least worry about us."


Marion has been an advisor at the Citizen's Advice Bureau since 1990 and knows a great deal about benefits and state pensions and has kindly updated and corrected some figures included in a previous blog "Pensioners v illegal Immigrants".


Here are the current figures:-


Pensioners (anyone, male or female, over the current state pension age for women, with savings of £10,000 or less and no other income)
Weekly allowance    £132.60
Weekly spouse allowance    £69.80
Total yearly benefit for a couple £10,535.20 (not including council tax or housing benefit)
If they/he/she receive any guarantee pension credit (the above figures) the household will also receive 100% council tax benefit and 100% housing benefit to cover the rent

Illegal immigrants
Illegal immigrants receive no state benefits whatsoever. In order to obtain any state benefit you have to have a national insurance number. An illegal immigrant will not be issued with a national insurance number - if they tried to apply for one they would immediately be apprehended as illegal and probably detained whist awaiting deportation.

Once accepted as a refugee, a person can claim certain benefits on exactly the same level as a UK citizen in the same circumstances, so their benefits will depend on those circumstances. If we take the case of an out-of-work childless household under pension age then the figures would be:
Weekly allowance    £65.45
Weekly spouse allowance    £37.30
Total yearly benefit for a couple £5,343 (not including council tax or housing benefit)
If they/he/she receive any Income support/Jobseekers Allowance/Employment Support Allowance (the above figures, all of these benefits pay the same amount) the household will also receive 100% council tax benefit and 100% housing benefit to cover the rent.

Asylum Seekers
Asylum seekers cannot claim mainstream welfare benefits. Those who meet a destitution test are eligible for Asylum Support.:
Weekly allowance    £35.52
Weekly spouse allowance    £34.82
Total yearly amount for a couple    £3,657.68
Asylum seekers are not eligible for council tax or housing benefit.
If they/he/she meet the requirements to receive support, the household would be given suitable housing but would not be able to choose where they live. They would be sent to wherever suitable housing is available within the United Kingdom


Thank you Marion for the information. We look forward to your future contributions to the Hafodyrynys website.




Legends, myths and mysteries in the mystical Glyn Valley

the glyn valley

Many people know the road - the A472 - between Pontypool and Crumlin but only know it as a busy two-lane A road on their journey from one place to another. I first travelled the road about forty years ago but I remember it as something a little special even then. For some reason, I enjoyed being in the Glyn Valley. I didn’t know why, but I did. Since that time I have spent many years living away from Wales. About seven years ago, when I decided to move back to Wales and by a series of strange events I learnt of a house in Hafodyrynys coming onto the market the very next day. I visited the house that evening and felt it so right for me that I bought it, then and there.
Since that day I have been able to explore the valley, talk to local people, and research some local history and now I know that it is really a special place. It may be because it is an East to West valley, something quite rare in South Wales, or because it has “a special atmosphere”. It certainly seems to rain here more than anywhere else I have ever encountered.


In his article, “A Trot To Crumlin” published in the “Monmouthshire Medley” in the mid 1800s , William Henry Greene told of some of the stories about the valley and described the elder trees, the wild roses , the foxgloves and the romantic nature and the strange associations the valley.
The elder trees, the wild roses and the foxgloves are still here …. and so are the strange associations.
In this blog, I am going to look at just a few of the mystical stories that are linked to the valley. I am hoping that this message will prompt further stories and facts that will add to the knowledge base of this interesting valley.

Henry Jones and the Ghost

We start off our mystical journey along the Glyn valley (Cwm y Glyn) heading from Pontypool towards Crumlin. Many years ago the miner Henry Jones was living in a cottage overlooking Cwmynyscoy. One day, when working in the mine, a ghost, dressed in a strange and ancient manner appeared to him and commanded Henry to meet him the following night at a place on the mountain further along the valley in the direction of Hafodyrynys. This was quite a long distance from Cwmynyscoy in those days and Henry decided for that reason and lots of others not to go. The ghost did not give up and reappeared many times to pester Henry into meeting him at the appointed place. He appeared in the mine, at Henry’s home and in the village but nobody but Henry could see or hear the ghost. The ghost even pulled the bedclothes off Henry and his wife when they were in bed. Eventually Henry promised to meet the ghost on Saturday night in Cwmynyscoy and go with it wherever the ghost wanted to take him. On the Saturday night the people of Cwmynyscoy surrounded Henry to protect him from the ghost. This was in vain, however, as Henry was discovered missing from crowd. He had been taken without anyone seeing. The story goes that that Henry was lifted to a great height by the ghost. Far below he could see the fires of the Blaendare furnaces. They travelled along the valley over the waters of the Glyn pond and eventually they landed by a solitary tree on the mountainside. The ghost told Henry to remove some stones from the base of the tree and remove what he found there. What he found there was a bar of gold. “Take it up and bring it along” said the ghost and then Henry found himself soaring high in the night sky back the way they had come. When they were again high over the centre of the Glyn pond the ghost said “Now drop the gold”. Henry did so and he saw the bar hit the water and sink into the depths. “At last” said the ghost with a sigh of relief, “I shall now find rest at last!”
Henry lived on for many years in the Pontypool area and the story of Henry and his ghost lives on to this



The Ghostly White Lady

Further along the road, on a lonely stretch on the outskirts of Hafodyrynys, there are reports of sightings of a ghostly White Lady who “never says nothing to nobody”.
Does anyone know who this lady was?
There are many reasons to believe in the white lady not least because the description of a White Lady (ghost) is common to many parts of the world. In France they are known as Dames Blanches in Germany as Weisse Frauen and in Holland as Witte Wieven and in other English speaking countries as The Woman in White. The White ladies don’t seem to cause any harm but they are believed to be the lost spirits of mortals who once lived and died in the area where they have been seen.

White Lady

Pwca’r Trwyn


Further along the valley we come to an area where the famous goblin Pwca’r Trwyn is well known. Pwca, is another name for the Ellylldan, a species of elf corresponding to the English Will-o’-wisp. Now Pwca’r Trwyn is said to have performed the household duties of a house in Pantygasseg. However, he eventually got tired of Pantygasseg and one Christmas he decided to leave. It is believed that a servant girl dropped a ball of yarn over the edge of the hill and Pwca said “I’m going in this ball and I’ll go to the Trwyn and I’ll never come back”.  The ball of yarn was seen rolling down the hill through the village of Hafodyrynys and ascending the hill on the other side and moving briskly to his new home in the Trwyn Farm in Mynyddyslwyn parish. [This story was retold to the Nation by a well known lady of the village of Hafodyrynys, Dorothy (Doll) Davies when Radio Gwent visited the village in 1986.]
The Trwyn Farm was near Abergwyddon (now called Abercarn) and there is a further story concerning Pwca whilst living at the farm. A servant girl who looked after the cattle on the farm used to take food to “Master Pwca” as she called him. She took him a slice of white bread and a bowl of fresh milk every day and placed it in a particular place where he collected it. One night the girl, in a mischievous mood, drank the milk and ate the bread. A while later as the girl was passing the same place she was seized under the arm pits by unseen hands and given a good shaking whilst hearing a severe warning, in Welsh, not to repeat her escapade in future – she didn’t do it again.


The Hafodyrynys Inn and the Orbs of Light

orb of light


This is a current ghost story from the Glyn Valley.
If you were in a country Inn and you went to pay a visit to the toilet and you saw orbs of light travelling up the stairs, what would you think? Well, many people have had the same thoughts in the Hafodyrynys Inn.
The Landlords and many customers of the Hafodyrynys Inn have seen ghostly orbs of light around the stairs in the Inn. They seem to travel up the stairs to the upstairs bar.
What are they? Do they mean any harm?
Orbs are believed to be ghosts in the form of balls of light. It is said that they are those spirits that have willingly stayed behind because they feel bound to their previous life or previous location. They appear to be quite friendly. Orbs of light are the most photographed anomalies captured by the camera by ghost hunters.
Obviously these ghosts like the Hafodyrynys Inn! They have decided to stay where they have been really happy.


Tam the Knocker ( The Hafodyrynys bringer of good luck)


In this missive I will retell only one story, the latest.
There was a family in Hafodyrynys where the Dad, an ex-miner, had died and the family consisted of Mam and two children, a son and a daughter. The son had felt the lost of his Dad very badly and had barely talked since. He still said “please and thank-you” like a good boy but little else.
One day his Mam saw him playing on the field with a little friend, which was very unusual for him. When he came home Mam suggested he brought his friend home the next day for “Tea”. The next day when the boy came home he told his Mam that his new friend “Tam” said “thank you very much” but he was too nervous to come in for his tea. This was an unusually long sentence for the boy to make so the Mam gave her son a glass of milk and some cake to take out to his new friend which he did. Later on that evening the son, when asked, described his new friend enthusiastically as a small bearded man who lived in the mountain. As you can imagine Mam was very surprised but so pleased to see such a change in her son that she continued to give her son milk and cake to take to his friend.



As time went by the son became far more eloquent and his Mam noticed that much-needed work had been done in the back garden. In fact, it looked, very neat and tidy. Later on, she noticed that the back of the house had been painted and the rickety old shed now looked pristine and everything inside was incredibly neat and in good condition.
Time again went by and the son continued to develop out of his torpor. He did well at school and began laughing and joking around the house. Eventually, he gained a scholarship to a Grammar School and continued to do well.
The only other thing on record is that Mam continued to place milk and some cake in the garden shed daily for some years and the family which became bigger with the addition of grandchildren continued to prosper.
Well done, Tam.

The Knocker, Bwca (Welsh), Bucca (Cornish) or Tommyknocker (USA) is the Welsh and Cornish equivalent of Irish leprichauns and English and Scottish brownies. They are about two foot tall and live beneath the ground. They wear tiny versions of miner’s clothes.
In the 1820s, Welsh miners brought tales of the knockers to western Pennsylvania when they moved there to work in the mines. Belief in the knockers remained well into the 20th century. When a large mine closed in 1956 and the owners sealed the entrance a petition was circulated by the miners for the mineowners to set the knockers free so they could move on to other mines. The owners complied with the request.

Ithel the Giant


Another local legend tells of Ithel the Giant. Ithel lived at Llanhilleth and he decided to build himself a house. He collected boulders from Cefn Crib above Hafodyrynys and he was carrying them back in his apron when the string broke and the rocks tumbled to the ground forming a heap. This is why, according to the legend, the castle mound next to the Church of St. Illtyd was first formed.

Well, that has been just a brief journey along the Glyn Valley, taking scarcely longer than your car journey would take at peak times. You have heard about ghosts, apparitions and a giant in this short journey through the valley. I hope you have found it interesting and that it will make your future journeys more thoughtful.
There are many more stories still to tell but please in those ten or so seconds, it takes to drive through Hafodyrynys (at 30mph please) think of Tam and the strange wonders of the past and present that occur in this wonderful valley.


John Scourfield


A Trot To Crumlin by W.H. Greene (from the Monmouthshire Medley by Reginald Nichols).
Folklore of Blaenau Gwent (Old Bakehouse Publications).
British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Principality of Wales by Rev. Edmund Jones of the Tranch.



How much is a Billion?


The politicians talk about spending, borrowing and giving away billions of pounds quite glibly but just how much is a billion?


A billion = 1,000,000,000 - Yes, it is a thousand million!


Let us put that into some sort of perspective:-


A billion seconds ago it was 1978 (~31.7 years)


A billion minutes ago the Roman Empire was flourishing and Christianity was emerging (~1,900 years)


A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age (~114,000 years)


A billion days ago an ape-like creature related to an ancestor of modern humans roamed Africa (~2.7 million years)


A billion months ago, dinosaurs walked the earth (~82 million years)


A billion years ago the first multicellular organisms appeared on earth


Thanks go to Dave Webb for information sent-in that inspired this inclusion. Webmaster