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Six Bells around 1920

Thank you for such an interesting website. Its helped me a lot - as has your input Carolyn.  Thought some of you might be interested in the Six Bells part of my mothers memories she has just compiled .

I was born in 1915 at Gilfach cottages in Six Bells , but moved to Arael St not long after . My mother Blodwen Rees  at first worked for  Arthur Patey who ran the Coach and Horses Pub in Six Bells, and later when married,  opened a shop in the front room of her Arael St house selling icecream, sweets and some provisions, as well eggs, rabbit and vegetables from the family allotment.  
I can visualize parts of Arael Rd school quite well. The classroom I was in had a tiered floor and I remember well the dread of each step down from the back of the room to the front if the teacher called you out. Looking back, the actual position of the school would be considered a nightmare now. It was positioned similarly to the school in Aberfan with  an ever growing slag heap just a few yards from the infant’s playground. The area was called Warm Turn and the school overlooked the pit entrance. Close by passed the huge bucket type containers full of slag. One would go up the conveyor full, another would come down empty. From time to time the boys would jump up and grab onto one of the buckets for a free ride for a few yards. I remember one day a boy called Birchall did it, got entangled in the machinery and had his leg torn off. What a difference between the dangers children were exposed to then and the “no conkers” policies they have today.
My mother was  absolutely insistant that I missed as little school as possible. Despite being born a healthy 10lb baby, following a serious illness as a 2/3 year old, I was a small sickly child (one with an anaemic, weak constitution Mum was told). Some of my worst memories included the embarrassment of being carried to school on occasions, wrapped in a shawl because I was too weak to walk. The embarrassment was compounded because I had circulation problems and Mum used to swathe my legs in putties, the army issue khaki strips of material used by soldiers to keep their legs warm in the first world war. (Probably obtained via Dad’s brother Edgar who was a soldier)
Being off frequently, sometimes just too unwell even to be carried, meant that I fell well behind with the arithmetic lessons. Less able pupils had desks at the back of the room, so when I was there that’s where I sat, about as far from the only heat source, the open fire, as you could possibly get. I can remember being so numbed with cold during the winter months that I could barely think, let alone do schoolwork. My saving grace according to nasty Mr Phillips (we had a nice Mr Phillips as well) although he couldn’t imagine why, given my apparent maths inability, was that I was surprisingly good at English for a “nincompoop”. (his word) This teacher wasn’t above harshly rapping even the coldest of clenched knuckles with his cane when he was angered by anything. I remember a boy in our class, a small puny little lad belonging to the Protheroe family who used to have to deliver papers for his family’s shop before school. He would often come in a bit late and would get severely caned for his trouble, on one occasion fainting . The two girls I was friendly with at school were Thursa and Dora Phipps.
There were 3 shops in Arael St. A second sweetshop (owned by the Poulsons) about 10 doors up from ours in Upper Arael St., their daughter was a teacher at the school, and a bigger more purpose built general shop/house at the bottom of Lower Arael St. owned by “Grandma” Perry, a friend of my mother’s and run by her son Arthur. One of his assistants used to collect cylinders of gas from the railway station by horse and cart. These were to make the flavoured fizzy drinks my mother sold in the shop. I remember a fairly large glass globe half full of water called a vantas. Mum had a little yellow duck floating in it to amuse and attract the children. This globe was attached to the cylinder which pumped gas into the water. The flavourings sarsperilla, strawberry, orange and lemonade came in sticks. Mum would have to add water to these to make up batches of the flavour concentrate which was stored in bottles where a wire contraption held the ceramic and rubber stopper sealed down. The customer would then get a measure of their chosen flavour in the glass provided, top it up with fizzy water from the vantas and drink the contents on the spot. The glass would then be washed and re-used.
I remember other little things too about the shop, like Mr Saye who came in as a traveller for Berry’s sweets and Mrs Picken from Richmond St. who came in regularly wearing a gold necklace which fascinated me, a little figure of a man depicted in gold and ebony. Her daughter was called Annie like me and her husband was in charge of the ambulance station. We used to talk to him sometimes as we passed on the way to school. I was very impressed, I remember, when Mrs Picken told us that both her brothers were university lecturers at Bangor!
We used to sell unpasteurized milk too but people round there didn’t drink it in the quantities they do today. It was used exclusively for a dash in their tea, so customers would never buy more than a quarter or half pint at the most, decanted from our big jugs into their various containers. Each evening the cream was taken from the left over milk, the milk scalded and sold more cheaply the next day as skimmed milk. The cream was always given to me in an effort to build me up - Ugh! To this day I cant abide greasy food. When we children did jobs at home, (the one I remember well was polishing the brass stair rods) Mum or Dad would give us a penny which of course we would go and spend in the other sweet shop. It was no fun choosing from our own.
I left school when I was 14 and had various little jobs in and around Abertillery, mostly sweet shops and similar. I worked at one large sweet shop in Church St., Abertillery where we needed 3 girls on a Saturday night to cope with the demand for chocs and sweets from folk on their way to the cinema lower down the valley. One of the girls was the local councillors daughter. The two main stores in Abertillery were Bon Marche and a posh shop called Pontlottyn. This latter shop, a clothing store, was a very prestigious place to work. You would only get in if you were well spoken and well dressed and had enough money to pay them 5 shillings a week whilst they trained you properly as a salesperson! Imagine that now! The attraction was that it enabled you to have an edge when applying for other jobs in the future, jobs which of course were hard to find. Job shortages meant you couldn’t really stay at home if you wanted to get on.
My father Albert Rees left school after being  joint head boy/girl   with Jinny Gatfield  who I believe went on to fight so hard to stop the Marie Stopes clinic continuing. I remember the fuss over all that. My mum used to say most  folk were against the clinic because they thought the  products were unatural and caused cancer!  My father didnt go back to the colliery  because of his health, but managed to get a job selling insurance around Abertillery.You used to have to “buy a book” in those days and Dad had no money for that, but the previous owner of the book had sadly committed suicide and the book had been run down and was in a shocking muddle. Refuge Assurance agreed Dad could have the book for free providing he sorted it out and built the round up. When Harold Jones, the murderer came out of prison, he became one of Dads customers, and I remember Dad saying how he could barely  bring himself to be civil  to the man..
My great grandfather David Rees had been involved with the planning of Bethany Chapel in Six Bells and later became a church elder. I’ve not seen it but I’ve been told that a stone somewhere on the chapel wall bears his name.

That was absolutely amazing. Your mother's memory is much better than mine!

I really don't think this should be lost among all the other requests for info etc. Please send a message to Dai (admin) to see if he can find somewhere more prominent for it where it can be viewed more easily, as it deserves to be.

Give your mother my best wishes and tell her that for someone born much later I felt as if I was practically there in Six Bells in the 1920s.

I agree Martyn it was absolutley facinating.  Your mums memory is much better than mine and any family member I have.  I once knew a lady of 97 who has since sadly passed away and her memory was remarkable who gave me information about my family history previously unknown by the rest of the family which resulted in a family reunion with family that had left Six Bells in 1925 for Australia.

These memories are so special and can be of great help to others.  We once had a memories section on the main site it was one of the areas I enjoyed reading time and time again. I too think this should be saved, please contact admin as Martyn says I have requsted that the memories section be uploaded again but I know that Davids time over the last few weeks have been limited and no doubt he recieves requests for other sections of the old site, but will bring his attention to this story at the next meeting of the Cybertyleri Group. It would make a nice new addition to the memories section.

Glad you found it interesting. Ill pass on your kind comments to my Mum, thanks - she'll be pleased.   I did contact Admin , asking for permission to use a couple of the sites photos on our family history site, but as you said, hes probably busy at the moment, but when he replies, Ill tell him
Im happy for him to put the memories wherever he thinks fit.

Heres another couple of paragraphs that refer to Six Bells. Bit out of time order with the other ones, but never mind

My slightly built Dad wasn’t a strong man, he worked in the coalmines and used to come home, black and exhausted after long gruelling shifts. Whatever time of day or night it was, he’d get the old tin bath off the yard wall and screened by towels on the clothes maiden, bathed in it in front of the fire. Only then would he sit and eat his meal. Dad’s health deteriorated after heart attacks, so Mum had her hands full with three children under 5 and a sick husband to nurse. In those days you didn’t get proper sick pay, so many weeks when he was too ill to work, there was no wage coming in. Despite the fact things were really difficult at that time, Mum was proud, too proud to allow us to take any help from “the parish”. She skimped and saved, mended and worked all the hours God sent, to make sure we just about coped overall. As my father’s health didn’t recover enough to continue with deep mining and whilst he was off sick, he managed to continue his studies for pit exams to enable him to work in management above ground. I can remember the brown envelopes used to come regularly from Bennet’s College.

The little house we lived in in Upper Arael St. was one in a long row of terraces at the bottom of the mountainside. I can remember in summer picking whimberries (the local word for bilberries) for pies and wild watercress which we would take home for Mum to add to meals. I don’t remember us having any bought toys. Everything was made within the family from wood or scraps of material or anything else that was available. Most of our clothes were bought at chapel jumble sales and meticulously revamped and kept immaculate by Mum.

When we were a little bit older, out of financial necessity, my mother converted the front room into a little shop selling provisions, sweets and icecream. She used to make the icecream herself. I remember one day she was panicking that the milk which had to be scalded, had caught slightly in the pan, very very slightly burning. She literally couldn’t afford for a whole batch to be ruined. It had taken on a flavour which could vaguely be likened to almonds, so she advertised it as almond icecream and held her breath. Luckily, lots of people liked it and so she was asked to make it like that again. She didn’t though because it was too risky that it would overburn and be inedible. Many of the provisions for the shop had to be bought in bulk, weighed and then repackaged into smaller amounts for resale and I have recollections too of we children peeling endless small onions ready for Mum to pickle and sell and of selling home grown bunches of mint, door to door in the surrounding area.

Dad contributed as best he could when he was well enough, by keeping rabbits in a shed next to the outside toilet. He started off with standard rabbits for the table, but also kept some Blue Beverens for their fur. He kept them immaculately, just as he did the chickens, also for the table. I remember one of the things we had to do, was collect any broken bits of pottery we came across. These were hammered down to make grit which was fed to the chickens to help toughen the shells of their eggs. Without these meat and egg sources and the vegetables he grew in the allotment, I don’t know how we would have coped. That was one thing, we never had empty tummies and what we didn’t consume, got sold in the shop.

Mum was very involved with the chapel all the time she was in the valley (although I don’t remember her going much to services although she sent us to Sunday school.) During the war when the government were encouraging people to grow their own vegetables, they had campaign posters of Timothy Turnip and Potato Pete. I remember she made beautiful 1ft high dolls based on these characters which were offered as a prize at the  chapel fair.

This bit is totally unrelated to anything else, but sticks in my mind, my brother went to the Grammar School, and although he wasnt into sports, he used to come  home, full of what the chant was at school rugby matches.
“Who killed Piker, Blood and Webby? What for? Beer! Baccy! n  Bread! Yah!!”

Thank you once again for your input it makes very interesting reading.  I will bring it to his attention at the next meeting of the Cybertyleri Group.

Arial Street. Six Bells

I have just spent few minutes  reading  the  account  of life in Arial Street
and it was like going back  in time.  My  interest is in no 3 Arial St  as my  granny  Margaret Ann  Morgan  nee James  was living there when  my  gran dad was killed  in  France in 1916. They had  three  children  Gomer  my father,   Stephen and Mollie.  Granny  married  ? Hawkins and had  three  sons   to  him,   John  Fred  and  Albert .  Would your  mum  have any  knowledge of this family  as i am  finding it very hard to get information.  
Granny  moved  from  Toneyrefail  where my  dad  was  born  but  i  have  know  idea  when.  
Please  tell  your  mum how  much  i  enjoyed  reading  her  story,  and had to  read it again when i realised  where it  was.
Many  thanks  Jennifer

I would really have loved to have been able to  help you Jennifer - Ive been SO lucky myself in having people give me information , but sadly, Mum  lived at the top part of Arael st  and your No 3 is at the opposite end, so they would have been quite far apart. She doesnt have a recollection of the names, sorry.

Arial Street

Thank you for trying and at least i have some idea  of where my father came from.

Dont know whether it will be of any help Jennifer, but Mum just happened to be telling me this morning, where my grandmother got her first scales from to start her shop, and apparently  she borrowed them from Ike James (abbreviated from something) who ran a tobacconist come general provision store, a large purpose built one, in Abertillery and he and his family lived above the shop  No idea whether James was a common surname in those parts, but it might be somewhere to start.

I just re read your post and noticed your interest is focussed on family once they'd got to Arael St , sorry , I was thinking  'backwards'


I read your mother's memories with interest and I was wondering if she had any other information about the Pateys while they were in Abertillery. Arthur Patey was my great-grandfather. My grandmother was Patricia Patey, Donald  Patey's elder sister, born 1913. Any information would be welcome as we know very little about the Patey history. Best, Patricia

Hello Patricia.  What a small world it is. I have pm'd you with what tiny info I have on the Pateys.

Six Bells around 1920

Surname Patey.

Arthur Edwin Patey Prince of Wales 1905-1907.
Arthur Edwin Patey, Coach and Horses 1911-1922.
Trevor Patey, Coach and Horses  1923-1933.
Frank Patey, Mount Pleasant Inn  1903-1906.
T W Patey, Mount Pleasant Inn  1907.
Frank Walter Patey, Mount Pleasant Inn  1903-1925.

Six Bells around 1920

26 Upper Arael Street.

Albert Henry Rees (1922-1930).
Blodwen Rees (1926-1929).

Six Bells around 1920

Mumsold, have you any further information on the Polish brother and sister the Rees family adopted when they were living at Blenheim Road please.

Regretably not Im afraid  .  I believe  the two of them were unrelated though , not brother and sister .

Six Bells around 1920

The boy died in WW2 he's on the Abertllery War Memorial.

Yes the family believed he may have volunteered  as a suicide bomber as he had no family , but he apparently would not talk about his wartime pursuits , and although they knew he was dead,  they never learned of the actual circumstance.

They received a medal for him after his death,  which my mother had told me was a highest honour one.  I have since learned it was more likely a standard issue one , so as Mum and her sister had been so fond of Bruno, maybe somewhere along the line, they had been given 'boosted' info to please them and enhance their memories of him . I dont know.

Six Bells around 1920

He was a Warrant Officer in the Polish Air Force, died 1944. Believe he was awarded the highest military medals by the authorities, so the suicide mission would make that feasible. Will check what the CWGC sent me and send you a personal message.

Thank you , that would be interesting.

FOR THE ATTENTION OF ADMIN  I have had to re-register as Mumsold2

Good Morning.  As the original Mumsold   I am unable to login or contact you to recover my previous password , as a message tells me my account is currently inactive .  Not sure why that is as I have posted within the last week or so.  I am loathe to lose the information  in my private messages under the user name  Mumsold ,  is it possible please for me to have it reinstated ?

Stoob - sorry , Im unable to open the last  private message  that my  Outlook inbox  tells me you have sent this morning, please could you , for now, duplicate it to  Mumsold2  private messages.Thanks.

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