NOW & THEN: The Pioneer Hotel, Cwmfelinfach

South Wales Argus: The Valleys building then The Valleys building then

LAST week we visited the Pioneer Hotel, Cwmfelinfach, and received the following replies:

Keith Richards, Pontnewynydd: “This week’s Now & Then photographs are of the Pioneer Hotel, on Maindee Road, in the Sirhowy valley village of Cwmfelinfach. The Welsh translation is Little Mill in the Valley.

“The village in pre-Victorian times was an isolated community built around the mill, and the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist chapel, known locally as ‘Babel’.

“Today, the grave and Bardic chair of the Rev William Thomas (1832-1878), known as ‘Islwyn’ are to be found at this heritage site.

“The chair was won at the National Eisteddfod with his epic poem ‘Y Storm’, said to be the finest ever written in the strict methodic structure of Welsh poetry.

“He was born in the Old Machine House, the ruins of which can still be seen on the banks of the river Sirhowy at Pontgam, halfway between Ynysddu and Gelligroes.

“The village expanded very quickly after the sinking of Nine Mile Point colliery in 1905.

“It was sunk at a point nine miles from Lord Tredegar’s estate on the outskirts of Newport, on whose land the coal trucks travelled to Newport docks.

“The colliery achieved a degree of fame, when in 1935, 164 colliers remained below ground for seven days as a protest against the coal owners’ use of ‘scab labour’.“

The two focal points of the village were the Miners’ Institute, and the large, multi-roomed Pioneer Hotel.

“I can recall travelling down the valley from my home town of Blackwood, with the bus stopping at the Pioneer Hotel, where Ynysddu Boxing Club used a large upstairs room as their club.

“Some 60 years later I can still recall a few names of boys I sparred with. There was ‘Tecker’ Jones, ‘Bolshie’, ‘Ginger’ and Gunga, I knew their nicknames, but their real names have been forgotten.

“Once or twice a year there was a triangular boxing tournament held at the Plaza Ballroom in Pontllanfraith, between Ynysddu, Newbridge and Tiryberth boxing clubs. Again, I recall the names of Parry Dando, Ritchie Jenkins, Eddie Plange, Haydn Jones and Roy Agland, who became a Welsh amateur champion, and I believe, later turned professional.”

D Dowling: “The photo shown is the Pioneer Hotel, Cwmfelinfach, which was my local in the mid- 1950s when I was home on leave. A Mr Brown was the landlord at that time.”

● Last week’s ‘Then’ picture courtesy of Blackwood Yesterday, Last week’s picture by Ewart Smith

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