This week, we continue with Fred Hando’s ‘Rambles in Gwent’ and visit Redwick.

MEN of the moors differ from the dalesmen. They have longer days, winter and summer, light from their great skies keeping them busy early and late.

Cloistered in a narrow valley, the workers on the land have shorter days and tend of an evening to forgather. While the dalesman loves his kind and tends to seek them, the moorsman is self-contained. Or so it seems to me.

I wished to learn about a famous character named Tom the Lord. I made inquiries within a radius of five miles of Redwick. Young men and women giggled when I mentioned the name and recommended me to see so-and-so of Redwick or Magor or Undy.

Now, if I had sought information of this kind in the valleys I should have been embarrassed by the overwhelming response.

On the moors I was embarrassed by the lack of response. "Tom the Lord? I'm not telling you about Tom the Lord." A shake of the head, a quite friendly smile, but a firm refusal.

Gathering a little here, adding a little there, with frequent contradictions and emendations, I was able at last to compile a story which, in my opinion, holds its own with the best of our folk tales.

Tom the Lord was the lord of a manor. His drunken figure was often seen late at night, and to save him in this land of deep ditches, the farmers would help him home. One night he fell into a reen and was drowned. "He'll never trouble us more," was the terse comment. Hardly had a week passed before Farmer Thorn noticed that the taps of his cider-barrels were running of a morning.

Then a maid who lived at Rose Cottage screamed at the sight of Tom the Lord sitting on the hedge opposite. Sure enough, the hedge withered at that spot and that is why you will find a stile there.

Meanwhile Farmer Thorn put out a mug of cider every night. If he missed a night, there would be a "shord" in the hedge, and running cider-taps.

Slow to action, at last the villagers pressed the minister of a certain chapel to stop Tom's antics.

Whether from lack of faith or insufficient experience is not certain, but the pastor failed in his attempt to lay the ghost.

Still the troubles increased, and at harvest time Tom was seen among the boughs of the apple trees, hurling the fruit at the workers. A full-scale attack was now staged.

Not one, but twelve ministers met and in the presence of all the men and women of Redwick they "laid" Tom the Lord with bell, book and candle. On the spot where he was "laid," a bed of white violets has bloomed every springtime since.

And that bed of white violets is shaped like a coffin! Redwick owes much of its character to the complicated system of reens which drain its meadows.

Each reen has its own name, and you may find in the Redwick district the following reen-names Oxleaxe, Greenmoor, Gabber's Gout, Bowleaze, Bareland, Stutwall, Waun Deilad, Long-lands, Monkscroft, Brassgout, Decoy-pool, Coldharbour, as well as the more expected Hare's, Elver Pill, Crabtree, and Village Reens.

I was surprised to find "Elver" pronounced correctly, for when we were very young we never referred to the young eels as elvers, but as "cocky-elbows." Coldharbour Reen runs near the path which leads to the shore where quantities of Roman pottery have been found.

With its tower placed centrally and its embattled porch, the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle at Redwick is worthy of study. A hole in the porch five feet from the ground shows the height reached by the devastating flood of 1606.

This moorland church contains one of our few remaining rood-lofts and screens, and, as my sketch indicates, the chancel axis bends northwards from the nave axis. It was interesting but not surprising to find that in the east window Our Lord is shown with His head fallen in death to the north.

Stone steps wind up from the south aisle to the rood-loft, whence the door on the right opens to a further flight leading to the bell-ringer's room in the tower. It was in this room, some years back, that an eerie affair occurred which explains why Redwick people do not play cards.

On the last night of the old year, the ringers were assembled in the loft awaiting the death of that year and the birth of the next. They latched the door and to while away the time decided on a game of cards. As the cards were dealt the door flew open. The dealer closed and latched the door, and dealt the cards, when again the door opened. "Summat's gone wrong with that there latch," he observed as he closed, latched, and bolted the door.

Again he shuffled the cards, but as he dealt the first card the door burst open! Now crazy with fear, the ringers staggered down the steps and into the cold bleak night. The old year died, and the new year was born, unheralded by the bells of Redwick.

Redwick Church had a narrow escape in the last war. Three bombs fell on the night of 5th August, 1942, on the field next to the churchyard, and if the German airman responsible for that attack reads this account, maybe he will tell us what military objective he expected to destroy in Redwick.