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Saturday July 1st: Llangwm History Day

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July 1, 2017
February 1, 2018

The event aimed to showcase the history of Llangwm and took place in conjunction with the Gwent County History Association and Llangwm Monmouthshire Local History Group. It was organised this year by the MAA.

The day will consisted of lectures in Llangwm village hall and forays into the locality and luckily the sun shone.  Hefina Rendle the chairperson of Llangwm History Society welcomed us to the village. Lyn Bennett, a member of the Llangwm society and also a member of the MAA worked the amazing PA system and it made all the difference to the day. The first lecture was given by Tony Hopkins from archivist from Gwent Archives and related to the John Gwin Common Place Book which is held by the archive. Tony had analysed the archive  in detail. He started with the family history and moved on to the contents. The book was not a diary or a journal. The contents are randomly recorded which is part of its charm. It contains things he needed to remember and things that interested him. The Civil War gets only one comment. There is a lot on medicine with various bizarre remedies. There is much about church affairs as he was church warden to St Jerome’s church. he was also related to the Monmouthshire Puritan Walter Cradock.

The group then walked to St Jerome’s church which is the custody of the Friends of Friendless Churches. Professor Maddy Gray described the ninth century origins of St Jerome’s church, its wonderful carved rood screen, and the nineteenth century rebuilding by Seddon. (Bradney commented unfavourably stating, ‘ The whole has suffered by the injudicious work of zealous restorers.’) She explained the liturgical significance of the lay-out of the Medieval church, and how the laiety would have experienced worship. St Jerome’s  is now under the custodianship of the Friends of Friendless Churches,  and recent work by them has revealed the tombstone of Joan Gwin, Cradock Gwin and Elizabeth Gwin, (the latter ‘murdered in her own House’.)

After a ploughman’s  lunch prepared by our secretary and treasurer we visited the Baptist Chapel. The Revd Cannon Dr Arthur Edwards reminded us that when it was built in 1840 the Baptists were the strongest denomination in rural Monmouthshire, as shown by the religious census of 1851.  Here, too, we heard about the Cradock connection, as it was Cradock  Gwin Watkins who provided the land for the church.  In contrast to the separation between priest and congregation seen in St Jerome’s, the Baptist congregation focused on the preacher and the open Bible placed directly before them.  It encouraged a form of democracy in church government, and women were taught leadership in meetings, being able to vote, though not allowed to preach.

Peter Strong then spoke about the agricultural workers in Llangwm and the neighbouring villages of Gwernesney and Llangeview, based on evidence given to  the Royal Commission on ‘Women and Children In Agriculture‘, 1869. He explained that the wages, at 10-12 shillings a week were low but higher than many agricultural districts due to the proximity of industrial districts.  Women were paid about half as much as men but normally only did seasonal work.  Children were often sent out of the home to live on farms as farm labourers or domestic servants from the age of ten.     Having a lack of pictorial illustrations he cleverly used the paintings of George Clausen to illustrate the lives of people at the time.

Time was passing and so Christabel Hutchings curtailed her talk on the Village School. She described its foundation by the National Society in response to the expected take over of non-sectarian education under the terms of the 1870 Education Act.   This act allowed voluntary schools to carry on unchanged, but established a system of ‘school boards’ to build and manage schools in areas where they were needed. She then looked at the contents of the early log books and admissions books and the evidence for the social history of the village that could be gleaned from their contents. The punishment books are now available for study 1904-7 at Gwent Archives and created interest and she finished with a glimpse of how the school children celebrated St David’s Day in 1915 by creating a tableau of a  First World War hospital and trenches.

The day was  summed up expertly by the Chairman of the MAA Alan Aberg. He thanked the speakers and discussed the importance of their different talks relating to the village of Llangwm. He finished with some interesting and comical  reminiscences from his own school days.

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