This excursion began, as per usual with every muscled strained and tightened to the max as I held the wheel of our tiny Toyota only occasionally, and more naturally I might add, the left hand slipping to the gear shift hoping not to slip the gears. Standards are very popular here and much less expensive to rent. I thought that was compelling reason enough to be economizing and not extravagant as my wife would usually prefer. But apparently her muscles were tighter than mine when she tearfully said, “You’ve known me for 36 years, so you should know!”
“Know what?” I wisely said only to myself. As we went along, she explained that she would expect me to know how nervous it made her for me to drive in Britain and how I should have paid the extra money to get an automatic as that would be one less thing for her to stress about. And I thought I was a male hero for economizing. Venus and Mars.
Our marriage is still intact and I didn’t hit anything at all except for a small rabbit for which I am very sorry. It wasn't the rabbit that bothered her.
Back to the quiet. Our inn at Three Cocks (the proprietor told us that some overly sensitive Americans prefer to call it “Three Roosters”), was so quiet with its thick stone walls and modern windows inside the thick casement of the older window. And there was not a sheep to be seen or heard for at least a quarter of a mile!
Three Cocks Inn is just up the road from St. Peter’s at Glasbury where I was hoping to find the gravestone of my sixth-great-grandparents. Maybe a bit of a stretch, but we knew who they were and what the marker said at least as of 1905 when the parish registers and churchyard were surveyed and published. I wandered through all the areas that were easily accessible avoiding the thicker grass and brambles because it was bit damp and there was some kind of nettle stinging the legs below my vacation shorts. There were a lot of older, legible stones, so I went back to my wife and full Welsh breakfast with much hope and absolute peace, and quiet, from that beautiful, holy ground.
|St. Peter's at Glasbury on the Breconshire side of the Wye|
|The Choir ladies cleaning St. Peter's, Glasbury. We told them that we had cleaned our own church just the Saturday before!|
We met the most lovely woman before the rather short rehearsal. It was a Friday morning and I suppose they all had things to be about. But this lady was the parish treasurer, she who keeps the books. And she was most interested and helpful to us. My wife asked if they would take donations in dollars as we hadn’t had a chance to get to a bank teller machine yet (You don’t exchange money at Heathrow!) The Treasurer said they would be glad to take anything. So I later slipped some in the donation envelope that asked for “house name or number” so I wrote “Ty Fychan” before our street numbers.
Anyway, the Treasurer said that a group had been collecting information on the text and location of all the grave monuments. It was on a CD and she would check if would come by her house across from the church. “Corners,” it was fittingly named on the corner and all. And we went off for the day.
We walked down across the Wye into Glasbury Village on the north side of the river. The parish has a split down the river with its changing channel flooding the old church. The current parish church is on the south, or formerly Breconshire side. The Radnorshire side has general prominence but nearly every record we have of our Vaughans is in Breconshire. We noted at least two non-conformist chapels on the Radnorshire side. And my wife found the Scout House on the north bank at the bridge where Scouts apparently outfit for canoeing the River Wye as many groups of all types were doing that day. There is a county restroom facility right up against the bridge which is always good to know even if Scouts have other ways for call of nature.
Glasbury has a few posh establishments but the green was rather unkempt and both chapels seemed to be used for non-religious purposes. The one on the green, a residence, and the one near the bridge, as a boating sports outfitter.
|Private residence on the Green in Glasbury Village|
|The Three Horseshoes in Velindre (Felindre)|
|Black Mountain Side near Tregoyd|
|Somewhere around here on Heol-y-Gaer [Street of the Fort] was William Vaughan's Fir Tree Cottage|
Still feeling the lack of British currency, we went into Hay-on-Wye because we knew where the bank teller machine was in front of the Castle. Passing through the Castle grounds, I noted how much preservation/restoration work had been accomplished. The bookstore was cleared out and there was an art exhibit in the new museum facility. But all I needed was cash that day and the card worked in the machine. (We had trouble the night before as the back of my card has been rubbed and did not have a clear signature. Apparently that’s a big thing here, at least for the checkers at Waitrose.)
|Partially stabilized Hay Castle with restoration work commencing.|
I thought we’d better truck it back to “Corners” in case the Treasurer had found something. The door was wide open and they had probably been waiting for us all day. She was very excited to give me a schematic of the churchyard and the row of graves with the full inscription for Roger and Elizabeth Vaughan:
In Memory of Roger Vaughan late of this parish. Died 1797, aged 63. Also Elizabeth Vaughan his relict, died 1803, aged 71. "May all attend that solemn call/The Silent Grave waits for us all."The Treasurer was so excited she wanted to walk us over there even if the churchyard, map gave us the location. She was very pleased and I was so moved. The Treasurer left and we were on our own to take pictures and sit and pray. It wasn’t a formal dedication of grave, but that was the gist of it.
There's a line of Roger Vaughans from Llangors where the lake includes the carreg established by an ancient king from Ireland. This, and legends that sprang from it, may have been the inspiration for Tolkein’s Laketown. I didn’t realize until in Wales this time that the lake is drained by the Llynfi River (brook) which flow into the Wye at Three Cocks as evidenced by its true Welsh name Aberllynfi. We don’t know where Roger Vaughan born 1734 came from, but if I were an illegitimate son heading out to seek my fortune in the world, I would head downstream, maybe ending up in Glasbury.
We decided to drive out to Llangors to find a pub for dinner and maybe watch the Welsh beat Belgium in football. Oh, yeah! The pub was nice and my fish and chips OK but my wife’s Welsh hamburger was a bit off. We went out to the lake and saw rainbows making up for it. It was clearly a family pub with an uncle teaching a nephew to play pool, a family with a young child eating, and only one elderly man drinking alone. But then one by one of his family came by and he seemed to be connected to the proprietor family. A young girl of the family came in and waltzed right behind the bar. We went out to the lake and saw - - - rainbows! Unfortunately, as legend requires, I called on the lake birds to sing, “Canwch!” And apparently I am not the natural born Prince of Wales as they did not.
|Llangors and the Carreg of a 7th Century King - a Laketown, of sorts - blessed by a rainbow.|
|Hay-on-Wye Children's Parade for the Primary School Fête, while Wales was still excelling in the Euro-Cup.|
We had to get down to Abergavenny for our next lodging just over the Afon Gwysg (River Usk). It was a fairly smooth drive and we pulled in just after the bridge abutment and I went into the pub. It was very busy and the girl was handing out pints and keeping track of all the tabs. I had to wait until I could get her then the proprietor’s attention. One old guy at the bar was offering to buy the barmaid a drink. Flat turndown. No flirting. An elderly gentlemen next to me went on in a soliloquy, or maybe it was directed to me, that it’s just not right to swear when there is a lady present. Swearing is for men in men’s company only. I just nodded glad the barmaid was there.
|The appropriately named Bridge Inn on the Llanfoist side of the Usk over the Abergavenny Bridge|
There were two keys. One opened a door around the side of the pub that led up to few rooms above. The key for No. 1 was a modern, shiney skeleton key. I don’t think the others were occupied. I went down and got my wife and then down to get the bags and found myself locked out of the lower door with the keys upstairs. It closes and locks on itself which the landlord here in Cardiff says is a new law for fire safety. I suppose you are safer left out in the rain. No one could hear my knock. I went out to the street to see if my wife was looking out the window to waive at her. I texted her on my cell as our plan covers that over here. I had to go back in and ask the proprietor to open it up. He said it happens all the time.
We had to settle up that night as they would not be there early Sunday morning. There card machine was not working after a couple of tries so we later got some pounds out of a bank teller machine and paid in cash. The barmaid was most appreciative.
We went up through the Waitrose to a pedestrian path under the A465 and found ourselves right on the Cutting, the street where the Vaughans (John 1789, and Elinor Jenkins 1789) lived at least when the tithing map was created in the mid 1840s. They are also “in the village” in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. We knocked on Chapel Cottage to ask permission to take pictures of the outside and the lady was very interested in our story. She was even moved to tears, but then she was Welsh. She said that Chapel Cottage was originally the barn and the farmhouse was just around the corner down the hill on the other side of the old tramway. The tithing map puts the Vaughan property right where Chapel Cottage is now. It could have been a residence converted to a barn and back to a residence in 150 years, or there could have been some other structure that was the actual home. I don’t think the farm house down the gully matches the tithing map. And the house named Windsor Cottage doesn’t match anything old.
|At the Tram Road and The Cutting, Llanfoist, Monmouthshire. The Vaughans lived here in the 1840s or in close proximity.|
|The site of John Vaughan's (1789-1851) grave. |
We have a monument maker in Newport preparing bids for a
replacement that will include his marriage to Elinor Jenkins in 1810.
Crawshay Bailey's stark and lonely obelisk is in the pic to the right.
|Old "incline" road up the Blorenge. Ore carts were lowered to and raised from the canal on a counter-balance system.|
|Steps into the canal just north of Llanfoist Wharf|
|Rainbow over Llanfoist from the Blorenge|
Sunday was very hopeful as I knew we had a brand-new, divided carriage way to zip us all the way to Merthyr for church (probably should call it “chapel”) in the Merthyr Tydfil 1st Ward which now encompasses Abergavenny, Penrhos, and almost all the way to Monmouth. As luck and Welshdom would have it. The freeway is not quite completed and it kicked us off on a detour which we missed and got going on a country road up the Usk nearly to Brecon. My wife helped figure a way back to Head of the Valleys Highway. And we made it to the Merthyr Chapel just barely before 9, only to find that church actually began at 9:30.
|Merthyr Tydfil LDS Chapel. DUP Marker for Welsh Mission and 5,000 LDS converts.|
After church, we took our picnic foods up to Cafarthfa Park, former home of one of the cruel iron masters, now given over to the public and much improved that way. There were a couple of little girls who seemed to instinctively know that my wife was a grandmother as they preened in front of her. But she kept all her candy to herself (and me).
|The flowers belong to the People now|
|Blaenavon Iron Works on Steampunk Day|
|"The Monster" of a slag heap to which my 3rd-Great-Grandfather likely contributed.|