This account that follows was sourced by Lucy Case in 1990 when she was undertaking coursework for one of her A Levels. It tells of childhood days in Wenvoe by Mrs Florence Maud Shelley nee Thomas of Holton Way Cottage in St Andrews Road, Wenvoe, and reminds us of days long gone by.
Parry Edwards provided this introduction: "She was born on the 26th September 1904, and was the youngest daughter of Benjamin and Mary Thomas. It is a fascinating read of a time when the Wenvoe Estate looked after its tenants and workers in most things in their lives. She refers to Lady Jenner of Wenvoe Castle, this is Mrs Laura Jenner, the widow of Captain Jenner who had left her the Estate on his death in 1881. There is reference to "Old Julia" of Ty Pica Farm; this is in fact Miss Gertrude Jenner, who was the sister in law of Mrs Laura Jenner at the Castle. When she wrote this account, she had in mind her audience of school children of Wenvoe Church in Wales School, unfortunately she did not include a date when this took place. It is from accounts like this that the past is brought to light in ways that Mrs Shelley could not anticipate. Help is acknowledged from the 1911 Census and the 1939 Register"
Mrs Thomas's recollections:
Before I married, my name was Flo Thomas. I was born in 1904 in the same house as I am now living. The house now being over 200 years old, was one of the cottages built for the working people of the Wenvoe Castle Estate. In those days, the cottage was thatched, but this has now been replaced by a slate roof and has an extra two rooms built onto it. My parents and grandparents lived here before me. My father was one of the Estate workers.
The cottage is named Holton Way, and at the time of it being built, the crossroads, now known as St. Andrews Cross, was originally Holton Way Cross. This was altered when the new main road was built from Cardiff to Barry in the 1930s.
I attended the old Wenvoe school, and had many happy days there. We had three teachers; Miss Clarke, who came on her bike from Barry every day, Miss Jones was our head mistress and a Miss Jones was also our teacher, so they went by the name of big Miss Jones and little Miss Jones.
Sunday was always Church day. I went to Church with my father in the morning, Sunday School after dinner, and then Church again in the evening, with both my parents. Mr. Jenner was our Rector, he was also a cousin to Lady Jenner. There was always a good congregation in Church. In our house on a Sunday, we dare not bring out our knitting or have a game of cards, or father would ask us if we knew what day it was.
With my brothers and sisters, we were a family of eight, and in those days, it was all work and very little money to spare for any luxuries. I was the youngest of 8 children so faired much better than my brothers and sisters. Our
pocket money was a penny a week, but if I could scrounge a half penny from my dad or my brothers in between, I would have a treat and buy a stick of everlasting or licorice.
At week-ends in the summer, we had the usual cricket match at the Playing Fields, where all the village turned out, and we knew all the players and all the children would be down there, and after the players had all had their tea in the Pavilion, we would be asked in to eat up all that was left. That was great. When the cricket team played away, they would go in a horse drawn brake, and my father would accompany them as one of the supporters, and when they returned, they would have had a good drink and all be a bit merry, and always they would be singing. Their favourite songs were Farewell my bluebell and Little Brown jug don't Ilove thee. That night I knew my Mum would be cross with my Dad when he came home.
As school children, at Christmas, all the children of the Estate workers were marched up to the Castle for their presents from Lady Jenner, which consisted of a Little Red Riding Hood cape for the little girls, and a cap for all the little boys, and then we had to put them on and march back to school. It really was a sight, and we were all so proud. Whenever we met Lady Jenner in the village or on our way to school, we had to curtsy to her and should we not do so, she would be round to our parents, then it was "look out!"
Lady Jenner had very sharp eyes and did not miss a thing. I remember once, an aunt of mine sent my mother a lovely wine colour coat to be altered to be made to fit me. A lady in the village by the name of Mrs. Giles Cannon made it up for me at the cost of 2/6d. It had pearl buttons on the front, and I thought I was it, but when Lady Jenner saw me in Church on Christmas morning, it war, not long before she paid my mother a visit to say she did not think we needed any more Christmas parcels if she could afford to dress me like that. Little did she know where it had come from, but we survived.
Christmas to us was very exciting. In our stocking would be an orange, an apple, some nuts, a sugar mouse, a sugar watch on a string, and if mother had saved a few shillings for extras, we might have a sweet shop or a game of some sort, and if very lucky, we might get a doll. How different times are now, but we were content with what we had, and I am sure got a lot more enjoyment out of these simple things than the children do today.
When I reached 12 years of age, my school days at Wenvoe Village ended, and this meant a long trek to Cadoxton School in Barry. No such thing as school buses in those days. There were 8 of us, and we would walk there and back each day. Can you see the children doing that now? But we did have fun. Before the new road was built, the old road was very narrow with high hedges each side. If we were ill, our parents would need to borrow the farmer's pony and trap to go to the doctors in Dinas Powys. We did have one doctor from Penarth who used to come on his bike, but he was so slow, you could have died before he got here!
Wenvoe in those days had one school, one Church, one Chapel and one public house, which I remember was kept by a Mr.Graham. The bungalow on Walston Road called the Old Forge was the village blacksmiths and across the road next to the Church Hall was the wheel wrights workshop. We children would gather at the blacksmith's after school to watch all the horses being shod.
Then close by, was the old village pump and well, where people used to get their water. We were not so lucky being in St. Andrews Road, as my Dad had to carry water from two fields away where there was a well, and that we had to carry for all our uses. I have often seen him come home with one bucket of water and one of mushrooms. He did a few journeys to that old well. Our baker came with the bread from Llandaff twice a week, and a butcher and a greengrocer also called twice a week. We could get groceries in our little shop which was expensive. So every weekend, I would walk with my mother to Barry, and she would stock up for the week. This was a big treat for me. We would then trudge home with our heavy loads, but I did not mind, as that was the day Dad would give me a shilling, and I would get 2 comics and some toffees.
The house opposite the Church was called Woodside, and this is where Mr. Thompson lived with his family. He was the boss over all the Estate men. Then, in The Laurels, the Under Agent, Mr.Cox, lived. Most of the men of the village then worked on the Estate, and the other village men worked in the Whitehall Quarry. My Dad was paid £4 and 10 shillings (ie 50 new pence) a fortnight. All the workers had one concession. If any of their family died, your coffin was made in the carpenter's shop and you would be carried to Church by the Estate men, so we did not have to find £600 like they have to today in the 1990s.
There were very few houses around us. There was the Vishwell Farm, the Garn Farm and Burdens Hill Farm, and the Lodge where the head gardener of the Castle lived so we did not have many near neighbours to quarrel with. All the Estates in the older days had a house nearby built for the gardeners, and their apprentices, to live in. This was always known as The Bothey, and still is to this day. The Bothey for the Wenvoe Estate is still on the drive leading up to the Castle. One of my sisters worked as a chamber maid at the Castle, and eventually married one of the apprentice gardeners from The Bothey, and after his training, moved as Head Gardener to the people who owned the Estate where the very famous Florence Nightingale lived. I'm sure your teachers have told you about Florence Nightingale. I remember the night when part of the Castle burnt down. Everyone was out of their beds that night. It was all hands on deck.
(continued next month)