WelSh Museums festival 2020
24 October - 1 November
The Festival - or should I say the Carnival - is over for another year
We have come to the end of our sporting and carnival action, which we hope has provided some interest and entertainment this week. We have been part of the Welsh Museums Festival for the last few years, opening our Museum for the special event, and welcoming visitors to Newtown. This year we always planned to make our contribution online, which turned out to be necessary for everyone else as well. Even though you have not been able to visit in person, you can still support us by making a donation through our How to Help page.
Thanks to the Welsh Museums Festival staff for their hard work in creating the Festival.
Let us hope that next year will bring some better times.
Do contact us if you have any images from the Royal Welsh Warehouse Sports Days, of if you think you can spot your ancestors in any of our photos. Newtown would have been a very busy place on those days and the special trains scheduled would have kept the railway busy as well. Edwardian Newtown seems to have been a thriving and dynamic place, a short interlude perhaps, before the changes brought not only by World War One, but by the decline of the woollen industry as a result of major fires in the factories.
HISTORIC HALF TERM - Day 6 of the action
Ladies Annual Football Championship Cup
Today in Wales, women’s football is a thriving sport, with teams across the country - there are almost 9000 women and girls registered as players. It has increased in popularity since the 2012 Olympics, when Wales hosted the sport. Today, the Newtown White Stars have many young women playing and training, and in June 2020 the Welsh national team member Carrie Jones transferred her talents honed in Newtown to Manchester United’s women's team. However, this boom in women’s football isn’t a modern phenomenon - women’s football has a long and fascinating history, often connected to local industries and communities, as this object from the Museum shows.
Newtown’s formal football history begins with White Stars founded in 1875, who were one of the first teams of the Football Association of Wales. They won the Welsh Cup in 1879 and 1895, both events featured in our Festival series this week, but then suffered a sixty year gap in the national silverware.
Women’s teams, which were quite common in the first decades of the 1900s, suddenly found themselves shut out of the FA grounds in 1921, as the game was said to be 'quite unsuitable for females'. This led to a steep decline in participation. However it became prominent again from the mid 20th century onwards, with the formation of a women’s team in Newtown from Phillips Cycle Factory team in the 1950s and the BRD Factory team in 1967. There was also a team from Laura Ashley in nearby Carno. The link below is to a photo of the Laura Ashley team in the 1970s, collected as part of the “Lleisiau o Lawr y Ffatri / Voices from the Factory Floor” project by the Women’s Archive of Wales:
These football teams were an important part of community life for the women of Newtown and the surrounding area - it brought together women who shared the experience of working in factories and industry, and gave them the chance to take part in sports leagues and competitions similar to those of “Sunday leagues” with teams usually entered by pubs, which were generally only open to men.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the full history of this particular cup. Some of our collection came to us without context or notes, and so we have to conduct our own research and investigation. In this case, we haven’t been able to trace the origin. The text at the top reads “Hafren C&AC” which we believe stands for Cycling and Athletic Club. Could you tell us any more about this cup, and Hafren C&AC?
We end our week of outdoor sports and community events with an appeal - do you have family or other connections to any of the Newtown women’s football teams? Perhaps photos or accounts of their matches? The Museum would very much like to hear from you!
A revealing piece from the newspapers in 1891.
For a detailed history of women's football follow this link:
Today's jigsaw - Women's Football Cup
Women's football team 1895 London. From the Guardian article
Did you notice his feet under the bus?
Today's jigsaw - HMS Orion crew
HISTORIC HALF TERM - Day 5 of the action
For over a hundred and thirty years the people of Newtown have been donning silly, strange and exotic outfits to entertain and amuse in the annual carnival. The first event was held to mark the knighthood of Pryce Jones in 1887 when over 5,000 people paid sixpence to see acrobats and jugglers, and to take part in music, dancing and fancy dress competitions.
The museum has three Carnival photographs which provide a glimpse of what amused and interested Newtonians in the years immediately before World War One, and reflect the kind of issues occupying their thoughts at the time.
The Cycling Club was active in organising the carnival celebrations. Prizes were sometimes given for the best decorated bicycles, perhaps the pre-cursors of our modern carnival floats. This photograph may be one such example - a pair of bicycles disguised as a London omnibus in a peculiarly quiet Shortbridge Street. Look carefully at the photo. A pair of legs and some bicycle wheels can just be spotted!
One of the big news stories of 1911 was the growing arms race between the two superpowers of the day, Britain and Germany. In that year one of Britain’s revolutionary new Dreadnought battleships was launched, HMS Orion, amid popular demands for “We want eight and we won’t wait”. Our photograph of the carnival of that year seems to show a detachment of Orion’s crew, who have carried off first prize!
The following year, the Delhi Durbar team were the prize winners. Yet another reminder of the days of Britain’s world domination. Queen Victoria had been proclaimed Empress of India in 1877 when a great Imperial mass gathering was held in Delhi (the Durbar). It was held again in 1903, to mark the coronation of Edward VII, and a third and final time in 1911 on the occasion of the succession of George V. Our photograph shows Newtown’s version of the event in a carnival held one year later.
Two years after this photograph was taken, there was no longer any thought of Carnival. By that time Britain was at war and then, just as in this very strange year, carnival was suspended for its duration, not to be revived for five years. Let’s hope our Carnival returns earlier than that!
HISTORIC HALF TERM - Day 4 of the action
A prize worth having
J E Morris, brother to an international footballer Dicky Morris made a name for himself in the summer of 1907. This much is known from the newspaper account. It is likely that they were the two brothers John E and Charles R living at Woodside with their parents and two older brothers, on Milford Road in 1891. Certainly, J E Morris found himself the proud owner of a magnificent silver tea and coffee set at the end of an eventful day in 1907.
The Royal Welsh Warehouse Sports and Band Contest, held on 29 June 1907 drew a crowd of close to 10,000 people to Newtown for this annual event commemorating Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones’ knighthood. The account describes the number of entries in all competitions to be ‘unprecedented’ (a word we have heard too many times this year!). Bringing bands, judges and participants together from all over the country by special trains, the day featured gymnastics, boxing and wrestling displays as well as choirs, silver band competitions and the sporting events which included cycling.
The bands, met from the train by an official, began their quickstep competition at the Queens Head Hotel, and later played a test piece on a raised platform near the bowling green. The contest lasted five hours in all and attracted many of the spectators. The choirs performed in a marquee to which the spectators had to pay a small entrance fee.
It was probably the sporting events that provided the most spectacle, however. The cyclists were competing for the RWW Society’s 60 guinea silver Challenge Cup, a three-mile event around the grassy track, made slippery and dangerous by heavy rain that had fallen in the morning. To take home the cup the winner needed to have won the race three times previously before becoming the absolute owner, but the favourite, Sheratt, fell heavily and the winner of the event, Berry, was not eligible to take home this prize that day.
There was no such problem for J E Morris of Newtown in the 100 yards flat handicap running race. After prevailing through six heats, he won the race from (Mr) Kimberley of Worcester (2nd) and (Mr) Burrows from Warrington (3rd), and took home the silverware as his prize. Mr Kimberley won the 220-yard race after another six heats. A long and tiring day for all the runners, and a notable event in the town.
For a description of the day go to this link: https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3049960/3049962/2/
A photo of a similar day (thanks to Frank Moore): https://www.facebook.com/349598598520166/posts/2191730477640293/?sfnsn=mo
Try today's jigsaw: A prize worth having
Day 3 jigsaw - Newtown Cycling Club
You get a really clear look at the men's faces if you tackle the jigsaw!
HISTORIC HALF TERM - Day 3 of the action
1903 Cycling Club
No lycra is visible, but there are plenty of middle aged men in this 1903 photograph of members of Newtown Cycling Club. To be fair, the age range is quite broad with young boys as well as some very mature looking men, but no women!
The invention of the safety cycle (as its name suggests, a safer alternative to the Penny Farthing) in the 1870s started a revolution in travel for all classes of society. The bicycle brought a level of freedom never seen before. Indeed, its invention has been credited as the single greatest contribution to expanding the human gene pool. For the first time, ordinary people had the means of travelling respectable distances under their own power. Parish records across the country show a marked rise in inter-village marriages during the bicycle craze of the 1890s.
It wasn’t long before cycling became organised, with cycle clubs established and cycle racing, including time trials, massed start road races and track racers becoming a major sporting activity. In Newtown, the roots of organised cycling is associated with the Royal Welsh Warehouse Sports Society, which had its own cycle club, established as early as 1891. Our poster for the annual sports of 1909 is headed by representations of a racing cyclist in order to attract spectators and competitors alike. The one mile and three-lap races attracted a first prize of 7 guineas each - probably a good two weeks wages for an ordinary worker.
Local newspapers had their own cycling columns, the County Times featured notes by ‘Pump Harder’, whilst readers of ‘The Montgomeryshire Express’ could read the weekly musings of ‘Direct Spoke’.
As can be seen from our photo, cycling was a dignified affair with riders wearing breaches, jacket and waistcoat, collar and tie and a variety of head wear - but no helmets! Club rides were semi military affairs, with the club captain leading the peloton and the Deputy Captain bringing up the rear. Order was maintained by the bugler: one blast to mount up, two to dismount: a succession of blasts to speed up and a prolonged blast to slow down. Club members were also prohibited from smoking whilst passing through villages, and under no circumstances should they ride on pavements!
HISTORIC HALF TERM - Day 2 of the action
1895 Welsh Cup
It is impossible to miss the connection between Newtown and the Pryce-Jones name, it still stands proud on the tallest building in the area. By 1895 the business was booming and Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones a wealthy man with a keen interest in football. What is less well known is that two of his sons rate a mention in Wikipedia as international footballers, and played in the same Newtown team that won the Welsh Cup in 1895.
William Pryce Jones, born in 1867, played five matches for the Welsh national football team between 1887 and 1890, and he continued to play in local Newtown teams until 1899 including the 1895 match where he captained the team for their match in Welshpool and scored all three goals.
Albert Pryce Jones, born in 1870 played just one international football match against England in March 1895, but he played for seven years for the Newtown club, alongside his brother.
At the time of the 1895 Cup match, before the advent of telephones, the best way for supporters who were unable to travel to the match to keep abreast of the score, was to use telegrams to relay the news. Not quite as fast as our modern digital communications! There are three telegrams in our collection which tell of the tension that must have been running through the local pubs that day as they waited for news. First half points to Wrexham, a second half goal levelled the score to 2-2, but the Newtown side, reduced to 10 men, hit back with a third to give a full time score of 3–2. For those unable to attend the match, the local papers produced a lengthy and fulsome account after the event.
What of the Pryce-Jones brothers:. William remained in Newtown and worked in the family business. Albert however emigrated to Canada 1910 and established a branch of Pryce Jones department store in Calgary which opened in February 1911. A three storey ‘emporium chock full of fine merchandise’, it offered good service, reasonable prices and the finest goods as well as a Royal Welsh Tea Room where an orchestra played daily. This business was a direct challenge to the Hudson’s Bay Company who built a newer and bigger store in the city. By 1916, with Albert fighting in WWI in France, and the fallout from the war, the Calgary store closed its doors for ever though the building remained.
For an account of the match go to:
© Calgary Public Library, Local History Collection
Today's jigsaw: Winning telegram
HISTORIC HALF TERM - Day 1 of the action
White Stars - 1879
Edward Gittins was a big man. He needed to be. He was a blacksmith by trade, a hard, physically demanding occupation. His stature and his thick, bushy black beard marked him out from the crowd so it is easy to spot him in the photograph. He had started his working life as a 14-year-old apprentice in his uncle’s smithy, next to the Cross Keys Inn in Bwlch-y-Cibau, but by the late 1870s, he was in Newtown, his own master.
Edward had arrived in Newtown, just at the time when football was really taking off in the town. Young workers were taking advantage of the Saturday half day working to form football teams. Newtown FC had been formed in 1875, rivalling the Wrexham and Cefn Druids in the industrial north east as the earliest clubs to be formed in Wales.
But Edward wanted his own team. In 1876, he formed The White Stars from his drinking pals in the Greyhound Inn in High Street. They were a motley bunch of labourers, bricklayers and flannel workers. Unable to afford a team strip, they contented themselves with a white star of varying design sewn on to any shirt they could find, to distinguish themselves from the opposition.
In 1877, a new competition was announced: the Welsh Challenge Cup of the North Wales Football Association. In 1878, Wrexham won the inaugural contest. It was Edward’s dream to lift the trophy and bring it back to Newtown. Remarkably, in April the following year, he achieved just this, when the White Stars defeated Wrexham 1-0 at Oswestry. The win was made even sweeter as the Stars had defeated their bitter rivals, Newtown FC, in the semi final. It was another three months before Edward actually got his hands on the trophy. It was presented to him amidst great celebrations at the Public Rooms in Newtown in July 1879.
The Museum is fortunate to possess a truly historic photograph of the White Stars, the second team to win the Welsh Cup but the first to receive a trophy for their efforts. Unfortunately we don’t have the trophy, but look carefully at the photograph. Two of the players pose in the foreground, and between them is a framed object. The object was a certificate, also presented to Edward, to mark the team’s victory. It is comforting to note that 140 years after their victory, the photograph and the certificate remain together, preserved in the town which spawned the team.
If you want to read an account of the final, you can follow this link:https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3854955/3854958/21/Newtown%20White%20Stars
You can also read an account of the trophy’s presentation here:
HISTORIC HALF TERM - ' the action'
The period between the 1870s and World War 1 was a time when organised sports in Newtown were starting to flourish. So, each day this week as we have shared these stories with you, and provided an online jigsaw for you to do.