photo of son Derek and
Lionel in front of 52 Mill Street.
wife Doreen and baby daughter
Lynda in the garden of 52 Mill Street.
Lionel, a 'Caerleon Fly' was born and raised in 14 Cecil Terrace (now 52 Mill Street). Shortly after the war he moved to live in the former army camp at the top of Lodge Hill - where the anti-aircraft guns had been sited. This accommodation was basic, but Lionel has fond memories of his time there. He then moved into a prefab lower down Lodge Hill before returning to his old home in Mill Street. Just over twenty years ago Lionel left Caerleon to live in Newport. The old town is still close to his heart and he enjoys contributing to the 'Then and Now' page in the South Wales Argus when the featured picture is a Caerleon scene.
What follows are Lionel's memories, told in his own words, of life in Caerleon from the late 1920s through to the 1950s.
and Cart Deliveries and Street traders
and Cart Deliveries and Street Traders
The milkman would have two large churns and one small serving churn. You had to take your jug to the cart, he would ladle a pint or half pint if required. They had spot check milk inspections to check if the milk had been watered. There was a stiff fine if water was found in the milk. It was said at the time that Tom Stark did not like doctors. He broke his foot once and was walking around with a large sack tied around it for weeks. To let you know he was in the street he would cry "Hey roo! Hey roo!" You would hear it from inside. Kirk Goad's round was in the Newport area, Duckpool Road etc. On his way home he'd call in St Julians pub leaving the horse outside. The horse sometimes would get fed up, come home with the cart on his own and stop outside the house in Cecil Terrace. His horse was kept in Forge Farm fields, Mr Lewis was the farmer. Tom Edwards' horse was kept in the fields near the racecourse. It was a white horse. We used to call him White Knight. Bill Sweet, one of the local lads used to ride him at times from the bake house to the fields.
Then there were the horse drawn rag and bone merchant carts. Kids used to ask their mums for any jam jars or rags. The man would give a couple of coppers. They'd be smiling all the way to the sweet shop.
Onion sellers came around with a couple or more strings of onions on the handlebars of their bicycles.
You'd very often see a chimney sweep carrying his rods and brushes on his shoulder whilst riding his bike.
Two brothers, the "Sadlers", started their drapery business with a bicycle. They would carry the cloths in a suitcase on their rounds. You could take the cloth on trial. If it was suitable you could hire purchase for as little as a shilling (5p) a week. Eventually they opened a shop on the corner of Station Road. They were there for years until they moved on to Cwmbran.
The umbrella man and the knife and scissor grinder were around at least once a week. Hence the song: "Any umbrellas any umbrellas to fix today?" He would mend them all and go on his way. The knife grinder would pedal his bike on a stand attached to a grindstone and sharpen away. Kids would stand around and watch his work. Still in the 20s and 30s I must remind you again, most of these lines are written with thought of when we were children and seeing things from a child's point of view. Any old Caerleon 'Fly' as we were known will most likely remember similar stories.
Racing at Caerleon Race Course. May Fair including horse sales on Caerleon Common every year. Galaway racing in the fields near Penrhos farm along the Usk Road. There would be pony races, motorbike and cycle races, tug of war and pole fights i.e. two men astride an elevated pole to try to knock one another off with a bag of straw. Argus road walks once a year. The race would start off from Newport to Cwmbran area and through Ponthir and Caerleon. Crowds of people would clap the men as they walked past. Football matches every week. Dances run by Mr Coopey who owned the sweet shop in Station Road. Newport Old Boys rugby team used to play on a field near the race course, where the cemetery is now. There were many football matches played at Caerleon College.
Kids, sometimes on their own sometimes with parents walked the many well used footpaths. You could walk from the Afon Lwyd river bridge across the field towards Penhros Farm over the mount and down the other side. You would join the Usk Road again near the bottom of Llanhennock Hill. Another well used footpath was over the fields near the St Julians pub, you came out by the farm opposite Beachwood Park. You could spend some time in the park or continue on to Somerton Park to watch Newport County football matches on Saturday, entrance fee one shilling (5p). Cock of the North was another footpath, over the Village towards Bulmore. The path was from the top of the hill near Bulmore over to Cat's Ash. Sometimes we'd walk along Caerleon Road towards Newport to the tram terminus on Caerleon Road, catch a tram for about one penny (½p) into Newport. Most trams were open top. The times were about 1926 to 1936 in these paragraphs. After 1936 things began to change.
It was two-way traffic through High Street, but children could play in the side streets quite safely as there was not much traffic to worry about. Whip and top, marbles, hop scotch, kick the tin. Strong horses and weak donkeys i.e. half a dozen boys would all bend down behind each other. One would run and jump as far along their backs as he could. If the line collapsed it would be someone else's turn to jump. Knock up ginger i.e. someone's door then run. Tag, hide and seek. Cigarette card games i.e. peck the card toward a wall. If you cover the opponent's card you keep it. Conkers, racing around the streets. Hoop, an old bicycle wheel or motor tyre propelled along with a short stick. If you had a real hoop, i.e. steel, and it broke the blacksmith in Museum Street would repair it.
Another street game was 'Catty'. The catty was a piece of stick sharpened to a point both ends. Another stick called a dog about two feet long. By tapping on one of the pointed ends you made it jump then swiped it with the stick.
Girls mainly played skipping, either solo or with a long rope so that several girls could all skip over the rope. A girl each end of the rope would do the job of turning it.
Many lads used to make little trolleys or bogeys with a wooden box on a pair of old pram wheels. Mainly a butter box they could obtain from one of the shops. They would collect horse dung from the streets for their fathers' gardens. If a horse made a pile of dung outside your house, it was nothing to see someone from the house with a bucket and shovel to collect the prize. It would go around the rhubarb or roses.
You could have a good old singsong in the London and the White Hart on a Saturday. Someone to play the piano was great. Coits was the pub game - no darts then. The goal was to get as many rings on a peg from about six feet away as you could. You scored five for every one on the peg, three on the inside circle and two for the outer circle. Shove halfpenny and dominoes. No pubs open on Sunday. Everyone had their Sunday best clothes. Most kids would have to go to Sunday schools or chapel. Ladies would wear their lovely hats to church or chapel. Church bells would ring on Sundays. Bell ringers and choir boys was the norm.
The laws on drinking were very strict. If a policeman walked in and caught someone drinking after time they were in trouble. My father was just about to drink his pint after rushing into the Bull Inn off the last bus. Mr Pugh the policeman walked in and booked him. He held the pint up in court a few days later and said, "This is what I found." That's what we were told anyway. It might be true.
Gambling was not allowed. You could not play cards for money. Sometimes the chaps used to go to the fields to sit in a circle and play for money. If a policeman came in sight they'd be gone. No betting on horses, but there would be a bookie's runner in the street. You wrote your bet on a scrap of paper. He would then take it to an illegal bookie. You'd get your winnings the next day. These are times of ordinary folks. The results of the races would be in the South Wales Argus. In Newport you'd hear the paper men all over town shouting: "Argus, all the latest! Argus, Argus!" And, "Thank you," when you paid your penny. Sometimes people would borrow their neighbours' Argus as they couldn't afford one.
Many people would organise whist drives. First prize would be a chicken or a hamper of food or a piece of meat. There were also tennis games played. The earliest court was in Penrhos Field near the Afon Lwyd River.
No bathroom in the house in most areas. You just had to use the old tin bath. Before gas was installed you could heat the water in the iron boiler in the wash house heated by coal underneath. Pour the water into the bath with a couple of buckets of cold water and get on with it. We had a gas boiler and a long tin bath. We could put the bath under the tap of the boiler and cool the water with buckets from the kitchen tap. The same water was used for more than one bath. Then we could wash the back yard down with it. Outside toilet. Toilet paper made from newspaper cut in shape and hung on a nail in the wall.
Shining brass door knockers, clean scrubbed front steps, brass stair rods, scrubbed passage and kitchen all in a day's work for the housewife. Scrubbing board and wash tub was your washing machine with an aching bad back to go with it. Gas iron heated on the gas to do the ironing. You needed one to use and one to heat. (That's where the saying: "A woman's work is never done" came from.) Hand me down clothes for the kids, most families had about 4 to 7 children.
Not many people had a wireless. Lucky if you had a wind up gramophone. Redifusion if you were lucky. It was a speaker with two stations only. Two shillings and sixpence a week (12½p).
Your ashes from the fire with any other rubbish was put outside the house in any old type of container. Broken bucket with a piece of cardboard in the bottom to stop the ashes falling through the hole. As everyone had coal fires most rubbish could be burned. It was nothing to see a fire in someone's back garden burning anything from garden rubbish to an old mattress and the like. Not if anyone had their washing out though.
The ash tip as we used to call it was situated along the Usk Road just near Mr Curle's Garage, just past the Gas Works Lane. Houses have been built there. Maybe they don't know there was a tip there all those years ago. You had to look out for the coal man although he would call out, "Any coal." The baker would just knock on your door.
People all round Caerleon always seemed to be busy. Painting the houses like Cecil Terrace with their bay windows every house a different colour. People cleaning their windows, couldn't afford to pay a window cleaner. Scrubbing the front steps or a half circle by your front door if you had no steps. Cleaning brass door knobs and knockers. If you looked down the gardens you'd see washing lines, washing blowing in the wind. All done by hand and scrubbing board. If there was no washing out it wouldn't be long before a garden fire would be smoking. Burning rubbish to the delight of the person burning it as he may have waited the chance for some time.
A lot of fathers would repair the families' shoes themselves. Most had their own shoe lass. You could buy enough leather and tin tacks from the 'L for Leather' shop in Dock Street Newport for one shilling (5p). Flat studs were nailed into the soles and metal plates around the heels to make them last. If you were lying in bed in the front room of the house you could very often hear the women walk down the pavement with their shoes making 'clip, clop, clip, clop' sounds as they passed your house. Also men with hobnails on their boots on the way to work.
People, neighbours were so friendly. Always helping one another. If someone was ill, it wouldn't be long before some sort of treat was brought in, like a dish of soup or a rice pudding or an offer to do some shopping. You knew most people in Caerleon. Anyway if you had a bad chest you'd get goose grease rubbed in. Senna tea was the treatment if you were constipated or Epsom salts, Beecham's pills. Most mothers knew what to do in those cases no national health I know maybe this hasn't a lot to do with Caerleon but that's village life in those days.
There were about 100 allotment gardens between Lodge Road below the railway bridge to the side of the football ground near where the school is now. A standing joke: "A lot meant, little done." But not true the men were hard at work growing their own vegetables. "Dig for Victory" was the slogan of the war days. It was nothing to see someone pushing a wheelbarrow with tools or full of manure. Plenty of that about in the early days, say 20s or 30s. Even the school had their own garden. Some of the boys would take their turn to work in the garden weeding and the like if they weren't in the sports field or woodwork. They'd often be given a bunch of spring onions or lettuce to take home. Pinch a couple of apples if they had the chance, still in the early thirtees mind.
A family of gypsies lived in a horse drawn caravan in a field near the back of the Tanhouse farm, good people, seven boys: Isaac, Richie, Ivor, Joseph, Douglas, Len and Nicky the youngest. Ivor made a bet one day that he'd carry one hundredweight of coal up the Blackash Path - that's the steep hill from Ashwell in Ultra Pontem to Christchurch. He won his bet. I remember Nicky when he was a baby the same time as my young brother they were entered in a baby show at one of the fetes. Nicky won first prize, this about 1926. There was another caravan of the same type along the Usk Road opposite Gibbens' timber yard. A man and his wife lived there for years I think his name was Miller. He used to walk to work and back from there to a quarry over Lliswerry over Newport. He was very tall and smart with it, walked mostly down the centre of the road. His boots always seemed to have white lime on them, it may have been a lime quarry. They had their little garden flowers around the static caravan. No-one bothered them and they did not bother anyone. Whatever happened to them I'll never know. At one time the sidewalk i.e. footpath on the Usk Road was made up with ashes from some works. You could go along and pick up lumps of coke. Wood could be collected from along the side of the river. It was nothing to see someone carrying a log on his shoulder, remember we are still in the 20s, large families small pay packets.
These lines just explain the way we were. If there was a knock on the wall you knew that your next door neighbour and friend was telling you to come around for a cup of tea and a piece of home-made cake.
The Tin Works and Brick Works employed many of the local lads. Although many would be on the dole. Getting toward 1939. The war was looming. The ammunition factory was being built at Glascoed, Usk and Dinham just north of Caerwent.
Then the time when Mr. Chamberlain Prime Minister arrived after he met Hitler with his piece of paper held high, "Peace in our time." But it never happened. Many lads had their call up papers, medical examinations and away to one of the services. Those who did not go were working in a reserved occupation. Blackout, everyone had to hang black curtains in their windows, no lights in the street. If anyone showed a light someone would shout: "Put that light out!" L.D.V. (Local Defence Volunteers) became Home Guard just like the film 'Dad's Army'. Fire Wardens, everyone did their bit. The people of Caerleon took in evacuees from London. Children mothers as well all would mix and help each other and enjoy doing it. One thing about Londoners - they like their fish and chips. Food rations, everyone had a ration card. Bacon, butter, meat, cheese, sugar, almost everything. The older men would work on their allotments and grow a lot of food. Some people even grew tobacco to try and make their own cigs. There were pig clubs. People would get together and keep a couple of pigs. Collect peeling and waste food to feed them. Mrs. Waters in Arthur Street had a couple of pigs in a sty in her back garden. I remember seeing a couple of sides of bacon hanging in her front room. Quite a few people kept chickens in their back gardens. Christmas dinner was assured, plus plenty of eggs. You could put them in a large container of water glass and they would keep a long time.
When the war ended the boys came home. The local football team had lost their good players to the forces. They thought now they were coming home they would have the players back and be top of the league again. Not so, the players were now five years older and I'm afraid not very good.
No council houses had been built during the war. People wanted somewhere to live. Army camps were closed. People decided to squat in them. The government then decided to organise distribution of these camps and allowed the councils to take them over. The gunsite on the Lodge Farm was one. £10 was spent doing each house up. People of Caerleon were moved in at a rent of 7s 6d (37½p) per week. A coal fire oven stove was put in, water and electric and they made the best of it. The ones in the army soldiers' wooden huts were happy they put their furniture in, polished lino on the floor. Some had ex-officers' quarters they felt lucky. They all had their little gardens. George Phillips used to keep chickens. Mrs Teague had a large family of lovely children; Mr and Mrs John Barker; my brother Edgar Turner and family; and myself and Doreen. Our house used to be the ablutions. There was a cast iron bath round the back we had to walk around the outside of the building to get to it. We found an old boiler and fixed that up and my brother who was a carpenter put duckboards on the floor. It was lovely having a bath in there with a coal fire going. Inside the house the rooms were partitioned off with plasterboards. They didn't go right to the roof though, if you stood on a chair you could see over them. There was a kitchen, bedroom, sitting room and storeroom. At the time we thought it was Heaven, we wanted to stay forever. Eventually everyone had moved on to a prefab or house and the camp closed demolished and houses now stand there. But I'm sure if you asked some of those people mentioned they would tell you how well everyone got on together. Sadly there's not many of us left. But the children may remember some of the times. In those days people knew nearly everyone by name. The memories in the books of Caerleon should be cherished for ever. Times have moved on. But still friends and families of those days send one another Christmas cards every year. Those good old days don't sound so good to young people today, with washing machines, fridges, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, hot and cold water, carpets, bathrooms makes them wonder why they were good days.
First, the old village hand pump opposite the side of the town hall, I think there must have been a well underneath. It may have been used for drinking water for the horses. As children we often pumped away at the handle to bring the water up. There were two bars around it to protect it. Kids would sit around on them sometimes.
The other was the gents' cast-iron urinal. No doors on the entrances either end. It was situated near the rear of the town hall. The only public toilet in Caerleon.
Both were done
away with in the late 20s or maybe a little later when the existing
toilets were built.
Caerleon was a
A Selection from Lionel's Photo Album ] [ An Evacuee's Story ]