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Short prose and sketches – Remembering Cwmtillery

Updated Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Remembering Cwmtillery is a short prose work with accompanying sketches by Stephen Davies, developed in a creative writing workshop run by the Blaenau Gwent REACH project at Aberbeeg Community Centre in spring 2020.

Remembering Cwmtillery

By Stephen Davies

My memories of childhood visits to my nans in Cwmtillery

As a young boy growing up back in the 1960s. I can always remember the strolls my father used to take me on. They were on Saturday afternoons. As we always visited my nan's house. (My father's mother) up in West Bank Cwmtillery. While my mam stayed with my nan. My dad and I would go for walks. He would show me around the Lakes. Then we would walk up the lane to Cwmtillery Res. Then up to Church Lane and back down to Cwmtillery. Passing St Paul Church built 1890.

We would then walk up the tips. Above the Lakes. To the old coal level. Now gated up. Where my grandad once worked. He also used to work in Cwmtillery Colliery. Until he passed away in 1959. The year I was born. Our walk always ended up. Walking through the colliery. My dad worked there as a fitter underground. (I also worked there in later years). We would end up in the fitting shop. Where my dad would have a mug of tea. And smoke about 10 woodbines (fags) and chat with the men he knew there. And talk about pit matters.

We would then return to my nan's house in West Bank. And have tea. She made nice apple tart + custard. She also made her own bread pudding. And rice puddings. They were the days people made and cooked their own food. Very different from today.

After tea. I would meet up with a few friends I knew. We would have lots of fun. Sliding down the bank. From Top Rows to West Bank. On bits of cardboard. This banking is now covered in large trees. And my nans old house is gone. Sadly. Both mam and dad. Have now passed away.

Mam died in 1987
Dad died in 2018

I am now 61 years of age. And still I enjoy walking the same places that my dad used to take me. Although a lot has changed. The colliery closed in 1982. The site is now a football pitch. All the old waste tips have been landscaped. And more trees are now growing. I have very fond memories of Cwmtillery.

I loved it as it was then.

And I love it as it is today.

Thank you.

About this work

These are Stephen’s recollections of visiting his grandmother during the 1960s in Cwmtillery, to the north of Abertillery. Back then Cwmtillery Colliery was a growing concern; having opened in the late 1840s it finally closed in 1982. Stephen’s father and his grandfather both worked there. His account mentions several local landmarks in the area, most of which are represented in the sketches that accompany his words. These include the colliery itself (image 1), Church Lane (image 2), St Paul’s Church (image 3), and Cwmtillery Lakes and Reservoir (image 4). Image 5 is not labelled, but shows the kind of nineteenth-century terraced housing that his grandmother probably lived in.

The tableaus of yesteryear that Stephen’s words conjure up are vivid; his nan’s cooking, his dad talking shop with colleagues and friends, and his own exploits with other children on the hillside. But the colliery is now a playing field, as he notes. The lakes, which provided the mine with water, are now a nature reserve. The transformation that the area has undergone as a result of deindustrialisation in the 1980s is major. Stephen’s account accentuates that sense of change by associating it with the death of his grandmother and his parents. Tellingly, however, his sketches are picturesque depictions of the area as it is now rather than then, and in his closing sentences he mentions the landscaping of waste tips and the return of trees. The message of the last two lines is surely that whilst time inevitably means loss, but it also lead to gain.

BG REACH exhibition logo / Logo arddangosfa BG REACH

This page is part of the Blaenau Gwent REACH online exhibition.

Film and audio | Creative writing | Visual art

Digital stories | The history of Blaenau Gwent | About this project


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