Memories of Victorian Bridgend.

I have been kindly donated 'memoirs' of a lady who lived in our town during the Victorian Era.
The memoirs were donated to me by Ann Rees of Bridgend Historical Society. Written by her aunt, these 'memoirs' give an interesting glimpse into everyday life in the town. Below are a few extracts and notes from the 'memoirs'.

"The River Ogmore was frozen over and 
people were able to skate on it."

Her first school in 1893 was in a house still standing at the bend of Cowbridge Road with Nolton Street, it seems to have been a private nursery class although far removed from the "learning through play" of today.Miss Francis who ran it with her sister, had been a pupil teacher at the Board School in Freeschool court.

The school classroom was held in the front room of the house and the children sat on two rows or wooden, forms, with no backrest as they were always supposed to sit up straight to develop good posture while at the rear of the room there was a "gallery". a raised platform. When the children came to school they had to curtsy and say "Good Morning Miss Francis".They would then stand around the harmonium and sing a hymn followed by a prayer. Next they would be given a slate and chalk and learn how to form letters with neat pot hooks, and write, "up slanty and thin, and down straight and thick".

Once a week as treat, they were taught to knit using whale bone needles and string. Miss Francis seems to have been to be quite a fashionable lady as on Church going days she wore a very long dress, which was always trailing on the ground, while on her head there was a hat with a great big feather in it.

"When we were girls waists were 21inches, and there was some pulling in of stays, young ladies were always fainting in Church then I can tell you".

Alice* then went on to the Board School in Brackla Street where her most vivid memory was of standing in the school yard to watch Mrs John Randall placing the foundation for the weathercock on the spire of Nolton Church. Apparently, there was a lift or type of wooden cage attached to the scaffolding.Mrs Randall, her husband and the foreman landed on a platform, then climbed a ladder to the top of the spire, where Mrs Randall spread cement and set the top stone in place.The next week, after the cement was set, the weathercock was fixed there, presumably by someone other than Mrs Randall!

The school itself appears to have been run on rather authoritarian lines as the "Master" seems to have spent a good deal of time on caning errant boys,. the Mistress too was not averse to caning girls, although on the hands, and usually for something trivial like forgetting a handkerchief.

Around c.1895 there was a very severe winter, and the men who worked in the Quarry had to stop work for six weeks. Soup kitchens were set up as no work meant no pay in the days before unemployment benefit.The River Ogmore was frozen over and people were able to skate on it. One man a Mr McGaull, who lived near the river, had a very narrow escape when he fell through some thin ice.

Nolton Street seems to have been largely composed of small shops and houses. One lady who would have lived opposite where the Rhiw Arcade is now, used to take a chair on the grass outside her front door, where she sold sand to people wishing to keep a clean doorstep; another lady Miss McClellan had a sweet shop where one could have a farthing's worth of sweets or a sugar mouse for a halfpenny

(Sources: Ann Rees of Bridgend Historical Society & BLS) 

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