...because the community matters
The Village Today
In March 2015 the Times reported that St Hilary was the best village to live in the UK, number 5 in the best places to live in the UK and the best place in Wales.
In times past there was a thriving rural community that supported a school, post office and various trades. The resident population is now more diverse with a combination of farmers, young families with commuting parents, professional people and retired couples. In 1999 only two of St Hilary’s adult residents had been born in the parish and only one of those had lived her whole life in St Hilary.
History of the Village
Few individuals would have received any formal education but there is evidence that a small school was being constructed for poor children in St Hilary under the auspices of a charitable trust. The St Hilary school, with its 10 pupils (in 1678), was the smallest in the county. The village school closed in 1910.
Throughout the 19th century St Hilary changed little from the small rural community it had always been. The majority of it inhabitants derived their income from agriculture and associated trades. Cottages provided homes for agricultural labourers, blacksmiths and wheelwrights, thatchers, carpenters and masons, whose skills were essential in the rural economy. Most of the cottages would have been ‘two up and two down’ and would have accommodated large families.
The Cowbridge and Aberthaw Railway opened in 1892 and although originally intended for fright transport subsequently carried passengers and introduced steam railcars or ‘motor cars’ on the line. In 1905 a passenger platform, or holt, was provided in St Hilary close to Old Beaupre. The holt was closed to passengers in 1920, the same month that the first daily bus service between Cardiff and Cowbridge was inaugurated.
19th and 20th century maps of St Hilary show a parish dotted with old mine workings, old lead shafts and quarries. Lead was mined in the late 18th century and it is probable that lead deposits in the parish had been mined in the Roman period.
Like every other parish in the Vale, St Hilary saw it men march off to war in 1914-1918. A memorial plaque in the church lych-gate names those who returned home. Memorials within the church remember the fallen. New Beaupre, like many other large houses in the county, was used as a military convalescent hospital during the Great War. A simple obelisk erected on St Hilary Down in 1922 commemorates the men of the Glamorganshire Yeomanry.
The village still maintains its nucleus of properties around the church but many of the small thatched cottages and obsolete farm buildings have either been demolished or transformed into substantial modern residences. The 18th century pig sty still remains within the garden of Church Cottage opposite the Bush Inn.
Village Farm used to be an estate of 600acres.
J.C Johnnie Clay is a legend in cricketing history. His career spanned over a quarter of a century. He captained Glamorgan from 1924-27 and in 1946 established batting and bowling records that stood unchallenged for many years. He died in 1973 and is buried in the church grounds.
Source: St Hilary: a history of the place and its people. Hilary M. Thomas