The Crescent, St Hilary
Ralph was born in Fishweir Farm in St Mary Church, which has the highest roof in Glamorgan. He moved into Village Farm, now owned by the Lewis family, in November 1946.
Mary is from Fonmon. Her father was a builder and undertaker – W. James and Son. They also had a wheelwright shop.
Mary and Ralph met when they were 16 on Fontygary beach.
“Don’t ask me how we met there because he doesn’t like the beach, but I lived on the beach”.
Mary moved to the village after they married. The wedding was held in Rhoose Presbyterian Chapel in September 1961.
When first married they lived at one end of the farmhouse and Ralph’s parents lived at the other end. Ralph’s father came to the farm as a tenant and bought it when it came up for sale in 1961. The property was part of the Radcliffe Estate which covered 8,000 acres.
Living in the centre of the village was hard work as much of the farm lay south from the village near where Ralph and Mary’s son, Philip, now lives. Ralph and Mary recalled how the day would start with cleaning out the cow sheds up in the village. Then there would be a walk down the lane to manage the crops of swedes and mangles that were used for animal feed. Work would continue until midday when they heard the sound of the Aberthaw hooter – “we used to tell the time by it.” They would walk back to Village Farm for dinner and afterwards walk back down to the fields for the afternoon, On returning in the evening they would have to milk the cows. In the morning the cows would be walked down Gigman lane and brought back in the evening for milking, then often back to the Llantrithyd road fields for the night.
At the time there were three dairy herds in the village – Ralph and Mary’s, Tom Davies’ farm and Lindsey Thomas at Glebe Farm. In the summer months, when Ralph was cutting hay, he would up at 4.30am to drive the tractors from the village to the fields, which Mary described as rather noisy!
Mary recalled when Howard Jones was about 12 he often helped with the cows. One day he was taking the cows up to be milked and he was pushing them on too fast. He often reminds Mary what she said to him - “Howard – stop rushing the cows – we want milk not butter!”
In 1975 they built and moved in to a new farm house down the Llantrithyd road which was right in the middle of the farmland. Mr Harvers was the architect. The money raised from selling properties to Mr Harvers was reinvested to build the house and new farm buildings. When it was all up and running Village Farm was sold to Fred Elton Jones.
Ralph and Mary lived at Stable Cottage for four months whilst waiting for their new house to be completed. Mrs Clay, Bill and Glynne Clay’s mother who owned Stable Cottage, would not take rent but Ralph and Mary wanted to give her a present. She had always wanted a three wheeler bike so they bought one for her. Ralph remembers that when he collected it from the shop in Bridgend he decided he would ride it to the Land Rover. But, not being used to riding a bike, he fell off! “Both me and the bike were upside down!” Ralph recalls that after the excitement of buying it Mrs Clay didn’t use it much.
Ralph and Mary retired in 2004 and sold their farm to Mike Rees from Laleston. The land is still farmed and the farmhouse is rented out to the Social Services. Ralph and Mary now live back in the centre of the village on the Crescent.
Houses and residents of the village
Much of the village was originally owned by the Radcliffe Estate.
The estate was sold by auction at the Park Hotel in Cardiff in early October 1961.
When the estate was put up for sale tenants had the chance to buy. Local farmers formed a consortium, bought everything and divided it amongst themselves. A lot of farmers couldn’t afford to buy and a number of elderly farmers weren’t interested in raising the money. They wanted to stay as tenants as long as they were alive. To enable this someone else bought the property but let the existing tenants continue to live there.
The Granary and the Old Farm were originally farm buildings. The Old Farm is built on what was the milking and tractor shed and the Granary was where the cars were kept. Ralph and Mary sold the land to Mr Harvers, the architect who built the current properties.
The farm also had a range of farm buildings where Hendre now stands. There was a pig sty and cow shed and a modern shed was built alongside it.
Burnaby House, Sefton House and the Orchard stand on what was originally Ralph and Mary’s orchard.
“They are still all eating my apples, my Bramley apples. It’s wonderful that they continue to flourish”
Graham Kitchen bought land from Ralph and Mary and built Sefton House. He later bought land from Fred Elton Jones and built Burnaby House. Ralph’s sister built the Orchard and Hendre.
The Grange used to be the Vicarage before the Shaw’s house down the Llantrithyd road became the (Old) Vicarage where the Reverend Crockatt lived. It is thought that his wife died in the 1930s. When the property was sold he moved to the Nest, next door to Springhill. Mary used to go down and cut his daughter’s, (Muriel Crockatt) hair.
Previous to their tenancy at the Nest, Howard Jones and his parents Les and Betty lived there. They later moved to Springhill.
The (new) Vicarage (now called Oaklands), was built by Mary’s father in the early 1960s. The church bought the land from Ralph’s father. Planning permission was given because it was for the church and for a vicarage. The Old Vicarage was sold to Heather and Colin Shaw by the church.
What is now Manor Cottage was originally two dwellings. Mrs Hollier lived in one and Maud Jenkins in the other. Maud was Joan Davies’ aunt. Margaret McDonagh was a later resident.
Joan Davies was brought up at 1Llantrithyd Road now occupied by the Harris family. 1 Llantrithyd Road and Holly Cottage originally belonged to the Manor House.
Miss Dorothy Ackland Allen owned the Manor House and she had a companion called Miss Humphries. Dorothy was Miss Giles’ aunt. The Manor was left to Miss Giles’ mother. It is not clear whether Miss Giles and her mother lived at the Manor but Miss Giles’ mother built Manor Piece and they moved there.
Charles Williams’ father bought Manor House then it was sold to Sue Evans, the current owner.
Lansdowne was originally two cottages. They were demolished and the current bungalow built. One of the original cottages belonged to Ralph’s farm and was occupied by a farm worker. There were three condemned cottages on the site where Little Hall Cottage now stands. Myrtle Cottage was also condemned but not demolished. It was later bought by Miss Giles. When the six council houses on the Crescent were built the families living in the six cottages (on the Lansdowne, Little Hall and Myrtle sites) moved to them.
The two houses near Pinklands were agricultural houses.
There used to be a Blacksmith shop on the Crescent and the remains of an old slaughter house.
On the land where the car parking is by the side of the pub there used to be a cottage and there was a small thatched cottage in the car park at the back of the pub.
Cliff Phillips, the vet, bought the Cottage from the Clays. Glyn Clay’s mother, Mary, built Pinklands. John and Fiona Curteis later brought the Cottage.
Stable Cottage originally belonged to the Clays – Johnnie Clay, the Glamorgan and England cricketer was Glynne and Bill Clay’s father.
Stable Cottage is remembered for the social evenings that were held in the Mansell Hall on the first floor. Most of the people working at the big houses in the Village (Grange, Cottage, Manor House, Vicarage etc.) used it. Mansell Hall was named after the people who, at one time, lived in the Cottage.
Bill Clay bought his house, Coed Hills, when the Radcliffe estate was sold.
Mary’s father built the Meadows as a gardener’s cottage when Glynne Clay was living in the Grange. This was when Ralph and Mary first got married. Glynne and Rose later moved to Monmouth before moving back to the village and Pinklands.
Lindsey Thomas lived at Glebe Farm and then moved into a bungalow that he built. Kevin Mercer bought the bungalow from him. It is now occupied by the Evans family. Some of the farm land is currently rented by Kevin Mercer to Tim Vaughan who owns race horses. The Barn, the Sankey’s residence, used to be Lindsey’s barn. Prior to living in the village Lindsey lived in Llwynhelig, the white house that is sited on the slip road as you go down into Cowbridge. Glynne Clay’s brother, Mike, has recently moved from there to a property called The Butts opposite the Market Place car park.
Characters and activities
Lindsey Thomas died in his 50s, which is young by today’s standards, but he is remembered for the full and colourful life he led. Villagers also remember his wife, who was very attractive.
“like a model. They all used to fall off their tractors and goodness knows what when they saw her coming”
A lovely story remembered by villagers, was one about the milk delivery. Lindsey used to deliver the milk around the village. One day when his Land Rover broke down his wife Angela took over. She dug out a tea trolley and delivered the milk herself – in her bikini!
Hay making in the early days depended on manpower rather than machinery and the youngsters of the village would all come to give a hand. Nearly all the boys in the village at some time would come and help with the haymaking. Mary remembers when they were living in the centre of the village she would have to take lunch and tea out to the fields for them. “They would be working until dark every night.” Caroline Davies used to love sitting on top of the bales but Mary wouldn’t let her. If I saw her on there I would yank her off. When Mary saw her on Lindsey’s bales she would shout for her to get down but Caroline would say “you can’t tell me off because I am on Lindsey’s wagon, not yours.”
1982 was a year of heavy snow which severely affected supplies to the village. There was no milk round and locals were walking across the fields to Ralph and Mary’s farm to get milk.
Colin Shaw was in the pub one day when there was an ITV crew in the village filming the snow. Colin decided he would show them the real impact of it and tramped them though the fields (the roads were too thick with snow) to Ralph and Mary’s farm. When they arrived with their equipment on their backs they were exhausted.
To everyone’s disappointment all they wanted to do was see Ralph pull the plug out of the milk tank showing the milk going down the drain. Russell, their young son was so excited because he was going to be on television but when it was broadcast the only thing you could see was Ralph’s head with his unshaven face and hat, Russell’s wellies and the dogs licking the milk! Farmhand Alf Humphries was interviewed by the television people.
Mary and Heather Shaw organised the church lunches at Coed Hills for a number of years and Mary has a little notebook of the planning that took place.
A record was kept of who attended and payment received. A three course lunch in the 1970s cost just 50p. It consisted of soup, ham, beetroot mash and pickles. Lyndsey Thomas (Glebe) was in charge of providing the cream. Cider came from the Vale pub in Glamorgan and Mary recalled how they often had to go down and get some more because it went so fast. Ralph and Colin Thomas used to wear a white coat and waited on at the event. Mary recalled how the kitchen in the hall was poor at that time so everything had to be done at home and carried over.
Mary also related a story about catering for an event at Velindre hospital. Jeannie Griffiths was a senior radiographer there and asked for help when caterers went on strike and a retirement meal for the Matron was put in jeopardy. Jeannie asked Mary and Heather if they would provide a meal for the retirement event which they did. Mary’s sister and Sheila Harris – the vicar’s wife helped. Colin Shaw and Ralph waited on.
The food was prepared in Heather’s kitchen and taken in to Velindre. Students did the washing up after the event. The guests (doctors) did not know that Mary and her team were not the caterers and when a bottle of wine was spilt they ordered it to be cleared up. Mary suggested that they clean it up themselves! At the end of the event someone asked Ralph for his business card. Ralph them he was a farmer not a caterer.
Douglas Harris (husband of Sheila) was the vicar of St Hilary. He was also vicar for Flemingston and Gileston and the chaplain at St Athan. They lived in the vicarage on the main lane into the village (now Oaklands) Douglas died in his 50s. Sheila now lives in Swansea.
When Ralph was around 18 years of age he used to take Miss Giles to catch the train to London. She had petrol coupons which she gave to him. It is thought that she might have been an air hostess, though another source has suggested that she worked for Oxfam?
“She was a smart bird when she was young. It was very nice driving such a smart woman”.
Mary recalled the frequent dances in the village hall and that the place was always heaving. Mrs Kennedy was” the party piece and Lindsey used to go to town with it. He would be in the middle dancing with her”. We had some very good nights there”
Les Jones (Howard’s father) played the violin
Tommy Jenkins (Mrs Maud’s son) was the pianist
Viv Davies - who used to live in Carfref, sang
Trevor Evans from Pen-y-Bryn farm was the drummer
Mary recalled that there was also a steel band that came to the village a number of times. Plus, there were lots of fancy dress dances.
Bob Brierley and Jeannie Griffiths used to organise lots of things for the village.
Miss Coit was the church organist when Ralph was young. She lived in a flat in the cottage. Old Mr Crockatt was the vicar – no electric in the church then. Just a candle on the organ. Miss Coit always wore a straw hat and one day when she was busy playng her hat caught fire! Old Mr Crockatt was trying to fan the flames but Miss Coit was alarmed at his actions!
John and Shirley Barton and three children Nicholas, Melanie and ? lived at Bluebell Wood. He was an airline pilot and she was an air hostess. Dick and Pam Holt (also an airline pilot) lived at Kelowna. Both couples divorced and Pam and John married each other.
Ralph passed away in April 2021 aged 83.
31 July 2014