The Dance Families of the Forest of Dean

 

 

GEORGE  DANCE   1843 - 1924

 

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EDWARD DANCE HIS FATHER
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Part of the riverside village of Bishopswood, Herefordshire between Lydbrook and Ross. This is where Mary Dance and Ernest Ridgers were married, her brother Francis (Frank) christened, and their parents, George & Mary Dance, lived through to the mid 1920s. 
MAP OF THE AREA TODAY
RIDGERS  FAMILY OF BAGSHOT
 

 

 

George Dance (1843) the son of Edward (1807) was from the Newland district of the Forest of Dean and born at Berry Hill. 

His wife Mary Scriven (1844) came from Rockfield, Monmouth a few miles away. Her sister Ann Scriven (1837) was married to Monmouth born Edward Shellard (1836) who was clerk and verger at St Mary's Church, Monmouth in the late 19th century. 

George Dance (1843) was a tin-roller, the most skilled job in the tin-producing process. As a youth he had worked at the Redbrook tin plate works in the Forest of Dean as a furnace-man. He later  moved to the Llanelly area of South Wales in the 1860s and two of his children, George Edward (1868) and Frederick (1870) were born there.

 

 

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Bishopswood Church  where Francis (1884) was christened, Mary (1882) was married and their parents George and Mary were buried

  

 

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George Dance and three of his sons worked at the tin-plate works in Lydbrook, part of the Gloucestershire Forest of Dean area but only a couple of miles from the Herefordshire county border.

Lydbrook is a large village situated on the western edge of the Forest of Dean and adjacent to the Wye Valley. Many of the village houses are high on the valley hillsides. The Lydbrook valley was once the site of a thriving tinplate works, opened in 1871 and closed in 1925.  The old railway, built in 1872 to carry a branch railway line from Cinderford, a major feat of 19th century engineering, ran high along the hillside, and then crossed the valley on a huge viaduct on 90ft high stone piers. The viaduct was finally demolished in 1969. Without the heavy industry, the village is now a tranquil backwater.

 

Lydbrook in the early 20th Century

George returned to the Wye Valley/ Forest of Dean  in 1871 to the Lydbrook Tinplate Works after working at Llanelly, South Wales and spent the remainder of his working life there. 

His sons Frederick (1870),  Albert (1875) and George Edward Dance (1868) were also tin-plate workers. George Edward was only 12 years old when he started work  as a pickler in 1880.

 

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He and Mary had 10 children. Two were born at Llanelly and the remainder around the Monmouth, Redbrook, Lydbrook area - all within a few miles of the Lydbrook works. 

Though some were born in South Wales they were all baptised in the Forest of Dean.

 

 

Lydbrook tin workers in 1911

Photo from the Forest of Dean Family History  web-site

 

 

 

George and Mary Dance's children

 

Sarah Dance

1865

Born Redbrook

Married William Roberts (1863) from Carmarthenshire at Lydbrook in 1887

George Edward Dance

1868

Born Llanelly

Married Alice Martin (1869) at Lydbrook in 1894.

Frederick Dance

1870

Born Llanelly

Married Annie Simmonds (1867) at Monmouth in 1892.

Maria Dance

1872

Born Lydbrook

Married Anderson Frankish

Albert Dance

1875

Born Monmouth

Married Maud Magness (1867) in 1900 at Lydbrook

Clara Dance

1877

Born Welsh Bicknor

Married Ernest Bennett (1874) at Lydbrook in 1900.

William Dance

1880

Born Welsh Bicknor

Married Annie Green (1881) at Cheltenham in 1902

Mary Dance

1882

Born Welsh Bicknor

Married Ernest Ridgers (1883) at Bishopswood in 1908

Francis (Frank) Dance 

1884

Born Bishopswood

Married widow Mary Harries (nee Blanch) (1881) at Marylebone in 1925.

Edith Dance

1886

Born Waters Cross

Lodging and working at Monmouth staying with her Uncle & Aunt Shellard in 1901

 

 

 

 

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George Dance's brother-in-law was Edward Shellard 1836-1906, the son of a River Severn waterman, who married Ann Scriven (1837) at Newnham in 1859. He was for 25 years the verger and sexton at St Mary's Church, Monmouth and is remembered on a small stone close to the church gates. His family are also mentioned in local history as early postmen at Monmouth.

"He has left us the example of a blameless life and a name known far beyond the walls of the Church."

The childless couple appear to have had close contact with the Dance family. Census forms show nephews and nieces staying at  St Mary's Cottage.  Edith Dance (1888) was lodging with them in 1891 and appears to be still there in 1901 when she was employed as a baker's shop assistant.

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George Dance's home at Bishopswood. It was the family home till his death in 1924  and located nearly opposite the road up to Ruardean and the second photo is of the house today.

               

 

 

George's Funeral Notice

 

Ross Gazette - 27th of November 1924.

Funeral - The funeral of the late Mr George Dance, whose death was reported in our last issue, took place on Friday last at Bishopswood Church.

The service was read by the Rev. A H Bromfield (Vicar). The coffin bore the inscription: "George Dance. died Nov. 17th 1924, aged 84 years".

The chief mourners were Mr Geo Dance, Mr Fred Dance, Mr W Dance, and Capt Frank Dance MBE (sons);

Mrs Roberts, Mrs Frankish, and Mrs F.Bennett (daughters); 

Mr F Bennett (son in law), Mrs A Dance (daughter in law), Mr and Mrs J Wheatstone, Mr Corry Dance, Mr Bert Dance, (grandchildren),

Mr M O'Meara, Mr John Davies and Mr Goodfellow.

The floral tributes were very beautiful and bore expressions of sympathy and loving remembrance from the following: 

Rye, Anderson and Maud; Annie, Dot and Edith; George and Claude; Bert, Hilda, Will and Alice; Fred and Annie and family (Swansea); Edith, Bert and children (Boston, USA); to my dear father, from Frank; Dol, Ernie and the children (Windlesham); Will, Rose, Vera and Mabel (Cheltenham); Mr and Mrs Gilchrist; Maud and family; Mrs Clayton; Mr and Mrs Sheldon; Mr and Mrs Goodfellow; Mr A B Murray; Mr Maurice St. Clair O'Meara; Mr and Mrs J Phillips; With sincere sympathy, from staff at Curacho Ltd.

 

 

George's eldest daughter Sarah Ann Dance  was born at Redbrook in 1865.  She was employed as a kitchen maid at Sellersbrook House, Whitchurch in 1881. She married gardener William Lewis Roberts (1863) from Carmarthenshire at Lydbrook in 1887. They had three children, George 1887, William 1888, and Louis 1891.

On the 1891 census he appears as one of a number of gardeners employed at Wargrave Manor, Berkshire in 1891.
It appears that something happened to this family before 1901. There is apparently no sign of William or Sarah on the census. Louis is with his Dance grandparents and George with Uncle George Dance in South Wales.

 

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Dance's Corner, Church Hill, Lydbrook

The home of George & Alice Dance

George's son George Edward Dance (1868 - 1927) was working with him at the Redbrook tinplate works as a pickler when only 12 years old.

He married local girl Alice Martin (1869) at Lydbrook in 1894 and was employed in the Aberdare area of South Wales as a plate-layer for the next ten years where three of his children Albert (1897), Hilda (1901), and William (1904), were born.

By 1907 he and Alice had returned to the Forest of Dean where their daughter Alice Claudia (1907) was born at Chamomile Green, Lydbrook. He was a sick man during the latter part of his 59 years, suffering from bronchial and asthmatic problems. His eyesight was also poor and was a contributing factor to an accident that later proved fatal when he walked into the path of a motor cycle not far from the church on Church Hill, Lydbrook around 9pm  one October evening in 1926. He was buried at Lydbrook on the 8th of January 1927. A witness at the inquest was his son, collier Albert Dance, who had been located at the Anchor Inn soon after the incident and rushed to assist his father.

Daughter Alice Dance (1907) married Coleford collier Edwin Brown (1904) at Lydbrook in 1928. 

Her brother, Albert Edward Dance (1897), who was a colliery engine driver, married Winifred Alice Roff (1910) at Lydbrook in August 1934. Her father was Lydbrook builder Edward Roff. They had two children, Winifred Dance (1935) and George E A Dance (1937).

George's daughter Maria Dance who was baptised at Newland in 1872, married Manchester born mechanic Anderson Frankish (1867) and moved to Leyton in Essex. They had one child Edith Maud in 1897. When they died at Surbiton in Surrey, Anderson in 1946 and Maria in 1955, he was buried at Bishopswood, and Maria's ashes were scattered there.

 

George's son Frederick Dance who was born at Llanelly in 1870 married Annie Simmonds (1867) in the Monmouth reg. district in 1892. One of three of George's children baptised together home in the Forest of Dean. Their residence was Hangerbury, Lydbrook in 1895.
He was a tin-plate worker at Aberdare, South Wales in 1901 and 1911.  They had four children, three of whom were born at Lydbrook, Cornelius (1893), Albert Oscar (1895) and Evelyn Dorothy (1897) and Frederick Raymond (born Aberdare 1911) . Evelyn married Digory Gordge (1894) from Swansea in 1920 and the family made their home there. Cornelius who was a student teacher in 1911, married Gertrude Johnson.

Frederick Raymond Dance (1911) married Florence Woods (1912) from Cambridgeshire in 1935 and they had three daughters, Ann (1936), Maureen (1939) and Jacqueline (1946), all born in Cambridgeshire.

Jacqueline, who is researching her family tree, recently made contact. (T.B April 2011)

 

Hi Tom. We are still in touch with Albert Dance's (1895) sons and children. He was Uncle Bert to us. His sons are Basil and Fred and both still live in Swansea. Fred  has a son, Paul, and Basil has 2 daughters, Alison and Claire (they are twins).  I hope this is some help. 

The school photo is of Waun Wen school, Swansea in 1919.   The young man with a white hankie in his top pocket is my dad. He was about 16 and was playing in a dance band. We do not know who the nurse is - she may be one of his aunts.  Jackie

 

 

Waun Wen School, Swansea in  1919.  Frederick Raymond Dance (born 1911)  is the boy on the right with the white shirt and striped tie.

 

Frederick Raymond Dance aged 16

 

Frederick Dance (1870) with wife Annie & son Frederick

 

Frederick Raymond Dance (bottom row extreme left)  in the RAF during World War 2.

 

 

 

An unknown family member from Jackie's collection

 

 

George's son Albert Dance was born at Monmouth in 1875. He married Maud Magness (1867) at Lydbrook in 1900. In 1901 he was employed as a tin-plate worker and living at Forge Hill, Lydbrook. They had one child, Eva Dance, who was born in 1911. Albert was only 38 when he died in 1913. He is buried at East Bicknor.
George's daughter Clara Dance was born at Lydbrook in 1877. She married Ernest Harper Bennett (1874) a collier from Ruardean in 1900. They had two children, both born at Lydbrook and baptised in the Wesleyan chapel, William Frederick Meredith Bennett (1903) and Louise Mary Florence Bennett (1910). The family were living in Boston, USA at the time of her father's funeral in 1924.

 

William John Dance from Cheltenham (on left).  Born Welsh Bicknor 1880, son of George Dance, with his sister Maria who was born in 1873 at Redbrook.

Maria Frankish nee Dance and her husband Anderson are on the right.  

Will Dance and his housekeeper (his wife had died in 1921) on the left. 

"She (Maria) looks so much like my mother's sister in later life it's not funny!     Fay Widdicombe

Anderson and Maria spent most of their lives in Surrey but their grave is at Bishopswood churchyard.

 

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William John Dance (1880) who was also born at Laundry Cottage, Welsh Bicknor to George (1843) and Mary, was a policeman in 1901. He married Annie Green at Cheltenham in 1902 and they had two sons, Ronald (1904) and Wilfred (1907). When he volunteered for army service as a 36 year old in 1916 he gave his trade as motor mechanic. He served with the Royal Engineers Railways Division who had the task of building and maintaining light railways supplying the front line troops. He was discharged in 1919 with the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant. He had a haulage business at Cheltenham throughout the 1920s. His wife Annie died in 1921.

His son Ronald Lionel Dance (1904) had a removals business at Cheltenham for many years.

 

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George's daughter Mary Dance (1882) was born at Laundry Cottage in the village of Welsh Bicknor. The 1901 census records her employment as a housemaid at Mapledurham in Oxfordshire.

She married Ernest William Ridgers (1884) from Windlesham, Surrey at All Saints Church, Bishopswood near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, on the 1st of August 1908. The marriage certificate has Ernest's father  entered as 'William Ridgers - Builder', and Mary's as 'George Dance- Tin Roller'.

Ernest and Mary Ridgers first moved to Pleasant View, Updown Hill, Windlesham and later, probably after the death of Ernest's father in 1915, settled at the old family home in Church Road and had eight children. Four boys and four girls. Ernest (1911), Allan (1913), Stanley (1915), Dorothy (1910), Vera, Norah, Harold and  Muriel (1921).

 

 

Mary Dance around 1930

 

 

George's youngest son Francis (Frank) Dance was christened at Bishopswood in 1884. His first employment when he was 14 in January 1899 was as a boy porter at Lydbrook Junction station, and posted to Abergavenny in November that year. His self-written biography in the 1920s then describes an apprenticeship as a clerk at Thornycroft's shipyards in Chiswick, London.

That 'apprenticeship', beginning in late 1899 or early 1900, could not have been a long one. The 1901 census records him boarding at Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire in 1901 and employed as a corn merchant's clerk. 

In 1911 he was living with his parents at Bishopswood and his occupation is recorded as a traveller for a chocolate wholesaler. (Not a clerk as related in his biography)

The 1920s biography mentions a period of employment with Cadburys before joining the Bank of New Zealand, working at their London Headquarters, and at various branches in New Zealand.

During his time at the the NZ Bank he managed to obtain a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment in June 1915. 

It is difficult to imagine today, how someone with Frank's limited education, having left school at 14 to work as a railway porter, managed to convince an army board of his suitability.

His biography relates that he rose to be adjutant to the 3/7th Middlesex Regiment. 

He was later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps for administrative duty.  

Appointed Staff Captain, he ended up as ADC to the Chief of the Air Force, Sir John Salmond when Lord Doune, who had been acting in that capacity, crashed in a gallant and triumphant affair with a giant Fokker which he brought down, gaining the M.C.

Capt. Frank  Dance was later mentioned in despatches and awarded the MBE. On demobilisation he returned to his appointment with the New Zealand Bank.

Frank married a  Ross bank manager's widow Mary Elizabeth Harries (1881)  at Marylebone, London in 1925 and returned to Bishopswood. 

She was formerly Mary Elizabeth Blanch a farmer's daughter who was also born in the Forest of Dean area and probably knew the Dance family when her father Richard Blanch was farming at Green Farm, Welsh Bicknor in the 1880s.

Frank was a vicar employed in the Hereford Diocese office at the end of the 1950s and died there in 1961.

 

From "Forest Mercury" October 1924

"A representative of the Forest of Dean newspapers, interested in the appearance of a new industry in the Forest of Dean, was courteously received by Capt. F. Dance, the Managing Director at the Curacho factory and headquarters, adjoining the post office at Lydbrook. Here the Company found suitable premises designed for a mineral water manufactory and erected by Mr.  E. J. Glewellyn, who is now to double or treble the capacity of the place to provide for the future expansion of the enterprise." 

 

 

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"This is considered to be assured, as the Company have a well authenticated remedy to offer and will express their convictions about it in the form of publicity. "Curacho" was originally owned by a very old man, who treated it more or less as a hobby to produce a few dozen bottles a day.

There is of course a secret recipe and our representative was not invited behind the locked door where the preparation was being made ready for the up-to-date bottling plant. The remedy (the comprehensive utility of which is quite fully explained elsewhere) is extensively stocked by chemists and naturally, those who live near the place of preparation will not find it difficult to get supplies. 

 

Frank's home in the 1920s. Bishopswood Grange taken around 1900.

 

 

 

A private company with a capital of £8000 has been formed to take over the business from Capt. Dance who acquired the recipe. The Directors include Lord Doune. M.C., son of the Earl of Moray (Chairman) and Major C. J. Vaughan. of Courtfield. There is an interesting story to be told of Capt Dance and his war time associations with Lord Doune.

"There will be many still who remember Capt. Dance as a  Lydbrook boy, bred and born and educated in the border village. Apprenticed very early in life to Thornycrofts the ship builder at Chiswick, he subsequently acted as a clerk at Tewkesbury and at Messers Cadbury's before joining the Bank of New Zealand with whom he has remained to this day, serving them both in London and New Zealand, except for an interregnum resulting from the war.

Captain Dance received a commission and rose to be adjutant to the 3/7th Middlesex Regiment. Then he was transferred to the Air Force for administrative duty. He was appointed Staff Captain and eventually became ADC to the Chief of the Air Force, Sir John Salmond when Lord Doune, who had been acting in that capacity, crashed in a gallant and triumphant affair with a giant Fokker which he brought down, gaining the M.C.

After recovering, Lord Doune rejoined the General for duty, but Capt. Dance kept his post, Sir John wisely deciding that two such ADCs were better than one.

Capt. Dance was mentioned in despatches and awarded the MBE. On demobilisation he returned to his appointment with the New Zealand Bank, but "Curacho" will have his undivided attention in the future.

 

Note by Tom - We have no record of Curacho's closure. It was still there in 1927 but was replaced according to local directories by the Spring Water works by 1931. Ian's note below records him abroad in February 1929 and we know that Frank was already a curate at Aylesford in Kent from May 1932. 

The small industrial area at Lydbrook is still in use today and was  known locally from the 1930s as the "Pop factory". 

 

A note from Ian Pearson who is a descendant of James Dance (1806-81)

As an archivist I was once seconded to the Anglican Diocese of Egypt and spent three months in Cairo sorting and listing their archives.  In one file I happened to notice this:

Letter to Bishop Gwynne, Anglican Bishop for Egypt
18 Feb 1929
From Captain Frank Dance, 
No.4 Flying Training School
RAF Abu Sueir, Egypt

He offers himself for ordination (no reply to this letter on file, but see below).
Says he is 44 and married.  He is an organist and at present plays for the church at Ismailia.
'As a youth I was an ardent worker and preacher in many chapels in Monmouthshire'.
He began work at 14 as a Bank Clerk then emigrated to New Zealand.
During WW1 he was a staff Captain and ADC to the Chief of the RAF in the field. 
Awarded the MBE

 

* Ismailia is located on Lake Timsah along the coast of the Canal, half-way between Port Said and Suez. 

 *Abu Suwayr Air Base is an Egyptian Air Force base, located approximately 17 km west of Ismailia (Al Isma`iliyah); 116 km northeast of Cairo. From 1921 it was the home of the RAF No.4 Flying   School. During World War II the airfield, then known as RAF Abu Sueir, was used by the RAF and the United States Army Air Force during the North African Campaign.

 

 

Frank's wife Mary Elizabeth had four children, Barbara Harries (1910), James L.B (Bill) Harries (1915),  Mary Helena Frances Harries (1919) all born at Ross from her first marriage and Maud Elizabeth Dance (1926) from the second.

Frank's grand-daughter Judith relates - "He fought in WWI and was a Captain mentioned in despatches. He was awarded the MBE. 
In 1926 my mother (Maud Elizabeth Dance) was born and they were living at Bishopswood Grange just outside Ross. He was a company director at that point. He was ordained as a priest in 1932 and was Chaplain at RAF Locking (Weston Super Mare) during WW2. As a child I knew him to be a vicar in Hereford."

By the way I think I forgot to mention that my mother said that Frank was a crack shot and won prizes at Bisley.  

 

May 4th 1927 - Times

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The other tales that my mother told me were that they travelled to Egypt when she was very young. She can remember the flies and riding on a camel. My grandmother had a mosquito bite on her leg which went septic. She had to come home early from Egypt for treatment and my mother remembered Mary being winched on a stretcher onto the ship. After becoming a priest he was Chaplain of the Anglican Church in Geneva. This was so the priest there could go back to England for a break. My mother said that she remembered the Nazi flags on the German embassy.  I have been there and have a photo of the church and my mother gave me a print of the it. 

I have finally obtained Frank's death certificate as promised and  my memory of what my mother said was fairly accurate. He had, sadly, developed senility and I remember her saying he had an obsession with the idea that he had stomach cancer. 
He had been living at The Cedars, Walford, Ross. He died in Burghill Hospital in Hereford on 3rd November 1961 aged 77.
I continued to have contact with the Forest of Dean as we went to visit my mother's cousins Ena and Kath, both of whom knew my grandfather as a young man. 

Ena lived in Lydbrook in a house that is now called the 'Old Bakery' and Kath lived near Tretire Farm. There was another much older cousin called Maude who lived in Lydbook when she retired.    Judith

Yes I remember Rev Frank Dance. He was my step grandfather. Mary Elizabeth, formerly Harries, his wife, was my grandmother. I remember visits to their home at 1 Folly Lane, Hereford, during the 1950s. They had one daughter Maud Elizabeth (Betty). She married Thomas Powell, farmer of Much Marcle and they had four children. 

I do remember Frank Dance as being very kind to me as a child.  I recall being taken down to his cellar where he was drying his home grown tobacco.  Also visiting what I think must have been his parish church in Hereford which was a green corrugated iron building. I understand that Mary Elizabeth Dance died on 19 Jan 1965 at Bradley Court Nursing Home, Mitcheldean and her cremated remains are in the same grave as her parents in English Bicknor.      Martin Arthur

 

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Welsh Bicknor Church - No longer in use.

Newland Church, Forest of Dean

 

 

 

Colliery engine driver William James Dance who was born in 1904, the son of  George Edward Dance (1868), married Clara Wilce  at Lydbrook in 1928. Tragically, he lost his wife and new born daughter Joan within a few months of each other in 1930.

Clara was born in 1910 the daughter of Frederick Wilce and Mary Ravenhill.Free Image Hosting at www.auctiva.com

 

Taken eight years before Clara's birth, the photo shows the Ravenhill and Wilce families outside the shop which was situated next door to the Jovial Collier's Public House in Lydbrook.

William Dance remarried at Coleford in August 1939. She was Alfreda Tudor Carter (1906) from Victoria Road, Coleford. They had a daughter Sheila Dance (1943).

Sylvia Ravenhill who later became the shop owner (Mrs S Hall) is standing in the doorway.
Frederick Wilce is holding son Merrick. Thomas Ravenhill and his wife Eliza, Daisy Ravenhill in the black dress. Mary Wilce (nee Ravenhill) is  holding son George.
The small girl in the front is Winifred Wilce who later became Winnie Evans.

My sincere thanks to the Forest of Dean Family History  web-site and Margaret Wilce for this photo and memory.

I notice that you have updated the bit about my grandfather, William James Dance (1904-1959), and have a few things that you can add to it.

After the death of his first wife Clara (nee Wilce) and before marrying my grandmother (Alfreda Tudor Carter), William married again to a Ivy Annie Jackson (1905-1938) from Lancashire. The wedding took place in Ormskirk in 1934 and they moved back to the Forest of Dean, but she died four years later in 1938. 

After that William married Alfreda Tudor Carter (1906-2000) and they had three children Ė Ray (1940), Sheila (1943) and my mother Rita (1946). William died in 1959. I will see if I can find any photos of the family and let you have a copy if I do.    All the best  Lucy (Dodsworth)

 

 

 

At least four of Mary Dance's brothers and sisters were baptised at Newland, as was her father and his siblings. 

This was also where her grandfather Edward was married and buried. 

 

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Welsh Bicknor in the early 1900s

 

The old Wye Valley Railway from Symonds Yat Rock and following the River Wye.. It ran within a few hundred yards of Laundry Cottage at Welsh Bicknor only a couple of miles from this view. The disused railway bridge close to the cottage is still standing but  used mainly by walkers. In the centre is the old school. It would struggle to hold more than 20 pupils. The school closed in the 1920s following the retirement in her 70s through ill health, of long serving teacher Miss Gunter who lived on Coppet Hill.

 

 

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Then

 

Now

 

Old cottage photo kindly supplied by Chris of Welsh Bicknor YHA

 

Laundry Cottage, Welsh  Bicknor. Mary and her brother William Dance's riverside birthplace. Updated and enlarged in the 1950s and now staff quarters for Welsh Bicknor Youth Hostel. It is only accessible on foot along the river-bank path.

In the 1950s the cottage was altered and modernised. The owners used it as a weekend and holiday home. Unfortunately noise from the Edison Swan works forced them to sell, apparently to the factory owners.

Immediately across the river from around 1912 was the home of the Lydbrook Cable Works. In 1925, the business was bought by the Edison Swan Electric Company. At its peak the plant employed around 1100 people. The Cable Works closed  in 1966, but then the factory was bought by the Reed Paper Group who operated from there until the 1990s. The site is now derelict.

 

 

 

1950's Memories of Laundry Cottage, Welsh Bicknor from Jan Horner (nee Aston) in Tasmania.

Dear Tom,

Thank you for getting in touch I welcome the chance to talk about our lovely little cottage and my childhood there.

My family moved to Laundry cottage in February I think it was in 1951. We lived there until November 1962 when we migrated to Melbourne Australia.

I found it very hard to leave the place I loved so much but as it wasnít my decision I had no say in it being only twelve years old at the time.

Life there at Welsh Bicknor was idyllic and as a child I must have been the happiest person I knew. My Dad (Frank Aston) worked at Siemens Edison Swan as a cable worker and was well liked and respected by his work mates. He had previously worked at coal mines in the Forest.

My sister Carol and I attended Lydbrook primary school. Mr Kennedy was headmaster. Carol being five years older than me went from Lydbrook School and attended Ross Grammar school and then managed to get a job in the offices of the cable works which she held until we left for Australia in 1962.

When I finished primary school I went to Ross Secondary Modern which is where I met my husband to be!! Of course not knowing it then.

The community was really quite small and consisted of the Sears family who were running the Youth Hostel when we moved to the area and then the Gunter family who took over the running of the Youth Hostel when Mr and Mrs Sears and their son Marcus moved up to the Tudor looking house that sits about half way up the long drive down to the Hostel facing on to Coral lane. The GŁnterís migrated to Australia a few years after we did and they now live in Sydney.

The cable works had a night watch man by the name of Mr James. He and his family lived in a house on the grounds of the cable works opposite the fire station of which my uncle Jim was fire chief. They used to have fire drill about once a week and I used to love to watch them with the big hoses and see which side could move the flaps on top of metal poles with the force of the water first. They used to do this training at the front of the cable works in a field that was kept just for this purpose. To see it now is heart breaking, over grown and very unloved.

We used to be able to walk right through the middle of the factory to catch our bus to school but I think I was told that was stopped when the factory changed hands. We used to play on our roller skates on the smooth surfaces of concrete that were outside the offices and also down near the big bobbin yard and I remember a lovely man named Eddy used to drive the big crane.

We more or less used to have the run of the factory because no one ever told us we werenít allowed anywhere. It was great. We used to sit on a loading platform up near the station and watch them shunting the trains.

We had family in Ross so most Saturdays we went to visit. More often than not Mum was running late for the train but the driver would always stop even on the bridge to pick us up. You probably wouldnít hear of that these days.

Our milk was always left near the boiler house at the factory so it was usually my job to walk over to get it. In the winter the cream would freeze and pop up at the top of the bottle so more often than not the birds were helping themselves to the cream by the time I got there.

I remember when we woke up on a winterís morning and it had snowed in the night it was so beautiful and only bird footprints in the snow. I really miss all these things

Pat Gunter and I were good friends and used to play together all the time. I remember we used to stand in the manhole thing in the tunnel when the trains went through never thinking that it could be at all dangerous it was just great fun and also standing on the bridge when the trains went over and waving to the driver. The bridge used to really shake but we thought nothing of it.

The thick creepers up in the wood behind our cottage kept us amused for hours. We played at being Tarzan and used to swing on these creepers once again not seeing any danger in it. I really had a great childhood and wish that my children could have grown up in such a wonderful place.

We didnít have the toys and things that the kids have these days, we made our own fun and were richer for it I think. I used to dig up worms for Dad to take fishing and when there was a fishing contest I used to take a big pot of tea around for the fishermen that were fishing close to the cottage. They got to know and would all have their cups ready. The Salmon beds were a great source of fun as well. We used to have a jam jar with a piece of string tied around the top and would drag it through the water to catch minnows.

We also used to use a jam jar with string around the top as a golly pot. Mum would put a candle in it for us to go up the garden to the outside toilet. I have no idea why it was called a golly pot but it certainly did cast an awful lot of shadows, enough to scare me to bits some nights especially when the owls were hooting.

In 1960 or 1961 there was a really bad flood. The water was lapping on the front step and I remember Mum telling me to go and get Dad from work to help move furniture. It really was all hands on deck when the floods came as we tried to get as much stuff upstairs as we could.

In that same flood I had forgotten to get my pet rabbit (smoky) from a cage up the end of the garden. I was frantic he would drown so Dad waded up there in very strong current to rescue him for me. We almost lost Dad and Smoky that day as the water almost carried them both away.

The water came half way up the downstairs walls and we were all crammed into two rooms upstairs. By we I mean Mum, Dad, Carol and me along with a black Labrador a golden retriever two cats one budgie and a rabbit!!!! All of the latter were eyeing each other off with dinner in mind! I thought it was one big adventure but being a mother myself now I think Mum must have been worried sick about us. The foundations of that old cottage must have been very substantial to take the force of that much water swirling around the house.

At night I remember lying awake listening to the thunder of the water and then the hollow metal sound when tree trunks and big branches slammed into the pylons on the bridge. We lived upstairs for four days until the water receded enough for us to be able to go down stairs and start the clean up. The awful smell remained in the cottage for quite a while after the flood but what excitement we had had!

The cable works held a Christmas party every year for the children of the factory workers. Carol and I used to really look forward to that party. One year I remember Mum had made me a party dress, a lovely long three tiered blue one with short sleeves. Well I can still see me and our Carol now, in the deep snow, in our wellies with our party shoes in our hand and our dresses hitched up to our knees to keep them from dragging in the snow. Besides the party games and the lovely food there was always a magician and he always bored me to tears but everything else was great especially the present from Father Christmas at the end of the party. Dad used to always come to meet us and walk home with us because by the time it finished it was dark. I think we used to keep Mum and Dad up late on that night telling them all about

the party.

Just one more memory I have and thatís of going to the Memorial hall in Lydbrook to the pictures. Mum was a real movie fan so she took us to the pictures as often as she could afford to do so and we loved it. Smoke used to just about choke us and we always had a job to see the screen because the floor was flat and someone tall or big shouldered always seemed to pick me to sit in front of so I usually ended up sitting on Mums knee. Mum used to say we can stay and see the end of the picture and if we do that we will have to walk all the way home or we can go before it finishes and catch the bus to Temco. Of course we always wanted to see the end so we stayed and the walk home was a long one and very dark. I usually got a piggy back off Mum and was so glad of it. She was marvellous so was my Dad.

I used to take a sack bag up into the wood after school in the good weather and fill it with branches that I broke into smaller pieces on a sharp rock then I would drag it home and unload it in our coal house. Not to mention a few dozen hedgehogs that came home with me for a saucer of milk!

I should tell you about the cottage! It consisted of a sitting room with a small open fire place and a scullery and then what we used to call the back place which housed the copper and the mangle. Upstairs there were two bedrooms. Carol and I had the one where you can see the window above the front door and Mum and Dadís room looked out to the side of the house.

 We had a well at the side and eventually after carrying water to the house in a bucket for years Dad piped the water into the scullery and we thought we were so lucky!! The water from that well used to flow down through the wood and was the sweetest water I have ever had. The over flow from it went in to a babbling brook that ran beside the cottage and into the Wye. There used to be a style on the path at the bottom of the house that I fell over one day and still have the scar to prove it.

Dad used to keep pigeons and the train driver would take them to Ross or where ever and let them go and they would return home. Dad also had a nice garden and grew prize Dahlias as well. You would never think it now but it was a beautiful little cottage especially when it was freshly white washed. In the spring and summer when the flowers were out it looked a picture.

We had our fair share of Adders and blind worms but being a bit of a tomboy they never bothered me even when I was playing hide and seek in the church yard with Pat one day and almost sat on an Adder. Dad was cutting the grass at the church and came running when he heard me shout and off came the snakes head.

I used to attend church on a Sunday and am so sad to see the state the church is in now. We came over for a holiday in 2010 and 2011 and it is so sad to see the state of the place. The field between the youth hostel and our cottage used to be full of cows and they all used to follow me home when I left the hostel after playing with Pat. When we came home in 2010 it was all so overgrown and it was very upsetting. What they have done to our cottage is dreadful and I did do a few tears to see it that way.

Sorry I have gone on a bit Tom but I have such great memories of living at Laundry cottage. I hope I havenít bored you too much!!

Keep on enjoying those walks along the Wye and give a thought to me when you walk past our old cottage.

Once again thanks for getting in touch.

Regards Jan            September 2012

 

 

 

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From Bishopswood Church. The 1908 entry for the marriage of Ernest Ridgers and Mary Dance and the now flattened gravestone of George and Mary Dance, George's sister Maria, and her husband Anderson Frankish. The Frankishs lived  in Surrey most of their lives but their grave is at Bishopswood. 

 

 

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The Lydbrook and Wye Valley area in the 1890s. Laundry Cottage, where Mary Dance and her brother William were born, is on the Welsh Bicknor river bank situated to the right of the railway bridge above Lydbrook Junction. This map illustrates the short distances between the original Dance homes in the Little Doward and Whitchurch area and Lydbrook.

 

 

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