Annual summer outing

Thu 12th May


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Group photo outside of Nantgarw
(image courtesy of Roy Neath)

A record 49 members joined this year’s annual summer outing. The early threat of rain had melted away long before we reached our first destination of Nantgarw Chinaworks and Museum. The group enjoyed a ‘welcome cup of tea / coffee’ with home-made Welsh cakes while a volunteer from the  Nantgarw Chinaworks Trust outlined the history of the rise and fall of the Chinaworks, its historical and social context and how the Trust was working to preserve and enhance the works, giving schoolchildren and other visitors practical experience of working with clay.


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Divided into smaller groups, we were shown the sadly much diminished canal (so essential for transport), the cellar room where William Billingsley mixed his secret porcelain recipe, and the beautifully restored kiln where the clay was fired. Despite the 90% failure rate, the 10% that survived the firing were amongst the best quality porcelain produced anywhere in the world. After Billingsley left Nantgarw in 1820 Thomas Pardoe decorated the remaining stocks of porcelain and in 1833 his son Thomas re-established the pottery, manufacturing stoneware, earthenware bottles and clay pipes. We were shown how to make a pipe using the original moulds.

A short video showed some of the restoration work in progress and we saw (but did not handle!) a few of the Museum pieces. The enthusiasm of the Trust volunteers was infectious and we came away inspired by the excellence of Billingsley and Pardoe and the praiseworthy work of the volunteers.

(Image courtesy of Roy Neath)



The buffet lunch in Penmark was adequate rather than inspiring, but members had a chance to enjoy the sun while exploring this village and its church. Then it was on to Fonmon castle in the Vale of Glamorgan, within earshot of Cardiff Wales Airport. Here we were treated to an informed and interesting history of the castle and the two families who had lived there since it was built in around 1200. The first family, the St Johns, sold the castle in 1656 to Colonel (later Lord) Philip Jones. Philip had been born in the Great House, Swansea, became MP and later Comptroller of Oliver Cromwell’s household. His direct descendent, Sir Brooke Boothby, still lives there.


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Introductory talk at Formon Castle
(Image courtesy of Roy Neath)


 We split into two groups to tour rooms in the castle, one led by Sir Brooke and the other by a well-informed guide. The different stages / periods of construction and changing styles were clear to see with family anecdotes illustrated through portraits and armaments.

events archive - outing - 4 Gardens.jpgThere was time for a brief look at the gardens, where Sir Brooke exhibited his enthusiasm for the castle and gardens, speaking candidly of the problems of the upkeep of such an important building.



 Sir Brooke Boothby enthusing in the gardens
(Image courtesy of Roy Neath)



 It was a day to remember and the whole group must thank Helen Hallesy for her meticulous organisation of the day.  Thanks, also, to Roy Kneath for his photographic record.




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