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Six Bells past - Hen Six Bells

Six Bells grew up as a village in the middle part of the 19th century with the small collection of houses and cottages probably taking their name from the Six Bells pub itself. Most of the village was within the Llanhilleth parish which was separated from Aberystruth parish (containing Abertillery) by a boundary that ran up through Cwm Nant-y-Groes, marked by small wooden crosses that gave the stream its name (nant-y-groes - stream of the cross).

Another local watering hole was the Coronation pub which lay within Aberystruth parish and which later was renamed (and likely rebuilt) the Coach and Horses. The oldest parts of Six Bells still remain around High Street.

Early employment would have been provided by the small Hafod Fan pit. This became defunct but a greater deep mine was established at the end of the 19th century by John Lancaster and company with the Arael Griffin colliery bringing its first coal to the surface in 1898. Three years earlier in the sinking of the mine, four men lost their lives as their bowk capsized, sending them hurtling to the bottom of the shaft. It was not to be the end of tragedies at Six Bells culminating in the awful disaster of June 1960 (click here).

As the Arael Griffin pit expanded, new houses were erected such as Arael, Griffin and Lancaster Streets, this time under the auspices of the Abertillery Urban District which had swallowed up the village. The Vivian Colliery had also opened just a few years earlier in 1891 with a massive influx of new workers, and by the early twentieth century, the newly-built Alexandra Road and Richmond Road eventually joined together Abertillery and Six Bells.

Once again Abertillery Online is very much indebted to its contributors from around the world. Most of the pictures below have been sent by Abertillery and Six Bells ex-pats and give a feel of the history and characters that shaped Six Bells.

Six Bells Cycling Club 1905

Back row: Left to right (standing).
G Radford, O Oldland, Jack Powell, Tom Powell, Jabe Davies, unknown, unknown, G Cook, Rideout, William Brown, Yendell, J Redwood
Middle. left to right:
Phil Lewis, Mark Blacker, H Edwards, A Redwood, J Triller, C Moore, F Dayton, Jim Challenger
Front, left to right.

unknown, Phil Powell, Watt Davies, Geo Boucher

This photograph is of the prize-winning club, taken by A & G Taylor of Newport.
William Brown, the third gentleman from the right in the back row,
opened the first newsagents in the Western valley in 1888 at what became the eponymous Brown's Corner (see bottom image and click here).The image was very kindly supplied by one of his grandchildren, Rob Brown

Six Bells circa 1920
This postcard image shows the Arael Griffin Colliery in full flow at the start of the twentieth century.
Behind the old village of Six Bells is clearly visible with new houses being built at Windsor Road up towards Cwm Nant-y-Groes (click here)

Six Bells School circa 1916-22
The image and details were very kindly supplied by Maggie Ganderton who now lives in Australia. Her mother and aunt (Daisy and Muriel Meredith) were pupils at the school around that time.

Six Bells school 1928
Muriel Meredith is second from the right (middle row) and on her right is Sian Galey's mother who went on to run the drapery shop in Bridge Street.
The image and details were very kindly supplied by Maggie Ganderton

Nurse Daisy Wilcox
Pictured here in Windsor Road around 1948, she continued to work as district nurse in Six Bells and Brynithel areas until her retirement in 1970s.(click here). Image and details very kindly supplied by Maggie Ganderton

Whitsun walks, 1961
Image and details very kindly supplied by Maggie Ganderton. She writes: 'There are one or two names I remember--Elizabeth Evans (our next door neighbour in the 1950s),Alison T Scotney and Denise Trim (I was at school with her) and we are just passing Mr & Mrs Tossell's shop! I wonder if anyone else recognises themselves or anyone in these photos!!'

Whitsun walks, 1961
Image and details very kindly supplied by Maggie Ganderton (see above)

Six Bells Colliery, late 1970s
A winter's image of the colliery with mist and smoke obscuring the view up the valley. Picture by Phil Mason (now in Australia)

A snowy Brown's Corner, 1981
The road to Brynithel looks blocked as winter grips the area. The Newsagents on the corner established by William Brown (see top image) is barricaded by snow though there seems to be a slight gap for the doorway to the Six Bells Hotel. Picture by Steve Mason

Old Shop and Post Office with Hafod Fan tramway, very early 1900s
This shows the view facing the other way back around Brown's Corner. The shop with people stood in its doorway was at one time the post office for Six Bells.

In the background, the disused tramway leading up the mountainside used to take waste, visible at the top, probably from the Hafod Fan pit. Two small quarries were also created either side of the tramway in the late 1800s. Picture supplied kindly by Graham Bennett


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