History and Heritage

Hunts Stores, Ystalyfera

As I spend most of my spare time in the local cemeteries in order to produce a data base of where the graves are situated, I suppose it was inevitable that my first curiosity of a person's past was triggered by the inscriptions on the headstones. Certainly the descendants of the earlier ones made every effort to record the deceased's details: including addresses and occupations.
However in the years I have been photographing and recording, these words have become less and less visible, and many headstones themselves have given up the fight and now lay broken and buried under layers of debris.
The Hunt memorial I am pleased to say still stands tall and proud in Holy Trinity and it is this family that I have mentioned many times in my articles, not only connected to their son's role in the war but in being able to provide research for the Association of Singer car owners, whose President contacted me back in 2013. He was looking into the Motor Rally Team of Ystalyfera of which one of the leaders of the team was Clifford Fairfax Hunt of Hunt's Store. I believe the data I provided has now been put into print so the third area of documentation concerns Hunts Store itself.

HOLY TRINITY Plot 3A Row 05 G 43 Hunt

A native of Newport, Mr John Hunt, came to Ystalyfera around 1890. He was already married to Elizabeth and they had had a daughter who had been born in Monmouthshire. Shortly after coming to Ystalyfera John changed his profession from that of boot maker to grocer, as he set up business in 1893 at the Vine, in the premises which became known as Hunt Stores on Cyfyng Road. Of a quiet and unassuming nature he was held in high esteem by everyone who knew him and his family attended the English Congregational Church where he became a senior deacon.
Sadly in 1902 their first son, Reginald John Hunt died at the age of 12 and his epitaph reads "I love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best".
Reginald now lies with his parents, his father who died in 1930 and his mother who died in 1937.

As far as I can ascertain John and Elizabeth [Lizzie] had 7 children in total, 5 daughters and two sons and after losing one son it must have been a very difficult time when their other son enlisted for active service. Clifford Fairfax Hunt was born in 1895 and became a blacksmith but in 1915 he had sent an 'entertaining letter' to his parents from France where, now as Corporal Clifford Hunt, he was acting as a motor cyclist despatch rider in the Motor Cyclist Corps. Apparently he had been engaged for several weeks as a rider but he also was supervising transport convoys. All seems to be well and in 1916 photographs sent by Clifford arrived at Hunts Store but then around September 1916 his parents learnt from a letter sent by one of his friends that he had been involved in an accident during a night raid and had been taken to hospital.
Luckily the next letter arrived from Clifford himself telling his parents that although he had received injuries to his legs and face, they were healing and he expected to re join his pals very shortly.
Before that however, after 18 months in France, Clifford came home to his parents on 10 days convalescent leave and apart from a few slight scars on his nose and face, was as cheerful as ever and full of sunny reminiscences of Tommy as he really is.
To quote from one of his best stories:
"We had considerable difficulty in getting one of our transports to start one day and one of our boys, who is bald headed, had been doing some strenuous turning with a view to getting the engine to start. After a while, Bill's efforts were rewarded and he removed his cap to mop his steaming bald pate. A friend of his seeing the bald head steaming shouted out, "Put the lid back on Bill, the tayters be dun."

As the local newspaper, the Llais was instrumental in keeping news of the valley boys foremost in every readers mind and two articles where published: The first:-
3rd February 1917 edition they published a very proud moment:

Lance Corporal Clifford F Hunt has written to his parents at Ystalyfera this week and by the contents of his letter, he is the first Ystalyfera boy who has been in a Tank. He is not allowed for obvious reasons to give any details regarding his novel experience.

And in the second:-
31st March 1917

Corporal Hunt said that he had the pleasure of meeting many of his old friends recently of the South Wales Borderers and they all had a jolly time together. The following were some of the lads he met: Corporal Henry Bowen Gough Road; Dick Richards Godre'rgraig; George Walker Ystradgynlais and Ted Morgan (Swan); together with many more that he knew by sight. The lads in question that he met were allowed some time before going up the lines and as they spoke in Welsh some French people nearby had suspicions as to whether they were Germans, as they had a smattering of English, and knew that our local lads were not speaking in the tongue of Anglia.

Indeed, the fact that Clifford could speak/understand French earned him a promotion and after two hard years of service in France he was then engaged in buying produce from French farmers for the Government.

Meanwhile back at home his sister Olwen Evelyn in 1917 had married Second Lieutenant John Afan Jones B.A. who was himself in the Welsh Regiment. Afan was going up the line after completing a course of musketry and in France in 1918 Clifford and Afan met up for the first time since the marriage.
Finally in 1919 Clifford came home on demobilisation leave after serving over 4 years as a despatch rider.
It was around 1920 that the Tawe Districts Motor Club was formed and Clifford was one of the original founders. I knew he was a distinguished rally and motor racing enthusiast, who had won the Welsh rally three years in succession, but by reading his obituary, I discovered that as well as being a keen sportsman, and serving for some years as a Special Constable, he was also a keen pilot.

Ystalyfera Motor Rally Team 1935
Clifford Hunt, his wife, and Dom Impani

Married to Dorothy E Rees in 1923, he had learnt to fly in 1932 and had been issued with a licence on completion of his training. As a despatch rider in WWI, he now volunteered for Ferry Command in 1939. Rejected as being too old he was advised to serve with Glider Command, and this he did firstly by serving at Merthyr and later in command at Pembrokeshire, Stormy Down and finally St Athan. Eventually he commanded all gliding for A T C Cadets for South Wales retiring only through ill health with the honorary rank of Squadron Leader.

His father had been running the Hunt Store since 1893 but in 1920 was taken ill at Ilfracombe and had to undergo an operation at a private hospital at Swansea in September. The operation was successful but it may have been around that time that he and his wife moved to Norton House Ystalyfera and gave serious thought to his retiring from running the business he had so successfully built up over the last 30 years. In fact he officially retired in 1923 and transferred the grocery and drapers shop to his son Clifford. The retired tradesman's health caused him problems again in 1929 and unfortunately on 21st February 1930 he died at the age of 68.

Over the next 10 years Clifford devoted the store entirely to the grocery trade. By keeping abreast of all the latest ideas in the trade, he gradually was able to increase the one assistant his father employed to a staff of ten. He was interviewed on the 40th anniversary of Hunt's Store and he said it had always been his policy to share the benefits of his trading with his customers. He attributed his success to his practice of buying carefully and in bulk and in passing on to the customer the advantage which came from cash buying.
He entered an advert into the newspaper to celebrate the 40th anniversary and even redecorated the premises and installed electric lights. For that week the building would also be flood lit while fairy lights were strung along the front of the building together with an artistic arrangement of shrubs.

Advert on the 40th Anniversary of Hunts Stores, 1933

I am not sure when Clifford retired or when the Hunt's Store stopped trading.
He was a vice president of the British Legion Club, and president of the Ystalyfera Rugby Club but when he died in January 1961, his obituary gave no clue as to what became of the business.

Although I cannot connect a relationship with the Hunts of Ystalyfera to the Hunts of Ystradgynlais apart from the fact that a Mr and Mrs H Hunt of Ystradgynlais attended the funeral of John Hunt in 1930, this H Hunt may be William Holman Hunt of Glendale Bakery. Holman married Rita [Veronica] Kingston in 1931 and the family were living at Glendale Ynyscedwyn Road Ystradgynlais in 1939. Holman was also a highly respected pastor of the English Baptist Church in Ystradgynlais for 35 years.
I have tried on numerous occasions to obtain permission, even via the printers, to use the photographs in T J Davies's Book The Faces and Places of the Parish of Ystradgynlais, but unfortunately, no one has been able to contact the person who could grant my request therefore I sincerely hope that no one is caused a problem by my using two of the photos to depict Holman Hunts trade in this article.

Holman Hunt

The first one: Holman Hunt standing by the side of the horse and vehicle used to deliver the bread, cakes and confectionary that were sold from his father's bakery. The bakery in Cambrian Terrace Brecon Road was founded in 1920, when Holman would have been around 14 years old but when this photograph was taken, the side of the cart shows it is W Hunt and Son. After the father died in 1938 and as a master baker, Holman probably continued the business at the original premises, until eventually he set up the Glendale Bakery on Ynyscedwyn Road.

Fleet of bakery vans

The couple I believe did have children and the son Dennis A Hunt may have joined the business, but I do not know and I cannot find a grave in St Cynog's Church yard, although it is possible that the family moved away as two deaths are registered in Swansea - William Holman Hunt 1979 and Rita Hunt in 1998.

The History and Heritage of Ystalyfera is put online by Swansea Valley researcher Val Trevallion and Wolfian Design. All copyright remains with the original copyright holder, and all original research is copyright Val Trevallion, YEARGroup.

You can contact Ystalyfera History by emailing: contact@ystradgynlais-history.co.uk or Val Trevallion by emailing yeargroup@hotmail.co.uk.

Hunts Stores, Cyfyng Road, Ystalyfera

The site of Hunts Stores, 2005

A 1935 Advert for Hunts Stores

Penybont Sports Bar and Lounge

Complete Cleaning company, Ystradgynlais