Abertillery Art Classes – An Early History

Abertillery Art Classes – An Early History

Abertillery Art Classes.
The British Schools.
In 1887 during the rebuilding of the British Schools boy’s section, Mr Thomas Bevan, headmaster and Mr William Roberts of Nantyglo initially established art lessons. These art lessons became part of the Science and Art Classes and in connection with these classes lectures were given by the county organiser Mr E. Small M.A. and Mrs Viram Jones of the Cardiff University and by other local educationalists. These classes paved the way for the localising of the Intermediate Schools.

Through the aid of the Science and Art Classes many students were able to gain county scholarships entitling them to free tuition at Cardiff University, several of them had qualified themselves for higher positions in life, one of the number having taken the degree of B.A. Mr Bevan had also inaugurated and superintended the Sewing Classes at the day schools.

The National Schools.
In 1891 art classes were proposed at the Abertillery National Schools, Church Schools, High Street, Abertillery. Miss Margaret L. Bray A.C.T. was approached to be the tutor and art teacher.

Miss M. L. Bray.
On Thursday 30th July 1891 Miss M. L. Bray opened her first art class at the National Schools, Abertillery. It was advertised Miss Bray would – Instruct advanced drawing, freehand and model drawing, geometry and perspective with lessons in painting and also shading in chalks. Fees were described as moderate as the art classes would be within the reach of all and special arrangements would be made with private pupils.

Miss Bray was born in 1848 at Kenwyn Truro, Cornwall, England. The daughter of Mr and Mrs Walter and Jane Bray. Mr Walter Bray was a tin smelter. Later Miss Margaret L. Bray became an art teacher, moved to Bedwellty, South Wales with her elder brother Walter and then later moved to Abertillery as art teacher at the National Schools, Abertillery.

The Mr T. B. Martindale.
By the end of the 1890’s Mr Thomas Bunyan Martindale was teaching art lessons at the Abertillery Board Schools.

The Railway Inn.
On Tuesday 26th October 1920 the Abertillery Photographic Society held a meeting at the Railway Inn, Abertillery. Mr W. L. Williams presided; Mr C. H. Davies (Chairman); Mr W. A. Bolingbroke (Secretary) and Mr G. T. Jones was (Treasurer): At the meeting Mr William Brace consented to become their president. It was proposed to set up art classes in conjunction with the Abertillery Photographic Society and to also have painting, sketching and modelling classes taught by Mr J. Dixon and Mr W. Lloyd Davies. Classes were to be held every Thursday at 7.30pm and there were 100 members to date.

The Bush Hotel.
In September 1921 the art class, part of the Abertillery Photographic Society at the Railway Inn, Abertillery moved into the Bush Hotel, Abertillery. The classes taught were – Drawing and painting with water colours, oils and pastels. Black and white drawing, life and modelling. Fees were 5s. per season. The tutors were Mr John Dixon A.B.W.S. of the Firs, Aberbeeg and Mr W. Lloyd Davies, of Messrs Tom Crossley’s, outfitters at Church Street, Abertillery.

Pooles Shop, Aberbeeg.
Throughout the late 1920’s the art movement at Abertillery seemed to come to a standstill, though in 1932 a renewed interest in art prompted the society to regroup at Pooles Shop, Aberbeeg.

The Six Bells Infants School.
In September 1933 the art society exhibited their art at an exhibition held at the Six Bells Infants school. An Art and Woodwork Exhibition was held at the Six Bells School. The exhibition was opened by Sir Percy Watkins and it featured over 200 exhibits, the work of local unemployed, children and more accomplished artists.

A few of the art exhibitors were as follows – Mr Fred Baker; Ken Holland; Ernest Stingemore; Mr W. E. Jenkins; Mr R. Bowen B.A.; Mr W. J. Thatcher; Mr W. Woodyate; Mr W. H. Gaudern; Mr Vincent Jones; Mr D. J. Jones; Mr J. E. Williams; Mr R. Jones; Mr A. J. Bindon; Mr H. Eadie; Mr John Dixon; Mr Harry Jones; Miss Sarah Evans; Miss Eileen Phillips; Mrs Chivers; Mrs Blissett; Mr M. A. Fowler; Mr Francis Carter; Mr F. J. Gunter; Mr Jack Lloyd; Miss E. M. Davies: Woodwork – Mr T. Trivett and Mr Jack Morgan:

It was at this exhibition that Mr John Dixon had the idea to reinvigorate the art movement at Abertillery and to reform art classes. Mr Dixon approached the Abertillery Mining Technical Institute and they gave him full support.

The Abertillery Mining and Techinical School.
In February 1934 Mr John Dixon of Aberbeeg (Art Master and Director of Art) with the help of Mr T. G. James (Director of Education for Monmouthshire) established art classes at the Abertillery Mining and Technical Institute at Spring Bank, Clyn Mawr, Abertillery.

On Monday 1st October 1934 the first art exhibition was held at the Abertillery Mining and Technical Institute, Abertillery. The exhibition exhibited art created by the students of the Technical School Art Classes.

Names of the exhibits and artists – Pencil Drawings of Heads, Mr R. Bowen, B.A.: Oil Landscape, Mr R. Bowen, B.A.; Mr H. E. Eadie and Mr J. Lowry: Water Colour Landscape, Mr W. A. Gooder and Mr J. E. Williams: Still Life Water Colour, Miss A. Rees: Portrait in Oils, Mr T. Bayton: Best exhibit by a lady was awarded to Miss M. Dixon:

In 1936 Mrs M. F. Stow of Newport, a member of the South Wales Society of Artists opened the art exhibition at the Abertillery Technical School in connection with the Abertillery Art Class. At this exhibition Mr W. E. Burgess of Aberbeeg suggested that a fund should be started with the object of establishing a permanent exhibition in the town.

The Death of Mr Robert Bowen B.A. Oxon.
On Wednesday 24th March 1937 Mr Robert Bowen B.A. Oxon. the son of Mr and Mrs Robert Bowen of 63 Woodland Terrace, Aberbeeg passed away at Sully Hospital, in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. Mr Bowen born in 1910 at Aberbeeg had received his education at Aberbeeg School and later Newbridge Secondary School where he gained the Central Welsh Board Higher Certificate with several distinctions.

In 1927 he won a Miners Welfare Scholarship (being one of the first in Monmouthshire to do so) with which he entered Balliol College Oxford. While at Oxford Mr Bowen took his B.A. degree with first class honours in English. After leaving college he began a career in the Monmouthshire Educational Department as English master at Nantyglo and Newbridge.

In 1934 Mr Bowen was appointed Monmouthshire County Librarian for schools under the Monmouthshire Education Committee and developed the Newport Library into the best in the county. He later joined the art classes at Abertillery being taught Mr John Dixon.

On Monday 13th December 1937 the Abertillery Art Class at the Abertillery Technical School held its fifth exhibition. It was opened by Mr M. R. Lewis the headmaster of the Intermediate County School, Abertillery. Some of the exhibits were – A scale model of the Golden Hind by Customs and Excise Officer Mr F. Lonsdale of Abertillery. Handmade Rugs by Police Constable F. Dries of Abertillery. Paintings included “A Miner at the Vivian Colliery” by Mr R. Jones. The class was instructed by Mr J. E. Williams.

Later art lessons became part of the national curriculum.

(Later information to be uploaded).

 

 

Notes of Interest – Mr John Dixon.
Mr John Dixon 1889-1962 the art tutor at Abertillery was the son of Mr John Dixon Snr born in 1856 at Darlington County Durham and Mary Ann Dixon nee Woodruff of Barton Yorkshire.

Mr John Dixon Snr.
In 1881 Mr John Dixon senior was born in 1856 at Darlington County Durahm and his wife Mary Ann Dixon nee Woodruff of Barton Yorkshire married in 1875 at Darlington and they later lived at 70 High Street, Norton, Durham. Their family consisted of Mr Thomas Robert Dixon, son born in 1876 at Darlington. Miss Sarah Ann Dixon, daughter born in 1879 at Darlington. Mr John Dixon senior worked in the local brewery.

1891 Mr John Dixon senior and his wife Mary Ann lived at 22 High Street, Norton, Durham. Mr Dixon was a brewer by trade. At this time the family consisted of – Mr Thomas Robert Dixon, son born in 1876 a pupil teacher. Miss Sarah Ann Dixon daughter born in 1879, a scholar. Miss Lily Dixon, daughter born in 1884 at Norton and Master John Dixon born in 1889 at Norton, Durham.

In 1901 the family lived at 14 Village Houses at Bishop Middleham, Sedgefield, Durham, England. Mr John Dixon senior was a brewer. They added to their children with Mr Kenneth Dixon, born in 1900 at Bishop Middleham.

In 1911 Mr John Dixon senior and family lived at 51 Crescent Road, Sheffield. Mr Dixon senior had become a manager of a local brewery. The family later moved to South Wales.

Mr John Dixon senior at Aberbeeg.
Mr John Dixon Snr first appeared in known reports in connection with Aberbeeg in early 1917 when he was listed as manager of the Webb’s Brewery at Aberbeeg and living at Brondeg, Aberbeeg.

Mr John Dixon senior was the former manager of Webb’s Aberbeeg Ltd, a chairman of the Valley’s Bottling Company Ltd, Ebbw Vale and Chairman of the Monmouthshire Brewers Association. He was also a founder of the Operative Brewers Guild. The family lived at the Firs, Brondeg and Manchester House, Aberbeeg.

On Friday 16th January 1920 Mr John Dixon and Mr W. E. Burgess attended the first annual dinner of the staff and employees of Webb’s Aberbeeg Ltd held at the Hanbury Hotel, Aberbeeg.

Mr John Dixon Jnr and Art Education.
Mr John Dixon junior left home at an early age and attended the Hereford Public School, the Hereford School of Art and later the Manchester School of Art.

John and Mabel Dixon.
In 1914 Mr John Dixon junior married Miss Mabel Hodgson at Scarborough, England. They later moved to Aberbeeg and John Dixon Jnr joined his father at the Webb’s Brewery and lived at Brondeg, Aberbeeg.

The 1925 Local Council Elections.
In March 1925 Mr John Dixon Jnr was elected onto the Abertillery Distric Council as a member for the Aberbeeg Ward. At this time his address was the Firs, Aberbeeg.

In April 1925 the Abertillery District Council met and formed various working committees, Mr John Dixon was in the Gas Works Committee, The Allotments Committee and the Sanitary and Cemetery Committee. Mr Dixon was also later voted onto the Education Committee.

On Thursday 29th October 1925 the Aberbeeg Cricket Club held their annual meeting at the Hanbury Hotel, Aberbeeg. At this meeting the following gentlemen attended – Mr W. J. Saunders (Chairman); Mr R. G. Williams (Secretary); Mr J. Jones (Treasurer); Patron Mr Kenneth Webb (Patron) and Mr John Dixon elected as their (President). The meeting paid tribute to the late Mr Jack Bowkett Jones of Aberbeeg, Mr Jones was said to have been the pioneer of cricket at Aberbeeg and played on the old Ivorites field with Mr George Boots of Newport. Aberbeeg was seen as the oldest cricket club in the Western Valley’s.

The Death of Mr John Dixon senior.
On 7th December 1926 Mr John Dixon senior passed away. Mr Dixon had been a member of the R.A.O.B. of the St Illtyd’s Lodge. Mr John Dixon Snr was born in 1856 at Darlington, Durham. At the time of his death it was reported he had been living at Warwill, Alma Street, Abertillery. He left in his will £977. 11s. 2d. equivalent to £58,385.00 in today’s money.

The 1928 Local Council Elections.
In March 1928 Mr John Dixon stated his intentions to run for council in Aberbeeg Ward at the forthcoming elections. He was proposed by Mr James Wheel and seconded by Mr William Williams. Mr Dixon was re-elected as Independent candidate for Aberbeeg with 730 votes. He was elected along with Mr Gomer Williams (Independent) and Mr Robert Downs (Labour) of Glendale, Aberbeeg, who had previously been a winding engine-man at the Aberbeeg North Colliery.

On 4th April 1928 Miss Lily Dixon, sister of Mr John Dixon died at her brother Mr Kenneth Dixon’s residence at Huddersfield, England. Miss Lily Dixon was aged just 44 years of age and had been a nurse at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport and hospitals at Hartlepool and Sheffield. The mourners were brothers – Mr T. R. Dixon of Bristol, Mr J. Dixon of Abertillery and Mr Kenneth Dixon of Huddersfield. Nephews were – Mr John Barry Dixon of Belfast and Mr Danny Dixon of Waterford.

In September 1928 Mr and Mrs J. Dixon opened the new Aberbeeg Tennis Courts. The ceremony was performed by Mr John Dixon, accompanied by his wife and Mr E. Watkins (Chairman), Mr Evans (Vice-Chairman) and Mr E. Peters (Hon Secretary). Mrs Dixon played the first ball in a doubles match between Mr and Mrs Dixon versus Mr E. Watkins and Miss L. Parry. Later tea was held at the Hanbury Hotel.

In 1929 Mr John Dixon was elected president of the Aberbeeg Tennis Club. Miss S. A. Dixon was one of the vice-presidents.

The 1931 Local Council Elections.
In March 1931 Mr John Dixon stated his intentions to run for council as an Independent in the Aberbeeg Ward in the forthcoming elections. He was proposed by Mr James Weale and Mr William Williams. Mr Dixon was described as being a technical brewer. Mr Dixon was re-elected as Independent candidate for Aberbeeg with 584 votes. He was elected along with Mr George James Lippitt (Labour) and Mr Albert T. E. Andrews (Labour).

In the late 1920’s early 1930’s Mr John Dixon was the chairman of the Aberbeeg Betterment Association, a group of local people set up to help the area of Aberbeeg. In January 1933 Mr John Dixon cut the sod on the new recreation ground at Graig Fawr. Work was started on a road to the new ground at a cost of £7,000 with 50 men employed to carry out the groundwork on a voluntary basis.

On Saturday 5th August 1933 Mr John Dixon officially opened the new skittle alley at the Central Hotel, Llanhilleth.

The Aberbeeg School of Art.
On Monday 25th September 1933 a meeting of those interested in art was held at the Six Bells School. It was at this meeting that the Abertillery and District Society of Arts were formed. Mr John James, the headmaster at the school was chairman. The following officers were appointed – Mr John Dixon (President): Mr John James; Mr Robert Jones and Mr J. E. Lloyd (Vice-Presidents): Mr Harry Jones (Secretary): Mr W. V. Jenkins (Treasurer): The Committee were – Mr Dan Bowen; Mr Harry Eadie; Mr Robert Bowen B.A.; Mrs Blissett; Miss Eileen Phillips and Miss N. H. Davies:

The Six Bells Infants School.
In September 1933 the art society exhibited their art at an exhibition held at the Six Bells Infants school. An Art and Woodwork Exhibition was held at the Six Bells School. The exhibition was opened by Sir Percy Watkins and it featured over 200 exhibits, the work of local unemployed, children and more accomplished artists.

A few of the art exhibitors were as follows – Mr Fred Baker; Ken Holland; Ernest Stingemore; Mr W. E. Jenkins; Mr R. Bowen B.A.; Mr W. J. Thatcher; Mr W. Woodyate; Mr W. H. Gaudern; Mr Vincent Jones; Mr D. J. Jones; Mr J. E. Williams; Mr R. Jones; Mr A. J. Bindon; Mr H. Eadie; Mr John Dixon; Mr Harry Jones; Miss Sarah Evans; Miss Eileen Phillips; Mrs Chivers; Mrs Blissett; Mr M. A. Fowler; Mr Francis Carter; Mr F. J. Gunter; Mr Jack Lloyd; Miss E. M. Davies: Woodwork – Mr T. Trivett and Mr Jack Morgan:

It was at this exhibition that Mr John Dixon the director of the Aberbeeg School of Art had the idea to reinvigorate the art movement at Abertillery and to reform art classes. Mr Dixon approached the Abertillery Mining Technical Institute and they gave him full support.

During the early 1930s Mr John Dixon was giving lectures on art and the art movement in various classes throughout Abertillery.

The 1934 Local Council Elections.
In March 1934 Mr John Dixon stated his intentions to again run for council as an Independent in the Aberbeeg Ward in the forthcoming elections. Mr Dixon was re-elected as Independent candidate for Aberbeeg with 617 votes. Mr Dixon was elected along with Mr Ivor Morgan (Labour) and Mr F. J. Dayton (Peoples Candidate).

On Wednesday 30th October 1935 an art exhibition was held at the Cwm Hotel, Alexandra Road, Abertillery. Mr John James the headmaster of the Six Bells Mixed School performed the opening ceremony supported by – Mr John Dixon; Mr William Edward Burgess; (Aberbeeg); Mr Harry Jones (Secretary) and Mr Ernest Lloyd (Assistant Secretary):

There were 130 art exhibits many of the artists were unemployed. Some of the artists names were – Mr Robert Jones, Mr W. V. Jenkins, Mr Dan Bowen, Mr W. Gooder, Mr W. Thatcher, Mr H. F. Eadie, Mr W. Lovesy, Mr J. E. Lloyd, Mr Ernest Lloyd, Mr Albert Lloyd, Mr Harold Lloyd (brothers) and Mr D. J. Jones. The exhibition continued at the Cwm Hotel until the 9th November 1935.

The Retirement from the Abertillery District Council.
In March 1937 in the run-up to the local council elections, Mr John Dixon announced he was to retire as a councillor.

St Michaels Church Paintings.
On Christmas Eve 1938 at St Michaels Church, prior to Midnight Mass, an oil painting “The Adoration of Shepherds” the work of Mr John Dixon of Aberbeeg was unveiled by Mr John Dixon and dedicated by the vicar Rev J. E. Williams M.A.

Mr William Lloyd Davies.
Mr William Lloyd Davies 1873-1938. one of the originators of the reformed art movement at Abertillery in the 1920’s worked at the Co-operative Stores at Cwmtillery and at Messrs Tom Crossley’s Gents Outfitters at Church Street, Abertillery. Mr Davies exhibited his art at the Welsh National Eisteddfods. He later moved to Glyn Terrace, Borth-y-Gest, Portmadoc,Gwynedd, North Wales. Mr W. Lloyd Davies passed away in November 1938.

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