This month we’re previewing a fantastic new exhibition that’s about to open here at y Gaer.

“Unlocking the store, unlocking the story” displays a variety of local objects from the y Gaer Museum collection storeroom which tell many stories about bygone Breconshire.

From silver boots to gold coins, from Peeping Tom to a policeman’s medal, there’s an astonishing range of clues about our past. “And we’re asking for help from Brecon and Radnor Express readers and visitors to y Gaer in adding to these stories,” said Collections Assistant Jacquie Morgan.

y Gaer exhibition
Brecon and Radnor Express readers are asked to contribute stories to help us understand Breconshire's past (y Gaer)

“An object in the exhibition that many readers will have encountered, albeit unknowingly, is the set of Avery baby weighing scales that was used in Brecon War Memorial Hospital for much of the 20th century,” said Jacquie. “Maybe you were weighed on these scales!”

“One exhibit was a well-known Brecon landmark for several centuries,” said Gracie Price, Assistant Curator, Art. “It’s a wooden bracket in the shape of a man, known as ‘Peeping Tom’, which was originally on a 15th-century timber-framed house at the top of Ship Street. Generations of locals knew it as a meeting point. Seasonal workers looking for jobs at the hiring fairs that continued into the 20th century would gather underneath it. There is also a watercolour from c.1850 of the view down Ship Street, showing Peeping Tom in its original position.”

Grow Your Own has been a longstanding theme. The 40 plots on the Watton Allotments are still popular. A sign in the exhibition refers to the Allotments Act of 1922. It warns that anyone damaging the Watton Allotments, crops, fences, or buildings would be liable to a fine of £5. “The field near the Gas Works was acquired for allotments in April 1918,’ said Jacquie. “The field was 2 acres, 3 roods, 14 perches in size. In 1918 the Brecon County Times reported that Mr H.J.Roberts dug up a Queen Elizabeth I shilling dated 1573 there.”

Coins and medals will be on display. Three gold coins, called nobles, from the 14th century, and recently discovered near Llanwrtyd Wells, are a highlight. The policeman’s medal on show was awarded to local man Victor Powney (1909-2000), whose dedicated service to Brecknockshire for 45 years as police officer, court usher, and Road Safety Officer was featured in one of our articles last year. A Corries football shirt will bring back memories for many previous players. The pair of 1970s silver leather knee-length platform boots and the bottles (one still full) from Brecon Brewery might bring back different memories!

Pugh’s shoe shop is remembered in the exhibition via the 1920s shoes from his premises in 17 Ship Street. John Pugh was Brecon’s oldest tradesman, aged 86, when he died in April 1929. He was a bootmaker who advertised between the 1890s and 1920s that he provided “All classes of boots and leggings for Sportsmen and Agriculturalists”. The shop continued after his death and will be remembered by some readers.

Some images in the exhibition are from the invaluable Jack Clark photograph collection. From his studio at 13 High Street, Clark documented Brecon history in the first half of the 20th century and is frequently featured in our articles. One photo shows the railway in Brecon and is complemented by railwayana donated by local enthusiasts. Other photographss are portraits which are displayed together on one wall, to illustrate how portrait styles have changed over the years. “We know the names of some, but not all of the people in the photos, so we’d be delighted if any visitors can add to the names,” said Gracie.

“We also have curious natural history items on display, including whale earbones. You can see these and the many other items in the exhibition in the Sir John Lloyd Gallery from mid-December onwards. Entry is free, as it is to all displays at y Gaer,” concluded Jacquie.

If you have any information to help us add to our knowledge, Jacquie would be delighted to hear from you.

Contact us on 01874 624121 or at [email protected] (FAO Jacquie Morgan).