TODAY the small hamlet of six houses at the bottom of Penygarn Hill is known as Churchwood but has previously been known as Herbert’s Wood and as Lower Churchwood, with the Church Woods themselves extending as far as Penygarn Heights and St Cadoc’s Church.

The largest house in Churchwood is Wood House and was built in the late 1790s for the Pemberton family who came to Pontypool to work in the Japanware industry.

In the 1830s the house then became the home of the Brough family. Barnabas Brough was a man of some standing in Pontypool being a business man and brewery owner, Board of Guardians committee member and also High Constable of the Trevethin Police Force.

However, Barnabas Brough is barely remembered for these worthy positions in the town but is remembered for a random and bizarre encounter that changed his life.

Barnabus Brough was returning home to Pontypool from a business meeting in Cardiff in 1840 when at Croesyceiliog he and his travelling companion, Thomas Watkins, had to leave their lame horses at the Lower Cock Inn and travel the rest of the way back to Pontypool on foot.

The two weary travellers then literally bumped into the Eastern Valley contingent of Chartists en route to the Westgate Hotel in Newport, who were led by William Jones, the Pontypool watchmaker. The Chartists then insisted that the two men accompany them (as prisoners) to Newport “on pain of death”.

At Malpas, the Chartists from Abersychan and Pontypool joined with others from Nantyglo and Blackwood before the whole contingent marched to the Welsh Oak to meet up with John Frost.

The two travelling companions were known to John Frost and he had the Chartists release them and allow them safe passage back to Pontypool.

Although freed and arriving home safely, Barnabus Brough and Thomas Watkins were later summoned to be witnesses at the trials of Frost, Jones and Williams in Monmouth. Their involvement in these proceedings ruined both men and almost bankrupted Mr Brough.

There are several accounts of this story in the Free Press, The Monmouthshire Merlin and a later book by Mrs Brough, ‘Hidden Fire’

The photograph here shows a group of children in their ‘Sunday best’ probably taken on their way home from Church at St Cadocs, by the path (now cycle track) that leads past and behind Wood House over the small stream coming down from Penygarn ‘College’ area and on to Pontnewynydd.

Nostalgia is provided by Torfaen Museum.