The history of house is not documented but we have a map of the town of Abergavenny dated 1750 which shows our house as two neighbouring houses. These two houses form the back part of our house while the front section appears to have been built on some time around 1800. Of the two original back parts of the house it can be seen by looking at the construction of the walls and the roof timbers1 that one half considerably predates the other. The original building dating back possibly as for as the 1600s was a simple farmers cottage outside the main town. By the mid-1800s the much larger dwelling2 was the town house of a fairly wealthy businessman and the town of Abergavenny had now grown around it.
Because the house was built over a long period of time there are a number of strange idiosyncrasies3. Some of the walls are built of stone and are almost 1 metre thick, others are just one brick-10cm thick. Some of the rooms have high ceilings as was fashionable in the 1800s, in other rooms the ceilings are so low that anyone over 6ft (180cm) tall would have to stoop4. In one room we have a window in the wall which may have once looked out to the garden, now it merely looks into another room. Upstairs, on the middle floor of the 3 storey house, not only do the rooms have different height ceilings but they have different level floors so one room is down two steps, one room is up one step, one room is up three steps and the bathroom is one more step up after that.
Over the years the house has seen many changes, in the middle of the 20th century it was being run as5 a school house. At one time it was a guest house where it may have housed several different families. By the end of the 20th Century the house was in quite a bad state of repair. The roof leaked6 in several places, the damp7 had damaged the walls. There was much damage from woodworm and other insects in the timbers and floorboards. In two rooms wooden railway sleepers8 have been used to prop the ceiling up where the beam9 have sagged10.
There was much work to be done by the time we moved here in 1999.
The first jobs we took on were rewiring the electricity supply11, repairing the heating system and fixing the roof. This ensured we would be warm, safe and dry. Ever since then we have been redecorating the rooms one at a time. The worst room where we had to rebuild part of the wall and ceiling has taken us over 12 months to complete and even now it is only half painted. I do most of the painting at night as the children will want to “help” if I try to paint while they are awake. In fact that is what I ought12 to be doing right now!
The poem was written as part of a competition for all the secondary school children in Wales, the winners being published in a book called the “Write Stuff”.
My house is in Abergavenny
Which Welsh people call Y Fenni.
Welsh is a funny language
I don’t know how I’ll manage it
‘Bore da’ and ‘sut wyt ti’;
I moved here to Abergavenny
Which Welsh people call Y Fenni
Three years ago from London.
At first, I didn’t like it
‘Till one day, Dad said,
“Follow me!” and led
Me up the tall, tall Skirrid.
We got to the top and looked down
I couldn’t see a single town,
Just patchwork quilt, the biggest I’ve ever seen
It was all green,
It rolled on and on and on and on for ever.
My house is in Abergavenny
Welsh people say Y Fenni
Now I love it here.
Sadly we are moving to London next year.
One day I’ll come back to Abergavenny,
Which Welsh people call Y Fenni,
And the hills roll on and on and on and on for ever.