Friday, 31 July 2015

Dinner, Driving and Discovery

After our visit to Dinas Powys, we braved the roads and returned to Cardiff  - mind you, not by the route that we had intended to take. We never seemed to take the same road twice - driving on the opposite side of the road completely turned around my sense of direction and orientation. After a few missed turns and exits, we made a hasty retreat to our hotel to change and to meet another set of my cousins and their mother for dinner in Cardiff Bay.

Luckily, we chose to walk - so my map skills were back on track.  It was a lovely, warm and sunny evening, perfect for a walk and another adventure. When we reached the forecourt of the Millenium Centre, we stood for a moment scanning the crowd milling about.
Wales Millenium Centre - Cardiff Bay
Much to my delight, I saw my cousin waving to us. We had been found! After hugs and introductions, we walked over to a  wonderful Italian restaurant  and ate dinner on a balcony overlooking Cardiff Bay. We talked like old friends and it really felt like being 'at home' again. The meal, like the company and conversation, was perfect. To this day, my husband still talks about the spaghetti carbonara that he had that night. After a drink at a nearby pub, we said our good-byes and headed back to the hotel.

Originally, we had planned on driving to South Molton and Filleigh to visit the home of my Ball ancestors in Devon as a day trip. I soon realized that there was so much to see in Wales and decided to go to the Gower for the day to explore the area where my great-grandfather had been born.  The day started out rainy and wet, but after a stop in Mumbles, the sky started to clear. I loved the windy narrow roads, but always jumped when we rounded a corner and passed vehicles going in the opposite direction. We landed at Rhossili just after lunch as the sun was coming out.

The area was, in a word, breathtaking. The view of the bay and Worm's Head was spectacular. It truly is an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".
Worm's Head, Rhossili
We walked along the promontory taking it all in - we even got to some sheep grazing on the cliffs and hills in the park.

On the way home, we stopped in Scurlage, the birthplace of Thomas, my great-grandfather (1875-1941) and I had a quick walk around, trying to imagine what life would have been like in the late 19th century Gower.
We also passed the road to Reynoldston, the home of William James Ball (1858-1922), the eldest son of William Huxtable (1837-1927), whose life had a tragic end in the Brigend Asylum.  Every bend in the road told a story and the place names seemed all very familiar.

As we neared Swansea, we managed to get lost in rush-hour traffic, but eventually made it back to Penarth. We dropped by the home of my cousin (with whom we had dinner the night before) and he gave us a fascinating tour of the town where our family lived. The clouds had rolled in again, lending a perfect sombre backdrop to St. Augustine's Church where my 2x great-grandparents, William and Charlotte Ball are buried.

St. Augustine's Church, Penarth

We walked along the beautiful Penarth pier (which was still under renovation) and saw many more sight where family lived, worked and played. Knowing my fascination with the BBC series, Gavin & Stacey, my cousin happily pointed out several exteriors and landmarks which appeared in the show, including a church hall in which his mother's aunt had been married. Our evening ended with a quick visit with my cousin and his family and yet another unknown route back to Cardiff.
Penarth Pier

All in all, another perfect day.

Cheers, K.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Meeting Family and History - Continued

Well, that was a long break! Yes, a year away from this blog - far too long. I've missed doing my own family history research and feel the need to get back to doing something that I've loved doing... So I'll dispense with the excuses and jump back into finishing my Wales holiday story.

To pick up where I left off....

The next day we drove back out to Penarth to explore. I was particularly interested in seeing Plassey Street, where 2x great-grandfather, William Huxtable Ball, lived with his family.  The skies were clear and the sun shone overhead - an auspicious start to a new adventure. We managed to make it to the town centre, after a detour to see the marina, and headed to a pub for a bite to eat.  On our drive up, I recognized several streets that I had researched and caught a glimpse of the end of Plassey Street.

After lunch, we left the pub, rounded the corner and arrived - Plassey Street!
Plassey Street, Penarth
I recognized the former Plassey Street Tabernacle  and passed by #96, where my great-grandfather's brother, Henry had lived with his family. As we headed down the hill towards #140, I could not help but think that I was walking the road where Thomas and his  family had walked before - how life had changed for Thomas from this quiet, quaint street to the bustle of Leeds, to a transatlantic sail to Montreal and cross-country train ride to Vancouver, where he and Annie raised their family in the shadow of the mountains, the smell of cedars and the fresh sea air. When we reached #140, I couldn't resist crossing the street to take a photo (it's the house with the open door).  It was special to be there and to take it all in.
Home of Wm Huxtable Ball 1837-1927 - 140 Plassey St.

We had made arrangements to visit a relative in Dinas Powys later that afternoon so we headed along Stanwell Road to the Penarth Library.
Penarth Library
William Spickett Ball (aka Billy Ball) had been the library caretaker for about 25 years and lived in the cottage behind the library. I also wanted to thank Marcus Payne, the Branch Librarian, for all his assistance with my research.  I left my husband and daughter to explore the shops while I stopped at the library. Marcus was a most gracious host, giving me a tour of the library, including the cottage which has been incorporated into the main building. We ended our tour in the former back garden. It as a lovely treat to meet Marcus and I shall be forever grateful for his assistance in solving the mystery that was Billy.

St. Andrew's Church, St. Andrews Major
After a few missed turns, we arrived in Dinas Powys mid-afternoon and met with my second cousin, once removed (his great-grandfather was my 2x great-grandfather). He suggested a quick drive out to Ty Gwyn, John Ball's farm in St. Andrews Major, just a couple of kilometers from his home.  As we came up to the the parish church, we stopped at the graveyard where John and Ruth Ball and children, Gwen and Nelson were buried. The beautiful Norman church in its bucolic setting seemed perfect - a lovely, quiet and peaceful place.

Ty Gwyn Farm, St. Andrews Major
 We walked around the perimeter of John's farm to get a sense of his holdings and stopped by Ty Gwyn, the old farmhouse where John and his family lived.  Our afternoon ended at my cousin's house for a cup of tea - which was the perfect ending to a lovely day retracing my family roots in Penarth.

As we drove back into Cardiff, I could hardly believe all the connections, sites and people that we had encountered.  Our evening was yet to hold more treasured moments. More on that soon...

Cheers, Karen