The Carpenter’s Shop
My husband and I bought The Carpenter’s Shop in 1978. It consisted of two adjoining cottages, one of which was quaintly habitable although basic (one cold tap and one electric socket) and a workshop attached to the front of the house. The only ‘convenience’ was an earth closet in the back garden.
The three bedrooms were all walk-through ones. The second and earliest cottage was almost derelict and had obviously not been lived in for many years, it looked as though it had been used for storage and extra workspace. There was an ancient saw-pit at the front of the cottage with a corrugated shed over it and a wheelwright’s iron disc for assembling cartwheels. The cottage had been empty for about 5 years.
There had been two families of carpenters living there at one time, the Proberts and the Evans, Mr. Probert being Percy’s uncle and would have taught Percy his trade. Skilled wheelwrights would have been highly sought after in the days of horse and cart and would have worked in conjunction with the village blacksmith who had a smithy down in the village.
Mr. Percy Evans had been the last village carpenter and had passed away but well remembered by many villagers, his family of his widow and three adult children had then moved into town. He had been a regular at the Red Hart pub in the village and enjoyed a flutter on the horses. He never owned a car but used a bicycle to get around and we found some old bike inner tubes in the workshop which consisted more of repair patches than rubber tube.
Percy was the local undertaker and coffin maker and apparently could look you up and down and precisely measure you up for a coffin which must have been disconcerting. He would lay out his clients in the front workshop ready for the funeral. Most of his woodworking tools had been donated to the village museum which when closed down, then went to the Usk Rural Life Museum where we went to look at them.
Dick Townshend, the youngest son of the last vicar of Llanvapley, was in his 80s and lived at the Old Rectory in the 1980s and spoke very fondly of Percy and still had a few items which he had made for the Townshend family, I remember a beautiful wooden coal scuttle and a wooden wheelbarrow which Dick still used and which weighed a ton even with nothing in it. Percy was quite close to the Townshend family and requested that he be buried near to them and so he was. I enclose a copy of an Express article about the Auxiliary Unit based in the next village which mentions Percy by name, each man being carefully chosen for their particular skills and by necessity would have been a pretty tough guy in their day.
The following report was written by Bethan Evans who is the great-granddaughter of John Percival Evans
My great-grandfather was John Percival Evans who married a lady by the name of Winnie Morgan and they lived in The Carpenters Shop in Llanvapley.
They had three children – my grandfathe,r whose name is John Harold Glyn Evans but went by the name Glyn, and my two great Aunts, Verina and Connie. I know that my great-grandfather went by the name of Percy and he made coffins in Llanvapley.
My dad told me a story once where he remembered being a small child and walking in the workshop where there was coffins lined up he turned and ran as you could imagine that must of been quite a scary experience for a child. Sadly my grandfather (Glyn) passed away 10 years ago but he never really talked about his childhood, I know he fought in WWII and obviously witnessed the most terrible things which left him having flash backs, nightmares etc or what we know it as today PTSD. So my Bamp (grandmother) never opened up much.