Castle Recreation Grounds, Crickhowell

PWMP logoCastle Recreation Grounds, Crickhowell

crickhowell_christopher_jamesThe large open space around the ruins of Crickhowell’s medieval castle was bought and gifted to the community in memory of Christopher Bowring James (pictured right), who died in the First World War.

Before the war, the parish council had leased the castle and surrounding field from the Duke of Beaufort and opened the area for the public to use for leisure. Much of the Duke’s property was sold in 1915 and future public access to the castle grounds was uncertain. In July 1918, Gwilym Cristor James bought the grounds for £350 so that he could donate them to the town in memory of his son Christopher.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, “Christie” was a fine oarsman and became a partner in his dad’s legal practice in Merthyr Tydfil. He served as a Lieutenant in the South Wales Borderers and was wounded on 20 November 1917 in the Battle of Cambrai (which involved the first ever use of massed tanks in warfare). He died two days later, aged 35.

Gwilym’s father Charles was MP for Merthyr Boroughs in the 1880s. Gwilym was a solicitor in Merthyr for almost 50 years before he retired to Llanwysg, near Llangattock, in 1912. He held many civic positions, including High Sheriff of Monmouthshire.

After conscription (compulsory service in the armed forces) began in January 1916, Gwilym became the military representative on the district tribunals in Crickhowell and Brynmawr which adjudicated on appeals – where individuals, relatives or employers presented arguments for specific men to be exempted from going to war.

Gwilym’s fellow tribunal members represented other interests, including agriculture. He was often outvoted in Crickhowell and complained of excessive leniency. When he expressed similar frustration as a visitor to the Ystradgynlais tribunal, he was told off and promptly left the building in disgust!

With thanks to Crickhowell District Archive Centre

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To continue the Crickhowell in WW1 tour, take the footpath northwards to the main road, turn left, then left again at High Street. The Corn Exchange is at the corner
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