Dock Cottage and Cwmbrân House, Five Locks, Pontrhydyrun (Pontnewydd)


The house across the canal is Dock Cottage (shown in the photo from c.1965). The name indicates there was once a wharf for local industry where the canal is widened. In the decades after the canal opened in the 1790s, primitive railways were laid down to bring bulk goods to wharves along the canal from local collieries, quarries and brickworks.

Photo of Dock Cottage c.1965The widened part of the canal here enabled boats to await passage down the flight of five locks. Beside the towpath you can see one of the canal company’s cast-iron mileposts, showing the distance from the Potter Street lock in Newport.

In 1881 Dock Cottage was home to blacksmith James Rossiter and his wife Ann. Their daughter Sarah, 18, was a tinplate worker and son Henry, 14, a blacksmith. They also had two younger daughters. In 1891 the occupants were William and Matilda Johns and their children and niece. He was a “hammerman” or “smith”.

Surgeon John Sims Cousins once lived in Cwmbrân House, east of the towpath here. He was a local doctor for 44 years and surgeon to local factories, where accidents were common. He was the area’s public health officer in the 1870s, Pontypool workhouse’s medical officer and a director of the Panteg & Llanfrechfa Permanent Building Society.

In 1876 several parents were charged with refusing to let Dr Cousins vaccinate their children against smallpox, which had broken out in the area. One of the parents, William Evans, was represented in court by his wife, who was apparently responsible for their child’s welfare. She said her home in Glascoed was a long way from Cwmbrân House – the distance by road is c.7.6km (c.4.8 miles). She was ordered to pay legal costs of two shillings and take the child to Dr Cousins the following Monday.

The doctor was also a skilled violinist and cellist. He had his own band and held concerts at the “music hall” in Cwmbrân House. He mentored young musicians, some of whom became professional players. He also chaired the local government board, which held meetings in the music hall.

Sources include the National Library of Wales

Postcode: NP44 1AP    View Location Map

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