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Whitehall & Rhydspence



Whitehall was an early 19C "village hall" which catered for the scattered communities in the area.  The local hop, and probably more serious gatherings, took place there.  It is deep inside Kilvert Country.


(From 1870-9, the Reverend Francis Kilvert kept a diary about life in his poor Welsh parish of Clyro, across the river from Hay-on-Wye.  He vividly conveys the love he had for his calling, for his fellow man, the countryside of the Welsh border – and female beauty... Nothing dull about Kilvert.)


In 2014 we walked the narrow road from Painscastle (a drovers' stopping-place) to Rhydspence, the famous shoeing station across the border where oxen were shod before they met the metalled roads of England.  We were looking for ‘Whitehall’, derelict even in Kilvert’s time:

[Entry for 3rd May 1870]

Poor Whitehall, sad, silent & lonely, with its…..cold chimney still ivy-clustered…I pushed open a door, which swung slowly & wearily together again…

Here were held the quarterly dances.  What fun.  What merry-makings, the young people coming in couples & parties…to dance in the long room….while the elders sat round the room with pipe and mug of beer or cider from the “Black Ox” of Coldbrook nearby....

…I went up the lane to Pant-y-ci speculating upon the probable site of the Black Ox, which was the house of call for the drovers of the great herds of black cattle from Shire Carmarthen & Cardigan on their way down to England…

Rev Francis Kilvert, 1840-79


So!  The remains of Whitehall were still visible, we knew, but those of the Black Ox had long gone 150 years ago.  How could the inn vanish so quickly?  Radnorshire is a magical county but cannot be described as being in the forefront of "progress". 

We came to an inviting green lane going off the road to our right (SO 215467, #1), and there we encountered Sally.  She wore a backpack stuffed with garden tools and gripped a fistful of tiny hedge saplings – good to know there are some who tend the countryside as lovingly as their gardens.   Introducing us to the ruin of Whitehall (#2), Sally explained that the walls of the long room had collapsed, so her partner Ron had capped them (#3).  What loving care!  


And what about Kilvert’s mention of the ‘Black Ox’ at Coldbrook?  No one knows for certain where it was, but the local name for the adjoining field (to the north east) is Coldbrook Field, according to Sally and Ron1.  It contains a pond and a wiggling stream that joins Cabalfa Brook on its way to the Wye (#5).  The Black Ox had to be close to Whitehall if those mugs of beer and cider were going to make the journey without disappearing down the old men’s throats or spilling on to the grass.

Back on the road, we came across what was The Sun Inn (#4), only a few hundred yards from the hugely successful Rhydspence Inn (243473).  The Sun closed its doors a long time ago; the Rhydspence still trades.  Why?  The answer, we were told by Maureen Lloyd and the Painscastle History Group, is that the Sun, being in Wales, was closed on Sundays.  Rhydspence, on the other hand...

Patriotism has its limits, obviously.

1 April 2019: a gentleman we talked to in Painscastle says he is certain this is the right field: he has seen the marks of footings there.


Whitehall & Rhydspence image 1
Green Lane to Whitehall
Whitehall & Rhydspence image 2
Whitehall - the house
Whitehall & Rhydspence image 3
The Long Room
Whitehall & Rhydspence image 4
The Sun Inn
Whitehall & Rhydspence image 5
Rhydspence Inn