Tregaer girl, born and bred, Chrissie Cowles’ Story

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Christina Cowles (nee Heath), known to everyone as Chrissie, was born at The Artha, Tregaer on 5th April 1928, the first child of Thomas William Heath and Lillian Eleanor Sibbons. Her parents were brought up locally; Dad was born at White House Farm, Tregaer and Mum at Far Farm, Newcastle, near Monmouth. The Heath family had come to the area in the mid 19th century from Staffordshire to farm Gwerneiddig Farm for Sir George Chetwynd.

Sadly for Chrissie, very early memories are shrouded in sadness and grief. In 1933 her mother gave birth to triplets, Sheila, George and Henry, who were all too small to survive and they only lived for 2 days. Later that year, Chrissie and her sister Beryl, who was a year younger than Chrissie, both contracted measles. There was an epidemic in our area at the time and they were so badly affected that Beryl died and Chrissie was confined to bed for 6 months. This sad episode was followed in 1934 by her father suffering a debilitating fall from his pony and trap, which left him incapacitated for the rest of his life.

At last, some brightness came into her life in June 1935 when her brother Gilbert was born. A favourite of Chrissie’s around this time was a horse called Virginia. This had been a gift to her father from his good friend Colonel Walwyn.

Those earliest memories include Empire Day 1933, which was held every year on 24th May. The children were dressed up in costumes representing different countries of the Empire, however, Chrissie was dressed as a fairy. The school she attended from the age of 5 was Tregaer and Dingestow where the overall head was Miss Evans, who was known for being quite strict (Miss Evans was the sister of June Lumley’s mother-in-law). Miss Cleeves was head of the Junior section. Courtney Cowles, two years older than Chrissie and the man she was destined to marry, also attended the school.

In 1939, at the age of 11, Chrissie left to attend the Monmouth Jones Endowed School. She would catch the school bus from the Hand or sometimes had to walk down to Cuckoo Corner. These were happy days under the headship of Mr Protheroe. In 1943, at the age of 15, Chrissie successfully passed her scholarship to attend Usk College. This was wartime and the age limit had been reduced from 18. Chrissie attended Usk for 2 years where the Matron was Miss Prince.

Upon leaving college at the age of 17, Chrissie worked on the farm at the Artha. The farm was rearing cattle, sheep and poultry. They would make butter, cheese and bake their own bread. Monmouth market was a regular place for Mum Lillian to sell butter, chickens and eggs.

On 1st October 1949, Chrissie married a lad whom she had gone to school with, Courtney Cowles from Tal-y-fan farm in Dingestow. Initially living at The Artha, they settled at White House Cottage, Tregaer, where they lived for 18 years. Chrissie and Courtney had 4 girls, Shirley, twins Beryl and Valerie and Catherine (Cathy).

In 1967 the family moved to Dean House, Chepstow Road, Raglan

(Thanks to Roland Ward for preparing this article, 2013)

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