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Whitehall, near Clyro 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.


We walked the drovers’ way from Painscastle to Rhydspence, the famous shoeing station on the border.  We were looking for ‘Whitehall’, derelict even in Kilvert’s time:


[Entry for 3rd May 1870] Poor Whitehall, sad, silent and lonely, with...its cold chimney still ivy-clustered.  I walked round and looked in at the broken, unframed windows and pushed open a door – which swung slowly and wearily together again...

Here were held the Quarterly Dances.  What fun.  What merry-makings, the young people coming in couples and parties to dance in the long room.  What laughing, flirting, joking and kissing behind the door or in the dark garden amongst the young folks, while the elders sat around the room with pipe and mug of beer or cider from the ‘Black Ox’ of Coldbrook hard by...


We couldn’t resist an inviting green lane on our right (SO 215468, #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).


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 Ron.  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.


At least we know exactly where the site of Whitehall is on the OS map: the field-shapes between it and the road haven’t changed since the days of the Quarterly Dance.  It's just above the pencil cross, where the lane jinks.  (See #4 & #5)  


Whitehall, near Clyro image 1
Green Lane to Whitehall
Whitehall, near Clyro image 2
Whitehall - the house
Whitehall, near Clyro image 3
The Long Room
Whitehall, near Clyro image 4
1904 Map
Whitehall, near Clyro image 5
Modern OS Map