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Blue plaque unveiled in Pontygwaith to the only Cooper in the Rhondda Valley

Credit: RCT Council

A blue plaque was recently unveiled in Pontygwaith dedicated to the only Cooper in the Rhondda Valleys.

Keith Gregory was 21 years of age when he became an apprentice Cooper at the Fernvale Brewery Co. in Pontygwaith.  A Cooper is a skilled craftsman who specialises in crafting wooden containers such as casks and barrels.  It’s a trade that dates back over 4000 years and to this day, is a skill that cannot be replicated by machines.

Mr Gregory served a five-year apprenticeship to become a fully fledged Cooper and upon completion, participated in an age old ritual that involved preparing a hogshead, after which he was lifted and pushed down into a cask, and showered with shavings and sawdust. The iron hoops around the cask were hammered into place whilst he was inside and then finally cask and apprentice were rolled around the cooperage floor. Once the ritual was complete, Mr Gregory was handed his certificate and from that moment was a Cooper.

The Blue Plaque was unveiled on the house in Brewery Street, Pontygwaith where Mr Gregory lived and where his widow, Mrs Marion Gregory still lives. The plaque was unveiled by Deputy Mayor Dan Owen-Jones who said:

There are many monuments to the mining industry that once thrived in Rhondda Cynon Taf so it is only fitting that we now also have a plaque to memorialise Mr Gregory and his highly skilled craftmanship here in Pontygwaith where the Fernvale Brewery Co. thrived for over half a century before finally closing its doors in 1970.