Artefacts Trace Village History

Article Number Seven in Hook History Society’s Lockdown Series.

In this article the history of the village of Hook is illustrated via several restored artefacts.


Vital conservation work to save perhaps the only surviving piece of coal mining machinery found in Pembrokeshire’s Cleddau Woodlands has been recently completed by a team of National Trust volunteers.

With the support of an engineering conservator, National Trust volunteers dedicated more than 350 hours to restore the historic winch (or windlass), which was used in the mining of coal in Little Milford Wood.

Volunteers dedicated more than 350 hours to restore the historic winch

The winch, which was originally discovered in the woodland near Stumpy Corner and showing severe signs of deterioration, is believed to date between the late 19th and early 20th century.

Attention to the once rather forlorn relic was focused by Hook Community Council and followed up by the village History Society. Thankfully, the National Trust and a band of hardworking volunteers enthusiastically took on the task of restoration.

Manufactured by Stephens of Pembroke, the winch is thought to have been operated by women workers and used to hoist spoil (waste rock or material discarded during mining) during the sinking of shafts to access horizontal drainage adits. The winding handle was known locally as a druke....a word which featured and was often heard in the old language of Hook until comparatively recently.

Conservation work included clearing the undergrowth and area where the winch was previously sited, dismantling the heavy machinery (approximately 500kg in weight) for transportation to the workshop and then multiple restoration sessions of cleaning, priming and painting.

The winch has now been moved to its new home near Little Milford’s upper car park in Hook and is on display for visitors to enjoy.

The winch before the volunteers worked their magic!

Above: The winch before the volunteers worked their magic!


Speaking about the conservation work, National Trust area ranger Matt Thompson, said: “Our volunteers have worked incredibly hard to restore the winch back to its former glory and we’re delighted to now be able to share more of the area’s industrial past with visitors to the area. It was too important to simply rust away”.

“Regular maintenance will be carried out by our team to ensure this important piece of local heritage is safeguarded for the future.”


Weighing in at about 100 lbs or 46 kilos the heavyweight sculpture was a wedding gift to Colliery owner John Frederick Lort Phillips of Lawrenny when he married the Hon Maud, the widowed daughter of Haughton Charles Okeover of Okevor in Staffordshire in 1895 and to mark the occasion it was decided that the couple should receive a suitable commemoration.

A sculptor was commissioned to carve a hunting scene on a solid block of Hook mined anthracite as the owner took great pride in the fact, he was Master of the south Pembrokeshire based Foxhounds.

The gift is inscribed:

Presented to J.L.F. Lort Phillips M.F.H. on the occasion of his marriage on July 3oth 1895, by the officials and workmen of Hook.

Heavyweight sculpture


The sculpture rested in Lawrenny Castle until in 1952 when the Lort Phillips’ family home was demolished and was then returned to Hook and put on display in the billiard room of the Miners Institute (The Tute).

When that building also succumbed to the ravages of time and was demolished the sculpture, which is said to weigh in the region of 100lbs (about 46 kilos), spent a short period at Haverfordwest Museum before being installed in the library of Hook Village School, where it now has pride of place. 

It is said that the miners had little option but to contribute to the gift as a small amount was deducted from their wages each week. This was a period when it would have been most unwise to question the colliery hierarchy’s decision.!!


Mr David Twist of Lancashire had in his possession a presentation key in a satin lined case inscribed: ”Hook Miners Institute October 20th 1923”. It also carries the inscription: “Presented to John Thomas BA Esq. Miners Agent Anthracite District”.

Mr Twist is the great nephew of the late John Thomas BA and had long pondered the story behind the key. Mr Twist was even unsure as to the where abouts of Hook.

Research, however, revealed that in the early 1900’s the miners in our village decided to build a village hall style building….. where they could have lectures; establish a library; play snooker and entertain their families.

That building was the Miners Institute Hall..................known affectionately as the Tute.

Presentation key

Although pay was meagre the funds were raised but expert help was needed to guide through the labyrinth of paperwork and it was a case of “Cometh the hour cometh the man” and that man was miners’ agent for Miners of Gwendraeth and Pembrokeshire, John Thomas. 

Dr Thomas (as he later became) was a champion of social justice. Education, Dr Thomas, believed was not the privilege of the well-off but the right of everyone. He became secretary of the workers educational association and lectured throughout South Wales. In 1925 he left South Wales to become Resident Tutor for North Staffordshire Extra Mural Study. 

Dr Thomas continued a varied career which included as wartime director of talks with the B.B.C. (Northern Region); civil servant and industrial adviser to a major contractor. So grateful were the miners of Hook for his practical help they presented Mr Thomas with an elaborate ceremonial key to the Institute. .... a gift which Dr Thomas treasured throughout his life. Dr Thomas’ family have handed the key to Hook History Society for safe keeping.



HymnsThe parents of a young airman whose plane crashed on a bombing raid over Belgium and as a result spent five years in a German prisoner of war camp presented a hymn announcement board to the Hook Gospel Mission where the family worshipped. The parents were Mr and Mrs Stanley Thomas of Deerland Farm and the son was Warrant Officer Levi Thomas. In April 1940 the plane, a Blenheim, in which Levi was a radio-operator and gunner was hit by machine gun fire from a German fighter and crash landed near Arras. Levi, although injured, was the only member of the crew to escape with his life.

Rescued by French military Levi fought for a while with the French Forces before being captured.

Among the camps in which Levi was held was the one made famous as a result of the popular film the Great Escape.

Among camp mates during his captivity was flying ace Wing Commander Douglas Bader the war drew to a close he and his fellow prisoners were forced to march from one camp to another and he reckoned that he marched over 800 miles.


A lamp belonging to a Hook miner received national acclaim when it was recently featured in a Television programme entitled THE REPAIR SHOP.

The owner of the lamp Mrs Rita Evans of Princess Gate told the storey of how her grandfather, Hubert John, worked underground in Hook colliery and told how his life was saved when the lamp wedged between a rockfall and himself and held the collapsed roof inches from him until workmates pulled him out.

The lamp was damaged and had not been lit for years. Mrs Evans asked the Repair Shop team to help restore the lamp and the programme when a tearful Mrs Evans was presented with her grandfather’s restored lamp was seen all over the country.

Mrs Evans asked Hook History Society to help by providing pictures of the former colliery and she attended ...along with the precious lamp..............the recent Exhibition organised by the Society.

Mr John’s wife taught, for a while, in the village school and after his days as a miner Mr John was employed as an insurance company representative. Said Mrs Evans, “the family has firm and fond memories of the village of Hook as in retrospect it has played a significant part in the history of our family.”

Ex miner Hubert John with his granddaughter, Rita Evans.


Although no longer around the Society thought this picture would awaken a few memories from the older....shall we say more mature!.....residents of Hook. The picture was recently placed on a social media site by recognised expert in this field Mr Jeffrey Edwards of Milford Haven. Pictured here the bus carries the livery of the Western Welsh bus company and was new around 1949. It is believed the picture was taken in the Cambrian Place depot in 1961 when the vehicle still showing the HOOK destination sign was sent to the scrapyard.

Any interesting tales surrounding the Hook bus would be appreciated and could perhaps be shared among the readers.

The Old Hook Bus

(Richard Howells 2020)