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Welcome to The Groggshop
The Golden Groggshop
In 1971 my parents, John and Pamela, took the brave and somewhat risky decision to move from our family home at 26 Llantwit Road to the derelict public house on the Broadway, then called the Danygraig Arms. Dad had been working with clay since the early 1960s from his ‘two sheds’ at the back of the house in Llantwit Road. Following some small but encouraging sales through an agent, he quickly realised direct contact with customers was the way forward and in 1965 he began looking for new premises.
Photo Uncredited - believed to be The Griffin Arms circa 1900's
He needed a property which could serve as a family home, ceramic studio and a gallery which would be accessible to the public. My mother was working as a teacher in Parc Lewis school which was directly opposite a derelict pub, and encouraged Dad to give it the once over. There had been a public house on the location since the mid nineteenth century, its name having changed many times over the years. Latterly known as the Griffin Arms, then the Danygraig Arms, the pub had been empty since 1967 as the brewery who owned it had decided the ancient cellar was too small. The property was in a terrible mess - everything of any value had been stripped from it but, determined to seize the day, my parents decided to make an offer of £2000. The offer was accepted, and renovations began.
The Danygraig Arms - Photo credit the David Beilby collection https://davidbeilby.zenfolio.com/ - Dated 1963
Dad attempted to make it habitable, in part by drafting in us children to help strip the old wallpaper from the walls and clean the mould from the windows with toothbrushes, while doing some of the heavier work himself. This led one day to him getting stuck between two floors like a character in a cartoon. He’d been working in an upstairs bedroom when the inside door handle fell off, leaving him locked inside.
Freezing and hungry, he decided to try and squeeze through the hole in the floorboards, only to get stuck half way through like a bearded Winnie the Pooh. After hours of struggling, he finally wriggled out of his overcoat and dropped Houdini-like into the saloon bar below. Scratched and shaken, he managed to walk down the road to Bruno’s cafe where he was revived with a hot cocoa stiffened with a drop of brandy! At this point, Dad realised it would take professional skills to get the project off the ground. Luckily, one of his first collectors, Byron James, was a property developer, and he took over the project, organising the gutting, rewiring and plumbing of the rather cold and spooky shell of a building.
To us kids it was amazing. The place still had its bar intact, a smoking room, a ladies lounge and two pianos upstairs in the function room. Even a young Dame Shirley Bassey had sung at the Danygraig, borne out by her signature and phone number scribbled on the wall next to the pay phone! Sadly the pianos had to be broken up to get them downstairs.
As time moved on, the shop began to take shape, when an unforeseen setback almost halted proceedings. Dad had applied to the local council to convert the shop into a working pottery only to have his application denied as kilns were deemed too dangerous. Once it was pointed out that the kilns being used were electric, the council approved the change of use, and the Groggshop was up and running.
The Danygraig becomes the John Hughes Gallery in 1971
1971 had been a significant year for many reasons, but most importantly, Wales had won a Grand Slam in the spring. Dad had already turned his focus from esoteric figures based on the Old Testament, the Mabinogion and animals to making rugby figures. The first of these were Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams, who had starred in the success of the young and super-talented Welsh Team at the dawning of the ‘Decade of the Dragon’.
Coincidentally, Dad had already met a certain young Welsh fly half by the name of Barry John who also frequented Bruno’s cafe just down the road. Before Barry was crowned King John, taming the mighty All Blacks in his Lions shirt later that summer, he was kind enough to encourage Dad in his dreams over cups of milky coffee and even visited the ramshackle work-in-progress to give it his approval.
Slowly, word spread about the eccentric artist on the Broadway with a love for rugby. With Wales winning Grand Slams and Triple Crowns almost every year in the 70s, the Groggshop started to receive more visitors and sometimes even the players themselves. Needless to say, growing up in this environment, us kids were in seventh heaven and watching the old pub transform into Dad’s idea of an art gallery soon had us making our very own Groggy figures!
Photo reproduced by kind permission Rhondda Cynon Taf Libraries - circa early 80's and painted yellow and brown!
The building itself went through several transformations over the years both inside and out. The exterior of the shop has been many different colours, from bottle green to yellow and brown, before Dad decided to wear his heart on his sleeve and finally opted for the colours of the Welsh flag. The iconic red, green and white Groggshop had arrived.
Inside, the rooms have changed use many times - some of the walls have come and gone and then come back again. The former garage is now the Groggshop museum, but for most of its life was our moulding room, with shelves full of moulds bearing the names of the world’s greatest rugby stars. The famous ‘Wall of Fame’ signature wall - now in my studio - was once in the firing room, which for many years housed two giant kilns. Simon’s packing room, in a former life, was the ladies powder room. The original main bar was Dad’s first studio, but over the years the shop space has grown to encompass the whole of the front of the building, its ceilings entirely covered with shirts (and shorts and socks) generously donated to us by international players from the past 50 years.
The building has served us well as a home, studio and shop and retains its unique character and atmosphere. I love the place and can’t imagine it being anything other than the Groggshop. It has been my home and my life and holds so many amazing memories for us all.
Cheers Groggshop and a happy 50th Birthday!
Take a tour of The Groggshop and all the treasures that lie within the red & green walls of the former Danygraig Pub. Pictures courtesy of Dan Morris Photography.
Photos- Reproduced by kind permission Rhondda Cynon Taf Libraries
Old Tram Way (Broadway) & The Dan-Y-Graig Arms (Groggshop) is the white building behind the trees. Circa 1900. ~ John Hughes Pottery Circa 1977, 6 years after the Hughes family moved in. If you have any pictures or information on the former pub and it's life before The Groggshop, please get in touch - we are building a history!