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Newport History: Tom Toya Lewis, Local Hero

today2 May 2024 7

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Who Was Tom Toya Lewis?

Once upon a time, there was a popular pub in Newport owned by Wetherspoons. The Tom Toya Lewis. Many people from Newport would enjoy a drink and a meal here, but not a lot of people know his story. Who was Tom Toya Lewis? Tom was a local hero in Newport. Around this time in Newport, the docks were expanding. Newport had become a busy place for exports and to accommodate the growing demands, work on expansion had to begin.

The South Dock had been extended in 1907 but ships still had to pass through the old entrance from the river Usk. Work began on a new entrance, the Great Sea Lock (or South Lock), so that ships could enter from the Bristol Channel directly. Men who worked at the Newport Docks dug a trench so that the lock’s west wall could be constructed. The sides of the trench were supported with timbers but collapsed on the afternoon of 2 July 1909.

You can imagine the sort of scene this kind of accident would have looked like, with a large crowd soon forming to see just what had happened. One of these crowd watchers was Tom, a 14 year old newspaper boy.

When it became clear that someone had been trapped underneath the collapsed dock, Tom showed his bravery and volunteered to descend through a narrow opening to try to free the workman called Fred Bardill. For two hours, Tom worked beneath the wreckage. head down and 10 metres below ground, with hand tools to try to release Fred. Eventually, Fred would be freed thanks to the efforts of Tom Toya Lewis.

Tom would later receive the Albert Medal, Britain’s highest award for peacetime gallantry. The medal was awarded to him by King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace in December 1909. A newspaper reported that Tom seemed “somewhat abashed by the splendour of his surroundings”. His father said he was a “rare young rascal, and if any spree was going on he was certain to be at the head of it”.

Newport has had and still does have quite a few pubs with meanings behind their names and over the next couple of blogs, this is what we will be looking at. What are these pubs? What are their names? And what is the story behind them?

By Adam L Davies

Written by: Kym Frederick

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