The 19th century saw a massive upheaval in the status quo throughout Europe. The victory of the thirteen Federated Colonies of the Americas over the mighty British empire in 1781, the French revolution in 1789 and the publication of “The Age of Reason” in 1794 had created a situation in which rebellion was in the air. Who could have predicted that Newton in Powys would have been the place where the spark was lit in Britain.
Percy De-Montford Frolic of Newtown was the prime mover in a long standing dispute with the crown which had seen the entire agricultural produce of the town being confiscated three years in a row.
The dispute revolved around a perceived insult upon the personage of the royal Slap-hound. A short lived breed of dog, the Slap-hound was popular amongst European nobility in the early part of the 19th century. A cross between a Chihuahua and Irish Wolf Hound the Slap-hound suffered from a congenital condition which meant it constantly stood on its own ears. One stray witticism at court, one refusal to apologise and suddenly Newtown was in the bad books. A throw away phrase in this day and age, two hundred years ago to be “in the bad books” literally meant that your books would not show a profit as a result of penalties to the crown.
Eventually, enough was enough and Percy Frolic, as he was affectionately known locally, declared Newtown an independent state. He refused to allow agents of the crown to cross his lands and decreed “the people shall keep the bounty their one true lord has bestowed upon them”. As reliant on trade as anywhere else in the kingdom however, Newtown was soon in a state of desperate need. They grew no wheat and although the people pulled together the lack of this one staple meant they were close to starvation within a few months.
Percy himself threw his estates open to the townsfolk and even his prize herd of Welsh Mountain Pandas were slaughtered for food. The last of their kind, they ended their days in the most squalid of recipes. Without wheat the populace could make no proper pies and the pandas were shoved into all manner of culinary compromises. Shepherds pie, cawl, faggots, even cock a leeky, all featured panda in some way or other. For a brief period the panda kebab was popular before the townsfolk ran out of beer and suddenly went off it.
It couldn’t last and within the year the crown had reasserted it’s authority. Percy was executed and a quarter of the town shipped off to the colonies. The remainder of the population never forgot Percy’s sacrifice and in secret, dedicated a street to him. The secret remained until 1978 when the town council officially named the street for the first time. If you drive through Newown now you will see Frolic street and when you do, remember Percy and his pandas.