South West Wales

Elizabeth Taylor: Pontrhydyfen recalls star's visits

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Image caption Richard Burton brought Elizabeth Taylor to Wales shortly after they were married

When Elizabeth Taylor first stayed in a mid-terraced house in Pontrhydyfen she was arguably the most glamorous and famous actress in the world.

But she still insisted on doing the washing-up.

Those who remember the first time Richard Burton brought his new wife to the village near Port Talbot in south Wales where he was born, said the occasion resembled a royal visit.

Taylor, who has died at the age of 79, was to return again and again.

Near neighbour Lillian Howell was one of those invited in to share a cup of tea with the Hollywood couple in the house on Penhydd Street.

"Everybody came out to welcome them - she was such a glamorous person," she recalled.

"She had a double row of eye lashes and her eyes were violet blue. Absolutely beautiful.

"We sat in the house and she was very down to earth and so lovely, as was Richard. When we finished she wanted to do the washing up."

The house is now home to Burton's niece, the actress Sian Owen.

She too remembers the day her uncle brought his new wife to Wales for the first time.

Image caption The Hollywood couple stayed in a terraced house on Penhydd Street

"When they arrived you could not move as people had come from everywhere," she said.

"The press had come down from London and rented rooms in the houses opposite hoping to get a picture.

"When the men went to the pub that night they all had money for beer, but they did not need it as uncle Ritch paid. It was an open bar for everybody and anybody.

"Elizabeth had her first pint of beer there."

That pub was the Miner's Arms which today is home to the village rugby club.

A photograph of Burton hangs on the wall and is one of several reminders of the actor in the village, the most prominent being a sign welcoming visitors to Pontrhydyfen.

News of Taylor's death spread quickly, prompting recollections of a glamorous time.

One woman, living opposite the Miner's, said those who lived there at the time all had fond memories of Taylor's visits.

Image caption There are tributes to Burton dotted around the village

"The first time it was a like a royal visit. They went to the school and I remember there was a big motorbike in front of the car - the children loved it," she said.

"And she returned after Richard had died."

Once again Taylor stayed in the front bedroom on Penhydd Street.

"Elizabeth was the only one of uncle Richard's wives to ever stay in this house," said Ms Owen.

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