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The History of the Parish of Llandybie

Roberts, Gomer R (Rev) ; 1939.

Translated by Mr Ivor Griffiths; 1995

With the kind permission of the translator sundry extracts from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks, these snippets below are in random order.

Here is a contents listing and an Index by Gareth Hicks


Llandyfan

What was the connection between Llandyfan and the furnace in Ynyscedwyn, Ystradgynlais ? An inhabitant of Ynyscedwyn said this;

"Mr Parsons, the owner, only made crude iron, which was melted into pig-iron at Ynyscedwyn. He hired the forge in Llandyfan, along with six mules owned by the owner of the forge to haul the iron over Mynydd Du. After this, a lot of pig-iron went to Llandyfan, and all the remainder to Neath....It was not long before Mr Parsons set up a new forge in Clydach, and when it was ready, he gave up the one in Llandyfan completely. I am certain that no iron has gone from Ynyscedwyn to Llandyfan for 70 years except for one hammer for the forge, which was sent about 67 years ago."

It appears therefore that the sending of iron from Ynyscedwyn to Llandyfan stopped c 1789


Quakers

The few Quakers living in the parish of Llandybie usually went to worship in Llandeilo fawr[see that parish].

In 1790 a monthly meeting was held in "Llandebea" and in the records of that meeting we read about one John Morgan expressing a desire to join the Society. This was not the first time the Quakers had held a meeting in Llandybie; there was one in 1788 and there were present from Carmarthenshire;-Thomas Rees[Caer-groes]; John Griffiths; and Job Thomas]Pen-y-waun], and a father and son from Swansea with the name William Padley.

Job Thomas was a remarkable man, very faithful to the Quaker order, and regularly at the monthly meetings from 1788 until his death in 1807.He was buried in the Quaker graveyard in Bryn-maen near Llandeilo Fawr, possibly the last to be buried there.


C17 Llandybie-a brief description

At the end of the C17 Llandybie was just a small village around the church; " A village consisting of 9 houses", and among these 9 houses can be included the Vicarage and the Mansion.

There were a substantial number of farmhouses in the parish, with several mansions of the "Gwyr Mawr" [ Gentry] such as Derwydd; Piode ; Meddynfych ; Cilyrychen ; and Aber-Lash.

Lluyd noted two bridges in the parish; Pont gerrig over the Marlais in the village, and Henbont about a mile higher up across the same river.

The parish was divided into 9 hamlets,  the names given by Lluyd are; Fferen fawr ; Fferen y Garn ; Derwydh ; Tir Rosser ; Pistyll ; Piodeu ; Y Blaenau ; Glyn Tay.[which totals 8 !]

The common land related to the parish was on flat land on Mynydd Mawr on the one hand, and the Black Mountain     [ its lower flanks in the direction of Carn Bica] on the other hand.


Overseers 'Account

The "accompt of Harry David Harry, one of ye overseers of ye poor of the parish of Llandybye for the year 1723" totalled 12.7.0 3/4 for the year . He paid out to 9 of the poor who received sums between 6s:8d and 2:10:0 , here are some details from the accounts;

At a Llandybie Vestry meeting in May 1732 it was decided to divide the sum of 20 :1:6 between 14 persons, the amounts varying between 8s. and 3. A poor tax of 6d in the pound, and a church tax of 2d on the pound was imposed, and this arrangement was confirmed with the names of eight of the parishioners.


Church wardens Account

The accompt of Henry Jones, Christopher Voyle, Church wardens of the parish of Llandybie for the year 1732  totals 4.4s.5 1/2d. and includes the following  selection of items;

Apparently the "Sun Dyal" detailed above can still be seen today, except that it has been placed on the wall of the churchyard near the gateway.


The Rev Thomas Rees writing to Bishop Anthony Ellis in 1755

"We have morning and evening prayer every Sunday

the service in English and Welsh, and the hours are

eleven in the morning and four in ye Evening.

I perform duty as Vicar of Llandebye.

I do not serve any other cure.

We have a monthly sacrament.

We have about ninety Communicants and att Easter last

there Communicated about forty.

The nearest guess I can make we are about seven hundred

[families in the parish], we have no meeting

house but some Methodists among us.

[The children] are Cathechised att Lent, and several

other Sundays in the year.

We have a Parchment Register Book duly kept for

Registering Weddings.

We have no Chapel in our said Parish of Llandebye.

We have no publick or Charity school, but a small

petty school.

I reside in the Vicarage house."


Report by parish curate Edward James to the bishop in 1789

"Service is performed once on the Lords Day about

eleven o'clock in the morning. On Christmas Day and

Good Friday. There is no weekly service.

I am a curate. I serve no other church.

The Holy Sacrament is administered on the first

Sunday of every month. The number of Communicants

who generally attend is from 15 to 20. Their number

at last Easter was from 30-40. Much about the same

[as usual].

There are no papists or Popish school in the parish.

There are good many Dissenters of the lowest and

middle rank. There is one meeting-house which I think

is licensed. The principle teacher is a Mr Davies of

Llansamlet in Glamorganshire.

It has not been customary to cathechise children in

church along time ago in the parish.

There are proper registers and are duly kept.

I have never saw a Terrier.

There is a rent charge of 50s. per annum on a tenement

of land called Waun-clyn-cath for the poor of the

parish. There is a house belonging to my cure. I do

not live in it but I reside in the Parish within

two miles of the Church. I know of nothing else."


Early Education

The first reference to education in the parish of Llandybie is in the report of the wardens to Bishop Lawrence Womack in 1684 where it states ;

" one Griffith Rees keps a school, but whether he is licensed or no we know not."

This was the first known school in the parish but it is not known where it was held.

Griffith Jones, of Llanddowror, in his correspondence with Madam Bevan in 1736 said;

" Give me an account of your schools in Llandilo and Llandybie."

William David and Griffith Rees in a  church wardens' report in 1739 said

" We have two petty schools in our parish and the schoolmasters are persons of regular lives and sober conversation, and each of them attend and perform ye Business of his Station and train them upp in ye Church Cathechism."

In 1738 one Anthony Rees was the schoolmaster in Llandybie.

According to "Welsh Piety" there was a school in Llandybie in 1738/39 with 54 scholars. 


Schooling in 1819

Towards the end of 1819 details were prepared about the educational facilities of every parish in the country for the Select Committee that was dealing with the educational problem at that time. Here are the details about the parish of Llandybie;

'Population; 1,787. Endowments ; None . Other Schools; A Boarding Day School and a Sunday School supported by charitable subscriptions, the former containing fifty, and the latter sixty children.'

It is thought that the Boarding School was Piode School and the second the Wesleyan school.


Dissenters

In 1789 the Rev Edward James , the parish curate, said to the bishop;

"There are a good many dissenters of the lowest and middle rank [ in the parish]. There is one meeting house which I think is licensed. The principle[sic] teacher is a Mr Davies of Llansamlet in Glamorganshire."

He said something similar in 1804, about the nonconformist chapels;

"There is but one. It is a Presbyterian chapel. There are dissenters from the established church, they are mostly Presbyterians.."

The above Mr Davies was the Rev John Davies, son of Owen and Susannah Davies , he was born in Gwernllwynchwith, Llansamlet in 1740.He died in 1821 and was buried in Llansamlet.


Calvinistic Methodists

Following a visit by Howell Harris to Llandybie in 1738, Anthony Rees, school master in the circulating schools, wrote to him thus at Trebecca, Brecon;

"To Mr Howell Harris, January 13, 1738/9

I promised the last time you were at our house to write to tell you how the people are in our part of Llandebie parish. Many of them live more peaceful and better lives since you were here. They need a better teacher than the parson to teach them the right path to heaven. When they go to hear Mr Rees, I believe they are worse than before, like a Shopkeeper or Innkeeper he only seeks or keep everybody willing.

They are angry with me in the village, and one of our neighbours who reported something about you to the Parson, was set upon by two of them and much bruised. I have 48 scholars, and there are 56 with Mr Griffiths at Bettws. Every weekend, since I began to teach them to sing Psalms and read books, there gathers about three score people besides the scholars to hear my exhortations. Write to me to let me know when you can come next to these parts. Send it with the post, or somebody that comes to Llandilo to be left at Rees Jones, shopkeeper there.

Your friend and servant until death. Anthony Rees."


Llandyfan to Pittsburgh

The ninth preacher to be raised in Llandyfan was William Owen, the son of Rees and Ann Owen of Gelli'r Fawnen, Llandybie, who was born c 1798. He married Ann Rees the daughter of John Rees of Clwyd-ffyrch, Llandybie, and after his marriage lived on his father's farm until he left Wales for America c 1834.

By 1838 he was a respected minister in America, spending nearly 40 years serving the Baptists in Pittsburgh. He died in 1876 aged 76 years, leaving three, at least, sons, and one of them a preacher. He was buried in Laurenceville cemetery and it is interesting to note that one of the children of the parish of Llandybie, the Rev Fred Evans[Ednyfed], officiated at his funeral.


Red Lion, Llandybie

A traveller who stayed the night in the village, in 1819, was a Captain Jenkin Jones, who recorded;

"The walk from Cross Inn to Llandybie is a very beautiful one and at the latter place I put up at the Red Lion, David Lewis, and experienced the greatest comfort and cleanliness , with the most moderate charges I have ever met with in my life, I had a pint of good new milk , a bottle of excellent Welsh Ale, roasted potatoes, bread, cheese, butter and an admirable bed for 1s:6d."


Wages and living conditions mid C19

The Rev John Williams, vicar of Llandybie, stated before the Education Commission that......

.....farm labourers in the parish received 9s a week on his own food, or 8d a day with food. The usual wage had been 8s a week but the failure of the potatoe crop caused the wages to rise to 9s. The lime workers received 15s a week, and the collier 18s a week. It was not reckoned that the workers were poor on that money, but their fate was much better 8d a day with plenty of potatoes than on 9s a week with potatoes in short supply. As a class , the farm labourers were hardworking and sober, but drunkeness was quite common among the colliers , and also in conjunction with this, it was noted that the men of Bettws were more sober than the men of Llandybie.

The lime workers and colliers worked from 6 o'clock in the morning to six at night, and if there was a need to go somewhere in the afternoon, they would start at 4 o'clock in the morning.


Toll Gates

The right to collect tolls in the Llandybie area were auctioned in 1813 at the George Inn, Llandilo. The tolls produced a net total of 661 that year.

This was a fairly large sum being collected and it is not surprising that the people kicked against the tollgates.  There were two gates in Llandybie,---one opposite Blaenau road leading to Mynydd Mawr, and the other opposite the Cross Inn Road; the Tollgate House stood in the middle between the two gates----where Mr Owen's shop stands now.

A host of people came to Llandybie wanting lime and coal and the tolls were a great oppression on them. The cart ,or Gambo,  was divided into two so as not to mix the lime and the coal.


Friendly Societies

One of the ways that the poor attempted to obtain some sort of security before the arrival of the trade unions, was to establish friendly societies or clubs. Here is a complete list of these in the parish of Llandybie, with their meeting place, numbers of members,and the date of the first entry in their books;


Population census statistics for Llandybie parish

Part of the parish was taken in 1879 to form the new parish of Gorslas. And another part was taken in 1903 when the new Ammanford Urban District was created. The population of Ammanford was 6074 in 1911 and 6984 in 1921.


Boot and shoe making

In olden times, the shoemakers were a very interesting class. It took nearly twelve hours or more for them to make one pair of boots. The shoemaker bought the leather himself from the tanner, and made the uppers from some three or four pieces of leather called the "cwarter ol"[back quarter], the famp, and the tongue of the boot. Having put these together, he would take two lasts ---one for each foot, and made of wood. He would place the upper on the last to sew the first part of the sole to the upper--- no nails were used at all in the making of the boot. Having completed the sewing of the first part, he would go on to sew the second part, and to hold it in its place during sewing, he would use two or three wooden pegs. Then the third part would be sewn, and the sole would be in place. The next job was the heel; he would sew the first two parts of the heel with strong thread, then fix two or three more pieces on it, and these were secured by wooden pegs. After cleaning and trimming, the boot was ready. The wooden pegs were prepared for the shoemaker by men who made their living by this craft.

Others earned a living by making nails and small metal horseshoes, they were called Nailers. This is how they made the boot nails; they would place a piece of iron in the fire, and after heating it, make it into a thin spike, and cut it. They would then use a tool called a "Neltwn", at one end of which was a place to insert the thin spike, and the nailer would hit the iron until it was of the required thickness.  It took two to three hours to make enough nails and metal shoes for a pair of boots.


Lime trade

It was an interesting sight during the middle of the last century[C19] to see between 50 and 100 carts awaiting their turn at Cilyrychen or Pistyll works, each waiting for a load. Many farmers came from as far as Cardiganshire and Pembroke to get lime from Llandybie.  They would travel day and night to save on tolls and time, and would arrive at the works before the break of dawn, and many a tale has been told of the exploits of ones who would attempt to load before anyone else.  Before the general use of money [and even after] there was trading by exchange , for example, exchanging coal for lime.

The price of coal and lime in 1823 was 3d a hundredweight, but the price of coal rose shortly afterwards. The price of lime by 1878 was 5s a ton.


Early coal  in Llandybie

Coal was worked in the commote of Is Cennen before the year 1400, but there is no history of this work in Llandybie.

There is an interesting testimony about coal mining in Mynydd Mawr in a "survey" of the Lordship of Kidwelli carried out by Gerrard Bromley in 1609. In this report on the commote of Is Cennen , he mentions the " common called Mynith Mawr" in the parish of Llandybie, and said of it;

" We saye that there are coales founde wrought and digged in the say'd comon called Mynith Mawre, the use whereof the said tenants of the sayd comotte and those whose estate they sevrally have in and to theare sevral tenants by themselves and theare under tenants have sevrally and respectively hadd for all the tyme whereof the memory of man ys not to the contrary for necessary ffyre and burning of lyme as parte of their ffreehold and appurtenante to theire sayd severall tenements."


Steam engines and water wheels and coal

"The Cwm pit was sunk before the arrival of the railway in the parish,......it was a 'downcast 'pit in a field between Cwm cottages and Waun Rhys Morris, and was called by the old people "Pwll yr Engine" because it was here the first steam engine in the region was used. I have reason to believe that this pit was working around 100 years ago[=1839]. When the old pit was closed , the engine was taken to Ben Powell's works in Blaen-lash near Castell Rhingyll, and ended its career in the old Cotchet pit.

There was also an 'upcast' pit near Cwm, and was opened in conjunction with the other pit. This was called "Pwll y Rhod"  [ The Wheel Pit] by the old people because of the old water wheel which was used to raise water from the pit. This ancient pump dried the two pits, and was made entirely of wood---even the pipes.  The wheel was fixed over the pit and worked on the same principle as the old flour mills. Part of the channel that carried the water from the river Lash to work the wheel can be seen today, but most of it has been filled in. I believe that the following entry in John Lewis's accounts for 1822 refer to this pit---'June 25th. Glan Las Coal Works .11 oz. of leather for Engine 2s.3d. Leather for pumps 2s.1d.' "


The coming of the railway

The Llanelly Dock and Railway Co had opened a line from Llanelli to Pant-y-ffynnon by 1835, and by May 1841 had pushed on to Tir-y-dail , and by 1857 had  reached Llandeilo, running through the parish from one end to the other. It was in the minds of industrialists to open a canal from Llanelli through the Loughor valley to the Towy valley----------the " Grand Towy Canal" as they intended calling it, but the plan fell through before it started and undoubtedly this failure slowed industrial progress in the parish.

The railway made a great difference to the life of the country ; before that the stage coach usually stopped at the Red Lion and Cross Inn, then a carriage called the "bus" would connect the village with Dyffryn Station[ afterwards called Tir-y-dail].

There are only one or two who remember the coming of the railway to the parish; Mr Richard Bowen, who had the contract to build the iron bridge near the Royal Oak. At first, stone blocks were used on the railway lines , not the wooden sleepers used today.

The first stationmaster in Llandybie was Mr William Evans, and his successor was Mr William Lloyd.


The balance pit

"Around 1850 a small line was opened from Tir-y-dail to Penygroes and in its wake a number of pits were opened.............in the period 1860-80  there was a great increase in the trade under the leadership of companies like D Lloyd & Son , of the Lord Pit.....this company.......started working the coal on a large scale , using scientific methods to obtain it by sinking pits to a depth unheard of in earlier days. Mr Lloyd lived in a small mansion near the Lord pit and was the squire of the district in his day, and his word was law. He chose three men to sink the Lord pit, and they were Thomas Hughes , Cwmffaldau; John Davies, Constant; and David Daniel of Cwmwg.

In country terms this pit was called the "balance pit" for the reason that they adopted a special device to raise the coal and water out of the pit. There were two cages in the pit operated by one rope, and under each cage was a tank, and when one cage reached the bottom the water ran into a sump----the weight of the descending cage was carefully gauged to be heavier than the ascending cage with the coal.  This process required a good reservoir of water, and at the pit head can be seen to this day, two water reservoirs which were used for this purpose.

The coal from the Lord pit was taken to Pant-y-blodau by means of an incline, and from there along another incline to Nant-y-Wrach---small trucks holding about five tons of coal being used for these inclines. "


Thomas Hughes--- coal diviner

"Thomas Hughes of Cwmffaldau was an amazing man.................he sank the Lord pit and found coal at Pencae'r Eithin himself............Aeron Thomas consulted him regarding the Emlyn works at a time when he was giving up hope of finding coal. Hughes well knew the runs of the coal seams in the whole area, and this by instinct; he had a subtle ability to recognise where there was coal, and , this, by tasting the earth with his tongue and mouth.........

Mr Lloyd of the Lord pit had complete faith in Thomas Hughes's opinion and it was he who indicated where to sink the Parc pit, and they reached the coal according to his measurements. He was truly amazing and there had to be an account of him in this history of the coal trade in the parish."


The miner's craft

"........this is the best place to mention the pride of the old miner in his craft of coal cutting and several other crafts concerned with the work.

In the old days, powder to blast the coal was rarely used; the old method was to make a hole and fill it with hot lime and water and wait until it had swollen up and loosened the coal.It was a fine sight to see the old miner cutting and and boring under the seam, and taking pride in his work.

A job to be marvelled at was the whittling of a pair of timbers , and the only tool used was an axe with its edge like a razor. The other tools used [ I shall give the miner's own names for them] was the mandrel, the siyrm [ to bore--the small siyrm and the long siyrm] hammer and auger, and the nelson[ for boring]---later the boring machine became general.

In the old days they used a sort of sliding cart or sleigh called 'cwrbyn' to carry the coal from the face to the level. Local craftsmen made these carts , and Thomas o'r Bont described to me the methods used to make them. The bottom was made of wood, with four upright timbers at the corners and lighter wood of hazel between them, and rods of wood specially grown for the purpose were woven between the hazel wood. The cart slid along on two pieces of wood cut into a half-moon shape---but were not iron shod, as they were later.

About 25 years ago, when opening up an old level in Caerbryn, they came across one of these old carts, and it is a great pity that it was not preserved. I also heard it said that in the old days they used wooden shovels and wooden mandrels with steel tips."


Shrouds, wooden coffins and funeral songs

Possibly only the poor were buried in shrouds, because within living memory, everyone that could, would take care to have well seasoned timber ready for the day of their death, and the coffin would be made of this wood, generally oak.

There was a reference to a wooden coffin in a verse that my mother heard being sung in many a funeral in Llandybie.

Mewn coffin pren cyn hir ca'i fod,
Heb allu symyd llaw na thro'd.
Fy nghorff yn llawn o bryfed byw,
A'm henaid bach lle mynno Duw.

[In a wooden coffin soon I'll be,
My hands and feet quite still.
My body, maggots making free,
My little soul where God wills.]


Question and answer rhyme

It would be an unforgivable sin to write the history of the parish without mentioning the old well known rhyme known to children throughout the country, as well as those whose homes are in Llandybie;

A ei di i Llandybie heb weud ie ?
Dros yr hewl neu dros y caee ?

[Can you go to Llandybie without saying "ie" [yes] ?
Along the road or over the fields ?]

The idea was to answer a series of questions about the journey without saying "ie"[yes] in the answer.

There has even been a TV game show based on the yes/no theory in the late C20 !


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Gareth Hicks  

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