" ABERDARE (ABER-DAR), a parish in the upper division of the hundred of MISKIN, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 5 miles (S. W. by W.) from Merthyr-Tydvil, and 21 (N. W. by N.) from Cardif (which is the post town), on the road from Cardif to Neath, over Hirwaun common, containing 3961 inhabitants.
This parish is celebrated as having been the scene of a sanguinary battle, in the reign of William Rufus, which is said to have taken place on Hirwaun common, about two miles to the north of the village, between the forces of Rhys ab Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales, and those of Iestyn ab Gwrgan, aided by a body of Norman adventurers, under the command of Robert Fitz-Hamon, who, after having gained a signal victory over Rhys, who was slain in the contest, turned his arms against Iestyn, and dispossessed him of his territories, the most valuable of which he reserved to himself, and partitioned the remainder among the knights who had attended him in the expedition.
The village is pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Dar, and near its confluence with the Cynon, in the delightful mountain vale of Cynon, which is remarkable for picturesque and romantic scenery, and is equally characterised by features of beauty and of grandeur. Its majestic groves of oak and fir, alternating with fruitful corn-fields and luxuriant meadows, are finely contrasted with precipitous and barren rocks, and enlivened by the bold sweep of the river, which in some of its windings appears to be hemmed in on every side by lofty and sterile mountains.
The parish abounds with coal and iron-ore, the working of which, though it has materially defaced the beauty of the neighbourhood, which was previously distinguished as a place of enviable retirement, has added greatly to its wealth and the number of its inhabitants. Three iron-works are conducted upon a very extensive scale, of which those at Llwydcoed and Abernant are capable, when in full operation, of producing annually more than eleven thousand tons of iron; the works at Gadlys are at present discontinued.
The Aberdare canal, which is seven miles in length, communicates with the Glamorganshire canal, and, by means of a tram-road, with the extensive works at Hirwaun, in the county of Brecknock, affording a facility of conveyance by which the whole produce of this mineral district is sent to the port of Cardif, where it is shipped to various parts of the kingdom: this canal passes within half a mile of the village, from which a rail-road, two miles in length, extends to the works at Llwydcoed and Abernant.
This parish is included within the borough of Merthyr-Tydvil, to which, by the act for amending the representation of the people in England and Wales, recently passed, the privilege of returning one member to parliament has been granted : the right of election is vested in every male person of full age occupying, as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the clear yearly value of ten pounds; if duly registered as the act directs. It is within the jurisdiction of the court of requests held at Merthyr-Tydvil, on the second Thursday in every month, for the recovery of debts not exceeding £ 5.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaf, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £1800 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Vicar of Llantrisaint, who receives the vicarial tithes of this parish ; but at present a negociation is pending between the Marquis of Bute and the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester, in whose gift is the vicarage of Llantrisaint, pursuant to which, should the latter accede to his lordship's proposal for further endowing the incumbency, the patronage of Aberdare will be transferred into his lordship's hands. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is a small ancient building without a tower or steeple, remarkable only for its rustic simplicity of character, which is in perfect harmony with the surrounding scenery. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Calvinistic Methodists, English and Welsh Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians.
A National school, capable of accommodating one hundred boys and fifty girls, has been built by subscription, on ground given for that purpose by the Marquis of Bute, and is partly supported by subscription, in addition to small weekly payments from the parents of the scholars. Four houses in the parish, belonging to the poor, were endowed in 1724, by Mrs. Elinor Matthews, with a rent-charge of £ 5 on the farm of Pen Caradoc, in the parish of Llanwonno, now the property of J. B. Bruce, Esq.
There are remains of two ancient blomeries in this parish, by some writers attributed to the Romans, and by others, with greater probability, to the Britons, before the use of blast furnaces was known ; and vestiges of a circular British encampment may be distinctly traced. Aberamman, the seat of the late Anthony Bacon, Esq., of Benham, in the county of Berks, was for centuries the residence of the family of Matthews; and Dyfryn is the birthplace, and was anciently the residence of Ieuan ddu ab Davydd ab Owain, an eminent poet, who flourished about the middle of the fifteenth century, and was a munificent patron of the bards: the estate came to his descendants, who, by the usual transition of names, were called Jones, from whom it was purchased by William Bruce, Esq., in 1748, and is now the property of his grandson, J. Bruce Bruce, Esq., who, under a recent act of parliament, has been appointed stipendiary police magistrate of Merthyr-Tydvil, Aberdare, and Gellygaer. Edward Evan, for many years minister of an Independent congregation in the neighbourhood, an eminent poet and philosopher, to whose efforts for the preservation of the bardic institutions the principality is greatly indebted, was also a native of this parish; he died in 1798, on the day appointed for a meeting of the bards of Glamorgan, which he was to have attended.
The inhabitants of this parish complain, as a singular hardship, that, although the Hirwaun furnaces of Mr. Crawshay contribute largely to the poor's rate of the parish of Penderrin, in the county of Brecknock, in which they are situated, the burden of the removals and accidents of a large portion of the workmen falls upon the parish of Aberdare, just within the limits of which their cottages are situated. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor amounts to £605. 2."