The Amman Valley Long Ago
[Dyffryn Aman 'Slawer Dydd]
Compiled by David A Evans & Huw Walters ; Gomer 1987
Indexed by Gareth Hicks 2001
**My copy of this book was deposited with Glamorgan FHS in April 2022
Click here for the position with lookups - to check for any additional information which might be available in the book but copies of photographs cannot be provided by the volunteer.
The 'index' is actually a list of the 100 photographs in the order they appear in the book, the text provided is descriptive of each photograph but is not an exact copy of the text in the book.
The valley of the river Amman runs between the Black Mountain to the north, and to the south, the uplands of Cefn y Gwryd, comprising Penlle'r Fedwen and Pen Rhiw-fawr. Near its source, the river is bordered by the open moorlands of Caegurwen. lower down its course, however, the Amman runs through a widening valley below Betws Mountain, near the eastern boundary of the former county of Carmarthenshire, before its confluence with the river Loughor near Pantyffynnon. The area comprises a number of communities, the largest of which, Ammanford, is the commercial centre for surrounding towns and villages such as Cwmllynfell, Brynamman, Tai'rgwaith, Gwauncaergurwen and Cwmgors, Garnant, Glanamman, Betws, Pantyffynnon and Ty-croes.
It would appear that outcrops of coal have been mined in the area from an early period, but the lack of adequate transport facilities hindered the large scale development of the coal reserves. However by the early nineteenth century, John Jones of Bryn-brain, Cwmllynfell was emerging as one of the area's earliest coal owners. He acquired the small colliery at Blaengurwen in 1802, and though it is difficult at times to differentiate between John Jones senior (who died in 1835) and his son who bore the same name, both father and son were probably partners in a business venture which was later responsible for the working of Lefel yr Offis and Lefel y Bresen at Brynamman.
The transport facilities in the Amman Valley underwent a vast improvement in 1835, when permission was granted to the Llanelly Dock Railway Company to extend its system through Cross Inn (Ammanford ) and Cwmamman to Brynamman. The opening of the railway proved to be a major boost to the industrial development of the area, with numerous small pits being opened at the upper end of the valley. By the late nineteenth century, there were a substantial number of colliers employed at Blaengurwen, Cwm-teg and Pantycelyn, and further pits were opened at Maerdy in 1886, Cwmgors in 1887 and the East Pit in 1910.
Employment opportunities afforded by the development of the coal reserves attracted a large number of immigrants from the rural areas, and communities at the upper end of the valley such as Cwmllynfell, Brynamman, Gwauncaegurwen and Cwmgors experienced a considerable influx of population. At the lower end of the valley, villages such as Betws, Pantyffynnon and Ammanford were slower to develop, but following the opening of a branch line from Tir-y-dail to Pen-y-groes in 1850, a number of substantial pits were opened in the area, including those at Betws and Pantyffynnon. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the availability of plentiful resources of coal, limestone and water led to the development of the tinplate industry in the area. The industry expanded rapidly, and works were opened at a number of locations, including Pantyffynnon, Tir-y-dail, Cwmamman and Brynamman, between 1880 and 1890.
One problem that arose in the wake of this rapid industrialisation related to the nomenclature of the various communities in the valley. When the Swansea Vale Railway completed its branch line to Brynamman in 1864, the company saw fit to change the name of the village at the same time. Until then, it had always been known as Y Gwter Fawr, but Brynamman was the name that appeared on the platform signs of the newly-opened station. A similar problem arose some two decades later when the residents of Cross Inn felt that the name of their community should be changed to avoid confusion with numerous other hamlets that bore the same name in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. Eventually in December 1880, it was announced that the residents had decided upon a new name, Ammanford, though it was not until the turn of the century that the Welsh version, Rhydaman was used.
Between 1880 and 1890, the number of English immigrants to the valley was insignificant and the vast majority of newcomers seeking work came from Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire. The area also experienced three influxes of immigrants from Glamorganshire, and it was from amongst these that some of the foremost of the Amman Valley's Labour leaders were to rise. They in turn influenced locally born socialists such as John James, Gwauncaegurwen, and James Griffiths of Betws. The years from 1900 to 1914 constituted the high water mark of the anthracite coalfield and by 1913, there were 34 pits in operation in the valley. Further migration to the area continued, and for the first time a considerable group of English immigrants from Lancashire arrived in the district, following the establishment of the Wigan Coal and Iron Company. Such was the seemingly impregnable strength of the Welsh language in the valley at that time, however, that the newcomers rapidly learned Welsh and were soon totally assimilated into the local community.
The tinplate industry did not enjoy the same success as coal mining. By 1896 the future of the industry was in the balance, and many of the mills in the area were forced to close. In common with the rest of the south Wales coalfield, the collieries of the Amman Valley faced several crises---crises that led to strikes in 1921 and 1926. An attempt on the part of the owners to streamline their operations led to the formation of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd in 1926, but the company was not successful. Lack of capital led in turn to conservation in working methods and a dearth of investment in new techniques. The result was that many pits were closed following the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, a pattern that has continued since then, despite the opening of modern pits at Betws and Abernant. Employment opportunities have drained away accordingly, and the population of the valley has been falling gradually since the 1930s.
Although it was the development of coal mines and the tinplate mills that attracted immigrants to the district, the Amman Valley was never overwhelmed by pits, mills, railway sidings and rows of houses. The slopes of the moorlands that overlooked the valley were always close at hand, giving its industries something of a rural backdrop, and as many of the area's immigrants were natives of the countryside, they maintained their strong associations with the land as smallholders and cottagers.
In the wake of the area's industrial transformation came great social changes. Religious nonconformity, well established in the area since the eighteenth century, became a preponderant social force in the nineteenth, with each denomination building chapels in the valley at that time. The chapels were also vital and lively centres for religious and cultural meetings of all kinds, and most of them held some event or other on every night of the week; prayer meetings, temperance meetings, singing practices, eisteddfodau and concerts, all enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the ordinary people. Congregational singing especially in the cymanfa ganu or at sacred concerts, became exceptionally popular, and this love of singing was expanded outside the chapel with the formation of substantial choirs in almost every community. These choirs soon became notable competitors at eisteddfodau and other musical festivals, as did the numerous brass bands formed in the valley. Following the First World War, drama companies were formed in the area, and each community could boast popular and successful companies during the inter-war years.
Rugby football played an important part in the popular culture of the area; teams were established in each of the valley's villages and the first rugby game was played in the Amman Valley at Ammanford a century ago in 1887. Boxing too became popular amongst young men in the area during the depressed years of the twenties and thirties and boxing clubs were set up in Ammanford and Cwmamman.
The Amman Valley has witnessed considerable changes during recent years and the economic transformation of the area within the last thirty years has also meant considerable social changes. There is, therefore, no need to justify the publication of this selection of photographs portraying various aspects of life in the area over the last century. Each of these pictures presents its own story and each is of equal significance to the historian or sociologist as a printed book or a handwritten document.
Without the ready assistance of many local people who drew the attention of the editors to material in their possession, the compilation of this volume would have been impossible. We wish to thank them for their help, in the hope that we have used their material in a way that re-creates something of the rich heritage of this unique part of the anthracite coalfield.
Personal names given are of people shown and named
|1.Mountain Rd, Brynamman, c 1900||2.The Farmer's Bridge [Pont Pwll y Cwar]|
|3.Heol Caegurwen, Gwauncaegurwen||4.Christ Church, Garnant|
|5.Glanamman Square, 1915||6.Glanamman Square, 1940|
|7.Betws village, 1907||8.College St, Ammanford|
|9.High St, Ammanford, c 1900||10.Ty-croes Square, 1907|
|11.Brynhenllys Colliery, Cwmllynfell, water wheel, c 1882||12.Maerdy Colliery, Caenewydd, Gwauncaegurwen|
|13. Coal tips at Maerdy Colliery||14.Garnant Colliery water wheel [Pwll Perkins]|
|15.Copy of title page of an elegy to the victims of the Pwll Perkins, Garnant accident in 1884. The details of the deceased are;
||16.Colliers at Blaengurwen Colliery, Rhosaman|
|17.Raven Colliery chimney stack being demolished, 'in the forties'||18.Gelliceidrim Colliery|
|19.Gelliceidrim Colliery workers, c 1900||20.Raven tinplate works, Glanamman, workers|
|21.Pantyffynnon Colliery, workers, 1904||22.Tir-y-dail Colliery, workers, c 1915|
|23.Pontamman Colour Works, workers, c 1900||24.Blaengurwen Colliery rescue team, 1913/14|
|25.Brynamman Post Office, Nant-melyn, c 1900||26.David Jones butcher's shop, Brynamman, c 1920s
|27.Williams and Harries, milliners and drapers, Emporium, Garnant||28.Cash Stores [of G F Davies], Glanamman, c 1910|
|29.The Corner House, Glanamman, 1907
||30.Newbridge House, grocery & bakery, Betws, c 1900
|31.Poster---JNO Jones, grocer & baker, Newbridge House, Bettws||32.Cross Keys public house & Bryn-lloi toll-house, Glanamman, c 1890+|
|33.Defiance Cycle Company, High St, Ammanford
||34.Quay St, Ammanford, looking towards the Square|
|35.Brynamman Silica Company's traction engine on the Black Mountain||36/37.Ammanford Square, two different views featuring the Cross Inn pub stables pre 1897 and replacement shops built 1899
|38.Motor garage owned by Jack Davies/Jac y gof, Glanamman, c 1930s||39.Poster---John James & Sons, Central Garage, Ammanford, after 1912?|
|40.Charabanc tour from Brynamman, c 1922 ?||41.Isaac John Thomas, Banwen Brynamman & Luther Davies, Garnant, on motor cycle, c 1920s|
|42.Cross Inn Hotel , young men of Betws/Ammanford on excursion on their brake||43.Congregational chapel, Cwmllynfell being built, 1903|
|44.Rev.W D Thomas in pulpit of Gibea Congregational chapel, Brynamman, pre 1899||45.St Catherine's church, Brynamman, 1940|
|46.Old Carmel. Gwauncaegurwen, after 1927?||47.Bryn Seion chapel, Glanamman, interior, after 1912|
|48.Capel Seion, Methodist chapel, Betws||49.Gellimanwydd Congregational chapel, Ammanford, pre 1910|
|50.St Michael's & All Angels Church, Ammanford||51.Cwmllynfell miners' glee party, 1923
|52.Gwauncaegurwen trombone quartet
||53.Brynamman Choral Society, 1905|
|54.Garnant Mixed Choir, c 1930s
||55.Ammanford & District Choral Society, after 1920
|56.Moriah chapel, Brynamman, children in cast of Agatha, 1925||57.Gwauncaegurwen Dramatic Society, cast of Aeres Maesyfelin, 1917|
|58.Glanamman youngsters, cast of Red Riding Hood, c 1900||59.Christian Temple chapel, Ammanford, members who performed cantata
|60.Tabernacl chapel in Cwmgors, cast of Giant's Castle, 1913||61.Brynamman Silver Band, 1907|
|62.Amman Valley Glee Society,Gwauncaegurwen, 1910
||63.Gorsedd of Bards in Ammanford, 1922|
|64. Bevan family of Glanamman
||65.Margaret Jones/Rees of Farmers Arms, Brynamman and Raven Inn, Garnant|
|66.Rogers family, 1890
||67.Brynamman cookery class in vestry of Gibea chapel, 1900|
|68. Founders of Garnant Reading Room, Stepney Hall, Garnant, 1890+
||69.Rev John Davies of Christian Temple|
|70.Temperance Society association meeting covering Cwmamman, Brynamman and Gwauncaegurwen with children from Gibea, Brynamman and members of the church's Band of Hope, 1890s||71.David Arthur, Heol Las, town crier in Ammanford, after 1902|
|72.Gelliceidrim Colliery heroes, 1929
||73.Cwmamman miners camping at Graig Ddu, Cwm Garenig during General Strike, 1926
|74.Rev J Towyn Jones; Tom Jones, Foel/Garnant; Rev Morgan Llewelyn||75.Henry Folland, Cwmamman|
|76,Mrs Henry Folland presenting Bron-deg [Amman Valley Cottage Hospital] to residents of Amman Valley, 1936||77.The White House Socialists, Ammanford, after 1913|
|78.Mari Maescwarre and John Felin Ban, c 1900||79.Ammanford Photography Club outing, 1920s|
|80.David Thomas, y Glwyd, Brynamman||81.St Margaret's Church, Glanamman, cutting first sod, 1932
|82.Robert and Anne Smillie, John and Theodosia James, 1922||83.Herbert family of Ammanford
|84.Glamorgan Constabulary members staying in Gwauncaegurwen during 1925 mining disturbances||85.Brynamman school|
|86, Banwen school, Brynamman, standard 3 pupils, 1925
||87.Garnant National school|
|88. Betws school, standard 5 pupils, 1931||89.Day school pupils at Nebo, Heol-ddu, Ammanford, 1900-1910|
|90.Gwynfryn School, Ammanford, c 1910, students
||91.Ammanford elementary school, College St, c 1900|
|92.Parcyrhun school pupils, 1940
||93.Brynamman snooker players outside Tom John's shop|
|94.Gelliceidrim Colliery Rugby Football Club team, 1924/5||95.Cwmamman hunters with dogs, late C19|
|96.Amman United Rugby team, 1935/6||97.Pen-y-banc quoit club, 1923|
|98.Ammanford cricket team, 1937/8
||99.Pantyffynnon rugby team, 1920/1|
|100.Amman Valley Boxing Club, 1925