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Aberdare and Cynon Valley

Quality coal

In the 1850's Aberdare was the most dynamic place in Wales. The quality of coal from the four foot seam at Aberdare was acknowledged by the Admiralty that it was the ideal fuel for the British Navy. The long established coalfield of Newcastle on Tyne reacted angrily that the Admiralty were showing great interest in the coal from Aberdare. However, after a long dispute, the Admiralty chose in favour of Welsh steam coal. Such was the reputation of the British Navy in the 19th century, that its seal of approval opened up new markets world wide for the produce of the Welsh pits.

Based on A History of Wales by John Davies

[Debbie Jones 19.4.2000 G]

Statistics, bloody awful statistics.....

From a Medical Officer of Health's  view point ".............in 1911 in Aberdare 213 children per 1,000 births died. The average for the whole of England and Wales was 122 per 1,000 births".

Coal Society A history of the South Wales Mining Valleys 1840 - 1980 David Egan. Gomer Press 1987.

[Steve Keats 3.5.2000 G]

Chapels in Aberdare Valley

Howel Harris was a principal leader in the Methodist Revival in C18 Wales. When he visited the village of Aberdare in 1759 there were only two places of worship in the area; the parish church itself , and the Unitarian Church at Hen-Dy-Cwrdd, Trecynon which was started in 1751.

In 1798, apart from Hen-Dy-Cwrdd, although there were still no Nonconformist causes in the Valley, visiting preachers /revivalists preached in the open air. The Nonconformist  movement  then developed through informal meetings being held  in people's homes , as shown in this excerpt  for 1799 from Methodistiaeth Cymru by J Hughes, 1856;

"...a man called Evan Sion from Glynneath, came to work at Aberdare, and he lodged at Ty'r Hewl. About the same time, at least within the year, a Lewis Lawrence, a carpenter, a native of Llandovery and a Congregationalist, also moved to the locality. These friends used to hold prayer meetings , for a period, in the house of William Jenkins, the Shop...."

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 8.5.2000]

Chapels in Aberdare Valley [continued]

In the period 1810-1813 the Congregationalists had 3 meeting houses licensed; New Chapel in 1810, Ebenezer in 1811 and " a building near Hirwaun common " in 1813 [ Hanes Morgannwg, 1874]. Although industrial depression c 1818 slowed things down a bit, the relative prosperity and increase in population from  the early 1820s saw an increase in the numbers of chapels across the denominations in Aberdare Valley.

Baptists; in 1837 they had 3 chapels, by 1897 there were 20, 17 being Welsh.

Unitarians; in 1837 they still only had Hen-Dy-Cwrdd but 50 years later  there was also an English church in Aberdare and a Welsh church at Cwmbach.

Wesleyan Methodists; in 1837 they had just the one cause, at Hirwaun, by 1897 they had 14 ,of which 6 were English.

Congregationalist; they increased from 2 chapels in 1837 to 25 in 1897, of which 4 were English.

Calvinistic Methodists; they had 2 in 1837, and 16 by 1897.

The Established Anglican Church; not to be out done had increeased from 2 in 1837 to 20 by 1897.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 9.5.2000]

Other religious denominations/groups

In 1837 there were no members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mormon missionaries began to arrive in Wales from the United States in the early 1840s. In a remarkably short period of time they had succeeded in gaining many converts and two meeting places were established in Aberdare, one in 1848, and the other two years later.

There were no places of worship for Roman Catholics in 1835 but by 1897 there were three in Aberdare Valley.

The Salvation Army, under General Booth, did not come into existence until 1865 but was represented by three halls in 1897.

Jews also wandered into the valley and met regularly for worship every Saturday in Dean St, Aberdare

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 10.5.2000]

How the valley developed

The population of the Cynon Valley increased by a factor of 15 between 1750 and 1850.

In 1801, the number of houses in Aberdare was 218 in which lived some 224 families.Out of the total population of 1486 there were 1000 employed in agriculture; 70 in trade, manufactures or handicrafts;  leaving 416 not employed in either agriculture or trade. There were 831 males and 655 females.
The parish of Llanwynno, comprising the lower reaches of the valley, had only 104 houses with a population of 426.

By 1821 the hundred of Miskin had 1548 houses with 676 families in agricultural labouring; 551 in trade, manufactures & handicrafts; and 408 in other work.The population was 4352.
In 1831 the population of the valley was 6393, by 1841 it was 9322 and in 1851 had reached 18,774.

This period saw the opening of the seam coal industry, it was also the era that Welsh Nonconformity attained its greatest influence.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 23.5.2000]

Hirwaun takes sides in the American War of Independence

In 1780, the Hirwaun Iron Works, previously a small scale undertaking, was leased to Anthony Bacon of Cyfarthfa, Merthyr. Bacon had initiative and skill and decided to manufacture heavy cannon for the American War.  There was one snag, he was the Member of Parliament for Aylesbury, so he was forbidden  by law from engaging in armaments. He got over his problem by producing them in the name of his partner, Francis Homfray, and it was under the latter's name that the finished product was taken over rough bridle paths by mules and pack horses from Hirwaun to Cardiff.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 2.6.2000]

Hirwaun Iron Works

The manufacture of iron at Hirwaun, the only centre for the whole of the valley, continued throughout the difficult Napoleonic era. It was not so booming as in the 1780s although lines of communication did improve. The Aberdare Canal was built in 1811 when the Glamorgan Canal [Merthyr - Cardiff 1794] was extended from Navigation, as Abercynon was then called , up the Aberdare Valley.

When peace came in 1815 there was a decline in the demand for iron and Hirwaun suffered a severe slump. William Crawshay, the second, the "Iron King" had no difficulty in 1818 in buying out Bacon's interest in the Hirwaun Iron Works. This gave it a new lease of life culminating in 1830 in the purchase from the Gurney works of the first railway locomotive steam engine to be seen in the Aberdare Valley.  In that year 9,035 tons of iron were produced at Hirwaun, and 35,715 tons of coal were consumed in the process. Nearly 900 men were in employment and two thirds of them were employed at the iron works.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 3.6.2000]

Shakers and movers in the infant Aberdare iron industry

In 1800 Jeremiah Homfray and James Birch took a lease on land at Abernant for sinking mines and setting up iron works and were joined 2 years later by the Tappenden brothers from Kent who brought in £40,000 fresh capital.

In 1804 the Tappendens built a tramroad which passed by and served another new iron works opened in 1800 at Llwydcoed by John and George Scale.These two new iron works in Aberdare were confronted with prohibitive toll duties on the Glamorgan Canal which prompted the Tappendens to build the tramroad which connected to the Neath Canal.

In 1815, Richard Fothergill of Kendal, took over the iron works at  Abernant from the Tappendens, Homfray and Birch having pulled out.

In 1827, Mathew Wayne , who had been the furnace manager at Cyfarthfa set up an iron works at Gadlys, this was a small works  with one furnace but in less than a year he was sending down the canal to Cardiff 450 tons of iron.

In 1837 Crawshay Bailey, the iron master  of Nantyglo bought 1500 acres of land in Aberdare which were not near the canal, he didn't develop the site for another 9 years but , with the support of Sir J J Guest MP., he initiated the movement for the construction of a railway from Aberdare to Abercynon, to link up with the new Merthyr-Cardiff line. The branch was opened in 1846, and in 1851 the Valley of Neath railway extended its line to the "High Level Station" at Aberdare.

The Railway Age had arrived in Aberdare and the future of the iron industry must have looked bright enough ...........

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 5.6.2000]

The end of the second  Iron Age

The Railway Age had arrived in Aberdare and the future of the iron industry must have looked bright enough, it seemed that the industry had nothing to fear but unending prosperity. However, early in the second half of the C19 it received its death blow.

The local supply of iron ore was quite inadequate to  meet the ever increasing demand created by the discovery of steel, the Bessemer process in particular.  The iron masters generally found it more profitable to import ore from Spain and to set up their works nearer the ports to save extra freight costs for taking ore up the valley.

One by one the local furnaces were extinguished, Hirwaun closed in 1859 and by 1875 there was not a single blast furnace left working in Aberdare Valley.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 6.6.2000]

The beginning of coal in Aberdare

As the iron industry faded away, the coal industry was set  to take over as the principal trade and occupation of the Aberdare valley.

Mining had been carried out on a small scale for centuries, the first evidence of this is seen in the Survey of Miskin in 1638 when a Thomas Griffith " houldeth a coale mynes in Aberdare. There are coale mynes upon the Lords demeane  Lands called ' Gwayn-y-Person and Tir-y-lloyn Bedw' within the parish of Aberdare." In 1653 it was granted to John Thomas for 21 years at an annual rent of ten shillings, and there are similar records up to 1697. By 1757 we find " All mines of iron ore or coal upon Ty'n Wain Wrgan [ Hirwaun] being leased by Lord Windsor to John Mayberry of Brecon for a rent of twenty three pounds ".

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 18 July 2000 G]

Coal comes into its own in Aberdare

1837 is an important milestone as that is the year that Thomas Wayne of Gadlys , to become one of the first great coal owners, persuaded his father to sink a coal pit at Abernant-y-Groes, Cwmbach, and to sell the produce on the open market.

The venture was a huge success and created a demand for steam coal for domestic and industrial purposes. The demand increased with the transition from sail to steam, the Admiralty being persuaded of the effectiveness of this change by John Nixon of Werfa Colliery, Aberdare.

In 1841 the output of coal from the Aberdare Valley was 12,000 tons, by 1852 it was 500,000 and by 1870 it had increased to 2 million tons.

Among the colourful personalities who dominated the industry were the following;

William Thomas, Llety Shenkin, who started to drill for coal at the beginning of 1843, and by the end of March that year coal was being extracted.

Samuel Thomas, Ysguborwen , who sank a pit in 1849, and in 1856 at Bwllfa.

David Davies, of Hirwaun, who began at Blaengwawr, and by October 1844 coal was sent away for the first time.

David Davies, Maesyffynnon, [ chiefly associated with collieries at Ferndale in the Rhondda Fach].

David Williams at Ynyscynon in 1843, and later at Deep Duffryn in Mountain Ash[ better known by his bardic name Alaw Goch].

Mordecai Jones at Nantymelyn in 1866 [ a staunch Methodist--- although he owned a brewery at Brecon!]

Thomas Powell of the Gaer, near Newport and the owner of Cwmdare---the Upper, Lower and Middle Duffryn were all Powell pits.

The boom in the upper reaches of the Valley  took place from about 1840 to 1852 .

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 19 July 2000 G ]

Deep mining

Mountain Ash was the first town to obtain coal from deep cuttings in the lower reaches. Deep Duffryn pit was in production by 1855, while the lower and middle pits were sunk by Thomas Powell to produce coal after 4 years; these were later sold to Sir George Elliot  Nixon's Navigation Colliery was started in 1855, the first sods being cut in the middle of an oat field; coal was raised 5 years later.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 20 July 2000 G ]

On down the valley to Abercynon

Development of the coal industry proceeded apace down the valley towards Abercynon[ then known as the Basin, Navigation or Aberdare Colliery], pits being sunk at Penrhiwceibr and Cwmcynon in 1873 and finally at Abercynon  in 1889, although engineers had wanted this last site for sinking 3 years earlier. The Lady Windsor Colliery, Ynysybwl was sunk in 1884 and coal brought up within 2 years.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks  20 July 2000 G]

Welsh/English pioneers and nonconformity

The names associated with the sinking of the coal mines invite comparison with the earlier pioneers of the iron industry. Bacon, Crawshay, Scale, Birch, Tappenden, Homfray were all of English extraction, whereas the leaders of the coal industry, as their surnames indicate, were rooted in the Welsh soil. This accounts for the prominent part which the latter  took in the social and religious activities of the district.

David Davies, Blaengwawr, was continually inspiring the people who built a Wesleyan chapel in Mountain Ash c 1861. Other notable examples are Samuel Thomas, Ysguborwen, and David Williams[Alaw Goch]. Congregations had no need to depend on their own resources for building their chapels unaided , for prominent Nonconformists came forward to assist them.

The Davies family of Llandinam, owners of the Ocean Collieries, helped generously in building Welsh Methodist Chapels in those areas where their pits were.

D A Thomas MP., [later Lord Rhondda], son of Samuel Thomas, reputedly an agnostic, gave much support to Nonconformity in his constituency, which included Aberdare. He laid the foundation stone of Soar Welsh Calvinistic Church, Cwmaman, and many others.

These men entered and influenced the lives of their employees much more fully than the early  iron masters had done and this ensured a happier relationship between Capital and Labour.

Another slant on this aspect of the relationship of the management of the mining industry and Nonconformity is seen with the biographer of Lewis Davis, an Aberdare Valley-born colliery owner, maintaining that " The Englishmen who came to reside in Wales, with few exceptions, were bigoted Churchmen, or, if they were not originally so, they soon went over to the Church ". [ .....at least he allowed for exceptions !]

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks  22 July 2000 G]

A time  of immigration into Aberdare

The period 1840 to 1870 represents the Golden Age in the relationship between Nonconformist and industry in Aberdare. The ever increasing demand for labour led to a vast immigration , and during this particular period most of the immigrants came from  the Welsh counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke and Cardigan. These immigrants came into this valley, and elsewhere, tempted by the better financial rewards than they had had as farm labourers.

In 1851 Aberdare parish had 14,999 inhabitants, while the lower end of the valley , which would come into the parish of Llanwynno, had 3253 inhabitants. Within ten years the population had more than doubled and the vast majority of the immigrants were Welsh speaking. But there was a change, during the decade 1871-81 immigration went on and an increasing number of people came from the English border counties of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and the south west English counties.In the following ten years the majority were from non English border counties. It is a fact that after 1881 these English migrants  substantially outnumbered the Welsh migrants.

The Irish also came to work in the mines of the Aberdare Valley, and  it is a son of one of these Irish immigrants, Joseph Keating, who has given us a description of mining life and conditions in Mountain Ash. [ My Struggle for Life. 1916]. He started work , aged 12, in 1883 at the Navigation pit.

They came in to the new Eldorado, Merthyr had experienced it 40 years before, now it was the turn of Aberdare and the Rhondda valleys. The population grew, the English migrants were in the majority, and naturally the Welsh chapels were suspicious of these English people with their English ideas and customs. Dr Thomas Rees, a leading Congregationalist, maintained that it was these English migrants who were the agitators in the industrial unrests.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 23 July 2000 G]

The  declining Welsh language and Nonconformity link

One consequence of this migration was a decline in the number of people who spoke Welsh.

In the 1901 census, the population of Aberdare RDC was 39,932, with 23,067 Welsh speaking, of these 5,382 could only speak Welsh, while there were 11,307 English only speakers. This meant that 59% could speak Welsh. By 1911, the population was 46,040, with 26,984 Welsh speaking, 3,068 Welsh only, and 15,988 English only. So, 59% still spoke Welsh.

It was after the 1914-18 War that a decline in Welsh speaking was felt  in the Aberdare valley.

By 1961, Welsh speakers totalled 12,511 compared to 26,984 fifty years earlier. The decline in the language meant  a similar decline in Welsh Nonconformity. The Welsh chapels are confined in their missionary activities to the Welsh speaking population, which leaves them in a most difficult situation. The book contains a list of Aberdare Valley towns and villages with individual statistics for Welsh speakers , the conclusion to be drawn from these is that Welsh chapels which depend for their existence on Welsh speakers have a bleak future. As a Presbyterian Church minister wrote in the chapel report for1935 ;" If the members are not going to teach their children the language there will be no Welsh Church".

The language "problem" had not helped Nonconformity to resist the decline in membership.

  [Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks  25 July 2000 G]

Nonconformity in crisis

Whatever the influence of the language decline in Aberdare or anywhere else, Nonconformity was facing a crisis at the beginning of the C20.

Its supremacy in the life of the people was being challenged, emotionalism was being thrown out for learning within the "Nonconformist Culture". " Origin of Species" was taking over from the "Origin of Sin" and heathen forces were tempting the Welsh people to follow suit.

It can be argued then that the Welsh Revival of 1904 was " a reaction to a new set of circumstances which was drawing the people of Wales from the old allegiance". It was a remarkable example of popular religion; it came from the people, the ordinary folk of the mining valleys and the villages of the countryside; their emotions and their religious aspirations shaped it, and they consciously repudiated professional ministerial guidance or other attempts to guide and  control it along lines traditional to revivals in the past.

The leadership passed into the hands of the young people.

The most lasting influence of the Revival was that it gave Nonconformist chapels a new lease of life, a breath of fresh air swept through all the denominations, revitalising them. Chapels with their way of life were preserved for a longer period.

But within a few years chapel membership was declining once more. In 1909, according to an observer, "The Aberdare Valley chapels are very poorly attended in the mornings, although a bit better in the evenings ".

One specific example ; the Chapel in Penrhiwceibr peaked at 112 members during the Revival, but  " now has only 50 members" , [ Tarian y Gweithwr 1908].

It can fairly be said that had it not been for the Revival the Chapels would have ceased to be as important in the life of the people in  the 1920s, and many would have been forced to close their doors before the 50s and 60s.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks  28 July 2000 G]

Calvinistic Methodists at Cwmbach

It was in 1837 that Thomas Wayne sunk and opened a pit at Abernant-y-Groes.When the Calvinistic Methodists decided to start a Sunday School cause at Cwmbach it began in the house of Dafydd Sims , chief overseer in the Hen-Lety-Siencyn pit. His home became too small for the Sunday School and it was decided to build a chapel; this was done in 1851. One of its leaders in this period was David Evans, from Dowlais, who became chief director in the mining company of David Davies , in the Rhondda and Aberdare Valleys; he moved to Bodringallt and became one of the respected leaders of the Rhonda valley.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 29 Jul 2000 G]

The Presbyterians in the Cynon Valley

In the history of the centenary of the Bethlehem Welsh Calvinistic Church[1954] is written;

" The beginning of Presbyterianism in the Cynon Valley is connected with the beginning of the coal industry at Duffryn, Mountain Ash."

The historian of the Wesleyan Movement in Wales , makes the same point as regards the building of the Wesleyan Chapel in Mountain Ash in 1861. It was the sinking of the mines at Penrhiwceibr ten years later which gave impetus to the building at Hermon of the Calvinistic Methodist Church in 1883. Again , in 1889 , it was the sinking of the mine at Abercynon which brought the immigrants, many of them from Dowlais, who were responsible for starting Tabernacle Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church in 1892.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks 31 July 2000 G]

Workers beginning to think for themselves

The Rev Rhys Morgan, a Calvinistic Methodist of Llanddewi Brefi in Cardiganshire, wrote in the Drysorfa in 1893 that a decline [in Nonconformity] had set in. He traced it to the rationalist thought ; and the work of Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and others.

It is true to say that Wales did see the foundation of a Welsh University, Welsh Intermediate Education Act, and general Education Act of 1871, by the last third of the century. The Welsh working class were beginning to read the works of some of the Socialist thinkers , and a new Welsh newspaper made its appearance in Aberdare. Tarian y Gweithiwr       [the Worker's Shield] was the organ of the ILP in South Wales. This newspaper was unhampered by the  C19 traditions of Welsh newspapers , which had kept Y Faner and other papers tied to Nonconformist thought and attitude.

In his autobiography, W J Edwards [ From the Valley I Came, 1956] tells of the discussions between workers down the mines at Aberdare, on art, science, religion, philosophy, and books---as good as any university lecture room. After a meeting with Kier Hardie, the symbols of Welsh Nonconformity---Pilgrims Progress and the Bible--- became replaced in the parlour of his home by the Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, and the Origin of Species.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks  1 August 2000 G]

Aneurin Bevan

Howard Williams, the present [ 1975]  minister at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, London, remembers , as a boy in Abercynon in the twenties, the vast difference between the religious service conducted by his father at Moriah Baptist Chapel and the meeting he attended after chapel, in the nearby Workmen's Hall, addressed by Aneurin Bevan.

Bevan was one of the new leaders in the mining areas; a secular Puritan who had discarded the trappings of religion. Brought up in a Sunday school, he had been expelled for his unorthodox views....Bevan embodied the new influence in the mining valleys of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan.....his sympathy with the Nonconformist way of life was nearly non-existent. It was perhaps no great surprise that in the first Welsh Day debate in the Commons in 1944 he argued that there was no special solution for Welsh economic difficulties..........." There is no Welsh problem" he insisted flatly in the same debate.

[Based on Chapels in the Valley by D Ben Rees 1975. Gareth Hicks ]

School visit to Aberaman and Aberdare in 1856

Feb 28th ;

"I paid a short visit to these places, with a view to establish a school in the former and to see how things were going in the latter. The prospects are not very promising in Aberaman. Aberdare School is proceeding in the right direction, they are going to have a female teacher, and to separate the boys and girls immediately. They are very thankful for the grant of Books from the Society."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth ]

Hirwaun--school visit in 1856.

March 11th;

I reached this place in the  afternoon of this day, and made enquiries as to the state of the BS[British School] and found that the miserable schools connected with the works in this place are still great obstacles in the way of the BS so that it is kept entirely inefficient. The workmen are obliged to pay out of their wages towards the support of schools, one superintended by a drunken man, who is in the habit of cursing & swearing the children, the other by a man who became unable to work and does not possess the most common branches of information.

The population of this place being almost entirely under the influence of the Manager of these works, who is quite careless about the education of the people, causes the few individuals who went to £300 expense in 1849 of building a BS [£230 of which is now unpaid] to be in great trouble and difficulties. The room is now given to a schoolmaster free to do his best with it. But it cannot be expected that they can, under those circumstances, get a 3rd or even a 4th rate Teacher, and therefore the school is kept down. I met some of the members of the Committee, and they gave me the above information.

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 27 Nov 2000 G]

Rhigos--school visit 1856

Apr 3rd ;

"This is a new school opened not many months ago, in connection with and for the benefit of the Colliers & Miners under R. Crawshay Esq of Hirwaun, whose preparation towards educating the Children of his Fire-workmen and Mechanics of Hirwaun is so miserably attended to [ as I reported to you lately] that it is even worse than if it was neglected altogether, because his schools [if worthy to be called so]  retard almost entirely the operations of the BS in the place.

This Rhigos School is about a mile and a half distance, where the Colliers and Miners dwell. The movement originated entirely among themselves. They were afterwards aided in their efforts by the Committee of Hirwaun BS. They obtained a suitable room to commence from R Crawshay Esq and also his consent to apply 1d per £1 of their own wages towards the support of this instead of supporting those that are in Hirwaun. They have obtained an untrained young man as a master in whom some of the leaders have much confidence. We had no teachers to offer to them from the Boro' Road., neither would the salary they can give at present be acceptable to a competent one, being only £40. There are from 60 to 70 children already in the school. My next visit will give you some idea of their progress."

June 4th;

"This little school was established for a portion of the workmen of Hirwaun Works. There were 35 scholars present, and they were receiving good elementary education, some of them read very well, and writing was good, and so was the spelling. There were but a few of that  [?]had been there long enough to go through the first simple tests of Arithmetic. Mr D Jones the Teacher seems to give general satisfaction to the parents. This is a school established by the working men themselves for their own children."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 27 Nov 2000 G]

Aberdare Industrial School, Mill Street, Trecynon, Aberdare -1891 census

This a list of people resident at the School on the night of the 1891 census, unless otherwise stated all born Aberdare:

  • PEARCEY, Peter, Head, M, 40, Superintendent of School/Institut - Schoolmaster,  LANCS Westleigh
  • PEARCEY, Eliza Adelaide, Wife, 32, Matron of School, GLOS Stroud
  • EYNON, Sara Anne, Officer, U, 30, Schoolmistress, GLA Aberdare
  • FRANCIS, Margaret, Officer, U, 28, Industrial Trainer - Domestic "
  • MISKELL, Ellen, Servant, U, 23, Servant Dom Cook, GLA Pontlottyn
  • GRICE, Henry, Tailor, U, 37, Trainer - Tailor, CHESHIRE, Frodsham


  • WILLIAMS, Daniel, 12
  • WATTERS, Samuel, 14
  • DANDO, William James, 11
  • DANDO, Rebecca, 9
  • DANDO, Mary Jane, 14 (these DANDOs noted as siblings)
  • DAVIES, Florence, 10
  • WILLIAMS, Thomas, 11
  • HARRIS, James, 13
  • MORGAN, James John, 10
  • HARRIS, Jane, 14
  • BOWEN, Mary Ann, 8
  • EVANS, John, 12
  • RICHARDS, Elizabeth Ann, 12
  • WATTS, William, 9
  • TODD, Robert, 7
  • GILLINGHAM, Lydia, 8
  • GOULD, Margaret, 10
  • PRICE, William Ernest, 10
  • EVANS, Elizabeth, 8
  • DAVIES, Rebecca, 14
  • CAREY, Honora, 14, GLA Gelligaer
  • LOYNS, Daniel, 12 "
  • CASEY, Dennis, 13, "
  • TODD, William, 12, "
  • TODD, John, 10 (brother) "
  • EDWARDS, Elizabeth, 12, "
  • PHILLIPS, John, 12, GLA Rhigos
  • JONES, Sarah Ann, 13, GLA Merthyr Lower
  • MAHONEY, Kate, 14, "
  • SAUNDERS, Thomas, 10, "
  • WILLIAMS, Nathaniel, 8, "
  • COCHRANE, Honora, 14 "
  • HARRISON, J Ellen, 13, "
  • HARRISON, Elizabeth, 10, Sister "
  • HARRISON, David John, 12 Brother "
  • THOMAS, George, 8, "
  • JONES, Thomas, 11 "
  • GRAY, Rosina, 14, "
  • GRAY, Meshack, 11 Brother "
  • EVANS, Minnie, 14, "
  • WILLIAMS, Ebenezer, 10 "
  • WILLIAMS, Rachel, 8 "
  • EVANS, Samuel, 13, "
  • REES, Catherine Ann, 14, "

NB.There must be 2 pages missing from the enumerator's book, as his notes state 84 pupils and 6 staff.

[Pam Thornbury 25 Jan 2001 G]


Q. Could SKS please tell which churches would have been used by someone living in the Abernant area of Aberdare in the 1840's ?

A. In Old Aberdare Vol 1, an article titled 'Aberdare in 1837', lists the following places of worship:-

The Established Church-

  • St. John's Parish church
  • Penderyn Parish church


  • Siloam, Penderyn
  • Ramoth, Hirwain
  • Salem, Penpound (bottom of Monk St.), now Calfaria

Calvinistic Methodists-

  • Bethel Hirwain
  • Carmel, Trecynon (Heol-y-felin)


  • Nebo Hirwain
  • Ebenezer Trecynon (Heol-y-felin)


  • Hen-Dy-cwrdd (Heol-y-felin)


  • Hirwain
  • Pentwyn Bach (Trecynon)

Salem Chapel, Tresalem, Robertstown was erected in 1841

T.J.Evans writing about Abernant in the 1840s [schools environmental studies publication] states:-

'Abernant in the 1840s was purely and simply a mining camp, large enough to qualify for village status but almost completely lacking in a social focus, service functions and amenities for its inhabitants. There were two public houses, The Star ( later named The Star and Railway) in the trap, and another poss. Halfway House in Blaennant. Facilities for education and religious observance was meagre. The 1841 census records a school mistress living in Moss Row while a Report on the State of Education in Wales (1847) notes that the Baptists had established a Sunday School in Abernant in the same year , and that a Mr J. Jones had a school in Moss Row in 1844. Both were in private houses'.

It would seem therefore that anyone wishing to attend a religious service in Abernant in the 1840s would either visit a private house locally or attend one of the religious places, situated outside the settlement, as recorded in 1837.

These chapels in Abernant itself were built later:-

  • Bethesda 1860, Nazareth 1861, Bethel 1862, (all Welsh language chapels).

[Deric John 1 Feb 2001 G]

Glamorgan county


No wonder we can't find anyone !

Census totals population for Glamorgan

1801 =70,879

1851 =231,849

1911 =1,130,668

Compare to Breconshire

1801 =32,325

1851 =61,474

1911 =56,370


Throughout the period 1851 to 1911 in Carmarthenshire, Monmouthshire and Glamorgan some 366,000 people moved into these areas between these dates. The peak of this migration occurred between 1901 and 1911 when 129,000 people moved into the area.

Figures from 'Coal Society' David Egan Gomer Press 1987

[Steve Keates 9.5.2000 G]

More numbers from census details for Glamorgan 1851 - 1901   showing the dramatic rise in workers in the coalfields.















Mines & Quarries







Metals, Machines, Implements & Conveyances








Figures from 'Coal Society' David Egan Gomer Press 1987

[Steve Keates 10.5.2000 G]

Public Health in South Wales

School days and children suffering bad health:

I have edited some of this extract which is quoted in Coal Society by David Egan

"Scabies, ringworm and tuberculosis also affected large numbers of children. I can clearly remember one boy whose head was almost covered with scab...........One boy of my own age, flatfooted, like a very old man, his face pale yellow, his large eyes protuding from their sockets......he died young......"

Edmund Stonelake describing his school days at Pontlottyn in the Rhymney Valley at the end of the 19thC taken from his autobiography published 1981.

[Steve Keates 17.5.2000 G]

Defoe's Journey

......and turned away to Glamorganshire.

Entering this shire, from Radnor and Brecknock, we were saluted with Monuchdenny-Hill on our left, and the Black Mountain on the right, and all a ridge of horrid rocks and precipices between, over which, if we had not had trusty guides, we should never have found our way; and indeed, we began to repent our curiosity, as not having met with any thing worth the trouble; and a country looking so full of horror, that we thought to have given over the enterprise, and have left Wales out of our circuit. But after a day and a night conversing thus with rocks and mountains, our guide brought us down into a most agreeable vale, opening to the south, and a pleasant river running through it, called the Taaffe; and following the course of this river, we came in the evening to the ancient city of Landaff, and Caerdiff, standing almost together.

Daniel Defoe. A Journey Through the Whole Island of Britain Published between 1724 - 1726

[Steve Keates 17.5.2000 G]

Cromwell and Welsh Coal

'In the time of Oliver Cromwell a survey was made of the peninsula of Gower, and we find the following entry:

"Swanzey Parish. There is a coal worke in Morwa Lligw which the tenant holds by lease of the Lord of the Manor, dated 26th September 1639"

In the Cardiff Records for 1636, also it is stated that no coal should be carried to England from Wales without a bond being given that it should not be sold to foreign countries.'

A History of the Pioneers of the Welsh Coalfields Elizabeth Philips 1925 Western Mail Ltd

[Steve Keates 24.5.2000 G ]

Follow on;

This particular piece of legislation was still causing problems well over a  century later. It appears that Newport could export coal to England free of  this bond but Cardiff had to bide by the bond and also pay a tax that  Newport didn't. The Marquis of Bute was not a happy man at this time  especially after just building his new docks with coal export in mind. There are papers regarding this amongst the Bute Pilotage papers held at  Cardiff library. Included in there are maps of the Monmouth, Gloucester and  West country canals dated about 1810.

[Phil Roderick 24.5.2000 G]

Early coal and mineral activity in the county, an overview.

It was the vale of Neath and Gower areas that were central to coal mining advancement  in South Wales in the C16.

By 1686, the coal interests in Neath came under the control of Humphrey Mackworth through marriage, and he was right up to his death in 1727 to play a large and controversial part in the development  of coal , and  copper smelting and silver  refining too.

Parallel with the expansion of the coal industry, there was considerable development in the mining and smelting of metals.
Henry VIII had been instrumental in developing native ores and in Wales the search for minerals was extended to the Crown Estates, this was particularly evident in Llantrisant. The Act of Union of 1536 was a landmark in mineral extraction activity as previously the Crown was only able to exercise its right over minerals within its own lordships, now that right was extended over mines royal--gold, silver, copper etc-- for all of Wales. There was now greater opportunity for the investment of [English] capital and soon, in 1541, the Sidney family from Sussex arrived in South Wales with their iron working interests.

The disruptions of the Civil War did hold progress back for a generation, production of native iron fell to a low ebb and there was an absence of finance for development. However, changes in mercantile law coupled with revised methods of joint stock financing brought considerable reorganisation. By the turn of the C17, the iron industry was passing from the stage of isolated furnaces or forges , individually owned, to small groups of partners , some of whom were to develop into quite large partnerships.

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks 7 June 2000 G ]

Continued---The Welsh/Cornish /Cumberland/German connection

The start of the C17 saw the coal and iron industries well set for expansion. Progress was so rapid that by 1636 the Crown created the office of Surveyor of Iron Works, previous to this date the rights of the Crown had been limited to precious metals which excluded iron and coal.

The Company of Mines Royal had been formed following an association with German metallurgists and mining interests in 1564 and was given rights to search for and smelt all ores of gold, silver, copper and quicksilver in most counties of the western half of the country, including Wales. Keswick in Cumberland was the first scene of concentrated activity but by 1583 considerable sums had been lost there and the Company turned its attention to its other interests, especially in Devon and Cornwall. Some key German workmen in Keswick were transferred to the south west of England and they in turn, in particular Ulrich Fross, were to form the Welsh connection.

In 1584 proposals were made to transfer Cornish copper ore to Neath for smelting with Fross as manager. Two furnaces had been erected together with a smelting house capable of dealing with 560 tons of ore in 40 weeks.
" Various collieries were worked, leases were procured on extensive lead mines in Cardiganshire and work-houses in the counties of Glamorgan and Cardiganshire consisted of 17 furnaces for smelting lead, 2 for copper, 8 for refining and 2 for making red lead, and that there was room for 15 more"  [ History of Copper Smelting from the Time of Elizabeth to the present day in Swansea. G Grant Francis , 1861.].

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks 10 June 2000 G ]

Continued---An awareness of profitability

In a letter dated 7 March 1586, Ulrich Fross writing from Neath says;

"We look daily for the copper refiner from Keswick, and have in readiness as much copper roast and black copper as will make a 20 ton lot of good fine copper...................We have done nothing all this winter for lack of ore. We are able to melt it with two furnaces in the space of 40 weeks the quantity of 560 tons of ore if we might have it, and if ore be clean and well sorted the more copper it will yield . I do not doubt but to bring out all that is in the ore ....and with as little charges.......................We will melt in the space of 7 hours the quantity of 24 cwt of ore and spend not above 8 or 9 sacks of char-coals, and 3 horse load of sea-coals, and if the ore be well and clean sorted the more copper stone will it yield: melting many sorts of ores together is the most profit, and will melt a great deal sooner."

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks 4 August 2000 G ]

The Cornish/S.Wales connection

"In the early 1780' s Cornish mining was in difficulty, mainly because of the flooding of the copper market by cheaper copper ore from the newly developed opencast deposits in Anglesey.

But it soon became clear that, with the output from the mines not restricted, the fall in copper prices could not easily be stopped. Some mines had to suspend working and there was a demonstration by unemployed miners who marched into Truro in 1787. "

"Although Vivians were not living and working in South Wales until the early years of the 19th century , there had been regular contact between Cornwall and Wales, especially the Swansea area, for a very long period of time.

Carew, in his Survey of Cornwall, noted that in the mid-sixteenth century copper ore from the mines of St. Just had been sent first by sea to St. Ives and then to Neath for smelting. In return the ships brought timber for the  Cornish mines. A certain Thomas Smith, who had interests in Cornish mines during this period, and who had William Carnsewe of Bokelly near Wadebridge as his Cornish agent, appears to have decided against copper smelting in Cornwall. Instead he built a new smelting furnace at Neath, close to the coal, and also close to the port of Swansea to which the Cornish ores could be shipped."

Stanley Vivian in "The Story of The Vivians", Mid-Cornwall Printing, 2nd ed, 1989

[Tony Vivian 5.7.2000 G]

Absentee Militiamen-1815

The following notice appeared in " The Cambrian "Return of Militiamen" who have not joined in pursuance of an Order from the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Glamorgan for embodying the said Militia on the 7th July, 1815.

Name - Age - County - Occupation - Attested at - Date (// = no entry)

  • William JOHN - 23 - Glamorgan - Labourer - Swansea - 23 May 1810
  • Jacob JONES - 18 - Mon (Langstone) Labourer - // - 1 May 1815
  • David LEWIS-27-Pembroke-Labourer-//-3 May 1815
  • Patrick WELSH - 18 - Monaghan (Danmoine) Tailor - Cardiff - 3 May 1815
  • Walter DAVID - 34 - Carm. (St.Clears) - labourer - // - 11 May 1815
  • John SWAIN - 24 - Dublin (St.Catherine) - Labourer - Cardiff - 20 May 1815
  • David JONES-//- Pembroke (Rossether) -Labourer -Swansea - 3 May 1815
  • John GRIFFITHS-// -Glam.(Bishopton)-Labourer-Swansea-29 May 1815
  • Llewelyn JOHN-29-Glamorgan(Bettws) Butcher - // - 4 April-1814
  • Daniel WILLIAMS-16-Kent (Ashford) - Shoemaker - Bridgend - 9 Dec 1813
  • Abraham LEWIS-23 -Monmouth(Wenallt) - // - Newport - 5 May 1815
  • William RICHARD- 23-Carm. (Llandybie)-Labourer-Cardiff-6 May 1815
  • William MATHEW-24-Glam. (Llantrisant)-Collier-Dyffryn-22 May 1815
  • John LLEWELYN-26-Pemb.(Redboxton)-Labourer-Aberdare- 23 May 1815
  • Thomas REES - 30- Carm. (Llandyfeiliog)-//- Swansea- 31 June 1815
  • Rees PARRY - 18 - Brecon (Brecond) - Labourer-Cardiff- 19- Nov 1811
  • Griffith WILLIAM-25- Galm. (Lougher)-Labourer-Swansea - 24 Feb 1815
  • Lot MAGGS - 20 - Gloucester(Frenchay) -Smith-Newport - 21 May 1815
  • Issac PROSSER - //- Monmouth (Goytre)-Labourer-Cardiff - 9 Jan 1814
  • William HOWELL-23-Carm. (Laugharne)- Labourer - Merthyr- 11 May 1815
  • David MORGAN - 18- Monmouth (Goytre)-Labourer-Cardiff- 9 Jan 1814
  • Jacob THOMAS - 18-Carm. (Lanfihangel)-Labourer-Aberdare- 22 May 1815
  • Thomas RICHARD-20-Glam. (Swansea)-Labourer- Newport - 20 May 1815
  • Rosser REES - // - Monmouth (llanddewi)-Labourer - Newport -9 June 1815
  • John CHILD - 23 - Hereford (Labrey) - Labourer - Newport - 5 May - 1815
  • William DAVIES - 18 - Glam. (Llangyfelach) - Labourer-Neath- 25 Jan 1814
  • John GRIFFITHS-19-Carm. (Llandarrog) - Labourer - Cardiff - 31 May 1815
  • David RICHARD-23-Glam (Tythegston)-Tailor - Cardiff - 28 Sep 1813
  • Samuel THOMAS-18-Monmouth (Bedwelty)-Shoemaker-Cardiff- 7 Jan 1814
  • Thomas WILLIAMS-20-Glam. (Llangynfyd)-Labouer-Swansea- 6 June 1815
  • Cadogan EVANS-20 Glam (Llantrisant) - //- Cardiff - 4 May 1815
  • James DOWLAN-//- Cumberland -(St.Mary)-Hatter- Aberdare - 25 May 1815
  • Henry HARRIS-21-Pembroke(St.Wynals) Labourer- Cowbridge - 1 Jun 1815
  • Tom THOMAS-15- Monmouth(Liswene)-Labourer-Cardiff- 6 Sep 1813
  • Tom JONES-20-Glam. (Neath) - Weaver - Neath - 6 Dec 1814
  • Lewis JONES-25 - Carm. (Llandyfeiliog)-Labourer-Cardiff- 1 Feb 1814
  • Thomas JONES-15-Carm. (Llandeilo)-Labourer-Cardiff - 1 Feb 1814
  • William BEVAN-26-Monouth(Bishton)-Labourer-Newport - 19 May 1814
  • Patrick BREAN - // - Carlow(Birkarry) - Tailor - Newport - 19 May 1814
  • William DAVID-19- Carm. (Conwyl)-Labourer - Swansea - 6 May 1814
  • John EATON-34- Glam. (Bridgend)- Cordwainer - Cardiff - 25 Mar 1815
  • Thomas LEWIS - 29 - Glam. (Cowbridge) -Cordwainer-Cardiff-17 May 1815
  • Evan MORGAN - 15 - Glamorgan - cordwainer - Swansea - 30 Mar 1813
  • John REES - 17 - Glam. (Neath) - Copperman - Neath - 24 Jan 1814
  • Thomas THOMAS-23-Cardigan.(Llandysul)-Saddler -// - 24 May 1814

[Sue Martin]

Seasonal movement  from Cardiganshire to Glamorgan

A large number of  seasonal and 'casual workers' worked along side skilled miners and ironworkers in Glamorgan.

One example ;

"There are many" said a south Wales ironmaster in 1837, " who come from Cardiganshire to the ironworks for five or seven months in the winter season, live economically here and take home £15 or £20 to their families which pays the rent of their farm, and purchases for them clothing and a few luxuries. "

[Quoted from an article by G S Kenrick cited by A H John in The Industrial Development of South Wales, 1750-1850.UWP, 1950 Gareth 4 Feb 2001 G/D]