Pyle and Kenfig - Gazetteers


Extracts from A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1833) by Samuel Lewis

"PYLE, a joint parish with Kenvig, in the hundred of NEWCASTLE, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 11 1/2 miles (S. S. E.) from Neath, containing, exclusively of Kenvig, 475 inhabitants.

It was originally a chapelry attached to the parish of Kenvig, but since the devastation of that town and the destruction of its church by an inundation of the sea, as noticed in the article thereon (below), the parishes have been united, the livings consolidated into one vicarage, and the chapel of Pyle has become the parochial church. The two places are nearly of equal extent. Through Pyle now runs the turnpike road from Cardiff to Swansea, which formerly passed through Kenvig, but was diverted from its original course after the devastation of the borough.

The village, though small, has a neat and pleasing appearance : a handsome and capacious inn has been erected here by the late J. M. Talbot, Esq.  Near the church, on the estate of C. R. M. Talbot, Esq., is a quarry of excellent building stone, from which that employed in the erection of the spacious mansion in Margam Park, belonging to Mr. Talbot, now in progress, is taken.

The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaf, rated in the king's books at £4. 8. 11 1/2., and in the patronage of the Crown. The church, dedicated to St. James the Apostle, is a handsome structure, appropriately fitted up for the accommodation of the parishioners. There is a place of worship for Calvinistic Methodists.

A parochial school for the gratuitous instruction of the poor is supported by subscription.

Mr. Thomas Lougher, in 1747, bequeathed £50, and Mr. John Waters left £40, both which sums have been invested in the purchase of land producing £4. 10. per annum, which is distributed annually among the poor of this parish.

Near the church is a spring called Collwyn Well, the water of which has been long celebrated for its medicinal properties.

The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor is £ 209. 2.

KENVIG, LOWER, (CEVN Y VIGYN), a joint parish with Pyle, comprising the greater portion of the borough of Kenvig, in the hundred of NEWCASTLE, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 11 1/2 miles (S. S. E.) from Neath, and containing, exclusively of Pyle, 276 inhabitants.

This place, which is of considerable antiquity, derives its name from its situation on a ridge of ground above a bog. It was anciently of much greater importance, having formed part of the great lordship of Glamorgan, and passed by right of conquest, with the other possessions of Iestyn ab Gwrgan, the last native prince of Glamorgan, to the posterity of Fitz-Hamon, the Norman invader, in the reign of William Rufus, who, on partitioning the conquered territory among the knights that accompanied him in the expedition, reserved to himself this lordship and castle ; and the town, under his descendants and their successors, increased in importance, and was invested with valuable corporate privileges. In the reign of Edward II., these immunities were increased through the influence of this monarch's favourite, the younger Spencer, who obtained for it, in common with other towns in his lordship of Glamorgan, a new charter from the crown. The castle, town, and lordship of Kenvig, about the middle of the fourteenth century, formed part of the dower of the widow of Hugh le Despencer, on her marriage with Guy de Brien. The charter endowing this place with municipal privileges was confirmed by Thomas le Despencer, lord of Glamorgan, in 1360, and renewed by his son Edward, in 1396, and by his daughter Isabel, in 1423.

The decay of the old town, castle, and church are ascribed to an overwhelming inundation of the sea, which took place about the middle of the sixteenth century, and covered with sand an extensive tract in the neighbourhood of the coast. From the desolating effect of this calamitous event the town has never since recovered, and now forms only a small straggling and insignificant village, near the open coast of the Bristol channel.

Kenvig contains about seven hundred and fifty acres of enclosed land, and eight hundred acres of waste, which latter are principally composed of sandbanks and rabbit warrens, of about twelve miles in extent, from Skeir rocks to Briton-Ferry. These sandbanks, subsequently to the inundation, have been planted with the arundo arenaria, in order to bind them ; and, on taking a farm on the adjoining moor, the tenant usually covenants in his lease to give annually the labour of a day or more, in proportion to the extent of his farm, for planting it.

The bog referred to in the etymology of the name of this place has, from time immemorial, formed a lake, which is nearly two miles in circumference, and, though situated close to the sea-shore, and encompassed with sand, never imbibes any muriatic properties.

Prior to the desolation caused by the furious encroachment of the sea, the road from Cardiff to Swansea and Carmarthen passed through the town ; but it was subsequently diverted through Pyle, and now passes at the distance of about a mile and a half to the north of it.

The borough still retains its municipal privileges, and is governed by a portreeve, recorder, and aldermen, of whom the portreeve is annually chosen from among the in-dwelling, or resident burgesses, subject to the approbation of the constable of the castle. It comprises within its jurisdiction the whole of Lower Kenvig, and the whole of the hamlet of Higher Kenvig, and part of that of Trissient, the two last being in the adjoining parish of Margam ; it also forms a lordship of itself, with a superior manorial jurisdiction over North Cornelly, South Cornelly, and Scarveur. The borough is one of the most ancient in Wales, and, prior to the passing of the late act for amending the representation of the people, was contributory with Cardiff, Aberavon, Cowbridge, Llantrissent, Loughor, Neath, and Swansea, in the return of a member to parliament ; the right of election being in the burgesses at large, in number two hundred and thirty, of whom fifty-seven are resident. It is now contributory with Swansea, Aberavon, Loughor, and Neath, which have been raised into an independent district, returning one member : the right of election is vested in the resident burgesses, if duly registered according to the provisions of the act, and in every male person of full age occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs : the number of tenements of this value, within the limits of the borough, which have not been altered by the late Boundary Act, is twentysix, of which seventeen are in Lower Kenvig, seven in Higher Kenvig, and two in Trissient : the portreeve of Swansea is the returning officer. The only indisputable claim to the freedom of the borough, under its ancient municipal regulation, is by birth for all the sons of a freeman, born after his admission. The town-hall, of which the lower part has been converted into a public-house, was built, about the commencement of the present century, at an expense of £400.

Two fairs were formerly held here annually; the first commenced on Whit-Tuesday, and the second on the eve of St. James the Apostle, and each continued eight days.

The living is a discharged vicarage, with that of Pyle consolidated, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaf; rated in the king's books at £4. 8. 11 1/2 endowed with £800 royal bounty, and £800 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the King, as Prince of Wales. The ancient church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, was, about the commencement of the thirteenth century, confirmed and granted, with its appurtenances, to the abbey of Margam, by Henry, Bishop of Llandaf, on the petition of Walter, abbot of Tewkesbury.

Of the castle, there are no other remains than part of one of the towers, rising to the height of about twelve feet above the sand, beneath which the remainder is buried, and some vestiges of the moat which surrounded it. About three hundred yards to the south of it were the ancient church and cemetery, where human bones are frequently exposed to the view by the drifting of the sands. The Roman Via Julia Maritima is supposed to have taken its course by this place, between which and the village of Margam there is an inscribed stone, abont five feet in height and one in diameter, on which are the words Pompeius Carantorius.

On the south-east side of this parish is a large extra-parochial farm, called Skeir, the boundary line between which and Kenvig, having been covered with sand by the storm above-noticed, a commission was held for ascertaining it, pursuant to an act obtained in 1554, relating to the destruction caused by the sea sand in Glamorganshire.

The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor is £96. 10. "

Pyle and Kenfig - Lewis 1833 [Last Updated : 17 Oct 2002 - Gareth Hicks]