Aberdare (Aberd‚r) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
ABERDARE (ABERD¬R), a parish, in the union of Merthyr-Tydvil, upper division of the hundred of Miskin, county of Glamorgan, South Wales, 4 miles (S. W. by W.) from Merthyr-Tydvil, which is the post-town, and 24 (N. W. by N.) from Cardiff, on the road to Neath, over HÓrwaun common; containing, in 1841, 6471 inhabitants, of whom 1322 were in the village. 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 HÓrwaun common, about two miles north of the village, between the forces of Rhŷs 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. The Norman leader, after having gained a signal victory over Rhŷs, 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. A further notice of this battle is given under the head of Penderin, which parish includes part of HÓrwaun common.
The village or town is situated on the banks of the river D‚r, near its confluence with the Cynon, in the delightful mountain-vale of Cynon. This vale is remarkable for its scenery, being 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 is situated near the northern extremity of the county, in which direction it is bounded by Brecknockshire; it has the parish of Llanwonno on the south, that of Merthyr-Tydvil on the east, and the parish of Ystraddyvodog on the west. There are several beautiful mansions, contributing in no small degree, together with their respective gardens and grounds, to the imposing effect produced by the delightful scenery of the locality. Among these the principal are, Duffryn, at the distance of four miles south of the village; Aberamman, at the distance of two miles from the village in the same direction; Gadlys; and Abernant. 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. Duffryn was the birthplace and 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; it was purchased from them by William Bruce, Esq., in the year 1748, and is now the property of his grandson, J. B. Bruce Pryce, Esq., of St. Nicholas, near Cardiff.
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 vastly to its wealth and the number of its inhabitants. About fifteen or twenty years ago, there appear to have been iron-works at Llwydcoed, Abernant, and Gadlys, the last not in operation, but the two others producing some thousands of tons of iron annually. The works at Gadlys were afterwards recommenced, and early in the year 1847 there were eight blast furnaces in operation in the parish, six of them belonging to Messrs. Thompson & Co., who have other works at Merthyr-Tydvil. In the spring of that year, Mr. Crawshay Bailey commenced some large iron-works at Aberamman; so that Aberdare now ranks as one of the most important seats of the iron trade, with a prospect of ultimately becoming a second Merthyr. According to a statement published in 1847, the parish contains the following principal hamlets, namely, Cwmbach, with a population at that time of 2700 persons, employed in collieries; Aberamman, with a population of 1200, but expected, on the completion of Mr. Bailey's four furnaces, then in course of erection, and on the opening of his mines of iron and coal, and Mr. Powell's large colliery, to contain above 5000; Hoel-y-felin, containing 1200 persons; and Llwydcoed, containing about 960. These two lastnamed places are situated near each other, and the inhabitants are of a miscellaneous character, but principally miners, colliers, firemen, and labourers attached to the Aberdare works and Gadlys works. The Aberdare canal, which is seven miles in length, communicates with the Glamorganshire canal, and, by means of a tramroad, with the extensive works at HÓrwaun, in the county of Brecknock, affording a facility of conveyance by which part of the produce of this mineral district is sent to the port of Cardiff, where it is shipped to various parts of the kingdom. The canal commences within three quarters of a mile of the village; and a tramroad, two miles in length, extends from it to the works at Llwydcoed and Abernant. The Aberdare railway, opened in August, 1846, proceeds nearly parallel with the canal, to Navigation, where it joins the T‚f-Vale railway from Merthyr to Cardiff. Immense quantities of mineral produce are conveyed by it for shipment. It will be connected with the proposed Vale of Neath railway by a short branch from that line; and a railway communication will thus be established with Merthyr, HÓrwaun, Neath, &c.
Aberdare is included within the borough of MerthyrTydvil, to which, by the act 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, passed for "amending the representation of the people in England and Wales," the privilege of returning one member to parliament was 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. The living is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £1800 parliamentary grant. The patronage formerly belonged to the Vicar of Llantrissent, who receives the vicarial tithes of this parish; but under an agreement made between the late Marquess of Bute and the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester, in whose gift the vicarage of Llantrissent is vested, the patronage of Aberdare was transferred to his lordship on his further endowing the incumbency. The net income, previously to the augmentation, was £108; it is now about £260, with a glebe-house. 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. Here 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, was built by subscription, on ground given for that purpose by the late Marquess of Bute, and is supported by subscriptions and donations. At HÓrwaun are two schools supported by the workmen employed by Mr. Crawshay in the adjoining county; and Sunday schools, also, are gratuitously conducted in different parts. Four houses in the parish, belonging to the poor, were built in 1724, by Mrs. Elinor Matthews, and endowed by her with a rent-charge of £5 on the farm of Pen Caradoc, in Llanwonno. In the parish are remains of two ancient blomeries, by some writers attributed to the Romans, and by others, with greater probability, to the Britons, before the use of blast furnaces was known: vestiges, also, of a circular British encampment may be distinctly traced. 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 a native of the 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 complain, as a singular hardship, that, although the HÓrwaun furnaces of Mr. Crawshay contribute largely to the poor's rate of the parish of Penderin, in the county of Brecknock, in which they are situated, the burthen 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.