About the Society
Historical Notes


32 — The Public Services 1






Gas: Aberdare Gas Works Co. Founded.
The promoter and first Chairman was Crawshay Bailey. This was a comparatively late development as far as Aberdare was concerned. Cotton Mill in Mold had been lit by gas in 1812 and Llangollen in 1820. Numerous towns in North Wales had street lighting well before this.

1848 Sept.

At a meeting of the Parish vestry, permission was granted to the Aberaman Gas Co. to lay down pipes.


St. John’s Church lit by gas for the first time. There was, however, no street lighting for another 6 years. There was much argument pro and contra. Those in favour stressed the dangers of collision in the hours of darkness. Dr Davies the 1st M.O.H. led his horse along the side walks at night for fear of an accident.


1st tender accepted for the installation of 19 street gas lamps. Relations between Gas Co. and its consumers were not always happy.

1862 Dec

A strike by consumers, because of the price, succeeded in getting it reduced from 6/- per 1,000 units to 5/-.


There were other disputes. Rhys Hopcyn Rees at a meeting of the Board of Health threatened to call in engineers to set up a rival Gas Works, “if the price of the present company remains unsatisfactory”. 5/- per 1,000 units at Aberdare compared unfavourably with 3/6 at Aberystwyth. The Local Co. had changed its name to Aberdare and Aberaman Gas Co. authorised to purchase the Aberdare Gas Co. to raise additional capital and for other purposes, (Vic 37-38).


Cwmbach first lit by gas.

1855 Aug.

Abercwmboi lit by gas. It was a very profitable investment. At a sale by Auctioneers Owen and Bryant at the Boot Hotel in March 1857, 57 ordinary shares of Aberdare and Aberaman Gas Co at £10 realised from £13:5:0 to £14:5:0 each.


Gladstone, George and Cynon Streets were “lit by the public gas lamp system much to the satisfaction of the inhabitants”. On moonlit nights, lamps are extinguished at 11p.m. This went on until 1900. The most prominent name in the industry was Evan Jones the manager. He was a very active Freemason and active in Siloa until he “adopted the unfortunate ideas of a Freethinker”.






Gas was giving way everywhere to electricity during the last decade of the 19th century.

1900 June

A local solicitor, J.W. Evans, wrote to the clerk of the council that application would be made to authorize a company about to be formed for the supply of electricity in the Urban Area.

1911 April

“The Aberdare & District Council’s Electricity and Destructor Works” was opened and electric lighting introduced into the town with 217 consumers. Their premises consumed 280,000 units that year. By 1913, the number of consumers had risen to 300, by 1920 to 1,047 who used 1,500,000 units. During the war of 1914–18, the tariff was the lowest in the whole country.


Miss Mabel Hughes of the Boot Hotel turned the first sod in the construction of the Electric Tramway. Electricity was supplied to the tramway for the first 6½ years of its activity and £17,000 was accumulated as unappropriated balance. Since the Second World War, electricity exceeded 20,000,000 units.


The Middle Dyffryn Power Station with a capacity of 11,000 kW was built to supply the local authority under contract.






Weather Situation.
No official statistics of rainfall existed until 1878 when readings began to be taken at the Nanthir Reservoir. Previously it was left to private enthusiasts like W.T. Lewis, Mardy House, and Dr. Evan Jones. Statistics for earlier years are obtainable from Symons British Rainfall.


Dr. Evan Jones, Abernant, Every day of this year total 63.60 ins.


Great floods throughout Summer swept away crops and cattle were moved to the hillsides for safety.


During 1st week of May, a heavy snowfall produced snowdrifts to a depth of 5 feet on the road between Pontneddfechan and Merthyr.


Heavy floods in June when the whole village of Aberdare was inundated. The Bridge at Lluest Wen was swept away by a raging torrent. The centre of the village was underwater.


Heavy rain swept away bridges in the Summer.


Valley completely under water. The wall surrounding Maes-y-Dre collapsed under the pressure of the water.

1833 May

“Bad news for the tithing, the lambing season in Mountain Ash has been unusually hard. On most of the hill farms surrounding Rhigos, Aberdare and Llanwonno the loss of lambs has been 2 out of 3.”

1833 Nov

The oldest inhabitant cannot remember such heavy floods as poured down the Aberdare Valley on the evening of the 28th November. There was one uninterrupted lake from Gadlys to Dyffryn.


Very mild strawberry slips in fruit in November.


Early Spring but exceptionally severe.


Except for two showers no rain from February 16th to May 6th.


Gooseberry bushes in bloom in December.

1846 Dec

Weather severe, ponds frozen to great depth. Fortunately, recent increase in traffic on the local canal saved it from being frost-bound. Shareholders are secretly pleased that the Taff Vale Railway has just raised freight charges. This it was hoped would keep the canal navigable.

1854 May

Severe thunderstorms accompanied by hailstones. William Williams, (Carw Coch), weighed six, which came to 1 ounce.


Collection at the Anniversary Services at Bethania C.M. Church held on Good Friday and Easter Sunday came to £51. Good when we consider the depressed state of trade because of storms and boisterous winds, which have prevented ships from entering or leaving ports.

1864 Sept

One of the heaviest showers in living memory.

1866 May 5

Fall of snow.

1870 Jan

Ponds in Park covered by people skating and sliding.


Violent gale demolished many houses in the valley.

1875 Jan

Thunderstorm demolished one of the stacks at Abernant Forge. No one injured.

1876 Aug

Aberdare experienced a series of thunderstorms of the most terrible character. Oaklands, home of H.J. Hollier, struck by lightening and in the course of a couple of hours burnt to the ground. Only the skeleton of bare walls left standing. With the help of the Rifle Club, at drill on Aberaman Park, most of the furniture was rescued.

1878 Nov

Torrential rain flooded Duke St, Station St., and junction between Gloucester St. and Commercial St. Congregation at Nasareth Chapel found themselves cut off after morning service.







59.74 ins.

82    79.95 ins.

89    41.40 ins.


57.38 ins.

91    73.18 ins.

92    44.35 ins.


57.62 ins.

03    82.40 ins. Record

02    44.48 ins.


64.64 ins.

12    73.77 ins.

17    48.21 ins.


61.27 ins.

29    72.93 ins.

21    43.09 ins.


62.90 ins.

32    67.82 ins.

33    48.76 ins.


59.68 ins.

46    74.70 ins.

41    49.33 ins.


60.00 ins.

54    68.71 ins.

53    47.73 ins.

Average Annual Rainfall 1880 to 1959

60.38 ins.

Average Annual Rainfall in UK

35.50 ins. approx.

Rain gauge at Rhondda Waterworks for the last 64 years 91 ins.


Before the Public Supply, inhabitants relied on rivers and streams and local wells of which there were at least a dozen. Aberdare was among the pioneers of public water supply.


Aberdare Local Board is to be warmly congratulated on its enterprise to have placed within easy reach so great a boon as good water must make the people of Aberdare feel very proud while Merthyr on the other hand is still discussing plans and debating measures.

1858 May

21-22 Vic. An Act for better supplying of water to the Town and Parish of Aberdare in the County of Glamorgan. Work started in October and finished in the following September of 1859. 11 months. Total amount of money authorized by bill £20,000. Work comprised 2 large reservoirs. One a compensatory reservoir for the Canal Co. and mill owners on Hirwaun Common covering 14½ acres. The other at Bwllfa covering 5 acres and fed by two streams the Dare and Nantmelyn. ‘The waters of these streams have been analysed by the Local Board of Health and found to be the purest in the district.’ Also 2 smaller reservoirs and 2 filter beds. Construction carried out by William Williams & Co., the Cardiff Civil Engineers.


An Act 33-34 Vic. to enable the Local Board for the District of Aberdare to erect Waterworks and supply water and to purchase the undertaking of the Aberdare waterworks Company and for other purposes.


57-58 Vic. An Act to authorize the Local Board for the District of Aberdare to construct additional Waterworks and for other purposes.


The Local Authority came to an arrangement with the Merthyr Local Authority to provide increasing water supply.


Tâf Fechan Water Supply Act set up Tâf Fechan Water Supply Board to take over from 1922 existing reservoirs of Merthyr Tydfil completing construction of Tâf Fechan Reservoir, Pontsticill and supplying water in bulk to 5 constituent authorities:
1 Merthyr Tydfil Corporation
2 Rhymney Valley Water Board
3 Pontypridd and Rhondda Joint Water Board
4 Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre R.D.C.
5 Aberdare U.D.C.

There is a typescript account of water supply in the Reference Section of the Library.






At the close of the 18th century, the few letters, which came to Aberdare, were delivered once a week by a man called Morgan Allt. The Royal Mail Coach ran from Neath to Merthyr, the last coach stage changing horses at the Cardiff Arms, Hirwaun kept by a Scot named Moore who had married a native Welshwoman.


There was a Merthyr Post to and from Cardiff five days a week. Conveyance of the mail was in the hands of a man called Edwards of the White Lion Inn, Cardiff. This included Aberdare.


Local delivery of letters was only about 3 a day. They were brought from Lower Basin (Abercynon) by a man called Dyke. The first Post Office at Aberdare was the Black Lion with the Landlord Robert Jones as Post Master. The service came directly from Merthyr by Pony and Mailbag.


The Head Postmaster at Merthyr in High Street was Rhys Davies. Letters from Aberdare arrived at Merthyr at 6.45 a.m. each day. In the 40s the great increase in population led to the establishing of sub Post Offices in various villages due to the agitation by the Rev John Jones of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, 1833–73.


By this year the Main Post Office was open and the sub Post Offices were going strong. The Postmaster was Robert Jones and, at the Aberaman Post Office, David James. There was an afternoon delivery at 4 p.m. Letters were dispatched to London and all parts at 11 a.m. Hirwaun Postmistress, Susannah Williams, despatch to all parts 2.30 p.m.

Mill St. Sub-Postmaster: William Carter
Aberaman, 24 Lewis St:. William Sims
Mountain Ash, 63 Oxford St: John Griffiths
Cwmaman, 4 Fforchaman Rd.: Thos While
Cwmbach, 5 Providence Place: John Billy Davies
Cap Coch: David Davies, Receiver


The Post Office clock stopped and the Postmen were too late at the Railway Station and the train had gone.



The public are hereby informed that Mr. William Morris Post Master at Aberdare will collect the old copper coins in Aberdare and its neighbourhood in exchange for new bronze coin or cash from all persons who bring the same to him.
Signed: Thomas Graham, Master of the Mint.

The new coin can also be obtained at the West of England Bank.


This was the year of the introduction of Post Cards and ½d stamps, which added considerably to the bulk of the Mail. The mail to Penderyn was taken by a postman walking and leaving it at the Lamb Inn to be collected. The Lamb Inn was built in 1827 by the Squire of Bodwigiad.


1st Post Office at Penderyn at the house of Llew Edwards, 4 Pont Pren. The service was subsequently extended to Ystradfellte.

1874 Dec

A meeting was held in the Long Room of the Temperance Hall to advocate the doing away with postal deliveries on Sundays. In the late seventies, the Post Office moved to Commercial Place and gradually all the postal services came to sub-Post Offices.


The Post Office went on fire and Inspector Thorney and Sergeant Cooke put it out.


New postal rates were instituted:
3d up to 1 lb.,
6d 1 lb. to 3 lbs.,
9d 3–5 lbs. and
1/- 5–7 lbs.


In the House of Commons, Mr. Henry Richard gave notice that he would ask the Post Master General whether he was aware that the Post Office at Aberaman had suspended the sale of Postal Orders for some time.


Post Master Henry Powell. London Night Mail Delivery by Postmen commenced at 7a.m. North Mail at 10 a.m. On Sundays, there was only one delivery at 7 a.m.


Mr William Phillips of Ruabon succeeded Henry Powell as Post Master at Aberdare.


Post Office Telephones first installed at Aberdare and there were 5 subscribers for a few years.


Subscribers had fallen to 2.


Post Office was removed from inadequate old buildings at Commercial Place to a splendid new building in Canon Street.


28,000 letters were collected each week at Aberdare G.P.O. and 32,000 despatched to other parts. Letters posted before 6.30 a.m. were delivered the same day in London.






The earliest efforts concerning Public Health were made by the Parish Vestry.

1819 July 18

“At a vestry held this Sunday, it was resolved that the overseer do as soon as convenient take Richard Hopkins son to Llanwrtyd Wells to try to get a cure for the Scurvy.”

1819 Aug.11

The Vestry agreed to become a subscriber to Swansea Infirmary. The subscription was One Guinea a year.

1819 Sept 16

“Resolved that Richard Hopkins’ son should have a new shirt”

1819 Dec 18

“Resolved that Lewis John David Lewis is to have 5/- for present relief till further orders, himself wife and family being in a severe fever according to Dr. Russell’s report”.


In this year a well-known local doctor Sion Rhys ap Ifan who at Llwydcoed together with the Rev Thomas Morgan, the Unitarian Minister at Blaengwrach, was said to have vaccinated 101 children against Small Pox.


In the early fifties, there was great agitation at Aberdare for the provision of a Hospital. This largely resulted from complaints by miners of the Company Doctor’s negligence in attending to their needs. The matter continually referred to in the local newspapers throughout 1859:— The Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, The Cambrian and the Welsh “Gwron”. It was suggested that the miners should withhold their weekly contributions towards the Company Doctor and that the money be applied to building an infirmary at Aberdare whereby they could choose their own medical attendant instead of relying upon the choice of the proprietors. The Hospital was to consist of 3 floors. Ground floor to include apartment for house surgeon, dispensary, consulting and out-patients rooms, Board room for the directors, Matron’s room etc. First floor divided into large open airy wards with 50 beds. The upper floor would be for the use of convalescent patients. Outbuildings to include laundry, boiler-house etc.

The Hospital would be governed by 16 directors constituted as follows:—
6 Representatives of the Coal and Iron Masters
6 Representatives of the Workmen
4 Representatives of the Tradesmen and other subscribers.

Sadly, the project was stillborn.






It appears that the Marquis of Bute had maintained a small cottage hospital at the Trap since 1875.


Towards the end of this year, a movement began at Cwmaman for a Public Hospital.


An Eisteddfod was arranged for Whit-Tuesday the proceeds of which were to go towards establishing a cottage hospital at Cwmaman. As a result, a series of similar eisteddfodau were held annually on the same day and by 1910, the fund had exceeded £600. The project now took a more practical form. It received the support of Mr. E.M. Hann, General Manager of the PD Company, and W.J. Heppell, General manager of the Cwmaman Coal Company. Further, the employees of these companies agreed to a deduction of ½d a week from their wages for the fund. Unfortunately, labour disputes caused the movement to be held up for the next two years.

1912 Oct 16

The Committee reassembled and a site was chosen behind Woodland Terrace, Godreaman, (possibly adjacent to Mr. Heppell’s house?).

1913 Mar 1

Workers’ contributions began. Throughout the year various plans were considered and eventually contractors appointed.

1914 June

Excavations for the foundations were begun but the outbreak of war brought the project temporarily to a halt.


During the Summer of this year, it became known that the Marquis of Bute intended closing the Hospital at the Trap. As a result of correspondence between the Marquis and the Aberdare & Merthyr Medical Association, the former signified his willingness to lease Abernant House for a period of 99 years on payment of £1,000 and on an annual rent of £25/£34 (two conflicting reports as to the amount of the rent).


ABERNANT HOUSE was built by James Birch in the early years of the 19th century. In 1819, it was bought by Messrs Fothergill and Co. and it became the residence of Roland Fothergill, and later, his nephew Richard Fothergill. The latter spent a considerable sum on extensions to the house and on the layout of the gardens. After Richard Fothergill’s bankruptcy, he retired to Tenby and in the course of time the house was taken over by Miss Emma Talbot of Margam Abbey who converted it into St. Michael’s College for the training of clergy for the Established Church in Wales. The First Warden was Canon Johnson. It appears the latter had been Curate at Aberdare from 1890 to 1892 when he was appointed Warden of St. Michael’s. After the College was transferred to Llandaff, he continued as Warden until 1919 when he became Vicar of St. Mary’s Cardiff.


By this year, therefore, there were two schemes for a new hospital. The new for a general hospital in the centre of the district was, however, generously supported by the original committee.

1915 Nov 16

Mr. Charles Kenshole a local solicitor and the current High Constable presided over a large meeting held in the Memorial Hall. Public subscriptions soon mounted to £14,428 of which the following amounts came from colliery owners.

P.D. Company


Bwllfa Co.


D.R. Llewellyn


Cwmaman Coal Co.


Lord Merthyr





The total cost of converting the old building came to £10,300. The new hospital of 40 beds was opened by Joseph Shaw, K.C., Chairman of the Powell Dyffryn Company on July 17th of this year. The first matron was Miss Frances Woods of Coventry, and she was succeeded by


Miss L. Richards in August of this year.

1920 Jan 1

Colliery and railway workmen decided to increase their contributions to 3d a week. The next 10 years were a period of steady growth and expansion aided by generous gifts from the P.D. Co., Mrs. George Hann, Charles Kenshole, E.M. Hann and the Marquis of Bute who gave the freehold of the hospital.


Fire destroyed the main building and two firemen lost their lives. Plans were soon drawn up for the re-construction and enlargement of the hospital with accommodation for 84 beds.

1933 Apr 25

The new hospital was officially opened by H.R.H. The Duchess of York.

1939 Apr 13

Alderman W.M. Llewellyn opened the Elizabeth Llewellyn Maternity Ward. To cover the cost of which, he gave £3,000 in memory of his mother.

1940 Oct

Laundry and Boiler installations were added.

1940 Nov

Mr. A. W. Humphreys, the Secretary, who had held the post from the very beginning retired. Previously he had been secretary of the original Cwmaman Committee. He was succeeded by Mr. Clifford Thomas.


Mr. W.M. Llewellyn gave a further £1,000 for the maintenance of the Maternity Ward. These extensions meant that for its size, Aberdare had one of the best-equipped hospitals in the country.

1948 July 5

The state took over the health services and the hospitals. The land buildings and equipment of the Aberdare Hospital were valued at £80,000.