About the Society
Historical Notes






Eisteddfodau of the first half of the 19th century put Aberdare on the cultural map. They were competitive meetings where poets, prose-writers, and musicians met to compete for prizes.

The literary tradition of Aberdare appears to have begun with Ieuan Ddu ap Dafydd ab Owain who flourished in the valley between the years of 1440 and 1480 a poet and Patron of Glamorgan poets. The Jones Family of Dyffryn were descended from him and they too continued to patronise the arts for generations.


John Jones of Dyffryn who was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in this year has two poems quoted in Gardd Aberdâr. There were also prominent literary figures connected with Hen Dŷ Cwrdd from the end of the 18th C., e.g. Edward Evan, Ton Coch, whose Afalau’r Awen ran into 4 editions and Thomas Evans, Tomos Glyn Cothi. However, in spite of the fact that there had been several notable names connected with literary activities in Aberdare there is no direct evidence that there was any eisteddfod of bards here until 1837. There are, however, circumstantial indications that such meetings were held as early as 1820. Judge Gwilym Williams recounted to Mr. D.M. Richards that his father had been winning prizes at local eisteddfodau between 1820 and 1830. The meetings were held at the Swan Inn — on the site at present occupied by the AUDC Surveyors Dept. (NB the Williams family probably moved from Ystradowen to Aberdare in 1821.)


In August, “Seren Corner” advertised an Eisteddfod to be held on the 9th October under the auspices of Cymreigyddion Brynhyfryd (Mount Pleasant).

The president was to be Lewis Roberts a local surgeon.

The landlord of the Mount Pleasant was Dafydd Llewellyn — a noted local authority on Astronomy who owned an orrery.

The secretary of this first Eisteddfod was Benjamin Lewis (Beni Tomos Henry) who had kept a private school in Llwydcoed.

The Adjudicators were the Rev John Jones Hen Dŷ Cwrdd and Richard Williams Pant-y-Gerdinen. The latter was a local tradesman and poet born in Aberpennar in 1790; he spent the first years of his life at Bedwlwyn and was admitted to the order of poets by Iolo Morgannwg at Brecon in 1822. There is no information as to the proceedings.


This year the Stag Inn, Trecynon, was built by William Williams (Y Carw Coch). Both the building and the builder were destined to play an important part in the cultural life of Aberdare. William Williams born March 6th 1808 near Aberpergwm moved to Tredegar and then in 1832 to Llwydcoed and married a local girl. He was a prominent Unitarian and politician. One of the first people in Aberdare to support Chartism and one of the founders of “Y Gwladgarwr” in 1857. He died in 1872 and lies buried in St. Fagan’s Churchyard.


Christmas Day. The date of the next local eisteddfod of which there is any record. Held under the Chairmanship of Thomas Wayne, the list of prizewinners that appeared in “Seren Gomer”, March 1841, included the following:



David Williams


several prizes for poetry


Rowland Thomas


Prize for essay on Minerals of Aberdare


William Lewis

A Trecynon cobbler

Prize for an essay on ‘Beneficent efforts of Local Ironworks & Eulogy in Praise of Local Ironmasters’


William Morgan

Will Full Moon

Prize for penillion singing with harp. He was the father of Dai o’r Nant and was a colourful personality and a great Eisteddfodwr.
A particularly regular attender at Abergavenny Eisteddfod.


There now began a series of notable Eisteddfodau starting with one held under the auspices of Aberdare Freethinkers on May 10th 1841 at the Stag Inn. After the Cymreigyddion, Cymdeithas Y Carw Coch was formed which carried on the series.


Christmas Day. There is a record (without details) of an Eisteddfod being held on this date.


Eisteddfod Y Carw Coch of this year was notable because it contains the first record of a prize, £1..10..0, being given for a choir. It was divided between Merthyr and Aberdare Choirs.

1848 June 5th

At an Eisteddfod held on this day the Rev Evan Jones, (Ieuan Gwynedd), was one of the adjudicators.


August 26th. First record of a Chapel Eisteddfod. Held at Siloa. The purpose was to help defray the cost of building the new school Ysgol Comin.


In this year two brothers, Jonathon and Evan Rees, came to Aberdare with their parents


and in this year Evan began to work at Blaengwawr Colliery. He later became “Dyfed”, Archdruid of Wales. Jonathon became a poet of the first rank – Nathan Wyn – a household name in Wales during the 19th and early 20th centuries.


August 29th. Probably the most important of Eisteddfodau Y Carw Coch as its literary output is contained in ‘Gardd Aberdâr’.

During the 1850s Chapel Eisteddfodau became a regular feature of nonconformist life, partly out of general cultural interest and partly in order to clear Chapel Debts. Probably the most active in this field was the Baptist Sunday School Union of the Aberdare Valley. They held several Eisteddfodau, e.g.



Christmas Day

Ramoth, Hirwaun



Calfaria, Aberdare



Heolyfelin, Trecynon


Mention must be made of the 1855 Eisteddfod at Ramoth. In the morning, John Rhŷs Morgan, (Lleurwg), a noted poet and lecturer spoke for two hours on The Flood. During the afternoon the Eisteddfod took place and in the evening Lleurwg again lectured for two hours on the Millennium.


The Independents held an eisteddfod in the town when a prize of £5 was offered for the chief choral competition.


Large Ivorites Eisteddfod held in the Market Hall.


1st Reference to an Eisteddfod held in Cwmaman.


Great Temperance Eisteddfod.


Eisteddfod held by local Oddfellows.


Great National Eisteddfod held at Aberdare.






The National Eisteddfod of 1861 at Aberdare was the first to be held under the new rules (as to number of days, nature of competitions etc.). These rules had been formulated at the Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1858. This Eisteddfod has close links with Aberdare. Thomas Llewellyn (Llewellyn Alaw) submitted a collection of unpublished songs, which included a lyric by Evan James of Pontypridd, set to a tune by his son James James. The lyric and the tune became popular as ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’. Some examples of Evan James’ poetry can be found in Gardd Aberdâr. James James kept the Swan Inn for some years and spent the last years of his life at 6 Hawthorn Terrace. He died on the 11th January 1902 and is buried in Aberdare Cemetery.

These new rules were adopted at the Denbigh Eisteddfod in 1860

David Williams, Ynyscynon, has an interesting account of an Eisteddfod Committee meeting held at Shrewsbury on the 14th November 1860. A fair and horseracing meeting were held in the town at the same time. The members of the Committee failed to get an inn or food anywhere. The Police refused them shelter in the Police Station unless they were prepared to commit a crime. They could not get access to the Railway Station until 3 a.m. Their train left at 3.5 a.m. Nevertheless, they carried on with their work and by August 1861, all was ready.

A large tent was erected on Comin Bach (site of the Old Boys’ Grammar School) and the event was fixed for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday August 20th, 21st and 22nd. On August 18th a violent storm lashed the tent to ribbons. However, the Market Hall was rented and the proceedings began on time on the following Tuesday.

1st Day H.A. Bruce
2nd Day H. Hussey Vivian (later Lord Swansea)
3rd Day Crawshay Bailey in the unavoidable absence of Sir Watcyn   Williams Wynn

The Chair was won by Nicander — Rev Morris Williams — for a poem on ‘The Welsh Nation’ The chief Choral was shared between Aberdare and Dowlais.

Among the literary items that won prizes, were two that have stood the test of time

1 Alun Mabon a poem by Ceiriog
2 A History of Glamorgan by David Jones of Merthyr, (later Dafydd Morgannwg)

From this time onward until the early 20th C, the Eisteddfod idea held Aberdare in its thrall. The following list of eisteddfodau held during the period 1861–1870 gives some idea of its popularity.


August National Eisteddfod
November Eisteddfod under the auspices of the Good Templars


Baptist Sunday School Union Eisteddfod


Christmas Day Eisteddfod at Siloa. 1st of an annual series


Eisteddfod Alban Hefin (Summer Solstice)


October 3rd Baptist Eisteddfod


November 20th eisteddfod at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd


Christmas Day Eisteddfod at Siloa


September 25th Eisteddfod at Cross Inn


October Eisteddfod (no details)


Eisteddfod at Cwmbach


July 17th Eisteddfod at Cwmbach


May 30th Baptist Eisteddfod


August 17th, Eisteddfod at Cwmbach. Victoria Eisteddfod held under the auspices of Buddug Lodge. Topic for the essay competition was “The Origin and Growth of the Cooperative Stores Cwmbach”. The prize was won by Thomas Edwards a product of Bryn Seion. The essay was published to provide him with the means to proceed to Theological College. In 1870, he emigrated to America where he became one of the great Welsh-American preachers Dr. Cynonfardd Edwards. He was also a great Eisteddfod Conductor.


Large eisteddfod meeting at the Temperance Hall, seven choirs competing for a £20 prize. Test Piece: the Hallelujah Chorus. Won by Saron, Aberaman.


September 5th Eisteddfod Meeting (no details).
In addition to these eisteddfodau there were countless ‘penny readings’ and they all invariably began at 8 p.m.


The National Eisteddfod revisited Aberdare and according to their Minutes, the Local Committee resolved that any profit accruing from the event should be shared between the Colleges of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Cardiff. The Eisteddfod was held at Cae Smith, Cwmbach Road. The tent was illuminated for the first time by electric light. Prominent in the venture were:—


Judge Gwilym Williams

Rev. Dr. Thomas Price

Mr. Jenkin Howell

Mr. William Thomas, Brynawel

Mr. T. Marchant Williams

1st Lord Aberdare


The meetings were held during August 25th–28th.

Financially it was a success but competition entries were not outstanding and several awards were withheld. Many notable Welsh literary personalities were present including the following: — Nathan Wyn, Dyfed, Dafydd Morgannwg, Clwydfardd, Ceiriog, Llew Llwyfo etc, etc. The chair was one by Watkin Williams (Watcyn Wyn) for an ode entitled ‘Y Gwîr Yn Erbyn Y Bŷd’

The chief guest of honour was Mathew Arnold.

The Chief Choral Competition was won by Dowlais Choir.

Tuesday Sir George Elliot
Wednesday Mr. J.C. Parkinson
Thursday Lord Aberdare
Friday Col. Kemeys-Tynte

The General Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Aberdare included amongst others as vice-chairman: Rev R. B. Jenkins, Rev Dr. T. Price, D. Davies Esq. and Capt T. Phillips, Treasurer L. Acomb Esq., Hon. Sec. Rev R.T. Howell.

Nearly 11,000 attended on the Thursday in addition to about 5,500 at the evening concert. A prize of £3:3:0 was offered for the best performance on Violoncello but unfortunately the test pieces selected had been out of print for 10 years and so the competition was abandoned.

The subject of the Englyn was “Electricity”.

The Chair carried with it an award of £20 (now £30).

The chief choral prize was £150, won by Dowlais Choir.

It poured with rain on the Thursday.


Some Financial Details:—



£ . . s . . d



£ . . s . . d


1033 14 7


Pavilion constructed by Messrs Morgan & Gregor

901 18 11

Tickets sold at booths

1832 12 6


Gas & Fittings

30 10 6

Season Tickets

264 15 0



586 10 6


120 18 6


Artists & Accompanists

376 10 0




Adjudicators & Conductors

174 2 0




Printing and Ads

265 3 3




Secretaries salaries

178 5 3







3252 0 7



3094 02 5



There is some discrepancy here. I may not have taken down the figures correctly but there was an excess of income over expenditure of £157..18..2. This was handed over to the National Eisteddfod Committee in spite of the Local Committee’s previous decision.


Brecon National Eisteddfod. The Minister of Gadlys Chapel the Rev Benjamin Evans (Telynfab) won a £25 prize for an essay — Biography of Dr. Thomas Price.


Bangor National Eisteddfod. Miss Blanche Williams, daughter of James Williams, Compton House, won a prize.


The 1st Annual Eisteddfod held under the auspices and on behalf of the Mountain Ash Cottage Hospital. The popularity of these Eisteddfodau held at the Workmen’s Hall Mountain Ash can be gathered from the fact that two years later the 1st prize for the chief choral competition was £100.


Cardiff National. Mr. J. Arkite Phillips won 1st Prize for Solo Oboe.

1902 Xmas day

The Market Hall was destroyed by fire. Popular venue of concerts etc. A Band Concert arranged for Boxing Day had to be held in a hastily erected marquee, the lighting for which was supplied by Mr. Haggar of Bioscope fame.

1920 Jun 12

Account in the Aberdare Leader of a meeting held to appeal for the National Eisteddfod in 1922. The Memorial Hall in which the meeting was held was filled to capacity. In the chair was the High Constable D.R. Llewellyn. Although supported by the Vicar and numerous prominent townspeople the application was turned down.


Machynlleth National. Cwm Cynon Male Voice Choir won 1st Prize.


National Eisteddfod at Aberdare. D.O. Roberts chairman of Executive Committee.


Note: Invitations were issued for the National Eisteddfod to take place at Aberdare in 1913 and 1926. (Authority: A memorial from the inhabitants of Aberdare and District dated 25th June 1924.)