About the Society
Historical Notes






Consequences of the Industrial Revolution


There are no reliable statistics before the census of 1801. Figures are provisional for a further generation. Sources from which conclusions may be drawn are Parish Registers, Baptisms and Burials. Tables of Hearth Tax in the 17th century. See Gregory King’s Tables in Charles Davenants Works Published 1701.

Population was fairly stable up to the middle of the 18th century. Gardd Aberdâr 2nd Edition p26 (1872) states that there were 10 times the number of people in 1804 as there were in 1738.


If this is correct, the population in 1738 was about 150.


In this decade there were only 18 Baptisms and 11 Burials at the Parish Church.


For a period of a year and a day, there was no burial in Aberdare and the first funeral after that was of one Sioni Fawr or Jack the Giant. Seating capacities in places of worship were about 450 i.e. 250 in the Parish Church and 200 in Hen Dŷ Cwrdd (not the present building) built in 1751.


The population did not exceed 450–500 in this year. The number of burials recorded in the Parish Church remained fairly constant for the next 30 years.


The first burial at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd. The last was of Mrs Jane Gethin widow of Thomas Gethin and mother of Mrs. Lleufer Thomas on November 29th 1909.

Apart from the few houses round the Parish Church, which included Almshouses in Green Fach, (Eleanor Matthews Trust 1794), there were mainly farms and cottages which were white or colour washed twice a year. The only Mansions in the district were Dyffryn House on the site of the old Aberpennar House and built in the middle of the 18th Century, Aberaman House built in 1791 by Anthony Bacon and Tŷ Mawr situate in the village itself. Abernant House was not built until 1804, Gadlys Isaf although a dwelling place for many previous generations was not converted into a Big House until 1815. Gadlys Uchaf was built by Lewis Roberts in 1828. The surrounding farms bore lovely Welsh names.


The Parish boasted 2 shops and 5 taverns. One site of a shop was Tŷ Mawr kept by Evan Griffiths whose great-grand-daughter Ann became as Ann Griffith Jones and wife of the Rev R.J. Jones, Minister of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd a prominent Aberdare citizen. The shop was so noted for the quality of its goods that at the end of the 18th century. Merthyr people used to come over via Heolgerrig to shop at Aberdare.

Taverns included Cap Coch, which had provided refreshment since early in the 17th century. It was called Cap Coch because of the habit of an early innkeeper of donning a red cap to denote an imminent cockfight. The village inn was Bôn-y-Groes a site now occupied by the Town Hall and previously the site of the Old Village (Celtic) Cross. Mine host was W.E. Phillips who died aged 104 in 1826. Ton Coch had been a tavern since the 30s of the 18th century and was kept by Bess Knight who was related to the Bruces of Dyffryn and had come from Pembrokeshire in 1724–26. In 1793, a man called Sion Watcyn opened a tavern at Hirwaun.


With the opening of the Abernant Iron Works, the Trap was set up at the junction of the Abernant and Cwmbach roads. There was no house in Mill Street until 1793 except an old mill on the east side of the River Cynon, but toward the end of 1792 a man called Morgan Watcyn had begun to build in Heol-y-Felin. In the 18th century, the population of England and Wales was some 5½ million in Queen Anne’s time rose to 9 million in 1801. Maes-y-Dre was a field and the first building was the Queen’s Hotel and later the tithe barn at 63–64 Seymour St.


The population of Aberdare was 1486 living in 218 houses, the average per house of 6.81. The increase was due in large measure to the opening of the Iron Works at Llwydcoed and Abernant. The population of Glamorgan at this time was estimated as 71,525 living in 14,762 houses. Cardiff population was 1,018 a fishing village.


Census Population was 1,338 ?, Cardiff 2,457. Gardd Aberdâr gives population as 2,782 in 1811, 1,426 male and 1,356 female. This was greater than subsequent years because of the departure of casual labour that had been building the canal.


Census figures give population of 2,062: 1,061 male and 1,001 female, a 36.7 % increase since 1801.


Gardd Aberdâr gives the number as 2,063, (probably because census figures were not published until 1824–25).


A report to the House of Commons published by T.F. Ellis and W. Wylde on the proposed boundaries of the Merthyr Borough gives the number of houses in Aberdare as 415 giving an average of 4.96 per household. The increase of population, though substantial was not from great immigration but was due to a notoriously prolific section of the population viz. the Iron Workers and Colliers.

1819 Nov 12

Militia List in Bute Mss. at Cardiff 41062 Sch.B Sect 34 List of Names and Occupations. Synopsis:



Llwydcoed Hamlet: 76 names. 7 Farmers, 25 Miners, 9 Colliers, 1 Ploughman, 1 Surgeon (Watcyn Rhys), 2 Navigators.


Fforchaman Hamlet: 12 names. 8 Farmers, 3 servants, 1 Cordwainer.


Cwmdare Hamlet: 50 names. 5 Farmers, 20 Miners, 1 Navigator, 7 Colliers.


Cefnpennar Hamlet: 20 names. 5 Farmers, No Colliers, No Miners, 9 Labourers, 4 Servants, 1 Mason, 1 Cordwainer.

158 Men liable for service in 1819.


Gardd Aberdâr states that there were 3 Shops in the Parish, 20 Taverns plus Truck Shops. In addition, a number of the Taverns sold provisions.


PIGGQT & CO DIRECTORY: Names of Taverns and Publicans:


Black Lion
Levi Thomas
Bell (Mill St.)
Margaret Morgan
Lewis Lewis
Cardiff Arms (Hirwaun)
Peter Moore
Colliers Arms
Richd. Williams
Crawshay’s Arms (Hirwaun)
Evan Rees
Cross Keys
Wm. Addison
Crown (Hirwaun)
Ben Evans
Farmers Arms
Dd. Jenkins
Green Dragon
Mary Morgan
Phillip Rees
Hirwaun Castle
Wm. David
Horse & Groom
Wm. Gethin
Mason’s Arms
Dd. Morgan
Mt Pleasant (Mill St.)
Dd. Llewellyn
New Inn (Mill St.)
Jno. Williams
Rising Sun (Mill St.)
Thos. Williams
Jno. Prosser
White Lion, Hirwaun
Jno. Richards

This list does not include mere retailers of beer.


Census. 3,532 males, 2,939 females, Total 6,741. This is a 70% increase over 1831. The Returns also reveal 1,171 inhabited houses, 46 empty, and 19 building. The average per house was 5.75. The fourth decade of the 19th century began a phenomenal rise in population and the greatest rise was in the next 20 years from 1841 to 1861


There were 1,450 houses in the Parish of Aberdare. They were built according to the terrain in long streets down the valley. The town was still comparatively small and was still Aberdare Village, (Y Pentre). The houses were clustered around the Iron Works. The estimated populations of the various villages in the 1840s were Llwydcoed 960, Heolyfelin 1,200, Aberaman 1,200, and Cwmbach 2,700. Aberaman rose literally from nothing between 1845 and 1850.

1845 Sept

Local Report: 100 new cottages to be built between Aberdare and Aberaman, site of Mr. Crawshay’s new Iron Works.


Foundations of other rows of houses were laid in the Spring of this year. It was hoped that with the introduction of four new blast furnaces employing 400 men each that the population of Aberaman would soon reach 4,000.


There were 80 masons and 50 carpenters employed in building projects in Aberaman alone. Even bearing all this in mind, one is hardly prepared for the increase in Population in 1851.


Census Total 14,998: 8,403 male 6,595 female; 128.48% increase. There was a marked preponderance of males, which had been a feature of previous censuses. This was due to the large number of unmarried men who had flocked into the area from West Wales and also many married men had left families behind in rural areas especially after the Repeal of The Corn Laws in 1846. These married men returned to their homes only once or twice a year. There were 69 houses building, 37 uninhabited, 2,569 inhabited – an average of 5.83 per house. 1,190 houses were built in the 8 years preceding 1852. Exact figures regarding trading and professional establishments are impossible to obtain but Gardd Aberdâr gives the following: —



Essay 1

Essay 2

No. of Taverns

1852: 128

1853: 116

No. of Shops

1852: 90

1853 158



Essay 2 gives a fairly comprehensive picture of life at Aberdare
50 Lodges of various Friendly Societies and Building Societies with total in membership of more than 5,000.



Public Houses


Hotels — not one Welsh name


Beer Houses


Grocers and Tea Dealers 20 of whom were drapers as well


Places of Worship: 2 Churches, 22 Chapels, 3rd Church St. Fagan’s building in 1854


Boot and Shoe Makers


Butchers (including two women)


Schools including 4 “Public” schools, 15 Private, 3 of them boarding


Tailors Establishments — 5 were Drapers as well


Carpenters and Joiners Firms


Stonemasons Establishments


Magistrates: H.A. Bruce, Stipendiary; Clerk: Lewis Lewis




Cutlers and Ironmongers


Cabinetmakers and Upholsterers


Painters and Glaziers


Surgeons: David Davies, Wm. Davies, Chas. James, J.L. Roberts


Watch and Clockmakers




Post Offices: Main at Black Lion, Landlord Robert Jones was Postmaster


Booksellers and Stationers


Brewers: Wm Jones Gadlys, and Rock


Timber Merchants


Chemists and Druggists T.W. Evans and John Jones, High Street


Hairdressers: Cotter, High St.; Peake, Commercial Place


Railway Stations: Taff Vale and Vale of Neath








China and Glass Dealer: Janet Morris, High Street


Fishmonger: Phillip Young


Auctioneer: J. Jenkins


Coffee House Keeper


Canal Agent: Evan Lewis


Vestry Clerk: T.W. Evans


Gasworks Manager: David Williams


Sergeant: Police Sergeant Parsons and Police Station, Windsor Street


Solicitor: John Henry Hollier


Registrar: Morgan Williams, High Street

Burials took place in Chapel graveyards conducted by nonconformist ministers or Churchyards by Vicar John Griffiths or Curate Phillip Noel.


Year ending June 17th: 703 deaths recorded, 95 by fatal accidents in the mines or iron works. Death rate was over 30 per thousand and the birth rate was 48 per thousand. The great increase in the population accelerated by massive immigration into the Parish.

1855 Oct

2,587 Houses between top end of Trecynon and lower end of Aberaman. 2,252 under £10 per annum rent. Electors roll could not have exceeded 335.

36 houses, rent at more than £50 per annum

192 houses, rent between £20 and £50

107 houses, rent between £10 and £20

With increasing demand for houses, some would take law into their own hands and build houses on Hirwaun Common contravening Public Health Acts. They were usually fined £10 and the houses demolished. This occurred again in 1859. They were known as Tai Un-Nos.

Local Friendly and Building Societies found difficulty in continuing because of difficulty in obtaining leases.


Aberdare Building Society wound up and transferred to the Neath Building Society and distributed monies at the Temperance Hall, (newly built).


Between Sunday 7th April and Tuesday 19th, five women living within 100 yards of each other in Aberaman gave birth to twins.


Census 32,299 an increase of 115.35% over previous one. Demand for houses continued to grow and there was new building in Maes-y-Dre. 3 Cottages built in Dean Street in 1859 for £65 were sold in 1874 for £120. During the early sixties, more and more coalowners found it necessary to build more and more cottages on their own ground. Gadlys and Blaendare were particularly prominent in this.


15,300 immigrants poured into Glamorgan coalfields between 1861 and 1871. They were mainly from Monmouthshire, Breconshire and West Wales and it is certain that Aberdare received its proportion. This increase was offset by the Industrial Depression of the sixties that led to emigration from Aberdare and Rhondda to Middlesbrough, Australia and America. Many Aberdarians emigrated to Australia and settled in Snake Valley in New South Wales.


Many local Firemen left Aberdare Iron Works for Newcastle.


“Hints to Emigrants or a Key to the Colonies”, full Directions for making a fortune quickly. Price 6d.


Cunard Co. were advertising steamers sailing every other Thursday to New York from Liverpool. Cabin 15 Guineas and Steerage 8 Guineas, including supply of provisions.


About 30 people left Aberdare for British Columbia.


Ebenezer Trecynon lost about 30 members in April through emigration. “Gwladgarwr” was far the most emigration conscious Journal and published scores of letters from emigrants lately translated and published by Alan Conway. “Letters from Immigrants” WELSH IN AMERICA U.W.P.

The local emigration officer one Nathaniel Jones known as Cymro Gwyllt was condemned. He was some sort of poet. He gained considerable notoriety when “Gwladgarwr” was first published by writing a poem in its praise and this turned out to be cribbed. The local Office was at Cross Inn, Trecynon. To those without means to do so, he offered free passage on condition that the emigrant would deduct ¼ of wages to pay for passage plus interest.

Transport was terrible. Letter from one John Davies of Ohio, “I left Liverpool on the City of Baltimore one of the dirtiest vessels I have ever been aboard. All the space a passenger has is a space 2½ feet high, 2 feet wide and 6 feet long. At meal times, a steward comes past and gives each passenger his share in a tin in bed”.


Welsh Colony to be established in Patagonia. Of 153 emigrants whom presented themselves at Liverpool in April, more than a third came from the Aberdare valley including 39 from Mountain Ash and 17 from Aberdare.

1865 May

Nearly 100 men served notices at Nixon’s Colliery prior to departing for America. During the remainder of the year up to 60 people a week left Aberdare for distant parts.


Census: 37,704. A 16.73% increase on previous census. Some reasons for the decline in increase were the Economic Depression of the sixties and substantial emigration, and the Rhondda Valleys opened for the first time. Population of Parish of Ystradyfodwg went from 3,000 in 1861 to 17,000 in 1871.


Rateable value of the Parish of Aberdare £166,746
Estimated Rental £208,351

Emigration continued on an appreciable scale.

1876 June

20 people left on the same day for New Zealand. However, the local population continued to grow and also the housing problem.


238 Houses in Abernant, 14 unoccupied. In the 224 occupied houses, there were 308 children under 7, and 198 between 7 and 13. Birth Rate shows steady decline at the end of the 19th century but the death rate remained constant; therefore, the increase was due to an increase of labour.




DEATH RATE (per 1,000)
















The Inspector of Nuisances had to report to local Board of Health 4 cases of gross overcrowding in Foundry Town. 17 in one cottage and 15 inhabitants dwell in each of 3 others.

1882 Nov

Surveyor reported following houses not connected to water supply. Hirwaun 83, Penywaun 11, Llwydcoed 4, Cwmbach 11, Cwmaman 176. The consequences were appalling sanitary conditions due to overcrowding and there were constant epidemics.


May 15 to July 18 in Merthyr and Aberdare districts there were 1,670 cases of cholera and 632 died. It broke out in a house in Cobbler’s Row, a street of small houses opposite where the Trap surgery is now. In June, 2 cases reported 1 fatal. There had been 14 deaths in Merthyr before June 1st. In Cardiff, 9 deaths June 6th and 10 June 7th. Epidemic raged throughout the Summer months up to and including September 12th.






May 25




June 1




June 5




June 24





1848 Dec



Average age of all persons at death in Tregaron

41 years 9 months

Average age of all persons at death in Merthyr

18 years 2 months

In Tregaron 12.1% of people live to between

80 and 90

In Merthyr 2.6% of people live to be


Drainage was very imperfect; there were few underground sewers and no house drains.


Small Graveyards closed by Order in Council.

1852 Sept 16

There was an important meeting of the Parish Vestry to discuss PUBLIC HEALTH. Evidence was given before H.A. Bruce, Richard Fothergill, Rev John Griffiths MA Vicar, and Government representative Mr T.W. Rammell.


CONCLUSIONS Main sources of disease
1 Numerous Dung Hills in vicinity.
2 Unsatisfactory method of slaughtering animals for meat. (Wounded and bleeding bullocks often escaped into the streets from the hands of the butchers causing panic in passers-by).
3 Poor Water Supply (People of Aberdare have to wait as long as three hours for a turn at the street pumps)

1854 Sept 15

1st election for Local Board of Health. One of the first duties was the appointment of Mr. Griffith Jones of Merthyr as the 1st Inspector of Nuisances.

1861 Sept

Lecture at Siloa by D. Lloyd of the Presbyterian College Carmarthen on, “The Air we Breathe and the Water we Drink”.


There were many complaints about the condition of the streets and roads.


There was a severe outbreak of Scarlet Fever – “Deaths from this fearsome disease are of daily occurrence”.


“Traveller” complained that, “the street from Mill St. past Ebenezer was in a beastly condition full of Poisonous Mud”. Cattle Plague raged through the district and there was a cholera epidemic in Cwmbach.


In the early Spring, there was an outbreak of Scarlet Fever in Cwmbach.


There was a very serious outbreak of Scarlet Fever. There was a Public Announcement from the Board of Health which said, “The Local Board of Health wish to direct the attention of the Public to the great danger ensuing from persons visiting houses when Scarlet Fever and other infectious diseases are known to exist. The Board strongly urges that where deaths have occurred from this disorder, it is highly expedient that private funerals only should be permitted not attended by a greater number of persons than is necessary for a proper and decent funeral.”


Census gives population as 37,704.

The leading gentry at this time were HA. Bruce; Richard Fothergill; W.T. Lewis, Mardy House; Rhys Hopcyn Rees, Plasnewydd; James Lewis, Tŷ Draw; Samuel Thomas, Ysguborwen House; Daniel Rees, Llettysiencyn House, and Henry John Hollier, Oaklands, Aberaman.

Local Government was in the hands of the Board of Health, which comprised 12 members meeting fortnightly in the Town Hall. One third of the members were elected annually and retiring members were open for re-election.

There was a Tin Works at Trecynon run by Messrs Chivers Son & Smith employing 100 men.

The Living in the Gift of the Marquis of Bute was valued at £170 per annum plus Residence.

The Living of St. Fagan’s was £300 per annum plus residence in the Gift of the Bishop of Llandaff, Isaac Domere Jenkins of Christ College Cambridge.

The County Court met at the Temperance Hall, the Petty Sessions at Windsor Street, Trecynon; the Inland Revenue Office was at the Black Lion and the Town Crier was William Argus of 1 Pembroke Street.

There were 9 Anglican places of worship, the most recent of which was the Iron Church at Cwmaman built in 1869 and there were 58 nonconformist chapels.


The Clerk to the Local Board of Health was H.J. HoIlier.
The Surveyor was Roddam Colville Hall.
The Rate Collector was Howell Williams.
The Medical Officer of Health was David Davies, Bryngolwg.


Census: 33,804. The decline from the last was due to the closing of the Iron works but these figures were for a new area of population. A portion of Aberdare Parish had been passed to Mountain Ash. For the old area, population was 35,804 but this was a considerable drop of 2,000 on the previous census. The next decade showed an increase.


Census: 38,431. Census Day was the 1st Sunday of April. New area.

Dr. T.W. Scales the Registrar of Births and Deaths secured the services of 45 Enumerators for his district, which included Penderyn and the Hamlet of Rhigos. The enumerators started their rounds on the Monday previous and the Blue colour of the Schedule occasioned some problems. This was the first occasion when Welsh Schedules were issued when required, and by Wednesday, the supply ran out.


Quarter ending March 31st saw 237 deaths in Aberdare including 33 cases of pneumonia and 52 under 12 months.