About the Society
Historical Notes








The oldest decipherable date on any tombstone in St. John’s Churchyard.


In this decade there were only 11 burials in the Parish churchyard.


The first public burial outside the Churchyard that of a young child at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd graveyard.


St. John’s Churchyard was drained to a depth of 9 feet and the Parish had to pay 1d per annum for the outflow into the Dover Brook, which was privately owned.


An order in Council that all burial grounds belonging to chapels in the town were to be closed except for those vaults which were free from water. A movement for the opening of a Public Cemetery met with opposition from Aberaman who felt that the proposed site at the end of Hirwaun Common was too far away.


At a Public Meeting in Saron it was resolved to approach the Burial Board with the suggestion that there should be two cemeteries or one in a more central position. Nothing came of this.

1870 Nov 17

Official opening of the Aberdare Cemetery. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Llandaff. Many non-conformist ministers attended the ceremony. The Ground had been in use for some years prior to this date but now some 5 acres of it together with a church were consecrated for the use of “the Church Established by Law”.


Prior to this date gravediggers were already complaining of

1 Lateness of the hour of arrival of funerals
2 Inordinate length of services conducted at the graveside.

Subsequent press reports of many fascinating or macabre incidents at funerals, e.g.

1878 Nov

The body of a man was brought to Aberdare Cemetery for burial, by train from Cymmer. The deceased had left two wives to mourn him, both of whom insisted on attending the funeral. One walked immediately behind the bier the other more decorously rode in a cab at the end of the procession. They stood at opposite ends of the grave.


William Gwynn was appointed sexton at an initial salary of £90 per annum with house and coal (not to exceed 15 tons per annum).

From an early undertakers advertisement: - “Our latest glass panelled hearse defies competition”. Up to the beginning of May 1963, there were 64,818 burials in the Aberdare Cemetery.






A wall was built round that part of Hirwaun Common, which was to become the Park, by William Powell of Hirwaun.

1865 July

The Valuer under the Common Inclosure Commissioner wrote the Local Board of Health that, 'the pleasure ground would be transferred to the overseers of the Parish on August 1st.


The Public Park was formally opened in the presence of Richard Fothergill and Henry Richard the Members of Parliament for Merthyr and Aberdare. The drainage, layout and erection of lodges etc cost £6,300..9s..11d. The first Park Keepers were Messrs Hodson and O’Leary. No Public meeting was allowed in the Park until 1890 when local colliers held a demonstration there.


The Local board of Health under the chairmanship of R.H. Rhys borrowed £5,000 from the Government for re-walling, planning and draining off the Park, (is this included in the £6,300 mentioned above?). Advertisements were issued for plans in reply to which there were several competitors. Eventually the plans selected were those of William Baron a practical landscape gardener of Sketty, Swansea. Baron was a pupil of Joseph Paxton and it was on the latter's recommendation that the local committee accepted the Baron Plans.


Rowing boats were first introduced on the Park Lake. The three boats were donated by a Mr Isaac Thomas and the christening ceremony took place in the early Summer. Present were Lady Lewis, Miss Davies of Ynyscynon and the High Constable Mr David Davies. After the ceremony they embarked in one of the boats named Ruth and were rowed round the pond. Mr William Thomas sang appropriate verses to the tune of “God Bless the Prince of Wales” being accompanied by the Brass Band of the Aberdare Volunteers.

In the above connection, note the apocryphal story of the Gondolas.


The Marquis of Bute through his agent Sir W.T. Lewis gave Graig Rhiw Mynach as a free gift to the town to be known henceforth as Dumfries Park.

Hard ball games were prohibited from the Park but this regulation was subsequently amended to allow Bowls.