About the Society
Historical Notes






Prior to the 18th century, Games and Merrymaking, Taplasau Hâf, invariably accompanied Fair Days and Feast Days. There were in the tradition of Welsh life 24 games divided into 3 classes.


10 Manly Sports

Gwrol Gampau

10 Juvenile Games


4 Sub-Games


Gwrol Gampau, 6 depended on bodily strength alone known as Tadogion they were:—


Weight Lifting

Carreg Orchcst








Ymaflyd Codwm
(a) Codwm Braich
(b) Codwm Cefn

The remaining 4 depended on skill at arms — O Rym Arfau




Sword and Buckler


Two-handed Sword

Cleddyf Deuddwrn

Two-ended Staff

Chwarae Ffon Dwybig


Juvenile Games


Coursing with Greyhounds


Fishing and Fowling


Poetical Composition

Cerdd Dafod

Harp Playing

Cerdd Dant

Reading Welsh

Darllen Cymraeg

Singing an Ode (Cywydd) to music

Canu Pennillion

Singing Part Songs


Drawing Coats of Arms


Knowledge of Heraldry





Playing Chess

Chwarae Gwyddbwyll




Cleddyf Deuddwrn

Tuning the Harp

Chwarae Ffon Dwybig

These games were played at Glan Rhyd Agored on the banks of the Cynon near the weir that supplied the old Llwydcoed Mill with water.




Tonglwyd Fawr




These games were played at Glan Rhyd Agored for at least 150 years prior to 1790.


The pride of place among all these gamesters must go to Guto Nyth Brân. He was one Griffith Thomas Morgan born in 1700 at a farm called Llwyncelyn, but at an early age his parents moved to Nyth Brân, (D.W.N.B.). A splendid source is “Hanes Plwyf Llanwonno”, by Glanffrwd.


Legend has it that Guto ran the 12 miles from Newport to Bedwas in a race in 53 minutes and one of his greatest backers Siân Y Siop in her delight at his success thumped him hard on the back whereupon he collapsed and died.


1 ATHLETICS Seem to have developed in the 50s of the 19th century.

1858 Jan

Rustic sports at Aberdare on the occasion of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter. These games were held under the auspices of the vicar and curates and the gentry of the parish. They met with violent opposition from newspapers and non-conformists.


Minute from Extract of Evidence by Mr. Owen Williams, surveyor, to a select committee of the House of Lords enquiring into the Tramways Bill, “The Hirwaun Recreation Ground Scheme was first put forward in 1869 but this has not yet been carried out”.


2 BILLIARDS AND SNOOKER: Introduced with the institutes and reading rooms. Snooker was first introduced in 1889 and was the first novelty since skittle pool.


3 BOXING AND WRESTLING Proved early on to be popular.

1861 April

A local pugilist called Dick James fought a Prize Fight with Llewellyn of Pontypridd at Rhymney Bridge for £50 a side. After 22 rounds, James won.

August James was beaten in 3 minutes by Benjamin of London.


Cardiff Times: “Village of Nelson Llanfabon fight between Wil o’r Ddinas and Dai Penlas was upset by the Police and the meeting then repaired to Ystradmynach.”

1864 April

Many Aberdare people went to Merthyr to see the famous Tom King in action in Grimmett’s Circus.

1864 May

A Fistic Tournament at the Temperance Hall. Jem Mace, Champion of All England, was present and accompanying the great man were Joe Goss and Mick Gammon.

1890 Oct

A prize fight at Mountain Ash for £1 a side. After several rounds, one of the fighters fell and struck his head against a stone. He was carried home and died.

At a meeting at Saron, strong disapproval was expressed of Boxing Saloon Law as it then stood. They wished it to be impossible for prize fights to masquerade as boxing matches.


WRESTLING gained prominence. At the market hall, a local exponent Mears met Ned Brown of Ton Pentre for £20 a side and a £10 purse given by the management. No decision was reached.

1889 Nov

4 CHESS: Dr. H.E. Bird, the world famous chess player, visited Aberdare and played 16 games simultaneously and was beaten only by Mr Flooks the outfitter.

1884 July 4

5 CYCLING: At a meeting at the Three Generals Hotel, the Aberdare Bicycle Club was formed. The first secretary was Mr. J.M. Davies of Cwmbach and the first treasurer was Mr. Robert Bolitho of Aberaman. The club proved to be an immediate success and during the next 10 years, produced world champions particularly Arthur and Sam Linton of Aberaman. Busts of these men by J. Arnold Thomas of Trecynon were exhibited at the Cardiff Exhibition of Sculpture. George Burge was another noted cyclist. Arthur Linton won the international road race Paris–Bordeaux. They all trained at Aberdare Park.

1896 Mar

Jimmy Michael, world champion, was honoured with a dinner at the Lamb and Flag Hotel and he was presented with his portrait in oils. There was also a cycle track at the Ynys.

1861 June

6 CRICKET: The first Aberdare cricket club was formed under then secretaryship of Mr Meredith Llewellyn. The first fixture was a game with Mountain Ash, which Aberdare unexpectedly won by 4 wickets.


A meeting was held at the Stag Hotel, Mill Street, to establish a Trecynon Cricket Club.

1864 Aug

A match between Aberdare and Rhymney at Rhymney, the home side winning by 18 runs. Later at Aberdare: Aberdare won by an innings, the match was played at Aberaman Park.

1865 June

Aberdare beat Merthyr by an innings and 17 runs.

1878 Sep

7 DOG SHOWS: 1st Aberdare dog show held at the Market Hall. It attracted nearly 500 entries.


8 FOOTBALL: In the late 18th century very violent games between various parishes were held. The churchyard walls were the goals. Accidents frequently occurred and some were fatal. Rugby was played locally in the 60s and 70s with occasionally fatal casualties. One, Sidney Bronson, died from injuries he received in a football match.


From an article by W.T. Flooks. “The Welsh Rugby Union was formed this year. The game was played by 20 men a side and the players were selected from the biggest and the strongest men in the district.”


The Cambrian R.F.C. of Aberdare v Anchor R.F.C., Merthyr at Aberdare Park before a large crowd. The Aberdare team won by 2 tries and 5 minors to 2 minors.


Wales beat Scotland for the first time at Newport.


An Australian R.F.C. visited Aberdare in November, Aberdare lost 37–10.


Association Football became popular in the 80s.


Aberdare versus Troedyrhiw


Aberdare were champions of the South Wales League.

Played 36, Won 28, Lost 5, Drawn 3.
Goals for 125, Goals against 28.


Grand Matches over the Christmas Season at the Athletic Grounds Aberdare.

Aberdare played Crewe, Leominster and Rogerstone.


3 International Matches were played at Aberdare in the same year.

Rugby Wales v Australia
Soccer Wales v England (? Schoolboys)
Wales v Ireland


Names of local Soccer Clubs


Abernant AFC

Cwmdare AFC

Llwydcoed AFC

Aberdare Excelsiors

Trecynon Windsors

Jubilee Rovers

Aberdare Crescents

Gadlys Corinthians

Cwmbach Thistles

Aberdare Thursdays

Aberaman Wanderers




Aberdare in the Southern League.

Played 30, Won 4, Lost 22, Drawn 4.

Goals for 32, Goals against 86.


Aberdare Athletic Club was instituted with the active support of W.M. Llewellyn. The Ynys Field was laid out and stands built. The colours were claret and light blue.


They were elected to the 3rd Division of the English League but were able to hold their position for only 7 years.




9 FOOT RACING SPRINTING AND RUNNING GENERALLY On a Wednesday in September, Mr. Bruce Knight of Dyffryn undertook for a wager for a considerable amount to walk from Cardiff to Brecon and back to Cardiff via Merthyr in 40 hours. He did it easily in 33 hours. Distance 86 miles.


Many people from Aberdare went to Troedyrhiw to see a foot race between Wil o’r Waun and Morgan Worsley for £10 a side over a mile. Worsley won by 2 yards. Wil had failed in the previous June against a Cyw Cloff when he lost £20.


John Davies, Y Cyw Cloff, challenged anyone on a turnpike road over a distance between 1 and 20 miles for any sum not exceeding £20.


A race in Cardiff between William Davies, Glynneath, and Charles Scott of Aberdare. The umpire was Mr. Hosgood of the Iron Bridge Hotel. The race was over a 100 yards and Scott was the 6/5 favourite. William Davies had been coached by the Talgarth Tailor but lost by 2 feet.


Miss Bailey, a champion female pedestrian, undertook to walk a 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours at the Black Lion Hotel field where Elizabeth Street and Jenkin Street now stand.

1894 Jan

An exciting foot race for $30 a side on the Athletic Grounds between John Griffiths of Llwydcoed and J. Lewis of Trecynon. Griffiths won by 2 yards.


Merthyr 100 yard sprint. Evan Davies of Cwmbach and R. Lewis of Cap Coch for £10 a side Lewis gave Davies a 3-yard start but won easily.




10 GAME: Licenses issued to Aberdare gentry.

John B. Bruce, Gamekeeper to Lord Bute
James Beynon of Aberdare
William Bruce Knight of Dyffryn Aberdare
Thomas Rees, Werfa
John Scale, Esq.
John Walters, Gentleman
William Williams Esq., Gadlys.


David Jones, Gent.
David Davies, Esq., Ynyslwyd
Jenkin Rees, Werfa, Gent.
Theophilus Richards, Gent.
Richard Richards, Esq., Bwllfa
Francis Tappenden, Esq., Abernant
Jenkin Tappenden Esq., Abernant
William Williams Esq., Gadless
John Walters, Esq.

1834 April

Otter Hunt at Aberdare.
4 Otters were caught in 1 week in the River Cynon. They had made a regular holt or lodge in a deserted coal pit whose adit was on the brink of Llyn Ddu. The bitch who weighed 18 lbs was dislodged by that “Nimrod of the Cynon”, Twm Pen Drain.

1845 Sept

Partridge shooting...birds are rather scarce this year. A local resident who was somewhat short sighted shot a peacock by mistake.


Splendid woodcock shot in Aberaman.




11 GOLF: Aberdare Golf Club formed this year. The first professional was a Mr Hill and the club was officially opened by H.R. Howell many times Welsh amateur champion in 1922.




12 HORSE RACING: Commenced in the early sixties.


Aberdare Annual races in a field near Ynyscynon.

Open Steeplechase Handicap of 4 miles. 70 sovereigns added to a sweep of £5 each.

Hurdle Race over 2 miles. £25 added to sweep of £3.   6 flights.
— 1st Wee Aggie.

Commercial Steeplechase £25 sweep £3 — 1st Gay Lad.

An estimated 20,00? watched the racing, which was admirably conducted.

Stewards Ordinary at the Boot Inn. Race Banquet at The Black Lion.


A horse called Filbert owned by a Mr. G.R. Powell of Hirwaun came second in the Grand National and won a prize of £300.




13 CAT AND DOG: A game played by children until recently.




14 PIGEONS: A Pigeon Flying Club was founded. A race between 5 birds was held from Neath to Aberdare. The first Prize of 25/- was won by Billy (Mr. T. Thomas). The 20 miles were covered in 50 minutes in spite of heavy showers.




Mr. T.J. James, Cwmaman, Champion of Wales
Mr. W.B. Reynolds, Junior Champion
Mr. Dice Davies – Photograph in the Council Chamber.






Aberdare provided 300 men for the National Militia.


1,800 Local Volunteer Force formed under Capt. Tom Rees of the Werfa. They used to meet a Merthyr contingent on a flat piece of grassland at Pen yr Heolgerrig and exercise together.


A public meeting at the Temperance Hall chaired by John Jones, druggist, addressed by Mr. H.A. Bruce, M.P., – it was decided to form a local Rifle Corps. There were 71 recruits. The first drill sergeant was Gentle. The Corps continued active.

1864 April

Shooting Match between Aberdare and Merthyr branches. Aberdare led by Captain Powell won by 130 points to 125, and at a return visit in May, by 134 points to 113. In the early 60s, there was another branch at Aberaman.


They adopted scarlet uniforms.


Rifle Shoot, Capt. T. Phillips 46 points.


Local Volunteer Corps presented Capt. Phillips with a saddle and accoutrements on his elevation to Major.



1876 May

17 ICE SKATING: A concession was granted for Phaiton’s Patent Skates was taken out for Aberdare and a site for a rink taken at Tudor Place where the gasworks was later. By July, the rink, which was constructed by Mr. Shannon, was ready. A practice was attended by a large and fashionable gathering, and in this month too, the rink was officially opened.


A new skating rink adjoining the Market Hall was opened under the management of Mr. Thomas Ponting, formerly of Mountain Ash, who was also the instructor. “Messrs Jones and Haggar are to be congratulated on their new enterprise”.




18 LAWN TENNIS: The Aberdare Tennis Club which is one of the oldest in South Wales have moved to their premises on the banks of the Cynon.




19 WHEELING: This was quite popular in the 60s and 70s.

1861 July 16

A wheeling match will take place near the Royal Oak in Mill St., when a silver watch will be contested for. The blindfolded competitors wheeled a wheelbarrow towards a mark 100 yards distant and the one who ended up nearest the mark won the prize.