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Blue Plaque Scheme Announced - Cynon

A proud tradition of world-famous famous events, people, places, music and culture is being celebrated in Rhondda Cynon Taf with the introduction of a major new Blue Plaque Heritage Trail.

For almost two years Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Libraries & Museums Service has been working closely with various voluntary organisations and individuals to determine 30 sites in the county borough as yet unrecognized for their historical background.

Due to £49,200 of Heritage Lottery funding, the project has set out to identify icons, events and buildings, culminating in the placing of blue plaques to commemorate their history and achievements. A series of articles appeared in the local and national press along with television and radio coverage to encourage people to nominate their own site.

Following consultation with community representatives and historical societies, an audit was carried out to catalogue all existing memorials, statues and plaques in Rhondda Cynon Taf. People, places or events which already have a plaque commemorating them are ineligible for a Blue Plaque, as are anyone who died less than 10 years ago.

More than 180 nominations were received and representatives of historical societies in each area met with Council officers to undertake the unenviable task of deciding which areas will receive the Blue Plaques.

With so many historical buildings and events from colliery strikes, riots and even pioneering cremations in the county borough’s history, coupled with being the birthplace of a vast array of celebrities from the worlds of music, sport, cinema, literature and the political arena, the decisions were taken after a lengthy consultation process.

From the world of music and culture some of the successful sites include the birthplace of the world-famous opera singer Sir Geraint Evans from William Street, Cilfynydd and screen and stage actor Donald Houston of Thomas Street, Tonypandy.

In Gilfach Goch a plaque will be placed to remember author Richard Llewellyn who was said to have used the village as the basis for his best-loved novel, How Green Was My Valley.

Internationally-famous musical organisations like Pendyrus Male Choir will have a plaque on the site of their first rehearsal and the Cory Band are also being recognised at their current rehearsal room.

It is also a special occasion for the renowned Treorchy Male Choir who are celebrating the 125th anniversary since they were first formed at the Red Cow Hotel, Treorchy where they won £1 for singing Myfanwy in a local eisteddfod. A Blue Plaque will be placed on the pub itself and a celebratory evening will take place with performances inside and outside of the building.

Major events such as the first National Eisteddfod being held in Market Hall, Aberdare and the Tonypandy Riots which centred around its famous Powerhouse are also being commemorated.

From the world of sport, world-champion cyclist Arthur Linton from Aberaman, rugby international Dr Teddy Morgan of Abernant, Pontypridd boxer Freddie Welsh and international footballer and Manager of Manchester Utd Jimmy Murphy of Pentre are all being recognised.

Historical figures include the Rhondda MP and Miner’s Agent William “Mabon” Abraham from Pentre, Tonyrefail preacher Rev William Evans, better known as the “Silver Bell of Tonyrefail” and social reformer and the Labour Party’s first woman organizer Elizabeth Andrews from Ton Pentre.

A Blue Plaque will also be placed on Pontypridd’s famous Round Houses to remember chartist, surgeon, druid and pioneer of cremation Dr William Price and another will be placed on Gelliwasated Institute to remember its former owner Dr Richard Griffiths who built the tramroad that helped begin the Rhondda coal trade.

Historic buildings are also to received Blue Plaques, including Nantgarw China Works, Gadlys Ironworks in Aberdare (the site of the current Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery), Cymmer Independent Chapel in Porth when revivalist Evan Roberts once preached, Navigation Inn, Abercynon where the officers of the Glamorganshire Canal Company were located and Hirwaun Ironworks.

As the oldest community in the county borough, Llantrisant will receive three Blue Plaques to remember its original Parish Workhouse in four properties along Swan Street, the Guildhall where the ancient borough was governed and the weigh house where the borough market was regulated at a house now known as Y Pwysty.

The placing of the Blue Plaques over the coming months will allow residents and visitors a clear understanding of the sheer wealth of culture and heritage on offer in the county borough. Individuals will be able to follow a heritage trail through Rhondda Cynon Taf, following sites that many local and wider communities are unaware of.

Cabinet Member for Culture and Recreation, Cllr Robert Bevan said: “This is an exciting scheme and one which will raise the profile of the county borough to both local and wider communities.

“The support from community organisations, especially historical societies in offering advice on the merits of each nomination has been massive and together we have managed to decide on 30 locations evenly spread throughout the whole of county borough to receive one of the Blue Plaques.

“With the development of a Blue Plaque Heritage Trail visitors will be enthralled by the sheer wealth of history we have to offer, while many long-time residents will also be surprised at the importance of buildings near their own homes.

“We have an incredible heritage in Rhondda Cynon Taf and one which we remain justifiably proud of. This is our opportunity to showcase the people, the places and the events of our county borough to all those individuals who live in, work in or visit Rhondda Cynon Taf.”

The Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Blue Plaques to be situated in the Cynon Valley are:

Hirwaun Ironworks – Ty Mawr, Crawshay Street, Hirwaun

The village of Hirwaun grew from the need to provide houses and services for the workers at the Hirwaun Ironworks that was founded by John Mayberry in 1757. The Ironworks had a chequered early history and the development of Hirwaun was relatively slow. In 1813 the village contained 64 houses near the works, 5 at Penhow and 38 at Coedcae'rfelin. When the Ironworks were bought by the Crawshay Family in 1819 there followed a short lived period of prosperity, but this was followed by the depression of 1829 that led to unemployment and a cut in wages. During the Merthyr Rising of 1831a red flag was raised at Hirwaun, apparently the first time this banner was raised in Britain.

Despite these problems the period that the Ironworks were owned by the Crawshay Family were the most prosperous in their history. For much of this time the Ironworks were managed by Francis Crawshay.

Hen Dy Cwrdd Chapel - Trecynon

Hen Dy Cwrdd is the oldest Nonconformist chapel in the Cynon Valley. The ancient St John’s Parish Church (founded 1189) and Hen Dy Cwrdd chapel were the only two places of worship to be built in the parish up to 1811. Famously known as The Old Meeting House, the origin and establishment of Hen Dy Cwrdd can be traced back to 1751, and it was established on this site by Dissenting members of the Cwm-Y-Glo Chapel on the Merthyr mountain

Tramway Bridge – Between Trecynon and Robertstown

This cast iron bridge across the River Cynon between Trecynon and Robertstown is one of the oldest surviving "railway" bridges in the world. The bridge was built by the Aberdare Canal Company to carry the tramway that runs from Hirwaun to the canal head at Cwmbach.

Gadlys Ironworks – Cynon Valley Museum, Aberdare

The Gadlys Ironworks were opened in 1827 by a partnership of George Rowland Morgan, Edward Morgan Williams and Matthew Wayne. Matthew Wayne had been furnace manager at Cyfartha Ironworks, and with the help of his son Thomas Wayne, was instrumental in developing the sale coal market in the Cynon Valley. When it opened the Gadlys ironworks had only one furnace and this was first put into blast in 1828. When the works were put up for sale in 1835 it included 350 acres of mineral rights and an iron mine employing 150 men, the single blast furnace was capable of producing 1,700 - 2,000 tons of iron per annum. In the proceeding years the works expanded as by 1850 there were three blast furnaces at the site and a fourth was added by 1854.

For much of its life the Gadlys Ironworks produced iron for tinplate bars, but from 1861 production began wrought iron rails. In 1872 fifteen puddling furnaces and two rolling mills were in operation at the works, and the works were capable of producing 500 to 600 tons of rails per week. However, in common with the Aberdare and Abernant Ironworks, the works at Gadlys did not weather the downturn in trade of the early 1870's and production ceased in 1876

The Palladium / Temperance Hall – Cannon Street, Aberdare

The New Theatre was originally the Temperance Hall, an important public building in 19th century Aberdare that was constructed in 1858 at a cost of £3,000, provided by the Total Abstinence Society. The Hall consisted of an auditorium, which could seat 1,500 people, a temperance hotel with 11 rooms, committee, rooms, a library and temperance coffee house. At the time of its construction the Hall was the largest space available in Aberdare to hold public gatherings and was used extensively for public meetings, lectures and entertainment.

The Hall was converted into the New Theatre and Hippodrome in 1895 when alterations were made to the interior and façade and a portico was added (as illustrated in this photograph). In 1918 it was renamed the Palladium and began showing films. From the 1920's onwards it was primarily used as a cinema until being converted into its present form as the Palladium Bingo Hall.

Market Hall – Market Street, Aberdare

The First National Eisteddfod, held under new rules, took place in Aberdare Market Hall in 1861.  It was held over three days and the President’s were H.A. Bruce, H. Hussey Vivian (who later became Lord Swansea) and Crawshey Bailey (instigated Aberdare Railway) who took the place of Sir Watcyn Williams Wyn.

Dr Teddy Morgan – Agent’s Row, Abernant

Edward "Teddy" Morgan (22 May 1880 – 1 September 1949) was a Welsh international rugby union player. He was a member of the winning Welsh team who beat the 1905 touring All Blacks and is remembered for scoring the winning try. He played club rugby for London Welsh and Swansea RFC.

Morgan had moved to London from Newport in 1902 to take up a post at Guy's Hospital in London, where he took up playing with the Welsh exiles, London Welsh. It was while playing in London that Morgan earned his first international call up against England. Morgan's career with Wales saw him score 14 tries from the wing, but his most well remembered was the try he scored against the Original All Blacks in 1905.

In the monumental match between the unbeaten All Blacks and the Triple Crown-winning Welsh team, Morgan is believed to have led the his team in singing the Welsh national anthem in response to the New Zealanders' haka.[This was the first time a national anthem had been sung at a sporting event. During a strongly contested game, a single score decided the game. In the twenty-fifth minute, Welsh scrum half Dicky Owen released the ball to Cliff Pritchard, who received the ball at ankle level before darting forward. Having passed by Bob Dean, Pritchard released to Rhys Gabe who in turn found Morgan. Morgan dummied George Gillett and touched the ball down in the corner.

Abernant y Groes – Tre Telynog, Cwmbach

Cwmbach can be said to hold a special place in the history of the steam coal trade in the Cynon Valley for it was here that the first deep pit was sunk for the sale of coal. The pioneer of this trade was one Thomas Wayne, the son of Mathew Wayne, ironmaster and coalmaster of Merthyr.

Wayne persuaded his father and elder brother that an attempt should be made to reach the famous four-foot seam of steam coal. They felt that this seam would be found in Cwmbach and made an agreement with the owners of the Abernant-y-Groes Estate to sink a pit and work any coal found on the estate.

Sinking of the Abernant-y-Groes colliery (later known as Cwmbach Colliery) began in June 1837 and by December of that year that year they had sunk the shaft 60 feet. The people involved with the venture immediately formed the Wayne's Merthyr-Aberdare Steam Coal Company and by the end of December coal from the colliery was being exhibited in London. The company was to prove a huge success and in 1840 sent over 40,000 tons of coal down the Aberdare The colliery was abandoned in 1896.

Arthur Linton – Cardiff Road, Aberaman

Arthur Linton began to race locally and by 1892 was well known throughout South Wales. During the 1893 season he established himself nationally and was signed as a professional to ride a 'Gladiator' cycle under the tutelage of the trainer 'Choppy' Warburton. In 1894 Arthur defeated Dubois, the French Champion, in Paris and was narrowly defeated by the Italian Champion Bonnic, who thereafter refused to race him again. He was given the title of 'Champion Cyclist of the World' and when he returned to Aberaman in December he was given a hero's welcome, a public banquet was held in the Lamb and Flag public house and he was presented with an illuminated address.

1895 was a less successful year for Arthur. He suffered a knee injury and split from his trainer 'Choppy' Warburton. However, it was during the 1896 season that Arthur won his greatest race, the Bordeaux to Paris Race in which he defeated Riviere. Tragically, it seems that this race took too much of a toll on his body and Arthur Linton died of Typhoid Fever in June 1896, only some six weeks after the race. He was just 24 years old.

Navigation House – Cardiff Road, Abercynon

Merthyr Tydfil and the other iron centers on the northern rim of the South Wales coalfield were badly placed with regard to the transport of their products to the ports, initially the pig iron was carried to the coast by packhorses bearing panniers. Roads were eventually built but, while a wagon drawn by four horses could convey two tons of goods, a canal barge was drawn by one horse and could convey twenty-five tons. In the 1800’s, all the main valleys of the South Wales coalfield had been linked to ports by canals. It was the canals that truly launched the coalfields on its spectacular growth in the 1800’s. The canals remained the dominant form of transport until the railways overtook them in the 1840s.

The Navigation Public House was once the head office of the Glamorganshire Canal and at one stage the largest Iron exchange in the world was run from this building. The area around the Navigation Public House is known as the basin this is where they maintained the canal boats. The feeder pipe bridge was built in 1857 and was constructed as part of a feeder canal to provide an improved water supply to the Glamorganshire Canal system from Abercynon to Cardiff.