Abernant House

The house was built on the site of Cynon Farm. When the Abernant ironworks opened in 1800 its owner James Birch demolished the farm and in 1806 built a larger house on the site.

Fothergill Dynasty

Mr. Rowland Fothergill, J.P. (1794-1871), was the third son of Richard Fothergill I, he was an able, energetic and forceful ironmaster, and soon on the with drawl of the Tappenden’s became chief director of the Abernant Works and later acquired a controlling influence in that of Llwydcoed Ironworks, often at cross purposes with the Scale’s family. After a costly lawsuit, the whole works were put up for auction in 1846. His brother Roland Fothergill acquired the whole of the works, and with his able management soon amassed considerable riches, he retired to Hensol Castle near Cowbridge. He had been elected as one of the three representatives from Aberdare of the first Board of Guardians for the Merthyr Union in 1836 and was he Sheriff for Glamorgan in 1850. In addition to the above works, he had also erected the Taff Vale Ironworks in the Parish of Llantwit Fardre, near Pontypridd, which was for its size, very successful in the manufacture of iron rails, to which he attached a Company’s shop, similar to those established at Llwydcoed and Abernant (Tuck shops).

Mr. Richard Fothergill II, son of Richard Fothergill I, He succeeded his uncle as the manager and later proprietor of the Aberdare Ironworks and Abernant Ironworks, and Taff Vale Ironworks and collieries.

Picture of Abernant House

Abernant House picture courtesy of RCTCBC

Mr. Richard Fothergill II was elected first Aberdare Board of Health in 1854, and on Merthyr and Aberdare becoming entitled to two members of Parliament in 1868, Mr Henry Richard and he were elected, ousting the former member Mr. H. A. Bruce.

Picture of Abernant House Well

Picture of well at Abernant House which was kindly given by G. Evans, which was when Abernant House was demolished

This noble residence, the seat of Mr. Richard Fothergill, Esq., is now drawing towards completion. The truly palatial style, in which its suites of apartments are decorated, renders it an ornament to the Principality. The decorations, both in paint and piper, have (with little exception) been entrusted to the Messrs. Cotterell’s, of Bristol and Bath and the skill and taste displayed, particularly in the ornamental ceilings, do great credit to the taste of that enterprising and talented firm. The furnishing of the house, we are informed, is under the superintendence of a London firm, and will be in a style of splendour and luxury rarely equalled. The interior arrangements may be briefly described as follows: In the center of the building is a principal hall and staircase of grand and lofty proportions. This is approached by lesser halls communicating with entrances at the north and south fronts. The whole of these halls and passages are tessellated with Mintorn’s tiles. From these open a drawing-room.

This noble residence, the seat of Richard Fothergill, Esq., is now drawing towards completion. The truly palatial style, in which its suites of apartments are decorated, renders it an ornament to the Principality. The decorations, both in paint and piper, have (with little exception) been entrusted to the Messrs. Cotterell’s, of Bristol and Bath and the skill and taste displayed, particularly in the ornamental ceilings, do great credit to the taste of that enterprising and talented firm. The furnishing of the house, we are informed, is under the superintendence of a London firm, and will be in a style of splendor and luxury rarely equaled. The interior arrangements may be briefly described as follows: In the center of the building is a principal hall and staircase of grand and lofty proportions. This is approached by lesser halls communicating with entrances at the north and south fronts. The whole of these halls and passages are tessellated with Mintorn’s tiles. From these open a drawing-room and dining-room en suite, each about 36 feet long, by 18 feet wide and proportionate height. Also a library and billiard-room of almost equal dimensions, then there is a ladies’ drawing-room of smaller size, most unique and elegant, being richly decorated in a purely Alhambra style, the ceiling of which displays what might be termed the very music of outline and colouring. A broad and easy staircase conducts from the hall to corridors extending right and left, which communicate with the bedroom, bathrooms, &c.

This corridor is separated from the staircase by arches, supported by massive pilasters of Sienna marble. The combination thus produced, heightened by the decorative details, is extremely grand.

We hope the worthy proprietor, his accomplished lady and family, will live long to enjoy this beautiful residence.

The gardens were quite splendid and were admired throughout the County. They were formal gardens similar, to those at Versailles. The house (basically the same as the Aberdare hospital but shorn of its exterior architectural decoration and large portico) was built in 1862 by a Bristol firm. The grounds were stocked with peacock, pheasant and even deer!

19th July 1873

Dr. Price said he had omitted to mention one or two matters of interest. He then referred to the criticisms on the Welsh choir in the London papers. That in the Times of Monday, he said, was by Mr. Hullah, one of the ablest composers of music in the land. During the proceedings at the Crystal Palace they were glad to see several Welsh M.P.’s present, and amongst the number their own two Representatives. Mr. Fothergill very kindly enquired as to the state of their funds, and intimated that if necessary, he would double his subscription of £10. He (Dr. Price) was glad to inform him that they were not in need of further help. The hon. gentleman appeared to have got into a through hwyl, and afterwards determined upon having a medal struck, and presented to each member of the choir, the expense of which would amount to something like £150. Mr. Fothergill was exceedingly kind and was also present at Marlborough House. In the evening he took Caradoc to the House of Commons, and afterwards to the Italian Opera. The Marquis of Bute was also with them on Monday morning, and he too proved himself to be a “jolly good fellow.”

Picture of Cor Mawr

Picture of the Cor Mawr (Thank you to Cynon Valley Museum)

The Heir of Abernant 5th September 1873

It is not, then, a merely formal greeting that we would offer to the Heir of Abernant on his having come of age. We cordially welcome him into the community as a young man about to take his place among us upon his own responsibility. He has made deliberate choice of a business in which the well-being of this district is deeply involved; on which, indeed, it entirely depends, and therefore it would ill become us not to hold out the hand frankly, and say, “Welcome! Thrice welcome!” Young Mr. Fothergill appears among us as the son of one of the most energetic coal proprietors and ironmasters in the country. His father has done much to develop our staple industry, and not only so, but he has also shown a rare public spirit as compared with his predecessors. When he entered Parliament, he did not go to be a mere ironmaster there, but to reflect and advocate the views of the constituency that elected him, and we make bold to say that there is no member of Parliament whose votes more faithfully show the pleasing concord which should exist between the representative and the represented than those of our worthy member, Mr. Fothergill. The man who can carry on successfully so extensive a business as the Abernant and Plymouth Iron Works, and yet
find time to discharge with credit to himself and advantage to his constituents the duties of a member of Parliament, must be endowed with uncommon ability and energy, but those who know Mr. Fothergill are well aware that he possesses these qualities in no ordinary degree. Mr. Fothergill will not, we are sure, feel at all displeased if we express the wish that his son may even excel him in these qualities, and thus increase our advantages. The coming of age of Mr. Fothergill’s eldest son deserves hearty recognition from the inhabitants of this district were it for nothing but the cordial friendship and good feeling which Mr. Fothergill himself has shown.

Picture of Dr. Thomas Price

Dr. Thomas Price

The festivities in connection with the coming of age of Mr. R. Fothergill, III junior, of Abernant, were carried out on Tuesday with a spirit but rarely witnessed on such occasions. At Aberdare the streamers and flags intermingled with evergreens were suspended across the streets, and on the route from the railway station to Abernant Park. Flags were exhibited from almost every house. The bells of St. Elvan’s rang out merry peals, and salvos of artillery kept alive the excitement. The streets were thronged by the inhabitants of the districts, and by thousands of visitors from Merthyr and the neighbourhood. Nothing could be seen for some distance below Abernant Park, but an immense mass of human beings all dressed in their best attire men, women, and children seemed to have deserted their homes and taken up their abode in the streets. A large body of police were present, and the proceedings during the whole of the day were most satisfactory, and the people entered into them with a hearty will that showed the interest they took in the event, and the esteem in which the family at Abernant House were held. The weather was admirable and added much to the enjoyment of the pleasure seekers.

Cor Mawr (Abernant House) 5th Sept 1873

The festivities in connection with the coming of age of Mr R. Fothergill, jun., of Abernant, were carried out on Tuesday with a spirit but rarely witnessed on such occasions. At Aberdare streamers and flags intermingled with evergreens were suspended across the streets, and on the route from the railway station to Abernant Park. Flags were exhibited from almost every house. The bells of St. Elvan’s rang out merry peals, and salvos of artillery kept alive the excitement. The streets were thronged by the inhabitants of the districts, and by thousands of visitors from Merthyr and the neighbourhood. Nothing could be seen for some distance below Abernant Park, but an immense mass of human beings all dressed in their best attire men, women, and children seemed to have
deserted their homes and taken up their abode in the streets. A large body of police were present, and the proceedings during the whole of the day were most satisfactory, and the people entered into them with a hearty will that showed the interest they took in the event, and the esteem in which the family at Abernant House were held. The weather was admirable and added much to the enjoyment of the pleasure seekers.

The proceeding in the park

Picture of Mr. Richard Fothergill II

Mr. Richard Fothergill II

The crowd of visitors had assembled on the lawn in front of Abernant House, Mr. Richard Fothergill II, amid loud cheers, stepped on to a raised platform, used by Caradoc. He said Caradoc and members of the South Wales Choral Union, I thank you very warmly for the honour you have done me and my family in attending here today and singing the beautiful selections of music you have just sung to us. I am exceedingly obliged to you indeed, I think I can scarcely find words to express to you my feelings better than the words used by our lovely and gracious Princess at Marlborough House, when you favoured her with a similar treat to that you have given us today. She said, “I never enjoyed a greater musical treat in my life.” We all say so today. It is true that at the Crystal Palace your voices never sounded to a greater advantage, but I well recollect that besides listening to your charming singing there was a strong feeling of anxiety as to the result. We were well aware that there was an accomplished band of performers to succeed you a band of performers long practised and celebrated for their perfect execution; but yon beat them in the sweetness of your singing, and also in the feeling dis- played in your singing. The Welsh are remarkable for their religious feeling, and that feeling was shown in your singing of “We wrestle and pray.” The conviction was universal among the 12,000 assembled on that memorable day that there was not an individual member of the choir who was not giving expression to his feelings on that occasion. This is your great forte, and I exhort you to continue to be true to that feeling, and you will always succeed.

The crowd of visitors had assembled on the lawn in front of Abernant House, Mr. Richard Fothergill II, amid loud cheers, stepped on to a raised platform, used by Caradoc. He said Caradoc and members of the South Wales Choral Union, I thank you very warmly for the honour you have done me and my family in attending here today and singing the beautiful selections of music you have just sung to us. I am exceedingly obliged to you indeed, I think I can scarcely find words to express to you my feelings better than the words used by our lovely and gracious Princess at Marlborough House, when you favoured her with a similar treat to that you have given us today. She said, “I never enjoyed a greater musical treat in my life.” We all say so today. It is true that at the Crystal Palace your voices never sounded to a greater advantage, but I well recollect that besides listening to your charming singing there was a strong feeling of anxiety as to the result. We were well aware that there was an accomplished band of performers to succeed you a band of performers long practised and celebrated for their perfect execution; but yon beat them in the sweetness of your singing, and also in the feeling dis- played in your singing. The Welsh are remarkable for their religious feeling, and that feeling was shown in your singing of “We wrestle and pray.” The conviction was universal among the 12,000 assembled on that memorable day that there was not an individual member of the choir who was not giving expression to his feelings on that occasion. This is your great forte, and I exhort you to continue to be true to that feeling, and you will always succeed.

Picture of Griffith Rhys Jones (Caradoc)

Griffith Rhys Jones (Caradoc)

The choirs then marched off to the East wing of Abernant House, where Mrs. Fothergill, amid the cheers of the assembly, presented Caradoc with a gold medal, and after the choir passed in front of the windows, they were each presented by the members of the family by Mr. Fothergill, and Mr. Fothergill, jun., with a silver medal, In this way the whole of the 500 received a medal, which they attached to their breasts, and in their next appearance on the lawn they were such so decorated. The medal is nearly the size of a crown piece, and has on one side a Welsh harp, and on the obverse a statement of the special object of its presentation. The next piece sung by the choir was “Ash Grove,” a piece in which the choirs excel in the execution. It was given with marvellous effect, and at the close the applause evinced the enthusiasm of the assembly. The next piece given was “Come with Torches” (Mendelssohn), and was loudly applauded also.

A deputation of about 100 tradesmen of Aberdare, wearing white rosettes, and preceded by two of the Committee bearing an address in a massive gold frame, then approached from the outside to the centre of the lawn. Young Mr. Fothergill appeared in front, and Mr. Phillips, solicitor, of Aberdare, the secretary of the Aberdare Committee, then read the address, which had been beautifully illuminated, (This address represented the kindly feeling of the inhabitants of Merthyr and Aberdare towards Mr. Fothergill, senior, and referred to his successful enterprises as an ironmaster and coal proprietor in both valleys. It also assured Mr Fothergill, jun., of the profound esteem which he had already earned amongst those who were most intimate with him, and concluded by an earnest prayer that God might vouchsafe to him a long and useful life, and an inheritance hereafter of the just made perfect) The address was signed by Dr. Price and Mr Shapton, the chairmen of the two committees, and Mr. T. Phillips, the general secretary.

Mr. Shapton came forward to present to Mr. Fothergill, jun., a diamond ring. He said My dear Sir; The sentiments expressed in the address which has just been read to you I fully endorse, having known the progress of the works with which your family has been concerned for a period of nearly forty years. It now becomes my pleasing duty, on behalf of my fellow-townsmen of Merthyr, and also on behalf of the inhabitants of Aberdare, to present you with this diamond ring, and to beg your acceptance of it as a token of our esteem and regard, and as a harbinger of our good wishes on your entering upon the responsible duties of life. You will in all probability be called upon to assume, under your respected father, the management of those gigantic works, a task of no mean magnitude, and one requiring skill, energy, and judgment. May you prove equal to the occasion and may the recollection of this day stimulate you to follow with energy, zeal, and rectitude the path which your father has successfully trod before you. May you, by your acts, live in our affections, and may you, by moral rectitude and kindness of manner, cultivate that good feeling which exists between the employer and employed, so that the name of Fothergill may continue to be a blessing to the people in your employ, and all connected with the trade of the district. Mr. Shapton then presented Mr. Fothergill with a massive diamond ring, of the value of two hundred guineas, supplied by Mr. D. Thomas, Commercial Street, Aberdare.

Mr. Fothergill, jun., on ascending the platform, was loudly cheered. He said Gentlemen, I feel that I am quite unable adequately to express to you my deep sense of gratitude for your great and undeserved kindness in presenting me with this beautifully illuminated address and the magnificent diamond ring with which it is accompanied. I thank you very heartily for the cordial expressions made use of in this address if for nothing more than for the expressions of your good-will and your kind sentiments towards myself and my family, which I cannot but think I do not deserve. The great intrinsic value of the ring is as nothing to me in comparison with the evidence it gives of the friendship you feel towards me, and it proves Ito me that though I am at present unworthy of it, yet if I am ever able to earn for myself your esteem, it assures me that you will freely give it.

The choice of a ring for your generous birthday gift is especially gratifying to me, for I look upon it as emblematic of the union and mutual regard which I trust may always exist between myself and the inhabitants of the town of Merthyr and the people of Aberdare. Gentlemen, if I have been unable to thank you properly for your magnificent gift, I trust you will ascribe it to my overwhelming sense of the undeserved generosity you have shown towards me (loud applause). This was followed by three hearty cheers from the immense assembly for Mrs Fothergill and family. At the conclusion the National Anthem was sang and the proceedings then terminated.

A large marquee had been erected to the south of the lawn, and here refreshments were distributed to the invited guests, and after a stroll in the grounds about Abernant House, the thousands of persons who had been admitted slowly dispersed.

Rustic Sports

While the proceedings in the park were being carried out an amusement of a different character was being witnessed by a far greater number of persons. The Ynys meadow had been fitted with all the paraphernalia of a gala. Shows, swing-boats, gymnasts, and other amusements were provided in abundance, and a, number of rustic sports drew together between 20,000 and 30,000 people. Prizes were given for 100 yards race three-legged race, mile race, half a-mile race, &c., all of which met with numerous entries. In the evening a brilliant display of fireworks brought the joyous day ti a close, a day that will be long remembered in Aberdare.

Back to Abernant