Stories about Cwmbach

Picture of Lletty Shenkin Colliery

Lletty Shenkin Colliery

Coal in Cwmbach

In Aberdare in 1837, was made the first step in the development of the greatest of Aberdare’s industries, Messrs. T. and W. Wayne formed a company, known as the Aberdare Coal Company, for the purpose of digging coal and selling it to other places. The pit was sunk at Cwmbach, on the Abernant-y-Groes estate, and is the oldest steam-coal pit in the valley. On the 13th of December 1837, the first load was despatched to London for inspection by the dealers. By 1845 the annual output of the pit was 38,000 tons, and in the following years was 48,000 tons.

Also, in 1837 other pits were being sunk some collieries in Cwmbach, subsequently owned by Mr. James Lewis, Plasdraw, and where Mr. Morgan himself was employed for many years, other collieries sunk in quick succession were Pwll Level yr Afon (Abernant), and Level y Cwm.

In December 1844, another pit was commenced in Cwmbach, by Mr. Powell, not far from the pit of the Aberdare Coal Company, the first load being brought to bank in January 1846. In 1843 a pit was commenced by William Thomas at Lletty Shenkin, and another as Ynyscynon by David Williams, better known as “Alaw Goch.”

Cwmbach 1800’s onwards

Mr. Morgan memories:

“It was here that I attended, together with several boys and girls about eight or nine years old. William Bach, the servant, became our master, but he soon gave it up. We then went to a free school (Church of England) at the back of the Crown, Cwmbach, and paid 3d. each week for our schooling. The master was a Mr. Jenkins, a Welshman, and I think he came from Carmarthenshire. After a few years Mr. John Williams, a Baptist preacher, hailing from Merthyr, opened a private school. He was a splendid master, and we learnt a great deal.”

Turning back to Cwmbach, Mr. Morgan said that there were a few houses were in course of erection going back 60 or 70 years ago. He remembered four houses being built in Pit Place, and four in Chapel Road. There was a school kept in Cwmbach back in those days by one Morgan Lewis, a Baptist minister, it was the same school that Dafydd Llewelyn “Pio Mingo” referred to earlier subsequently conducted. Mr. Morgan himself attended that school during, two winter sessions, and informs me that it was held in the Long Room of the Lifeboat Inn, Cwmbach.

“What is the meaning of Pio Mingo,” I asked Mr. Morgan.

His reply led to an interesting story.

“I can’t say,” responded the veteran “what they stand for at all, and it’s my own fault that I do not know. I remember very well that when I was a small boy at Ysguborwen, Dafydd Llewelyn used to visit my father very frequently. In those days there were gates on the Gadlys with the usual words, “No thoroughfare this way; anyone found trespassing will be prosecuted.” And beneath this notice were the words in small letters “Pio Mingo.” The very next time I saw Dafydd Llewelyn I asked him what were the meaning of the small letters mean, and he replied: “It is my nom-de-plume, and I drew up the sign on the gates.” “It never occurred to me at the time to ask him what his ffugenw (nom-de-plume) meant.”

It is a far cry in the world of education from 1835 to 1913, and such revolutionary progress in this department was never dreamed even as recent as 50 years ago. Consequently, it is of deep interest to those interested in education these days to know as much as there is to be known about Aberdare schoolmaster of the beginning of the 19th century.

He was called Deuws Dafydd Llewelyn, his father’s name being also Dafydd Llewelyn. The son was known among friends as I have already stated as “Pio Mingo.” A native of Aberdare he was born in 1790 in High Street just where (appropriate to enough) the Education Offices now stand. Pio Mingo received his education in a Grammar School at Cowbridge, and one of his school mates was Mr. John Jones (Ceffyl Gwyn), father of Mr D.W. Jones, J.P.  It was to this school that well-to-do parents sent their children in those days. Dafydd became a first-class scholar, and amazed Mr. Bruce Pryce the Duffryn, with a particular piece of copying work. It is not certain where he first opened a school at Aberdare, but for a time, at any rate, he had a class in the While Lion Hotel, Gadlys, and afterwards at the Parish Church. Two at least of his pupils are alive today, and they are Mr. Thomas Dawkin Williams, Trecynon, and (as I have already stated) Mr. John Morgan, Abernantygroes. He also kept a school in Green Fach, and in a schoolroom given by Lord Bute to the inhabitants of Aberdare in 1824. Mr. Bruce Pryce (father of the first Lord of Aberdare), Mr. Evan Griffith (father of Messrs. Evan Lewis and Daniel Griffiths), were the governors of the school at that time.

Subsequently we find “Pio Mingo,” was conducting a school in Cwmbach in a building which then a Baptist Chapel, but which is now the Abernantygroes Unitarian Church. Two of his pupils in those days one of whom became Home Secretary and the other County Court Judge, they were the Late Lord Aberdare and Judge Gwilym Williams.

Though Dafydd Llewelyn was a capable and eminently successful schoolmaster we find him being dismissed from or in some other was giving up his schools and going about from farm to farm to impart a few lessons to children in their homes. He neglected himself and became poor and depressed, so much so that he doubted the existence of God. One day he retraced his footsteps to the Duffryn Mountain Ash. Mr. Bruce Pryce took pity on him and clothed him anew from head to foot. This encouraged Dafydd, and glancing in a mirror at him improved appearance turned to his benefactor and said, “I will not deny the existence of God anymore.” However, he experienced considerable poverty later in life, and towards the end of his earthly course he was per-forced to enter the portals of Pontypridd Workhouse where he died, on, May 4th1878, in his 88th year. He was interred at Llanwynno Churchyard, and a small sum was collected by the parishioners of Aberdare to mark his last resting place.

Death of Mr. Rees 06.09.1862

We regret to announce the death of R. T. Rees, Esq., of Lletty Shenkin. The deceased gentleman had been suffering for, some months past from a pulmonary affection and expired on Saturday last. He was a member of the Local Board of Health, and was much esteemed, by his neighbours.

Daniel Rees 31.07.1863

Monday last being the birthday of Daniel Rees, Esq., the respected manager of the Lletty Shenkin Collieries, the event was commemorated by the invitation of all the children of the workmen to the Lletty Shenkin House, to partake of tea and cake provided by Mr. Rees with his usual liberality.

Soon after three o’clock in the afternoon, the children, dressed in their holiday attire, and each provided with a cup, arrived on the grounds to the number of 200 or 300. And being arranged in groups of forties, the pleasing task commenced} of supplying each with cake and tea, The duty of waiting upon the children was undertaken by the Misses Rees, Lletty Shenkin, and among others who assisted, we noticed Miss Lewis, the Misses Morgan’s, and Misses Williams. Miss Barrett from Bristol, presiding at the tables.

While the children were enjoying themselves during the remainder of the afternoon, different matches of football were contested by the workmen, and a choice selection of Welsh airs were sung by the choir under the leadership of Mr. G. Jones (Caradog), the renowned violinist. The band of the 8th Glamorgan volunteers, also were on the ground, they played some beautiful pieces of music to the satisfaction of all. As soon as the above was over, Mr. Rees invited the whole of his agents, and the members of the rifle corps band, to a very substantial supper, prepared at the Crown Inn, when, after justice had been done, and the cloths were removed, the usual loyal toasts were disposed of Mr. Rees then addressed the company in a very excellent speech.

He observed that it gave him the greatest pleasure and gratification to be able to contribute to the comfort and well-being of his workmen and their families, and expressed a hope that he would be able to meet them on similar occasions for many long years to come. The band then struck up the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel, and after that the National Anthem, when the company gave three hearty cheers, for Mr. Rees, and the Misses Rees, and all retired after spending a most pleasant afternoon. May the example of Mr. Rees be followed by the neighbouring gentlemen.


Mr. Daniel Thomas David, of 18, College Street, Aberdare, who was born at Blaenantygroes, Cwmbach, in 1840 gives Myfyr Dar his earliest recollections. His memories are very vivid and interesting from almost 70 years ago until 1865, when he sailed for Australia, where he remained ten years. Being the son of a well-to-do farmer, he had the best education available at that time. “When I was a boy of six years,” he said, “there was no school in Cwmbach, but the preacher of the Baptist Chapel, Rev. Morgan Lewis, used to preach on Sundays and teach in the chapel on week days any children who cared to come. The chapel is the one where the Unitarians worship today. The Rev. M. Lewis died during the great cholera scourge about 1846. My grandfather, William Thomas David, of Abernant-y- Groes, Cwmbach, had a scholarly man-servant, who opened school in a room adjoining the chapel, now a dwelling-house.”


On the 15th inst., at the Parish Church, Merthyr, by the Rev. E. Rowland, curate, Mr. Griffith Jones, (Caradoc,) Cwmbach, to Gwenllian, youngest daughter of Mr. John Williams, colliery viewer, Lletty-Shenkin Colliery, Aberdare. On Tuesday last, at St. Elvan’s Church, Aberdare, L T. Lewis, Esq., C.E., of Merthyr, to Miss Roes, of Lletty- Shenkin, late of Abercanaid, Merthyr. On Wednesday last, at St. Elvan’s Church, Aberdare.


The proceeds of the lecture to be devoted towards the building fund of the new British school. After the usual ceremonies of returning thanks had been gone through, a. most welcome announcement was made, that Daniel Rees, Esq., of Lletty Shenkin, had that day given a cheque for fifty pounds towards the school, and also promised that he would give again when the additional room will be built, as it was originally intended. This information was received with cheers.

Sale of Messrs. Insole’s Collieries in the Rhondda Valley 08.12.1873

We are informed, on trustworthy authority, that Mr. William Burnyeat and his partners, of Whitehaven, have purchased Messrs. Insole’s collieries, in the Rhondda Valley, through their shipping agent, Mr. J. B. Ferrier, junior. It was only in January last that three gentlemen purchased the Lletty Shenkin Collieries.

The purchase money was nearly £200,000, and the output is said to be 800 tons per day.

Aberdare 11.09.1880, A lad drowned in the River Cynon

On Friday evening, a lad named James Edwards, aged 11, the son of Edward Edwards, living at Lletty Shenkin house, was drowned in the river Cynon, at Cwmbach. Deceased, in company with several other boys, was bathing in the river, and dived down into the water, after which he was never seen alive. His body was found at the bottom of the river, the water at this spot being about 8ft deep.

The Long-Wall System 24.06.1891

To the Editor,

SIR, Kindly allow me, through the medium of your valuable paper, to inform all those interested in the above subject that the late Mr. Thomas Rees, manager, Woodlands, Resolven, was the originator of the above system, and the first time it was ever introduced was by him when overman at Lletty Shenkin Colliery, Aberdare. When Mr. T. Rees, through his genius, had made out the scheme, he laid the same before his employer, Mr. Robert T. Rees, Lletty Shenkin. who was also owner of the colliery, and that gentleman approved of the scheme, and advised Mr. T. Rees to put it into operation, which he did, and it proved most satisfactory?

To make the matter more clear, I may state that this occurred before ever Mr. Thomas Howells was manager at Lletty Shenkin Colliery, as Mr. Howells succeeded Mr. T. Rees at the above colliery when Mr T. Rees was promoted to the management of the Graig Pit, Abercanaid, under the same gentle- man, who was owner of both places. Mr. T. Rees’s name appeared in the newspaper many years ago as the man that first brought out the scheme. It also appeared in Seren Cymru (the weekly organ of the Welsh Baptists) at the time of his death uncontradicted. It is a well-known fact that the system has proved a boon to colliery proprietors and workmen in general throughout South Wales, the North of England, and America.

His brother, Mr. Benjamin Rees, was also a manager (colliery). He left this country for America, and was promoted there, superintendent over many collieries, and he was the first to introduce in America the Long-Wall system brought into existence by his brother, Mr. Thos. Rees.

I am, &c., One that knows the facts, June 22nd.

Death of William Burnyeat, (Well-known Cardiff Colliery Owner) 24.01.1894

Intelligence has been received at Cardiff of the death Mr. William Burnyeat, the senior partner in the firm of Burnyeat, Brown, and Co. (Limited), which took place on Tuesday at the residence of his son, Mr. William Burnyeat, Millgrove, Whitehaven. The deceased gentleman, who was 73 years of age, resided at Liverpool, but spent a portion of the year at Lletty Shenkin House, near Aberdare.

He left the latter place just before Christmas for Millgrove, where he was attacked by dropsy wild other ailments, the immediate cause of death, however, being heart disease. Mr. Burnyeat, was born in Cumberland, where he became, a very, successful ironmaster.

The greater portion of his wealth, which is considerable, was obtained from the working of iron-ore mines in that county. In 1873 he, with Mr. J. C. Brown. Mr. Alexander McKilibin, a large Liverpool produce merchant, and other friends, purchased the Lletty Shenkin Colliery, near Aberdare. In the following year they took over Messrs. Insole’s collieries in the Rhondda Valley, and in 1878 a limited liability company was formed under the title of “Burnyeat, Brown, and Co,” the now well-known colliery proprietors’ lot and shippers.

His son, Mr. William Burnyeat, is connected with several large ironworks in Cumberland. The funeral will take place in Liverpool on Thursday.

Picture of Bryn Seion Church

Bryn Seion Church, Cwmbach
(picture courtesy of R.C.T.B.C.)

Bryn Seion, Cwmbach 23.09.1905

On Sunday morning and evening Dr Cynonfardd Edwards, the well-known Welsh-American poet-preacher, delivered impressive sermons at Bryn Seion Congregational Chapel. There was an exceptionally large congregation.

Prince of Siam at Aberaman 17.10.1908

His Imperial Highness the Prince of Siam has just concluded a visit of inspection to the Powell Duffryn Coal Co.’s works at Aberaman. The Prince was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. G. G. Hann, of Lletty Shenkin House, Cwmbach.

Cwmbach Notes 19.12.1908 (By Wanderer)

I wonder whether the young couple who occupy the corner of the Lletty Shenkin Lodge gates every Sunday night about 8.30 p.m. pay ground rent for their place. If not, why not? Cwmbach has now an up-to-date lightning artist to boast of. He does not charge a fee for his work. Any person walking along the Cwmbach road on a frosty morning will find samples of his pictorial art scattered about the top and middle of the road called Werfa Hill.

One result of the publicity given to Abernant’s Lover’s Lane in last week’s Leader is as increased patronage to Cwmbach Road’s highway of love. Have the couples been scared from the former to the latter place? They had better look out, for I am told that the chief and cartoonist will presently concentrate the efforts of pen and pencil respectively on the Cwmbach “love-spot.”

Landslide at Cwmbach. People at Cwmbach are beginning to regard with great alarm the mountain which is slowly moving from its position at the upper end of the village. For tip past week or so considerable portions of debris have moved downwards, and actually, blocked the road leading from Cwmbach to Cwmpennar.

The debris is particularly heavy near Lletty Shenkin House, the residence of Mr. G. G Hann, general manager of the Powell Duffryn Company. Men have been busily employed in clearing the road. Fortunately, no property lies near at hand so that no serious damage has yet occurred. Fears are entertained, however, that the landslide. will increase and work its way lower down the village. It is to be hoped that this may be averted.

Lecture at Cwmbach 23.08.1913

On Wednesday at Bryn Seion Church a greatly appreciated lecture, entitled “Life on the Four Continents.” was delivered by Dr. Cynonfardd Edwards, Pennsylvania, America.

Mr. Morgan John, Aberdare, presided. He remarked that Dr. Edwards was a native of Cwmbach and had worked as a pit-boy in the place.

Cynonfardd was a conductor at the National Eisteddfod this year and had also attained eminence as preacher, poet, and elocutionist. Cynonfardd, in the course of his address, said that it was 57 years since he visited Cwmbach last.

He had the pleasure of coming there on one of the canal boats which were in use at the time. Dr. Edwards then proceeded to deal with his subject with a master hand. He related his experience on the four continents and described the ways of the people that lived there. A vote of thanks to the speaker was proposed by the Rev. R. H. Davies, B.A., pastor of Bryn Seion.

Mr. William Morgan seconded the motion and remarked that he hoped that the Doctor would be spared to pay another visit to the place. He wished him a safe journey across the Atlantic, and a long life to serve his nation. This was carried unanimously. A song was given by Mr. Thomas Evan Williams. The accompanist was Mr. Fred Rees, A.L.C.M.

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