Hirwaun Town

In November 1757 a lease was taken on some land owned by the Marquis of Bute at Hirwaun, by Mayberry and Wilkins to start iron workings, Thomas Mayberry had been an ironmaster at Powicke in Worcester had had come to Breconshire to exploit the deposits of iron-ore, using new methods. His son John married Anne Wilkins eldest daughter of John Parry Wilkins, they had ironworks in Brecon, Machen, Tredegar and Hirwaun as well as a forge at Pipton and coal mines were also opened up in the county and the southern border of Glamorgan.

John Wilkins was the founder of “The Old Brecon Bank” the banks were established in: Brecon 1777, Merthyr 1812, Haverfordwest 1828, Cardigan 1831, Carmarthen 1834, Llanelli 1837, Aberdare 1854 and Cardiff in 1856.

In 1830 the then ironmaster of Hirwaun William Crawshay purchase the first railway locomotive steam engine to be seen in the Cynon Valley since Richard Trevithick’s train in Abercynon.

The common itself existed before the invasion of the Normans and it was called “Hyrwenunworgan” is documented under a charter 1203 due to the fact of the grazing rights between the Cistercian Monasteries of Llantarnum (Carleon) and Margam.

The effect of the Norman Conquest was the marcher lords of Glamorgan would have assumed the rights of the of the last Independent ruler of Glamorgan Iestyn ap Gwrgant his father Gwrgant ap Ithel was rumoured to have granted the rights of the common of all men.

Hirwaun Common was a waste land of Miskin Manor and Glynrhondda over the common of grazing rulers over by the marcher lords of Glamorgan.
In 1547 Edward VI granted the lordships to Glynrhonnda and Miskin to William Herbert whom in 1551 became Earl of Pembroke.

Cadogan of the Battle Axe (Glyn Rhondda)

In the year 1400 A.D., there resided at the old mansion known at Aberorchwy, or the Confluence of the Forch brook with the Rhonta, near the town now known by the name Treorky, which is a corruption of the name “Orchwy,” a noted chieftain known as Cadwgan. It is stated the noble English family of Cadogan are descendants from him. The said Chieftain came to be known in after life as Cadwgan of the Battle Axe, in consequence of an incident in the battle of Bryn Owen, now Stallingdown, near Cowbridge, Glamorgan. At that battle he commanded the hill-men of the hills, of which Glyn Rhonta or Rhondda, was the centre. The fight was for the independence of all Wales, and the leading spirit in the bold and gallant enterprise was Prince Owen Glyndwr. In that battle, Owen Glyndwr commanded in person. This appears to have been fought in September 1405. There marched under Owen Glyndwr, 10,000 of his own countrymen from Tenby. With him were 12,000 Frenchmen, including 800 men at arms, 600 crossbows, and 1,200 foot soldiers. The French were under the command of Lord of Rieux and Rochfort, Marshal of France. The French army had sailed form Brest in August in 140 ships, and had disembarked at Milford Haven. In their march eastward they were joined at Tenby by Owen Glyndwr and his army.
Meanwhile, Henry IV, accompanied doubtless by his gallant son, Harry of Monmouth, afterwards Henry V, was marching westwardly to meet the allies. According to tradition preserved in the Iolo MSS., Owen Glyndwr came before his army to Aberthawen, below Cowbridge, accompanied only by his secretary. His object no doubt, was to ascertain personally whether troops from England had been landed at that port on the Severn. The two, disguised as ordinary travelers, called upon Lawrence Berkerolls, at East Orchard Castle, a short distance above the seaport. The castle was then celebrated for its magnificent orchards and gardens, which were cultivated by natives of Flanders. He was there hospitably entertained by the Norman knight, who had heard the rumor that Glyndwr was roaming in disguise in Glamorgan, and he had sent many retainers of his own to “catch him, dead or alive,” and little suspected the hero himself was the cultured refined gentleman who faced him at the table. When Owen Glyndwr was taking his departure, he took hold of the Knight’s hand, to thank him, and then announced who he was.
In an old MSS., discovered by Iolo at Prisc, it is stated that the old Knight was so terrified by the announcement that he became speechless, and paralyzed, and never could speak again to the end of his life. It was a superstitious age, and many believed our hero was in league with Satan. Perhaps the Knight instantly suspected the gentlemen was Glyndwr was his Satanic Majesty himself. Henry VI, marched through Cardiff at the head of 37,000 troops, and reached the high hill, East of Cowbridge, and there encamped waiting Owen Glyndwr and a Field Marshal of France and their respective forces. Unfortunately, details of the engagement which ensued have not come to light, but we learn that it lasted eighteen hours, and the two armies, that of England and Wales, met in a ravine running at right angles, and called Pant y Wenol, and the carnage was so great that the blood was up to the fetlocks of the horses (Iolo MSS).
The English army was defeated and retreated through Cardiff, followed by the allies, Wales and France. It was during the engagement, while Cadwgan was charging at the head of the Men of Glamorgan, Owen Glyndwr shouted in Welsh to the Aberorchwy hero. Said he; “Llyfna a dy Fwyall, Cadwgan!” This translated means, “Harrow them with thy battle axe, Cadwgan!” The expression indicates it was a Cavalry charge. Glyndwr’s battle cry was never forgotten, and it continues to be the battle cry of the Rhondda Valley to this day. In reference to this disorderly retreat of the English army, Shakespeare puts the following in the mouth of “Glendower;”

“Three time hath Henry Bollingbroke made head
Against my power: thrice from the banks of Wye,
And sandy-bottom Severn have I sent
Him bootless home, and weather-beaten back.”

The reference to “weather-beaten” implies that Glyndwr was in communion with the Devil by “art magic,” and that Satan’s part in the battle was a hurricane – a Welsh one of course.
Crawshay Family (Hirwaun Ironworks)

In 1818 was bought on behalf of the head of the Crawshay family. William 1. He left their management to his son, William II, and bequeathed them along with Cyfarthfa to the latter upon his death in 1834. In 1831 William II devoted everyday management at Hirwaun to his own third son, Henry who subsequently married a Penderyn village girl named Eliza Harris to the annoyance of his father. Their first two daughters were christened in Nebo Chapel (Hirwaun).

Anthony Bacon of Cyfartha, who leased Hirwaun Ironworks, decided to manufacture heavy canon for the American War of Independence. However he was a Member of Parliament for Aylesbury, and the law forbade him making arms. He overcame this problem by producing them in the name of his partner, Francis Homfray. It was under this name that the finished product was taken bridle paths by mules and packhorses from Hirwaun to Cardiff.

Cast steel was produced in small quantities at Hirwaun Ironworks in 1890.

Merthyr Riots (Lewis Lewis)

In 1829, there was a general depression in the iron Industry in Merthyr and there were cuts in wages this reverberated to Hirwaun and by then it was quite possible that Lewis Lewis was involved in the mining industry or the iron industry, he was partied to the terrible depression that followed 1829. As the depression hit Hirwaun many people they had to appear in Court of request in Merthyr, where they were then fined and the fine was usually paid by the removal of goods to the person who was in debt. In other words, Lewis Lewis was one of those and he lost a chest, which was taken to a shop in Hirwaun, when the riot started, Hirwaun was one of the first places attacked and Lewis was naturally involved, emotionally involved because a piece of furniture possible descended from his parents had been taken from him. It’s a small thing that triggers off a sequence of events and Lewis was involved there. But Lucin was prominent from then on in the Merthyr Riots. On June 2nd he was of the party that raided a hundred shops in Merthyr and removed goods and returned them to poor people.

Poem on Hirwaun by David Williams (Alaw Goch)

On Hirwaun, above the Werydd,
On its bounty, we shall spend the day,
Here we see a crowd,
Living amiably without a frown;

The old and the young
All dearly united in praise;
The brave and cheerful sons,
And the valiant men enrich the feast
Made virtuous
By those from Hirwaun.

Everyone is tender hearted,
Every expression fair, frown less.
United in thought and manner,
This is one characteristic to rejoice in.
These qualities are great
They will surely give you long life.

All the sons ever born
Pure since birth,
It is a blessing to be in their company,
In the hope of meeting them;
And to their advantage they will grow
And prosper.

A healthy host, on high Hirwaun
Today we shall plainly see.
Everyone has done well
And more decent people
We shall be.

You must be praised – with sincerity,
United in peace;
Our task is to protect you from indiscretion
To honourably roam till death take us.

Back to Hirwaun main page