Ystradgynlais Town Council

History of Abercraf Ward

Abercraf (Confluence of the watercourses Craf and the Tawe: ‘Craf’ is an old Welsh word for ‘garlic’) is located at the district’s northern boundary. It is said that the professional ventures of the industrialist Daniel Harpur,  who reputedly anglicised the name Abercraf to Abercrave, united the three hamlets of Pentre Lamb, Henneuadd and Pantycwrt to become collectively known as Abercrave.

Before industry, farmers and shepherds eked out a hard living in this remote spot. Drovers would have followed the road which ran above the village over the Cribarth mountain to Craig y Nos, calling at the now derelict 18th century inn Pant y Ffyrch. The most obvious sign of Abercraf’s mineral wealth is seen on the Cribarth hill, a limestone outcrop which dominates  the northern side of the valley, The quarrying of limestone and rottenstone (limestone shale) were amongst the most early industries of the area. The limestone was burnt to provide lime for use as agricultural fertilizer and the rottenstone transported to Swansea and beyond to polish the copper smelted in that area. There are in excess of 15 miles of tramroad on the Cribarth mountain.

The mineral wealth of the area saw the Swansea Canal Company extend its canal from Swansea Docks to Henneuadd  by 1798. The canal was fed by a leat from a weir  constructed on the Tawe near Pantycwrt.

Beneath the limestone rocks are the coal measures. During the 19th and 20thcenturies no fewer than four collieries worked the measures on the Drum mountain on the valley’s eastern slopes. The last of these was Abercrave which closed in 1967. Abercrave House to the east of the village was the home of Daniel Harpur who, with family members, tunnelled the Lefel Mawr coal level east of the village in the early 19th century.  He also constructed the Pont y Yard, now a listed building, to carry trams of coal across the river to the Yard where it was stockpiled prior to transportation by canal barge and horse drawn carts.

Near the hamlet of Pentre’r Lamb is ‘The Round House’ a rare type of circular cattle house was built in the 19th century on Gwaunclawdd farm.  

Industry brought people to the area to work the quarries and mines. By the late 19th century  Abercraf had a school, church and three chapels. Today only the parish church of St David and Bethlehem chapel (in Caerlan) remain open for services. The Church, constructed in 1913, replaced the original church in Treflemming. The original church has since been converted to three dwelling houses called Church Buildings.

 A Board school was constructed by public subscription in Pantycwrt in 1860. This was replaced by Abercraf Primary School in 1900. In 2012 the school was demolished to establish  Ysgol y Cribarth which was erected on the site of the former school.  

Adjacent to Ysgol y Cribarth is the Abercrave  & District Miners’ Welfare Hall, opened in 1927 is located in the village centre and is the area’s community centre. The building was funded from the weekly contribution of miners. In the shelter of the hills on the northern and western side of the valley, which form the Fforest Fawr Geopark, is Plas y Ddol, the home of Abercraf R.F.C. founded in 1894.     

The inns within the village, and those just north of the village, have developed good reputations for the quality of their meals.

South of the village lie the hamlets of Cae’r lan, Caerbont and Penrhos which form part of the Town Council’s Abercrave ward 

Between the villages of Caerbont and  Caerlan is the small Caerbont Enterprise Park located on the site of the post World War II factory erected for the Perry Chain Company who exported bicycle hubs worldwide. This area was the location of Gwaunclawdd colliery one of the earliest coal mines in the Tawe Valley.

Penrhos was centred around the coal mines at Hendreladis and Yniscedwyn. The latter being the last coal mine to close in the upper Swansea Valley (in 1967). The only remains of the coal industry in the village is the colliery ventilation shaft (now a listed building) and the colliery’s former pit head baths now the Ystradgynlais Youth Centre. The village’s two chapels Moriah and Peniel have both been demolished as has the local brickworks (c1900-1960s). 

   

  The Ynyscedwyn Colliery site and its spoil heap (coal tip) have now been landscaped and the area has become, since September 2012, the site of Ysgol Golwg y Cwm which replaced the former Penrhos Primary School erected in 1911 and rebuilt in 1983.          

The hamlets of Ynys Isaf (Lower Island) and Ynys Uchaf (Upper Island) developed alongside the Swansea canal post 1798. The villages lie between the River Tawe on the east and the canal on the west – hence the term island. The villages shared a chapel called Capel yr Ynys (now converted to residential use) and had an inn at each end of the village. The White Lion in Ynys Uchaf (now a house) and The Ship at Ynys Isaf now demolished.

Ystradgynlais Town Council © 2016