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Lleol & Theuluoedd

Parish Pages - Llanelly / Llanelli

Houses near Llanelly parish church.
Houses near Llanelly parish church. [Photography by John Ball, 6 June 1998]

Prior to the county boundary changes of 1974, the extensive parish of Llanelly was in the Breconshire hundred of Crickhowell. It shared borders with the Breconshire parishes of Llangatwg (to the west and north), Llangenni (north), and the Monmouthshire parishes of Llanwenarth (east) and Aberystruth (south).

Llanelly (Llanelli), 1827 hectare, 3810 inhabitants.
Located between Brynmawr and Abergavenny, the community contains the villages of Gilwern, Clydach and Darrenfelen. Until 1974 it was part of Breconshire. Llanelly church (largely 13th century) offers magnificent views of the Usk valley. The Clydach Gorge, which links the valley to the industrial towns of Blaenau Gwent, is virtually an open-air industrial museum. It contains evidence of an 18th century blast furnace and forge, a series of early tramroads, two limeworks, the Clydach Ironworks—enlarged in the 1840s to employ 1350 people—and the viaducts and tunnels of the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway (1861). The embankment carrying the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal involved diverting the river Clydach through a tunnel.
[Source: The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales edited by John Davies, Nigel Jenkins, Menna Baines & Peredur L Lynch; University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2008]

In 1911, Sir Joseph Russell Bailey added the following 'particulars' to volume 3 of A History of the County of Brecknock, by Theophilus Jones:

The parish of Llanelly originally extended from the river Usk to the summit of the mountain, including within its limits part of the the Urban District of Brynmawr. This town has now been made into a separate ecclesiastical and civil parish. The population of the rural portion of Llanelly in 1891 was: Gilwern division, 1100; Llanelly division, 1500. The acreage of the parish is: Gilwern, 2215; Llanelly, 220. The rateable value £7090. It returns two members to the County Council. The parish in 1896 was divided into wards for the election of parish Councillors; Gilwern ward returns seven members, and Llanelly ward eight members. The upper portion of the parish was in 1901 placed within the Brynmawr Petty Sessional Division; it is in the Rural District of Crickhowell.
The Church is situate on a high eminence far from the bulk of the population. It was restored in 1868 at a cost of £1000, and on the committee were several prominent Nonconformists, who gave substantial aid to the undertaking. The late Mr. Basil Jayne, of Pant y Bailiau, was the chief promoter of the movement: a brother of whom, the Rev. F. Jayne, Chaplain to H. M. Queen Victoria, afterwards became Bishop of Chester. The present church consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, and a western tower, with pyramidal spire ; there are sedilia and piscina, and an old oak communion table, quaintly carved and dated 1624.
Three extensions of the Churchyard have taken place, the last being about an acre of land given by the owner of the soil; it is separated from the old churchyard by the parish road. The church was re-opened and the new burial ground consecrated June 3rd, 1868. In 1896 the exterior of the church tower was repaired; and the spire, which had only been erected in 1868, taken down, and a new spire erected at a cost of £413, raised by subscription.

The iron works at Clydach, Llanelly A Mission room at Black Rock was purchased by the late vicar, the Rev. A. Griffiths, for £100. It was formerly an Independent Chapel, and was used for many years as an Elementary School, receiving a Government grant. Llanelly Hill, at Darenfelin, a building which had been the Clydach Company's shop, was in 1880 generously given to the Vicar by the Messrs. Jayne, and eventually converted into a Mission room at a cost of £200, collected by public subscription. The old National Schoolroom, no longer used as a day school, has recently been converted into a Mission room and here Divine services, Sunday school, and parochial meetings are held.
Llanelly was a chapelry of Llangattock until 1851, when on the death of Lord Wm. Somerset (the Rector of Llangattock), it was separated by order in Council, and the Rev. A. Griffiths became first Rector of the new parish.
The iron works at Clydach, Llanelly [see right (photographed in 1998)], were included in the Nantyglo lease to Messrs. Bailey, and sub-let by them to the successors of Messrs. Frere, Cook, and Powell, the Messrs. Powell Bros. The firm failed in 1861, and many of the cottages in the district have since become ruinous. The Clydach Ironworks were built by Edward Frere in 1792. In 1800 he married Mary Ann Green; her sister Charlotte Alice Green (1st) Peter Wilkins, Banker, of Brecon, and (2ndly) in 1820 Captain Seymour of Porthmawr. Two other sisters married two brothers, P. Hoare and N. Hoare, Bankers, of Fleet Street, London. Mr. Edward Frere lived at Clydach until 1822, when he retired; he died in 1844. The Great House, Clydach, is said to have been the residence of iron masters for generations; a stone tablet over the entrance records the date of its erection 1603. Here were born the two sons of Edward Frere: George Frere, at one time manager of the Clydach Works; and Henry Bartle Frere, who afterwards became a most distinguished diplomatist, known to the world as the Right Hon. Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, P.C., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S.
BRYNMAWR is a town of 6,000, and has sprung up in response to a demand for houses for workmen employed at Nantyglo. The works were taken by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Joseph Bailey about 1813. There was then only one cottage on the hill where the town now stands; and the first cottages were built about this time near the site of the Vulcan foundry. The name Brynmawr occurs for the first time in 1817; by 1829 twenty houses had been built, but it was not until 1884 that the building of the town began in earnest, and in the following year we find streets named, viz., Bridge Street, Davies Street, Bailey Street, King Street, and Market Square. Twenty-two new tenants were added to the rolls of the Duke of Beaufort; in 1886 there were nine new tenants, and the names Worcester, Chapel, and Glamorgan Streets appear. By the year 1888 the greater part of the town appears to have been completed. Brynmawr was built upon a portion of the parishes of Llangattock and Llanelly, and when the railway was made in 1864, Brynmawr Station was erected on a corner of Aberystruth parish in Monmouthshire, where a suburb sprung up. In 1870 the Nantyglo Works were sold by Messrs. Bailey and Son, and afterwards the iron manufactory ceased. Fortunately the railway enabled the population to find work further afield, and Brynmawr up to 1899 still continued to increase its population. In the year 1815 Brynmawr was formed into a new ecclesiastical parish, carved out of L1anelly, Llangattock, with a small portion of Aberystruth. The parish is in the Diocese of St. David's, and the Bishop is patron. The tithe collected in Brynmawr (a small amount) was in 1880 transferred by the Rector of Llangattock to the incumbent of Brynmawr. The emoluments of the Vicarage arise from £200 a year granted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and £16 a year from the same source to meet a grant of land from the Duke of Beaufort. In 1877 Pyncombe's Trustees gave £200 towards a house; the incumbent raised £100 by subscriptions, and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty met these benefactions with a grant of £200. In 1880 the Duke of Beaufort gave a site for a house, and £1,500 was given by the Commissioners; the above £500 was thus set free for investment, and it forms a separate trust under Queen Anne's Bounty. The total emoluments are stated in the Clergy List as £220 a year, with a residence, which was built in 1889. The Church of St. Mary was built in 1875, but Bath stone, which will not stand the inclement climate, having been used, it became necessary to rebuild, and in 1900 the present structure was erected. It is of red sandstone with Hollington stone dressings, in the Perpendicular style, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, and a western turret containing two bells; there are nearly 500 sittings. An iron church was opened in January, 1890. The Roman Catholic Chapel of St. Mary was built in 1863, and the English Presbyterian Chape1 in 1874. There are a1so chapels for Calvinistic Methodists, Baptists (3), Congregationalists (4), Primitive Methodists, Wesleyans (2); and a Jewish Synagogue, and a Salvation Army Barracks. The Elementary Schools include, beside the King Street and Queen Street school, a Roman Catholic school. In the Cymro Old Road was erected in 1896-7 the Brynmawr County School under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act.. This was opened in 1899 by the Marchioness of Worcester. Shortly after the passing of the Public Health Act, 1810, Brynmawr became an Urban District, and under the Local Government Act, 1894, the portions of parishes forming the town became separate parishes bearing the names of the parishes to which they formerly belonged, with the addition of "Brynmawr Urban." Brynmawr returns four members to the County Council, and eight guardians to the Crickhowell Union. The Market Chambers in Beaufort 8treet have an enclosed Market Place annexed, and the hall will accommodate 500 persons. What is called the New Market Hall, built at a cost of £2,500, will hold at least 1,500 people. It has a clock presented by a former Member for the County, Charles Morley, Esq. Here markets are held on Saturdays. Fairs are he1d on Whit-Monday and on the Monday before the 25th September. In 1853, a general Cemetery was provided, about eleven acres having been secured. The cost has been £1,500, and the Council controls it. The rateable value in 1898 was £12,350 (of which three-quarters in Llanelly). Of late years Brynmawr has a separate Petty Sessional Division, to which the Southern Ward of Llanelly was added in 1898. On November 9th, 1899, the parish of Aberystruth, Brynmawr, was by order of the Local Government Board placed within the Poor Law Union of Crickhowell, and in the year 1900 the three parts of parishes constituting the Urban District of Brynmawr were, by order of the County Council, consolidated into one parish, and named the parish of Brynmawr. The population of the Wards in 1901 was: Central, 1528; Eastern, 2149; Southern, 1634; Western, 1522—or 6833 in all.
Map of Brynmawr area.
Map of Brynmawr area. The dashed line running left to lower right is the county boundary separating Breconshire (above) from Monmouthshire. [Ordnance Survey First Series map, surveyed 1832: accessed on Vision of Britain website, July 2016]

The entry for Llanelly in the The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland, published in 1868, states:

LLANELLY, a parochial chapelry in the hundred of Crickhowell, county Brecon, 2 miles S. of Crickhowell, and 5 W. of Abergavenny, its post town. It is situated on the rivers Clydach and Usk, and the Brecon canal passes through it. It includes the parcels of Aberbaidan and Maesgwartha, and two waterfalls. Coal and lime are obtained, and iron ore is smelted at the Clydach and Llyndach iron-works. A tram road passes by the side of the river, under the canal aqueduct to the Beaufort works. The tithes were commuted in 1839. The living is a perpetual curacy. The church is dedicated to St. Ellyw. The parochial charities amount to about £30 per annum. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels.
ABERBAIDEN, a hamlet in the parcel of the chapelry of Llanelly, hundred of Crickhowell, in the county of Brecon, South Wales, 4 miles S.W. of Crickhowell. It is situated at the confluence of the small river Baiden with the Usk, and is intersected by the river Clydach, which flows through a deep valley and joins the Usk. In the course of the Clydach are several cascades, the most remarkable of which is named Pwll-y-Cwn, "the dog's pool". Over this river the Brecknock canal is carried along an embanked aqueduct, at the height of 84 feet above the river bed. Employment is furnished by collieries, lime-works, and the Clydach iron-works, which are very extensive, producing above 200 tons a week. The hamlet maintains its own poor. South of the hill, near the Pwll-y-Cwn, may be seen remains of an ancient British fort, called the Gaer.
MAESGWARTHA, a parcel in the chapelry of Llanelly, county Brecon, 2 miles S. of Crickhowell. Limestone is quarried.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Llanelly thus:

LLANELLY, a parish and a sub-district in Crickhowell district, Brecon. The parish lies on the rivers Clydach and Usk, on the Brecon and Newport canal, and on the Abergavenny and Merthyr-Tydvil railway, around Clydach r. station, and adjacent to Monmouthshire, 3 miles SSE of Crickhowell; comprises the parcels of Aberbaiden and Maesgwartha; and includes parts of Brynmaur [sic] and Clydach, the latter of which has a postoffice under Abergavenny. Acres, 5,183. Real property, £23,853; of which £237 are in quarries, £55 in mines, £5,023 in iron-works, and £1,399 in the canal.
Pop. in 1801, 937; in 1831, 4,041; in 1851, 9,644; in 1861, 9,603. Houses, 2,043. The increase of pop., prior to 1851, arose from the flourishing condition of the Clydach ironworks. The surface includes much upland, some good scenery, and two waterfalls. Part of the upland rises so high as 1,200 feet above sea-level; and, though mainly bleak moor and barren morass, and though at the beginning of the present century all a sheep walk, without one human abode, is now occupied by a large population. The valley of the Clydach is partly a gorge; is flanked on both sides, for a considerable distance, by limestone rock about 500 feet thick; exhibits highly picturesque features, high cliffs springing up from the water's edge, jutting out in bold relief, covered with brushwood, or fringed with delicate ferns; "is worked, in the sides, with quarries of limestone, and with mines of iron and coal; and is occupied, at intervals, with large iron furnaces, forges, and rolling-mills, placed at such a depth below the road, that the traveller looks down upon the blackened roofs, and hears the groaning of engines and beating of hammers, while the steam is seen bursting out in white jets, and the smoke rolling forth in murky clouds." The chief of the two waterfalls is called Pwl-y-cwn, or "the pool of dogs;" has worn some remarkable hollows in the rock; and, though not very high, is very picturesque. An aqueduct of the canal crosses the Clydach at a height of 80 feet above the stream. The living is a p. curacy in the diocese of St. David's. Value, not reported. Patron, the Duke of Beaufort. The church is dedicated to St. Ellyw. There are chapels for Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists, and charities £30.

These pages are still under development. We'll continue to add more information as and when we can. If you have any photographs, anecdotes, historical sources or other interesting information about the parish that we could include in these pages, please do let us know. In the meantime we hope you enjoy browsing around.