Historic Landscape Characterisation
The Rhondda

016 Blaenycwm

HLCA 016 Blaenycwm
Linear valley-head colliery settlement; 1st phase colliery settlement based around early coal level with and 3rd phase renewal centred on later colliery development, typified by isolated rows and later infilling of renewed 20th century expansion; predominantly residential in character with negligible commercial development; illustrating developments within a formative colliery settlement; originated separately from neighbouring settlements and retains distinct village identity to this day; good examples of atypical and typical terraced colliery housing; reclaimed colliery landscapes; separate tributary side-valley location.

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(Photo: GGAT HLCA016)

Blaenycwm, view from the west.
Historic background

The historic landscape area of Blaenycwm comprises the linear village and the sites of former collieries; the settlement, characterised initially as a group of isolated Rows, was constructed on the land of Walter Edwards at Hendrewen, and also Tydraw and Hendre Geulan, the latter part of the Dunraven Estate (Tithe map of Ystradyfodwg 1844).

The first edition 6-inch OS map depicts a rather haphazard settlement of scattered rows of cottages located adjacent to the pre-existing farm track, which meanders along the valley bottom. The core of Blaenycwm is situated in the vicinity of Ty-uchaf farm and comprises Long Row and the Dunraven Arms (later the Hendrewen Hotel) and a cluster of other short terraces (named on later maps as Beynon Row, Lower and Upper Terraces, among others), the latter includes Glanselsig Terrace an isolated terrace of single-storied cottages, a relatively rare house-type for the area, built before 1860. A school and a gasometer are also depicted on the first edition map (1st edition 6-inch OS map of 1884, surveyed in 1875). Other linear structures or terraces, possibly wooden huts associated with the initial pit sinking operations, (known as Chicago on the 2nd edition 6-inch OS map of 1900, revised 1897) are indicated adjacent to tramway sidings northwest of Dunraven Colliery (with its 3 engine houses); these have disappeared by 1914. In 1890 the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway opened up the area with the Rhondda Tunnel, completed in 1889. However, the settlement itself does not noticeably expand until the early 20th century, with the opening of the Glen Rhondda Colliery. The area between Nant Selsig and south to Hendrewen Road is constructed by 1914, including terracing along north side of Hendrewen Road. Dilys Street and others tangently arranged to the main east-west street pattern, the infant school, post office, Baptist and Methodist chapels also date to the period lines (1921 edition 6-inch OS map, revised 1914).

The settlement appears to have originated to serve early workings at the head of the valley. Colby's map of 1833 indicates coal levels at Berw-nant-y-gwair, while from the late 1850s the Graig Level at Nant-y-Gwair was worked, as were others such as that at Cwm Glan-nant-dyrys and elsewhere along Craig Selsig (all in the adjacent HLCA). The first colliery, Tydraw, or Dunraven Colliery, was located at the mouth of the valley set some distance east of the settlement. This colliery, sunk in 1865 by Thomas Joseph of Aberdare on behalf of the Dunraven United Collieries Company Ltd, was liquidated a year later. Resurrected in 1872, by Edmond Hanney Watts and partners, and later purchased by Cory Brothers of Cardiff, the colliery survived nationalization finally closing in 1959 following geological and economic problems. Located west of the settlement, the Glen Rhondda Colliery was opened by the Glenavon Garw Colliery Company; No. 1 Pit, Glen Rhondda was sunk in 1911, its No. 2 pit ten years later in 1921. Due to geological problems production was not as high as elsewhere in the Rhondda and despite increases in the labour force, output continued to fall; the colliery closed in 1966. This and the Tydraw/Dunraven site have been subsequently landscaped.


For further information please contact the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust at this address. Link to the Countryside Council for Wales website at www.ccw.gov.uk or Cadw at www.cadw.wales.gov.uk