Glamorgan: Wikis


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Ancient extent of Glamorgan
1861 area 547,494 acres (2,215.63 km2)[1]
1911 area 518,865 acres (2,099.77 km2)[2]
1961 area 523,253 acres (2,117.53 km2)[2]
HQ Cardiff
Chapman code GLA
Succeeded by West Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
South Glamorgan
1861 population
- 1861 density
1911 population
- 1911 density
1961 population
- 1961 density
Governance Glamorgan County Council (1889-1974)

Glamorgan or Glamorganshire (Welsh: Morgannwg) is one of the thirteen historic counties and a former administrative county of Wales. It was originally an early medieval kingdom of varying boundaries known as Glywysing until taken over by the Normans as a lordship.[3] Glamorgan is latterly represented by the three preserved counties of West Glamorgan, Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan. The name also survives in that of the county borough of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Although initially a rural and pastoral area of little value, the area that became known as Glamorgan was a conflict point between the Norman Lords and the Welsh princes, with the area being defined by a large concentration of castles. After falling under English rule in the 16th century, Glamorgan became a more stable county, and exploited its natural resources to become an important part of the British Industrial Revolution. Glamorgan was the most populous[3] and industrialised county in Wales and was once called the 'Crucible of the Industrial Revolution'[4] due to the area housing the world centres of three metallurgical industries,[4] and its rich resources of coal.

The county of Glamorgan fell into several distinct regions: the industrial valleys, the agricultural Vale of Glamorgan, and the scenic Gower Peninsula. The county was bounded to the north by Brecknockshire, east by Monmouthshire, south by the Bristol Channel, and west by Carmarthenshire and Carmarthen Bay. Its total area was 2,100 km², and the total population of the three preserved counties of Glamorgan in 1991 was 1,288,309.[5] In 2001 it was around 1.4 million. In 1974 Glamorgan contained two cities, Cardiff, the county town and from 1955 capital of Wales, and Swansea. The highest point in the county was at Craig y Llyn (600 metres (2,000 ft)).



Glamorgan was an area of three contrasting localities. To the south east is an undulating limestone plateau,[6] virtually coterminous with the modern county of Vale of Glamorgan, mainly comprising farmland and small villages stretching from Porthcawl to Cardiff. The lowlands are geographically the best environment for agriculture of the three areas.[7] Settlements in the area included Cardiff, Barry, Bridgend, Cowbridge, Penarth and Porthcawl.

A Victorian map of Glamorgan

The northern part of the county is a mountainous area, dissected by deep narrow valleys. At the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons, the simple geological structure of Old Red Sandstone gives way to carboniferous rocks, limestone and millstone grit.[6] In the 19th century, industrial and population growth in the coal-bearing valleys of the Rhymney, Taff, Dare and Rhondda gave rise to a form of urbanisation characterised as ribbon development. The last deep mine, Tower Colliery at Hirwaun, closed in January 2008.[8] A few small drift mines like Unity Mine, formerly Pentreclwydau South, near Glynneath remain. Towns in the region included Aberdare, Caerphilly, Pontypridd, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil and Mountain Ash.

Further west is Swansea Bay and the Gower Peninsula, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[9] Of all the areas, the Gower was the least affected by heavy industry and the ancient landscape was the least impaired.[7] The high ground that runs centrally through the Gower was largely uncultivated commonland and its beaches and rocky coastal headlands showed little signs of the tourist trade[7] that played an increasing role on the local economy. The major settlements of the region included Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot.



Cardiff Docks c. 1900
Penarth Docks 1970
Nash Point

The coastline of Glamorgan stretches for 88 miles from Trowbridge in the east to the Gower in the west; taking in a three distinct districts of geographic characteristics.[10] The coast at the Vale of Glamorgan is mainly rock bound, while from Porthcawl to Swansea Bay the seaboard houses sandy shores. The final area, the Gower coast, is made up of a rugged and serrated peninsula.[11]

From the east the first major coastline feature is the River Rhymney, once seen as the natural border between Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, until the absorption of Trowbridge into the Cardiff district[12] in 1936. Heading west, the coast is an expanse of alluvial deposits stretching to the mouth of Glamorgan's most well known river, the River Taff.[11] Once marshland, the area was consumed by the rapid growth of the Cardiff Docks during the industrial revolution, but with the downturn in Glamorgan's iron and coal industries, the docks declined. Also flowing into Cardiff Docks is the River Ely, which separates Cardiff from the headland and seaside resort of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan.[11] Here the coast stretches southwards for two and a half miles from Penarth Head to Lavernock Point, hidden from vessels travelling up the Bristol Channel.[13] South easterly from Lavernock Point, roughly three miles out in the Channel Estuary is Flat Holm, an island which although geographically is within the Vale, is administered as part of the city of Cardiff.[14] Flat Holm is the most southerly point of Glamorgan and Wales.

From Lavernock Point the coast heads sharply west to the town of Barry, a well known seaside resort, Barry is most notable for its rapid expansion during the late 19th century to become an important dock, at one stage surpassing Cardiff Dock for the tonnage of coal exported. Passing the cliffs of Barry Island the coastline becomes a low-lying promontory called the Lays,[15] which continues west taking in the villages of Rhoose and Aberthaw before reaching Breaksea Point, the most southerly point of mainland Wales. Beyond the point is Limpert Bay, wich is overlooked by the village of Gileston and the ancient encampment of Summerhouse Point. Here the cliffs rise and run for eleven miles as far as the estuary of the Ogmore.[15] Along this run of cliffs the coast passes Llantwit Major and St Donats, before heading in a rough north west direction at Nash Point.[15]

Southerndown Beach
Mumbles Bay
Worm's Head

The coastline remains cliffs until after Dunraven Head, where the cliff face drops away to expose Southerndown Beach. Two miles beyond the Ogmore river runs out into a sand-locked bay which can been seen as commencing the second section of the Glamorgan coast,[16] as here the scenery undergoes an abrupt change; from a series of unbroken cliffs to vast regions of sandy beaches.[17] The Ogmore Bay at Ogmore-by-Sea is not only floored with sand but is also encircled with high wind tossed sand hills, these impressive natural sand features are commonly known as the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes. Beyond the bay the underlying rocks emerge from the sand to form the promontory of Porthcawl Point.[17] Porthcawl town, once possessing a small dock, abandoned the trade in favour of tourism.[17] The coast continues north west as a low rocky formation for three miles to Sker Point, after which the sand line begins again, forming an arid wilderness all the way to Port Talbot.[17] Port Talbot was one of the later industrial towns of Glamorgan, and grew out of the medieval village of Aberavon, a settlement built on the banks of the River Afan. To the west of the mouth of the Afan is the new district of Sandfields, built over the holiday dunes of Aberavon beach in the 1950s to house the workforce of Port Talbot Steelworks.[18]

The River Afan commences the wide sweep of Swansea Bay, which from Port Talbot arcs around taking in Baglan Bay, Briton Ferry, Swansea and ending in Mumbles. The whole bay is shut in by high hills and is thickly encircled with sands.[17] Within the bay are two of the major estuaries of Glamorgan; from Port Talbot the first is the River Neath, which is protected by long breakwaters.[17] The second is the Tawe, the central river of Swansea. Beyond the Tawe the bay sweeps for six miles before reaching Mumbles Head, its most westerly point.[19] Mumbles Head is served by Mumbles Lighthouse, which sits on the further of two small islands off the head.

At The Mumbles, the coastline begins its third phase, commencing the wild and rugged cliffs of the Gower. From Mumbles Head to Worm's Head, 20 miles to the west, the coast consists of a series of precipitous cliffs, interrupted by a number of sandy bays. The most notable of the bays include Langland Bay, Caswell Bay, Pwlldu Bay, Three Cliffs Bay and Oxwich Bay. Three Cliffs Bay and the adjoining Oxwich Bay are overlooked by three medieval defences, Pennard Castle, Penrice Castle and Oxwich Castle, all three now ruinous. Oxwich Bay ends in the large wooded promontory of Oxwich Point,[20] which leads west to the beach front villages of Horton and Port Eynon. From Port Eynon Point, a five mile stretch of wild and impressive cliffs[20] leads to Worm's Head and the western termination of the peninsula. This rock face is pierced in places by caverns, the most notable being Culver Hole[20] a bone cave near Port Eynon Point.

Worm's Head is one of the stand out features of the Glamorgan coastline, a long narrow ledge of limestone, projecting into the sea, ending in a 200 foot high wedge shaped crag;[20] the Head takes its name from its resemblance to a dragon.[20] On the northern side of the Worm's Head is the village and Bay of Rhossili, a westerly facing bay that leads backwards to a series of downs, some of the highest land in the Gower.[21] Rhossili Bay ends in the northern formation of Llangenydd Burrows and the islet of Burry Holms.[21] The final stretch of Glamorgan coastline turns north east to form the Burry Inlet, a shallow and sand-choked estuary which leads to a tract of salt marshes which stretch to the mouth of the River Loughor.[21] The Loughor forming the border between Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire.


The major rivers of Glamorgan included the River Taff, the Ely, the Ogmore, the Neath, Dulais, the Tawe, the Rhymney (which formed the boundary with Monmouthshire), and the Loughor (which formed the boundary with Carmarthenshire).



The area that would become known as Glamorgan has been home to humankind, on and off, for over two hundred thousand years. Climate fluctuation caused the formation, disappearance and re-formation of glaciers, which in turn, caused sea levels to rise and fall. At various times life has flourished, and the area is likely to have been completely uninhabitable. Evidence of the presence of Neanderthals has been discovered on the Gower Peninsular. Whether they remained in the area during periods of extreme cold is unclear. Sea levels have been 150 metres (490 ft) lower and 8 metres (26 ft) higher than at present, resulting in significant changes to the coastline during this period.[22][23][24]

Archaeological evidence shows that modern humans settled in the area during an interstadial period. The oldest known human burial in Great Britain – the Red Lady of Paviland – was discovered in a coastal cave between Port Eynon and Rhossili, on the Gower Peninsular. The 'lady' has been radiocarbon dated to c. 29,000 years before present (BP) – during the Late Pleistocene – at which time the cave overlooked an area of plain, some miles from the sea.[24][25]

From the end of the last ice age (between 12,000 and 10,000 BP) Mesolithic hunter-gatherers began to migrate to the British Peninsula – through Doggerland – from the European mainland. Archaeologist Stephen Aldhouse-Green notes that while Wales has a "multitude" of Mesolithic sites, their settlements were "focused on the coastal plains", the uplands were "exploited only by specialist hunting groups".[22][26][27][28]

Human lifestyles in North-West Europe changed around 6000 BP; from the Mesolithic nomadic lives of hunting and gathering, to the Neolithic agrarian life of agriculture and settlement. They cleared the forests to establish pasture and to cultivate the land and developed new technologies such as ceramics and textile production.[29][30] A tradition of long barrow construction began in continental Europe during the 7th millennium BP – the free standing megalithic structures supporting a sloping capstone (known as dolmens); common over Atlantic Europe. Nineteen Neolithic chambered tombs (or long barrows) and five possible henges have been identified in Glamorgan. These megalithic burial chambers, or cromlechi, were built between 6000 and 5000 BP, during the early Neolithic period, the first of them about 1500 years before either Stonehenge or the Egyptian Great Pyramid of Giza was completed. Two major groups of Neolithic architectural traditions are represented in the area: portal dolmens (e.g. St Lythans burial chamber (Vale of Glamorgan), and Cae'rarfau (near Creigiau)); and Severn-Cotswold chamber tombs (e.g. Parc Cwm long cairn, (Parc le Breos Cwm, Gower Peninsular), and Tinkinswood burial chamber (Vale of Glamorgan)), as well as tombs that do not fall easily into either group. Such massive constructions would have needed a large labour force – up to 200 men – suggestive of large communities nearby. Archaeological evidence from some Neolithic sites (e.g. Tinkinswood) has shown the continued use of cromlechi in the Bronze Age.[31][32][33][34][35][30][36][37]

The Bronze Age – defined by the use of metal – has made a lasting impression on the area. Over six hundred Bronze Age barrows and cairns, of various types, have been identified all over Glamorgan. Other technological innovations – including the wheel; harnessing oxen; weaving textiles; brewing alcohol; and skillful metalworking (producing new weapons and tools, and fine gold decoration and jewellery, such as brooches and torcs) – changed people's everyday lives during this period. Deforestation continued to the more remote areas as a warmer climate allowed the cultivation even of upland areas.

Map of Wales showing the names of Celtic British tribes in their territories
Tribes of Wales at the time of the Roman invasion
(The modern border with England is also shown)

By 4000 BP people had begun to bury, or cremate their dead in individual cists, beneath a mound of earth known as a round barrow; sometimes with a distinctive style of finely decorated pottery – like those at Llanharry (discovered 1929) and at Llandaff (1991) – that gave rise to the Early Bronze Age being described as Beaker culture. From c. 3350 BP, a worsening climate began to make agriculture unsustainable in upland areas. The resulting population pressures appear to have led to conflict. Hill forts began to be built from the Late Bronze Age (and throughout the Iron Age (3150–1900 BP)) and the amount and quality of weapons increased noticeably – along the regionally distinctive tribal lines of the Iron Age.[38][32][39][40][41]

Archaeological evidence from two sites in Glamorgan shows Bronze Age practices and settlements continued into the Iron Age. Finds from Llyn Fawr, thought to be votive offerings, include weapons and tools from the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. The hoard has given its name to the Llyn Fawr Phase, the last Bronze Age phase in Britain.[42][43] Excavations at Llanmaes, Vale of Glamorgan, indicate a settlement and "feasting site" occupied from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman occupation.[44][45] Until the Roman conquest of Britain, the area that would become known as Glamorgan was part of the territory of the Silures – a Celtic British tribe that flourished in the Iron Age – whose territory also included the areas that would become known as Breconshire and Monmouthshire.[22] The Silures had hill forts throughout the area (e.g. Caerau (Cardiff), Caerau hill fort, Rhiwsaeson (Llantrisant) and Y Bwlwarcau (Mynydd Margam, south west of Maesteg) and cliff castles all along the Glamorgan coast (e.g. Burry Holms (Gower Peninsular)). Excavations at one – Dunraven hill fort, (Southerndown, Vale of Glamorgan) – revealed the remains of twenty one roundhouses.[46][47][48][48][49][50][51]

Many other settlements of the Silures were neither hill forts nor castles. For example, the 3.2-hectare (8-acre) fort established by the Romans near the mouth of the River Taff in 75 CE (Common Era), in what would become Cardiff, was built over an extensive settlement established by the Silures in the 50s CE.[52]


History 500AD - 1080AD

The region originated as an independent petty kingdom named Glywysing, believed to be named after a 5th century Welsh king called Glywys. The name Morgannwg or Glamorgan ('territory of Morgan') reputedly derives from the 8th century king Morgan ab Athrwys, otherwise known as "Morgan Mwynfawr" ('great in riches'), although some have argued for the 10th century ruler Morgan Hen.[53] It was at times united with the neighbouring kingdoms of Gwent and Ergyng.[54] By virtue of its location and geography, Morgannwg was the second part of Wales, after Gwent, to fall under the control of the Normans and was frequently the scene of fighting between the Marcher Lords and Welsh princes.[55]

Buildings of note 500AD - 1080AD

The earliest buildings of note included earthwork dykes and rudimentary motte and bailey hillside defences. All that remains of these fortifications are foundations that leave archaeological evidence of their existence, though many were built upon to create more permanent defensive structures. The earliest surviving structures within the region are early stone monuments, waypoints and grave markers dating between the 5th and 7th century, with many being moved from their original position to sheltered locations for protection.[56] The most notable of the early stone markers still in its original place is on a high mountain ridge at Gelligaer.[56] Of the later plaitwork patterned standing crosses the finest and best preserved is the 9th century 'Houelt' stone at Llantwit Major.[57]

Kingdom of Glamorgan

History 1080AD - 1536AD

The Lordship of Glamorgan was established by Robert Fitzhamon following the defeat of Iestyn ap Gwrgant in the 1080s.[58] The Lordship of Morgannwg was split after it was conquered, the Kingdom of Glamorgan had as its caput the town of Cardiff and took in the lands from the River Tawe to the River Rhymney.[58] The Lordship took in four of the Welsh cantrefi, Gorfynydd, Penychen, Senghenydd and Gwynllwg. The area later known as the Gower Peninsula was not under the Lordship of Glamorgan, and became the Gower Lordship which had previously been the cantref of Gŵyr. The lowlands of the Lordship of Glamorgan were manorialized, while much of the sparsley populated uplands were left under Welsh control until the late 13th century.[58] Upon the death of William, Lord of Glamorgan, his extensive holdings were eventually granted to Gilbert de Clare in 1217.[59] The subjugation of Glamorgan, begun by Fitzhamon, was finally completed by the powerful De Clare family,[60] and in 1486 the kingdom was granted to Jasper Tudor.[58]

Buildings of note 1080AD - 1536AD

The legacy of the Marcher Lords left the area scattered with historic buildings including Norman castles, Cistercian Abbeys, churches and Medieval monuments.

The Kingdom of Glamorgan was also notable for the number of castles built during the time of the Marcher Lords, many surviving to the present day though many are now ruinous. Of the castles built during the Medieval period, those still standing above foundation level include, Caerphilly Castle, Cardiff Castle, St Quintins Castle, Coity Castle, Neath Castle and Oystermouth Castle. Many of the castles within Morgannwg were attacked by the forces lead by Owain Glyndŵr during the Welsh Revolt of 1400-1415, some were captured and several were damaged to such an extent they were never maintained as defences again.

When the Diocese of Llandaff became incorporated into the Province of Canterbury, the Bishop of Llandaff rebuilt over the small church with the beginnings of Llandaff Cathedral in 1120.[61] In the western region of Morgannwg two monastic foundations were sited, a Savigniac house in Neath in 1130 and the Cistercian Margam Abbey in 1147.[61] In the Vale a Benedictine monastery was founded in 1141, Ewenny Priory, a community under the patronage of St. Peter's Gloucester. The building of parish churches also began in the 12th century, densley in the Vale, but very sparsely in the upland and northern areas.

County of Glamorgan

History 1536AD - 1750AD

The Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 established the County of Glamorgan through the amalgamation of the Lordship of Glamorgan with the lordships of Gower and Kilvey; the area that had previously been the cantef of Gwynllwg was lost to Monmouthshire. With Wales finally incorporated with the English dominions, the administration of justice passed into the hands of the crown.[62] The Lordship became a shire and was awarded its first Parliamentary representative with the creation of the Glamorganshire constituency in 1536.[62] The Reformation, which was closely followed by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, led to vast social changes across Britain.[63] These events, along with the Act of Union, allowed the leading Welsh families to gain in wealth and prosperity, allowing equal footing to those families of English extraction.[63] Old monasteries, with their lands, were acquired by the wealthy and turned into country houses; their notable residents preferring to live in gentry houses rather than the fortified castles of the past. Major families in Glamorgan included the Carnes at Ewenny, the Mansels at Margam, Williams of Neath, the Herberts at Cardiff and Swansea and the Stradlings of St Donats.

The main industry of Glamorgan during this period was agriculture. In the upland, or Blaenau area, the hilly terrain along with many areas being densely wooded, made arable farming unprofitable, so the local farming concentrated on the rearing of horses, cattle and sheep.[64] The lowland, or Bro was devoted to more general branches of farming, cereal, grass for pasture, hay and stock raising. Non-agricultural industries were generally small scale, with some shallow coal pits, fulling mills, weaving and pottery-making.[64] The main heavy industry of note during this period was copper smelting, and this was centred around the towns of Swansea and Neath.[65] Although copper had been mined in Wales since the Bronze Age, it was not until non-ferrous metalworking became a major industry in the late 17th century that Glamorgan saw a concentration of works appearing in a belt between Kidwelly and Port Talbot.[65] Smelting of copper started around Neath under the Mines Royal Society circa 1584 but the scale of the works increased dramatically from the early 18th century when Swansea displaced Bristol as Britain's copper smelting capital.[65] Easy access to Cornish ores and a local outcropping of coal near the surface, gave Swansea economic advantages in the smelting industry.

Early iron smelting within Glamorgan was a localised and minor industry, with historical evidence pointing to scattered ironworks throughout the county. John Leland mentions a works at Llantrisant in 1539, an operation in Aberdare existed during the reign of Edward VI and two iron furnaces were recorded as being set up by Sir W. Mathew in Radyr during the Elizabethan era.[66] By 1666 a furnace was in operation in Hirwaun and in 1680 a smelting hearth was established in Caerphilly.[66] Despite the existence of these industries, the scale of production was small, and in 1740 the total output of iron from Glamorgan was reported at 400 tons per year.[67]

Buildings of note 1536AD - 1750AD

The period in-between the Laws in Wales Acts and the industrialisation of Glamorgan saw two distinct periods architecturally. From the 1530s throughout to 1650, the newly empowered gentry attempted to show their status by building stately homes to show their wealth; but the period from 1650 through to the mid 1750s was a fallow time for architectural grandeur, with few new wealthy families moving to the area. Of the eight major gentry houses of the time only St Fagans Castle survives with its interior intact; five, Neath Abbey, Old Beaupre Castle, Oxwich Castle, Llantrithyd and Ruperra Castle are ruinous.[68] Of the remaining two manors, The Van at Caerphilly was reconstructed in 1990 while Cefnmabli was gutted by a fire in 1994.[68] The old castles became abandoned throughout this period due to the new security brought by Glamorgan coming under the protection of the crown, with only the Stradlings of St Donat's Castle elcting to remain in their old ancestral home.[63]

By the 17th century, the availability of fine building stone permitted the construction of high-quality limewashed rural cottages and farmhouses in the Vale of Glamorgan, which drew favourable remarks from travellers. A Glamorgan yeoman of the time generally lived in greater comfort than his contemporaries in more westerly or upland parts of Wales such as Cardiganshire or north Carmarthenshire.[69]

Industrial Glamorgan 1750AD - 1920AD

Metals industry
Dowlais Ironworks by George Childs (1840)

From the mid-18th century onwards, Glamorgan's uplands underwent large-scale industrialisation and several coastal towns, in particular Swansea and later Cardiff, became significant ports.[58] From the late 18th century until the early 20th century Glamorgan produced 70 per cent of the British output of copper.[70] The industry was developed by English entrepreneurs and investors such as John Henry Vivian[71] and largely based in the west of the county, where coal could be purchased cheaply and ores imported from Cornwall, Devon and later much further afield. The industry was of immense importance to Swansea in particular; in 1823 the smelting works on the River Tawe, and the colleries and shipping dependent on them, supported between 8,000 and 10,000 people.[72] Imports of copper ores reached a peak in 1880s, after which there was a steep fall until the virtual end of the trade in the 1920s. The cost of shipping ores from distant countries, and the growth of foreign competitors, ended Glamorgan's dominance of the industry.[73] Some of the works converted to the production of zinc and the Tawe valley also became a location for the manufacture of nickel after Ludwig Mond established a works at Clydach in 1902.[74]

Isambard Brunel stood in front of the Great Eastern whose chains were made by Brown Lenox of Pontypridd[75]

Even at its peak, copper smelting was never as significant as iron smelting, which was the major industrial employer of men and capital in south Wales before the rise of the sale-coal industry. Ironmaking developed in locations where ironstone, coal and limestone were found in close proximity - primarily the northern and south-western parts of the South Wales coalfield.[76][77] In the second half of the 18th century four ironworks were built in Merthyr Tydfill. In 1759 the Dowlais Ironworks were established by a partnership of nine men. This was followed by the Plymouth Ironworks in 1763, which was formed by Isaac Wilkinson and John Guest, then in 1765 Anthony Bacon established the Cyfarthfa Ironworks. The fourth of the great ironworks, Penydarren Ironworks was built in 1784. These works made Merthyr Tydfil the main centre of the industry in Wales.[76]

As well as copper and iron, Glamorgan became an important centre for the tinplate industry. Although not as famous as the Llanelli or Pontypool works, a concentrated number of works emerged around Swansea, Aberavon and Neath towards the late 19th century.[78]

Other areas to house heavy industries include ironworks in Maesteg (1826), tinplate works in Llwydarth and Pontyclun and an iron ore mine in Llanharry.

Alongside the metalworks, industries appeared throughout Glamorgan that made use of the works' output. Pontypridd was well known for the Brown Lenox Chainworks, which during the 19th century was the town's main industrial employer.[79]

Coal industry

The largest change to industrial Glamorgan was the opening up of the South Wales coalfield. The South Wales coalfield is the largest continuous coalfield in Britain, and occupied the greater part of Glamorgan, mostly north of the Vale.[80] The coalfield provided a vast range in quality and type, but prior to 1750 the only real access to the seams was through bell pits or digging horizontally into a level where the seam was exposed at a river bank or mountain-side.[81] Although initially excavated for export, with the expanding metallurgical industries coal was needed for the smelting process, developments in coal mining began in the north-eastern rim of Glamorgan around the ironworks of Merthyr and in the south-west around the copper plants of Swansea.[81] In 1828 the South Wales coalfiled was producing an estimated 3 million tons of coal, by 1840 that had risen to 4.5 million, with about 70 percent consumed by local commercial and domestic usage.

Lewis Merthyr Colliery, Rhondda

The 1840s saw the start of a dramatic increase in the amount of coal excavated within Glamorgan. Several events took place to precipitate the growth in coal mining, including the discovery of steam coal in the Cynon Valley, the building of a large masonry dock at Cardiff and the construction of the Taff Vale Railway.[81] In 1845, after trials by the British Admiralty, Welsh steam coal replaced coal from Newcastle-upon-Tyne as the preferred fuel for the ships of the Royal Navy. Glamorgan steam coal quickly became a sought after commodity for navies all over the world[81] and its production increased to meet the demands.

The richest source for steam coal was the Rhondda Valleys, and by 1856 the Taff Vale Railway had reached the heads of both valleys. Over the next fifty years the Rhondda would grow to become the largest producer of coal of the age. In 1874, the Rhondda produced 2.13 million tons of coal, which rose to 5.8 million tons by 1884.[81] The coal now produced in Glamorgan far exceed the interior demand, and in the later half of the 19th century the area became a mass exporter for its product. In the 1890s the docks of South Wales accounted for 38 percent of British coal exports and a quarter of global trade.[81]

Along with the increase in coal production came an very large increase in the population, as people emigrated to the area to seek employment. In Aberdare the population grew from 6,471 in 1841 to 32,299 in 1851 while the Rhondda grew from 3,035 in 1861 to 55,632 in 1881, peaking in 1921 at 162,729.[82] Much of this population growth was driven by immigration. In the ten years from 1881–1891, net migration to Glamorgan was over 76,000, 63 per cent of which was from the non-border counties of England - a proportion that increased in the following decade.[83]


Until the beginning of the 18th century, Glamorgan was almost entirely agriculture based. With the industrialisation of the county, farming became of far less importance, with industrial areas encroaching into farming lands.[64] In Glamorgan, from the late 19th century, there was a significant reduction away from arable land towards pasture land.[64] There were two main factors behind this trend; firstly the increase in the population of the county required more milk and other dairy produce,[64] in an age before refrigeration. Secondly there was an employment shortage in farming due to the call of better payed industrial work,[64] and pastoral land was less work intensive. Stock rearing became prominent with breeds such as Hereford, Devon and Shorthorn cattle being bred in the Vale of Glamorgan,[64] while the unenclosed wilds of the Gower saw Welsh Ponies bred on the commons.[84]

Buildings of note 1750AD - 1920AD

The industrial period of Glamorgan saw a massive building program throughout the uplands and in the coastal regions, reflecting the increasing population and the need for new cheap housing to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of workers coming into the area. As the towns urbanised and the hamlets became villages, the trappings of modern life were reflected in the buildings required to sustain new and growing communities. The period saw the appearance, not only of the works and pits themselves, but of the terrace house or miners cottage, railway stations, hospitals, churches, chapels, bridges, viaducts, stadiums, schools, universities, museums and workingmen's halls.

As well as the architecture of Glamorgan entering modernity, there was also a reflection to the past, with some individuals who made the most from the booming industrial economy restoring symbols of the past, building follies and commissioning Gothic-style additions to ancient churches. Robert Lugar's Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr (1825) and the late 19th century additions to Cardiff Castle, designed by William Burges, exemplify how Gothic was the favoured style for rich industrialists and entrepreneurs.[85] Greek Revival architecture, popularised in France and Germany in the late 18th century, was used for a number of public and educational buildings in Wales including the Royal Institution of South Wales in Swansea (1841) and Bridgend Town Hall (1843).[85]

In 1897, Cardiff Corporation acquired land from the Marquess of Bute with the intention of erecting buildings to meet the administrative, legal and educational needs of Glamorgan's county town. From 1901 onwards, Cathays Park was developed into "possibly the finest... civic centre in Britain" with a range of public buildings including the Baroque City Hall and the rococo-style University College.[86]

The majority of Nonconformist chapels were built in the 19th century. They progressed from simple, single-storey designs to larger and more elaborate structures, most built in the classical style.[87] Perhaps the most ambitious chapel was John Humphrey's Morriston Tabernacle (1872), incorporating Classical, Romanesque and Gothic elements,[88] which has been called the 'Noncomformist Cathedral of Wales'.[89]

Industrial architecture tended to be functional, although some structures, such as the four-storey engine house at Cyfarthfa Ironworks (1836), were built to impress. Coal mining eventually became the dominant industry in Glamorgan and tall winding towers - originally made of timber or cast iron, later steel - became symbolic icons.[87]


Administrative map of the County of Glamorgan in 1947

After the fall of the Welsh Kingdom of Morgannwg to Robert FitzHamon in 1091, the region became the English Lordship of Glamorgan, sometimes called the Lordship of Glamorgan and Morgan because it was divided into the Norman settled Plain or Vale of Glamorgan and the Welsh upland area called Morgannwg, anglicized to Morgan. Both areas were under the control of the Norman Lords of Glamorgan (often the Earls of Gloucester).[55] As well as building a military and defensive network, the Normans also undertook an ecclesiastical reorganisation on Glamorgan.[61] In Llandaff there was a small monastic community based around a small church; which was made the headquarters of the diocese, incorporated into the Province of Canterbury. The Diocese of Llandaff covered almost the entirety of Glamorgan[61] and continued throughout the history of the county of Glamorgan, and through to modern times.

In 1535, the first Act of Union attached the Lordship of Gower and Kilvey to Glamorgan and created the historic county of Glamorgan.[90]. Along with gaining parliamentary representation in 1536, Glamorgan became part of the King's circuit, with judges from England administering law at the Great Session or Assizes.[62] Local magistrates were appointed to deal with petty sessions while Lords Lieutenant were appointed as the King's representative. Law enforcement within the confines of the shire was the responsibility of the High Sheriff of Glamorgan.

From the 1790s a call was made for parliamentary reform to address the imbalance between the number of Members of Parliament for each Welsh county and the population each seat represented. Radnorshire had only a tenth of the population of Glamorganshire,[91] though Radnorshire had one MP to Glamorganshire's two (Glamorgan and the District of Cardiff). The First Reform Act (1832) gave five more seats to Wales, three went to Glamorganshire. The Act increased the number of MPs for Glamorganshire from one to two, it created the separate District of Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil became a borough constituency.[91] Reflecting the increased importance and wealth of Merthyr the borough was given a second MP after the Reform Act 1867.

The next major redistribution of MPs occurred with the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885. Glamorganshire was split from its two Members of Parliament to five, with the creation of constituencies for East, Mid and South Glamorganshire, Gower and Rhondda.[91]

An administrative county of Glamorgan was created under the Local Government Act 1888, excluding Swansea and Cardiff, which became independent county boroughs. In 1908, county borough status was also granted to Merthyr Tydfil, despite protests from the southern part of the borough, where it was claimed that links were stronger with Pontypridd.[92][93] In 1935, a Royal Commission argued that Merthyr County Borough, then heavily burdened by the cost of maintaining many unemployed people, should be abolished and merged with Glamorgan. The county council refused the proposal.[93]

The first chairman of the County Council was Henry Vivian, 1st Baron Swansea.[94] The county council's coat of arms, granted in 1950, was: Or, three chevronels gules between as many Tudor roses barbed and seeded proper. The red chevronels on a gold shield were the arms of the De Clare Marcher Lords, while the roses recorded the shiring of Glamorgan by Henry VIII. The crest above the shield was a Welsh dragon rising from flames, symbolising the revival of the county's industry following a period of economic depression. The dragon supported a flag bearing a clarion from the arms of the De Granville family, lords of Neath. The supporters of the arms were a coalminer and a steel worker. The motto adopted by the county council: A Ddioddefws A Orfu or "He Who suffered, conquered" was that of the lineage of Iestyn ap Gwrgant, and was considered appropriate to an area whose wealth depended on great hardship.[95][96]

Under the Local Government Act 1972, the county and administrative county of Glamorgan was abolished on 1 April 1974, with three new counties being established, each containing a former county borough - West Glamorgan, Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan. It 1996 the former county was further subdivided into several unitary authorities by the Local Government Act of 1994. The South Wales Police force covers an area that is similar to Glamorgan.[97]



The earliest forms of transport within Glamorgan were mere paths or trackways linking one settlement to another.[98] With continual use the tracks widened to allow different forms of travel, including the use by pack horses; and as the tracks became more recognisable the first primitive roads came into being. The Romans established a route, Via Julia Maritima, to service their garrisons across South Wales and this is followed largely by the present A48.[99 ] However, for 1,000 years after the Romans there was little need for major roads.[100] Early roads were not systematically managed, and in Glamorgan as in the rest of Wales, they were in a very poor state.[101] Towards Tudor times the upkeep and repair of the roads came under the administration of each parish, with six days of the week during the summer allowed for track repairs. These repairs were rarely completed and the roadways continued to suffer.[101] An Act of 1555 required each landowner to produce a cart, horses or bullocks, and two men to work 4 days on roads. Supervision was by two unpaid surveyors appointed by the parish. By the late 1600s the situation improved as surveyors were appointed by the magistrates, who were allowed to levy a rate in order to pay for some of the work.[100]

In 1756, after the shire of Glamorgan had come under the rule of the crown, Wales adopted a toll system for the maintenance of the roads; with the governance falling under the control of the turnpike trusts. Further Turnpike Acts came into force in 1799 and 1810, and these Acts allowed trustees to collect a toll for the use of certain roads within a district.[102] In South Wales there were turnpikes along the coast, more or less following the present motorway line, up the Merthyr Valley and across the hills to Abergavenny, Brecon, Llandovery and down to Carmarthen.[100] This system improved travelling conditions, allowing for stage coaches which were then coming into general use.[102] Although the roads improved there were those who felt that the tolls were unjust, and there was a popular uprising between 1839 and 1843 known as the Rebecca Riots where agitators attacked and destroyed the toll houses. Although most of these attacks occurred in Carmarthenshire, there were reports of attacks within Glamorgan, most notably in Swansea.[103] In 1846, County Highway Boards were established in south Wales, to buy out the turnpike trusts and take over their functions.[99 ] In 1878 all roads that had ceased to be turnpiked after 1870 were deemed as 'main roads' by the Highways and Locomotives Act of 1878.[104] The turnpike system was eventually abolished by the Local Government Act 1888 and the roads were placed under the management of the local county council.[105] County Highway Boards were disbanded. There were, however, a number of urban areas within Glamorgan that retained the right to control their own highways, and the county council never achieved control of the whole highway network.[99 ]

Proposals for a high-quality new road across South Wales were first made in the 1930s. However, the dualling of the A48 Neath bypass was only completed in 1960, with the A48(M) Port Talbot bypass following in 1966. The latter road, an early example of dual carriageway construction through a built-up area, was the first length of motorway opened to traffic in Wales.[106][107] The Ministry of Transport initially envisaged that the new M4 motorway would terminate at Tredegar Park near Newport, with a series of bypasses to improve the A48 further west. The creation of the Welsh Office led to a re-appraisal of policy and a decision to extend the M4 further into Glamorgan. By 1970, the Welsh Office was committed to building a new route all the way to Pont Abraham in Carmarthenshire.[108] The 1960s also saw the construction of the first road across the Heads of the Valleys, with the A465 Neath-Abergavenny trunk road opening in 1964.[100][109] However, even at the outset there were complaints about the capacity and safety of its single carriageway, three-lane design.[110]

Waterways and ports

Due to Glamorgan's long coastline, several settlements grew and prospered as harbour and port towns. In 1801, Swansea was Glamorgan's largest urban area with a population five times that of Cardiff's.[111] Cowbridge was the capital town of the Vale, and the centre of agricultural trade, with surplus stock being shipped to the coastal village of Aberthaw[112] and to a lesser extent Newton.[113] Where there were breaks in the rocky coastline, small fishing and cockling communities existed, such as Port Eynon and Penclawdd.

The event that changed the face of coastal Glamorgan was the growth of the Merthyr iron industry. Merthyr needed a coastal export point for its iron and Cardiff was the obvious choice being at the mouth of the River Taff.[112] A road was built to connect the two towns, but with only horses to move the cargo, transportation was cumbersome; therefore an alternative was planned. Although Glamorgan had a large number of rivers, few were navigable for any considerable length.[114] Between 1790 and 1794, Acts of Parliament were obtained for the construction of three canals within Glamorgan, the Glamorganshire Canal (1790), Neath Canal (1791) and the Swansea Canal (1794). All three were vital in increasing the transportation of iron, copper, steel and coal from the uplands of the county to the ports at Swansea and Cardiff. Although the first stages of all three canals were completed by 1800 and revolutionised the commercial transportation systems of Glamorgan; in 1804 at Penydarren Ironworks, Richard Trevithick's "Pen-y-Darren" locomotive became the first engine to pull a load along rails;[115] heralding the coming of the railways, which would eventually replace the canals.

The port at Cardiff grew quickly during the 19th century, not as a mass exporter of iron but of coal, transported from Pontypridd and the Cynon and Rhondda Valleys. From 1840 to 1870 Cardiff's export tonnage of coal increased from 44,350 to 2,219,000.[116] By 1871, Cardiff had outgrown all of its Welsh rivals to become the most populous town in the country[116] Swansea Docks continued to be the world's leading exporter of copper, but did not experience the growth of Cardiff due to poor links to the coalfields. Ambitious attempts were made to link Swansea's docks to coal rich areas, such as the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway, but these plans were never truly economically successful. The biggest threat to Cardiff's dominance came in the early 20th century at Barry. In 1881, Barry had 484 inhabitants, after an 1884 Parliamentary Act authorising the construction of a docks and railway link, the town grew to over 27,000 by 1901.[117] The chief advocate of Barry's growth as a dock was David Davies, and in 1901 Barry was exporting more coal than Cardiff, peaking in 1913 when it shipped 11.41 million tons.[117]

The interwar depression experienced by Great Britain brought an end to the prosperity of the Glamorgan ports.[118] During the Second World War, the main ports of Glamorgan were heavily targeted by German bombing raids, though exports were not severally disrupted. By the second half of the 20th century none of the county's docks showed any growth, and with the collapse of the coal trade in South Wales Cardiff and Barry Docks became near derelict, shipping mainly general cargo. Swansea also suffered a vast reduction on trade with the end of the area as a world leader in copper smelting. The only dock to remain a viable exporter was the Port of Port Talbot. First built in 1839,[113] the docks at Port Talbot were a minor concern in relation to the more established ports, but exports increased after the 1916 with the completion of the Margam Steelworks.[113] Exports continued strongly when the Abbey Works were built in 1952. Port Talbot would eventually become the biggest exporting port in Glamorgan, and the second largest in Wales, only surpassed by Milford Haven.


Before the use of locomotives, railway track was used at various stages of the canal system to link locations to which the waterways could not reach. These wagons on these tramlines would be pulled by horse over wooden rails, which later were replaced by wrought iron.[119] In 1809 Richard Griffiths built a private tram-road to the Glamorganshire Canal from his coal mine in Gyfeillion.[120] The Gyfeillion site was extended further in 1811 to link Walter Coffin's mine at Dinas Rhondda,[121] allowing the first viable transport link from the Rhondda coal fields to the ports of Cardiff.

The first railway network to be built in Glamorgan, the Taff Vale Railway, was also the first in Wales. Linking the ironworks of Merthyr to the ports of Cardiff, the Taff Vale line was given royal assent in 1836, with work commencing the same year. It was completed in 1840, and as well as carrying goods the trains made limited passenger trips from the very beginning. By 1856 the Taff Vale Railway was extended to service the top of the Rhondda Valleys at Treherbert and Maerdy, which allowed the exploitation of the minefields in one of the most coal-rich areas of Britain. The second major railway to open was the South Wales Railway, linking Gloucester in England to Neyland. The line was designed to link the coalfields of Glamorgan to London, and was also part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's vision of a transport link from London to New York. The South Wales Railway serviced Cardiff, Bridgend, Neath and Swansea, with its final destination within Glamorgan being Loughor, before continuing through Carmarthenshire. Other railway lines that opened during the mid to late 19th century included the Vale of Neath Railway, the Swansea Vale Railway and the Rhymney Railway; all designed with the primary purpose of transporting metals and coal from the uplands of the county to the ever expanding ports. The cargo carried on these lines was of an incredibly high volume, and in 1850 the Taff Vale Railway was transporting 600,000 tons of coal per annum.

Towards the turn of the 19th century, two notable events occurred connected to the Taff Vale Railway. In 1888, the Barry Railway Company was formed as part of David Davies' plan to create an alternative export port in south Wales at Barry Docks. As a threat to the monopoly of the TVR, the plans were heavily contested in Parliament, and more parliamentary time was spent on the Barry bill than on any other railway bill in British history.[122] The second event saw the Taff Vale Railway Strike of 1900, an event that saw the House of Lords, in the Taff Vale Case, deem trade unions accountable for the financial losses caused by strike action. The need to reverse the decision was a central factor in the creation of the British Labour Party.[122]

In the 20th century, the railways saw a gradual drop in usage as the heavy industrial works and mines began to reduce output and close and many stations became redundant. Following the Second World War, the railways were nationalised in 1948. In the 1960s the main line services in Wales underwent dieselisation, but this modernisation failed to save the rail system and by 1968 many passenger lines were discontinued by the Beeching Axe.


Glamorgan was served by several airports and airfields, with Cardiff Airport being the county's chief airport. Cardiff Airport grew from a former RAF station built in 1942 at Rhoose,[123] and was originally known as Rhoose Airport. In 1970 it became 'Glamorgan, Rhoose Airport' before becoming 'Cardiff-Wales airport' in the 1980s.

Glamorgan's second commercial airport was Swansea Airport which also began as an RAF station, before being released to commercial usage in 1956. The airport saw varying degrees of success until regular flights ceased in 1969. Several other airports and aerodromes have serviced Glamorgan, but usually for private flights. The most notorious aviation disaster in Wales occurred in Glamorgan in 1950, when a privately hired Avro Tudor crashed at Llandow Aerodrome. The Llandow air disaster was, at the time, the world's worst aviation disaster.[124]

Places of interest

Places of special interest include:

See also


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  • Conduit, Brian (1997). Brecon Beacons and Glamorgan Walks. Pathfinder Guide. Norwich: Jarrold Publishing and Ordnance Survey. ISBN 0711706719.  
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  • Evans, C.J.O. (1948). Glamorgan, its History and Topography. Cardiff: William Lewis.  
  • Evans, D. Gareth (1989). A history of Wales 1815-1906. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0780310281.  
  • Jenkins, Philip (1992). A History of Modern Wales 1536-1990. Harlow: Longman. ISBN 0582489253.  
  • Lewis, E.D. (1959). The Rhondda Valleys. London: Phoenix House.  
  • Newman, John (1995). Glamorgan. London: Penguin Group. ISBN 0140710566.  
  • Thomas, Norman Lewis (1966). The Story of Swansea’s Districts and Villages. Neath: The Guardian Press (Neath) Ltd..  
  • Wade, J.H. (1914). Glamorganshire. London: Cambridge University Press.  

External links

Coordinates: 51°40′N 3°40′W / 51.667°N 3.667°W / 51.667; -3.667

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Glamorganshire (Glamorgan) is a traditional county in Wales and also its most densely populated region. Wales' two largest cities, Cardiff and Swansea, were located in Glamorgan (they are now counties in their own right) and so the area is somewhat more cosmopolitan than other regions, and offers the greatest variety of shopping, entertainment and cultural events. However, for those less interested in the hustle and bustle of city life, the county also has an array of other attractions, such as the sea-side resort towns of Barry and Porthcawl, the spectacular coast and sandy beaches of the Gower Peninsula and the hilly areas to the north. The former industrial heartland of Wales, simply referred to as the Valleys, is located in the central part of the county.

Map of Glamorgan
Map of Glamorgan
  • Swansea Bay. As the name implies is the region that surrounds Swansea Bay.


The historical county of Glamorgan no longer exists as an administrative area. However, some county level sports teams, for example Glamorgan County Cricket, still use the title. Currently, the county is divided into eight administrative districts, with the largest and most important being Cardiff and Swansea. The others are as follows: Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Vale of Glamorgan.

Get in

Glamorganshire is well served by the motorway system and can easily be accessed by junctions 29 to 47 of the M4. The A465 trunk road from Hereford passes east-west through the county, joining the M4 at junction 43. The A470 trunk road passes north-south linking Cardiff, Pontypridd and Merthyr Tydfil to mid and north Wales.

The Great Western main railway line passes through the county affording easy access to Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire in the west and Newport, Bristol and London in the east. The county contains an extensive local rail service centred on Cardiff.

Cardiff Airport is located to the west of Cardiff in the Vale of Glamorgan.


Mountain Biking

Afan Forest Park - named in the top ten "places to ride before you die" by Mountain Biking UK Magazine [1]

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Glamorganshire article)

From LoveToKnow 1911

GLAMORGANSHIRE (Welsh Morganwg), a maritime county occupying the south-east corner of Wales, and bounded N.W. by Carmarthenshire, N. by Carmarthenshire and Breconshire, E. by Monmouthshire and S. and S.W. by the Bristol Channel and Carmarthen Bay. The contour of the county is largely determined by the fact that it lies between the mountains of Breconshire and the Bristol Channel. Its extreme breadth from the sea inland is 29 m., while its greatest length from east to west is 53 m. Its chief rivers, the Rhymney, Taff, Neath (or Nedd) and Tawe or Tawy, have their sources in the Breconshire mountains, the two first trending towards the south-east, while the two last trend to the south-west, so that the main body of the county forms a sort of quarter-circle between the Taff and the Neath. Near the apex of the angle formed by these two rivers is the loftiest peak in the county, the great Pennant scarp of Craig y Llyn or Cam Moesyn, 1970 ft. high, which in the Glacial period diverted the ice-flow from the Beacons into the valley on either side of it. To the south and south-east of this peak extend the great coal-fields of mid-Glamorgan, their surface forming an irregular plateau with an average elevation of 600 to 1 200 ft. above sea-level, but with numerous peaks about 1500 ft. high, or more; Mynydd y Caerau, the second highest being 1823 ft. Out of this plateau have been carved, to the depth of 500 to Boo ft. below its general level, three distinct series of narrow valleys, those in each series being more or less parallel. The rivers which give their names to these valleys include the Cynon, the Great and Lesser Rhondda (tributaries of the Taff) and the Ely flowing to the S.E., the Ogwr or Ogmore (with its tributaries the Garw and Llynfi) flowing south through Bridgend, and the Avan bringing the waters of the Corwg and Gwynfi to the south-west into Swansea Bay at Aberavon. To the south of this central hill country, which is wet, cold and sterile, and whose steep slopes form the southern edge of the coal-field, there stretches out to the sea a gently undulating plain, compendiously known as the "Vale of Glamorgan," but in fact consisting of a succession of small vales of such fertile land and with such a mild climate that it has been styled, not inaptly, the "Garden of Wales." To the east of the central area referred to and divided from it by a spur of the Brecknock mountains culminating in Cam Bugail, 1570 ft. high, is the Rhymney, which forms the county's eastern boundary. On the west other spurs of the Beacons divide the Neath from the Tawe (which enters the sea at Swansea), and the Tawe from the Loughor, which, with its tributary the Amman, separates the county on the N.W. from Carmarthenshire, in which it rises, and falling into Carmarthen Bay forms what is known as the Burry estuary, so called from a small stream of that name in the Gower peninsula. The rivers are all comparatively short, the Taff, in every respect the chief river, being only 33 m. long.

Down to the middle of the 19th century most of the Glamorgan valleys were famous for their beautiful scenery, but industrial operations have since destroyed most of this beauty, except in the so-called "Vale of Glamorgan," the Vale of Neath, the "combes" and limestone gorges of Gower and the upper reaches of the Taff and the Tawe. The Vale of Neath is par excellence the waterfall district of South Wales, the finest falls being the Cilhepste fall, the Sychnant and the three Clungwyns on the Mellte and its tributaries near the Vale of Neath railway from Neath to Hirwaun, Scwd Einon Gam and Scwd Gladys on the Pyrddin on the west side of the valley close by, with Melin Court and Abergarwed still nearer Neath. There are also several cascades on the Dulais, and in the same district, though in Breconshire, is Scwd Henrhyd on the Llech near Colbren Junction. Almost the only part of the county which is now well timbered is the Vale of Neath. There are three small lakes, Llyn Fawr and Llyn Fach near Craig y Llyn and Kenfig Pool amid the sand-dunes of Margam. The rainfall of the county varies from an average of about 25 in. at Porthcawl and other parts of the Vale of Glamorgan to about 37 in. at Cardiff, 40 in. at Swansea and to upwards of 70 in. in the northern part of the county, xi'. 3 a the fall being still higher in the adjoining parts of Breconshire whence Cardiff, Swansea, Merthyr and a large area near Neath draw their main supplies of water.

The county has a coast-line of about 83 m. Its two chief bays are the Burry estuary and Swansea, one on either side of the Gower Peninsula, which has also a number of smaller inlets with magnificent cliff scenery. The rest of the coast is fairly regular, the chief openings being at the mouths of the Ogmore and the Taff respectively. The most conspicuous headlands are Whiteford Point, Worms Head and Mumbles Head in Gower, Nash Point and Lavernock Point on the eastern half of the coast.

Table of contents


The Silurian rocks, the oldest in the county, form a small inlier about 2 sq. m. in area at Rumney and Pen-y-lan, north of Cardiff, and consist of mudstones and sandstones of Wenlock and Ludlow age; a feeble representative of the Wenlock Limestone also is present. They are conformably succeeded by the Old Red Sandstone which extends westwards as far as Cowbridge as a deeplyeroded anticline largely concealed by Trias and Lias. The Old Red Sandstone consists in the lower parts of red marls and sandstones, while the upper beds are quartzitic and pebbly, and form bold scarps which dominate the low ground formed by the softer beds below. Cefn-y-bryn, another anticline of Old Red Sandstone (including small exposures of Silurian rocks), forms the prominent backbone of the Gower peninsula. The next formation is the Carboniferous Limestone which encircles and underlies the great South Wales coal-field, on the south of which, west of Cardiff, it forms a bold escarpment of steeply-dipping beds surrounding the Old Red Sandstone anticline. It shows up through the Trias and Lias in extensive inliers near Bridgend, while in Gower it dips away from the Old Red Sandstone of Cefn-y-bryn. On the north of the coal-field it is just reached near Merthyr Tydfil. The Millstone Grit, which consists of grits, sandstones and shales, crops out above the limestone and serves to introduce the Coal Measures, which lie in the form of a great trough extending east and west across the county and occupying most of its surface. The coal seams are most numerous in the lower part of the series; the Pennant Sandstone succeeds and occupies the inner parts of the basin, forming an elevated moorland region deeply trenched by the teeming valleys (e.g. the Rhondda) which cross the coal-field from north to south. Above the Pennant Sandstone still higher coals come in. Taken generally, the coals are bituminous in the south-east and anthracitic in the north-west.

After the Coal Measures had been deposited, the southern part of the region was subjected to powerful folding; the resulting anticlines were worn down during a long period of detrition, and then submerged slowly beneath a Triassic lake in which accumulated the Keuper conglomerates and marls which spread over the district west of Cardiff and are traceable on the coast of Gower. The succeeding Rhaetic and Lias which form most of the coastal plain (the fertile Vale of Glamorgan) from Penarth to near Bridgend were laid down by the Jurassic sea. A well-marked raised beach is traceable in Gower. Sand-dunes are present locally around Swansea Bay. Moraines, chiefly formed of gravel and clay, occupy many of the Glamorgan valleys; and these, together with the striated surfaces which may be observed at higher levels, are clearly glacial in origin. In the Coal Measures and the newer Limestones and Triassic, Rhaetic and Liassic conglomerates, marls and shales, many interesting fossils have been disinterred: these include the remains of an air-breathing reptile (Anthracespeton). Bones of the cave-bear, lion, mammoth, reindeer, rhinoceros, along with flint weapons and tools, have been discovered in some caves of the Gower peninsula.


The low-lying land on the south from Caerphilly to Margam is very fertile, the soil being a deep rich loam; and here the standard of agriculture is fairly high, and there prevails a welldefined tenant-right custom, supposed to be of ancient origin but probably dating only from the beginning of the 19th century. Everywhere on the Coal Measures the soil is poor, while vegetation is also injured by the smoke from the works, especially copper smoke. Leland (c. 1 535) describes the lowlands as growing good corn and grass but little wood, while the mountains had "redde dere, kiddes plenty, oxen and sheep." The land even in the "Vale" seems to have been open and unenclosed till the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century, while enclosure spread to the uplands still later. About one-fifth of the total area is still common land, more than half of which is unsuitable for cultivation. The total area under' cultivation in 1905 was 269,271 acres or about one-half of the total are a of the county. The chief crops raised (giving them in the order of their respective acreages) are oats, barley, turnips and swedes, wheat, potatoes and mangolds. A steady decrease of the acreage under grain-crops, green-crops and clover has been accompanied by an increase in the area of pasture. Dairying has been largely abandoned for stock-raising, and very little "Caerphilly cheese" is now made in that district. In 1905 Glamorgan had the largest number of horses in agriculture of any Welsh county except those of Carmarthen and Cardigan. Good sheep and ponies are reared in the hill-country. Pig-keeping is much neglected, and despite the mild climate very little fruit is grown. The average size of holdings in 1905 was 47.3 acres, there being only 46 holdings above 300 acres, and 1719 between 50 and 500 acres.

Mining and Manufactures

Down to the middle of the 18th century the county had no industry of any importance except agriculture. The coal which underlies practically the whole surface of the county except the Vale of Glamorgan and West Gower was little worked till about 1755, when it began to be used instead of charcoal for the smelting of iron. By 1811, when there were 25 blast furnaces in the county, the demand for coal for this purpose had much increased, but it was in the most active period of railway construction that it reached its maximum. Down to about 1850, if not later, the chief collieries were owned by the ironmasters and were worked for their own requirements, but when the suitability of the lower seams in the district north of Cardiff for steam purposes was realized, an export trade sprang up and soon assumed enormous proportions, so that "the port of Cardiff" (including Barry and Penarth), from which the bulk of the steam coal was ship p ed, became the first port in the world for the shipment of coal. The cevelopment of the anthracite coal-field lying to the north and west of Swansea (from which port it is mostly shipped) dates mainly from the closing years of the 19th century, when the demand for this coal grew rapidly. There are still large areas in the Rhymney Valley on the east, and in the districts of Neath and Swansea on the west, whose development has only recently been undertaken. In connexion with the coal industry, patent fuel (made from small coal and tar) is largely manufactured at Cardiff, Port Talbot and Swansea, the shipments from Swansea being the largest in the kingdom. Next in importance to coal are the iron, steel and tin-plate industries, and in the Swansea district the smelting of copper and a variety of other ores.

The manufacture of iron and steel is carried on at Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Port Talbot, Briton Ferry, Pontardawe, Swansea, Gorseinon and Gowerton. During the last quarter of the 19th century the use of the native ironstone was almost wholly given up, and the necessary ore is now imported, mainly from Spain. As a result several of the older inland works, such as those of Aberdare, Ystalyfera and Brynaman have been abandoned, and new works have been established on or near the sea-board; e.g. the Dowlais company in 1891 opened large works at Cardiff. The tin-plate industry is mainly confined to the west of the county, Swansea being the chief port for the shipment of tin-plates, though there are works near Llantrisant and at Melin Griffith near Cardiff, the latter being the oldest in the county. Copper-smelting is carried on on a large scale in the west of the county, at Port Talbot, Cwmavon, Neath and Swansea, and on a small scale at Cardiff, the earliest works having been established at Neath in 1584 and at Swansea in 1717. There are nickel works at Clydach near Swansea, the nickel being imported in the form of "matte" from Canada. Swansea has almost a monopoly of the manufacture of spelter or zinc. Lead, silver and a number of other metals or their by-products are treated in or near Swansea, which is often styled the "metallurgical capital of Wales." Limestone and silica quarries are worked, while sandstone and clay are also raised. Swansea and Nantgarw were formerly famous for their china, coarse ware is still made chiefly at Ewenny and terracotta at Pencoed. Large numbers of people are employed in engineering works and in the manufacture of machines, chains, conveyances, tools, paper and chemicals. The textile factories are few and unimportant.


Fisheries exist all along the coast; by lines, draughtnets, dredging, trawling, fixed nets and by hand. There is a fleet of trawlers at Swansea. The principal fish caught are cod, herring, pollock, whiting, flukes, brill, plaice, soles, turbot, oysters, mussels, limpets, cockles, shrimps, crabs and lobsters. There are good fishmarkets at Swansea and Cardiff.


The county has ample dock accommodation. The various docks of Cardiff amount to 210 acres, including timber ponds; Penarth has a dock and basin of 26 acres and a tidal harbour of 55 acres. Barry docks cover 114 acres; Swansea has 147 acres, including its new King's Dock; and Port Talbot 90 acres. There are also docks at Briton Ferry and Porthcawl, but they are not capable of admitting deep-draft vessels.

Besides its ports, Glamorgan has abundant means of transit in many railways, of which the Great Western is the chief. Its trunk line traversing the country between the mountains and the sea passes through Cardiff, Bridgend and Landore (on the outskirts of Swansea), and throws off numerous branches to the north. The Taff Vale railway serves all the valley of the Taff and its tributaries, and has also extensions to Barry and (through Llantrisant and Cowbridge) to Aberthaw. The Rhymney railway likewise serves the Rhymney Valley, and has a joint service with the Great Western between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil - the latter town being also the terminus of the Brecon and Merthyr and a branch of the North-Western from Abergavenny. The Barry railway visits Cardiff and then travels in a north-westerly direction to Pontypridd and Porth, while it sends another branch along the coast through Llantwit Major to Bridgend. Swansea is connected with Merthyr by the Great Western, with Brecon by the Midland, with Craven Arms and Mid-Wales generally by the London & North-Western, with the Rhondda Valley by the Rhondda and Swansea Bay (now worked by the Great Western) and with Mumbles by the Mumbles railway. The Port Talbot railway runs to Blaengarw, and the Neath and Brecon railway (starting from Neath) joins the Midland at Colbren Junction. The canals of the county are the Glamorgan canal from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil (252 m.), with a branch (7 m.) to Aberdare, the Neath canal (13 m.) from Briton Ferry to Abernant, Glyn Neath (whence a tramway formerly connected it with Aberdare), the Tennant canal connecting the rivers Neath and Tawe, and the Swansea canal (162 m.), running up the Swansea Valley from Swansea to Abercrave in Breconshire. Comparatively little use is now made of these canals, excepting the lower portions of the Glamorgan canal.

Population and Administration

The area of the ancient county with which the administrative county is conterminous is 518,863 acres, with a population in 1901 of 859,931 persons. In the three decades between 1831 and 1861 it increased 35' 2, 35'4 and 37.1% respectively, and in 1881-1891, 34'4, its average increase in the other decennial periods subsequent to 1861 being about 25%. The county is divided into five parliamentary divisions (viz. Glamorganshire East, South and Middle, Gower and Rhondda); it also includes the Cardiff district of boroughs (consisting of Cardiff, Cowbridge and Llantrisant), which has one member; the greater part of the parliamentary borough of Merthyr Tydfil (which mainly consists of the county borough of Merthyr, the urban district of Aberdare and part of Mountain Ash), and returns two members; and the two divisions of Swansea District returning one member each, one division consisting of the major part of Swansea town, the other comprising the remainder of Swansea and the boroughs of Aberavon, Kenfig, Llwchwr and Neath. There are six municipal boroughs: Aberavon (pop. in 1901, 7553), Cardiff (164,333), Cowbridge (1202), Merthyr Tydfil (69,228), Neath (13,720) and Swansea (94,537) Cardiff (which in 1905 was created a city), Merthyr Tydfil and Swansea are county boroughs. The following are urban districts: Aberdare (43,3 6 5), Barry (27,030), Bridgend (6062), Briton Ferry (6973), Caerphilly (15,835), Glyncorrwg (6452), Maesteg (15,012), Margam (9014), Mountain Ash (31,093), Ogmore and Garw (19,907), Oystermouth (4461), Penarth (14,228), Pontypridd (32,316), Porthcawl (1872) and Rhondda, previously known as Ystradyfodwg (113,735) Glamorgan is in the S. Wales circuit, and both assizes and quartersessions are held at Cardiff and Swansea alternately. All the municipal boroughs have separate commissions of the peace, and Cardiff and Swansea have also separate courts of quarter-sessions. The county has thirteen other petty sessional divisions, Cardiff, the Rhondda (with Pontypridd) and the Merthyr and Aberdare district have stipendiary magistrates. There are 165 civil parishes. Excepting the districts of Gower and Kilvey, which are in the diocese of St David's, the whole county is in the diocese of Llandaff. There are 159 ecclesiastical parishes or districts situated wholly or partly within the county.


The earliest known traces of man within the area of the present county are the human remains found in the famous bone-caves of Gower, though they are scanty as compared with the huge deposits of still earlier animal remains. To a later stage, perhaps in the Neolithic period, belongs a number of complete skeletons discovered in 1903 in sand-blown tumuli at the mouth of the Ogmore, where many flint implements were also found. Considerably later, and probably belonging to the Bronze Age (though finds of bronze implements have been scanty), are the many cairns and tumuli, mainly on the hills, such as on Garth Mountain near Cardiff, Crug-yr-avan and a number east of the Tawe; the stone circles often found in association with the tumuli, that of Cam Llecharth near Pontardawe being one of the most complete in Wales; and the fine cromlechs of Cefn Bryn in Gower (known as Arthur's Stone), of St Nicholas and of St Lythan's near Cardiff.

In Roman times the country from the Neath to the Wye was occupied by the Silures, a pre-Celtic race, probably governed at that time by Brythonic Celts. West of the Neath and along the fringe of the Brecknock Mountains were probably remnants of the earlier Goidelic Celts, who have left traces in the place-names of the Swansea valley (e.g. llwch, " a lake") and in the illegible Ogham inscription at Loughor, the only other Ogham stone in the county being at Kenfig, a few miles to the east of the Neath estuary. The conquest of the Silures by the Romans was begun about A.D. 50 by Ostorius Scapula and completed some 25 years later by Julius Frontinus, who probably constructed the great military road, called Via Julia Maritima, from Gloucester to St David's, with stations at Cardiff, Bovium (variously identified with Boverton, Cowbridge and Ewenny), Nidum (identified with Neath) and Leucarum or Loughor. The important station of Gaer on the Usk near Brecon was connected by two branch roads, one running from Cardiff through Gelligaer (where there was a strong hill fort) and Merthyr Tydfil, and another from Neath through Capel Colbren. Welsh tradition credits Glamorgan with being the first home of Christianity, and Llandaff the earliest bishopric in Britain, the name of three reputed missionaries of the 2nd century being preserved in the names of parishes in south Glamorgan. What is certain, however, is that the first two bishops of Llandaff, St Dubricius and St Teilo, lived during the first half of the 6th century, to which period also belongs the establishment of the great monastic settlements of Llancarvan by Cadoc, of Llandough by Oudoceus and of Llantwit Major by Illtutus, the last of which flourished as a seat of learning down to the 12th century. A few moated mounds such as at Cardiff indicate that, after the withdrawal of the Romans, the coasts were visited by sporadic bands of Saxons, but the Scandinavians who came in the 9th and succeeding centuries left more abundant traces both in the place-names of the coast and in such camps as that on Sully Island, the Bulwarks at Porthkerry and Hardings Down in Gower. Meanwhile the native tribes of the district had regained their independence under a line of Welsh chieftains, whose domain was consolidated into a principality known as Glywyssing, till about the end of the 10th century when it acquired the name of Morganwg, that is the territory of Morgan, a prince who died in A.D. 980; it then comprised the whole country from the Neath to the Wye, practically corresponding to the present diocese of Llandaff. Gwlad Morgan, later softened into Glamorgan, never had much vogue and meant precisely the same as Morganwg, though the two terms became differentiated a few centuries later.

The Norman conquest of Morganwg was effected in the closing years of the 11th century by Robert Fitzhamon, lord of Gloucester. His followers settled in the low-lying lands of the "Vale," which became known as the "body" of the shire, while in the hill country, which consisted of ten "members," corresponding to its ancient territorial divisions, the Welsh retained their customary laws and much of their independence. Glamorgan, whose bounds were now contracted between the Neath and the Rhymney, then became a lordship marcher, its status and organization being that of a county palatine; its lord possessed Jura regalia, and his chief official was from the first a vice-comes, or sheriff, who presided over a county court composed of his lord's principal tenants. The inhabitants of Cardiff in which, as the caput baroniae, this court was held (though sometimes ambulatory), were soon granted municipal privileges, and in time Cowbridge, Kenfig, Llantrisant, Aberavon and Neath also became chartered market-towns. The manorial system was introduced throughout the "Vale," the manor in many cases becoming the parish, and the owner building for its protection first a castle and then a church. The church itself became Normanized, and monasteries were established - the Cistercian abbey of Neath and Margam in 1129 and 1147 respectively, the Benedictine priory of Ewenny in 1141 and that of Cardiff in 1147. Dominican and Franciscan houses were also founded at Cardiff in the following century.

Gower (with Kilvey) or the country west of the morass between Neath and Swansea had a separate history. It was conquered about 110o by Henry de Newburgh, 1st earl of Warwick, by whose descendants and the powerful family of De Breos it was successively held as a marcher lordship, organized to some extent on county lines, till 1469. Swansea (which was the caput baroniae of Gower) and Loughor received their earlier charters from the lords of Gower (see Gower).

For the first two centuries after Fitzhamon's time the lordship of Glamorgan was held by the earls of Gloucester, a title conferred by Henry I. on his natural son Robert, who acquired Glamorgan by marrying Fitzhamon's daughter. To the 1st earl's patronage of Geoffrey of Monmouth and other men of letters, at Cardiff Castle of which he was the builder, is probably due the large place which Celtic romance, especially theArthurian cycle, won for itself in medieval literature. The lordship passed by descent through the families of Clare (who held it from 1217 to 1317), Despenser, Beauchamp and Neville to Richard III., on whose fall it escheated to the crown. From time to time, the Welsh of the hills, often joined by their countrymen from other parts, raided the Vale, and even Cardiff Castle was seized about 1153 by Ivor Bach, lord of Senghenydd, who for a time held its lord a prisoner. At last Caerphilly Castle was built to keep them in check, but this provoked an invasion in 1270 by Prince Llewelyn ap Griffith, who besieged the castle and refused to retire except on conditions. In 1316 Llewelyn Bren headed a revolt in the same district, but being defeated was put to death by Despenser, whose great unpopularity with the Welsh made Glamorgan less safe as a retreat for Edward II. a few years later. In 1404 Glendower swept through the county, burning castles and laying waste the possessions of the king's supporters. By the Act of Union of 1535 the county of Glamorgan was incorporated as it now exists, by the addition to the old county of the lordship of Gower and Kilvey, west of the Neath. By another act of 1542 the court of great sessions was established, and Glamorgan, with the counties of Brecon and Radnor, formed one of its four Welsh circuits from thence till 1830, when the English assize system was introduced into Wales. In the same year the county was given one parliamentary representative, increased to two in 1832 and to five in 1885. The boroughs were also given a member. In 1832 Cardiff (with Llantrisant and Cowbridge), the Swansea group of boroughs and the parliamentary borough of Merthyr Tydfil were given one member each, increased to two, in the case of Merthyr Tydfil in 1867. In 1885 the Swansea group was divided into two constituencies with a member each.

The lordship of Glamorgan, shorn of its quasi-regal status, was granted by Edward VI. to William Herbert, afterwards 1st earl of Pembroke, from whom it has descended to the present marquess of Bute.

The rule of the Tudors promoted the rapid assimilation of the inhabitants of the county, and by the reign of Elizabeth even the descendants of the Norman knights had largely become Welsh both in speech and sentiment. Welsh continued to be the prevalent speech almost throughout the county, except in the peninsular part of Gower and perhaps Cardiff, till the last quarter of the 19th century. Since then it has lost ground in the maritime towns and the south-east corner of the county generally, while fairly holding its own, despite much English migration, in the industrial districts to the north. In 1901 about 56% of the total population above three years of age was returned as speaking English only, 37% as speaking both English and Welsh, and about 6r /c, as speaking Welsh only.

In common with the rest of Wales the county was mainly Royalist in the Civil War, and indeed stood foremost in its readiness to pay ship-money, but when Charles I. visited Cardiff in July 1645 he failed to recruit his army there, owing to the dissatisfaction of the county, which a few months later declared for the parliament. There was, however, a subsequent Royalist revolt in Glamorgan in 1648, but it was signally crushed by Colonel Horton at the battle of St Fagan's (8th of May).

The educational gap caused by final disappearance of the great university of Llantwit Major, founded in the 6th century, and by the dissolution of the monasteries was to some extent filled by the foundation, by the Stradling family, of a grammar school at Cowbridge which, refounded in 1685 by Sir Leoline Jenkins, is still carried on as an endowed school. The only other ancient grammar school is that of Swansea, founded by Bishop Gore in 1682, and now under the control of the borough council. Besides the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire established at Cardiff in 1883, and a technical college at Swansea, there is a Church of England theological college (St Michael's) at Llandaff (previously at Aberdare), a training college for school-mistresses at Swansea, schools for the blind at Cardiff and Swansea and for the deaf at Cardiff, Swansea and Pontypridd.


The antiquities of the county not already mentioned include an unusually large number of castles, all of which, except the castles of Morlais (near Merthyr Tydfil), Castell Coch and Llantrisant, are between the hill country and the sea. The finest specimen is that of Caerphilly, but there are also more or less imposing ruins at Oystermouth, Coity, Newcastle (at Bridgend), Llanblethian, Pennard and Swansea.

Among the restored castles, resided in by their present owners, are St Donat's, "the latest and most complete of the structures built for defence," Cardiff, the residence of the marquess of Bute, St Fagan's, Dunraven, Fonmon and Penrice. Of the monastic buildings, that of Ewenny is best preserved, Neath and Margam are mere ruins, while all the others have disappeared. Almost all the older churches possess towers of a somewhat military character, and most of them, except in Gower, retain some Norman masonry. Coity, Coychurch and Ewenny (all near Bridgend) are fine examples of cross churches with embattled towers characteristic of the county. There are interesting monumental effigies at St Mary's, Swansea, Oxwich, Ewenny, Llantwit Major, Llantrisant, Coity and other churches in the Vale. There are from twenty-five to thirty sculptured stones, of which some sixteen are both ornamented and inscribed, five of the latter being at Margam and three at Llantwit Major, and dating from the 9th century if not earlier.


The records of the Curia comitatus or County Court of Glamorgan are supposed to have perished, so also have the records of Neath. With these exceptions, the records of the county have been well preserved. A collection edited by G. T. Clark under the title Cartae et alia muniments quae ad dominium de Glamorgan pertinent was privately printed by him in four volumes (1885-1893). A Descriptive Catalogue of the Penrice and Margam Abbey MSS. in the Possession of Miss Talbot of Margam (6 vols.) was privately issued (1893-1905) under the editorship of Dr de Gray Birch, who has also published histories of the Abbeys of Neath and Margam. The Book of Llan Alf (edited by Dr Gwenogvryn Evans, 1903) contains documents illustrative of the early history of the diocese of Llandaff. Cardiff has published its Records in 5 vols., and there is a volume of Swansea charters. There is no complete history of the county, except a modest but useful one in Welsh - Hanes Morganwg, by D. W. Jones (Dafydd Morganwg) (1874); the chief contributions are Rice Merrick's Booke of Glamorganshire's Antiquities, written in 1578; The Land of Morgan (1883) (a history of the lordship of Glamorgan), by G. T. Clark, whose Genealogies of Glamorgan (1886) and Medieval Military Architecture (1884) are also indispensable; see also T. Nicholas, Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales (2 vols., 1872). For Gower, see GOWER. (D. LL. T.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Proper noun


  1. A traditional county of Wales


  • Welsh: Morgannwg


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

For other uses, see Glamorgan
Ancient county of Glamorganshire
Area: (1891) 516,959 (2,092 km²)
Rank: Ranked 2nd
County town: Cardiff
Chapman code: GLA

Glamorgan or Glamorganshire (Welsh: Morgannwg ) is one of the thirteen historic counties and a former administrative county of Wales. It was originally an early medieval kingdom of varying names and boundaries until taken over by the Normans as a lordship[1]. Glamorgan is latterly represented by the three preserved counties of West Glamorgan (containing Swansea), Mid Glamorgan and South Glamorgan (containing Cardiff). The name also survives in that of the county borough of the Vale of Glamorgan.



The county of Glamorgan falls into several distinct regions: the industrial valleys, the agricultural Vale of Glamorgan, and the scenic Gower Peninsula.

The county is bounded to the north by Brecknockshire, east by Monmouthshire, south by the Bristol Channel, and west by Carmarthenshire and Carmarthen Bay. Its total area is 2,100 km²[2], and the total population of the three preserved counties of Glamorgan in 1991 was 1,288,309[3]. Its highest point is at Craig y Llyn (600 m).

Glamorgan is the most populous[1] and industrialised county in Wales. The northern part of the county is a mountainous area, dissected by deep narrow valleys, with urbanisation typified by ribbon development. At one time the coal industry was dominant, but now there are only two deep mines remaining, Tower Colliery at Hirwaun and the much smaller Aberpergwm Colliery at Glynneath. A third pit, Unity Mine, formerly Pentreclwydau Colliery, is currently being reopened.

The Vale of Glamorgan, a lowland area mainly comprising farmland and small villages stretches across most of the south of the county from Porthcawl to Cardiff. Further west, beyond Swansea, lies the Gower Peninsula, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty[4].

The major rivers of Glamorgan include the River Taff, the Ely, the Ogmore, the Neath, Dulais, the Tawe, the Rhymney (which forms the border with Monmouthshire), and the Loughor (which forms the border with Carmarthenshire). The main towns include Aberdare, Barry, Bridgend, Cardiff, Caerphilly, Cowbridge, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil, Mountain Ash, Neath, Penarth, Pontypridd, Porthcawl, Port Talbot, and Swansea.

Despite the decline in the coal industry, the area remains heavily populated with a wide and diverse economic base including public administration, agriculture, light industry, manufacturing, service sector, and tourism.[5].

Places of interest

Places of special interest include:


Initially it was founded as an independent petty kingdom named Glywysing. In the 10th century, it became known as Morgannwg after its greatest monarch, Morgan Hen. It was at times united with the neighbouring kingdoms of Gwent and Ergyng[6]. By virtue of its location and geography, Morgannwg was the second part of Wales, after Gwent, to be overrun by the Normans and was frequently the scene of fighting between the Marcher Lords and Welsh princes[7].


After the fall of the Welsh Kingdom of Morgannwg to Robert FitzHamon in 1091, the region became the English Lordship of Glamorgan, sometimes called the Lordship of Glamorgan and Morgan because it was divided into the Norman settled Plain or Vale of Glamorgan and the Welsh upland area called Morgannwg, anglicized to Morgan. Both areas were under the control of the Norman Lords of Glamorgan (often the Earls of Gloucester).[7]

In 1535, the first Act of Union attached the Lordship of Gower and Kilvey to Glamorgan and created the historic county of Glamorgan.[8]. An administrative county of Glamorgan was created under the Local Government Act 1888, excluding Swansea and Cardiff, which were independent county boroughs. They were soon joined by Merthyr Tydfil.[9] The county's coat of arms, granted in 1950, is 'Or, three chevronels gules between three Tudor roses gules and argent', and is adapted from those of the De Clare Marcher Lords. The county motto is: A Ddioddefws A Orfu (He who suffered has conquered)[10].

Under the Local Government Act 1972, the administrative county of Glamorgan was abolished on April 1, 1974, with three new counties being established, each containing a former county borough - West Glamorgan, Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan. It has now been further subdivided into several unitary authorities. The South Wales Police force covers an area that is similar to Glamorgan.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b BBC Wales: South East: Glamorgan
  2. ^ 999 Glamorgan: About Glamorgan
  3. ^ Office of National Statistics: 1991 Census County Monitor (Wales)
  4. ^ City and County of Swansea: Gower - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: Glamorgan
  6. ^ Wendy Davies. (1982). Wales in the Early Middle Ages. London: Leicester University Press
  7. ^ a b William Rees. (1951). An Historical Atlas of Wales. Cardiff: University College
  8. ^ Laws in Wales Act 1535
  9. ^ A Vision of Britain through Time: Relationships/Unit History of Merthyr Tudful
  10. ^ International Civic Heraldry: Glamorgan
  11. ^ Your Police: Our Plan 2007-2008

External links

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Glamorgan. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

This article uses material from the "Glamorgan" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English


Glamorgan, also known as Glamorganshire (Welsh: Morgannwg) is a county in Wales. Glamorgan was a medieval kingdom. Its capital is Cardiff.

The administrative county of Glamorgan existed until April 1, 1974. It was replaced with three new counties called Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. Those three counties were replaced on 1 April 1996 by several new council areas called "principal areas", but "preserved counties" of Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan stayed as areas for lord-lieutenants


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