Welsh Icons - Towns & Villages






Ynyscedwyn Ironworks, Ystradgynlais. Photograph © Mike Rees

Ystradgynlais is a town on the River Tawe in south west Powys, Wales. It the traditionally lies in Brecknockshire. The town grew around the iron-making, coal-mining and watch-making industries.

Ystradgynlais hosted the 1954 edition of the National Eisteddfod which is an annual Welsh festival of literature, music, and song.

The century-old award-winning Ystradgynlais Public Band competed in the 2005 National Eisteddfod.  It is the hometown of the actress Eve Myles.

Ystradgynlais is one of the few areas within old Brecknockshire, which has a high proportion of Welsh-speakers, indeed, according to the 2001 census, over half of all the Welsh-speakers within Brecknock district live in Ystradgynlais itself.

 Football in Ystradgynlais: Ystradgynlais FC

 Libraries in Ystradgynlais:
 Ystradgynlais Library
       Temperance Street
       SA9 1JJ
 01639 845353
 Mon 9:30am-7:00pm
       Tue 9:30am-1:00pm
       Wed Closed
       Thur 9:30am-5:00pm
       Fri 9:30am-5:00pm
       Sat 10:00am-1:00pm

 Cinemas in Ystradgynlais:
 Miners Welfare and Community Hall
       Brecon Road
       SA9 1JJ
 01639 843163

 Pubs/Bars in Ystradgynlais:
 Butchers Arms
       Heol Giedd
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1LQ
 01639 842548

 Gough Arms Hotel
       Glantawe Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1ES
       01639 843292

 Jeffreys Arms
       108 Brecon Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1QL
 01639 843319

 The Lounge
       8-9 Wind Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1AH
 01792 644007

 Rugby in Ystradgynlais:
       Ystradgynlais RFC
       Ynyscedwyn Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1BH
 01639 842446

 Taxis in Ystradgynlais:
 Aaron Cabs
       Derwen Rd Garage
       Derwen Rd
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1HL
 01639 843245

 Restaurants in Ystradgynlais:
 China Garden
       Wind Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 2JX
 01639 844055

 Take Aways in Ystradgynlais:
 Glan Rhyd
       84 Wind Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1AH
 01639 842484

 Other in Ystradgynlais:
 Glanrhyd Coronation Club & Institute
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1BG
 01639 842132

 Places of Worship in Ystradgynlais:
 Sacred Heart (RC)
       Pantyffynon Road
       SA9 1EU
 01639 842202
 Services: Sat First Mass of Sun 6.00pm. Sun 10.30am
       Holydays Mass 10.30am and 7.00pm
       Weekdays Mon, Wed, Thurs; at 9.30am, Tues, Fri at 7.00pm
       Sacrament of Reconciliation: 11.00 to 12 noon Sat and on request
       Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament: 6.00pm Friday

 Schools/Colleges in Ystradgynlais:
 Glanrhyd C.P. School (Primary)
       Wind Road
       SA9 1AA
 01639 844481

 Penrhos C.P. School (Primary)
       SA9 1QT
 01639 842200

 Ysgol Cynlais C.P. School (Primary)
       Heol Giedd
       SA9 1LQ
 01639 842338

 Ysgol Gymraeg Ynyscedwyn (Primary)
       Heol Pantyffynnon
       SA9 1EU
 01639 843117

 Ysgol Maes-Y-Dderwen (Secondary)
       Tudor Street
       SA9 1AP
 01639 842115
 01639 843648

 Chemists/Pharmacies in Ystradgynlais:
 EW Richards
       30 Heol Eglwys
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1EY
 01639 842112

 JG & RJ Davies
       8 Commercial Street
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1HD
 01639 842286

 Doctors/GPs in Ystradgynlais:
 Abercrave Surgery
       Heol Tawe
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1XP
 01639 730225

 Pengorof Surgery
       Gorof Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 1DS
 01639 843221

 Ystradgynlais Group Practice
       23 Wern Road
       West Glamorgan
       SA9 2LX
 01639 843251

Ystrad-Gunlais (Ystrad-Gynlais) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
YSTRAD-GUNLAIS (YSTRAD-GYNLAIS), a parish, comprising the Upper and Lower divisions, in the union of Neath, hundred of Devynock, county of Brecknock, South Wales, 14 miles (N. E. by E.) from Swansea; containing 2885 inhabitants. The name of this place, according to some authorities, is derived from the dedication of its church to St. Gunleus, a prince of "Glewissig," who, by his residence here, gave his name to the small vale in which the edifice is situated. Others more correctly state that the church is dedicated to St. Mary; and it has been thought that the proper appellation of the place is Ystrad Gurlais or Garwlais, signifying "the vale of the rough-sounding brook," being derived from a stream a little below the church, which separates this parish from that of Kilybebill, and also forms a boundary between the counties of Brecknock and Glamorgan. The parish comprises 12,000 acres, of which 5500 are common or waste land. It is bounded on the south-east by the river Tawe, and on the south-west by the brook Garwlais above noticed; and is intersected by the turnpikeroad from Swansea to Brecknock. Its surface is adorned with several gentlemen's seats, the principal of which, Yniscedwyn House, once the residence of the Aubreys, and now the property of the Goughs by marriage with the heiress of that ancient family, is a handsome mansion, in a delightful part of the Vale of Tawe, environed by some richly-varied scenery, and in the centre of an extensive and a highly improveable domain. In the Upper division stands the old seat of Glynllêch Isâv.

The entire district abounds with mineral wealth, and in the parish are valuable strata of iron-ore, stone-coal, and limestone, which, combining with other local advantages, have led to the establishment of large works. The iron-works belonging to the Yniscedwyn company are considered as among the oldest of the kind now in operation in the kingdom; and the opinion of their antiquity has been confirmed by the discovery of an old pig of iron in a cinder-bank in 1795, on which was the date 1612. These extensive works comprise seven blast furnaces for smelting the ore, air furnaces and cupolas for converting the pig-iron into castings, with fineries for making the refined metal used by the tin-manufacturers. The furnaces are blown by a large steamengine, made by the Neath Abbey iron company; as well as by a powerful machine erected in 1828, from designs by Mr. Brunton, of London, and worked by a water-wheel of large diameter. The iron-ore, limestone, and coal used are all procured in the parish. Formerly, the stone-coal being considered unfit for the purpose of smelting iron, a supply of another kind was obtained from mines in an adjoining parish; but, about the year 1836, the late George Crane, Esq., the managing partner of the Ynyscedwyn iron company, discovered a mode of using stone-coal in the blast furnaces, and since then stone-coal has been in general use for iron-smelting throughout this district. When in full operation, the works afford employment to about 1000 men, exclusively of whom, about 260 are constantly engaged in the collieries of the parish: the stone-coal and culm raised in these are partly used in drying malt, and burning lime. Great quantities of limestone are quarried at the Cribarth rock, and purchased by farmers and others along the line of the Swansea canal, to burn for manure and other purposes. On the limestone to the north of this rock is found an abundance of tripoli, or lapis cariosus, of a very pure quality, much of which is collected and sent by the canal to Swansea, and thence shipped to England, to be used in the burnishing of metals.

The Swansea canal, a branch of which reaches to the Yniscedwyn works, terminates at a place called Hên Neuadd, in the parish, two miles above the church; and to it converge numerous tramroads from the works, for the conveyance of their produce. A long tramroad was laid down in 1825, by John Christie, Esq., of London, extending from the Gwain Clawdd, over the forest of Devynock, to Rhŷd-y-Briw, in the Vale of Usk, by means of which a communication is established between this mineral district and the heart of Brecknockshire; and a branch, six miles in length, from Penwyll to the head of the Swansea canal, forming a junction with the main tramway, has also been constructed. In 1847 an act was passed for the construction of a railway on the broad gauge from Abercrave Farm, in Ystrad-Gunlais, to Swansea, called the SwanseaValley Railway.

The living is a rectory, rated in the king's books at £9. 10. 7½., and in the patronage of the proprietor of the Yniscedwyn estate: the tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £372: the church is a small neat fabric, consisting simply of a nave and chancel, with a belfry at the west end. The chapel of Coelbren, situated in the Upper division of the parish, has been endowed, and the living is now a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the rector. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic Methodists; several day schools, and fourteen Sunday schools. Morgan Aubrey, of Yniscedwyn, Esq., bequeathed a rent-charge of £4. 5., payable out of a farm called Twyn-y-Ceilog, n Devynock, for the benefit of the poor.

A Roman road, now called the Sarn Lleon, or Sarn Helen, is still visible, passing along a high ridge of rock which separates the parish from Ystrad-Velltey, and from Cadoxton in the county of Glamorgan, and hence declining southwards towards the station Nidum (Neath). On this ridge, between Coelbren and Cevn-hîr-Vynydd, was formerly an erect stone, supposed to have been a Roman milliary, with an inscription, of which only the letters impc were in later times legible: this relic has been removed or destroyed. Upon the hills towards Llywel, and bordering on Carmarthenshire, are several carneddau, and the remains of three ancient British encampments; but nothing has been recorded of their original formation. Near the chapel of Coelbren is an encampment, which, from its quadrilateral shape, and its contiguity to the Sarn Helen, is thought to be Roman; and at a short distance from this place is a kind of natural wall, formed by the side of the limestone rocks, in which is a small cavern, styled Cradock's Church, or Hermitage. This cavern, according to Mr. Jones, the historian of Brecknockshire, is erroneously named, as he supposes it to have been the cell in which Gunleus died in the arms of his son Cattwg, who gave his name to this cavern, as his father had in like manner given his to the vale.

About three-quarters of a mile east of Coelbren chapel is one of the most remarkable waterfalls in this part of the county, designated 'Sgwd yr hên Rŷd. It is formed by the Llêch, or Llêchog, a small mountain stream, which, for a considerable distance from its rise, flows over a rocky bed, in a part of its course entirely destitute of vegetation, and without any feature of beauty, except where in some places it expands into a river. The stream afterwards crosses the road from Ystrad-Velltey to Coelbren, when it is lost in a deep wooded glen, on emerging from which the whole river, in one unbroken sheet, descends from a perpendicular height of more than 100 feet. Being interrupted in its fall by a projecting ledge of rocks, about ten or twelve feet below the summit, it dashes into foam, and after its descent for the remaining ninety feet, without further impediment, the stream disappears in the thick foliage of the woods which clothe its precipitous banks, and pursues a winding course to the river Tawe. Though this fall is of much greater height than that of Eiro Hepstè, the water in its descent has less grandeur and breadth, when the two rivers are equally full. At an inn known by the sign of the "Lamb and Flag," in the parish, the outlawed criminal Hatfield, who, under the assumed name of the Hon. Colonel Hope, had seduced into marriage the beautiful and artless Mary of Buttermere (in Cumberland), was arrested; he was committed by the magistrates to the gaol at Brecknock, and thence conveyed to Carlisle, where he was tried and executed.


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