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History of the Mynydd Mawr

by Huw Owen, Hons. History Student, Aberystwyth U.C.W.

Research into the history of one's local area will immediately prove its value to the historian, in that invariably the area is a microcosmic reflection of the macrocosmic development of the whole country. This is particularly true of my own area, Mynydd Mawr, and the surrounding area which constituted the medieval division of Cantref Bychan, situated to the east of the river Towy in the county of Carmarthenshire.

Like the remainder of Wales, the historical development of this area has been extensively controlled by geography, and the history of my own village of Cross Hands well illustrates this tendency. The name (Cross Hands) is probably derived from the custom of handing over custody of prisoners, with their hands bound together, who were transported from the gaol of Carmarthen to the one in Swansea. Furthermore, Cross Hands, at the peak time of the stage coach, was probably an important place on account of its inn, where horses could be changed and the travellers could have a meal. Today, this village is a focus point for two important roads: the A476 from Llandeilo to Llanelly, and the A48 linking Fishguard and Milford Haven with Swansea and Cardiff.

The presence of coal measures in the area led to its immense industrialism, and this was also of social significance in that a conglomeration of people from various sources were brought together. This influx of foreign traditions naturally made an impact on the native population, though by today inter-marriage has naturally led to a fusion of external and native elements. Other geographical factors, such as the large number of streams, for example the Gwendraeth Fawr, Gwendraeth Fach, and Gwili, high rainfall of over 50 inches, and the temperate climate of cool summers and mild winters, has enabled mixed farming to be a profitable occupation. Therefore, in contrast to the traditional concept of a mining village in the Rhondda Valley, farms may be observed in the Gwendraeth Valley side by side with the coal tips! The significance of this is that the area has been enabled to retain, despite the presence of coal mines and other industrial enterprises, its essential rural character, and this is indicated by the fact that the vast majority of the population is Welsh in speech and custom. Another indication of this fusion of the rural and industrial is that today one may ascend a peak, like Y Graig, of the plateau of Mynydd Mawr, and on its wooded slopes experience a sensation of unparalleled peace and tranquillity. Yet, when the peak is reached, one is reminded of the surroundings by the panorama of industrialism, with a whole succession of coal mines extending along the Gwendraeth Valley from Cross Hands to Carway, that is presented before one's eyes. This combination of industrial and rural development means that the study of my area is even more significant than that of many other areas, for two distinct patterns of development, one sudden and revolutionary, and the other evolutionary in character, are indicated in a comparatively limited space.

Furthermore, it may be even said that the geological structure of the region has controlled the pattern of settlement. There are fertile old red sandstone soils in the Gwendraeth Fach valley, which lies to the west of Mynydd Mawr, and the ensuing rich pastures have resulted in dairy and stock farming being carried on. The dairy produce is consumed in the industrial Gwendraeth Fawr valley, and the livestock is disposed of in the weekly mart at Carmarthen. Thus, the Gwendraeth Fach valley is a region of scattered farms and small villages, namely Porthyrhyd, Llangyndeyrn, Pontantwn, and Llandyfaelog. The uplands lying between the Gwendraeth Fach and Gwendraeth Fawr rivers form the Mynydd-y-Garreg-Mynydd Cerrig range, on whose northern slopes deposits of carboniferous limestone are to be found. As a result, limestone is burned into lime at Crwbin and limestone is quarried for road material at Maes Dulais, near Drefach. On the southern slopes are to be found measures of millstone grit, for road metalling.

However, in the Gwendraeth Fawr valley, passing through the Mynydd Mawr itself, there are rich seams of anthracite coal, the finest in the world, and for which there is constantly an immense demand, and this coal can easily be exported via the ports of Burry Port and Llanelly. An inevitable result of the expansion of the coal industry was the establishment of large villages around the coal mines, as at Penygroes, Cross Hands, Tumble, Cwmmawr, Pontyberem, Ponthenry and Trimsaran, and this is yet another illustration of geological factors controlling human settlement in the Mynydd Mawr and its neighbourhood.

On the other hand, a geographical factor has motivated against the historic development of the area, and this factor is its bleak and barren topography. The area consists of highlands, rising gradually in the direction of Banc-y-llyn, which is over 800 feet above sea level. An early reference to it was by Edward Llwyd, who, in 1696, stated: "Mynydd Mawr, a common about 2 miles long." In 1811, following the enclosure Act of 1807, 5,080 acres of the Mynydd Mawr were enclosed in the parishes of Llannon, Llanarthney, Llandybie and Llanfihangel-Aberbythich. Little is known of the areas prior to these dates because of the nature of the lands, for the exposed surface was far from being attractive to settlers. On the contrary, the fertility and shelter of the Towy and Loughor valleys have constantly attracted settlers, and so for the early history of Cantref Bychan, one must look to the neighbourhood of Mynydd Mawr rather than to Mynydd Mawr itself.

Anthropologists affirm that man first appeared on the earth after the retreat of the ice sheets of the Pleistocene Ice Age. With the increasing warmth of the climate, life was possible, but yet it was still impossible for man to live constantly in the open air. Thus, Paleolithic man lived in caves, and settlement at this time was confined to areas where rocks of carboniferous limestone, which enabled caves to be formed naturally by water erosion, were to be found. There is certain evidence available which supports the theory that Paleolithic man dwelt in the area between Kidwelly and the Black Mountains, and the two most notable discoveries are those of Craig Derwyddion, which is between Pentregwenlais and Carmel, and at a cave which was discovered on a steep cliff on which Carreg Cennen Castle was built.

In 1813, during excavation of the cave at Craig-y-Derwyddion, ten skeletons were found, seven of which lay side by side at the entrance, but the other three were further inside the cave, though at right angles to the seven. One of the skulls was sent by Lord Dynevor to the Oxford University Museum, and in 1878 Professor Rolliston stated that the other skeletons had been buried beneath tons of rubble, and that the cost of recovering them was far too expensive. In the cave at Carreg Cennen, a layer of bones was found below the stalagmite, and these contained some human bones which probably indicate two children and two older persons. However, there is some doubt as to whether this discovery was of Paleolithic origin.

There are no traces at all of the Mesolithic Age in the neighbourhood, but there are many definite remains of the Neolithic Age. From the year 3,000 B.C. onwards, a distinct civilization spread from the Eastern Mediterranean to Western Europe, probably searching for precious metals, and this new movement reached Wales via the western sea route from Spain and Gaul. One of the characteristics of this age was the use of stone for making stone tools and implements, and these tools were then polished to make them more efficient. In all, about nine or ten relics have been found in the whole country. Another feature of the age was the building of great stone monuments or megaliths as either chambered tombs, stone circles or standing stones (meini hirion). There are no remains of a chambered tomb in the area, but many indications of the two other classes have been discovered.

An example of a megalith or stone circle is Banc-y-naw-carreg, now completely destroyed, and this was situated between Capel Hendre and Cwmgwili, about three miles north east of Cross Hands. In 1696, Edward Llwyd mentioned "Y Deg Karreg ar y Mynydd Mawr," and described them as being "so many stones pitched on ends in regular order." The name "Banc-y-naw-carreg" is derived from the time that there were nine stones in the circle, but an examination in 1914 indicated that only five stones then remained in a consecutive order. Another examination the following year revealed that the remaining stones had been lifted up, and the visiting Commissioner found holes for 14 stones in a circle about sixty yards in diameter. Many customs associated with this place have become firmly entrenched in the folk lore of the area. One of these was the custom for young people to assemble there on the Sunday preceding mid-summer and then attempt to count the stones, which was considered an impossible task. The importance of mid-summer in this custom suggests a link with sun worshipping customs in Stonehenge at mid-summer, and the significance of mid-summer day with the Druids is also related to the local customs at Banc-y-naw-carreg. The most important Megalithic remains in Carmarthenshire, however, were the Meini-hirion or standing stones, and these may have acted as sepulchral monuments like the stones inscribed with Latin and Ogham at a later period. There are two Meini-hirion in the vicinity of Mynydd Mawr, and these are the Bryn Maen pillar stone on Bryn Maen farm, Llannon, which, being fifteen feet tall, is one of the tallest in the county, and the Bryn-rhyd stone at Llanedy.

The Neolithic Age was followed by the Bronze Age, which was characterised by their distinctive beaker or drinking cup. Of the two beakers that have been found in Carmarthenshire, one was discovered at Corsydre in 1930. A flat axe which can be attributed to the Early Bronze Age, was discovered at the Capel Quarry, Gorslas, and as a cave existed at this quarry until recently, one may assume that it probably housed a Beaker Age family.

There are only faint traces of the Roman occupation in the area, and what does exist is mainly concentrated in the parish of Llandybie, which lies to the north-east of the Mynydd Mawr. There is evidence here of contact and intercourse between the Romans and the people of the district. At the end of the 18th century, Roman coins were found at Carreg Cennen and coins were also found near Llandyfan, in a quarry and limestone cave. The coins found at Carreg Cennen belonged to the lower Empire, and the others, found near Landafan, bore the image of Maximianus (286-305 A.D.). In 1888, when Derwydd was being reconstructed, several pieces of Roman pottery, mosaic and glass were unearthed. In addition, it is possible that the road from Llandeilo to Llandybie was of Roman origin, probably leading to Neath (Nidum), through which the main southern road led from Caerleon to Carmarthen. Evidence of Roman roads have been even found nearer towards the Mynydd Mawr. A certain Mr. S. O'Dwyer has claimed that a Roman road ran from Pensarn, near Carmarthen, to Trecastle, in Breconshire, and according to Mr. O'Dwyer, this runs through Porthyrhyd, in the Gwendraeth Fach valley, and then Penrhiwgoch on the Mynydd Mawr. Another road that is reputed to be Roman in origin is the one that runs from Forest, near Pontardulais, to Llannon, via Ceubryn road and Penllwyngweudr, and thence across Mynydd Sylen to Pontyberem, and from here to Kidwelly and Maridunum (Carmarthen).

The Roman occupation came to an end during the fourth century, and it is in this period that the growth of the Christian Church may be observed. Again, in the search for evidence, one must go to the neighbourhood of the Mynydd Mawr, and in this case to the older parishes of Llanarthney and Llandybie. This was the age of the Dewi, Teilo, Cadog, and Padarn cults, and the influence of David is illustrated by dedications to him, though at a later date it must be admitted, at Bettws in the Llandybie parish, Capel Dewi in Llanarthney parish, and Llannon in Llannon parish. However, the dominating influence in this area was of Brychan Brycheiniog, of Irish Goidolic descent, who had carved out a kingdom for himself in Brecknockshire. One historian, Theophilus Jones, maintains that the lordship of Brycheiniog extended at this time to Llangadog and even Llandybie, but the general gloom which surrounds these well-named Dark Ages prevents us from obtaining a clear picture of this period.

However, it is true that Tybie, to whom the church of Llandybie has been dedicated, was one of Brychan's daughters. Brychan, in his attempt to extend his influence and power, met severe opposition, and in a battle Tybie was slain. The legend then continues by stating that the present church of Llandybie now stands where Tybie was slain. The well of Tybie is another memorial to her name, and this well was a noted place in the past, as these lines by Job indicate:-

"Ei gras wasgarodd hyd wawr ei diodde
Fel sawr pereiddfwyn rhoslwyn mewn drysle:
I rin y Groes, ei rhan gre'-mewn drygfyd,
Y tystiau bywyd Santes Tybie . . . .
Eithr lle bu gwaedli'r dirion-Dybie
(O gyff y wiwne)-gwel acw'i ‘Ffynon’."

In addition, although Professor Rees has claimed that the church of Llanarthney was dedicated to David, it is more probable that the "Arthney" was a corruption of Arthen, who was the fourth son of Brychan Brycheiniog.

In the Middle Ages, the Mynydd Mawr and the area to the north of it constituted the Hundred of Cantref Bychan, which, together with Cantref Mawr, and Cantref Eginog, formed the kingdom of Ystrad Tywi. During the reign of the Lord Rhys and when Henry II asserted his authority in England, Cantref Bychan reverted to Norman rule, and in the 12th century, this Hundred, being claimed by both Llandaff and St. Davids, was a centre of dispute between the two dioceses. Towards the end of the 12th century, Cantref Bychan was ruled by the able young prince, Maredudd, but he was slain at Kidwelly by the Normans in 1201. There followed a period of confusion with various descendants of Rhys claiming the territory. In 1277, the commote of Iscennen fell under the control of the Norman Pain de Cadwrcis from Kidwelly, and in 1283 it was given to John Gifford, though later it fell into the hands of the Crown. It may be said safely that Iscennen corresponds to the area which today represents Mynydd Mawr and its vicinity. From 1289 to 1308, Iscennen was governed by Ustus and the Chamberlain of Carmarthen, but during the revolt of Gifford the commote was forfeited to the Crown, and then transferred to Hugh Dispenser.

Ultimately, Iscennen became a part of the Duchy of Lancaster. During this period of Norman ascendancy, "the motte and bailey" castle was a recognised feature of the landscape, and it is believed that such a castle, or a mound and ditch, can be seen today at Tir-y-dail, in the southern part of Llandybie parish. This is referred to by Edward Llwyd, who referred to it as "Ty'n-y-dail, enw Ty wrth Grug a chlawdd o gwmpas iddo e'". There are other names within the area which remind the local historian of old fortresses and fortifications. There are three fields on the farm Gelligweirdy, outside Llandybie, which bear the names "Castell ucha, isa, a bach." In addition, at Castell Rhinyll, which stands today about two miles to the north of Cross Hands on the main road to Llandeilo," remains of an old mound still exist, and this denotes the presence of an old castle. The castle of Carreg Cennen, magnificently built on a steep slope, lies within the parish of Llandybie, and many bitter struggles were fought here between the Normans and the Welsh.

For evidence of religious life within the area during the Middle Ages, one must again turn to the old pariah of Llandybie. It is believed that the first church was founded by Tybie, but, naturally, there is no evidence to corroborate the theory, as all churches of this period were built of wood. It is believed that the present church is on another site to the first one. Many old churches in Carmarthenshire owe their location to a pre-Christian religion, with the church being situated within a circle of stones which were considered sacred. It is probable that Llandybie Church corresponded to this pattern, and its churchyard was circular before its later extension. There are also traces of chapels of ease, associated with the Anglican church, in the area. The chapel at Llandyfan was of great renown in the Middle Ages, and this was probably on account of its well, which was reputed to have medicinal properties.

A chapel was also believed to have been situated near Ffynon Gwenlais, in the parish of Llanfihangel-Aberbythich, and this was referred to by Edward Llwyd as "Gwenlaish springs at Capel Gwenlaish." The oldest reference to Llandybie Church is the one in the Calendar of Church Rolls, when, in the 12th year of his reign, Edward I allowed Thomas, the Bishop of St. Davids, to appoint a priest for the church of "Llandegeu," but this right later reverted to the King. In 1288, Pope Nicholas IV bestowed the tithes of many parishes, including that of Llandybie, to Edward I for six years towards the cost of financing a military expedition to Palestine for the Crusades. According to the rate valuation of 1291, the living of "Llandybyeu" was worth £4.6.8d., and in 1306, David Martin, Bishop of St. Davids, transferred the living of Llandybie to the service of the resident clergy at St. Davids. In the accounts of John Emlett, the clerk at St. Davids in 1541, he records that he receives £5, "Pro Firma ecclae de Llandebea" and that he paid 6s 8d "for a bebyll (Bible) to Llandebea."

Little is known of social life in the parish of Llandybie in the late Middle Ages, and what is known is derived from records of the Court of Star Chamber. This indicates that much illegal work was carried on, with each man being a law unto himself, and the strongest then, naturally, having his own way. Many examples of persons attacking another are revealed, and in the year 1577 Rhys ap John of Llandybie complained that a William David and Henry ap Powell assaulted him when hunting in Parc-yr-Hun, which stands today in modern Ammanford. These records also describe the noble families of the period, centred at the mansion of Derwydd. During the Civil War they were Royalist supporters and suffered exceedingly on account of this, with Sir Henry Vaughan of Derwydd losing his wealth and property. It is probable that Oliver Cromwell passed through the area on his way to Pembrokeshire, and even today the inhabitants of Llandybie take pride in the tradition that he stayed at Derwydd and the Plas of Llandybie.

Before the Enclosure Act of 1807, most of the Mynydd Mawr was common land attached to the manors of Golden Grove and Llannon, and it was customary for all people dwelling in the manorial districts to graze their animals on the common. Thus, the farmers that lived in the valleys of the Gwili, Gwendraeth Fawr, and Gwendraeth Fach, drove their cattle up to the common during the summer, returning to the valley shelters during the winter. The common was accessible via Mountain gates (Llidiartau), and these gates were located in a rough circle surrounding the Mynydd Mawr. The main gates were called: "Llidiartau Dugoed, Mawr, Rhosyderw, Rhydymaerdy, Jaci Thoms Shon, Waunwen, Twll-y-lladron, Blyne, Rhydybiswel, Felinfach, Hendre, Colier, Cilrhedyn, Llances, Y Glyn, Pentregwenlais, William Thomos Hopkin, and Hendrefas. In the vicinity of the Mynydd Mawr there were many farms in existence in the 18th century, situated where the soil was fertile, and in the centre of Mynydd Mawr, around modern day Gorslas, there were some good grazing spots, especially at Cwmcerrig, Gorsgoch, Gorsddu, Brynyfuwch, Castell y Rhigyll and Bancyllyn.

Thus, Gorslas square became a meeting place for farmers who grazed their cattle on the six grazing spots. Today, six roads lead from Gorslas square, and these follow the direction of the original six paths. At the meeting point of the six paths, a fold (ffald) was set up, and stray cattle were driven to this fold. On a certain day, usually Dydd Gwyl Ifan yr Haf, a search was made for stray cattle on the common, and these, having been driven into the fold, could then be claimed by their owners for a small payment. If a beast was unclaimed for more than a week, it would be taken to Golden Grove Manor, and if unclaimed there within a year it would become the property of the Lord of the Manor. Another fold was situated at Rhysymaerdy, Cefneithin, and even today the cottage near the bridge is called "Ty'r Ffald," and the third fold was at Rhydygwiail, near Llyn llech Owain, and this again is called "Ty'r Ffald." The meeting place for the paths was soon realised to be a convenient spot for effecting transactions such as buying and selling of cattle and horses. Certain days were appointed for these transactions, and these appointed days developed into fair days with amusements catered for the dealers and their families. In time the cattle fair was replaced by the fun fair, which is still held twice a year at Gorslas. The pattern of rural life in the 18th century in the Mynydd Mawr is well summed up by the late Gladwin Henry, an eminent local historian:

"a desolate uninviting common of Gors and moorland, devoid of human life except during the brief activities of the few seeking summer pasturage for their cattle, yet surrounded by prosperous farms with rich grazing fields and well tilled soil, where life moved on quietly through each succeeding year, completely unaware of the transformation that was soon to take place."

Despite the impact of the enclosure movements and the Industrial Revolution, the development of the farms on the borders of the Mynydd Mawr continued on its slow, gradual, evolutionary lines throughout the 19th century, and well into the 20th, and this means that old customs, which by now have become extinct, still survive in the memories of the people. Many of the older people of the area recall many adventures connected with romance, such as throwing stones at a girl's window in order to attract her attention, and the girl would then probably open the door and secretly entertain her guest while her parents were still asleep. The sending of Valentine cards on February 14th was a firmly entrenched custom, and the Valentine that I have seen consisted of a sheet of paper, skilfully cut out into a striking design, with the following verse inscribed in the centre:

"Men often promise constancy
But many broken vows there be,
And marry damsels do declare
Men's oaths are only formed of air,
A bubble that a breath will break
Yet I incline your word I take
Trusting that it is your design
To act with honour Valentine.
February 14th, 1825

With regard to marriage, a careful count was kept of the gifts presented, and so when a couple were about to be married, their family would send out Bidding Papers to all their acquaintances who were then requested to give a present to the couple and thereby settle their debts with the families concerned. Another indication of love was the sending of love spoons, which indicated a high degree of skill, and people in the area today remember a twig of the birch tree being used when proposing marriage. A twig of this tree was sent to the selected lady, and if she wished to accept, she sent back an identical twig. In addition, communal spirit was strong at this time and evidence is available of a society of tradesmen and inhabitants of the parish of Llanfihangel-Aberbythich being formed with meetings to be held at the Temple Bar Inn.

At the beginning of the 19th century there was a change in the pattern of agricultural life in the area and this was almost completely due to the enclosure movement. Agricultural implements were late in being introduced into this area and in the 18th century, as in other parts of West Wales, sledges were the most common forms of transport. Thus, the impact of the agrarian revolution on the Mynydd Mawr was almost entirely due to the enclosure movement. After the Enclosure Act of 1811, the Mynydd Mawr was sold and divided up. Before this sale, there were only two houses on the common, namely Banc-y-ddreinen and Ty'r Cerrig, but soon afterwards Thornhill Palace was built by a certain Covert. Then Meadows House was built by a Bontcoch, and Greenhill by a Thomas Michael. Other houses, the majority small ones, were built, and as the land was sub-divided their number increased. The presence of names today in the village of Cwmgwili like "Cwmlottau" and "Lottau bach" have a close connection with enclosures and Thornhill Palace, for "lottau" is a reference to plots of land leased out by the owner of Thornhill to various individuals and the only condition was that one-tenth of the produce should be returned to the owner of Thornhill. The mansion at Golden Grove, on the edge of the Mynydd Mawr, is also worthy of note, in that it was on this estate that the enclosures were first introduced in Carmarthenshire.

The Enclosure Act of 1811 meant a deterioration in the living standards of small farms. Before this Act the small farmers could take their cattle up to the Mynydd Mawr, a common, for pasturage in the summer months. With the Enclosure Act, however, the farms no longer enjoyed this privilege, so they had to reduce the numbers of their livestock. In addition, the working of the Turnpike Trusts adversely affected local inhabitants, with a rate of 15 being collected in Llandybie in 1735.

The Turnpike system was then brought into use with trusts and this had the right to erect toll gates, where payments were levied for the upkeep and construction of roads. To meet the interest debts contracted, many toll gates were constructed and these were oppressive to the farmers, who had to fetch coal for fuel and lime as fertiliser.

These two factors, combined with further contributions demanded from the New Poor Law, 1834, and the Tithe Commutation Act, resulted in there being immense poverty in the countryside in the early years of the 19th Century, and a reaction against this poverty manifested itself in the Rebecca Riots in West Wales. The first attack was on the toll gates at Efailwen, near Whitland in 1839, and the peak was reached in 1843. Every raid followed the same pattern with the rioters wearing women's gowns and caps, with their faces blackened, and under the leadership of a person whom they called Rebecca. This title was probably derived from the verse in Genesis XXIV, which reads:

"And they blessed Rebekah and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be then the mother of thousands of millions and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them."

And this was used as an instrument to deceive the ignorant in an attempt to convince them of a Biblical justification for their actions.

Though many leading men associated with the Rebecca Movement played an important part on the Mynydd Mawr, including Shoni Sgubor Fawr, and Dai'r Cantwr, the leader in this area was John Hughes of Ty isaf Farm, Tumble. He had joined the movement as the result of a personal experience, for he had once had to pay 1/8d. in tolls on a load of lime that had only cost 8d at Garn Bica. It was only natural that the rioters should play an important and active part in the Mynydd Mawr area, for there were many tollgates and bars in the area.

There were bars at Porthyrhyd, Drefach, Treventy Cross Hands, Castellrhingyll and Maesybont, and gates at, Llanddarog, Porthyrhyd, Foelgastell, Tumble and Llannon while farmers on the Mynydd Mawr had to pay tolls at the Llandybie toll gate while bringing back lime from Garn Bica. In 1843 the gates at Llanddarog, Porthyrhyd and Llannon were severely attacked and the gate and bar at Porthyrhyd were attacked three times within one month, with the result that the toll house was completely destroyed. The local smithy was also destroyed, as the smith, a special constable, had openly boasted that, singlehanded, he could beat off any 15 of the Rebeccaites. The parish constable, Evan Thomas, who was known as "Llew Porthyrhyd," was dragged from his bed on one occasion and forced to start the destruction of the gate. The Treventy toll gate house was also destroyed after the owner had refused to contribute thirty shillings.

However, the movement lacked the unity which was so essential for complete success, for though many, especially the leaders, were solely concerned with securing the social justice which they felt they were entitled to, there were many involved in the movement who were only attracted by the excitement and adventure which they could attain in the various raids. This hot-headed element effected unofficial raids, and one of these was on the farm of Gellyglyd Cwmgwily where they stole a large sum of money. Another unofficial attack was made on Gelliwernen, Llannon with shots fired through the windows and the fruit trees in the orchard were cut down. In September, 1843, the Mynydd Mawr "Beca" made an attack on the Pontardulais Gate, and though they succeeded in destroying the gate, they were prevented from doing any further damage by the Dragoons and the Glamorganshire Constabulary, who had received prior information of this attack.

John Hughes was captured and sentenced at the Swansea Assizes to twenty years transportation, and Shoni Sguborfawr, who had escaped, was captured at the Tumbledown Dick, that is, the inn at Tumble, and he was transported for life at Carmarthen Assizes. On September 13th, 1843, an important meeting was held at Llyn-llech-Owain on the Mynydd Mawr, and one of those who addressed the meeting was Job Davies, Pentregwenlais, who recited the following englyn:

"O na welwn i waelod-da obaith
A diben ar trallod;
Codi Arf wedi darfod,
A breiniau dyn bron a dod."

Between 3,000 and 4,000 attended this meeting, which decided to send a petition to the Queen, and whose proceedings were publicised by a reporter of "The Times", who was present. This constant agitation resulted in an Act being passed in 1844. This stipulated that only a limited number of gates should be set up, and in the Mynydd Mawr only two gates were to be established, and these were at Bryndu and Castellrhingyll. Thus the Rebecca Rioters, though their violence may be criticised, did succeed on the Mynydd Mawr in their attempt to limit the numbers of toll gates.

The progress of the enclosure movement on the Mynyydd Mawr led to an increase in the demand for lime for fertilising the land and whitewashing the buildings. The geological structure of the land considerably facilitated the development of the industry in the area. A belt of limestone extended from Llandybie to Kidwelly, and one observes that a flourishing lime industry soon developed in the Llandybie area. There was a tremendous demand for lime in 19th century Wales, and farmers came from even Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire to fetch lime from Llandybie. At the end of the 19th century, lime from Llandybie was exported to Africa, via the port of Swansea for the purpose of purifying sugar. Though this trade was lost in the first world war, the limestone industry is still a predominant feature in the parish of Llandybie today, for it produces lime for the land, limestone for road metalling and for flux in the steel furnaces of the South Wales Coalfield's steelworks.

Of even greater importance in my area is the coal industry, which has a long history. First evidence of coalmining was by Leland, who reported in 1536 that coal was obtained from the Gwendraeth Valley. The next evidence that is available is George Bromly's statement in 1609 that: "Wee saye that there are coles founde wrought and digged in the said common called Mynith Mawre," and it is also believed that Earl Carberry of Golden Grove, in 1689 started mining operations at Brynyfuwch, which today stands near the village of Penygroes.

Coalmining was essentially a summer occupation, with all workings following the slope of the seam, and there was always an outlet for water drainage purposes. After the venture at Brynyfuwch in 1689, the outcrops were constantly worked, and the next important event was when William Evans of Aberlash, Llandybie, having taken out leases on the rights of Lord Cawdor of Kidwelly and the Lord Bishop of St. Davids, who was Lord of the Manor at Llanlluan, opened a colliery in Cross Hands at the end of the 18th century. He was soon faced with difficulties and formed with Sir William Paxton of Middleton Hall, a partnership which lasted until the death of William Evans, when the lease ended. In 1796, Alexander Raby came into possession of a smelting furnace in Llanelly, and in 1802 the Government allowed him to run a train road from Llanelly to Castell-y-Garreg, near Gorslas, probably with the aim of obtaining limestone for his smelting furnace. This was the first railway in the county, known as the Carmarthenshire Railway. Wooden trams were drawn by horses along wooden rails and stone sleepers with the journey from Gorslas to Llanelly taking a full day. The stone sleepers are to be found today in the field opposite Waunddewi in Cross Hands, and there are indications of this past railroad at Cwmmwyn, the terminus of the railroad near the square of Gorslas.

Raby found iron ore, and at Banc-y-llyn, he found silica sand, both of which would be used in his smelting industry, and which could be easily transported by rail down the Gwendraeth Valley to Llanelly. Coal was also carried on this railroad and carried by horse and cart along the road from Cefneithin to Garreg Hollt, from Cwm-y-Glo, which is situated between Cefneithin and Cross Hands. The horse and cart cut up this road so badly that the name Heol-y-baw can be seen to be justified. Thus the Mynydd Mawr was important at this time for supplying raw materials to the smelting industry at Llanelly.

It is known that collieries were operated at Cross Hands between 1824 and 1830 under the ownership of Colonel Wray and Norton. Colonel Wray took out a lease after the death of William Evans, but having worked Cross Hands and Cwmcoch for many years, and at a loss, he gave up. The mine was then taken over by David Davies of Llannon and John George of Rhydymerdy. The mine was opened at a lower level and the coal sent by railway to Llanelly, and later by the canal which had been built between Cwmmawr and Pembrey. This canal carried much traffic and it has a close link with the Mynydd Mawr in that its feeder was the reservoir constructed at "Cae Pownd", Cross Hands. Also, this canal carried lime and coal from the Mynydd Mawr to the docks at Pembrey. The next person to take over the Earl's rights at Cross Hands was Charles Henry Norton, from a highly respected family in Carmarthen, and he also owned Gilfach Colliery in Caerbryn, which only remained in operation until 1881. He was the son of Dr. Norton, Thornhill Palace, and though himself the owner of Nantglas and Bryngwili mansions, he lost everything and eventually died in the workhouse.

Other collieries were opened in the immediate vicinity of Cross Hands and one of these was the old Gorsgoch Colliery, and there were also brickworks at Gorsgoch, which is indicated by the fact that even today bricks with that name may be found in the neighbourhood. In 1882 Gwaith Caemawr was opened at Penygroes, but it remained in existence for only two years. In 1884 a new slant was opened at Castellrhingyll and this slant, later, under the ownership of a Mr. Dobelle from Birkenhead, developed into the Rock Castle Colliery, which though flourishing at first, became unprofitable to work and closed in 1893.

In the same year the Mynydd Mawr Railway was opened between Llanelly and Tumble, and later, extended to Cross Hands, it became the medium for transporting coal from the Mynydd Mawr to Llanelly. The Great Mountain Colliery was opened at Tumble in 1887, and Tumble soon grew into a large mining village, centred around the colliery, which is still flourishing. A new exploitation of old workings in the vicinity of Penygroes resulted in the formation of the Emlyn Colliery, which, together with the Emlyn No. 2, of 1924, became known as the Emlyn Collieries. They were immensely successful, and equipped with modern machinery, pit-head baths, a canteen, and an experimental laboratory, became renowned as a model of satisfying working conditions.

Unfortunately, however, the colliery closed down as a result of a dispute in the family of the owner. At Blaenhirwaun, a mile from Cross Hands, Colonel Netherbridge opened up a colliery, and after Sir Sidney Byass of Port Talbot had been the owner, the colliery came under the ownership of the Simpson and Rogers firm, and it now entered a highly successful period. For a variety of reasons, but due to the fall in demand in particular, many of the smaller collieries had to close down, and, today, though traces of small works may be observed, coal production on the Mynydd Mawr is confined to the collieries at Cross Hands, Blaenhirwaun and Great Mountain Tumble. Even today these three pits are doomed to closure, and only remain open until Cynheidre, further down the Gwendraeth Valley, will be fully developed. However, though now declining, the coalmining industry has made an immense contribution to the community life on the Mynydd Mawr.

First of all, one may state that the coal industry was responsible for extensive settlement within the area, and in this way it combined with developments in agricultural life. The Enclosure Act of 1811 led to an increase in the population on the Mynydd Mawr, and this population found difficulty in eking out a living on this fertile territory.

The dissatisfaction of the inhabitants with the prevailing poverty of the Mynydd Mawr manifested itself in the Rebecca Riots. It was this surplus population, consisting of the younger sons of farmers, and tradesmen who had no hope of inheriting their father's property, which fostered the development of industrialism within the area by providing a labour force that, for the sake of survival, had to glean a living from the valuable raw materials to be found within the area. However, once the coalmining industry had been established, an influx from other areas may be observed and with their coming, the traditions of other areas in Wales from now on make their slight, though significant imprint on the local tradition. The impact of these "dynion dwad" is indicated by the nicknames in the village of Cross Hands, even today of men like Tom Jones Cynwil, Ianto Aberdar, David Evans Llangeithio, and Tommy Evans Coginan. These "dynion dwad" have gradually been accepted into the social and religious life of the community, so that, by today, in the chapel which I attend, five out of the nine deacons are of foreign "origin" and this pattern is to be found in other chapels of the area.

Equally important as this social impact was the political one. The fact that, with the coming of industrialism, men had to work in appalling conditions, led to a cry for social justice, and this inevitably brought men and master, who were already finding difficulty in running the mines as successful ventures, into conflict. In addition, as in other industrial areas, the miners were constantly in close contact with their fellow workers, and so, being political dynamite, they could be easily roused into fury. This was indicated in the Great Strike of 1926 with processions marching to Llanelly, and tales are recited today of the manager of the Great Mountain Colliery having to hide from the wrath of the angry, starving miners. Such incidents naturally fostered a strong Radical spirit. At first, this radical spirit was closely connected with chapel going, and in the mining village of Tumble, all the members of the Independent Labour Party were prominent chapel members. Indeed, their religious convictions were so strong that, after a dispute in the chapel, the I.L.P. members all left Ebenezer Methodist Chapel, and built their own chapel of Llain-y-delyn. At this time by the beginning of the First World War, the Union Leaders were the chapel leaders, and these preached moderation to their fellow members. However, in 1923, the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd. was formed, and this soon gained control over all the mines in the area.

The old paternal influence in the area was replaced by an alien, impersonal organisation, and so the fairly harmonious relations between man and master came to an end. Henceforth, relations gradually deteriorated, and the climax was reached in the 1926 General Strike. The industrialised Mynydd Mawr came to be recognised as a Labour stronghold, giving firm support to Mr. James Griffiths, its Member of Parliament. However, the rural part on the westward fringes of the area mainly concentrated in the parishes of Llanarthney and Llanfihangel-Aberbythich remained Liberal in its political outlook.

The other factor, apart from industrialism, which has played an important part in contributing to the social and political development of the area, was religion, and its influence, though perhaps diminishing a little now, is still strong on the Mynydd Mawr. Today, the main denominations represented in the area, are the Churches of Wales, Baptists, Independents, Calvinistic Methodists and Apostolic Churches. Naturally, the Church in Wales (that is, the Anglican Church prior to 1811) possesses the longest history, and the mediaeval development of the church at Llandybie, the oldest in the area, has been noted earlier. This Church, and similarly the parish churches at Llannon, Llanfihangel-Aberbythich, and Llanarthney, played a dominating part in the social life of the villages, and have continued to do so even to this day, and Nonconformist sects have failed to make an impressive challenge to them within the villages. In these villages the parish church has remained the focus of social life in a rural pattern of living that has changed little throughout the ages. On the Mynydd Mawr itself the Church has faced sterner challenge from the Nonconformists. St. Lleian Church, Gorslas, was erected at a cost of £1,200 and consecrated on April 15th, 1879. This has a burial ground of about an acre in extent, and it also has a beautiful vicarage, towards the erection of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners made a grant of £1,500 in 1880. The other churches in the immediate vicinity are Eglwys Dewi Sant in Tumble and the St. Anne's Church in Cross Hands. These churches do not possess a long history and this is indicated by the fact that only last year the St. Anne's Church was given the right to consecrate marriages. Though in the past these have not enjoyed the same impact on village life, by today, they are extremely flourishing and St. Anne's is probably the only church in Cross Hands which can boast of increasing attendances at its Sunday School. This is an indication of the changing way of life in the village, for services in both languages attract a small but significant influx of English-speakinging people, who have recently come into the new housing estates to live.

However, the Nonconformists have made the greatest contribution to and impact upon community life in the Mynydd Mawr and its immediate vicinity. The oldest of these that settled in the area was the Independent Church, which today, with the large chapels at Bethesda, Tumble, Bethania, Upper Tumble, Tabernacle, Cefneithin, and Capel Sgwar and Mynydd Seion in Penygroes, commands the greatest religious following in the area. The history of this sect in the neighbourhood extends back to the Puritanism of the seventeenth century. In 1644 a petition was presented to the House of Commons by Hugh Grundy, of Llangydeyrne, requesting the displacement of Sir Henry Vaughan from the "Committee for examining Scandalous Ministers" as he had placed "six scandalous ministers, no preachers" to serve in "six parish churches with several chapels in Carmarthenshire."

Old Puritan meeting-places were located in the parish of Llannon, and from 1661 onwards many inhabitants of the parishes of Llandeilo, Llanedi, Llandybie, and Llannon were Puritans. In 1782 the chapel of Gellimanwydd (which today is better known as the Christian Temple, Ammanford) was opened, and it is known that the early congregations included people from Pentwyn on the Mynydd Mawr. In 1925, an Independent Chapel was opened at Penygroes, and the pioneers were William Jenkins, Glan-lash, his son Thomas Jenkins, and William Jones, Rhyd, who were all members at Gellimanwydd. The first minister was Thomas Jenkins, and his friend Rees Rees, though his parents were staunch Methodists, also became an Independent minister. On the Mynydd Mawr itself, the development of Industrialism naturally resulted in the erections of large Independent Chapels at Bethesda, Tumble, in Bethania, Upper Tumble in 1785 and Tabernacle, Cefneithin, in 1876 (the two latter also, incidentally, served the industrial village of Cross Hands) and these chapels still attract large congregations today.

The Baptist church was also quick to seize the opportunity of erecting chapels on the rapidly industrialised Mynydd Mawr, and so Bethel and Tabor were built in Tumble and Cross Hands respectively. The earliest church of this denomination in the whole neighbourhood was at Llandyfan, near Llandybie, in 1787. The first baptism was in the following year in a small fountain nearby. In 1793 two diverging sects, the Arminians and Calvinists had emerged within the Baptist Church, and by 1800 there was intense discontent in Llandyfan. Before long the Baptists moved into the village of Llandybie, leaving their chapel to the Unitarians, but in 1838 it was taken over by the Established Church and services are even held there today. Another Baptist Church was established at Saron, in the vicinity of the Mynydd Mawr, and its establishment followed a large public meeting held at Llyn-llech-Owain, addressed by the Rev. Thomas Morris of Penrhiwgoch. The chapel was opened in 1814, and the first minister was the Rev. William Michael of Drefach. In 1896 a Baptist Chapel was opened at Calfaria, Penygroes, and its minister Job Herbert, who served at the Chapel for nearly fifty years, was a dominating personality in the area. To cater for the rapidly increasing growth of Cross Hands as a mining village, Tabor was opened in 1872. This chapel again had succeeded in maintaining its early strength, and, under the leadership of such famous characters in the village as John Roberts y Gof, and Tom Lewis y Baker, its energy and vitality was lately displayed by the reconstruction of the chapel, and the building of a magnificent new vestry.

A significant feature of the three denominations already mentioned is that the Church was largely successful in the peaceful setting of the countryside, while the Baptists and Independents succeeded mainly in the industrial areas. However, the Methodist Revival was a movement which was able to be successful in both rural and industrial areas, and this is manifested by its development on the Mynydd Mawr and its neighbourhood. There were chapels in the area in the early eighteenth century, but these had sunk into a slough of inactivity and despondency. It was in this setting that the Methodist Revival made its impact and the activity of Methodist leaders in this area was extremely intense. Llanlluan was particularly noted, for it was one of the five churches visited monthly by the famed Daniel Rowlands of Llangeithio. On Sacramental Sunday, Llanlluan was the goal of thousands of people. The Rev. Peter Williams, the first commentator of the Welsh Bible, was married here in 1748, and he preached at the chapel in 1796. The first Methodist cause, apart from Llanlluan, in the vicinity of the Mynydd Mawr, was at Capel Hendre, and this can be traced to the conversion of John Thomas Owens, an ancestor of mine, when listening to a sermon given at Llannon by the Rev. William Davies of Neath. He received permission to hold a "seiat" in his home at Tyllwyd, Cwmgwily, and this was the centre of the Methodist, religion in the area until Capel Hendre was built in 1812. One of John Thomas Owens' disciples was his farm hand, Thomas Jones, who having married his master's daughter, became a preacher, and he is renowned for his constant, attendance at the Cyfarfod Misol, and Sasiwn. He was then buried at Capel Hendre, and near him lies Dafydd Morris, also a preacher, and he is noted for his preaching abilities and the fact that he published the works of William Williams, Pantycelyn, in cheap booklets.

As a result of their endeavours, the chapel at Capel Hendre, received a high status, and it was responsible for founding Caersalem, Tycroes, in 1875, Gibea Cwmgwili in 1899, and Jerusalem, Penygroes, in 1879.

Of even greater fame than Capel Hendre is the Methodist Chapel at Pentwyn, which stands on a hill, a quarter of a mile from Cross Hands, facing the main road to Pontardulais. John Thomas Owens, together with Jacko Dafydd, Pentwyn, and Jacko, Rhos, was responsible in founding a Sunday School in the Pentwyn farmhouse. This Sunday School is still talked of in the area and many references are made to the "Class of Blockheads" with the father of the late J. W. Jones as its teacher. In 1849 the schoolhouse was extended and a balcony was built. In 1903 the old chapel was pulled down and a new and beautiful chapel was erected; a chapel that has often been described as one of the most beautiful chapels in Wales. The cost amounted to £1,200 and it was eventually paid by 1908. Many of the most important Methodist preachers have been connected with Pentwyn, and these include John Evans, Llwynfortune, David Griffiths, Uantywyll, Edwards Jones, William Jones, Aberdulais, W. Beynon Jones and Victor Griffiths. Another interesting factor concerned with Pentwyn is the association of the family of John Thomas Owens or Shon Llwyd with the chapel. His son, John Owens, was a deacon at Pentwyn, and similarly, his son and then the latter's son, both also called John Owens. The development of the coal industry attracted the Methodist cause to open a chapel there, and John Owens, a Pentwyn deacon, the descendant of Shon Llwyd, combined with others, and especially Robert Evans, to open a chapel - Bethel, in 1906. The number of members was 78, but by today the number is in the proximity of 200. Like other chapels and churches in the area, it leads a vigorous active life, and in 1953 the Association (Sasiwn) of South Wales, held its conference at Bethel.

At first, as in other areas of Wales, religion and education were closely connected, and plenty of evidence is available indicating that Gruffydd Jones, with his Circulating Schools was particularly active in the immediate vicinity of the Mynydd Mawr, and especially in the parishes of Llandybie and Llanarthney. On October 2nd, 1736, in a letter to Madam Bevan, he stated:

"I had a very agreeable journey to Llanlluan Chapel and back again. I took a couple of the clergy I met there two or three miles with me in my return for the sake of talking together, and are to meet again next Wednesday night at Carmarthen, to converse a little more together."

It is evident from other letters that Gruffydd Jones constantly visited Llanlluan, and in another letter he stated:

"Give me an account of the schools in Llandeilo and Llandybie. Bridget Bevan took tremendous interest in the parish of Llandybie, probably on account of her connections with the Derwydd family."

According to the "Welsh Piety" there were schools in Llandybie during 1738-9, and here is a list of the circulating schools held within the parish of Llandybie and the number of scholars at each school:

1738-9 1740-1 1741-2
Llandybie : 54 Pantllyn : 54 Llandybie : 70

1744-5 1751-2 1755-6
Llandybie : 51 Llandyfaen Chapel: 39 Llandybie : 62

1756-7 1758-9 1759-60
Bleunau : 52 Llandybie : 65 Bleunau : 62

1761-2 1763 1764-5
Caerbryn: 58 Llandybie:73 Llandybie Night School: 15

It is also known that between the years 1740-42, a Circulating School was opened at Llanfihangel-Aberbythich (Golden Grove).

By the second half of the 18th century the circulating school movement had begun to fade, and there was danger of the neighbourhood falling back into its former state of ignorance and illiteracy. The Sunday Schools came into prominence now, and, according to the "Cambrian Newspaper," Sunday Schools were started in the parishes of Llandybie and Llanarthney in 1807. Sunday Schools were held in the parish churches, but it was in the Nonconformist chapels, and especially in the recently established Calvinistic Methodist chapels, that the Sunday School movement was most successful.

Adults attended these Sunday Schools, as well as children. Difficult passages in the morning's sermon were analysed, and controversial Biblical questions were heatedly debated. At Capel Hendre, where the Methodist Chapel was established in 1812, 86 members attended the Sunday School, and at Pentwyn a Sunday School was held in the farm house for many years before the erection of a schoolhouse in 1812.

At this schoolhouse, a daily school was held for the remainder of the week. This Academy soon became renowned as a centre of learning. An illustration of its fame is that Richard Price of Llangeinor, in Glamorganshire, was educated there. He later became one of the leading radicals in the county at the time of the French Revolution, which he wholeheartedly supported, and he also greatly influenced the framers of the Declaration of Independence in America.

As a result of a Government Inquiry's report on education in Wales in 1847, more schools were established and in 1848 a day school was established in Llandybie. The purpose of the school was to educate "children and adults, or children alone, of the labouring, manufacturing or other poorer classes in the parish of Llandybie."

This school was run in conjunction with the National Society, religious instruction was under the control of the vicar and the staff had to be members of the English Church. In 1856, day schools were established in Llanarthney and Gorslas, and it was at these schools, and at Penygroes, which was opened in 1872, after the Education Act of 1870, that the inhabitants of the Mynydd Mawr were educated. Another school was opened in Bryndu, Llannon, and many tales are recited today of the inhabitants of Cross Hands having to walk three miles to the Board School at Bryndu. At these schools the Welsh language did not enjoy the same status as English within the school premises. The older people of Cross Hands remember vividly the strict discipline enforced on the pupils and the importance of politeness and courtesy were strictly stressed.

The schoolmaster most particularly associated with this strict discipline was D. M. Jenkins of Llechyfedach School, Upper Tumble, opened in 1891. A school in the village of Cross Hands was not opened until 1926 and a Senior Centre was added to it after the last war. Grammar School education for the children of the Mynydd Mawr is provided at the Gwendraeth Valley Grammar School opened in 1925, and prior to this date, children seeking this education had to travel to Llanelly or Llandeilo. An interesting feature concerned with the transport of children to Llandeilo was that they had travelled by Taylor's bus, and incidents galore are recounted of its eventful journeys.

Today, the Mynydd Mawr is a hive of activity, an industrial centre with its three mines at Great Mountain, Tumble, Blaenhirwaun, and Cross Hands. The miners form the majority of the inhabitants, but a balance is kept in the community by the presence of a large number of farmers, on the one hand, and various kinds of professional men and workers engaged in light industries. The latter, plus miners having to travel away for work, are to be seen, particularly at Penygroes, where the local colliery has long since closed down. It was believed that this closure would have an adverse effect on community life, but the flourishing religious and social life proves the theory to be false.

This is a trend which will probably continue at the other mining villages with the mines destined to close when Cynheidre colliery opens, and prompts one not to despair that when the collieries close the villages of Tumble and Cross Hands will become "ghost towns." Such a description of village life today could not be further from the truth. The main interest of the people is rugby football, with intense rivalry between teams of Cefneithin, Pontyberem and Tumble. A fine tradition in the area may be observed in the fine arts, and the main instrument to further these cultural interests is the Mynydd Mawr Council of the Arts, which has presented musical works like "Cavaleria Rusticana" and "Hansel and Gretel" and historical plays like "Corn Beca", written by the local author, Gwynne Evans. Choral singing is also popular, and community singing concerts are often held in a local chapel. At these concerts, noted local artistes take part and these include the celebrated Jac and Wil, whose songs, partly sentimental and partly religious, are extremely popular in the whole county, as indicated by the high sales of their records.

The area is essentially a religious one, and the hallmark of respectability even today, is an office at church or chapel; at least regular attendance at a place of worship. A great interest is taken in education, and most parents in the locality make every effort for their children to have a grammar school education. As a result, an extremely high proportion of teachers has been turned out in this area.

Therefore the Mynydd Mawr is an extremely interesting one to live in, though really human settlement in this area has comparatively short history. By today it has developed unique tradition of its own, an industrial pattern imprinted on the older rural pattern. This industrialism has developed in an area which has largely retained its rural character; an area which cannot, like some areas, be said to be soiled by industrialism; an area which is still, in every way, Welsh to the core, and an area which it is my pleasure to live in and my privilege to attempt writing its history.
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