Rhondda (IPAEng|'rɒnðɘ), or Rhondda Valley (Welsh: "Cwm Rhondda") is a former coal-mining valley in Wales, consisting of 16 communities built around the River Rhondda. The valley is made up of two valleys, the larger Rhondda Fawr valley ("mawr" large) and the smaller Rhondda Fach valley ("bach" small). Both the singular term 'Rhondda Valley' and the plural 'Rhondda Valleys' are commonly used. Rhondda has a population of 72,443 [ [http://www.assemblywales.org/03-045.pdf National Assembly of Wales] 2001 Census] and is part of the county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taff. The Rhondda Valley is one of the South Wales Valleys.

The Rhondda Valley is most notable for its historical link to the coal mining industry which was at its peak between 1840-1925 AD. The Rhondda Valleys were home to a strong early nonconformist Christian movement which manifested itself in the baptist chapels which moulded Rhondda values in the 19th and early 20th century. Rhondda is also famous for strong masculine cultural ties within a social community which expressed itself outside industry in the form of male voice choirs, rugby union, trade unions and public house life.

Rhondda Fawr

The larger of the two valleys, the Rhondda Fawr, extends from Porth and rises through the valley until it reaches Blaenrhondda, near Treherbert. The settlements that make up the Rhondda Fawr are as follows:

* Blaencwm a district of Treherbert.
* Blaenrhondda a district of Treherbert.
* Cwm Clydach a community.
* Cwmparc a district of Treorchy.
* Cymmer a district of Porth.
* Dinas Rhondda a district of Penygraig.
* Edmondstown a district of Penygraig.
* Gelli a district of Ystrad
* Glynfach a district of Cymmer
* Llwynypia a community.
* Pentre a community.
* Penygraig a community
* Porth a community that sees itself as the unofficial capital of the Rhondda, mainly due to its geographic location.
* Ton Pentre a district of Pentre.
* Tonypandy a community.
* Trealaw a community.
* Trebanog a district of Cymmer
* Trehafod the most southernmost and smallest of the Rhondda Valley communities.
* Treherbert a community.
* Treorchy the largest community in either of the valleys.
* Tynewydd a district of Treherbert
* Williamstown a district of Penygraig.
* Ynyswen a district of Treorchy.
* Ystrad a community.

Rhondda Fach

The Rhondda Fach is celebrated in the 1971 David Alexander song 'If I could see the Rhondda'; the valley includes Wattstown, Ynyshir, Pontygwaith, Ferndale, Tylorstown and Maerdy. The settlements that make up the Rhondda Fawr are as follows:

* Blaenllechau a district of Ferndale.
* Ferndale a community.
* Maerdy a community.
* Penrhys a district of Tylorstown.
* Pontygwaith a district of Tylorstown.
* Tylorstown a community.
* Stanleytown a district of Tylorstown.
* Wattstown a district of Ynyshir.
* Ynyshir a community.


In the early Middle Ages, Glynrhondda was a commote of the cantref of Penychen in the kingdom of Morgannwg, a sparsley populated agricultural area. The spelling of the commote varied widley, and the Cardiff Records shows the various spellings:Hopkins (1975), pg 222.]

Modern Rhondda 1945-present

The coal mining industry of the Rhondda was artificially buoyed throughout the war years, though there were expectations of a return to the pre-1939 industrial collapse after the end of the Second World War. There was a sense of salvation when the government announced the nationalization of the British Coalmines in 1947; but the following decades saw a continual reduction in the output from the Rhondda mines. From 15,000 miners in 1947, Rhondda had just a single pit within the valleys producing coal in 1984, located at Maerdy. There are many reasons for the collapse of the mining industry within the Rhondda, but most are connected to the fact that oil superseded coal as the fuel of choice in the Western economies and the fact that the expectations of the British worker moved from manual to manufacturing and then white collar work.

The British government and Welsh employment bodies funded and subsidized external businesses to locate new ventures within the valleys to replace the vanishing heavy industries. The first attempt to bring in business not connected to the coal mining industry began in the 1920s when David Jones, Town Clerk to the Rhondda Urban Council, gained government support in attracting outside businesses to the area. [ [http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/south-wales-news/rhondda/2007/03/29/a-look-back-to-the-glory-days-91466-18829209/ "A Look back to the glory days"] Wales Online, 5 October 2008] Companies included Alfred Polikoff's clothing factory, Messers Jacob Blatus, manufacturing cardboard boxes and Electrical and Musical Industries Ltd. Following the end of the Second World War, 23 companies were set up in the Rhondda Valleys, eighteen of them sponsored by the Board of Trade. Most companies had periods of growth and collapse, notably Thorn EMI in the 1970s and Burberry [" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6400995.stm Burberry defends factory closure ] ", "BBC Online", 27 February, 2007] in the 2000s.

The Rhondda Heritage Park, a museum commemorating Rhondda's industrial past, is situated just south of Porth in the former Lewis Merthyr Colliery in the small former mining village of Trehafod.

The Rhondda urban area had a population of 59,602 in 2001. [ [http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/census2001/ks_ua_ew_part1.pdf National Office of Statistics] ]


The commote of Glynrhondda was coterminous with the earlier parish of Ystradyfodwg, but little is known of the Celtic saint Tyfodwg, or Dyfodwg of who the parish is named. Saint Tyfodwg is thought to have existed around 600 AD, and although the parish bears his name there are now no religious monuments or places of worship named after him within the Rhondda boundaries.Davis (1989), pg 31] There are two churches in South Wales outside the area named after the saint; Y Tre Sant in Llantrisant and Saint Tyfodwg’s in Ogmore Vale.

The earliest known religious monument is the Catholic holy well in Penrhys first mentioned in the 1400s, though it may have been a place of pagan worship before this.Davis (1989), pg 27] This pilgrimage site was part of the Cistercian Way and was the main reason people would pass through the commote; it was even thought to be the main reason why the first bridges were built over the River Rhondda. [Tobin, Patrick and Davies, J. ’’The Bridge and the Song, Some Chapters in the Story of Pontypridd’’, Mid Glamorgan County Libraries (1991) ISBN 1872430058]

During the Middle Ages the Parish church of Ystradyfodwg near the bank of the River Rhondda served the parishioners of the Rhondda Fawr, [Carlisle, Nicholas ‘’A Topographical Dictionary of The Dominion of Wales’’ , London (1811)] while the families of the Rhondda Fach attended Llanwynno church. The inhabitants of the lower Rhondda would need to trek to Llantrisant to hear a service. Despite the importance of the Anglican Church in the lives of the parishioners the growing strength of Nonconformity would make itself felt in the 18th century. In 1738 the Reverend Henry Davies formed the Independent Cause in Cymmer and five years later a ‘'Ty Cwrdd’’ or meeting house was opened there. Although attracting families from as far away as Merthyr and the parish of Eglwysilan, there were no other Nonconformist Causes until David Williams began preaching in the Rhondda in 1784. In 1785 six people were baptised in the river near Melin-yr-Om and in 1786 ‘'Ynysfach’’ was opened in Ystrad and was “a new house for religious services”.Davis (1989), pg 32] This was the first Baptist chapel in the Rhondda and would be the forerunner in a new religious movement in the valley for the next 150 years. In the early 19th century there were only three places of worship in the Rhondda; the parish church (now dedicated to St. John the Baptist), Cymmer and Ynysfach chapels. This changed rapidly after 1855 as the coal mining industry brought in an influx of population and by 1905 there were 151 chapels in the valley.Morgan (1988), pg 252]

Chapel life was central to valley life throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but as with many communities throughout Britain, the post wars saw a decline in regular membership. As the population declined the number of places of worship also declined, but this does not mask the severe drop in membership from the 1950s, which saw full parishes reduced to a degree which saw many chapels close. By 1990 the Rhondda had less than 50 places of worship, the majority demolished. [ [http://www.therhondda.co.uk/general/churches.html] TheRhondda.co.uk]

Political activism

Political activism in the Rhondda has a deep link with trade unions and the socialist movement but was initially slow to develop. In the 1870s the Amalgamated Association of Miners won support, but was destroyed by employer hostility. The Cambrian Miners’ Association was more successful and the creation of the South Wales Miners' Federation after the 1898 coal strike, gave the South Wales miners a reputation for militancy, in which the Rhondda Valley played its part. As part of the Redistribution Act of 1885 the Rhondda was granted its first seat in Parliament which was won by left wing Liberal William Abraham, who was notably the only working-class member elected in Wales.Davies (2008), pg650.] Socialism and syndicalism ideals grew throughout the 20th century and industrial struggle reached a crescendo in the 1910-11 Tonypandy Riot.Morgan (1988), pg 62] A year later Tonypandy saw the publication of Noah Ablett’s pamphlet The Miner’s Next Step.

The Rhondda also has a strong history of communist sympathy, with the Rhondda Socialist Society being a key element in the coalition that founded the Communist Party of Great Britain. By 1936 there were seven Communists on the Rhondda Urban District Council and was publishing its own Communist newspaper "The Vanguard".Hopkins (1975), pg70.] In the 1930s Maerdy became such a hotspot of Communist support it was known as "Little Moscow"Davies (2008), pg749.] producing left wing activists such as Merthyr born Arthur Horner and Marxist writer Lewis Jones. In 1979, Rhondda councillor Annie Powell became Wales' only communist mayor. [" [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE1DC1439F93AA1575BC0A960948260 Annie Powell (obituary)] ", "New York Times", 29 August 1986]

Culture and recreation


Social amenities were rudimentary even before the formation of the Rhondda Urban District Council in 1897. Due to the geographic layout of the valleys, land was a scarce resource, and therefore leisure activities that took up little space, time and money were sought. This saw the popularity of activities such as greyhound races, cock fighting, open air hand-ball courts (often attached to the pubs), boxing booths, foot racing and rugby union.Smith (1980), pg103.]

Rugby union

During the mid 19th century the influx of immigrants from the older mining towns, such as Aberdare and Merthyr, brought with them the game of rugby. At Treherbert it took a five month lockout in 1875 to see the game establish itself at the various collieries where the Amalgamated Association of Miners held their meetings.Smith (1980), pg102.] In 1877 Penygraig Rugby Football Club was formed, followed by Treherbert in 1879, Ferndale in 1882, Treorchy in 1886 and Tylorstown in 1903. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the 'Rhondda forward' was a key player in many Welsh teams.cite book | author = David Parry-Jones | title = Prince Gwyn, Gwyn Nicholls and the First Golden Era of Welsh Rugby (1999) pp. 36| publisher = seren | year = 1999] The heavy industrial worker was a prime aggressive attack figure in early Welsh packs, typified by the likes of Treherbert's Dai 'Tarw' (bull) Jones who at 6 foot 1 inch and 16 stone in weightSmith (1980), pg136.] was seen as an animal of a man.

Due to the lack of playing fields in the valleys, many rugby teams would share grounds, travel every week to away grounds or even play on inappropriate (e.g. sloping) pitches. The valley clubs also had no clubhouses, with most teams meeting, and changing, in the closest local public house.Morgan (1988), pg 393] Many more clubs, built around colliery and pub teams, appeared and disbanded but many of the clubs survive to this day.


Due to the dominance of rugby union there have been few football teams of note in the history of the Rhondda Valleys. Several teams were formed around the end of the nineteenth century, but most folded during the depression, including Cwmparc F.C. in 1926Morgan (1988), pg 396] and Mid-Rhondda in 1928. The most successful club is Ton Pentre F.C., formed from the abandoned Mid-Rhondda team in 1935.


The temperance movement, which had been absorbed into the moralistic system of the Nonconformist chapels, caused a shift in social attitudes in the mid to late 19th and early 20th century Rhondda. Alcohol was looked down upon and so were the increasingly violent sport such as rugby,Smith (1980), pg120.] so young men looked for different and more acceptable past-times. Voice choirs were a natural progression from chapel society and brass bands would eventually gain acceptance by the movement.

Male voice choirs

A phenomenon of Welsh industrial communities was the appearance of male voice choirs, believed to have been formed from glee clubs. The Rhondda produced several choirs of note including the Rhondda Glee Society, who represented Wales at the World Fair eisteddfod.Morgan (1988), pg 374] The rival Treorchy Male Voice Choir also enjoyed considerable success at eisteddfodau and in 1895 sang before Queen Victoria.

Brass bands

In the mid 19th century brass bands had a poor relationship with the Nonconformist chapels, mainly due to the heavy social drinking that came hand in hand with being a member of a band.Davies (2008), pg80.] This changed towards the end of the century and as well as becoming more respectable, many bands had actually joined the temperance movement. Two of the more well known brass bands from the Rhondda both started as temperance bands. The more famous, Cory Band from Ton Pentre, started life as "Ton Temperance" in 1884; while local rivals The Parc and Dare Band were the "Cwmparc Drum and Fife Temperance Band".

As the temperance movement faded the bands found new benefactors in the colliery owners, and many bands took on the names of specific collieries. A memorable image of the connection between the collieries and brass bands came in 1985 when the Maerdy miners were filmed retuning to work after the miners' strike, marching behind the village band.

Culture and nationality


For the majority of its history the area now recognised as the Rhondda Valley was an exclusively Welsh speaking area. It was only in the early 20th century that English began to supplant Welsh as the first language of social intercourse.Hopkins (1975), pg 179] In 1803, English historian Benjamin Heath Malkin mentioned while travelling through Ystradyfodwg, that he had only met one person with whom he could talk to, and then with the help of an interpreter. This situation was repeated with John George Wood, who on his visit to the area complained of the awkwardness of understanding the particular dialects and idioms used by the native speakers, which were on times difficult for other Welsh speakers to understand.Hopkins (1975), pg 180] This dialect was once called 'tafodiaith gwŷr y Gloran' ('the Gloran dialect').

As the industrialisation of the valleys began there was little shift in the use of Welsh as a first language. Initial immigrants were Welsh and it was not until the 1900s that English workers began settling in any great numbers, but it wasn't these new workers who changed the language; the erosion of Welsh had already begun in the 1860s in the school classrooms. The educational philosophy accepted by schoolmasters and governmental administrators was that English was the language of scholars, and that Welsh was a barrier to moral and commercial prosperity.Hopkins (1975), pg 212] In 1901 35.4% of Rhondda workers spoke only English but by 1911 this had risen to 43.1%, while Welsh speaking monoglots had dropped from 11.4% to 4.4% in the same period.Hopkins (1975), pg 209]

The true Anglicization of the Rhondda Valleys took place from 1900 to 1950. Improved transport and communications facilitated the spread of new cultural influences, along with dealings with outside companies with no understanding of Welsh, trade union meetings held in English, the coming of radio, cinema and then television and cheap English newspapers and paper back books; all were factors in the absorption of the English language.Hopkins (1975), pg 213]

Cadwgan Circle
Though the population of the Rhondda was embracing English as its first language, during the 1940s a literary and intellectual movement formed in the Rhondda that would produce an influential group of Welsh language writers. Formed during the Second World War by Egyptologist J. Gwyn Griffiths and his German wife Käte Bosse-Griffiths, the group was known as the Cadwgan Circle (Clych Cadwgan), and met at the Griffiths' house in Pentre. The Welsh writers who made up the movement included Pennar Davies, Rhydwen Williams, James Kitchener Davies and Gareth Alban Davies.

National Eisteddfod

The Rhondda has hosted the National Eisteddfod on only one occasion, in 1928 at Treorchy. The Gorsedd stones that were placed to commerate the event still stand on the Maindy hillside overlooking Treorchy and Cwmparc. In 1947 Treorchy held the Urdd National Eisteddfod, the Eisteddfod for children and young adults.Hopkins (1975), pg 19]


Due to the geological layout of the Rhondda Valley, transport links are fairly restrictive. Two main roads service the area, the A4058 runs through the Rhondda Fawr and the A4233 services the Rhondda Fach. The A4058 starts at Pontypridd runs through Porth before ending at Treherbert, where it joins the A4061 to Hirwaun. The A4233 begins outside Rhondda at Tonyrefail, heading north through Porth and through the Rhondda Fach to Maerdy, where the road eventually links up with the A4059 at Aberdare. Two other A roads service the area; the A4119 is a relief road, known as the Tonypandy Bypass and the other is the A4061 which links Treorchy to the Ogmore Vale before reaching Bridgend.

There is a single rail link to the Rhondda, the Rhondda Line, based around the old Taff Vale Railway which serviced both the Rhondda Fach and Rhondda Fawr. The Rhondda Line runs through the Rhondda Fawr, linking Rhondda to Cardiff Central. The railway stations that once populated the Rhondda Fach were all closed after the Beeching review. The railway line serves ten Rhondda stations with the villages not directly linked connected through bus services.

Residents of note

*George Thomas, Viscount Tonypandy, Speaker of the House of Commons. Trealaw
*William Abraham. (Mabon), first Member of Parliament of the Rhondda and leader of the South Wales Miners' Federation. Treherbert

*Willie Llewellyn, Welsh rugby international who gained 20 caps and scored 48 points for Wales. Also toured with the British Lions. Penygraig
*Jimmy Wilde, world flyweight boxing champion, known as the Mighty Atom. Tylorstown

Film and Television
*Sir Stanley Baker, actor and film producer. Ferndale
*Donald Houston, actor. Tonypandy

*Rhydwen Williams, Poet and novelist. Winner of the Eisteddfod Crown on two occasions. Pentre
*Peter George, Novelist and Oscar nominated screenwriter of Dr. Strangelove. Treorchy

*Robert Thomas, sculptor. Cwmparc

*Donald Davies, co-inventor of packet switching. Treorchy

Social Science
*John Davies, historian of Welsh culture. Treorchy
*J. Gwyn Griffiths, Egyptologist, poet and Welsh nationalist. Porth

External links

* [http://www.anglesey.info/rhondda_valley_images.htm "Rhondda Valleys Information and History"] — The history of the Rhondda Valleys with high resolution mining photographs.




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