header Cymraeg English

Ystrad

 

General view of Ystrad Circa 1900

General view of Ystrad Circa 1900

The English translation of the Welsh word Ystrad can be taken as meaning Vale, a flat space or valley bed. It is thought that Ystrad itself takes its name from the old parish name of Ystradyfodwg, or Vale of Tyfodwg, Tyfodwg being thought to have been a disciple of St.Illtud. Historically, the area known as Ystrad has had a number of different names. Early records call the area Ynys Fach, which can be translated as, ‘a low lying meadowland near a river', and subsequently early Ordnance Survey maps call the area Heol Fach.

The early traveller and author John Leland in his work ‘Itinery' in 1538 describes ‘Glin Rodenay', or The Rhondda, as having but one parish and that being ‘Ystrate', however John Speed's 1611 map only names one part of the area that being Llanwynnyo. An early description of pre-industrial Ystrad can be found in C.F. Cliffe's work, ‘The book of South Wales, the Bristol Channel, Monmouthshire and The Wye'. Cliffe stayed at a ‘primitive hostelrie' at Ystrad called the ‘Gellidawel', or quiet grove, an important place for local farmers to meet and transact business.

Ystrad's importance came as a result of its position as a place where the ancient paths and tracks of the Rhondda met, including the main cart track over Penrhys to the Rhondda Fach. As such it had grown to have its own water mill, Melyn Yr Om ( called Melynydd Dee on a map from 1633) probably established by the monks of Penrhys, a smithy, thatcher etc. Thus Ystrad was a busy centre for rural Rhondda.

Its importance as a centre of rural Rhondda made it the perfect place for the setting up of the first Baptist Chapel in the region. ‘Nebo' was built in 1786 for a sum of sixty pounds. As well as playing an important role in the history of non-conformity in the area it also played a vital educational role. At a time when educational provision was scarce or non-existent its Sunday School taught the children of the rural residents of the Rhondda to read and write.

 

Nebo Chapel

Nebo Chapel

Bodringallt Colliery

Bodringallt Colliery

From earliest times one name associated with Ystrad has been that of Bodringallt, variously translated as, the dwelling between two slopes, the home of the foxes, and the abode of the summoner. Local legends abound about Bodringallt House, some saying it was the abode of ‘Cadwgan of the battle Axe', and also that it was connected to the monastery at Penrhys via an underground tunnel. Subsequently the name Bodringallt has been given to a school, colliery, chapel and farm in the area. As with all areas within the Rhondda the rural nature of Ystrad, which had changed little for the previous two hundred years, was to change drastically in the mid nineteenth century with the exploitation of the areas rich mineral reserves. Evidence shows indication of small-scale mining of coal seams at Bodringallt pre 1840's, with the Bodringallt level being mined by a local concern, never consisting of more than six men. Similarly when mining expanded in the later half of the nineteenth century miners digging the coal seams were apt to break through to long disused workings.

It was in the 1850's that large-scale mining at Ystrad really started with a number of small collieries and seams being opened to the bituminous coal levels. The Gelligaled level by David Jones, Gelligaled Colliery by VL Lewis, and the Bodringallt Level by David Jones and David James (owner of Porth and Llwyncelyn Collieries).

This increased activity prompted the Taff Vale Railway to extend its line in 1855 to Gelligaled, beginning its first passenger service in 1861. By 1864 shafts had been opened to the richer, deeper seams at Bodringallt. Ystrad also had one of the largest brickworks in the area, originally set up to make bricks for the local mine shafts. It was set up in 1857 and provided employment for a large number of girls from the area, and quickly expanded to provide bricks for mining and houses throughout South Wales.
By 1900 Ystrad had changed beyond recognition. As well as the ever-present mines it also had its own church, St. Stephen's built in 1896 at a cost of £3,600, a library built in 1895 for £3,000, numerous chapels, Bodringallt Elementary School built in 1870, and an isolation hospital expanding on the site of old cottage hospital at Tyntyla.

 

Ystrad United Football Team 1906-7

Ystrad United Football Team 1906-7

YSTRAD RHONDDA ORDER OF ODDFELLOWS LILY OF THE VALLEY LODGE

The original order of Odfellows can trace its history back to the merchants' guilds of the twelfth and thirteenth century, although legends tell that the order goes even further back than this. The modern society however was formed in 1810 and was set up to provide assistance and care for its members when there was no welfare state, trade unions or National Health Service.
The Star Gellidawel Hotel

One of the oldest and most successful of these lodges was base at the Star Gellidawel Inn at Ystrad Rhondda, the ‘Lily of the Valley' Lodge. Formed in 1833 the Lodge continued at Ystrad until 1976 its motto was, ‘Philanthropic intentions are worthy of encouragement. Unity is Strength'. The importance of the Oddfellows Club in Ystrad can be seen by the naming of one of its streets Oddfellows Row later changing to Club Row.

The Star Gellidawel Hotel, 1913 - Situated at the foot of Penrhys Road, this hostelry is the oldest in the Rhondda Valleys. Shows the demolition of the old hotel, when the new Star Hotel was built up around it. Beer continued to be sold so that the license could be retained

The objects of the Club were to, ‘…raise a fund by entrance fees, subscriptions, fines, donations, and by interest on capital, for the purpose of relieving its members in sickness or old age: and for securing a sum of money to be paid on the death of a member or members wife'. The original members at Ystrad would have been the farmers, tradesmen and craftsmen of the area, only later with the coming of the mines to the area would the makeup of the Lodge have changed.
A booklet from 1886 of the ‘Rules of the Lily of the Valley Lodge' gives an interesting insight into the running of the Lodge at that time in Ystrad. To gain acceptance into the Lodge your proposal would have to be taken by an existing member and approved by a two-thirds majority of the Lodge's members. Additionally, ‘No person afflicted with rupture or loss of sight or limb, or who (or his wife) is of unsound mind, or if he leads an intemperate or dissolute life, shall upon any pretence be admitted a member of this Lodge'. No persons under fifteen or over thirty-five years of age were permitted to join the Lodge except as honorary members unable to claim relief from the Lodge apart from funeral expenses. The Rules for the conduct and ‘demeanour' of members were extensive and draconian by today's standards. There was up to a five shilling fine for disobeying a call to order by one of the Lodge's officials, and any member who ‘meddles or introduces politics' in the Lodge could be fined up to one shilling. Fines were also applied for misbehaviour or indecent language and any member who had been fighting, except in self-defence, could be fined or expelled from the Lodge, and if that person was unable to work because of injuries sustained due to fighting or intoxication they would be unable to claim benefits from the Lodge. The Lodge provided invaluable old age (70+) and accident relief for its members but was very strict as to the conduct of its members who were claiming medical relief from its funds. Thus the Rules of Lodge state that, ‘No member on sick list shall do any kind of work (except give verbal orders, sign receipts etc.), if they were to go for a walk for the ‘benefit of their health' they had to leave word at their abode as to where they are to be found. They also had to be home by eight in the evening between the dates of 25th September and 25th March, this being extended to nine in the evening in the remaining months, failure to comply was punishable by increasing fines leading to a six months suspension of benefits for a third offence.
© 2011 Rhondda Cynon Taf Library Service