No beating about the Bush Dreadful conditions, a strong community in Cwm Clydach

The Cutlock & Co articles on Bush Houses are some of the most popular on the website. As the latest batch of old news uploaded to the Welsh Newspapers Online archive includes nine year’s worth of the Rhondda Leader from the start of the 20th century, a quick trawl seemed a good idea. Forty items came up for “bush houses”. Here are some key ones about the place {1}, which also shine a light on inhabitants’ lives.

Constructed in the 1860s, the buildings are shown as Cwm Clydach Cottages in the first edition OS map (Tonypandy page) with no other housing evident in Clydach Vale at that time. Even by the early 1900s they were regarded as very poor properties. At 1911, there were 71 households in the 50 small terraced houses.

Rhondda Leader BushHousesinsanitary_17Jan1903This from the Rhondda Leader, a report from the Health Committee of Rhondda Council, dated 17th January 1903: the Clerk to the Glamorgan County Council (referred to) the County Medical Officer’s report on the sanitary condition of this Council’s district and (drew) attention of the Council to the insanitary condition of Bush Houses.

Lack of drains and proper road

The Health Committee had previously in June 1901 “recommended that the Surveyor be instructed to prepare plans of a scheme for the drainage of Bush houses, Clydach Vale, and that Councillor R.S. Griffiths and the Clerk interview the manager of Cambrian Colliery Company with a view to get an understanding that they will connect the houses with the sewer when made.”

rhonddaleader_bushhousessewer_22Jun1901 rhonddaleader_bushhousesdrains_20Jul1901

It is perhaps surprising to find a month later that this “interview” revealed that Cambrian Colliery Company was contemplating constructing more houses, rather than closing the existing ones. No report found so far on whether the sewers were built and connected at that time, presumably because this would not be newsworthy enough.

Rhondda Leader Bush Houses access_28Nov1908General access to the houses was poor, too.  The first of these cuttings is a letter from November 1908, signed “Cwm Clydach” while below is another council report from June 1907.Rhondda Leader Bush Houses coal_15Jun1907

Keeping children from school to carry coal seems a poor excuse from a 21st century viewpoint. As not sending them to school regularly was liable to attract a fine {2}, the need for domestic coal was obviously great, even in the summer.

Bush Houses was eventually demolished in 1969.

Community benefits

Rhondda Leader Matthew Picton benefit concert_31Mar1906The physical aspects of Cwm Clydach Cottages may have been basic, to say the least, but all indications are of a vibrant community.

Matthew Picton, whose daughter Sophia later married Albert Gregory (first cousin, twice removed), was to be the recipient of the proceeds of a well-attended benefit concert at Libanus Chapel in March 1906.  “He has been ill for the last four or five years, and has a wife and four children to maintain.”

Perhaps Matthew recovered well, as he had 2 more children, in 1907 and 1909, although only 57 when he died in 1930.

Anyone know where Libanus Chapel was?

And Finally

Rhondda Leader Bush Houses protection_21Sep1907 What should be made of this request to the Health Committee from the Trades and Labour Council (September 1907) “to protect the schools where the children from this locality attend”?

A view that the insanitary conditions of Bush Houses led to it being a source of childhood diseases? Or .. ?



1. Other articles on Bush Houses from Cutlock & Co.

2. Various news items from Rhondda Leader make reference to specific people living in Bush Houses, including members of the extended Osborne family. A further Cutlock & Co item featuring some will probably follow shortly.

3. The period covered on Welsh Newspapers Online includes the Cambrian Colliery explosion of 10th March 1905. One man from Bush Houses, Thomas Hopkins, was so badly burned that his wife identified him by a distinctive recent repair to his boot. A Thomas Edward Hocking, ostler, from Bush Houses and married, was in the list of men reported killed outright. Reporting errors may mean that Hopkins and Hocking are in fact the same person – at 1901 census I can only find a Thos E Hopkins, colliery repairer in Ferndale with his uncle, born Swansea about 1875 (possibly married Mary Hannah Evans in Swansea 1904). I can’t find a death registration for either. UPDATE: Having checked the mining disasters reports available on Coalmining History Resource Centre (site disappeared at Oct.2016), it appears that ostler Thomas may in fact go by the surname of Hawkins!

Morgan Harding of 43 Bush Houses “died subsequent to the explosion from injuries”. A newspaper report of March 1906 sees a boy also called Morgan Harding from Clydach Vale, quite possibly his son, in the dock with a friend for stealing. He is given “six strokes for each offence and .. ordered to be detained for a week so his mother could put in an appearance”. They had twice stolen goods or money in February from David William’s lock-up shop at 40 Bush Houses.

10 thoughts on “No beating about the Bush Dreadful conditions, a strong community in Cwm Clydach

  1. You asked “Anyone know where Libanus Chapel was?”. The chapel is now used for Clydach Vale Boys & Girls Club located in Clydach Road CF40 2DG.

    The road from Bush Houses would have entered a junction at Clydach Road and Libanus Chapel was on the opposite side of the junction.

    1. Thanks Allan. It has taken me a few days to realise you are commenting on a query posed in ‘No beating about the bush’, rather than anything on ‘Feeling Bushed’.
      (Comment moved to match.)

  2. Sorry about that, I should have been more explicate when adding my comment. I only came across the site by accident and found it quite interesting having lived in Clydach Vale for the first 20 or so years of my life.

  3. When was it recorded that the O’Brien Family first started to be in residence at Bush Houses.

    1. Sorry Mel, but I haven’t spotted any O’Briens in Bush Houses at 1891 or 1911 censuses. Perhaps a fellow reader may have come across the family.

      1. The O’Briens are listed residents in Bush Houses, they moved from there to Railway Terrace

        1. From your various comments, I have found Albert O’Brien and Mary Southwood’s marriage was registered in the local district (Pontypridd) in 1919. A copy of the certificate would give father’s name and profession, and possibly other useful info (e.g. age, address, although both are often vague).

          Their offspring – Mary A born 1920, Walter b 1923, June ? (b 1937). All registered Pontypridd.

    1. Thanks Mel. The “June ?” bit in my earlier comment was a doubt that someone called June, born 1937, could also be one of Albert and Mary’s children. Nice coincidence on Walter’s date of birth!

Have something to add?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.