Blaengwynfi and beyond Osbornes spreading out in the valleys


A guest article from Alan Croad {1}.

A number of factors may explain the movement of the wider Osborne family between Clydach Vale, Blaengwynfi and Tonyrefail. {2}

Developing the pits

An important entrepreneur William Perch 1831-1891 of Perch & Co. opened mines in the Rhondda Valley, including one at Clydach Vale in 1847 and later in the Afan Valley in 1892; he later acquired the Glyncorrwg and Glynneath mines. Perch’s success included obtaining Admiralty contracts in 1898 supplying coal to the Navy. It may have been easy to transfer to the coal owner’s new mines where new housing was available. A number of the managers and under managers at Blaengwynfi were from Tonypandy and this may have benefitted miners wanting a transfer.

Perch’s Pit was also known as ‘The Scattern’ and later Glyncorrwg Pit. {3}

The Rhondda and Swansea Bay railway tunnel was opened in 1890 and provided a cheap and convenient route from Clydach Vale to Blaengwynfi. Our wider family used this 2 mile long tunnel until its closure in 1968. {4}

Blaengwynfi was a boom town in the 1890s and became known as ‘The Cape’ after the firm who sank the first pit. Locals used the term, it is said they would think of the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ when viewing the flat topped mountains around and in the promise of a better life for their families. Perhaps our ancestors were caught up in this.

Times were hard, there were many strikes e.g. in 1900 six hundred Perch employees walked out for over three weeks. In 1926 a long term ’Lockout’ led to great hardship, this was the time of soup kitchens and community appeals for help. High infant mortality rates remained a major issue e.g. Edwin Tucker and his wife lost ten children out of 16 born. The job was dangerous – during the sinking of the Perch Pit shaft  8 miners lost their lives when the bowk (bucket) they were in was over-wound and hit the pithead gear hurling the men to their deaths. To help pay rent most families had lodgers, these were often relatives so both parties benefitted.

The early 1900s

The 1901 and 1911 census shows how the wider family had moved to Blaengwynfi, mainly living near each other in Tunnel Terrace, Gwynfi Street and Villiers Road. A support network of friends and family was essential in the 1890s. Some of our relatives still live in the village. Some of the Gwynfi Street and Tunnel Terrace houses have been demolished but most of Villiers Road remains.

In 1901 Charles Osborne from Misterton and wife Emily lived in 7 Tunnel Terrace, a number of their children were born in Clydach Vale. Eli Sibley and wife Susan Osborne lived in 26 Tunnel Tce, and their children were listed as being born in Tonypandy. The Moore family were from Radstock and Clydach Vale. Edwin and Mary Tucker and their children lived in 42 Tunnel Tce. Edwin was Fred’s brother and he is listed as a collier boarding in Penygraig Rhondda in 1891: his brother Fred followed him from Stour Provost near Shaftesbury and married Elizabeth Osborne from Clydach Vale, daughter of William Osborne and Mary Ann Sibley.

Elizabeth (Osborne) and Fred Tucker

In 31 Gwynfi St lived Oliver Woodland and wife Ellen Osborne another from Clydach Vale; lodging with them were Ellen’s father William Osborne and her brother William Robert Osborne. In 35 Gwynfi St lived Fred Tucker form East Stour Dorset and Eliz Osborne with Violet Maud their daughter; their boarder was Fred’s brother-in-law Daniel Ralph. In Jersey Road were the Gregory, Wills and Latcham families from Somerset and some of their children were born in Clydach Vale.

The 1911 census records Edwin Tucker and family in 41 Tunnel Tce. Charles Osborne from Crewkerne and wife Emily lived in number 8, their children were born in Tonypandy. Other Tunnel Terrace families have children listed as being born in Clydach Vale including Rogers, Leyshons, Taylors, Fuge, Reeves, Masons and Chivers.

In Villiers Road No 7 lived Oliver Woodland and Ellen Osborne and family. Fred and Elizabeth (Osborne) Tucker and children Violet Maud, Rosina and Oliver lived in 9 Villiers Road with boarders from Radstock.

Eli Sibley and wife Susan Osborne and their children lived in 20 Gwynfi Street. {5}

New coal mines continued to be opened in South Wales. In Tonyrefail in 1910 a large pit was sunk at Coedely and a new shaft sunk at Cilely. Coke ovens, the railways and quarrying provided plentiful opportunities. It seems that Eli Sibley and his wife Susan Osborne along with niece Elizabeth Osborne and her husband Fred Tucker were attracted to the area. Perhaps the shorter journey to Clydach Vale was a factor along with new job opportunities.

The Religious Revival

Blaengwynfi was a focal point for the Religious Revival of 1904, many of our family were influenced by this movement.

Eli Sibley married to Susan Osborne had a son Eli who became an important leader of the Pentecostal movement in Tonyrefail. They had moved to Tonyrefail after 1910 when it is recorded that members of the Pentecostal Church met in houses and later in the local bakery. Eli Sibley Junior became Pastor and served for over 40 years. In 1921 they built their own church – the Pentecostal Gospel Hall – using stone from a local quarry and money borrowed from John Brookstone.

The Sibley, Osborne and Tucker families were devout members. In 1943 a celebration service of ‘The Clearing of the Debt’ took place when John Brookstone was finally repaid. After 1978 the Pentecostal Church moved to Bethel Church’s building in the centre of Tonyrefail and is thriving in 2017 as ‘New Life Community Church’.

Keeping connected

Family letters and postcards show that the Tuckers were in Tonyrefail by 1915. There are descendants of the Tucker, Osborne and Sibley families still living in Tonyrefail. The families were still interacting with the Blaengwynfi families until the 1970s and Clydach Vale families until the 1990s – not many third cousins meet up nowadays! However, as we can all testify genealogy brings many families closer together! Watch this space!

Notes

  1. Alan Croad is a great grandson of Elizabeth Osborne and Fred Tucker (who are pictured above).
  2. The wider Osborne family in Tonypandy focuses on the descendants of Robert Osborne and Mary Anne Dawe. An array of Osbornes has a group photo, including Blaenwgynfi offshoots.
  3. Welsh Coal Mines web page on Glyncorrwg has a picture of ‘Scattern’ and other info.
  4. The Rhondda Tunnel Society hopes to reopen the Rhondda Tunnel as the longest cycle tunnel in Europe, reconnecting the Rhondda and Afan Valleys.
  5. Further 1911 census entries (from Cutlock draft notes for a Blaengwynfi article): at 17 Gwynfi St, Charles and Amelia (Sibley) Reeves; at 18 Gwynfi St, David and Rebecca (Sibley) Fuge. 1 Upper Gwynfi St, Joseph and Lilian Maud (Compton) Osborne; 13 Upper Gwynfi St, William G and Ethel (Osborne) Chivers.
  6. Carrying on from note 5, from 1939 register: 7 Villiers Rd, Charles and Margaret (Davies) Osborne; 48 Gwynfi St, Oliver and Ellen (Osborne) Woodland; 24 Gwynfi St, Ernest and Rachel (Howells) Osborne.
  7. Phyllis D Osborne, a GI bride, (daughter of Charles and Margaret) marries Robert A Birno 20 Dec 1945 Blaengwynfi. They later live in Tucson, Arizona.
  8. Ordnance Survey Map from 1883/6 shows Aber- and Blaen-gwynfi both very small, and with the alternative spelling of gwynfy. (Map on British History Online)
  9. If you want to visit, Glyncorrwg Ponds has a campsite.
  10. The area featured in BBC Wales ‘Real Valleys’ television season, spring 2015. Perhaps this will re-appear on iPlayer sometime?

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