Tonypandy and the Rhondda Coalmining communities

Despite having been told off for lumping together Clydach (Clydach Vale, Blaenclydach, Cwm Clydach) with Tonypandy, the source records seem to do so and the precise boundaries aren’t clear to me. So I’ll continue the practice.

Tonypandy

Tonypandy is/was a typical Welsh Valleys coal mining community, with many small terraced houses often accommodating more than one (large) family. Related articles: The Tonypandy that Mum knew, The show must go on … the railway.

Tonypandy doesn’t even appear in the 1868 Gazetteer. Instead, here are extracts for Clydach:

Clydach 1868 gazetteerand Ystradyfodwg:

Ystradyfodwg 1868 gazetteerPopulation at 1861 for Ystradyfodwg (“parish in the hundred of Miskin”): 3,857.

On the other hand, Ordnance Survey map first edition (which ran 1868-92) does have a street or two for ‘Ton-y-pandy’, with ‘Tre-alaw’ across the way.

Tonypandy OS 1st editionSourced from People’s Collection Wales (hope we aren’t breaking any rules).

Bush Houses

The Osborne extended family occupied several of the Bush Houses, on first moving from Somerset (as did others). The properties, also known as Bush Terrace or Cwm Clydach Cottages, were a little separate from the rest of Clydach Vale.

  • Demolished in 1969, the area is now a landscaped lake, council offices and small industrial park. See Feeling Bushed for how Cutlock & Co “discovered” it, historical background and overview of the geography, including an old map of the area.
  • A community in the Bush – families from south Somerset, along with other non-Welsh incomers, stayed together here. Focusing in this piece on the Osbornes across the censuses.
  • Snapshot of Bush Houses 1911 looks at the census records for that year for all 50 dwellings – the article is popular with comment writers. The 1939 Bush Houses bulletin rounds-up those living there at start of WW2 and the changing population stats (using the national register data available on Findmypast).
  • Bush Houses viewpoints has several photos.
  • They became notorious as unfit dwellings – see No beating about the Bush for local press cuttings from the early 20th century.

Related families living here include Osborne, Scott, Watkins, Sibley, Hickman, Gluyes (Glewis), Letherby, Woodland, Gregory, Beament.

Moving for work

Extended families, and individuals, moved from agricultural jobs, and other occupations, to the coal mines of south Wales.

  • Osborne and Sibley families from south Somerset – Merriott and Misterton/Crewkerne.  This includes two marriages between these two families – William Osborne/Mary Ann Sibley, Eli Sibley/Susan Osborne. Matthew Sibley went to Blackwood, Monmouth but the rest of the tribe to Tonypandy.
  • The other children of Robert Osborne going to Tonypandy/Clydach Vale: George b 1850, married Elizabeth Glewis (from Wendron, Cornwall), had a dozen children; Henry b 1853 is buried in Trealaw 1936, but “missing” between 1871 and then – known to have wandered back and forth between Wales and Somerset; Levi b about 1860 married Elizabeth Larkham from Somerset, ten known children; Bessie Osborne b 1870 marries Henry Thomas Beament from Dorset, just 6 offspring.
  • Other Osborne relations followed to the area: son of Joseph Osborne (b 1831) Charles b 1853 Misterton, married Emily Clarke.
  • Charles Scott appears to have upped sticks by himself, leaving his childhood home in Whitelackington by 1891.
  • Albert Gregory, who married Rosina Osborne, came from Somerset, probably Radstock (Clandown and Midsomer Norton also appear on the census records). He was in the Somerset mines before moving to Tonypandy by 1901.
  • Oliver Woodland, who married Ellen Susan Selina Osborne, was also from Radstock and a miner there before arriving in Blaengwynfi by 1901. The marriage appears to be in Somerset 1898, despite Ellen Susan living in the Rhondda at 1891.

Most worked as plain coal miners in the Welsh Valleys.

The nearby Naval colliery. Note the housing immediately behind.

Johnny Brookstone, of Jewish Polish extraction but born in Leeds 1880, married Lily Osborne. He was in the Jews Hospital and Orphan Asylum in London at 1891 (as Jacob) and then started working in Yorkshire coalfields before going to Tonypandy. He became a painter/decorator and later also ran a decorators merchant/shop or two – Court Street and De Winton Street (Tonypandy Square).

The Watkins/Griffiths families were earlier in Merthyr Tydfil, a couple of valleys over and the largest town in Wales in the early 19th century – see South Wales page.

Trealaw Cemetery

The major cemetery for the area is Trealaw, also known as Llethyrddu. Glamorgan Family History Society has transferred a transcription of the burial records for 1881-1990 to CD (try searching their publication list on GenFair for ‘Trealaw’). There are some transcription errors* and a few of the reference numbers to the burial plots have been truncated, but very useful nevertheless. I have located around a hundred relatives buried here, including all four of mum’s grandparents and her brother.

At summer 2017 Find A Grave reckons it has 540 memorials from the cemetery – 39% of which are photographed. Go to the FaG cemetery page for a layout photo.

From a visit to the cemetery: A quick look at family gravestones in Trealaw, Keen eyes and some groundwork to find the name.

For reference, here’s an Excel spreadsheet of family-related Trealaw burials extracted from the CD. See error note above as there may be some resulting inaccuracies.

* I’ve established that at least some of the transcription errors have moved the burial plot reference ‘up a line’ – so for instance the burial plot for number 65631 (Phoebe Ann Bowden) has been recorded against 65630 (Eric John Bendell).

Local websites

Also see Tonypandy Riots, People’s Collection Wales.

Related posts on Cutlock and Co

One thought on “Tonypandy and the Rhondda Coalmining communities

  1. Marion Hebblethwaite has sent in this suggestion:

    I wonder if anyone has thought about putting up a plaque to the Farr brothers who lived at 59 Court Street in Tonypandy.
    One son was the famous boxer, another was awarded the George Cross – John and Doug the OBE – not many families have so illustrious a record.

    Also see our piece about Tommy Farr. Cutlock & Co can pass on any reply to Marion, or leave a comment here.

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