ⓘ Merthyr Vale
Merthyr Vale is a linear village and community in the Welsh county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. Lying on the A4054 road it is on the east bank of the River Taff.
The community includes the villages of Aberfan on the opposite side of the Taff, Mount Pleasant and the village of Merthyr Vale itself.
1. Ynys Owen
The area was referred to and written as Ynys Owen as early as 1630, noting that the narrow valley was heavily wooded, with various traditional Tyddyns long-house farms marking out the various rural farming territories. Ynys Owen, which translates from Welsh to English as Owain’s riverside meadow, has been claimed by some to possibly commemorate Owain Glyn Dwr, whose followers were involved in an uprising around 1400.
2. Industrial development
There had been small scale coal extraction at Danyderi and Perthygleision, but in 1869 John Nixon started development of the Taff Colliery, later to be known as the Merthyr Vale Colliery. The village immediately grew up around the shaft development, as did the later communities of Aberfan, Nixonville and Mount Pleasant. Completed in 1875, when the first commercial coal was brought up, there was a celebration called in the local Windsor Hotel.
As the colliery was not the first developed in the area, and as colliery developers and owners were known to generally restrict spending on surrounding communities in which they housed their workers, Merthyr Tydfil council insisted on Merthyr Vale being developed with both adequate sanitation, as well as community infrastructure. Resultant planning regulations stipulated that the Parish had effective sanitary and water supplies from the beginning. The village had developed sufficiently to create The Merthyr Vale Silver Prize Band - which won the Gwent Eisteddfod in 1905 and 1905, under conductor G.H. Thomas. Religious buildings included chapels and churches for: Zion, Baptist, Calfaria, Welsh Baptist Bethel, Wesleyan Methodist, Disgwylfa, Calvinist Methodist and Trinity, Presbyterian. Zion and Calfaria merged in 1974 to form the modern Baptist Church at Nixonville, which contains the first fibre-glass Baptistry built in Wales. St Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church was built in 1932. The Anglican Church of St Mary and Holy Innocents was built in 1974; replacing the earlier church which was built, with help from Merthyr Vale Colliery, in 1926.
The former Merthyr Vale School was built in 1879, while the Mount Pleasant School dates from 1912. Merthyr Vale railway station opened in 1883. The Gordon Lennox Constitutional Club was built in 1901, by the proprietor of the Brown-Lennox Engineering Company in Pontypridd, also the President of the East Glamorgan Conservative.
In World War II, while on a training exercise from No.53 OTU, two Royal Canadian Air Force Supermarine Spitfires collided over the village on 7 July 1941. The aircraft X4024 of Sgt Gerald Fenwick Manuel R/69888, 25, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, crashed into the home of the Cox family, claiming the lives of Doreen Cox 33, and her two daughters Phyllis, 14 and Doreen, 3. Husband James Cox, who was a shift worker at a munitions factory and was asleep in the house at the time of the crash, was thrown to safety; their three boys, Donald, Thomas and Len, were out playing. Neighbours tried to rescue the family - who had just returned from a shopping trip - but the heat from the fire was too intense. The second aircraft X4607 of Sgt Lois "Curly" Goldberg R/56185, 27, from Montreal, crashed into a field in Mount Pleasant, Treharris. The bodies of Sgt Manuel and the deceased family members were buried two days later in Ffrwd Cemetery, Merthyr Tydfil, while the body of Sgt Goldberg was interned in the Jewish cemetery at Cefn-coed-y-cymmer. A mural was painted by local school children and unveiled by the Canadian High Commissioner shortly afterwards on the same site, while there is an ongoing campaign by the Cox family for a permanent memorial.
The village appears in Richard Fleischers 1971 film, 10 Rillington Place starring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. As Timothy Evans Hurt comes back to Wales, he is seen walking from the station, with various scenes then shot inside the main village.
3.1. History Project Riverside
100 homes in two streets of Merthry vale were demolished in 2009 to make way for a redevelopment on the site of the old Merthyr Vale Colliery. It was to include 230 new homes, a new school, two shops, a restaurant and offices.
The first phase of the project – Ynysowen primary school – has been completed, with the school receiving its first intake of pupils in 2010. Project Riverside is being jointly funded by the Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, who will invest £8.2 million in the scheme.
4. Aberfan disaster
Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence occurred on a colliery waste and more than 150.000 cubic metres of water-saturated debris broke away and flowed downhill at high speed. It smashed into the village of Aberfan and the northern side of the Pantglas Junior School. In total, 116 children and 28 adults were killed.
The Coventry Playground was built in 1972 on the site of the old Merthyr Vale School, with the monies collected by the people of Coventry. The playground was officially opened by the mayor of Coventry. Coventry Playground closed to children many years ago and now Is Coventry Garden’s a small housing estate with 11 bungalows
5. Notable people
- Idloes Owen 1894-1954, Founder of the Welsh National Opera was born in Merthyr Vale, 30 Crescent Street,
- Trefor Jenkins 1932 -, human geneticist and medical ethicist
- Thomas Henry Morgan 1898-1957, composed the music to Well Keep a Welcome sold to Mai Jones who published it in 1943 was born in Merthyr Vale, 8 Station Terrace,
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