The Meaning of Cyfarthfa

by Carl Llewellyn

Our Welsh laws refer to the “Tair Helfa Cyfarthfa” or the “Three Barking Hunts. The hunts were so called because the animals could either run fast, climb trees, or find safety in underground burrows, the hunter would bait his prey then send his dogs who would signal the position of the baited prey by barking.

Cyfarthfa has two meanings, either the ‘barking place’ as outlined above, or it could have been so called from the ‘echoes’ the rocky escarpment face of the Cyfarthfa Rocks made. We have been unable so far to trace any reference to the place name Cyfarthfa Rocks before the arrival of Anthony Bacon around 1765.

Another theory of the meaning Cyfarthfa was given by an old inhabitant of the Cyfarthfa district over 200 years ago. He stated that on the site of the Cyfarthfa furnaces there was formally a quarry with a fine echo, if a dog barked in the area it was repeated so strongly that one fancied that a large number of dogs had congregated in the locality.

The etymology of Cyfarthfa, according to Mr. Thomas Stephens, Merthyr poet, bard and chemist is the place of barking dogs – pretty well indicating the character of the place before the days of ironmaking. Game and vermin abounded, and the dogs held high revel there in the dense thickets and impenetrable copses.

Note that cyfar means ‘arable land’; cyfarth means ‘to bark’ or ‘to cough’ as a verb and ‘a barking’ as a noun; cyfarthwr means a ‘barker’ or ‘shouter’; cyfarch means ‘greeting’ or ‘request’ and cyfarchfa means ‘a hailing-place’.

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Cyfarthfa Works in the 1870’s. Photo courtesy of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/index.htm

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