The Fountain

We’ve all seen it but what do we know about the Fountain in Caedraw?

The Fountain in 2015

The fountain was commissioned in 1906 to mark the granting of the charter for Merthyr’s Incorporation as a County Borough. The fountain was a gift of Sir William Thomas Lewis, the Merthyr-born coal magnate and philanthropist, as a tribute to Robert and Lucy Thomas, his wife’s grandparents.

Lucy Thomas (1781-1847), was one of the most remarkable people in the South Wales coalfield. She is considered to be the ‘Mother of the Welsh steam coal trade’. It was the coal from the Waun Wyllt Colliery at Troedyrhiw opened by her husband Robert in 1824 that helped to establish the reputation of Welsh coal on the London market.

The fountain, designed by W Macfarlane & Co, and manufactured at the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow was an elaborate canopied drinking fountain, 18ft. by 4ft. The open filigree canopy was supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which were positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases. The highly decorated cusped arches were trimmed with rope mouldings. Cartouches contained within each lunette offered shields for memorial: a miner wielding a pick axe; a working miner; the coat of arms of St. Tydfil; and a dedication shield. Doves and flowers offered decorative relief on the circular, ribbed dome. The internal capitals contained flowers, and lion mascarons were placed on internal lunettes. The cast iron structure was surmounted by a heroic classical figure of Samson inscribed Strength.

Under the canopy stood the font. A circular shaft, ornamented with water lilies, rested on a wide base with canted corners. Four lion jambs supported four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. Rising from the centre was a pyramid shaped stanchion decorated with swan and bird decoration. A kylix-shaped lamp terminal with four consoles originally offered drinking cups suspended by chains.

The inscription on the dedication shield read:

Erected by Sir William T. Lewis and William Thomas Rees of Aberdare and presented to their native town in commemoration of Robert and Lucy Thomas of Waunwyltt in this parish, the pioneers in 1828 of the South Wales steam coal trade

The fountain was originally sited on a raised plinth near the site of the present-day Caedraw roundabout. It remained there until 1966 when it was moved due to the widening of the road, and the canopy was re-sited in front of St Tydfil’s Church, on the site of the current car-park. By this time the original drinking troughs had been removed and the canopy needed restoration, but the whereabouts of the original drinking fountain and five of the eight shields is unknown.

The Fountain at its original site. Photo courtesy of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/index.htm

In 1988 it was designated a Grade II listed monument, and in 1993 as a result of a refurbishment programme, the fountain was moved to its present position immediately south of St. Tydfil’s Church. In 1995 Merthyr Council awarded the project to restore the fountain to Acorn Restorations Ltd and the re-sited and refurbished fountain was officially opened in July 1996.

A Mystery Church

Continuing the religious theme from the last post, I have received an e-mail from my friend Laura Bray in Wrexham (but ex of Merthyr) with a bit of a mystery.

Just outside Wrexham, in the village of Coedpoeth, there is a church dedicated to St Tydfil. Laura has sent some photos of the church and wondered if anyone could shed some light as to why a church near Wrexham should be dedicated to St Tydfil. If anyone has any information please get in touch.

A Tribute to Glynne Jones

Following on from his post on D T Davies, Carl Llewellyn has posted a tribute to another of Merthyr’s musical legends – Glynne Jones

Gofio un o Feibion Enwog Dowlais
by Carl Llewellyn

I would like to pay a small tribute to Glynne Jones a local character and a well-known musician through out the principality and beyond.

Glynne Jones was born on 7 November 1927 at No 3, Glendower Street, Dowlais, the home of his grandparents David & Margaret Jones, who originally kept a small shop on Pant Road near to the La Bodega restaurant, but known to locals as the Slipper. Glynne was the eldest son of David and Annie May Jones, and was brought up with his younger brother Degwel, and sister Margaret.

The Jones family were staunch members of Moriah Welsh Baptist Chapel, that once stood in Mount Pleasant Street, Dowlais. Sadly like most chapels the building is no more. Glynne’s religious background was nurtured at home with his father and an uncle, both deacons in Moriah Chapel. With Glynne’s musical talent it was no surprise when he became the chapel organist, a post he held from 1940 until 1963.

Educated at Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School later becoming a graduate of the University College Cardiff, after his national service days, he became music master at the Old County Grammar School, where he formed a children’s choir to sing Handel’s Messiah. Glynne conducted the Merthyr Philharmonic Choir 1955-1961. Following early success with the Merthyr Philharmonic Choir and the Silurian Singers he became the Musical Director of Pendyrus Male Choir in 1962.

He was appointed Musical Adviser for Monmouthshire in 1965 and became Senior Music Adviser for Gwent from 1973 to 1990. Among his many achievements can be listed: prestigious conducting engagements on three continents; numerous radio and television broadcasts in Welsh and English; the musical direction of the BBC film “Off to Philadelphia in the Morning” in 1978, and the establishment of the Newport International Piano Competition.

In 1980 Merthyr Tydfil celebrated the 1500th anniversary of the death of its patron, Saint Tydfil the Martyr. A combined concert with Dowlais, Cefn-Coed, Treharris and Ynysowen Choirs was arranged at the Rhydycar Leisure Center on 5 October. with Glynne Jones being invited as the guest conductor. The guest artists at the concert were Stuart Burrows, tenor; Beti Jones, soprano and Huw Tregelles Williams at the organ.

Glynne’s lifelong commitment to Welsh music in education and the community was recognized by a Fellowship of the Welsh College of Music and Drama in 1994, and the award of the MBE in 1996.

Sadly Glynne died unexpectedly on Christmas Day 2000. In Glynne’s lifetime S4C produced a documentary on his musical background, as a mark of respect it was shown again after his death.

glynnejones_1927-2000_

Please check back soon for Carl Llewellyn’s account of Glynne Jones’ memorial service

The story of ‘Martyr’ Tydfil

If we are going to have a blog about the history of Merthyr Tydfil, it is perhaps natural to start with how Merthyr Tydfil got its name.

st-tydfil
Stained glass window of St Tydfil at Llandaff Cathedral courtesy of Llywelyn2000

The story starts with the legendary 5th Century king Brychan Brycheiniog. Brychan was allegedly the son of the Irish king Anlach, son of Coronac, and of Marchell ferch Dewdrig heiress of the Welsh kingdom of Garthmadrun, which the couple later inherited. Upon his father’s death, Brychan returned to Garthmadrun and changed its name to Brycheiniog. Brychan had four wives and several concubines and was said to have had 11 sons and 25 daughters. Tydfil was his 23rd daughter by his fourth wife. Most of Brychan’s children were well educated, girls and boys, at a school in Gwenddwr on the Wye and went on to live deeply religious lives.

Tydfil decided to make her home in the Taff Valley, sparsely populated by Celt farmers. She established an early Celtic monastic community, leading a small band of men and women. She built an enclosure around a small wattle and daub church, and she became known for her compassion and healing skills as she nursed both sick humans and animal.

In approximately 480AD, the aged Brychan decided to visit his children one last time. He took with him his son Rhun Dremrudd, his grandson Nefydd and his son along with several servants. They visited his third daughter, Tanglwstl, at her religious community at Hafod Tanglwstl, what is now known as the village of Aberfan, south of Merthyr Tydfil. Brychan wanted to stay with his daughters a little longer, so he sent most of his warriors and Nefydd on ahead, along the homeward journey. The king went on to Tydfil’s home while Rhun and Nefydd’s son were still at Hafod Tanglwstl.

At the time, Wales was experiencing raids from Scottish Picts who had settled in Radnorshire, and it was during Brychan’s journey from Hafod Tanglwstl that one of these raids occurred. Rhun was attacked by a raiding party, a mile from Hafod Tanglwstl and he died defending a bridge over the river at what is now the village of Troedyrhiw. With the bridge undefended, the marauding Picts were free to attack the King’s party. One group destroyed Hafod Tanglwstl, whilst the other attacked Brychan’s party which had reached Tydfil’s community. The party were all murdered, but whilst most ran away or fought, Tydfil knelt and prayed, but she too was cut down.

Tydfil was buried within the church she founded, and a Celtic cross was put up in a clearing near the Taff to mark the place where ‘Martyr’ Tydfil was slain and which became a site of pilgrimage. In the 13th century the cross and wattle and daub church were replaced by a stone church dedicated to Saint Tydfil the Martyr. This was in turn replaced in 1807, and rebuilt again in 1894.

Old St Tydfil’s Church courtesy of Old Merthyr Tydfil (http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/index.htm)
St Tydfil’s Church courtesy of Steve MT