About the Area
Cwmllynfell is a rural community located on the western boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is 3 miles from the Swansea Valley and about 17 miles north of Swansea City and 11 miles from Junction 45 of the M4 Motorway. It is the smallest ward in Neath Port Talbot County Borough with a population of 1,123 (2001 Census). The Welsh language is widely spoken in Cwmllynfell, with almost 70% of residents who can speak, read and write Welsh.
The electoral ward of Cwmllynfell consists of Blaennant, Bryn-Melyn, Celliwarog, Cwmllynfell and Rhiw-Fawr. It is bounded by the wards of Quarter Bach (Carmarthenshire) to the northeast; Cwmtwrch (Powys) to the east; Ystalyfera to the southeast; Pontardawe to the southwest; Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen to the west and Lower Brynamman to the northwest.
Although a small community, there are many facilities and services in Cwmllynfell. There is a Welsh Medium Primary School, GP Surgery, several chapels, 2 thriving community halls, an OAP Hall, a library, chemist, mini supermarket, Post Office, and butcher. There is a social club and a pub, Y Boblen. Cwmllynfell has its own RFC and pitch, an outdoor bowling green, and three children’s playgrounds. There are many footpaths in the area that follow streams, pass through woodland and across moorland.
History of Cwmllynfell
Cwmllynfell has an important place in the history of Welsh Nonconformism. The first independent chapel was built here as early as 1701, on the banks of the Llynfell. The ruins of the old chapel and its remarkable Victorian graveyard can still be seen. They were replaced by a bigger graveyard in 1850 and the present chapel in 1905, closer to the village square.
Cwmllynfell stands in the shelter of the Llynfell valley, close to the meeting point of the historic counties of Carmarthenshire, Glamorganshire and Breconshire. There is evidence that people lived here in the Bronze Age, over 4,000 years ago. In 1984, a hoard of five bronze axe heads from that period was discovered in the village.
The first school in the village was built in 1804 across the Llynfell from the old chapel. It was the only day school in the area and provided a good education for local children throughout the 19th century. It was closed in 1883, when the present school was opened. To celebrate the event, the children followed their headmaster in a procession from the old school to the new building.
By the 20th century, Cwmllynfell was a busy mining settlement, with the colliery tip dominating the local landscape. The village pub, the Mountain Hare (now known as Y Boblen) had a long wooden bar stretching the length of the building, which would be packed with colliers at the end of the shift. The village also had its own impressive Miners Welfare Hall, paid for by the contributions from the miners themselves. This was replaced by the modern Millennium Hall in 2002.
During the 18th century ironstone was being mined locally and sold to the Llandyfan and Ynyscedwyn Ironworks. There was a string of successful coal mines along the valley during the early 19th century, including Cwmllynfell Colliery, which opened in 1820. The demand for local coal and iron in the mid-19th century drew more and more people into the area to find work.
Amongst the figures associated with Cwmllynfell in the past was John Jones, Brynbrain, a leading local entrepreneur during the first half of the 19th century. Through his efforts to develop coal and ironstone mines and build new roads, he contributed much to the early success of the district. Jones was a deacon at the old Cwmllynfell Chapel, where his gravestone can still be seen. The poet Watcyn Wyn was born near the village and won one of his first prizes for poetry in an Eisteddfod held at Cwmllynfell in 1859.