Lewis Street, Aberaman
|Population:||9,964 (2017 est.)|
|Council:||Rhondda Cynon Taf|
Aberaman is a village near Aberdare in the industrialised Cynon Valley of Glamorgan. It was heavily dependent on the coal industry and the population, as a result, grew rapidly in the late nineteenth century. Most of the industry has now disappeared and a substantial proportion of the working population travel to work in Cardiff and the M4 corridor. Many residents also work in the nearby towns such as Aberdare and Pontypridd.
Aberaman was an agricultural area until the early nineteenth century. Before the industrial revolution, it was the domain of the Mathew family, local gentry who owned land throughout Glamorgan and who came to prominence in the seventeenth century, in which time three members of the family served as High Sheriff of Glamorgan. The family seat was at Aberaman Isha, later known as Aberaman House (and which still exists in 2014 but is much altered). The last of the Mathew family, Edward Mathew, died in 1788 and the estate was broken up after two centuries and divided between his three daughters and their husbands.
In 1806, Anthony Bushby Bacon, an illegitimate son of Anthony Bacon, a prominent iron master at Merthyr Tydfil, bought Aberaman House. He shared the Hirwaun ironworks with his brother but proceeded to sell his share to his brother and with the proceeds from the sale, he purchased the Matthews estate at Aberaman, including Aberaman House. Bacon, also known as Anthony Bacon II, did not aspire to be an iron master like his father and, in 1814, sold the entire Cyfarthfa estate, which he alone had inherited, to Richard Crawshay. For the rest of his life he used the Aberaman estate as a summer residence. He died there on 11 August 1827.
After Bacon's death, the estate passed to Crawshay Bailey, who owned the ironworks at Nantyglo and Beaufort. Bailey recognised the potential of the rich coal seams of the Aberdare and Rhondda valleys and bought up land in these areas in the 1830s. Amongst the lands he acquired was the Aberaman estate, which he bought from the executors of Anthony Bacon II, together with its mansion, by indenture dated 17 February 1837. It was several years before he began speculating for coal. By 1845, Crawshay Bailey had, in partnership with Josiah John Guest, built the Aberdare Railway and, around this time, the Aberaman Ironworks and a number of collieries associated with it were opened. Bailey remained the owner of the Aberaman Estate but despite the profitability of his colliery activities, the depression in the iron trade (see below) meant that the enterprise did not prove as successful as Bailey had hoped so he decided to sell the Aberaman estate and return to Monmouthshire. He disposed of the entire Aberaman estate including its collieries, ironworks, brickworks and private railway, to the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Co. by indenture dated 2 February 1867 for the sum of £123,500. Bailey retired to Abergavenny.
Around 1843, the valuable steam-coal seams on the Blaengwawr estate began to be exploited by David Davis, Blaengwawr. Davis was a self-made man whose family firm later became one of the most important in the South Wales coal trade, with interests in both the Aberdare and Rhondda valleys.
During the second half of the nineteenth century, Aberaman continued to grow southwards. During the early years of the twentieth century the area known as Godreaman became built up, meaning that there was unbroken development between Aberaman and neighbouring Cwmaman, which was a settlement dependent almost wholly on the coal industry. By this time, Lewis Street at the heart of Aberaman village had developed into a small urban and commercial core around the Aberaman Hall and Institute (see below).
The Rev John Griffith, in his evidence to the inspectors compiling the 1847 Education Reports reported that Aberaman had only been in existence for eighteen months, yet its population stood at 1200. This figure was expected to increase to 4,800 within a year. Fifty carpenters and eighty masons were reported to be employed in the building of industrial housing.
Aberaman Ironworks was the last ironworks to be opened in the Aberdare Valley. It was established in 1845 by Crawshay Bailey and the first iron was produced in 1847. However the works were not successful. They closed temporarily in 1854 but re-opened the following year. In 1862 it appears that Bailey sought to sell the works for £250,000 but failed to find a buyer. Following Bailey's retirement the works were eventually taken over by the Powell Duffryn Company but were never worked again following their closure in 1866.
Crawshay Bailey was also the pioneer of the coal industry at Aberaman, opening the Aberaman Colliery in 1845. This passed for the Powell DuffrynCompany in 1866 after their purchase of the Aberaman Estate. In 1909 the first Mines Rescue Station in South Wales was opened at the Aberaman Colliery and at this time over a thousand men were employed there. The manager of the colliery at this time was Edmund Mills Hann, who was a powerful figure in the South Wales coal trade for many years. Powell Duffryn continued to own the colliery until nationalisation in 1947 when it was taken over by the National Coal Board. Aberaman Colliery closed in 1965.
At the start of the twentieth century the vast majority of the inhabitants of Aberaman, many of whom were migrants from rural Welsh counties, were Welsh-speaking. By 2011 the proportion speaking Welsh had fallen to 9.2%.
Much of the social life of Aberaman was centred on the imposing Aberaman Hall and Institute in Lewis Street. A campaign to develop a Public Hall and Institute at Aberaman dated from 1892 when a public meeting was held in Saron Chapel. Until that point the chapels had been dominant in public life and the development of a secular hall, in hindsight, could be seen as the beginning of their long decline. Many years elapsed before sufficient funds were raised to begin the building work and the ceremony to lay the foundation stone was held on 2 October 1907, on the site previously occupied by the Aberaman Reading Institute. The hall was officially opened by Keir Hardie MP on 14 June 1909.
Designed by an Aberdare architect, Thomas Roderick, and built by John Morgan and Son, the hall's facilities included two billiards rooms, two games rooms, a swimming pool in the basement, Committee Room, a Lending Library and Reference Room, and a Lecture Hall. Its crowning glory was the main auditorium with seating for 1,800 people with a first floor offering additional capacity.
Throughout the twentieth century the hall was the social and cultural centre for Aberaman. It was eventually destroyed by fire in November 1994.
- Football: Aberaman Athletic F.C., formed in 1892 and a founder member of the Welsh League in the 1902-03 season. Its home ground is at Aberaman Park, between the village and nearby Abercwmboi.
- "Aberaman". Rhondda Cynon Taf Library Service. http://webapps.rhondda-cynon-taff.gov.uk/heritagetrail/english/cynon/aberaman.html. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Price, W.W.. "Bacon Family". http://wbo.llgc.org.uk/en/s-BACO-N00-1718.html?query=bacon&field=name. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- Price, W.W.. "Crawshay Bailey". http://wbo.llgc.org.uk/en/s-BAIL-CRA-1789.html. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
- "Death of Mr Crawshay Bailey". Cardiff Times. 13 January 1872. http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/3418910/ART22. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
- "Aberaman Institute. Grand Opening Ceremony". Aberdare Leader. 19 June 1909. http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/3578291/ART26. Retrieved 3 September 2014.