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Grid reference: SN855095
Location: 51°46’21"N, 3°39’39"W
Post town: Neath
Postcode: SA10
Dialling code: 01639
Local Government
Council: Neath Port Talbot

Banwen is a small village in northern Glamorgan. Banwen is part of the community of Onllwyn along with the village of Onllwyn itself and the adjacent parish of Dyffryn Cellwen. Banwen is in the Upper Dulais Valley, with views over the southern slopes of the Brecon Beacons. Banwen consists of a single street named Roman Road.


The name Banwen derives from Ban (meaning "height" or "summit") and Wen (meaning "blessed" or "white"). The name occurs frequently throughout the area. (as the name of a class of fields in Brynlloi, an open common Brynamman and a farm Cwmgrenig) suggesting an ancient continuity.


Roman period

Although coal would dominate the local area in later years, the ancient era saw significant copper, iron and tin extraction around the Banwen area. Following the Roman invasion, a road was constructed from Nidum (the fort at Neath) to Brecon in the 70s AD. As part of the construction, two fortified structures were built where the road made a shift in direction, just north of Banwen. The Neath-Brecon Roman road (designated RR622 by RCAHMW[1]) is one of various Roman roads traditionally known as the Sarn Helen. The earliest structure beside the road was the large banked enclosure of a Roman marching camp, built around AD 74 as a temporary military camp.[2]

Two-hundred yards north-west of the camp, a smaller, square fort was built, with earth ramparts and timber construction throughout.[3] It was positioned such that the road to Neath exited through the southern gateway, and that to Brecon left through the eastern gate. Air photographs indicate the possibility that roads also left through the other two gates.[4] This was in use as a fort of the Roman Auxiliary Army for around 70 years, providing defensible accommodation some 11 miles from Nidum (Neath). It is not known what name the Romans gave the fort, however upon excavating the earthworks in 1904-5, Col. W.Ll. Morgan R.E. named it 'Coelbren Fort' after Coelbren, ¾ mile to the north-west.[5][6] Both the Marching Camp and Fort are scheduled monuments, as is the stretch of Roman road running east from the fort,[7] giving them legal protection against disturbance.

Saint Patrick

The village is notable for the tradition that it was the birthplace of Saint Patrick. This is supported by the writings most widely attributed to him, The Confession of St Patrick, in which the saint gives his birthplace as Banavem Taburniae or Banna Venta Berniae on the west coast of Britain.[8] Both names are possible Latin cognates for the Celtic name Banwen.

Eoin MacNeill argued that this was more likely than other purported birth places in Northern Britannia, as "The western coasts of southern Scotland and northern England held little to interest a (Irish) raider seeking quick access to booty and numerous slaves, while the southern coast of Wales offered both. In addition, the region was home to Uí Liatháin and possibly also Déisi settlers during this time". MacNeill also stated the etymology of the village made it the prime contender, but acknowledged the possibility of a transcription error.[9] Banwen was also stated to be Patrick's probable place of birth in Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History by Professor J. B. Bury.

The tradition is often given with another tradition that Patrick studied at Llantwit Major before the eponymous St Illtud established his college. An annual service is held on the Saint's day at the Maen Padrig Sant (St Patrick's Stone), a memorial stone raised in 2004 alongside the Sarn Helen.

Sport and leisure

Banwen is home to rugby union club Banwen RFC formed in 1947.

Stages of the Rally of Great Britain have been held at Walters Arena.

The Banwen Miners Hunt was founded in the village in 1962 following the demise of the West Glamorgan hunt.[10] In the early days of the Hunt, the Duchess of Beaufort rode amongst the Banwen Miners.[11]


Roman Road in Banwen is featured prominently as a location in The Strike, filmed in 1987 for the Channel 4 series The Comic Strip Presents... and broadcast in January 1988. In 2014 the film Pride was set and filmed in Banwen and neighbouring Onllwyn.

Oustide links


  1. Sherman, Andy; Evans, Edith (2004). "Roman roads in Southeast Wales". Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust/ Cadw. pp. 45-47. 
  2. Cadw (Unknown Trust)
  3. Cadw (Unknown Trust)
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (1976). Glamorgan Inventory, Vol 1, Part 2: The Iron Age and Roman Occupation. p. 84. 
  5. Colonel W. Ll. Morgan, R.E. (1907). "Report on the Excavations at Coelbren". Archaeologia Cambrensis. (6th series) 7: 129-174. 
  6. Coelbren Roman Fort (ID PRN00526w) in the 'Sites and monuments record' for Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT)
  7. Cadw (Unknown Trust)
  8. Turner, J.H. (8 January 1872). "X.—An Inquiry as to the Birthplace of St. Patrick". Archaeologia Scotica: Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 5: 268. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  9. Ballinger, Lucy. "Was St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, a Welshman?". 
  10. Banwen Miners Hunt
  11. The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. John Davies, Nigel Jenkins, Menna Baines and Peredur Lynch (2008) pg631 ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6