Gorseinon is a small town in Glamorgan, standing near the Loughor Estuary, at the opening of the Gower Peninsula. It was a small village until the late 19th century when it grew around the coal mining and tinplate industries.
Gorseinon is to the northwest of Swansea, around 6 miles northwest of the city centre. The main road through is the A4240, which crosses the town centre as High Street and Alexandra Road. The A4240 connects Gorseinon with Llanelli to the west; and Penllergaer and the M4 motorway (Junction 47) to the east.
The population of the Gorseinon town council area in the 2001 Census is 7,874 in 2001, with more in the wider urban area.
Name of the town
There are legends or greater or lesser wildness about how the town received its name. The common story of Gorseinon is that in the year 991, two rival princes fought a battle hereabouts – the Prince Ithol of South Wales and Meredith, Prince of Glamorgan. They fought bloodily on Garngoch Common and Ithol, who was a brutal man, was defeated. Amongst Meredith's allies was a man called Einon Hywell (Einon means "leader") and after the battle Einon Hywell camped his men on the Gorse, near Penllergaer, hence Gor-Einon.
Another version has Einon wounded in the battle; he crawled off and died in a marsh, thereafter named Y Gors Einon: "the swamp of Einon".
The original form of Gorseinon seems to have been Cors Einon ("Einon's Swamp") or Y Gors Einon. Einon is a commonplace name and if tradition makes him a warrior prince, so be it. There was indeed an Einon ap Owain ap Hywel Dda, (Einon son of Owain son of Hywel the Good), but whether he had anything to do with Gorseinon we will never know.
Einon ap Owain ap Hywel Dda was born in about 933 in Dinefwr, Llandyfeisant in Carmarthenshire, son of King Owain of Deheubarth, who had cast his covetous eyes over Gower and Glamorgan. Einon died 984 in the Battle of Pen Colwyn.
In 960, Owain invaded Gower and he made several expeditions into Gower during the following decade. By 966, Einon had replaced his father as leader of the war band and during the 970s and 80s Einon continued to try to conquer Morgannwg. It is possible that Einon established a stronghold or a llys on a vantage point east of the River Loughor around 970 which would have given him a strategic point from which to launch his attacks further east. Llys Nini might have been his; it is not impossible the name is derived from Llys Einon.
Einon was slain in battle in about 984 at Pencoed Colwyn, variously described as lying in the Kingdom of Gwent or in Glamorgan. It is possible that he died at Cor Einon during his retreat as local legend would have it.
The stone or cross of Einon in Margam Stone Museum has the inscription "This cross of Christ, Enniaun made for the soul of Guorgoret." J K Allen60 and others interpret Enniaun as Einon and the stone was erected between 850 and 933, which would coincide with the life of Einon ap Owain ap Hywel Dda. Then perhaps Einon's Latinised name lives on in Llys Nini, in the former Gorseinon? It is perhaps more likely that an important property or "Llys" (court) was at that time named after a man rather than a woman.
The monks of Neath Abbey paid many visits to this locality, and evidence of this were several mills built on the banks of local rivers; Cadle Mill, on the Lliw, Pontlliw, Melyn Mynach, and Loughor Mill. There was one weaving mill and two flour mills on the river. These were worked by the monks to provide food and clothing for the Abbey, wool being brought here from Gower's sheeplands.
By the end of the thirteenth century the monks at Melyn Mynach owned vast acreage devoted to sheep farming. They produced high quality wool at Cwrt Y Carnau, which was traded in Flanders and Italy.
With the arrival of the black death and bubonic plague in the fourteenth century, labour became scarce and the monks were forced to sell or rent to the local farmers. Eventually, during Henry VIII's reign, the few monks that were left were pensioned off, as their land passed into crown hands.
Gors Eynon first appeared on an Ordnance Survey map in 1813, but by 1830 the name appeared in its modern spelling.
Mr. John Pryce, a legal gentleman, who was originally from the area but had moved to London, returned to raise a family at Cwrt Y Carne. In 1575 he purchased the manor and land, and also the mill at Melyn Mynach. The whole estate totalled over 130 acres. Pryce tried to squeeze every penny out of his tenant farmers and many disputes followed. The Pryce family prospered and by the early eighteenth Century, the name had changed to Price.
The last owner of the Melyn Mynach was the husband of a Price family member. He was called Nathaniel Cameron – Mayor of Swansea. He also owned the Mountain Colliery but sold the Mill after getting into financial difficulties to Mr. William Lewis, the founder of Gorseinon.
There were few industries but coal was plentiful. A drift was opened in 1846 and became known as "The Mountain Coal". This coal was transported on a narrow gauge railway line to Loughor, where it was loaded onto barges and sent to Llanelli for transportation all around the world. The drift mine continued to be worked until 1900, when a shaft was sunk.
In 1860 the LNWR wanted to extend the line from Pontarddulais to Swansea. William Lewis, a young industrialist sold them the land and a station was erected in 1870 – this became known as Gorseinon Station. The Mountain Colliery laid a siding from the Colliery to the Station and coal was redirected to Swansea Docks.
The first day-school was opened in 1880 at Penyrheol. The Headmaster, Mr. Jones, afterwards transferred to Gorseinon. As Gorseinon's industries grew so did its housing and streets, with the development of Mill Street, Gorseinon Terrace, Eynon Street and High Street.
In 1886 the Grovesend Tin Works was built and the Lewis Family built many houses around the area to house the workers. The Grovesend Steelworks opened in 1890, but in 1891 all tinplate workers in Glamorgan and Monmouthshire were involved in a seven-month strike and times were very hard for the workers.
Gorseinon had two public houses, the Gorseinon Hotel (Bottom Hotel) and the Station Hotel (the Gyp). It was said that the Bottom Hotel was for miners and the Gyp was for tinplate workers and it was a mortal sin to encroach on another man's territory. Then in 1892 the West End Hotel was built and the Mardy in 1901 bring the number of public houses to four.
Gorseinon Institute was opened in 1904 and in 1908 the Bryngwyn Sheetworks was opened
In 1840 the population of Gorseinon was barely 250 people. There were only two churches in the area. One was the "Church on the Marsh", also known as Loughor and Llandeilo (Talybont) – this has now been restored and rebuilt at St Fagans Folk Museum. The other church was Brynteg Chapel, the only non-conformist chapel for miles. This was built in 1815 and can still be seen today.
The first church to be built in Gorseinon was Holy Trinity Church. This was built in 1882 – just opposite where Somerfield stands today. Seion Baptist Church was opened in 1886. It was built on the banks of a river at the bottom of Gorseinon, but by 1902 a new Seion was built in High Street. The old Seion was taken over by the Methodist Church of Great Britain, but this eventually became the Moose Hall.
Bethel English Congregational Church (Evangelical) celebrated its centenary on Saturday and Sunday 9 and 10 July 1894 – 1994. Holy Trinity Church was extended in 1884. The English Congregationalist built a church in Masons Road, now known as West Street-Bethel Chapel. Then progress seemed to stop for a few years.
Ebenezer, the Welsh Congregational Chapel opened in 1887, but by 1909 a new chapel was built near Seion Capel.
St Catherine's Church was built in 1913 and the Salvation Army in 1910. A Roman Catholic church was built at Pontardulais Road in 1932, replaced with a new one on Alexandra Road in the 1960s.
Gorseinon Development Trust
Gorseinon Development Trust is a locally run charity that make voluntary decisions on issues such as car parking, business, litter, historic areas, tourism and parks in the area of Gorseinon. The Gorseinon Development Trust operates from the Canolfan Gorseinon Centre.
Gorseinon has a busy high street area in the centre of the town. The other major areas of employment are the nearby Garngoch Industrial estate, in Penllergaer, Gorseinon Business Park and Kingsbridge Business Park. Previously, the nearby Bryngwyn steel works and Valeo plant were major employers in the town, however they closed in the 1990s. In response to the closures, the National Assembly for Wales set up the Gorseinon Regeneration Strategy to invest in a number of regeneration schemes in the town.
The Canolfan Gorseinon Centre was built on the old Bryngwyn Steel Works and is a charity run, community based centre. This state-of-the-art building is home to the Gorseinon Development Trust and plays host to a number of local charities and organisations, such as
- Gorseinon Food Bank
- Musicality - Academy of Performing Arts
- Gorseinon Food Festival
- Gorseinon Community Cinema
- Gorseinon Players
Recently Asda was granted permission to build a store in the town, which opened in September 2010. This has been a great success for the people of Gorseinon and has resulted in many local charities and groups getting a grant from Asda funds.
Sport and leisure
- Cricket: Gorseinon Cricket Club
- Football: Garden Village FC
- Roller-hockey: Gorseinon Inline Hockey Club
- Rugby: Gorseinon RFC
Gorseinon hosted the Eisteddfod in 1980.
For more than 50 years, Gorseinon was home to 'La Charrette', the UK's smallest cinema, established by local electrician, the late Gwyn Phillips. Built from a disused railway carriage, the cinema opened in 1953; when the decay of its structure forced closure in February 2008, 'La Charrette' was dismantled and taken to the Gower Heritage Centre. The last film shown at La Charette was a black-tie premiere of Danny Boyle's Alien Love Triangle attended by Kenneth Branagh and organised by Observer film critic Mark Kermode.
A new community facility has been completed - Canolfan Gorseinon Centre, which features a multi-use hall, training rooms, office room for small businesses, a creche and a new bar and cafe.
- BBC News "Starry last night for tiny cinema", 24 February 2008, accessed 22 January 2010.
- City and County of Swansea: Early boost for Gorseinon Centre