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Glamorgan, Brecknockshire
Hirwaun War Memorial
Grid reference: SN966055
Location: 51°44’19"N, 3°29’56"W
Population: 4,851
Post town: Aberdare
Postcode: CF44
Dialling code: 01685
Local Government
Council: Rhondda Cynon Taf
Cynon Valley

Hirwaun is the name of a village at the north-west end of the Cynon Valley straddling the border between Glamorgan and Brecknockshire. The name is from the Welsh language meaning "Long Meadow". The village of Hirwaun is four miles from the town of Aberdare, and comes under Aberdare for postal reasons. According to the 2001 census, Hirwaun has a population of 4,851.[1] The Brecon Beacons National Park lies just on the northern edge of the village.

History and Background

Hirwaun has an industrial background centring on the Hirwaun Ironworks. After the ironworks closed, coal mining continued, and was a major employer until the second half of the twentieth century.

The Crawshay family were powerful, almost all powerful in the production of steel, and the Hirwaun Ironworks had produced cannons used on HMS Victory. The family owned a large portion of Hirwaun and even used their own money to pay employees by th "Hirwaun Guinea", there by stopping employees travelling to Cardiff or spending their money outside the controlled economy of the village.[2]

Following the miners' strike, however, the only deep coal mine left in Wales was Tower Colliery, which closed down, was bought by its workers and reopened.


The ironworks was in already existence during the late 18th century and in 1780 were acquired by Anthony Bacon of Cyfarthfa, whose business partner, Francis Homfray, ran the works during the Napoleonic Wars The finished products were transported to the port of Cardiff by mules and pack-horses.[3] The works later passed through a succession of owners before being purchased in 1819 by William Crawshay of Cyfarthfa. Crawshay expanded the works leading to a population influx in the locality.[4] By 1830, nearly 900 men were employed at the Hirwaun works, and in the same year the first railway steam engine seen in the locality began to operate from the works.[3] The ironworks remained in family hands until its closure in 1859. The ironworks' blast furnaces required coke, which spurred an increase in local coal mining activities.


Unlike most South Wales Coalfield villages, Hirwaun consists of a vast array of different architectural housing styles, often cheek-by-jowl in small blocks. This is due to development to satisfy different needs at different times, with much gentrification taking place in the last few decades. Hirwaun hence has a discontinuous, hotch-potch feel to it that marks it out as unusual in the South Wales Valleys.

St Lleurwg's Church

Saint Lleurwg's parish church is situated in the centre if the village and is part of the ecclesiastical parish of Hirwaun. It was opened by the Bishop of Llandaff in July 1858. The sister church in the parish is dedicated to Saint Winefred and is in Penywaun.

The tower blocks

Hirwaun made local news in May 2004 when its two 1960s-built tower blocks were demolished by dynamite detonation. Their demise marked the end of a major landmark in the Cynon Valley and were symptomatic of broader failure in British public housing.[5]

Hirwaun Common development

Currently the patch of green land known as Hirwaun Common is being strip mined again. This was first performed in the 1940s and '50s


The village was originally served by Hirwaun railway station on the Vale of Neath Railway, which arrived in 1851. At Gwelli Junction north of the station, as well as the mainline from Neath to Merthyr Tydfil, there was the VoNR branch to Aberdare and the Aberdare Railway. South of the station existed the goods yard and sidings to serve the various industries in the area, including: Hirwaun Ironworks; Tower Colliery; two brickworks; Penderyn quaryy tramway.

However, after the Beeching Axe, in 1963 the line south to Neath, north to Merthyr and the former Aberdare Railway were all closed. Hirwaun station itself was demolished. The line north to Aberdare on the Merthyr Line to Cardiff Central was only kept open for coal train traffic to Tower Colliery, which moved its coal washery and loading facility onto the site of the former station goods yard.

After the second closure of Tower in early 2008, in November 2009 the Welsh Assembly Government asked Network Rail to conduct a feasibility study on reopening the line to Hirwaun for passenger services.[6] After clearing the line of vegetation, Network Rail submitted its report to WAG, who in March 2011 announced that sufficient funds had been allowed in the 2011-12 capital programme to allow the re-opening of the line to Hirwaun as part of the Cynon Valley Scheme.[7] However, there is currently no information on when the work will commence and when the line will re-open.


Hirwaun RFC are the local rugby union side. Hirwaun also have a number of football teams Hirwaun & Mackworth FC, Hirwaun Sports FC, Lamb FC, and FC Hirwaun (Formerly Glancynon FC) Hirwaun & Mackworth FC are currently the highest ranked team playing South Wales Amateur Football League D2. Hirwaun & Mackworth Junior Football Club which is a division of the senior club provide opportunity for 5 to 11 year old to play football from a village based team, until 2012 children in the village did not have the opportunity.

Hirwaun Sports, Lamb FC, FC and Hirwaun FC, compete in the Aberdare Valley Football League.


  1. Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 369. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6. 
  2. Cyfarthfa Ironworks Old Merthyr Tydfil
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rees. Chapels in the Valley. pp. 124-5. 
  4. Jones. Thomas Price (Part One). pp. 149-50. 
  5. http://www.pash-living.co.uk/blog/contemporary-designers/le-corbusier-enfant-terrible-of-modernist-architecture.html
  6. "Old tracks could see trains again". BBC News. 6 November 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/8346748.stm. 
  7. http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/aberdare/2011/03/24/aberdare-to-hirwaun-rail-line-set-to-reopen-91466-28381233/


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Hirwaun)