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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

One Village with Two Names

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas AUGUST 03, 2020

Blaengwynfi and Abergwynfi are two sides of the same valley in the South Wales coalfield. It is where one branch of my family originated. Over a hundred years ago several of my ancestors lived in various houses in one street. My Grandmother was born here and my Great Grandfather died here. My Great Great Grandfather settled here from rural West Wales when he became the librarian in The Workmen's Hall in the late 19th century. Before my Grandmother was born she had an older sister and brother both of whom died very young, both in the same week, in the last great pandemic.

After my Great Grandfather died, quite young himself, my Great Grandmother remarried and left the area to run a pub in West Wales and also to work as the local midwife.

Today Blaengwynfi/Abergwynfi are suffering from the end of the industry that created them. Afan Colliery was sunk by Sir Daniel Gooch between 1877 and 1882. The Inspector of Mines noted that it employed 559 men producing steam coal in 1896. It was taken over by the Great Western Railway Company in 1905 and by 1908 had a workforce of 907. In 1912 the Ocean Coal Company took over the running of the colliery. It closed in 1969.

This first set of photos were taken in Blaengwynfi looking across the valley to Abergwynfi in February 2014.

Those rows of houses in Abergwynfi, on the other side, appear two years later below, on a second visit, when some were being demolished and others modernised, to reflect the smaller local population and changing demographics.

130 Jersey Road, the ancestral home.

The modern building in the foreground is the new school built on the site of the original colliery.

This second set of photos were taken on a return visit in September 2016. These are taken in Abergwynfi. A major redevelopment was taking place when I visited. One half of the street was being demolished and the other side refurbished.

In this shot, the houses on the left have been restored while those on the right are about to come down.

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