The Lost Farms of Resolfen
A very pleasing aspect of this year’s lecture season has been the large increase in attendances. This month proved no exception with the visit of Mr Martyn Griffiths, Chairman of the Neath Antiquarians who spoke on the “Lost Farms of Resolfen”.
The lecture was the culmination of thirty years of meticulous research by Mr Griffiths of the farms of the Manor of Resolfen or the Resolfen Hundred. He started by noting that in 1800 the area which ranges from present day Cwmgwrach to Melincwrt had 19 working farms though some would today be considered smallholdings on which tenant farmers scratched a living. Today only one working farm remains, namely Llwyncoedwr.In addition only six of the farmhouses remain intact.
Starting at Cefngelli, Mr Griffiths first took the mountain farms. Originally farmed by the Thomas family, Cefngelli was surplanted by the Venallt Ironworks in 1838 and was known as the Venallt Farm by 1890. Today, its existence is noted by Cefn Gelli Road in Cwmgwrach.
Mr Griffiths explained that a farmer needed at least forty acres in order to make a living and the next farm Argoed-y- Buarth- y Bedw was some sixty acres and the farmers supplemented their income by supplying timber, mainly oak. Unfortunately, this resulted in deforestation owing to the demand of industry and the Royal Navy and the Forestry Commission was founded in 1919 to try and maintain supply following the First world War.
Pant-y-Geifr and Blaencamgoed disappeared in the 1830s and 40s and their existence is noted in the archives of the Neath Antiquarians. Interestingly, the farms grew wheat during the Napoleonic era even though the upland was hardly suitable for that crop.
Tithes were a contentious issue during the 19th century in Wales and led to the so called “Rhyfel y Degwm” (Tithe war) between the mainly nonconformist farmers and the Anglican landowners. However, the tithe maps which catalogued the value of a holding have given modern historians an invaluable statistical resource of the time. Under the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 the payment was usually changed to a cash payment and was subject to negotiation between the Vicar and the farmer. Tithes, did not disappear completely until as late as 1936. Ty'n-y-cwm Farm
The lease of Hendre Owen Uchaf Farm in 1773 , showed that leases varied in their composition. In this case it was measured by the length of three lives. Sometimes farmers would use the children of "healthy" families as lessees since they could well live longer than their own children. Hendre Owen Isaf Farm was the home of the John family who were a prominent Calvinistic Methodist family in the area. Ty’n-y-Cwm is described in the tithe map as being very bleak and apparently the site had once been a grange of Margam Abbey. Ffald-y-Dre, which was derelict by 1952, was a very old homestead with the earliest wills dating from 1709. Interestingly, the will showed that the farm was worth only £35, probably because in May the stock of the farm was very low.
Glyncastle/Glyncastell/Clun-y-Castell is reputed to have been the Manor house of the Resolfen Hundred. It was certainly the home of Daniel Morris the Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1700 and a priest hole was reputedly found there during renovations during the 19th Century. It remained a working farm until 1873. The Ton
Dropping into what is now the village of Resolfen, Pentwyn farm is an ancient site. The lease dates from 1548 and was given for 1000 years from the Gunter Family of Abergavenny. Pant-y-Gelli was built in 1713 and was rather small farm since it was also known as “Cae Evan Vaughan” and served largely as the home of workers in the local coal industry. Ty-yn-y-Ton or the Ton farm has its date marked clearly as 1807,it too had only 7 acres in the vicinity though it held more land elsewhere. In addition Aberclydach farm was only 10 or 12 acres and has strong connections with the musical Evans family. The family were known as To Mân for a century even though that particular holding is in Crynant. Nant-y-Gleisiad farm had gone by 1826 and its acreage diminished from 80acres to two acres by 1857. Aberclydach Farm
Heolhir or Gwaun Gogofar in Melincwrt is long gone but its name “the long road” in translation indicates that it stood on an ancient thoroughfare to the Cynon Valley. Tyllwyd once had twenty acres but Pant-y-Crubach now has only one field left. Tragically also Drehir farm which once lay in the valley was demolished to make way for an industrial park in 1997 which has yet to be completed.
Mr Griffiths completed his talk by stating that he had nothing to say about Llwyncoedwr since it was not one of the lost farms and indeed had been in the proud possession of the same family for over 400 years.
Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Martyn Griffiths for a marvellous lecture which was fitting end to a very successful year. The Society will now take a short break over the summer and will resume its series of talks in the autumn. Any members who wish to come on the summer trip should contact Josie Duke or any Committee member.