Work by contractors to restore the boundaries of this sensitive and historically important site are now well advanced. They did, however, encounter one unexpected problem recently when tree surgeons that had been called in to remove a large tree stump embedded in a wall decided that they were unable to tackle the job. Fortunately, several members of Friends of Saron having the necessary skills were willing to offer their services to attempt this task. As can be seen from these images this turned out to be a very difficult and lengthy but ultimately successful job. Very many thanks must go to Stephen, Simon and Mark for the heavy work and to Sheila for keeping up the spirits and replenishing the energy levels of the team by providing regular refreshments throughout the day!
Contractors have now been working on site for some months. The standard of their work has been excellent as these photographs show. Friends of Saron volunteers aim to resume our programme of improvements within the graveyard as soon as current restrictions will allow.
This cigarette card dated 1928 – 9 relates to an interesting former resident of our village.
Charles (‘Charlie’) Jones was born in Troedyrhiw in 1899 and died in 1966. He has been described as one of the “unsung heroes” of Welsh football in the 1920’s and 1930’s as his clubs were reluctant to release him and other players for international duty for the smaller home nations.
The senior clubs that he played for were Cardiff City, Stockport County, Oldham Athletic, Nottingham Forest and 176 times for Arsenal winning three league titles with them towards the end of his career. He also played for Wales 8 times and went on to captain the side several times.
An old photograph came to mind when I read this paragraph in the autobiography of Claude Stanfield (born in Troedyrhiw in 1904):-
“ During my childhood days our favourite swimming places were “Bottom Back”, in the River Taff south of the now Afon Taf High School’, “Pil Bracken” in the river opposite Furnace Row houses, Castle Pond, the feeder for Castle Pit and Webbers Pond the old pond which was the feeder for Gethin Pit. We as children found the old canal north of Furnace Row deep enough for swimming purposes and most of us swam in the nude. Even the pollution of the river did not lesson our appetite for a dip in the water as very few of us had the opportunity of a visit to the seaside. To emphasise the point of lack of money and opportunity in those days, my mother never saw the sea until she was over 50 years of age.”
The photograph was taken by George Bevan who was the headmaster of Troedyrhiw Boys School from the late 1800’s until 1915. This image is of poor quality and I have been struggling to work out where it was taken. The best I can come up with is that the boys might be swimming in the Plymouth feeder with Ladysmith Place, Taldwyn Terrace and Merthyr Road tips in the background (Phyllis Street and Brookfield have yet to be built) with the indistinct large building perhaps being St John’s Hall at the back of St David’s Church which stood on the area that is now a rough car park opposite Family Shopper (previously the Co-op also not yet built). There is a footbridge in this general area marked on old maps. Has anyone got any ideas?
If you have been following the posts about the progress of this project you might be interested in these two images. We are still appealing for help from the community and others in our efforts to create something that celebrates our past and we can be proud of for the future.
Here are views of the graveyard that you are unlikely to have seen before. If you look carefully you can see evidence of the structural work on the boundary walls that is currently taking place. It is also clear that there is much still to do to the interior of the site to bring it up to the standard that our volunteers have been working towards. We are unable to get onto the site until the contractors have finished their work. Our aim is to get in one or two volunteer days (following whatever Covid regulations may be in force at the time) before the winter and WE ARE VERY KEEN TO ENLIST ADDITIONAL HELP FROM MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY. If you are interested in supporting this project please contact us at email@example.com You can be assured of receiving a warm welcome and your participation will bring many personal benefits including a healthy boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem, a natural sense of accomplishment by doing good for others and the community and a sense of pride and identity.
I was interested to read in a recent post on the Troedyrhiw Community Group Facebook page that a group of volunteers has begun environmental improvement work at the Lido on the mountainside above Troedyrhiw. This is a project that is very worthy of community support.
As many local people will know bathing and paddling pools with changing rooms were constructed on this site by unemployed miners in the 1930’s. Clive Thomas has written that “In the years leading to the Second World War the Lido was a big attraction for the local children. During the summer months and on Sunday evenings after chapel there was community hymn singing enjoyed by young and old, who thronged the mountainside around the pools.” In the 1950’s this was still a popular picnic spot for families as I can clearly remember. Sadly, the site has suffered from extensive vandalism so a project that will help the community to re-engage with the local environment and improve its quality must be a very good thing.
From the small amount of research that I have been able to carry out it seems that before the Lido was built this area was already a well-known beauty spot. Old maps and a tinted photographic image from an old postcard appear to show that this was the location of a natural pool called the “Old Reservoir’ with a backdrop of woodland and the impressive cliffs of Craig a Pwll with Eagle’s Rock. Wouldn’t it be great if things could be returned to this condition?
Legend has it that the bridge over the river Taff in Troedyrhiw is located at the place where Tydfil’s brother Rhun was killed, in around the year 480, by Saxon or British pagans or a band of marauding Picts. It is commonly accepted that, thereafter, bridges constructed on this spot have been known by names which mean ‘Rhun’s Bridge’. These include Pontyrhun, Pontrhun and Pont-y-Rhun.
There is, however, a less colourful explanation for the name of this bridge. In his book ‘Bridges of Merthyr Tydfil’ W. L. Davies states that this ancient site is “the most natural and only location for a bridge crossing below the meeting of the two Taffs at Cefn Coed-y-cymmer”. It is, therefore, possible that the name of this bridge is derived from it being the FIRST bridge in the lower valley as suggested by ‘Pont yr Un’ (roughly translatable as ‘bridge one’) as printed on at least one early map.
The first known record of a bridge at this spot dates from the 1540’s when it would have been made of wood. Later replacements were of a stone arch construction but, by 1857, a wrought iron structure was in place. Disaster struck on 15 December 1878 when the foundations on the west bank were washed away. This bridge was reconstructed in 1880 and remained in place with regular repairs and strengthening until 1945 when plans were prepared for a new bridge which was then completed. By the 1960’s it was apparent that this bridge was inadequate for the amount of traffic that it then carried and so on 3 October 1965 it was closed for 13 weeks whilst a new bridge, that remains in use to this day, was erected.
Contractors have begun the delicate task of dealing with a collapsed retaining wall that was constructed at least 150 years ago to hold back the earth which is the ‘final resting place’ of many residents of the village from previous generations. Restruct Limited of Bridgend (“big enough to cope …but small enough to care”) who are carrying out this work have an excellent reputation and, to judge from what they have achieved so far, we will not be disappointed with the final results of their efforts.
We are extremely grateful to the landowner and leaseholder for all that they have done to facilitate this work.
Going forward we will again be calling on residents and other interested parties to help us to ensure that this project leaves a lasting legacy. The vision of our volunteers is to create Saron Memorial and Wildlife Garden as a community asset. We can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .