Glamorgan or, sometimes, Glamorganshire ( or ) is one of the thirteen historic counties of Wales and a former administrative county of Wales. It was originally an early medieval petty kingdom of varying boundaries known as Glywysing until taken over by the Normans as a lordship. Glamorgan is latterly represented by the three preserved counties of Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan. The name also survives in that of Vale of Glamorgan, a county borough.
Although initially a rural and pastoral area of little value, the area that became known as Glamorgan was a conflict point between the Norman lords and the Welsh princes, with the area being defined by a large concentration of castles. After falling under English rule in the 16th century, Glamorgan became a more stable county, and exploited its natural resources to become an important part of the Industrial Revolution. Glamorgan was the most populous and industrialised county in Wales, and was once called the "crucible of the Industrial Revolution," as it contained the world centres of three metallurgical industries and its rich resources of coal.
The county of Glamorgan comprised several distinct regions: the industrial valleys, the agricultural Vale of Glamorgan, and the scenic Gower Peninsula. The county was bounded to the north by Brecknockshire, east by Monmouthshire, south by the Bristol Channel, and west by Carmarthenshire and Carmarthen Bay. Its total area was , and the total population of the three preserved counties of Glamorgan in 1991 was 1,288,309. From 1974 Glamorgan contained two cities, Cardiff, the county town and from 1955 the capital city of Wales, and Swansea. The highest point in the county is Craig y Llyn which is situated near the village of Rhigos in the Cynon Valley.
Glamorgan's terrain has been inhabited by humankind for over 200,000 years. Climate fluctuation caused the formation, disappearance, and reformation of glaciers which, in turn, caused sea levels to rise and fall. At various times life has flourished, at others the area is likely to have been completely uninhabitable. Evidence of the presence of Neanderthals has been discovered on the Gower Peninsula. Whether they remained in the area during periods of extreme cold is unclear. Sea levels have been lower and higher than at present, resulting in significant changes to the coastline during this period.
Archaeological evidence shows that humans settled in the area during an interstadial period. The oldest known human burial in Great Britain – the Red Lady of Paviland – was discovered in a coastal cave between Port Eynon and Rhossili, on the Gower Peninsula. The 'lady' has been radiocarbon dated to c. 29,000 years before present (BP) – during the Late Pleistocene – at which time the cave overlooked an area of plain, some miles from the sea.
From the end of the last ice age (between 12,000 and 10,000 BP) Mesolithic hunter-gatherers began to migrate to the British Peninsula – through Doggerland – from the European mainland. Archaeologist Stephen Aldhouse-Green notes that while Wales has a "multitude" of Mesolithic sites, their settlements were "focused on the coastal plains", the uplands were "exploited only by specialist hunting groups".
The Bronze Age – defined by the use of metal – has made a lasting impression on the area. Over six hundred Bronze Age barrows and cairns, of various types, have been identified all over Glamorgan. Other technological innovations – including the wheel; harnessing oxen; weaving textiles; brewing alcohol; and skillful metalworking (producing new weapons and tools, and fine gold decoration and jewellery, such as brooches and torcs) – changed people's everyday lives during this period. Deforestation continued to the more remote areas as a warmer climate allowed the cultivation even of upland areas.By 4000 BP people had begun to bury, or cremate their dead in individual cists, beneath a mound of earth known as a round barrow; sometimes with a distinctive style of finely decorated pottery – like those at Llanharry (discovered 1929) and at Llandaff (1991) – that gave rise to the Early Bronze Age being described as Beaker culture. From c. 3350 BP, a worsening climate began to make agriculture unsustainable in upland areas. The resulting population pressures appear to have led to conflict. Hill forts began to be built from the Late Bronze Age (and throughout the Iron Age (3150–1900 BP)) and the amount and quality of weapons increased noticeably – along the regionally distinctive tribal lines of the Iron Age.
Archaeological evidence from two sites in Glamorgan shows Bronze Age practices and settlements continued into the Iron Age. Finds from Llyn Fawr, thought to be votive offerings, include weapons and tools from the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. The hoard has given its name to the Llyn Fawr Phase, the last Bronze Age phase in Britain. Excavations at Llanmaes, Vale of Glamorgan, indicate a settlement and "feasting site" occupied from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman occupation. Until the Roman conquest of Britain, the area that would become known as Glamorgan was part of the territory of the Silures – a Celtic British tribe that flourished in the Iron Age – whose territory also included the areas that would become known as Breconshire and Monmouthshire. The Silures had hill forts throughout the area – e.g., Caerau (Cardiff), Caerau hill fort, Rhiwsaeson (Llantrisant), and Y Bwlwarcau [Mynydd Margam, south west of Maesteg – and cliff castles along the Glamorgan coast – e.g., Burry Holms (Gower Peninsula). Excavations at one – Dunraven hill fort (Southerndown, Vale of Glamorgan) – revealed the remains of twenty-one roundhouses.
Many other settlements of the Silures were neither hill forts nor castles. For example, the fort established by the Romans near the mouth of the River Taff in 75 CE (Common Era), in what would become Cardiff, was built over an extensive settlement established by the Silures in the 50s CE.
History AD 500–1080
The region originated as an independent petty kingdom named Glywysing, believed to be named after a 5th-century Welsh king called Glywys, who is said to have been descended from a Roman Governor in the region. Saint Paul Aurelian was born in Glamorgan in the 6th century. The name Morgannwg or Glamorgan ('territory of Morgan') reputedly derives from the 8th-century king Morgan ab Athrwys, otherwise known as "Morgan Mwynfawr" ('great in riches') who united Glywysing with the neighbouring kingdoms of Gwent and Ergyng, although some have argued for the similar 10th-century ruler Morgan Hen. It is possible it was only the union of Gwent and Glywysing that was referred to as Morgannwg. By virtue of its location and geography, Morgannwg or Glywysing was the second part of Wales, after Gwent, to fall under the control of the Normans and was frequently the scene of fighting between the Marcher Lords and Welsh princes.
Buildings of note, 500–1080
The earliest buildings of note included earthwork dykes and rudimentary motte-and-bailey hillside defences. All that remains of these fortifications are foundations that leave archaeological evidence of their existence, though many were built upon to create more permanent defensive structures. The earliest surviving structures within the region are early stone monuments, waypoints and grave markers dating between the 5th and 7th century, with many being moved from their original position to sheltered locations for protection. The most notable of the early stone markers still in its original place is on a high mountain ridge at Gelligaer. Of the later plaitwork patterned standing crosses the finest and best preserved is the 9th century 'Houelt' stone at Llantwit Major.
Lordship of Glamorgan
The Lordship of Glamorgan was established by Robert Fitzhamon following the defeat of Iestyn ap Gwrgant in the 1080s. The Lordship of Morgannwg was split after it was conquered; the kingdom of Glamorgan had as its caput the town of Cardiff and took in the lands from the River Tawe to the River Rhymney. The Lordship took in four of the Welsh cantrefi, Gorfynydd, Penychen, Senghenydd and Gwynllwg. The area later known as the Gower Peninsula was not under the Lordship of Glamorgan, and became the Gower Lordship which had previously been the cantref of Gŵyr. The lowlands of the Lordship of Glamorgan were manorialized, while much of the sparsely populated uplands were left under Welsh control until the late 13th century. Upon the death of William, Lord of Glamorgan, his extensive holdings were eventually granted to Gilbert de Clare in 1217. The subjugation of Glamorgan, begun by Fitzhamon, was finally completed by the powerful De Clare family, and in 1486 the kingdom was granted to Jasper Tudor.
Buildings of note, 1080–1536
The legacy of the Marcher Lords left the area scattered with historic buildings including Norman castles, Cistercian Abbeys, churches and medieval monuments.
The kingdom of Glamorgan was also notable for the number of castles built during the time of the Marcher Lords, many surviving to the present day though many are now ruinous. Of the castles built during the medieval period, those still standing above foundation level include, Caerphilly Castle, Cardiff Castle, Ogmore Castle, St Quintins Castle, Coity Castle, Neath Castle and Oystermouth Castle. Many of the castles within Morgannwg were attacked by forces led by Owain Glyndŵr during the Welsh Revolt of 1400–1415. Some were captured, and several were damaged to such an extent they were never maintained as defences again.
When the Diocese of Llandaff became incorporated into the Province of Canterbury, the Bishop of Llandaff rebuilt over the small church with the beginnings of Llandaff Cathedral in 1120. In the western region of Morgannwg two monastic foundations were sited, a Savigniac house in Neath in 1130 and the Cistercian Margam Abbey in 1147. In the Vale a Benedictine monastery was founded in 1141, Ewenny Priory, a community under the patronage of St. Peter's Gloucester. The building of parish churches also began in the 12th century, densely in the Vale, but very sparsely in the upland and northern areas.
County of Glamorgan
The Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 established the County of Glamorgan through the amalgamation of the Lordship of Glamorgan with the lordships of Gower and Kilvey; the area that had previously been the cantref of Gwynllwg was lost to Monmouthshire. With Wales finally incorporated with the English dominions, the administration of justice passed into the hands of the crown. The Lordship became a shire and was awarded its first Parliamentary representative with the creation of the Glamorganshire constituency in 1536. The Reformation, which was closely followed by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, led to vast social changes across Britain. These events, along with the Act of Union, allowed the leading Welsh families to gain in wealth and prosperity, allowing equal footing to those families of English extraction. Old monasteries, with their lands, were acquired by the wealthy and turned into country houses; their notable residents preferring to live in gentry houses rather than the fortified castles of the past. Major families in Glamorgan included the Carnes at Ewenny, the Mansels at Margam, Williams of Neath, the Herberts at Cardiff and Swansea and the Stradlings of St Donats.
The main industry of Glamorgan during this period was agriculture. In the upland, or Blaenau area, the hilly terrain along with many areas being densely wooded, made arable farming unprofitable, so the local farming concentrated on the rearing of horses, cattle and sheep. The lowland, or Bro was devoted to more general branches of farming, cereal, grass for pasture, hay and stock raising. Non-agricultural industries were generally small scale, with some shallow coal pits, fulling mills, weaving and pottery-making. The main heavy industry of note during this period was copper smelting, and this was centred on the towns of Swansea and Neath. Although copper had been mined in Wales since the Bronze Age, it was not until non-ferrous metalworking became a major industry in the late 17th century that Glamorgan saw a concentration of works appearing in a belt between Kidwelly and Port Talbot. Smelting of copper started around Neath under the Mines Royal Society c. 1584 but the scale of the works increased dramatically from the early 18th century when Swansea displaced Bristol as Britain's copper smelting capital. Easy access to Cornish ores and a local outcropping of coal near the surface, gave Swansea economic advantages in the smelting industry.
Early iron smelting within Glamorgan was a localised and minor industry, with historical evidence pointing to scattered ironworks throughout the county. John Leland mentions a works at Llantrisant in 1539, an operation in Aberdare existed during the reign of Edward VI and two iron furnaces were recorded as being set up by Sir W. Mathew in Radyr during the Elizabethan era. By 1666 a furnace was in operation in Hirwaun and in 1680 a smelting hearth was established in Caerphilly. Despite the existence of these industries, the scale of production was small, and in 1740 the total output of iron from Glamorgan was reported at 400 tons per year.
Glamorgan, now falling under the protection of the crown, was also involved in the conflicts of the crown. With the start of the First English Civil War, there was little support from the Welsh for the Parliamentarians. Glamorgan sent troops to join Charles I at the Battle of Edgehill, and their Member of Parliament Sir Edward Stradling was captured in the conflict. In the Second English Civil War, the war came to Glamorgan at the Battle of St Fagans (1648), where the New Model Army overcame a larger Royalist to prevent a siege of Cardiff.
Buildings of note, 1536–1750
The period between the Laws in Wales Acts and the industrialisation of Glamorgan saw two distinct periods architecturally. From the 1530s throughout to 1650, the newly empowered gentry attempted to show their status by building stately homes to show their wealth; but the period from 1650 through to the mid-1750s was a fallow time for architectural grandeur, with few new wealthy families moving to the area. Of the eight major gentry houses of the time only St Fagans Castle survives with its interior intact; five, Neath Abbey, Old Beaupre Castle, Oxwich Castle, Llantrithyd and Ruperra Castle are ruinous. Of the remaining two manors, The Van at Caerphilly was reconstructed in 1990 while Cefnmabli was gutted by a fire in 1994. The old castles became abandoned throughout this period due to the new security brought by Glamorgan coming under the protection of the crown, with only the Stradlings of St Donat's Castle electing to remain in their old ancestral home.
By the 17th century, the availability of fine building stone permitted the construction of high-quality lime-washed rural cottages and farmhouses in the Vale of Glamorgan, which drew favourable remarks from travellers. A Glamorgan yeoman of the time generally lived in greater comfort than his contemporaries of the more westerly or upland parts of Wales such as Cardiganshire or north Carmarthenshire.
Industrial Glamorgan, 1750–1920
From the mid-18th century onwards, Glamorgan's uplands underwent large-scale industrialisation and several coastal towns, in particular Swansea and later Cardiff, became significant ports. From the late 18th century until the early 20th century Glamorgan produced 70 per cent of the British output of copper. The industry was developed by English entrepreneurs and investors such as John Henry Vivian and largely based in the west of the county, where coal could be purchased cheaply and ores imported from Cornwall, Devon and later much further afield. The industry was of immense importance to Swansea in particular; in 1823 the smelting works on the River Tawe, and the colleries and shipping dependent on them, supported between 8,000 and 10,000 people. Imports of copper ores reached a peak in the 1880s, after which there was a steep fall until the virtual end of the trade in the 1920s. The cost of shipping ores from distant countries, and the growth of foreign competitors, ended Glamorgan's dominance of the industry. Some of the works converted to the production of zinc and the Tawe valley also became a location for the manufacture of nickel after Ludwig Mond established a works at Clydach in 1902.
As well as copper and iron, Glamorgan became an important centre for the tinplate industry. Although not as famous as the Llanelli or Pontypool works, a concentrated number of works emerged around Swansea, Aberavon and Neath towards the late 19th century. Glamorgan became the most populous and industrialised county in Wales and was known as the 'crucible of the Industrial Revolution'.
Alongside the metalworks, industries appeared throughout Glamorgan that made use of the works' output. Pontypridd was well known for the Brown Lenox Chainworks, which during the 19th century was the town's main industrial employer.
The largest change to industrial Glamorgan was the opening up of the South Wales coalfield, the largest continuous coalfield in Britain, which occupied the greater part of Glamorgan, mostly north of the Vale. The coalfield provided a vast range in quality and type, but prior to 1750 the only real access to the seams was through bell pits or digging horizontally into a level where the seam was exposed at a river bank or mountainside. Although initially excavated for export, coal was soon also needed for the smelting process in Britain's expanding metallurgical industries. Developments in coal mining began in the north-eastern rim of Glamorgan around the ironworks of Merthyr and in the south-west around the copper plants of Swansea. In 1828 the South Wales coalfiled was producing an estimated 3 million tons of coal, by 1840 that had risen to 4.5 million, with about 70 percent consumed by local commercial and domestic usage.
The 1840s saw the start of a dramatic increase in the amount of coal excavated within Glamorgan. Several events took place to precipitate the growth in coal mining, including the discovery of steam coal in the Cynon Valley, the building of a large masonry dock at Cardiff and the construction of the Taff Vale Railway. In 1845, after trials by the British Admiralty, Welsh steam coal replaced coal from Newcastle-upon-Tyne as the preferred fuel for the ships of the Royal Navy. Glamorgan steam coal quickly became a sought-after commodity for navies all over the world and its production increased to meet the demand.
The richest source for steam coal was the Rhondda Valleys, and by 1856 the Taff Vale Railway had reached the heads of both valleys. Over the next fifty years the Rhondda would grow to become the largest producer of coal of the age. In 1874, the Rhondda produced 2.13 million tons of coal, which rose to 5.8 million tons by 1884. The coal now produced in Glamorgan far exceeded the interior demand, and in the later half of the 19th century the area became a mass exporter for its product. In the 1890s the docks of South Wales accounted for 38 percent of British coal exports and a quarter of global trade.
Along with the increase in coal production came a very large increase in the population, as people emigrated to the area to seek employment. In Aberdare the population grew from 6,471 in 1841 to 32,299 in 1851 while the Rhondda grew from 3,035 in 1861 to 55,632 in 1881, peaking in 1921 at 162,729. Much of this population growth was driven by immigration. In the ten years from 1881–1891, net migration to Glamorgan was over 76,000, 63 per cent of which was from the non-border counties of England - a proportion that increased in the following decade.
Until the beginning of the 18th century, Glamorgan was almost entirely agriculture based. With the industrialisation of the county, farming became of far less importance, with industrial areas encroaching into farming lands. In Glamorgan, from the late 19th century, there was a significant reduction away from arable land towards pasture land. There were two main factors behind this trend; firstly the increase in the population of the county required more milk and other dairy produce, in an age before refrigeration. Secondly there was an employment shortage in farming due to the call of better paid industrial work, and pastoral land was less work intensive. Stock rearing became prominent with breeds such as Hereford, Devon and Shorthorn cattle being bred in the Vale of Glamorgan, while the unenclosed wilds of the Gower saw Welsh Ponies bred on the commons.
Buildings of note 1750–1920
The industrial period of Glamorgan saw a massive building program throughout the uplands and in the coastal regions, reflecting the increasing population and the need for new cheap housing to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of workers coming into the area. As the towns urbanised and the hamlets became villages, the trappings of modern life were reflected in the buildings required to sustain new and growing communities. The period saw the appearance, not only of the works and pits themselves, but of the terrace house or miners cottage, railway stations, hospitals, churches, chapels, bridges, viaducts, stadiums, schools, universities, museums and workingmen's halls.
As well as the architecture of Glamorgan entering modernity, there was also a reflection to the past, with some individuals who made the most from the booming industrial economy restoring symbols of the past, building follies and commissioning Gothic-style additions to ancient churches. Robert Lugar's Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr (1825) and the late 19th century additions to Cardiff Castle, designed by William Burges, exemplify how Gothic was the favoured style for rich industrialists and entrepreneurs. Greek Revival architecture, popularised in France and Germany in the late 18th century, was used for a number of public and educational buildings in Wales including the Royal Institution of South Wales in Swansea (1841) and Bridgend Town Hall (1843).
In 1897, Cardiff Corporation acquired land from the Marquess of Bute with the intention of erecting buildings to meet the administrative, legal and educational needs of Glamorgan's county town. From 1901 onwards, Cathays Park was developed into "possibly the finest... civic centre in Britain" with a range of public buildings including the Baroque City Hall and the rococo-style University College.
The majority of Nonconformist chapels were built in the 19th century. They progressed from simple, single-storey designs to larger and more elaborate structures, most built in the classical style. Perhaps the most ambitious chapel was John Humphrey's Morriston Tabernacle (1872), incorporating Classical, Romanesque and Gothic elements, which has been called the 'Noncomformist Cathedral of Wales'.
Industrial architecture tended to be functional, although some structures, such as the four-storey engine house at Cyfarthfa Ironworks (1836), were built to impress. Coal mining eventually became the dominant industry in Glamorgan and tall winding towers - originally made of timber or cast iron, later steel - became symbolic icons.
Late-period Glamorgan, 1920–1974
After the First World War, there was an initial drop in coal and iron production, there was still enough demand to push the coalfields to their limits, helped by events such as the American coal miners' strike. Cardiff Docks reached an exporting peak in 1923, but soon production fell and unemployment in the upland valleys began to increase at a dramatic rate. Between April 1924 and August 1925 the unemployment rate amongst South Wales miners jumped from 1.8% to 28.5%. Several factors came together to cause this collapse, including the over-valuation of sterling, the end of the coal subsidy, the growth of electric power, the adoption of oil as the fuel of choice for many industries, and over-expansion of the mines in the late nineteenth century. The Welsh coal owners had failed to invest mechanisation during the good years, and by the 1930s the South Wales Coalfield had the lowest productivity, highest production costs and smallest profits of all Britain's coal-producing regions.
These structural problems were followed by the General Strike of 1926 and then most disastrously the interwar depression of 1929–1931, which changed the face of industrial Glamorgan forever. In 1932, Glamorgan had an unemployment rate of more than 40 per cent, and one of the highest proportions of people receiving poor relief in the United Kingdom. This was a contrast with relatively recent prosperity: for example, in 1913 unemployment in Merthyr was below 2 per cent and the borough had 24,000 miners. By 1921, the number of employed miners had fallen to 16,000, and in 1934, it was down to 8,000. Steel production was no less depressed than the coal industry. The inter-war years saw the closure of the old Cyfarthfa and Dowlais works, as steel-making became increasingly concentrated in the coastal belt. Both the coal and steel industries were increasingly dominated by large amalgamations, such as Powell Duffryn and Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds. The smaller companies progressively disappeared.
Glamorgan suffered disproportionately during the Great Depression because of the high proportion of its workforce employed in primary production rather than the manufacture of finished products. Other parts of Britain began to recover as domestic demand for consumer products picked up, but unemployment in the South Wales Valleys continued to rise: the jobless rate in Merthyr reached 47.5 per cent in June 1935. However, the coastal ports, Cardiff and Swansea, managed to sustain a "reasonable" level of economic activity, and the anthracite coalfield in western Glamorgan (and eastern Carmarthenshire) also managed to maintain production and exports above pre-war levels.
With the outbreak of World War II the coalfields of Glamorgan saw a sharp rise in trade and employment. Despite the demand the want for the youth to conscript in the war effort in the valley areas meant that there was a shortage of workers to run the mines; this in turn saw the introduction of the Bevin Boys, workers conscripted to work in the mines. During the war both Cardiff and Swansea were targets for German air attacks due to their important docks.
Buildings and structures of note, 1920–1974
After the First World War, Glamorgan, as was typical for Britain as a whole, entered a period of modernity, which saw buildings built and designed for functionality rather than splendour with period features watered down. As the century progressed, symbols of the past industrial period were torn down and replaced with industrial estates populated by unadorned geometric factories. With concrete becoming the favourite post-war building material, larger office blocks began appearing within the cities, though few were of any architectural significance.
Despite entering a fallow period of architectural design, several structures of note did emerge. Although work began in 1911, The National Museum of Wales (Smith and Brewer) was not completed until 1927 due to the First World War. Designed to reflect sympathetically in dimensions with its neighbouring city hall, the dome-topped museum combines many architectural motifs with Doric columns at its facade, while internally a large entrance hall with stairs, landings and balconies. Percy Thomas' Guildhall in Swansea, an example of the 'stripped modernist' style completed in 1936, was described as "Wales' finest interwar building".
Although functionality often deprived a building of interest, Sully Hospital (Pite, Son & Fairweather) is an example of a building which gained from its functional requirements. Initially built for tubercular patients, whose cure required the maximum amount of light and air, the Functional architecture left a striking glass fronted building, completed in 1936.
Another hospital to which Functionalism was applied was the University Hospital of Wales (S.W. Milburn & Partners). Begun in the 1960s, and completed in 1971, the building is the third largest hospital in the United Kingdom and the largest in Wales. It was designed to bring the care of patients, research and medical teaching together under one roof.
The demands of modern living saw the growth of housing estates throughout Glamorgan, moving away from the Victorian terrace of Cardiff or the ribbon cottages of the valleys. Several of these projects were failures architecturally and socially. Of note were the Billybanks estate in Penarth and Penrhys Estate (Alex Robertson, Peter Francis & Partners) in the Rhondda, both described by Malcolm Parry, the former Head of the School of Architecture at Cardiff University, as "...the worst examples of architecture and planning in Wales."