An eventfull 200 years
The parish records 0f 1810 the area we now call Treharris was just a small Hamlet with of 27 families employed in Agriculture. By 1870 an area described as Graigberthlwyd (Graig - Rock/Stone Perth - Bush/Hedge Llwyd Grey) had been established along with another settlement in the Quakers Yard area.
F.W.Harris was the Chairman of a coal company and he arrived in the area in the early 1870’s he decided that it was a perfect location to sink a deep coalmine, he purchased the land off Twyn-y-Garreg farm that decision was the historic event that founded the town of Treharris that has developed to this day.
Huts were built for the sinkers of the mine in 1872 (approximately) and the sinking was complete by 1879, six difficult years after the sinking had begun. Once the colliery was ready to produce coal the demand for accommodation and housing meant that hundreds of houses, chapels, public houses ,public Halls and amenities had to be built and the village grew rapidly, with houses also being built in the small village across the River Taf Bargoed in Trelewis.
This once beautiful valley river was hidden in a tunnel underground so that the Treharris colliery surface could be expanded, it re entered the sunlight at the bottom of the new Viaduct that was built to carry trains through the area, it then travelled down the valley to meet the main river Taff at Quakers Yard.
In 1889, Treharris football club was formed, The football Club is the oldest in South Wales and in 1902-1903 were the founder members of The Welsh Football League.
In January 1893, David Davies’ Ocean coal company took over Harris’s colliery and invested heavily into the mine, they also re named the pit “Deep Navigation” . The Towns growth was almost fully dependant on the success of the mine.
Kelly’s directory of 1901 recorded that Treharris had expanded rapidly into a town, with well built houses, places of business and gas driven well lit streets.
There were around 80 businesses recorded in Treharris in 1901 they were 17 grocers, 9 drapers, 9 shopkeepers, 8 boot dealers, 6 butchers, 4 watch makers, 4 hair dressers, and 3 ironmongers. Also listed were an undertaker, carpenter, saddlers and builders. Samuel Fagot, Solomon Grwsener, and Samuel Joseph (pawnbroker) were three Jewish businessmen in the Town at the time.
In 1909, the Treharris Library became the sixth branch library opened in the Borough, at a total cost of £10,000.
Treharris was a thriving community by 1912 and business was booming in the village. There were now 3 banks, Lloyd's, London and Provincial and the Metropolitan bank of England and Wales. Fox Street, Perrott Street and Thomas Street, which led to the railway station, were the three main shopping streets, although small shops were open in streets throughout the village.
Some of the businesses listed in Fox street in 1912, in the Wales Trade Directory were.
Mr. E Jones, Fruit and Vegetable green grocer ,The Navigation Hotel, Fox Street ,R Jones, Boot and shoe maker, Evans and Sons, Grocers ,H. E. Fine, Tailor and Clothier, D. J. Williams Grocer, Edwards and sons, Watchmakers and Jewelers, D. Clee Cycle agents, J Jenkins, Grocer ,David Clee, Ironmongers
J Hill, Boot and shoe maker, Thomas and Thomas the Chemists, the Square, Treharris , W. Griffiths, Butchers, the square, Treharris and the Palace miners institute.
South Wales’ first ever pit head baths was built in Treharris in 1919
During the 1920’s and 1930’s large scale unrest swept through the coalfield and Treharris was badly affected the town played a major role during the years of hardship, suffering and confrontation between the owners and the men. Thankfully the disputes ended by the end of the 1930’s when the Miners Federation had achieved a victory in the struggle on behalf of it’s members and their families.
During the 1940’s the Italians arrived and one particular cafe called Brachi’s was later owned by the Conti, Opel and Spinetti families. Victor Spinetti the famous actor born in 1933 regularly visited Spinetti’s cafe in Treharris, home to his relatives.
During the war Years, Bevin boys arrived to work in the pit and many of the Treharris women went to work in the factories at Treforest which had been requisitioned by the ministry of aircraft production, it was the first time that these ladies had been able to obtain full time work and add to the weekly wages of their families. The essential work order of 1941 tied the Treharris men to their reserved occupation and prevented them from joining the armed forces or from seeking work in the high paid jobs at the munitions factories
In 1947, The National coal board nationalized Deep Navigation colliery and it was seen as a time to celebrate by the people of the town, big things were promised and better pay and working conditions mean happy time for the community.
The following is a recollection of Aldo Opel, a good friend of this website who wrote about life in the town after the war...
A Town well Served:
The Treharris of my youth was fairly well contained town, most facilities were available. If one were seeking, perhaps, a greater variety, it could be found in Merthyr, Pontypridd or Cardiff. A frequent bus service was readily available. Merthyr Corporation provided a 30 minute service to Merthyr, and along with the Cardiff Corporation and the Western Welsh an hourly service to Cardiff. The latter was also supplemented by the White via Nelson at five past the hour in front of the Navigation Hotel. Transport to Pontypridd was provided by our local Bus service known as the Comm ( Commercial Motors) and Pontypridd U.D.C. The Comm also provided service to Bedlinog and Blackwood. The railway station offered train
service to Pontypool Road.
In an earlier article I had written about shops in Fox Street and Perrott Street. There were also a few outside that main shopping area, namely Emlyn Stores, a family grocers at the top of Thornwood, opposite the Royal Hotel, owned by the Griffith family. There was a Singer sewing machine shop on lower Thomas street, Trevor Knight's Ladies fashion store on the hill between Brynteg and Bargoed terraces, across from the Commercial Hotel, rounded off by a few front room shops on Fell street and Brynteg terrace.
At first glance one could be excused for thinking that the town was deeply religious one, it seemed to cover the whole spectrum of religious denominations in the Western world. Starting from the top there was a relatively newcomer, a pentecostal church between Webster street and Evans street. At the top of Webster street stood the Salvation Army. Bethania Chapel on Penn Street, St. Matthius Anglican Church on Bargoed Terrace. Then on Perrott Street there was
Tabernacle, Bethel, Forward Movement. On John Street English and Welsh Methodist chapels, Church of Christ at the bottom of Commercial Terrace. On lower Thomas Street Brynhyfred . The Roman Catholic church near Susanah Place. In all 12 religious institutions. There was the usual confusion with families. I recall my friend John Hopkin (Shoe shop-Fox Street) on a Sunday having to go Tabernacle in the morning to meet the religious aspirations of his father, and the Welshness of Brynhyfred in the evening to satisfy his mother.
In the entertainment and amusement sectors much depended on one's age and interests. Of course the Palace theatre was front and centre with tw different film programs a week. If one was not happy about what was being shown, there was always a walk to Nelson through the Pandy Fields or catch a readily available bus, and take a seat at the Cosy cinema. For the pre-teens there was the occasional magic lantern show at the Parish Hall. The latter was also the location of the Girls and Boys Scout gatherings.
Dancing was high on the entertainment list for obvious reasons, mainly provided by Rink and on special occasions the Cooperative hall on Williams Terrace.There were the odd dances at the community halls of Trelewis and Nelson. For the frequent dancer one could always go to the Empress in Abercynon on a Tuesday.
When I reflect upon the town of that period, the late forties and early fifties, all sorts of activities come to mind for all ages. In listing them I am sure to overlook a number of them, for that I apologise in advance.
Outdoor Activities: There were the usual ones found at the Park, tennis, lawn bowling, football, rugby, and even cricket where a flat wicket had been made between the then sloping fields of rugby and football. The Park in those days was magnificently maintained, frequent flower beds and manicured lawns. It was well worth the walk. Each summer saw the annual Fete and Gala take place at the part the Park, always well attended.
The Swimming pool at Edwardsville was then an open air one, so most sporting activities presented themselves, even a golf course above Fiddlers Elbow.
Treharris had two senior football clubs,(no rugby other than that provided by the Quakers Yard Grammar School) Treharris Athletic who played in the first division of the Welsh League and the then declining Treharris Rangers. Both played at the Commercial Field. I have some quirky memories of that field. Post war there were no painted lines marking its contours. The line marking was provided by the laying down of damp sawdust obtained from the colliery. The cutting of the grass, particularly after the summer growth was quite an event, a number of helpers pushing roller cutters up and down the field, and where the grass particularly tall and thick a couple of scythes were used. It was quite a performance. I can't leave the activities at the field without to the Cue and Ball
A Football Tournament organised primarily by Alcwyn Thomas at the Den (Snooker Hall at the Square). Anyone who could form a team was able to enter. The Den itself had two teams, Cue & Ball A and B. To be a member of the B team you had to be at least 39, I suspect that that must have been Alcwyn's age at the time.
There was also, I believe a stipulation, about the consumption of beer before the game. I was at the Grammar school at the time and we decided to enter a team.I don't know who arranged the draw but we found ourselves facing Cue & Ball B for the first game. For the most part it was fun and largely enjoyable if I forget the number of bruises we collected. The Den had even chartered a bus to transport their supporters to the field, after all it was a distance of at least 200 yards.
The seventies saw the return of disputes and the miners were on strike during 1972 and 1974, both times they forced the government to agree to their terms but in 1984 another strike was called for, it lasted for nearly a year, this time the miners lost
The last coal was raised from the colliery on March 29 th 1991 (Good Friday)
The closure of the colliery was to prove a devastating blow to the town and its people but life had to go on, Men and women had to find alternative work and it was a difficult time once again. Men had large redundancy payments but it could not last forever, businesses began to close and the whole structure of Treharris changed.
Treharris from the air, not sure of date but believe it to be between the wars.No sign of Stormtown or Twyn y garreg
Above we see the entrance to the Deep Navigation colliery in 1991 shortly before its closure
Taf Bargoed parc was built on the site of Deep Navigation and it is a wonderful place to walk and enjoy, the river is once more visible in the valley and it is a far healthier place to live. The businesses in Treharris have all but disappeared apart from the thriving take away shops. There are still some left though including the Co Operative which has served the town for decades albeit in different locations.
There were three large public houses in the town for many years but Commercial Hotel, next to Treharris Football club, had to be demolished due to structural damage. The Royal was the last of the three pubs to be built and alongside the Navigation Hotel it has served the town for over 100 years. Times are hard these days and the two pubs need people to use them or lose them.
Three checks that could be used in Treharris over 100 years ago.
There is a one way road system in operation these days and a new road behind Fox street. A new development is being built to replace the old Rahbers corner and there is work starting on a brand new Surgery just below the Boys club. Treharris is now economically worse off than it has been for many years but on a positive side the former beauty of the valley has returned.
The Brewery in Treharris used to be sited opposite Alda's cafe in Mary Street...below are two photographs by Roger Vowles, one he took of the site today, and the other he has super imposed an image of the brewery.
Where the brewery was...ofcourse it went quite a way further back
We have found an article written in November 1966, it describes a time when oil was discovered in the North Sea and the possible implications for Treharris...courtesy of the Merthyr Express and Merthyr Tydfil Library archives.