Merthyr Vale shown within Merthyr Tydfil
|Principal area||Merthyr Tydfil|
|Ceremonial county||Mid Glamorgan|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney|
|Welsh Assembly||Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney|
Merthyr Vale (Welsh: Ynysowen or Ynyswen) is a linear village in the Welsh county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. Lying on the A4054 road it is on the east bank of the River Taff. The name is also given to a community which includes the villages of Aberfan on the opposite side of the Taff, Mount Pleasant and the village of Merthyr Vale itself.
Ynys Owen, which translates from Welsh to English as Owain’s riverside meadow, has been claimed by some to possibly commemorated Owain Glyn Dwr, whose followers were involved in an uprising around 1400. The area was referred to and written as Ynys Owen as early as 1630, noting that the narrow valley was heavily wooded, with various traditional Tyddyns (long-house farms) marking out the various rural farming territories.
There had been small scale coal extraction at Danyderi and Perthygleision, but in 1869 John Nixon started development of the Taff Colliery, later to be known as the Merthyr Vale Colliery. The village immediately grew up around the shaft development, as did the later communities of Aberfan, Nixonville and Mount Pleasant. Completed in 1875, when the first commercial coal was brought up, there was a celebration called in the local Windsor Hotel.
As the colliery was not the first developed in the area, and as colliery developers and owners were known to generally restrict spending on surrounding communities in which they housed their workers, Merthyr Tydfil council insisted on Merthyr Vale being developed with both adequate sanitation, as well as community infrastructure. Resultantly, planning regulations stipulated that the Parish had effective sanitary and water supplies from the beginning.
Commercial hotels, public houses and clubs, developed on an exclusive lease from the colliery owner, soon appeared to fill the leisure time and keep workers within the area. Religious buildings included chapels and churches for: Zion, Baptist, Calfaria, Welsh Baptist Bethel, Wesleyan Methodist, Disgwylfa, Calvinist Methodist and Trinity, Presbyterian. Zion and Calfaria merged in 1974 to form the modern Baptist Church at Nixonville, which contains the first fibre-glass Baptistry built in Wales. St Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church was built in 1932. The Anglican Church of St Mary and Holy Innocents was built in 1974; replacing the earlier church which was built, with help from Merthyr Vale Colliery, in 1926.
The former Merthyr Vale School was built in 1879, while the Mount Pleasant School dates from 1912. Merthyr Vale railway station opened in 1883. The Gordon Lennox Constitutional Club was built in 1901, by the proprietor of the Brown-Lennox Engineering Company in Pontypridd, also the President of the East Glamorgan Conservative.
In World War II, while on a training exercise from No.53 OTU, two Royal Canadian Air Force Supermarine Spitfires collided over the village on 7 July 1941. The aircraft (X4024) of Sgt Gerald Fenwick Manuel (R/69888), 25, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, crashed into the home of the Cox family, claiming the lives of Doreen Cox 33, and her two daughters Phyllis, 14 and Doreen, 3. Husband James Cox, who was a shift worker at a munitions factory and was asleep in the house at the time of the crash, was thrown to safety; their three boys, Donald, Thomas and Len, were out playing. Neighbours tried to rescue the family - who had just returned from a shopping trip - but the heat from the fire was too intense. The second aircraft (X4607) of Sgt Lois "Curly" Goldberg (R/56185), 27, from Montreal, crashed into a field in Mount Pleasant, Treharris. The bodies of Sgt Manuel and the deceased family members were buried two days later in Ffrwd Cemetery, Merthyr Tydfil, while the body of Sgt Goldberg was interned in the Jewish cemetery at Cefn-coed-y-cymmer. A mural was painted by local school children and unveiled by the Canadian High Commissioner shortly afterwards on the same site, while there is an ongoing campaign by the Cox family for a permanent memorial.
The village appears in Richard Fleischer's 1971 film, 10 Rillington Place starring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. As Timothy Evans (Hurt) comes back to Wales, he is seen walking from the station, with various scenes then shot inside the main village.
For many years, millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris from the colliery were deposited on the side of Mynydd Merthyr, directly above the village of Aberfan on the opposite side of the valley. Huge piles, or 'tips', of loose rock and mining spoil had been built up over a layer of highly porous sandstone that contained numerous underground springs, and several tips had been built up directly over these springs. Although local authorities had raised specific concerns in 1963 about spoil being tipped on the mountain above the village primary school, these were largely ignored by the National Coal Board's area management.
Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence of about 3–6 metres occurred on the upper flank of colliery waste tip No. 7. At 9:15 a.m. more than 150,000 cubic metres of water-saturated debris broke away and flowed downhill at high speed. A mass of over 40,000 cubic metres of debris smashed into the village in a slurry 12 metres (39 ft) deep.
The slide destroyed a farm and twenty terraced houses along Moy Road, and slammed into the northern side of the Pantglas Junior School and part of the separate senior school, demolishing most of the structures and filling the classrooms with thick mud and rubble up to 10 metres (33 ft) deep. Mud and water from the slide flooded many other houses in the vicinity, forcing many villagers to evacuate their homes.
In total, 116 children and 28 adults were killed.
The Coventry Playground was built in 1972 on the site of the old Merthyr Vale School, with the monies collected by the people of Coventry. The playground was officially opened by the mayor of Coventry.
- Idloes Owen (1894-1954), Founder of the Welsh National Opera was born in Merthyr Vale, 30 Crescent Street,
- Thomas Henry Morgan (1898-1957), composed the music to 'We'll Keep a Welcome' (sold to Mai Jones who published it in 1943) was born in Merthyr Vale, 8 Station Terrace,
- "Merthyr Vale Colliery". alangeorge.co.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- Hutton, John (2006). The Taff Vale Railway, vol. 1. Silver Link. ISBN 978-1-85794-249-1.
- "Sgt (Pilot) Louis Goldberg RCAF - 27 - R/56185 - Died 7/7/41". rafcommands.com. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- "Sgt Gerald Fenwick Manuel (R/69888)". Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- "Sgt Lois "Curly" Goldberg (R/56185)". Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- "Photo Collection Relating to LOUIS GOLDBERG". Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- "Air crash relatives want memorial". BBC Wales. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- Iain McLean & Martin Johnes: The Aberfan Disaster website
- South Wales Police official website - The Aberfan Disaster
- Old Merthyr Tydfil: Merthyr Vale- Historical Photographs of Merthyr Vale.
- GENUKI(tm) page
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Merthyr Vale and surrounding area
- Map sources for Merthyr Vale