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South entrance to Aberfan - geograph.org.uk - 83369.jpg
South entrance to Aberfan in November 2005
Aberfan is located in Merthyr Tydfil
Location within Merthyr Tydfil
OS grid referenceSO070002
Principal area
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townMerthyr Tydfil
Postcode districtCF48
Dialling code01443
PoliceSouth Wales
FireSouth Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
Merthyr Tydfil
51°41′30″N 03°20′44″W / 51.69167°N 3.34556°W / 51.69167; -3.34556Coordinates: 51°41′30″N 03°20′44″W / 51.69167°N 3.34556°W / 51.69167; -3.34556

Aberfan (Welsh pronunciation: [ˌabɛrˈvan]) is a former coal mining village in the Taff Valley 4 mi (6 km) south of the town of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

On 21 October 1966, it became known for the Aberfan disaster, when a colliery spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.


Aberfan is situated toward the bottom of the western valley slope of the River Taff, on the eastern slope of Mynydd Merthyr hill, about four mi (6 km) south of the town Merthyr Tydfil. The Taff runs north-to-south through the village; at the upper side of the settlement, on the western outskirts, a disused Glamorganshire Canal bed and a railway embankment run parallel to the river.[1]: 13  [2]: 2–3 


Aberfan consisted of two cottages and an inn frequented by local farmers and bargemen until 23 August 1869, when John Nixon and his partners started the Merthyr Vale Colliery.[2]: 7 

Between 1952 and 1965, with mountains denuded there was severe flooding in the Pantglas area of Aberfan on at least 11 occasions.[1]: 20  By 1966 the population had grown to approximately 5,000, most of whom were employed in the coal industry.

Aberfan disaster, 1966[edit]

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.[3]

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 slid into the village in a slurry 12 m (39 ft) deep.[4]

The slide destroyed a farm and 20 terraced houses along Moy Road, and struck 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 m (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.[5]

Aberfan memorials[edit]

White arches in Bryntaf Cemetery, Aberfan mark the graves of children killed in the disaster
Aberfan Memorial Garden on the site of the children's school

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh visited Aberfan on 29 October 1966.[6]

After the disaster the Mayor of Merthyr immediately launched a disaster fund to aid the village and the bereaved. By the time the fund closed in January 1967, nearly 90,000 contributions had been received, totalling £1,606,929. The fund's final sum was approximately £1,750,000 (equivalent to £34 million in 2021[7]). The concerns of the village and donors grew about how the money in the fund would be used: some felt it should be used to compensate the bereaved, whilst others felt it should benefit the wider community. The funds paid for the memorial garden and cemetery along with other facilities to aid the regeneration of Aberfan both physically and emotionally.[8]

The Aberfan Cemetery is where many of the victims are buried. The original Portland and Nabresina Stone memorials erected shortly after the disaster began to deteriorate, and in 2007 the Aberfan Memorial Charity refurbished the garden area, including all of the archways and memorials. The weathered masonry was replaced with polished pearl white granite, all inscriptions were re-engraved and additional archways were erected.[9]

The Coventry Playground was built in 1972 on the site of the old Merthyr Vale School, with money collected by the people of Coventry. The playground was officially opened by the mayor of Coventry.[10]

A memorial garden was opened on the site of Pantglas Primary School, which was destroyed during the disaster. The park was partly opened by the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, on her visit to Aberfan in 1974.[citation needed]

The Aberfan Memorial Charity was founded in 1989 and is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the cemetery and memorial garden.[11]

Places of worship[edit]

Bethania Welsh Independent Chapel was built in 1876 and rebuilt in 1885.[12][13][14] At the time of the Aberfan disaster in 1966 the chapel was used as a temporary mortuary where victims were taken to be identified by relatives.[15] The chapel was demolished in 1967 and a new chapel erected in 1970. By 2007 the chapel had fallen into disrepair and was closed; memorial items from the disaster were relocated to Cardiff Bay.[16]

Aberfan Calvinistic Methodist chapel was built 1876, in an Italianate style.[17] The foundation stone was laid by Sarah Griffiths, wife of the owner of the Aberfan Estate. It became a Grade II listed building in August 1999, for its architectural interest as a well-designed Victorian chapel with an unaltered stone facade; it was judged to be prominent in Aberfan, and had retained its interior with a good gallery.[18] After the Aberfan disaster, the chapel was furnished with a memorial organ by the Queen. After extensive renovation, the chapel reopened at Easter 2008, but dry rot quickly set in, destroying newly installed window frames and beams. The cost of repair was estimated at £60,000. In August 2012 parishioners were banned from attending the church after an inspection condemned the building, and in October it was offered for sale, with a guide price of £22,000.[19][20]

In 2015 a fire was reported at the chapel in the early hours of 11 July. Fire crews from Merthyr, Treharris, Abercynon, Aberbargoed, Pontypridd and Barry attended, spending a total of eight hours at the scene. Nearby houses were evacuated.[21] A 27-year-old man was later arrested in relation to the fire.[22][23]

Zion Methodist Church

The village has two smaller chapels:[24] the former Smyrna Baptist Chapel, built in 1877, which is now closed and is used as a community centre,[25] and the Zion Methodist Chapel, originally English Primitive Methodist, located on Bridge Street and built in 1891.[26]


Aberfan lies next to the main A470 road, but its nearest junction is 4 mi (6.4 km) north of the village. Aberfan is served by Merthyr Vale railway station, on the Merthyr line. The Taff Trail, a long-distance cycle route and footpath, passes through Aberfan, partly following the route of the filled-in Glamorganshire Canal.


Aberfan has two primary schools: Ynysowen Primary School adjacent to the Grove Field; and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Rhyd y Grug, which has moved to the previously occupied Ynysowen Primary School building.[27]


  • Aberfan & Merthyr Vale Community Centre: opened in 1973 with a swimming pool, fitness room, weights room, café and a hall.
  • Aberfan Cemetery and Aberfan Disaster Memorial


  1. ^ a b Davies, Edmund (1967). Report of the Tribunal Appointed to Inquire into the Disaster at Aberfan on October 21st, 1966 (PDF). London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. OCLC 209323.
  2. ^ a b Austin, Tony (1967). Aberfan: The Story of a Disaster. London: Hutchinson & Co. OCLC 751632264.
  3. ^ martin. "Letters used as evidence by Tribunal of Inquiry". nuffield.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  4. ^ "South Wales Police official website – The Aberfan Disaster". Archived from the original on 7 February 2009.
  5. ^ "1966: Aberfan – a generation wiped out". bbc.co.uk. 21 October 1966. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Her Majesty: new book of photographs celebrating the life of Queen Elizabeth II". telegraph.co.uk. 2 December 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  7. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  8. ^ Johnes, Martin. "The Aberfan Disaster Fund". nuffield.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Aberfan Cemetery – Aberfan Disaster Memorials – Projects – Mossfords, suppliers of memorials since 1821". Archived from the original on 7 July 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Petition to save Aberfan memorial". BBC News. 13 July 2004. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  11. ^ "THE ABERFAN MEMORIAL CHARITY :: OpenCharities". opencharities.org. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Aberfan – Bethania Chapel". flickr.com. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  13. ^ GENUKI. "Genuki: Chapels – Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan". genuki.org.uk/. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  14. ^ "The Chapels of Aberfan (1) Early Days & Revival". daibach-welldigger.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  15. ^ "BBC News – In pictures: Aberfan Disaster, Mortuary". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  16. ^ Administrator, walesonline (4 October 2007). "Aberfan memorial move". walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  17. ^ "CAPEL ABERFAN; CALVINISTIC METHODIST CHAPEL, ABERFAN ROAD, ABERFAN – Coflein". coflein.gov.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  18. ^ Stuff, Good. "Aberfan Calvinistic Methodist Chapel – Merthyr Vale – Merthyr Tydfil – Wales – British Listed Buildings". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  19. ^ Administrator, walesonline (11 October 2012). "Historic chapel in Aberfan is put up for sale". walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  20. ^ Prior, Neil (9 October 2012). "Capel Aberfan to be sold with repairs too costly". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  21. ^ Day, Liz (11 July 2015). "Aberfan chapel 'in danger of collapse' following early morning fire". walesonline.co.uk/. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  22. ^ Lewis, Carys (13 July 2015). "Man, 27, arrested in connection with blaze which destroyed chapel in Aberfan". walesonline.co.uk/. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Arsonist admits burning down historic Aberfan chapel because he". southwales-eveningpost.co.uk. 30 August 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  24. ^ "The Churches of Britain and Ireland – Aberfan". churches-uk-ireland.org. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  25. ^ Aberfan image Archived 21 October 2022 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Aberfan Zion Archived 21 October 2022 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "List of Schools". Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. Retrieved 29 October 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Aberfan at Wikimedia Commons