South entrance to Aberfan in November 2005
Aberfan shown within Merthyr Tydfil
|OS grid reference|
|Principal area||Merthyr Tydfil|
|Ceremonial county||Mid Glamorgan|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||Merthyr Tydfil|
|UK Parliament||Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney|
|Welsh Assembly||Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney|
Aberfan (Welsh pronunciation: [ˌabɛrˈvan]) is a former coal mining village in South Wales, 4 miles (6 km) south of the town of Merthyr Tydfil. The Taff Trail (locally known as the "Canal Bank" or just "the bank") runs through Aberfan from Troed-y-rhiw, to Treharris. The River Taff also flows through Aberfan.
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 slid into the village in a slurry 12 metres (39 ft) deep.
The slide destroyed a farm and twenty 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 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.
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 (£22.3 million equivalent in 2016 after inflation). 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.
The 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.
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.
The Aberfan Memorial Charity was founded in 1989 and is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the cemetery and memorial garden.
Places of worship
Bethania Welsh Independent Chapel was built in 1876 and rebuilt in 1885. 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. 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.
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. A 27-year-old man was later arrested in relation to the fire.
Aberfan Calvinistic Methodist chapel was built 1876, in an Italianate style. 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. 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.
Disgwylfa Welsh Methodist Chapel, in Station Road, Grays Place, was built in 1876, and rebuilt in 1907, in the sub-classical/arts and crafts style of the gable-entry type, with two storeys and four square turrets projecting above the roof line. The windows are round-headed with small panes and the pulpit is positioned at the end of the chapel. By 1996 the chapel had fallen into disuse.
The village also has two other smaller chapels: the former Smyrna Baptist Chapel, built in 1877, which is now closed and is used as a community centre, and the Zion Methodist Chapel, originally English Primitive Methodist, located on Bridge Street and built in 1891.
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.
- Aberfan & Merthyr Vale Community Centre - a community centre with a swimming pool, fitness room, weights room, cafe and a hall.
- The post office in the village is open six days a week.
- Aberfan Cemetery and Aberfan Disaster Memorial.
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