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Colwinston (Welsh: Tregolwyn) is both a village and a community in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of the centre of Bridgend and 21 miles (34 km) west of the centre of Cardiff. The village is located within 1⁄2 mile (0.80 km) of the A48. The population in 2005 was approximately 400 but with recent building development, the population is now estimated at over 600 people.
- 1 Archaeological and early historical evidence
- 2 Norman rule and new land ownership
- 3 Middle Ages and after
- 4 16th to 19th century
- 5 20th and 21st century
- 6 The Village on Maps and it's Name
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Church of St Michael & All Angels
- 9 Other landmarks
- 10 A Thankful Village
- 11 Culture
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Archaeological and early historical evidence
Bronze Age axe heads discovered on land at Highfield Farm and Iron Age kilns are evidence of settlement during prehistoric times. It has been suggested that the impetus for an agrarian village lies in the gentle valley going east to west towards the village, providing a water supply and creating a natural bowl exists with a present-day exit leading down Church Lane.
Steep slopes in the central part of the village make it unlike other Vale of Glamorgan villages in its topography. The water course is now underground but rises to the surface in prolonged wet weather. The older village houses are situated on the higher ground overlooking meadows, possibly built on the sites of older simple dwellings. Stock were fenced in at night and it is thought the area between Garden and Penlan Cottages and Church Cottage provided protection and water for this purpose. Title Deeds and old census records call this area ‘The Square’. A village well is present near Ty Draw Farm, and it is likely that watercress was harvested from the open water course there . There is evidence of Roman activity in the Vale of Glamorgan, and their link to West Wales was along what would become the route of the A48. Llantwit Major Roman Villa, for example, is thought to have been built on a site occupied since the British Iron Age. (There was another excavation in 1971.) Following the end of Roman rule in Britain, the area was ruled by the medieval "princes" of Morgannwg; their kingdom included the area later known as Glamorgan. During this period the settlement came to be called "Colwinstūn", possibly from an old English name "Colwine" linked with "tūn", meaning farm or settlement.
Norman rule and new land ownership
Caradog ap Gruffudd and Iestyn ap Gwrgant from the north and west usurped the princes in about 1070 . Robert Fitzhamon led the Norman invasion of the area from Bristol, probably by sea. (According to legend, Einion ap Gollwyn treacherously recruited the support of the new Norman invaders to Iestyn’s faction in a major battle at Hirwaun. The origins of this tradition are mentioned by G. J. Williams in Traddodiad Llenyddol Morgannwg (1948) . This is now discredited .) Folklore has it that Fitzhamon's forces lined up for to receive their payment along a section of the A48 adjacent to Colwinston, resulting in the nickname of the "Golden Mile", shown on old maps as being between Twmpath and the main village (and the northern edge of the village's original common); another story suggests that troops in the Civil War gathered here for payment, though it maybe as likely that the name could have come from, for example, yellow gorse plants aong the old road at this point.
Lands were divided up amongst the Norman incomers. William de Londres was granted the lordship of Ogmore (which included Colwinston) by Fitzhamon. William de Londres established Ewenny Priory in 1141 under the Benedictine Abbey in Gloucester and gave 'the Church of St Michael of Ewenny, the Church of St Bridget with the Chapel of Ugemore de Lanfey, the Church of St. Michael of Colvestone with the lands, meadows and all other things belonging unto them’  to the Abbey. The grant of a 66 acre farm (possibly Ty Maen Farm) was later added to this . There is evidence that St Michael and All Angels Church, Colwinston, was founded in 1111, predating the Priory by 30 years.
Middle Ages and after
By 1340, Sir Roger de Bavant had become the owner of the remainder of the Manor. In 1344 (for reasons unknown) he gave his property to the then King of England, Edward III, who (again for reasons unknown) endowed the property upon the Dominican Nuns at Dartford Priory in Kent . Tithes and rents were paid to the two Priories, with the right to appoint the Vicar being with Ewenny Priory. Henry VIII famously seized all monastery lands in 1536, Sir Edward Carne, a commissioner during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, was able to lease Ewenny Priory from the king, eventually purchasing it in 1545 for £727-6s-4d. He also purchased the Dartford priory land at Colwinston  creating a single 'Manor of Colwinston' . By 1539 English law had been extended to cover Wales and the County of Glamorgan was formally established as an administrative unit. Colwinston remained a pocket of recusancy, with priests continuing to administer the sacrament according to the Roman rite. Even into the 17th century, John Lloyd, a local priest under the protection of the Turbevilles at Penlline, was arrested and hanged, drawn and quartered on the Heath at Cardiff in 1679 at the height of the hysteria caused by the 'Popish Plot'.
16th to 19th century
The Norman tradition of primogeniture had taken over in Glamorgan, in contrast with traditional Welsh law. In the 1670s, With no sons to inherit, the Carne family lands were divided between two surviving Carne daughters upon their marriages. Colwinston thus became the property of Sir Edward Mansel, 4th Baronet, of Margam when he married Martha Carne..
In 1747 Bussy Mansel, 4th Baron Mansel, succeeded to the title. Being with direct heirs, he sold the ‘Manor of Colwinston’ to David Thomas ‘of Bath’. David Thomas (a London solicitor) had married into the family that then owned the house at Pwllywrach. He built a new ‘Manor house’ there. Four generations later the Manor was again without a male heir after the death of Hubert be Burgh Thomas. His sister, Mary Anna Thomas, married Charles John Prichard (sometime after 1878), placing the land at Colwinston in trust for their son, Hubert Cecil Prichard.
Small farms were often then sold on to other farmers and landowners in this period. An area of common land of approximately 70 acres, lying alongside the A48 and known as the Golden Mile Common, was ‘enclosed’ by an Act of Parliament called the ‘Golden Mile Award’ in 1871. The village population in the 19th century thus became formed around the Pwllywrach House and Hilton Farm, a number of small farm units stretching west-east from Ty Maen to the Yew Tree and Chapel Farms, north to Claypit and Highfield Farms and south to Stembridge and Parcau Farms, some labourers’ cottages (often owned by the Pwllywrach estate), the Church and the Parsonage (and the then Vicarage) and three chapels. Some of the land on the northern side of village was owned by Jesus College, Oxford. Some farms on the higher ground had rain water storage tanks, other houses have been built along water courses to be able to access water using their own wells. Agriculture was supported by other trades including the Sycamore Tree Inn (recorded back to at least 1840, the building is post-medieval), a forge and blacksmith, baker, shoe maker, post office and horse breaker.
However, there was a substantial turnover in the village population, especially following the start of the Industrial Revolution. The new industrial developments around South Wales attracted people away from farm work. Census records show that of the 268 people living in the village in 1861, only 98 had been living in the village in 1851; 168 people who died or moved away during that decade were replaced by a high number of births and people moving in from West Wales and Ireland.
The 1861 census also shows some children as attending a private school within the village. The present school was established in 1871, in the building now known as Ty Colwyn, as a ‘National’ school supported by the (then) Church of England. There were 27 children on the original register. From 1875 the school was funded through a voluntary Parish rate. The present village school was built in 1970.
The Anglican church was challenged by the development of chapel communities in the village, particularly for Welsh-language speakers. The Seion (Methodist) Chapel was built in 1830, surviving until 1996. The Ebenezer Baptist Chapel was founded in 1843 and a building established in 1852 using part of Chapel Farm House. It continued in use until 1944. A baptismal pool was created by blocking off a stream in the field below Cynma House.
In 1865, a village branch of the Philanthropic Order of True Ivorites was established, based at the Sycamore Tree Inn, conducting its business in Welsh. This provided a vehicle for villagers with independent incomes to save, and then possibly to buy, their own properties. It finally closed in 1960, and the order as a whole disbanded in the early 1970s.
COLWINSTON, or, TRE COLLWYN, in the Cwmwd of Maenor Glynn Ogwr, Cantref of Cron Nedd (now called the Hundred of Ogmore),County of GLAMORGAN, South Wales: a discharged Vicarage, valued in the King's Books at £6 6s.8d.; Patron, David Thomas, Esq.: Church dedicated to St. Michael. The Resident Population of this Parish, in 1801, was 235. The Money raised by the Parish Rates, in 1803, was £101 6s.10d., at 1s. 6d. per acre. It is 4 m. W. N. W. from Cowbridge. This Parish contains between fourteen and fifteen hundred acres of inclosed Land, and 60 acres of common Pasture, called The Golden Mile. According to the Diocesan Report, in 1809, the yearly value of this Benefice, arising from Vicarial Tythes, and Augmentation, was £111 18s.0d.
20th and 21st century
Surplus agricultural produce was exported to Bristol (by sea) and then to the growing communities in the South Wales coalfields by rail. With motorised transport, the population could travel further afield (chapel outings for example), though obviously links further south and east remained limited by the Severn Estuary. There are slow changes to the population which also then began to grow away from its agricultural origins. The industrial growth in the South Wales coalfields also provided an economic alternative for many as the need for intensive labour on farms is replaced by machinery and the village population declined. The industrial developments also generated new markets for agricultural produce. Some of the original houses fell into disrepair as these population movements took place.
Twenty three villagers signed up to the First World War and all returned, so the village is one of only three Thankful Villages in Wales. Colonel Hubert Cecil Prichard came to live at Pwllywrach after the First World War. His son Hubert de Burgh Prichard famously married Rosalind Christie, the only daughter of Agatha Christie, their son Mathew Prichard being given the proceeds from the royalties of The Mousetrap. He subsequently used the substantial sums from the play to establish the Colwinston Charitable Trust in 1995.
Gradually ‘modern’ features eventually found their way to the village including mains water in 1935, and electricity and telephone (in the form of a public kiosk) from 1946 onwards. A new water main was laid from the A48 in 1972 and a new sewerage scheme laid in 1973. Beech Park was built in the 1960s with other small developments following. The smaller, mostly tenanted, farms became unviable in the latter part of the 20th century. The remaining farm buildings between Church Farm and Colwinston House (built originally as a Dower House for Pwllywrach) were gradually sold as residential houses, with the barns and rickyards between the farm houses also being sold off for development. The Pwllyrwrach estate created a single large farm based at Pwllyrwrach Farm, concentrating on sheep and beef cattle farming (rather than the dairy farming which had previously been predominant).
The agricultural land in and around the village is now variously owned by the Pwllyrwrach Estate, a number of independent landowners (especially to the north and west of the village) as well as a small number of independent farmers who have bought and/or inherited land over the centuries. Other properties are owned by the Vale of Glamorgan Council for the school, the Village Hall and the remaining social housing. Finally, most private housing is now owned by individual house owners, either as recently built housing or older houses purchased originally from the Pwllywrach estate, the Council, the Chapel organisations and the Church or other original villagers and farmers.
The main fabric of the village was thus set until 2016 when the developer Redrow plc built 64 new homes on land now known as Heol Cae Pwll (completed in 2018), increasing the population to over 600. Protests against the extent of the development by local residents were overruled by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Community representatives pointed to regular flooding and said that "adding 64 homes to a village with 130 at the moment can only increase that risk".. The development has though now brought many new families to the village to join with and support a particularly vibrant set of community organisations for which the village has become known. With this has also come ‘fibre’ broadband to extend the opportunities and challenges provided by the internet.
The Village on Maps and it's Name
A 16th century map (probably of lands inherited by the Duchy of Lancaster) shows the village as Colwyns' Tone. The name was sometimes shortened to Coulston (e.g. Christopher Saxton's map of 1578). The village name was later usually spelled as one word, most commonly as Colwinstone or Colwinston. The Ordnance Survey has used ‘Colwinston’ since 1833 (reflecting the usual pronunciation) but some official sources (e.g. census records, official postal addresses) included an -e until the latter part of the 20th century.
The Welsh name of the village was not often recorded in official documents because of restrictions on the use of Welsh but it appears to be derived from the translation of tun as "Tref" ("town"), and the Welsh name "Colwyn" or "Collwyn", which also has a literal meaning of ‘cub, whelp, puppy’. "Colwyn" mutates to "golwyn" in Welsh because "tref" is a feminine noun. Tregolwyn first appears in writing c.1566 (tref golwyn) although it is likely to have originated at a much earlier date.
Colwinston's population was 447, according to the 2011 census; a 10.1% increase since the 406 people noted in 2001. This has recently been increased through the addition of 64 family homes. The 2011 census showed 13.1% of the population could speak Welsh, a rise from 7.8% in 2001.
The original Norman St Michael's Church in Colwinston is reputed to have been built in 1111.. A full history of the Church is included in Colwinston - A Changing Village . The church was restored in 1879 and suffered a fire in 1971.
The medieval parish church is a Grade 1 listed building. The church was restored in 1879 by Henry J Williams of Bristol in the course of which the rood loft was discovered and the doors at the entrance and upper level replaced and a new door placed in the porch. New windows were inserted in the nave, the old stone pulpit replaced by an oak one and a new oak communion table, lectern and chancel furniture installed. The contractor was Thomas Thomas of Colwinston and the cost of £800 defrayed by Mrs Mary Collins Prichard who had recently come to live at Pwllywrach and, as patron of the ‘living’, wished to put the church in a good state of repair. In 1881 when additional accommodation was required for the then 64 parishioners the architect John Prichard simply reseated the church with open benches at a cost of £120.
Restoration work was carried out on the church in 1971 following a fire which badly damaged the chancel, destroying the brass tablets either side of the altar displaying the Ten Commandments. It was at this time that the words “Holy, Holy, Holy” painted in scroll work above the chancel arch were painted over.
Further restoration work at the church was carried out at the millennium with the benefit of a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund together with grants from other bodies and funds raised by the villagers. A vestry, kitchen and toilet were built on the north side of the church, the interior and exterior walls were lime washed and the roof repaired at a cost of £350,000.
Of the ten Grade II listed buildings in the village, all date from the medieval or immediate post-medieval period. These include a thatched house, "The Old Parsonage", the former manor house of Pwllywrach, and several former farmhouses. The Old Parsonage, a thatched house dating to the 16th century at the crossroads and opposite the southeast corner of churchyard, has a Gothic or Tudor arch and the building is "one of only two in Glamorgan with a latrine in the form of a small closet at the side of the fireplace.".
In 1835, the Seion Presbyterian Chapel was built but it closed in 1996; it later became a residential building. In 1843, the Ebenezer Baptist Chapel was established and the building was completed in 1852. The last minister was the Rev A.E. Powell of Balarat, who served at the church between 1905 and 1944 before the church became part of a house.
A Thankful Village
Colwinston is one of only three villages in Wales which suffered no fatalities in World War I and one of only 53 Thankful Villages in the UK. However, the village lost four men in World War II, one of whom was Agatha Christie's son-in-law, Colonel Hubert Prichard. Welcome signs at the entrance to the village reflected its status as a thankful village from but the village had no war memorial until 2014, when one was erected on the village green.
The major social event of the year is the annual village fete, usually held during the first or second week in July. Other annual events include a pantomime and the New Year's Day sport of "collyball". A multi-use games area (MUGA) was constructed close to the village hall in 2013.
The village published it's own local source book 'Colwinston - A Changing Village', together with an updated history of the village: 'Colwinston - A Historical Journey' (published by Cowbridge History Society)). Both were launched at a celebration in the Village Hall on 7th November 2018.
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