Following the creation of the seat in 1885, this predominantly mining constituency, which included the Llyfni, Garw and Ogmore valleys, was initially represented by the Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan, Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, who had served as a member for the Glamorgan county seat since 1830. Despite his venerable status, a meeting of the Liberal Association held at Maesteg initially considered other candidates including Gwilym Williams and J. Carvell Williams. Although a leading member of the county aristocracy, Talbot did at this time support the principle of electing working men to parliament, especially in mining constituencies, and endorsed the efforts of the Rhondda miners to have William Abraham (Mabon) selected as Liberal candidate for the new Rhondda constituency.
Despite adopting a number of Gladstonian principles, Talbot remained opposed to Irish Home Rule, and this was inevitably going to present a difficulty at the 1886 general election. There was criticism of Talbot's views in the more industrial parts of the constituency, such as the Maesteg area. He wrote to his fellow county member, Hussey Vivian, that he had a meeting with Maesteg Liberals and although they were friendly to his face, 'I am told that [they] became quarrelsome after I left, and suggested various substitutes'. A number of alternative candidates were suggested, including Abel Thomas, John Cory, Thomas Williams of Merthyr, R.D. Burnie and Cyril Flower. However, none of these was pprepared to consent to be nominated in opposition to Talbot. Some few weeks later, however, a meeting of the Association at Briton Ferry which, significantly, was not attended by delegates from some industrial districts, unanimously re-adopted Talbot, stating that he had 'made great progress towards the views they, as an association, held'.
Upon Talbot's death in 1890, his successor was Samuel Thomas Evans, a grocer's son from Skewen who was initially a militant nonconformist radical and supporter of Welsh Home Rule through Cymru Fydd. Evans, however, later toned down his radicalism on achieving ministerial office.
Another General Election was scheduled to take place before the end of 1915. The political parties had been making preparations for an election to take place and by the July 1914, the following candidates had been selected;