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Ystradgynlais Town, Junction.jpg
Junction at Heol Eglwys, Ystradgynlais
Ystradgynlais is located in Powys
Location within Powys
Population8,092 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceSN793106
  • Ystradgynlais
Principal area
Ceremonial county
  • Powys
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townSwansea
Postcode districtSA9
Dialling code01639
FireMid and West Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
51°46′52″N 3°45′04″W / 51.78101°N 3.75107°W / 51.78101; -3.75107Coordinates: 51°46′52″N 3°45′04″W / 51.78101°N 3.75107°W / 51.78101; -3.75107

Ystradgynlais (Welsh: [ˌəstradˈɡənlais], English: /ˌʌstrədˈɡʌnls/)[2] is a town on the River Tawe in southwest Powys, Wales. It is the second-largest town in the principal area and county of Powys. Ystradgynlais is in the historic county of Brecknockshire. The town has a high proportion of Welsh language-speakers. The community includes Cwmtwrch, Abercraf and Cwmgiedd, with a population of 8,092 in the 2011 census. It forms part of the Swansea Urban Area[3] where the Ystradgynlais subdivision has a population of 10,248.[4]


The place-name Ystradgynlais, meaning 'vale of the river Cynlais' – Cynlais may be a personal name, or derive from cyn ('chisel') and glais ('stream') – is first recorded in 1372.[5] In the 1600s there were only a couple of houses by the church and a pub (now the rectory). In 1801 there were only 993 residents in the town living in only 196 houses. The first documented written evidence of iron working in the area was at Ynyscedwyn and is of a deed of release dated 1729. By 1750 there were seven furnaces in south Wales, one of which was at Ynyscedwyn.

Tynycoed Chapel, located between Ynyswen and Penycae, near Ystradgynlais, was first constructed in 1774, and was rebuilt in 1829.[6]

The first written evidence of coal mining was at Wauclawdd in 1780. Most of the coal dug up was used in the blast furnaces of the ironworks. By 1790, the full extent of the mineral resources in the valley was better known and it was realised that to exploit these to the full, improved transport would be essential.

The greatest increase in the population was between 1821 and 1841. This coincides with the coming of George Crane and the development of the Ynyscedwyn Ironworks. By 1870, the town's industrial development was in decline due to various economic factors, although coal mining carried on in the area with a few light industries.


Parc yr Orsedd, Ystradgynlais
These remains were built in 1872 to house a planned steel mill. Although not completed, the site housed the Ynyscedwyn Tinplate Works
Adelina Patti (1843–1919), opera singer
Eve Myles, television actress

Ystradgynlais hosted the 1954 National Eisteddfod, an annual Welsh festival of literature, dance, and music. The century-old award-winning Ystradgynlais Public Band competed in the 2005 National Eisteddfod.[7]

Ystradgynlais's Parc-yr-Orsedd has a monument to the fallen heroes of both World Wars from Ystradgynlais, Abercrave, Cwmtwrch, Cwmgiedd, Glyntawe and Coelbren.

Dan yr Ogof caves are a short journey from the town centre, passing Craig-y-Nos Castle and country park. The caves are reputed to have once been the hideout of folk figure Twm Siôn Cati.[8] Henrhyd Falls are also nearby.

Ystradgynlais is also home to the Miners Welfare Hall, known and promoted as 'The Welfare', which contains a cinema. In 2020 a Purple Plaque was installed at the building to mark Eunice Stallard's life and activity as a peace campaigner.[9]

It also has a number of public houses.

In 2016 The Stephen Lewis Tristars Aquathlon in Ystradgynlais won the Welsh triathlon event of the Year 2016.


National Cycle Route 43 passes by the southern edge of the town on the line of the former Swansea Vale Railway which linked Swansea via the Neath and Brecon Railway at Coelbren with Brecon. Ystradgynlais railway station was operational from 1869 to 1923.

The A4067 road linking West Cross, Swansea, with Sennybridge ran through the town until the 1970s, when it was diverted onto the bypass that follows the line of the former Swansea Canal.[10]


The town is the home of Ystradgynlais F.C. and Ystradgynlais RFC. Ystradgynlais RFC was established in 1890 and has a fierce rivalry with Ystalyfera RFC and Abercrave RFC.


In 1946, Smiths Industries Ltd, Ingersoll Ltd and Vickers Armstrong founded the Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. Ltd. producing watches on the Ynyscedwyn estate on the outskirts of Ystradgynlais. The factory was officially opened by Hugh Dalton on 15 March 1947. Vickers Armstrong sold their shares to the other two companies in 1948. The company became one of the largest producers of watches in Europe, producing up to 1.25 million watches a year until 1980 when it closed.[11][12]

Notable people[edit]

The Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012, Rowan Williams, grew up in Ystradgynlais and Calvinistic Methodist minister Thomas Levi was also born in the town. Politician Caerwyn Roderick and prison reform campaigner Ben Gunn both grew up in the town.[13]

Ystradgynlais has produced a number of Wales international rugby players, including William Lewis Thomas, Huw David Richards, Anthony Buchanan, Steve Bayliss, and Kevin Hopkins.[citation needed] The town was the birthplace of Welsh international footballer Ronnie Rees (born 4 April 1944), who won 39 caps for Wales.[citation needed]

The Polish painter Josef Herman (1911–2000), spent 11 years living and painting in Ystradgynlais.[14] Artists who grew up in the town include opera singer Adelina Patti, composer Daniel Protheroe, novelist Menna Gallie, and actors Steve Meo and Eve Myles.

John Howard Purnell, former president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, was originally from the town, as were physicians Tudor Thomas and Julian Hopkin, and academic Goronwy Daniel.


  1. ^ "Community population 2011". Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  2. ^ Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. 3rd Ed.
  3. ^ "Swansea Built-up area". www.nomisweb.co.uk.
  4. ^ "Ystradgynlais Built-up area sub division". www.nomisweb.co.uk.
  5. ^ Wyn Owen, Hywel; Richard Morgan (2007). Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales. Llandysul: Gomer Press. p. 504.
  6. ^ "Tynycoed Chapel, Ystradgynlais".
  7. ^ "National Eisteddfod of Wales – National Eisteddfod". www.eisteddfod.org.uk. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  8. ^ Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 409. ISBN 9780340165973.
  9. ^ "Purple plaque to honour peace campaigner on International Women's Day". Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Victorian Ystradgynlais – the Swansea Canal". history.powys.org.uk. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  11. ^ Evans, Geoffrey (2008). Time, Time and Time Again. Quinto Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1-905960-07-1.
  12. ^ "Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. Ltd. 1". history.powys.org.uk. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  13. ^ Hughes, Brendan (28 October 2012). "The childhood killer on falling in love with his prison teacher – Wales Online". Wales Online. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Sonia Williams". Retrieved 2 September 2018.

External links[edit]