Brynaman consists of two communities, Upper and Lower Brynaman on the edge of the Black Mountain, with the River Aman marking the boundary between Carmarthenshire and the old county of Glamorgan (now Neath Port Talbot). The road over the Black Mountain was built in 1819, a considerable feat of engineering. The road would have opened up the development of the area with the first pub in the area, the Farmers Arms, being opened in 1823.
Industry developed in the area in the early part of the 19th century, but it was the coming of the railways that brought the major expansion. The first railway was the Llanelli Dock Railway in 1846.
Upper Brynaman below the Black Mountain
Upper and Lower Brynaman viewed from the Black Mountain
Until the arrival of the Swansea Vale Railway in 1864, Brynaman was known as Y Gwter Fawr – The Big Gutter, nbecause of a method of strip mining using a torrent of water to reveal the coal. All evidence of the Gutter has long since disappeared. As was the practice of the time, the station name became the accepted village name.
George Borrow described his visit to Y Gwter Fawr in 1854 in hi book "Wild Wales". His description provides an insight into the village at the time:
As I descended I heard every now and then loud noises in the vale, probably proceeding from stone quarries. I was drenched to the skin, nay, through the skin, by the mist, which I verily believe was more penetrating than that described by Ab Gwilym. When I had proceeded about a mile I saw blazes down below, resembling those of furnaces, and soon after came to the foot of the hill. It was here pouring with rain, but I did not put up my umbrella, as it was impossible for me to be more drenched than I was. Crossing a bridge over a kind of torrent, I found myself amongst some houses. I entered one of them from which a blaze of light and a roar of voices proceeded, and, on inquiring of an old woman who confronted me in the passage, I found that I had reached my much needed haven of rest, the tavern of Gutter Vawr in the county of Glamorgan.
THE old woman who confronted me in the passage of the inn turned out to be the landlady. On learning that I intended to pass the night at her house, she conducted me into a small room on the right-hand side of the passage, which proved to be the parlour. It was cold and comfortless, for there was no fire in the grate. She told me, however, that one should be lighted, and going out, presently returned with a couple of buxom wenches, who I soon found were her daughters. The good lady had little or no English; the girls, however, had plenty, and of a good kind too. They soon lighted a fire, and then the mother inquired if I wished for any supper.
"Certainly," said I, "for I have not eaten anything since I left Llandovery. What can I have?"
"We have veal and bacon," said she.
"That will do," said I; "fry me some veal and bacon, and I shan't complain. But pray tell what prodigious noise is that which I hear on the other side of the passage?"
"It is only the miners and the carters in the kitchen making merry," said one of the girls.
"Is there a good fire there?" said I.
"Oh yes," said the girl, "we have always a good fire in the kitchen."
"Well then," said I, "I shall go there till supper is ready, for I am wet to the skin, and this fire casts very little heat."
"You will find them a rough set in the kitchen," said the girl.
A large dish of veal cutlets and fried bacon awaiting me, and also a smoking bowl of potatoes. Ordering a jug of ale I sat down, and what with hunger and the goodness of the fare, for everything was first-rate, made one of the best suppers I ever made in my life.
Shortly afterwards I desired to be shown to my sleeping apartment. It was a very small room upstairs, in the back part of the house; and I make no doubt was the chamber of the two poor girls, the landlady's daughters, as I saw various articles of female attire lying about. The spirit of knight-errantry within me was not, however, sufficiently strong to prevent me taking possession of the female dormitory; so, forthwith divesting myself of every portion of my habiliments, which were steaming like a boiling tea-kettle, I got into bed between the blankets, and in a minute was fast in the arms of Morpheus.
I SLEPT soundly through the night. At about eight o'clock on the following morning I got up and looked out of the window of my room, which fronted the north. A strange scene presented itself: a roaring brook was foaming along towards the west, just under the window. Immediately beyond it was a bank, not of green turf, grey rock, or brown mould, but of coal rubbish, coke and cinders; on the top of this bank was a fellow performing some dirty office or other, with a spade and barrow; beyond him, on the side of a hill, was a tramway, up which a horse was straining, drawing a load of something towards the north-west. Beyond the tramway was a grove of yellow-looking firs; beyond the grove a range of white houses with blue roofs, occupied, I suppose, by miners and their families; and beyond these I caught a sight of the mountain on the top of which I had been the night before - only a partial one, however, as large masses of mist were still hanging about it. The morning was moist and dripping, and nothing could look more cheerless and uncomfortable than the entire scene.
I put on my things, which were still not half dry, and went down into the little parlour, where I found an excellent fire awaiting me, and a table spread for breakfast. The breakfast was delicious, consisting of excellent tea, buttered toast, and Glamorgan sausages, which I really think are not a whit inferior to those of Epping.
Having been informed that there was a considerable iron foundry close by, I thought it would be worth my while to go and see it. I entered the premises, and was standing and looking round, when a man with the appearance of a respectable mechanic came up and offered to show me over the place. I gladly accepted his offer, and he showed me all about the iron foundry. I saw a large steam- engine at full play, terrible furnaces, and immense heaps of burning, crackling cinders, and a fiery stream of molten metal rolling along. After seeing what there was to be seen, I offered a piece of silver to my kind conductor, which he at once refused. On my asking him, however, to go to the inn and have a friendly glass, he smiled, and said he had no objection. So we went to the inn, and had two friendly glasses of whiskey-and-water together, and also some discourse. I asked him if there were any English employed on the premises. "None," said he, "nor Irish either; we are all Welsh." Though he was a Welshman, his name was a very common English one.
It is believed that the inn Borrow stayed at was the Farmers Arms, rebuilt in 1894 as the Brynaman Hotel. In 1840 the New Farmers Inn was built a few hundred yards from the Old Farmers Inn and is now the Brynaman Rugby Club.
In 1866 Brynaman received a post Office, officially confirming the village name as Brynaman. Two years later the first passenger train arrived on the Swansea Vale line. The station was renamed the Midland Railway Station in 1874 after the line was taken over by the London and Midland Railway. The line closed in 1950. The Llanelly Dock line was taken over by Great Western Railway.
The 1870s saw a major expansion in mining and industry in Brynaman with a tin plate works built in 1872 and the Ynys Colliery started in 1873. There was a consequent influx of workers with houses and chapels constructed to serve their needs. The Cooperative Society opened a store in Brynaman in 1876. There was industrial unrest with a 6 month miners’ strike in 1874 in the village, while in 1880 a strike in the Pwll and Cannon Mines lasted a whole year.
By 1883, the village had some 2000 inhabitants, 8 inns, 26 shops 4 places of worship and a school.
The iron works and tin plate works closed in the 1890s and through the course of the 20th century coal mining disappeared from Brynaman so that today, apart from light industrial units, the village is a commuter area for Swansea, Ammanford and Llanelli.
To the West of Brynaman, between the Llandeilo Road and the River Aman, lies Ynys Dawela Nature Reserve. On the site of the Ynys Dawela farm the Reserve offers woodland, meadow and riverside walks.
Parts of the Reserve formed part of the Amman anthracite mine, while waste from the mine was left on other parts of the land.
Lower Brynaman, Tairgwaith, Gwaun Cae Gurwen and Cwmgors From Tar Garn Cairn
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