How some of the places we know and love got their name

Cynon Valley - - NEWS - BRONTE HOWARD [email protected]­

WALES is known for its rich and di­verse his­tory and it’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous how we should say or spell a par­tic­u­lar place name.

You may have won­dered where your vil­lage got its name, or what it means – and find­ing an­swers isn’t al­ways easy.

But Richard Mor­gan, a for­mer Glam­or­gan ar­chiv­ist and place name ex­pert, has spent decades re­search­ing them and has now pub­lished a book that will set­tle the ar­gu­ments once and for all.

Place-Names of Glam­or­gan sheds light on the his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence and mean­ings of more than 1,100 place names in the his­toric county of Glam­or­gan, from Aber­afan to Ystrad­owen.

Mr Mor­gan said: “The fas­ci­na­tion we all have for how the vil­lage, town or district where we live came to be named re­mains very strong, and the thirst for knowl­edge, whether to set­tle a dis­pute or for the sim­ple wish to know our his­tory bet­ter, is why I have such an in­ter­est in re­search­ing place.”

“I hope this book helps peo­ple to bet­ter un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate why the place they were born, where they live now or where they work was given its name.

“Some are very straight­for­ward, some are very ob­scure, while oth­ers can be quite sur­pris­ing. Dis­cov­er­ing the ori­gins of place names can be very re­ward­ing and I’m de­lighted that my re­search has now been pub­lished by Welsh Aca­demic Press.”

Some ex­am­ples from Cynon Val­ley in­cluded in the book are:

Cynon, which is the name of the river flow­ing through the val­ley. Mr Mor­gan says it orig­i­nates from Ca­van (Canan) in 1307, Kenon in 1538 and Ke­nan in 1541 be­fore be­com­ing Cynon in 1691. The first record of the val­ley’s name comes in the 17th-cen­tury ref­er­ence to Cwm­cynon forge.

Ynys-boeth, mean­ing “burnt river-meadow” is de­rived ei­ther from a meadow with a thin layer of soil that baked dur­ing hot weather, or per­haps a ref­er­ence to in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity, such as burn­ing char­coal. There were orig­i­nally farms, Ynys-boeth Uchaf (up­per) and Isaf (lower).

Pen­rhi­w­ceiber, first recorded as Pen­rewkeibir in 1704, refers to a place at the top of a slope where trees sup­plied tim­ber for joists.

Aber­cwm­boi is also fea­tured in the book. The name was first recorded as Aber­con­waye Yssa in 1541, mean­ing the con­flu­ence of the rivers Cyn­foi and Cynon. From the early 18th cen­tury the name Cyn­foi was rein­ter­preted to Cwm Boi and the vil­lage was es­tab­lished on the site of two farms, the Uchaf (up­per) and Isaf (lower).

Hir­waun, mean­ing “long moor” was first recorded in 1203 as Hyr­we­un­wor­gan and later Hîr­wain Wr­gan in c.1659, re­flect­ing ei­ther the link with Gwr­gant, lord of Mor­gan­nwg in the 11th cen­tury or per­haps Gwr­gant, bishop of Llandaf in c.1148. The us­age of Wr­gan in the area’s name faded af­ter John May­bery of Bre­con opened the Hir­waun Iron­works in 1757 and the vil­lage was es­tab­lished to ser­vice it.

Place-Names of Glam­or­gan is pub­lished in pa­per­back by Welsh Aca­demic Press, priced £19.99.

Tower Col­liery in Hir­waun. The name Hir­waun was first recorded in 1203 as Hyr­we­un­wor­gan

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