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