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Great Britain, Rhondda
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"Rhondda" (), or the "Rhondda Valley" (), is a former coal mining valley in Wales, formerly a local government district, consisting of 16 communities built around the River Rhondda. The valley is made up of two valleys, the larger Rhondda Fawr valley ("mawr" large) and the smaller Rhondda Fach valley ("bach" small). Both the singular term "Rhondda Valley" and the plural "Rhondda Valleys" are commonly used. In 2001 the area of Rhondda, as described by the National Assembly for Wales, had a population of 72,443; 2001 Census while the National Office of Statistics described the Rhondda urban as having a population of 59,602 making it the 4th largest single urban area in Wales after the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport. Rhondda is part of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough and is one of the South Wales Valleys.

The Rhondda Valley is most notable for its historical link to the coal mining industry which was at its peak between 1840-1925 AD. The Rhondda Valleys were home to a strong early nonconformist Christian movement which manifested itself in the baptist chapels which moulded Rhondda values in the 19th and early 20th century. Rhondda is also famous for strong masculine cultural ties within a social community which expressed itself outside industry in the form of male voice choirs, rugby union, trade unions and public house life.

hondda Faw
A rough layout of the main villages of the Rhondda shown along the two tributaries of the River Rhondda
The larger of the two valleys, the Rhondda Fawr, extends from Porth and rises through the valley until it reaches Blaenrhondda, near Treherbert. The settlements that make up the Rhondda Fawr are as follows:

* Blaencwm a district of Treherbert.
* Blaenrhondda a district of Treherbert.
* "Cwm Clydach" a community.
* Cwmparc a district of Treorchy.
* Cymmer a district of Porth.
* Dinas Rhondda a district of Penygraig.
* Edmondstown a district of Penygraig.
* Gelli a district of Ystrad
* Glynfach a district of Cymmer
* "Llwynypia" a community.
* "Pentre" a community.
* "Penygraig" a community
* "Porth" a community that sees itself as the unofficial capital of the Rhondda, mainly due to its geographic location.
* Ton Pentre a district of Pentre.
* "Tonypandy" a community.
* "Trealaw" a community.
* Trebanog a district of Cymmer
* "Trehafod" the most southernmost and smallest of the Rhondda Valley communities.
* "Treherbert" a community.
* "Treorchy" the largest community in either of the valleys.
* Tynewydd a district of Treherbert
* Williamstown a district of Penygraig.
* Ynyswen a district of Treorchy.
* "Ystrad" a community.

hondda Fac
The Rhondda Fach is celebrated in the 1971 David Alexander song "If I could see the Rhondda"; the valley includes Wattstown, Ynyshir, Pontygwaith, Ferndale, Tylorstown and Maerdy. The settlements that make up the Rhondda Fach are as follows:

* Blaenllechau a district of Ferndale.
* "Ferndale" a community.
* "Maerdy" a community.
* Penrhys a district of Tylorstown.
* Pontygwaith a district of Tylorstown.
* "Tylorstown" a community.
* Stanleytown a district of Tylorstown.
* Wattstown a district of Ynyshir.
* "Ynyshir" a community.

River Rhondda in the Fawr Valley near its source in Blaenrhondda
In the early Middle Ages, Glynrhondda was a commote of the cantref of Penychen in the kingdom of Morgannwg, a sparsely populated agricultural area. The spelling of the commote varied widely, and the Cardiff Records shows the various spellings:Hopkins (1975), pg 222.

Many sources state the meaning of Rhondda as "noisy", though this is a simplified translation without research. Sir Ifor Williams, in his work "Enwau Lleoedd", suggests that the first syllable "rhwadd" is a form of the Welsh "adrawdd" or "adrodd", as in "recite, relate, recount", similar to the Old Irish "rád"; "speech". The suggestion is that the river is speaking aloud, a comparison to the English expression "a babbling brook".

With the increase in population from the mid 19th century the area was officially recognised as the Ystradyfodwg Local Government District, but was renamed in 1897 as the Rhondda Urban District after the River Rhondda. accessed 19-02-09

Residents of either valley rarely use the terms "Rhondda Fach" or "Rhondda Fawr", referring instead to "The Rhondda", or their specific village when relevant. Locals tend to refer to "The Rhondda" with the definite article, despite its non-usage on most sign posts and maps.

arly Histor
rehistoric and Roman Rhondda: 8,000 BC—410 A
The Rhondda Valley is located in the upland, or Blaenau, area of Glamorgan. The landscape of the Rhondda was formed by glacial action during the last ice age, as slow moving glaciers gouged out the deep valleys that exist today. With the retreat of the ice sheet, around 8000 BC, the valleys were further modified by stream and river action. This left the two river valleys of the Rhondda with narrow, steep sided slopes which would dictate the layout of settlements from early to modern times.Davis (1989), pg 5.

esolithic perio
The earliest evidence of the presence of Man in these upper areas of Glamorgan was discovered in 1963 at Craig y Llyn. A small chipped stone tool found at the site, recorded as possibly being of "Creswellian" type or at least from the early Mesolithic period, places human activity on the plateau above the valleys.Davis (1989), pg 7. Many other Mesolithic items have been discovered in the Rhondda, predominantly in the upper areas around Blaenrhondda, Blaencwm and Maerdy, mainly stone age items relating to hunting, fishing and foraging which suggests seasonal nomadic activity. Though no definite Mesolithic settlements have been located in the area, the concentration of finds at the Craig y Llyn escarpment suggests the presence of a temporary campsite in the vicinity."Glamorgan County History, Volume II (Early Glamorgan)", H. N. Savory, pg 57. ISBN 904730042

eolithic perio
The first structural relic of Prehistoric Man was excavated in 1973 at Cefn Glas near the watershed of the Rhondda Fach river. The remains of a rectangular hut with traces of drystone wall foundations and postholes was discovered; while carbon dating of charcoal found at the site dated the structure as late Neolithic.

ronze Ag
Llyn Fawr Reservoir in 2008
Although little evidence of settlements has been found in the Rhondda that date between the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, several cairns and cists have been discovered throughout the length of both valleys. The best example of a round-cairn was found at Crug yr Afan, near the summit of Graig Fawr, west of Cwmparc. The cairn consisted of an earthen mound with a surrounding ditch 28 metres in circumference and over 2 metres tall.Davis (1989), pg 11. Although most cairns discovered in the area are round, a ring cairn or cairn circle exists on Gelli Mountain. Known as the "Rhondda Stonehenge" the cairn consists of 10 upright stones no more than 60 cm in height encircling a central cist.Davis (1989), pg 12. All the cairns found within the Rhondda are located on high ground, many on ridgeways, and may have been used as waypoints.

In 1912 a hoard of 24 late Bronze Age weapons and tools was discovered during construction work at the Llyn Fawr reservoir, at the source of the Rhondda Fawr. The items did not originate from the Rhondda and are thought to have been left at the site as a votive offering. Of particular interest were fragments of an iron sword which is the earliest iron object to be found in Wales and the only "C-type" Hallstatt sword recorded in Britain.Davis (1989), pg 9.

ron Ag
The ruins of the Hen Dre"r Mynydd settlement at the head of the Rhondda
With the exception of the Neolithic settlement at Cefn Glas, there are three certain pre-Medieval settlement sites in the valley — Maendy Camp, Hen Dre"r Gelli and Hen Dre"r Mynydd. The earliest of these structures is Maendy Camp, a hillfort whose remains are situated between Ton Pentre and Cwmparc.Davis (1989), page 14. Although its defences would have been slight, the camp made good use of the natural slopes and rock outcrops to its north-east face. Maendy camp consisted of two earthworks, an inner and outer enclosure. When the site was excavated in 1901 several archaeological finds led to the camp being misidentified as Bronze Age. These finds, mainly pottery and flint knives, were excavated from a burial cairn discovered within the outer enclosure but the site has since been classified as from the Iron Age.

The settlement at Hen Dre"r Mynydd in Blaenrhondda was dated around the Roman period when the discovery of fragments of wheel-made Romano-British pottery were discovered at the location. The site is made up of a group of ruinous drystone roundhouses and enclosures and is thought to have been a sheep farming community.Davis (1989), page 15.

The most definite example of a Roman site in the area is found above Blaenllechau in Ferndale.Davis (1989), page 16. The settlement is one of a group of earthworks and indicates the presence of the Roman army during the 1st century AD. It was thought to be a military site or marching camp.Nash-Williams, V.E. (1959). "The Roman frontier in Wales", Cardiff.

ark Age and Medieval Rhondda: 410—1550 A
The 5th century saw the withdrawal of Imperial Roman support from Britain, and the succeeding centuries, the Dark Ages, witnessed the emergence of a national identity and of kingdoms. The area which would become the Rhondda lay within Glywysing, an area that incorporated the modern area of Glamorgan, ruled by a dynasty founded by Glywys.Davis (1989), pg 17. This dynasty was later replaced by another founded by Meurig ap Tewdrig whose descendant Morgan ap Owain would give Glamorgan its Welsh name Morgannwg.Davis, Wendy (1982). "Wales in the Early Middle Ages (Studies in the Early History of Britain)", Leicester University Press. ISBN 978-071851235-9, pg. 102 With the coming of the Norman overlords after the 1066 Battle of Hastings, south-east Wales was divided into five cantrefi. The Rhondda lay within Penychen, a narrow strip running between modern day Glyn Neath and the coast between Cardiff and Aberthaw. Each cantref was further divided into commotes, with Penychen made up of five such commotes, one being Glynrhondda.Rees, William (1951). "An Historical Atlas of Wales from Early to Modern Times"; Faber & Faber ISBN 0571099769

Relics of the Dark Ages are uncommon within the Glamorgan area and secular monuments are still rarer. The few sites discovered from this period have been located in the "Bro", or lowlands, leaving historians to believe that the Blaenau were sparsely inhabited, maybe only visited seasonally by pastoralists.Davis (1989), pg 18. A few earthwork dykes are the only structural relics in the Rhondda area from this period and no carved stones or crosses exist to indicate the presence of a Christian shrine. During the Early Middle Ages communities were split between bondmen and freemen. The bondmen lived in small villages centred around a court or "llys" of the local ruler to whom they paid dues; while the freemen, who enjoyed a higher status, lived in scattered homesteads. The most important village was the "mayor"s settlement" or "maerdref". Maerdy in the Rhondda Fach has been identified as a maerdref, mainly on the strength of the name, though the village did not survive past the Middle Ages. The largest concentration of dwellings from this time have been discovered around Gelli and Ystrad in the Rhondda Fawr, mainly platform houses.

During the late 11th century, the Norman lord, Robert Fitzhamon entered Morgannwg in an attempt to gain control of the area, building many earth and timber castles in the lowlands.Davis (1989), pg 19. In the early 12th century the Norman expansion continued with castles being founded around Neath, Kenfig and Coity, while within the same period Bishop Urban established the Diocese of Llandaff under which Glynrhondda belonged to the large parish of Llantrisant."Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments (in Wales)", HMSO Glamorgan Inventories, Vol 3, part 2

Upon the death of William, Lord of Glamorgan, his extensive holdings were eventually granted to Gilbert de Clare in 1217."Glamorgan County History, Volume III, The Middle Ages:The Marcher Lordships of Glamorgan and Morgannwg and Gower and Kilvey from the Norman Conquest to the Act of Union of England and Wales", T.B. Pugh, pg 39. University of Wales Press (1971) The subjugation of Glamorgan, begun by Fitzhamon, was finally completed by the powerful De Clare family,Davies (2008), pg746. but although Gilbert de Clare had now become one of the great Marcher Lords the territory was far from settled. Hywel ap Maredudd, lord of Meisgyn captured his cousin Morgan ap Cadwallon and annexed Glynrhondda in an attempt to reunify the commotes under a single native ruler."Glamorgan County History, Volume III, The Middle Ages:The Marcher Lordships of Glamorgan and Morgannwg and Gower and Kilvey from the Norman Conquest to the Act of Union of England and Wales", T.B. Pugh, pg 47. University of Wales Press (1971) This conflict was unresolved by the time of De Clare"s death and the area fell under Royal control.

ettlements of Medieval Rhondd
Little evidence exists of settlements within the Rhondda during the Norman period. Unlike the communal dwellings of the Iron Age the remains of the Medieval buildings discovered in the area follow the pattern similar to modern farmsteads; with separate holdings spaced out around the hillsides. The evidence of Medieval Welsh farmers comes from the remains of their buildings, with the foundations of platform houses having been discovered spaced out throughout both valleys.Davis (1989), pg 22. When the site of several platform houses at Gelligaer Common were excavated in the 1930s potsherds dating from the 13th-14th century were discovered.

The Rhondda also has the remains of two Medieval castles. The older is Castell Nos Picture of the remains of Castell Nos which is located at the head of the Rhondda Fach overlooking Maerdy. The only recorded evidence of Castle Nos is a mention by John Leland who stated that "Castelle Nose is but a high stony creg in the top of an hille". The castle comprises a scarp and ditch forming a raised platform and on the north face is a ruined drystone building. Due to its location and form it does not appear to be of Norman design and is therefore thought to have been built by the Welsh as a border defence; and must therefore date before 1247 when Richard de Clare seized Glynrhondda.Davis (1989), pg 25. The second castle is Ynysygrug, located close to what is now Tonypandy town centre. Little remains of this motte-and-bailey earthwork defence as much was destroyed when Tonypandy railway station was built in the 19th century.Davis (1989), pg 26. Ynysygrug is dated around the 12th century or early 13th century and has been misidentified by several historians, notably Owen Morgen in his book "History of Pontypridd and Rhondda Valleys" who recorded it as a druidic sacred moundDavis (1989), pg 26, "Morgen not only misidentifies the height of the 30 ft. mound as 100ft. but states that "...all these sacred mounds were reared in this country...when Druidism was the established religion", but gives no historic proof. The book also has an illustration of the castle which the artist has added a moat and several druids, neither of which are factual." and Iolo Morgannwg who erroneously believed it to be the burial mound of king Rhys ap Tewdwr.

This earliest Christian monument located in the Rhondda is the shrine of St. Mary at Penrhys whose holy well was mentioned by Rhisiart ap Rhys in the 15th century.

ost-Medieval and pre-industrial Rhondda: 1550—185
In the mid 16th century the Rhondda, at that time known as the Vale of Rotheney, belonged to the large but sparsely inhabited parish of Ystradyfodwg, "St. Tyfodwg"s Vale". For administrative purposes the parish was divided into three hamlets: the Upper or Rhigos Hamlet to the north, the Middle or Penrhys Hamlet and the lower or Clydach Hamlet.Davis (1989), pg 29. Throughout the post-Medieval period the Rhondda was a heavily wooded area and its main economic staple was the rearing of sheep, horses and cattle. The historian Rice Merrick, in describing the upland area of the Vale of Glamorgan, stated that there "was always great breeding of cattle, horses and sheep; but in elder time therin grew but small store of corn, for in most places there the ground was not thereunto apt..." While English cartographer John Speed described that the rearing of cattle was the "best means unto wealth that the Shire doth afford"."Glamorgan County History, Volume IV, Early Modern Glamorgan from the Act of Union to the Industrial Revolution", Glanmor Williams, pg 2-3. University of Wales Press (1974) As there was no fair held in the Rhondda the animals would be taken to neighbouring fairs and markets at Neath, Merthyr, Llantrisant, Ynysybwl and Llandaff. However, to be self-supporting, the farmers of the area grew crops such as oats, corn and barley in small quantities. Crops were grown in the lower part of the Rhondda on narrow meadows adjoining the riversides, though during the Napoleonic Wars scarce supplies forced the cultivation of the upland areas such as Carn-y-wiwer and Penrhys.Lewis (1959), pg 18-20. Merrick would describe the diet of the upland inhabitants as consisting of "bread made of wheat...and ale and bear"
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