|Gorseinon & District History Archive The Lives The People The Culture|
GORSEINONMost people now accept that the history of Gorseinon started with the battle between the marauding Prince Meredith, assisted by his nephew Edwin, and Eynon Hywel, brother of Prince Ithol of Glamorgan (decendents of Hywel Dda) in 991.
Having vanquished Meredith and his army, Eynon Hywel camped his army on the bog near Penllergaer for a time lest Meredith should return and from that day on it became known as Gors Eynon (Eynon’s Bog). It is believed that the translation of the name Eynon means “Leader”. And that, is the beginning of the story.
The time between Eynon’s battle and the twelfth century remains historically dormant until the Cistercian monks of Neath Abbey, having been granted a Charter by the earl of Warwick granting possessions and privileges in the parish of Llandilo Talybont between Neath and the River Loughor, moved into the area and built three mills on the River Llan; Velindre, Felin Llan and Cadle Mill and three mills on the River Lliw; Pontlliw (flour), Loughor (flour) and Melin Manach (weaving & spinning).
In 1204, a dispute between the Earl of Warwick and the Bishop of Llandaff regarding the churches in the area resulted in the Bishop gaining control of them.
At this point I would like to add more detail to this part of Gorseinon’s history by copying D. Tom Davies’ “The Origins of Rhydymaerdy or Gorseinon” which reads:
“What prompted the London North Western Railway Company to call the local railway station ‘Gorseinon’ in preference to ‘Rhydymaerdy’ in 1873 will be debated by generation after generation of local historians. Whether the Railway authorities were aware of the fact or not, both place-names owe their origin to the transitional period of turmoil and strife among the Welsh Princes which marked the years following the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Norman castle-builders.
The name of Rhydymaerdy itself may well take us back to primitive Welsh society, in which kinship was the chief factor. The structure of the society was extremely complicated, but one can ascertain that the basic economic unit was the ‘tref’ or hamlet, largely self-sufficing, made up of a lord, freemen, villeins and slaves.
The King also had his villeins, who lived in communities known as ‘trefi’. Each trefi was responsible for its dues to the King and the ‘maer’ or royal steward collected the dues. Thus, the community was a royal township – a ‘maerdref’. The maer lived in the maer’s dwelling known as the ‘maerdy’. So, in all probability, Rhydymaerdy was a royal township. Part of the township’s land would have been reserved as the King’s home farm, where the bondmen carried out their work under the supervision of their village foreman known as ‘maer y biswail’. Other place-names in the area point to the existence of an early Welsh maerdref or royal township locally; the recreation ground at Gorseinon used to be known as ‘King’s mede’; the community to the south has been called ‘Pontybrenin from time immemorial; whilst just beyond Gowerton is Waunarlwydd, a corruption of ‘Gwaun Arglwydd’ meaning the ‘Lord’s Meadow’. Such terms as ‘arglwydd’ and ‘tywysog’ have, inearly Welsh society the same meaning as ‘brenin”.
The area known as “Tir Y Brenin” (King’s land) would have encompassed what we now know as Penyrheol as well as Loughor and Rhydymaerdy with the administrative centre being Cwrt Y Carne with access to Cwrt Y Carne probably being through Penyrheol.
Thus ends the early history of our town. The continuing evolution of Gorseinon involves the Industrial Revolution and I shall leave that to the likes of the late Mr. D. Tom Davies and others whose writings I shall incorporate into this historical reference.
In the following pages you will find, hopefully, details of how, from the Elizabethan age to the nineteenth century, heavy industry created a way of life which we are still benefiting from in the twenty-first century.