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Rhigos (//) is a small village on the saddle of higher ground between the Vale of Neath and the Cynon Valley. It was part of the old Neath Rural district Council under Glamorgan until 1974. The village then came under the jurisdiction of The Cynon Valley Borough which subsequently became Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales in 1996. It lies just off the old Aberdare road that was the main link between Aberdare and Glyn Neath, before the A465 road was extended in the 1960s. The hamlets of Cefn Rhigos and Cwm-Hwnt lie to the west of the main village.
The population of the community in the 2011 census was noted as 894. For postal purposes it comes under the town of Aberdare, although it is some 7 miles (11 km) from Aberdare town centre, and 2 miles (3.2 km) from Glyn Neath. It was noted as a township in the parrish of Ystradyfodwg in several historical references and people moved to this rural area to work in local industries. Today, the village is a quiet place to live with stunning views of the Brecon Beacons and is within walking distance of The famous Waterfall country.
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The name Rhigos is an erroneous standardisation of the local dialect form of Ricos. According to Welsh toponomy, the place-names of Wales derive in most cases from the Welsh language, but have also been influenced by linguistic contact with English, French, Irish, Flemish, Latin, Norse and British or Brittonic.
A rule of thumb for writing Welsh place names is that they should be spelled according to the standard language and not the local dialect form (though there are many instances of names showing local traits rather than a standard version - Machynlleth for Machynllaith, Caerdydd for Caerdyf etc. An initial 'c' in a final syllable in the Gwentian - Gwenhwyseg dialect is often a devoiced form of 'g', and such is the case here. An initial 'r' is generally a deaspirated 'rh' in the dialect, but this is not the case here. Since in South Wales 'u' and 'i' no longer represent different vowel sounds (though in North Wales these spellings DO show different vowels) in spelling 'i' might be used instead of the historically correct spelling with 'u'.
In this way 'Rhigos' has come about, though in fact it is, from its earlier spellings, quite evidently from 'grugos' (small clumps of heather - 'grug' is heather and '-os' is a diminutive suffix found in place names after words denoting vegetation, and in the modern language it is to seen in 'plantos' = little children). The 'correct' form of the name is 'Y Rugos', a name found in other parts of Wales (also as Y Grugos).
Geography and Natural HistoryEdit
"The south Wales Valleys support a treasure trove of biodiversity. Like all good treasure troves it had been lost and long forgotten and has only now been re-found, and like some giant archaeological dig, one discovery has led to another; one find has spurred on the finding of the next."
Rhigos lies at the apex of the Cynon Valley and the Vale of Neath and Rhigos Mountain, Craig y llyn, is the highest peak in the Glamorgan. The Llyn Fawr lies beneath the Pennant Sandstone scarp of Craig y Llyn which is evidence of the effect of the Ice Age on the landscape. The glaciers sculpted and overdeepened the valleys into characteristic U-shaped profiles, and most of the north Wales examples, such as the Llanberis, Nant Ffrancon and Conwy valleys, display successive rock basins in their longitudinal profile. The long, southerly directed, dip-slope feature of the Fans and Brecon Beacons fed ice across the uplands and valleys of the coalfield, although a small ice cap across Craig y Llyn fed ice into the Neath and Cynon valleys on its north side. All the deposits of the Welsh ice were locally derived.
An important historical find was made at Llyn Fawr between 1909 and 1913 which was called 'The Llyn Fawr Hoard'. According to the National Museum of Wales, The Llyn Fawr hoard is extremely important because it illustrates the cross over between the Bronze and Iron Ages. It is unusual because of the mixed styles of objects that suggest a wide range of origins. Indeed on the British scale the name Llyn Fawr is given to the period of time dating from 750-600BC. These precious and unique items can be found in The National Museum and Galleries of Wales.
The landscape of the area surrounding Rhigos has been noted as sites of special scientific interest These are areas such as the famous Waterfall Country, Cwm Cadlan and nearby Blaencynon SAC. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee which advises the government and devolved administrationson UK-wide and International nature conservation states that the damp grassland and heath of the Blaencynon site has been noted as an area that supports the Marsh Fritilliary Butterfly. This butterfly is threatened not only in the UK, but across Europe. which makes this area important partner in an international conservation effort.
Originally farmland until the late 1700s, the village developed in the Industrial Revolution through the mineral industry, extracting coal, iron ore and limestone. What is believed to be the first coke fired furnace was built on nearby land by John Mayberry o Brecon in 1757. It came into the possession of the Crawshay family in 1819, which provided much employment until the early 1830s. Francis Crawshay famously built a folly on nearby land and was apparently the only member of the family to speak Welsh. The site was then taken over by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company which ran until the 1930s.
British Rhondda Colliery, later called "The Pandy" and finally Rhigos Colliery was opened during the 1920s. This was a drift mine, and it closed in 1965. Coal was extracted from land near Rhigos in 1864 from a drift mine called Tower Graig. This mine is noted to have been discontinued, but there are records that 420 men were employed by The Marquess of Bute to extract coal from Tower Colliery around the 1890s. The Tower Colliery and was famously the subject of a worker's buy-out closed in 2008 and its closure saw the last of the deep mines in Wales come to an end. However, Tyrone O'Sullivan who was part of the worker buy out, spoke about the possibility of the land being regenerated in the future. Indeed, in 2019 RCT Council announced that planning had been unanimously granted for Zipline Cymru to construct of a new line at the Tower site which will be the focus for the development of tourism in the area.
Hirwaun Industrial EstateEdit
During the Second World War, those not within the colliery industry, and hence in reserved employment, could find similar work at ROF Hirwaun, which was actually sited within Rhigos parish where the present day Industrial Estate is located. Developed by Royal Ordnance Factory and the Ministry of War from 1942 as an offshoot of ROF Newport, it was an engineering ROF producing .303 cartridge cases for Lee–Enfield rifles, and 9mm cartridge cases, which were then shipped to be filled at a Filling ROF. Having built three new roads and associated bungalows to house the workers, all raw materials were shipped in via the former Vale of Neath Railway by the Great Western Railway, using the sidings of the former Tir Herbert brickworks. Day-workers would alight at Rhigos railway station, beyond which were built additional sidings to house the railway carriages that were shipping workers to the site from all over the South Wales valleys. The site of the ROF was discovered by the German military, who ordered a single air raid by the Nazi Luftwaffe in 1943.
At the end of the war, the site was abandoned, and the factory was only demolished in the late 1960s. A range of other businesses then took over the Industrial Estate and further details about these can be found in the W.W Price Collection at Aberdare Library.
Sport and leisureEdit
One of the village's social hubs is the Rhigos RFC club house. The rugby union team play in Division Five, South Central of the Welsh Rugby pyramid. Rhigos Sports Hall is a volunteer-run facility, and is located adjacent to the rugby club. It provides a range of indoor sporting facilities to Rhigos and the surrounding areas. The Rhigos WCKA Kickboxing Club meet in the hall each week and is part of the Welsh Contact Karate Association. Members of the club were part of the Wales team who attended the World Kickboxing Championships 2018 in Greece.
The Vale of Neath Gliding Club operates from a grass airfield for gliding close to the village. where tuition can be given under the guidance of British Gliding Association qualified instructors. The Rhigos mountain is also a popular spot for paragliders due to the excellent thermal conditions and stunning views. Cyclists are also often found in and around Rhigos. The route up the mountain forms part of competitions and meets for clubs from all over the UK, such as the Junior Tour of Wales and is considered to be a scenic but particularly challenging climb. It has been quoted as being one of the most beautiful and challenging ascents in the whole of Wales.
In 1850 the Vale of Neath Railway opened its line between Neath and Aberdare via Hirwaun, completing its mainline to Merthyr Tydfil from Hirwaun in 1853. Rhigos Halt consisted of two platforms and was sited at the north end of the 520 yard long Pencaedrain Tunnel. Brown's engineering sidings were additionally built to house permanent way vehicles that were maintaining the railway tracks. The climb from Glynneath to Rhigos involved the steep Glynneath embankment, which required all north-bound trains to take on a banker locomotive at Glynneath station, which was released at Rhigos.
After the railway was closed under the Beeching Axe, the council took the opportunity to provide a better road link between Hirwaun and Glynneath, and so bypassed the old Aberdare road by building an extension to A465 road which utilised most of the trackbed of the abandoned railway. The road has now been identified by the government as being in need of improvement due to restricted traffic flow and poor visibility. The current plans in place are stated by the government to be completed by 2024.
'The Parrish Road' was another access to the village which was closed when Celtic Energy opened a controversial opencast mine between Rhigos and Cwmgwrach in 1997. The promise was made to reinstate the road after the mine closed, and talks have been held between residents, Celtic Energy and Neath Port Talbot County Council during 2020.
Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University was born and raised in Rhigos. He is Professor of Governance and Development and lectures on subjects such as poverty, deprivation and social immobility. Professor Morgan is also a member of OECD that is reviewing multilevel governance in Wales.
Gweirydd (Dai) Walters founded the Walters Group of Civil Engineers in 1982. The company's HQ is on the nearby Industrial Estate and has branches throughout Wales and the West. Gweirydd (Dai) Walters was named one of the richest people in Wales in 2019.
Rhigos has produced some international rugby players, most notably Dai Morris, who played for Rhigos RFC and Neath RFC. He won 34 caps for Wales as a flanker during the "Second Golden Era" of Welsh rugby in the 1970s, and dual rugby union/rugby league international Glyn Shaw.
Rhigos resident Mrs C. Ann Jenkins served as High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan for the years 2012/13. High Sheriffs are Royally appointed for one year. It is a non-political position and originates in Saxon times. High Sheriffs actively lend support to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and voluntary sector.
There is one convenience store located on Heol Pendarren, which opened its doors under new management in March 2020. There are also two pubs located within Rhigos: "The Plough" and "The New Inn" as well as the rugby club. "The New Inn" is popular as a place to drink, socialise and eat. There is a small children's playground and views over the fields towards the Rhigos mountain.
Rhigos Primary is the village school. The original building was built in the Victorian style in 1876 and is located on Heol y Graig. The majority of pupils from the school subsequently attend Aberdare Community School or St John The Baptist High School in Landare. Welsh medium education is available for pupils at Ysgol Gynradd Penderyn situated in the nearby village of Pontpren, Penderyn and then at secondary level at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun. The nearest Catholic primary school is St Margaret's Primary. The original Rhigos school building was built in the Victorian style in 1876. Prior to the building of the school classes were held in rooms provided by R Crawshay esq, first mentioned in the journals of William Roberts (Nefydd) in 1856. He states how the school was funded by the colliers and miners of Rhigos, who each contributed 1d of each pound of their wages to support a master whose salary was £40.
There is a Voluntary Society in Rhigos who organise a carnival for the village in the summer. They also take local children to see the pantomime in Aberdare Coliseum at Christmas and ensure that 'Santa' visits each street handing out goodies for little ones. The village Community Centre is located on Heol Esgyn. It received funding for renovations in 2013. The Rhigos Community Council meets there each month, and it is also used by senior citizens groups, youth clubs and for council surgeries.
Rhigos is represented in RCT council by Cllr Graham Thomas and in The Senedd by Vicki Howells AS. Beth Winter MP was elected as representative for Cynon Valley in 2019. It may be difficult to imagine today that these quiet surroundings once saw the first raising of the Red flag on nearby Hirwaun Common which subsequently led to The Merthyr Uprising in 1831.
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