In 1851 Cefn-Coed-Y-Cymmer was a village in the parish of Vaynor, Brecknockshire (Breconshire), but it is actually adjacent to the town of Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan.
Below are a few quotes describing Cefn Coed in years gone by:
"Our most used football pitch and playing area was the road outside the Morning Sun Inn. The matches were interrupted, now and again, by the passage of occasional horse-drawn carts such as the costermonger carts of the England family, or Lewis the Baker's bread-van, or the farm carts from Cwmtaf. Motorcars were very rare in our village in the twenties. The electric tramcars were no problem because their Cefn terminus was a few yards below the Morning Sun, but funerals caused considerable delays!
"Games with playing cards and marbles were legion; boys and girls played games where a flat stone was kicked into a kind of graphical rectangle chalked on the road. "Cattie and Doggie" could be dangerous because the "Cattie" could have sharp ends and inflict nasty cuts; Dick stones was widely played, and so were game with tops and hoops.
During the first World War of 1914-18 there was naturally a great interest in anything edible; trout from the various rivers and reservoirs, wimberries from the mountain slopes and small, delicious strawberries from the large riverside plains just below the present Trefechan area. Hazel nuts were eagerly sought and their thick green bases chewed for their sugar content, a practice resembling the "Bara, caws a cwrw" chewing of the hawthorn leaves.
There were very few rabbits and hares in the district in my time but wild ducks abounded in the mountain pools and on mountain areas. North of the Swansea road there used to be an abundance of grouse which, with the characteristic whirring of wings, would rise in covies of half-a-dozen or more if disturbed by the casual walker through the heather-clad mountain areas."
Early 1920s - quotes from David Thomas Lewis, Hon. Professorial Fellow in Chemistry of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, Dyfed:
"Prior to the 1920s, motor cars had not made their appearance in the village.....". "In these days there was no bustle or rush. There was almost a complete freedom from disturbing noise, with a quality of peace and stillness which today, unfortunately, we have lost. The whole of the village and surrounding countryside, with its woodlands, hills and rivers, was the playground of the children. We had very little money and few material posessions, but we felt completely free and reasonably contented. We could throw stones, climb trees, go camping, light fires and roast potatoes, swim in the rivers and dabble in the shallows. Above all, we could provide our own games and our own forms of recreation without hindrance from controlling adults." However, all children had "a disciplined respect for people and property." Jack Evans
"...in 1761, Vaynor was still the "good valley for corn and grass"....
"Cefn, upon Coed y cymer, a barren and hilly tract upon which not a twig now grows (1809)....is raised in consequence of the neighbouring iron works at Merthyr.... built upon waste and houses are seen starting up without attention to regularity or arrangement, the convenience of each other, or the preservation of health." (Theophilus Jones "A History of the County of Brecknock").
Merthyr grew from 7707 in 1801 to 58080 in 1891, but lost 1880 between 1871-1881 due to migration. " This was the period when "The Lord knew the way of the Just but the way of the unjust was towards "Merthyr Tydfil" and "Whatever is lawless and unsettled or roving and characterless among working men has felt an attraction for this district". T J Harries
Absenteeism was common in the 19th C as the children had to work in the potato fields, haymaking, in the iron works, carrying coal from the coal patches for their parents, or taking dinners to their parents in the works. Sometimes also for social reasons: tea-drinking in the Baptist Chapel, tea parties, concerts at Ebenezer Church, Entertainment at 1d each at Temperance Hall, Regatta at Pentwyn Reservoir, Annual Cattle Show, "Camping Week", opening of Cantref Reservoir (Sep 1892), Waun Fair, grave cleaning, Singing Festival of Welsh Congregationalists in Merthyr, Sanger's Circus, picnics, Stock Fair in Cefn, Eisteddfod at Brecon (Reginald Berryman learned to play the violin and won a prize at the Eisteddfod), and charabanc outings.
1869 - "The present (school) staff always speak Welsh at home (William Lewis spoke both Welsh and English). Nearly all the scholars speak Welsh at home, too, consequently, they want their reading lessons explained...."
1870 - "Find it a difficult matter to get the children to speak grammatically, Cefn being much more Welshy than Merthyr".
1872 - "The children are so Welshy and understand so little English that there is considerable difficulty in making them discriminate the meaning of what they read".
1875 - "It is impossible to get the children to bring sewing work. Parents have nothing to give them" ."...the parents are so very poor (1879)".
1903 - "A violin class has started on the "Maidstone plan". About 40 boys and girls have joined." (Reginald Berryman, then aged 11, learned to play the violin and won a prize at the Eisteddfod).
The average age at death in Merthyr:
1866 - 17.5 yrs
1890 - 27.5 yrs
1891 - 32.0 yrs
1866 - Cholera epidemic from 24 Aug - 20 Oct due to filth, overcrowding, bad ventilation, poor and bad food and the vicious habit of drunkenness (this is not to imply that any of this applied to the Berryman family!).
Other epidemics included: measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, chicken pox, mumps, influenza, typhoid fever (1889, 1909) and scarletina (1898). Many of these outbreaks caused the schools to be closed for 3-4 weeks.
Many children were underfed and ill-clad, some families were so poor that they had no boots: particularly bad in 1926 during the "Industrial Crisis". Between the Wars, ".....most of the population of the parish of Vaynor was on the "Dole", or in receipt of Parish Relief", and Cefn Coed was "adopted" by Chippenham, Wilts.
For lots of photos of Old Cefn Coed, go to Alan & Geoff's Old Merthyr Tydfil