Friday, 21 April 2017

Seven Sisters..its People and its Characters

 I feel that I know Seven Sisters. My partner was brought up there. She has told me of the characters, and the places there. I know the location of the main shops where its cinema used to and its chapels I know of the legendary Councillor Barbara Aze and individuals like “Christy” Evans Historian and Community activists who did so much for the people of the community. In these days when Seven Sisters is represented by a self publicist it is good to remember these characters who fought, helped and committed themselves  to the Community.

The village of Seven Sisters had always been recognised historically for its coal mining pit that was located in the middle of what was once one of the richest sources of coal in Britain, if not the world, in the heart of the South Wales Coalfield.
Development of many mines, and hence small settlements into villages and towns in the area, was brought about by a combination of a rich deposits of anthracite in the western South Wales coalfield, as well as the construction of the Neath and Brecon Railway from 1862.

David Evans of the Evans-Bevan coal mining partnership, had wanted to call the colliery after his daughter, Isabella Bevan who cut the first sod on the land at Bryn Dulais farm with a silver spade on Monday, March 11, 1871. However, in light of superstition, and the fact that his own six sisters attended the ceremony, Evans agreed to call the mine Seven Sisters.
Anthracite coal fields always suffer from blow out, and on 10 November 1907, one occurred which killed 5 men. In 1923, there were 607 men working at Seven Sisters, producing from the Furnace Four Feet, Brass and Nine Feet Big Vein seams. During World War II the colliery was featured in an anti-Nazi film The Silent Village, made with the cooperation of the South Wales Miners Federation.
During the 1950s geological problems and changing economic conditions took their toll, and in May 1963 the colliery closed and the pit filled in.[4] The men who had been employed at the Seven Sisters were transferred to the nearby Blaenant Colliery, which closed in 1990.

With the opening of the mine in 1875, a community grew up around it. The present day name of the village came from the fact that Evan Evans had one son and seven daughters, hence the "seven sisters". At its peak in 1945 the colliery employed over 759 men from the surrounding area.
The first dwellings erected in the village were single storey buildings for the coal miners, named Brick Row,which are still in place today. More collieries were opened in the surrounding area, such as the demand for coal increased. Nant-y-Cafn or Dillwyn colliery was opened in 1884, Henllan Colliery 1911 and Brynteg Colliery and brickworks in 1885. All housing in the village prior to the 1930s was for coal miners, brick workers and railway employees.
A junior school was opened in 1884 at a cost of £530 for the school building and £280 for the school house. 33 children appeared on the register for this year. Its first headmaster was Mr W.J. Thomas employed on an annual salary of £52.

In 1905, a mixed collection of bronze objects found much earlier in the Bryntêg area, was recognized as being an important find. Held in the National Museum of Wales, they are known as "The Seven Sisters Hoard.

In 1912, Evan Evans Bevan agreed to build a village hall, which on completion in 1914 became known as the "Palace." Used for gathering and travelling drama shows, from 1916 it showed films. Purchased in 1925 by the Reading Room Committee, it became the Seven Sisters' Miners' Welfare Society, which later established a children's playing field, a football field and in 1935 the construction of an outdoor swimming pool, completed in 1932. In 1941 the Society purchased the 1926 institute and bowling green, constructed by Evan Evans Bevan. The Society was taken over by the National Coal Board on nationalisation in 1947.

The former colliery site now has the Canolfan sheltered housing complex, and the Ysticlau Park playing field. Some history of the village still remains, with the pit head winding gear sunk in the ground next to the site of the old colliery, and five pairs of preserved sections of railway line indicating the size of the enterprise.
Although the railway still runs through the village, the station was removed and the line is at present freight only. n. The former pit head baths were converted to an indoor swimming pool which was later converted into a multi-purpose Community Hall.
Originally the colliery team, Seven Sisters RFC founded in 1897, are a WRU affiliated rugby union club.
Seven Sisters has a legendary football team that dominates the local sporting scene, I must smile at the activities of the local Councillor Stephen Karl Hunt. Just recently as the election looms he has been praising the team most wildly. Having of course forgotten that over the last two years he has done much to criticise and object to its use of the local playing fields. In a recent exchange on Facebook a member of the team pointed this out to him and observed that at the time he criticised the use of the playing field that he was not seeking re-election in a very tight contest. You could not imagine the late Christy Evans or Councillor Barbara Aze behaving in this opportunistic way.

Here are three characters who came from the local community and should be mentioned as important, influential and colourful members of the community of Seven Sisters.

Richard Aaron Philosopher

Born in Blaendulais, Glamorgan, Aaron was the son of a draper, William Aaron, and his wife, Margaret Griffith. He was educated at YstalyferaGrammar School, followed by a spell at the University of Wales starting in 1918, where he studied history and philosophy. In 1923 he was elected a Fellow of the university, allowing him to attend Oriel College, Oxford, where he was awarded a DPhil in 1928 for a dissertation titled "The history and value of the distinction between intellect and intuition".[
In 1926 he was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Swansea University.[1] After the retirement of W. Jenkin Jones in 1932, Aaron was appointed to the chair of philosophy at Aberystwyth University where he settled, initially at Bryn Hir and later at Garth Celyn. Although his early publications focused on epistemology and the history of ideas, Aaron became fascinated with the work and life of John Locke. The interest was sparked by his discovery of unresearched information in the Lovelace Collection, a collection of notes and drafts left by John Locke to his cousin Peter King. There he found letters, notebooks, catalogues, and most exciting of all, an early draft of Locke's "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", hitherto presumed missing. Aaron's research led to the 1937 publication of a book covering the life and work of Locke, which subsequently became to be considered the standard work for that subject.[2] The proofs were read by Rhiannon Morgan, whom Aaron married in 1937. They had five children together.
Aaron produced several more books and articles, including a book in Welsh on the history of philosophy, Hanes athroniaeth—o Descartes i Hegel in 1932. He attempted to boost interest in philosophy in Wales, and established a philosophy section at the University of Wales Guild of Graduates in 1932, a society which still exists and conducts all its proceedings in Welsh.
Other notable publications of Aaron's include the essay "Two senses of the word universal" (published in Mind in 1939) and "Our knowledge of universals" read to the British Academy in 1945 and published in volume 23 of its Proceedings. Aaron's work shows an intense fascination with the idea of a Universal, which culminated in his 1952 book The Theory of Universals. In this he attacks the notion of universals as Platonic forms, but is equally critical of Aristotelian realism about essences, as he is also of nominalism and conceptualism as theories of universals.
Between 1952 and 1953 Aaron was invited to be Visiting Professor at Yale University. In 1956 he was able to study the third draft of Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding at the Pierpont Morgan Library, which resulted in a substantial addition to the second edition of John Locke, published in 1955, a year where he was also made a Member of the British Academyand President of the Mind Association. In 1956 the annual lecture hosted by the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association (who published the journal Mind) was hosted in Aberystwyth, and Aaron was invited to give the inaugural lecture. In 1957 he was elected president of the Aristotelian Society.
In 1967 Aaron published a second edition of The Theory of Universals, with a new preface, several additions and several rewritten chapters. In 1971 he published a third edition of his Locke biography and the book Knowing and the Function of Reason, which includes a wide-ranging discussion of the laws of non-contradiction, excluded middle, identity, of the use of language in speech and thought, and of substance and causality.
After retiring in 1969, he taught for one semester at Carlton College in Minnesota before returning to Wales. While at home he helped write articles for the 1974 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. He eventually began to feel the effects of Alzheimer's disease, and died at his home on 29 March 1987

Ruth Bidgood - poet

Ruth Jones's Welsh-speaking father was a priest in Port Talbot, where Ruth was brought up. She was educated at a grammar school in Port Talbot, and went on to read English at St Hugh's College in the University of Oxford. During World War II, she served as a Wren as a coder in Egypt, at Alexandria.

After the war she worked in London helping to prepare a new edition of Chambers's Encyclopaedia, but eventually she and her husband moved to Coulsdon in Surrey. She and her husband had two sons and one daughter.
She and her husband bought a bungalow at Abergwesyn, near Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys. In the 1970s she made her home there, and began publishing poetry and researches into local history.


In April 2011 her collection, Time Being, was awarded the Roland Mathias Prize.
A book-length study of Bidgood's work, written by Matthew Jarvis, was published in 2012. The book was launched together with Bidgood's Above the Forests collection at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 27 July 2012.


  • The Given Time (1972)
  • seven articles in Transactions of the Radnorshire Society (1974-1980) [on Llandewi Hall][2]
  • Not Without Homage (1975)
  • The Print of Miracle (1978)
  • Lighting Candles (1982)
  • Kindred 1986)
  • The Fluent Moment (1996)
  • Singing to Wolves (2000)
  • Parishes of the Buzzard [local history of Abergwesyn]
  • New and Selected Poems (2004)
  • Symbols of Plenty (2006)
  • Hearing Voices (2008)
  • Time Being (2009)
  • Above the Forests (2012
Christy Evans People`s Historian

Chris Evan`s book the Industrial and Social History of Severn Sisters stands out as a classic work. Hywel Francis describes him as an organic intellectual. I met him once when I was a know all young man. Now I am "know all late" middle aged man and would like to find a copy. Chris Evans was a man of the people a critical thinker..his sort are now very scarce, If anyone can help I can be emailed at and my landline is 01792 48024

Hywel Francis writes of Chris Evans  "The book that has had the greatest impact on me is very much in this oral tradition. Chris Evans's Industrial and Social History of Seven Sisters was written by one of the true organic intellectuals of the Welsh working class. I read it before leaving for university and, if ever there was a volume that legitimised my own experiences and those of my community, then it was this one. Here is a sensitively written history of an industrial community in the western part of the South Wales coalfield in which this retired miner had shrewdly brought together the anecdotes of an oral tradition of over a century of social development. To some extent his closing paragraph predicts the demise of all coalfield communities in the 1990s: "Hirfynydd bears the scars of forestry, the young saplings have taken root, in a few years' time the surrounding mountains will once more be covered with that dark green look. Will the village then be forgotten? Will it return to the days of long ago with nothing to disturb its peaceful surroundings but the murmurings of the streams, the braying of the beast and the sweet twittering of birds and the memories of old men?" I am now in the position of following the footsteps of the late Evans in writing a specific history of Seven Sisters: the centenary of its rugby club. 

People like Evans were the forerunners of what is now known as participatory research, working in coalition with social movements and the powerless, although the people of Seven Sisters would not see themselves as powerless or disadvantaged. 

First class historical work and fascinating photographs can be found at the wbsite of the Cwmdulais Historical Society. I quote from their web site.

Cwm Dulais Historical Society

Founded in 1964, the Cwm Dulais Historical Society is concerned with the study of history, with the particular objective of encouraging interest in the local history of the Dulais Valley in the South Wales area of the UK. Its catchment area comprises of the villages of Coelbren, Banwen, Dyffryn Cellwen, Pantyffordd, Seven Sisters, and Crynant. It also includes Cilfrew and Aberdulais see The Villages.

The Society's activities include:

  • Stimulating a general awareness of the importance of the past, by arranging regular programmes of public meetings, with lectures that combine a broad historical interest while placing emphasis on local studies. Currently, eight lectures are mounted annually see Members Section. There is also a Members' Night to which non-members are equally welcomed, when those who do not normally contribute to the programme are invited to do so, by bringing along items of personal memorabilia etc.
  • Arranging annual outings to places of historical interest.
  • Co-operating with local schools and other bodies on historical projects.
  • Scrutinising planning applications, with appropriate representations being made where this is considered necessary to protect local historical features.
  • Collecting and preserving items of local historical significance. An Archive has been established and a database compiled, currently numbering over 2,600 entries.
  • Responding to enquires. These cover a wide range; varying from local callers simply wanting addresses etc, to letters from people researching their family history or students working on theses.
  • Serving as a focal point in bringing together people with similar interests. In addition to fulfilling a certain educational function, we try to fulfil a role in other aspects of valley life, including a significant social function. Our membership is largely made up of pensioners, who enjoy the occasional opportunity for reminiscing and indeed for making personal contributions to our next generation’s understanding of the changing patterns of life within the valley.
  • Playing a part in local affairs. The Society is non party-political and non sectarian, but it co-operates with a variety of community activities such as the Dulais Valley Partnership, Dulais Valley Friends of Cefn Coed etc.


  1. although some of the details are not correct/out of date, this is a good synopsis of historical Seven Sisters; just a shame one egotistical, narcistic zealot hinders our village being great again -cohesive, engaging and full of community spirit.

  2. Thanks for your feedback. I would apptrciate you showing me the errors. And I would be very glad to correct them

  3. The insight into the anglicisation and colonialism of Wales druing the 1800s is fascinating.....many times I see "family spoke Welsh but went on to study English at Oxford. Person x did not speak Welsh themselves"

    Very rapid cultural change occurred between 1700s and 1970s