CWM TAWE (Swansea Valley)

INTRODUCTION ABERTAWE SWANSEA & District AFAN / NEDD BRECONSHIRE BRIDGEND and The VALE CARDIFF and district CARMARTHENSHIRE Cwm RHONDDA Valleys CWM TAWE (Swansea Valley) CYNON VALLEY GŴYR / GOWER LLANDEILO TAL-Y-BONT Pryscedwin  LLIW VALLEY LLYNFI VALLEY MERTHYR TYDFIL MONMOUTHSHIRE PEMBROKESHIRE PONTARDULAIS (Pontarddulais) PONTYPRIDD and district Place-name Elements 'A' Elements 'B' Elements 'C' Elements 'DEF' Elements 'G' Elements 'HIJK'. Elements 'L' Elements 'M' Elements 'N' & 'O' Elements 'P' - 'PL' Elements 'PO' - 'Q' Elements 'R' Elements 'S' Elements 'T' Elements 'U' and 'V' Elements 'W' Elements 'Y' ONOMASTIC TALES PLACE-NAME CHANGES Guest Book My Photos



Kewin Kelvi                 13th cent. BBC

Keven Kellvy               1572    Cilybebyll.1

Ros Keven Kelvie        1610    Cb.1

Tir Keven Kelvi            1631    Cb. 2

Cefencelfi is the name of a farm near Rhos, Pontardawe in the parish of Cilybebyll. It contains two elements cefn, (pronounced cefen in the south of Wales as evidenced in the above examples) ‘mountain ridge, back', and a curious celfi.

Most Welsh speakers associate the pl. n. celfi with ‘furniture' or ‘tools'. Others may see the Welsh celf ‘art, craft' in the second element. Neither of these meanings would be applicable here. This celfi is both a singular and collective noun which means ‘column, pillar, post', [GOP/PNG. p38] and refers to two long stones in adjacent fields on the ridge at Cefencelfi, which may at one time, have been around five feet high.   

The 13th. cent. example is interesting as it cites Etri bet yg kewin kelvi (y tri bedd yng nghefen celfi, ‘the three graves in Cefencelfi'.) GPC. Pierce states that ‘reliable evidence has been found for the existence of three stones at one time', which would fit in nicely with the three graves of the 13th cent. Black Book of Carmarthen. The book names the heroes of the graves as Cynon, Cynfael and Cynfeli.  

Ros Keven Kelvie ‘the moor of Cefencelfi' is partly contained in name of the village of Rhos near Pontardawe. A Cae cefncelfi is also evidenced near Cellan, Cards.

Cefencelfi may be interpreted as ‘the ridge of the columns' or ‘the ridge of the long stones'.


Cwmrhydyceirw is presumed to be the valley of the stags’ ford.
It conjures up a pleasant rural and pastoral image.
CwmrhydyCEIRW however has little antiquity.
Basically it is a product of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The earliest example of CwmrhydyCEIRW is in the Cambrian Newspaper of 1871.
The earlier name was CwmrhydyCWRW, -‘Valley of the beer ford’.
It was the name of a small holding of 41 acres, part of the Popkin Estate.
The earliest recorded form of CwmrhydyCWRW appears on the1833 OS1” map.
From 1841 to 1901 the census returns in the Hamlet of Clase all record CwmrhydyCWRW
Between 1845 and 1889 there are twelve articles in the Cambrian Newspaper based at CwmrhydyCWRW
The 1884 OS6” map has CwmrhydyCWRW and CwmrhydyCWRW Brook, and shows the exact location of the ford.
Cwm rhydyCWRW was thought by some to be so named due to the transportation of ale along the road and through the ford. This is unlikely.

The name appears on the 1833 OS map. At that time, most taverns and inns and indeed farmhouses brewed their own ale. Breweries did not appear in the area until mid to late 19th century.
Others believe that the stream’s water was used in the brewing process.
A more likely explanation is linked to the colour of the water in the stream.
When the fords of rivers and streams are used by pedestrians, animals or carriages, the river bed is churned up and the water colour changes. If the river bed is of a ruddy brown colour the ford is often named RHYD GOCH. If light brown to yellow, Rhyd FELEN etc.

If the water is fast flowing and encounters stones and rocks it bubbles and froths. This action together with a light brown colour of the disturbed river bed would resemble the characteristics of beer - frothy and light brown – hence the beer ford! Reasons for the change:
1. The influence of the Temperance Movements [gained momentum in the 1840s]
2. The 1847 report into the state of education in Wales known colloquially as the Treason of the Blue Books triggered a ‘cleansing’ process in Wales which included changing many ‘tainted’ place-names.
3.Nonconformity. In the 1870s 60% of non conformist ministers were Total Abstainers; Ebenezer and Tabernacle Chapels built in the 1880s had their addresses at CwmrhydyCEIRW It wouldn’t do for their ministers and elders to be associated with CWRW, an alcoholic beverage.
By the first decade of the 20th century, respectability had been rubberstamped by the Post Office. The euphemistic CwmrhydyCEIRW was established as the village name and the much maligned Cwmrhyd yCWRW was confined to he history books and to the archives.
Deric John 16.6.07





Many believe that GWAUNCAEGURWEN contains the elements GWAUN and CAE plus the personal name CURWEN or GURWEN. The earlier forms however suggest a different etymology of GWAUN plus CEGER and WEN ( feminine and mutated form of GWYN). CEGER is the Glamorgan form of CEGYR / CEGID meaning HEMLOCK. (see Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru) CEGER WEN is WHITE HEMLOCK; GWAUN CEGER WEN is WHITE HEMLOCK MOOR .

The significance of ceger wen was lost and the name was rationalised to cae gurwen.   The village is also called Y Waun, while some refer to it as GCG. Perhaps GCG should change to a more etymologically correct GCW – Gwaun Ceger Wen. 5.11.2006 




An onomastic tale relates how a farmer and his labourer were harvesting the wheat one late summer afternoon in a field bordering the river Tawe. The young assistant had positioned the collected sheaves (sheaf = bera [Welsh]) close to the river bank.
They hadn’t noticed the dark clouds over the Black Mountain and in due course the level of the water rose and eventually ran over the banks into the field carrying away some of the sheaves. On seeing this, the farmer turned to his farm-hand and shouted “Wys – dal y fera!” (“Servant, catch the sheaf!”), and ever since, the place has been known as Ystal y fera.

This tale is entertaining but fanciful.
The 1604 and 1582 forms below show that the elements in this place-name are
1604 Tir Ynystalverran 1586 Ynys Tale Verra 1584 Tire Ynys Taleverra
1582 Ynys Tal y Veran


YNYS = river meadow
TAL = end
Y = the
The authors of the DPNW suggest that BERRAN is a composite word of BER and RHAN indicating a short land-share,
i.e. a short piece of land shared [prob. between some agricultural labourers]. In their opinion, YSTALYFERA is a contracted form of YNYS TAL Y FERRAN, meaning: 'a river meadow at the end of a short landshare' c.f. Y Sgeti from Ynys Ceti.


GPC however maintains that the final element in this place-name is Welsh bera 'pile, rick, stack'. This would give a meaning of a river meadow at the end of prob. a hayrick or haystack. The 1586 and 1584 forms above support this etymology.

The name for a piece of land [Tire ynys taleverra] became a farm name [Ynystalyfera] and was shortened to  Ystalyfera and Stal'fera. 

Eventually Ystalyfera, became the name of the village built around the ironworks erected in 1838 on the old farmland.

Deric John. January 2015.