Swansea, Fforestfach History

The Fforestfach History Website


Flyer, October 2013


Website History Map of Swansea Suburbs Covered:   NEWS/UPDATES:

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Fforestfach – A Brief Village History

The name Fforestfach or ‘Little Forest’ has come a long way since its earliest forms: Forestvachan c.1508, Forrest Bachan c.1529, Foresta de Vaughan c.1534-7, Fforest vychan c.1584-5, Forrest c.1729 and Forrest Vach c.17641.

One of the first references to the area was in the South Wales Daily Post 8th July 1815.

“For Sale at the Tunnel Brickworks, Fforestfach – A horizontal engine, Lancashire boiler with a quantity of bricks and scrap iron.2

The village grew up after 1819, with the crossroads on the turnpike road running north-west from Cwmbwrla3. The Tithe 1838 apportionments show the majority of the land was in the hands of powerful owners such as, Calvert Richard Jones, Duke of Beaufort and Sir John Morris4. The first Chapel built in the village was Bethlehem at Cadle (Welsh Congregationalists) 1840, this accommodated around 450 people5. The rebuilding of *Bethlehem was undertaken in 1866 with a total seating of 7506. Coal mining exploitation by the Vivians began during the 1840s at Mynydd Newydd; this dangerous work came at a price of five men burned to death in the 1844 accident. From this disaster brought about the two underground chapels used in weekly services, the first used in 18457.


The South Wales Railway opened in June 1850, between Chepstow and Swansea. Then by 11th October 1852 the line had extended from Landore to Carmarthen via Cockett, this would have brought people to the area seeking work and made the transport of goods more efficient especially coal.8 Calfaria Chapel (Baptist) opened in 18619 and by the 1880’s it was obvious the building needed to be enlarged due to increasing congregations, the enlargement was completed in November 1892.10

In September 1870 at Bethlehem an important meeting occurred, "On Monday evening last, a public meeting was held at the Congregational Chapel, (Bethlehem) near Cadle, with a view to establishing a school for the very large and increasing population of this neighbourhood".11 "That a school be established on the principles of the British School system, and that a temporary room be engaged for the present, until a suitable building shall be erected".12 The much in demand Gendros School 1897, was designed to accommodate 220 mixed and 127 infants.13 The buildings survived unharmed until a terrible night in January 1979, when the Junior School went up in flames. Due to the hard work of the teachers and parents the School, the building was made habitable again. The Juniors and Infants were amalgamated and given a new name of 'Gendros Primary School' which opened on September 3rd 1981, the modern nursery off Ravenhill Road was opened on 23rd November 1979.14


The Garngoch Colliery No.1 was opened in 187015 with No.2 and No.3 to follow in 1886 and 1906 respectively.16 There were many other mines in the area which were considerably smaller, but also contributed greatly to the local economy and fed Swansea’s hunger for the black gold.17 Welsh was predominantly the first language in 1891 with 94.8 per cent of the population able to speak Welsh with 16.7 per cent being bilingual. By the year 1901 bilingualism had increased dramatically to over 40%.18 In 2001 the National Census was broken down to a local level, Fforestfach gave figures of an astounding 78% having no knowledge of the Welsh language.19

From 1894, included in the civil parish of Cockett and under Llangyfelach (later Swansea) Rural District Council. In 1896 the Tunnel Brickworks was firing three of its four kilns, showing a great demand in its quality bricks for building in and around the local area. At Cwmbwrla there was the tram terminus from Swansea, this would have meant a long walk up the hill through Cwmdu on to Fforestfach. The first trams were horse-drawn introduced in 1874, then electric trams from 1900,20 the last tram car in Swansea ran on 29th June 1937.21 Saron Chapel (Independents) opened 4th July 1907 on the corner of Kingshead road and Carmarthen Road, it catered for 750 people with another 150 children in the additional school room.22 Jerusalem Chapel (Methodist) 1910 was built on the grounds of the current Coach House Pianos 2011.23 The demand for an English speaking church was recognised and in March 1913 the English Congregational Church was opened with seating for 200 people.24


After WWI 1914-1918, the *Fforestfach War Memorial was built and listed the men who were lost in battle,25 then after WWII 1939-1945 the list of fallen soldiers from the local area were added. Fforestfach became part the County Borough of Swansea in 1918, along with many other villages such as: Llansamlet, Morriston, Sketty and Waunarlwydd.26

From 1920 Dr McRitchie practiced from Dalwhinnie (next right, from the current Embassy Club 2011,27 latter when Dr Lewis practiced from the same family home. I remember his Doctor's surgery at the rear right hand side of the property with its own gate. In the patience's waiting room there were high shelves all around, with different sized bottles filled with many coloured medicines. The old Fforestfach Health Centre was in use during the 1980's and 90's, then the current Health Centre at Ravenhill was built on the same plot of land that was opened in October 1995,28 then officially by George Plunkett on the 20th January 1996.29


In 1923 the village consisted of 4 shops selling meat, 10 little shops selling general groceries (including parlour shops), 6 fish and chip shops, 5 public houses, 3 barber shops, 1 Police Station and 1 Post Office.30 The Welfare Hall was officially opened 28th March 1928 with support of many local people and assisted by the Miners’ Welfare Fund for the use of intellectual and social activities.31 Trevor Richard's residence and land was purchased and turned into Ravenhill Park, the building and landscaping work started in the early 1930’s.32

It was November 1945, that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth formally opened the 200 acres of Fforestfach Industrial Estate, providing employment for the town’s WWII ex-service men and women. By the end of the 1960’s there were over 30 commercial and industrial businesses that provided work for over 6,000 people.33 Many factories came to the end of their existence during the 1970’s, but there were still 5,000 employed in 1989 and still a busy working environment today in 2011.


The Carmarthen Road Widening project had a longer replacement railway bridge fitted in July 1966 at Cwmbwrla.34 The old Cwmbwrla village was demolished to make way for the new roundabout and dual carriageway, this started in 196735 and was a huge task as they finished construction in the early 70s.36 Many houses were demolished on Carmarthen Road with further road widening from, Cwmdu, Fforestfach and Cadle during the late 1970's, 80s and 90s. Sadly many families which were part of the community lost their homes, but were re-housed.

The Retail area of Parc Fforestfach opened off Pontardulais Road in 2002, with such business as: Argos, Boots, Borders, Clarks, Marks&Spencer, JJB Sports, River Island, Pizza Hut and the Carphone Warehouse. In 2011 a small number of these shops have either moved or gone out of business with effect in the current recession.

The latest changes for Fforestfach in April 2011 was the demolition of Bob Hughes Carpets (moved his business 2010) and the building of 4 brick, large glass fronted retail units facing Ravenhill Road on the corner of Carmarthen Road and Ravenhill Road. Two of these units are currently occupied by Ladbrokes (betting shop) and Subway (sandwich shop). The Marquis Arms is on the corner of Station Road and Carmarthen Road, its the third pub in my lifetime, the second caught fire and first was demolished with the road-widening. The current Marquis Arms is part of the sizzling Pubs brand owned by Mitchells & Butlers.

For election purposes it Fforestfach falls mostly within Cockett ward, with a small part (to the north) within Penderry ward. Cockett is surrounded by eight other electoral divions: Penderry, Cwmbwrla, Townhill, Uplands, Sketty, Killay North, Gowerton and Kingsbridge. Fforestfach is classed as a suburb and identified as one of 115 ‘localities’ within the City & County of Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom.37



1 Owen Hywel Wyn & Morgan Richard, Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales, 2007, p.151.

2 Cambrian Search Index filtered 'Fforestfach' from www.swansea.gov.uk, 08.08.2013

3 Alban J.R., City Archivist, Swansea in old picture postcards, 1985, plate 101.

4 Robins Nigel, 1838 Tithe map (redrawn) and Tithe schedule apportionment .pdf's, 2003, (www.swanseahistoryweb no longer available).

5 Thomas Norman Lewis, The Story of Swansea Districts and Villages Volume II Parts IV-VIII, 1969, ('Fforestfach') p.76.

6 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.77.

7 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.70/71.

8 Mitchell Vic and Smith Keith, Western Main Lines Swansea to Carmarthen, 2009, p.Historical Background.

9 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.76.

10 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.84.

11 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.77.

12 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.78.

13 City & County of Swansea, Gendros Primary Centenary, 1997, p.1.

14 City & County of Swansea, p.25.

15 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.67.

16 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.68/69.

17 Lawrence Ray, The Collieries of the Swansea and Swansea Valley General Areas, 2008.

18 Bevan Robert, Cardiff University, 2012.

19 City & County of Swansea, Electoral Divisions.pdf, 2008.

20 Alban, plate 114.

21 Stock Ray, Swansea In The Golden Age Of Postcards, 1995, p. Introduction.

22 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.88.

23 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.76.

24 Davies Mair and Treweek Joyce, A Hundred Years of Witness 1895-1995 Gendros Congregational Church, 1995, p.3.

25 Stock Ray, Old Postcard Views of Swansea & District, 1999, p.44.

26 Alban, p. Introduction.

27 Nicholson Winifred, Dr. Peter McRichie, 2000, p.18.

28 Fforestfach Medical Group, www.wales.nhs.uk, 10.08.2013.

29 Fforestfach Medical Centre, waiting room brass plaque, 2012.

30 Thomas Alwyn, Fforestfach My Village, p. 7.

31 Thomas Eddie interviewed by Jones R. Merfyn, AUD/198, 1974, transcript p14, South Wales Miner's Library.

32 West Glamorgan Archive Service, TC 57/8460, & BA 51/80.

33 Thomas, ('Fforestfach'), p.91.

34 South Wales Evening Post, Memory Lane Swansea, 1999, p.74.

35 South Wales Evening Post, Images of Swansea, 1998, p.57.

36 South Wales Evening Post, Swansea It's Yesterday Once More, 2003, p.68 & 69.

37 City & County of Swansea, Census Socio – Economic Profile, Fforestfach Locality, 2001.




* Listed Building Grade 2 are particularly important buildings of more than special interest.