Nantyronnen (Ash stream)
Nantyronnen sits underneath Allt Nantyronnen on the slopes of Mynydd Mallaen and faces out across the valley to the lead mine at Nantybai. It is first mentioned in 1553 and as “Tyr Nant yr hemayn” in 1629, “Tir Nant yr hemaine alias Tir Nant Enen” is referred to 1651. In the Cambell (Cawdor) rental for the year ended Michaelmas 1750, “Nant Ennen” was tenanted to Thomas Morgan for three pounds and nine shillings. In 1803 “Nantyronen” was let to Thomas Morgans for six pounds and seven shillings.1 By the1861 and 1871 censuses “Nant-yr-Onen” is shown as a farm of 77 and 69 acres respectively.
Although ‘Nantyronnen’ means ‘ash stream’, it is probable that ‘onnen’ is the corrupted form of an earlier name with a different meaning. A strong candidate would be ‘ennain’ (‘medicinal bath’ or ‘washing-place’), which could infer that the stream was once believed to have had healing attributes. Professor David Thorne has drawn our attention to another possibility, namely ‘eniain’ (‘very clear’), which would have been descriptive of the stream’s pure water.
In 1918 Lord Cawdor was haggling with the Timber Valuer for the War Office over woodland at Nantyronnen, he wanted four thousand and seven hundred pounds for timber from Allt-Nant-yr-onen which was then 96 acres.2
There was a saw Pit opposite barn on bank beside the stream shown on the 1906 OS map, it has since been filled in and is now the site of a pond. The 1881 census for Nantyronnen names William Jones (aged 49) as a “Woodman”. The 1901 census for Nantyronnen names John Davies (aged 55) as a “Woodman” he was still there in 1911. Thomas Theophilus remembers a Roger Evans living in Nantyronnen in the 1940s who was the “Woodman” for the Cawdor Estate.2 Anyone wanting to cut down a sizeable tree had to consult R J Evans on behalf of Cawdor Estate. It would appear therefore that Nantyronnen was generally allocated to the Cawdor Estate’s Woodsmen.
The saw pit was generally a rude structure about seven feet high, made of strong posts set in the ground, wide enough apart to hold one or two pieces of heavy timber, and the sawyers, one above and one beneath, sawed approximately one hundred feet per day. Some would say the term “Top Dog and Under Dog” as being derived from when wooden planks were sawn by hand. Two men did the job using a two-handed saw. The senior man took the top handle, standing on the wood, and the junior took the bottom, in the saw-pit below. Add to this the fact that the irons that were used to hold the wood were called dogs and that the bottom position was much the more uncomfortable, and one can jump from this scene to the origin of ‘top dog’ and ‘underdog’.
On Saturday, the 16th of July 1898, the yearly hay cutting competition was held in Nantyronnen. Participants were given a quarter of an hour to cut two swaths, 20 yards in length and no less than 8 feet wide. There were 2 competitive classes with Henry Lloyd, Maesmeddygau winning the first class with joint winners in the next class of Thomas Lewis, Brynhyfryd and David Morgan, Brynglas. The event attracted many visitors and the weather conditions were described as favourable.3
The Seion (Zion) Baptist Chapel just below Nantyronnen was built in 1829 as an offshoot of Bwlch-y-rhiw Chapel (established in 1717). Before the existing baptistery at the back of the Chapel was constructed Baptisms were carried out in the “baptism pool” in the River Towy just up-stream of the existing Towy Bridge. Mair Owen (nee Thomas of Nant-gwyn) remembers being baptised in the River in 1937. She remembers that the lane from Cwrdinas along to Coedweddus was known locally as “Water Street” because nearly all the householders along the way were Baptists! 4
Field names of interest:
Cae Kile yr Onnen Narrow Ash Field
Vedw Birch Grove
Gribin Top of the Hill/Ridge
Cae Gwartheg Cattle Field
Cae pistill gwynn Field of White Waterfall/Field of white water-spout
Wayn Llwyn Grove meadow
Ddole Wen White Meadow
Cyfer Dy Black Acre
1. p1359 (21/808, 1412 (17/676 (Lort Muniments) Cambell/Cawdor rental for the year ended Michaelmas 1750, Cawdor Survey from Michaelmas 1802 to Michaelmas 1803 (CRO)
2. Cllr. Thomas Theophilus and Mrs Ann Theophilus
3. 22/7/1898 Brython Cymreig
4. Mair Owen (nee Thomas) interview 2013
1777 John Campbell Book Map (CRO Cawdor)