Village History

Cover of Colwinston: A Historical Journey

Summary extracted from ‘Colwinston — A historical journey’ by Chris Hawker. Published by Cowbridge History Society 2018. Copies can be bought at Charlie’s Cafe, the Cowbridge Bookshop and on Amazon.

Why here?

Neolithic and ‘Beaker’ people, migrating from the continental mainland from 2800BC onwards, settled in the Vale area. They left their tombs, iron age kilns, bronze age burial mounds and axe heads in the area. This provides evidence of continuous communities farming the land around the gentle valley and watercourse sloping from east to west, and culminating in the steeper sided central village itself. The older village houses are situated on the higher ground overlooking the meadow lands farmed from these houses. They may be built on sites of even older simple dwellings. Stock were fenced in at night and it is possible that the area between Garden and Penlan Cottages and Church Cottage provided protection and water for this purpose. Title Deeds and old census records call this area ‘The Square’. A village well near Ty Draw would have been a local meeting place with watercress harvested from the open water course there. These features could thus have formed the core elements of a ‘village’ community and settlement.

The Romans built the road to the west coast passing the village to the north, (still the route of the A48 as it passes the village, going on then to Ewenny). This could have provided additional income from passing trade, though it was the Silurian tribes who built and lived in Roman style villas in this part of South Wales and arguably most trade from the Vale area was conducted by sea, including
across the Bristol Channel. The Anglo Saxons failed to come this far west and the Morgannwg ‘princes’ ruled after the Romans left. During this period the settlement came to be called ‘Colwinstun’, linking an old English name Colwine (possibly someone settling in the village) and tin, meaning farm or settlement..

Norman rule and formal land ownership

Caradog ap Gruffudd and lestyn ap Gwrgant from the north and west usurped the princes in about 1070. There is no historical evidence for the story that an Einion ap Gollwyn treacherously recruited the support of the new Norman invaders to lestyn’s faction in a major battle at Hirwaun nor, as has been suggested, that he came from Colwinston or had anything to do with the name of the village,
(he was more likely to have originated from North Wales). Robert Fitzhamon, did though, then lead the Norman invasion of the area from Bristol, coming by sea. Colwinston thus became part of the wider Norman kingdom. Lands were divided up by the new French owners, with William de Londres being granted the lordship of Ogmore including Colwinston. He established Ewenny Priory in 1141 under the Benedictine Abbey in Gloucester including the churches of Ewenny, St Brides and Ugmore, Wick, Llampha and Colwinston (though Colwinston’s church actually dates from 1111). Colwinston and its lands became the property of the Priory under feudal style management, with tenant farmers and villains (holders of small pieces of land for working on the main estate) providing an income to the Priory Rector and appointed church Vicars through tithe payments.

This arrangement seemed to prevail while much of Wales was engulfed in attempts at opposition to the Norman and Plantagenet rule until the Welsh ‘Tudors’ took the English throne in 1485. Wales was then formally incorporated with England from 1536, and the County of Glamorgan was established as an administrative unit.

Reformation and the end of the Priory

Henry VIII famously seized all monastery lands in 1536 and one of his Commissioners, Sir Edward Carne, leased the Ewenny Priory lands from the Crown, eventually purchasing them for £727 6s 4d in 1545, providing much needed funding for the Royal purse.

A map (probably C16th) could suggest the boundary of these lands south of the Ogwr, stretching down to Southerndown. Here the village appears to be recorded as Colwyns’ Tone. Nevertheless the village name was usually spelt as one word, and the village seems to have been recorded ina number of different spellings over the years but most commonly Colwinstone or Colwinston, with the -ton/e pronounced as in Modern English con or roughly the same as the modern pronunciation of ton (the weight), won, done, etc. The Ordnance Survey has used Colwinston since 1833 (reflecting the usual pronunciation) but there is evidence that even official sources included an -e until relatively recently. Old photographs included in the book also spell the village name in this way. It is thought this usage was simply an affectation to distinguish the village name in some way and did not reflect a different pronunciation. The Welsh name of the village was not often recorded in documents in those times because of restrictions on the use of Welsh but it is possible that it was derived from a Welsh translation of tun to Tref, and a re-interpretation of Colwine through association with the Welsh word colwyn meaning ‘cub, whelp, puppy’. Colwyn has mutated to golwyn because tref is a feminine noun. Tregolwyn first appears in writing c.1566 (tref golwyn) although it is likely to have originated at a much earlier date.

Feudal land management continued but there was resistance to the new Puritan religion with a local priest John Lloyd continuing Catholic traditions and being hanged at Cardiff Heath in consequence. The Norman tradition of primogeniture (inheritance of the family’s land/property by the eldest son) had ensured the large estates in this part of Wales were not divided between the wife and/or sibling
children on death of the father. However, six generations of Carne family ownership ended with no male heir in the 1670’s (and women could not own property until a change in the law in 1882). The family lands were split between two daughters, with Colwinston, Llandough and St Mary Church being formally inherited by Sir Edward Mansell, Baronet of Margam on his marriage to Martha Carne. In 1747 the 4" Baron of Margam, Bussy Mansel, sold the ‘Manor of Colwinston’ to David Thomas ‘of Bath’. The Manor House is then built at Pwllywrach, only then becoming identified as a relatively small stand alone estate. Landowners made occasional sales of land to tenants (or other landowners) during these times, and some smaller farms were also created in the village. Four generations later, again there is no male heir after the death of Hubert de Burgh Thomas. His sister, Mary Ann Thomas marries Charles John Prichard (sometime after 1878) taking the estate into the ownership of his family.

Village development in the 19" Century

Further land sales (probably to tenants) during this period continued to create smaller farm units in the village, agriculture was supported by other trades including the Sycamore Tree Inn (recorded back to at least 1866, the building originates from the 17" century), a forge and blacksmith, baker, shoe maker and horse breaker.

The 1861 census shows some children to be attending a private school located on Twyn yr Eglwys. The origins of the present school are in the building now known as Ty Colwyn, where a school was established in 1871 under the 1870 Education Act as a ‘National’ school supported by the Church of England. There were 27 children on the register. This building is thought also to be the original village tithe barn. From 1875 the school was funded through a voluntary Parish rate. (The school moved to its present site in 1970).

The Prichard family provided funds for a substantial church renovation in 1879, in 1881 open benches were put in accommodating more parishioners. Welsh (and Welsh language) Nonconformity was represented by the Seion Methodst Chapel built in 1830, surviving until 1996 and the Ebenezer Baptist Chapel established in 1852 using part of Chapel Farm House. It continued in use until 1944. There is also known to have been a Unitarian or Wesleyan Chapel in the old garage at Colwinston House. Surplus agricultural produce was exported to Bristol (by sea) and then to the growing communities in the South Wales coalfields. Alternative employment in the new industries and agricultural mechanisation resulted in a declining village population, with some houses becoming unoccupied
and falling into disrepair.

Twentieth Century Change

Twenty-three villagers fought in the First World War with all returning alive making the village one of the UK’s 41 ‘Thankful Villages’. However, the war left local agriculture in a sorry state with land exhausted from over production, and a much reduced workforce. More land and buildings were being sold by the larger estates, often also to pay for death duties or school fees. The Second World War saw four casualties, now commemorated on the village green.

Colonel Hubert Cecil Prichard came to live at Pwllywrach after the First World War. His son, Hubert de Burgh Prichard famously married Rosalind Christie, the only daughter of Agatha Christie. The ‘Colwinston Charitable Trust’, now supporting arts across the UK, was established using the royalties from the long running Mousetrap play given by Agatha Christie to her grandson, Mathew Prichard. Gradually ‘modern’ features eventually found their way to the village including mains water in 1935, and electricity and telephone (in the form of the kiosk) from 1946 onwards. A new water main was laid from the A48 in 1972 and a new sewerage scheme laid in 1973. A fire damaged the church chancel, restored in 1971 and a further ‘millennium’ restoration funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and local fund raising included a vestry, kitchen and toilet.

The land in and around the village is now owned by the Pwllywrach estate (with the Edwards family farming from Hilton Farm), other farmers who have bought or inherited their land over the centuries, the Vale of Glamorgan Council (the school, village hall and remaining Council owned houses) and finally by a growing number of individual house owners (in houses purchased from the Pwllywrach estate, other farms, or built by small scale developers or the local authorities). Thus the village has gradually developed from an exclusively agricultural economy to a mixed community of commuters, farmers and agricultural employees, home based workers and retirees.

The main ‘fabric’ of the village was thus set until 2016 when the housing developer ‘Redrow’ started to build 65 new homes on land now known as Heol Cae Pwll. With this has also come fibre broadband.

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