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INCORPORATION

OF MERTHYR TYDFIL1905

 
 
 

To be Constituted a Borough is the highest honour that it is possible to
confer upon a town. A Borough is constituted by a Royal Charter and by

Special Act of Parliament.

MERTHYR TYDFIL BOROUGH COUNCIL

Following the grant of a Royal Charter to Merthyr Tydfil in 1905, the parish
could then be incorporated as a Borough.
The new Borough first had its own COAT OF ARMS with the motto for the
Borough, then a SEAL which included the Coat of Arms,  MAYOR'S

CHAIN  and then the Borough MACE. These three things gave Merthyr

Tydfil the proper trappings of a Borough Incorporated by Royal Charter.

 

 

   



THE COAT OF ARMS AND SAINT  TYDFIL

Upon becoming a Borough the Corporation commissioned one of the top

Welsh artists of the day, Sir Goscombe John, R. A. to design a suitable

Coat of Arms. (Goscombe John was fond of using traditional mythical

heroic images and in 1906 he also designed the Fountain to the Pioneers

of the South Wales Steam Coal Trade to celebrate the efforts of Robert

and Lucy Thomas in the steam coal trade).

It was decided that the central figure of the coat of arms should be St
Tydfil, as the whole parish is named after her and the original pre -
industrial small town grew up around the church dedicated to her.
The  name Merthyr Tydfil means  THE BURIAL PLACE OF TYDFIL.
Legend has it that Tydfil was the daughter of a 5th Century Chieftain,
Brychan, King of Breconshire. While visiting their sister Tanglwst in
Aberfan,Tydfil and her family were massacred by a band of marauding

Picts, who came over to Wales from Ireland. It is generally believed that

she died on the site of the Parish Church, which bears her name, having

defied the pagans and refused to give up Christianity. Tydfil had many

brothers and sisters who became saints, including Saint Cynon.  One of

her brothers, Cadoc, became the Patron Saint of Brittany. Miracles

happened around her grave and the shrine of St. Tydfil the Martyr soon

became a place of Christian pilgrimage. In the Middle Ages a village

grew up around the church. There was once a wooden statue in the church

representing Tydfil which was probably carried out in a procession on her

Saints Day on the 23rd of August. The Royal Charter was in fact formally

granted only 6 days before the official Saints Day of Tydfil. This changed

with the Protestant Reformation and the statue was possibly destroyed in

the seventeenth century when Cromwell's troops were drinking in the inn

near the church.

It is significant that, although Merthyr Tydfil became a major centre of

nonconformity and had no Roman Catholics until the Irish came in 1815,

the town never abandoned the Celtic Saint, Tydfil although very little is

known about her. There are in fact very few British towns named after a

female Saint and the association with Tydfil is very special.

The later Merthyr Tydfil First World War Memorial has in its centre the

same mythological figure of St Tydfil together with the images of a working

miner and a mother and child. All these figures are emblematic of sacrifice,

St Tydfil was sacrificed for her religious beliefs, too often coal miners are
sacrificed to the coal mining industry and mothers' always make sacrifices
for their children.

The Borough Coat of Arms bears a likeness of St. Tydfil as the central 
motif. The heraldic description of the Borough Arms ( formally granted on

the 17th August 1906), is as follows:-

        'Azure a figure representing Saint Tydvil the Martyr, in Chief Two

                                    Crosses patee fitchee all Or'.


Tydfil is represented as a hard working saint because in her hands she

has a distaff, which is used for spinning.  The placing of the distaff as an
important symbol  in the coat of arms  is chosen to signify industry and to
represent the proud industrial history of the new Borough of Merthyr Tydfil.
The daggers on either side of her head are meant to indicate the

martyrdom and to remind us of how Tydfil met her death and that her life

was a sacrifice to God.


The motto on the coat of arms- 'Nid Cadarn ond Brodyrdde'  is taken from

an Old Welsh manuscript, 'The Sayings of the Wise' and means 'Not force

but Fellowship'.  There is nothing so strong as the bonds of brotherhood.

This reflects the strength of Trade Union feeling and the strong political
traditions here.

The Borough' s Seal incorporates the Coat of Arms and has three circles,
each with individual  illustrations, Morlais Castle ( the ancient links with
Norman Lords ), Trevithick's engine ( the innovations and inventions
pioneered here ) and a blast furnace ( the industrial nature of Merthyr
Tydfil ).

 



THE MAYORAL CHAIN AND MACE

MAYOR'S CHAIN  The Mayor's Chain was presented by the Member of
Parliament for the Borough, D.A. Thomas, later Viscount Rhondda. He

had worked hard for the Royal Charter and Incorporation and offered the

Chain at the first Council meeting of November 9th, 1905. The Chain

consists of a series of gold links with Badge of Office attached. The

Badge first has a crown with the figures 1905 underneath. Then comes

a red dragon; underneath the Borough Coat of Arms, surrounded by

Morlais Castle, Trevithick's engine and blast furnaces.


MACE   The town Mace is silver gilt and is four feet high. It has a crown on
top, with the Royal Coat of Arms directly below. Then comes the Merthyr
Tydfil Coat of Arms. Other decorations include the Welsh dragon, the

Tudor rose, three goats and the letters M. AND T. intertwined. Its inscription
reads, ' Presented to Merthyr Tydfil Corporation by the Promoters of the

Movement for the Charter of Incorporation for the Borough, August, 1909.

MAYORAL ROBES............these were also the gift of Viscount Rhondda
in1906.

Merthyr Tydfil celebrated Charter Day on Monday July 10, 1905 with what

was described in the Merthyr Express as 'magnificent demonstrations by

the people, processions, speeches and a grand banquet. The day was

further marked by the donation of 12,000 by Andrew Carnegie for a public

library. The day was bright and sunny. Numerous buildings were gaily

decorated and the knowledge of the new status of the town seemed to bring

about a spirit of pride to the ordinary citizens, as well as to civic dignitaries.

The Town Hall was suitably adorned with a broad hanging of crimson cloth

with a gold fringe. Flags hung from every window. In front of the main

entrance a special platform was arranged for the speech-making. The

famous Cyfarthfa Band played to the huge crowd which had gathered

around the Town Hall.

The Borough of Merthyr Tydfil came into being on a wave of local pride and
high hope for a better future.

A COUNTY BOROUGH IN 1908
It was not long before the Borough received further recognition. By 1908,

Merthyr Tydfil had a population of 77,000 and a rateable value of 290,000.

On the 1st April 1908 Merthyr Tydfil was raised to the status of County
Borough, as set out in the County Borough of Merthyr Tydfil Order, which

had been brought forward in 1907.
'Whereas the Borough of Merthyr Tydfil is under the management of the

 mayor, aldermen and burgesses of the Borough of Merthyr Tydfil and is a

County Borough within the meaning of the Local Government Act of 1888'.
The Corporation was able to construct street works, provide recreation

grounds, make better provision for the health, improvement and good
government of the Borough.
Following this Act, steps were taken to make many necessary improvements,

especially with regard to housing, sanitation, leisure and hospital facilities,

and this was an attempt to improve the town and make it a much healthier

place to live.  It was recognised that because of poor housing, occupational

diseases and a number of other factors health was a key concern.

Cyfarthfa Park, Treharris Park, Troedyrhiw Pleasure Ground and later

recreation grounds were all opened to the public. Improvements which were

vital followed on from Incorporation.

Carolyn Jacob
 

 
 
 

The Fountain, during The Incorporation.

 
 

Reading the Charter at the Town Hall - 1905.

(Photograph Courtesy of Gill Thomas)

 
 
 
 

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