Ystradgynlais & District

History and Heritage

Water Street, Ystradgynlais

There is a well-known photograph of the area that shows part of Ystradgynlais underwater in a great flood. This was the aptly-named Water Street, of which row of houses on the river's side only the current pet shop remains as a reminder.

The Demise of Water Street

According to maps there once stood a row of cottages known as Water Street and of the photographs available it apparently was well named. After flooding it was decided to demolish these cottages which involved the Sardis Vestry and homes which were owned by a Mrs Davies. As all this occurred around the early 1900s we had no knowledge of the goings on until we read various articles published in the Llais re the Improvement of Water Street. Obviously something was eventually done regarding the problem but it would appear to have spread over quite a few years. Below is a summary of some of the decisions that were being taken at that time -

LLAIS 14th MARCH 1914

A letter was received from Messrs. R and C B Jenkins, solicitors, Swansea, referring to the Water Street property. They expressed a difficulty in valuing the cottages other than the sum agreed by Mrs Davies for the purchase, viz. £595. This would include No. 4 to 10 and 11 to 16 only, the vestry and three cottages on Mr Lake's end being left out.
The Clerk said he thought the closing order on the property should precede any consideration. Mr Lewis Thomas wanted to know what the cost of the whole scheme to the Council from beginning to end would be.
Mr Walters said it would cost them nothing.
Mr Thomas: That is the disputed point. There has not yet been a full discussion on the matter. The Chairman interposed by stating that it had been decided to proceed with the closing order before taking any other steps.
Mr D R Morgan said he would suggest one improvement in regard to this matter. There was a vestry there, the property of Sardis Chapel, - that this should be left as it stood at present. What he suggested was that the houses above the vestry should be done away with, and that the Sardis trustees should be asked to get a portion of their fore-wall taken away to come in line with the wall of the garden at the corner, so as to widen the road and leave the houses beyond the vestry and adjoining Mr Lake's premises as they are at present.
The Chairman said they could not deal with that matter on that occasion. It must be left until after the closing order had been proceeded with, and the same with Messrs. Jenkins' letter.

As a note, the above would appear to place the Sardis Vestry between numbers 10 and 11 of Water Street, which would be more or less opposite Sardis Chapel itself, across the road, like how Beulah Chapel in Cwmtwrch has its vestry/schoolroom directly opposite it across the road.


Two tenders were received for the land at the Square. They were as follows Mr J W Morgan, £4 per annum, for the purpose of a garden, and Messrs Edwards and Page, £5 per annum.
Mr J Howells asked what Messrs. Edwards and Page (*) wanted the land for. None of the members could reply to the question.
Mr D R Morgan said that when they had a cinema on the Square it caused a good deal of unpleasantness on account of the noise. Mr Howells said they must consider that there was a chapel adjoining the Square, and they must consider complaints from there.
Mr W Walters thought that Messrs Edwards and Page wanted the land to keep others away. Mr J W Morgan said that as he had no garden he was prepared to give £2 or £2 10s for half the land. There would be nothing as far as he was concerned which would be a nuisance to the chapel.
Mr D R Morgan thought the place should be kept open for the children.
Mr David Lewis suggested that they should ascertain from Messrs. Edwards and Page what they proposed doing with the land. This was agreed to.
At the afternoon session a letter was received from Messrs. Edwards and Page. They stated that their intention was to let it for shows and fairs and erect a hoarding for bill posting purposes.
Mr D R Morgan said that when he was on the way to the afternoon session he was approached by a very important resident of Ystradgynlais, who was prepared to give £5 a year for the land. His idea was to use the place for workmen's meetings or demonstrations or fairs. The resident assured him that there would be nothing held there which would interfere with the services at Sardis Chapel. He also proposed to leave it open for the children as a. recreation ground.
Mr Rees Chapman said they should certainly leave it open for the children and for public meetings, etc.
The Chairman said that before the Council took over the land Mr Walters, of the Yniscedwyn Arms was paying about £16 a year for the land, and he used to make £20 to £25 on a fair day. Personally he would like to defer the matter for a month in order to see what Sardis would offer for the land.
Mr D R Morgan asked the surveyor whether it was true that one of the local councillors was using his influence to induce show caterers away from the Square to some other land during fair time.
The matter was deferred for a month.

* EDWARDS & PAGE the 'Cinema Sons' of Ystalyfera referred to in YEARGROUP's Article - The Valley Boys

LLAIS 25th MARCH 1916

The trustees of Sardis Congregational Chapel, Ystradgynlais wrote asking if the Council was prepared to negotiate with them with a view of their buying out the Council's interest absolutely in regard to a portion of the land on the Square in order to build a schoolroom thereon, or the Council's interest in the whole plot which they now held as their tenants. In view of the fact that Water Street had been condemned and would eventually be demolished, they deemed it advisable to try and secure land in order to build a new schoolroom. The plot they suggested was convenient to the chapel, and they sincerely desired to secure the same if possible. The trustees would welcome any offer or suggestion from the Council as a basis of negotiation. The letter was signed by the Rev. R M Rhys and Mr T Williams.
Mr J Morgan said the land in question had cost them as a Council a lot of money, and he asked them to move very carefully in the matter. The Clerk said he thought the best course to adopt would be to write to Col. Gough asking if the terms of the lease stood for all purposes in view of the fact that the Council had abandoned the idea of erecting Council Offices there. Mr J W Morgan said they should point out also to Col. Gough what amount the Council had spent on the land. Mr David Lewis considered that they should give favourable consideration to the letter in view of the fact that Water Street was to be abolished. It would give the trustees of the chapel an opportunity of demolishing their vestry also, which was in the block of buildings that had been condemned. In his opinion they ought to have a table talk with the trustees of the chapel before seeing Col. Cough, and perhaps they could come to some understanding as to the expense already incurred.
Mr J Howells asked whether Mrs Davies could not step in, and rebuild houses in Water Street on model lines after the present houses would be demolished. Mrs Davies had taken over the houses as they stood. Several councillors expressed the hope that they should try and get some of the money back that had been spent on the plot. It was decided to write to Col. Gough on the matter.

One assumes that the land which the trustees of Sardis wished to buy, is that where the current schoolroom adjacent to the chapel now stands. This would have been part of the larger area of land in the Square, opposite from The Ynyscedwyn Arms.

LLAIS 28th JULY 1917

During Ystradgynlais Council Meeting: A letter was read from Mrs Owen, stating that she had interviewed the other owners of Water Street. They requested that some extension should be given to enable them to dispose of the slates, etc. In view of the remarks of the coroner, Mr Jeffreys said he did not think the Council would be justified in complying with request. Mr Jeffreys further reported that he had spoken to Col. Gough, and as a result, he (Col. Gough) had written offering to negotiate with Mrs Owen. In consequence she had agreed to accept £100 as compensation from the Council. She would have to hand over the leases to Col. Gough, and the Council would demolish the houses, Col. Gough to be the owner of the material.
The Council should erect a wall adjoining the river, and would plant the ground with trees to be reserved as an open space. The Square would also be given as an open space, subject to a piece being reserved for the erection of a vestry for Sardis Chapel. Mr T Williams suggested that efforts should be made to obtain the material from the present vestry for the purpose of the erection of the future one. Mr A Jestyn Jeffreys said some arrangement would be made in that matter. It was also pointed out that the roof would be removed by Col. Gough, together with the woodwork.
It was agreed to meet some of the trustees of Sardis Chapel. Mr T Williams said all could not be met as some were away in America!


A letter was read from Mr J P Lee asking as to the flag stones at Water Street. He wanted to know if they would allow Mr Gough to have the stones.
Mr J W Morgan said the flag stones were of such little value, that Mr Gough should be allowed to have them rather than the work should not proceed. They would be asking Col. Gough for favours in future, and it would not be wise to let such a little matter interfere with the progress of the work, as people were sick of the sight of Water Street.
Mr Torn Williams said the Sardis chapel trustees were prepared to forego their claim to the stones.
Mr David Lewis said the Ystradgynlais members were not present when the point had been raised last time. He was in favour of the improvement, but it would cost them something before the end.
Mr David Howells: You must admit, Mr Lewis, that we are more in Col. Gough's hands than, he is in ours.
Mr W D Walters said the Ystradgynlais members should have been present at the last meeting. He did not want to go against them, but the story would be spread about that he and Mr Lewis had stood against the resolution.
Mr T J Watkins: You are like a lot of Bolo Pahas here; you spread rumours about.
Mr D Lewis: Provided the compensation does not exceed £220, I do not press my point, but I see that some people are trying to get money out of the ratepayers. The Sardis people ought to meet us.
Mr Lewis Thomas said he agreed with Mr Lewis, but after all, they should not allow a chance of improvement of this kind to pass.
Mr David Lewis: Don't think the flag stones are the only obstacles I see. Where is the end of the cost going to be?
It was pointed out that further claims for compensation could not be entertained.
Mr J W Morgan said he had seen stones falling from the houses, and he thought in the interests of the safety of the children that the houses should be demolished, and tenders invited, or a sale made. The frosty weather made the houses dangerous. At one time, the rafters held the chimneys up.
Mr A Jestyn Jeffreys said there was no legal liability on the Council.
Mr T Williams: Can't we put a notice warning people of the dangerous state of the building. Several members: You will be admitting liability.
It was resolved on the motion of Mr David Lewis, to ask the Sardis trustees when they were prepared to proceed with the demolition.


A deputation of the trustees of Sardis Chapel attended when the terms of the agreement relating to the demolition of Water Street, Ystradgynlais, were gone into.
It was pointed out that the claim to the stone slabs had been foregone, and the Rev. R M Rhys (pastor), said they would do all they could to meet the council as the latter were now in different position.
A difference arose as to whether the council should not build the boundary wall, as the latter were only prepared to allow the stones. Mr Lewis Thomas said the improvement had cost more than they had at first anticipated.
Mr Benjamin Williams said he had given Sardis every support, but when they saw the attitude of the landowner they thought it better to allow the scheme to fall through rather than incur further expense. He urged the trustees to meet them as far as possible.
The Rev. R M Rhys said that since there had been a misunderstanding he thought they should consult the other trustees further.
The Clerk said he would try and get Col. Gough to hand over the slabs.
Mr Benjamin Williams appealed to the trustees present to advise their co- trustees to fall in with the scheme.
It was also explained that the Sardis people should have the stones at the buildings where they stood.
Mr David Lewis said it was agreed that they should have sufficient stones.
Mr J W Morgan thought they should get the work done at once.
Rev. R M Rhys: I may say we are in the same mood as when we first took the matter up. We are prepared to meet you on any reasonable grounds.

It appears from this that the council may have intended to build the riverside wall with the old flagstones, whilst it had been intended to build the new vestry with stone from the demolished buildings of Water Street, but a misunderstanding had allowed Colonel Gough to have possession of both materials, and this now needed to be sorted out.

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