History and Heritage

The New Swan, Ystalyfera

The New Swan, Ystalyfera, used to be referred to as The Swan Hotel. Today, the New Swan is a busy and prosperous public house, restaurant, and hotel, and information about its current activities can be found online at:-

Our webpage focuses on the past history of The New Swan, whilst using some current and recent photographs to show the building as it is now.


The sign for the New Swan, since updated with a new one, and the sweet shop Y Bws Stop, which is no longer functional.

The Roath Licensee of the New Swan

Back in 2013, I was contacted by email from Canada by a gentleman who had seen the website and wanted to enlarge on my article re the "loos" of Ystalyfera. What started as just an offering of information turned in to a friendship whereby he told me stories of his childhood in Ystalyfera and I sent photographs of the changing face of Ystalyfera especially the building of the new Tesco store in Ystradgynlais. Marty eventually came on a trip to Wales and we met in Neath where he treated my husband and myself to a lunch and "chat". Over the next few years we continued to cross the world until sadly an email arrived from his wife to tell me Marty had died.
He was the son of Mr and Mrs Bert Roath and his brother Stuart Roach became a Doctor but I'll let his emails tell the story.

I've just been looking at some of your articles on Ystalyfera; now that I'm retired I have time to do things like this. I looked it (Ystalyfera) up on a whim; after all it's a place I left in 1960. My parents were the tenants (landlords) of the New Swan from about 1949/1950 until about 1962/3, before that they were at the Golden Lion in Godre'rgraig, my father's name was Bert Roath; my mother's name was Megan. I left the area when I was 15, joined the Royal Navy, and never returned to live there after. However, it was a wonderful time and place to grow up in, we had the freedom in those days, climbing the mountains, playing near the canal, swimming in the river under the bridge, usually after the swimming pool had closed for the night, good times, good times !!!. I saw on the website that you were tracking down "local loos", there's at least one I know of that you may have missed, it was in Swan Lane, almost opposite of the gates to the back of the New Swan, check it out. I didn't attend any of the local schools except for Pantteg and that would have been as an infant, so I have no info on them for you. I liked your website very much, keep up the good work,
Thank you for stirring the memories,

As I mentioned in my last e-mail, my family ran the Golden Lion, probably from the mid 30s' until 1950/51 or so. The Golden Lion was situated on the Pontardawe side of The Bird in Hand, there were a couple of larger type houses between them, set well back from the main road by big front gardens, I believe one of them was occupied by a man called Edgar Davies and his family, he and my father were friendly, as neighbours go. You may, or may not, know that right opposite the Golden Lion was a large building that was referred to as a work-house, was it called "The Don"? I was born at the end of 1944, so you'll understand that being very young there isn't too much I remember about Godre'rgraig, but a few things seem to have stuck. My side of the family were Church of England, my mother switched from chapel when she married my father whose family roots are in the English Midlands, so you wouldn't find any records of us at Pantteg, though I did go to the school there until I was seven or so. As we didn't speak Welsh at home, my parents decided I needed to go to a private school where English was taught, that's a whole other chapter that I'll keep for later though!!

I remember that I started to go to Sunday school at Holy Trinity, I think I must have been christened there too, there should be a record of that somewhere, shouldn't there ?. My mother's side of the family came from the Neath valley, Seven Sisters to be precise, her maiden name was Davies, my dad was a collier there and my brother Stuart was born there. My brother is a story in itself; he became very well known in the medical world, became an expert in haematology, wrote books on the subject and taught at Southampton University before moving (back) to the United States to work in his last few years. He died in Jacksonville, Florida while refereeing a rugby match on St. David's Day, 1997, as a proud Welshman he would probably have liked that a lot!!

When we moved to the New Swan in Ystalyfera, St. David's became our church, I was in the choir there (couldn't sing a note, I think I was there just to make up the numbers !!), the Vicar was the Rev. Davies and he had two sons who were also in the choir, Richard and John I think. My mother was a staunch member of the Mother's Union there for many years, probably until they left the area in the '60s. I can't remember when the first landslip occurred, but as I was going through the area every school day by then, it affected me and others as the bus now had to go on what we called the Lower Road, through the Varteg. Shortly after, the Golden Lion was closed down, but I think the Bird in Hand was still going strong for a few years after, I don't know when that was abandoned and if there were any more landslips in the '60s, I can't say I heard of them.

When my mother was still alive I used to go back to the UK almost every year, but I don't need to do it as often now and believe me, it's no fun travelling these days. However I'll probably be over again in a year or so, once the urge for a decent pint kicks in, there's no stopping me!!

Thank you for the picture of the remains of the "Golden Lion", I sort of remember it like that. Don't forget, I was about 5 years old when we moved from there, but I do remember there being a large bulge in the wall outside the back door, even then I'm guessing the wall was holding back the mountain behind it. There were stone steps around the side of the pub which led up to the garden; we kept chickens up there too. I remember the steps very well because my cousin tripped on them when we were running up them to the garden; he bit his tongue very badly and bled like the proverbial stuck pig!! The doctor was called and stitched him up right there in the kitchen!! I'm afraid I don't remember Mr Richards shop, was it a sweet shop?, but I do remember there was a shop run by the Landry family in that row opposite the Gold (as it was called by the locals).

I do remember the Meadows', my dad and Doug were quite friendly I think, they'd get together every now and then for a drink or ten, even though they were competitors really. I'm not sure if the Smith's Arms was owned by the same brewery, the Gold and the New Swan were owned by Evans and Bevan, Neath, and for some strange reason I can remember the previous tenant of the New Swans name, it was Alf Langdon, I don't know where he went when my parents took over. I've been trying to think of the name of the people who kept the Ystalyfera Hotel which was at the top of the hill on Gurnos Road, there was a landlady there, a widow I think, who ran it.
Of all I have read on the web about Ystalyfera, by the way, other sites are NOT as good as yours Val! The Capitol cinema is mentioned quite a lot, why does no one ever mention the Empire, I loved that old flea-pit, lots of memories there!!!

Thank you for following up on the "Empire" and for the (very sad!!) pictures of the old flea pit. Doesn't seem fair to call it that now, I really did love that old place, lots of memories, you understand I'm sure. The manager of both the Capitol and the Empire was a man called George Clee, as teenagers we used to play merry hell with him and what we thought were his silly rules, but we kind of came to an understanding eventually, we behaved and kept other unruly kids under control and in return he let us sit upstairs to smoke our brains out at the Saturday morning matinees!!

There was a little sweet shop attached to the Capitol and Woodbines were 9d for a pack of five, those were the days!!! By the way, the Empire hosted a few live variety shows in the 50s', at least one of them was a sort of fundraiser for Glanrhyd AFC, they were headquartered at the New Swan and my father was president of the club during that time, in fact it was because of this that the brewery (Evans and Bevan) built a dressing room in the back of the New Swan, the boys loved it, it had showers and was a great favourite with my friends too.

Now Val, I didn't mean to send you off on an errand which would take up days of your time, I'm sure you have better things to do! Still, I guess it was the right time to take another look at Ystalyfera, even if it has deteriorated as much as you say, which is sad, because it used to be quite a vibrant little place, I always thought of it as a small town rather than a village, there wasn't much that you couldn't get there, but I have to admit I can't recall the name "Fountain Hall", though there was a snooker and billiard hall right next or close to the Empire, would that be it ?. Also sad to hear that the moving mountain continues to move on Pantteg, I suppose it will swallow the whole place in time, not much can be done to avoid the inevitable, but who knows for sure!!
While we're in the Pantteg area; I expect the school is long gone but what about the rest of it, there was a pub right opposite the school, I believe it was called the Bush, and there was a shop right next to it, are they gone too? Being a publican's son, I sort of picture everything as it used to be while using all the pubs as my landmarks, I think the next pub after the Bush was at the top of the (next) hill, the Royal Oak, then after that the Smith's Arms, am I right?

Sorry to be late in getting back to you, I really appreciated the pictures of the New Swan, still looks the same apart from the new sweet shop adjoining. There actually was a sweet shop next door; it was run by the Jenkins family, Dick Jenkins to be exact. That's where all the local kids would go to spend their pennies, bubble -gum and sherbets seemed to be my thing!!! He also made his own ice-cream on occasion, there was a little "dairy" in the back yard of the shop, I remember going in there for a look sometime or other, all I really remember is that it was immaculately clean.
Interesting that you should mention the motor rallies, although the drivers you are talking about were well before my time, still, I can recall going to the Woodlands garage (opposite the clock factory (Tick-Tock) late at night and seeing the cars as they came in to refuel, this must have been in the late '50s. I'm not sure where the cars came from or where they went after, it was just an excuse to stay up later as far as we were concerned.

I didn't know that there was a new school at Maesydderwen, there was a comprehensive there before wasn't there? I think a lot of my friends from Ystalyfera went there, or am I thinking of something else??

I remember the Red Cow, one of the many Ystalyfera pubs when I was growing up, sold you said, is it still a pub though? Or are they going to make it into flats or something? Seems to me that the Swansea Valley is still in the doldrums, not much in the way of employment and so on, I read the on-line version of the Evening Post to keep up with what's going on, pretty depressing to read sometimes. I haven't been to Swansea for years, I still have visions of how it was in the 50s', when I used to catch the bus at the Swan every morning to go to school, I'd get off at the church (St Mary's was it?), which was the terminus then, and catch another bus which took me to the (then) Swansea General Hospital, then a ten minute walk to Dumbarton House School, which is closed now.
You may remember, Swansea was full of bomb-sites during this time, I guess there was no money to start the re-building until later. Anyway, as I was saying, it wasn't a very pretty place then, it looks much better now.


AIRBORNE DOCTOR: By Tom Swan's Dairy

I was glad to welcome home to Ystalyfera after 6 months in the Canal Zone of Egypt, Lieutenant Stuart Roath RAMC Medical Officer of the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment. A National Serviceman and son of Mr Bert Roath, licensee of the New Swan Ystalyfera, Lt Roath has had an interesting 6 months in one of the world's hot spots. He left just as the natives had discovered a new game - throwing bombs in to British Military Camps. He has parachuted in to Jordan and Cyprus. He has a wonderful sun tanned skin and has been able to sunbathe and swim at home at some part of every day. He find "high Summer" ay Ystalyfera somewhat chilly in contrast.
Lt Roath who is well known to local cricket fans - he captained a team of Cardiff Medicals against Ystalyfera a couple of seasons ago, is at home for a week. Then he returns to his unit headquarters at Aldershot.

From the Llais

From the South Wales Voice 15th January 1944:-

A special meeting will be held at the New Swan Hotel this (Friday) evening at 6.0. Mr Trevor James (miners' agent) will speak on the new Compensation Order. All members are earnestly requested to attend.


Penybont Sports Bar and Lounge