Art, Landscape and Cymraeg
I was born and brought up in Bridgend and went to both Brynteg and Bryntirion Comprehensive Schools. What we were taught of Welsh history was non-existent.
The Bridgend of my youth, with vivid memories of the cattle market, indoor market, the Ship Inn and the iconic Town Hall are now sadly gone. Walking around the town today is in stark contrast to this past vibrancy which are mere memories!
I was brought up to think that Cymraeg was in the ownership of those areas further north and west of Bridgend. My uncle, who came from Llanelli originally, could only speak Welsh as a child, he was given the nickname “Welshie”, my great-grandmother spoke Welsh but I belong to the generations that were denied the opportunity. I took part in the school eisteddfodau and I remember the lines from one of Wales’ most famous bards, Dylan Thomas “where did you get that hair from, Lily? I got it from a tom cat!”. Then there was the six weeks per year we flew Y Ddraig Goch and sang ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ at a certain rugby tournament, but beyond that Cymraeg was not for us!
Later in life i decided to take the plunge and started to learn Cymraeg, 10 years on I am still a mere novice, but what it has given me is an important insight into the history and culture of Wales that i never knew existed. It has given me a greater understanding of how even as an English speaking Welsh person the language is part of my history and culture, through the descriptive Welsh place names that surround me, my accent, phrasing, the ‘Wenglish’ invisible to me but nonetheless there!
I now prefer to use Penybont ar Ogwr (the head of the bridge over the river Ogmore) not Bridgend. In Henry John Randall’s book “Bridgend, The Story of a Market Town”(1955) “its official name was always Bridgend. The Welsh form of Pen-y-bont is a literary form never used in official documents nor as an address”. This sentiment is replicated across many websites and blogs which detail the history of Bridgend, but for me this doesn’t tell the whole story.
The earliest mention of the name Bridgend is “Bryggen Eynde “(1444) and “de Brugeende juxta Coytyf” (1452) with “juxta Coytyf” meaning Bridgend nr Coity. Randall qualifies this further by saying “It appears to be new and not too well known”.
The two cymydau (commotes) in this area were Newcastle and Coety; the Ogmore river was the boundary, the link being a ford across the river until the building of the bridge in circa 1425 that ultimately gave rise to the development of the town – but it was a relatively new settlement compared to the ancient Coety and Newcastle. There are two main sources of information about the history of the area in the 16th Century. The first “A Booke of Glamorganshires Antiquities” Rice Merrick (1578). Rhys Meurig was a landed gentleman, genealogist, and historian who lived at Cottrell in the parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale of Glamorgan. In his publication he refers to “Brigend” and the river “Ogmor”
The second text from this period is John Leland’s “The Itinerary of Leland, The Antiquary relating to Glamorganshire” detailing his antiquarian tour through England and Wales between 1536 and 1542. In 1533, Leland was appointed King’s Antiquary to Henry VIII. He was given the task of visiting places and recording his findings.
In his references to the Glamorgan area, there are several instances of his naming of the river using ‘Ogor’, and one reference to ‘Oggor’. Throughout the text, he refers to Pennebont or Penbont; not once does he use ‘Bridgend’ or ‘Ogmore’ in his descriptions.
The Laws of Wales Acts were passed in 1535 and 1542. Section 20 of the 1535 Act made English the only language of the law courts and said that those who used Welsh would not be appointed to, or paid for, any public office in Wales.
Randall dismisses Leland’s use of the Welsh names as “affectation”. I find it strange that in the same period as the Laws of Wales Acts, a paid agent of Henry VIII would use the terms Pennebont | Penbont to impress? In relation to Glamorgan v Morgannwg, Merrick states within the reign of Henry VIII, “by expressed wordes commanded it to be named by the name of Glamorgan and by no other”. Glamorgan and Morgannwg, are both Welsh in derivation – however, ‘Blaen Morgannwg’ had become associated with the northern lands that remained in the hands of the Welsh and ‘Glamorgan’ had become associated with the lands in the “Shire-fee”, the feudal lands of the Normans. Little wonder Glamorgan was adopted as the official name.
Randall concedes that Welsh was the language of local people at that time and maybe Leland’s use of the Welsh version just reflected this – who knows – but what it does say, is that both English and Welsh versions were in use at that time. However, the more Anglicised version became the official version – a testament to the power of the Norman Lords and the annexing of Wales to England.
So what’s in a name? What does ‘Bridgend’ tell us? It tells us nothing really, only that there is a bridge – but it could be any bridge! The bridge could be anywhere, it tells us so little! Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr on the other hand tells us at least two things; it tells us it’s a Welsh town, and it tells us that of all the’ Penybonts’ in Wales this is the only one on the ancient Ogor!
I moved from Penybont ar Ogwr to Cwm Ogwr over 20 years ago, an area known to me as a child, because of our ‘trips’ with my dad to get an ice-cream from the ice-cream van on the ‘Bwlch’, something i still do today! We used to come to see the pantomimes and plays in the Berwyn Centre, produced and preformed by the Bridgend Castle Players- my aunty Bee volunteered for them for 60 years!
My other lifetime passion is for art! the purpose of this website is a self indulgent, amalgamation of all my passions; Art, landscape and Cymraeg! Please see my paintings for my art projects.
( I wish i had a more dramatic name such as Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, but alas it is ‘bog’ standard Christine!)