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The name Fforestfach or ‘Little Forest’ has come a long way since its earliest forms: Forestvachan c.1508, Forrest Bachan c.1529, Foresta de Vaughan c.1534-7, Fforest vychan c.1584-5, Forrest c.1729 and Forrest Vach c.1764.Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales by Hywel Wyn Owen & Richard Morgan
One of the first references to the area was in the South Wales Daily Post 8th July 1815.
“For Sale at the Tunnel Brickworks, Fforestfach – A horizontal engine, Lancashire boiler with a quantity of bricks and scrap iron.”
Cambrian Search Index - www.swansea.gov.uk.
The village grew up after 1819, with the crossroads on the turnpike road running north-west from Cwmbwrla. The Tithe 1838 apportionments show the majority of the land was in the hands of powerful owners such as, Calvert Richard Jones, Duke of Beaufort and Sir John Morris. The first Chapel built in the village was Bethlehem at Cadle (Welsh Congregationalists) 1840, this accommodated around 450 people. The rebuilding of *Bethlehem was undertaken in 1866 with a total seating of 750. Coal mining exploitation by the Vivians began during the 1840s at Mynydd Newydd; this dangerous work came at a price of five men burned to death in the 1844 accident. From this disaster brought about the two underground chapels used in weekly services, the first used in 1845.
The South Wales Railway opened in June 1850, between Chepstow and Swansea. Then by 11th October 1852 the line had extended from Landore to Carmarthen via Cockett, this would have brought people to the area seeking work and made the transport of goods more efficient especially coal. Calfaria Chapel (Baptist) opened in 1861 and by the 1880’s it was obvious the building needed to be enlarged due to increasing congregations, the enlargement was completed in November 1892.
The 1870 Education Act was the first piece of legislation to establish education in Britain and establish ‘School Boards’ in England and Wales. In September 1870 at Bethlehem an important meeting occurred: “That a school is established on the principles of the British School system, and that a temporary room is engaged for the present, until a suitable building shall be erected." 'SD&V, N.L.T'. The Ystrad School Room was built in 1880. The much in demand Gendros School 1897, was designed to accommodate 220 mixed and 127 infants. The buildings survived unharmed until a terrible night in January 1979, when the Junior School went up in flames. Due to the hard work of the teachers and parents the School, the building was made habitable again. The Juniors and Infants were amalgamated and given a new name of 'Gendros Primary School' which opened on September 3rd 1981, the modern nursery off Ravenhill Road was opened on 23rd November 1979.
The Garngoch Colliery No.1 was opened in 1870 with No.2 and No.3 to follow in 1886 and 1906 respectively. There were many other mines in the area which were considerably smaller, but also contributed greatly to the local economy and fed Swansea’s hunger for the black gold. Welsh was predominantly the first language in 1891 with 94.8 per cent of the population able to speak Welsh with 16.7 per cent being bilingual. By the year 1901 bilingualism had increased dramatically to over 40%.
From 1894, included in the civil parish of Cockett and under Llangyfelach (later Swansea) Rural District Council. In 1896 the Tunnel Brickworks was firing three of its four kilns, showing a great demand in its quality bricks for building in and around the local area. At Cwmbwrla there was the tram terminus from Swansea, this would have meant a long walk up the hill past Cwmdu on to Fforestfach. The first trams were horse-drawn introduced in 1874, then electric trams from 1900-1937. Saron Chapel (Independents) 1905 was built on the corner of Kings head road and Carmarthen Road, it catered for 750 people with another 150 children in the additional school room. Jerusalem Chapel (Methodist) 1910 was built on the grounds of the current Coach House Pianos 2011. The demand for an English speaking church was recognised and in 1913 the English Congregational Church was opened with seating for 200 people.
After WWI 1914-1918, the *Fforestfach War Memorial was built and listed the men who were lost in battle, after WWII 1939-1945 the list of fallen soldiers from the local area were added, with two further brass plates. Fforestfach became part the County Borough of Swansea in 1918, along with many other surrounding villages such as: Llansamlet, Morriston, Sketty and Waunarlwydd.
In 1920 Dr McRitchie practiced from Dalwhinnie (next right from the current Embassy Club 2011), latter when Dr Lewis practiced from the same family home. I remember his Doctor's surgery at the rear right hand side of the property with its own gate. In the patience's waiting room there were high shelves all around, with different sized bottles filled with many coloured medicines. The old Fforestfach Health Centre was in use during the 1980's and 90's and then the current Health Centre at Ravenhill was built on the same plot of land and was opened on the 20th January 1996 by George Plunkett.
In 1923 the village consisted of 4 shops selling meat, 10 little shops selling general groceries (including parlour shops), 6 fish and chip shops, 5 public houses, 3 barber shops, 1 Police Station and 1 Post Office. The Welfare Hall was officially opened 28th March 1928 with support of many local people and assisted by the Miners’ Welfare Fund for the use of intellectual and social activities. Lowe's farm was purchased and turned into Ravenhill Park which was opened in the early 1930’s.
It was November 1945, that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth formally opened the 200 acres of Fforestfach Industrial Estate, providing employment for the town’s WWII ex-service men and women. By the end of the 1960’s there were over 30 commercial and industrial businesses that provided work for over 6,000 people. Many factories came to the end of their existence during the 1970’s, but there were still 5,000 employed in 1989 and still a busy working environment today in 2011.
The Carmarthen Road Widening project had a longer replacement railway bridge fitted in July 1966. The old Cwmbwrla village was demolished to make way for the new roundabout and dual carriageway, this started in 1967 and was a huge task as they finished construction in the 70s. Many houses were demolished on Carmarthen Road with further road widening from, Cwmdu, Fforestfach and Cadle during the late 1970's, 80s and 90s. Sadly many families which were part of the community lost their homes, but were re-housed. In 2001 the National Census was broken down to a local level, Fforestfach gave figures of an astounding 78% having no knowledge of the Welsh language.
The Retail area of Parc Fforestfach opened off Pontardulais Road in 2002, with such business as: Argos, Boots, Borders, Clarks, Marks&Spencer, JJB Sports, River Island, Pizza Hut and the Carphone Warehouse. Now in 2011 a small number of these shops have either moved or gone out of business with effect in the current recession.
The latest changes for Fforestfach in April 2011 was the demolition of Bob Hughes Carpets (moved his business 2010) and the building of 4 brick, large glass fronted retail units facing Ravenhill Road on the corner of Carmarthen Road and Raven hill Road. Two of these units are currently occupied by Ladbrokes (betting shop) and Subway (sandwich shop). The Marquis Arms is on the corner of Station Road and Carmarthen Road, its the third pub in my lifetime, the second caught fire and first was demolished with the road-widening. The current Marquis Arms is part of the sizzling Pubs brand owned by Mitchells & Butlers.
Fforestfach is currently classed as a suburb and identified as one of 115 ‘localities’ within the City & County of Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom. For election purposes it falls mostly within Cockett ward, with a small part (to the north) within Penderry ward.
* Listed Building Grade 2 are particularly important buildings of more than special interest.