The community is situated in a typical glaciated valley with steep sides and a flat valley floor composed of glacial till. The Vale of the river Neath is over-deepened and faulted by glaciation and this has caused many cascades and hanging valleys along its length. This has resulted in some spectacular features such as the Melincourt waterfall. The village is flanked by Hirfynydd to the North West and Mynydd Resolfen to the South East rising to over 400m.
2. The name Resolfen
The original name of the village was Ynysfach ( the name “ynys” appears in many local place names and refers to a clearing or field)and refers to an old inn which stood where the present library is today. According to D.Rhys Phillips in his seminal work “ A History of the Vale of Neath” it was re-named “Resolven”in 1850 following the opening of the Railway Station and refers to the Manor of Resolven. Its derivation may come from a corruption of “Parsel Soflan” .
Prior to the 1830’s Resolven was a small hamlet of a few scattered farm houses e.g. the Ton. Melincwrt was at that time a more developed community following the short existence of an ironworks in the earl nineteenth century.In 1837, D.Whytton Lyon following the opening of a coal level built a row of terraced houses known at the time as “Y Rhestr Fawr” ( the big row)and today as Lyon’s Place. Industrial development in the 19th century resulted in the extensive building of terraced workmen’s houses, several chapels,a church (1851) and taverns. The rugby club was established in 1885, shortly after the establishment of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1881.The early twentieth century saw the building of more extensive detatched and semi-detached dwellings along Neath road. In the 1920s a large Miners’Welfare hall was built and a recreation ground was given to the village by Colonel Edward Vaughan of Rheola in 1912. Following the second world war large scale council housing was built, considerably adding to the size and population of the settlement.
The coal industry dominated the local economy for over a century with its four collieries and other numerous small mines producing almost three million tons of coal during that time.The village also has a miners memorial plaque which notes the names and dates of those killed in the local mines since 1852. Resolven has certainly played its part in the extraction of “black gold”.
The other major local employer situated in the village was light engineering with TRW Cam Gears being a feature of the valley for decades under several titles. Unfortunately this major employer was shut completely in 2011.
The Neath Canal /Camlas Nedd ( same wording as the Canal Information Board).
The Vale of Neath Railway, which still carries freight, was completed in 1851 by the world renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He built an almost unique aqueduct on the Clydach Brook which straightened and also carried the stream over the railway,this has recently been restored.
The A465 “missing link”. In 1995, the last section of the A465 trunk road was completed relieving the village of its reputation as an accident blackspot. Resolven is now known for its huge green footbridge.
6. Some famous people from Resolven
The Three Doctors of Music – Resolven is famous for producing three Doctors of Music who were prominent as both composers and hymn tune writers – William Rhys Herbert (1868-1921), Tom Hopcyn Evans (1879-40) and David Evans (1874-48). All three began life at the coal face and were products of the rich musical tradition of the area. David Evans in particular became Professor of Music at University College,Cardiff and was renowned as a conductor of cymanfaoedd canu (singing festivals).
Dai St John– born David John in 1872, unusually tall, Dai was a famous bare knuckle prize fighter on the local mountainside and fairgound boxing booths. In 1896, he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards and became British Army heavyweight boxing champion. He was nick named “Saint”. Unfortunately, he was killed at the Battle of Belmont in South Africa in 1899 at the age of 28 to national dismay. His mother’s grave in Resolven was re-dedicated in his memory in1996.
Sir Clifford Darby (1909-92) – Sir Clifford Darby was born in Resolven. He proved something of a child prodigy and after attending Neath Grammar School he went up to Cambridge at the tender age of 16. He graduated at 19 with First class honours and achieved his doctorate at 22 years of age. A luminary in his field of historical geography he had a glittering academic career on in both Britain and the USA. He was knighted in 1988.
Bert Coombes (1893-74) – famous miner-writer and author of “These Poor hands” lived in Resolven and is buried in St.David’s graveyard
Michael Bukht (Barry) (1941-2011) – famous food journalist (The Food Programme) and founder of Classic FM was born in Melincwrt and spent his early days in Abergarwed.
Rachie:” I Bob Un sy’n ffyddlon” – this well known hymn tune was commissioned by Jerusalem Chapel, Resolven for a Cymanfa Ganu ( singing festival) in 1917. Composed by Caradog Roberts it is also well known internationally to the words “Who is on the Lord’s side”. Rachie, was the daughter of the chapel’s minister.
Many thanks to Cllr Trefor Jones for the above history of Resolven