The Valleys
Tonypandy Riots & Cordell Country

Tonypandy Riots & Cordell Country

Celebrating 100 year Centenary of the Tonypandy Riots 

2010 marked the centenary of one of the most significant industrial upheavals in Welsh history. 2010 marks the centenary of one of the most significant industrial upheavals in Welsh history. 

The Tonypandy Riots were a series of violent confrontations between coal miners and police that took place at various locations in and around the mines of the Cambrian Combine, a business network of mining companies formed to regulate prices and wages in South Wales. 

The riots were the culmination of an industrial dispute between workers and the mine owners who went on strike for a year in an effort to fight for a living wage. As the days grew into weeks, the long period of striking culminated in a bitter struggle to halt the operation at Llwynypia's iconic Powerhouse - a centre of activity that ensured work could continue in the nearby Glamorganshire Colliery.

Celebrating 50 years of an international best seller

It’s over fifty years since Alexander Cordell’s international best seller – Rape of the Fair Country – was published, putting the tiny iron and coal town of Blaenavon on the international map.

In January 1959 Victor Gollanz published a book about a 19th century family living in Blaenavon. Rape of the Fair Country became an immediate success, topping the best-seller list in Britain and selling over a million copies world wide. 

Surprisingly the author was not a Welshman. Born in Ceylon, Alexander Cordell, moved to Wales after WWII:  I was never happy anywhere tilI I came to Wales. In the Welsh people I have found a frankness, friendliness, hospitality and industry that I have found nowhere else.

Cordell was amazed by the reaction to his novel which was enthusiastically reviewed around the world during 1959. It had soon been translated into seventeen different languages. 

‘His chapters are bursting with vitality, zest, gusto,’ wrote J. B. Priestley reviewing the book. ‘His fighting and love-making – and there is plenty of both – are on a Homeric scale. It is wonderfully alive….the whole wide scene of the ravaged countryside, with the moor and mountain looking down on the furnaces, pitheads and hovels, is all solidly and beautifully there.’

Cordell’s writing put Blaenavon on the world stage some 50 years before it became a World Heritage Site. His stories wove together all the elements which were recognised by UNESCO in 2000, when they inscribed the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape as a World Heritage Site.

Fifty years on the novel remains one of Wales’ best-loved books, and as part of the Tonypandy celebrations a festival is planned. For more information visit the official Cordell Country website and visit the Cordell Musuem .