In the Middle Ages, what are now the separate townships of Abercarn, Cwmcarn and Newbridge were known as Abercarne, a manorial title which goes back to the Norman period. The three townships were also within the boundaries of the ancient parish of Mynyddislwyn.
Newbridge, as its name implies, was the name of land around the "new bridge" built across the Ebbw River towards the end of the 18th century. Newbridge was then a predominantly agrarian community of rural farms and sheep pasture with a low population.
In the valley, the chief farms were Ty-Llydd, where the new vicarage now stands, Tynewydd, where the Newbridge Hotel stands, Ty-hir, the house which stands next to the Beaufort Arms, and the Newbridge corn mill which stood near the South Celynen Colliery. The road pattern as we know it today did not exist—all activity and commerce took place along the mountain tracks which led over Mynyddislwyn and Mynydd Maen. Adjacent to the tracks were the more prosperous farms, Hyfod Fach, Glanshon and Cillonydd.
The coal-mining boom
Towards the end of the 18th century, Newbridge was established as a farming community around a new bridge across the Ebbw River. Like many towns in the area, it underwent a population explosion and socio-economic change with the arrival of coal mining in the 19th century. The mines attracted workers from all across Britain. The Celynen Collieries Workingmen's Institute, (the "Stute") and Memorial Hall (the "Memo") together became, like many miners' institutes, the communal heart of the town.
The local collieries enjoyed a reputation for highly skilled miners, a productive workforce and non-radical politics, and the community had thriving shops, churches, chapels and sports teams.
Mining eventually ceased in the mid-1980s, after surviving the 1926 general strike, the 1930s Depression and post-war nationalisation, but became unsustainable following the miners' strike (1984-1985). The Institute became a drinking club.
Since the end of coal mining, new leisure facilities have been constructed in Newbridge. Residents have also reported the return to the area of birds such as herons, buzzards and kestrels.
After some delays, the Ebbw Valley Railway reopened in February 2008. Although the first phase runs from Ebbw Vale Parkway railway station not to the more logical and historic route destination of Newport High Street railway station but to Cardiff Central railway station some 10 miles 23 chains west along the Main Line. Newbridge is one of seven stations on the line opened in the initial phase.
A bridge linking the main town of Newbridge with the school and leisure centre over the Ebbw River was completed at a cost of over £3 million and was opened in November 2009.
Sport and leisure
- Rugby: Newbridge Rugby Union Football Club
- Boxing: Newbridge Boxing Club
Newbridge has a public leisure centre which includes a swimming pool and a fitness suite which was enlarged from one to two floors in 2007.
Institute & Memorial Hall
The Celynen Collieries' Institute (1908) and Memorial Hall (1925) on High Street, are both listed buildings, the Memo being Grade II*. The Institute is unusual as the miners themselves built it, borrowing the money through a private mortgage. The Memo was built to commemorate the 75 Newbridge men who died in the First World War. It is still the focus of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday activities every year. The Memo contains a ballroom with a sprung dance floor and an art deco auditorium which was designed to be both a theatre and a cinema. Both buildings now provide community facilities for local groups and societies, live music and community events but are both in urgent need of repair.
After the mines closed, the Institute & Memorial Hall lost its income and became a drinking club. In 2004, when the local council was considering purchasing the land for a car park, a public meeting called by local MP Don Touhig led to the formation of The Friends of Newbridge Memo who got the buildings onto the BBC2 programme Restoration. They narrowly missed winning the final but received assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin the long process of raising money to restore both buildings. After a development grant was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in summer 2009, Cadw and Caerphilly County Borough Council are actively supporting the scheme and the Big Lottery awarded £500,000 in December 2009. In July 2010 it was announced that the Heritage Lottery would grant the project £2.9 million to restore the buildings.