The Old Bridge, Pontypridd
|Council:||Rhondda Cynon Taf|
Pontypridd (pɒntəˈpriːð) is a town in Glamorgan, standing at the meeting of the River Rhondda and River Taff and thus at the place where three valleys have become one: the Rhondda, the Cynon and the Taff. The River Rhondda flows into the Taff immediately south of the town at Ynysangharad War Memorial Park.
Pontypridd, often known as "Ponty" to its townsfolk, is some 12 miles north of the county town, Cardiff.
The town lies on the dual carriageway north-south A470, from Cardiff. The A4054 north and south of the town is the former A470, and like the A470, follows the Taff Valley. South of the town is the A473, for Llantrisant and Pencoed. To the west is the A4058, which follows the Rhondda Valley.
Name of the town
The name Pontypridd is from the Welsh Pont-y-tŷ-pridd, meaning "bridge by the earthen house", a reference to a succession of wooden bridges that formerly spanned the River Taff at this point.
Pontypridd was known as Newbridge from shortly after the construction of the Old Bridge until the 1860s.
Pontypridd is most famous for the Old Bridge a stone bridge across the River Taff built in 1756 by William Edwards. This bridge was the third attempted by Edwards, and at the time of its construction was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the world.
Rising 35 feet above the level of the river, the bridge is a perfect segment of a circle, the chord of which is 140 feet. Notable features are three holes of differing diameters through each end of the bridge. The purpose of these was to reduce the weight of the bridge, although their aesthetically pleasing nature is a bonus. The utility of the bridge was debatable, however as the steepness of the design made it difficult to get horses and carts across it and in 1857 a new bridge, the Victoria Bridge, paid for by public subscription, was built adjacent to the old one. Edwards's bridge thus became "the Old Bridge".
In 1860, the town of Newbridge became known as Pontypridd.
The history of Pontypridd is closely tied to the coal and iron industries. Before industry came, Pontypridd was largely a rural backwater comprising a few farmsteads, with Treforest initially becoming the main urban settlement in the area. Sited as it is at the junction of the three valleys, Pontypridd became an important location for the transportation of coal from the Rhondda and iron from Merthyr Tydfil, first by way of the Glamorganshire Canal and later the Taff Vale Railway, to the ports at Cardiff, Barry and to Newport. Because of its role in transporting coal cargo, its railway platform is thought to have once been the longest in the world during its heyday. Pontypridd was in the second half of the 19th century a hive of industry, and was once nicknamed the ‘Wild West’. There were several collieries within the Pontypridd area itself, including:
- Albion Colliery, Cilfynydd
- Bodwenarth Colliery, Pontsionnorton
- Daren Ddu Colliery, Graigwen & Glyncoch
- Dynea Colliery Rhydyfelen
- Gelli-whion Colliery, Graig
- Great Western/Gyfeillion Colliery, Hopkinstown
- Lan Colliery, Hopkinstown
- Newbridge Colliery, Graig
- Pen-y-rhiw Colliery, Graig
- Pontypridd/Maritime Collieries, Graig & Maesycoed
- Pwllgwaun Colliery/'Dan's Muck Hole', Pwllgwaun
- Red Ash Colliery, Cilfynydd
- Ty-Mawr Colliery, Hopkinstown & Pantygraigwen
- Typica Colliery, Hopkinstown & Pantygraigwen and
- Victoria Colliery, Maesycoed
As well as the deep mined collieries there were many coal levels and trial shafts dug into the hill sides overlooking the town from Cilfynydd, Graig, Graigwen and Hafod. The Albion Colliery in the village of Cilfynydd in 1894 was the site of one of the worst explosions within the South Wales coalfield, with the death of 290 colliers.
Iron and Steel
Other instrumental industries in Pontypridd were the - Brown Lenox/Newbridge Chain & Anchor Works south east of the town, and Crawshay’s Forest Iron, Steel & Tin Plate Works and the Taff Vale Iron Works, both in Treforest near the now University of Glamorgan.
The Welsh anthem ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ (Land of my Fathers) was composed in Pontypridd by local poets/musicians Evan James and James James. Pontypridd was also home to the eccentric Dr William Price who performed the first modern cremation.
Pontypridd hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1893.
Pontypridd came into becoming because of transport, being on the drovers route from the coast and the Bristol Channel, to Merthyr and onwards into the hills of Brecon. Although initial expansion in the valleys occurred at Treforest due to the slower speed of the River Taff at that point, the establishment of better bridge building meant a natural flow of power to Pontypridd.
The establishment of Pontypridd over Treforest was finally confirmed with the building of the Glamorganshire Canal to serve the coal mines of the Rhondda valley. However, the volumes of coal extraction soon brought about the construction of the Taff Vale Railway, which, at peak, resulted in two trains calling at Pontypridd railway station every minute. The station is a long single island, at one point the world's longest platform, a reflection of both the narrow available geography of the steep valley side, as well as the need to accommodate many converging railways lines on what became the nineteenth-century hub of the valleys. Due to the restrictive geography, only parcels and mail were handled at Pontypridd, while heavy freight was handled at Treforest. The station today is reflective of reduced coal mining activity, with one up (valley), two down platforms, and only one passing loop.
Trams and buses
A tram service began on 6 March 1905, running from Cilfynydd through Pontypridd to Treforest. It was replaced on 18 September 1930 by trolleybuses, which today are replaced by buses which replicate an almost exact route.
- Tobin, Patrick F. (1991). The Bridge and the Song, Some chapters in the story of Pontypridd. Bridgend: Mid Glamorgan County Libraries. ISBN 1872430058.