Aberdare shown within Rhondda Cynon Taf
|OS grid reference|
|Principal area||Rhondda Cynon Taf|
|Ceremonial county||Mid Glamorgan|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Cynon Valley|
|Welsh Assembly||Cynon Valley|
Aberdare (Welsh: Aberdâr) is a town in the Cynon Valley area of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, at the confluence of the Rivers Dare (Dâr) and Cynon. The population at the 2001 census was 31,705 (ranked 13th largest in Wales). Aberdare is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south-west of Merthyr Tydfil, 20 miles (32 km) north-west of Cardiff and 22 miles (35 km) east-north-east of Swansea.
From being a mere village in an agricultural district at the beginning of the 19th century, the place grew rapidly in population owing to the abundance of coal and iron ore, and the population of the whole parish, 1,486 in 1801, increased tenfold during the first half of the 19th century. It has since declined owing to the loss of most of the heavy industry.
Ironworks were established at Llwydcoed and Abernant in 1799 and 1800 respectively, followed by others at Gadlys and Aberaman in 1827 and 1847. These have not been worked since about 1875. After this, the iron industry was represented only by a small tinplate works, but by this stage the economy of the town was dominated by the coal mining industry. There were also several brickworks and breweries. During the latter half of the 19th century, considerable public improvements were made to the town, which became, despite its neighbouring collieries, a pleasant place to live. Its institutions included a post-graduate theological college (opened in connection with the Church of England in 1892, until 1907, when it was removed to Llandaff).
With the ecclesiastical parishes of St Fagan's (Trecynon) and Aberaman carved out of the ancient parish, Aberdare had 12 Anglican churches and one Roman Catholic church, built in 1866 in Monk Street near the site of a cell attached to Penrhys monastery, and at one time had over 50 Nonconformist chapels. The services in the majority of the chapels were in Welsh. The urban district includes what were once the separate villages of Aberaman, Abernant, Cwmaman, Cwmbach, Cwmdare, Llwydcoed, Penywaun and Trecynon. There are several cairns and the remains of a circular British encampment on the mountain between Aberdare and Merthyr. Hirwaun moor, 4 miles to the north west of Aberdare, was according to tradition the scene of a battle at which Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince of Dyfed, was defeated by the allied forces of the Norman Robert Fitzhamon and Iestyn ap Gwrgant, the last Welsh prince of Glamorgan.
The coal industry 
In the early years of Aberdare's development, most of the coal worked in the parish was coking coal, and was consumed locally, chiefly in the ironworks. In 1836, exploitation of the "Four-foot Seam" of high-calorific value steam coal began, and pits were sunk in rapid succession. This coal was valuable for steam railways and steam ships, and an export trade began, via the Taff Vale Railway and the port of Cardiff. The population of the parish rose from 6,471 in 1841 to 14,999 in 1851 and 32,299 in 1861 and John Davies described it as "the most dynamic place in Wales". In 1851, the Admiralty decided to use Welsh steam coal in ships of the Royal Navy, and this decision boosted the reputation of Aberdare's product and launched a huge international export market. Coal mined in Aberdare parish rose from 177,000 long tons (180,000 t) in 1844 to 477,000 long tons (485,000 t) in 1850, and the coal trade, which after 1875 was the chief support of the town, soon reached huge dimensions. Steam coal was subsequently found in the Rhondda and further west, but many of the great companies of the Welsh coal industry's Gilded Age started operation in Aberdare and the lower Cynon Valley, including those of Samuel Thomas, David Davies and Sons, Nixon's Navigation and Powell Duffryn. In common with the rest of the South Wales coalfield, Aberdare's coal industry commenced a long decline after World War I, and the last two deep mines still in operation in the 1960s were the small Aberaman and Fforchaman collieries, which closed in 1962 and 1965 respectively.
On 11 May 1919, an extensive fire broke out on Cardiff Street, Aberdare.
Aberdare, during its boom years, was considered a centre of Welsh culture: it hosted the first National Eisteddfod in 1861, again in 1885, and in 1956 at Aberdare Park where the Gorsedd standing stones still exist.
The founding members of the rock band Stereophonics originated from the nearby village of Cwmaman. It is also the hometown of guitarist Mark Parry of Vancouver rock band The Manvils. Famed anarchist-punk band Crass played their last live show for striking miners in Aberdare during the UK miners' strike (1984-1985).
Griffith Rhys Jones - or Caradog as he was commonly known - was the Conductor of the famous 'Côr Mawr' of some 460 voices (the South Wales Choral Union), which twice won first prize at Crystal Palace choral competitions in London in the 1870s. He is depicted in the town's most prominent statue by sculptor Goscombe John, unveiled on Victoria Square in 1920.
Churches and chapels 
In the town centre is St Elvan's Church, a Church in Wales church at the heart of the Parish of Aberdare. The church was built between 1851 and 1852 and has had extensive work since its erection. The church also has a modern electrical, two-manual and pedal board pipe organ, that is still used in services. The nearby St John the Baptist Church of the same parish was originally built in the 12th century, with some of the original architecture still intact. Also of the same parish is St. Matthew's Church (1891), Abernant.
In the Parish of Aberaman and Cwmaman is St Margaret's Church, with an old, but beautiful, pipe organ with two manuals and a pedal board. Also in this parish is St. Joseph's church, Cwmaman. St. Joseph's has recently undergone much recreational work, almost converting the church into a community centre. However, regular church services still take place. Here, there is a two-manual and pedal board electric organ, with speakers at the front and sides of the church. In the Parish of Aberdare St Fagan, churches serve the communities of Trecynon, Cwmdare and Llwydcoed - St Fagans, St Luke's and St James's respectively.
There were many chapels in the area, most of which from the non-conformist era of Welsh religion; few of these are still used, and many have been converted or demolished. Notable perhaps are Saron Chapel and Siloa Chapel.
Saron, in Davis Street, Aberaman, was used for regular services by a small group of members until 2011. For many years, these were held in a small side-room, and not the chapel itself. The chapel has a large vestry comprising rows of two-way-facing wooden benches and a stage, with a side entrance onto Beddoe Street and back entrance to Lewis Street. Although the building is not in good repair, the interior, including pulpit and balcony seating area (back & sides), is in good order. In February 1999, Saron was made a Grade II Listed Building.
Siloa has been 're-established' as a Welsh language chapel.
Highland Place Unitarian Church celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010, with a number of lectures on its history and the history of Unitarianism in Wales taking place there. The church has a two-manual pipe organ with pedal board that is used to accompany most services. The connected schoolroom is used for post-service meetings and socialising.
Aberdare Athletic F.C. were members of the Football League between 1921 and 1927 before being replaced by Torquay United after finishing bottom. The senior club folded a year later. They played their football league games at the Aberdare Athletic Ground and were known as the Darians. The reserve team carried on as Aberaman and Aberdare Athletic for one more season but are now known as just Aberaman Athletic F.C. They play in the Welsh League Division One at Aberaman Park.
Schools and colleges 
Primary schools 
- Caradog primary school
- Town Church primary school
- St Margaret's Roman Catholic primary school
- Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Aberdar
- Blaengwawr Primary School
- Oaklands Primary School
- Cap Coach Primary School
- Glynhafod Primary School
- Cwmaman Infants School
- Cwmdare Primary School
- Aberdare Park Primary
- Cwmbach Junior School
Secondary schools 
- Aberdare Girls' School
- Aberdare High School
- Blaengwawr Comprehensive School
- St. John the Baptist School (Aberdare)
- Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun
Notable people 
- See also Category:People from Aberdare
Notable current and former residents and natives of Aberdare include:
- Henry Austin Bruce - 1st Baron Aberdare & Home Secretary (1868–1873)
- Stereophonics - all three original members, Kelly Jones, Richard Jones and Stuart Cable were all brought up in Cwmaman, Aberdare
- Steph Davies - cricketer
- Lyn Evans - particle physicist and project leader of the Large Hadron Collider, the largest science experiment in the world.
- Ioan Gruffudd - actor, born in Llwydcoed, Aberdare
- Patrick Hannan (presenter) - Welsh broadcaster
- Bethan Jenkins - member of the National Assembly for Wales for the South Wales (West) Region
- 'Big' Jim Mills (rugby league) Wales & Great Britain Rugby League International
- John Morgan - Canadian comedian best known for his roles on Royal Canadian Air Farce.
- Mihangel Morgan - leading Welsh language writer, born in Trecynon, some of his literary works feature Aberdare
- Roy Noble - popular Welsh broadcaster has lived near Aberdare for the past 30 years
- Rhian Samuel - composer and professor of music
- Ieuan Rhys - Actor from Trecynon
- Jo Walton - fantasy novelist, now living in Montreal, Quebec
- David Young - Rugby player and Cardiff Blues' coach, raised in Penywaun. Lions tourist and former Wales captain.
Twin cities/towns 
See also 
- "Settlements". Office for National Statistics. clickonwales.org. p. 1. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Aberdare". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Davies, John, A History of Wales, Penguin, 1994, ISBN 0-14-014581-8, p 400
- Davies, op cit, p 400
- Davies, op cit, p 384
- Newman (1995), p.133
- "Glamorgan (Glamorgan, Mid), Aberdare, St. Elvan, Church Street, Victoria Square". The British Institute of Organ Studies2005. National Pipe Organ Register. 2005. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
- Newman (1995), p.134
- "Saron Independent Chapel, Aberaman". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- "Aberdare Athletic". Football Club History Database. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- BBC website on Aberdare
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Aberdare and surrounding area
- Website of the Parish of St Fagans Aberdare
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