Pontardawe shown within Neath Port Talbot
|Population||6,832 (2011 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Principal area||Neath Port Talbot|
|Ceremonial county||West Glamorgan|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
Pontardawe (Welsh pronunciation: [pɔntarˈdawɛ] – "bridge on the Tawe") is a town of some 5,000 inhabitants in the Swansea Valley (Welsh: Cwmtawe) in south Wales. The community of Pontardawe, comprising the electoral wards of Pontardawe and Trebanos, is served by an elected Town Council and forms part of the county borough of Neath Port Talbot.
Pontardawe first came into existence as a small settlement on the northwestern bank of the Tawe at the point where the drovers' road from Neath to Llandeilo crossed first the river and then the road running up the valley from Swansea towards Brecon. Its best known landmark today is the tall spire of St Peter's church which dominates the centre of the town from its site on a high point of the valley floor close to the Swansea Canal.
The name first appears on a map in 1729, as "Pont-ar-Dawye", in Emmanuel Bowen's New and Accurate Map of South Wales. By 1796, the Swansea Canal had connected Pontardawe with Swansea Docks. The accessibility by canal enabled the industrial development of the area, which started with the Ynysderw ironworks in 1835. Close to the ironworks, tinplate and steel works became the basis of the town's development during the latter part of the 19th century, with exports all over the world. The industrialist William Parsons of Neath developed the town's early industry, but from 1861 onwards the Gilbertson family became the most important proprietors of the town. As well as metal work, there were also significant coal mines in the area, and pottery works at Ynysmeudwy.
These industries declined in the middle of the 20th century. None of the heavy industry remains; on the site of the Alloy works there is now a small industrial estate of a number of small engineering firms, motor maintenance, building supplies and a health centre for the area.
From 1861 until its closure in 1964 (see "Transport" below), a railway line connected Pontardawe with the rest of the valley and further afield.
Attractions in the town include the Swansea Canal and the Pontardawe Arts Centre. The old stone bridge of Pontardawe was built by William Edwards of Eglwsilan, a famous bridge builder. He also built the Old Bridge at Pontypridd, which was the longest single-span bridge in the world when it was constructed, as well as the bridge at Cenarth in west Wales. Edwards was also responsible for the design of Morriston, a new town developed by the Swansea Valley industrialist Sir John Morris.
Music and arts
The Pontardawe Festival of world music and dance has been held at a weekend in August each year since 1978 and there are also regular meetings of such music groups as the Pontardawe Acoustic Music Club, held every Wednesday at the Pontardawe Inn (Y Gwachel), and the long-established Valley Folk Club, held on the first and third Fridays of each month at the Ivy Bush Hotel. Many of the pubs in Pontardawe feature live music at the weekends. The Pontardawe Arts Centre also stages quality performances by musicians of both national and international fame.
Pontardawe also has an active film society which shows about 20 films selected by its membership each year.
The first phase of a new retail park on Ffordd Parc Ynysderw, close to Cwmtawe Community School, opened in July 2008. Argos and Focus DIY were the first two retail companies to open stores. The Poundstretcher discount chain has also occupied a unit at the site, while frozen foods specialists Farmfoods opened 8,000 sq ft (740 m2) premises in March 2009. Since the Focus chain liquidated in early 2011, a Home Bargains store now occupies the former Focus store.
The Tesco supermarket in Pontardawe plans to expand its store by adding an escalator-accessible first-floor area which will include a cafe. As part of the planning deal the company is to make a sum of £100,000 available for local development of the town.
In 2008 The Pontardawe Chamber for Trade & Commerce was formed. Its goal is to promote business in the area, and rekindle a sense of community in and around the Town Centre, which was subsequently lost by the creation of the nearby superstores. The Chamber of Trade was active in creating a Tourism Map of the Area, and holds seasonal Festivals in the Town Centre. There are plans to re-instate the Pontardawe Market, and revive Pontardawe's historical status as a Market Town.
Notable people born or raised in Pontardawe include
- D. Gwenallt Jones (1899–1968), poet, critic, and scholar
- Rachel Thomas (1905–1995), actress
- Gareth Edwards (1947–), sportsman (voted by other international players as the greatest rugby player of all time)
- Mary Hopkin (1950–), folk singer
- Lloyd Woolf (1982–), comedy actor and writer
- Rosie Ribbons (1983–), singer-songwriter
Pontardawe is twinned with:
Prior to local government reorganisation in 1974, Pontardawe and district was served by Pontardawe Rural District Council; this merged in 1974 to become part of Lliw Valley DC and was subsequently reorganised again when the Pontardawe area became a part of Neath Port Talbot county borough. Pontardawe Town council is currently run by Plaid Cymru.
The town is the location of the Constituency office of Gwenda Thomas AM. Pontardawe is part of the South Wales West regional constituency served by Peter Black AM, Alun Cairns AM, Dai Lloyd AM and Bethan Jenkins AM.
Sports and recreation
Pontardawe has a cricket team, a rugby club – Pontardawe RFC – and a football (soccer) club. The playing fields adjoining the Pontardawe Leisure Centre at Parc Ynysderw are one of the UK's 471 King George Fields established as a memorial to King George V. They were officially transferred to their present site in 2003 and occupy land which formerly belonged to the tinplate works but is now owned and maintained by the local authority. The Cwmtawe rugby sevens competition, held at Parc Ynysderw, attracts entries from far and wide.
There is also a Swim Wales swimming club (Swansea Valley SC / Clwb Nofio Cwmtawe).
A local community group, Arena Pontardawe, is planning a recreational development on the Glanrhyd Industrial Estate. The development will comprise indoor and outdoor arenas and business units.
Every August Pontardawe hosted the Pontardawe Festival, which was held on the leisure centre playing fields at Parc Ynysderw. This world music event featured singing, dancing, and other artistic performances by acts from all over the world. Because several years of bad weather affected on admissions and due to the Wales-wide withdrawal of arts funding, the Festival has now ceased.
National Cycle Route 43 traverses the centre of the town and part of the recreation ground.
The Swansea Vale Railway (SVR) – founded in 1845 to develop and extend a short tramroad which had been opened nearly 30 years earlier to transport coal down the lower part of the valley to the docks at Swansea – reached Pontardawe in 1860, Ystalyfera in 1861, and Brynamman in 1863. On 1 October 1873 the SVR opened a branch from Ynysygeinon, near Ystalyfera, to Coelbren on the Neath and Brecon Railway, thereby connecting Pontardawe for the first time to the national rail network.
The Midland Railway took over operation of the SVR from 1 September 1874 and by 1877 the timetable of passenger trains calling at Pontardawe included three services a day in each direction conveying through carriages between Swansea and Brecon, Hereford, Malvern, Worcester and Birmingham. Traffic on the route began declining between the wars, however, and passenger services to Brecon were withdrawn in 1931 and those to Brynamman in 1950 – the railway line through Pontardawe finally closing to all traffic in 1964.
The Amman Valley Railway Society have ambitious plans to relink Pontardawe to the main line.
- Alltwen Primary School
- Godre'r-graig Primary School
- Llangiwg Primary School
- Rhyd-y-fro Primary School
- Trebanos Welsh Primary School
- Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Pontardawe
- Cwmtawe Community School – a purpose-built 11–16 English-medium comprehensive school serving Pontardawe and the surrounding areas. In 2000, the school was placed 113th in Wales for its GCSE results. Since then exam results have improved dramatically and according to the latest inspection report by Estyn the school now has a pass rate of 73%, placing it in the top 10% of all schools in Wales.
- Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera – an 11–18 Welsh-medium comprehensive school serving the Swansea Valley and situated 4 miles away at Ystalyfera.
- Coleg Pontardawe - A centre which forms part of the Neath Port Talbot College, it runs courses for mainly adult learners. It is a Learndirect centre and offers a motor vehicle course, it is located on the Alloy Industrial Estate near the town centre.
- "Community population 2011". Retrieved 12 April 2014.
- Llangiwg parish, Church of St Peter, Pontardawe
- "Pontardawe Arena on the Way". News Wales. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Jones, GB & Dunstone, D (1999). The Origins of the LMS in South Wales. Gomer. ISBN 1-85902-671-0.
- "Coleg Pontardawe". NPTC College. 2011-10-18. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
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