The Town Clock
Tredegar shown within Blaenau Gwent
|OS grid reference|
|Principal area||Blaenau Gwent|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Blaenau Gwent|
|Welsh Assembly||Blaenau Gwent|
Tredegar (pronounced //) is a town situated on the Sirhowy River in the county borough of Blaenau Gwent, in south-east Wales. Located within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire, it became an early centre of the Industrial Revolution in South Wales. The historic Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia, United States was named in honour of the town.
- 1 History
- 2 Riots
- 3 Foundation
- 4 Governance
- 5 Architecture
- 6 Culture and leisure
- 7 Local schools
- 8 Transport
- 9 Twin towns
- 10 As a filming location
- 11 Notable people
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Origin of the name
The name Tredegar can be explained as tref deg erw. Deg erw is Welsh for "ten acres" or "ten-acre"; tref means "town", although its original meaning was "farm" or "estate."
Tredegar grew as a developed town thanks to the natural resources it had within the Sirhowy Valley, namely:
- Iron ore
- Coal with which to produce coke
- Power, from the fast-flowing Sirhowy River
- Wood, which could be cut for buildings and pit props, and burnt for fuel
Hence by the start of the 1700s, the upper Sirhowy Valley was a natural well wooded valley, consisting of a few farms and the occasional small iron works where iron ore and coal naturally had occurred together.
The first recorded iron works in the Sirhowy Valley was Pont Gwaith Yr Hearn, developed by two Bretons and worked by men from Penydarren, Merthyr Tydfil. The Sirhowy Iron Works was erected in 1750 by Mr Kettle of Shropshire. In 1778 Kettle sold this ironworks to Thomas Atkinson and William Barrow, who came to the area from London. They developed it as the first coal fired furnace, so men were employed to dig coal at Bryn Bach and Nantybwch, the first small scale coal mining operation in the area. The furnace and hence the business failed in 1794. This created the new Sirhowy Ironworks, that were in 1800 to become the Tredegar Iron Company, named in honour of the Tredegar Estate at Tredegar House and Tredegar Park in Newport in the south of the county.
The town is known for its three major riots. In 1868 there were the election riots, which took place after the locals' favourite candidate, Colonel Clifford, was not elected. Secondly in 1882 there was a major anti-Irish riot in Tredegar. There had been a large Irish community in Tredegar since the 1850s, and for a while there had been tensions. Reports from the time vary, however where they all concur includes the fact the riot began with stone throwing and quickly escalated with Irishmen's homes being destroyed and furniture burned in the streets. The Irish were run out of Tredegar and some were beaten. Troops from Newport and Cardiff had to be called in to quell the violence Thirdly, there were the anti-Jewish riots of 1911, when Jewish shops were ransacked and the army had to be brought in.
Samuel Homfray and his partners needed accommodation for their workers, and so needed to develop a suitable town. The land on the eastside of the Sirhowy river was owned by Lt.Col. Sir Charles Gould Morgan who granted a lease in 1799 to build Tredegar Ironworks Company. In 1800, Homfray married Sir Charles daughter Jane, and hence improved his lease terms. The west bank of the river was owned by Lord Tredegar, and hence in the short term remained undeveloped.
Homfray was a hard task master. He sold franchisees to business people who wanted to operate within his town, from which he would take a percentage. He paid his workers in his own private coinage, so that they could not easily spend their wages outside the town. However, the opportunity to work created a boom town, which with a parish population of 1,132 in 1801 had boomed to 34,685 by 1881, in part boosted by the laying of the 24 miles (39 km) stretch of horse drawn track to Newport in 1805.
But all of this development came at a price. Adrian Vaughn, in his 1985 book "Grub, Water & Relief," mentions that in 1832 John Gooch took a managerial post in the Tredegar iron works:
|“||Utterly remote at the head of the Sirhowy valley, the town was a man-made hell. Men and children worked killing hours in the smoke and filth of the foundries and were maimed by molten metal. Their only medical help was that administered by the 'Penny Doctor.' Wages were paid in Homfray's private coinage — banks were not allowed in the town — so workers spent their coins in Homfray's shops, buying food at Homfray's prices. Poverty and malnutrition followed and disease followed both||”|
Links with the Labour Party
Tredegar has strong links with prominent Labour MPs and the history of the Labour Party and the Labour Movement in Britain as a whole. It was the birthplace of Aneurin Bevan, who was responsible for the introduction of the British National Health Service (NHS), and who in the 1920s was involved in the management of Tredegar General Hospital. It was also the birthplace of former Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock who attended Georgetown Infants and Juniors. His predecessor as leader, Michael Foot, was MP for the local constituency - Ebbw Vale - during his time as party leader. Ironically, Michael Foot's constituency home was Number 10. In a further irony, Tredegar, as part of the Blaenau Gwent constituency was for a period no longer represented by a Labour MP, with the left-wing independent Dai Davies representing the once safe Labour constituency until the general election of 2010.
Bedwellty House is a Grade 2 listed house and gardens. Originally a "low thatched-roof cottage", the old house was renovated in 1809. The present Bedwellty House was built in 1818 as a home for Samuel Homfray, whose Iron and Coal Works were the main local employers for much of the 19th century. The surrounding 26-acre (110,000 m2) Victorian garden and park, designed originally as a Dutch garden around which one could walk or ride without being confronted by gate, fence or outside features, contains the Long Shelter, a Grade 2 listed structure built for the Chartist movement.
The Town Clock
One of Tredegar's main attributes is the Town Clock - dominating the southern part of the town centre. The clock was the idea of Mrs. R P Davies the wife of the Tredegar ironworks manager, who had decided that she wanted to present a "lofty illuminated clock" and it was she who decided that it would be erected in the Circle.
"The clock tower is seventy-two feet high. The foundation is of masonry, on which is surmounted the cast-iron base which has four arms from each corner to a distance of sixty feet at a depth of five feet and six inches (152 mm) below ground level. The pillar is wholly composed of cast-iron, upon a square pediment which in turn, receives a rectangular plinth, and upon this stands a cylindrical column of smooth surface and symmetrical diameter, ornamented with suitable coping on which rests the clock surrounded with a weather vane. The plinth is inscribed on the four aspects, on the south side - Presented to the town of Tredegar from the proceeds of a bazaar promoted by the late Mrs R.P.Davis. Erected in the year 1858. On the west side is effigy of Wellington, with the legend - Wellington, England's Hero. On the North, the Royal Arms of England; and on the east, the name and description of the founder with his crest, - Charles Jordan, Iron Founder, Newport, Mon. The clock is provided with four transparent faces or dials, each five feet three inches diameter, and these were illuminated originally by gas, but this was later changed to electricity. The minute hands are each two feet two inches long, and the hour hand one foot seven inches long. The clocks mechanism is a fifteen inch (381 mm) mainwheel strike, with a single four-legged Gravity Escapement driving the four dials. It has a 1¼ second pendulum and the bob weighs two hundredweight".
Culture and leisure
Tredegar is 'The Home of Champions' namely the world famous Tredegar Town Band. The band is currently ranked number 2 in the brass band world rankings above top brass banding names such as Brighouse & Rastrick, Grimethorpe Colliery & Black Dyke. The musical origins of the band can be traced back to 1849 when a local brass band from the Welsh Valley town was reported to have led a procession to celebrate the opening of a new mill for the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company. However, a formal organisation was not constituted until 1876. Threatened with extinction, local citizens met to pledge financial support – a decision that has subsequently seen Tredegar Town Band proudly represent their community throughout the brass banding world for 137 years.
History shows that early contesting victories were sporadic, with recently unearthed archives revealing that the band competed both locally and nationally at lower section level with occasional successes up to the start of the Second World War. Many of these came under the baton of Eli Shaw, the first of many remarkable conductors to have directed the band to victory in the past century or more. Tredegar enjoyed increasing contesting success after the Second World War, under the direction of first, Cornelius Buckley, followed later by John Childs. This resulted in the Second Section Champion Band of Great Britain title in 1973, the band’s first Champion Band of Wales title in 1974 and victory at the Grand Shield in 1976.
Firmly established in the top echelon of brass banding ever since, Tredegar Town Band has been Champion Band of Wales a further eight times. Welsh Regional Champion on eleven occasions, as well as securing multiple Pontins, Welsh National Eisteddfod, Welsh Open, Yeovil, BBC Radio Wales and Wychavon titles. In addition, the band was twice runners-up at the National Championships of Great Britain, in 1993, and 2003, as well as the British Open in 1996, and claimed a podium finish at the European Brass Band Championships in 1991.
The latest contesting renaissance came with the appointment of Ian Porthouse as Musical Director in 2008, immediately regaining the Welsh Area title and subsequently achieving increasingly impressive domestic and national contesting results. 2010 was truly historic, with the band claiming no less than seven major domestic and national titles, culminating with the unique double feat of winning the Grand Shield and the British Open Championship in the same year. 2013 has seen the band add to this success by proudly reclaiming the British Open Championship title after producing a truly memorable performance of Stephen Roberts' ‘Arabian Nights - Fantasy on Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade for Brass Band’. Soprano player Ian Roberts won the Brian Evans Memorial Trophy, with Solo Euphonium Daniel Thomas claiming the Geoffrey Whitham Award. The Stanley Wainwright ‘Best Soloist’ Trophy went to the band’s Principal Cornet Dewi Griffiths. In the opinion of respected brass band adjudicator David Read the band's contest performance ranked close to the legendary 1985 Black Dyke National win on 'Cloudcatcher Fells'.
Tredegar Orpheus Male voice choir celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009. Originally in Tredegar there were two choirs, a glee party and a small chapel choir. In 1909, these united under the baton of Mr John Davy Evans, and thus became known as 'The Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice Choir', the name Orpheus coming from the Greek god of music.
Tredegar is home to rugby union teams Tredegar Rugby Football Club who play in the Swalec League Division Two East and Tredegar Ironsides Rugby Football Club. The club was formed in 1946. There is also the nearby Tredegar and Rhymney Golf Club.
Tredegar is home to Bryn Bach Park, a country park.
- Two dame schools prior to 1828
- The Town School opened in 1837
- Georgetown schools in 1877. First Headmistress in 1878
- Georgetown Senior Boys School in 1904
- Tredegar Grammar School
- Tredegar Secondary Modern
- Tredegar Comprehensive school
- Deighton primary school
- Glanhowy primary school
- Georgetown primary school (rebuilt 2004)
- St. Joseph's R.C school
- Brynbach primary school
The need for transport development came from Tredegar's industrialisation. By 1805, a joint venture between the Tredegar Iron Company and the Monmouthshire Canal resulted in the early development of what became the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway, connecting Tredegar to Newport Docks through 24 miles (39 km) of tramway. Originally powered by horses, in 1829 Chief Engineer Thomas Ellis was authorised to purchase a steam locomotive from the Stephenson Company. Built at Tredegar Works and made its maiden trip on 17 December 1829. In 1865 the railway was extended north to Nantybwch to meet the LNWR The railway declined with the industrial works, and Tredegar railway station closed with the Beeching Axe in 1963. The closest railway stations now are in Ebbw Vale, Rhymney and Abergavenny.
As a filming location
Tredegar has been used for numerous TV and film locations, including The District Nurse starring Nerys Hughes. In 1982, a televised version of the A.J. Cronin novel, The Citadel, was filmed in Tredegar, starring Ben Cross. The series was based partly on Cronin's experiences as a doctor in the town, where he had worked for the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in the early 1920s. This society contributed the model which established the British National Health Service. Aneurin Bevan who launched the Health Service in 1948 said ""All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to 'Tredegarise' you"
Just north of Tredegar lies the Trefil region. Trefil found new fame in 2005 when it was used as a location for the alien Vogon homeworld in the film of Douglas Adams's book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In 2011 the Trefil Region was once again used as a filming location for a major Hollywood production when parts of a sequel to Clash of the Titans was filmed there.
On 20 July 2008 the car crash scene for short film Cow filmed on the Tredegar bypass. 'Cow' was produced by Gwent Police and Tredegar Comprehensive School to highlight the dangers of texting while driving. The movie was made available online and received widespread attention, featuring on TV news programs, in newspapers and internet forums worldwide.
The Doctor Who episode The Hungry Earth was filmed in Bedwellty Pits in 2010.
- See also Category:People from Tredegar
- Aneurin Bevan, founder of the National Health Service, born in Charles St, about half a mile from the town centre
- A.J. Cronin, novelist, worked as a medical practitioner in Tredegar
- Alun Davies, Labour Member of the National Assembly for Wales for the Mid and West Wales region
- Arthur Henry Williams, Canadian Member of Parliament who served in the Ontario legislature and the Canadian House of Commons on behalf of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, and was Reeve of East York, now a borough of Toronto.
- James J. Davis, U.S. Secretary of Labor, founder of Moose International, the Grand Lodge of Moose in Great Britain, was born in Tredegar
- Bradley Dredge, golfer
- Neil Kinnock, former leader of the Labour Party and European Commissioner, born in Tredegar in 1942
- Christopher Meredith, novelist, educated at Tredegar Comprehensive School
- Ray Reardon and Cliff Wilson, snooker players, and Bryan D. White, the former mayor, were born in Tredegar
- Prof. Phil Williams, scientist
- Nicky Wire, bassist of rock band, Manic Street Preachers, and his brother, Patrick Jones, poet, were born in Tredegar
- Anterior (band), Metal band who have been on tour with All That Remains
- Jonathan Evans, the Conservative MP for Cardiff North was born here.
- Mark Colbourne Paralympic Gold and Silver Medalist
- Nick Smith the present Labour Member of Parliament for Blaenau Gwent grew up in the town and was educated at the local comprehensive school.
- image from Geograph, accessed 21 July 2008
- "History". tredegar.co.uk. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
- "A look at Old Tredegar in photographs" Volume 1 Philip Prosser Old Bakehouse Publications 1990
- B. Gardner's History of Tredegar and other information
- Sir Howy Valley History
- Town history on Tredegar.co.uk
- "Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council: Cefn Golau Cholera Cemetery". Retrieved 2010-November-05.
- Tredegar town website
- The Georgetown Schools (1877–1989) Clarice Brown Starling Press, Newport 1989
- "£3.6M Earmarked For Listed House". BBC News. 2007-03-29.
- "Arson destroys historic pavilion". BBC News. 2004-06-16.
- Tredegar Town Clock:: OS grid SO1408 :: Geograph British Isles - photograph every grid square!
- Old Tredegar Volume One W.Scandlett ISBN 0-9517057-0-9
- Tredegar Urban District Council's "Centenary Souvenir", 1958 The clock stopped working in January 2007 due to rain water affecting the rebuilt electrical mechanism. A campaign has been set up petitioning the council to repair the clock before its 150th anniversary next year.
- Tredegar Rugby Football Club
- "Transport". Tredegar.co.uk. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
- How the Medical Aid Society started..., Tredegar Development Trust, accessed 17 May 2010
- A Labour Delivery, 60 Years of the NHS, accessed May 2010
- Crash Scene photos and information from Tredegar.co.uk
- Gwent Police
- "A (very important) bit of Tom Jones?". BBC News. 2010-01-26.
- Rishbeth, Henry. "Obituary: P J S Williams 1939–2003", Astronomy & Geophysics, 44(5), 2003.