Ebbw Vale

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For the Ebbw Vale in Australia, see Ebbw Vale, Queensland.
Ebbw Vale
Welsh: Glyn Ebwy
Ebbw Vale-panorama.jpg
Looking north over Ebbw Vale from Hilltop
Ebbw Vale is located in Blaenau Gwent
Ebbw Vale
Ebbw Vale
 Ebbw Vale shown within Blaenau Gwent
Population 18,558 
OS grid reference SO165095
Principal area Blaenau Gwent
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town EBBW VALE
Postcode district NP23
Dialling code 01495
Police Gwent
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Blaenau Gwent
Welsh Assembly Blaenau Gwent
List of places
Blaenau Gwent

Coordinates: 51°46′40″N 3°12′42″W / 51.7779°N 3.2117°W / 51.7779; -3.2117

Ebbw Vale (/ˈɛb vl/; Welsh: Glyn Ebwy) is a town at the head of the valley formed by the Ebbw Fawr tributary of the Ebbw River in Wales. It is the largest town and the administrative centre of Blaenau Gwent county borough. The Ebbw Vale and Brynmawr conurbation has a population of roughly 33,000.


Ebbw Vale Steelworks in 1969, by this time under the control of British Steel
Main article: Ebbw Vale Steelworks

Originally a rather insignificant spot in rural Monmouthshire with only about 120 inhabitants at the end of the 18th century, Ebbw Vale—and the whole valley—was transformed by the Industrial Revolution.[1] The Ebbw Vale Iron Works, later to become the Ebbw Vale Steelworks, opened in 1778, followed by the opening of a number of coal mines around 1790. At its height (1930s — 40s) the steel works in Ebbw Vale was the largest in Europe, although attracting very little attention from German bombers during World War II. By the 1960s around 14,500 people were employed in the works in and around Ebbw Vale, but the end of the century witnessed a massive collapse to the industry.[1] A strike in 1980 was followed by closures and redundancies which resulted in the dismantling of many of the old plants.[1] In 2002 only 450 were employed in the old industries, and by July of that year the final works closed.[1]


Ebbw Vale town centre

Today there are no steelworks or mines left in or around the town, though Ebbw Vale is still recognised for its innovation and contribution to the development of Britain as an industrial nation. This includes the world's first steel rail, rolled at Ebbw Vale in 1857,[2] and the rails for the Stockton and Darlington Railway were also manufactured at Ebbw Vale in 1829.[3]

Unemployment in Ebbw Vale is among the highest rates in the United Kingdom, largely the result of the decline of the mining and steel industries.[4]

In 2003 work began on demolishing the long-standing steelworks, and as of 2015 around one to two miles of the valley are being redeveloped with a new hospital, school and leisure centre.

Ebbw Vale hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1958 and again in 2010. The Welsh language was dominant in the area until the last quarter of the 19th century and remnants of the language (Welsh hymns and pockets of Welsh being spoken in nearby Rhymney) persisted into the 1970s. The National Eisteddfod returned to Ebbw Vale in 2010.[5]

Aneurin Bevan, the "father" of the National Health Service, represented Ebbw Vale as a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) in Parliament from the 1929 general election. When he died in 1960, he was succeeded as MP by Michael Foot. The seat is now called Blaenau Gwent.

The Ebbw Vale conurbation today is a product of areas which grew during the Industrial Revolution in the South Wales coalfield and the South Wales Valleys as a result of the iron industry, local ironworks or have developed as a result of distinct housing areas to serve local industry with workers, they include: Ebbw Vale, Rassau, Garnlydan, Hill Top, Briery Hill, Glyncoed, Willowtown, Glanyrafon, Cwm, Newtown, Victoria, Tyllwyn, Waunlwyd and Ebbw Vale itself. Beaufort and Victoria were the two original iron producing areas.

Entrance to Festival Park shopping outlet

National Garden Festival of Wales[edit]

In 1992 the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival was the last National Garden Festival. It was sited on the south side of the recently demolished steel works. The festival ran for five months between 1 May to 4 October 1992 and attracted over 2 million visitors. The development cost around 18 million pounds. Since the festival the site has been renamed Festival Park and has slowly become dilapidated over 16 years due to lack of care and attention.[6] It is now the site of the Festival Park Branded Outlet, a retail outlet comprising approximately forty shops.

Steelworks development[edit]

The Ebbw Vale Steelworks site known as "The Works"[7] is being re-developed under a £350 million regeneration project by Blaenau Gwent Council and Welsh Government. It will then have many different uses; housing, retail & office, wetlands, a Learning campus and many other uses. The steelworks closed in 2002 and the land was remediated over a period of approximately five years. Outline planning consent was granted in 2007 for a mixed use development. Wales' first all individual bed hospital Ysbyty Aneurin Bevan opened in 2010 and is named after the NHS' founder: Aneurin Bevan.[8]

Welsh Future Homes[edit]

A small development of four prototype houses have been developed on the site as a precursor to the wider residential development parcels being developed. Following a competition run by the council several plots were developed in time to be demonstrated at the 2010 Eisteddfod which was held on the steelworks site.

In 2010 Blaenau Gwent council and United Welsh Housing Association, built two eco-friendly prototype buildings. The Larch house and the Lime House (by Bere Architects) are both extremely energy efficient houses meeting both Passivhaus and Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6 and Level 5 respectively. The buildings were open for demonstration at the 2010 Eisteddfod.[9]

Ty Unnos is a 2-bed property designed by Cardiff University's Design Research Unit. It meets Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 and utilising construction techniques that allow Welsh softwood to be used in the fabric of the building.

The Environmental Resource Centre[edit]

The Environmental Resource Centre (ERC) is an educational facility run by Gwent Wildlife Trust. Designed by Cardiff University's Design Research Unit[10] and Located on the Hotmill Plateau it was the first building to be completed as part of the redevelopment of the former steelworks site in Ebbw Vale. The centre is located on an ecologically rich site next to the Pumphouse cooling ponds, which have become a haven for wildlife since the closure of the steelworks. It was officially opened by Iolo Williams and Jane Davidson AM on 21 May 2010.

General Offices[edit]

The view from Ebbw Vale.

The General Offices[11] is a Grade II* listed building which is undergoing renovation. Built between 1913 and 1915 it formed part of the steelworks site. A brand-new modern extension (contrasting with the original building) officially opened on 24 October 2010 and houses the Gwent Archives.[12]

The main building is partially opened with an entrance hall and function rooms together with a 4D cinema.

The Queen officially opened the General Offices as part of her Diamond Jubilee Tour on 3 May 2012 accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.[13]

As part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympics, Adain Avion[14] a mobile art space created from the fuselage of a DC-9 airrcfat, visited the General Offices between 1 and 7 July 2012.


Ebbw Vale currently is host to a selection of primary schools and infant schools, two secondary schools (Ebbw Fawr Learning Community and Brynmawr Foundation School) both covering a large catchment area. Alongside this there is also the Ebbw Vale campus of Coleg Gwent, a Further Education college teaching a range of subjects from Mechanics, Media Studies, Humanities to Hairdressing and Beauty therapy. There is also an institute which provides a range of courses for mainly adult learners.

A new Coleg Gwent building was opened in 2012 alongside Wales' first 3-16 educational establishment titled the Ebbw Fawr Learning Community, a 52m investment, this has resulted in the closure of both Glyncoed Comprehensive School and Ebbw Vale Comprehensive School.

Sport and culture[edit]

Sport features as one of the many reasons for pride in the Ebbw Vale area, including a top flight Welsh Premiership rugby union team, Ebbw Vale Rugby Football Club, that participated in the Celtic League and various European competitions until the restructuring of the Welsh Rugby Union that took effect from the 2003–04 season, effectively removing any professional rugby representation from the area. The Ebbw Vale rugby team is nicknamed 'The Steelmen' named after the steelworks in the town. These days Ebbw Vale RFC still compete at a semi-professional level in the WRU Principality Premiership along with the Welsh Cup. In 2007, the club finished 2nd in the Premiership in what was one of their most successful seasons ever.

In 1907 Ebbw Vale RFC switched to professional rugby league, becoming Ebbw Vale RLFC. It was the first rugby league club in Wales and the team won the Welsh League in 1909 and 1910.[15] Rugby League has long disppeared from the area.

Also in the town there is a keen interest in cricket (of which the town hosted several Glamorgan County Cricket fixtures until 1996), bowls, swimming, and a large host of football and rugby teams at varying levels. Eugene Cross Park is the home of both the town's rugby and cricket clubs. However, cricket predates rugby and Ebbw Vale's first recorded match was played against Blaina as far back as 1852. During the 19th century the influx of people from the surrounding counties looking for work in the local ironworks and coal mines gave cricket a boost and in June 1879 "a meeting was held at the Institute to form a cricket club in the town".

In addition to the above the town also has a leisure centre which hosts facilities ranging from a gym, sauna, weights room, indoor 5-a-side football pitches, squash courts and a 33m long, 4m deep swimming pool with diving boards.

Ebbw Vale's theatre, the Beaufort Theatre, is the largest in Blaenau Gwent.

The town has been the subject of art works by notable painters including Nan Youngman[16] and L S Lowry; the latter's 1960 Ebbw Vale, on display at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, numbers among the largest works he ever produced.[17]

Until the late 1800s, the Ebbw Vale area was largely Welsh-speaking, with the Welsh language dominant until the 1830s. There is very little evidence of Welsh on buildings for various reasons. For example, when St John's Church in Newtown was demolished for safety reasons in the 1970s, mainly English tombstones were preserved.[citation needed]

An 830-acre motor sport complex and technology park, The Circuit of Wales, was granted outline planning permission in 2013, and detailed discussions with interested parties continue into 2014. It would be located on moorland to the north of Ebbw Vale and would be able to host a variety of major motor racing events, excluding Formula One. The developers believe that 6,000 jobs would be created, and the scheme has strong local support, but there are wider objections on environmental grounds.[18]


A special train for (then on a freight only railway) waits at Newport railway station, September 2, 1995

A railway service to Cardiff Central began on 6 February 2008,[19][20] with trains serving the town from the new Ebbw Vale Parkway railway station. An extension of the line to a new northern terminus, Ebbw Vale Town, was opened on 17 May 2015.[21]

It was announced on 5 November 2011 that a pilot bus-rail link to Newport would be operated for a year starting during 2012. The bus from Newport will connect to the rail station at Rogerstone[22]


A kilometre-long funicular was part of the Garden Festival in 1992, but closed afterwards.

In June 2015 a new funicular cliff railway, the Ebbw Vale Cableway, was opened.[23] This is very short, 140 feet (43 m) and has a vertical lift of only 75 feet (23 m).[24] It has one car and operates from Monday to Friday, 7am to 7pm fully automatically, without attendants. The short, 20 second, journey is free to travel and it is intended to improve access between levels in the town, from ‘The Works’ site and Coleg Gwent, up to the town centre. The Works site is the site of the old steelworks and the current focus of much redevelopment for the area.

51°46′40″N 3°12′20″W / 51.7777624°N 3.2055078°W / 51.7777624; -3.2055078

Reception of the funicular has been mixed. Commentators and journalists have described it variously as a funicular, mechanical lift, 'cable car' [sic] and more derisively as a 'Stannah stairlift'. Most criticism has focussed on the £2.3 million cost, at a time when Blaenau Gwent council are facing a £10M deficit and other services in the area are facing substantial cuts.[25] The project was funded through the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) with most of the money being European-sourced and the local council providing around a third. Operating costs have been cited as £16,000 per year, and these too have been questioned – especially regarding any teething troubles in the first year, or the costs of the inevitable vandalism repair. The need for the lift has also been questioned on health grounds, although there is good justification for this on disability access grounds and also encouraging movement between levels as part of encouraging development.[26]

Vandalism a week after opening caused it to close temporarily.[24][27]

Notable people[edit]

For full list, see Category:People from Ebbw Vale


  1. ^ a b c d Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6. 
  2. ^ "Coleford People – Robert Mushet". Fweb.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  3. ^ "Rhagor | 200 Years of Industrial Innovation at Ebbw Vale". Museumwales.ac.uk. 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  4. ^ "Church service for Ebbw Vale steelworks". BBC News. 17 April 2002. 
  5. ^ "National Eisteddfod 2010". BBC. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Garden Festival of Wales website". Gardenfestivalwales.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  7. ^ theworksebbwvale.co.uk
  8. ^ "Hospital named after Aneurin Bevan opens in Ebbw Vale". BBC News. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Dermody, Nick (29 March 2012). "Energy efficient Larch and Lime House in Ebbw Vale take first tenants". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "dru-w.co.uk". dru-w.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  11. ^ "The General Offices - About". Facebook. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  12. ^ "gwentarchives.gov.uk". gwentarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  13. ^ http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/south-wales-news/blaenau-gwent/2012/05/03/ebbw-vale-s-general-offices-are-officially-opened-by-the-queen-91466-30880452/
  14. ^ "adainavion.org". adainavion.org. Retrieved 2013-01-22. 
  15. ^ Lush, Peter; Farrar, Dave (1998). Tries in the Valley: A History of Rugby League in Wales. London: London League Publications. pp. 24–28. ISBN 0952606437. 
  16. ^ Wilson, John R (2004). "Industrial South Wales: The Poetics of Place" (PDF). Newport Museum and Art Gallery. 
  17. ^ Thomas, Helen (31 October 2008). "Lowry work back at Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry". Coventry Telegraph. 
  18. ^ "Circuit of Wales motorsports complex plan drives local controversy". The Guardian. 25 May 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  19. ^ "Valley train link ready to open". BBC News Wales. 4 February 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "Train service resumes 46 years on". BBC News Online (BBC). 6 February 2008. Retrieved 6 February 2008. 
  21. ^ BBC News - First train to arrive at new station in Ebbw Vale. 17 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015
  22. ^ "Bus-rail link between Ebbw Vale and Newport returns". BBC News. 5 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "Ebbw Vale cable car opens to the public". South Wales Argus. 10 June 2015. 
  24. ^ a b "Vandals target new £2.5m Ebbw Vale cable car". BBC News Online. 19 June 2015. 
  25. ^ "Anger at £2.5m for Ebbw Vale rail link plan". South Wales Argus. 16 September 2013. 
  26. ^ "Images released of Ebbw Vale cliff rail plan". South Wales Argus. 20 November 2013. 
  27. ^ "Vandals force Ebbw Vale cable car to close just a week after opening". South Wales Argus. 19 June 2015.