Looking north over Pontardawe
|Population||6,832 (2011 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
|Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament|
Pontardawe (Welsh pronunciation: [pɔntarˈdawɛ]) is both a town and a community in the Swansea Valley (Welsh: Cwmtawe) in Wales. With a population of 6,800, it comprises the electoral wards of Pontardawe and Trebanos. A town council is elected. Pontardawe forms part of the county borough of Neath Port Talbot. On the opposite bank of the River Tawe, the village of Alltwen, part of the community of Cilybebyll, is administered separately from Pontardawe, but has close ties to the town. Pontardawe is at the crossroads of the A474 road and the A4067 road. Pontardawe came into existence as a small settlement on the northwestern bank of the Tawe where the drovers' road from Neath and Llandeilo crossed the river to go up the valley to Brecon.
The name, which translates to "bridge on the Tawe", 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. Accessibility by canal enabled the industrial development of the area, which started with the Ynysderw ironworks in 1835. Close to the ironworks, tinplate and steelworks became the basis of the town's development during the latter part of the 19th century, exporting products to all parts of the world. The industrialist William Parsons of Neath (1795-1864) developed the town's early industry, but from 1861 onwards, for the next 90 years, the Gilbertson family were the most important proprietors in the town, manufacturing iron, steel and tinplate.  As well as metalwork, there was also significant coal mining in the area and a pottery at Ynysmeudwy. These industries declined during the 20th century. Small engineering firms, motor maintenance, building supplies, and a health centre, are on the Alloy Industrial Estate.
The Church of St Peter with French-style architecture was financed by William Parsons and completed in 1862.
From 1861 until 1964, a railway line connected Pontardawe with the rest of the valley and further afield. The Swansea Vale Railway (SVR) was founded in 1845 to develop and extend the short tramroad which had been opened nearly 30 years earlier to transport the coal down the lower part of the valley to the Swansea docks. It was extended to Pontardawe and Ystalyfera in 1861, and to 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 there were three passenger trains a day calling at Pontardawe in each direction, conveying through carriages between Swansea and Brecon, Hereford, Malvern, Worcester and Birmingham. Traffic on the route began declining between the wars, and passenger services to Brecon were withdrawn in 1931 and those to Brynamman in 1950. The railway line through Pontardawe finally closed to all traffic in 1964.
The town includes two sections of the Swansea Canal with a total length of 2.5 miles (4.0 km). 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. Edwards was also responsible for the design of Morriston, a new town developed by the Swansea Valley industrialist Sir John Morris.
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 controlled by Plaid Cymru.
The constituency office of Jeremy Miles MS is in the town. As part of the South Wales West regional constituency, Pontardawe is also represented by Suzy Davies MS, Bethan Jenkins MS, Caroline Jones MS, and Dai Lloyd MS.
Music and arts
The Pontardawe Arts Centre stages quality performances by musicians of both national and international fame.
Pontardawe has an active film society which shows about 20 films selected by its membership each year.
Regular meetings of music groups such as the long-established Valley Folk Club are held on the first and third Friday of each month at the Ivy Bush Hotel. Many of the pubs in Pontardawe feature live music at the weekends.
Every August from 1978, Pontardawe hosted the Pontardawe Festival; held on a weekend on the leisure centre playing-fields at Parc Ynysderw. This event featured singing, dancing, and other artistic performances from all over the world. Several years of bad weather affected admissions and due to the withdrawal of arts funding, the festival has ceased.
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. There is also a large Lidl supermarket on the opposite development site which opened in January 2017.
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. The goal is to promote business and rekindle a sense of community in and around the area, which had been lost following the arrival of nearby superstores. The Chamber of Trade published a tourism map of the area. Seasonal festivals are held in the town centre and there are plans to re-instate the Pontardawe Market and revive the town's historical status.
- D. Gwenallt Jones (1899–1968) poet, critic, and scholar
- Rachel Thomas (1905–1995) actress
- Mary Hopkin (1950–) folk singer
- Lloyd Woolf (1981–) comedy actor and writer
- Rosie Ribbons (1983–) singer-songwriter
Sports and recreation
Pontardawe has a cricket team, a lawn bowls club, 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.
Pontardawe has an Air Cadets unit – 1358 (Pontardawe) Squadron – that is open to both boys and girls aged 12 (in Year 8) to 18. Activities include flying, gliding, adventure training, first aid, and The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, to name but a few. The Squadron, which has its HQ on Tawe Terrace, meets on Monday and Friday evenings between 19.00 and 21.30.
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.
- Alltwen Primary School
- Godre'r-graig Primary School
- Llangiwg Primary School
- Rhyd-y-fro Primary School
- Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Pontardawe
- Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Trebannws
- Cwmtawe Community School is a purpose-built 11–16 English-medium comprehensive school serving Pontardawe and its surrounding areas. In 2000, the school had been placed 113th in Wales in terms of its GCSE examination results. However, since then the results have improved dramatically, and in October 2012 a report by Estyn – the independent inspection and advice service on quality and standards in education and training in Wales – was able to state that the school’s current performance and its future prospects were both excellent.
- Additionally, the senior department of Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera Bro Dur, an all-ages (3–18) comprehensive school, provides Welsh-medium secondary education to pupils from the upper Swansea Valley at its recently extended and modernized campus in Ystalyfera, four miles from Pontardawe.
- Coleg Pontardawe – a Learndirect centre forming part of Neath Port Talbot College – is located on the Alloy Industrial Estate near the town centre. It offers vocational training courses for workers at the local factories and businesses on the industrial estate as well as adult students from throughout Pontardawe and the surrounding areas.
Pontardawe is twinned with:
- "Community population 2011". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
- Davies, John Henry. History of Pontardawe and District. C. Davies Ltd, Llandybie 1967.
- Llangiwg parish, Church of St Peter, Pontardawe Archived 2012-10-01 at the Wayback Machine
- Jones, GB & Dunstone, D (1999). The Origins of the LMS in South Wales. Gomer. ISBN 1-85902-671-0.
- "Pontardawe Arena on the Way". News Wales. 5 December 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
- Neath Port Talbot Adult Community Learning
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