Pontypridd /pɒntəˈpriːð/ is both a community and a principal town of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales and is situated 12 miles/19 km north of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff. Pontypridd is often abbreviated “Ponty” by local residents.
The town sits at the junction of the Rhondda and Taff / Cynon valleys, where the River Rhondda flows into the Taff immediately south of the town at Ynysangharad War Memorial Park. The community of Pontypridd is the second largest in Wales, just behind Barry. Pontypridd community had a population of 29,781 according to census figures gathered in 2001 while Pontypridd town itself was recorded as having a population of 2,919 also as of 2001.
Pontypridd /pɒntəˈpriːð/ is both a community and a principal town of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales and is situated 12 miles/19 km north of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff. Pontypridd is often abbreviated “Ponty” by local residents. The town sits at the junction of the Rhondda and Taff / Cynon valleys, where the River Rhondda flows into the Taff immediately south of the town at Ynysangharad War Memorial Park. The community of Pontypridd is the second largest in Wales, just behind Barry. Pontypridd community had a population of 29,781 according to census figures gathered in 2001 while Pontypridd town itself was recorded as having a population of 2,919 also as of 2001.
Pontypridd comprises the electoral wards of Tonyrefail, Treforest, Rhydyfelin, Llantwit Fadre, Llantrisant, Beddau, Church Village, Pontypridd Town, Taffs Well and Pontyclun.
Once described as the ‘Wild West’, Pontypridd has had a turbulent past. A small, market town situated 12 miles north of Cardiff along the A470, ‘Ponty’ is the gateway to the famous south Wales valleys and has a rich cultural and historic past: The Welsh National Anthem, Tom Jones, the Old Bridge, Brown Lennox, Sir Geraint Evans, Neil Jenkins, William Price and Stuart Burrows all hail from Ponty or close by.
The name Pontypridd is from “Pont-y-tŷ-pridd” the Welsh for “bridge by the earthen house”, a reference to a succession of wooden bridges that formerly spanned the River Taff at this point. Old Bridge Pontypridd is, however, more famous for the Old Bridge a stone bridge across the River Taff built in 1756 by William Edwards. This bridge was the third attempted by Edwards, and at the time of its construction was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the world. The first, a wooden bridge was washed away by floods, the second, of stone, collapsed during construction because of its weight. The third design was also stone, but much lighter because it had 6 large holes in it… 3 on each side, of diameter 9, 6 and 3 feet. Edwards was paid 50 pounds to maintain it for seven years. In 1857, a three-arch bridge was built alongside to make it easier for traffic to cross the river. Pontypridd marks the confluence of the rivers Taff and Rhondda and at the junction of the Cardiff to Rhondda and Merthyr railway lines and thus has a fascinating historical and cultural background. The development of Treforest and Pontypridd as commercial centres began with the opening in 1795 of the 25 mile long Glamorganshire canal, between Cardiff docks and Merthyr. At the same time, William Crawshay opened a new forge and nail works and coal was discovered by Dr. Richard Griffiths in Gyfeillion in 1790.
Another new industry which thrived with the excellent transport now available was the original Newbridge Chain Cable and Anchor Works founded in 1818 – later to become Brown Lenox. Later, collieries were opened in the areas of Graig, Hopkinstown, Trehafod and Cilfynydd. Treforest, with Francis Crawshay’s tin works and Roland Fothergill’s railworks became important. Francis Crawshay lived in Forest House now part of the site of the new University of Glamorgan and Roland Fothergill in Hensol Castle.
Rhydyfelin and Upper Boat both grew because of the connection with the canal. Evan James and his son James James lived in Ty’r Factory, next to their cloth factory – and they composed the words and music of the Welsh National Anthem ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’. A commemorative plaque marks the site of the factory and statues, representing Poetry and Music designed by the architect Sir Goscombe John were unveiled in 1930 in Ynysangharad Park.
Mill Street derived its name from various mills in the vicinity, such as the Rhondda Flour Mill. An important landmark in Mill Street is the stone railway viaduct, the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Taff Vale Railway. Nearby St. Catherine’s Church with its fine spire was built in 1868, the Town Hall and Market Buildings in 1885, the Public Library and the Town Hall Theatre in 1890, and in 1905 the Municipal Building with its fine Council Chamber.
In the middle of town is a charming Victorian Fountain erected in 1895 for Sir Alfred Thomas MP, who later became Lord Pontypridd. Many of the old buildings in Pontypridd are decorated with fine stonework and constructed mainly from locally quarried stone. One quarry – the Graig Yr Hesg Quarry – still produces the distinctive blue pennant stone, which, with its granite-like hardness, will ensure that many of our best buildings will survive for many years to come as long as the developers don’t decide to pull them down to replace with bland new builds.
A market has stood on the site of the present Market since 1805. The present Market was built in the late 1870’s following the incorporation of the Pontypridd Markets Company. In spite of the savage economic decline experienced by Pontypridd and the Valleys in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Market has survived in very much its original format. The Market Company still owns many of the properties in town. Since 1985, the Market has undergone considerable change. The Lesser Town Hall (now known as the Clothes Market) was refurbished and opened as a Market Hall in 1988, and the Outdoor Market was extended in 1988 onto a site adjoining Church Street and St. Catherine’s Street.
One of the town’s treasures lies to the east side of the River Taff – Ynysangharad Park. It was opened in 1923 as a War Memorial for the town, and purchased by public subscription. It is an area of extensive and beautiful parkland with avenues of mature trees and colourful flower gardens as well as many amenities, although Pontypridd still doesn’t have an indoor swimming pool, incredible when you think that Pontypridd is supposed to be the ‘county town’ and has the largest population in RCT. There are other attractions though: miniature golf, tennis courts, a children’s play area, bowling greens, a band stand and an open air paddling pool. Local bands play on a Sunday at the bandstand.
Pontypridd Common from which there are fine views over the town is a natural open space on which can be seen many glacial boulders remaining from the Ice Age. One boulder, known as the Rocking Stone, is the central point for the Druid’s Circle of smaller stones which was constructed in the 19th. Century by Dr. William Price (the famous pioneer of cremation) and other like minded men who performed druidic rites there. Above the Common, towards Glyntaff, are the white washed Round Houses erected by Dr. Price who, with his colourful dress, long hair and cap of a whole fox’s skin, was one of the great characters of Pontypridd/ He is best remembered for cremating the body of his 5 month old son in 1884. He was brought to trial at the Glamorgan Assizes, and the case established the legality of cremation.
Situated centrally near the Old Bridge, the Pontypridd Museum offers the visitor a comprehensive glimpse into the historical and cultural past of the area. The Museum is housed in the former Tabernacl Chapel built in 1861 and magnificently refurbished in 1910. Since ceasing as a place of worship in 1983 and being taken over by the Town Council, the building has been restored. The ceiling, pulpit and organ are wonderful examples of the best chapel interiors.
Within 3-4 miles of the town there used to be half a dozen or so coal mines, all of which have since closed. Coal used to pass through Ponty en-route to Cardiff; initially by road, then by canal, then by rail. Sadly, you’re more likely to see coal being transported up the valleys instead of down. The Glamorganshire canal has long since vanished, with only a few lock gates visible along a section of the Taff Trail.
The history of Pontypridd is closely tied to the coal and iron industries, prior to the developments of these Pontypridd was largely a rural backwater comprising a few farmsteads, with Treforest initially becoming the main urban settlement in the area. Sited as it is at the junction of the three valleys, it became an important location for the transportation of coal from the Rhondda and iron from Merthyr Tydfil, first via the Glamorganshire Canal and later via the Taff Vale Railway, to the ports at Cardiff, Barry and to Newport. Because of its role in transporting coal cargo, its railway platform is thought to have once been the longest in the world during its heyday.
The constituency was created for the first election to the Assembly, in 1999, with the name and boundaries of the Pontypridd Westminster constituency. It is within the preserved county of Mid Glamorgan.
For further information, an extensive statistics report produced by the Welsh Assembly research service can be found here.