Pontypridd as well as being a University and Market Town is the principal town of Rhondda Cynon Taff and is situated 12 miles/19km north of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff. Pontypridd is often abbreviated “Ponty” by local residents.
Pontypridd comprises the electoral wards of Cilfynydd, Glyncoch, Graig, Hawthorn, Ilan, Rhondda, Rhydyfelin Central, Rhydyfelin Lower, Town, Trallwn and Treforest.
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.
The name Pontypridd is from “Pont-y-ty-pridd” the Welsh for “bridge by the earthern house”, a reference to a succession of wooden bridges that formerly spanned the River Taff at this point.
Pontypridd is, however, more famous for the Old Bridge a stone bridge across the River Taff built in 1756 by William Edwards. The 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. Rising 35 feet (11m) above the level of the river, the bridge is a perfect segment of a circle, the chord of which is 140 feet (43m). Notable features are the three holes of differing diameters through each end of the bridge. The purpose of these was to reduce the weight of the bridge, although their aesthetically pleasing nature is a bonus. The utility of the bridge was debatable, however – the steepness of the design making it difficult to get horses and carts across it – and in 1857 a new bridge, the Victoria Bridge, paid for by public subscription, was built adjacent to the old one. Pontypridd was known as Newbridge from shortly after the construction of the Old Bridge until the 1860s.
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 the 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. Pontypridd was in the second half of the 19th century a hive of industry, and was once nicknamed the “Wild West”.
As well as the deep mined collieries there were many coal levels and trial shafts dug into the hill sides overlooking the town from Cilfynydd, Graig, Graigwen and Hafod. The Albion Colliery in the village of Cilfynydd in 1894 was the site of one of the worst explosions within the South Wales coalfield, with the death of 290 colliers.
Iron and Steel
Other instrumental industries in Pontypridd were the – Brown Lenox/Newbridge Chain and Anchor Works south east of the town, and Crawshay’s Forest Iron, Steel and Tin Plate Works and the Taff Vale Iron Works, both in Treforest near the now University of South Wales.
Pontypridd came into being because of transport, as it was on the drovers route from the South Wales coast and the Bristol Channel, to Merthyr and onwards into the hills of Brecon. Although initial expansion in the valleys occurred at Treforest due to the slower speed of the River Taff at that point, the establishment of better bridge building meant a natural flow of power of Pontypridd.
The establishment of Pontypridd over Treforest was finally confirmed with the building of the Glamorganshire Canal to serve the coal mines of the Rhondda Valley. However, the volumes of coal extraction soon brought about the construction of the Taff Vale Railway, which, as its peak, resulted in two trains calling at Pontypridd railway station every minute. The station is a long single island, at one point the world’s longest platform, a reflection of both the narrow available geography of the steep valley side, as well as the need to accommodate many converging railway lines on what became the nineteenth-century hub of the valleys. Due to the restrictive geography, only parcels and mail were handled at Pontypridd, while heavy freight was handled at Treforest. The station today, as operated by Arriva Trains Wales, reflects the reduced coal mining activity, with one up (valley) and one down platform, and only one passing loop.
A tram service began on 6th March 1905, running from Cilfynydd, through Pontypridd to Treforest. It was replaced on 18th September 1930 by trolleybuses, which on 31st January 1957 were replaced by buses which replicated an almost exact route.
Ynysangharad War Memorial Park was opened by Field Marshal Viscount Allenby on 6th August 1923. It features a bandstand, pitch-and putt golf course, a paddling pool, tennis courts, lawn bowls greens, a football pitch, a cricket pitch and memorials to the war dead of Pontypridd and to the composers of the Welsh National Anthem.
Pontypridd has its very own community radio station GTFM.
The Welsh National Anthem ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ (Land of my Fathers) was composed in Pontypridd by local poets/musicians Evan James and James James.
- Pontypridd was home to Dr William Price, who performed the first modern cremation.
- Tom Jones, born on 7th June 1940 at 57 Kingsland Terrace, Treforest.
- The name of the fictional town of Pontypandy, in which children’s television programme Fireman Sam is situated, is a portmanteau of Pontypridd and Tonypandy.
- The BBC sci-fi shows Doctor Who and Torchwood have been filmed at various locations around Pontypridd.
- Robert James Bye, recipient of the Victoria Cross in World War I.
- Elaine Morgan, scriptwriter and anthropologist.
- Pontypridd is twinned with Nurtingen, Esslingen, South Germany
Initial contact between the two communities occurred in 1965 with a visit by Côr Meibion Pontypridd Welsh Male Voice Choir to visit a choir called “Liederkranz” based in the Oberensingen area of Nürtingen. The Liederkranz returned the visit to Pontypridd one year later. On the occasion of the next visit of Côr Meibion to Nürtingen the partnership between the two communities was formally established on 26th July 1968. An agreement was signed by John Cheesman JP, Mayor of Pontypridd and Karl Gonser Mayor of Nürtingen.
- Pontypridd is also twinned with Mbale, Uganda
Pontypridd Town Council held an official twinning ceremony in 2005, to consolidate links with Mbale, Uganda, already established by local churches and healthcare workers, under the auspices of charity PONT, the Partnerships Overseas Networking Trust.