Aberdare, or Aberdâr in Welsh, is a town which lies in the ancient commote of Meisgyn in the cantref of Penythen, and the historic county of Glamorganshire in Wales, at the point at which the river Dâr meets the river Cynon. (Which itself is a tributary of the Taff.) The name of the settlement come from the Welsh "aber" for ‘mouth’ and the river name Dâr ,which is the Welsh for ‘oak’. It is 4 miles to the south-west of Merthyr Tydfil and 5 miles to the north of the Rhondda and 24 miles from the city of Cardiff on the coast.
Between the years 1894 to 1974 the town had its own Urban District Council until it was merged with Mountain Ash and parts of Neath Rural District Council and Vaynor and Penderyn Rural District Council to form Cynon Valley Borough Council. The borough council disappeared in 1996 and Aberdare is currently part of the modern unitary authority and county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taff.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Aberdare was simply a large village lying in an agricultural valley. In 1801 its population was 1,486 but even then it was noted that it possessed "extensive Iron works, belonging to Messrs. Tappenton and Co., and Messrs. Scales and Co." These where the ironworks at Llwydcoed and Abernant established respectively in 1799 and 1800. The Aberdare Canal opened in May 1812 which linked the town with the Glamorganshire Canal at Abercynon, and further ironworks were opened at Gadlys and Aberaman in 1827 and 1847 and a small tinplate works at Gadlys in 1868. The Taff Vale Railway opened in 1846 and the Vale of Neath Railway in 1851 which linked the town to the main Great Western Railway. However by the year 1875 competition had forced the closure of all the town's ironworks.
In 1837 Matthew Wayne and his son Thomas Wayne opened the Abernant-y-Groes Colliery in Cwmbach and concentrated on the working of anthracite or steam coal for export. Previous to that time, most of the coal dug in the area had been to supply the local ironworks, but after the precedent set by Wayne and Son, a number of pits were sunk in rapid succession, and the coal industry rapidly expanded, taking up the slack caused by the loss of the iron trade.
The town grew at a rapid pace during the latter half of the nineteenth century and swallowed up the once separate villages of Aberaman, Abernant, Cwmbach, Cwmaman, Cwmdare, Llwydcoed and Trecynon all of which are now regarded as suburbs of Aberdare. By the beginning of the twentieth century the population of the enlarged urban district was 43,365 (1901 census). During the course of the twentieth century the coal industry declined and eventually disappeared altogether in 1980s; the population of the urban district had fallen to 35,598 by 2001, with 31,705 people resident in the town of Aberdare itself. As a result Aberdare now has one of the highest rates of unemployment in Wales.
At the north end of Aberdare there is Aberdare Park carved out of a portion of Hirwaun common in the 1860s which was the location for the National Eisteddfod in 1954. The town has its own rugby, cricket and football clubs and a multi function arts venue, the Coliseum Theatre, originally built in 1938 and funded by subscription from the local miners but now owned by the local council.
Aberdare's most famous sons include the poet Alun Lewis, the Stereophonics, and the actor Ioan Gruffudd. There is also a Baron Aberdare after whom the Aberdare National Park in Kenya is named.
Table of References
- www.bbc.co.uk/wales/southeast/ webguide/pages/towns_aberdare.shtml