Abertillery is a former coal-mining town in South Wales which lies within the county borough of Blaenau Gwent, 16 miles north-west of Newport, 2 miles south from Blaina and 9 miles south-east from Tredegar. The place name is derived from the Welsh Abertyleri, the mouth of the river Tyleri.
At the end of the 18th century there was only 150 inhabited houses in the the whole parish of Aberystruth which encompassed the whole of the Tyleri valley and the area was described by the Archdeacon William Coxe in his An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (1801) as "An extensive district well peopled, richly wooded, and highly cultivated, almost rivalling the fertile counties of England."
By 1840 a small ironworks had emerged but even so Abertillery remained a small collection of a farms and houses whilst further up the valley the mining towns of Nantyglo and Blaina had emerged, as the steeper terrain in the vicinity of Abertillery discouraged development. However in 1842 Thomas Brown discovered the Elled seam in nearby Cwmtillery which was at that time the richest coal seam ever found in South Wales. The opening of the Cwmtillery Colliery in 1850 which coincided with the opening of the Western railway line from Blaina through Abertillery to Newport signalled the beginning of the industrialisation of the Abertillery area.
After this time Abertillery boomed and became a major coal-mining town and experienced extensive inward immigration. The population grew to 6,003 in 1881, 10,846 in 1891, and 21,945 in 1901 before reaching a peak of almost 40,000 in 1921 when Abertillery was the second largest town in Monmouthshire, exceeded in size only by Newport. The later decline and eventual disappearance of the coal mining industry in the 1980s led to a similar decline in the prosperity of the town whose population has now fallen below 20,000.
Abertillery was the first place in Britain to have a birth control clinic in 1925 and was the birthplace of Richard Tecwyn Williams, a pioneer in the study of drug metabolism.
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