Pontypridd is a town in Glamorgan. It sits at the confluence of the Taff and Rhondda rivers. The name Pontypridd was adopted in 1856 at the behest of Mr Charles Bassett who was the founder member of the Pontypridd Market Company. Up until that time the town had been known as Newbridge.
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 and a mud brick dwelling at the crossing. The Maltster’s Arms Hotel now stands on what is believed to be the site of the original earthen house.
The current bridge (not the Victoria Road Bridge) is now referred to as the Old Bridge and is the symbol of Pontypridd. William Edwards, builder and minister of Groes Wen Chapel, constructed it in 1756. He took a contract to build a bridge that would provide vehicle access across the Taff and would last for seven years. Success was not easy and his first two attempts in 1746 and 1751 both ended in failure. His third design however, initiated a major engineering advance with the introduction of six large round openings, three each side, that effectively reduced the overall weight of the structure, giving the bridge great strength. The bridge was a success and at the time of its construction (1756) its 43-metre span probably made it the largest single span bridge in Europe and possibly the world. Although no modern traffic flows across the Old Bridge it is still available to pedestrians and is in good condition. Mr Edwards greatly exceeded his seven-year warranty.
The twin valleys of Rhondda Fach (small) and Rhondda Fawr (big) commence at Pontypridd and extend some sixteen miles (each) to the northwest of the town. The valleys are steep and narrow never more than a mile wide and were the powerhouse of the South Wales coal industry during the 19th and 20th century. Their cultural and industrial character are the essence of everything the region is known for and stands for. Today the mines are gone and rivers run clean, although their banks still yield quantities of small coal. The slag heaps and local hills have been grassed and planted with new forests. These are now the domain of tourists, hikers and hill walkers who enjoy valley views and the friendship readily available in the local pubs. Tourism is now a serious business.
To the north of Pontypridd the upper valleys of the river Taff reach into another historic industrial heartland, that of Merthyr, Hirwaun and Dowlais. Here the ironmasters of the 19th century produced Pig iron at the great Cyfartha iron works and shipped it via the Glamorganshire canal to the Chain and Tinplate works of Pontypridd, Treforest and the port of Cardiff. Pontypridd being at the junction of these industrial valleys became a major transportation centre for road, rail and water traffic to the ports of Cardiff, and Barry becoming prosperous and growing quickly during this period.
Because of its location Pontypridd was the great meeting place. Valleys converged here, so particularly on Saturdays did the people of the valleys. The market company founded by Charles Bassett became an institution on Saturdays and Wednesdays filling the town with people. These markets still function today however the volume of customers is greatly diminished as the motorcar and modern road systems now allow many potential customers to bypass the town on the way to Cardiff and beyond.
Pontypridd’s location is still a valuable resource. The town is ideally placed to provide a cost effective centre for tourists who wish to explore the industrial heritage of the area, the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park, the beautiful vale of Glamorgan and it’s coastal features or the Castle and museums of Cardiff and St Fagans.
Pontypridd is easily accessible by car from Cardiff. Take the A470 north off from the M4.
Train services run from Cardiff Queens street and Cardiff Central stations. Journey time is about 20 minutes from either station.
Pontypridd is easily explored by foot.
- 1 William Edwards “Old Bridge”. Walk to the top of the arch and enjoy the views to the north, with the 677 ft Darran escarpment on the left, and south to the confluence with the Rhondda River and the bulk of the Craig mountain as backdrop to the town.
- 2 [dead link] Pontypridd Museum (Tabernacle chapel) (A short distance from the “Old Bridge”). Built in the late 19th century, it no longer functions as a church but is now the “Historical and Cultural” museum. This museum although small is well worth a visit as it contains many fascinating exhibits concerning the industrial and political past of Pontypridd and the surrounding area.
- 3 Ynysangharad Park. the memorial to Evan James and James James the father and son creators of the Welsh National Anthem - Mae hen Wlad fy Nhadau ( Land of my fathers). Music by James words by his father Evan. The sculpture was created by Sir William Goscombe John and unveiled by Lord Treowen on 23 July 1930.
- 4 Rhondda Heritage Park (take the Rhondda road (A4058) to Trehafod a few miles out of Pontypridd). Open 10AM-6PM, daily April –September. Tuesday-Sunday October - March. Last admission 4:30PM. colliery museum. Explore this locally inspired exhibition created when the Lewis Merthyr Pit closed in 1983. All features of a working mine are available for the visitor’s pleasure – the Lamp room, Fan house, winding engine room etc.. Take the simulated “Trip underground” and experience the visual and sound effects that recreate the living and dying conditions of mineworkers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The roll call of mining deaths and a narration on the social costs of mining by the ex labour leader Neil Kinnock are very moving. Admission Price Approx $12.
- 5 Llancaiach Fawr Manor (take the A470 north for 3 miles then take A472 for 2 more miles). visit the time capsule. Be transported back to the 17th century in a most imaginative and creative way. The costumed servants of the manor will show you around the manor and explain all aspects of their 1640 lifestyle. Be prepared to get involved, to be questioned and to be given advice on how to load and fire a musket. Take the evening ghost tour.
- Take a walk on the high side to the Pontypridd Common. This is easily located – look for the obelisk of the 1st world war memorial, which is clearly visible from everywhere in town. The common provides an excellent view of the town and valley and has an intriguing set of Celtic standing stones with the large "Rocking Stone" at its centre. A gravestone marking Philip Thomas's place of burial today stands in Glyntaff Cemetery. However, a gravestone intended for him also stands on Pontypridd Common. The story behind the stone that overlooks his workplace on the common has become part of the folklore history of Pontypridd.
- Escape from the valley and walk the hills around the town. Map sheet 154 of the Ordnance Survey One inch Map series will be very useful if you wish to do this. Go east and walk the lanes and fields to the 1,254 ft top of Mynedd Eglwysilan or Mynedd Meio at 1054 ft. The hills here are treeless and on clear days provide views to the Bristol Channel some 17 miles to the south.
- Drive northwest on A4058 and A4061 for about 10 miles over the top of Mynedd Rhigos at the northern end of the Rhondda valley. You will be rewarded with some of the best scenic views of south Wales, an unrivalled panorama of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. The road was built by Welsh miners, who were out of work because of industrial disputes in the 1930s. It reaches a height of 1600 ft at Craig-y-Llyn where a viewing point and car park are provided. From here a great sweep of escarpment towers over the Llyn Fawr Reservoir and Llyn Fach.
John Hughes is an artist who specialises in producing ceramic figurines of famous and infamous people and other Celtic subjects . His most popular items are ceramic caricatures of Welsh rugby players. His studio and shop are a short way south of Pontypridd in an old Public house on” Broadway”. His figurines have become collector’s items and are known as “Grogs” Buy your “Grogs” on Broadway.
Numerous fish & chips, Indian, and other restaurants are found throughout the town.
- Princess Café, Taff St. A favourite place for coffee with homemade tarts, cakes and sticky buns.
Inside the town markets; accessed from “Market Square” is a section known locally as “The Farmers Market” where locally produced Welsh specialties can be obtained such as Faggots and peas, Laverbread, and Caerphilly cheese.
- The Tumble Inn - Wetherspoons (The Tumble Inn), 4-9 Broadway/Sardis Road, CF37 1BA, ☏ . Daily 10AM-11PM.
- Blueberry Boutique Hotel - Alla Rampa (Blueberry Boutique Hotel - Alla Rampa), 6/8 Market Street, CF37 2ST, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
A wide range of accommodation is available in the area. Here are a few examples:
- The Heritage Park Hotel, Coed Cae Road, Trehafod. 44 rooms, 3-star. Double room: $220 /night.
- Tyn-y-wern, Ynysybwl, ☏ . 3-star bed & breakfast Double room: $80 – $87 per night.
- Llechwen Hall Hotel, Llanfabon, Cilfynydd, ☏ , fax: . 3-star. Double room: $150 – $187 per night.
- Pontypridd Tourist Information Centre (Pontypridd Museum), The Old Bridge, ☏ , fax: .
Pontypridd is a good location from which to access much that Glamorgan and South Wales has to offer the visitor. Go south and Cardiff the national capital is just 10 miles away, go north just 15 miles and you are in the Brecon Beacons National Park. To the northwest is the industrial heartland of the Welsh valleys and to the southwest the rolling farmlands of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Easy daily excursions my be made to many South Wales attractions such as :-
- Dyffryn House and Gardens at St. Nicholas, north of Barry.
- Blaengarw House and it’s oriental gardens just north of Bridgend. This is a fine example of a Victorian country house set in extensive gardens with the river Garw forming the eastern boundary.
- In May a visit to Cefn-onn gardens should not be missed, These extensive gardens have one of the best displays of Azaleas and Rhododendrons to found anywhere. Just outside the gardens is “The Old Cottage” pub, which will serve you, lunch on their large front lawn together with some nice cool ale.
The gardens are reached via the A470 going south to junction 32 on the M4 motorway take the motorway eastbound to junction 30 ( Cardiff Gate) then follow the signs to Lisvane and Cefn Onn park.
- Dan-yr-ogof show caves at Craig-yr-nos on A4067 just 1 mile north of Pencae. A visit to this complex of caverns is introduced by a sound show presentation artistically describing how and when and by whom the caves were discovered.
- Only 4 miles south of Pontypridd you can visit the largest castle in Wales at Caerphilly. Surrounded by a large moat the castle has an inner defensive area overlooking the outer walls. Entry is via the renovated Gatehouse, which now houses an exhibition about the castle’s history. From here you cross a bridge over the moat to the outer wall of the castle itself. On the southeast corner stands the famous leaning tower beside the large cleft created by Cromwell’s men when they tried to blow it up.
The other main feature of the castle is the fully restored and reroofed Great Hall, built around 1317 by Hugh le Despenser. The castle is open daily at 9:30AM with the exception of Sundays during November to March when it opens at 11AM. Entrance fee approx $5.
- The Seaside towns of Lavernock, Penarth, Barry and Porthcawl
- Ride or Walk the “Taff trail”
- The Museum of Welsh life – St Fagans
- The Big Pit and Ironworks at Blaenarvon
If you wish to go further afield why not visit
- The Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey