Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Pontypridd (/pɒntəˈpriːð) often colloquially known as Ponty, is both a community and the county town of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, and is situated 12 miles (19 km) north of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.
Pontypridd comprises the electoral wards of Cilfynydd, Glyncoch, Graig, Hawthorn, Pontypridd Town, 'Rhondda', RhydyfelinCentral/Ilan (Rhydfelen), Trallwng (Trallwn) and Treforest (Trefforest), and falls within the Welsh Assembly and UK parliamentaryconstituency by the same name.
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. Pontypridd community had a population of approximately 32,700 according to census figures gathered in 2011. while Pontypridd Town Ward itself was recorded as having a population of 2,919 also as of 2001.
The town lies alongside the dual carriageway north-south A470, between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil. The A4054, running north and south of the town, was the former main road, and, like the A470, follows the Taff Valley. South of the town is the A473, for Llantrisantand Pencoed. To the west is the A4058, which follows the River Rhondda to Porth and the Rhondda Valley beyond.
The name Pontypridd derives from the name Pont-y-tŷ-pridd, Welsh for "bridge by the earthen house", a reference to a succession of wooden bridges that formerly spanned the River Taff at this point.
Pontypridd is noted for its Old Bridge, a stone construction across the River Taff built in 1756 by William Edwards. This was Edwards' third attempt, and, at the time of construction, was the longest single-span stone arch bridge in the world. Rising 35 feet (11 m) above the level of the river, the bridge forms a perfect segment of a circle, the chord of which is 140 feet (43 m). Notable features are the three holes of differing diameters through each end of the bridge, the purpose of which is to reduce weight. On completion, questions were soon raised as to the utility of the bridge, with the steepness of the design making it difficult to get horses and carts across. As a result, a new bridge, the Victoria Bridge, paid for by public subscription, was built adjacent to the old one in 1857. Pontypridd was known as Newbridge from shortly after the construction of the Old Bridge until the 1860s.
Old Bridge, dating from 1756
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.Pontypridd was, in the second half of the 19th century, a hive of industry, and was once nicknamed the ‘Wild West’. There were several collieries within the Pontypridd area itself.
Tonypandy & Trealaw railway station during an early 1910s coal strikeFront page of the earliest surviving copy of the Welsh newspaper The Pontypridd Chronicle; 15 January 1881
As well as the deep-mined collieries, there were many coal levels and trial shafts dug into the hillsides 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 (see Keir Hardie).
Other instrumental industries in Pontypridd were the Brown Lenox/Newbridge Chain & Anchor Works south-east of the town, and Crawshay's Forest Iron, Steel & Tin Plate Works and the Taff Vale Iron Works, both in Treforest near the now University of South Wales.
Pontypridd also serves as the postal town for the community of Llantwit Fardre under the CF38 postcode district, although this area is not considered part of Pontypridd.
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 to 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, at its peak, resulted in a train passing through Pontypridd railway station (if one includes the freight lines immediately to its west) every two or three minutes. The station was originally constructed as 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 railways 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 Transport for Wales, reflects the fewer destinations served since the Beeching and earlier cuts, with one up (valley) platform, one down (through) platform, a down bay platform (opened December 2014), and only one passing loop.
A tram service began on 6 March 1905, running from Cilfynydd, through Pontypridd, to Treforest. It was replaced on 18 September 1930 by trolleybuses, which on 31 January 1957 were replaced by buses which almost exactly replicated the route. Today, bus services are principally provided by Trevor Evans (on the Newtown , Bargoed, Talbot Green and Bridgend services), and Stagecoach in South Wales (on long-distance routes to Cardiff, Rhondda, Cynon Valley, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly etc.).