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Bridgend (Welsh: Pen-y-bont) is a town in the traditional county of Glamorgan and the main town in the county borough of Bridgend.
Bridgend is in South Wales, roughly midway between the principal cities Cardiff and Swansea. The river crossed by the original bridge which gave the town its name is the River Ogmore but the River Ewenny also passes through the south of the town. Bridgend has greatly expanded in size since the early 1980s and now has a population of around 40,000.
Prehistoric and Roman
Several burial mounds have been found in the vicinity of Bridgend suggesting that the area was settled before Roman times. The A48 between Bridgend and Cowbridge has a portion, known locally as "Crack Hill", a Roman road. The Vale of Glamorgan would've been a natural low-level route west to the Roman fort/harbour at Neath (Nidum) from settlements in the East like Cardiff and Caerleon (Isca).
The Norman Invasion
After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the new establishment looked westwards in the following decades to create new seats for lords loyal to William The Conqueror. Groups of Norman Barons arrived in Wales and in the South and East created what would later become the Welsh Marches, while the North and West remained largely unconquered due to the harsh terrain.
At Coity, the local chieftain Morgan Gam already had a stronghold. Sometime in the 11th Century Norman Lord Payn de Turberville approached Morgan to turn over control of the Coity Castle to de Turberville but only if he (de Turberville) either fought Morgan for the land, or took his daughter Sybil's hand in marriage. Turberville married Sybil and became Lord of Coity, rebuilding the castle.
In 1106, Newcastle Castle (on Newcastle Hill, overlooking the town centre) and Ogmore Castle(1116) were build by Robert Fitzhammon and William de Londres respectively. About 2 miles north-east of Ogmore Castle, Maurice de Londres founded the fortified Benedictine Ewenny Priory in 114.
These three castles provided a "defensive triangle" for the area. (A quadrilateral if you include Ewenny Priory.)
The Formation of Bridgend
Bridgend itself developed at a ford (Crossing) on the River Ogmore, which was on the main route between East and West Wales. Just north of the town, there is the confluence of three rivers, the River Ogmore, the Llynfi River and the Garw River. South of Bridgend the Ewenny River merges with the River Ogmore and flows into the Bristol Channel. In the fifteenth century, a stone bridge was built to connect permanently each side of the River Ogmore (later rebuilt). Originally this bridge had four arches but in the eighteenth century a massive flood washed two of them away. The rest of the bridge still stands and still remains a focal point of the town, with aesthetic restoration taking place in 2006.
Bridgend grew rapidly into an agricultural town important to many of the local farmers. Although still small by today's standards it became an important market town, a tag that remained with it until well into the twentieth century.
The Industrial Era
The discovery of coal in the valleys north of Bridgend would had a massive impact on the town. The first coal mines opened north of Bridgend in the seventeenth century, with the Llynfi valley being the first to be industrialised. Bridgend itself never had coal and remained a market town for some time, but the valleys of the three rivers grew into an important part of the South Wales coalfields. Ironworks and brickworks (notably at Tondu) were also established in the same period, by John Bedford, although the ironworks faltered after his death and ceased operating entirely in 1836.
The Great Western Railway arrived and Bridgend was at the junction between the main London to Fishguard line and the branch to the three valleys. Coal trains regularly sent coal down the valleys and with the opening of the Vale of Glamorgan railway, coal could be sent directly to port at Barry or through other branch lines to Porthcawl.
Bridgend itself saw several quarries open in and around the town centre, the remnants of which, (near Brackla) can still be seen today. An engine works was opened in the town and a larger farmers' market also opened in the town centre, where it remained until at least the middle of the twentieth century.
In 1801, the population of Bridgend County was around 6000. By the beginning of the twentieth century this had risen to 61,000. By this time Bridgend was a bustling market town with prosperous valleys to the north, a thriving community and good links to other towns and cities.
The Second World War and Bridgend
Bridgend played an important part during the Second World War. It was it home to a Prisoner of War Camp at Island Farm and a large munitions factory (ROF Bridgend — known as the "Admiralty") at Waterton, as well as a large underground munitions storage base at Brackla (known as the 8 x's). This was an overspill of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.
At its peak the Arsenal had 40,000 workers, many of them women. Large numbers of them were transported by bus from the Rhondda and the valleys. At the time the Arsenal was the largest factory (employee-wise) ever in the UK.
The factory complex had three sites in Bridgend, all linked together by a huge network of railways. There are many reminders of the factory sites left to this day.
In 1945, seventy prisoners of war from Island Farm managed to escape through a tunnel although all were recaptured. While Bridgend was as important during the war as any other part of Wales, and although it was photographed by the Luftwaffe, it was never "blitzed". This was largely due to the area's air pocket, which made bombing extremely hazardous for incoming planes. The close proximy of the P.O.W Camp at Island Farm may have been something of a deterrent as well. Unlike Bridgend, both Swansea and Cardiff did not escape such massive attacks but the area immediately around Bridgend did suffer bombing raids. Had Bridgend been bombed it would've likely been a massive blow to munitions supplies to the allies and could have changed the course of the war in the Axis' favour.
The Admiralty ceased full scale production in December 1945 after 5 years. Two of the munitions storage magazines in the Brackla ROF site were converted to a RGHQ (Regional Government Headquarters) during the Cold War as part of the UK continuity of government plans. It is now in the hands of a private company.
Bridgend remained a solid market town after the War. In 1948, Newbridge Fields (a short distance from the town centre) hosted the 1948 National Eisteddfod.
In 1960, the River Ogmore burst its banks and flooded the town centre. Subsequent floods and extreme weather led the Welsh Water Authority to develop concrete flood defence walls along the banks of the Ogmore River in the town centre. The town centre has not been flooded since. During this time Bridgend was chosen to become the headquarters for South Wales Police. This action was ideal as geographically, Bridgend stands equidistantly between both Swansea to the west and Cardiff to the east.
The Beeching cuts of the 1960s saw the loss of passenger rail links in the Vale of Glamorgan and to the northern valleys. The Vale of Glamorgan link to Barry via Rhoose was re-instated in June 2005.
In the 1970s, Bridgend would begin to see the catalyst of arguably its biggest growth period. The "missing section" of the M4 motorway was constructed around the town, plans were afoot to change the Waterton Admiralty into an Industrial Estate, and the water supply was improved including new sewage treatment works near Ogmore.
Two major multinational corporations, the Ford Motor Company and Sony set up factories in, or on the outskirts of the new Bridgend Industrial Estate (former Waterton Arsenal).
During the 1980s with the development of the Brackla housing estate the future of Bridgend seemed bright. By the 1990s the estate had grown to become the largest privately-owned housing estate in Europe.
The Margaret Thatcher-led closure of the Welsh coal industry brought mass-unemployment and social problems to the valleys to the north. However, this led to a greater general standard of living for many in the areas previously dominated by coal mining but many of the problems stemming from unemployment, including drug-use and economic inactivity still remain today. By the late 1980s all coal mines in the area had ceased operations and the former mine workers either commuted or moved to central Bridgend to work at the newly-developed industrial estates. This was typical for much of South Wales which was at the time moving from a mining-based economy and into a new service, electronic, manufacturing and textile-based one.
A new Securicor operated prison (HM Parc Prison) was built near Coity in the late 1990s. The prison opened in November 1997 and is the only private prison in Wales.
Further new housing developments at Broadlands (near Newbridge Fields) and the never ending expansion of Brackla have caused Bridgend's population to swell dramatically. Traffic became a real problem in the archaic town centre, in 1997 a new link road/bypass was built to link the town centre directly to the M4 motorway as well as redirect traffic around the town centre.
The local council started a scheme to pedestrianise the town centre. This has been met with criticism by the traders and shoppers alike because of poor construction, poor design and poor access. Excessive car parking charges as well as the dominance of UK retail giant Tesco in and around the area (2 large superstores and one small convenience "Tesco Express" store) has led Bridgend to be jokingly called "a little town beyond Tesco" (cf Little England beyond Wales).
Out-of-town shopping, mismanagement of the pedestrianisation scheme and the construction of the McArthur Glen Retail Complex (Bridgend Designer Outlet) near the M4 motorway had led to a decline of the town centre. Competition from Cardiff and Swansea in terms of retail choice and ease of access has led to the town becoming a less popular choice with locals. The amount of mobile phone and greetings card shops has become something of a running joke.
The construction of an award-winning new bus station in 2004 and a rethink to traffic movement around the town centre has seen a halt to the decline. Local committees, together with the council started to use the pedestrianisation of the town-centre to its advantage, cumulating in several popular fairs including Continental Markets, Celtic Festivals, a small Mardi-Gras and Seasonal markets and events.
Bridgend and nearby Neath Port Talbot recovered quickly from the decline of traditional industries, particularly coal-mining due to other alternative forms of employment. Wages are generally higher here than in other parts of the South Wales Valleys. There are large industrial estates at Bridgend and Waterton (formerly Waterton Admirality) which host a number of small scale and multi-national companies, mainly manufacturing. The biggest single employer (outside of the public sector) in the area is probably the Ford Motor Company's engine plant near Waterton after Sony's closure of the Bridgend plant and downsizing of the Pencoed plant. It is hoped other businesses will relocate to the sites. Other manufacturers to have pulled out of the area include Wrigley Company's. Job losses resulting from the closure of RAF St Athan's next year will also affect the town hard as many of the workers live in and around Bridgend.
There are successes, IT Consultancy group LogicaCMG opened an office in Bridgend (which has since been expanded) and several companies have moved to new office complexes on the outskirts of Bridgend. German retailer Lidl have also set up their Welsh headquarters and distribution site at Waterton. Zoobiotic, a medicinal maggot therapy company has its facility near Bridgend town centre. Also, since 1983, famous dart board producer Winmau has based their global headquarters in Bridgend.
Bridgend (like Wales in general) suffers from a lack of high-wage service jobs, however the retail sector in particular provides a large proportion of employment in the town and borough.
Bridgend railway station has regular services to London and Cardiff Central railway station to the East, Swansea railway station and West Wales to the west, and Maesteg to the north. There are also services to Birmingham, Manchester and the South West of England. Bridgend is the terminus of the Vale of Glamorgan Line which reopened to passenger traffic in 2005 and serves Cardiff International Airport.
Wildmill railway station, approximately 1 mile north of Bridgend railway station serves the estates of Wildmill, Pendre and Litchard and is on the Bridgend-Maesteg branch line.
A park and ride station at Brackla, about 1 1/2 miles south east of Bridgend railway stationis planned and is due to be constructed once capacity improvements have been made to the South Wales Main Line.
Bridgend has a brand new bus station with regular buses to major urban and rural centres in South Wales although there has been recent damning criticism of the services, particularly on a Sunday. There are plans for a new bus/taxi/train integrated transport system at Bridgend railway station. Bus stops are found throughout the town.
Bridgend has several licensed taxi-firms and taxis can be found near the bus and train stations as well as taxi ranks in the town centre.
A new east-west cycle route has been constructed from Brackla through to Broadlands and into Cefn Glas. Most roads are safe enough to cycle on although at peak times, most areas near roundabouts in particular are hazardous without due care.
Bridgend is on the National Cycle Route and there are off-road spurs from the Celtic Trail to the town centre and a community route in the Ogmore Valley. Glyncorrwg and the Afan Valley about 12 miles north of Bridgend near Maesteg is famed for its mountain bike trails, considered amongst the best in Europe.
Bridgend Town has 2 (rival) comprehensive schools, Brynteg Comprehensive and Bryntirion Comprehensive. Brynteg generally serves the area east of the River Ogmore, while Bryntirion serves the areas west of the river. Brynteg is renowned for its rugby alumni, including several Welsh Internationals but athletes in other sports have also attended like Top Women's Cyclist Nicole Cooke. Bryntirion has also produced its fair share of talent, notably Gareth Llewellyn. Bryntirion also has a reputation in the area for the quality of its' musical productions.
There are at least 9 primary/junior-infant schools in the town.
There are also 2 special schools, Heronsbridge and Ysgol Bryn Castell.
Bridgend College is the towns higher-education campus which offers vocational courses as well as GCSE's and A-Levels. It has links with other local colleges (Pencoed, Maesteg and Porthcawl) as well as the University of Glamorgan.
Since the closure and redevelopment of Bridgend General Hospital in the 1990's, Acute-care and accident and emergency services have been provided by the Princess of Wales Hospital. GP's Surgeries are scattered throughout the town, as are dentists.
There is also a large psychiatric hospital, Glanrhyd near Pen-y-Fai.
Shopping and Visits
In the town centre the main shopping areas are the Rhiw Shopping Centre(containing Bridgend Market), Adare Street, Caroline Street, Derwen Road, Nolton Street, Queen Street, Dunraven Place, Market Street and Cheapside (home of the Brackla Street Centre and future ASDA store.) Most high street names can be found in and around the town centre (with one or two exceptions), these areas are within close proximity to the bus and train stations as are pay and display car parks. The prices at the car parks have been a contentious issue.
There are out-of-town shopping areas at Waterton near the A473, Cowbridge Road and at Junction 36 of the M4, home to Sainsbury's and the Bridgend Designer Outlet and Odeon Cinema. Free ample parking is provided at the out-of-town sites.
There are numerous public houses and restaurants within the town centre. There is only one specific nightclub, Lava-Ignite although a few of the pubs double up as nightclubs or specifically create a nightclub atmosphere.
Bridgend town centre is generally safe although there are incidences of alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour like any other British town of Bridgend's size. CCTV is in operation throughout the town centre and there is usually a police presence of some form.
Bridgend is home to plenty of nu-metal, hard rock and emo acts that are playing the clubs of the area, making it a prominent part of the South Wales emo scene. This has drawn criticism from those who dislike the culture and the music, but, as it continues to draw, clubs and venues continue to hold such gigs in the area. The bands Funeral for a Friend and Bullet For My Valentine began their careers by playing venues in Bridgend such as the local Recreation Centre.
There are several smaller, intimate venues in and around the town centre including The Toll House, PS-Bar and The Tusker.
Bryan Adams played to a 15,000 crowd at Brewery Field in the town centre on June 2nd 2006. It is hoped the success of this concert will encourage other acts to play at the venue.
Bridgend is a hotbed of rugby union. In the regionalisation of Welsh Rugby Union in 2003, Bridgend RFC and Pontypridd RFC merged to form the Celtic Warriors. The area represented was massive and there are obvious communication and transport problems in sharing the respective grounds. The decision was made to move the club permanently to the Brewery Field in Bridgend. Attendances had been poor but were showing signs of recovery when in 2004, despite a strong finish to the Celtic League season, the region was disbanded to the shock of everyone involved. Professional rugby union in Bridgend and the valleys ended in an instant.
Celtic Crusaders Rugby League Club now play at the Brewery Field The side are sometimes considered to be a replacement for the Celtic Warriors rugby union side after the controversial disbanding in 2004 but have built up a loyal following in their own right. The Crusaders are currently in Rugby League's National League Two and are aiming to be in Super League by 2009.
Bridgend's other rugby league side is the Bridgend Blue Bulls, the current Welsh Conference champions and one the UK's most successful amateur clubs having won two national amateur titles in four years. The Bulls have played at Coychurch Road and the Brewery Field but are considering a move to the nearby seaside town of Porthcawl.
Bridgend Ravens, the remaining semi-professional rugby union side, rent the Brewery Field from the Crusaders in the winter months. Bridgend is also home to other rugby union sides including Bridgend Athletic RFC, Bridgend Sports RFC and South Wales Police RFC.
Bridgend has two main football teams, Bridgend Town FC, and Bryntiron Athletic FC, both sides play in the Welsh Football League First Division. Bridgend Town FC will need to relocate in the next few years from its Coychurch Road ground due to a planned road and housing estate on the ground in conjunction with the new ASDA store.
Bridgend also has local cricket clubs, golf courses and a bowls facility at the Recreation Centre.
Tourist Information Centres in Bridgend:
McArthur Glen Design Outlet (Wales)
Winter 7 Days 10.00 - 18.00
Summer 7 Days 10.00 - 18.00
16a Market St
Bridgend - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
BRIDGEND, otherwise PEN-Y-BONT-AROGWR, a thriving market-town, and, jointly with Cowbridge, the head of a union, partly in the parish of Coyty, and partly in that of Newcastle, hundred of Newcastle, county of Glamorgan, South Wales, 20 miles (W. by N.) from Cardiff, and 179 (W.) from London: the population is returned with the different parishes. This town, the name of which is of obvious etymology, is pleasantly situated on the turnpike-road from Cardiff to Swansea, and on the banks of the river Ogmore, which divides it into two parts, the hamlet of Oldcastle occupying the eastern, and that of Newcastle the western bank; and over which are two bridges of stone, one of them an elegant modern structure of three arches, forming an ornamental entrance from the west. It stands in a beautiful and fertile district, nearly in the centre of the county, and consists of one irregular street, containing some excellent shops, and a new street leading from the Coyty road to the market-place, with several handsome dwelling-houses in the environs. A considerable portion of the town is paved and lighted; the place is well supplied with water, and has been much improved of late years, by the erection of several good houses, and by modernising the old ones. There are no fixed amusements, but concerts and dramatic performances occasionally take place at the town-hall. An act of parliament was obtained some years ago for constructing a new line of road from the town to a place called Pant-y-Brocastle, by which the distance from Cowbridge was shortened one mile, and the nearest and least hilly road from Cardiff to Swansea brought through the town.
A large woollen manufactory was established about the commencement of the present century by several gentlemen of the county, both to encourage industry among the inhabitants, and to provide a home market for the wool produced in the vicinity; but this scheme failed to realise the expectations of its promoters, and the building has been converted into a brewery. Contiguous to the town are some quarries of excellent freestone, resembling Portland stone, to which it is not much inferior. In connexion with the Llynvi railway is a branch line, commencing near the village of Cevn Cribwr, and extending four miles and a half, in an eastern direction, to the vicinity of Bridgend. It is intended principally to facilitate the transmission of coal from the large works on the railroad to this town, and to open a communication between the latter and the harbour of Porthcawl, which is a creek to the port of Swansea, and is usually considered the shipping-place for Bridgend, from which it is five miles distant. Considerable improvements of the railway are in contemplation. The South Wales railway, also, will run very near the town, where a station will be fixed. The market is on Saturday, and is noted for the sale of corn, which is pitched; it is also abundantly supplied with provisions, at reasonable prices: the market-place was erected by the Earl of Dunraven, and is replete with every convenience. Fairs are held on HolyThursday, or Ascension-day, and November 17th, chiefly for the sale of cattle and cheese. The pettysessions for the hundred are held here every Saturday; and here also the election of the parliamentary representatives for the county takes place. The powers of the county debt-court of Bridgend, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Bridgend and Cowbridge. A new town-hall has been lately erected, by subscription.
Connected with that part of the town which is in the parish of Coyty, forming the hamlet of Oldcastle, is the chapel of Nolton, a chapel of ease to Coyty, where divine service is regularly performed. This chapel, though connected with Oldcastle, is really situate within the verge of the hamlet of Newcastle, in which also stands the parish church of Newcastle. There are places of worship for Particular Baptists, Independents, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians: that for the Unitarians, with another in the neighbouring parish of Bettws, belonging to the same sect, is endowed with lands and money, amounting to about £40 per annum, chiefly by the ancestors of that distinguished writer, Dr. Richard Price, who was born at Tynton, in the parish of Bettws, in 1723. A National school, in which about 180 children are instructed by a master and mistress, is supported partly by school-pence, but principally by subscriptions, donations, and collections. There are likewise several Sunday schools, one of them in connexion with the Established Church. A savings' bank and a dispensary have been erected with part of a sum arising from the unappropriated fractional parts of dividends, which amounted to £800; the dispensary, for the distribution of medicines and advice gratis among the poor of the adjoining parishes, not receiving parochial relief, is supported by subscriptions, usually amounting to £100 per annum. The hamlets of Oldcastle and Newcastle derived their names from two fortresses, probably erected by some of the early Norman invaders of Glamorgan, to secure their newly-acquired possessions from the attacks of the native chieftains, to which they were for a long time exposed. That which gave name to the former stood near the present chapel of Nolton, the tithe-barn being subsequently erected on part of its site, and appears to have been dependent on the neighbouring castle of Coyty. The other fortress occupied a commanding situation on a precipitous eminence above the church.
George Cadogan Morgan, nephew of Dr. Price, and classical tutor and lecturer on natural philosophy in the dissenting academy at Hackney, in Middlesex, was a native of this place. He published two volumes of Lectures on Electricity, and a small work on education, entitled "Directions for the use of a Scientific Table in the collection and application of Knowledge;" and communicated to the Royal Society a valuable paper, under the title of "Observations and Experiments on the light of bodies in a state of combustion," which was published in the seventy-fifth volume of the Philosophical Transactions. He died near London, in 1798.
The poor-law union of Bridgend and Cowbridge was formed Oct. 10th, 1836, and includes the 52 following parishes and townships; namely, St. Athan's, Bettws, St. Bride's (including St. Bride's, Lamphey, and Southerndown), St. Bride's Minor, Colwinstone, Cowbridge, Higher Coyty, Lower Coyty, Higher Coychurch, Lower Coychurch, Cwmdû, St. Donatt's, Eglwys-Brewis, Ewenny, Flemingston, Gileston, St. Hilary, Kenvig, Laleston, Lantwit-Major, Llanblethian, Llandough, Llandow, Llandyvodog, Llangan, Llangeinor, Lower Llangonoyd, Middle Llangonoyd, Llanharan, Llanhary, Llanilid, Llanmaes, Llansannor, Llanvihangel, Llŷsworney, Marcross, St. Marychurch, Mary Hill, Merthyr-Mawr, Monknash, Higher Newcastle, Lower Newcastle, NewtonNottage, Pencoed, Penllyne, Peterston-super-Montem, Pyle, Higher Tythegston, Lower Tythegston, Wick, Ynysawdre, and Ystrad-Owen. It is under the superintendence of 52 guardians, and contains a population of 21,357.
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