History of Pontardawe
The town of Pontardawe emerged in 1845 and takes its name from the bridge that spanned the
River Tawe ‘Pont-ar-Dawe’, near the present day Pontardawe Inn. Pontardawe developed around three waterways, the River Tawe, the Swansea Canal and the Upper Clydach River.
Pontardawe has developed from a small hamlet at the end of the eighteenth century into a medium sized town at the end of the twentieth century, with a growth of housing, service industries and light engineering. The town is situated at the junction of two highways, the road from Swansea to Brecon and the road from Llandeillo to Neath. New trunk roads by-pass the town taking heavy vehicular traffic out of the centre. Pontardawe was twinned with the town of Locmine in Brittany in 1986.
The area changed form an agricultural district in the early eighteenth century into an industrial one from 1830 onwards as a result of the development of coal mining, iron, tinplate and steel working which flourished within the district. Before the coming of heavy industry, farming formed the bedrock of the area’s economy and society and remains important today. This industrial development directly led to the growth of Pontardawe and the shape of the town as we know it today. The district is no longer dominated by heavy industry, which gave rise to the modern district. At the present time, light engineering and manufacturing with the many established firms based on the town’s two industrial estates have taken over as the major employers in the town.
Culture, Sport and Recreation
Our part of the Swansea valley has always scored highly in terms of cultural endeavour, notably in the fields of poetry, prose and music. Amongst Pontardawe’s most well known personalities are Mary Hopkin, singer, the late Rachel Thomas, actress, Dafydd Rowlands, poet and prose writer and the late David James Jones (Gwenallt), poet, to name but a few. There has always been a vibrant Welsh folk scene over many years represented in more recent times by the Pontardawe International Music Festival.
In addition, the area has a rich sporting and recreational tradition with local rugby and cricket clubs. Gareth Edwards, Robert Jones and Arwel Thomas, who all originated from the district of Pontardawe are well known for their rugby playing skills.
In the leisure and environment fields Pontardawe has a large range of activities on offer to local residents and visitors alike. It boasts a modern leisure complex facility with an indoor bowling green, playing fields, local parks with outdoor bowling green and a golf course.
The Arts Centre gives and added facility to the leisure and entertainment sector for all sections of the community, offering a wide variety of concerts and other events.
A variety of other clubs and societies have been set up and flourished over the years. Facilities for reading, art, adult and community
education, roller skating, concerts, theatre and cinema going are also available.
The natural environment of ancient woodlands, riverside and canal walks, several waterfall features, mountain drives and superb scenery are an attraction that complement the historic and built environment of religious buildings, residential buildings and commercial buildings, and the canal that flows through the heart of the town. The canal has now been restored as an amenity facility and a passenger carrying trip boat commenced operating at Pontardawe once again in 1994. It operates throughout the summer months along a restored section of canal between Pontardawe and Ynysmeudwy. Wildlife is also well represented in the valley.