A Brief History of Bridgend

Caroline Street, c.1900!

Bridgend: It's Name and Origins 

Human habitation of the area goes back as far as historians have been able to perceive. Evidence remains in the form of the Round Barrows, Pond Cairn and Simondstown Cairn in Coity - with their significant proof of early use of coal and cereals; Bronze Age burial mounds on Stormy Down; Iron Age Forts at Dunraven; Flint Arrowheads found on Merthry Mawr Warren together with traces of primitive smelting hearths of the Iron Age and the Standing Stone at Sunnyside, beneath which were found cremated remains from the New Bronze Age. c.1500BC.

The Romans came here but left no military encampments, though several coins and artefacts have been found especially along the Roman military road from Isca (Caerleon) to Nidom (Neath), which skirts the town to the south. This important means of communication - at a much later date - was a major factor in the founding of the medieval settlement which gave birth to the town today.

The present name of the town is authentically derived from the name 'Brynggen Eynde' and is mentioned in a document dated 1444 - soon after the first bridge was erected (1425). The name evolved over many year until the present day version of Bridgend and its Welsh equivalent of Penybont ar Owgr.

Bridgend: It's History 

The original medieval settlement was on the banks of the 'Ogmore,' (the river's name comes from the combination of two words; the Welsh for salmon - Eog and the old Welsh word - Mor which nowadays refers to the sea, but formerly referred to 'any expanse of water,' such as an estuary or lake). In all early Norman documents it is referred to as 'Oggrmor,' 'Uggemore' or 'Ogmore' but never the doubtful version - Ogwr.

11th Century 

From its origins to the Norman Conquest from about 1093, when southern Glamorgan was occupied as far as their first 'frontier' on the line of the River Ogmore, the district was ruled by the Welsh Prince Morgannwg under tribal laws.

The Normans introduced  their own rules under Robert Fitzhamon,w ho established himself in Cardiff as Lord of Glamorgan. He divided the occupied are into Lordships, each governed and administrated by on of his senior knights. From the division came the tradition of the 'Twelve Knights,' among whom William de Londres held the great Lordship of Ogmore, and Payn  D'Urbervill (later Turbervill) gained the upland Welsh Lordship of Coity, Newcastle was held at first by Fitzhamon but later becaome a Turbervill manor.

The Welsh to the North and west 'frontier,' continued to raid and pillage the Norman occupied lands. That led to chains of boroughs being established throughout Norman held Glamorgan in order to protect the trade of the district and the merchants who came to the marts. Castles built in our area include Coity; Ogmore; Newcastle; Candleston; Brocastle and Old-Castle Upon-Alun. The Normans also brought to the area thier art of building in stone - churches, priories, abbeys as well as castles. As devout acts, they set about linking local traditional Celtic Churches with monastic foundations already flourishing in the Norman occupied english territories.

12th Century 

Thus by gift of Maurice de Londres - Lord of Ogmore - in 1141 the church of St. Michael of Ogmore became the beginning of the Benedictine Priory of Ewenny, granted to the Abbey of St. Peter of Gloucester, together with the churches of St. Brides Major, St. Michael of Colwinston and the manor of Lampha.

15th Century 

The rebellion by Owen Glendower (Owain Glyndwr - the self proclaimed Prince of Wales) against Henry VI, started in 1401, causing great damage to many Norman strongholds, churches and farms in the area, including the destruction of the Manorial mill at Ogmore (later the 'Watermill'); Blackhall at St. BrideMajor and the Church of St. Leonard, Newcastle (later St. Illtyd).

Coity Castle, under Sir Lawrence Berkrolles, was besieged by Glendower's forces, only being relieved by the King's forces. it was one of the few castles to hold out against Glendower.

The excellent ford below the rock of Newcastle, with its form ground approaches, provided the essential link between "Old Town" (Hendre) - later corrupted to Nolton - and Newcastle whose steep hill provided the route of further travel west and north.

 c.1425 a stone bridge was built alongside the ford - it being the first substantial bridge over the River Ogmore and from which the town's name is derived. Its narrow and humped outline is as it is today, but it was partially demolished by a great flood in 1775, when the two arches nearest the west bank were washed away. They were replaced by a large single span. The ford continued to be used by wheelchair traffic.

The ancient road which lead from 'Old Town' to the 'Bryggen Eynde' and across the river, passed through Elder Street - Bridgend's oldest street, still in use. Lying in two parishes - Newcastle and Coity and divided by the River Ogmore, the future town also lay in portions of two district manors, so its development years it never possessed town records!

16th Century 

In 1500 the town was noted as having a market repute, for it was the natural focal point of the fertile area to the south east and the south west; the valleys and hill farms converging from the north.

18th Century

During the latter part of this century saw the growth of the tanneries and the short - lived but ambitious woollen factory; the potteries on the clay beds of Ewenny ad Heronstone, also, in the town itself, the support services for agriculture, with an iron foundry making implements and farm machinery. 

Dunraven Place, c.1900!

19th Century

Iron founding and coal mining developed in earnest at the beginning of the century, but Bridgend stood outside the southern limit of the coalfield and retained its essential agricultural market character, as well as being the shopping and business centre for the coal mining valleys. In 1839 the Bridgend Railway was opened; a horse-drawn tramway which branched from the Dyffryn Llynfi and Porthcawl Railway of 1828 and survived for 30years bringing coal from the upper end of the Llynfi Valley.

Brunel's South Wales Railway opened its Bridgend station in 1850. The Vale of Glamorgan line of the Barry Railway was built in 1897.

New roads to Cowbridge and Aberkenfig together with a new traffic bridge in the 1820'sand 1830's opened the town to more through traffic and much more trade ensued.

The area has also been an important centre of limestone quarrying and in particular for a famous building stones in a part of Bridgend known as Quarella. The last large building to be mainly constructed of this particular stone was St. Mary's Church, Nolton, completed in 1887,with its tall spire added in 1898.

20th Century

Bridgend entered this century developing quietly as a market town and residential area depending on surrounding agriculture and the business brought by coal mining in the northern valleys.

The first bus station in South Wales was opened from 1923 and in the same year the local railways became part of the Great Western Railway Company. The town's change of character dates from the building of the vast Royal Ordnance Factory at Waterton immediately before the outbreak of World War II. Post war development included the conversion of this huge munitions factory into an impressive industrial estate including the European manufacturing base of the Sony Company; together with the nearby industrial developments  such as the highly successful Ford  Motor Company's Engine Plant and the Science Park (which houses the international companies Align Rite, Biotrace and others). Bridgend boasts a well developed manufacturing and service sector that is world renowned.

The completion of the M4 Motorway from Lonodn to Pont Abraham (West Wales) and the dual carriageways to Junctions 35,36 and 37, the town's railway Intercity link and the facility of Cardiff International Airport (just 12 miles away), and the continued redevelopment of the five major seaports (all provided in recent years) has made the town and the surrounding area very accessible.

Adare Street, c.1904!


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