The Town Clock
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Tredegar (pronounced , Welsh: [tr?'de:?ar]) is a town and community situated on the banks of the Sirhowy River in the county borough of Blaenau Gwent, in the southeast of Wales. Within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire, it became an early centre of the Industrial Revolution in Wales. The historic Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia, United States was named in honour of the town. The relevant wards (Tredegar Central and West, Sirhowy and Georgetown) collectively listed the town's population as 15,103 in the UK 2011 census.
Tredegyr is "farmstead of Tegyr" (tre, a form of tref = farmstead) + soft mutation (t > d) + Tegyr. A Brythonic form *Tecorix (fair king) might be supposed, as such a form would have resulted in Welsh "Tegyr" following normal processes in the development of Welsh from Brythonic. There is a similar name in Denbighshire - Botegyr, meaning "Tegyr's dwelling", < Bod Degyr < (bod = dwelling) + (soft mutation t > d) + (Tegyr).
The local form of the name was in fact Tredecar (with "c" [k] instead of "g"). This feature, typical of south-eastern Welsh, or Gwentian, is known as "provection" (calediad in Welsh) and involves the devoicing of stops. In this way "b > p", "d > t" and "g > c". The form is to be found in the title of the folk song "Ar Ben Waun Tredecar" ("At the Top of Waun Tredegar (Tredegar Mountain") by the group Yr Hwntws.
There was also a shortened form Decar - the loss of a pre-tonic syllable is not unusual in Welsh and a number of place-names show this feature. Examples in spoken Welsh are ceffyle > ffyle (horses), afale > fale (apples), ysgubor > sgubor (barn), ystafell > stafell (room), eisteddfod > steddfod.
The original Tredegar is in Coedcernyw by Newport, and is nowadays more usually known in English as (in order to avoid confusion) Tredegar House (or Tredegar Park). Older forms of the name show it to be Tredegyr (this form is found in 1550) (by the modern Welsh period generally this final "y" would have become "e", and in Gwentian this would have in turn become "a", as with Gwentian "Merchar" (Wednesday), standard Welsh "Mercher", from older Welsh "Merchyr"). In 1800 Samuel Homfray, who had married into the Morgan of Tredegar family, formed a company to produce iron which was named the Tredegar Iron Company - the land where he extracted and treated the ore belonged to his father-in-law and was a part of the Tredegar Estate. The company's buildings appeared on an 1832 Ordnance Survey map as Tredegar Iron Works.
The name Tredegar has been interpreted to be an adaptation and reduction of "tref y deg erw" or reduction of "tre'r deg erw" ("tref" is an older form of "tre"; "y" is the definite article after a consonant, and "'r" is the definite article after a vowel; in either case in place names the linking definite article is often dropped, hence pairs such as "Glan-y-môr, Glan-môr" (the sea's edge) or "Cae'r Maen, Cae Maen" (the field of the standing stone). Deg erw is Welsh for "ten acres"; "tre" in newer place names in the industrialised valleys means "town", and equates to English names with "town" (usually a grand name for rows of workers' housing) (e.g. Hopkinstown, Rhondda) or "ville" (e.g. Edwardsville, Merthyr Tudful). Historically "tref / tre" was approximately a "homestead, farmstead, hamlet, estate". In this respect we can compare the sense development of Old English "t?n" (= farmstead) to modern English "town". So "tre deg erw" is plausible morphologically, but is not the origin of the name "Tredegar".
In the case of both "ten acres" and "thirty acres" there is no indication of what this land area might refer to. In the second case, "tri deg erw" could not have resulted in "Tredegar". In both of the above interpretations it is supposed that "erw" has been reduced to "er" through the loss of the final vowel "w", and the resulting final syllable "er" has become final "ar". This would be consistent with features of south-eastern Welsh, or Gwentian, which is the variety of Welsh spoken historically in Tredegar. South-eastern field names show this reduction - Dwyar, a field name in Penderyn (dwy erw = two acres > dwyer > dwyar).
The resulting form would be Tredegar, but this supposes that this is an altered form of tri-deg-ar. "Tri-deg" (three tens) is thirty, but as a numeral is a recent innovation in Welsh, since "deg-ar-hugain" (ten on twenty) is the traditional numeral. In addition, "tri-deg" would hardly change to "tre-deg".
Tredegar grew as a developed town thanks to the natural resources it had within the Sirhowy Valley, namely:
Hence by the start of the 1700s, the upper Sirhowy Valley was a natural well wooded valley, consisting of a few farms and the occasional small iron works where iron ore and coal naturally had occurred together.
The first recorded iron works in the Sirhowy Valley was Pont Gwaith Yr Hearn, developed by two Bretons and worked by men from Penydarren, Merthyr Tydfil. The Sirhowy Iron Works was erected in 1750 by Mr Kettle of Shropshire. In 1778 Kettle sold this ironworks to Thomas Atkinson and William Barrow, who came to the area from London. They developed it as the first coal fired furnace, so men were employed to dig coal at Bryn Bach and Nantybwch, the first small scale coal mining operation in the area. The furnace and hence the business failed in 1794.
In 1797, Samuel Homfray, with partners Richard Fothergill and the Matthew Monkhouse built a new furnace, leasing the land from the Tredegar Estate in Newport. This created the new Sirhowy Ironworks, that were in 1800 to become the Tredegar Iron Company, named in honour of the Tredegar Estate at Tredegar House and Tredegar Park in Newport in the south of the county.
In 1891, the company ceased production of iron, but continued to develop coal mines and produce coal. The former Tredegar Ironworks were effectively abandoned, with Whiteheads taking over the southern section of the site from 1907. In 1931, they also closed down their operations, moving everything to their Newport works. TICC continued to develop coal mines and work pits, until it was nationalised in 1946, becoming part of the National Coal Board.
Samuel Homfray, an iron master who managed to obtain a large parcel of land in and around Tredegar, is to thank for Tredegar Circle and the wide streets running out from it. He showed a great concern about the state of the current streets and how narrow they were, deciding that his new town would have wide streets running out from a central place. Tredegar Circle was first known as 'The Square', but as buildings and shops developed around it people within Tredegar began to refer to it as 'The Circle'.
The town clock which stands in the middle of Tredegar Circle was once where the town stocks resided, with there being records of people being put into the stocks to be punished for petty misdemeanours. People being punished within the stocks would have their legs trapped in the stocks, being kept outside for hours in all weather conditions.
Prostitution was rife within Tredegar Circle, almost having a reputation of being a 'red light district' in the earlier days.
Tredegar Circle was also seen as being an important 'shopping centre', many local tradespeople would go there to set up stalls and sell their wears to the people within Tredegar before the town clock was erected. Horses and carts loaded with goods would clatter around Tredegar Circle, with almost every type of produce being available to buy within Tredegar Circle.
Tredegar Circle is also known for the pubs that occupy it, although there have been many that have closed down over the years such as the Greyhound Inn and the Freemasons, both once very popular with local workers. There have been many reported arrests within Tredegar Circle, in both present and earlier days, due to drunken and disorderly behaviour.
The town is known for its three major riots. In 1868 there were the election riots, which took place after the locals' favourite candidate, Colonel Clifford, was not elected.
Secondly in 1882 there was a major anti-Irish riot in Tredegar. There had been a large Irish community in Tredegar since the 1850s, and for a while there had been tensions. Reports from the time vary, however where they all concur includes the fact the riot began with stone throwing and quickly escalated with Irishmen's homes being destroyed and furniture burned in the streets. The Irish were run out of Tredegar and some were beaten. Troops from Newport and Cardiff had to be called in to quell the violence
Thirdly, there were the anti-Jewish riots of 1911, which some called a pogrom, when Jewish shops were ransacked and the army had to be brought in. Though Jewish businesses and property were attacked, nobody was killed in this riot.
Samuel Homfray and his partners needed accommodation for their workers, and so needed to develop a suitable town. The land on the eastside of the Sirhowy river was owned by Lt.Col. Sir Charles Gould Morgan who granted a lease in 1799 to build Tredegar Ironworks Company. In 1800, Homfray married Sir Charles daughter Jane, and hence improved his lease terms. The west bank of the river was owned by Lord Tredegar, and hence in the short term remained undeveloped.
Homfray was a hard task master. He sold franchisees to business people who wanted to operate within his town, from which he would take a percentage. He paid his workers in his own private coinage, so that they could not easily spend their wages outside the town. However, the opportunity to work created a boom town, which with a parish population of 1,132 in 1801 had boomed to 34,685 by 1881, in part boosted by the laying of the 24 miles (39 km) stretch of horse drawn track to Newport in 1805.
But all of this development came at a price. Adrian Vaughn, in his 1985 book "Grub, Water & Relief," mentions that in 1832 John Gooch took a managerial post in the Tredegar iron works:
|"||Utterly remote at the head of the Sirhowy valley, the town was a man-made hell. Men and children worked killing hours in the smoke and filth of the foundries and were maimed by molten metal. Their only medical help was that administered by the 'Penny Doctor.' Wages were paid in Homfray's private coinage -- banks were not allowed in the town -- so workers spent their coins in Homfray's shops, buying food at Homfray's prices. Poverty and malnutrition followed and disease followed both||"|
Tredegar has strong links with prominent Labour MPs and the history of the Labour Party and the Labour Movement in Britain as a whole. It was the birthplace of Aneurin Bevan, who was responsible for the introduction of the British National Health Service (NHS), and who in the 1920s was involved in the management of Tredegar General Hospital. Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992, was born in Tredegar in 1942 and lived there for most of his early life, attending the town's Georgetown Infants and Junior Schools between 1947 and 1953. His predecessor as leader, Michael Foot, was MP for the local constituency -- Ebbw Vale -- during his time as party leader. Tredegar, as part of the Blaenau Gwent constituency was for a period no longer represented by a Labour MP, with the left-wing independent Dai Davies representing the once safe Labour constituency until the general election of 2010.
Bedwellty House is a Grade II listed house and gardens. Originally a "low thatched-roof cottage", the old house was renovated in 1809. The present Bedwellty House was built in 1818 as a home for Samuel Homfray, whose Iron and Coal Works were the main local employers for much of the 19th century. The surrounding 26-acre (11 ha) Victorian garden and park, designed originally as a Dutch garden around which one could walk or ride without being confronted by gate, fence or outside features, contains the Long Shelter, also a Grade II listed structure built for the Chartist Movement.
One of Tredegar's main attributes is the Town Clock, dominating the southern part of the town centre. The clock was made by JB Joyce & Co of Whitchurch, Shropshire and was the idea of Mrs. R. P. Davies the wife of the Tredegar Ironworks manager, who had decided that she wanted to present a "lofty illuminated clock" and it was she who decided that it would be erected in the Circle.
"The clock tower is seventy-two feet high. The foundation is of masonry, on which is surmounted the cast-iron base which has four arms from each corner to a distance of sixty feet at a depth of five feet and six inches (152 mm) below ground level. The pillar is wholly composed of cast-iron, upon a square pediment which in turn, receives a rectangular plinth, and upon this stands a cylindrical column of smooth surface and symmetrical diameter, ornamented with suitable coping on which rests the clock surrounded with a weather vane. The plinth is inscribed on the four aspects, on the south side - Presented to the town of Tredegar from the proceeds of a bazaar promoted by Mrs. R.P. Davis. Erected in the year 1858. On the west side is effigy of Wellington, with the legend - Wellington, England's Hero. On the North, the Royal Arms of England; and on the east, the name and description of the founder with his crest, - Charles Jordan, Iron Founder, Newport, Mon. The clock is provided with four transparent faces or dials, each five feet three inches diameter, and these were illuminated originally by gas, but this was later changed to electricity. The minute hands are each two feet two inches long, and the hour hand one foot seven inches long. The clocks mechanism is a fifteen inch (381 mm) mainwheel strike, with a single four-legged Gravity Escapement driving the four dials. It has a 1¼ second pendulum and the bob weighs two hundredweight".
Tredegar is 'The Home of Champions' namely the world-famous Tredegar Town Band. The band is currently ranked number 2 in the brass band world rankings above top brass banding names such as Brighouse & Rastrick, Grimethorpe Colliery & Black Dyke. The musical origins of the band can be traced back to 1849 when a local brass band from the Welsh Valley town was reported to have led a procession to celebrate the opening of a new mill for the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company. However, a formal organisation was not constituted until 1876. Threatened with extinction, local citizens met to pledge financial support - a decision that has subsequently seen Tredegar Town Band proudly represent their community throughout the brass banding world for 137 years.
History shows that early contesting victories were sporadic, with recently unearthed archives revealing that the band competed both locally and nationally at lower section level with occasional successes up to the start of the Second World War. Many of these came under the baton of Eli Shaw, the first of many remarkable conductors to have directed the band to victory in the past century or more. Tredegar enjoyed increasing contesting success after the Second World War, under the direction of first, Cornelius Buckley, followed later by John Childs. This resulted in the Second Section Champion Band of Great Britain title in 1973, the band's first Champion Band of Wales title in 1974 and victory at the Grand Shield in 1976.
Firmly established in the top echelon of brass banding ever since, Tredegar Town Band has been Champion Band of Wales a further eight times. Welsh Regional Champion on eleven occasions, as well as securing multiple Pontins, Welsh National Eisteddfod, Welsh Open, Yeovil, BBC Radio Wales and Wychavon titles. In addition, the band was twice runners-up at the National Championships of Great Britain, in 1993, and 2003, as well as the British Open in 1996, and claimed a podium finish at the European Brass Band Championships in 1991.
The latest contesting renaissance came with the appointment of Ian Porthouse as Musical Director in 2008, immediately regaining the Welsh Area title and subsequently achieving increasingly impressive domestic and national contesting results. 2010 was truly historic, with the band claiming no less than seven major domestic and national titles, culminating with the unique double feat of winning the Grand Shield and the British Open Championship in the same year. 2013 has seen the band add to this success by proudly reclaiming the British Open Championship title after producing a truly memorable performance of Stephen Roberts' 'Arabian Nights - Fantasy on Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazade for Brass Band'. Soprano player Ian Roberts won the Brian Evans Memorial Trophy, with Solo Euphonium Daniel Thomas claiming the Geoffrey Whitham Award. The Stanley Wainwright 'Best Soloist' Trophy went to the band's Principal Cornet Dewi Griffiths. In the opinion of respected brass band adjudicator David Read the band's contest performance ranked close to the legendary 1985 Black Dyke National win on 'Cloudcatcher Fells'.
Tredegar Orpheus Male voice choir celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009. Originally in Tredegar there were two choirs, a glee party and a small chapel choir. In 1909, these united under the baton of Mr John Davy Evans, and thus became known as 'The Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice Choir', the name Orpheus coming from the Greek god of music.
Tredegar is home to rugby union teams Tredegar Rugby Football Club who play in the Swalec League Division Two East and Tredegar Ironsides Rugby Football Club. The club was formed in 1946. There is also the nearby Tredegar and Rhymney Golf Club.
Tredegar is home to Bryn Bach Park, a country park.
The need for transport development came from Tredegar's industrialisation. By 1805, a joint venture between the Tredegar Iron Company and the Monmouthshire Canal resulted in the early development of what became the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway, connecting Tredegar to Newport Docks through 24 miles (39 km) of tramway. Originally powered by horses, in 1829 Chief Engineer Thomas Ellis was authorised to purchase a steam locomotive from the Stephenson Company. Built at Tredegar Works and made its maiden trip on 17 December 1829. In 1865 the railway was extended north to Nantybwch to meet the LNWR. The railway declined with the industrial works, and Tredegar railway station closed with the Beeching Axe in 1963. The closest railway stations now are in Ebbw Vale, Rhymney and Abergavenny.
The proposed South Wales Metro includes a station in Tredegar, using the line closed by the Beeching Axe.
For much of the 20th Century Tredegar was served by two bus companies: Red&White Services Ltd (based Chepstow) and Hill's of Tredegar (local family-owned business). Red&White had a large depot in the town and built a brand new Bus Station (in front of the depot building) which was opened 30 January 1959 by then local MP Aneurin Bevan.
In October 2013 local farmer Paul Morris was given a 10-month jail term, suspended for two years, for allowing 4,700 individual loads of waste to be illegally dumped on the land from March 2006, and making made £283,000 in the process. Morris had allowed more than 87,000 tonnes of controlled waste to be dumped in a disused reservoir on his farm in Hilltop, over a four-year period. Commenting on the case, Gareth O'Shea, of Natural Resources Wales, said: "We hope the outcome of this case will send out a positive message to those in the waste industry, that Natural Resources Wales will not tolerate those who seek to profit by breaking the law, harming local communities or damaging the environment."
Tredegar has been used for numerous TV and film locations, including The District Nurse starring Nerys Hughes. In 1982, a televised version of the A.J. Cronin novel, The Citadel, was filmed in Tredegar, starring Ben Cross. The series was based partly on Cronin's experiences as a doctor in the town, where he had worked for the Tredegar Medical Aid Society in the early 1920s. This society contributed the model which established the British National Health Service. Aneurin Bevan who launched the Health Service in 1948 said ""All I am doing is extending to the entire population of Britain the benefits we had in Tredegar for a generation or more. We are going to 'Tredegarise' you"
Just north of Tredegar lies the Trefil region. Trefil found new fame in 2005 when it was used as a location for the alien Vogon homeworld in the film of Douglas Adams's book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
In 2011 the Trefil Region was once again used as a filming location for a major Hollywood production when parts of a sequel to Clash of the Titans was filmed there.
On 13 May 2008 the car crash scene for short film Cow filmed on the Tredegar bypass. 'Cow' was produced by Gwent Police and Tredegar Comprehensive School to highlight the dangers of texting while driving. The movie was made available online and received widespread attention, featuring on TV news programs, in newspapers and internet forums worldwide.
On 25 January 2010 the independent movie A Bit of Tom Jones? premiered at Leicester Square, London. Filmed in and around Tredegar, using local people and professional actors, the film was funded by local businesses.