Aberdare stands at the confluence of the Rivers Dare and Cynon in Rhondda Cynnon Taff, South Wales. The town sits in the Cynon Valley to the south of the Brecon Beacons National Park, four miles south east of Hirwaun and four miles north west of Mountain Ash.
Originally a small village in an agricultural district (as late as 1801 the population of the whole parish was just 1,486), Aberdare was centred around the Church of St John the Baptist, said to date from the 12th Century.
With the discovery of coal and iron ore in the early 19th century the population grew rapidly - increasing tenfold within fifty years. With the decline of both iron and coal in the 20th Century Aberdare has become reliant on commercial businesses which include cable manufacture, smokeless fuels, and tourism.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
The long distance walk – the Coed Morgannwg Way passes through Aberdare en-route from the Afan Valley to Merthyr Tydfil and the vale of the River Taff.
The Dare Valley Country Park stands within a mile of Aberdare. It is a great place for walking, where you can stroll at will in the country park or try one of three way marked walks.
The Bwllfa Trail is a walk on level, surfaced paths with a shorter route, on tarmac, for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Approx. 2 miles (3.5km). The pushchair route is 1 mile/2 km.
The Cae Mawr Trail takes you off the beaten track on countryside paths, uphill and over stiles. Approx 2.5 miles (4km).
The Penrhiwllech Trail follows a horseshoe shaped route out of the valley, around Tarren y Bwllfa, climbing high onto the upland plateau on countryside paths, over stiles and rough terrain. Approx 4 miles (6 km).
The Cynon Valley Cycle Route passes through the town of Aberdare and consists of both traffic free and on road sections en-route from the Taff Valley to the Neath Valley
St John the Baptist Church:
Aberdare was centred around the Church of St John the Baptist. St John's Church was built in the latter part of the 12th Century, as a Chapel of Ease for monks from Margam Abbey. Some of its original architecture is still intact. It was reopened following repairs in 1876. Records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials are held here dating back to the late 18th Century, and these can be searched by prior appointment.
Telephone: ¼44 01685 879999. E-mail ParishofAberdare@aol.com
Aberdare parish also has a daughter church, opened in 1852 and dedicated to St. Elvan. St. Mairs church was opened in 1864 to serve the Welsh speaking population of Aberdare.
The Aberdare Valley was a stronghold of Nonconformity from the mid-nineteenth century until the inter-war years. From the turn of the twentieth century there was a very gradual decline in the influence of the chapels. Of the many chapels, few are still used for their original purpose and a number have closed since the turn of the millennium. Many have been converted for housing or other purposes and others demolished. Among the notable chapels were Calfaria, Aberdare and Seion, Cwmaman (Baptist); Saron, Aberaman and Siloa, Aberdare (Independent); and Bethania, Aberdare (Calvinistic Methodist).
Tradition has it that Hirwaun moor, 4 miles to the north west of Aberdare, was, at the end of the eleventh century, the scene of a battle at which Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince of Dyfed, was defeated by the forces of the Norman Robert Fitzhamon and Iestyn ap Gwrgant, the last Welsh prince of Glamorgan. Rhys fled from the battle and was captured and beheaded at Penrhys in the Rhondda Valley, where a monastery was later built over his burial site. There are several cairns in the Hirwaun area that are reputed to be monuments to this great battle and some names refer to this event, for example, Maes y Gwaed (The Field of Blood), Carn y Frwydr (Battle Cairn) and Gadlys (The Hall of Battle Hirwaun).
The Coliseum Theatre is Aberdare's main arts venue, containing a 650-seat auditorium and cinema. It is situated in nearby Trecynon and was built in 1938 using miners' subscriptions. The unique 1930's art deco theatre is a busy venue bursting with an energetic programme of drama, comedy, opera, ballet, music, cinema, children's, school, and community events.
Accommodation and Services
Travellers to Aberdare benefit from both a railway station and bus station, standing opposite each other in the town centre. The town has also been subject to an extensive redevelopment scheme during 2012–13.
In the past Aberdare was considered a centre of Welsh culture: it hosted the first National Eisteddfod in 1861. The Eisteddfod was again held in Aberdare in 1885, and also in 1956 at Aberdare Park where the Gorsedd standing stones still exist.