Walk 34: Aberdare Town Walk: Memories of days gone by…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Only a couple of miles, but there’s much to pack in…

Time to walk: Only about 45 mins, but immerse yourself in the history & especially the market – it’s fab!

Difficulty: All on road so suitable at all times of the year

Parking: We parked in the Pay & Display in the middle of the town – there’s plenty of signposts to it

Public toilets: Plenty around the town

Map of the route: @ Heritage Trails

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Aberdare, Aberdare…oh how we love Aberdare. A small Welsh town set deep in The Valleys &, if you travel from Cardiff, a spectacular drive to get there!

This is the last of the walks we did whilst working down in South Wales in February 2015 & apologies for the poor photos as it was late afternoon & the light was fading

Aberdare dates from the Middle Ages. Two major industries supported the main growth of the community, first iron, then coal. Little more than a village at the end of the eighteenth century, it grew rapidly in population owing to the abundance of coal & iron ore

During its boom years Aberdare was considered a centre of Welsh culture hosting the first National Eisteddfod in 1861 & was the birthplace of the Second World War poet Alun Lewis. The founding members of The Stereophonics originated from the nearby village of Cwmaman

Want to have a quick look around?

Come on then…Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts outside the Market Hall which still holds a traditional daily market & is well worth a look. It’s not quite as good as Pontypridd, but we do love these traditional places…

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There’s a blue plaque near the entrance which shows that in 1861 it was the site of the first National Eisteddfod…

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Inside’s a variety of stalls & cafes…

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2. Facing the Market Hall, turn right & walk along Market Street to reach the junction with Cardiff Street, passing the site of the ‘Kosy Cinema’ which was opened by one of the early pioneers of cinema…William Haggar

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3. If you’re feeling peckish there’s a rather good ‘Chippy’ straight over the road…Giovanni’s. If not then turn right & have a look at the Cenotaph which remembers those from Aberdare killed in all recent wars

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There’s some poignant messages / memorials placed around the main structure…

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4. Head up the hill (in our case into the setting sun)…

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…turning left at The Bute Arms into Bute Street itself…

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5. Just on the right’s another property with a blue plaque…

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The house is called ‘Queen Mary’s Cottage’ after being visited by King George V & Queen Mary in 1912. In those days the cottage was an example of a typical mining one…

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6. Going back into the main street we continue up the hill into Victoria Square where there’s a few things of interest. Firstly it’s impossible to miss the statue of Griffith Rhys Jones (no…not Griff Rhys Jones!), also known as ‘Caradog’…

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‘Caradog’ was one of the best know choir conductors in South Wales, leading the famous ‘Cor Mawr’ choir to win the national choir competition in 1872 & 1873

Love the way the Welsh people like to put inscriptions everywhere, such as here & on the Millennium Centre in Cardiff

All Wales is a Land of Song!

All Wales is a Land of Song!

7. Ahead of us is the, sadly closed, Black Lion Inn which is one of the oldest buildings in Aberdare. Dating from 1811 it’s been a coaching inn, the town’s first post office & the local Inland Revenue Office. The Black Lion Brewery Company also opened behind the Inn, but closed in 1811…

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8. Be careful crossing the street but we need to keep heading in the same direction…

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…& cross the road to look at The Memorial Stone…

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The plaque refers to James James who, with his father wrote the Welsh National Anthem

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9. Have a glimpse back over your right shoulder to have a look at the magnificent spire of  St Elvan’s Church

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10. Keep heading further down the hill & then make a detour left towards the Council Office grounds…

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Turn left here

Turn left here

…which were formerly the site of The Rock Brewery which opened in 1850. Later in 1938 it became swimming baths

The bust in front is of James Keir Hardie who became the first leader of the Labour Party (told you this place had some history!)

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Ironically he made his final speech before he died in 1915 in front of the Market Hall where we started this walk

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11. Walk past the offices & turn right down the steps back to the street…

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…& continue past the mileage marker which dates back to 1860…

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12. The square we’ve now arrived at’s called Green Street which was once the site of medieval Aberdare…

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This area contains a couple of important chapels. Firstly the Green Street Methodist Chapel…

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…& slightly further on Siloa Congregational Church which was the largest of the Welsh Independent, or Congregationalist, chapels in Aberdare. Established in 1844 & seating over 900,it remains one of the few Welsh chapels in the locality to remain open today

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13. Facing the Siloa Chapel turn round to see the old church behind…

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Let’s have a closer look…this is St John the Baptist Church which is the oldest building in Aberdare & is thought to have been built around 1190

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The churchyard’s also worth exploring & was pretty in the early spring…

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14. Head back into Green Street past the Methodist Chapel again. Next door to this is Aberdare Town Hall, which acted as the original Market Hall before the current one was built…

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15. We now head over the pedestrian crossing into Canon Street where on the corner of the junction’s the Aberdare Constitutional Club (usually a very blue building)

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Unfortunately it was being renovated when we were there. The Constitutional hall became an important place of entertainment for the local people, being used in a number of different ways over the years. In 1905 the Hall became the ‘Palace Theatre of Varieties’ & in 1909 reopened as the ‘New Empire Theatre’. After the Theatre closed down the ‘Empire Hall’ became a ballroom & concert hall. In the 1960’s the it was converted into the ‘Go-Go Bar’ & its last incarnation was as the ‘Decker’s Nightclub’. It’s now currently being run by the Aberdare Constitutional Club as ‘Churchills’

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16. Canon Street appears to be undergoing renovation as, on the left, the Temperance Hall was also under covers…

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Here’s what it will look like when finished…converted into 15 apartments & a shop

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Built in 1858, it contained a 1500 seat auditorium, hotel, library & coffee house.The Hall was converted into the New Theatre & Hippodrome in 1895. In 1918 it was renamed the Palladium & began showing films. From the 1920’s onwards it was primarily used as a cinema until being converted into its final form as the Palladium Bingo Hall

17. As we’re told by the fabulous clock over the road, times dragging on & the light’s fading really quickly now so best foot forward…

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Continue along Canon Street &, when it bends right, head straight on down Commercial Street…

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18. On the right’s the ‘Pickled Pepper’ which was previously known as the ‘Bush Inn’ (the old sign can still be seen on the building…

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Apparently during the mid 1800s the town became famous for the number of pubs it had (40 in Cardiff Road, Commercial Street alone!). There’s no wonder the temperance movement was in full force here!

19. To end this short turn right down the alley way next to the pub…

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…where we emerge back opposite the Market Hall where we started

So…only a small town, but a big history, especially in the boom times. Like many small towns Aberdare is struggling today, but we got the feel it’s a resilient, proud place

It’s certainly set in some beautiful countryside & was a pleasure to visit so…

Go Walk!

 

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