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Maesteg (United Kingdom)

Maesteg shown within the United Kingdom
Population c. 25,000 (2001)
OS grid reference SS855915
Principal area Bridgend
Ceremonial county Mid Glamorgan
Constituent country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town MAESTEG
Postcode district CF34
Dialling code 01656
Police South Wales
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
European Parliament Wales
UK Parliament Ogmore
List of places: UKWalesBridgend

Coordinates: 51°37'N 3°39'W? / ?51.61, -3.65

Maesteg is a Welsh town located at the northernmost end of the Llynfi Valley in the north of the Welsh county borough of Bridgend (Pen-y-Bont ar Ogwr) and within the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan (Morgannwg). It is very close to the border with Neath Port Talbot county borough, and also to Rhondda Cynon Taff county borough. It has a population of some 17,830-19,223 people, with the surrounding area bringing the population to around 25,000 and is the 17th largest centre of population in Wales. The local school is called Maesteg Comprehensive School. The town was built, like so many others in this area of South Wales, on its nineteenth century and early twentieth century legacy stemming from iron production and coal mining. At the height of its importance, there were six collieries operating in the town; with associated coal mining industries locating in Maesteg.


[edit] History

The war memorial in Maesteg town centre.
The war memorial in Maesteg town centre.

The earliest settlement in the Llynfi Valley is at the Bwlwarcau Iron Age Hill fort near to Llangynwyd Village which is around 2 miles to the south west of Maesteg Town centre. This places earliest human settlement in the area around Maesteg to more than 2,000 years ago.

Immediately surrounding the Maesteg Area is significant evidence of settlement in the Bronze Age, which reaches back further in time, to nearly 4,000 years ago, in Carn Llechart, Crug yr Afan and Carn Bugail, there is also evidence of Neolithic settlement in this area of South Wales, in Penmaen Burrows in the Gower peninsula, and Maesteg is also close to Paviland in the Gower, where the oldest remains of humans have been found in the United Kingdom, dating from 26,350 years ago +/- 550 years; so there is significant evidence that the area around Maesteg has seen anthropological contact for a very long time.

Closer to modern times, the Romans established a settlement at present day Bridgend, and it could be assumed that they visited the Llynfi Valley as they also established a settlement at Neath, although the road that connected them was to the south of the Llynfi Valley as the topography is somewhat treacherous between Maesteg and Neath.

Maesteg remained until the start of the nineteenth century a small rural village, with areas of the town also as small villages with Llangynwyd as the principal village, as it has the oldest most developed infrastructure in the valley. Maesteg began to develop and expand as the techniques of the Industrial Revolution began to be applied to South Wales. Iron, which had always been known to exist in the area, was exploited with the opening of the Iron Works in the 1820s. This was fueled by coal seams which also existed in the valley. This was then transported to Porthcawl via railway where it could be taken by sea anywhere in the world. Another Iron works was set up in the late 1830s, and the two companies were soon bought up by Sir John Bowring in 1843. Bowring's tenure was a financial disaster and he left financial involvement in Maesteg by 1848, when he was put in charge of the British consulate in Canton, and he then became Governor of Hong Kong (1854-59).

Bowring has left a lasting legacy on the town; part of Nantyffyllon district was called Bowrington for a time during the nineteenth century; also John Street in Nantyffyllon was named after him, and Charles Row was named after his brother. There also exists the Bowrington Arcade, which was built at the end of the nineteenth century at the corner of Neath Road and Llynfi Road in the Town Centre.

By 1886, iron-making had ceased in Maesteg, coupled with a long depression during the 1870s, this marked a dark period in Maesteg's recent history; however, work in the coal industries had already began, with the sinking of Garth colliery by 1864 and five more collieries sunk before 1908.

[edit] Maesteg collieries

Name Year Sunk (Opened) Year Shut
Garth 1864 1930
Oakwood 1868 1928
Coegnant 1881 1981
Caerau 1890 1977
Bryn Navigation 1890 1964
St John's 1908 1985 (The Last Deep Mine in the Llynfi Valley)

This marked the largest expansion of Maesteg's population, with a greater number of people living in Maesteg at the start of the twentieth century than they do now at the start of the twenty-first. Coal mining was never expected to be an infinite resource, with closures of Garth and Bryn navigation in the 1930s and 1960s, as a natural result of running out of coal to mine. However, the National Coal Board closed Caerau and Coegnant before the "Miners' Strike" of 1982-83.

St, John's was also closed before its natural end. The legacy of the "Miners' Strike" is not as apparent as in other valleys which were arguably more economically reliant on coal, such as the Rhondda Valleys and valleys further to the east. There was still harsh economic hardship during the start of the 1980s for many of the population of Maesteg.

[edit] Transport

Maesteg has three railway stations, all on the Maesteg Line to Bridgend and Cardiff. The terminus station is named Maesteg and the others are named Maesteg Ewenny Road and Garth (Mid Glamorgan). There is a bus service, replacing a withdrawn rail service, from Maesteg to Caerau.

There were other railway stations; Llangynwyd, also on the Bridgend line, and Maesteg (Neath Road), on the Port Talbot Railway but these are now closed.

[edit] Regeneration

Maesteg is currently undergoing a regeneration scheme to revitalise the town.

A Tesco Store was opened on 5 November 2007 near the rugby club and the Sports Centre, which has meant a noticeable loss of trade within the town centre. However a view can be taken that the large attraction of a well known food store may bring people back into the town centre if the town centre has something people want. A new road takes you straight to Tesco from Talbot Terrace, bypassing the town centre. There is also a free bus that will run from Caerau to Tesco twice a day.

The £10 million Maesteg Washery Land Reclamation Scheme, is transforming a former coal and iron industry site to provide a new comprehensive school and sports fields, in addition to areas set aside for new housing development. It is also hoped that affordable new housing may be created and the landscape improved slightly from the legacy of the washery works.

[edit] Education

Maesteg has 6 main stream primary schools: Cwmfelin Primary, Plasnewydd Primary, Blaencaerau Primary, Nantyfyllon Primary, Llangynwyd Primary and Garth Primary. The only comprehensive school located in Maesteg is Maesteg Comprehensive School which is currently relocating to new premises ready for September 2008. The new school cost £17,000,000. There is also a Catholic Primary school, St. Marys and St. Patricks and a Welsh-medium school Ysgol Cynwyd Sant. The pupils of Cynwyd Sant will go to Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari until the new Welsh Comprehensive school opens in September 2008 Ysgol Gyfun Llangynwyd. The pupils of St. Marys and St. Patricks will then pursue their education in Archbishop McGrath.

[edit] Music and art

Maesteg has its own proud tradition of music and theatre. There are many good local groups providing everything from the traditional male voice choir music to the more modern rock band, Funeral for a Friend, who originally hail from Maesteg[1], is one such example.

Another is rising Metal band Endurance of Hate[2], who are from Maesteg, and are keen to not hide their origins.

Maesteg Children's Choir hosts many concerts throughout the year, and Curtain Up Youth Theatre has been performing musicals since the turn of the millennium, giving children of the valley a chance to showcase their talents. Maesteg Amateur Operatic Society recently celebrated its 60th anniversary with a prodution of 'The King and I.' The Society continues to flourish with talents from all ages eager to perform, ranging from 16 to founder members, who are still active, at 80 and above. It is the home of famous poet Will Hopkin among others.

Artist Christopher Williams was born in Maesteg in 1873. Six of his paintings are on display in Maesteg Town Hall.

[edit] People of Note From Maesteg

[edit] Media

As part of Bridgend County the local radio station is 106.3 Bridge FM. Bridge FM is the most listened to radio station in Bridgend County. Breakfast presenter, Lee Jukes has very close ties with Maesteg Gleemen Male Voice Choir and is also a Patron of Maesteg Amateur Operatic Society.

[edit] References

(Source: Wikipedia)
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