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Bridgend
  • Welsh: Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr
A bend in the river, Bridgend - geograph.org.uk - 1692133.jpg
The Ogmore River. To the left of the river is Quarella Road; to the right, a superstore and car park
The Old Bridge - Yr Hen Bont, Bridgend - geograph.org.uk - 286432.jpg
The Old Bridge was built in 1425, repaired in 1775 and restored in 2005
Bridgend shown within Bridgend
Population 49,404 (April 2011)
OS grid reference SS905805
Community
    • Bridgend
    • Brackla
    • Coychurch Lower
Principal area
  • Bridgend
Ceremonial county
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BRIDGEND
Postcode district CF31-33, CF35
Dialling code 01656
Police South Wales
Fire South Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament
  • Bridgend
Welsh Assembly
  • Bridgend
List of places
UK
Wales
BridgendCoordinates: 51°30′26″N 3°34′42″W / 51.5072°N 3.5784°W / 51.5072; -03.5784

Bridgend (English pronunciation: /brˈɛnd/; Welsh: Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, meaning "the end (or head) of the bridge on the Ogmore") is a town in Bridgend County Borough in Wales, 18 miles (29 km) west of the capital Cardiff and 20 miles (32 km) east of Swansea. The river crossed by the original bridge, which gave the town its name, is the River Ogmore, but the River Ewenny also passes to the south of the town.

Historically a part of Glamorgan, Bridgend has greatly expanded in size since the early 1980s – the 2001 census recorded a population of 39,429 for the town and the 2011 census reported that the Bridgend Local Authority had a population of 139,200 — up from 128,700 in 2001. This 8.2% increase was the largest increase in Wales except for Cardiff. The town is undergoing a redevelopment project, with the town centre mainly pedestrianised and ongoing works including Brackla Street Centre redevelopment to Bridgend Shopping Centre, Rhiw Car Park redevelopment, ongoing public realm improvements and the upgrade of the Bridgend Life Centre and demolition of Sunnyside offices to accommodate a large retirement complex.

History

Prehistoric and Roman

Several prehistoric burial mounds have been found in the vicinity of Bridgend, suggesting that the area was settled before Roman times. The A48 between Bridgend and Cowbridge has a portion, known locally as "Crack Hill", a Roman road and the 'Golden Mile' where it is believed Roman soldiers were lined up to be paid. The Vale of Glamorgan would have been a natural low-level route west to the Roman fort and harbour at Neath (Nidum) from settlements in the east like Cardiff and Caerleon (Isca).

Norman invasion

Newcastle Castle Bridgend
Front view of Newcastle Castle Bridgend

In the decades after the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England in 1066, the Normans looked westwards to create new seats for lords loyal to William the Conqueror. Groups of Norman barons arrived in Wales, and in the south and east created what would later become the Welsh Marches, while the north and west remained largely unconquered due to the harsh terrain.

At Coity, the local Welsh chieftain Morgan Gam already had a stronghold. Sometime in the 11th century Norman Lord Payn de Turberville approached Morgan to turn over control of Coity Castle to Turberville. Morgan Gam agreed, on condition that Turberville either fought Morgan for the land, or took Gam's daughter Sybil's hand in marriage. Turberville married Sybil and became Lord of Coity, and rebuilt the castle.

Newcastle Castle (on Newcastle Hill, overlooking the town centre, 1106) and Ogmore Castle (1116) were built by Robert Fitzhamon and William de Londres respectively. About 2 miles (3 km) north-east of Ogmore Castle, Maurice de Londres founded the fortified Benedictine Ewenny Priory in 1141.

These three castles provided a "defensive triangle" for the area — a quadrilateral if Ewenny Priory is included.

Early development

Bridgend developed at a ford on the River Ogmore, which was on the main route between east and west Wales. Just north of the town, there is the confluence of three rivers, the Ogmore, the Llynfi and the Garw. South of Bridgend the River Ewenny merges with the River Ogmore and flows into the Bristol Channel. In the 15th century, a stone bridge was built as a permanent connection between the two sides of the Ogmore (and was later rebuilt). Originally this bridge had four arches, but in the 18th century a massive flood washed two of them away. The rest of the bridge still stands and remains a focal point of the town: aesthetic restoration took place in 2006.

Bridgend grew rapidly into an agricultural town. It became an important market town, a status it retained until the late 20th century.

Industrial era

The discovery of coal in the South Wales Valleys north of Bridgend had a massive impact on the town. The first coal mining operations opened north of Bridgend in the 17th century; the Llynfi Valley was the first to be industrialised. Bridgend itself never had coal deposits and remained a market town for some time, but the valleys of the three rivers grew into an important part of the South Wales coalfields. Ironworks and brickworks (notably at Tondu) were also established in the same period by John Bedford, although the ironworks faltered after his death and ceased operating entirely in 1836.

The Great Western Railway arrived and Bridgend was at the junction between the main London to Fishguard line and the branch to the three valleys. Frequent coal trains took coal down the valleys; and when the Vale of Glamorgan railway opened, coal could be sent directly to port at Barry or via other branch lines to Porthcawl.

Several quarries opened in and around Bridgend town centre; some remnants of these can still be seen today near Brackla. An engine works was opened in the town and a larger farmers' market also opened in the town centre, where it remained until the 1970s.

In 1801, the population of what is now Bridgend County was around 6000. By the beginning of the 20th century this had risen to 61,000. By this time Bridgend was a bustling market town with prosperous valleys to the north, a thriving community and good links to other towns and cities.

Second World War

In the Second World War, Bridgend had a prisoner of war (POW) camp at Island Farm and a large munitions factory (ROF Bridgend — known as the "Admiralty") at Waterton, as well as a large underground munitions storage base at Brackla (known as the 8 xs). This was an overspill of the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.

At its peak the Arsenal had 40,000 workers, many of them women. Large numbers of them were transported by bus from the Rhondda and the valleys.

The factory complex had three sites in Bridgend, all linked together by a large network of railways. There are many reminders of the factory sites left to this day Brackla Ordnance Site.

In 1945, 67 POWs from Island Farm escaped through a tunnel, but all were recaptured. While Bridgend was as important during the war as any other part of Wales, and although it was photographed by the Luftwaffe, it was never blitzed, although the area immediately around Bridgend did suffer bombing raids. This was largely due to the area's air pocket, which made bombing extremely hazardous for incoming planes.

The Admiralty ceased full-scale production in December 1945 after five years. Two of the munitions storage magazines in the Brackla ROF site were converted to a RGHQ (Regional Government Headquarters) during the Cold War as part of the UK continuity of government plans. It is now in the hands of a private company.

Post-war

Bridgend remained a solid market town after the war. In 1948, Newbridge Fields (a short distance from the town centre) hosted the 1948 National Eisteddfod.

In 1960, the River Ogmore burst its banks and flooded the town centre. Subsequent floods and extreme weather led the Welsh Water Authority to develop concrete flood defence walls along the banks of the River Ogmore in the town centre. The town centre has not been flooded since. During this time Bridgend was chosen to become the headquarters for South Wales Police. This action was ideal as geographically, Bridgend stands equidistantly between both Swansea to the west and Cardiff to the east.

The Beeching cuts of the 1960s saw the loss of passenger rail links in the Vale of Glamorgan and to the northern valleys. The Vale of Glamorgan link to Barry via Rhoose was re-instated in June 2005.

In the 1970s, Bridgend would begin to see the catalyst of arguably its biggest growth period. The "missing section" of the M4 motorway was constructed around the town, plans were afoot to change the Waterton Admiralty into an industrial estate, and the water supply was improved including new sewage treatment works near Ogmore. Two major multinational corporations, the Ford Motor Company and Sony set up factories in, or on the outskirts of the new Bridgend Industrial Estate (former Waterton Arsenal).

During the 1980s with the development of the Brackla Housing Estate the future of Bridgend seemed bright. Further new housing developments at Broadlands to the south-west of the town centre and the continuing expansion of Brackla to the north-east has caused Bridgend's population to swell dramatically. Due to this, traffic congestion and a lack of parking facilities within the town have become important issues in the area. In 1997 a new link road/bypass was built to link the town centre directly to the M4 motorway as well as redirect traffic around the town centre.

A new Securicor operated prison (HM Parc Prison) was built near Coity in the late 1990s. The prison opened in November 1997.

The McArthur Glen Designer Outlet opened in 1998.

New Millennium

Objective 1 investment in regeneration and public realm improvements have led to the pedestrianisation of the town centre and the restoration of some buildings. Some local traders have argued that this has damaged trade due to a lack of access by taxis and the disabled. Car parking provision and pricing has also been a concern to retailers with calls for free or reduced price parking to increase town centre visits.

To counteract the dominance of Tesco in the area, Asda were granted planning permission for a new superstore near the town centre. The store was opened on 31 March 2008 by the local MP, and players from Bridgend Ravens. Over 1500 customers were thought to have walked through the new doors to take a look around the new store.

In 2004 an award-winning new bus station was constructed and traffic movements around the town centre were altered. Local committees, together with the council started to use the pedestrianisation of the town centre to its advantage, culminating in several fairs including Continental Markets, Celtic Festivals, a small Mardi-Gras and seasonal markets and events. Bridgend Council estimated in 2009 that these events have brought 900,000 visitors to the town and generated around £53million for the local economy.

Riverside walk
Riverside walk over the Ogmore 2009

£2.5million of European Funding was used to create a "riverside cafe culture" by constructing a walkway along the River Ogmore which was completed in March 2009.

Future developments

Cheapside 2009
Old Cheapside, which is being extensively renovated

Construction on a 1500-home sustainable "village" at Parc Derwen near Coity began in 2011. The scheme is a collaboration between several house-builders and public bodies including the National Assembly, and has been planned with strict guidelines regarding architecture and the environment. There are concerns from Coity in particular that this development may impact on their villages identity.

Studies have been carried out by the local council with a view to improving retail provision in the town centre. Attracting bigger high-street chains to the town, such as Marks & Spencer, Next & Debenhams is seen as key to this.

At Elder Yard, a derelict Grade II-listed building in the heart of the town centre is due to be converted to a restaurant and provide the impetus for other improvements there including a public courtyard and extra retail and leisure provision.

Transport

Bridgend New Bus Station
Bridgend's bus station in 2004

Bridgend railway station has regular services to Cardiff Central, Bristol Parkway and London Paddington to the east; Port Talbot Parkway, Neath, Swansea and the West Wales Line to the west; and Maesteg to the north. There are also services to Manchester Piccadilly. Bridgend is the western terminus of the Vale of Glamorgan Line which reopened to passenger traffic in 2005.

Wildmill railway station, about 1 mile (2 km) north of Bridgend railway station, serves the estates of Wildmill, Pendre and Litchard and is on the Bridgend-Maesteg branch line. A park and ride station at Brackla, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south-east of Bridgend railway station is planned and is due to be constructed once capacity improvements have been made to the South Wales Main Line. Services to a new railway station in Llanharan began in December 2007.

Bridgend bus station has services to urban and rural areas in South Wales. Most services are operated by First Cymru.

A new east–west cycle route has been constructed from Brackla through to Broadlands and into Cefn Glas. Most roads are safe enough to cycle on amongst the best in Europe.

For scheduled and chartered air travel, Bridgend is served by Cardiff International Airport, to which there are direct rail and bus services.

Culture

Nightlife

There are numerous public houses and restaurants within the town centre. There is only one specific nightclub, Sax, although a few of the pubs double up as nightclubs or specifically create a nightclub atmosphere, notably Toms Bar ", "The Roof, The Phoenix and pub-cum-rock-club Hobo's.

The Railway, Bridgend - geograph.org.uk - 1603021
The Railway pub in Bridgend

In December 2008, Bridgend Council introduced its first alcohol-free zone, restricting the consumption of alcohol to pubs, clubs and other licensed premises in the town centre to help address alcohol-related issues. CCTV is in operation throughout the town centre and there is usually a police presence of some form. Since July 2007, the streets of Bridgend are also patrolled on Friday and Saturday evenings by Street Pastors, an inter-denominational Church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets.

Music

Bridgend is home to a number of punk rock, indie rock, heavy metal and emo music acts that are playing the clubs of the area, making it a prominent part of the South Wales music scene. Metalcore band Bullet for My Valentine and Funeral for a Friend are notable underground rock/metal acts from the borough along with global export Jayce Lewis, Lostprophets and The Automatic all receiving mainstream notability. There are several smaller venues in and around the town centre including The New Angel Inn, The Railway Inn, Barracudas and Sapphires, which all host a number of open-mic nights. Bryan Adams played to a 15,000 crowd at Brewery Field in the town centre on 2 June 2006. The Recreation Centre has also hosted acts such as Fall Out Boy and Bring Me the Horizon.

Eisteddfodau

Bridgend hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1948.

Bridgend County will host the Urdd Gobaith Cymru National Eisteddfod in 2017.

Media

Bridgend has its own commercial radio station: 106.3 Bridge FM, and is the location of Internet-based radio station Celtica radio. The main local newspaper is The Glamorgan Gazette, although a free newspaper, The Recorder, has increased its circulation in recent times. Around Town Magazine is the free local lifestyle magazine for Bridgend.

Twinning

Bridgend has twinning arrangements with:

Talks held to twin Bridgend with the city of Tripoli in Libya between 2004 and 2009 sparked debate.

Parks and green spaces

Bryngarw Country Park is the largest (113 acres) Country Park in the borough. It offers many amenity based areas including an adventure play area, barbecue and picnic areas, car park, cafe, visitor centre and toilets; as well as a patchwork of woodland, grassland and freshwater habitats. Bryngarw Country Park is a Grade II listed Historic Park and Garden and has been designated a Green Flag Park since 2010. The Oriental Garden in the park has been noted as a 'Visit Wales Sustainable Tourism, Historic Gardens Centre of Excellence’ by the 'One Historic Garden, Centre of Excellence'.

Kenfig National Nature Reserve Glamorgan’s largest natural lake, Kenfig Pool, is set on the edge of this beautiful area, with spectacular views from Sker beach across Swansea Bay to the Gower. It is one of the finest Wildlife habitats in Wales and one of the last remnants of a huge dune system that once stretched along the coast of Southern Wales from the River Ogmore to the Gower peninsula. The reserve is home to unique wild orchids, as well as insects and wildlife. Kenfig is one of the most important sites in Britain for nature conservation.

Parc Slip Nature Reserve a unique environment of wetlands, woodlands and meadows at the Parc Slip Nature Park where there is a wealth of wildlife to see, whatever the season. After a century of coal mining on the site, the Wildlife Trust began to manage the land for nature in the late 1980s. Varied habitats have since been created and the park supports an increasing diversity of wildlife.

Also Tondu Iron Park, Bedford Park & Lakeside Farm Park

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