Historic Town Celebrates Blue Plaque Scheme
Historic Aberdare celebrated its impressive industrial and cultural past when three Blue Plaques were unveiled at various locations throughout the town.
The celebratory event saw local residents, eminent historians and broadcasters meet to witness the unveiling of the Blue Plaques on the site of the former Gadlys Iron Works, the Town Hall and the former Palladium cinema. With the support of the Cynon Valley Historical Society, visitors walked from one site to the next for the official ceremonies.
For almost two years Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Libraries & Museums Service has been working closely with various voluntary organisations and individuals to determine 30 sites in the county borough as yet unrecognized for their historical background with the placing of a Blue Plaque
Due to £49,200 of Heritage Lottery funding, the project has set out to identify icons, events and buildings, culminating in the placing of blue plaques to commemorate their history and achievements.
Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf Cllr Robert Smith was joined by one of the Wales’s foremost historians, Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards to unveil the plaque at Market Hall on Market Street. It was at this site that the first National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in 1861. Professor Edwards expressed his great pride in being involved in the event to mark a site which was rich in Welsh cultural history.
Onlookers then proceeded to the former Temperance Hall and Palladium on Canon Street, now a bingo hall where the Mayor unveiled the second plaque with Alastair Bruce, the fifth Lord Aberdare and President of the Cynon Valley History Society.
The hall, was an important public building in 19th century Aberdare and was constructed in 1858 at a cost of £3,000, provided by the Total Abstinence Society. The Hall consisted of an auditorium, which could seat 1,500 people, a temperance hotel with 11 rooms, committee, rooms, a library and temperance coffee house. At the time of its construction the Hall was the largest space available in Aberdare to hold public gatherings and was used extensively for public meetings, lectures and entertainment.
A further walk then to the site of the Gadlys Ironworks, now the Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery, where 92-year-old Tom Evans, Vice President and Founder Member of the Cynon Valley History Society unveiled the third plaque of the day.
The Gadlys Ironworks were opened in 1827 and within eight years included 350 acres of mineral rights and an iron mine capable of producing 1,700 - 2,000 tons of iron per annum. In the proceeding years the works expanded as by 1850 there were three blast furnaces at the site and a fourth was added by 1854.
For much of its life the Gadlys Ironworks produced iron for tinplate bars, but from 1861 production began on wrought iron rails. In 1872 15 puddling furnaces and two rolling mills were in operation at the works, and the works were capable of producing 500 to 600 tons of rails per week.
The series of unveilings in Aberdare are the latest to be undertaken in Rhondda Cynon Taf which has also seen celebratory events to mark Blue Plaques for Labour Party giant Elizabeth Andrews and Manchester United hero Jimmy Murphy.
Following consultation with community representatives and historical societies, an audit was carried out to catalogue all existing memorials, statues and plaques in Rhondda Cynon Taf. People, places or events that already have a plaque commemorating them are ineligible for a Blue Plaque, as are anyone who died less than 10 years ago.
More than 180 nominations were received and representatives of historical societies in each area met with Council officers to undertake the unenviable task of deciding which areas will receive the Blue Plaques.
With so many historical buildings and events from colliery strikes, riots and even pioneering cremations in the county borough’s history, coupled with being the birthplace of a vast array of celebrities from the worlds of music, sport, cinema, literature and the political arena, the decisions were taken after a lengthy consultation process.
Major of Rhondda Cynon Taf Cllr Robert Smith said: “The series of celebratory unveilings of three Blue Plaques in Aberdare were a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience as we marked the historic significance of each individual site.
“Once again this underlines the firm belief that Rhondda Cynon Taf is rich in industrial and cultural heritage and I know how much residents appreciate our pledge to highlight so many individual areas and honour their historic merit.”