The Birth of a town
The history of Newbridge is deep, going back centuries and is one of the key trading towns in the valleys.
In medieval times what are now the separate townships of Abercarn, Cwmcarn and Newbridge were known as Abercarne, a manorial title which goes back to the Norman period. Until quite recently the three townships were also within the boundaries of the ancient parish of Mynyddislwyn.
Newbridge, as its name implies, was the name of land around the “new bridge” built across the Ebbw River towards the end of the 18th century. Newbridge was then a predominantly Welsh agrarian community of rural farms and sheep pasture with a low population.
In the valley, the chief farms were Ty-Llydd, where the new vicarage now stands, Tynewydd, where the Newbridge Hotel stands, Ty-hir, the house which stands next to the Beaufort Arms, and the Newbridge corn mill which stood near the South Celynen Colliery. The road pattern as we know it today did not exist—all activity and commerce took place along the mountain tracks which led over Mynyddislwyn and Mynydd Maen. Adjacent to the tracks were the more prosperous farms, Hyfod Fach, Glanshon and Cillonydd.
The coal-mining boom
Towards the end of the 18th century, Newbridge was established as a farming community around a new bridge across the Ebbw River. Like many towns in the area, it underwent a population explosion and socio-economic change with the arrival of coal mining in the 19th century. The mines attracted workers from the English West Country and West Midlands, Cornwall, Scotland, Mid Wales and further afield. The Celynen Collieries Workingmen’s Institute, (the “Stute”) and Memorial Hall (the “Memo”) together became, like many miners’ institutes, the communal heart of the town. The local collieries enjoyed a reputation for highly skilled miners, a productive workforce and non-radical politics, and the community had thriving shops, churches, chapels and sports teams.