Tredegar is a town situated on the Sirhowy River in the county borough of
Blaenau Gwent, in south-east Wales. Located within the historic boundaries of
Monmouthshire, it became an early centre of the Industrial Revolution in South
Wales. The historic Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia, United States was
named in honour of the town.
Tredegar grew as a developed town thanks to the natural resources it had within
the Sirhowy Valley, namely:
Hence by the start of the 1700s, the upper Sirhowy Valley was a natural well
wooded valley, consisting of a few farms and the occasional small iron works
where iron ore and coal naturally had occurred together.
- Iron ore
- Coal with which to produce coke
- Power, from the fast-flowing Sirhowy River
- Wood, which could be cut for buildings and pit props, and burnt for fuel
The town is known for its three major riots. In 1868 there were the election
riots, which took place after the locals' favourite candidate, Colonel Clifford,
was not elected. Secondly in 1882 there was a major anti-Irish riot in Tredegar.
There had been a large Irish community in Tredegar since the 1850s, and for a
while there had been tensions. Reports from the time vary, however where they
all concur includes the fact the riot began with stone throwing and quickly
escalated with Irishmen's homes being destroyed and furniture burned in the
streets. The Irish were run out of Tredegar and some were beaten. Troops from
Newport and Cardiff had to be called in to quell the violence. Thirdly, there
were the anti-Jewish riots of 1911, when Jewish shops were ransacked and the
army had to be brought in.
Samuel Homfray and his partners needed accommodation for their workers, and so
needed to develop a suitable town. The land on the eastside of the Sirhowy river
was owned by Lt.Col. Sir Charles Gould Morgan who granted a lease in 1799 to
build Tredegar Ironworks Company. In 1800, Homfray married Sir Charles daughter
Jane, and hence improved his lease terms. The west bank of the river was owned
by Lord Tredegar, and hence in the short term remained undeveloped.
Homfray was a hard task master. He sold franchisees to business people who
wanted to operate within his town, from which he would take a percentage. He
paid his workers in his own private coinage, so that they could not easily spend
their wages outside the town. However, the opportunity to work created a boom
town, which with a parish population of 1,132 in 1801 had boomed to 34,685 by
1881, in part boosted by the laying of the 24 miles (39 km) stretch of horse
drawn track to Newport in 1805.
There were several
cholera epidemics in the town in the 19th century, and a
dedicated cholera burial ground was established at
One of Tredegar's main attributes is the
Town Clock - dominating the southern
part of the town centre. The clock was the idea of Mrs. R P Davies the wife of
the Tredegar ironworks manager, who had decided that she wanted to present a
"lofty illuminated clock" and it was she who decided that it would be erected in
"The clock tower is seventy-two feet high. The foundation is of masonry, on
which is surmounted the cast-iron base which has four arms from each corner to a
distance of sixty feet at a depth of five feet and six inches (152 mm) below
ground level. The pillar is wholly composed of cast-iron, upon a square pediment
which in turn, receives a rectangular plinth, and upon this stands a cylindrical
column of smooth surface and symmetrical diameter, ornamented with suitable
coping on which rests the clock surrounded with a weather vane. The plinth is
inscribed on the four aspects, on the south side - Presented to the town of
Tredegar from the proceeds of a bazaar promoted by Mrs. R.P. Davis. Erected in
the year 1858. On the west side is effigy of Wellington, with the legend -
Wellington, England's Hero. On the North, the Royal Arms of England; and on the
east, the name and description of the founder with his crest, - Charles Jordan,
Iron Founder, Newport, Mon. The clock is provided with four transparent faces or
dials, each five feet three inches diameter, and these were illuminated
originally by gas, but this was later changed to electricity. The minute hands
are each two feet two inches long, and the hour hand one foot seven inches long.
The clocks mechanism is a fifteen inch (381 mm) mainwheel strike, with a single
four-legged Gravity Escapement driving the four dials. It has a 1¼ second
pendulum and the bob weighs two hundredweight".