The Cities and Towns of Wales – Part 2

The Cities and Towns of Wales – Part 2

South Wales has a number of large settlements that have seen big numbers of people concentrating in these areas. The reasons for the growth of these settlements have been variable but many have experienced both good and bad times as the economy in the region has changed.

One of the region’s major towns that has gone through great transformation over the years is Merthyr Tydfil. Situated 23 miles north of Cardiff the population of 63,500 makes it the 4th largest settlement in Wales. There have been times when Merthyr has been the largest urban area in the country.

The industrial landscape of 19th century Merthyr Tydfil

Located in the valley of the River Taff the area had attracted people as it provided a crossing point of the river and it had rich agricultural soils. Even the Romans ventured up the valley to occupy the site. However, it was the discovery of iron ore, limestone and coal on the near-by hill sides at the start of the industrial revolution that saw the start of a period of great prosperity for the town. In 1861 the population reached over 50,000 with there being four big ironworks located in the city.

The location of Merthyr was starting to prove a disadvantage despite the building of the railways linking it the docks at Cardiff. The region was boosted by the discovery of more local coal at the end of the 19th century. By 1911 the town’s population had reached nearly 81,000 but from this point the decline in the local industries resulted in 27,000 men emigrating from the region between 1920 and 1940.

Today the industry is lighter and more jobs have been created in local council opportunities. Merthyr now is visited by tourists as it is has great historical sites, with many buildings having been restored. People also stay in the town when visiting the Brecon Beacons. Swansea is the second largest city in the country with a population of 241,000. It is a coastal city located where the River Tawe meets the Bristol Channel. Just to the north of the city is the River Loughor which flows into the Gower Peninsular.

The rivers flood plain was one of the main reasons for people being first attract into the area with the settlement becoming a trading post. Rich agricultural produce from the region was exchanged for other goods, and the Romans occupied the region.

The coastal city of Swansea

As coal was being discovered in “the valleys” the copper industry grew in Swansea and the city became known as “Copperopolis”. During this period the population grew as people migrated into the area to take advantage of the employment opportunities. As the heavy industries in South Wales have declined this has had a huge effect on the economy of Swansea. The Lower Swansea Valley was particularly affected by waste products, and in 1960 the project to reclaim the land started. This land has now been regenerated and new lighter businesses have been attracted into the region.

The location of the Swansea on the South-West tip of Wales and close to the Gower Peninsular has given the region much needed revenue from the tourist industry. The only working industry that remains from the industrial past is the INCO nickel factory. Swansea is now a pleasant city to live in. The regeneration of the port areas has resulted in top leisure and entertainment facilities being made available to the local population.

St Davids which is found on the Pembrokeshire coast is the smallest city in the United Kingdom with a population of 1,800. It has city status as a result of St Davids Cathedral that is located in the area. Saint David was born just south of the city at St Non’s which is just south of the city. David built a monastery and a church in the 6th century at Rose Vale on the banks of the River Alun. This was given Cathedral status in 519 when David was also made a saint. Over the years the cathedral has been plundered and rebuilt many times.

There are a number of art galleries that are popular in the city as well as the old buildings. The area is very popular for the watersports so attracts a wide variety of visitors.