The Cities and Towns of Wales – Part 3

The Cities and Towns of Wales – Part 3

The largest settlement on the west coast of Wales is Aberystwyth which has a population of just over 13,000. The town is situated where the Rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol meet before entering the Irish Sea. The town is one of the most isolated settlements with the closest town, Swansea, being a 1 hour 45 minute drive away.

The town is both a university town and a tourist town. The university was established in 1872 and each year 10,000 bodies enroll for the start of the new academic year, which is quite a large percent of the population.

The town grew as a market for the local agricultural community. They would come to town to get the services of a local tradesmen that was available. The opening of the railway in 1864 meant that the town was more accessible and was the start of the Victorian tourist era for the region.

Aberystwyth University

Today Aberystwyth is the administrative center for the county of Ceridigon, with many of the county’s services being organized from Aberystwyth. This has produced a number of jobs for the local population. Barry is the fifth largest settlement in the country with a population of 51,500. It is located on the coast and is just 9 miles south-west of Cardiff. The town had been quite small and then at the end of the 19th century Barry Docks was built and 1913 they had become the largest coal port in the world.

It actually took a lot of Business away from Cardiff Docks as the tidal range in Barry was less than it was in Cardiff. The Barry Railway Company was soon transporting the coal from the inland areas on to the boats moored in the docks. Barry’s 100 population soon grew and Barry developed from a small village into an industrialised town.

Today with the coal industry gone most of the people who live in Barry are employed by the local council, as Barry is the administrative center for the Vale of Glamorgan. Also Barry Island is a tremendous tourist attraction and there are a lot of jobs in the tourist and associated service industries.

Neath is another town that rose rapidly during the industrial revolution and today it has a population of over 50,000. Located as bridging point over the River Neath, the town soon grew as a market town. People were attracted to the crossing point and while they were there they were able to do business with a variety of tradesmen.

Barry Docks

Neath is located around 7 miles inland from Swansea and when the industrial revolution started it was able to take advantage of all of the raw materials that were being mined in the hills. There were iron, steel and tin plate industries that grew up in the town.

Neath benefited from the railways travelling through the city and the town was also well served by a network of canals. When the mining industry collapsed Neath suffered. It has had to adapt to the new economic conditions with industries becoming lighter, and a new dependence being formed on the tourist industry.

There is not a town that has been more dependent on the steel industry than Port Talbot. The town has been home to one of the biggest steel manufacturing plants in the world. It is currently in operation today, and employs 10% of the town’s population of 37,000, yet it always appears to be under threat of closure.

The name derives when the Talbot family in South Wales when they decided to build a port in 1837. The new dock areas took over the villages of Baglan, Margam and Aberafan and it became known as Port Talbot. The name wasn’t official recognized until 1921 when the borough of Port Talbot was created.

At its peak there were 18,000 people employed in the steel industry in Port Talbot, but today it is down to around 4,000. Other industries are being attracted to the area however, such as the world’s largest biomass power station which will produce enough electricity to supply half the homes with power.

Port Talbot is yet another town trying to recreate economic prosperity after years of deindustrialization.