The Bridges over the Afan
other Architecture

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The William
Edwards Bridge

The Aberafan
Risca Bridge
Newbridge Road Bridge
Ynys -Y-Gwas
The Aberafan Bridge
Unknown Bridge
Clearly we need to know more of the history of our towns Bridges that cross the Afan River the following descriptions are only a snapshot we have not gone into great detail simply because of the time it takes to research and as we are as fallibly as the next person you might disagree so if you know of the history of any of the bridges mentioned then please get in touch.


The William Edwards Bridge

Aberafan has had more than its share of devastation due to the river that flows at its boundary with Port Talbot, the most destructive flood happened on July 25th, 1768, St Mary’s church the Parish church of Aberafan was flooded to a depth of over five feet as was the rest of the dwellings of old Aberafan the populace had to flee for their lives unable to salvage anything as the turbulent floodwater washed everything away agriculture was hit very badly with standing crops washed out from the fields not even when the floodwaters had subsided was any relief for the townsfolk or farmers as a thick layer of mud and slime covered the whole area starvation was starting to be the daily misery and disease was taking hold. The shops stores and warehousing suffered being destroyed or their contents being completely washed away the farmers lost crops and stocks of hay stored to feed their cattle this was all swept away there was a real sense of emergency with no help from outside in the offing. Traveling was made very difficult as the towns bridges had also been washed away if it had not been for the generosity of one of the towns industrialists there would have been wholesale deaths amongst the poorest inhabitants their saving angel was Thomas Mansel Talbot, Esq.
Every bridge had been washed away and soon after the devastation a new bridge was built over the Afan this was a single arch stone bridge built by William Edwards of Groeswen, near Caerphilly he was a celebrated and self taught architect He was a also a Congregational minister at Groeswen, he is most famous because of the bridge he built in Pontypridd at a very dangerous stretch of the river, it took him three bridges to build each one failed before he was successful, completing it in 1755. on this bridge project he lost a substantial amount of money, William Edwards was born in 1719 and died in 1789, but some the bridges he built still stand today.

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The Aberafan Riscar Bridge

The Risca Bridge so called because it was made at Risca Foundry the first picture shows the name plate "Risca Foundry Co Engineers 1892 Newport Mon".It lay derelict for years but was demolished early in 2006 to make way for the new peripheral Road system.

.The second Picture Shows what remains of the rail bed the iron rails ripped up long ago weeds and brush growing where once gleaming iron rails carried the trains across the river. This is the old valley railway bridge that crossed the river Afan Now derelict But built in 1892
It remained because of the supports it gave to the water pipes
And probably the expense Of removing it, this is part of the route the coal trains used to bring the coal from the valley mines to the docks
many day trippers from the valley’s would remember this bridge as their train crossed on its way to the seaside railway station in Aberafan, the station and railway now long gone another victim of the Beaching cuts

The third Picture of the Risca bridge is a view taken upriver of the bridge, this view taken from the upriver road bridge Shows the old disused railway bridge but its structure still as sound as the last day it was used the dressed stone pillars still sit strong and shows what craftsmanship can produce, the stones dressed by long gone masons are still tight against its neighboring stone the joints still firm a tribute to those men that built the bridge over a hundred and fourteen years ago.
If we look we can see the large bend in the river at the Gasworks site.

The fourth picture of the Risca bridge shows a view taken from down river of the bridge again we can see how strong the bridge looks,
The bridge built in 1892 was built ten years after the natural course of the river was altered to accommodate industrial changes this bridge is something that I have seen almost every day of my life a sad day when i witnessed its demolition.

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The Velindre Bridge

This old railway bridge part of the Old Afan valley Railways system has four Arches three crossing the river and the fourth crosses the Velindre Roadway, in spite of the high wall at the bridge as seen in the picture, the river waters in flood spill into the roadway blocking the road to all traffic, where the old railbed used to be atop the bridge, is now a footpath and cycle path again see the relevant picture this is used by many as a route into the town center. the last of the Velindre Bridge picture shows the view upriver from the bridge cycle path in the distance can be seen the M4 Motorway high above the houses supported by massive pillars, and one of the rivers footbridges also it looks like someone has lost their tent to the rivers waters.

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Newbridge Road Bridge

Newbridge Road Bridge built to carry motor traffic into the docks, it was opened for traffic on October 29th 1903 by Sir Arthur P Vivien K.C.B, officials at the opening ceremony were also, His Worship the Mayor Mr T A Burgess esq, The town clerk Mr T A Tennant esq, The Engineer Mr Roderick esq. Representing the contractors Clark and company of Cardiff.
Although the bridge still stands as sound as ever it has a neglected appearance and was closed to traffic in the nineteen seventies.
The bridge has four pillars one on each corner of the roadway atop these pillars each sported a gas lamp, this bridge used to be a fine sight to behold the craftsmanship is very evident in its construction the riveted iron plate box sections are as strong looking today as that day in 1903 when it was opened, the stonework is all of dressed stone, showing no sign of joints in the stonework disintegrating, a tribute to those stone masons that chiselled away at block stone to produce such even stonework on the bridge. Many believe that this bridge should not be destroyed as many of our other town bridges have been, but instead renovated and kept, as a monument to the days of high activity at the docks and surrounding works, the bridge was built to replace a wooden bridge structure, it was built alongside this older bridge, which the remains of its wooden support pillars can be seen in the river bed protruding out of the mud at low water see the photograph in the bridge gallery pages.
The older wooden bridge at Newbridge road, used to carry a small railway engine servicing the docks, it also serviced the yards of Mr Frankie Burk A scrap metal dealer and builders supply these yards were situated some yards upriver from the present dock gateway, on the town side of Harvey’s lake (now filled in), this area used to be a hive of activity but now is derelict land but plans are afoot to reopen this area when the peripheral road is completed.

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Ynys-y-Gwas Bridge

This is a fairly new bridge completed in the early 2000's it replaced an older bridge which itself was not of any age but had become unsafe.

Church Lane Bridge

This Railway bridge spanned what was once Water street and Church Lane, going over the market hall, this section was located between the market and civic building and Woolworths Store one large arch spanned Water street with Evans the pie shop on the town side and the Railway Hotel on the beach side, that section now spans a walkway and part of the bus centre whilst this section that had spanned Church lane now only spans a walkway it is still used by main line railway engines.

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Unknown Bridge.

Prior to the three arch bridge we are all familiar with: with its modern canopy, there was another bridge built at the spot it occupies, a two arch bridge presumably it replaced the William Edwards single span Bridge built in 1782.This bridge was opened on 17th September 1842, as far as we know it suffered the same fate as the previous bridges washed away in the floods that were a common feature of the river Afan.

The Aberafan Bridge

This new bridge had three arches
built in about 1909. just recently in 2004 a modern style canopy was built over the bridge in Aberafan, the bridge stands as firm as it ever did in spite of recurring floods but we are luckier than those inhabitants of 1768 I remember two floods in the town between the 1940’s and the 1960’s but the water never reached more than a couple of feet deep then work started on the M4 Motorway and at the same time work started on river defenses, the town has not been flooded since the new flood control measures were built in the late nineteen sixties the waters of the Afan still flood every year but only lap at the top of the retaining walls of the flood defenses.

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