Today Pontypool is regenerating itself and may be seen as a dormitory town for its southern neighbours Cwmbran and Newport. There is a folly there. It is one of the goals of the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway.
It is situated on the Afon Llwyd river in the county borough of Torfaen. Although situated on the edge of the South Wales coalfields, Pontypool is regarded as an industrial town with former industries including iron and steel production, coal mining and the growth of the railways. A rather artistic manufacturing industry which also flourished here alongside heavy industry was Japan or lacquer ware.
Pontypool grew principally from the manufacture of iron. Although iron was made from 1425 in Pontymoile, now a suburb of Pontypool, Pontypool grew only when Richard Hanbury bought land locally during the Elizabethan period in 1588 for ironworks. The Hanburys pioneered the production of iron Pontypool japan-ware and with its decorated, lacquered style.
The Hanbury family lived in what was to become Pontypool Park, and around this the town grew. Much of the town's history comes from this family of industrial pioneers. The Napoleonic Wars were kind to The Hanburys, with increased prosperity due to the demand for munitions. With this increased wealth, Capel Hanbury Leigh extended Pontypool Park House between 1779 and 1840. Highly elaborate, wrought iron gates can be seen at the entrance to the park. These were made in the 1720s and remodelled in 1835 by Thomas Deakin. They were a gift to Major John Hanbury (1664-1734) by the Duchess of Marlborough.
Between 1996 and 1998 a new bypass was built in the town that completely diverted traffic from the town centre. This added to the decline of many years and much of the old town centre was abandoned by both visitors and businesses. In 2003 plans were drawn up to regenerate the town centre and today the town boasts a Tesco superstore; a redeveloped Crane Street (one of the principal shopping streets) and new shop units including Argos, Peacocks, Farm Foods & Wilkinson. Plans have also been drawn up to replace the site of the now-closed Kwik Save supermarket with an Iceland store. The once famous Clarence Hotel is being dragged out of decades of abandonment and is being converted into flats and offices In April 2006 a new Lloyds No.1 pub was opened on Osborne Road and named in honour of John Capel Hanbury, former owner of Pontypool Park House (now St. Alban's R.C. High School).
The town is home to two comprehensive schools: West Monmouth School, (formerly Jones' West Monmouth Grammar School for Boys) and Abersychan Comprehensive School (formerly Abersychan Grammar). Recently Trevethin Community School closed. This was formerly Pontypool Grammar School for Girls (also known as 'The County'), although at one time the sole campus was where the Welsh medium school, Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw now stands. In addition there is a church school, St. Alban's R.C. High School. According to the latest inspection report by Estyn, St. Alban's R.C. High School has a 73% pass rate at GCSE level (based on 5 GCSEs, grades A-C). This means the school is in equal 17th place in Wales with Cwmtawe Comprehensive School in Pontardawe, or in the top 10% of secondary schools in Wales. It is also the best performing secondary school in Torfaen. The town is served by numerous primary schools. There is also a Coleg Gwent campus located in the town, formerly known as Pontypool College.