Maesteg is a town in the County Borough of Bridgend, Wales. It lies at the northernmost end of the Llynfi Valley, close to the border with the county boroughs of Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taff. It has a population of 17,830-19,223 people, with the surrounding area bringing the population to around 25,000 and making it the 17th largest centre of population in Wales.
Historically a part of Glamorgan, the town was built, like so many others in this area of the South Wales Valleys, on its 19th century and early 20th century legacy stemming from iron production and coal mining. At the height of its importance, there were six collieries operating in the town; with associated coal mining industries located in Maesteg. The local school is called Maesteg Comprehensive School.
The earliest settlement in the Llynfi Valley is at the Bwlwarcau Iron Age Hillfort near to Llangynwyd village which is around 2 miles to the south west of Maesteg Town centre. This places earliest human settlement in the area around Maesteg to more than 2,000 years ago.
Immediately surrounding the Maesteg Area is significant evidence of settlement in the Bronze Age, which reaches back further in time, to nearly 4,000 years ago, in Carn Llechart, Crug yr Afan and Carn Bugail, there is also evidence of Neolithic settlement in this area of South Wales, in Penmaen Burrows in the Gower peninsula, and Maesteg is also close to where the Red Lady of Paviland was found in the Gower, where the oldest remains of humans have been found in the United Kingdom, dating from 26,350 years ago +/- 550 years; so there is significant evidence that the area around Maesteg has seen anthropological contact for a very long time.
Closer to modern times, the Romans established a settlement at present day Bridgend, and it could be assumed that they visited the Llynfi Valley as they also established a settlement at Neath, although the road that connected them was to the south of the Llynfi Valley as the topography is somewhat treacherous between Maesteg and Neath.
Maesteg remained until the start of the nineteenth century a small rural village, with areas of the town also as small villages with Llangynwyd as the principal village, as it has the oldest most developed infrastructure in the valley. Maesteg began to develop and expand as the techniques of the Industrial Revolution began to be applied to South Wales. Iron, which had always been known to exist in the area, was exploited with the opening of the Iron Works in the 1820s. This was fueled by coal seams which also existed in the valley. This was then transported to Porthcawl via railway where it could be taken by sea anywhere in the world. Another Iron works was set up in the late 1830s, and the two companies were soon bought up by Sir John Bowring in 1843. Bowring's tenure was a financial disaster and he left financial involvement in Maesteg by 1848, when he was put in charge of the British Consulate in Canton, China and he then became Governor of Hong Kong (1854-59).
Bowring has left a lasting legacy on the town; part of Nantyffyllon district was called Bowrington for a time during the nineteenth century; also John Street in Nantyffyllon was named after him, and Charles Row was named after his brother. There also exists the Bowrington Arcade, which was built at the end of the nineteenth century at the corner of Neath Road and Llynfi Road in the Town Centre.
By 1886, iron-making had ceased in Maesteg, coupled with a long depression or recession during the 1870s, this marked a dark period in Maesteg's recent history; however, work in the coal industries had already began, with the sinking of Garth colliery by 1864 and five more collieries sunk before 1908.
|Name||Year Sunk (Opened)||Year Shut|
|St John's||1908||1985 (The Last Deep Mine in the Llynfi Valley)|
This marked the largest expansion of Maesteg's population, with a greater number of people living in Maesteg at the start of the twentieth century than they do now at the start of the twenty-first. Coal mining was never expected to be an infinite resource, with closures of Garth and Bryn navigation in the 1930s and 1960s, as a natural result of running out of coal to mine. However, the National Coal Board closed Caerau and Coegnant before the UK miners' strike (1984-1985).
St, John's was also closed before its natural end. The legacy of the "Miners' Strike" is not as apparent as in other valleys which were arguably more economically reliant on coal, such as the Rhondda Valley and the South Wales Coalfield valleys further to the east. There was still harsh economic hardship during the start of the 1980s for many of the population of Maesteg.
There were other railway stations; Llangynwyd, also on the Bridgend line, and Maesteg (Neath Road), on the Port Talbot Railway but these are now closed.
Plasnwewydd Primary School is a primary school in the centre of Maesteg. It is one of the biggest primary schools in the Llynfi Valley with just over 400 pupils. Plasnewydd is now an eco-school. It is one of six feeder schools of Maesteg Comprehensive School. The headteacher is N Watkins.
Cwmfelin County Primary School's head teacher is Mrs. D. Hiley. It is a feeder school of Maesteg Comprehensive School.
Maesteg Children's Choir hosts many concerts throughout the year, and Curtain Up Youth Theatre has been performing musicals since the turn of the millennium, giving children of the valley a chance to showcase their talents. Maesteg Amateur Operatic Society recently celebrated its 60th anniversary with a prodution of 'The King and I.' The Society continues to flourish with talents from all ages eager to perform, ranging from 16 to founder members, who are still active, at 80 and above. It is the home of famous poet Will Hopkin among others.
Artist Christopher Williams was born in Maesteg in 1873. Six of his paintings are on display in Maesteg Town Hall.
Maesteg Hold out to Earn the Glory in Plate Success; Maesteg ..................... 33 Kenfig Hill .................. 25
May 10, 2010; DIVISION 2 West champions Maesteg had to withstand a late flourish from their Division 3 South West opponents Kenfig Hill...