Mountain Ash Town hall
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||MOUNTAIN ASH|
|Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament|
Mountain Ash (Welsh: Aberpennar) is a town and former community in the Cynon Valley, within the County Borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, with a population of 11,230 at the 2011 Census, estimated in 2019 at 11,339. It includes the districts and villages of Cefnpennar, Cwmpennar, Caegarw, Darranlas, Fernhill, Glenboi and Newtown, all within the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Aberdare lies about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) north-west, Cardiff 19 miles (31 km) south-east, and Penrhiwceiber a mile to the south-east. It divides into two electoral wards: West covers the town centre and the districts of Miskin, Darranlas, Fernhill and Glenboi, and East the districts of Cefnpennar, Cwmpennar, Caegarw and Newtown.
Mountain Ash derives its English name from a public house in Commercial Street. The pub name matches the presence of rowan or mountain ash trees on local hillsides. The Welsh name Aberpennar refers to the junction of the Pennar river with the Cynon. An earlier form of the tributary name, Pennardd, may have derived from its source on the nearby Cefn Pennar ridge.
Unlike other villages in the South Wales Valleys, it was undisturbed until the construction of the Aberdare Canal in 1818, which became disused in the early 1920s and was filled in to form New Cardiff Road in 1933.
The population of 1,614 in 1841 rose to 11,463 in 1871 with the opening of local collieries. The 1851 census shows the construction of Duffryn Street and Navigation Street. By 1859 there were 12 public houses, among the earliest being the Bruce Arms, the Junction Inn and the New Inn. By 1920, Kelly's Directory lists over 200 businesses in the village.
The coal industry began to decline after the First World War, but after the Second, manufacturing was introduced to offset the serious fall in local employment. By the end of the 20th century the last mines had closed and so had many of the factories. The economic hardships were only mitigated partly by new light industry and service activities.
On 1 December 2016, under The Rhondda Cynon Taf (Communities) Order 2016, the community was split into Mountain Ash East and Mountain Ash West, co-terminous with the electoral wards of the same names.
There were numerous nonconformist chapels in Mountain Ash, of which only one Welsh-language chapel remains Bethania (Independent). Bethlehem (Calvinistic Methodist) closed, as did an Independent chapel at Bethel, Miskin.
Like other communities in the Cynon Valley, Mountain Ash was affected by the Religious Revival of 1904–1905. One striking event took place on a Friday evening in late January, when a procession paraded through the main streets before a revivalist meeting at Bethania Chapel addressed by the Rev. Penar Griffiths.
The town is served by Mountain Ash railway station on the Aberdare branch of the Merthyr Line of the Transport for Wales rail network. The village of Fernhill and Penrhiwceiber is also served by the Aberdare line. Bus services are operated by Stagecoach in South Wales.
NCB Mountain Ash Railway
An early British railway line had developed from the industrial development within the South Wales Valleys, which with its core around Mountain Ash became known as the Mountain Ash Railway (MAR). Having developed from an early tramway, it became in the 1970s the last steam-hauled line in the UK. Developed by Powell Duffryn as it consolidated various industrial assets, the railway started from Afon Cynon at the Penrikyber Colliery, headed north past a coal-stocking area at Pontcynon, then past an interchange yard known as Lansdale Yard, and through the former Nixon's Navigation colliery - home of the railway's central workshops, locomotive sheds and weighbridge - and on north past Duffryn Colliery, terminating at the Abercwmboi Phurnacite plant. The railway's main access to the UK rail network was at the Vale of Neath Railway's station at Mountain Ash (Cardiff Road) railway station, but it also had access to the competing, dominant Taff Vale Railway.
Early locomotives were drawn from all major UK industrial locomotive makers, but like many industrial railways after World War Two, the operational fleet was based on a core of group of Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0STs. In 1959 the National Coal Board (NCB) acquired ex-GWR Pannier Tank No.7754. Although rather too heavy to work on the relatively light-rail of the MAR - whose poor maintenance resulted in regular spreading of the rails, it became a favourite with MAR crews after a refit in the late 1960s. It eventually became the last British mainline-built operating steam locomotive in the UK, until 1975, after a cylinder valve crack. The NCB were persuaded to donate the locomotive to National Museum Wales, which has since loaned it indefinitely to the Llangollen Railway. The MAR closed in the mid-1980s after the miners' strike.
Mountain Ash is served by Mountain Ash Comprehensive School for pupils aged 11–18, on the site of the former estate of Lord Aberdare. The main house, Dyffryn House, was still used by the school until its demolition in the 1990s. Opposite the site is the hospital Ysbyty Cwm Cynon, which replaced the old Mountain Ash General Hospital in 2012.
Local primary schools include Our Lady's RC Primary School, Caegarw Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Caegarw), Glenboi Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Glen-boi), Darranlas Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Darren-las), Miskin Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Meisgyn), Penguelan Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Pengeulan) and Penrhiwceiber Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Penrhiwceibr).
Sport and culture
Nos Galan (Welsh: Rasys Enwog Nos Galen) is an annual 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) road running race, run on New Year's Eve to commemorate the first race of Guto Nyth Bran. Started in 1958, it now attracts 800+ runners and 10,000 people to the associated street entertainment.
Mountain Ash served as the inspiration for the fictional town of Aberowen in Fall of Giants and the rest of the Century Trilogy written by Ken Follett. The town also appears in the Danny Wallace's 2005 memoir Yes Man.
- Mark Brake (born 1958), author, broadcaster and communicator of science
- Guto Nyth Brân (1700–1737), legendary Welsh athlete, once reputed to be the Fastest Man On Earth
- Howard Collins (born 1949), prominent karate instructor
- Pennar Davies (1911–1996), Congregational minister and author
- Natalie Lewis (born 1982), middle-distance runner
- Stuart Manley (born 1979), professional golfer
- Elaine Morgan (1920–2013), BAFTA award-winning author
- Haydn Morris (born 1928), international rugby union wing three-quarter
- Harri Webb (1920–1994), poet and librarian
- Richard "Dickie" Williams (1925–1997), rugby league footballer
- Mark Williams (living), world champion outdoor bowls
- City Population. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
- Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales (First ed.). Llandyssul, Ceredigion: Gomer Press. 2007. pp. 330–331. ISBN 9781843239017.
- "Mountain Ash". Rhondda Cynon Taff. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
- "The Rhondda Cynon Taf (Communities) Order 2016" (PDF). Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- "The Revival". Aberdare Leader. 4 February 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
- Jones 2014, pp. 169–70. sfn error: no target: CITEREFJones2014 (help)
- "A chronology of the history of the Cynon Valley to c.2013". Cynon Valley History Society. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
- "Wales stars help warm up Nos Galan runners". South Wales Echo. 1 January 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "Interview: Ken Follett on His Latest Historical Fiction Masterpiece, Fall of Giants". Gothamist. Retrieved 30 June 2013.