Foundry Bridge, Abertillery

The original Foundry Bridge was built in the 1890s to take pedestrians and road vehicles across the Great Western Railway and the river Tillery (see below for river-name details). By now the railway has gone, and the river has disappeared from view!

abertillery _foundry_bridgeThe bridge is named after the Ward Williams iron foundry, which was nearby. Although Abertillery was primarily a coal-mining town, many of its residents were also employed in metalworking and quarrying. The upper photo from c.1905, courtesy of the National Library of Wales, is from a larger view by Martin Ridley (ref: Ridley 1409). The foundry is to the right of the bridge. A southbound coal train passes parked wagons for general goods.

The lower photo shows the width of the original bridge deck.

The previous level crossing north of the foundry was became a public hazard as the town’s population grew. In 1889 it was reported that 1,000 people a day on average, 300 of them children, used the crossing, and four people had died there.

Old photo of Foundry BridgeThe problem was solved by the high new bridge, which opened to pedestrians in August 1898 and vehicles four months later. The river had already been culverted to flow beneath the railway south of the bridge. The river to the north was covered over in the 20th century to provide useful new space for facilities near the town centre.

As motor traffic grew rapidly, plans for a wider bridge were drawn up in the 1930s but cancelled because of the cost. The original bridge was replaced in 1951. That bridge was itself replaced in 2008-09.

The six stainless steel columns west of the bridge commemorate the local collieries: Cwmtillery, Llanhilleth, Pen-y-Bont and Gray, Rose Heyworth, Vivian and Arrael Griffin (Six Bells). Arrael Griffin was the last to open (in 1891) and to close (1988). The 45 men who died in the 1960 colliery disaster there are commemorated by the Guardian monument.

About the place-name:
Abertillery means the mouth of the Tillery, which joins the Ebbw Fach here. These are anglicisations of Abertyleri and afon Tyleri. A pasture called Teleri was recorded in 1212 and a forest of Tillery in 1397 and 1590. RJ Thomas (in Enwau Afonydd a Nentydd Cymru) suggests the river-name is identical to the personal name Tyleri, composed of the honorary prefix ty- (‘thy’) and another personal name, Eleri

With thanks to Graham Bennett.

Postcode: NP13 1BX View Location Map

More about the successive bridges on Graham Bennett’s website