Site of Cross Keys Bridge, Five Locks, Pontrhydyrun (Pontnewydd)


As you can see in the old pictures, a quaint little bridge crossed the canal here. It was narrower than most canal bridges because it crossed the lower end of the top lock in the flight of five locks here.

Old photo of Cross Keys bridgeThe canal was wider than usual below the bridge, so that boats could await passage through the next lock without blocking the way for other boats.

There was a balancing pond east of the towpath. When the top lock was emptied, the pond would accommodate the surge of extra water. This avoided the water level rising suddenly in the short length of canal between the top lock and the next one down. The pond also helped to supply water when the lower lock needed filling.

Old photo of Cross Keys bridge and lockThe bridge was named after the Cross Keys pub, a short distance up the hill to the west. The bridge was demolished when Five Locks Road was widened in the 1960s. The canal was filled in for the new road, so this is where the navigable canal from Brecon currently ends. The Bridge 46 to Five Locks Canal Group is working with Torfaen council and others on plans to reinstate a bridge and locks here, to enable boats to continue southwards.

There’s no connection between the old canal bridge and the place-name Pontrhydyrun, which was in use long before the canal was built in the 1790s. It probably denotes a bridge at a ford adjoining ash trees. Pont = bridge. Rhyd = ford. Ynn = ash trees. The name was recorded as Pont Rhyd y Ryn in 1644, Pont Rhyd ryn in 1701 and Pont Rhydyrun in 1796. Another possibility is that the last element is rhyn, meaning a promontory or hill.

The original village of Pontrhydyrun was to the east of the canal. The area around the flight of locks is marked as a separate community named Five Locks on Victorian maps. Five Locks later came to be considered part of Pontnewydd, which expanded during the 20th century across the countryside south of Five Locks.

With thanks to Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society/Cymdeithas Enwau Lleoedd Cymru

Postcode: NP44 1AP     View Location Map

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