Serving The Town of Tredegar with News & Information Since 1991  



Tredegar Past and Present Buildings Whiteheads Masonic Hall T.I.C. Company The Town Clock
The Workhouse The Cottage Hospital Schools Olympia Medical Aid The Queens
Council Origins Churches Bedwellty Park The Hall Tredegar Riots Recreation Ground

Tredegar, Past and Present

Tredegar is about 35 miles in a northerly direction from Cardiff and about 24 miles from Newport.
Mid 18th century it was a beautiful area amongst forested hills with a few scattered farming homesteads. There were a few small privately owned iron works, small coal drifts and levels.

The first recorded iron works in the Sirhowy Valley was Pont Gwaith Yr Hearn. It was developed by two Bretons and worked by men from Penydarren in Merthyr. The 16 foot high furnace finished about 1750. The Sirhowy Iron Works was erected in 1750 by a Mr Kettle of Shropshire. The iron works was eventually taken over by Mr Mathew Monkhouse and Richard Fothergill who extended it greatly. In 1778, Sirhowy Ironworks opened the first coal fired furnace. In 1818 the ironworks were taken over by the Harfords of Ebbw Vale.

The Town of Tredegar developed from about 1800. It is situated at the North end of the Sirhowy Valley. The land on the East side of the river was owned by Sir Charles Morgan who granted a lease in 1799 to Mssrs. Mathew Monkhouse, Richard Fothergill and Samuel Homfrey to build the Tredegar Iron Company. The west bank of the river was owned by Lord Tredegar.

The creation of Tredegar Iron Company turned Tredegar into a boom town in the 19th century. The population in 1801 was 1132 and with the influx of people searching for work with the T.I.C., by 1881 the population was boosted to 34685.

By 1805, a 24 mile stretch of tramline had been laid to transport coal and iron ore to Newport docks. The track was laid by Tredegar Iron Company and Monmouthshire Canals. The trams were pulled by teams of horses.

In 1829, Thomas Ellis, the Chief Engineer of Tredegar Iron Company, was authorised to purchase a steam locomotive from the Stephenson Company. The steam engine was built at Tredegar Works and made it's maiden trip on December 17th 1829.

The photograph shows the type of steam engine built at Tredegar. It was 1854 St David loco., and Thomas Ellis (TIC Chief Engineer) is on the footplate with the driver.

The journey from Tredegar to Newport carried a load of 50 tons at an average speed of 6 miles per hour. Later seats were added to carry passengers and became one of the first passenger carrying services in the world. In 1865 the railway was extended in a northerly direction to Nantybwch to meet up with the L.N.W.R. line running from Merthyr to Abergavenny. Like all other Tredegar railway lines it came under the Beeching axe in 1963

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Building as seen in the 1900's

Taken shortly before fire in 2000

The offices of the TIC company, then the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, The National Coal Board before becoming a factory for LCR, a local components firm. The building was completely destroyed by fire about 2000

In 1891 Tredegar Iron Company ceased production and in 1907 the Whiteheads Iron and Steel Company took out a lease on the southern section of the TIC works

They introduced the first Morgan Continuous Rolling Mill to this country. In 1931, the Whiteheads works closed down and the works and men were transferred to Newport.

Because of all the iron production, not only in Tredegar but also the neighboroughing towns, the local area that was so rich in minerals produced the opening of many coal mines and the limestone and iron ore was quarried at Trefil, an outlying area of Tredegar. These necessities for producing iron was transported by trams and the place where many of these lines converged became the Market Square

Around 1850, Tredegar Iron Company employed between 2000 and 3000 people at its 9 furnaces, mills shops and ancillary plants. Most of the wages earned went into the pubs and licenced premises. The men worked hard and they drank hard. The houses that appeared were small with very poor sanitation. This caused real health problems with epidemics such as cholera being rife. One such epidemic took place in 1849 and a special cholera cemetery was opened behind Cefn Golau cemetery. The cemetery is still there with many gravestones still standing.

As the number of houses grew, so did the number of Public Houses and Licenced Premises. In 1858 there were four Hotels, namely, The Cambrian, The Castle, The Tredegar Arms and The Greyhound. There were a further 25 Inns or Taverns plus 20 Beer Retailers. At this time all licenced premises were open from 6.00am until 11.00pm. these hours were the same on a SundaySlaters Directory for 1858/9 states that there was also 2 English Baptist chapels, 3 Welsh Baptist chapels, 2 Calvanistic Methodist chapels, 2 Primitive Methodist chapels,1 Church of The Latter Day Saints, 3 Westleyan Methodist chapels as well as a Roman Catholic Church and St Georges Parish Church. This is a total of 20 religious establishments in the Tredegar area.

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In these early days there was no welfare state with unemployment and sickness benefits and if a person did not work both he and his family would starve. If it was proved that this person could not possibly provide for him or herself there was another option open and it was very formidable and humiliating.

Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 there has been a Poor Law of one type or another in England and Wales. These laws made the responsibility of disabled people, whether they were old, lame or blind, the responsibility of the Parish. Each Parish was encouraged to have it's own "Poor House" where these poor unfortunate people could be housed and put to work to pay for their keep. To discorouge people from making a claim, the residents were kept under a strict regime of bed to work to bed. The living conditions were intended to be lower than the lowest paid worker.

On entry to the establishment, the claimants would be stripped, bathed and given a "uniform" of the poorest possible quality and then separated from other family members and forbidden to make contact with them again. These "Poor Laws" were brought together to try to reduce the spiraling costs to the Parish.

Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834,one change that was brought about was the Union Workhouses where a number of Parishes would merge together in one building. The Bedwellty Union was formed in 1849 and a Union Workhouse was erected on a hill on the outskirts of Tredegar in 1852. This building was the Bedwellty Union Workhouse or "Ty-Bryn" known locally as "The Spike" and was for the Parishes of Abertillery, Aberstruth, Bedwellty, Ebbw Vale, Rhymney and Tredegar. The building was built of stone and a very austere accomodation for 311 inmates. The Guardian minute books for Bedwellty Workhouse from 1849 until 1930 are now in the Gwent County Records Office in Cwmbran.

During the General Strike of 1926 and general depression that followed, Many workhouses went bankrupt and closed but many carried on. In April 1930 the responsibilities of the Board of Guardians of the Bedwellty Workhouse were taken over by Monmouthshire County Council. The National Health Act of 1946 came into effect in July 1948 and made the responsibility for these institutions to come under the Hospital Management Committees Bedwellty Workhouse was to become St. James' hospital. It became the second hospital in Tredegar and provided Maternity Services for Tredegar and surrounding areas.

The 10th April 1970 saw the opening of Neville Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, by the Rt Hon George Thomas, MP and Secretary of State for Wales. This was a modern and well equipt hospital meant to cover the area of East Monmouthshire. From this time, many of the smaller Community Hospitals in the area closed or the status was down graded. St James' Hospital closed to the public in 1976 and the building was demolished in 1979

Bedwelty Union Workhouse 1871 census, click here

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The Town Hall

By 1818,Samuel Homfrey the owner of the TIC, had erected the Town Hall and the adjoining Market Hall. The Town Hall was originally a school. The workers at the Tredegar Iron Co had 2p a week deducted for school fees for their children. When applying for work at the TIC preferance would be given to people educated at the school.


Town Hall Building in 2006, now the NCB club


A plaque outside the town hall

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The Town Clock

In 1858, the Town Clock was erected in the centre of the Market Square (later to become "The Circle"). The clock has 4 faces, one facing East, one facing North and the other two faces in the directions West and South. The clock is surmounted on a cylindrical column with a square plinth as it's base. The structure is 72 feet tall and was designed to be seen from all areas of Tredegar. The clock chimes on the hour and on the half hour and could be heard in all areas.

It was placed for the convenience of the men and women working in the Sirhowy and Tredegar Iron Works and also for the miners working in the recently sunk collieries at Ty-Trist (1841) and Bedwellty (1850)

On the West side of the plinth is an effigy of Wellington with the inscription "Wellington, Englands Hero", the North side of the plinth carries the Royal Arms of England, the East side has the name and description of the manufacturer with his crest, "Charles Jordan, Iron Founder, Newport, Mon". The South side has the inscription "Presented to the Town of Tredegar from the proceeds of a Bazaar, promoted by the late Mrs R P Davies. Erected in the year 1858".

It is said that the total cost of erection and manufacture was £1,000. £500 was from the Bazaar that was organised by Mrs R P Davies, the wife of the works manager, £400 was donated by Mr R P Davies,the works manager and the other £100 was raised by the people of Tredegar.

Unfortunately, Mrs Davies died before the clock was completed.

The actual clock workings were one of a new type at that period, designed by Mr J B Joyce of Whitchurch Shropshire.

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The Temperance/Workmens Hall

Although there were many religious establishments in the town,these were filled mainly by the children of the many large families that prevailed at that time. Most of the working men (and women) prefered to use the licenced premises. Gambling was the main pastime, Fist fighting, dog fighting, cock fighting, road racing, in fact anything that would carry a bet. This was usually money that they could ill afford to lose. The more sober of these people thought that the town should be governed against this type of behaviour by a local body of people that were aware of the current conditions.

In 1854 the Monmouthshire Merlin reported that a meeting had been held in the Town Hall, to open a reading room for the people of Tredegar and surrounding areas. A committee was formed, headed by Mr R P Davies, the works manager. Subscriptions would be 2/6p for membership.

Around 1860 a scheme was started to provide a building for "Entertainment, Instruction and Propagation of Temperance". The scheme was supported by all the works and mine managers and a decision was reached to sell shares at £1 to the workmen. The Industrialists of the time who were greatly affected by the drunken behaviour and absenteeism of their workers, plus the housewives who were losing their Housekeeping money to gambling supported this scheme, they had everything to gain and had nothing to lose.

In 1860, work on the building began and by late Autumn 1861, the building was ready for opening.The new building was the Temperance Hall.

A Balance Sheet dated 31st July 1862 states for the construction of the Temperance Hall, The builder, Mr David Roberts, was paid £2,290. The Committee paid £60 1s 7d for cutting the foundations and £28 17s 0d for work and materials in making a culvert. The Inspector of Masonry (Clerk of the Works) was paid £12. The expenses of laying the foundation stone£10 14s 8d. The Sunlight gas burners to light the large room cost £44 12s 6d. £56 11s 6d was paid for fitting lavatories, gas pipes and bell hangings.This makes a total of £2,500 17s 3d.

The receipts read £1,563 18s 9d from the workmen, £402 from Tredegar Iron Company and it's agents and £262 16s 0d from the Tradespeople. A total of £2,228 14s 9d. The remaining £272 2s 6d made up by the shareholders.

The Hall soon became popular as a centre for instruction and entertainment and in 1862 a large and very important eisteddfod was held there. 1866 saw the first performance of any Amateur Operatic Society formed in the town when it staged Harvest Storm and in 1867 the first Dramatic Society in the town played The Maid of Genoa In 1869 the small reading room and library moved to the Masonic Hall at a rental of 10-0d per annum raised by a levy of half penny a week on the wages of miners with higher amounts from Business and Professional people. This was the start of todays vast library.

In 1865 the Temperance Hall put on Poole's Myriorama, an early type of slide show. This consisted of full stage size paintings of various capitals of the world and other interesting sights on a roll. The roll, on rollers, was unwound slowly with differing lighting to create different effects. After about a dozen slides were shown, a variety artist would take the stage whilst another roll was set up.

By 1890 the library and reading room was deteriorating and had a deficit of £34, the only assets were books and fittings. Each man working at Tredegar Iron and Coal company had agreed by a majority vote to a weekly deduction of half-penny, to take over the whole library provided the cost did not exceed £50 00d and all the assets were handed to them. Thus the Workmens Committee took over the lease in 1890.

In 1911 the Tredegar Workmens Institute was formed and they bought the Temperance Hall for £2000. In November 1916 the freehold of the building was purchased.

Because of deficits in previous years, it was decided in 1917 to increase workmens contributions from half-penny to one penny per week.

The year was 1931 and an extention was built to the Billiard Room providing seven tables instead of the two and in 1936 the whole building was restructured with the main part devoted to a modern cinema seating 800 people. At the side of the Hall a new extention was built to cater for the reading room and library. The Lesser Hall, to seat 200 people was constructed above the snooker hall

Many noteable names appeared at the Workmen's Hall including Opera singers and even Gracie Fields before she became famous.Charlie Chaplin and Max Wall also appeared there.

In the 1960's a licenced bar with a large ballroom was opened above the library

The last film shown in The Workmens Hall was in 1981 and the Institute closed in 1982. The Club was kept open by some local business people until the roof blew off the building in 1990

The building has now been completely demolished and the site has been developed into a car park

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Masonic Hall

The Masonic Hall is another fine example of long standing buildings.The St. Georges Lodge No 1098 was inaugerated at the Temperance Hall, April 12th 1866. The Lodge moved from the Temperance Hall to the Congregational Chapel Schoolroom at Castle Street in 1891. This was The Temperance Hotel and their Dinners and Banquets were held at the Castle Hotel opposite.

In May 1893, a tender of £1,233 was accepted to build a new Lodge. The foundation stone was laid on 8th June 1893

and noteable Freemasons from all over the country were present. The hall was dedicated and opened on 8th February 1894 by Mrs G A Brown.

In 1922 a tender of £3,600 was accepted from Rees Edwards and Sons for extentions to the Lodge and these were completed before February 1923

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The town was growing and amongst the other buildings that were appearing were the schools.

In 1876, Earl Street School was built to accomodate1,500 children. The school has now been demolished and the site used for a warden controlled housing complex. The pupils were moved to Deighton Primary and Infants School which was purpose built.

St Josephs Junior School was built at Earl Street in 1876.The school was built for 460 children This school was also pulled down and the children moved to a school vacated by Dukestown Infants at Ashvale. The School was then renamed St Josephs

Sirhowy school was another Board mixed school built in 1877 for 528 children.The building still stands and is now used by a local components manufacturer. The children were moved to a purpose built school at Sirhowy that was opened in 1953. This school is scheduled to close in 2004

Georgetown school was a board school that was originally built for 1,300 pupils. The building has now been demolished and another school built in it's place.

Another school to open in Tredegar area was Bedwellty Pits to house 65 children. It was opened in 1879 and was closed many years ago because of the threat of a landslip.

Troedrhiwgwair had another mixed school to cater for 425 children and was erected in 1878. Because of movement in the mountain behind the school was closed down in the 1960's and most of the villiage was moved out in the 1970's

Tredegar County School was a Board School built in 1897 for 70 boys and 50 girls. Under the "Welsh Intermediate Education act of 1899 it became the County School. In 1967 a new Comprehensive School was built to take the pupils from Tredegar County Grammar School. Georgetown Secondary School and Glanhowy Secondary Schools. The first two years of the Comprehensive school was housed in the County School until 1973. The building has now been pulled down and a Private Housing Estate has been built in it's place.

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Tredegar Medical Aid Society

Tredegar was again brought to fame with Tredegar Medical Aid Society An old organisation, the Doctor and School Fund, was developed into the Medical Aid Society and brought into being mainly by the work of it's Secretary, Mr Walter Conway who took office in 1915. Orphaned as an infant and brought up at the workhouse, Walter Conway was an extremely intelligent man who thought of helping others more than helping himself. He pioneered the Medical Aid Society wherby for a small weekly donation from their wages, workmen would receive free medical help when it was required. This scheme was the forerunner of the National Health Service, introduced by another Tredegar personality, Mr Aneurin Bevan in 1948. Walter Conway died in February 1933.

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Tredegar Cottage Hospital

In the 19th century people of Tredegar requiring Hospital treatment had to be operated on for amputations in their own homes.These were small overcrowded buildings and unsuitable for this purpose. For something that was more serious and needed hospitalisation, the patient would have to travel outside their own town. Because of the transport and road conditions this could be a very arduous journey. The Tredegar Workmen determined that it was time to have their own hospital. Lord Tredegar provided a site, Tredegar Company agreed with the workmen a levy and in 1903,Tredegar Cottage Hospital was opened for accident cases only.

It cost £4,126 to build with an annual maintenence bill of £298. In 1907 a womens and childrens ward was opened and in 1914 a new wing. Many alterations, extentions and improvements were carried out whilst in the control of the Workmens Committee. The hospital now has an Emergency Department for minor cases but is mainly for the Elderly. The main hospital is now Neville Hall at Abergavenny.

In 1926 the first Maternity Home in Monmouthshire under the Monmouthshire Nursing Association was opened in Market Street but this disappeared under the Health Act.

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Tredegar Iron and Coal Company

The formation of Tredegar Iron and Coal took place in 1875.The Company made great strides forward with colliery developments. One such development was the conversion of the Balance Pits that were around to Steam driven Pits. This greatly enhanced coal production. The Tredegar Iron and Coal Company was in existance until 1946 and the formation of the National Coal Board

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Local Government

On 22nd April 1874, Tredegar decided to form it's own local board of government consisting of twelve people, this was the forerunner to the Local Council. This was approved and the legal papers formulating this board was handed over in June 1875. At later meetings of the Board it was decided that a District Rate of 9d in the pound was to be implemented. This was the rate for a number of half-years except for one when the rate was dropped to 6d in the pound.

The new surveyor, Mr D L Harries, complained of the slurry from the tramroads left on the side of the road for weeks. He also urged the naming of streets and numbering of houses. Tredegar was getting more civilised.

Late 1875 the Board issued bills stating that all ashes and other household refuse should be placed in a box or other receptacles before 8.00am, the receptacles were to be removed immediately that they were emptied and that casks, trucks or other vehicles would not be allowed to remain on public footpaths in future.

In 1882,the Board purchased the Waterworks and the Gasworks for £53,000 from Tredegar Iron and Coal Company who owned them.The Local Government Act of 1894 sew the formation of the Tredegar Urban District Council who were responsible for an area of 7,479 acres.The Board took on the responsibility for the Public Buildings. The renovation of the Town Hall and Market hall was the first task and in March 1890 they received the estimate.

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Recreation Ground

The area of the Recreation Ground was a tipping ground for a number of pits and levels in the area. It was presented to the Workmen of Tredegar at a nominal rent in 1899 by Lord Tredegar. It was levelled at a cost of £1,700 obtained by voluntary contributions. The Workmen subscribing a half-penny a week for that purpose. A committee was formed to manage the ground and remained that way until 1951 when the Council became the governors

In 1926, greyhound racing came to Britain with the dogs chasing an electrical hare. The first greyhound racing to come to Tredegar was at the recreation ground on 10th July 1931 but the hare was mechanically driven.

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Bedwellty House and Park


Bedwellty House in 1906 Bedwellty House in 1998


Bedwellty House is a grade 2 listed building. It was built in 1818 as a home for Samuel Homfrey, the Ironmaster at Tredegar Iron Company. The House was built on land leased from Lord Tredegar and the grounds measured 26 acres. It was a beautiful wooded area typical of estates of the Gentry. In 1899 it was rumoured that Tredegar Company was to relinquish its lease on Bedwellty House that had always been leased for it's managers. Lord Tredegar confirmed that this was the case. The Town Council expressed a desire to buy the estate as a Public Park for the town. Alderman Henry Bowen who led the deputation was prepared to pay a fair price and was surprised when he was told that they could have the Park for the residents of Tredegar and the House a Council House, free of charge except for a short strip on the Park Row side. Rev Alfred Barrett, Chairman to the Council, signed the agreement on 23rd October 1900. The Park was opened to the public in November informally but was officially opened on 18th April 1901.

Much work has been carried out by succeeding Town Councils over the years to accomodate the Tredegar People. The Long Shelter was built in 1910

Inside the Long Shelter, a mosiac was placed in the memory of the local Chartist movement

and the Bandstand was built in 1912

The cenotaph was placed in the Park in 1924. The Swimming Pool,(open air) was a very welcome addition in 1932 as was the Hard Tennis court in the same year.

The WW2 Memorial Gates were placed in 1951 and the following year the Circular Gardens and statues in front of Bedwellty house were formed.The Park is now, and has been for many years, a place of beauty and provides a place of relaxation for the general public. The outdoor swimming pool has now been closed (there is now an indoor pool at the Leisure Centre) and the area is now used for skate boards and there are large playing fields for the children. The Park has many different varieties of trees and plants.There are several duck ponds and many beautiful walks


At the rear of Bedwellty House, stands the Ice House one of the few surviving of it's kind.

The Bandstand has recently been refurbished in it's original style and throughout the summer every Sunday a free concert is put on and refreshments may be purchased at Bedwellty House.

Inside Bedwellty House there are many memorabilia to be found including a marble bust of Viscount Tredegar by Sir Gascombe John.There is a casket of earth brought home from Tredegar Hill in Burma (WW2) plus a book of remembrance from both world wars.There are also many more artefacts to be found there

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The Queens Cinema

The Queens Cinema was erected purely to show films.

Since then it has been a Roller Skating Rink, a Dance Hall and now is called "In Trim", a Fitness Centre and a Social Establishment.

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The Market Hall

Since it's inception in the early 1800's the Market Hall has changed its name and purpose several times.

As the photo shows, for many years it served as a cimema named The Olympia. In later years it was transformed into a Carpet Warehouse.

The building, still retaining it's original characteristics, has been bought by J.D.Weatherspoon and renamed "OLYMPIA". It is licensed to sell Beers and Spirits and also to serve meals.

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During it's history, Tredegar had many religious establishments but of the Church of England, the oldest and most important was St. Georges Church.

St George's Parish Church is a stone, rectangular building in the Norman style. It consists of a chancel, a naive, a north porch and a western tower. The register dates back to 1836.

As the town grew, St. James' Church

was built in 1890 as a chapel of ease for the Georgetown area. It is a stone building in the early English style with a chancel, a naive, a vestry and a western porch.

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Tredegar has not always been a scene of tranquility during its development.

In 1868 there were the Election Riots. These riots started in Tredegar and spread, the reason was the defeat in the election of the local idol. his name was Colonel Clifford and was the standing Liberal M.P. The rioters smashed and looted the local pubs and hotels. A police baton charge failed to halt the riots and the military was brought in to restore the peace.
There was also the Irish Riots. This was brought about when a local man, on his way home from a religious meeting, was struck down by an Irishman armed with some sort of weapon. This incident started an affray that continued for several days.

The homes of the Irish people living in Tredegar was ransacked with their furnishings and personal belongings publicly burnd on the streets. Peace was eventually restored by the Police and a company of the 94th Regiment. The Riot Act was read by Mr John Spooner landlord of "The Kings Head" public house.

Another well known riot took place at Tredegar in 1911.This was the Jewish Riots. These riots began because at this time after several coal strikes due to wage reductions, people were experiencing severe financial difficulties. A railway strike had produced a shortage of many goods and prices rose accordingly.

The time was August 1911 and by this time the local Jewish community had prospered and grown. Most of these Jews were traders and had also aquired properties in the Town which they rented out at very high rates. Because of the high rents and the rising prices in their shops, resentment towards the jewish business men was felt by the struggling workers.

After a few pints one night, an attack was made on a Jewish shop and the Police were called. By the time the Police arrived, the initial group of rioters had grown and had gone on to attack and loot any property having Jewish connections.The first night saw 18 shops destroyed and plundered by the rioters

Military Troops were sent to the town but by the time that they arrived the riot had quelled and no further incidents occurred. This riot did not defeat the resolve of the Jewish Community because they still traded for many years afterwards.

Below is a video on the Tredegar Riots (c) BBC


All work in history section of is Copyright of Brian Turner /
last modified 23/12/2009

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