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History Hero

History of Tredegar

The history of our head office location – Why we chose this area of the South Wales Valleys as our base plus some fascinating general knowledge about Tredegar’s industrial past and the famous people linked to the old town

In 1987, David Spear began buying and selling vans from a very small pitch in a valley town just 10 miles south west of Tredegar. Since then the business has grown beyond recognition, but has always retained its identity and links to the Valleys communities that supported and helped facilitate the success of the business over a 30-year period.

Tredegar is the fourth valley location in the business timeline. The relocation to this modern purpose-built facility took place in 2011 and it’s no coincidence that site number four is also the hometown of co-owner and company secretary Sarah Spear. Over 40% of the workforce currently reside in the old industrial town, which reflects the on-going commitment to provide local jobs for local people whilst supporting the community that is an integral part of our history.

Historian Geraint H Jenkins remarked that “Wales and its history deserved to be much widely known and appreciated” and therefore, it is not surprising that Tredegar has a wealth of history. History that many are unaware of.

Tredegar was the birthplace of Aneurin Bevan and the NHS. Bevan was a young miner born in 1897. It was certainly the struggle of the Welsh Valleys that made Bevan’s character. The NHS was modelled on Bevan’s Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society, which was formed in around 1890. This local healthcare service was widely regarded as the best of its kind. Under this healthcare, the town’s residents were covered by the scheme through subscriptions which allowed the best medical, surgical and dental services in the country. This society sparked the creation of the NHS.

Tredegar has established U.S. associations and in the 19th century, individuals and even entire families migrated from the town to various parts of the United States to seek work. In addition to miners and farmers, there were others who made their stamp on the U.S. Tredegar-born James Davies – “Puddler Jim” – for example became a U.S. Senator, presidential candidate and indicator of the world’s first legislated minimum wage.

Tredegar is located within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire and became a major contributor of industrialisation with its iron resources. If the Industrial Revolution in Wales required natural or human resource, then chances were that Tredegar could and did produce it. The creation of the Tredegar Iron Company turned Tredegar into a boom town during the latter part of the 19th century. The population in 1801 was just 1,132 but the influx of people searching for work boosted that population to 34,685 by 1881. The Sirhowy Iron Works was another big employer during this same period, which again provided jobs and security for the huge numbers of people flooding into the valleys of South Wales. This same Industrial Revolution in Wales created the need for king coal. As a result, deep coal mining very quickly became one of the principal industries of the valleys, with Tredegar very much at the forefront. The local Pochin Colliery started production in 1881 and was one of many local collieries sited in and around Tredegar. This mine alone employed between two to three thousand men at its peak.

However, Tredegar did not only produce iron and coal. The memorable and remarkable Thomas Ellis, Chief Engineer of the Tredegar Ironworks from 1828 to 1854, represents the importance of the steam industry in Tredegar. His aim was to replace horsepower with steam power. Ellis went on to build 10 locomotive engines in Tredegar.

A lasting and main attraction of Tredegar is the iconic town clock, which is made of cast iron and stands at 72 feet high. This unique landmark, which cost £1,000 to build, represents the town’s association with heavy iron production. The clock is also a commanding reminder of Tredegar’s past. The town clock was completed in June 1858 and still dominates the town’s skyline in the 21st century.