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Bridgend, Bridgend. Today, Bridgend is described as an urban district and market town, some 20 miles West of Cardiff at the western end of the Vale of Glamorgan. It is exceptionally favoured among towns of the South, since its population, instead of falling steeply after the Depression of the 1930s, climbed from 10,000 to 14,000. The coal and iron mined to the North of it, supplemented by the stone-quarrying industry, were very much reinforced by the establishment of a Royal Ordnance factory during the Second World War. But Bridgend, in any event, has been and remains an important administrative centre for its area.

Travellers have always noted it as an attractive place, largely brick-built and with the relics of a Norman castle. An ancient town, and set among ancient and beautiful places, its name of Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr describes its function as the point of passage over the Afon Ogwr and as the principal place in the Ogmore valley. “This part of the Country,” says Christopher Saxton in 1610, “is most pleasant and fruitful, beautified also on every side with a number of Townes.” The rough mountains above it gave way, as he notes, to a plain that stretched towards the sun and had a mild and better soil. Daniel Paterson, 200 years later, notes its surrounding features: at Tayback, the extensive work of coal and copper: at Ewenny Bridge, 2 miles off, the Pelican Inn, of much assistance to coaches and their passengers at Newbridge, 2 miles on the other side, the ruins of Ogmore Castle across the river; and at Cowbridge (a “pleasant mercate Towne”, as Saxton calls it, with some claim to be thought of as the Roman Bovium) the castles of St Lythian and Pen Lyne. But he singles out Ewenny Priory in particular. Saxton goes a little further into these matters, relating how “the river Ogmore, maketh himself way into the Sea, falling from the mountaines by Coitie [Coety] which belonged sometimes to the Turbevilles; also by Ogmore Castle which came from the family of London”: and “a little from hence,” he adds, “in the very bout-well, neere of the shore, standeth Saint Donat's Castle, a faire habitation of the ancient and notable family of the Stradlings.” In this way he notes the descendants of those companions of Robert FitzHamon who came into Glamorgan on the tide of the Norman Conquest and set the castles that still remain dominant in the landscape. St Donat's, a structure of the 14th to 16th centuries, was acquired in the 20th century by the American lord of newsprint, William Randolph Hearst, who made it a centre for antiquities gathered from all over Britain. Ogmore Castle, which stands where stepping-stones cross the stream, has dwindled into little more than a companion to some pleasant cottages: but it was a stronghold of the hated William de Braose and, with the new Castle of Bridgend and the fortress at Coety, held down the line of the Ogmore and Ewenny in three points of power.

Bridgend's neighbourhood contains Newton Nottage, a “little towne in a sandy plain”, says Saxton; with a well, in his day, pure enough and good for use “it never springeth and walmeth up to the brinke, but by certaine staires folke goe downe into the Well.” It has a church with a massive tower, and leads to Porthcawl and the stretch of sand-dunes between there and Neath, where the lost city of Kenfig lies hidden.

Betws, in the North of the valley, has a curious l9th century charm.

Nearby towns: Aberdare, Caerphilly, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Pencoed, Porthcawl, Port Talbot

Nearby villages: Aberkenfig, Bettws, Blackmill, Boverton, Brynmenyn, Coed Ely, Coity, Cornelly, Coychurch, Ewenny, Flemingston, Garth, Gilfach Goch, Hendreforgan, Kenfig, Llandow, Llangan, Llangeinor, Llangynwyd, Llanharan, Llanharry, Llysworney, Maesteg, Marcross, Margam, Monknash, Newton Nottage, North Cornelly, Nottage, Penllyn, Pontycymer, Porth, Pyle, Saint Athan, St Brides Major, Saint Donats, South Cornelly, Southerndown, Tondu, Tonyrefail, Wick, Ystradowen

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