The above poster has been spotted on buses, bus shelters and billboards around South East Wales and has provoked a few comments – especially in the town of Tredegar and the City of Newport. To the Project Team at Tredegar House, “I Love Tredegar” is a snappy little phrase that can be attached to campaigns and advertisement for lots of events and activities. The House and grounds are referred to simply as Tredegar. However, beyond the walls of the House, Gardens and Park the common usage for the name Tredegar has , for more than a century, alluded to the town at the Heads of the Valleys. This is causing some confusion now; only a little to be honest though. Occasionally in the past, some coach parties have found themselves in the birthplace of Aneurin Bevan and I do wonder if the recently restored Bedwellty House is benefiting from the advertising campaign. With Google maps, Sat Nav and a eye on the road signs this shouldn’t really be a problem these days.
So why the two Tredegars? Visitors to Tredegar House often ask why the House is named after the Blaenau Gwent town. The answer is simple. It is not. Tredegar House is a Restoration period mansion with an even older Tudor wing. Indeed there seems to have been an earlier building on the site too. There are Fourteenth Century references to a Tredegar on the site and Medieval pottery has turned up. Until the Industrial Revolution was in full swing there was only one Tredegar; and that was at the bottom of the valley not at its head.
Samuel Homfray was a successful industrialist from a family of successful industrialists. Having made his mark at Penydarren Ironworks he moved to fresh ventures. In 1793 he had married Mary Jane, daughter of Sir Charles Morgan of the Tredegar Estate. When Richard Fothergill and Matthew Monkhouse looked to build a new Ironworks further down the Sirhowy Valley, they realised that Homfray would be an advantageous business partner. The land they had their eyes on for the new works belonged to Sir Charles and favourable terms for a 99 lease were agreed upon in 1799. The Tredegar Iron Company began work in 1800 on the site and the first three furnaces were completed within a couple of years. Homfray seems to have thought it only right that they should name the Ironworks after his wife’s home – Tredegar! A public house, the Tredegar Arms, was soon opened nearby as well as workers houses, a tram road and a “Company Shop”. Other shops, more houses, chapels and churches, roads and tramways followed over the next ten years and the town of Tredegar was becoming well established.
Before long this town was more well known than the estate after which it was named and it became important in its own right. A. J. Cronin’s novel The Citadel, was based on his experiences working with Tredegar Medical Aid Society. The Society is rightly regarded as being the model, or a blueprint, for the National Health Service, and of course Tredegar’s most famous son was its architect Aneurin Bevan.
I think it’s quite OK for us to love both Tredegars. Both important in different ways.