Bridgend Bridge

Some Historical Facts

Some Historical Facts

Prior to 1836, the provisions market was held under the arches and on the steps of the first Town Hall in High Street (later Dunraven Place). The livestock market was also unhygienically held there in the surrounding streets and even worse the slaughtering often took place there on the spot!  All at the same time!

The Jolly Brewer (now the Riverside Tavern) in Brewery Lane was first built in the mid-1790’s as the residence of the manager of the new and up-to-date woollen mill and was named as “Cae-Felin” (Millfield). After, the mill became the Brewer’s family residence and re-named the ‘Brewery House”. This name was retained when it became a public house in the 1920’s. When its owners, Courage (Western), were seeking to renovate the building and re-name it in the late 1970’s, they requested information on its history – which was supplied to them. They professed great interest in its history and the suggestion that it should be re-named “The Millfield” public house – then promptly renamed it “The Jolly Brewer”.

In medieval times a significant event in the religious life of the South Wales community was a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. David (Pembrokeshire), an event which took a long time to complete over a very long distance covered mostly on foot, in changing weather conditions. At various points en route were certain churches and religious houses where the pilgrims could pause for shelter, rest and refreshment. One such point was St. Leonard’s Newcastle (now St. Illtyds).

The pilgrims came along the old route of Ewenny to Laleston via the New Inn Bridge (Dipping Bridge) through Newbridge Fields and Sunnyside making for Newcastle Hill. Approaching the foot of the hill were three Inns, where the more affluent pilgrims could stay – the Cross Keys (Keys of St. Peter and emblem of the Vatican); the Angel (the guardian angel watching over the Pilgrims on their journey) and the Lamb and Flag (named from the Crusader emblem of the Lamb with the Crusader’s Cross flag over his shoulder).

Nowadays, the Cross Keys has been demolished, the Angel (now "The Wicked Lady") only remains on the site (a much later building) and the Lamb and Flag is now a pair of private houses.The poorer pilgrims who could not afford to stay at an Inn went to the Church House (later wrongly known as the “Hospice of St. John”) for rest and refreshment. Monks from Margam Abbey would have been there on “pilgrimage duty” to tend to the travellers before they continued on their way to St. David’s.

Traditionally, the “double-level” stone benches in the porch were for the pilgrims – sitting on the upper stones with their feet on the lower ones and the monks washed and bathed their weary and dirty feet ritually – as Christ washed the feet of his disciples.

World War II Prisoner of War Camp No. 198, Island Farm, Bridgend was situated on the A48 By-pass to the south of the town. Prior to its use as a PoW camp in November 1944, it in turn housed Ordnance factory workers and American soldiers. During its four year term, it in total detained almost 2,000 German officers, the most famous of whom was Field Marshall Larl von Rundstedt.

On 10th March 1945, 67 prisoners tunnelled their way out of the camp – within eight days they were all recaptured! The escape hut, number nine, is retained under a Preservation Order; the rest of the camp has been demolished to make way for the expansion of the Bridgend Science Park.

Take a stroll through the Rhiw Shopping Centre and as you approach the intersection of the L-shaped arcade, look up and see the old Bridgend Market bell, suspended from the roof above. Now 173 years old it had lain in store and deteriorating in the County Borough Council’s yard, Maesteg, since 1970 when the old market was demolished to make way for the Rhiw Development. The alertness of the Bridgend Civic Trust and the involvement of the Centre’s owners resulted in the bell being sited in its present position. The unveiling ceremony took place on St. David’s Day, 1996.