What have they done to the NEW Pontypool???

As regular visitors will know, I started this blog eight years ago. Since then almost all my emails and the people I’ve met from Pontypool have been saddened by the present state of the town which, in my boyhood days was a happy bustling town. Most people describe its present state as “dead”!

Imagine my sadness today when I received an email from a visitor giving me the URL of an article from today’s Guardian. I



A health worker in Pontypool told me what happens when people lose their sense of purpose. “You don’t get up in the morning. You might see a spiral in depression,” she said last week. “You lose contact with the outside world.” The dismal list went on: no self-worth, no self-confidence. As she talked, I realised her description didn’t apply only to people. Places and communities can be stripped of their purpose too. That is certainly what’s happened to Pontypool.
If I could send Theresa May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond, anywhere before tomorrow’s autumn statement, it wouldn’t be to some love-in with big business at a swanky London hotel – but to this south Wales market town. It might make them think.
The story of Pontypool is a story of riches squandered, of dynamism blocked, of an entire community slung on the slagheap. Sat atop vast deposits of iron ore and coal, it was probably the first industrial town in Wales. For a time, under Victoria, it was richer than Cardiff. Even now, to look along its skyline is to see traces of wealth: the park with its Italian gardens and bandstand; the covered market with its olde price list for snipes or a brace of pheasants; the 25 listed buildings that make this one of the most sumptuous small town centres in Britain.
Then look down. On a typical weekday, the indoor market is a desert. Those bits of the high street that aren’t to let are betting parlours, vaping dens and charity shops: the standard parade for hollowed-out towns across Britain. The reason isn’t hard to fathom: the mines shut down decades back; the factories have pretty much disappeared. Those big employers still left aren’t big employers any more. One of the staff at BAE tells me that when he joined in 1982, it had 2,500 workers on its shopfloor; now, he reckons, it has 120.
Swaths of Pontypool and the surrounding region of Torfaen now rank among the poorest in all Britain. On part of one of its housing estates in Trevethin, 75% of all children under four are raised in poverty. Over half – 53% – of all households who live on that stretch are below the poverty line. With that come all the usual problems: families that can’t pay the rent, that are more likely to fall prey to a whole range of sicknesses, from mental health to cancer. Those people can expect to die 20 years before their near-neighbours in some of the better-off areas in Pontypool. First the economy died out, now its people are too.
Pontypool is like the rest of south Wales, like many other parts of Britain I have reported from. It’s what politicians and economists call “post-industrial”. That term, though, implies something coming after; here, hardly anything has come after. A few years ago Pontypool town centre was declared on the verge of death by a local councillor, who bore a coffin lid in a mock funeral procession.
It’s a similar story in Hull, Sunderland, in so many places across Britain. For three decades Tories and Labour thought they could buy the acquiescence of residents with benefits and public-sector jobs. Then came the 2008 crash and the cuts that have followed. Then came the Brexit referendum.
I visited Pontypool a few weeks before that vote – and it was on that trip that the suspicion dawned that the remain camp didn’t have it in the bag at all. True to form, Torfaen voted nearly 60% to 40% to leave the EU.
Aditya Chakrabortty. The Guardian.com 22/11/2016 Reproduced with permission.

To read the full article go to:


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5 Responses to “What have they done to the NEW Pontypool???”

  1. Geoff Says:

    The article goes a long way to explaining the electorate anger in my birth country of Wales, and my adopted country USA. Your vote for Brexit and ours for Trump are reactions to the same kind of oversight our politicians, press, and intellectual class have supported for decades. There are huge numbers of people in Pontypool and Detroit living on government hand-outs because they cant get employment. They are sick of listening to the upper strata of our societies focus on climate change, Syrian refugees, free trade zones with apparent indifference to them. The Trump phenomenon is simply he is the first to persuasively claim to have their interests first. We had better pay attention or there will be plenty more Trumps running for office and winning.

    Geoff Thomas


  2. Christopher Parsons Says:

    My great grandfather James Banfield moved from Somerset to Trevethin in the 1860s at the time of the South Wales “coal rush”. He was attracted by the high wages and the booming economy of Pontypool in general. Trevethin at that time was the place to live if you had a good income. He would be astounded to read about the decline of the town of today. Very sad to read this myself. I would be interested to learn about anyone else in Ponty who maybe related to the Banfields of Somerset.

  3. brian walker Says:

    Sadly I have to agree with this article.

  4. terry price Says:

    i started working life in woolworths 1955, ,on the weekend the store was overcrowded every week,4 italian cafes plus williams cake shop at the clarence !what a catastrophe when visiting Pontypool last year!
    Third world! sorry Pontypool!
    terry price (ex park gates Pontypool)

  5. Leigh Says:

    It would be nice to see Pontypool rise again but I think apathy has set in. It’s such a pity because on the whole the people are pleasant and relatively happy, sadly they just feel defeated and can’t see a way forward to improve prospects for the town.

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