In 1837 the first deep coal mine in the Valley was sunk at Abernant y Groes in Cwmbach and, in common with many valleys in south Wales, coal mining became the predominant industry for nearly 150 years.
In 1846 the Aberdare railway (TVR) was opened from Navigation junction (Abercynon) to Aberdare, enabling the extracted coal to speed to the coastal ports and then on to the rest of the world.
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From the South – follow the A470 trunk road north from Cardiff. CF44 7ED Arriva Trains run a regular service from Cardiff via Pontypridd to Aberdare. The iron was transported by mule and cart and then rails were laid to create ‘tram roads’ to make the pulling of the heavy wagons easier.
At the large roundabout junction at Abercynon, take the A4059 to Aberdare. From the North – from A465 Heads of Valleys road at Hirwaun, follow A4059 to Aberdare. The Aberdare Canal was completed in 1811 which joined with the Glamorgan Canal at Abercynon and enabled goods to be transported by barge all the way to Cardiff and its docks.
The town’s fortunes ebbed and flowed through boom time in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the First World War and then the desperate poverty of the depression years of the late 1920’s and the 1930’s.
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The family owned a large portion of Hirwaun and even used their own currency, the "Hirwaun Guinea", to pay employees, a form of truck system which stopped employees travelling to Cardiff or spending their money outside the controlled economy of the village.
Following the miners' strike, the only deep coal mine left in Wales was Tower Colliery, which closed down, was bought by its workers and reopened.
At the 2001 census, Hirwaun had a population of 4,851.
Hirwaun has an industrial background centring on the Hirwaun Ironworks.
This rise in population was caused by the increasing industrialisation of the area, due initially to iron manufacture at places like Hirwaun (1757), Llwydcoed (1799), Abernant (1801) and Gadlys (1827).
In 1801 the population of Aberdare was just 1486 and had risen to 55007 by 1921.
Situated in a broad part of the Cynon Valley, here the Dare River, which rises on Mynydd Bwllfa high above the town, joins the Cynon River on its journey from Llygad Cynon in the Brecon Beacons National Park to join with the River Taff at Abercynon and then to the sea at Cardiff.
origins of Aberdare date from Medieval times and there have been archaeological finds in the local area from Neolithic, Bronze Age and Roman times.