Is an extensive hamlet in the parish of Mynyddysllwyn, including a
portion of Crumlin, Cross Penmaen and Newbridge. Collieries are
worked here. It contains 355 houses and 1782 inhabitants. The Western
Valleys line has a station at Newbridge. The distict is celebrated
for lovely scenery."
PONTLLANFRAITH " Is a small hamlet near Tredegar junction, on the Taff Vale Extension Railway, about 2.5 miles from Newbridge. It is composed of a few houses, chiefly occupied by people employed in the neighbouring works."
Taken from the GAZETTEER OF MONMOUTHSHIRE by J.H CLARK Published 1869
IT was over thirty years after J.H.CLARK wrote the above lines that plans for the village of OAKDALE were first drawn up.
Mines in the Welsh valleys were already producing massive amounts of coal which was being exported all over the world, but the need for coal was growing both in America and Europe, and local business men were looking for new opportunities to fill the demand.
Among these were a group known as the
Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, made up of wealthy industrialists from the Maclaren,
Markham, Pochin, Whitworth and Wyllie families.
In 1906 work began clearing the site for the new colliery, and concurrent with its building,
a village to house the families of the men who were to work there.
The concept of the village of Oakdale was nothing short of revolutionary.
The brainchild of then manager of the TIC company, Mr A S Tallis, Oakdale was to be
different from existing pit villages.
These ideas were in themselves original enough. But the concentric design of the village that was conceived by Mr Tallis' brother-in-law, Mr F R Webb, was even more radical. It was laid down with a central road (Central Avenue) and transverse roads conforming to a horseshoe shape, with linking "spoke" roads, making any road in the village easily accessible from any other.
And so work began, the first houses being built to house the colliery officials in West View.
The new village grew very quickly, along with the growing demand for coal. Workers from Pontypool, Abertillery and Tredegar, together with others from as far afield as Gloucestershire and Somerset flocked to this " model village " with its high standard housing.
A School, a Post Office, a Hospital and a HotelA school had already been built around 1907/8 (attendance started in 1909) for the children of Penmaen and Rhiw so the incomers' offspring were catered for, with an extension being built to cope with the extra demand.
Commercial building, including a Post Office, a clothing store and a butcher's shop soon followed.
By 1913, the majority of the houses having been built, attention turned to the provision of two welcome additions to the village's amenities - the hospital, which was completed in 1915 and, at about the same time, a hotel.
The social life of the village in these early years mostly took place at "The Huts".
These were a row of huts that had been built in a field near the Rhiw hill to house the men who
sank the pit shafts. Among the varied functions to be found there were social events, St John Ambulance,
whist drives, Women's Institute and a library. Later on there was billiards and a daily delivery
With the influence of chapels and churches in Wales at a peak it now became necessary to establish
religious facilities. The only existing churches were the Established church at
Cwrt-y-Bella and the non-conformist chapel at Penmaen, which held services in Welsh.
Non-conformists who were unable to speak Welsh therefore had to meet wherever they could, in
the school, private houses and even in a carpenter's shed!
The War Years
The First World War probably had less of an effect on Oakdale than perhaps it did on similar sized villages outside the coalfield. Indeed, it could be argued that it made the village even more prosperous as demand for coal increased and, although it sadly claimed the lives of 26 villagers, building carried on with the construction of at least four new shops near the Post Office. By the 1920s the Square, too, had its full complement of shops.
Throughout 1915 talks had been going on between interested parties regarding the proposed new Institute. Agreement was reached and the foundation stone laid on 3 July 1916 with the official opening taking place on 10 September 1917.
Until 1920 Oakdale Colliery prospered. Wages of its workers were admittedly low, and life could be hard but Oakdale was thriving and its people were kind and welcoming, even if they weren't exactly well off. But 1920 brought the first intimation that all was not well on the economic front as the first cold winds of depression started to blow through the south Wales valleys.
Coming next - THE KING VISITS OAKDALE
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