How the name came about
A watercourse called the Nant Brân runs through the area. translated into English this means 'the crow stream'. Crow is felt to refer to the black colour of the water, rather than the bird itself; and the word 'cwm' means Valley. The area was therefore the valley of the black stream.
How the region developed
The region is situated on the South Wales coalfield and iron ore was available nearby, and so it was natural that during the 19th century industrial development to place. Mining, quarrying and metalworking was carried out and both railways and canals were built to carry goods and raw materials. Industrialists may have made good profits from the area but for the ordinary inhabitants life was not so good; by the 1930s poverty and malnutrition was the norm, and diseases such as tuberculosis and diphtheria took their toll.
The population nosedived as people moved out of the area, many even emigrating to Canada to find new lives.
With more than a third of the population unemployed, and unemployment throughout the rest of the UK at a high level, the British government decided to embark on an ambitious programme of development, and build new towns. The purpose was to provide decent housing for people close to their places of work.
The New Towns Act
World War II intervened but by 1946 the New Towns Act was passed by the then Labour government. 22 new towns were built in Britain altogether; only one of these was in Wales, and this was Cwmbran New Town.
Major employers moved into the area to take advantage of the well-planned infrastructure, and the lives of the inhabitants were transformed, with plenty of well built housing available and ample work opportunities.
From a scattering of isolated hamlets the area has now been transformed into a major hub with a pedestrianised shopping centre complete with supermarkets, banks, restaurants, theatre, bowling alley, an arts centre, and there are even a number of small radio stations in the town.
Rather than piecemeal development the town was properly planned with plenty of green spaces and wide roads to replace the overgrown pathways that older residents remembered. Yes a lot of the architecture left a little to be desired; multi-storey blocks were a harsh contast to the more traditional older houses but they were a vast improvement from the overcrowded slums that many of the newcomers had recently lived in. House prices were cheap and mortages plentiful; home ownership levels soared.
The population decline has been reversed with a large number of younger people coming into the area so it is hardly surprising that athletics has such an enthusiastic following! Boxing, rugby, rambling, boating on the lake, running, all have their supporters and not least amongst them are the members of the Griffithstown Harriers.
The Covid Epidemic
Like the rest of the country Cwmbran was badly affected by the Covid epidemic with extended lockdowns and their subsequent effect on economic activity. One industry which has certainly survived however has been the fast food one; and this has done well because of the determination of thousands of cafe, restaurant, chip shop, and take out establishments to survive.
Armed with the right insurance policy for food deliveries thousands of drivers throughout Britain took to the roads during the lockdown's to deliver hot food to hungry families. Businesses such as JustEat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo saw a huge increase in business as families, unable to get out to pubs and restaurants because of the lockdown's, turn to them to bring their favourite food direct to their door.
This is perhaps not an ideal situation; after all it would be reasonable to expect families to be able to cook decent meals for themselves rather than rely on commercial operations to deliver it for them! However the success of these fast food delivery companies proved that the demand is there; whether or not it will continue in the future is a different matter!