Aberdare is an industrial town in the county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taff in the traditional county of Glamorgan, in south Wales, situated at the confluence of the Dar and Cynon rivers. The population at the (1991) census was 31,619. It is 4 miles S.W. of Merthyr Tydfil and 24 miles N.W. of Cardiff. From being, at the beginning of the 19th century, a mere village in an agricultural district, the place grew rapidly in population owing to the abundance of its coal and iron ore, and the population of the whole parish increased tenfold during the first half of the century. It has since declined, owing to the loss of most of the heavy industry.
Ironworks were established at Llwydcoed and Abernant in 1799 and 1800 respectively, followed by others at Gadlys and Aberaman in 1827 and 1847. These have not been worked since about 1875. Prior to 1836, most of the coal worked in the parish was consumed locally, chiefly in the ironworks, but in that year the working of steam coal for export was begun, pits were sunk in rapid succession, and the coal trade, which after 1875 was the chief support of the town, soon reached huge dimensions. There were also several brickworks and breweries. During the latter half of the 19th century, considerable public improvements were made to the town, which became, despite its neighbouring collieries, a pleasant place to live. Its institutions included a post-graduate theological college (opened in connection with the Church of England in 1892, until 1907, when it was removed to Llandaff).
Aberdare, with the ecclesiastical parishes of St Fagan’s (Trecynon) and Aberaman carved out of the ancient parish, had twelve Anglican churches, one Roman Catholic church and at one time had over fifty Nonconformist chapels. The services in the majority of the chapels were in Welsh. The urban district includes what were once the separate villages of Aberaman, Abernant, Cwmaman, Cwmbach, Cwmdare, Llwydcoed, Penywaun and Trecynon. There are several cairns and the remains of a circular British encampment on the mountain between Aberdare and Merthyr.
The Coliseum is Aberdare’s main arts venue, containing a 600-seat auditorium and cinema. It was built in 1938 using miners’ subscriptions.
The town is served by Aberdare railway station, the terminus of the Merthyr Line – Aberdare branch.