Aberdare Park is set to celebrate its 150th birthday in style this month with a Victorian-theme family fun day packed full of nostalgia and excitement.
Organised by the Friends of Aberdare Park and supported by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, events are planned in and around Aberdare Park on Saturday, July 13.
New signage and information boards that coincide with the 150th anniversary have been unveiled in Aberdare Park by television and radio personality Roy Noble OBE. Local author and historian Geoffrey Evans has also launched his new book Aberdare Park: A Guide and Short History.
Councillor Ann Crimmings, Cabinet Member for Environment, Leisure and Heritage Services, also ward member for Aberdare West and Llwydcoed, said: “Aberdare Park is the jewel in the crown of Aberdare, known locally as the Queen of the Valleys.
“For 150 years, Aberdare Park has attracted visitors from all over the world all year around and this event will celebrate this wonderful Park, of which we are all proud.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the Friends of Aberdare Park group, who dedicate their time to preserving the heritage of the park. The Council's staff also do an incredible job in caring for and maintaining the grounds for everyone to enjoy. I hope everyone comes along to Aberdare Park on July 13 to help us celebrate in style!”
The Aberdare Park Celebration Day, on Saturday, July 13, starts at 11am at Library Square in Aberdare town centre with performances from Llwydcoed Brass Band, Dare to Sing Ladies Choir, Cwmbach Male Choir, Cwmdare Voices, Mountain Ash RFC Singers and soloists.
The celebrations then move on to Aberdare Park from 1-4pm, with attractions such as Traditional Children’s’ Games including Potato and Spoon Races, Three-Legged Races, Wheelbarrow Races, Obstacle Relay Race and Scavenger Hunt.
There will be ‘Performances in the Park’ from Llwydcoed Brass Band, Phoenix Singers, Cwmdare Voices, Mountain Ash Choral Choir and soloists. There will also be a re-enactment of the park opening 150 years ago, complete with guests in Victorian clothing.
A J Aerobics will be staging gymnastics taster sessions and AFC Llwydcoed are hosting football practice activities for children. There will also be a Jazz Band Display featuring the Penywaun Paraders, a bowls taster session on the bowling green with Aberdare Bowls Club, Aberdare Tennis Club activities, a South Wales Police exhibition, and a veteran motorcycles show. South Wales Fire and Rescue will also be present on the day.
The will also be Victorian-style Afternoon Tea being served in the cafe area.
Aberdare Park, or the ‘People’s Park’ as it was called in the early years, was officially opened on July 29, 1869. It was the first public park in Wales.
The land, just under 50 acres, had previously formed part of the ancient Hirwaun Common and was granted to the churchwardens and overseers of the Parish of Aberdare ‘for the good of the people.’
Funding was secured from the Aberdare Local Board of Health by its chairman Rees Hopkin Rhys. Although he had lost his sight some 10 years earlier, he was mindful of the benefits and beauty that a public park would bring to the local community.
The perimeter wall was built in March 1863 and William Barron was commissioned to design and create the magical the layout of Aberdare Park. An eminent landscape gardener, his other projects included Chatsworth House, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Scotland and the grounds of Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire.
He also designed for famous opera singer Adelina Patti at Craig-y-Nos, Breconshire, and many other municipal sites across the UK.
On the day of the official opening of Aberdare Park in the summer of 1869, most of the local shops closed and the church bells rang out in celebration as a grand procession, led by the Band of the Local Volunteers, marched from the town centre.
Pleasure boating began on the lake in 1887 when three rowing boats named Ruth, Naomi and Rebecca were donated by a local funeral director. Boats were reintroduced by the Council a few years ago and continue to be a popular attraction for residents and visitors alike.
The public baths, known as the Coronation Baths, opened on Coronation Day, 1902.
In 1910 the Council purchased the familiar bandstand, which remains in Aberdare Park to this day. A refreshment pavilion overlooking the lake was also opened in the same year.
The fountain, situated at the rear of the pavilion, was donated by Sir William Thomas Lewis, the first Lord Aberdare, and it was unveiled in 1911to commemorate the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, who visited Aberdare and Aberdare Park the following year. The King and Queen gifted two swans to Aberdare Park at the time.
The famous Aberdare Park Road Races started in 1950 and are as popular today as they have ever been - attracting thousands of visitors
Aberdare also hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1861, 1885 and 1956 – the latter being held in the park and the Gorsedd Stones are a lasting reminder of this event.
The Tour of Britain event also came to Rhondda Cynon Taf in 2016, with Aberdare Park being the official start point for one of the legs, featuring Olympic cyclists Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish MBE and Owain Doull MBE.
The Aberdare Park Celebrations on Saturday, July 13, are being organised by the Friends of Aberdare Park and supported by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
Posted on Wednesday 10th July 2019