In the middle of February, 2020, South Wales got hit by Storm Dennis, one of the most intense extratropical cyclones ever recorded. Many areas of South Wales experienced more than a month’s worth of rainfall within a period of less than 48 hours. Record gusts accompanied the rainfall, and across Wales hundreds of residences were flooded out and their residents displaced. The River Taff burst it’s banks around Pontypridd, and flooded the town centre, and parts of the surrounding communities.
Late in the evening on February 15th, the River Taff surged through Treforest, under the Machine Bridge (barely avoiding the road that runs over it), and down to the Castle Inn Bridge a few hundred yards down-river. The rising waters, carrying lots of debris from further up the valleys, smashed into the old stone bridge’s arches. Murky waters flowed over the walkway that leads to Cardiff Road, and flooded into the houses and businesses along the riverbanks. Parts of the bank fell into the swollen river, pavement and paving stones were torn up, and sections of the Castle Inn Bridge walkways were damaged and dragged into the waters.
Large debris such as barrels hit the bridge repeatedly, and a large tree branch was forced through the steel latticework along the walkway. Incredibly, a huge steel shipping container was washed away from an allotment up-river, and smashed repeatedly against the bridge, before eventually being pulled under the arches and sent toward Upper Boat.
Pipework and brickwork were torn from the ageing structure, and by the time the rivers finally receded over February 16th, the local authorities cordoned off the bridge from public use.
The Castle Inn Bridge (also known simply as Castle Bridge) appears on a 1829 map of the Newbridge area (Newbridge would eventually be renamed Pontypridd), and the bridge is generally assumed to have been built in the early 19th century.
Built of rubble stone, the bridge had three arches, and the deck of the bridge was ramped from the west side at Castle Street, to the east side on Cardiff Road. There were footways on each side that were late 19th century additions, that projected outwards and were carried on steel girders. The latticework steel parapets along the walkways splayed out at the ends, except for the north-eastern side where the parapet is missing.
Tramways used to run through the Broadway in Treforest, and a set of tramway tracks along the bridge, connecting the Treforest Tin Works to the set of tramlines on the nearby Machine Bridge. This allowed the tin to be weighed and moved on to other transport options such as the Glamorganshire Canal. These tracks were in existence until at least the early 20th Century.
By the 1950’s the tramways had gone, and the bridge was instead used by local road traffic, connecting Rhdyfelin to Treforest and beyond, in conjunction with the Machine Bridge. Eventually, it was decided by the authorities that the road traffic was too excessive for the bridge, and the bridge was repurposed solely as a footbridge.
By the early 21st century, the former road across the deck had become the main walkway, and the two older, outer walkways had been fenced off to safeguard pedestrians from any steel failure below. Despite it’s tatty appearance, the bridge was now also Grade II listed as a good example of a 19th century former road bridge.
Nature of course, shows little respect for a structure’s listed status.
Sadly the damage inflicted upon the bridge via Storm Dennis seems to have been enough to sound the death knell for the two centuries old landmark. Rhonnda Cynon Taff councillors revealed at the start of March 2020, that the bridge was to be demolished.
While the human cost of the storm is paramount, and not to be understated, I’ll still be very sad to see this old bridge disappear, and I’m sure any replacement will lack the charm and character of the old stonework. The bridge has been a frequent feature of my walks to and from my job, and it’ll be hard to see that history be demolished soon.