Crossing and re-crossing the Thaw


My interest in a weather worn plaque set in the wall where the High Street joins Eastgate made me curious when I read what was still readable; it commemorated the widening of a bridge over the River Thaw  in 1911! The wall was actually the bridge parapet.

The River Thaw at 12.4 miles is the longest river within the Vale of Glamorgan from the source just south of the M4 near Llanharry to where it flows into the Bristol Channel. The Welsh word Aber usually means Estuary so one can see where Aberthaw Power station obtained its name.

But where it passes through Cowbridge was my interest. Prior to 1950 the Thaw flowed past the Brewery, which closed in 1955 and is now a private residence. It then crossed under the road between High Street and Eastgate turning West alongside the road and turning South where it flows now, alongside what was then the Blue Bell Inn.

Part of the Plaque reads;



Why? Possibly the narrower bridge got blocked or in weather like we have had in the winter of 2013/14 could not take the volume of water and on times flooded the road.

The photo shows the Dignitaries, including the Mayor Mr David Tilley celebrating the official opening of the Bridge. Also note the water flowing alongside the road before turning left behind T. Tucker’s second hand furniture shop. The men leaning over the parapet to the right have water carriers reminding us that piped water did not come to Cowbridge until 1927.

Cowbridge embraced the motoring age with enthusiasm. An early ariel photo of High Street showed a total of 8 petrol pumps from Midvale Motors (now Tesco) up to Barclay by the Old Hall.

So the decision to build a modern garage where Tuckers Store was, with a covered forecourt welcomed. A concrete slab was laid over the River to bridge the gap between the road and the forecourt.

Many readers will remember the Bridge Garage before it was demolished to build Riverside Mews.

Unfortunately the bridging of the gap with a slab caused frequent blockages of the Thaw and the now very busy road was often flooded as this photo from 1948 shows.

It was decided to straighten out the river and divert it to where a small stream already flowed between the Buildings and J. Hopkins & Son Monumentalist premises, now Penny Lane. The stream, now a very small rivulet can be seen curving around the back of the Town Hall Car park.

One can see the archway of the tunnel that allows the stream to pass under the road just above the shoulder of the third gentleman from the right.

In 1950/51 the Thaw was diverted to its present route. The Blue Bell Inn was demolished in 1969 to build the Filco Supermarket.

The plaque and parapet are all that remains physically to commemorate a small part of Cowbridge’s history.

The Cowbridge Charter Trust are pleased to say that we have raised sufficient funds to restore the plaque and work is in progress. 21st December 2015

Put together by Harry Hailes, Trustee.  

Kind acknowledgements to the Cowbridge History Society and Cowbridge Museum for info and photos.

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