Those who live here think of Porthcawl as a special place, with a community spirit, and wonderful walks and scenery on the doorstep. Many people who have visited over the years have memories of buckets and spades, day trips, and dances at the pavilion. Porthcawl is all that – and much more. And it’s for everyone – residents and visitors, tourists and shoppers – because that’s what makes the town.
While much stays the same – enough to remind us of its past – a great deal has changed with the times. Over the last decade, the promenade has been upgraded and improved, John Street has been pedestrianised, access roads to the town have been improved, and the Wilderness lakes were the focus of an exciting new project. New shops and businesses continue to open, even in difficult economic times. And we wait with anticipation for the regeneration of the sea front area.
Some of the delights the town and the area have to offer include the cleanest beaches in South Wales, numerous golf clubs, a National Nature Reserve, a Norman church at Newton, to name just a few.
We are fortunate to have a theatre on our doorstep in the form of the Grand Pavilion. Besides providing entertainment through concerts, plays and musical shows, the Pavilion often hosts events organized by local groups. Many events have now become regulars on the annual calendar – the Porthcawl Carnival, the Sea Festival, the Jazz weekend, the Celtic Festival, the Christmas Lights Switch-on – and of course the Elvis Festival. Others such as Carols in the Pavilion and the Summer Music celebration are becoming regular features.
In 1999, Porthcawl was twinned with St Sebastien sur Loire in northern France. The fact that the twinning, and the friendship, is still going strong is a matter of great pride to all the people involved in this international initiative.
Construction of Porthcawl as a town started in the early 19th century when it was decided to build a harbour to service the expanding coal and iron industries of the South Wales valleys.
The most influential family in the expansion of Porthcawl was probably the Brogden family from Sale, Manchester. John Brogden and his sons specialised in railway construction, iron-ore mining and coal mining. Their company bought a major share in Tondu ironworks and mined coal in the Ogmore valley. The Brogdens were instrumental in linking Porthcawl to the iron and coal mining industries of the valleys by rail.
Adjacent to Porthcawl are two older settlements, the village of Nottage and the village of Newton, but with the expansion of Porthcawl over the years these have become absorbed into the town. Newton has a 12th century Norman Church.
To the northern end of Porthcawl is Kenfig Nature Reserve, which is one the most important sites in Britain for nature conservation. It is a site of special interest and has many thousands of species of animal and plant life, including the rare Fen Orchid.
It was after the First World War that Porthcawl expanded as a popular seaside resort. In 1932 the Grand Pavilion Theatre was built. Part of the harbour was enclosed to create an area known as Salt Lake. This was very popular with swimmers, and small boats were also available for hire.
Porthcawl has many sandy beaches and to the southern end of Porthcawl is the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, which is also to become a site of special scientific interest.