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Cowbridge (Welsh: Y Bont-faen) is a market town in the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, approximately 7 miles (11 km) west of Cardiff(12 miles west of Cardiff Bridge). Cowbridge is twinned with Clisson in the Loire-Atlantique department in northwestern France. Cowbridge is part of the Cowbridge with Llanblethian community (civil parish) which elects a Town Council.
The town lies on the site of a Roman settlement identified by some scholars as the fort of Bovium (cow-place). Recent excavations have revealed extensive Roman settlement; the town lies alongside a Roman road. There are 17th century references to a 'cow-bridge' over a tributary of the river Thaw (which flows through the town) but Cowbridge's Welsh name, Y Bont-faen, means literally 'the stone bridge'.
The town centre is still arranged on its medieval plan, with one long street divided into "burgage plots". It is one of very few medieval walled towns in Wales, and substantial portions of the walls, together with the south gate, are still standing. On 13 March 1254, Cowbridge received its first borough charter from Richard de Clare, the Lord of Glamorgan. Richard de Clare was one of the most powerful Barons of the day, having huge estates stretching across much of South Wales and also lands in southern and eastern England. The town walls were built following this, sometime in the latter half of the 13th century. From 1243 de Clare was actively extending his authority in Glamorgan; in 1245 he seized the manors of Llanblethian, Ruthin and Talyfan from Richard Siward, and the lordships of Miskin and Glynrhondda from Hywel ap Maredudd. In Llanblethian he founded the town of Cowbridge and in Miskin he founded the castle and town of Llantrisant. The largely medieval church of the Holy Cross was initially a chapel of ease to the parish church at Llanblethian. In 1307 Earl Gilbert de Clare, grandson of Richard de Clare, began work on the stone fortifications of St Quintins Castle in Llanblethian. The Battle of Stalling Down was fought near Cowbridge between an English army, serving King Henry IV of England, and a combined force of French and Welsh soldiers under Owain Glyndŵr in 1403. Details of the battle, its exact site and its outcome are scant, but the site has been recognised by Cadw for possible inclusion in a Register of Historic Battlefields in Wales.
Cowbridge clock tower. It was presented to the town by the Bishop of Llandaff in 1836.
The 18th century antiquary, Iolo Morganwg, inventor of the present-day rituals of the National Eisteddfod of Wales, kept a bookshop in the High Street, the location of which is now marked with a plaque inscribed with the words Y Gwir yn erbyn y Byd ("Truth against the world") in Roman and ogham script. It was just outside the town that he held the first meeting of the Gorsedd, an assembly of bards, in 1795. Cowbridge Grammar School was founded in 1608 and had close links with Jesus College, Oxford through its later benefactor, Dr Leoline Jenkins. Its famous pupils included the poet Alun Lewis and the actor Sir Anthony Hopkins. The old grammar school eventually merged with Cowbridge High School for Girls to become a comprehensive school, and the original buildings, having for some time lain derelict, have been converted into private accommodation. The present Cowbridge Town Hall, a building whose foundations date back perhaps as far as the Elizabethan era, served as a prison until 1830, when it was converted into a town hall to replace the former Guild Hall, demolished at that date. The New Palladian Town Hall was built in 1830 by Isaiah Verity of Ash Hall who in gratitude was made a Freeman of Cowbridge. The money for the reconstruction was raised by public subscription.
Eight of the original prison cells are still intact, six of which house the exhibits of Cowbridge Museum. The remainder of the building is used by the town council and for public events. The museum holds archaeological finds from Cowbridge and district, as well as displays on the later history of the town, including industrial and domestic artefacts, a photographic collection, and a small historical costume collection.
The main street contains a number of Georgian houses, including the former town houses of important local families such as the Edmondes and Carnes. The Carnes' town house is known as Great House, a Grade 2* listed property of Medieval origin. Cowbridge contains the following inns: the Bear Hotel, the Horse and Groom, the Edmondes Arms, the Duke of Wellington and the Vale of Glamorgan. The latter is located at the premises of the former Vale of Glamorgan Brewery.
Closely attached to the town of Cowbridge is the village of Aberthin. Aberthin contains two inns; The Hare and Hounds and The Farmers Arms.
Cowbridge once had a railway station, which opened in 1865 and closed in 1951.
On the 21 March 1950 a Bristol Freighter (Registration: G-AHJJ) on a test flight took off from Bristol Filton Airport. The aircraft crashed near Cowbridge after a structural failure of the fuselage. It caused the aircraft to entre spin and crash. The accident killed all four passengers and crew on board.
Cowbridge was named one of the best places to live in Wales in 2017.
An electoral ward with the same name exists. This ward includes Cowbridge but stretches south to Llanfair. The total population of the ward taken at the 2011 census was 6,180.
Cowbridge Comprehensive School has approximately 1500 pupils, and is one of the best performing secondary schools in Wales. It achieved 94% A*-C at GCSE in 2010. The school was located on three sites, with the Lower School in the south-west of the town and Middle School and Sixth Form in the north-east. Cowbridge Comprehensive School completed a major redevelopment in September 2010 to bring the entire school to one site (the former Middle School/Sixth Form site) using Welsh Assembly Government funding.
In September 2010, the new school was officially opened to students. All approximately 1300 students can now be found on the one site instead of the three separate buildings that were all situated in different locations in Cowbridge. The former sixth form site on Aberthin Road is now derelict and awaiting redevelopment.
Y Bontfaen primary school in Borough Close has a roll of about 245 including the nursery Y Blodau Fach. Ysgol Iolo Morganwg with Y Meithrin ("the nursery") is adjacent and is a Welsh speaking school.
Cowbridge is home to Cowbridge RFC a Welsh Rugby Union affiliated rugby union team, which fields two senior, a youth and ladies team. Cowbridge Cricket Club first played in 1840 and now has six senior and junior teams and is affiliated to the South Wales Cricket Association. Notable cricketers who have played for the club include former test players Hugh Morris, John Clay, Tony Lewis, C F Walters and on one famous occasion Douglas Jardine. Among the many county cricketers produced by the club are the Glamorgan players Ben Wright and Alex Jones. Glamorgan CCC played county fixtures at Cowbridge in the 1930s.
Cowbridge also has a leisure centre where can be found various clubs including, tennis, football and badminton. Behind Cowbridge Leisure Centre is Cowbridge Bowling Club and tennis courts.
September 2009 also saw the reintroduction of senior football to Cowbridge Town after a ten-year absence. Starting in the third tier of the Vale of Glamorgan Amateur Football League the team achieved great success in their first season back, achieving an unlikely cup-promotion double.The 2011-12 season saw the club gain their second promotion in three years to reach the premier division.
Cowbridge is also home to the Cowbridge Amateur Dramatic Society (CADS), based at the Market Theatre. CADS was formed in 1947 and aims to stage three main productions each year. The Society also publishes a newsletter, "The Thespian", three or four times each year.
Until 1997, when it 'outgrew' the Town Hall stage, Cowbridge was also home to the Cowbridge Amateur Operatic Society (CAOS). Founded by a small group of enthusiasts, its first production was "The Pirates of Penzance" in 1969. CAOS continued its Gilbert and Sullivan theme until 1974, when the show of the year was "Die Fledermaus". Still going strong, and having grown a youth wing (Total CAOS), CAOS is now based at Llantwit Major.
Since 2004, the town has hosted the annual Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival. Currently, the festival takes place in late spring having originally taken place every October. The festival incorporates various food and drink exhibitors, food court and fringe festival. Many of the town's inns hold beer, ale and cider events.
In 2010 the Cowbridge Music Festival was founded which takes place every autumn in various venues throughout the town. The festival is made up of classical music, jazz and folk music and boasts an excellent outreach programme. In 2014 the acclaimed violinist Nicola Benedetti became the festival's patron.
Cowbridge History Society was created in 2013 out of a merger between the former Cowbridge & District Local History Society (founded in the 1970s) and Cowbridge Record Society, publishers of several books on the topics relating to the history of the town. It holds monthly meetings at the Town Hall throughout the winter and funds a Local History Studies Room (the "Jeff Alden Room") containing archival material.