When William Edwards constructed his bridge over the river Taff at Pontypridd in 1756 he was pushing the boundaries of 18th century bridge engineering to the limit. It was the largest single span bridge in the country and it must have been an achievement tinged with sadness. William's father had died when he was a child trying to ford the Taff on horseback.
William worked with his sons, until his death aged 72, building bridges and using the experience gained at Pontypridd to avoid costly mistakes. His obituary noted that 'his fame was diffused through the kingdom and his assistance sought whenever difficulties occurred in constructing bridges'.
For 40 years William was also a non-conformist minister at Groeswen Independent Chapel near Caerphilly and he became known as 'the Builder for both worlds… Adeiladydd i'r ddeufyd'.
Groeswen Chapel is a grade 2* listed building and the graveyard contains the remains of some of Wales most notable preachers, musicians and literary figures, earning the Chapel the title of 'Westminster Abbey of Wales'. Edwards himself is buried in nearby Eglwsilan Churchyard.
The Pontypridd bridge became a landmark of importance, painted by many. When Turner toured Wales in 1798 he sketched Edwards' by now famed bridge.
Where to Visit?
Edwards' bridge still stands and is now a pedestrian bridge crossing the Taff. You can find out more at Pontypridd Museum, which stands beside the bridge and has a fascinating collection of historic images.
William was also the minister of Groeswen Independent Chapel. Tending his congregation and building bridges for forty years earned him the epitaph 'A builder for both worlds… Adeiladydd i'r ddeufyd'. A bronze tablet in the chapel remembers William. The graveyard is the resting place of many well known preachers and musicians, although Edwards is buried in Eglwsilan Churchyard nearby.
01 January 1738
07 August 1789