A Potted History of Wales in the 20th & 21st Centuries

Peak of the coal mining industry in Wales, with more than 600 collieries employing over 230,000 men
The population of Wales exceeds two million, having doubled in 60 years
21 July Official opening of the Elan Valley Reservoirs by King Edward VII of England and Queen Alexandra; water starts flowing along 118 km of gravity-driven pipeline to the Frankley Reservoir in Birmingham
Construction of the original steel mill at Port Talbot is completed
28 October Cardiff is granted city status by King Edward VII
27 June An earthquake strikes near Swansea, causing some minor structural damage to buildings; measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, it is one of the most significant earthquakes to occur in the UK in the 20th century
National Museum of Wales is established in Cardiff by a royal charter
10 August Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales established
13 July Prince Edward is invested as the Prince of Wales in an elaborate ceremony at Caernarfon Castle
16 December The 1911 Coal Mines Act is passed, following a series of mine disasters in the 19th and early-20th centuries, including several in Wales; the Act amends existing laws covering safety and other aspects of the UK coal mining industry
A significant prehistoric metalwork hoard, thought to have been deposited in a sacred ritual, is discovered at Llyn Fawr when the lake is partially drained for the construction of a new reservoir
14 October A huge explosion at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd claims the lives of 439 men and boys; it is the worst mining disaster in the history of the British coalfields
18 September The long-awaited Welsh Church Act receives royal assent, but will not come into force until after World War I
6 December David Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; although not actually Welsh-born, Lloyd George grew up in Wales and he was the first Welsh-speaking British prime minister
Final closure of the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, which is dismantled nine years later
31 March The Welsh Church Act 1914 takes effect, allowing the creation of the Church in Wales which encompasses most of the Welsh part of the Church of England; The Act disestablishes the Church in Wales and establishes the Archbishopric of Wales; the first Archbishop is Alfred George Edwards
25 September Malcolm Campbell sets a world land speed record of 146.16 mph (235.22km/h) on Pendine Sands, Carmarthen Bay, in his Sunbeam 350HP car Blue Bird, the first of several successful record attempts on the Sands in the 1920s
5 August The Welsh social-democratic political party Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (meaning ‘The National Party of Wales’) is formed in Pwllheli, later changing its name to Plaid Cymru (or simply ‘The Party of Wales’)
May The first Urdd National Eisteddfod, a competitive youth festival of literature, music and performing arts, is held in Corwen, Denbighshire
October Closure of Newport’s “Old Dock”, as resources are concentrated on the modern Alexandra Dock complex
22 September A major explosion at the Gresford Colliery, near Wrexham, claims the lives of 266 men
Production of Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman), the first audio feature film recorded in the Welsh language
8 September Arson attack at RAF Penrhos ‘bombing school’ by three members of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru, known as the Tân yn Llŷn (Fire in Llŷn) protest; the culmination of an ongoing opposition campaign, it is considered to be a defining moment in the history of the political party
Welsh archaeologist WF Grimes excavates the tomb of Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire
Over 150 Iron Age metal objects are discovered in Llyn Cerrig Bach on Anglesey, evidently placed in the lake as votive offerings
1 January The British coal industry is nationalised as a result of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946; the move is unable to halt the decline in the Welsh coal mining industry and the repeated closure of Welsh collieries
June The first International Musical Eisteddfod is held in Llangollen
1 July A national open-air museum (originally called the ‘Welsh Folk Museum’) opens to the public at St Fagans Castle near Cardiff, the Earl of Plymouth having donated the site to the National Museum of Wales in 1946
5 July The National Health Service is established in the UK as one of a series of welfare reforms designed to guarantee basic levels of personal and social security after the Second World War
17 July Official opening of the Abbey Steelworks in Port Talbot; the new steel production plant is fully operational within two years
18 October Snowdonia National Park is designated as the first national park in Wales; it has a total area of 823 square miles (2,130km2) and incorporates Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales
29 February Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is designated as the second national park in Wales; noted for its spectacular coastline, the park covers a total area of 236 square miles (612km2)
23 October Completion of Elan Valley Reservoirs project, with the official opening of the Claerwen dam by Queen Elizabeth II
Further restoration work is carried out at Conwy Castle on lease to the UK’s Ministry of Works
20 December Cardiff is named the capital city of Wales

17 April Brecon Beacons National Park is designated as the third of three national park in Wales; incorporating Pen y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales, the park covers a total area of 520 square miles (1,347km2)
26 July Prince Charles is named Prince of Wales at the closing ceremony of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff (his investiture is delayed until July 1969)
Peak production at the Abbey Steelworks in Port Talbot: by the mid-1960s, the site has grown to be Europe’s largest steel-producing complex and the largest single employer in Wales, with a workforce of over 18,000
Closure of the original steel mill at Port Talbot; the site is demolished a few years later
17 August The Lower Swansea Valley Project is launched, with the aim of reclaiming the land that has been devastated by industrial processes over the past two centuries; the land will eventually house new developments such as the Maritime Quarter, a shopping complex, sports complex and industrial park
4 August The Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg) is established, to campaign for the right of Welsh people to use the Welsh language in every aspect of their lives
17 October The post of Secretary of State for Wales is created in the UK government when Harold Wilson appoints the MP for Llanelli, Jim Griffiths, to the new role
21 October Official opening of the Llyn Celyn reservoir, created by flooding parts of the Afon Tryweryn valley, including the village of Capel Celyn, for supplying water to Liverpool and parts of the Wirral Peninsula
14 July Plaid Cymru gains its first seat in the UK Parliament, as Gwynfor Evans wins the Carmarthen by-election
21 October The Aberfan disaster kills 116 children and 28 adults
27 July Parts of the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 that relate to the “dominion of Wales” are repealed by the Welsh Language Act 1967, allowing free use of the Welsh language in some political and legal proceedings
1 July Prince Charles is invested as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle; the televised event attracts a world-wide audience of 500 million people, the largest TV audience ever gained for an event in Wales
Opening of Pembrokeshire Coast Path, a designated National Trail in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales; mostly a cliff-top walking route, the path measures a total distance of 186 miles (299km)
10 July Official opening of Offa’s Dyke Path, a designated National Trail stretching for 177 miles (285km) along the Wales–England border from the Severn Estuary to the Irish Sea coast, with a visitors’ centre at the “half-way point” in Knighton, Powys
25 May The National Slate Museum opens to the public in Llanberis, Gwynedd
Opening of the South Wales Miners’ Museum in the Afan Forest Park, the first mining museum in Wales
The National Wool Museum is established at Dre-fach Felindre in Carmarthenshire
1 March In the first Welsh devolution referendum, the electorate votes against establishing a devolved assembly
The Big Pit National Coal Museum opens to the public in Blaenafon, southeast Wales
19 July An earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale strikes the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd, the largest earthquake to occur in the UK since instrumental measurements began
3 April Cardiff Bay Development Corporation is set up by the UK government to redevelop an area of Cardiff to produce Cardiff Bay
September Skerries Lighthouse becomes fully automated
Bodelwyddan Castle’s portrait gallery exhibition is named National Heritage Museum of the Year
Swansea City Council saves Swansea Museum from the threat of closure
18 September The second Welsh devolution referendum results in a small majority in favour of forming a devolved assembly for Wales
31 July The Government of Wales Act receives royal assent and becomes law, allowing a National Assembly for Wales to be established following elections to be held in May 1999
6 May In the first National Assembly for Wales election, Welsh Labour wins the most seats but falls short of an overall majority, resulting in a minority Labour administration
27 May Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, Prince of Wales, officially open the Welsh National Assembly at Crickhowell House in Cardiff Bay, a symbolic transfer of legislative powers from Westminster to Wales
26 June The Millennium Stadium, the Welsh national stadium in Cardiff, opens in time to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup

Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, later renamed the Principality Stadium

June Don Wales (grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell) sets a UK electric land speed record of 137mph (220km/h) on Pendine Sands in Bluebird Electric 2
30 June Cardiff Bay Development Corporation is dissolved, after the completion of a major regeneration project at Cardiff Bay
21 July Charles, Prince of Wales officially opens the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which has been open to the public since 24 May
14 September Penderyn whisky begins production at its distillery in the Brecon Beacons National Park; this is the first commercially available malt whisky made in Wales since the 19th Century
5 October After operating as a minority government for 17 months, the Welsh Labour Party agrees to form a coalition government with the Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Assembly; the coalition agreement is officially signed twelve days later
Glyndwr’s Way, a long distance footpath in mid Wales, is granted National Trail status; the footpath runs for 135 miles (217km) in an extended loop through Powys between Knighton and Welshpool
1 June Official opening of Cardiff Bay Barrage, one of the largest civil engineering projects in Europe
July Welsh communities pressure group Cymuned (meaning ‘Community’) is launched at a meeting in Mynytho on the Llŷn Peninsula; the group aims to protect and foster the Welsh language and way of life
16 September Actress Siân Phillips unveils a memorial statue to Catrin Glyndŵr in London, to commemorate ‘Glyndwr Day’
June The Newport Medieval Ship is discovered on the west bank of the River Usk during construction of Newport’s Riverfront Arts Centre
5 August Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales, is honoured by admission to the Gorsedd of bards
July/August Closure and demolition of Ebbw Vale Steelworks, resulting from the collapse of the international steel market
16 October The Banc Ty’nddôl sun-disc is recovered during archaeological excavations on a Bronze Age site at Cwmystwyth in central Wales
2 December Dr Rowan Williams is confirmed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury
The North Wales edition of the Daily Post separates from the Liverpool Daily Post to become a standalone title (Liverpool edition has since ceased)
29 March The Cob at Porthmadog is purchased by the Welsh Government and the road toll is discontinued after 192 years
1 May The second National Assembly for Wales election is held, resulting in a minority government by Welsh Labour who choose not to enter into another coalition agreement
19 June HRH Prince William of Wales visits Bangor and Anglesey, to mark his 21st birthday (on 21 June)
15 August A memorial to Owain Lawgoch, descendant of Llywelyn the Great, is unveiled at Mortagne-sur-Gironde, France
November A £1.1 million DTI grant is awarded to Energybuild, the private owner of the Aberpergwm Colliery in the Neath Valley, to upgrade facilities and allow new coal reserves to be accessed
21 November North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm, Wales’s first offshore wind farm, commences operation
1 March Penderyn whisky is officially launched in the presence of HRH Prince Charles; demand is so high that the whisky sells out almost immediately
13 March The market town of Cowbridge, one of the smallest and oldest walled towns in Wales, celebrates the 750th anniversary of its royal charter
26 November Official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre, a large arts centre in Cardiff Bay
29 January Cardiff’s David Morgan store, the largest independent department store in Wales, closes after 125 years of trading
26 May Big Pit National Coal Museum wins the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year 2005

Big Pit

13 July Prince Charles opens a new building to house the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum at Tywyn Wharf railway station in Gwynedd
October A Welsh language version of the board game Scrabble is marketed for the first time
17 October The National Waterfront Museum opens to the public in Swansea’s Maritime Quarter
19 October Liverpool City Council issues a formal apology for the flooding of the Afon Tryweryn valley to create the Llyn Celyn reservoir in 1965
1 December Outlying properties in the Nedd Fechan valley, near Ystradfellte in southern Powys, are connected to mains electricity, probably the last community in the whole of England and Wales to be wired
1 March The new National Assembly building opens in Cardiff Bay; designed by Richard Rogers and costing £67m, it is known as the Senedd (the Welsh word for ‘parliament’)
25 July Government of Wales Act 2006 comes into effect, conferring additional law-making powers on the National Assembly for Wales
1 April Prescription charges are abolished by NHS Wales; the Welsh Government is the first devolved government of the UK to remove these charges
3 May The third National Assembly for Wales election is held, resulting in a relative majority for Welsh Labour, while Plaid Cymru make considerable gains
27 June Labour and Plaid Cymru announce their intention to form a coalition government, and enter into the One Wales agreement which includes holding a referendum on full law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly
25 January Official closure of Tower Colliery in the Cynon Valley, South Wales, the last remaining deep coal mine to be worked in the whole of Wales
12 June Cardiff Castle opens a new interpretation centre at a cost of £6 million
12 September Completion of the Meridian Tower in Swansea’s Maritime Quarter; the Tower is the tallest building in Wales, standing at a height of 107 metres (351 feet)
20 November AM and Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones becomes the first person to use the Welsh language as a representative of the UK government at a European Union meeting in Brussels
22 October The St David’s Centre in Cardiff re-opens as one of the largest shopping centres in the United Kingdom after its multi-million-pound extension and the reconstruction of the surrounding area
18 March Marriage (Wales) Act 2010 brings the Church in Wales’ marriage regulations into line with those of the Church of England
12 May Cardiff-born Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan is confirmed as Secretary of State for Wales in the new UK government, the first woman to hold the post
25 May The Learned Society of Wales is launched at the National Museum in Cardiff
24 June Barry-born Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s first female prime minister
3 March A further Welsh devolution referendum is held, which results in the Welsh Assembly receiving full law-making powers on all matters in the 20 fields (subject areas) where it has jurisdiction
5 May In the 2011 National Assembly for Wales election, Welsh Labour wins exactly half of the contested seats and regains overall power in the Assembly
9 July The National Museum of Art opens in Cardiff, created with £6.5m of private and Welsh Government funding
1 October Wales becomes the first UK nation to introduce a minimum 5p charge on single-use plastic carrier bags
April New visitor centre opens at Conwy Castle
26–27 April Queen Elizabeth II makes a two-day visit to South Wales as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour; the visit includes engagements in Llandaff, Margam, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberfan, Ebbw Vale and Glanusk Park
5 May Opening of the Wales Coast Path, a long-distance walking route that closely follows the Welsh coastline for 861 miles (1,386km)
25 May The Olympic Torch starts its five-day tour of Wales, as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics torch relay; Gareth John, the chairman of Disability Sport Wales, is the first person to bring the torch onto Welsh soil
25 July The first events of the London 2012 Summer Olympics take place in Cardiff: two matches in the women’s football competition are held at the Millennium Stadium
12 November The National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012 receives royal assent; the first bill to be passed under the assembly’s new legislative powers, it gives the Welsh and English languages equal status in the assembly
31 December Rowan Williams retires from the position of Archbishop of Canterbury
February The Brecon Beacons National Park is granted International Dark Sky Reserve status, to restrict artificial light pollution above the park; it is the first such area in Wales, the second in the UK and only the fifth worldwide
2 July The Welsh Assembly brings into law a presumed consent (‘soft opt-out’) organ donation scheme, (officially adopted in December 2015)
12 September The Church in Wales passes a bill that will allow women to be consecrated as bishops
14 October On the centenary of Britain’s worst-ever mining disaster, the Welsh National Mining Memorial is unveiled within a dedicated garden at Senghenydd, in memory of all those who have lost their lives in the Welsh mines
Excavations carried out by the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, on parts of Offa’s Dyke near Chirk, place construction in the period 541–651 AD, with lower layers dating to as early as 430 AD, suggesting that the Dyke may have been a long-term project by several Mercian kings
29–30 April Queen Elizabeth II visits South Wales, two years after her previous visit for the Diamond Jubilee; her two-day itinerary includes Narberth, Picton Castle, Pembroke Dock, Ystrad Mynach and Llantwit Major
4–5 September The 2014 NATO Summit is held at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport; it is the first NATO summit to be held in the UK since 1990 and the first held anywhere in the UK other than London
15 April After a £12m restoration project, Cardigan Castle reopens as a heritage attraction and events venue
25 September Ford approves a new £181 million range of petrol engines to be built at its car manufacturing plant in Bridgend, South Wales, securing 750 skilled jobs at the facility; production of the new engines will begin in 2018
1 December Wales becomes the first nation in the UK to introduce a presumed consent scheme for organ donation, whereby adults are regarded as consenting to become donors unless they have specifically opted out
January The Millennium Stadium, home of Welsh rugby, is renamed the Principality Stadium
23 June In the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, a 52.5% majority of voters in Wales vote to leave the EU, with 47.5% voting to remain
22 February The British government confirms that MPs will be permitted in future to use the Welsh language during meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee
8 November Tata Steel announces its intention to invest £30m in its Port Talbot Steelworks, in a bid to safeguard the jobs of 4,000 employees at the plant, following plans to merge with German steel manufacturer ThyssenKrupp
20 March Planning permission is granted by Neath Port Talbot Council to restart coal production at Aberpergwm Colliery, the last surviving drift mine in Wales, after operations were previously suspended in July 2015
2 July Prince Charles attends a low-key ceremony to rename the Second Severn Crossing as the ‘Prince of Wales Bridge’, a move which is widely disliked by the Welsh public
January Completion of a major blast furnace upgrade at the Port Talbot Steelworks after a £50m investment by Tata Steel; this follows years of uncertainty at the plant, with particular concerns over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union
6 June Ford announces that its Bridgend Engine Plant will close in September 2020, with the loss of 1,700 jobs, blaming reduced global demand for the Ford GTDi 1.5-litre engine
3 July St Fagans National Museum of History wins the Museum of the Year award for 2019
13 January The Welsh Government approves the construction of a new bridge across the river Dyfi at Machynlleth, at a cost of £46 million
24 January The Slate Landscape of North West Wales is nominated by the UK Government for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
28 February Authorities confirm the first case of COVID-19 in Wales, an individual who recently returned from holiday in Italy
18 March The Welsh Government announces that all schools in Wales will close from the end of the week as a measure to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in Wales
12 April The new, temporary, Dragon’s Heart Hospital opens at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to admit its first COVID-19 patients
6 May The National Assembly for Wales becomes ‘Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament’ and its members become ‘Members of the Senedd’ (MS) (Aelodau o’r Senedd (AS) in Welsh)