The district was traditionally associated with the coal mining collieries, ironworks and tinplateworks of the South Wales coalfield and South Wales Valleys, although all have now closed;the town, which lies in the middle portion of the Ebbw valley, being situated on the south-eastern flank of the once great mining region of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire.
The area was part of the ancient Monmouthshireparish of Mynyddislwyn until the late 19th century. In 1892 a local board of health and local government district of Abercarn was formed. This became Abercarn urban district in 1894, governed by an urban district council of twelve members. Under the Local Government Act 1972 the urban district was abolished in 1974, becoming part of the borough of Islwyn, Gwent. Further local government organisation in 1996 placed the area in the county borough of Caerphilly. The former urban district corresponds to the three communities of Abercarn, Crumlin andNewbridge.
Abercarn is home to Abercarn Rugby Club which is a member of the Welsh Rugby Union.