"MICHAELSTON super AVON, a parish, comprising the Upper and Lower divisions, which separately maintain their own poor, in the hundred of NEATH, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 6 1/2 miles (S. S. E.) from Neath, and containing 1050 inhabitants, of which number, 793 are in the Lower division.
The name of this parish is derived from the dedication of its church to St. Michael, and its distinguishing adjunct from its situation on the river Avon, which falls into Aberavon bay in the Bristol channel. The parish, which is pleasantly situated in the Vale of Avon, within a mile and a quarter of the town of Aberavon, through which passes the turnpike road from Cardiff to Swansea, comprises a large tract of country, of which nearly one-half is mountainous, and the remainder good arable and pasture land : the soil is tolerably fertile, and the inhabitants of the Upper hamlet are altogether employed in agriculture.
The village, which is in the Lower hamlet, is pleasantly situated in a sequestered part of the vale, which, till within the last few years, was rarely visited by strangers : it formerly consisted only of a few solitary cottages thinly scattered on the hills, but the mineral wealth with which the mountainous district of the parish abounds has effected an important change, and the establishment of various works has completely transformed it into a scene of cheerful activity, the population having increased above sixty per cent. since the census of 1821. Numerous comfortable cottages have been built for the accommodation of the workmen, a handsome modern residence for the proprietor of the works, and a beautiful cottage for the minister of the parish, who was previously non-resident.
The parish abounds with iron-ore and coal, a large vein of the latter, from ten to twelve yards in depth, having been recently discovered. In the coal are often found vegetable impressions of fern and reeds ; and a fine specimen of what is conjectured to be an extinct species of the palm, or fern tree, has been recently found : it is part of the trunk of the tree, about two feet and three-quarters in length, and one foot and a half in diameter, and consists of what geologists call carboniferous sandstone ; the higher and lower parts of the tree are still in the ground. The works established at Cwm Bychan are chiefly for the manufacture of pyrolignous acid, sugar of lead, and tin plates, and afford employment to about four hundred men. Fire clay is also found in the parish in great abundance and of good quality. A rail-road from the works communicates with the shipping-place at Taibach, near the mouth of the river Avon; and another extends from the coal-works along the left bank of that river, where vessels can lie in safety while waiting for their freight.
A portion of the lower division of the parish is included within the new boundaries of the contributory borough of Aberavon.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaf, endowed with £800 royal bounty, and £800 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of Mr. Coke, to whom belong the tithes of the Higher hamlet : those of the Lower are the property of the Earl of Jersey. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, and pleasantly situated on the western bank of the river Avon, is a small edifice of great antiquity, in a very dilapidated condition, and contains an ancient altar-tomb, with an inscription which is now nearly obliterated. There are two places of worship for Calvinistic Methodists.
A school-room has been built by the proprietors of the works in this parish, for the instruction of the children employed in them, the school being supported chiefly by monthly contributions from their parents.
The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor, during the few years immediately preceding March 1829, amounted to £54, of which sum, £20 was formerly assessed on the Lower hamlet, but its proportion is much larger now, in consequence of the improvements in this division of the parish.
MICHAELSTON (UPPER), a hamlet in the parish of MICHAELSTON super AVON, hundred of NEATH, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 4 1/2 miles (S. E. by S.) from Neath, containing 257 inhabitants. Prior to the introduction of mineral and chemical works into the Lower hamlet, this formed the more considerable portion of the parish, and paid two-thirds of the poor's rate the average annual expenditure for the support of the poor is £34."