"BRITON-FERRY, a parish in the hundred of NEATH, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 2 miles (S. W.by S.) from Neath, containing 416 inhabitants. This place, called in the Welsh language Llansawyl, derives its name from an ancient ferry over the river Neath, established here from time immemorial, and communicating with the opposite shore, from which there is an agreeable ride over Cremlyn Burrows to Swansea.
The Neath here expands into a channel of considerable breadth, and falls into Swansea bay, a little below the harbour : the navigation has, within the last few years, been greatly improved, at an expense exceeding £4000, raised by subscription among the proprietors of the coal, copper, and iron works in the neighbourhood, and of other persons interested in the trade and prosperity of the town of Neath, to which place the river has been rendered safely navigable for ships of two hundred. and fifty tons' burden. The Neath canal, which passes through a district abounding with mineral wealth, terminates at this place, after a course of about fourteen miles : the wharfs are at a place called Giant's Grave, where upwards of sixty thousand tons of coal and culm are shipped annually. It has been for some time, in contemplation to construct a bridge over the river at this place, and to make a road across the Burrows to Swansea, by which a distance of seven or eight miles in the present route of the mail would be saved, and the merchants of that thriving and opulent town would gain two hours in the arrival and departure of the post. At present, persons on horseback and on foot save this distance between Swansea and the eastern part of the county by crossing Briton Ferry, the fare of which is one penny for each man and the same for each horse.
Nothing can surpass the beauty of this sequestered spot; embosomed in hills of picturesque and romantic appearance, skirted by shady woods, fertile vales, and luxuriant meadows, the scenery is strikingly beautiful and richly diversified : in some parts there are fine views of the sea, from which the woods appear to arise. The atmosphere is mild and temperate, and the air soft and salubrious : the arbutus, the myrtle, the magnolia, and other exotics grow luxuriantly in the open air, and the environs abound with the richest verdure and most luxuriant foliage. The advantages of its situation, and the favourable opportunities for sea-bathing, may at no distant period render this the favourite resort of families who are fond of retirement, and of invalids whose state of health requires the benefit of a temperate climate. Hitherto the accommodation for visitors has been extremely deficient; but since the Vernon Arms, a house of great respectability on the banks of the river, has been conducted by the present tenant, every regard is paid to the comfort of families, for whose use suitable apartments have been provided, and who may be boarded upon terms as reasonable as in a private family. Attached to the building is excellent stabling, with lock-up coach-houses, and every requisite for their entire accommodation.
The mansion house of Briton-Ferry, which for many generations was the property and residence of the Mansels, one of the most ancient families in this county, is a spacious building, adapted more to comfort and family accommodation, than remarkable for magnificence of character : the situation commands extensive marine views, and prospects over a tract of country richly cultivated and abounding with objects of interest. The Briton-Ferry estate, originally comprising nearly forty thousand acres, distributed through not less than forty parishes in South Wales, was devised to the youngest brother of the Earl of Jersey, on whose death it passed to the present earl, who has reduced it to about eight thousand acres in the immediate vicinity: the mansion has been for some time deserted, and will probably in a short time be taken down, or converted into an inn.
The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaf, endowed with £400 private benefaction, and £ 600 royal bounty, and in the patronage of the Earl of Jersey. The church is a neat structure; and the churchyard, remarkable for its picturesque appearance, has been celebrated in an elegy by the poet Mason, who, with Gray, occasionally visited at Baglan House, then the residence of the Rev. William Thomas. The Earl of Jersey pays £ 5 per annum towards the instruction of four poor children, and the Countess gives £ 10 per annum to be laid out in the purchase of flannel, and distributed among the poor of the parish. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor amounts to £149.19."