The meaning of the word "Gallt" is 'slope' or 'rocky', and as this rocky slope reflects the bright fire of the sun, it was quite natural for whoever gave it this name, to do so. As can be seen, Alltwen stands on a lovely winding hillside, East of Pontardawe, and is sheltered from the consuming East wind by the old rock which has its name connected to the place,and called "Craig yr Alltwen".
The district has its history, and possibly nothing keeps its name alive in the sight of the world more than the ministers that have come from there, one after the other. Who has not heard of the Venerable Griffiths,Tynycae, and the late Rev. Rhys Rhys ?
60 years ago, there were only a few small yellow cottages to be seen on the Graig, apart from the local farmhouses. Some of these smallholdings have been pulled down and replaced by better ones; and many still stand to tell their story to the present age. An old thatched roof house stands on Craig Road, where Edward Mathias lives at present. Three more can be seen on Alltwen Square in front of the Inn called "The Triangle". One of the people living in one of these was a lady called by the natives, 'Gwenny Will Rhys' and she kept a shop, with 'Dic Joseph' (Richard Davies) and his cobbler's shop behind it, facing the Inn. There was also 'Gwenny Ben Machine' and others. These houses were pulled down around 1894, and the angular piece of land surrounded by hewn stones was given to the parishioners of Cilybebyll by Mrs Moore Gwyn, of Dyffryn, and through the efforts of the first parish council in the place, a memorial to Howell Gwyn of Dyffryn was raised there in the form of a fountain, in 1895.
One could see another row of similar houses called "Tai Bwlch y Gwynt" above the "Colliers Arms", Alltwen, owned by Evan Jenkins of the "Colliers Arms". Old Evan David, Alltwen, lived here, and his daughter and grand-daughter after him. Also David Morgan, or Dai Will Morgan as he was called lived here along with others.
But when we go back over 160 years ago, the numbers were even less. I understand that according to the story handed down by the old folks, the road that goes through Alltwen towards Neath did not exist at that time, and the date of the building of the bridge over the Tawe confirms this. It was built in 1757 as mentioned in another page. The land from Cross Hands to Alltwen chapel was only wet and muddy fields, and the old residents had to use this unpleasant way to reach the first small chapel of Alltwen.
There was a road coming from the direction of Neath, passing the houses of Cilhendre and down to Alltwen Isaf, and on to the river Tawe, past Glyndolau to Ynyscedwyn. It was along this road that coal was carried on the backs of mules from Graigoleu to the Ynyscedwyn Tinplate works. There was a road branching off this road near Glyndoleu going up through Graig Gellinudd and under the Cwmnantllwyd railway, past the old Gellinudd factory over Gelligeuros land, and out through Ty-yn-yr-heol near Cilybebyll Mansion. Another road also started from the same place going up past Penllwynteg and out again by Ty-yn-yr-heol.
These old roads were very narrow. Parts of them can be seen about the parish today, with hardly room to take a carriage through them, with their wheels brushing the hedges on each side. In some places the road was made for two purposes ---- as a road, and a brook. These roads were not made for carriages but for pack animals.
Another road --- the oldest in the area according to all the signs and history,--- is the one that runs across Graig yr Alltwen. One of the Roman roads --- it comes down from the upper part of Cilybebyll over Tynygraig and down past Pen yr Alltwen farmhouse where Llewelyn Williams lives, and on past Tynycoedcae over the land of Cilhendre Ganol; then over the mountain to Neath Abbey near Skewen.
A new road was built between Cross Hands and Cilybebyll, and from there down to Rhosbrynhir. This road was a parish road for many years, and part of it still is. At the beginning of this century, the County Council took over the road from Cross Hands to Gellinudd. They widened it, and made a new road from Gellinud up to Gors, and out near the rise in the road from the direction of Alltwen to Rhosbrynhir. Many new roads have been opened in the last forty years. Railway Terrace was in existence but was narrow with no houses. Also Edward Street, both on Twmpath y Morgrug farm, and also Dyffryn road. There was some sort of a road from the "Triangle", Alltwen, over the Graig to the Infants school where a wall bordered the Dyffryn estate and the Cilybebyll estate, and a carriage could not be taken beyond this wall, but there was a 'stickle' in the wall for pedestrians to cross over and get out to Graig Road near the quarry.
After, or rather, during the building of the Infant school, a road was opened across the Cilybebyll estate, and the removal of this boundary was quite an aquisition to the locality. Most of the houses in Railway Terrace, Graig Road, Edward Street, Dyffryn Road, High Street, Derwen Road, Collier's Lane, and Gwyn Street, were built during the last 40 years,and most of the occupants own their own houses until the leases expire, and then no one knows whether it will be the descendents of the owners or the descendents of the landlord that will get hold of them. That decision is in the hands of the landlords, unless new land laws are made by the government.