The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868
"NEATH, a parish, market town, seaport, municipal and parliamentary borough, in the hundred of Neath, county Glamorgan, 8 miles from Swansea, 30 N.E. of Cardiff, and 2083 from London by the South Wales section of the Great Western railway, on which it is a station; it has also a station on the Vale of Neath line. A steamer runs to Bristol twice a week. Though small in size, Neath is a very active port, being the vent for all the produce of the busy and prosperous vale in which it is situated. It is placed on the eastern bank and near the mouth of the river Neath, or Nedd, which here opens out to a considerable breadth, and has likewise water communication by means of the Abernant and Swansea canals. Though vessels of from 300 to 400 tons can get up the river to the quays at high tide, the trade is chiefly carried on by barges on the canal between the town and Briton Ferry, or Giant's Grave, which lies about 2 miles lower down towards Swansea Bay, of which it is a subport. The harbour, though capacious, is obstructed by a bar at its mouth having from 11 to 17 feet water. It enjoys much prosperity, being placed in the heart of the great coal-field of South Wales, by the resources of which many extensive copper, tin, and iron-works, and other works of a similar character, have been set going. The town is of great antiquity, occupying the site of the ancient Nidus, or Nidum, mentioned by Antonine, on the Via Julia and Sarn Helen Roman roads. It was given by Robert Fitzhamon, the Anglo-Norman baron, who first conquered the country from the Welsh princes, to his brother, Richard de Granville, ancestor of the noble families of Granville, Marquis of Bath; Granville, Duke of Buckingham; and Lord Granville. He rebuilt the castle of Jestyn-ap-Gwrgan, of which there are now but scanty remains, and subsequently founded the Cistercian abbey called Abbaty Glyn Nedd, or, the "Abbacy of the Vale of Nedd." This latter structure, once "the fairest abbey in all Wales," as described by Leland, is now a ruin defaced by the smoke and coal dust of the neighbouring extensive copper and iron works. Its history is fully given in Tanner's "Notitia Monastica," but all that now remains are the external walls with parts of the chapel, vaulted chapterhouse, refectory, and abbot's house. The architect was one Lalys, who also built Margam and Laleston. It became the sanctuary of the unfortunate Edward II., who took refuge here after escaping from Caerphilly, but his retreat being discovered, he was compelled by the monks to quit, and one of them, as the tradition goes, betrayed him into his enemies' hands at Llantrissant Castle. At the Dissolution its revenues were returned at £132, and the site granted to the Cromwells, from whom it comes to Lord Dynevor. The town is not remarkable for the neatness of its appearance, the spirit of trade having not diffused itself in well paved streets, these being in general narrow, badly paved and pitched. The principal public buildings are-the townhall, having a corn market in its basement story; a new market-house, commercial branch bank, mechanics' institute, and union poorhouse. There are two immense blast furnaces, an iron foundry, steam-engine factory, tin-plate, fire-clay, and chemical works, these last producing sugar of lead, vitriol, and the purest alum in the kingdom. Two extensive copper works, belonging respectively to the Crown and Mines Royal companies, are situated to the S. on the right bank of the river, and are connected with Swansea Harbour by means of Tennant's canal, which runs from Aberdylais to Swansea. The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in the export coal and iron trades, in the numerous factories, and in the neighbouring collieries and mines, with which the whole valley abounds. Neath is a borough by prescription, and was first chartered by Edward II. Under the new Corporations Reform Act it is governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, with the style of "portreeve, aldermen, and burgesses of the borough of Neath." It has a revenue of £1,080, and is one of the five contributory boroughs with Swansea in returning one member to parliament. The petty sessions for the hundred of Neath are holden here, and the midsummer quarter sessions for the county. The new County Court is held here every month for the recovery of small debts. It is also the head of a Poor-law Union embracing thirteen parishes and townships in Glamorganshire, and two in Brecknockshire. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Llandaff, value with Llantwit, £353. The parish church, dedicated to St. Thomas, is a large though poor structure, with an ancient tower and some hatchments of the family of Mackworth of Gnoll. There are besides eight chapels and numerous schools. Gnoll, the ancient seat of the Mackworths, is a large mansion on a hill overlooking the town, and was recently the scene of a celebrated educational speculation by Mrs. Bullock Webster, who proposed to turn it into an university, but the speculation failed, and the house is now for sale. Here are also Davies's schools with an income from endowment of £60, and Gibbs's almshouses. The parochial charities produce altogether about £65 per annum. The principal antiquities are the extensive ruins of the abbey mentioned above, and a good gateway and towers remaining of the ancient castle, also a Druid circle on Drymma Hill, and traces of the Roman road Sarn Helen. In Glyn Neath, near Pont-neath-Vaughan, are the falls of Mellte and Hepste. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs are held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, on the 31st July, and 12th September."
"ABERDULAIS, a hamlet in the parish and union of Neath ?, in the county of Glamorgan, 2 mines N.E. of Neath, at the confluence of the rivers Dulais and Neath. Here are considerable iron and tin works."
"MELIN-CRYTHAU, a hamlet in the parish of Neath, county Glamorgan, 1 mile E. of Neath. It is situated on the Swansea canal and bay, near the mouth of the Neath river, and had extensive copper and coal works, belonging to the Mackworks of Gnoll."
"SKEWEN, a village in the parish and hundred of Neath ?,, county Glamorgan, 2 miles from Neath. It is situated on Swansea Bay, near the mouth of the Neath river. It is a curacy in the diocese of Llandaff, value £130, in the patronage of the crown and bishop."
? Actually in Cadoxton-juxta-Neath parish
[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2018