Evidence of Neath Port Talbot’s proud industrial past is everywhere you look.
From our network of canals which transported coal to the coast, to our decommissioned mines set deep into the scenic valleys, and generations of families whose lives were shaped by our area’s heritage.
Neath Port Talbot played a crucial role in the Industrial Revolution and the rapid growth of Wales’s coal industry.
Our long and proud industrial heritage dates back to the 16th century when the port of Neath was developed, enabling our area’s coal industry to grow rapidly
Thanks to this crucial infrastructure, industries including copper smelting, tin plating and ironworks were developed and cemented Neath Port Talbot among the nation’s coal mining hubs.
In 1584 copper smelting began at Aberdulais Tin Works, followed by iron smelting and corn milling, and finally a tin plate works was built in 1830.
Following the success of Aberdulais Tin Works and the area’s continued industrial growth, Neath Abbey Ironworks was founded in 1792.
The site was world renowned thanks to its reputation for building iron ships, and built the world’s first 1,000 ton iron sailing ship.
Alongside this its highly skilled engineers also built locomotives, marine engines, and beam engines.
And as the coal industry continued to grow, the Neath and Tennant Canal was built to help transport coal from the mines to Swansea Docks, and aided significantly in moving cargo to ships.
Visitors can still enjoy walking along the canal and seeing the working lock gates, which were vital in supporting the area’s industrial success.
Over the decades Neath Port Talbot has continued to play a major role in the progression of the industry.
In the 1920s Cefn Coed Colliery opened and was recognised as one of the deepest anthracite mines in the world plunging to a depth of 2,500ft underground.
By this time over 5,500 men were working throughout the mines of the Dulais Valley, with our area’s industries playing a major role in the daily lives of most families.
Since then, coal and iron has given way to steel and the mines have now closed.
However, Port Talbot Steelworks is an ever-present reminder of our area’s position as a superpower on the world manufacturing stage.
The plant, which employs thousands of people, is one of the largest steel plants in Europe and has capacity to produce five million tonnes of steel slab per annum.
Despite the modernisation of our industries one thing has never wavered – the passion and pride people throughout our area demonstrate for their rich industrial heritage.
Many of Neath Port Talbot’s former industrial works have been turned into heritage sites to allow new generations of visitors to uncover our proud past.
In 1976 the South Wales Miners’ Museum opened in the Afan Valley and became the first mining museum in Wales. This landmark site takes visitors back on a journey through the area’s proud mining heritage and features both indoor and outdoor attractions.
Sites like this, delve into our area’s fascinating history, and celebrate the people who devoted their lives to putting it on the map as a world leader in manufacturing and coal mining.
To find out more about our proud industrial heritage and take a tour through our world-renowned industrial sites plan your visit here.