|The two blast furnaces as seen from the bottom in 2001. The railing at top left is alongside the main Swansea-London Railway.|
In the early years of the 19th Century under the managership of Joseph
Tregelles Price (1786-1854), the son of Peter Price, the Works changed from
bulk ironworks to a precision engineering establishment. It rose to become one
of the greatest engineering concerns in Great Britain, producing railway locomotives,
marine engines, iron ships and stationary steam engines. The Works produced
the cast iron rails for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and George Stephenson
visited Neath Abbey to see the rails being produced. Sir Benjamin Baker of Forth
Bridge fame served his apprenticeship here. Upstream from the furnaces was a
forge and rolling mill which, being constructed in 1825, used water from the
Clydach River. The Works continued to build every kind of steam engine until
about 1875 when the Price Quaker family closed it. After a brief attempt to
revive iron working there, the Neath Abbey Ironworks finally closed in 1885.
Recently Neath Borough Council acquired the site of of the blast furnaces and
hopes to restore it for visits by the public. An modern aerial
view can be seen on
Top view of one blast furnace
as seen from Longford Road, showing recent work to expose the interior.
The plaque at the front is shown in the next picture.
Detail from previous picture.
The text is bilingual. The English is:
"This upper section of the west face of blast furnace No. 2 was unearthed on the 8th June 2004. This structure is part of the former Neath Abbey Iron Works, which was operational on this site between circa 1792 to 1885.
This plaque was unveiled by His Worship The Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Councillor Glyn Rawlings, on 1st December, 2004.
Only a few yards from the Ironworks site one can still read on its tall house, Ty Mawr, a plaque which was put up in 1936 to commemorate the achievements of Joseph Tregelles Price in fields other than iron-making. For this devout Quaker, a lover of peace, could have amassed a fortune by manufacturing armaments during the Napoleonic Wars but instead he would make only implements of peace - like ships, lighthouses and engines. His great achievement was to found a Peace Society in 1816, a hundred years before the League of Nations! He persuaded most European countries to meet in London to join it and became the Peace Society's first president. He tried, too, to save Richard Lewis, known as Dic Penderyn, a leader of the Merthyr Riots, from the gallows by taking a petition up to Parliament but failed to prevent his execution in 1831. From a local point of view Price's most important legacy is Neath Abbey Infant's School, run on the monitorial system, today the oldest school in the Neath area.
It had originally been set up by his father Peter in 1815 in the Ironworks itself -partly funded by stoppages, from a halfpenny to two pence, from the workers wages - but Tregelles Price had separate premises built for the school to move to in 1825, on the site of today's school some 300 yards along the main Swansea road from the Ironworks. It became the Dyffryn Clydach (Neath Abbey) British Schools in the late 19th Century. A Tregelles Road was named after Price in Longford.
A contemporary wrote these lines about him:
"Joseph Price, Joseph Price,
Thou art mighty precise,
Methought the other night in a dream
That thou really walked,
Slept, ate, drank and talked
And prayed every Sunday in steam".