On reaching the main road, in the 20th Century we would have seen The Wesley Chapel opposite. It was built in 1878, but demolished early in the early 2000s.  We now pass the Terminus Inn, just below the White Gates on the main Skewen road. This used to be the terminus for the gas trams that ran from 1897 to 1920 from Skewen to Villiers Street, Briton Ferry, a distance of about four miles. It was a very unusual form of public transport for, apart from Neath, only Blackpool used it. In 1897 Neath's horse-drawn tramway system had been converted to using gas engines, the gas being stored in cylinders under the tram car. It travelled through the centre of Neath town (where its depot - now a garage) can still be seen today on London Road. The gas trams travelled at a maximum speed of 8 m.p.h. and could carry forty two passengers, some inside and the rest on the top deck. In 1919 it cost 4 d. to travel from Neath to Briton Ferry on it. Below the Terminus Hotel stands St. John's Church, parish church of Skewen.
St. John's Church

 It was consecrated in 1850. Today it has a plaque in memory of Sir T.S. (Sam) Evans, Liberal M.P. for Mid Glamorgan and close friend of Lloyd George. He was born in Skewen's main street and his parents had kept a grocery shop there. He was responsible for obtaining a grant to build the Carnegie Hall in 1905. He became President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (the highest judge in the country) but died in 1918.

The Neath Abbey area has had a long association with copper-smelting since the 17th Century. There was a Mines Royal Copper works on the right bank of the Clydach river at a spot where this river joins the Neath River and Sir Humphrey Mackworth is known to have been concerned with the smelting furnaces there in 1707. In 1694, too, a copper battery mill had been erected at Cwmfelin in the Clydach valley on land leased from the family of Philip Hoby, lord of Cadoxton manor, and this was still working in 1780. Next, Dr. John Lane, a Bristol chemist, set up a new mill for smelting copper and lead ores at Neath Abbey but it was abandoned in 1716. Under the Mines Royal Society in the last decade of the 18th Century there were thirty eight furnaces for smelting and refining, and it is recorded in 1796, "Ores smelted this week, one hundred and thirty six tons. Copper made seventeen tons, coal burnt three hundred and fifteen tons". In January 1798 the Workmen came out on strike for better wages. The Mines Royal continued to operate here until about 1862. But today at Neath Abbey the remains of the Mines Royal copperworks have vanished beneath the foundations of a modern motorway.
Evidence of their work still remains however. In many places in Neath Abbey and Skewen  the tops of stone walls are finished with half-round black stones. These are a by-product of smelting. The slag from the furnaces was run off into moulds and allowed to cool. The resulting solid was very durable, and made an ideal finishing brick. If you look closely at the material, you can still see flow lines.  

Coping stones made from copper slag  close up of slag brick

As we again approach Neath Abbey gateway, we pass the site of Ebenezer Chapel on our right.  Like The Wesley, this too was demolished in the early 2000s. The first Chapel was built on the site in 1832, and was replaced in 1881 by a larger establishment.
Ebenezer Chapel, Neath Abbey

Having reached the junction of Taillwyd Road and eventually the Cwrt Herbert roundabout and the Neath Abbey ruins, we have completed our circular tour of the Community of Dyffryn Clydach.

top       next   

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional