Neath Port Talbot
Funding amount:

Developing Neath Abbey Ironworks through heritage-driven regeneration as an accessible living asset.

people at event

Project description:

CADW have reported that the site is a high risk due to falling debris from elevated portions of the structure, so the site can only be accessed under the supervision of the Friends of Neath Abbey Iron Company (FNAIC).  Despite these limitations, in the past two years the site has been completely transformed from a derelict dumping ground into a community space by the removal of vegetation damaging the archaeological remains and the clearing of illegal refuse.  However, despite this transformation, unless safe access can be guaranteed, it is hard to see how the full potential of this site can be sustained.

Even though this is an important heritage site of world importance, it has never been archaeologically investigated. FNAIC secured LEADER funding for a feasibility study to investigate conserving the site and making it safe for public access. An archaeological survey was also commissioned to increase the community’s knowledge of the Ironworks. 

The local community and visitors to the area will have free access to the site, not only to learn about its history but as a leisure facility for walking and relaxation.

What will the project achieve?


  1. The structural, archaeological and biodiversity surveys have been undertaken.
  2. Engagement with a variety of organisations
  3. Contributed towards the following National Strategies:

Priorities for the Historic Environment of Wales

  • Cadw: Community Archaeology Framework
  • Prosperity for All: the national strategy Taking Wales Forward
  • The Welsh Government Strategy for Tourism 2013 – 2020, Partnership for Growth
  • Shared Purpose: Shared Future Statutory guidance on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015
volunteer litterpick

Adding value to local identity and natural and cultural resources.

  • Publicised this project extensively within NPT and surrounding counties, by giving and attending talks, events and sharing its history and importance in our Welsh industrial heritage to over 500 people (rural/non rural and out of county).
  • Established a sound volunteer base and a strong following through social media websites.
  • Built up a ‘community’: all working together regularly; removing rubbish tipped at the site for years and following a maintenance plan of clearing vegetation and overgrowth.
  • Hosted many walks and tours of the site.
  • Held a well-supported community archaeological dig.

The Ironworks has international historical importance and associations, which have been downplayed and largely ignored in the narrative of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The Ironworks is a ‘place that changed our world’ and FNAIC are attempting to remedy this historical oversight and raise the profile of Wales in the history of the Industrial Revolution.

Regenerate NPT Priorities: Green and Vibrant NPT

Renewable energy was important in the Ironworks; investigating the water-wheel pit generated local interest. We removed rubbish tipped at the site over many years, managed vegetation that was damaging the scheduled monuments and promoted the site to local people and visitors. This has been important to local economic regeneration.

Who are the project beneficiaries?

Local Communities & Business’ by attracting Tourism to the area.

What was the result of your project?  

NAIW could be a unifying force, which brings together communities across generational, ethnic and socio-economic divides. It already tackles feelings of isolation which many elderly people suffer from by engaging them in meaningful activities but without safe access to the site, much of this work will be lost. Extending the benefits of engaging with the local heritage at NAIW is vital.

The recommendations of the structural survey will be adhered to, as will those of the archaeological survey.

To ensure safe access in the future, grant funding must be gained for the conservation of the site.

Even though society is generally getting wealthier, this increased affluence does not always filter down to individuals and communities in poverty. This project has attempted to remove barriers which exist to hinder people, and help them to achieve their full potential. In the short term, this project has improved the lives of local people by opening the site up to guided tours, so that people can enjoy the rural and tranquil atmosphere that exists there, and encouraged people to exercise by using it for walks on guided tours.

  • This project has endeavoured to prevent poverty, by investing in children, young people and adults. Wales has to compete in a global economy, and one way to improve our standard of living is for people to study STEM subjects, thus improving their skills and giving added value to the economy. FNAIC have encouraged the community to increase their interest in the STEM subjects, especially engineering, through guided tours and talks.
  • The project has aimed to reduce inequality at the earliest possible stage and break the link between socio-economic disadvantage, educational under-achievement and impaired life chances by encouraging the study of STEM subjects, and abolishing the poverty of aspiration. It has been accessible to the local community, and not been metropolitan based in a large city.

What were the challenges?

Initially, there was a lack of clarity of the definitions of KPIs.

The necessity of being paid in arrears we found very difficult.

We sought financial advice regarding getting loans for funding of £25,000 from two sources.

FNAIC, as a small charity, could not afford this, and the time delay would be difficult in meeting deadlines. Charitable incorporated organisations are set up in such a way that there is no liability for the trustees. This makes financial institutions loath to lend to them.

This problem meant that one of the trustees has had to provide a loan from his life savings to pay the contractors in advance. This meant that the trustee had to lose interest on his savings, and take a large personal financial risk with regards to this loan.

What’s next for your project?

The recommendations of the structural survey will be adhered to, as will those of the archaeological survey.

To ensure safe access in the future, grant funding must be gained for the conservation of the site.

Further project information:

Peter Richards
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