Developing Neath Abbey Ironworks

Neath Abbey Ironworks is a unique site of world importance, being one of its kind in producing iron in its huge blast furnaces and at the same time being one of the greatest engineering concerns in Great Britain, making railway locomotives, marine engines, iron ships and stationary steam engines. These products powered the Industrial Revolution, and made Wales the first industrial society.

CADW have reported that the site is a high risk due to falling debris from elevated portions of the structure, so the site is only able to 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.

  • The site is flat, making access easy, especially for those with disabilities.
  • College students and trainees will be able to learn heritage building skills.
  • School teachers and pupils will be able to use the site to explore the history of Welsh businesses and its links with the wider world.  - This site can be used in relation to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.
  • FNAIC and Dyffryn Clydach Volunteers will be able to continue to work on the site and research its heritage.
  • Archaeologists and historians will have access to the site for excavations.

A feasibility study is the first stage of a long term project which will culminate in the opening of a heritage/educational centre. However, unless safe unsupervised access can be achieved the site’s full potential cannot be accomplished. A structural survey of the site was commissioned which described the current condition of the buildings and estimated costs for the repairs needed to make them safe. This work was divided into three categories: immediate, short and long term.



An archaeological survey of the site was undertaken in partnership with the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust. This was a ‘never been done before’ community archaeological excavation and exploration of the site in order to investigate through observation and recording, the buried archaeology associated with the Ironworks. A second objective was to train local volunteers in archaeological methodology including excavation and recording. 


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The feasibility study determined that it is possible to conserve this heritage site for future generations, and preserve the archaeological remains at a shallow depth below the existing ground.

Project details

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LEADER Local Development Fund
Neath Port Talbot
Developing Neath Abbey Ironworks


Peter Richards
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