Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for NEATH

NEATH, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in Glamorgan. The town stands on the river Neath, the Neath canal, the Julian way, the Sarn Helenway, the South Wales railway, and the Vale of Neath railway, 8 miles N E of Swansea, and 37¾, by railway, W N W of Cardiff. It dates from very early times; and wascalled Nedd by the ancient Britons, and Nidum or Nidus by the Romans. A castle was built at it by Jestynap Gwrgan; and was rebuilt by Richard de Granville, towhom Robert Fitzhamon gave the manor at the conquest of Glamorgan. An abbey was founded on the bank of the river, about ½ a mile from the town, in 1111, by Richard de Granville; belonged at first to Grey friars, but passed to Cistertians; was visited by King John, in 1210, on his way to Ireland; was visited also by Edward I. in 1284; gave temporary refuge to Edward II., after his escape from Caerphilly; made a great figure in the subsequent history and fortunes of the town; and hasleft some interesting ruins. The British forces, underthe sons of Caradoc ab Jestyn, whose lordship extended from the Taw to the Avon, attacked the Norman lordsat Neath, in the time of King Stephen; made so terriblean onslaught that so many as 3,000 men are said to have been slain in the conflict; and so completely routed thesurvivors that they fled for refuge to the several castles of Gower. Llewelyn ab Jorwath and Morgan Gam laidsiege to Neath castle and burnt it in 1231; and at the same time set fire to the houses of the town and destroyed many of the inhabitants. The manor was givenby Richard de Granville to the abbey; went, at the dissolution, to the Cromwells; passed to the Hobys, the Mackworths, and the Grants; and belongs now to Lord Dynevor. Gnoll, on a hill above the town, was the seat of the Mackworths and the Grants; became the subject of a famous educational speculation by Mr. Bullock Webster, who proposed to turn it into a university; and was put up for sale in 1860. Remains of the castle, including a good gateway and towers, still exist in the centre of the town, but amount to a mere shell, and are surrounded by low dwellings of artizans. The ruins of theabbey are extensive; retain an original crypt, and otheroriginal portions of so fine a character as to have induced Leland to describe the pile as "once the fairest inall Wales; " consists largely of parts of the church, inearly English and early decorated architecture; and include buildings of Tudor date, erected by Sir P. Hoby, who converted the priory-house into a private residence.

The town is sheltered by lofty hills, and surrounded by a country naturally beautiful and healthy; but existsnow in an atmosphere of smoke, and presents a dingyappearance. The streets are narrow, yet well-built; and contain a large aggregate of good shops and good dwellings. The town hall is a handsome modern edifice, with a corn-market in the basement story. The parish church is large and ancient; was altered and extended in 1865; has an ancient tower, and a new aisle and new chancel, the latter laid with encaustic tiles; and contains somehatchments of the Mackworths. St. David's church was built in 1866-7; has several stained-glass windows in thechancel; and contains gas-fittings and other metal-work of ornate character. A Wesleyan chapel was built in 1867; and there are seven other dissenting chapels. There are also good public rooms, a good public library, a philosophical institution, endowed schools with £60 a year, alms-houses, and a work-house. The town has a head post-office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, a banking office, and a good hotel; is a seat of petty-sessions, and a polling-place; and publishes a weekly news-paper. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and fairs, on the last Wednesday of March, Trinity Thursday, 31 July, 12 Sept., and the last Wednesday of Oct. Great wealth of minerals exists in the surroundingcountry, and up the vale of the Neath; and, with aid of abundant conveyance by canal and railway, gives form and substance to local trade. Large establishments, called the Crown Copper works, stand adjacent, on theright bank of the river; and are connected with Swanseaharbour by means of Port-Tennant canal. There are alsotwo great blast furnaces, an iron foundry, a steam-enginefactory, tin-plate works, fire-clay works, and chemicalworks. Vessels of 200 tons come up to quays at the town; barges ply on the canal, up the vale of Neath, and down to the mouth of the river at Briton-Ferry; and a large export trade is carried on, both in the produce ofneighbouring mines, and in the produce of the local factories. A steamer also plies twice a-week to Bristol. The town was chartered by Edward II.; is governed, underthe new act, by a mayor or portreeve, 4 aldermen and .12 councillors; and unites with Kenfigg, Loughor, and Swansea, in sending a number to parliament. Its borough limits, both municipally and parliamentary, comprise all Neath parish, and part of Blaenhonddan hamlet. Pop. in 1851, 5, 841; in 1861, 6, 810. Houses, 1, 354.

The parish comprises 1, 121 acres. Real property, £35, 973; of which £2, 402 are in canals, £11, 103 in railways, and £250 in gas-works. Pop. in 1851, 5, 778; in 1861, 6, 734. Houses, 1, 341. The increase of houses, to a large extent, was on the Gnoll estate. The pop. of 1861 included 160 persons on board vessels, and 75 in the workhouse. A Druidical circle is on Drymma hill. The living is a rectory, united with the p. curacy of Lantwit, in the diocese of Llandaff. Value, £353.* Patron, the Marquis of Bute.—The sub-district contains also the parishes of Briton-Ferry, Baglan, and Lantwit-juxta-Neath. Acres, 20, 183. Pop. in 1851, 10,065; in 1861, 13, 462. Houses, 2, 514. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Margam, containing the parishes of Margam, Aberavon, and Michaelstone-super-Avon, and the hamlet of Higher Llangynwyd; the sub-district of Cadoxton, containing the parish of Killybe-bill and six hamlets of Cadoxton; the sub-district of Llansamlet, conterminate with Llansamlet parish; the sub-district of Ystradgunlais, containing the parishes of Llanguick and Ystradgunlais, the latter electorally in Brecon; and the sub-district of Ystradvelltey, containing the parish of Glyncorrwg and three hamlets of Cadoxton, electorally in Glamorgan, and the parish of Ystrad-velltey, electorally in Brecon. Acres, 162, 817. Poor-rates in 1863, £18, 322. Pop. in 1851, 46, 471; in 1861, 58, 533. Houses, 11, 137. Marriages in 1863, 461; births, 2, 421, of which 121 were illegitimate; deaths, 1, 259, of which 520 were at ages under 5 years, and 21at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 4, 115; births, 20, 487; deaths, 11, 337. The places of worship, in 1851, were 25 of the Church of England, with 6, 109 sittings; 27 of Independents, with 10, 291 s.; 17 of Baptists, with 4, 249 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 154 s.; 2 of Unitarians, with 135 s.; 17 of Calvinistic Methodists, with 5, 892 s.; 6 of Wesleyan Methodists, with1, 255 s.; 1 of Primitive Methodists, with 60 s.; 1 of Bible Christians, with 140 s.; and 3 of Latter Day Saints, with 60 attendants. The schools were 38 public day-schools, with 3, 894 scholars; 27 private day-schools, with 551 s.; 108 Sunday schools, with 11, 135 s.; and 4evening schools for adults, with 103 s.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Neath AP/CP       Neath SubD       Neath PLU/RegD       Glamorgan AncC
Place: Neath

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