The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
Historic Environment Record

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Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 01085w
Trust : Glamorgan Gwent
Community : Blaenhonddan
Unitary authority : Neath Port Talbot
NGR : SS7717699489
Site Type (preferred type first) : Post-Medieval dye works / Post-Medieval corn mill / Post-Medieval copper works / Post-Medieval tinplate works / Post-Medieval Iron works
Status : Scheduled Monument

Summary :
Aberdulais Falls water power site was in use for over 4 centuries. Its unlimited power caused a number of industries to gravitate around it, such as copper works, iron forging, fulling and dyeing, corn milling, and tinplate manufacture.

Description :
The water power site at Aberdulais Falls has been used by several industries over 4 centuries.

The earliest recorded activity was in 1584, when the falls were used to power the copper smelting works established by a German engineer, Ulrich Frosse, who founded the Mines Royal Copper Works.

By 1635 a fulling or tucking mill had been established on the site, and by 1667 there was also a dye house.

A forge (PRN 01871w) was probably established before 1700.

Around 1715 a grist mill was added to the complex and by 1764 there were three mills in operation, each with its own waterwheel. Flour production continued at least until 1806.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, the site attracted tourists in search of the picturesque, and was painted by artists including J M Turner.

In 1831 the Aberdulais Tinplate Company was established by William Llewellyn on the site. This was one of the earliest tinplate factories. The original site became known as the Upper Works after the enterprise expanded, within its first 20 years, necessitating the construction of the Lower Works on a more extensive site some 400 yards to the south, on the other side of the road up the Neath Valley (the site of the present calor gas depot). The two sites were connected by a tramway (PRN 00613.0w). Tinplate production continued up to the 1890s, when punitive tariffs on imports of tinplate to the USA made the buisness unviable.

Following the closure of the works, the site was sold off piecemeal. The Upper Works were eventually bought by Neath Borough Council in 1975, passing to the National Trust in 1981. A programme of investigation and consolidation is still ongoing.

This multi-period site has been dealt with at length by Hayman (see Hayman 1986); three periods of Ironworking have been identified at the site: Period II (from 1667) and Period IVa (c. 1819) and IVb (c. 1840). The earliest period relates to documentary evidence alone: in 1666 the Manor of Neath Ultra was purchased by John Llewelyn of Ynysgerwn from the Earl of Pembroke, and in 1667 Llewelyn recorded that a forge was erected on his holding near the falls (Hayman 1986, 148). Later ironworking (Periods IVa and IVb) relates to the 19th century concern; D. Rhys Phillips notes that an iron forge was operating in 1825 at the site, the proprietor, William Llewellyn, had previously worked for John Miers & Co at the nearby Dylais Forge and Ynysygerwn tin plate works (Hayman 1986, 149; Roberts 2013).

The features preserved in the archaeological record relate to the site’s 19th century phases of ironworking, such as the Phase I river wall, wheel pit and tailrace, and Tinplate manufacture, when major physical changes occurred (Hayman 1986, 151-161; Roberts 2013).

Recent archaeological work at the site, relates to the latter phases of the site (i.e. as a Tinplate Works, by c.1840 – c.1890) include a survey and record made of the wall revetting at the western side of the central area of Aberdulais Falls Works prior to consolidation. The survey indicated a single phase of construction, and that the wall was of typical 19th century build with an outer face of squared, coursed sandstone, with a core of sandstone rubble and river cobbles, all bonded with a grey mortar containing coal flecks. An original opening with faced sides and quoins in larger sandstone blocks, and sill, now lost; spanning the opening and projecting over the adjacent river was a group of three, or four broken girder ends, possibly the remains of a gantry, below were three iron wall-tie plates, and further downstream was a drain (blocked) set under the base of the wall (Hayman, 1994, Archaeological recording Aberdulais Falls works, Aberdulais, West Glamorgan Unpublished GGAT report; Roberts 2013).

Also, an evaluation on the remains of the tramroad (in use late 19th and early 20th centuries) associated with the Aberdulais Tinplate works, which uncovered an in situ lightweight tram rail, and a stone capped drain, among various finds (Hart, R, 2009, 'Aberdulais, Aberdulais Falls, Aberdulais, Neath Port Talbot’ in Archaeology in Wales 49, 92; Hart, R, 2009, Aberdulais Falls, Aberdulais, Neath Port Talbot: Evaluation Unpublished GGAT report; Roberts 2013).

Sources :
Lewis Stuart , 24/01/1985 , Discovery of an Old Wobbler Sets Poser
Roberts, R. , 2013 , GGAT121: Iron Production - Forges in Glamorgan and Gwent
01/PM Desc Text/Cadw/1995/Scheduled Monument Listings
02/Desc Text/Cadw/Full Management Report /11/01/2007/Copy in further information file.

Events :
E003111 : Aberdulais Falls (year : 2009)
E003795 : Aberdulais Falls works, Aberdulais, West Glamorgan (year : 1994)
E004291 : Iron Production - Forges in Glamorgan and Gwent (year : 2013)
E004293 : Aberdulais Falls (year : 2012)

Related PRNs : 95689, 01871w, 00163w, 01070.15w, 06890w

Compiled date :

Images :

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