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Neath

NEATH (Welsh, Castell-NMd), a municipal and contributory parliamentary borough, seaport and market-town of Glamorganshire, south Wales, prettily situated near the mouth of the Neath or Nedd, on the Great Western and the Rhondda and Swansea Bay railways, i\ m. E.N.E. of Swansea and 1835 m. by rail from London, via Badminton. The Neath and Brecon railway has a terminus in the town. Pop. (1901) 13,720. The principal buildings are the parish church of St Thomas (restored 1874), the church of St David (1866), a Roman Catholic church, and Baptist, Calvinistic, Methodist, Congregational and Wesleyan chapels; the intermediate and technical schools (1895), Davies's endowed (elementary) school (1789), the Gwyn Hall (1888), the town hall, with corn exchange in the basement storey, and the market-house. According to tradition lestynap-Gwrgan, the last prince of Glamorgan, had a residence somewhere near the present town, but Fitzhamon, on his conquest of Glamorgan, gave the district between the Neath and the Tawe to Richard de Granaville (ancestor of the Granvilles, marquesses of Bath), who built on the west banks of the Neath first a castle and then in 1129 a Cistercian abbey, to whose monks he later gave all his possessions in the district. All traces of this castle have disappeared. Another castle, built in the same century, on the east bank, was held direct by the lords of Glamorgan, as the westernmost outpost of their lordship. It was frequently attacked by the Welsh, notably in 1231 when it was taken, and the town demolished by Llewelyn ab lorwerth. The portcullis gate and a tower are all that remain of it; of the abbey which was at one time the finest in Wales, there still exist the external walls, with parts of the chapel, vaulted chapter-house, refectory and abbot's house. This abbey was the spot where Edward II. found shelter after his escape from Caerphilly. At the dissolution the abbey and the manor of Cadoxton (part of its possessions) were sold to Sir Richard Williams or Cromwell. Its cartulary has been lost. Copper smelting has been carried on in or near the town since 1584 when the Mines Royal Society set up works at Neath Abbey; the industry attained huge proportions a century later under Sir Humphrey Mackworth, who from 1695 carried on copper and lead smelting at Melincrythan. Besides its copper works the town at present possesses extensive tinplate, steel and galvanized sheet works as well as iron and brass foundries, steam-engine factories, brick and tile works, engineering works, flannel factories and chemical works. In the neighbourhood there are numerous large collieries, and coal is shipped from wharves on the riverside, vessels of 300 or 400 tons being able to reach the quays at high tide. The Neath Canal, from the upper part of the Vale of Neath to Briton Ferry (13 m.) passes through the town, which is also connected with Swansea by another canal. There is a large export trade in coal, | copper, iron and tin, mostly shipped from nieghbouring ports, while the principal imports are timber and general merchandise. Neath is included in the Swansea parliamentary district of boroughs.

The town perhaps occupies the site of the ancient Nidus or Nidum of the Romans on the Julia Maritima from which a vicinal road branched off here for Brecon. No traces of Roman antiquities, however, have been found. Neath is a borough by prescription and received its first charter about the middle of the 12th century from William, earl of Gloucester, who granted its burgesses the same customs as those of Cardiff. Other charters were granted to it by successive lords of Glamorgan in 1290, 1340, 1359, 1397, 1421 and 1423. By the first of these (1290) the town was granted a fair on St Margaret's Day (July 20) and as the abbey had extensive sheep walks the trade in wool was considerable. In 1685 James II. granted a charter, which, however, was not acted upon except for a short time.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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