Heritage Guide of Skewen: a Tour Through Time

1.  Skewen Railway Station

The station was opened in 1882 by the Great Western Railway as Dynevor Station. It was renamed in 1904 and re-sited a little to the east in 1910. It was closed in 1964 but re-opened as part of the Swansea initiative in 1994.

2. Careg Bica/Mynydd Drumau

The monument comprises the remains of a standing stone which probably dates from the Bronze Age. The stone is a monolithic slab of local sandstone and rises to 4.3m high. It has significant archeologic potential with a strong probability of intact burial or ritual deposits. It is situated (Lat.51.6794/51 Long.3.8457) on Mynydd Drumau (a Marilyn mountain at 892ft).

3. Neath Abbey & the Tudor House

Neath Abbey, a Cistercian Monastery, was established in 1129 by a Norman Knight, Sir Richard de Granville. It housed over 50 Monks plus many lay brothers. King Edward 11 took refuge here in 1326 and c1405. It was attacked many times by Welsh rebels including supporters of Owain Glyndwr. It became one of Wales’ wealthiest abbeys and was at one time the largest abbey in Wales but was dissolved in 1539 with the last Abbot, Leyshon Thomas, reduced to working one of the small coal mines in the area.

Within the substantial ruins are the remains of a large Tudor house, at one time the property of Sir John Herbert. Only inhabited for approx. 100 years, the Abbey site then became a scene of industry with a copper smelting plant, furnaces, workshops and workers’ dwellings.

The remains of the Gatehouse can be seen behind railings near the old school building on New Road, Neath Abbey.

4. Neath Abbey Ironworks

The Fox Family, Cornish Quakers, built the Ironworks in 1792 on the banks of the River Clydach. It was a pioneer in the development of steam engines and in 1806 it made its first engine, then beam engines and went on to make iron paddle and screw steamer ships, and later steam locomotives. The whole process was done on site from smelting ore, processing the pig iron to designing, building and repairing engines.  
It closed in 1886.


5. The Tennant Canal

The canal was constructed by George Tennant for industrial use in 1821 to link the River Neath with the River Tawe. Evolving from the Glan-y-Wern Canal and the Red Jacket Canal, the original 8 miles ran from the Aberdulais basin to the mouth of the River Tawe in Swansea. It is now an important resort for nature conservation and makes a very pleasant and tranquil walk that includes a fen and an area of wet woodland at Jersey Marine. It has SSSI* status (SINC 226) and the site is known to be used by otters and important bird species such as kingfisher, sedge warbler, peregrine and kestrel.

6. Tennant Park & Skewen Rugby Club

The Town Council owns and maintains the 9 acres of the Park and its football pitches, changing rooms and playground. Originally used for tipping waste, in 1930 Tennant Park became a site for recreational use.  On the 6th May 1935 it was conveyed as a deed of gift to the Local Council by Alexander J S Coombe Tennant. 

The Rugby Club was founded in 1883 and is one of the oldest clubs in the region. The club originally played on fields near Burrows Road but in the same modern-day colours of black & amber.  It moved to Tennant Park in 1936 and in 1967 the old facilities were replaced by the present-day clubhouse.

7. Red Jacket Pill and the Wharf

The pill was a barge lock that was built by William Kirkhouse in 1817 to allow vessels of up to 60 tons to lock out of the River Neath and reach Swansea by means of an earlier canal built in the 1780’s.

8. Light Vessel 72 at Neath Abbey Wharf

Light Vessel 72 was built for Trinity House in 1903 as an unpowered navigational aid. Now resting neglected and rusty on the mudbank at the Abbey Wharf. In 1944 Light Vessel 72 “Juno” guided landing craft to Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. It was sold for scrap but saved by the Steel Supply Company manager, Ian Jones, and has been added to the National Historic Ships Register (number 143). The Wharf, aka Abbey Wharf or Quakers Wharf, now mostly dismantled was used to export coal from early days.

9. Sir Samuel Thomas Evans

Sir Samuel was born in 1859 and died in 1918. He is buried at St John’s Church in Skewen.  A plaque at 40 New Road Skewen marks the family home. Sir S T Evans was a Solicitor, QC., MP, Solicitor General and President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court, one of the highest offices in the legal world.  He was the Liberal MP for a Mid Glamorgan seat until 1910. He championed the Welsh Nationalist Movement with his friend, David Lloyd George. After his death, a marble bust was unveiled in the Middle Temple, dedicated to this accomplished Parliamentarian.

10. Carnegie Hall & Library

Located at Evelyn Road, it was opened in 1905 by American Lady Blanche Evans, wife of Sir S T Evans, on a site donated by Mrs Dorothy Coombe Tennant. Sir Samuel and Lady Blanche Evans were instrumental in obtaining a grant from the Carnegie Trust towards its construction.

 Today, it still houses a modern library for books and computers plus rooms for hire to the community. 

11. War Memorial 1914-1918 and 1939-45

The War Memorial is situated outside the Carnegie Library and commemorates the fallen of both world wars. The original grey granite obelisk only named the fallen of WW2 but the Skewen Historical Society later researched and added the names of local soldiers who died in WW1 to a black composite plaque fixed to the rear of the original obelisk.

12. Skewen Park

The park was opened in 1929 by the local council from land purchased from the Tennant Estate and is situated in the centre of Skewen.  Within its 32 acres of parkland are a children’s playground and paddling pool, a skate park, bowling greens, tennis courts, cricket field and football pitch.

13. Memorial Hall

At the entrance to Skewen Park is the Memorial Hall that houses the Town Council Offices and a hall for hire. The Hall was built partly from monies raised from the donations of local people.

14. St John the Baptist Church

Set on the hillside overlooking lower Skewen, St John’s Church was built in 1850 in Early Decorated Gothic style to a design of the architect R C Saunders. The church has an exposed timber roof and stained glass by Clayton & Bell. The churchyard contains many interesting graves including Commonwealth War Graves and that of Sir S T Evans. 

15. The Great Crymlyn Bog

The Great Crymlyn Bog is the largest lowland fen in Wales with extensive reed and sedge beds and stretches some 2 square miles from the west of Skewen to the sea. Awarded SSSI* status, there are board walk trails through the heart of this National Nature Reserve. Crymlyn Bog is one of the most important wetland sites in Europe and its survival is remarkable considering its location near to industrialised Swansea.

16. Camera Obscura

The camera obscura was built in approximately 1867 along with the now demolished Jersey Marine Hotel by local entrepreneur Captain Ian Evans for the locally popular Jersey Marine beach resort.  Captain Evans owned the Vale of Neath Brewery and various local mines. It is now part of a popular wedding venue at The Towers Hotel & Spa at Jersey Marine.

17. The Milestone

Milestones were compulsory from 1767 at all turnpikes to inform travellers of direction and distance. In 1888 County Councils were given responsibility and the Glamorgan County Road Board was established.

At New Road, Skewen, the milestone reads “Western District – Neath 2 Swansea 6 miles – Hamlet of Coedffrank.”

18. Tabernacl Chapel

Tabernacl is a Welsh Independent chapel situated on Tabernacle Street. A Grade 11 listed building, it was first built in 1842, rebuilt in 1859 and enlarged in 1897 in the sub-classical style of the gable entry type. Opposite the chapel is the old Sunday School building.

19. Y Capel

Y Capel Methodist Chaple, a Presbyterian Church of Wales of simple design was built in 1842 origin-ally as a schoolroom, also used for Sunday worship. It was effectively the first church in Skewen.   The building sits on the junction of Old Road and Burrows Road.

20.  Llandarcy Village

Llandarcy village is a conservation area that was built as a garden village, its construction following the lines of the Cadbury village, Bourneville, Birmingham. It housed the employees of the National Oil Refinery / BP Oil Company (1921-1999), the first oil refinery in the United Kingdom. The village was named after William Knox D’Arcy founding director of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (forerunner of BP) and consisted of exactly 100 houses and flats.

The new “Model Village” of Coed Darcy sits on the site of the now demolished refinery.

21. The Woods

Coed Maesmelin (Brithdir, Darren, and Stanley) is an ancient woodland of oak and beech, the habitat of the rare Blue Ground Beetle, (Carabus Intricatus) once thought to be extinct.

The mixed broadleaves and conifers shelter bluebells and herb rich grasslands. A public bridleway runs through the site which is managed by the Woodland Trust.

22. Ty Mawr

Ty Mawr was the home of the Quaker Iron master Joseph Tregelles Price, who was born in Cornwall in 1784. He also had an interest in coalmining and copper smelting and was a philanthropist, President of the first Peace Society and Patron of the Anti-Slavery Movement. Convinced of the innocence of ‘Dic Penderyn’, Joseph visited him and obtained a reprieve but it only lasted for 10 days. He erected a free school for the poor children of Neath Abbey. He died unmarried on Christmas Day 1854 and was buried in the cemetery of the Friends Meeting House at Neath.

23. Pant-y-Sais Nature Reserve

The National Nature Reserve of Pant-y-Sais at Jersey Marine has a short boardwalk for accessible wheelchair users. The fen is home to a range of wetland plants, birds, insects and the Fen Raft Spider – Britain’s largest spider which grows up to 23mm in size.