Neath (Welsh: Castell-nedd) is a town and community situated in the principal area of Neath Port Talbot, Wales with a population of 19,258 in 2011. The wider urban area, which includes neighbouring settlements, had a population of 50,658 in 2011. Historically in Glamorgan, the town is located on the river of the same name, 7 miles (11 km) east northeast of Swansea.
Historically, Neath was the crossing place of the River Neath and has existed as a settlement since the Romans established the fort of Nido or Nidum in the AD 70s. The Roman fort took its name from the River Nedd; the meaning is obscure but ‘shining’ or simply ‘river’ have been suggested. Neath is the Anglicised form. The Antonine Itinerary (c. 2nd century) names only nine places in Roman Wales, one of them being Neath. There is evidence of undated prehistoric settlements on the hills surrounding the town, which were probably Celtic. The fort covered a large area which now lies under the playing fields of Dŵr-y-Felin Comprehensive School. In the late 1960s, there were reports in the local media of a massive Roman marching camp being found above Llantwit which would have accommodated many thousands of troops.
St Illtyd visited the Neath area and established a settlement in what is now known as Llantwit on the northern edge of the town. The church of St. Illtyd was built at this settlement and was enlarged in Norman times. The Norman and pre Norman church structure remains intact and active to day within the Church in Wales. The Welsh language name for Neath is Castell-nedd, referring to the Norman Neath Castle, which was visited by English Kings Henry II, John Lackland and Edward I.
Neath was a market town that expanded with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century with new manufacturing industries of iron, steel and tinplate. The Mackworth family, who owned the Gnoll Estate, were prominent in the town’s industrial development. Coal was mined extensively in the surrounding valleys and the construction of canals and railways made Neath a major transportation centre and the Evans & Bevan families were major players in the local coal mining community as well as owning the Vale of Neath Brewery. Silica was mined in the Craig-y-Dinas area of Pontneddfechan, after Quaker entrepreneur William Weston Young invented the blast furnace silica firebrick, later moving brick production from the works at Pontwalby to the Green in Neath. The town continued as a market trading centre with a municipal cattle market run by W.B.Trick. Industrial development continued throughout the 20th century with the construction by BP of a new petroleum refinery at Llandarcy.
Admiral Lord Nelson stayed at the Castle Hotel en route to Milford Haven when the fleet was at anchor there. Lt. Lewis Roatley, the son of the landlord of the Castle Hotel, served as a Royal Marines officer with Nelson aboard HMS Victory in the Battle of Trafalgar.
The River Neath is a navigable estuary and Neath was a river port until recent times. The heavy industries are no more with the town being a commercial and tourism centre. Attractions for visitors are the ruins of the Cistercian Neath Abbey, the Gnoll Park and Neath Indoor Market.
Neath hosted the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1918, 1934 and 1994.
The Welsh Rugby Union was formed at a meeting held at the Castle Hotel in 1881. Neath Rugby Football Club, the famous and very successful “Welsh All Blacks”, play at The Gnoll who have managed to win 4 consecutive titles in the Semi Professional Principality Premiership and 3 Swalec Cup titles (Previously known as Schweppes and Konica Minolta Cups) and are now competing in a new competition The British and Irish Cup founded in 2009. Neath RFC still hold the World Records for most points scored in a season and most tries scored in a season, which are unlikely to ever be beaten.
Motorcycle speedway was staged at the Abbey Stadium in Neath in 1962. The Welsh Dragons, led by New Zealander Trevor Redmond, raced with some success in the Provincial League but, because of local problems, a number of the “home” fixtures were raced at St Austell. The Dragons introduced the Australian rider Charlie Monk to British speedway. After a season at Long Eaton Archers, Monk went on to have considerable success at Glasgow. The team also featured South African Howdy Cornell. In the early 1960s there was also stock car racing held at Neath Abbey, opposite the monastery.
Neath Athletic A.F.C. was the town’s largest football team, playing at Neath RFC’s ground, the Gnoll and played in the top-flight of Welsh football, the Welsh Premier League until the club was wound-up in 2012. In the 2006–07 season, Neath Athletic A.F.C. gained promotion from the Welsh Football League First Division, and to the Welsh Premier League. Neath Athletic A.F.C. got, on average, 300 supporters attending a domestic, Welsh Premier League game, which was normal with the rest of the Welsh Premier League.
South Wales Scorpions, formed in 2010 are a professional rugby league team who play their home games at the Gnoll.
The previous borough council was absorbed into the larger unitary authority of Neath Port Talbot on 1 April 1996. The town encompasses the electoral wards of Neath East, Neath North and Neath South.
Neath and the surrounding area has represented at Westminster since 1991 by Peter Hain MP (Labour) and in the National Assembly for Wales by Gwenda Thomas AM (Labour).
Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive School is situated in the outskirts of the town as is a campus of Neath Port Talbot College (which was previously Neath College). There is also the Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School situated in the village of Cimla near the Crynallt Primary School. Two other comprehensive schools serve the town, Llangatwg Comprehensive School in Cadoxton and Cwrt Sart Comprehensive School in Briton Ferry. Primary schools include Crynallt Primary School in Cimla, Alderman Davies Church in Wales Primary School in Neath, Gnoll Primary School in Neath, Melin Infant and Junior schools,Ysgol Gynradd Castell Nedd, Mynachlog Nedd Junior School in Skewen, Tonnau Primary School in Tonna, Tonmawr Primary School in Tonmawr, Catwg Primary School in Cadoxton, Wauncierch primary school situated in Wauncierch and Ynysmardey Primary School located in Briton Ferry. Also Neath College is located in the area of Neath (Opposite Dwr-Y-Felin). The college offers courses on a part-time or full-time basis.
Neath is served by First Great Western and Arriva Trains Wales on the South Wales Main Line at Neath railway station, on Windsor Road, in the heart of the town. Services operate to Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport, Bristol Parkway, Swindon, Didcot Parkway, Reading and London Paddington to the east and Swansea, Carmarthen and West Wales to the west. Services also operate to Hereford, Shrewsbury and Manchester Piccadilly.
Neath bus station is at Victoria Gardens, a five-minute walk from the railway station. National Express services call at the railway station. From Victoria Gardens, First Cymru provides direct inter-urban services to nearby Swansea and Port Talbot in addition to South Wales Transport who provide many similar local services.
The A465 skirts the town to the north east and provides a link to the M4.
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