Visitor Description of the Neath Valley during the Industrial Revolution


               I reached -a small village half-way between Swansea and Neath, and without stopping continued my course, walking very fast. I had surmounted a hill and had nearly descended that side of it which looked towards the east, having on my left, that is to the north, a wooded height, when an extraordinary scene presented itself to my eyes. Somewhat to the south rose immense stacks of chimneys surrounded by grimy diabolical looking buildings, in the neighbourhood of which were huge heaps of cinders and black  rubbish. From the chimneys, not withstanding it was Sunday, smoke was proceeding in volumes, choking the atmosphere all around. From this pandemonium, at a distance of about a quarter of a mile to the south west, upon a green meadow, stood looking darkly grey, a ruin of vast size with window holes, towers, spires and arches, between it and the accursed pandemonium, lay a horrible filthy place, part of which was swamp and part pool; the pool black as soot, and the swamp of disgusting leaden colour. Across this place of filth stretched a tramway leading seemingly from the abominable mansions to the ruin. So strange a scene I have never beheld in nature. Had it been on canvas with the addition of a number of diabolical figures, proceeding along the tramway, it might have stood for Sabbath in Hell—devils proceeding to afternoon worship.

George Borrow - Wild Wales, 1854