Pontneddfechan shown within Powys
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||West Glamorgan|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
Pontneddfechan ("bridge over the Little Neath" in Welsh) is a village in the Vale of Neath in the far south of Powys, Wales. Locally, the name is conventionally pronounced as /pɔntˌniðˈvɔːn/ in English, and may be seen written as "Pontneathvaughan".
The village stands at the confluence of the Rivers Mellte and Nedd Fechan ("Neath Vaughan") and provides a convenient access points to the superb series of waterfalls that characterise the upper Neath valley. Dinas Rock, a steeply pitched anticline in the limestone rocks at Craig-y-Dinas, is a favourite spot for rock-climbers.
Industrial activities in the region started with a 21-year lease of an area of land from the Marquess of Bute by the Quaker entrepreneur William Weston Young, for the sinking of silica mines around Craig-y-Dinas from 1822 onwards. The silica was extracted for the manufacture of firebricks at the Dinas Firebrick Co. in Pont Walby. In 1843, Young's lease ran out and the then Riddles, Young & Co. firebrick manufacturers moved to a new premises on The Green, Neath. The stone sleepers for the silica mine tramway were never removed and can still be seen set into the path of the waterfall walk.
In 1857, the Vale of Neath Powder Company built a "gunpowder manufactory", having obtained "a licence to erect their mills over a space of two miles including the Upper and Lower Cilliepste Falls". The site on the River Mellte was chosen because of its remoteness and because of the availability of both water power and of timber for the production of charcoal, one of the ingredients of gunpowder. An inclined tramway was built from a siding on the Vale of Neath Railway near Pen-cae-drain. This was used to bring in sulphur and saltpeter, the other ingredients. A horse-drawn tramway linked the various buildings on the site. The horses were fitted with copper horseshoes to reduce the likelihood of sparks. In 1862, Curtis & Harvey took over the site They later merged with Nobel's Explosives Co. and finally became incorporated into Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. in 1926. The works closed in 1939 and the now ruined site was still known locally as the Gunpowder Works in living memory.
The site is now administered by the National Park Authority and there are a network of footpaths. An audio trail has been established and further information is available at the Waterfalls Centre in Pontneddfechan.
- The Cambrian Newspaper, 10th April 1857.
- The Gunpowder Works.
- Pritchard, Tom, Evans, Jack and Johnson, Sidney (1985). The Old Gunpowder Factory at Glynneath. Merthyr Tydfil: Merthyr Tydfil & District Naturalists' Society [1998 reprint].
- Map sources for Pontneddfechan