Located in the Vale of Neath, Pontneddfechan was once a scene of great industrial activity and innovation.
Today, visitors are drawn here to explore the fascinating relics of its industrial past and access the waterfalls for which the area is renowned.
At the eastern end of the village, limestone was quarried out of the Dinas Rock and carted away by horse-drawn drams to the Pont Walby Brickworks where it was crushed for the production of lime for agriculture and building, and for road metalling. Near by is the Gunpowder Works.
Silica rock or quartzite was mined in the Pontneddfechan area from the late 18th century up until 1964. It is a hard rock composed of silicon dioxide (quartz) with very few impurities which gives it a very high melting point.
A man much associated with the Vale of Neath, William Weston Young, developed a method of producing high quality firebricks from the Dinas silica rock, and these were manufactured at the Pont Walby brickworks and exported worldwide. Even today the word for firebrick in Russian is 'Dinas'.
Mining was undertaken using the 'pillar and stall' method which means little propping is needed, and firing was undertaken at night to allow the dangerous dust to settle before the next day's work. One unusual feature of the mine was the use of an aerial ropeway where material brought out of the mine by dram was sieved, loaded and taken down from the mine in overhead carriers.
Today the remains of the old levels and tramways can still be seen, but the commercial prosperity has been replaced with fascinating industrial archaeology.