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Regional route South Wales | United Kingdom

Wales played a leading role in the formative years of the Industrial Revolution in the production of iron and steel, tinplate and coal. During the 19th century families flooded into the sparsely populated valleys of South Wales seeking work in the emerging industries which exploited the areas mineral ... more

The South Wales Regional Route

Wales played a leading role in the formative years of the Industrial Revolution in the production of iron and steel, tinplate and coal. During the 19th century families flooded into the sparsely populated valleys of South Wales seeking work in the emerging industries which exploited the areas mineral resources. In 1804, Richard Trevithick ran the World’s first steam engine on iron rails near Merthyr. By 1840 South Wales was the largest producer of iron in the UK. By 1890 Cardiff was the most important coal port in the world.

On the steep sides of the valleys dense terraces of workers housing were hurriedly built, together with numerous churches, chapels and workmen’s halls. The long ribbons of urbanisation in the valleys were interspersed with coal mines with their huge waste tips and iron and steel forges. Through the cramped valley floor ran polluted rivers, narrow roads, canals and then railway systems serving the growing industrial communities. Here a new industrial society emerged with sharp divisions between wealthy iron master and colliery owners and the workers. As a result socialism grew as a significant political force with international influence.

Today the clamour of the traditional industries has gone from the Valleys and the dirt and dereliction is changing back to green. However, the visitor will have no difficulty in imagining the turbulent times of the early Industrial Revolution while visiting the network of industrial heritage sites on the ERIH South Wales Route.


ERIH Anchor Points

Crowd of visitors in coal mine
A small town – with a huge effect. The South Wales town of Blaenavon was once the spearhead of the industrial revolution. For 200 years everything revolved around coal and iron here in the Afon Lwyd Valley. This not only affected the landscape. It also affected the people. To such an extent that ...

Big Pit: National Coal Museum World Heritage Site
NP4 9XP Blaenavon, United Kingdom

Swansea | United Kingdom
Computer screens with interactive film sequences. Graphics and projections. Multi-media shows demonstrating how fireproof bricks, iron and steel were manufactured. The first impressions make it unmistakably clear that the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea (Wales) prides itself on ...

National Waterfront Museum
Oystermouth Road
SA1 3RD Swansea, United Kingdom

Member Sites ERIH Association

Blaenavon | United Kingdom
This is the first dedicated World Heritage Centre in the UK and is the focal point for the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site. The Visitor Centre combines video presentations, interactive touch screen monitors and oral history with more traditional displays to explain the leading ...

Blaenavon World Heritage Centre
Church Road
Blaenavon, United Kingdom

Trehafod | United Kingdom
They laboured like animals: bent double in the low galleries, their lungs full of dust, in constant fear of the walls collapsing, or a gas explosion. But despite all this, they were as proud as any farmer cultivating his own fields. For every collier was allocated his own particular underground ...

Rhondda Heritage Park
Lewis Merthyr Colliery
Coed Cae Road
CF37 2NP Rhondda, United Kingdom


Aberdare | United Kingdom
The Museum tells the story of the social history of the Cynon Valley from 1800 to the present. Audio visual presentations in the gallery include films on the iron industry around 1830 and the Miner’s Strike of 1984/85. The displays explore issues such as sport, health, religion, popular culture, ...

Cynon Valley Museum
Depot Road Gadlys
CF44 8DL Aberdare, United Kingdom

Abergavenny | United Kingdom
Goytre Wharf on the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, a picturesque 8 acre site, is a popular mooring place for pleasure boats. This part of the canal dates back to the beginning of the 19th century and was a vital link to the industrial development of the area. There are restored limestone kilns with ...

Goytre Wharf
Activity and Visitor Centre
NP7 9EW Abergavenny, United Kingdom

Blaenavon | United Kingdom
Close to Blaenavon Ironworks and Big Pit in the Blaenavon World Heritage Site is the Community Museum. It is inside the impressive Workmen’s Hall, which was built in 1895 by local workers to provide them with a library, meeting rooms and a theatre/concert hall. The museum is run by volunteers to ...

Blaenavon Community Museum
101 High Street
NP4 9PT Blaenavon, United Kingdom

Blaenavon | United Kingdom
Blaenavon Ironworks began production in 1789 and is now the best preserved ironworks of its period in the world it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The site is the main focus of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape which was inscribed by UNESCO in December 2000 as a World Heritage Site. In the early ...

Blaenavon Ironworks World Heritage Site
North Street
NP4 9RN Blaenavon, United Kingdom

Brecon | United Kingdom
The basin forms the terminus of the 56km Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, one of the most beautiful in Britain. Historically this was the gathering and distribution centre of a range of industrial and agricultural materials including limestone, iron and coal as well as wheat and vegetables. The ...

Brecon Canal Basin
Rich Way
LD3 7 Brecon, United Kingdom

Caerphilly | United Kingdom
Senghenydd is a mining community 15 km north-west of Caerphilly, and 25 km north of Cardiff, which was the scene of the worst mining disaster in British history. The Universal Steam Coal Co discovered good coal seams in the vicinity in the 1890s and proceeded to open a mine that was exceptionally ...

Universal Mine Senghenydd
Aber Valley Heritage Museum
Gwern Avenue Senghenydd
CF83 4HA Caerphilly, United Kingdom

Cardiff | United Kingdom
By 1890 Cardiff was the most important coal port in the world. The pierhead building (1896), designed in ‘chateau style’ by William Frame for the Bute Dock Company, became the nerve centre for the trading activity linking railways and shipping. Today pierhead remains as a testimony to South Wales’ ...

Pierhead Building
Maritime Road
CF10 4PZ Cardiff, United Kingdom

Cardiff | United Kingdom
Situated on the outskirts of Cardiff at St. Fagan’s, is one of Wales’ major visitor attractions. An attractive range of historic buildings from all over Wales are gathered in a beautiful natural woodland setting. Among older exhibits can be found a preserved row of fully furnished Merthyr workers ...

St Fagans National History Museum
St Fagans
CF5 6XB Cardiff, United Kingdom

Llanelli | United Kingdom
The exciting new Discovery Centre is beautifully located on the seafront of llanelli. Although the area has been transformed from its industrial past (such land reclaimation has been in progress in South Wales for 30 years), the centre provides information on the areas important industrial legacy, ...

Llanelli Discovery Centre
Millennium Coastal Park
North Dock
SA15 2LF Llanelli, United Kingdom

Merthyr Tydfil | United Kingdom
Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery is one of the great “finds” of the South Wales Valleys. The castle was built in 1824 by the ironmaster William Crawshay the second. It overlooked his immensely successful ironworks which were the largest in the world in the first quarter of the nineteenth ...

Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Brecon Road
CF47 8RE Merthyr Tydfil, United Kingdom

Neath | United Kingdom
In 1584 Ulrich Frosse exploited the natural resources of Aberdulais to smelt copper ‘…far from the pryinge eyes of his competitors’. His pioneering work helped Wales to become the world’s first Industrial nation. And as water continued to cascade through the centuries, the industries continued to ...

Aberdulais Tinworks and Waterfall
SA10 8EU Neath, United Kingdom

Neath | United Kingdom
Cefn Coed Colliery Museum is situated in the heart of the picturesque Dulais Valley and tells the story of colliery life from Victorian times to the 1950s. The museum is housed in the original colliery building, which closed in 1968.Visitors can experience the harsh, damp and dark conditions that ...

Cefn Coed Colliery Museum
SA10 8SN Neath, United Kingdom

New Tredegar | United Kingdom
The Elliot Colliery two storey winding house (1891) contains a magnificent Victorian steam engine, once part of the local coal mine. Today it stands as a community museum and visitors can experience the massive engine in operation and learn about local history. New Tredegar typifies the urbanisation ...

Elliot Colliery Engine House
White Rose Way
NP24 6DF New Tredegar, United Kingdom

Newport | United Kingdom
Located just outside Newport, the Fourteen Locks Canal Visitor Centre traces the growth and decline of the Crumlin Branch of the Monmouthshire Canal and its role in transporting commodities such as coal, iron, limestone and bricks from the Ebbw and Sirhowy valleys to the port of Newport. A computer ...

Fourteen Locks
Cwm Lane Highcross Rogerstone
NP10 9GN Newport, United Kingdom

Newport | United Kingdom
Completed in 1906, this unique Grade 1 Listed structure is the essence of industrial development in Newport. Designed by the eminent French Bridge Engineer, Ferdinand Arnodin, this ‘Aerial Ferry’ was built to provide safe passage across the River Usk, with its great tidal range, and thus assist the ...

Newport Transporter Bridge
Stephenson Street
NP19 4 Newport, United Kingdom

Pontypool | United Kingdom
Set in the stable block of Pontypool Park House the museum documents the proud history of early ironmaking and coal production in this valley. It also tells the story of the Hanbury family and features their unique collection of Pontypool and Usk tinplate decorated in the “Japanese Style”. Pontypool ...

Pontypool Museum
Park Buildings
NP4 6JH Pontypool, United Kingdom