John Vigurs Wharf at Aberavon
Notes on the John Vigurs Wharf at Aberavon.
By Allen Blethyn Jan.2011.
As with most historical facts relating to the Aberavon and Margam area, the first place that I would look to get information, is to Mr. A. Leslie Evan`s fine book named The History of Taibach and District.
This book is always at my side, and in constant use, even though I nearly know its contents by heart, having used it so many times
The only complaint that I dare to make of his book, is that refeferences to many of his statements are not included there in.
Before 1837 the river Avon flowed through the Aberavon Old Bar to enter the sea at a point roughly level with the Somerset Inn at Taibach.
In 1824 Mr.John Vigurs had opened a horse-drawn tram-road,which ran from his works at Cwmavon along the main highway to Aberavon,and then through Water Street and Ysguthan Road,and then to the Wharf that he had built on the west bank of the Avon.
In his book Les Evans states that this point was near the the lower end of Newbridge Road where a small inlet called Pwll Colby then existed.On this spot,or adjacent to it,was sited the wharf owned by the shipwright William Lewis in the early 18th century.
Where Mr.Evans got the name of the inlet Pwll Colby, or the position of William Lewis`s wharf he does not say.
To satisfy own interest into where exactly John Vigurs built his wharf at the Aberavon Bar I took the following actions.
I looked again at the c.1790 sketch map of Taibach that Mr.Evans includes in his book,this shows us the site of the shipping place near the Taibach copper works. This map he shows only covers the immediate area around Taibach, and not Aberavon.
Next I moved on to the 1814 Margam Estate Map.A.,this map shows the Old Bar in great detail regarding its size and shape,but it does not name any of the many little inlets such as Pwll Colby,.It does however show us other features which will help us later, such as the Aberavon and Margam boundary on the seaward side, which is only about two fields in distance from the east turning point of the river Avon.
Only a matter of 50 yards on the Margam side of the boundary it shows the site of an un-named farm in field no.12 reference as a sheepwalk including a Cott and yard.Adjoining it are the sand hills no.10 listed as Morfa Newydd, both of which were then leased by Mr.Thomas Richard together with Lower Court Farm.
The reference with this 1814 map gives us over fifty field names in the area, but again no inlets are named.
When the first Ordnance Survey of Wales was made in the 1830s they were published in May 1830 by Lieut. Colone Colby of the Royal Engineers [ did he leave his mark at Aberavon?]
At this point I feel it worth just mentioning a point made by the Rev.Richard Morgan in his writings in A History of Taibach to 1872,translated from the Welsh by A.Leslie Evans.
He tells us that Mr.Nathaniel Drake,a Yorkshireman who had in 1758 been appointed as the manager of the coal mines in Mynydd Bychan and Lletty Harry,near Graigavon.And how he soon improved the transporting of the coal by constructing a tramway along the mountainside as far as Saron,Penycae,where it was let down a slope to another tram road which laid below on the level ground alongside Tydraw Farm. From here it was taken to be loaded into ships at a point situated in the lower half of Cwrt Uchaf Farm.
Next I paid my attenion to the map of Aberavon produced in 1831 for the Municipal Corporations Act of 1832.
Therefore showing us again the Aberavon Old Bar before the river course was altertered in 1837. This map shows both the Cwmavon rail road and its wharf and the iron and coal wharf at the end of the rail road from the Mynydd Bychan coal mines both clearly marked.
To complete my little exercise and so satisfy myself regarding the exact position of the Cwmavon wharf, I referred to the maps of Port Talbot Docks dated 1894 and 1919 both of which are at the West Gam Archives Swansea.
These clearly show its position inside the Docks at the Old Dock [The Float] and near the later to be built Wharf Row.
Of course others will have to make up their own minds, but I do feel that it was strange of Mr. A Leslie Evans to include his mention of Lower end of Newbridge Road in his writings.