Investigating The Reasons for the Original Location of the Iron and Steel Industry in South Wales
Since it was first established in the 18th and 19th century, the iron
and steel industry has changed its location in South Wales. The
earlier location of this industry in the area was along the northern
edge of the South Wales coalfield where there were readily obtainable
supplies of the raw materials required for iron and steel production.
These are coking coal and blackband iron ore, which were both easily
available from the valley floors and sides of the Welsh mountains and
were often found within close proximity of each other, meaning the
area was very suitable for industrial development. Also, limestone
was required, which could be easily obtained from only a few
kilometres north of the site. For this reason a line of steel towns
grew up in the valleys of this area, where the coal could be extracted
from under the valley floors and transportation of limestone was much
easier. These included Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil and Ebbw Vale. By the
1860’s there were over 35 iron and steel works operating in the Welsh
valleys. These industries produced a large amount of steel, which
could then be transported overland to ports on the South Wales coast,
where it was exported to an expanding overseas market.
However, towards the end of the 18th century the large volume of iron
ore that was previously available in the area, began to run out. In
order to keep up production, the northern steel towns were forced to
rely upon iron ore imported from elsewhere by sea to the South Wales
coast. The transportation of this bulky, heavy raw material was not
only difficult, due to the long, uphill route, but also very
expensive, and this cost began to kill the industry in the northern
For this reason, by the end of the 18th century, many of the iron and
steel industries had moved locations to the South Wales coast.
Because of the huge reliance upon the importing of iron ore from
abroad, this was the most economically viable location for the
manufacturing industries. As well as the close proximity to the point
where the iron ore arrived, the location also possessed plentiful flat
land for the easy construction of integrated steel works, easy
transportation of coal downhill to the coast from the South Wales
coalfield and plentiful water required for the cooling process in the
steel works. The deepwater ports along the coast were also
beneficial, as they were needed for the bulk carriers, which were used
for the carrying of the iron ore. Therefore steel works developed in
towns such as Port Talbot and Llanwern.
What Evidence could be used to show that Manufacturing Decline has
Taken Place in the Area?