General Location Map

We can clearly see the major Swansea and Neath valleys running from the north east and terminating through their respective towns into Swansea Bay in the south west.  Between them is the Dulais valley, with, at its head, “Capel Coelbren” at the north eastern corner of the map.  The mountainous nature of the terrain at the valley heads is clearly discernable, as are the poorer communication routes away from the main valleys.  To the northeast lie the Brecon Beacons, and to the northwest the gentler borders of Breconshire and Carmarthenshire.

from Bartholomew’s “Half inch” Map of 1902-1906      

Aerial photograph taken roughly north (foreground) to south by C.R. Musson, 1990.  © Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Reproduced here under Licence no: RCPL2/3/62/022.  


This is part of the plateau at the top of the Dulais Valley at about 250m, 750ft altitude.  The square outline of the Roman fort can be seen clearly in the foreground.  The Roman Road (Sarn Helen) continues directly south and climbs through the terraced street of today’s Roman Road, Banwen, before ascending the Hirfynnydd mountain. On the other side (unseen) is the village of Glynneath.  On the right of the photograph is today’s village of Dyffryn Cellwen.  In front of that is today’s Inter-Valley Road, running roughly west to east through the centre of this picture.

The original Maesmarchog Colliery and associated settlement of Tir Bach was beyond the outline of Roman Road, at the top centre of the photograph.  No trace of these can be seen on this photograph.  

A modern view in the other direction, south to north is shown below Source: Guardian, April 2017, attributed to DOVE Workshop.

banwen roman road view

A further south-north view through Roman Road; photo by G. Jones, 2014.  The DOVE workshop is mid-right.

Banwen 1953

This is the last map found where our original Jones settlement of Tir Bach is identified.  The 1964 and subsequent editions omit it.   Note how much of the landscape has been filled in since the Banwen prospectus map of 1846.  Major additions are the terraces making up Roman Road (built directly on the path of the ancient roadway known as Sarn Helen), the newly created village of Dyffryn Cellwen and the mass of workings and railway lines serving Maesmarchog colliery at the bottom right.  All these works have now been totally cleared.

© (the written content and authorial photographs) Gareth Jones 2015-20