Port Talbot Town
Ground: The Remax Stadium
Capacity 6000 (270 seated)
Nickname: The Steelmen
Admission: £5 adult, £3 student/OAP, £1 children
Port Talbot (Welsh: Aberafan) is an industrial town in the traditional county of Glamorgan, south Wales, UK, with a population of approximately 50,000. Port Talbot is also the name of an electoral ward and a community in Neath Port Talbot county borough, which are closely related to the town.
The town grew out of the original small port and market town of Aberafan (English name Aberavon), which belonged to the medieval Lords of Afan. It built its wealth on the abundance of coal in the vicinity and on the abundant water available in the River Afan to power machinery and operate the docks.
The town got its new name from the Talbot family, who were related to the pioneer photographer, William Henry Fox Talbot. They were patrons of Margam Abbey, an ancient Cistercian foundation, and also built Margam Castle (1830-1839, architect: Thomas Hopper), a mock Gothic residence, now partially restored and open to the public along with the surrounding park.
Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890) was a wealthy landowner who saw the potential of his property as a site for an extensive ironworks, which opened in early 1831. (This was just part of the industrialisation taking place across south Wales then; copper had been smelted at Neath since 1584, and there were tinworks and ironworks at Pontardawe.) CRM Talbot was also chairman and a major shareholder of the South Wales Railway.
His only son Theodore died in 1876 following a hunting accident. It was therefore his daughter Emily Charlotte Talbot (1840-1918) who inherited her father’s fortune and became just as notable in the development of ports and railways. With assistance from engineers Charles Meik and Patrick Meik she set about creating a port and railway system to attract business away from Cardiff and Swansea. The Port Talbot Railway and Dock Company opened a dock at Port Talbot and the Llynfi Railway in 1897, followed by the Ogmore Valley Extension and the South Wales Mineral Junction Railway (almost all these lines were closed as part of the Beeching Axe cuts in the mid 1960s, but some bridges and viaducts remain). By 1900, the dock was exporting over 500,000 tons of coal; it reached a peak of over three million tons in 1923.
During the early twentieth century, the docks and a major steelworks attracted considerable investment, and this was followed by the establishment of a chemical plant at Baglan Bay by British Petroleum in the 1960s.
The town saw serious decline in the late seventies and early eighties caused by the withdrawal or cutting back of major employers, especially the steel works. The borough council has been absorbed into the larger unitary authority of Neath Port Talbot.
The town is built along the eastern rim of Swansea Bay with Swansea being located on the opposite side. The beach along the edge of the bay is known as Aberavon Sands which are protected from erosion by a groyne at the mouth of the River Afan. The northern edge of the town is marked by the River Neath.
Arguably, the most famous landmark in Port Talbot is the steelworks. It is currently operated by Corus Group, but it is being bid for by India’s Tata Steel.
On the extensive steelworks site, smoke can be observed rising from the BOS plant and water vapour from the cooling towers, a great distance away. When exiting Port Talbot in an easterly direction, the Abbey Works steel products plant (which is over 1 mile long) can be seen. The familiar ‘smokey’ smell of sulphur often hangs over this part of the town.
Movie director Ridley Scott quotes the sight of Port Talbot Steelworks at night to be his inspiration for the dark, gigantic buildings in films like Blade Runner. Top Gear have used the Port Talbot steelworks to film, a number of times. Director Terry Gilliam has cited the Port Talbot Steelworks as a major initial influence in developing the movie Brazil.
How to Get There
Leaving the M4 motorway at Junction 40, follow the signs to Aberavon Beach. The ground is on Victoria Road which is a left turn just after a row of shops, before reaching the sea front.
Map to Victoria Road
Parking: Car park inside ground.
Nearest railway station: Port Talbot Parkway (0.8 miles)
Rivals: Afan Lido, Bangor City, Goytre, Llanelli
Formed initially in 1901, Port Talbot spent their early years playing in the Swansea Senior League. Early records show that one of the club’s biggest wins came in 1909/10, when they beat Llanelli 10-0. After the First World War, it is assumed that the club again played in the Swansea League until 1926, when they became founder members of the Port Talbot and District Association Football League.
In the 1928/29 season a team sporting the name Seaside Athletic were competing in the Welsh League Division 2 Western Section, and sources say this was the same club that formed in 1901. Port Talbot continued to ply their trade in the Second Division until 1956/57, when they won promotion to the top flight.
They were never comfortable, and it was no surprise when they were relegated after just one season. After a rebuilding programme, they were soon back in action in the first division after becoming champions of Division 2 West at the end of 1961/62. However, once again they suffered relegation just twelve months later.
Season 1964/65 saw the re-organisation of the league, and Port Talbot found themselves in the new Division One. However, relegation to the second division came in 1970/71, a major setback for the club. A long hard slog in the lower echelons ended in 1982/83 when they finished as runners up to Tondu Robins, and won promotion to the first division.
Port Talbot were included in the prestigious new National Division of the Welsh League in 1984/85, and stayed there until 1990/91 when they were relegated after a lamentable season. The club missed out on a place in the inaugural League of Wales, and worse was to follow when they were relegated to the present Division 2 in 1993/94.
Better times arrived under the leadership of Steve Llewellyn and Alan Meacham, and the club won back their place in the top division with a last day promotion at local rivals Goytre United in 1995/96. After a period of consolidation, they finished 5th in 1997/98 under Dai Rees and Craig Duggan during their first season in the managerial hot seat. Since then, the club has been transformed off the field, with Andrew Edwards taking over as Chairman at the start of the 1998/99 season.
At this point a three-year master plan was put into operation, which included taking the club to the League of Wales by its centenary year in 2001/02 and establishing a youth/junior system from under-7s right up through to under-18s.
The success of the 1999/2000 season saw the club promoted to the League of Wales a year ahead of schedule and the introduction of two junior teams and a youth team in the MacWhirter Youth League.
Many improvements were carried out to the Victoria Road Ground with refurbished dressing rooms, a new 260-seater stand, floodlights, television camera gantry, turnstiles and a hard standing around the pitch.
The club made a satisfactory start in the League of Wales gaining six victories before Christmas 2000. Unfortunately, some of the work was undone by a disappointing end to the campaign.
To mark their centenary year, the club’s title was changed from Port Talbot Athletic to Port Talbot Town at the start of the 2001/2002 season.
Talbot reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup in 2003/4 for the first time in their history, but hopes of a foray into Europe were dashed in a 1-0 defeat by TNS at Park Avenue.
Following the departure of manager Mark Jones to Carmarthen, the Steelmen found it difficult to replicate their success in 2004/5 and spent much of the season battling relegation, although they eventually finished a relatively comfortable 13th under manager Wayne Davies.
During the season, chairman Edwards proposed a merger with local rivals Afan Lido, who play less than a mile away from Talbot’s Victoria Road ground, in the belief that it would produce a stronger and more commercially viable club for the town. But Lido rejected the move, despite some senior officials being in favour.
Welsh League First Division runners-up: 1999-00
Welsh League Cup winners: 1999-2000
The Remax Stadium, Victoria Road, Port Talbot, Afan Nedd SA12 6AD
Tel: 01639 882 465
Fax: 01639 886 991