Images of Wales
13 January 1999
Afan Valley, near Neath
Photography by John Ball - 13 January 1999
(with Agfa ePhoto307 digital camera)
The welcome notice (left) announces that the village of Pontrhydyfen was the birthplace of film actor Richard Burton and singer Ivor Emmanuel.
Hollywood actor Richard Burton (right), was born Richard Walter Jenkins in Pontrhydyfen in 1925, son of a miner. He had one of the most distinctive voices ever to come out of Wales and was renowned for his readings of works by Dylan Thomas. He gained notoriety for marrying Elizabeth Taylor (twice!), with whom he starred in the 1963 film Cleopatra (read more here). Richard Burton died in 1984.
Ivor Emmanuel was born in Pontrhydyfen in 1927. In March 1942, when he was 14, his father, mother, sister and grandfather were killed by a stray WW2 German bomb that hit the village (read an eye-witness account). Ivor was an acclaimed operatic tenor, but he is remembered by many for leading the rendition of Men of Harlech in the 1964 film Zulu. Ivor Emmanuel died in Spain in July 2007.
As well as being the birthplace of celebrities, Pontrhydyfen is famous for its fine ten-arch brick-built viaduct which once carried the South Wales Mineral Railway Junction line of the Port Talbot Railway & Dock Company. The viaduct was constructed during 1897 and 1898, and closed in 1964.
Above: Horse grazing quietly in a field near the River Afan.
Above: Pontrhydyfen Viaduct, viewed from the southwest.
Above: Closer view of the viaduct.
Above: Horse grazing on frost-hardened ground in the shade of the viaduct.
Above: Graceful arches of the viaduct cast harsh shadows in the winter sunshine.
Pontrhydyfen is also the site of another fine example of 19th century industrial architecture: the hugh stone four-arch Bont Fawr aqueduct. The aqueduct once carried the water to power a waterwheel which generated the blast for the nearby Oakwood ironworks. Perhaps the aqueduct would make a suitable subject for a future Images of Wales feature?