The iron works are just outside the old abbey gate house, across the main road. They were established by two Quaker families, the Foxes of Falmouth and the Prices, who had worked with James Watt at Falkirk. They brought Cornish technical expertise in casting and engineering to this part of south Wales. As you walk from the abbey to the main road, straight ahead of you is Ty Mawr, the ironmasters’ house, built by Peter Price in 1801. A plaque commemorates Joseph Tregelles Price, founder of the Peace Society.
There is now no entrance to the ironworks from the main road, though you can peer through the gates of the builders’ yard and see the engine manufactory and the great masonry furnaces. Turn right up Longford Road. To your right is the charging platform for one of the iron furnaces. Just after the railway viaduct, a path goes down to your right towards the old tramroad bridge across the Clydach.The parapet of the bridge is made from carved blocks of copper slag which probably came from the works in the abbey. Under the bridge is a weir which would have held water back to power the iron works. You can turn right again before the bridge for a closer look at the iron works.
The most impressive part of the ruins are the late eighteenth-century furnaces, two of the highest masonry blast furnaces ever constructed. The casting houses which would have stood in front of them have gone, but you can still the line of the railway which would have taken materials to the charging houses at the top of the furnaces.
A little further on, the roofless building to the right of the entrance, behind the ironmasters’ house, is the shell of the engine manufactory. A projecting wing of this building extended towards the Clydach river and a water wheel powered by a leat from higher up the stream drove a series of machines. Much of the machinery for the works was made on site. There were two cylinder-boring workshops on the ground floor of this building, a fitting shop and smithy. Upstairs was the pattern-makers’ workshop.
Opposite the furnaces and almost completely overgrown (you can just see them in winter) are the ruins of the forge with its water-wheel housing. Here there was a wrought iron bar and tinplating mill.