The Swansea Canal was built between 1794 and 1798. It always kept to the west bank of the River Tawe. The longest stretch without locks was the 4 miles from Landore to Clydach. The section between Ynystawe and Clydach was relatively rural as the above photo, taken in the 1960s, shows. The recent heavy rain allowed me to take a new photo of the same stretch of canal whilst temporarily in water.

The canal entered Clydach to the east of John Player’s Tinplate Works.

Here we see an Andrew Barclay locomotive belonging to the Works, passing over the canal bridge in front of Cwm Clydach Lock. This photo was taken by Ian Wright in 1949. Even in 1936 there were fourteen tinplate works entirely dependent on the canal for water.
This is the view at Clydach Wharf today.

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The photo below is the view from the top of the lock looking south down the Cwm Clydach Lock with ruined foundry buildings on the right. In 1960 the canal here was still picturesque.

Below is the view at roughly the same spot today.

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Passing the brick kilns and saw mill on the off-side the canal approached Pont John bridge. This is the view that Gareth Mills took in 1960 looking south from the bridge.

You can just see the Old Pump House to the bottom right.
And this is the exact same view today.

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Here is Gareth’s photo of the Pump House from the south looking up stream.

In the July heatwave this year we got in our boats at the Clydach Aqueduct and this photo of the day shows how much the Pump House site has altered.

The canal then passed by the back of the Old Globe cinema with the Mond Nickel factory on the right.

Today, the scene is more rural.

The Mond has made great strides in ‘cleaning up its act’. When Ian Wright canoed up the canal in 1949 he said that ‘the whole of the far bank was devoid of vegetation for about half a mile because of the vitriol-laden atmosphere’.

Today there are many trees on the off-side and the Swansea Canal Society volunteers do their best to keep them pruned and healthy.

And what of the future for the canal in Clydach? Well, the SCS now has a feasibility study for the full restoration of the canal from the current terminus in Hebron Road to the Trebanso terminus by Pontardawe playing fields. It would cost £6 million but each section would be worked on piecemeal. For example, the uncovering of the lock and canal in the 100 yard piped section in Pontardawe Road would cost £1 mill and would be a completely self-contained project. Slowly but surely the whole section would be revitalised and become an attractive canal quarter that Clydach would be proud of.

(All the photos by Gareth Mills in this article have been used with the permission of Ivor Lewis. The modern photos are by Martin Davies. Ian Wright’s photo of the locomotive above the canal is taken from ‘Canals in Wales’ (Bradford Barton, 1977). The account of Mr. Wright’s canoe trip up the canal in 1949 is held in the archives at Clydach library and was published, with the permission of Clive Reed, in the August 1986 edition of the Swansea Canal Society Newsletter).