Pontardawe first came into existence as a small settlement on the northwestern bank of the Tawe at the point where the drovers' road from Neath to Llandeilo crossed first the river and then the road running up the valley from Swansea towards Brecon. Its best known landmark today is the tall spire of St Peter's church which dominates the centre of the town from its site on a high point of the valley floor close to the Swansea Canal.
Pontardawe is now a town of some 5,000 inhabitants in the Swansea Valley (Welsh: Cwmtawe) in south Wales. The community (or civil parish) of Pontardawe forms part of the County Borough of Neath Port Talbot.
The name first appears on a map in 1729, as "Pont-ar-Dawye", in Emmanuel Bowen's New and Accurate Map of South Wales. By 1796, the Swansea Canal had connected Pontardawe with Swansea Docks. The accessibility by canal enabled the industrial development of the area, which started with the Ynysderw ironworks in 1835. Close to the ironworks, tinplate and steel works became the basis of the town's development during the latter part of the 19th century, with exports all over the world. The industrialist William Parsons of Neath developed the town's early industry, but from 1861 onwards the Gilbertson family became the most important proprietors of the town. As well as metal work, there were also significant coal mines in the area, and pottery works at Ynysmeudwy.
These industries declined in the middle of the 20th century. None of the heavy industry remains.
The first three maps are provided by A Vision of Britain through Time
These maps were found on Wikimedia Commons
These maps of Glamorgan post-1974 were found on another site and are very useful for sorting out the up-to-date geography of the area