Explore the valleys that changed the world

The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries was largely fuelled by the minerals hidden beneath the hills of South Wales. Thousands of people from across rural Wales, the rest of Britain and further afield flocked to find work in the South Wales Valleys' great iron, steel, copper, tinplate and coal industries and the ports along the Severn Estuary.

A new society emerged where vast fortunes were made by a few powerful industrialists but where the rapidly expanding workforce endured hard work and poverty. South Wales changed dramatically from an agricultural to an industrial society. This gave rise to the development of workers' unity and the birth of Chartism, trade unionism and the birth of the labour movement, which influenced the development of socialism around the world.

Times have changed. The coalfields are exhausted and the great furnaces have grown cold. Wales’ world domination in heavy industry has gone forever. Though most of the scars have disappeared and the valleys have become green once more, that period of heroic industry and associated human endeavour can still be traced through the reminders left in the landscape.

This leaflet brings together sites across South Wales where you can discover more about the industries that made South Wales great, how the communities prospered, how the goods were transported and the ironmasters and workers lived. As you explore you are sure to meet local people who will welcome you and recount tales of their local industries and the special camaraderie that existed (and still exists) in South Wales.

Download this leaflet for a wealth of ideas of places to visit to discover this unique story.