THE EVOLUTION OF BLAENAVON TOWN by J. A. H. Evans Introduction Blaenavon is almost certainly the best preserved example of a South Wales ironmaking town. For most of its existence, the town's prosperity and growth was inextricably and directly linked to the fortunes of Blaenavon Company. The ironworks, a colliery and extensive remains of the industrial infrastructure are all still present. But so are the company shop, the company farm with its accompanying fields, company hospital, managers house, company church, the first industrial school in Wales and the best example of a workman's hall. The hall not only survives but is still in active use. Although part of the town dates from the late 1780s, most of the town is representative of an early to mid-Victorian Welsh industrial community. Very little of the town between the ironworks in North Street and Charles Street Green was built after 1870. Most of it is still intact. There has been comparatively little subtraction or addition. Broad Street, the main shopping street, is almost as it was by the mid-1860s. Blaenavon has much the appearance of a planned town. This is deceptive. The shape of much of the town was defined by the shape of existing field patterns, several of which had boundaries defined by streams running from the mountain, and a pattern of ancient roads. It was only after the formation of the Local Board in 1860 that an element of planning took place. The town is situated on the south-west slope of the Blorenge mountain. The Blorenge mountain between Blaenavon and Abergavenny was the most southerly moor in Britain where Black Grouse lived naturally. They are now extinct but Red Grouse can sometimes be seen. The easterly rim of the South Wales Coalfield outcrops on the hillside and coal, iron ore, fire clay and limestone were all easily accessible. The Hanburys of Pontypool leased the rights to iron ore from the Lord of Abergavenny from the 1570s until 1784. They were then leased in their entirety to various incarnations of the Blaenavon Company starting with Hill, Hopkins and Pratt in 1788 until the 1920s. The Blaenavon Company survived for far longer than most of its rivals. This continuity of ownership and tenancy has meant that Blaenavon has retained many of the features that determined its shape and structure in the last century. It is possible that some of the road systems and field patterns preserved within its boundaries are sixteenth century or before. Many of the older buildings in the town survive as a