The Opening of Abbey Steelworks: How the ‘City of Steel’ Symbolised Wales in the 1950s

Wales since 1945

port-talbot-abbey-works-coal-tipplers-conveyors-and-coke-ovens-1954_p139023 Abbey Works, 1954. Francis Frith, Ref: P139023

The 1950s marked a period of progression from austerity to affluence. Although this change was slow and limited, the economic boom influenced Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to declare in 1957 that most people had ‘never had it so good’.[1] Whilst Wales remained poorer than England on average, the Welsh experience of affluence was still comparable with Britain’s more broadly, as people were generally better off.[2] Such an experience is exemplified in the opening of Abbey Steelworks in Port Talbot, symbolising the modernisation of Wales in the 1950s. The complex not only aided the Welsh economy, but the livelihood of the population also. For the first time, the residents of Port Talbot had a disposable income, allowing them to participate in the consumer revolution. However, affluence was not met with complete contentment. The opening of Abbey Works incited fear in…

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