Neath grew up as a crossing place and settlement on the River Neath in Roman times, and was probably a Celtic settlement before this time. The Roman fort "Nidum" was located on the West bank of the river, across from the present town, at what is now the playing fields of Dwr-y-Felin school. St Illtyd established a settlement to the North of the town at what is now Llantwit.

The Mackworth family who owned the Gnoll Estate, now open to the public, along with the Evans and Bevan Family, were instrumental in developing Neath as an iron, steel and tin-plate centre during the industrial revolution. Local coal reserves, good roads, canal and river transport made it an important industrial town. The Welsh name for Neath, "Castell-Nedd",  comes from the Norman castle next to the shopping centre. 

Neath is now a regional centre with a population approaching 50,000.  The ruins of the Cistercian Abbey (Neath Abbey) and Gnoll Park are popular visitor attractions and there is a good pedestrian shopping centre close to the lovely public gardens. Neath is renowned for its top flight rugby tradition. The famous Welsh All Blacks are based at the Gnoll rugby ground (bottom left picture below)