Port Talbot

Coordinates: 51°35′26″N 3°47′55″W / 51.59055°N 3.79859°W / 51.59055; -3.79859
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Port Talbot
From the top, View of Port Talbot from above, with the elevated M4 to the bottom-left, The High street, Steelworks
Port Talbot is located in Neath Port Talbot
Port Talbot
Port Talbot
Location within Neath Port Talbot
Population31,550 (2021)[1]
OS grid referenceSS755895
Principal area
Preserved county
  • Glamorganshire
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtSA12, SA13
Dialling code01639
PoliceSouth Wales
FireMid and West Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
Neath Port Talbot
51°35′26″N 3°47′55″W / 51.59055°N 3.79859°W / 51.59055; -3.79859

Port Talbot (/ˌpɔːrt ˈtɔːlbət/, UK also /pɔːr-, pə-, -ˈtælbət, -ˈtɒlbət/)[2] is a town and community in the county borough of Neath Port Talbot, Wales, situated on the east side of Swansea Bay, approximately eight miles (thirteen kilometres) from Swansea.[3] The Port Talbot Steelworks covers a large area of land which dominates the south east of the town. It is one of the biggest steelworks in the world, but has been under threat of closure since the 1980s.[4] The population was 31,550 in 2021,[1] comprising about a fifth of the 141,931 population[5] of Neath Port Talbot.


Modern Port Talbot is a town formed from the merging of multiple villages, including Baglan, Margam, and Aberafan. The name 'Port Talbot' first appears in 1837 as the name of the new docks built on the south-east side of the river Afan by the Talbot family. Over time it came to be applied to the whole of the emerging conurbation.[6][7]

The earliest evidence of humans in the Port Talbot area has been found on the side of Mynydd Margam where Bronze Age farming ditches can be found from 4,000 BC. There were Iron Age hill forts on Mynydd Dinas, Mynydd Margam, Mynydd Emroch and other nearby hills. Mynydd Hawdref contains remains of an ancient Iron Age village. The Margam deer herd dates from Norman times but deer in the area were mentioned during Roman times.[8][9]

Ffynnon Pedr is a holy well which flows from the hillside through a 16 in × 16 in (400 mm × 400 mm) stone culvert in Margam. This may have been a water supply for Margam Abbey, 12 mile (800 metres) to the east.[10]

The Cross of Brancuf an early Christian Sculptured Stone which stands in the church of St Catharine at Baglan. It is an intricately sculptured cross-slab with a Latin cross and an inscription recalling Brancuf. Originally it stood in the old St Baglan's church but that fell into ruin in the late 19th century and the slab was removed to St Catharine's. St Baglan (Bagelan), son of King Ithael Hoel of Brittany, was a 6th-century hermit and follower of St Illtud. He founded the first church at the town that now takes his name. In the vestry of St Catharine's church sits a cross-slab dating from the 8th–10th century CE. It is intricately decorated with a Celtic-style cross formed out of knotwork (cord-plait knotwork) and interlacing; the ends of each arm are probably of a Latin design. Also, there is a Latin inscription: FECIT BRANCUF or perhaps BRANCU which when translated reads 'was made by Brancuf'. However, the person known as Brancuf is unknown.[11]

The English antiquarian John Leland made an extensive journey through Wales c.1536–39 of which he recorded an itinerary. He passed through Aberafan, which he describes as a "poor village" surrounded by barren ground, though he also describes the area as heavily wooded, not much of which remains today. He mentions the use of the river mouth as a port. His portrayal of Aberafan as a small, struggling village suggests that the port was not in great use, especially as traffic to and from Margam Abbey would have ceased following its dissolution in 1536.[12]

The area of the parish of Margam lying on the west bank of the lower Afan became industrialised following the establishment of a copperworks in 1770. The Afan was diverted and a dock was opened in 1839 named for the Talbot family,[13] local landowners who were related to the pioneer photographer, William Henry Fox Talbot. The Talbots were patrons of Margam Abbey, and also built Margam Castle. Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803–1890), a Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Glamorgan from 1830 until his death, saw the potential of his property as a site for an extensive ironworks, which opened in early 1831.[citation needed]

Margam Coast Defence Radar Station

The remains of a Chain Home Low early warning radar station are situated in Margam Country Park, dating from World War II (c. 1941–1943). Designed to guard against enemy surface craft and submarines in the Bristol Channel, the station comprises three squarish concrete buildings with flat roofs, set on the Margam ridge facing south-east and overlooking the Channel. The most north-westerly building retains the framework of a steel gantry, the base for a rectangular radar transmitter/receiver array, known as a 'bedstead array' from its wires and framework, and is believed to be a unique survivor within the British Isles.[14]

In 1970 a new deep-water harbour was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. This harbour was capable of discharging iron ore vessels of 100,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT),[15] a tenfold improvement on the old dock. By the early 21st century, due to further modification and dredging, the harbour is capable of harbouring vessels of over 170,000 DWT.[16]


The borough of Port Talbot was created in November 1921, incorporating Margam, Cwmafan and Aberafan.[13] It was therefore 85 years after the phrase 'Port Talbot' was first used that it became officially recognised as the town's name.

Port Talbot was part of the historic county of Glamorgan. The 1974 county council re-organisation split Glamorgan into three new counties, and Port Talbot became one of the four districts of West Glamorgan.[17]

Following the demise of West Glamorgan County Council in 1996, Port Talbot borough council was merged with Neath and part of Lliw Valley Districts to create the new unitary authority of Neath Port Talbot County Borough.[18] The Civic Centre is located in Port Talbot, and the town is represented by three of the 64 councillors that make up the county council.[19]

The centre of the town is covered by the Port Talbot ward for local council elections.

Physical geography[edit]

Margam Castle, not far from Margam Abbey
Holy Cross Church

Port Talbot occupies an area of low lying coastal plain between Swansea Bay to the west (within the Bristol Channel) and the hills and valleys of Margam Moors (which are part of the wider South Wales valleys) to the south. The town is built along the eastern rim of Swansea Bay in a narrow strip of coastal plain surrounding the River Afan estuary. Swansea is visible on the opposite side of the bay. The local beach is known as Aberafan Sands and is situated along the edge of the bay between the River Afan and the River Neath. The other beach in Port Talbot is Margam Sands, popularly known as Morfa Beach.[20][21] The north-western edge of the town is marked by the River Neath. A landmark in the town is the Port Talbot Steelworks.

Human geography[edit]

With heavy industry and an urban motorway, Port Talbot was reported as having the worst air pollution in Wales in 2005 with a PM10 particulate level of 30 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre). By 2018 the air quality had improved to meet the WHO's recommended limit of 10 μg/m3.[22][23]

According to the Office for National Statistics, the Neath Port Talbot population had increased by 1.8%, from around 139,800 in 2011 to 142,300 in 2021. This was higher than the overall increase for Wales (1.4%), where the population grew by 44,000 to 3,107,500. In 2021, Neath Port Talbot ranked ninth for total population out of 22 local authority areas in Wales - a fall of one place in a decade. As of 2021, Neath Port Talbot was the 11th least densely populated of Wales' 22 local authority areas, with around two people living on each football pitch-sized area of land. There had been an increase of 15.5% in people aged 65 years and over, a decrease of 2.3% in people aged 15 to 64 years, and an increase of 2.5% in children aged under 15 years.[24]

Of Port Talbot's population in 2000, 63% were between the ages of 15 and 64. Male unemployment in 2000 was around 9%, with female unemployment around 6% in 2000.[25][26]

Social deprivation[edit]

In 2010, 26.2% of children and young persons (under the age of 20) in Neath Port Talbot county borough were living in relative poverty, higher than the 22.2% Welsh average.[27]

According to the Office for National Statistics between April 2012 to March 2013 25,400 (7.8%) between the ages of 16 and 64 were economically inactive, 60,100 (70.3%) between the ages of 16 and 64 were economically active. The unemployment rate was 7.8% and the employment rate was 64.9%.[28]


Port Talbot has a variety of bedrock and drift types.[29][30]

Margam Abbey

Bedrock geology[edit]

South East of Port Talbot is dominated by Pennant sandstone which forms this high relief area including Mynydd Margam, Mynydd Dinas and the other mountains. The pennant sandstone is made up of two formations which are the Rhondda Member and Brithdir Member. The sandstone formed in Carboniferous swamps 300 million years ago. Pennant sandstone is a micacous sandstone which has a brown colouration with areas of red staining where iron from pyrite in coal has weathered creating a rust colouration.[31]

Lower land areas are predominantly Pennant sandstone within the South Wales Coal Measures Group.[citation needed]

Drift geology[edit]

There is a variety of drift deposits in Port Talbot. Sandfields area of Port Talbot is built upon blown sand and tidal flat deposits. These were deposited by the wind via aeolian processes and the water by fluvial processes. Velindre area of Port Talbot is built upon an alluvial fan deposit. This deposit formed during the last glacial period 14,000 years ago. Baglan Road in Port Talbot is built upon glacial till from the Devensian period. Till, also known as boulder clay, is a mix of unconsolidated sediment with a range of grain sizes. This forms as the fronts of glaciers rapidly deposit material due to melting. Cwmafan in Port Talbot is built upon alluvial and glaciofluvial deposits, formed from glacial meltwater. Baglan Moors, Fairfield and Port Talbot town centre are built upon tidal flat deposits (tides were higher 12,000 years ago allowing sandy deposits to accumulate).[citation needed]

Economic geology[edit]

Coal seams within the Pennant sandstone run north west-south-east and east–west. The coal seams arise from the South Wales Middle Coal Measures Formation, South Wales Upper Coal Measures Formation, South Wales Lower Coal Measures Formation, Rhondda Member and Brithdir Member. Pennant sandstone is an excellent construction rock and road stone.[citation needed]

Structural geology[edit]

Faults have an orientation of North West-South East, east–west and north–south. All are normal faults which form extension processes.[citation needed] There are also many marine fossils bands.


Marine fossils found in Port Talbot region include species of bivalves, gastropods and brachiopods. Terrestrial fossils include fern tree branches, trunks, leaves and roots. Traces of organism footprints can also be found.[32][33]

Engineering geology[edit]

The drift geology average thickness is between 3 and 20 metres (10 and 66 ft). Several landslips occur in the highlands including many bole holes historically made for the construction of the M4 motorway, steelworks and coal mines.[33]


Rivers in the region are fault guided meaning that they flow is highly influenced by a structural weakness called a fault. Several natural springs occur in the highland regions with a neutral to slightly acidic ph values. Natural groundwater levels varies from 10 metres (35 ft) below the Taibach area of Port Talbot to over 20 metres (65 ft). Rivers in the region including the River Afan (Aberafan), River Neath (Baglan Bay), Ffrwdwyllt (Taibach), Arnallt Brook (Taibach), Baglan Brook (Baglan), River Kenfig (Morfa Beach) and other rivers are fast flowing and are highly influenced by their mouths (end of the rivers, tidal region). A spout can be found in Baglan Park in the Baglan region of Port Talbot. Many open and uncovered reservoirs exist in the region. Water has been channelled into ditches in industrial areas of Port Talbot.[33][34]


There are four comprehensive schools situated within the Port Talbot area:

Glan Afan Comprehensive School and Sandfields Comprehensive School closed in 2016.[36][37]

A campus of Neath Port Talbot College is located in the Margam area. The Margam campus was previously called Afan College.

The University of South Wales has a campus at Baglan Energy Park called the Hydrogen Centre, which includes a Renewable Hydrogen Research and Development Centre.[38]

Arts and culture[edit]

South Wales Miners' Museum[edit]

The South Wales Miners' Museum is located in Cynonville, Cymmer.

Margam Stones Museum[edit]

The nearby Margam Stones Museum has early Christian inscribed stones and Celtic crosses, including four from the area now under the Steelworks. A Roman milestone, an 8th-century pillar, and two Celtic crosses from the 10th century were all rescued from the steelworks site by the Talbot family and taken to Margam, where they are now in the museum, in the care of Cadw.[39]

The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence[edit]

The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence is a private museum in Port Talbot.[40]

Banksy mural[edit]

In December 2018 the artist Banksy confirmed that he produced a mural painted on the corner of a garage close to Port Talbot steelworks. On one side it depicts a boy playing in what appears to be snowfall, but the other side shows the snowfall is ash falling from a bin fire.[41] In May 2019, the mural was moved to a gallery in the town's Ty'r Orsaf building.[42]

The Passion[edit]

In April 2011, actor Michael Sheen led a 72-hour National Theatre Wales production of a modern retelling of The Passion. The play began at 5:30 am on Good Friday with a seafront scene, inspired by John the Baptist's baptism of Jesus, which was watched by hundreds who had heard about it by word of mouth.

By the time the first main part of the play was performed on Aberafan Beach at 3:00 pm, organisers estimated up to 6,000 people had gathered to watch.

On Saturday, there were sequences in Llewellyn Street, the Castle Street underpass, Aberafan Shopping Centre, the Seaside Social and Labour Club[43] in Sandfields and nearby Abbeyville Court.

On Easter Sunday, the production returned to Aberafan Beach as part of the finale. A trial was performed on Civic Square before a procession from Station Road, with the final scene, "the cross", at Aberafan seafront. By the time the procession had reached the seafront close to where it had begun 72 hours earlier, organisers estimate over 13,000 people had come to watch on the small roundabout.

In April 2012, Michael Sheen returned to attend the world premiere of the feature-length film The Gospel of Us based on The Passion. The premiere was held at the Apollo Cinema (now the Reel Cinema) on the Aberafan seafront close to where The Passion took place. Tickets for the premiere sold out weeks before the showing; all six screens showed the film simultaneously. The film was also shown daily from Easter Sunday to the following Thursday prior to its UK-wide release the next day.


The area is served by several radio stations: The Wave (96.4 FM), Greatest Hits Radio South Wales (DAB), Easy Radio (102.1 FM), Heart South Wales (106.0 FM) and Nation Radio Wales (107.3 FM), all of which are available on DAB. Radio Phoenix also operates a 24-hour hospital radio service for the patients & staff of Neath Port Talbot Hospital in Baglan Moors.

In 2005 the area was granted its first radio station when Afan FM, the inspiration of a group of local young people, was awarded a five-year licence by Ofcom to serve Port Talbot and Neath. Afan FM broadcast from the AquaDome leisure complex on Aberafan Seafront. Following a December 2009 fire at the AquaDome, Afan FM moved to Aberafan House, adjacent to the town's shopping centre. Afan FM closed in December 2011 was shut down following after an unexpected tax bill.

The town has been served by several newspapers. The Port Talbot Guardian was a weekly paper published by Media Wales, part of the Trinity Mirror group, but ceased publication in October 2009. The Swansea-based daily South Wales Evening Post and the weekly Courier and Tribune are distributed in the town and are published by Media Wales, part of the Reach plc group.

The Welsh-language song competition Cân i Gymru is usually filmed in Port Talbot. TV programmes such as Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures have filmed in the town.

The 2017 crime drama television series Bang is set in Port Talbot.

Terry Gilliam has recounted how he was inspired to create the movie Brazil after hearing a transistor radio play the song Aquarela do Brasil on the beach at Port Talbot.[44]



Port Talbot railway station.

Port Talbot is served by the South Wales Main Line at Port Talbot Parkway railway station. Great Western Railway and Transport for Wales serve the station with services westbound to Neath and Swansea and West Wales Line and eastbound to Bridgend, Cardiff Central and London Paddington. Trains also run via Hereford and Shrewsbury to Crewe and Manchester Piccadilly.

The new £5.6 million Integrated Transport hub was completed in 2017, linking Port Talbot Parkway with new bus and taxi links. This also included extensive upgrades to the railway station and surrounding area.


Port Talbot bus station, located adjacent to the Aberafan Centre in the centre of the town is the main bus transport hub, it is a National Express stop. Local bus services are provided by First Cymru and South Wales Transport. The bus station's layout is very distinctive for the fact that buses always have to perform a 270° clockwise turn to exit the station. A Sustrans cycle route has recently been constructed at this bus station as part of the connect2 scheme connecting the Afan Valley with Aberafan beach. A second bus station opened in the town in 2017, at Port Talbot Parkway railway station.

M4 motorway[edit]

The M4 motorway passes through the town from southeast to northwest, crossing a central area on a concrete viaduct, junctions 38 to 41 serve Port Talbot, with junctions 40 and 41 being in the commercial heart of the town. This busy urban stretch of the M4, with tight bends, two-lane carriageways, short narrow slip roads and concrete walls on both sides, was the first length of motorway in Wales when it opened to traffic in 1966.[45] The road has a speed limit of 50 mph (80 km/h) enforced with automatic number-plate recognition speed cameras in both directions. The stretch through Port Talbot town centre is a particular traffic congestion blackspot and there have been calls to close the slip roads at junctions 40 and 41 to improve traffic flow.[46] However some commuters oppose this plan since it would add more time to their journey. A new dual carriageway relief road, the Port Talbot Peripheral Distribution Road (PDR),[47] was completed in 2013. It serves as a distributor road through Port Talbot to the southwest of the M4, beginning at M4 Junction 38 and ending near Junction 41.

Port Talbot docks[edit]

The Port Talbot Docks complex consist of an inner set of floating docks and an outer tidal basin. Construction of the tidal basin began in 1964 and the whole basin covers about 500 acres (200 hectares).[48] The tidal basin is capable of handling ships of up to 170,000 DWT and is used mostly for the import of iron ore and coal for use by nearby Port Talbot Steelworks. The inner floating docks were constructed in 1898[49] and were closed in 1959. They were re-opened in 1998 for commercial shipping and in March 2007 for the import of some steel products[50] and are capable of handling ships of up to 8,000 dwt.[51] There have been proposals for the development of an intermodal freight terminal at the port.


Water vapour rises in front of the blast furnaces at Port Talbot Steelworks
High Street

On 20 November 2007, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) granted consent for the world's largest biomass power station to be built at Port Talbot.[52] This is expected to provide enough electricity (from wood from environmentally-managed forests, mostly in North America) to supply half the homes in Wales with electricity.

Potential future development currently centres around the peripheral distributor road to the south (the dual carriageway road in the Margam and Taibach areas was finished in 2013), Baglan Industrial Park and Baglan Energy Park to the west, Port Talbot Docks to the southwest, Margam Country Park to the east and the Afan Valley to the north. In March 2009 Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council announced a regeneration project for Port Talbot town centre and docks, with a master plan for new homes, offices, light industry, retail developments and improvements to the railway station.[53]

In January 2021, permission was granted for a new £200m adventure resort to open in the Afan Valley. The resort will include ski slopes, zip wires, tree top high-wire courses, Bear Grylls Survival Academy, an aqua adventure park, an equestrian centre, mountain biking, BMX and skate parks, a luxury spa, central plaza with shops and restaurants, 100 bed hotel and 500 luxury lodges.[citation needed]

In May 2022, the Welsh Government announced that a free port known as the Celtic Freeport was to be established in Port Talbot and in Milford Haven. This would focus on various low carbon technologies and aim to attract inward investment.[54]

Youth organisations[edit]

Port Talbot is home to a number of youth organisations. They are operated by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, the Ministry of Defence and a range of other charitable organisations.

Cadet organisations[edit]

The 499 (Port Talbot) Squadron Air Training Corps, Sea Cadets, Port Talbot Detachment and Dyfed and Glamorgan Army Cadet Force operate in Port Talbot.

Sea rescue[edit]

Port Talbot coastguard celebrated its centenary in 2008. The crew are the mud rescue team for the Swansea Bay area and are one of the seven rescue teams in the Gower Sector. Port Talbot inshore lifeboat is operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and operates in the docks, at Aberafan Beach and in the navigable sections of the local rivers.[55]



The town is part of the Ospreys rugby union region, by which it is represented at the top level of the sport. Other teams include:


Cymru South teams are Trefelin B.G.C., Afan Lido F.C. and Goytre United, all based in the town.

Port Talbot Town, who were relegated from the Cymru South, joined Baglan Dragons F.C. who were promoted to the Ardal Leagues.

Other teams in the town include Afan United and Tata Steel FC. ]]

Port Talbot Half Marathon[edit]

The Port Talbot half marathon is an annual event attracting hundreds of runners. The event takes place around the Glyncorrwg ponds and Afan valley area.

Other sports[edit]

  • Port Talbot Wheelers cycling club
  • TS Multisport, running and triathlon club of employees from the Tata Steel plants in Port Talbot and Llanwern[56]
  • Port Talbot Town Cricket Club founded in 1963 and playing in the South Wales Premier Cricket League

Margam Forest to the northeast of the Port Talbot is used as a venue for a stage of the annual Wales Rally GB. In the past, the rally route has traversed Margam Country Park.

Afan Forest Park to the north of the town has a number of dedicated mountain biking trails including the 'Penhydd', 'Y Wâl', 'Skyline', 'White's Level' and 'W²'.[57]

The Aberavon beach is popular for surfing and kite surfing. A local life-saving club operates during the summer months.[58]

Notable people[edit]

Special environmental protected sites[edit]

Port Talbot has several protected sites, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and a Ramsar wetland site.[63]

  • Baglan Moors (An important site for lapwings and other birds and for amphibians)
  • Caeau Ton-y-fildre (SSSI)
  • Cefn Gwrhyd, Rhydyfro (SSSI)
  • Cilybebyll (SSSI)
  • Coed Cwm Du, Cilmaengwyn (SSSI)
  • Coedydd Nedd a Mellte (SAC)
  • Cors Crymlyn / Crymlyn Bog (Ramsar, SSSI, SAC)
  • Craig-y-llyn (SSSI)
  • Crymlyn Burrows (SSSI)
  • Cwm Gwrelych and Nant Llyn Fach Streams (SSSI)
  • Dyffrynnoedd Nedd a Mellte, a Moel Penderyn (SSSI)
  • Earlswood Road Cutting and Ferryboat Inn Quarries (SSSI)
  • Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir (SSSI)
  • Fforest Goch Bog (SSSI)
  • Frondeg (SSSI)
  • Gorsllwyn, Onllwyn (SSSI)
  • Gwrhyd Meadows (SSSI)
  • Hafod Wennol Grasslands (SSSI)
  • Kenfig / Cynffig (SAC), National Nature Reserve)
  • Margam Moors (SSSI)
  • Mynydd Ty-isaf, Rhondda (SSSI)
  • Pant-y-sais (SSSI)
  • Tairgwaith (SSSI)

See also[edit]


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  5. ^ Population of Neath Port Talbot Varbes. Retrieved: 7 March 2023
  6. ^ ITV News (accessed: 13 March 2017)
  7. ^ Guardian (accessed: 13 March 2017)
  8. ^ Margam Deer Herd (accessed: 18 June 2013)
  9. ^ Ordnance Survey Map, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Area, 2012
  10. ^ "Ffynnon Pedr (305628)". Coflein. RCAHMW. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  11. ^ [1] (accessed: 25 December 2016)
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  33. ^ a b c British Geological Society Map, Swansea and Port Talbot region
  34. ^ Ordnance Survey Map, Port Talbot Region,2011
  35. ^ "Ysgol Bae Baglan". www.baebaglan.school.
  36. ^ Coastal Housing plans for Glan Afan Comprehensive School site, Wales Online, 9 August 2016.
  37. ^ Parry, Gemma. (12 July 2016). School's out! Sandfields Comprehensive students and staff say goodbye to closing school. South Wales Evening Post.
  38. ^ Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC), University of South Wales, 5 November 2020.
  39. ^ Sign boards at the Margam Stones Museum, undated, viewed in the Museum in June 2012
  40. ^ Davies, Hunter (2010). "Chapter 4: The Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, Port Talbot". Behind the scenes at the Museum of Baked Beans: My search for Britain's Maddest Museums. Virgin Books. pp. 59–72. ISBN 978-0-7535-2213-4.
  41. ^ "Banksy confirms Port Talbot 'Season's greetings' piece is his". BBC. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  42. ^ Fyfe, Will (29 May 2019). "Port Talbot Banksy mural: Artwork arrives at new home". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
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