Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Western Valley
Nantyglo and Brynmawr
Including Winchestown, Clydach Dingle and Llangattock Mountain
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Western Valley

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    Abercarn     Newbridge to Crumlin     Swffryd to Llanhilleth     Trinant to Abertillery
    Blaina     Nantyglo and Brynmawr     Aberbeeg to Ebbw Vale     Beaufort

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Nantyglo and Winchestown

Quick links to :-     Nantyglo     Railways and Tramroads     Brynmawr Town
    Clydach Dingle     Llangattock Mountain

Blaina Museum map of Blaina and Nantyglo

This excellent map of Blaina and Nantyglo is in Blaina Museum. I have annotated it as much of it is difficult to read so there are certainly some mistakes. Please let me know if you can decipher anything else.

Ty Mawr or Nantyglo House - SO 1906 1014

This was the home of Crawshay Bailey, the Nant-y-Glo Ironworks owner with a terrible reputation for ill-treatment of his workers.

The Round Towers and Roundhouse Farm - SO 1901 1027

The Round Towers were built in 1816 by Matthew Wayne and Joseph and Crawshay Bailey, the owners of Nantyglo Ironworks. They lie either side of Roundhouse Farm and were refuges for the owners from the anger of their workforce.

Winchestown tips - SO 1812 1075

Ancient workings of the outcropping ironstone and coal for Nantyglo Ironworks

Railways and Tramroads

Quick links to :-     Nantyglo     Railways and Tramroads     Brynmawr Town
    Clydach Dingle     Llangattock Mountain

Three mainline railways met at Brynmawr, two GWR branchlines, one up the Western Valley from Aberbeeg, the other over the top from Blaenavon, and the MTAR (LNWR) line from Abergavenny to Merthyr. Thrown into the mix were a whole cat's cradle of tramroads, railroads and minor tramways. But there's not a lot left!

The MTAR from Abergavenny to Merthyr - SO 1873 1150

Brynmawr West Junction was where the GWR branch to Nantyglo, Abertillery and Aberbeeg curved off from the MTAR. Underneath both lines ran the Disgwylfa Tramroad, which linked the limestone quarries at Disgwylfa with Nantyglo Ironworks.

The GWR to Abertillery - SO 1873 1150

The GWR branch to Nantyglo, Abertillery and Aberbeeg curved off from the MTAR at Brynmawr West Junction. It was only open from 1906 to 1963. You can follow it from the junction to Pond Road but a lot of it has been used for the main road from there down to Abertillery.

Disgwylfa Tramroad

The 2'4" gauge Disgwylfa Tramroad ran from Baileys Nantyglo Ironworks to the limestone quarries at Disgwylfa on Llangattock Mountain. It probably worked from c1810 to c1870. The parts of the route below the MTA railway line and also between the Clydach bridge and Cairn Mound have completely disappeared but the rest of the line makes an excellent walk.

This journey along the line starts at Welfare Park and ends near the point where the tramroad crossed the Clydach river. A garden beside the line in Clydach Street has been landscaped in its memory.

Llangattock Tramroad

The 3'6" gauge Llangattock Tramroad ran from Baileys Nantyglo Ironworks to the large quarries above Llangattock, connecting with the nclines and tramroad down to the B&A canal. It was constructed in c1830 to c1875 and operated by one or two steam locomotives from the start, followed by 'Cymro', built by the Uskside Ironworks, Newport, in c1860.

Baileys tramroad sidings - SO 1916 1163

A collection of sidings existed in Catholic Road seemingly linking the three Bailey tramroads. It's quite possible they were converted to railways and connected to the MTAR near Brynmawr East Junction as they are referred to as 'Bailey Siding' on the 1920 map.

Clydach Railroad

The 3'8" gauge Clydach Railroad dates from 1793 and was little used by 1865 but short sections may still have been used into the 20th century, It ran from Glangrwyney Forge through Gilwern and Brynmawr to Kendalls Beaufort Ironworks.

1833 tramroads to Beaufort Ironworks

The Baileys of Nantyglo Ironworks purchased the Beaufort Ironworks from the Kendalls in 1833 and established a tramroad between Beaufort Ironworks and the Llangattock Tramroad and also between the two ironworks.

The LNWR Blaenavon branch

Opened in 1869, the railway between Brynmawr and Blaenavon closed to both goods and passengers in 1954. The line from Waunavon to Blaenavon re-opened for opencast mining traffic but this work at the Brynmawr end also destroyed the original trackbed. One survivor is this tramway tunnel under the line that joined small levels to the Clydach Railroad at Greenland Road. The modern footpath follows the railway route quite closely and, with a little imagination, the line can still be found. The section around Waunavon is covered in more detail on the Blaenavon pages here :- Forgeside to Waunavon

Brynmawr Town

Quick links to :-     Nantyglo     Railways and Tramroads     Brynmawr Town
    Clydach Dingle     Llangattock Mountain

Dunlop Semtex factory - SO 1906 1146

This futuristic factory was designed by Ove Arup and others and built in 1951 as a rubber factory before making the vinyl flooring known as 'Semtex'. Not very successfully as it was demolished in 2001. The boiler house still stands but the factory site itself is now a supermarket.

Twyn Cynnordy Pit - SO 1805 1183

Twyn Cynnordy Pit (spelt Cynghordy today) is shown on the 1880 map with a tramway meeting the Clydach Railroad and other tramroads above Beaufort tunnel. The pit was disused by 1901.

Machine Pond and Winches Pit - SO 1840 1140

Machine Pond and Winches Pit were owned by the Nantyglo & Blaina Co serving Nantyglo Ironworks. The pit had closed by 1883 and the site has recently been used as a scrapyard.

Bits and Pieces

Clydach Dingle

Quick links to :-     Nantyglo     Railways and Tramroads     Brynmawr Town
    Clydach Dingle     Llangattock Mountain

Rhas Fach and the Patches - SO 1865 1275

Rhas Fach and the Patches is the area to the North of Brynmawr town up to the A465 Heads of the Valley Road. You can follow the course of the Disgwylfa Tramroad from Clydach Street until it disappears under the A465. No sign of the stone sleepers which I've heard are here, but I did come across a Royal Observer Corps lookout post, in use from 1962 to 1973, on the hill above. Rhas Fach (Little Race) was an area of very old scourings, quarries and mine workings for both coal and ironstone with a small community near the ponds.

Clydach Street tips - SO 1890 1240

The South side of Clydach Dingle was extensively worked for ironstone and coal from the mid 1700s. Two branches from the Disgwylfa Tramroad ventured up into the workings from Clydach Street, one serving the lower workings left the tramroad at SO 1898 1221 and the other serving the middle workings at SO 1917 1240.

Blaen Clydach

Behind the Blaen-y-Cwm reservoir are a number of coal and ironstone levels that were connected by a tramway to Rhas-fach where it connected with the Garnlydan Tramway, Disgwylfa Tramroad and the Clydach Railroad. There is a string of water-filled pits with tips behind them, once coal levels with one larger pit to the East. Here there are the remains of a small building, once used by the colliery but appears to be more recently used as a bunker or markers hut for the rifle range along with nearby butts. Little remains of Redvein Level but the tramway can be seen from the hillside above. Most of the workings were disused by the 1890s.

Keith Phillips remembers :- 'Bill Gascoigne from the college and Brynmawr caving club did a survey of the Western level and said it was late 18 century, the only way in was thro a sink hole which flooded when raining. There were wooden clogs and candle holders carved into the rock. Very interesting. Although we were disappointed as we thought it was a back way into Agen Allwydd (aggie) in Llangattock. When inside you can see 2 shafts dug at about 45° totally flooded with clear water, even though every thing around is dark red from the oxide'.

Geoff Palfrey reports :- 'The area was a hushing pond for Beaufort Ironworks, scouring shales from the open pits exposing from the south the old coal seam, the spotted vein of ore, the red vein of ore and the bottom vein of ore, then the big vein, or Garw seam is its now known, North of these are thin ore and coal seams known as Rosser seams after an early miner called Rosser who took ore from the area for the furnace in Brecon. The area was called Clydach terraces. As the overburden became thicker the mines went underground. The patch system of contracting was used, the mineral agent hired a contractor who paid the wages of the miners, they used gunpowder barrows and pick and shovels to get to the minerals, girls and women barrowed the ore making the fan shaped shake tips. The ore was sold in what was termed dozens or twelve bushels equivalent to a ton and a half. When The Baileys purchased Beaufort ironworks they found that a localized blackband of self calcining ore was in the strata and had been discarded, huts being built for the workers from it. The Scots Ironmaster Mushet has used this in Scotland, the Baileys maintained they discovered its use prior. The huts were trammed to the furnaces and the black band ore calcined on site, the Beaufort iron was made cheaply due to this. By 1878 Nantyglo and Beaufort were closed, Nantyglo having thousands of tons of ore at bank. The EV co stopped using Welsh mine by 1878, it’s metallisation was low at around 30 percent and better ores were available from Cumbria, Ireland and Spain, as well as the mines of Somerset. After closure leases were provided to small local coal merchants and they picked the bones of what was left of the coal, Bryn Pit, by layout was used to lower the trams of mine ore, probably to join to the balance engine of Winchs pits. Bryn ended its days of mining lowering coal from a level near slam gate, probably taking coal to Beaufort yard. The Cinder pit did the same in the 1880’s from Tunnel pits. The reservoir was used and extended twice, first by the EV Co around WW1, then in the mid 1930s for RTB works, this became a costly embarrassment because the reservoir extension would not fill due to the honeycombed workings below it, they had to be bashed off and the cost added to the works budget, causing director Lever to lose the banks confidence and he had to leave.'

Clydach Terrace - SO 1900 1315

The headwaters of the Clydach River as it emerges below Blaen-y-cwm Reservoir into Clydach Dingle, an area of very ancient workings.

Llangattock Mountain

Quick links to :-     Nantyglo     Railways and Tramroads     Brynmawr Town
    Clydach Dingle     Llangattock Mountain

Cairn Mound Reservoir - SO 2025 1360

Cairn Mound Reservoir provided the domestic water supply for Brynmawr by 1880 but became disused by 2005 following leakage in the dam. Underground filter chambers are in front of the dam.

The Disgwylfa Tramroad - SO 2049 1349

The Disgwylfa Tramroad re-appears in front of it on it's way to the quarries.

Coed Cae Mawr and Cwm Nant Melin - SO 2011 1251

Ancient and modern workings to the North of the top of the Clydach Gorge. Coed Cae Mawr working an 18" seam on and off until the late 1980s or early 90s, leaving behind quite a bit of ironmongery around a corrugated iron shed. Cwm Nant Melin, 400 yds away, worked around the end of the 19th C, leaving an interesting run of collapses running through the field behind the level.

Grenade firing range, Llangattock Mountain - SO 1710 1693

The live hand-grenade firing range consists of storage rooms with flat concrete roofs and an unroofed waiting and throwing area against the front wall, with safety blast walls.

Craig y Castell limekilns, Llangattock Mountain - SO 1695 1584

The limekilns at Craig-y-Castel have unusual square entrances to the draw-holes.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading

Thanks for addition information to :- Karl Jones, Geoff Palfrey, Keith Phillips
For more information on Brynmawr' history :- Brynmawr Historical Society
or Blaenau Gwent's heritage :- Blaenau Gwent Heritage Forum

A Guide to the Website

All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins