Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Clydach Gorge
The Llammarch Tramroad
From Pont Nant Gam to Gilwern
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Clydach Gorge

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The Llammarch Tramroad

Quick links to :- Gellifelen     Llanelly Hill     Llanelly Quarry     Clydach Ironworks     Llanelly Forge and Gilwern

The Brecon and Abergavenny Canal Co had constructed a railroad from Clydach Ironworks to Gellifelen and Llammarch in 1794-5. This was converted to a tramroad in 1804 and extended to the canal at Gilwern in 1809. The Clydach Ironworks were not happy with the existing route so re-constructed the tramroad on an easier alignment in 1811 at their own expense. By the 1860s the ironworks was in heavy debt and the B & A took over the works, soon selling it on where it continued to be in financial straits until 1877, when it closed for good. This was the end of the main Llammarch Tramroad but a small amount of trafic was generated by Llanelly Forge for the canal until 1884 when the forge closed too.

Gellifelen and its collieries

Quick links to :- Gellifelen     Llanelly Hill     Llanelly Quarry     Clydach Ironworks     Llanelly Forge and Gilwern

Cwm Nant Gam and Gellifelen

The furthest extent of the Llammarch Tramroad appears to have been at the levels above Cwm Nant Gam at SO 2082 1209. This is the end of the lane from Gellifelen which hugs the contour on very easy curves though it may not have got much further West than the lower coal levels at SO 2141 1205. Between these points, the Clydach Railroad branch from Pont Harri Issac climbed to the middle coal levels and would have had to cross the tramroad. which would have been an awkward level crossing.

Gellifelen Collieries - SO 2145 1200

Three distinct levels of tips can be found here, the lower and middle tips would be connected to the Llammarch Tramroad and the Clydach Railroad but the large upper tips must have connected with a tramroad at a higher level.

Gellifelen Colliery culvert - SO 2144 1207

The Western end of the Gelli-felen tunnels has a culvert alongside it. Likely built as a drainage level for Gellifelen Colliery, it probably passed under Baileys Tramroad through a simple culvert but the LNWR appear to have built a new exit allowing the outflow down an open gutter and under the new line.

The Ups and Downs of Llanelly Hill

Quick links to :- Gellifelen     Llanelly Hill     Llanelly Quarry     Clydach Ironworks     Llanelly Forge and Gilwern

The 1795 Brecon and Abergavenny Canal Co Railroad

There is a considerable drop in height from Llanelly Hill down to Clydach Ironworks which was not easy to overcome. The Brecon and Abergavenny Canal Co constructed their railroad (1) along what is now the lane down to Clydach which involved three or four inclines and other steep gradients. The railroad was converted to a tramroad in 1804 and extended to the canal at Gilwern in 1809. At Llanelly Hill the line divided with one arm (1a) going on he level to Gellifelen and the other arm (1b) climbing up to Llammarch and Llanelly Hill. Today 1a is the lane to Gellifelen and 1b is a footpath up towards the 'Miners Arms' where it joined the higher level line (5).

The 1811 Clydach Ironworks Tramroad

The Clydach Ironworkswere unhappy with the working of the tramroad so re-built it on a new alignment in 1811. They built two long inclines (10 & 11) to avoid the lane below Llanelly Quarry. From the quarry another incline (9) took the tramroad up to a level section (8) to re-join the original line (1).

The Balance Pit - SO 2219 1161

The Balance Pit and its two reservoirs were owned by the Clydach Iron and Coal Co and appear on the 1843 Tithe Map along with a 'building - water'. The pit was in the hands of the Blaenavon iron and Steel Co by the 1870s when it was abandoned. There seems to be an incline running up to it from the Llammarch Tramroad section 5. The upper part is used for access but the lower part below Penyffyddlwyn Lane to the tramroad has disappeared.

Clydach Colliery and Llammarch Coal Yard - SO 2193 1158
New Clydach Slope Colliery - SO 2178 1172
Llammarch Slope Colliery - SO 2179 1154

Llammarch Coal Yard was derelict in 2021 and planning permission for a dwelling was in progress. Prior to the coal yard, this was the site of Clydach Colliery. The Clydach collieries appear to have been active on and off since c1880 by the New Clydach Colliery Co. From 1911 they were owned by the Waun Nantyglo Colliery Co Ltd until 1947 when they were abandoned. Most of the site has been landscaped or greatly altered.

Llanelly Quarry and Incline

Quick links to :- Gellifelen     Llanelly Hill     Llanelly Quarry     Clydach Ironworks     Llanelly Forge and Gilwern

Llanelly Quarry - SO 22230 1247

Llanelly Quarry supplied the limestone to Clydach Ironworks originally using the Llammarch Tramroad of 1795. The 1811 incline actually ended in the quarry area so the MTAR had to build two arches, one for the incline and the other for the tramroad on up to Waunllapria. The MTAR put in sidings from the Eastern end and two sets of limekilns were built at either end, the eastern set have a headstone iscribed 'GP 1892'. The quarry and sidings closed in the 1930s and reopened for roadstone from 1951 to 1963 using road transport.

The two sets of limekilns

The Llanelly Hill inclines of 1811 (10 and 11) to Clydach Ironworks

Clydach Ironworks

Quick links to :- Gellifelen     Llanelly Hill     Llanelly Quarry     Clydach Ironworks     Llanelly Forge and Gilwern

Clydach Ironworks - SO 2288 1322

Clydach Ironworks was up and running in 1793 with a second furnace in 1797. A third furnace followed in 1826 and a fourth in 1843 and over 1350 people were employed in 1841 by the works and its' suppliers. But by 1861 the furnaces were cold and have remained so ever since though they were listed as assets until 1873. The remains of the ironworks were excavated and conserved in the 1980s. The rolling mills were above the furnaces, where Dan-y-coed is now, and they had been converted to a woollen mill by 1905.The 1795 and 1811 inclines of the Llammarch Tramroad met at the rolling mills and then came down the incline to the West of the ironworks to run across the the front of the furnaces and on down the valley to the canal.

Smarts Bridge - SO 2287 1327
Upper bridge - SO 2292 1333
Lower bridge - SO 2328 1373

Smarts Bridge and one or two tramroads? Smarts Bridge, cast in iron and dated 1824, appears to be for road traffic but it may have carried a spur of the tramroad. The stone bridge just below it may have been either a link to the Clydach Railroad or possibly an 1811 route of the Llammarch Tramroad avoiding the slag bank. The 1799 tramroad ran from the furnaces, behind the slag heaps and over the lower bridge on to Gilwern. Or, of course, all of the above at one time or another. The lower bridge is likely to disappear with the A465 dual carriageway project.

Clydach brickworks - SO 2320 1365

A brickworks, very likely supplying the ironworks, was in production in 1802 when it was drawn by Amelia de Suffren, a French lady touring Wales. It's marked on the 1843 Tithe Map as occupied by the Clydach Iron and Coal Co. By the 1880 OS map it has gone but nearby buildings remain.

Llanelly Furnace to Gilwern

Quick links to :- Gellifelen     Llanelly Hill     Llanelly Quarry     Clydach Ironworks     Llanelly Forge and Gilwern

From Clydach Ironworks to Llanelly Forge

Two routes left Clydach Ironworks, the main Llammarch Tramroad on to Gilwern and, at one time, a railroad branch up to the Clydach Railroad at the 'Bellevue Inn'.

Llanelly Furnace - SO 2329 1386
Llanelly Forge - SO 2354 1406

Both Llanelly Blast Furnace and the adjacent Llanelly Forge have completely disappeared leaving just empty spaces. Llanelly Furnace was first mentioned in 1590 and was in full production by 1684. It had fallen into disuse by c1850.

The area also has the site of an early 19th century Tinworks (at Forge House), a separate venture from the forge and furnace, operated as the Llanelly Iron & Tinplate Co during the 1870s and later the Llanelly Tinplate Co. before closure in 1884. The Forge processed the cast iron into wrought iron until the closure of the furnace, Afterwards the site was used to produce tinplate by the Llanelly Iron & Tinplate Co during the 1870s and later the Llanelly Tinplate Co but this too closed in 1884. The large retaining wall to the North was the forge dam wall which is crossed by a public footpath. Llanelly Forge House is now a private house, this was once part of the Forge complex and then part of the tinplating works. The bridge over the river to the side carried a spur of the Llammarch Tramroad which led to stables on the South bank. The row of cottages, much rebuilt, were the workers accommodation.

Llammarch Tramroad from Llanelly Furnace to Gilwern

The Llammarch Tramroad travels along the banks of the Clydach River to Clydach Wharf and dock on the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal at Gilwern.

Gilwern dock - SO 2435 1451

Llammarch Tramroad runs alongside the river from the A465 junction, past Llanelly Forge and ends at Clydach Wharf and dock, Gilwern. The route is very pleasent footpath with a number of stone tramroad sleepers to be seen. The dock is now used as a boat hire centre but the course of the canalside tramroads is clear. The buildings here are believed to be later constructions.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to :- Chris George, Richard Preece, Martin Sims and Brynmawr Historical Society for their photos and information.
'The Tramroads of the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal' by Gordon Rattenbury
'Early Limestone Railways' by John van Laun

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