Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Eastern Valley
Cwm Lickey and Blaendare
From Cwmynyscoy, through Penyrheol and Upper Race
to Mynydd Maen and back down to Lower Race and Old Furnace
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Eastern Valley

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Cwmynyscoy Tramroad

The Cwmynyscoy tramroad was built by Thomas Dadford Jnr. to connect Blaendare to the canal basin and latterly to exchange sidings on the TVER line to Hafodyrynys. It operated from c1796 to c1900, first as a tramroad then a tramway. As the quarries developed these became an important source of traffic. Most of it can be followed as footpaths or lanes.

Drainage Level beside the tramroad - ST 2799 0764

This tunnel appears to be a drainage level into Nant Dare for ironstone workings higher up.

Cwm and Tamplins Quarries - ST 282996

Quarrying first began c1826 and the lower quarry continued to be worked until c1976. The upper quarry, Cwm Quarry also known as Tamplins Quarry, is shown as disused from 1900. It was connected to the lower quarries and the tramroad by a tunnel. The foundations of the 'Lion' pub, known locally as the 'Lions Den', an ancient beerhouse opened before 1845, are at ST 2838 9928, next to the ruins of Ashtree Cottages, built before 1881.


Quick links to :-     Cwmynyscoy     Penyrheol and Mountain Level     Upper Race and Blaendare
    Cwm Lickey and Mynydd Maen     Lower Race and Old Furnace

Mountain Level or Aberdare No 1 Level - ST 2762 9936

This iron mine is believed to have opened in the 1790s. In September 2015 I had a unique opportunity to visit this old iron mine with a party of experienced and professionally trained cavers that I just couldn't miss. Don't try this at home !

Penyrheol Reservoir - ST 2770 9915

This reservoir was built in 1912 and it served the local area until 1980. Its empty shell is now a safe haven for the local wildlife. The hillside behind bears the scars of further scouring. These areas have been categorised as Grade 2 Listed by CADW as they are considered an important part of our industrial heritage.


This shallow gouge in the landscape is the remains of “scouring”, a primitive form of open cast mining. As mentioned previously, Iron ore lay close to the surface so was easily exposed. The “Miners” would use picks and shovels to break up and loosen top soil. Then water that had been collected behind small temporary dams was channelled or raced out over the prepared ground. This washed away the soil and exposed the iron ore bearing stone. After the ore was removed, a residue of coal was often left behind, which the workers were then allowed to collect for their own use. This was called outcropping, giving those that gathered the coal the title of out-croppers.

The Scourings Reservoir - ST 2774 9838

This was the main reservoir for the long scouring running downhill. The iron sluicegate frame is still in place.

Upper Race and Blaendare

Quick links to :-     Cwmynyscoy     Penyrheol and Mountain Level     Upper Race and Blaendare
    Cwm Lickey and Mynydd Maen     Lower Race and Old Furnace

Railway line from Hafodyrynys

The Blaendare branch either zig-zagged its way up from Old Furnace or took a longer and easier route from Hafodyrynys. It served the ironworks, brickworks, collieries and levelsen route, ending up at the foot of the incline to Cwm lickey. Most of the route to Hafodyrynys is walkable if rather wet in places but the zig-zag has gone under the reclamation works.

Tunnel to Long Row - ST 2772 9956

This may be the tunnel described by a visitor from America in 1828 as being on a tramroad to Pontymoile. It doesn't seem to be very deep so maybe a covered route under slagheaps as at Garndyrys Ironworks, Blaenavon. We visited this tunnel in 2017 but in 2021 it appears to have been covered over. However, as consolation, we found a tramplate sticking out of the bank in the same area.

Upper Race Ironworks - ST 2745 9950

The Upper Race, Blaendare, Ironworks was in operation by 1794 becoming part of the Ebbw Vale Iron Co empire in 1864. The row of cottages, 'Five Houses', date from before 1881 and can be used as a reference point when looking at old maps of the area.

Blaendare Level - ST 2727 9921

Blaendare Level is a later working of Blaendare Slope. The Slope seems to have opened around 1896 though there was a Blaendare Level in 1836 and it's history is muddled up with Quarry Level. It became part of the NCB and closed in 1949. However it re-opened under GKN Ltd in the 1950s mainly for fireclay, finally closing completely around 1979. The site has been landscaped and it's hard to imagine it now.

Blaendare Brickworks (Pontypool Brick Co Ltd) - ST 2730 9935

There were three brickworks, one at Blaendare and two at Lower Race. Two seem to date from the 1850s but the Lower Race works was disused by 1901 and a new 'Pontypool' brickworks built on the other side of the road. The Blaendare works was owned by the Blaendare Co Ltd or Blaendare Colliery Co Ltd until 1906 when the Pontypool Brick Co Ltd came into being. The works is in trade directories up to 1948, is on OS maps up to 1954 and had disappeared by 1962.

Blaendare Quarry - ST 2690 9935

Blaendare Quarry is shown as disused by 1899. Blaendare Farmhouse below the quarry was built in 1810 using hand-made bricks from Blaendare Brickworks for the Brickworks manager. It was built on the site of the previous farmhouse dating back to 1674.

Locomotives named 'Blaendare'

There were at least three locos called 'Blaendare', only one of which is likely to have worked at Blaendare. This was a Kitson 0-6-0ST that came to Blaendare from the GWR in 1930. Originally it was TVR '80', GWR '789' and moved on to Blaenavon in 1947. The other two 'Blaendare's worked at Ebbw Vale Ironworks, the first probably being a rebuild of an 1855 Neilson box tank and the second, a 1903 Peckett 0-4-0ST.

Cwm Lickey and Mynydd Maen

Quick links to :-     Cwmynyscoy     Penyrheol and Mountain Level     Upper Race and Blaendare
    Cwm Lickey and Mynydd Maen     Lower Race and Old Furnace

Blaendare Clay Level - ST 2720 9904

Blaendare Clay Level opened in 1810 to supply the brickworks with raw material for its bricks. The roof behing the grille is a fine example of 18th century bricklaying skills

Gorse Level (Gorse Bush Level) - ST 2733 9911

On the Eastern side of the incline, opposite the clay level, a depression is all that remains of Gorse Level. It's recorded in 1888 owned by EVSIC and working the Elled seam who were busy leasing out their mines at that time and nothing more is known.

Cwm Lickey incline - ST 2726 9904

The incline connected the higher level collieries and levels with the railway to Blaendare and Hafodyrynys.

The Collieries of Cwm Lickey

Cwm Lickey Colliery - ST 2718 9893

Cwm Lickey Colliery were opened by 1865 and worked by Ebbw Vale Iron Co amongst others until c1907, officially abandoned in 1949 and filled in 1964.

Cwm Lickey Colliery tips - ST 2735 9895

At some time in the 1950s, the 'Star Brick Co' had an idea for making bricks and blocks out of colliery waste. They set up a small operation at the foot of Cwm Lickey Colliery tips which does not seem to have been too successful. This area is littered with 'Star' bricks.

Rose Cottage - ST 2712 9891

Rose Cottage is shown on the OS maps from 1881 to 1962, next to the surface buildings of the colliery.

New Vein Level - ST 2740 9879

New Vein Level is shown on the 1881 OS map but is marked as 'disused' by the 1899 edition and not shown afterwards. A tramway wound its way around the hillside to two other old levels.

Eastern level - ST 2769 9871

Already marked as an 'Old Level' on the 1881 map.

To the head of Cwm Lickey

Cwm Lickey pond - ST 2705 9870

Cwm Lickey pond was the middle one of three linked feeder reservoirs created in 1832 to enable water balance machinery in the mines to operate and also to wash out the kilns and supply the brickworks. It is now the only one remaining of the three and is known locally as the middle pond. The remains of the old stone retaining walls and the iron sluice taps can be found. The flattish hollow below the pond is where the third reservoir was situated and is now inpenetrable marsh!

The higher scouring reservoir and its leats - ST 2745 9842

This small reservoir is above the main scouring bank and appears to have two leats travelling in different directions.

Rifle Range markers hut - ST 2658 9831

The hillside here is littered with remnants of old bullets and empty cases as in the past time the area has been used as a practice firing range. It was first used as a training ground during the 1860’s and also during the 1878 Zulu War, the Boer War and the First and Second World Wars. At the weekends shooting competitions would also be held here.

Mynydd Maen

Building on Mynydd Maen - ST 2557 9831

This brick-built building right on top of Mynydd Maen has all the appearance of being of military origin, possibly for an earlier radio aerial, observation post or anti-aircraft battery.

Boundary stones - all over the place

Mynydd Maen is covered with boundary stones. This is one of at least two that mark the boundary between Pontypool and Llanfrecha Upper Parishes.

Lower Race and Old Furnace

Quick links to :-     Cwmynyscoy     Penyrheol and Mountain Level     Upper Race and Blaendare
    Cwm Lickey and Mynydd Maen     Lower Race and Old Furnace

Coch-y-North Lane Quarry - SO 2662 0071
Old Furnace - SO 2685 0030

Coch-y-North Quarry is at the end of the original tramroad from Blaen-y-cwm Colliery and at the head of the incline down to Old Furnace and the Trosnant Tramroad. This is probably the incline that used chains which proved too heavy for successful operation.

Albion Road Colliery - SO 2687 0021
Albion Slope - SO 2750 0015

Lower Race has been a hive of industrial activity since before 1881, coal-mining, brick-making, wagon repairs, engineers and foundries, slag crushers, etc. Any attempt to positively identify these ruins is almost impossible.

Mynydd Maen Colliery - SO 2698 0035

Mynydd Maen Colliery was opened in 1913 on the site of an 1870s level and was connected underground to Wern Hill level. It was taken over by the NCB and closed in 1955. Since then the canteen building survives as a stable and across the stream the ruins of the engine house and another building hide in the undergrowth.

Gypsy level - SO 2660 0024

Gypsy level is working at the time of the 1881 map but marked 'disused' by 1901.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Many thanks for sharing their valuable knowledge to Clive Davies, Ray Lawrence, Stuart Poultney, Lawrence Skuse, Mike Stokes, Neil Waite, Leyton Williams.
'Cwm Lickey Circular Walk' Leaflet by Torfaen Council.
'The Iron Heart of Gwent' by Clive Davies and Gwyn Tilley

A Guide to the Website

All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins