Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Eastern Valley
North and West Abersychan
Talywain, Garndiffaith, Cwm Ffrwd, Varteg and Cwmavon
Search the site here

The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Eastern Valley

Click on the link to go to :-     Oakfield and Henllys     Cwmbran     Pontypool     Blaendare
The Glyn Valley     Tirpentws and Cwmffrwdoer     Blaenserchan and Cwmnantddu
Abersychan and Cwmbergwm     The British and Big Arch     Talywain and Varteg
    Blaenavon Town     Forgeside to Waunavon     The Blorenge and Pwlldu

Or click on the button to go to :-

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge a photo or map and sometimes read more about it.
Then click 'Full Size' on the toolbar to see it in all its glory.


Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon

Abersychan (Twyn-y-ffrwd) incline - SO 2700 0390 to SO 2629 0403

The Abersychan (Twyn-y-ffrwd) incline ran from the MRCC tramway in Abersychan to Talywain. It was a standard-gauge incline opened around 1858 and shown as 'old' by 1902 to replace the tramway which followed the route of the B4246 to The British. Most of the incline can still be followed as a public footpath or a rough track. The bottom has been lost under the main road but the incline top area is still well-defined. The line from incline top to The British crossed the LNWR on the surviving bridge (SO 2610 0423) and sidings are still shown as still in use up to 1953.

Around Talywain

Andy Coldridge took this panorama of the viaduct in 1981 or 1982

Cwm Ffwrd

Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon

Lower Varteg Colliery, Graig Wen Colliery and Blaengaefog rifle range

The Cwm Ffrwd valley was the home of John Vipond's Lower Varteg Colliery, a long-lived complex of mines, which have been landscaped out of recognition. However, the 1899 adit has been restored with a couple of drams in front. It can be found at SO 2558 0493 but is rather hidden and out of context in a dip in the ground. The filled-in girder bridge that takes the lane over the colliery branchline is at SO 2572 0473.

Further up the valley there was a long stone-built culvert under the spoil tips (SO 2508 0537). This has partly collapsed but the lower end contains iron hoop reinforcements.

Graig Wen and Graig Ddu - SO 2528 0500

There were two levels behind the now-demolished 'Graig Wen House' followed by an area of quarrying with a third level and an unmarked boundary stone at the end of the straight lane, which seems regular enough to have been a tramway. As the lane climbs towards to the 1980s Graig Wen Colliery an overgrown pond and watercourse can be traced heading back downhill towards The British Ironworks. Further on, the Graig Ddu farmhouse sits ruinously at the top of the track.

Graig Wen Colliery - SO 2485 0521

Graig Wen Colliery opened in 1980 and had closed by 1987. Both levels are visible along with the course of the double track tramway between them which was built to 2'9" gauge.

Blaengaefog rifle range - SO 2400 0538

There is a most unusual Markers Hut at this rifle range, it looks like an upturned boiler of some kind, he was a brave man, that marker, whoever he was!

Waun Wen Boundary Markers

Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon

Waun Wen Boundary Markers

These boundary markers are scattered over Waun Wen above Graig Wen Colliery. 'W&BM' stands for Wentsland and Bryngwyn Manor but what does 'AM' and 'ABM' signify? Aberystruth or Brynmawr, perhaps? If you happen to know, please let me know, too. The '1896 No4' suggests that Nos 1 -3 are lurking up here somewhere. John Matthews has come up with more iron markers as well as some stone examples.

Varteg Hill Colliery and Cwm Glo Colliery

Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon
Varteg was the other centre of John Vipond's operations, based around the 3 mile long branch from the LNWR at Blaenavon Junction to Varteg Hill Colliery Top Pits. The trackbed is now a well-established track and can be easily followed from the Varteg Road. The reservoir of the Pontypool Gas and Water Co, opened by 1902, is the first site to be met on the right (SO 2629 0681).

Varteg Zigzag Railway

The zig-zag railway linked Varteg Hill Colliery to Lower Varteg Colliery through a series of 5 reverses. It was built before 1917 after which the LNWR line to Blaenavon probably fell out of use. Originally it started with a tight loop but this was later changed to another reverse .

Varteg Incline - SO 2617 0640

Viponds incline ran from the colliery down to the MRCC at Cwmavon. It can be followed as far as the information point on the Varteg Road after which it is heavily overgrown. 100 yards below the top of the incline the first stage of the zig-zag railway crosses it on the way down to Talywain.

Cwm Glo Colliery - SO 2616 0628

A little further along in a dip is the green corrugated adit shed of Cwm Glo Colliery (or Cwm-y-Glo Colliery) which was active from 1992 to 1997. Until 2008 the haulage engine and compressor building was still standing but has now gone. The screens, loading dock, rails and safety brake can be found but the site is slowly being stripped.

Varteg Hill Colliery - SO 2606 0621

The area known as 'The Lighthouse' has foundations, pits and walls along with multi-coloured extensive tips. These are the remains of the washery and engine sheds that served the many mines in the area. To the North along a long tramway were Mine Slope and New Slope (originally Varteg Slope) and Waun Hoskins Slope, all buried by opencast workings.. A branch from New Slope ran up an incline to the Ventilating Fan, an old trial shaft. The top end of the incline survives.

Ventilating Fan - SO 2557 0678

To the North of the railway were Mine Slope, New Slope and Waun Hoskins Slope, all buried by opencast workings. A small reservoir and the earthworks of a ventilating fan with a short but solid incline embankment below it have survived.

Varteg Top Pits (or Upper Varteg Hill Colliery)

Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon

Bracey's Pit - SO 2592 0584

The site of Bracey's Pit ( Brace's Pit or Bracy's Pit) is on the South as the line to Upper Varteg curves round to head across country towards Top Pits. Braceys Pit was shown as disused by 1886. The line heads across a high embankment with the slight remains of old levels and tramways to the North across the dip.

Varteg Top Pits (Upper Varteg Hill Colliery ) - SO 2453 0629
Varteg Red Ash Level - SO 2400 0632

Old sleepers appear in the trackbed as the two remaining buildings of Varteg Top Pits loom closer. Part of the stone-built engine house and stable block and a newer brick-build building, believed to be the canteen and office, remain in agricultural use (SO 2453 0629). A small reservoir and the base of another building are to their left. In front of them are the ruins of the loading area, screens or coke ovens and the top of a filled-in shaft, now a mound but still a depression in 2008. A little further on, behind the spoil tip are the brick magazine and an older, ruined stone magazine. There's little but earthworks to see at the site of Red Ash Colliery and Graig-Ddu Quarry (SO 2404 0660).

Varteg Village

Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon

Cwm Ffrwd Tramroad and its two inclines

Original incline - SO 2668 0566

At the end of Gladstone Terrace are the foundations of the engine house for the original plateway incline of c1802 down to the Blaenavon Railroad.

Second incline - SO 2664 0600

The second incline ran down from the appropriately named Incline Row in Varteg village.

Varteg Ironworks and Four Houses - SO 2627 0578

In the field to the South of the site of 'Four Houses' a substantial stone wall exists with a large iron reinforcing plate. This was the site of the Varteg Iron Co's furnaces and the stone work is probably part of it. Varteg Furnaces were built in 1802 and after a few changes to the owning partnerships the works were out of use by 1843 when the site seems unsuccessfully put up for auction. The site came into the possession of Partidge Jones in 1864 but whether they used it as an ironworks is doubtful. The 1879 OS map shows site cleared and called 'Old Furnaces'.

LNWR Varteg Station and bridges - SO 2683 0603

The iron bridge carries 'Snail Creep', the footpath over the railway trackbed which provided access to the station. The platform is on the Western side and there are the ruins of part of the station buildings. Further up, an intricate and sloping iron bridge carries Shop Lane over the LNWR at SO 2674 0623. Next, the stone abutments of the bridge over the LNWR (SO 2669 0640) carried the Varteg Incline down to GWR.

Upper Five Houses

Around and about Varteg


Quick links to :-     Talywain     Cwm Ffrwd     Waunwen     Varteg Hill Colliery
    Upper Varteg Hill Colliery     Varteg Village     Cwmavon

Cwmavon Village

Graig Quarry - SO 2710 0740

An old quarry on the Eastern side of the valley and connected to the MRCC by an incline. There seem to be the remains of tramroads in the quarry area to the limekiln. The top end of the incline exists as do a number of small 'caves' in the quarry face.

Gallowsgreen Quarry - SO 2665 0690

A surprisingly deep and extensive quarry to the West of the LNWR is accessed by an iron underbridge.

Gomers Castle Quarry and Inn - SO 2660 0706

A small quarry to the West of the LNWR and closed by 1901 was accessed by a partly-filled iron underbridge. There is a very large and substantially-built limekiln here, complete with the remains of the brick chimney. A short incline, shown as rail-less in 1882, runs down to the GWR next to the old Gomers Castle Inn which was open until at least the 1920s. Cwmavon reservoir at SO 2688 0710 is still in use.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to John Matthews for providing some more boundary markers and to Andy Coldridge, Gwyn Jenkins, Graham Morley, Richard Morgan,
Alan Murray-Rust and Steve Thomas for addition photos and information.
Graig Wen Colliery has a chapter in 'Small Mines of South Wales' Vol 1 by Adrian Booth from the Industrial Railway Society.

A Guide to the Website

All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins