Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Western Valley
Crosskeys, Waun-fawr and North Risca
including Waun-fawr, North Risca Colliery and Cox's Quarry
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Western Valley

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Quick links to :-     Crosskeys     Glenside and Waun-fawr     Full Moon     North Risca Colliery     Cox's Quarry

Cwm-byr-isaf farm - ST 2294 9184

Around Crosskeys

Halls Road Tramroad through Crosskeys

Halls Road Tramroad was originally a tramroad and then converted to a railway. It left the Western Valley line at Limekiln Junction in Risca and then ran through Crosskeys to Pontywaun before crossing the valley. Between Halls Road and the canal there's an odd collection of old sheds and foundations.

Cwmbyr Colliery (I), later Drill Hall Level - ST 2269 9165

Cwmbyr Colliery (I) was open by 1834 when its workings were recorded on Tredegar Estates maps. The older map shows the first cross heading of Protheroes Level ending near an air shaft. The later map shows Lemans Level (ST 2277 9183) by the air shaft, marked today by an iron ventilation pipe. Protheroe's level today emerges below the railway at the end of Greenmeadow Drive. At some point the colliery closed, before 1875 when the second Cwmbyr Colliery opened a mile or so further South in Risca. It seems to have been resurrected as Drill Hall Level in around 1900, possibly working until the 1920s. The Drill Hall in question turns up on the 1901 map and seems to be still there in the early 1970s.

An additional route to Blackvein Colliery? - ST 2302 9168 to ST 2255 9133

This route from the Blackvein Colliery to the canal at Greenmeadow may well have provided additional access between the two sites. The lay of the land suggests that there could have been a more gentle route from the canal down to the Monmouthshire Tramroad (now the railway), down Medart Street and along Blackvein Road to Blackvein Colliery.
Full details are here :-     Risca Blackvein Colliery

Blackvein or Waun-fawr village

Quick links to :-     Crosskeys     Glenside and Waun-fawr     Full Moon     North Risca Colliery     Cox's Quarry

Blackvein or Waun-fawr was a very disparate collection of houses, cottages and a school next to Blackvein Colliery. Until the 1950s the area was always shown as 'Waun-fawr' om the OS maps but now it is marked as 'Glenside' as so much of the old village has gone. It's often referred to locally and on census returns as Blackvein, Blackvein Cottages and Blackvein Bungalows.
The original Risca Blackvein Colliery and the industries around it have their own page here :-

Benson's Level - ST 2212 9128

Benson's level appears to be a drainage level, found just above the river by the footbridge. Being directly above the river there must have been another entrance higher up, somewhere around ST 218913. There were other small levels along the by-pass including Jack-y-North Pit at ST 221912 and Rock Vein on the middle of the by-pass roundabout at ST 214914.

Glenside Bungalows - ST 2196 9124

There was a row of wooden bungalows known generally as 'Glenside Bungalows' to the West of Glenside House, past the pond. They were built after 1920 and demolished around 1959 the reason given was that they lacked mains water & drainage systems, hmmm. According to the 1962 OS map, beside the pond was 'Woodboro' with 'Park View' next door. Following on were Nos 3 to 6, 8 and 9, Nos 7 and 10 had already been demolished. The ruins are still there beside the footpath to Full Moon.

Chris Winton recalls "As a boy (aged 6 to 16) I lived with my parents and siblings at 8 Glenside Bungalows from late 1949 until late 1959 – a period I look back on with great nostaglia and fond memories – the whole area shown on the 1962 map was for us boys and girls what today would be called an adventure playground. The bungalows were condemned in 1959, ostensibly because they lacked mains water & drainage systems, however there were ulterior motives. There was a Number 7 Glenside Bungalows, this was soon demolished after everyone moved away in 1959, hence not showing up on the 1962 map. Some of the owners, including my father, reclaimed much of the material to build sheds, etc. or sell on. There was originally a Number 10 Glenside Bungalows, but this burnt down in about 1950, nearly taking 9 and 8 with it. The pond shown on the map was known as Pym’s pond."

The centre of the village

Glenside Cottages - ST 2234 9115

The majority of Waun-fawr village has been demolished with the exception of a handful of much-rebuilt properties. Glenside House, Woodlands and Cartref have been swept away by the by-pass and further up Maytree Cottage and Sunnybank have disappeared. There was a terrace of 3 or 4 wooden cottages where the modern 'Glenside' now stands.

The Reservoir or Pym's Pond - SO 2216 9120

The remains of a small reservoir or pond may be the site of the very old Jack-y-North Pit. The stump of the gaslamp is by the footbridge. The inscription reads "Ham Baker and Co Limited. Engineers. Westminster".

The Cottages beside the tramroad

Bluebell Bungalow - ST 2233 9104
Waun-fawr Bungalow - ST 2237 9104

OS maps show a pair of detached cottages to the North of the tramroad called 'Bluebell Bungalow' and 'Waun-fawr Bungalow'.

Un-named bungalow - ST 2241 9101
Round Bungalow - ST 2244 9101

Similarly there were two cottages to the South of the tramroad near the head of the incline. The Eastern bungalow was 'Round Bungalow' but the other isn't named.

Full Moon

Quick links to :-     Crosskeys     Glenside and Waun-fawr     Full Moon     North Risca Colliery     Cox's Quarry

Full Moon Crossing - ST 2103 9127

The Full Moon Inn was a pub that stood beside the level crossing where the parish road crossed the Sirhowy Tramroad and GWR / LNWR Sirhowy Valley line from Risca. It's now the start of the Sirhowy Valley Country Park. Merlin Astley-Jones remembers "my Da was the last signalman in Nine Mile Point box No1, as we lived in Full Moon Cottage, what is now the Sirhowy Valley Country Park interoperation centre. My first memories are of the 63 winter and being marooned there - and of moving away, with all our belongings going into a coal truck parked besides the cottage and taken to Risca parcels - us as well! "

Rock Vein Colliery - ST 2155 9140

The Rock Vein Colliery is first shown on the Tithe Map of 1843, owned by John Russell of Blackvein Colliery. It on the 1880 OS map, 'disused' by 1901 and the site cleared by '1920'. The shafts of the colliery were allegedly in the centre of the Full Moon roundabout under the manhole covers but the OS map would place them on the verge of the roundabout. The quarry is still on the hillside on the opposite side of the by-pass and was connected to the colliery by a short incline.

Jack o'North Colliery or Middle Pit - ST 2186 9134

The 1880 map below and the 1901 edition show an air shaft on the right which is probably the site of Jack o'North Colliery or Middle Pit

Warren Cottages or Pen-heol-sais - ST 2048 9066

It seems reasonable to assume that 'Warren Cottages' and 'Warren House' had something to do with the nearby medieval rabbit warren. Up to the 1920s this was known as Pen-heol-sais which translates roughly as 'Head of English Road'.

North Risca Colliery

Quick links to :-     Crosskeys     Glenside and Waun-fawr     Full Moon     North Risca Colliery     Cox's Quarry

North Risca Colliery - ST 2130 9160

The sinking of the New Pits, subsequently known as the North Risca Black Vein Colliery, began in 1875 by the 'London and South Wales Colliery Co Ltd' and the first coal was wound in 1878 from the original Black Vein seams. This colliery was just as dangerous as the original Blackvein Colliery at Waunfawr and in 1880 another 120 colliers were killed in a gas explosion. The company became part of the 'United National Collieries Ltd' in 1892, amalgamating with the 'Ocean Coal Co Ltd' in 1944 before nationalisation in 1947. Both winders were originally steam powered. The upcast shaft was converted to run on compressed air, while the downcast was electrified.The colliery closed in 1967 and the site is now the North Blackvein Industrial Estate where a few of the colliery buildings remain. There are also scant remains of tramway inclines to the quarries above the site. The most obvious memorial to the colliery are the tips on top of Machen Mountain.

1875 -1898

In these photos 'Ty Prince' farm is clearly visible to the West of the colliery and the Eastern quarry is at work. This quarry supplied stone for both the colliery and the village of North Risca (Crosskeys) down two inclines either side of Mount Pleasant or Craig-yr-haul farm. The last photo shows a third incline running towards what became the Western quarry. The Cornish engine house is prominent.

1898 - c1915

The colliery has expanded and 'Ty Prince' is hidden behind other buildings and the upcast shaft has low headgear. On 23 February 1901, a fire burnt down the winding house but the winding engine doesn't seem to have been badly damaged.

The photo of the crowd scene is believed to be from the National Coal Strike of 1912. A similar photo shows the same bowler-hatted gentleman, a reporter perhaps, with a different group of men at Risca Blackvein Colliery.

c1915 - c1930

The colliery has reached Wattsville and is at its greatest extent. The coke ovens have been built and the upcast shaft has new, taller headgear. Later the roof of the Cornish engine house is removed, followed by the engine house itself. In 1916 a by-products plant became operational making crude benzole from the coke ovens. The larse square building in the lower left corner of the site had tar lined internal walls and with lights from outside shining in. There were large carboys inside into which a colourless liquid dripped. Other areas contained the coal crushers and gas scrubbers.
In 1926 the aerial ropeway was built following agreement with the GWR to cross the Sirhowy Valley line.

c1930 - c1960

The two winding house chimneys have been demolished but a new conveyor and tower have been built by the coke ovens. In latter years, railway wagons were also repaired in one of the sheds at the top of the stiff incline up through the mine site towards the coke battery end.

c1960 - 1970s

It looks as if the colliery has now closed and is getting increasing derelict.

1976 and beyond

Some of the colliery buildings are still used by light industry and commercial companies.

North Risca Colliery aerial ropeway

the aerial ropeway was built around 1926 after the GWR agreed to it crossing the Sirhowy Valley line. On closure the cable was cut and left where it fell, down the mountainside. The bases of the pylons can be followed from the river bank to the end of the tips.

Cox's Quarry, Crosskeys

Quick links to :-     Crosskeys     Glenside and Waun-fawr     Full Moon     North Risca Colliery     Cox's Quarry

Cox's Quarry, Crosskeys - ST 2165 9200

John Cox and his family moved to Crosskeys c1855 and had established their original small quarry by 1857. With the expansion of Crosskeys and Wattsville from North Risca Colliery, Cox opened a larger quarry further up the hillside in the mid 1870s. Following WW1 the Cox family sold the quarry and it closed down in the mid 1920s.

Cox's Quarry loading bank - ST 2180 9218

The loading bank for the quarries was on a siding built on the trackbed of the 'Monmouthshire Canal Co' tramroad. The curve of the tramroad was too sharp for locomotives so the current railway line was built further away leaving a spur of embankment, ideal for a siding.

Foot of the inclines and the original quarry - ST 2176 9216

A short incline lead to the original small quarry and this was extended up the hill to the later quarry, A second incline from the other end of the quarry came down to the same point at the loading bank.

The main quarry workings - ST 2165 9200

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading

Thanks for the use of their memories, photographs and maps to :- Dave Bryant, Jim Coomer, Mike Harris, Jim Sparks, Chris Winton and members of Oxford House Industrial History Society and Risca Museum.

GGAT report no. 2015/020, 'The Sinews of War'.
Bryan Morgan - 'The Location of Edward Jones' 1799 Tramroad - A personal assessment based on contemporary correspondence' - OHIHS, available on the 'publications' page of the Risca Museum website

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