Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Western Valley
Abercarn, West End and the Gwyddon Valley
including Celynon South Colliery and Abercarn Tinplate Works
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Western Valley

Click on the link to go to :-     Pontymister and Risca     Risca Blackvein Colliery     Crosskeys     Cwmcarn
    Abercarn     Newbridge to Crumlin     Swffryd to Llanhilleth     Trinant to Abertillery
    Blaina     Nantyglo and Brynmawr     Aberbeeg to Ebbw Vale     Beaufort

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Prince of Wales Colliery

Quick links to :-     Abercarn Village and Furnace     Celynen South Colliery     Gwyddon Valley
Prince of Wales Colliery     Tinplate Works     West End

Prince of Wales Colliery - ST 2140 9465

Abercarn Tinplate Works

Quick links to :-     Prince of Wales Colliery     The Tinplate Works     Abercarn Village and Furnace
The Gwyddon Valley     West End     Celynen South Colliery

Lower tinplate works - ST 2122 9501

Upper tinplate works - ST 2161 9528

Abercarn Village and the Furnace

Quick links to :-     Prince of Wales Colliery     The Tinplate Works     Abercarn Village and Furnace
The Gwyddon Valley     West End     Celynen South Colliery

The tunnel under High Street - ST 2156 9486

This tunnel under High Street appears to be quite old but it's purpose is obscure. It was probably access to Abercarn Furnace or an early tramroad from Quarry Pit to the canal by the bridge and lock. It also seems to have been used as a bomb shelter during WW2 according to post-war maps.

Abercarn Furnace - ST 2162 9487

This is the site of the second charcoal iron-smelting blast furnace of 1753 which ceased work in c1788. Two furnace arches are visible, together with the charging house. The site of the dam and pool that powered the bellows for draught can be seen beyond the distillery pond. The furnace is the earliest fairly intact surviving iron furnace in the south Wales coalfield. The first iron furnace was at Graig Furnace higher up the Gwyddon Valley and later ironworks were nearer the site of the lower tinplate works.
The print of the works in the 1770s is available from Risca Industrial History Museum

The chemical works and distillery pond - ST 2180 9485
Abercarn Brewery - ST 2220 9500

The chemical works (distillery) produced an acid for use in the wool-dying industry. It was owned by David Morris & Son, who also owned the chemical works at Risca and Ynysddu. He went bankrupt in 1883 and it had certainly closed down by 1899, the distillery pond becoming a reservoir for the iron and tinplate works. It is also famous for its midnight Viking funeral ceremonies, loved-one's ashes put in a little matchstick boat, set alight and launched across the pond, a midnight dip, anyone? . Abercarn Brewery was a little further upstream but it too had closed by 1899 to become a mineral water factory until the 1940s.

Hafod Quarry, High Meadow - ST 2260 9655

A large modern quarry which developed after 1948 on the site of an older small quarry.

West End

Quick links to :-     Prince of Wales Colliery     The Tinplate Works     Abercarn Village and Furnace
The Gwyddon Valley     West End     Celynen South Colliery

West End Village

A small, almost self-contained community on the West bank of the river, once the home of the gasworks, fire station and a foundry. There was also a railway line through the houses connecting the GWR with Halls Road Tramroad.

Pant-y-Resk level crossing - ST 2139 9546

There was a level crossing where Halls Road crossed Pant-y-Resk Road. The historical view shows both the railway and the route of the original tramroad. Recently the trackbed, overgrown for years, has had the immediate surroundings cleared and fenced in 2021 for no apparent reason, some grand plan? or just money left in a kitty that needed spending?

Abercarn and Newbridge Gas and Water Co Ltd

Gas was first supplied from Abercarn Gasworks on 17 November 1876. The company appears to have been promoted by the Abercarn Colliery and the Tinplate Works. The contractor was Charles Jordan of Newport and the laying of the mains was contracted to Jesse Bailey of the Abercarn Colliery. Jesse Bailey also seems to have been active in procuring lamp posts for the company. The original gasworks was between the river and Halls Road and was replaced c1947 by a new one next to West End fire station on the other bank of the river.

Cwm Pennar - ST 2080 9550

Steve Davies and I found a level, some pits or collapses and a possible ventilation shaft in the Cwm Pennar valley. They don't seem to appear on any maps but they could be connected with the workings of Pant-y-Rest Colliery at the head of the valley.

Celynen South Colliery

Quick links to :-     Prince of Wales Colliery     The Tinplate Works     Abercarn Village and Furnace
The Gwyddon Valley     West End     Celynen South Colliery

Celynen South Colliery - ST 215959

Celynen South Colliery, originally just Celynen or Celynon Colliery was opened by the 'Newport Abercarn Black Vein Steam Coal Co' in 1876 with 3 shafts. In the 1920s it became part of the 'Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Co' and about 10 years later passed to 'John Paton and Partridge Jones'. The colliery closed in 1985 and the site is now a housing estate however an interesting relic of the aerial ropeway still exists.

Celynen South Colliery Aerial Ropeway - ST 2220 9680

The ropeway ran from the colliery to the now-landscaped tips on the top of Twyn-y-Gnol

Bucket No 33

At some time it appears bucket No. 33 fell off the ropeway, spilling its contents and ending up in the undergrowth near the top of the ropeway. My partner, Jill, told about it in 2009 and took me up to see it. By 2013 it had been rolled or dragged down the hill and left upside down. Revisiting in 2023, it was back the right way up. Let's hope it's left alone now.

Celynen South Colliery Quarry - ST 2147 9573

The quarry was probably opened before the colliery to obtain the building stone for the colliery buildings. A tramway ran down to the colliery, passing under Halls Road Tramroad through a short tunnel. The tunnel is still there but for some reason only one end has been walled up (on the quarry side).

The Gwyddon Valley

Quick links to :-     Prince of Wales Colliery     The Tinplate Works     Abercarn Village and Furnace
The Gwyddon Valley     West End     Celynen South Colliery

Gwyddon Trial Level - ST 2255 9410

A rifle range existed periodically on the South side of the valley and, where the targets were, a square-cut stone tunnel leads about 300ft into the hillside. It was dug in the 1880s and there is a very minimal tip, the stone must have been used elsewhere, and it would seem no coal was found. There are odd 'scratchings' along the old rifle range that may have been attempts to find a coal seam.

The Lost Farmsteads of the Nant Gwyddon Valley

A beautiful Autumn day and the Ramblers and the Twmbarlwm Society combine their forces for a full-frontal assault on the hidden depths of the Gwyddon Valley.

Sawmills - ST 2372 9577
Brook Bungalow - ST 2374 9594

When the Gwyddon was forested, probably in the 1940s and '50s, a sawmill was set up here in wooden and corrugated iron sheds. It's now just an open space. First port-of-call is the site of Brook Bungalow, just above the site of the sawmill, and another tale of the macabre, the last elderly occupant hadn't been seen for a few days so when the police called in to check....

Craig Furnace - ST 2374 9594

A little further and we come across some mysterious stone walls, could be charcoal burners, could be aliens. Quickly followed by an equally mysterious hole-in-the-wall, didn't go back very far but what was it for? answers on a postcard to Rob Southall, please..

Trywyn - ST 2386 9647

Trywyn is next after a fair bit of uphill scrambling, just ruins but Rob had some great photos of a very attractive house.

Ysgubor Wen - ST 2440 9759

As we reach the moors we pass the scant foundations of Ysgubor Wen, believed to be quite ancient, then past a well-inscribed boundary stone, lunch, and down to Hafod Owen.

Hafod Owen - ST 2465 9690

A few outhouses, a pigsty and stable possibly, and a waterpipe remain, sad testimony to it's former occupants. Then the long trek down the valley and home.

Foresters shelter or hut - ST 2342 9603

A small primitive building in the Gwyddon Valley appears to be a hut or shelter for a forester, charcoal-burner or shepherd, it's about 9ft square, built lean-to fashion against a small rock face with the other 3 walls made of stone. There's a central slab which may have been for a brazier or firebox and a narrow entrance. Certainly old, possibly early 19th century. many thanks to John Cottle for finding it. I was hoping it may have been an iron or lead level as there's no coal at all in the Gwyddon, which may just be a blessing !!

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to :- Lin Bryant, John Cottle, Steve Davies, Andrew Gadd, Alan Murray-Rust, Andrew Smith, Rob Southall, Richard Terrell, David Williams, OHIHS
'A historical tour around Mynyddislwyn Mountain' by Len Burland, Old Bakehouse Publications.
'Halls Tramroad' by Foster Frowin - A comprehensive five-part article appeared in 'Archive' magazine, Issues nos 55, 56, 59, 60 and 66 with loads of original photos and the 1840s tithe maps. Fascinating reading!!
A history of the Abercarn Ironworks by F. Frowen, L. Milsom and L. Burland, Gwent Local History Journal, Spring 1997, vol.82, p.16.

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