Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Western Valley
Ebbw Vale
From Pen-y-fan through Cwm, Ebbw Vale and Beaufort to Rassau
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Western Valley

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Quick links to :-     From Aberbeeg to Cwm     Ebbw Vale West and Victoria     Ebbw Vale East and Ty Lwyd
Ebbw Vale town     Historic Victoria

Around Ebbw Vale

Robin Williams of Risca Museum took these photos of Ebbw Vale in c1985.

From Aberbeeg to Cwm

Quick links to :-     From Aberbeeg to Cwm     Ebbw Vale West and Victoria     Ebbw Vale East and Ty Lwyd
Ebbw Vale town     Historic Victoria

Pen-y-fan Colliery - SO 1972 0229

The original Pen-y-fan Colliery was working before 1880, with an incline down to the GWR at SO 2020 0232 but was disused by 1901. The colliery site has been cleared but some other levels, tips and a possible incline can be seen at SO 2005 0195.

Pen-y-fan Colliery - SO 1902 0306

The second Pen-y-fan Colliery had been established by 1901, possibly around 1887 with Graig Fawr. There was a second level at SO 1919 0279, with tramways and an incline down to Graig Fawr Colliery. This colliery was disused by 1953 and the area has been forested.

Graig Fawr Red Ash level - SO 1885 0376

Graig Fawr Colliery was South of Marine Colliery at SO 1910 0329. It opened in 1887, was marked as disused by 1922 and closed in 1928. The site has been cleared. Further is the gated Graig Fawr Red Ash level, a brick-built furnace chimney shaft directly above it dating before 1880 and the foundations of an engine house and another building marked on the 1922 map. There was another Graig Fawr level near Maes Mawr Quarry.

Marine Colliery - SO 188040

Marine Colliery was commenced in 1889 and drew its first coal in 1893, becoming one of the largest collieries in the Ebbw Fawr valley. Sadly 52 men were killed in an explosion in 1927. Latterly it was connected to Six Bells and closed in 1989. The site of Marine Colliery has been cleared and the winding wheels retained over the shafts. On top of the ridge, the top of the aerial ropeway from Marine Colliery can be found at SO 1810 0427 consisting of foundations and ironwork, with some concrete bases lower down the hillside at SO 1852 0412.

Cwm - SO 1888 0430

The 1893 Hathorn Davey horizontal tandem-compound pumping engine is outside the entrance to Marine Colliery. It came from a chamber beneath a winding engine house. The engine’s cylinders are 36-inch and 68-inch in diameter and a stroke of 120 inch.

Maes Mawr quarry - SO 1835 0485

Maes Mawr quarry was working from c1901 to c1922 with an incline down to the riverbank at SO 1844 0503 and then a tramway running Southward behind the terraces past Marine Colliery to Graig Fawr Colliery. The quarry and incline are easily traceable today. A Graig Fawr Level above Tallistown at SO 1847 0455 existed by 1915 and had gone by 1938, then became buried under Marine Colliery's tips and reclamation.

Cwm and Mon Colliery

Cwm Colliery and coke ovens (also known as 'Cwm and Mon') at SO 189044 opened in around 1880. A shallow incline went up to Cwm South (No 1) level at SO188050. A new level, Cwm South No 2 or Red Ash, was opened by 1922 at SO 188052, 200 metres north of No 1 on the tramway that ran along the hillside to Cwm North level at SO 188071. A number of other small levels were opened along the tramway but had gone by 1901. A line of disused electricity poles goes over the hillside above North level to Blaina. All activity along the hillside had ceased by 1953, probably after the end of WW2.

All along the hillside there are plenty of earthworks to be seen from the tips, collapsed adits and the courses of the tramways. One of the most interesting remains is the metal frame of an early wooden-bodied dram beside the tramway near Cwm South no 2  level.

A quote from the 'Welsh Coalmines' forum :- "I will try and give you an armchair tour and suggest if you decide to walk it begin by parking in the lay by a little north of the pump sited on the roundabout at the south end of the new relief road in Cwm, walk a short distance on your right and join a track going north up the hillside before you proceed much further just a short distance up the track turn sharp right and follow this track which will lead you to the twin portals of the old CWM & MON COLLIERY fenced in, you are now standing on the spoil heap of this level,there may be something to see as there is a new water culvert made by the contractors when the road was built, after this retrace your steps and rejoin the main track and carry on north and passing a brand new pylon you will soon be walking on another large spoil heap as you come to the end of it northward look down and to your left and there should be the remains of an haulage engine set into the bank on your left at least it was still there some years ago, carry on north and you will be on another spoil heap you cant miss it as it was the victim of a grass fire not long ago you are still on the main dram road and the ground is becoming very boggy, on your right, where the ground is boggy there should be the remains of a sheave wheel. The ground is now becoming firmer and grassy look closely and in places you will see marks where the haulage ropes cut into the stones and on your right bank there should still be signs of collapsed adits and on your left a large spoil heap flowing down into the nature reserve this is the spoil from the Cock of the North at this point the road is fenced and styled and will lead you on and around the silent valley wast disposal so I think any further signs of adits will have been covered over, at this point I should explain some names of levels starting with Cock of the North and coming back down to the haulage engine area this was called Spiders level and the twin portals of Cwm and Mon was known as Ponds level but I am thinking they were all part of Cwm and Mon, if you wanted to you could come down through silent valley reserve and back up to the gates of the waste site then looking over into the valley you would be looking at where the short lived operation was sited, if you look above the dram-road you have just walked and you will see the depressions in the mountain where a local well known eccentric used to start levels this is in the Red Ash Rider seam about one foot six thick, well, I hope you enjoyed your walk I would give any thing to be able to do it again."

A panorama from the West bank

Cwm and Mon No 5 Level - SO 1893 0645

Cwm and Mon No 4 Level - SO 1897 0592

Cwm and Mon No 3 Level - SO 1888 0567

South No 1 level - SO 1885 0500
Cwm Colliery - SO 1888 0451

Ebbw Vale West

Quick links to :-     From Aberbeeg to Cwm     Ebbw Vale West and Victoria     Ebbw Vale East and Ty Lwyd
Ebbw Vale town     Historic Victoria

Victoria Incline - SO 1700 0745

The incline ran half a mile from behind the coke ovens at Victoria Ironworks up to quarries and levels on the Western hillside. It was in operation before 1880 and after 1920. The route is clear for most of it's length, running beside a public footpath.
Geoff Palfrey now lives in Toronto but has some great memories of this area and has provided some fascinating historical photos.
See them and read all about his early years in Ebbw Vale here :- Historic Victoria

Incline top and engine house - SO 1689 0679

The foundations of the engine house and its boiler are at the top of the incline, along with a large cast flywheel and the stub axle that may have held the winding wheel. The tramway continued South up to 1901 but after that only a spur to the Northern quarry remained, another spur to levels to the North already being disused.

Furnace level and chimney - SO 1698 0654

About 8ft of the chimney stands beside the tramway and even though it's square on the outside, the interior is circular. The entrance to the level itself is just below the tramway. It is blocked just beyond the chimney but the furnace area is clear and there are grooves in the wall where the ventilation barriers were. A little further along are foundations and retaining walls on the site of the main level.

Funicular Railway station - SO 1703 0634

The 1992 Garden Festival had a funicular railway which ran to this station, which is still complete. The trackbed can be followed down to Festival Park. This is roughly the route of the original tramway until it gets lost in the re-development. The footpath to the right just before Troed-rhiw-clawdd skirts Festival Park and leads you to the Lower Woods.

Lower Woods - SO 1777 0558

The tramway can be found again at the far end of Festival Park and caarries on South past old quarrying activity and a numbers of small levels and their tips, ending at SO 1808 0522, the last of the levels.

On the top of Y Domen Fawr

Ebbw Vale East

Quick links to :-     From Aberbeeg to Cwm     Ebbw Vale West and Victoria     Ebbw Vale East and Ty Lwyd
Ebbw Vale town     Historic Victoria

Waun Lwyd reservoir - SO 1808 0743

The reservoir was in existence by 1880 feeding a string of linear reservoirs running along the hillside below, presumably feeding the original ironworks. A concrete spillway exists at the Southern end and another about halfway along. This area was being 'prettified' in 2010.

Silent Valley Incline - SO 1784 0732

A steel footbridge taking a footpath over the incline. Further up, a concrete subway took the incline under a mountain track. It appears to have had separate passages for each direction and is now used as an animal shelter. The upper section has the remains of sleepers and lengths of the haulage cable.

Ty Llwyn reservoirs - SO 1786 0836

The string of reservoirs at Ty Llwyn were the feeders for the original Ebbw Vale ronworks.

Red Ash level - SO 1825 0847

The main level is at the end of the tramway from the incline top with a branch tramway running back to the second level at SO 1823 0877. Both were marked disused by 1901 with the second level already disused on the 1880 map. A substantially built incline on embankments at both ends and a cutting in the centre runs down to the tipping dock. A length of rail is visible at the lower end of the cutting. The tipping dock appears to be stone built and connected with the Beaufort tramway just beyond Bwlch-y-garn Pit.

Bwlch-y-garn Pit - SO 1780 0926

Now part of the farm, some indistinct foundations and the Pit reservoir remain. This pit was something of a deathtrap, 7 colliers aged 15 to 50 being killed between 1861 and 1874, the coroner reporting their deaths very coldly, You can read the reports on the website. Bwlch-y-garn Pit was linked to Beaufort Ironworks by a lengthy and very exposed tramway. There is a good section of the trackbed of the tramway which ran to SO 1819 1110 and then reversed down to the Beaufort tramroad. The route to the North has been landscaped.

Ebbw Vale Town

Quick links to :-     From Aberbeeg to Cwm     Ebbw Vale West and Victoria     Ebbw Vale East and Ty Lwyd
Ebbw Vale town     Historic Victoria

Beneath the city streets... Part 1

An old tunnel running under the streets of Ebbw Vale was recently inspected by a mining team and here are their photos. This may be the Elled Colliery workings or one of the three tunnels that ran from Ebbw Vale to Sirhowy Ironworks. Hopefully ther will be more exploration but it's no surprise that the air quality is very poor.

Beneath the city streets... Part 2

Affectionately known as 'Dunkin Donuts' this is the River Ebbw tunnel under Victoria that comes out by Parkway station. The intrepid explorers of Gwent Caving Club have searched its nooks and crannies for buried treasure and found - a lot of dirty water. Oh well....

Pont-y-Gof - SO 1693 0989

The bridge at Pont-y-Gof was built in 1813 and spanned 'The Crescent', The GWR railway and the River Ebbw. It carried the tramroad that connected both sides of the valley. Pont-y-Gof Station was immediately to the North of the bridge.

Ty Llwyn - SO 1735 0855

I believe this is a pumping house for the steelworks. it's now used by Gwent Wildlife Trust and ther are still rails in the path through the site.

Around Ebbw Vale town

Ebbw Vale Gantre Brickworks - SO 1655 1020
Ebbw Vale Willowtown Brickworks - SO 1625 0990

The earliest brick kilns were at Newtown, SO 1715 0980, known as the old brickyard and had closed by 1920. The New Brickyard at Willowtown, SO 1625 0990, was in existence in 1880 but had been greatly expanded by 1901. In 1907 EVSIC built a third brickworks near the Gantre (sometimes also known as Willowtown) and total production reached 14 million bricks a year. Both Gantre and Willowtown appear to have closed in the late 1960s.

Historic Victoria

Geoff Palfrey now lives in Toronto but remembers this area well. These are his photos and reminiscences.

Quick links to :-     From Aberbeeg to Cwm     Ebbw Vale West and Victoria     Ebbw Vale East and Ty Lwyd
Ebbw Vale town     Historic Victoria

"I emigrated here 8 years ago after working in the steel industry of Saudi Arabia. I did my apprenticeship with British Steel in Ebbw and worked in Alpha (or Mir Steel now) and Tremorfa works (Celsa) in Cardiff. Growing up in Ebbw Vale as it was in the sixties made me develop a great interest in industrial archaeology of the area, for example one of our dens was a "castle" to us kids, in reality it was a wooden sleeper floored flooded airshaft of the extensive Drillground pit complex!

I have collected many original maps of Ebbw Vale and Mining maps of the British /Abertillery areas C 1919, the oldest map I own of the Ebbw Vale furnaces is dated 1830. I can help with some of the artefacts shown on the photos, for example the mountainside level and winding house was roofless but much more complete in my youth, the walls were pulled down for the garden festival of the early nineties because they were in poor state. The flywheel has a casting mark and initials in its periphery, it looks like a crucible is chiselled into it, it was probably cast in Victoria foundry, surf "the works" archives and you will see the areas of the old iron and steelmaking plants pre 1936. If you go down the bank East of the boiler you will find the ashes from its long dampened fires. there is another adit north of the boiler too but it is walled up. The coal seam itself can be seen at the top of the north quarry and the ganister clays. I used to ride my dirt bike along the sheep path above it and get up to a big stone just below the summit of the Domen Fawr, risky but great fun.

The level mined coal and possibly ganister or fireclay as it was known, the haulage engine drew the journey of drams up the incline which is on the 1 in 12 dip of the seam, from the curved air inlet level south of the chimney, the furnace itself was on the return airway and is blocked too, the coal was dropped down the incline to a bank of Coke ovens used to make coke for Victoria ironworks. Millstone grit was quarried for buildings and shafts in the EV steel and coal co empire, the general manager in 1900 was Edward Mills and he revitalised the works keeping open outdated collieries to feed the coke ovens and electrifting and sinking new and older collieries down the dip of the site. He lived in a mansion below the level. The last level of the series is in the lower farm part of the tramroad, the farmer told me that on the vesting day of the NCB in 1947 the owner could not afford the licence and closed it with all the equipment still underground, finally the winding rope of the haulage engine exists as part of the fence at the roadway that bisects the tramway proper, it is unravelled and nailed to the posts, or it was 20 years ago!

My primary school teacher told me it closed in about 1926 when the EVSIC wound up after cessation of WW1 caused Welsh coal and iron demand to drop! My Grandad and Great uncle and thousands of other Welsh colliers fought through the Western front battles not knowing that they would be putting themselves out of work a decade later when France claimed German coal as reparations.

My Great Grandfather was apprenticed in the ironworks and lived as a youth in Bwlch y Garn Ty Hir or long house, he subsequently became successful and owned the King David pub in Brynmawr, he also built an electrically powered machine shop and foundry and garage to the side of it about 1910. This brings me to the Red Ash level on the Mynydd Carn y Cefn side of the valley. The end of the tramway in your photograph was the yard of a large Balance pit belonging to Nantyglo and Beaufort ironworks, the tip was regraded in the early seventies, I have maps showing the tramroad going from the level and pit, around the scoured outcrop where West Mon golf club is and onto the machine pond area of Brynmawr where Twyncynhordy pit was ( its shaft is in the corner of a field at Twyncynhordy farm and was open 20 years ago too) the drams then entered Nantyglo ironworks through the north entrance which still exists, it's opposite the new Asda and underneath the roadbed of the Abergavenny to Merthyr railway line which is a road now. Both enterprises closed when Crawshay Bailey died in 1875 along with many other iron works that could not afford to adapt to the Bessemer/ Thomas process to make steel instead of puddled wrought iron. The Nantyglo works was taken over for a few years but failed so I think that by 1885 or so the mines would have been derelict.

I have spent the evening surfing the oldmaps UK website, if you look at the area on the current map and lock onto the Bush Inn which was below the incline, (its a house now), you will get access to the levels proper, interestingly the 1, 10000 map of 1880 shows two engine houses serving an incline apiece and another quarry is metalled above the main dip, I had forgotten about this but there is a trampath in poor state above and south of the engine house, I remember walking into it years ago, on the same site open up the 1900 1.3500 and 1.10000 map, by this time the top quarry has a working face and just one engine house, imagine how the locomotive boiler was brought up there! Even in the scrap drives of WW2 the parts were not salvaged. The north level that I spoke about is shown as disused at this date. Have a look at the extensive park and ponds shown below on the 1880 maps, the owners and managers lived like kings.

Finally the flywheel on the mountain is very old and was poorly maintained at the end of its life, based on the square forged wrought iron shaft and the number of poorly set keys on the wheel and gear, I guess the existing equipment up there from about 1850 or so was utilised to the end, its amazing how it has survived probably over a hundred and fifty years or so of bleak wet weather, the castings are still good, the wrought shaft is not so good but it can hold out another century with ease I bet..."

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading

Thanks particularly to Geoff Palfrey for sharing his photographs, knowledge and research of the area
and also to :- John van Laun, Jamie Larke and the Gwent Caving Club

A Guide to the Website

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