Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Sirhowy Valley
The Southern Sirhowy Valley
From Wattsville to Blackwood, via Cwmfelinfach, Ynysddu and Pontllanfraith
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Sirhowy Valley

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Penllwyn Tramroad

Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Penllwyn Tramroad

The Penllwyn Tramroad ran from the Sirhowy Tramroad at Nine Mile Point over the viaduct to Ynysddu (Lower). It opened in 1824 to the same 4'2" gauge as the Sirhowy line, under the terms of Monmouthshire Canal act. It was probably converted to a railway in 1865 with the Sirhowy Tramroad, who operated it, becoming part of the LNWR in 1876. It worked sporadically between 1887 and 1903 when the LNWR took over the section either side of the new Nine Mile Point Colliery connection, In 1911 goods yards were opened at Ynysddu Lower goods yard (closed 1937) and Wattsville (closed 1929), the short stretch from Wattsville across the viaduct was lifted in 1914.

Llanarth Tramroad

From an end-on junction at Ynysddu the Llanarth Tramroad ran on up the valley to Penllwyn Colliery, Pontllanfraith and Rock Colliery, Blackwood. Up to 1908 an occasional horse-drawn wagon was worked along the tramroad to preserve the right-of-way. The tramroad was officially abandoned in the 1920s following the failure of the various railway schemes below.

The Route in 1915

The Penllwyn Railway and the Gelligroes Light Railway

The Penllwyn Railway was proposed in 1906 and the Gelligroes Light Railway in January 1916 by Sir Ivor Herbert of Llanarth Court under the Light Railways Act. Both were to run from the LNWR goods station at Ynysddu to Commercial Street, Pontllanfraith along the bed of the tramroad. The proposed light railway order intended the railway to be built and run by the LNWR but it seems neither plan got off the ground.

Penllwyn Viaduct, Wattsville - ST 2035 9108

The Penllwyn Viaduct took the Penllwyn Tramroad across the river. It was converted into a railway along with the Sirhowy Tramroad and used until the new connection to Nine Mile Point Colliery was opened in 1908. The track over the viaduct was lifted in 1914.


Nine Mile Point Colliery was sunk on the tramroad route in 1902, so the replacement railway ran through the colliery yard. The line ran past Capel Babell, the birthplace of the poet 'Islwyn'. Both railway and chapel were almost engulfed by the colliery waste tips before tipping moved to the mountainside.


Ynysddu goods yard was the terminus of the Penllwyn Tramroad and the LNWR branch. From here the Llanarth Tramroad continued to Blackwood. Just beyond Ynysddu at Pont Gam the tramroad crossed the Sirhowy River on the 'Crooked Bridge'.


The tramroad passes Gelligroes Mill, famous for receiving the 'SOS' message from the Titanic. From there, the straight section of the tramroad ran through Ponllanfraith and served the original Gelligroes Colliery, an old colliery working from the 1840s to the 1870s, and Penllwyn Pit. A strongly fenced area beside Tram Road protects a drainage adit. A little further South at ST 1796 9567 is a poorly fenced and very waterlogged area, 'The Dingle', that was the site of an 'old level' in 1880.


The final length of the tramroad followed the river past the woollen mill and crossed the river again to reach the Rock Colliery.


Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Wattsville Reservoirs - ST 2032 9156

These two small reservoirs were built at some time before 1898, probably to provide water for both the village and Risca North Colliery. The dams were demolished c1975 and the site has recently been landscaped.
Merlin Astley-Jones recalls "I remember the concrete one being ‘blown up’ around mid sixties. I say being ‘blown up’ as none of us saw it. It was a school day. They had drained the res previous and then smashed a gash in the centre, so no water could dam back up. However the walls remained for many years after, long into the eighties I seem to recall."

Trish Gambold, from Brynawel, says "I can never remember the reservoir being 'blown up' though. As a child I walked across the high wall which held back, at one time, the water coming down from Mynyddislwyn. There was an enormous crack right in the centre which ran all the way down both sides. Stories told of it happening during the war. The Germans had bombed behind Brynawel, trying to hit Nine Mile Point colliery in the dark. My father explained that they tried to hit Cardiff but if they had anything left they would drop the bombs trying to destroy collieries."

Wattsville Village

Someone's told me that this building is a pumphouse for the farm but I haven't got near enough to check! It's on the opposite side of the valley from the public footpath so maximum zoom! It's roughly at ST 1990 9265.

Adams 'imaginary' Quarry, Brynawel - ST 2013 9138

Trish Gambold lived at Brynawel until 1961 and says "My memories are vivid of Adam's Quarry and when my son mentioned some years ago he was walking that area, I asked him to look for the Quarry. Of course, it was not there and Mark has teased me ever since about my imaginary Quarry. Then he told me it had been filled in and that shocked me, as a child it was enormous. Over the years my son has often brought up my 'imaginary quarry' so to view your photos and read about it has been lovely."

Thornes Quarry, Brynawel - ST 1979 9167

Nine Mile Point Station - ST 2044 9109

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 1963 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! "

Nine Mile Point Colliery

Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Nine Mile Point Colliery - ST 1930 9130

Nine Mile Point Colliery was developed between 1902 and 1905 with three shafts, West, East and Rock. It was also known as Coronation or Sirhowy Valley Colliery. Famous for two particular incidents, one was a stay-down strike in 1935 and the other is the threatened engulfing of Capel y Babel by its growing tip, unusual in that it was on the valley floor. The 'Nine Miles' refers to the distance from Newport along the Penllwyn and Sirhowy Tramways. The colliery closed in 1964, and the site is now an industrial estate. One abutment of the bridge over the river from the Sirhowy Valley line at ST 1956 9110 still exists and was used for abseiling.

Trish Gambold remembers "My Grandfather was the Mechanical Engineer at Nine Mile Point; my father was the Electrical Engineer of Nine Mile Point, later to become Area Electrical Engineer, with the responsibility for every new Winding Headgear fitted in the South Wales Colliery."

Nine Mile Point Colliery quarry - ST 1968 9158

This quarry was connected to the colliery by two tramways, an early one running diagonally down the hillside and a more vertical later one.

Nine Mile Point Colliery Aerial Ropeway

In the 1950s Nine Mile Point Colliery built an aerial ropeway to a top station at ST 1825 9060 to create a new tip. However nothing but test runs appear to have taken place, certainly no tipping! Amazingly two of the pylons still stand, the lower, shorter pylon 1 beside the Wentloog Colliery tramway at ST 1861 9089 and a taller version (pylon 2) higher up the steep and bramble-covered hillside at ST 1857 9080. A very rusty and partly buried bucket is deep in the woods at ST 1838 9085. Numerous concrete foundations exist up and down the hill. I came across the smaller pylon in 2009 next to Wentloog Colliery. Mike Munro ( went looking for it successfully but then found an even taller one in the woods above it. So I had to take look and there it was on a very steep brambled slope quite unsuitable for elderly gents like me. But I made it!


Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Nant-y-draenog drainage level - ST 1862 9215

A larger quarry at ST 1860 9210 was open by 1922, probably with the building of the village anda smaller quarry lies just to the North, marked 'old' in 1922. Opposite the larger quarry , over the stream, is what appears to be a small but well-cut drainage or escape adit (ST 1860 9210), possibly from the old level above it. Little remains of this adit (ST 1881 9231) but the depression and some ironmongery protruding from the ground in front.

Ty-cae-brith level - ST 1917 9262

Further up the valley another small adit existed at Ty-Cae-Brith (ST 1917 9262). This is still used as a water supply with a filled but clear, stone-lined entrance and a roof collapse just behind. There is also signs of an adit and tip on the opposite side of the field.

Nant-y-draenog reservoir - ST 1888 9352

Nant-y-draenog Reservoir was built in 1894 before Cwmfelinfach village was built and closed in 1979. There are two primary and one covered secondary filter beds. The roof of the main filter house has disappeared but the ironwork and walls remains. Quite a lot of iron and pipe work still remain at this remote site. The small quarry just below possibly supplied the stonework.

Pont Lawrence Station - ST 1904 9112

Pont Lawrence was the station for Cwmfelinfach and the branch into Nine Mile Point Colliery diverged to the right at the railway approached it. The bridge abutment over the river at ST 1956 9110 is now used for abseiling and other death-defying activities.

Wentloog Colliery - ST 1861 9084

In 1892 the Wentlooge Coal Co re-opened an 80-year-old level known as 'Edwards Level', owned by L C Walker with Prof Gallacher of Llanbradach Colliery as agent and Moses Jones of Rudry as Manager. From 1902 it was under Christopher Pond's ownership and appears the have closed c1920 and was for sale in 1924. Wentloog Colliery ( aka Yr Ocher With Colliery, Ochrwyth Colliery and Wentlooge Colliery) consisted of two levels, an earlier level at ST 1853 9090 which became the return for the later level at ST 1861 9084. Both were connected by a long, shallow incline and tramway to the later Ynysddu Brickworks. A forestry track follows the route of the tramway, traces of which can be seen either side of the track. At the colliery site there is a brick culvert under the tramway near the earlier level and a brick pit at the later level, where the haulage engine probably stood. An old level at ST 1874 9099, disused by 1901, connected to the Sirhowy Tramway by a short, steep incline past Ynys Hywel, where an iron ventilation chimney exists.

Ynysddu Brick and Tile Co Ltd - ST 1803 9172

The brickworks at Ynysddu was one of Christopher Pond's ventures, opened after 1901 and had been demolished by 1948, possibly closing with Wentloog Colliery. It was closely connected with Wentloog Colliery and both operations were for sale in 1924. There's lots of foundations of the kilns and the loading bank in the undergrowth and the site is littered with bricks, many mis-shapes and other brands as well. The brickworks was at the end of the tramway down from Wentloog Colliery and the colliery had a tipping dock to the East of it. The 'Ruby' brand is possibly named after Mr Pond's daughter or a clay seam but a more interesting rumour is that it was named after a lady friend of his.

Ynysddu to Wyllie and Gelligroes

Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Around and about Ynysddu

The Duffryn chemical works at ST 1805 9185 was next to the Tredegar Arms pub and made acid for the tinplate industry. It was owned by David Morris & Son, who also owned the chemical works in Abercarn and Risca. He went bankrupt in 1883 and the works was closed.


Wyllie Colliery's site (ST 1694 9237) has been completely cleared and a housing estate is being built there. This modern colliery was constructed between 1924 and 1926 and closed in 1968, after a very short and uneventful life. The tips on Mynydd Bach at ST 1696 9266 have been landscaped but traces still remain.


The first Gelligroes Levels were at ST 1731 9460, working before 1880 but closed by 1901. The modern level (ST 1735 9453) penetrated the old workings for about 50 yards. Tips and a drainage chamber are beside Heolddu Lane with the modern level, tramway and quarry (ST 1747 9447) through the gate to the South. The original tramway (ST 1741 9491) from the lane is over the stile to the North and can be traced through the fields, past another level, to the by-pass which now covers the final level and airshaft of Gelligroes.

To the East, Coedcae Level (ST 1817 9504) was active in the 1920s but turned out to be unproductive. The second adit at ST 1794 9477 is just identifiable in a small quarried area to the right of the footpath beside Gelligroes Quarry (ST 1787 9473).

Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith

Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Pennar Tunnel, Pentwynmawr - ST 1969 9636

Pennar Lane Footbridge - ST 1953 9644

An interesting footbridge that may be an original fixture to the 1859 Taff Vale Extension Railway. When I visited it was fenced off as unsafe but it appeared to be an aqueduct as well as a footbridge. The walkway was made of wooden planks over an iron trough and the 1880 OS map shows both the watercourse and footpath.

Bryn Tramroad, Pontllanfraith
Bryn Colliery - ST 1684 9526

The Bryn Tramroad ran from the Sirhowy tramroad at what was later Pontllanfraith High Level Station. The tramroad ran to Bryn Colliery, North of the Crown Inn at the Bryn until it was taken over by the LNWR in 1876 but disappears soon afterwards. A short siding ran along the trackbed in Bryn Road by the station until the 1920s at least.
Bryn Colliery was owned in 1841 by Thomas Powell and was connected underground to the New Penllwyn colliery which was also owned by Thomas Powell and also to the Maesycwmmer Junction colliery. It had closed by c1875 and now Bryn Primary School has been built over the site. I hope they sealed the shaft !

Penllwyn Colliery - ST 1787 9528

A old colliery working from the 1840s to the 1870s. A strongly fenced area beside Tram Road protects a drainage adit. A little further South at ST 1796 9567 is a poorly fenced and very waterlogged area, 'The Dingle', that was the site of an 'old level' in 1880.


Quick links to :-     Penllwyn Tramroad     Wattsville     Nine Mile Point     Cwmfelinfach
Ynysddu and Wyllie     Pentwynmawr and Pontllanfraith     Blackwood

Tir Filkins Colliery and Cwm Philkins

Tir Filkins Colliery and Halls Road Bridge - ST 1826 9670

Tir Filkins bridge took Halls Road Tramroad across Tir Philkins lane and is unusual and dangerous to unwary drivers - there's 12ft headroom at the lower end but tapering to 6ft at the upper end !! To the left was Tir Filkins Colliery, on the 1846 Tithe map it is known as Cwm Filkin Pit. it was working in 1846 but closed from 1859 to 1865 and up for auction in 1881 along with New Tir Philkins in Pontllanfraith. It is marked as 'disused' by 1898 and the site cleared after1916. Levels were worked in the vicinity from 1927 to1934 and again from 1950 to 1956, these may have been just below the railway bridge.

Llis-pentwyn Ishaf Pit and Cincoed Colliery - ST 1883 9712

A branch of Halls Tramroad ran from Tir Filkins Colliery sidings to Llis-pentwyn Ishaf Pit in Cwm Philkins.
From 1916-21 Cincoed Colliery at ST 1888 9745, North of Cwm Philkins, was worked by the Kincoed Colliery Co (part of Bush Collieries Ltd) and others. Later in 1930-40 a lower level was open at ST 1889 9728. A tramway linked them to the site of Llis-pentwyn Ishaf Pit and possibly down to a siding on Halls Road at Tir Filkins. Further to the Northeast New Cincoed Collliery (aka New Kincoed Level) was open from 1950 to 1963 at ST 1911 9783.


The Rock Collieries - ST 1757 9735
Woodfieldside woollen factory - ST 1773 9717

The woollen factory was beside the tramroad, long gone and the site is now an 'executive housing estate' but a couple of the adjacent cottages remain.

Woodfieldside quarry - ST 1768 9767

A very small quarry at Cwm Pen Maen, Woodfield. There was an old level a little further up, was this another trial?

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to :- Merlin Astley-Jones, B H Crook, Anthony Gostling, Jim Sparks and Roger West for their info, photos and memories.

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