Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Rhymney Valley
The Southern Rhymney Valley
Machen, Draethen, Rudry and Bedwas
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Rhymney Valley

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Machen Quarry

Quick links to :- Machen Quarry and railway     Small levels and mills     The BMR and forge tramroad
    Collieries to the South     Machen Forge and BMR viaduct     Draethen lead mines     Bedwas and Rudry

Machen Quarry - ST 2222 8876

This very large active quarry, still with regular rail traffic in 2013, was established before 1875 serving a number of small limekilns. By 1880 the main limekilns were big enough to have a rail siding but the rapid expansion of the quarry appears to be post-war. The ornate, castellated electricity sub-station, dated 1920, is very similar to the one at Pont-y-waun Quarry near Crosskeys.

Machen Quarry Railway - ST 2204 8862

Machen Quarry Limekilns - ST 2209 8859

Machen Quarry Sub-station - ST 2201 8885

This castle-like sub-station was buit in 1920 supplying power to the quarry. A very similar structure exists at Pant-y-waun Quarry, Crosskeys.

Machen Quarry Magazine - ST 2214 8882

The magazine appears to be from two periods. The outer wall is stone but the inner storeroom is brickbuilt with a concrete roof. I suspect the original storeroom was relatively insecure so a new one was built, possibly around the 1940s.

Small levels, farms and mills

Quick links to :- Machen Quarry and railway     Small levels and mills     The BMR and forge tramroad
    Collieries to the South     Machen Forge and BMR viaduct     Draethen lead mines     Bedwas and Rudry

Sun Vein Level - ST 2205 8919

This level was shown as disused on the 1875 OS map. The tips and adit are hidden in the valley and a very even track downhill could have been a tramway. As Reg Malpass said "It was a two man and a dog operation".

Ffwrwm Farmhouse - ST 2235 8913
Oakfield Bungalow - ST 2228 8903

'Ffwrwm' is a very old farmstead dating from before 1875 and possibly 18th C. ( a birth is registered at 'Ffwrwm' in 1864 ). it's been derelict since the 1960s when the last tenant left. Oakwood Bungalow is shown on the 1960 OS map but there is nothing much left except the concrete tank in the photo.

Bovil Farm and Bovil Slant - ST 2188 8924

The derelict farmhouse and barns just above have superb views up the valley - surprised no-one has 'rebuilt' them into an 'executive residence'. John Brewer (1811 - 1888) lived and in 1851, he was agent of the Rumney Railway before it was taken over in 1863 by the Brecon and Merthyr railway. A couple of airshafts existed here before 1880 and a small level was open between 1901 and 1920 next to an equally small quarry. The approach to the adit and tips remain in 2010 and worth a scramble.

Machen Corn Mill - ST 2175 8871
Pandy Woollen Mill - ST 2213 8840

The corn mill's derelict buildings and mill house remain but have been used for other agricultural purposes. The route of the millrace to and from the river is traceable and parts of the culvert on the site can be seen. There is a primitive iron cauldron with brick chimney plus a winch and a vicious-looking crusher but no obvious mill machinery.
The crumbling buildings of Pandy Woollen Mill are on private land and the site is slowly returning to nature.

Along the Brecon and Merthyr Railway and Forge tramroad

Quick links to :- Machen Quarry and railway     Small levels and mills     The BMR and forge tramroad
    Collieries to the South     Machen Forge and BMR viaduct     Draethen lead mines     Bedwas and Rudry

The B&MR Locomotive Works - SO 2180 8917

The loco works dates back to Rumney Railway days, closed in 1927 and abandoned in the 1950s. I always thought it had long gone but no - there are ruins to be found amongst the undergrowth and trees and opposite is the incline down to the Chatham levels.

Bovil Colliery and Brickworks - ST 2175 8910

John Brewer of Bovil Farm acquired Bovil Colliery and developed its adjacent brickworks, which seems to have been a 3-kiln operation, the remnants of which were obliterated by post-war housing development. Having tried to auction the business in 1868, John Brewer and his son Samuel sold out to their partners, the Beddoe family, in 1877 after which his name was presumably discontinued from the bricks in favour of 'Machen'. 'Brewer' bricks have the same design of frog as some earlier Machen ones. The colliery closed in 1894 and the brickworks probably closed at around the same time. To the East of the site is the top of the incline that crossed the road and river to the Chatham levels.

Tywn-Sych brickworks - ST 2065 8890

There was a second brickworks at Machen at Tywn-Sych from the 1890s to the 1920s. The 'Brewer' and 'Machen' bricks are from Bovil Brickworks but the others could be from either.

Woodruff Iron and Brass Foundry - ST 2120 8945

Nothing appears to be left of this foundry, owned by Philip Thomas Woodruff & Co, active from before 1875 until 1932 when it closed. I have heard that it was later used as an aircraft component factory so may have been 'removed' from later maps. You can still find their manhole covers etc. around Machen.

The Dranllwyd Lane and other bridges of the B&MR - SO 2083 8933

Dranllwyd Lane was spanned by three bridges in quick succession, one for each line that came from Machen Junction. They must have been a great sight when they were complete.

Machen Forge Tramway - ST 2067 8919 to ST 2013 8895

The original tramway to Machen Forge ran down to the river bridge just above the 1864 BMR Caerphilly branch viaduct from the Rumney Railway near Draenllwyd Lane. The lower section from the river bridge to the Caerphilly branch is still shown on the OS maps of 1875. Two stone culverts here pass under the BMR and the tramway and an interesting large iron pipe lies beside the stream between the two lines.

The Collieries to the South of the River Rhymney

Quick links to :- Machen Quarry and railway     Small levels and mills     The BMR and forge tramroad
    Collieries to the South     Machen Forge and BMR viaduct     Draethen lead mines     Bedwas and Rudry

Chatham Tramway - ST 2145 8915
Machen's original collieries - ST 2113 8900

The original Machen collieries were South of the river, disused by the 1860s and linked to the pre-BMR Rumney Railway by a bridge over the road and river. The abutments survive on the North side of the main road behind which the trackbed can be followed up to the BMR. Also the river bridge abutments exist below the modern steel footbridge. Equally modern 'bijou' residences have been built over the Southern route, but some very slight remains can be found at the site of levels, airshafts and watercourses on a scrap of land that hasn't been built on. The obvious remaining feature is the watercourse at the back of the site, shown on the 1875 OS map, and heading for the forge at Rhyd-y-gwern. The tramway crossed the watercourse immediately behind the new housing estate at ST 2121 8898. A resident told me that about 10 years ago a stone-built airshaft could be found here.

Old Pit and Cae Quarry - ST 2088 8898
Coed Cefn-pwll-du Colliery, loading bank - ST 2069 8889

Little remains of Old Pit except a rather fine stone retaining wall, suitably signposted by the Council. To the West is the loading bank for Coed Cefn-pwll-du Colliery tramway and just above it are the walls and foundations of buildings including one called 'Twyn-sych' which may have been connected with Old Pit or the later colliery tramway. There was also a brickworks at ST 2265 8690 between 1890 and 1915. Cae Quarry, behind the brickworks, was working by 1875, disused by 1920 and now quietly reverting to nature.

Coed Cefn-pwll-du Colliery - ST 2083 8840

There appear to be two sets of workings here, the original site at the head of the tramway from Machen Old Pit dates from the 1880s and was disused in the 1920s. The possibly later working are just above and seem to encroach on the earlier workings. The tramway, adit entrances and tips of both visible but the area has been forested and harvested and is covered in some of the worst brambles I've come across! This is an area of many old workings, airshafts and tip, the photo showing just one old water-filled airshaft just off the forest track to the East. Have a wander....

Machen Forge and BMR Viaduct

Quick links to :- Machen Quarry and railway     Small levels and mills     The BMR and forge tramroad
    Collieries to the South     Machen Forge and BMR viaduct     Draethen lead mines     Bedwas and Rudry

Machen Forge and Tinplate Works - ST 2038 8887

Machen Forge and Tinplate Works was associated with Caerphilly Furnace in 1717 and may have been established in the 17th century, making it early in Wales. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was part of the Harford family empire of ironworks and was managed by one of the Harford brothers living nearby at Gelliwastad. The forge expanded into tinplate manufacture in 1826, the railway arrived in 1864 and the company was linked with the Waterloo Tinplate Works before closing in 1886. The leftovers are not obvious but there's quite a bit to find if you poke around in the brambles. There is one drainage tunnel near the road from the forge branchline coming out on the riverbank with a double arch, brick in front and stone inside. The branchline iself ran behind the forge on a low embankment and a smaller drain can be found further on, along with odd fenced-off pits and stone walls.

BMR viaduct, the Forge stables and tramway river bridge - ST 2013 8894

The impressive BMR viaduct, opened in 1864, dominates the area, rather dwarfing the ruined stables just beside it. These served the original Forge tramway as it crossed the river and wound its way up to the Rumney Railway. You can see the river bridge abutments under the new metal footbridge and the tramway course is obvious on the other bank under the BMR and on to Cae-bach. The railway branch began where the BMR crossed the forge millrace at ST 1995 8868.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to Richard Paterson (for information on John Brewer and Bovil Farm, Colliery and Brickworks) and Gary Adlington

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