Thursday, 29 March 2012

River Severn

Two bridges span the River Severn near its estuary, forming welcoming drawbridges into South Wales.   Both are toll bridges, so entry to Wales has to be paid for.   However, residents are allowed across to England at anytime free of charge, (until we return.)

Before the bridges, travellers would have to travel north to Gloucester to cross the water, or use the Aust Ferry.

Severn Bore
The Severn, the longest river in Britain, has the second largest tidal range.   Probably twice a year, at the highest tides, the large volume of tide water, being funnelled between narrowing river banks forms a continual wave.   This tidal bore travels miles upstream, and has become famous, attracting canoeists and surfers who try to travel its length.  

Severn Tunnel
The village of Sudbrook is home to a pumping station which extracts huge amounts of water from a railway tunnel running under the Severn.   The tunnel was commenced in 1873 with the engineers encountering problems over a series of years.   Trains would be unable to travel through this tunnel without the vital pumping machinery, draining millions of gallons of water.    The source of the water is not the Severn but a water source on the Welsh bank of the river known as "The Great Spring."
Sudbrook Pumping Station
Images of the old pumping station, now electrified

During construction this Great Spring flooded the tunnel.  During its reclamation, Alexander Lambert entered the tunnel in a diving suit with an air tank on his back.   The first time this was done.   Previously air hoses had been connected between the diver and the land, or a boat, but the distance through the tunnel was too far.

Mud Flats
Derek Upton was employed at Llanwern steelworks.   All his spare time was spent bird watching on the mud flats of the Severn.   A very dangerous place with sink holes, severe currents, and rapid tidal shifts.   

When he saw footprints fossilised in the rock under the liquid mud, he reported his findings to the University of Wales.   Students and professors came from around the UK to see the phenomena.   When the earth's water levels were much lower, our ancestors lived and hunted there amongst woodland.   At low tide the remains of these trees can still be found.   Further research around the coasts of Britain has revealed further examples of fossilised footprints in the mud.

Ironbridge, located on the banks of the Severn, is now, a World Heritage site.   Although not in Wales, its well worth a visit with ten industrial museums mostly within walking distance of each other, along the banks of canals and the river.     Unfortunately these museums, unlike those in Wales, are not free.

Coalport porcelain, ceramic wall tile, and clay pipe (the smoking, not the drainage kind) museums reveal manufacturing methods as well as examples of their wares.   A Victorian village allows you to visit shops and premises of the time and purchase goods using old currency.  

This variety of goods were transported from Ironbridge by boat along the Severn, 160 miles to Bristol docks for export.

Tsunami or Adverse Weather Conditions ?

In 1606 a giant wave swept along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. At a height of 25 feet above the normal level, the water flooded four miles inland on the Welsh side and fourteen miles into Somerset.    2,000 people died and many lost their belongings, including merchandise at Bristol docks.  

The jury is out as to whether this disaster was caused by a tsunami or just a particularly high tide accompanied by weather conditions.   The strange phenomena was accompanied by a windy but sunny day.

Travelling along the M4 between Newport and Cardiff you can look down on the flatlands extending to the estuary.    Its easy to see that once the water broke over the coastline, there would be no barrier until the ridge which now supports the M4.

The following piece detailing the flood, is constructed from samples of text, some modern, but some dating from, and using the English of the 1600s.

Lamentable Newes out of Monmouthshire and Summerset-shire

20 January 1606 was fine. 
“about nine of the clocke in the morning,
the Sunne being most fayrely and brightly spred.”

A clear sky at the heart of a storm.
Inhabitants prepared themselves to their affayres.
But it was to be a sad day.

The Sea being very tempestuously moved by the windes,
overflowed his ordinary Bankes.

Sudden floods hit Somerset and the Welsh coast.
Described as the worst natural disaster to hit Britain.
Is it “God’s warning to the people of England
by the great overflowing of the waters or floods”?

From Horsburgh and Horritt;
this tide was exceptional
due to the sun and moon both overhead at the equator
and the moon closest to the Earth.

An eyewitness spoke of “Huge and mighty hills of water -
faster than a greyhound can run.”  At speeds of 30 miles an hour
and a height of 25ft it swept 4 miles inland;
14 in areas of Somerset.
A tsunami from an Irish earthquake
stacking boulders like dominoes.
Appearing like myriads of thousands of arrows
had been shot forth all at one time.

Water passed up the River Avon into the city of Bristol,
where cellars and warehouses of merchandise were spoiled.
People of the Towne were inforced to be carried in Boates,
by and downe the said Cittie about their business.

In Cardiff, the Church of St. Mary near the River Taff,
was undermined and destroyed.

Casualties include wealthy Mistress Van of Newport
although living 4 miles from the sea and seeing its approach
she was drowned, unable to reach the stairs.

Also in Devon, at Appledore
disaster struck.
A sixty tonne ship ready to sail
was driven aground well above high tide.

With 2,000 people dead
it seems there was still optimism...

In Monmouthshire a certain man and woman,
having taken a tree,
espying nothing but death
at last perceived a tubbe of great bigness.
It rested upon the tree and they committed themselves
and were carried safe until cast upon the drie shore.

However, with such devastation it can be said that
“Many men that were rich in the morning
when they rose out of their beds,
were made poore before noone the same day.”

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Flat Holm Island

Taking a boat from Cardiff Bay, you first have to negotiate the barrage locks, then you may need to hold on.   The water can be 'a little choppy.'    Five miles out lies the small island of Flat Holm.  Rich in history and wildlife.

Arriving at Flatholm
Visitors have to book to travel to the island, and you sit alongside supplies.   The day before our trip the boat had been carrying livestock.

Depending on the time of year, you are advised to wear a hat, not just to protect you from the winds and weather, but from nesting birds who can be quite angry at people invading their space and possibly threatening their young.  

In September we saw herring gulls and a few crows, but not much more.   Thousands of birds use the island every year.

After a short steep climb from the shore, you are confronted with a mostly flat island with short grass and scrubby bushes.  (It is called FLAT Holm).    A wooden barrier protects a local peony from being trampled by local wildlife and visitors.   The plant is descended from those brought to the island in the nineteenth century.

An allium, a member of the onion family, also grows here.  It is unique to Flatholm and is protected.    (If you feel you want an allium in your garden at home, similar bulbs can be bought quite easily from garden centres.)

Scattered around the landscape appears to be scraps of litter.   They are 'treasures,' brought by the birds from the mainland;  silver paper, strips of plastic, bottle tops and bones - sometimes quite large bones.

Ushered into a building similar to an old school we received a brief talk about the history of the island and the efforts being taken to preserve and maintain it.   Including restricting loo flushes to save precious water.

Monks lived on Flat Holm since the Dark Ages.   Vikings and Anglo-Saxons built their homes here.   Silver miners and smugglers add to the story.    It was fortified by the Victorians and again in World War II.   The first ever radio message across water was transmitted by Marconi in 1897 to Flat Holm.
Remains of the cholera hospital

I can only imagine the thoughts of cholera patients, not only being diagnosed with the terrible disease, but then being shipped to the island for isolation. They had plenty of fresh air if nothing else.

Transporting the materials to erect the building must have been difficult with such a small landing stage.

Paths zigzag across the island.   We are shown an abandoned circular gun emplacement and two large gun barrels from Victorian times.   A machine gun emplacement from WWII has what appears to be a goal post right next to it.  This was a guide for unwary gunners.   To prevent them inflicting home goals.

As you follow the winding pathways, you find  evidence of hours and hours of hard work mostly by people now long dead, trying to make a living, experimenting, or even in an effort to protect these islands from a perceived enemy.

The fog horn is no longer in use, but can still be viewed.   As can a small museum of items from the islands past.

From childhood I have looked across at Flat Holm and tried to imagine what it would be like.   I never imagined the history it holds.   The wardens who stay there are very fortunate.   In their spare time they are able to  explore.

To book your visit go to: 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Where were the valleys in 1966 ?

Wales Official Holiday Guide 1966

I came across this Holiday Guide from 1966 and found the approach to the South Wales Valleys really interesting.   They are omitted completely!    I'm not surprised as we still had some heavy industry and plenty of coal tips and slag heaps.   But it would have been nice to be included in some form.

Aberavon beach 1966
I love this photograph of Aberavon beach.   It shows the welsh enjoying themselves as I remember as a child.   We have a saying when somewhere is crowded "Its like Barry on a Sunday."   My children, now grown, always looked puzzled as I tried to explain.   This photograph tells all.   When the tide came in it became much more crowded.   Home knitted swimsuits, knotted hankies.  Men often wore their three piece suit and tie.  (Yes, they did!)  My father would put his shoes and socks under the deckchair.  My father-in-law might even loosen his tie !!

This ad for Caerphilly is the only reference to a valley town I could find.  The third rather understated paragraph is fascinating.   "magnificent Castle, second largest in Europe..."   Why didn't they shout about it!

This page for Glamorgan Rhoose Airport is wonderful.    The artwork is of its time, but I think would gain attention today.   Doesn't it make you want to go?   My husband and I had our first holiday abroad in 1967.   It cost £44 (for the two of us), which was a fortune.   We went to Majorca.

This ad is really from another age.   There were very few cars.   People used public transport (or scooter) to travel to their holiday destination.   I can't remember that many scooters where I lived.  

Pontypool does appear once in the brochure.   The Welsh Development Agency included BNS (British Nylone Spinners, later du Pont), located at Mamhilad, under the heading "Room to Breathe in Wales."  Their 'blurb' finishes by saying: "It is a wonderful land in which to work and relax ... in which to enjoy a really full life."   It would have been nice if they'd acknowledged where the photograph was taken, Pontypool.

I hope you have enjoyed your trip to Wales in 1966. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Pettingale Bluebell Wood

On a spring day in 1956 the children of the three top classes of Griffithstown Junior Mixed School lined up in twos, carrying a packed lunch.

Around 100 children of 9 and 10 years of age then walked through their village of Griffithstown, across the valley to the village of New Inn.   Then they proceeded along a country lane towards the village of Llandegfedd.   No complaints of legs aching or wanting to stop.   We were expected to walk, so we did.

Yes, I was one of those children.   We chattered excitedly as we walked.   The sun shone, it was warm and we wondered where we were going, past farms, past fields, past pretty cottages...

Then, we were told to look on the left-hand side of the lane.   There was a woodland.   The sunlight dappled through the young spring foliage.   The ground appeared to reflect the sky.   It was magical.   Bluebells as far as we could see.

Most of us had seen a vase of bluebells, perhaps a few plants growing, but this was wondrous.

We played and laughed amongst the trees, and collected arms full of flowers.  

Happily, we made our way home, the road scattered with stray white and green stems and drooping blossoms.   As we walked, bluebells lolled and bobbed in our aching arms, but we were determined to share our treasure with Mum and Dad.

In my early twenties, I found myself in a car travelling along the same lane.   Each landmark pointed towards the place I'd thought of so often over the years, but didn't know how to find.   I now knew what was over the hill.   But as we progressed along the road a large building appeared.   Then, as we descended a steep hill there was water!   A large expanse of water!   Llandegfedd Reservoir!!

The Reservoir is beautiful with sailing boats and fishermen, fantastic scenery.   A lovely picnic spot in summer.

A small area of Pettingale Wood can still be accessed on the western edge of the water.

All praise and thanks must go to those teachers of the 1950s, Miss Watkins, Mr Chesterman and Mr Jones for providing so many children with such a magical memory.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Marine Colliery, Graig Fawr

Graigfawr translated from Welsh means "large rock," or "big crag."

Evidence of Graigfawr's industrial heritage is located on the mountainside above the site of the demolished Marine Colliery near the village of Cwm.   A byepass running alongside, now diverts traffic away from Cwm, located three miles south of Ebbw Vale.  The views either side of this byepass are a temptation for the walker, or just the curious.

Although the mountains are beautiful, there are still many interesting remains of the industrial past of the area.  Care should be taken when walking.

The South Wales Valleys are honeycombed with shafts and tunnels.   Just south of the village of Cwm between Aberbeeg and Ebbw Vale, a brick tower  can be seen on the hillside above a stream emanating from a mountainside tunnel.   This tower is a ventilation shaft and is part of the Graig Fawr  colliery tunnel system.

Version 1:   Its entrance in the neighbouring Ebbw Valley between Newbridge and Crumlin.  This pit was closely connected with the Celynen North Colliery.   Their pit wheels appearing close together in photographs on the link below.

The Celynen North Colliery was opened by the Newport Abercarn Blackvein Coal Co. in 1913.   An upshaft along with its house coal partner Graig Fawr both opened in 1924.    The Graig Fawr was sunk to the "Tillery" seam at 150 metres.    It was plagued with water problems for most of its working life.   The fast flowing stream of today can partly testify to this problem.

Newport Abercarn Blackvein Coal Co. sold the colliery to the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron & Coal Co.   Then, in 1937 Partridge, Jones and John Paton Ltd. took over until nationalisation in 1947.

At its peak over 1900 men were employed at the Celynen North and the Graig Fawr.   184 miners worked in Graig Fawr producing house coal.   Both pits were overseen by the one Colliery Manager, so they were closely linked.

During the last few years of the collieries life it was linked underground to Oakdale colliery where all of its coal was raised to the surface.

Graig Fawr closed in 1961.

Version 2: 
The Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron & Coal Co. Ltd. started sinking this mine in 1887 on the site where formerly existed a siding connection with a colliery that the Ebbw Vale Co. had sunk, but as they abandoned.

Where the Tillery rises close to the surface it often appears to have a reddish hue also after burning the ashes have a reddish colour, in this area it is sometimes known as the Red Ash seam.

From the Inspector of Mines list 1896, the workforce numbered 97 including 10 surface workers.

By 1908 it was listed with the nearby Marine colliery.

Later the pit was abandoned levels were driven into the mountainside to work the Red Ash seam., one of these levels was situated at SO 184046.

In 1918 and 1923 the workforce numbered 137 and 75 respectively at the Graig Fawr (Level).

It closed in 1928.

Meg's Note: Apologies, but at present I am unable to confirm which of the two versions above is correct.

The Oakdale complex of collieries closed in 1989.

The metal air shaft served the original Adit* just a little way south, this adit wasn't into the red ash seam it was driven to intercept the natural aquafer to divert the water via a large pipe down to the Marine feeder pond.
Rusting metal Air Shaft

The brick air shaft was for the Graig Fawr red ash workings built many years before the Marine shaft was sunk.   If you were to park on the new bypass road a little to the north of the old pump on the roundabout there should be the remains of an identical shaft which was a furnace shaft for the Cwm & Mon red ash coliery.

The haulage engine on the hill was used to draw trams of waste up from the Marine.   This was before the first aerial flight was constructed.   Even then the trams were drawn up to a transfer point to be discharged into buckets which travelled upwards almost vertically to tip on the hillside.   This became obsolete.
 *An adit is a horizontal entrance to a mine.  It can be used for drainage, ventilation or for access.

Walking on Domen Fawr, Ebbw Vale

The mountain above Ebbw Vale Festival Park is not only a beautiful place to walk, but is rich with evidence of its industrial past. 

Cefn Manmoel is the name given to the broad ridge of high ground between the Sirhowy Valley and Ebbw Vale in the Valleys region of South Wales. It straddles the boundary between the unitary areas of Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent.

The NNW-SSE aligned ridge achieves a height of 504m at OS grid ref SO 166072. To the south it drops away to a broad saddle southeast of the village of Manmoel, beyond which lies Mynydd Pen-y-fan.

Parts of both its eastern and western flanks are afforested with conifer plantations such as at Coed y Rhyd and at Coed y Llanerch.
Winding wheel from Engine House
Domen Fawr

The entire hill is composed of sandstones and mudstones dating from the Carboniferous Period. There are also numerous coal seams within the sequence, most of which have been worked. The upper part of the hill including the summit plateau is formed from the Pennant Sandstone, a rock assigned to the Carboniferous Upper Coal Measures.[1] The flanks of the hill owe their steepness in part to the action of glacial ice during the succession of ice ages.
There are numerous abandoned quarries on the steep flanks of the ridge.
Significant parts of the hill are moorland and have been mapped as open country under the CRoW Act** thus giving a right of access to walkers. Similar rights apply to some of the afforested areas. There are a number of public footpaths and other public rights of way over the hill. The Sirhowy Valley Ridgeway Walk and the Ebbw Valley Walk follow some of these routes.[
Walking from Cefn *Manmoel to the Domen Fawr the defensive hedge dating back to the Dark Ages  is evident, (ninth or tenth century).   The ridge and furrow fields dating back to the 18th or 19th century are also visible, along with the burial cairns from the Bronze Age on top of the Domen Fawr. From the Domen there are wide views along the length of the valley, with a clear sight of the old steel works site.

OS Classification
Mountain or large hill

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Rusting boiler in remains of Engine House on slopes of Domen Fawr


OS Grid Reference
SO1607 (316500, 207500)

WGS84 Coordinates
51.7595, -3.20997
County Council (Unitary)
Blaenau Gwent Council

Ebbw Vale South Community
Parliamentary Constituency
Blaenau Gwent

The old tramroad
View from Domen Fawr

*Manmoel translated from Welsh means "bare place."

**Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (sometimes called the CRoW Act) is a UK Act of Parliament affecting England and Wales which came into force on 30 November 2000.
The Act implements the so-called 'Right to Roam' (also known as jus spatiendi) long sought by the Ramblers' Association and its predecessors, on certain upland and uncultivated areas of England and Wales.  to view Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Pontypool's Unique Ice Houses

The ice houses close to Pontypool museum are unique and of great historical significance for three reasons:

(a)   This pair of ice houses are each constructed with a double chamber.  There are no other double chamber ice houses recorded in Britain.  They were usually one chamber only.

(b)    Ice Houses were usually built individually, not in pairs at here.

(c)   The close proximity of the ice houses to  Park House, the Hanbury family home, now st Albans School, is also unusual.

Pontypool museum is now housed in the old stables of Park House.

“There are a number of reports that the ice houses have been subject to a landslip which has covered the access door.   Investigations have shown that this is not the case and access to the ice houses was, and always has been through the top opening.   It is also likely that the structure had a roof which may have been thatched to ensure as much insulation as possible.

Ice to fill the houses would have been taken from the Nant-y-Gollen Ponds and the nearby Monmouth and Brecon Canal.  

In 1864 the Free Press noted that “ice had been very plentiful and large quantities were secured for the Park ice house.”

Ice was contaminated and not used in food preparation, although in later years with the advent of the railway, it was possible to purchase clean ice which could be used in food.

The icehouses have now been fully restored with funding from Cadw, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Torfaen County Borough Council.”

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

South Wales, European Route of Industrial Heritage

Places to visit in the School Holidays
"Wales is a fringe country;  on the fringe of a kingdom, on the fringe of a continent and on the fringe of universal history...  There was one brief period, when Wales stood flamboyantly at the vortex of the world.  The industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth century changed the planet for ever, and was fuelled by the minerals embedded in the hills of southern Wales."   Jan Morris's introduction to Under Blorenge Mountain by Chris Morris.

Evidence of the industries that changed the landscape and the world are many and varied.  But nature (with a little help) is reclaiming its birthright.   South Wales is a beautiful place to live with quiet solitude only a ten minute car drive away.   Countryside surrounds us, but inspiration from man's ability to invent and create are never far away.    These maps created for the European Route of Industrial Heritage provides a list of places of interest and their approximate position in the landscape.   Please check out exactly where these places are if you intend visiting.

"The area is rich in biodiversity.  
Pond and Woodland areas have been
identified as nature reserves.
The mosaic of habitats such as acid grasslands, hay meadows, wet heath mire, swamp and open water contains a huge diversity of plant life from the Heath spotted and southern marsh orchids to blue and white bells, scabious, primroses, lady's smock, birds goot trefoil and teasel.

Bird watchers can observe buzzards, kestrels, sparrow hawks, skylarks, barn, tawny and little owls.   In summer evenings nocule and pipistrelle bats search for insects in the evening sky.
Woodland ponds, lakes and ditches support frogs, toads and newts.   Rabbits, hedgehogs, pygmy and common shrews, short tailed voles, wood mice and squirrels now abound around the countryside."  Alyson Tippings, Blaenau Gwent CBC Tourism Officer.

Eastern Route
The locations shown are approximate, please check the actual location before visiting.
 1. Big Pit, Blaenavon
 2. Goytre Wharf, Abergavenny
 3. Pontypool Museum
 4. Fourteen Locks, Newport
 5. Newport Transporter Bridge
 6. Blaenavon World Heritage Centre
 7. Blaenavon Ironworks
 8. Tredegar Town Clock
 9. Blaenavon Community Museum
10. Sirhowy Ironworks
11. Nantyglo Roundhouses
12. Abertillery Museum
13. Tintern Ironworks
14. The Works, Ebbw Vale
15. Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway

The Central Route
The locations shown are approximate, please check the actual location before visiting.
16. Rhondda Heritage Park
17. Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery
18. Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil
19. Pierhead Building, Cardiff
20. Engine House, New Tredegar
21. Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagans
22. Brecon Canal Basin
23. Barry Docks
24. Cefyn Coed y Cymmer Viaduct
25. Robertstown Bridge, Aberdare
26. Pontycafnau Bridge, Merthyr
27. Coal Exchange, Cardiff
28. Tower Colliery, Hirwaun
29. Ynysfach Engine House, Merthyr
30. Joseph Parry's House Merthyr
31. Aberfan
32. Butetown, Rhymney Valley
33. National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
34. Pontypridd Museum

European Route of Industrial Heritage
has linked the most important industrial heritage sites in Europe into a single
exciting network.   Three planned routes
are within South Wales  'Anchor sites'
allow visitors to relive different stages of industrial history with help from guided tours, multimedia presentations.  These
sites connect with smaller sites to form regional routes.

Western Route
The locations shown are approximate, please check the actual location before visiting.
35. National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
36. National Woollen Museum,
Newcastle Emlyn
37. Aberdulais Falls, Neath
38. Tondu Ironworks, Bridgend
39. South Wales Miners' Museum, Afon Argoed
40. Discovery Centre, Llanelli
41. Cefyn Coed Colliery Museum
42. Ynyscedwyn Iron Works
43. Twrch Aqueduct, Ystalyfera
44. Whitford Point Lighthouse
45. Neath Abbey Ironworks
46. Gwili Railway, Carmarthen
47. Parc Howard, Llanelli
48. Kidwelly Industrial Museum
49. Dolaucothi Gold mine

So much to do and see within a small geographical area.  

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Coal was the 2nd consideration

In the seventeenth century copper mining started around the Swansea area, using local coal to
smelt it for production of copper utensils.

carving of miner's tools, to scale by Harry Williams of Llanhilleth
Gradually forges cropped up all over the Valleys, smelting the plentiful iron ore,
using wood or charcoal as fuel.

With the expansion of forges, coal was used for smelting, rather than wood.   Each forge was usually accompanied by a drift mine, or coal shaft.   Local farmers had been burning coal to heat their houses, as it appeared on their land as an outcrop or very close to the surface.

As the forges expanded, steam power was developed to run machinery.   The Welsh
flannel industry was soon demanding coal for steam powered mills.   More and more wealthy house owners in London and elsewhere were demanding coal for heating.

Coal was becoming an industry in its own right, not just a fuel for the production of iron.

Thanks to Harry Williams for the photographs of his wonderful wood carvings.

Cholera Epidemics & Hygeine

In October 1832, a vessel landed at Swansea dock with two crew members dying of cholera.   An epidemic spread, eventually burning itself out in March 1833 at Merthyr.   Incubation was about six days with symptoms of faintness, sweating, vomiting and diarrhoea.

In 1848, 7,000 Londoners died.   In 1849 the Cardiff & Merthyr Guardian stated handbills were issued informing the public that sewers would be flushed between 9 and 10am each Saturday morning with chloride of lime - 2 oz to 2 gallons of water.

In 1853 the Pontypool Company issued a public notice:

"All rubbish is to be put in readiness for carting away by the Company
at the beginning of every week.

Pigsties are to be moved so that they are at least 30 yards from dwellings.

All houses to be whitewashed inside.   Lime can be obtained from the
general office at Pontymoile, or from No. 1 Engine, Blaendare.

Every garden, passageway, landing or vacant space must be swept and
cleansed twice a week."

Chloride of zinc was to be scattered in each room.   Its cost was a
farthing a gallon.

People were to avoid stale, raw and half-cooked foods.
Inter corpses as soon as possible.
Improve ventilation in houses.

People realised the importance of hygeine to health.

(Prior to the introduction of the Asiatic cholera Britain had suffered their own less severe cholera, thought to be salmonella from unhygeinic food.   (No sell-by dates in those days.))

A Gray Jones, 1970, History of Ebbw Vale, Starling Press.
Keith Thomas, Heritage & History of Ebbw Vale, Vol. 1.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Folly, Pontypool, built 1765.

The original
Folly Tower
Built by John Hanbury, the local iron master who owned Pontypool Park, in 1765, the tower appears to have been renovated by Capel Hanbury Leigh around 1831. It is reputed to have been used as a lookout for the local hunts and as a summerhouse for the family.

These postcards show the tower from the same viewpoint, but years apart.                 

It has commanding views of the surrounding countryside and on clear days it is said that you can see 7 counties from the top.

At the onset of the Second World War, the tower was demolished on 9th July 1940, as it was felt to be a landmark for enemy aircraft trying to locate the ordnance factory at Glascoed.                                   

A landmark viewed from the Brecon & Monmouthshire canal
The rebuilt Folly Tower

By September 1993, the Folly Tower had risen to approximately 20ft and was then a visible sight on the ridge. During the winter months the work to continue building the next stage of the Folly Tower was placed out to tender and awarded to Davies and Jenkins, a local builder.

On 22nd July 1994, the Prince of Wales performed the official opening ceremony and the Folly Tower once again stood proudly on the ridge as a landmark for all.                 

How do I access the Service?                 

Access to the Folly Tower is available to all, including schools and walking groups.

Opening Times (Please check before travelling):

The Folly Tower is open from 2 - 5pm on the following dates:

April - Fri 22nd, Sat 23rd, Sun 24th, Mon 25th, Fri 29th, Sat 30th                 
May - Sat 28th, Sun 29th, Mon 30th

June - n/a

July - Sat 30th, Sun 31st                 
August - Sat 6th, Sun 7th, Sat 20th, Sun 21st, Sat 27th, Sun 28th, Mon 29th

Groups of 10+ by appointment only at other times.

Access to the Tower is from Folly Lane Car Park (Follow the brown viewpoint signs from Pontypool). Access involves walking through a field with livestock present, so dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.


For further information on the Folly Tower, contact the Pontypool Park Manager.

Guardian & Six Bells Disaster, South Wales

Six Bells Colliery Disaster Memorial
Standing 20 metres high, designed by Sebastien Boyesen, this statue imposes itself on the valley.

The Guardian, a bare chested miner constructed from iron, stands on the former Six Bells Colliery site. As you drive along the valley road from Llanhilleth to Aberbeeg you pass almost at shoulder height.   The transparency of the work gives a ghostly impression.   Its construction from such heavy metal pieces was difficult and time consuming.

Unveiled before the arms could safely be attached, it still made an imposing figure.   Even more so now complete.   The names of 45 men including two fathers and their sons, are inscribed in metal around the base.

Explosion, 28 June 1960
On the morning of 28 June 1960 an explosion killed 45 miners, including two fathers and their sons.  The explosion was caused by the ignition of fire damp, a gas known to be present in the pit previously.  Men were quoted to have said they had to keep their heads down, otherwise they would be "nodding."   It was believed a spark was generated by a quartzite stone falling six feet approximately from the pit roof, exposed by blasting but not immediately supported.   This stone struck a metal rail from the coal conveyor.    The coal dust in the air then ignited along with the gas.

Six Bells Colliery (now demolished)

wild life returns where heavy industry prevailed