Torfaen - Old Industrial Sites 2 of 3

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British Ironworks 1989

British Ironworks Site, Talywain (1989)
This view looking north shows the line of the upper level railway line to Blaenavon (near the "Big Arch") - now a cycle track. The area (known as "The British") had the ironworks, Navigation Colliery and engine repair sheds.

There have been a number of plans to redevelop the site. Hopefully features such as the ironworks wall and steam engine house can be conserved. Unfortunately an old house, "The Castle", has been demolished (upper left of centre).

British house scheme 1985 The British house scheme 1985

A scheme to renovate derelict rows of 2 and 3 storey houses to the north of the "British" industrial area, Talywain in the mid 1980s. The scheme was apparently unsuccessful, and the houses were either demolished or have collapsed - see additional photo of houses.

Model and Old Photos
There is an interesting description of a very impressive model that has been made of the Big Arch and the nearby locomotive repair sheds as it was circa 1970 here (this is a multi-page blog).

Update 2021
Torfaen County Borough Council purchased the site, including the former industrial area and moorland (approx. 1306 acres), in 2018. At present work to make the site safe is in progress.

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Cwm Byrgwm, near Talywain (1982)
This small side valley contains early coal pits of the water balance type (ca 1800), two are visible. Hopefully the remains of these can be preserved - one has the winding gear in situ, but in parts.

This picture shows the stack or chimney as it was in 1982. I believe this is for convectional ventilation of coal pit workings, but I'm not sure. The south facing side has quite a lot of bricks missing. The other sides look in good condition even now - but need repointing!

Cwmbyrgwm stack 1982

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Cwmsychan Reservoir 1989

Cwm Sychan (1989) The next side valley north of Cwm Byrgwm has several mining features, a tramroad bed, and this disused reservoir - perhaps associated with the British Ironworks. Since one translation of Cwm Sychan is "dry valley" I wonder how much water the reservoir could supply. The dam wall was demolished on the left for safety reasons. As it is March 2019

There is a steepening footpath onto the high moorland which can be part of a circular walk.

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Lower Varteg Colliery (2009)
This is an example of a drift mine, having the year 1899 inscribed on the arch keystone. I'm not sure if this is the correct name of the site, but that is what is marked on a 1949 OS map. Some consolidation work was obviously done here in recent decades. The site isn't easy to locate, but it can be found by following the lane at the back of Talywain Rugby Club almost to the metal bridge. Just before the bridge, go into the field to the right, and proceed uphill for about 150m. I hope the directions aren't too vague, I don't want to spoil the challenge of finding the site!

Lower Varteg Colliery

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Blaenavon   (1990) Below left: on Coity Mountain looking down towards Big Pit. Winding drums from Coity Quarry inclined plane aparatus can be seen at centre. The mostly buried portal of an unsuccessful NCB drift mine (Roben's Folly) from 1966 is below here - adjacent to the metalled track and about 200m to the north. Click for 1990 photo showing complete portal.

view from Coity Mountain quarry

Hill Pit site, NW Blaenavon

A 1990 view from Hill Pits site near Garn-yr-erw looking towards Big Pit (left of centre). The chimney has had some restoration work done more recently. Please click here for a video showing an old map and impression of how the site looked around 1880.

Blaenavon Ironworks, 1982

Blaenavon Ironworks (1982). Much work has been done to conserve and restore parts of this site, which is a central feature of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.

tramroad tunnel entrance 1987

Southern entrance to Hill's Tramroad Tunnel, west of Blaenavon Ironworks (1987). In 2010 the entrance area was excavated and the portal rebuilt (not as original).

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For a comprehensive website on the industrial past of old Monmouthshire (Gwent), and much more with many photos, please see Phil Jenkins' site:

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