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Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Western Valley
Llanhilleth
From Swffryd to St Illtyds along the East bank
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The Industrial Archaeology and history of Llanhilleth and Swffryd

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Swffryd

From Royal Oak along the TVER to Swffryd Village and the Crumlin Viaduct

Swffryd Ganol quarry - ST 2219 9924
Swffryd Ganol Colliery - ST 2232 9936

The long, narrow Swffryd Ganol quarry running down to (or is it up from) the village appears to be very old with an unusual wall or foundation at the top and an embankment at the bottom. The tips and earthworks of the various workings of Swffryd Ganol colliery are further along the lane. Swffryd Ganol farmhouse itself has an unusual old stone-tiled roof and the tips and earthworks of the various workings of the colliery are to it's North.

Swffryd Colliery - ST 2256 9996

The oldest levels (ST 2256 9983) appear to predate the original tramway. There are what seem to be two parallel, adjacent levels, the area in front of the Southern one is flooded, so may have been drainage, as the other leads to overgrown tips.

At ST 2261 9995 were the older levels that fed the original tramway. Quite well-defined entrances but the tips are probably under the Colliery tips and general workings.The tramway from these older Swffryd levels ends at ST 2259 9973, probably some kind of transhipment dock but not a lot to see.

Swffryd Colliery itself is responsible for the very large tip which dominates the area and on the Southern flank the frame of a dram is half-buried. There are a number of adits behind the tip, it's hard to tell which belonged to the Colliery and which pre-date it. Below the tip the course of the tramway, a shallow incline, can be traced back down the hillside to Swffryd Quarry at ST 2161 9930.





Llanhilleth Farm, Erskine Level and Nant-y-cnyw

Another very complicated little area containing, in no particular order, Farm Colliery, Llanhilleth Farm level, Erskine Colliery, Pen Mynydd Colliery, Jenny (or Ginny) Colliery and Blaencnyw Colliery amongst others. Mining began in the 1830s and continued, on and off, here and there, up to 1974. Old mines closed, new ones opened, sometimes the name changed, sometimes not, so you pay your money and take your choice. However the 'leftovers' are everywhere to be seen, so thats the best way to talk about them.

Llanhilleth Farm Colliery - SO 2287 0054

Judging by the size of the tips this was quite a big 'small' colliery with a long incline down to Llanhilleth. It's marked'disused' on all OS maps and seems to have closed by 1888.

The Rows and the quarry - SO 2231 0040

The Colliery tramway and incline - SO 2258 0056

The Colliery tips - SO 2282 0056

Around the Colliery itself - SO 2286 0055

Llanhilleth Farm and level - SO 2255 0022

The derelict Llanhilleth Farm and a small level behind it. The level at SO 2267 0020 was shown as 'old' in 1880 but I'm told it's been worked occasionally since then.

Erskine Colliery or Pen Mynydd Colliery - SO 2287 0054

Erskine Colliery was active from 1927 to 1947 with four levels. One or two levels were re-opened the same year as Pen Mynydd Colliery and it was finally abandoned in 1974.

Jenny Colliery or Ginny Colliery - SO 2310 0101

Next door was Jenny Colliery or Ginny Colliery, the whole area seems to be known locally as 'the Ginny'. The colliery was working around the early 1900s and possibly re-worked as part of Erskine Colliery.

Blaencnyw Colliery - SO 2316 0127

Finally, at the head of the valley was Blaencnyw Colliery (or Blaen-y-cnyw). It is shown as old levels and quarries by 1880 but, other than some rough ground, has been lost under the opencast workings of the Hafodyrynys Canyons. On the map, I have superimposed the 1920 Blaencnyw workings on the 1962 edition.





Cwmcyffin and Blaencyffin

Blaencuffin? or Blaencyffin? Well, the Ordnance Survey spell it as Blaencyffin so as they're their maps I'll better follow their lead. "Blaencyffyn Isha Colliery" is renowned for being the destination of one of the first loco-hauled trains in Monmouthshire. In June 1830 a locomotive named 'Hercules' or 'Speedwell', built by the Neath Abbey Ironworks, hauled 20 empty wagons from Newport up the MRCC tramroad to the foot of the Hafod Arthen incline and took 20 full wagons back.. It only took 12 hours for the round trip, much the same as today on a bad day on the by-pass!

Cwm Cyffin Quarry - SO 2235 0129

Cwm Cyffin Quarry was active around 1901 but was disused by 1920. The quarry itself is not large but the tramway and incline connecting it to Llanhilleth are more substantial and well worth a look. The incline terminated on Blaencyffin Road at SO 2186 0093 and the brakehouse at SO 2204 0102 with a passing loop at the halfway point. The tramway passes through an earlier small quarry at SO 2218 0126. There may have been an extension from the foot of Hafod Arthen incline up to the quarry as well.

Hafod Arthen Colliery - SO 2209 0181

Hafod Arthen Colliery (or Cwm Cyffin Colliery), has been worked on and off from the 1890s until finally closing in the 1960s. It may well have been worked from 1801 as the possible site of the original Blaencyffin Colliery. The site of a timber-framed level is now a water source beside the footpath from the tramway to the church. There are extensive tips and the route of the incline down to Llanhilleth at SO 2204 0131 can be traced. Two small levels existed either side of Aber-Common in the early 1900s at SO 2194 0164.The tramway to Blaencyffin leads off from the head of the incline to make an excellent footpath. There's some odd ruins between Hafod Arthen Farm and the road at SO 2207 0195, probably agricultural but no idea what it was!

Along the tramway to Blaencyffin Uchaf Colliery - SO 2253 0172

An assortment of tips, foundations and the glimmer of a level can be found on the way to Blaencyffin Uchaf Colliery. The minor levels and loading banks shown on the map have mostly disappeared under the opencast workings leaving the tips alongside the tramway,

The first sign of activity is at SO 2215 0178, the second level to the right of Hafod Arthen, where a small tip remains.


Two sets of foundations are below the tramway, the first at SO 2224 0165 appears to have been a substantial buttressed building with a decided 'industrial' feel about it. The second, at SO 2246 0161 is just a pile of stones.


Above the second ruin was another level of which there is no sign. The tramway has been washed away here exposing some cast-iron pipwork under it. There's also a stone sleeper nearby.

Blaencyffin Uchaf Colliery - SO 2261 0169

Blaencyffin Uchaf Colliery was shown as an 'old coal level' from 1880 to 1901 but, even though still marked 'old', springs into life again with a short tramway leading from a level in 1921. the 1962 map has more tramway and a loading stage. All of that has gone under the opencast, the remaining tips appear to be from the original workings.

Blaencyffin Colliery (Blaencyffin Isha) - SO 2297 0171

Blaencyffin Level dates from around 1832 as a later development of Cwm Cyffin Colliery. A tramway connected this and the other levels along the hillside with Cwm Cyffin. Over 170 years a number of adits existed on the site, operated by different owners as fortunes changed, the final closure of this well-known small mine coming in 2001.

Blaencyffin Farmhouse - SO 2283 0170

The ruins here appear to be the ruins of the original farmhouse and buildings. Given their proximity to the colliery they probably served as the colliery offices and workshops too.





Penyrheol and St Illtyds

Pen-yr-heol levels - SO 2297 0171

This operation was disused by 1880 leaving some decent tips and the route of a zig-zag tramway down from a higher tramway originating at Mount Pleasant Colliery. The site of the main adit is difficult to see but there is a small level and tips at the end of a short tramway to SO 2130 0164. An incline led down to Aberbeeg through woodland but I haven't ventured down there yet. Mount Pleasant Colliery (SO 2148 0143) was a complex of levels, disused by 1880 but the sites of a number can be found along the footpath behind the playing fields. Also part of the route of the incline can be followed down through the houses to SO 2136 0116.

St Illtyds levels - SO 2187 0224

This may have been known as Brynithel Colliery, active about 1905 when 5 men were employed. The tip has been gouged away by the stream creating a 'canyon' effect. The site of the main level seems to contain the remains of aerial ropeway pylons.





Llanhilleth

Llanhilleth Colliery - SO 2207 0030

Llanhilleth Colliery consisted of two pits, Old Pit (or Red Ash) on the East side of the railway line and New Pit on the West side, opened in c1855 and 1865 respectively and closing in 1969. The colliery site has been completely cleared. A brick pier of the entrance road bridge to the colliery remains beside the GWR. A tramway ran from the New Pit up the Western bank of the river until c1901, crossing it on an iron bridge at SO 2198 0032 which has survived though much re-inforced. Just below it, on the lane to Trinant Hall, are the concrete blocks, one very large, that were the foundations of the aerial ropeway up to the tips near Trinant. The pithead baths at SO 2200 0051 survive in 2013 but are derelict and being vandalised. So nothing unusual there, then.

Bridge abutment - SO 2228 0056

An old photo shows a bridge coming from the top of this abutment. It carried a tramway that ran through the area where the baths are now. It took waste up the Nant-y-cnew valley to a tip where the new houses are now.

Hafod Arthen Isaf - SO 2188 0128

Sian Jennings says :- "My great great great grandfather Edward Andrews bought Hafod Arthen Isaf in 1826 and it was in the family until the early 1970s when my great uncle John Andrews died. It was said to have a secret tunnel behind the bread oven which led up the mountain(!) This was supposed to be an escape route for Non Conformists who were persecuted after the Restoration of Charles II. It was a lovely house in its day; it had an orchard and peacocks on the lawn. Terribly run down when I visited it as a child in the 70s. It was guarded by a fierce gander."





Thanks to :- Sian Jennings for memories of Hafod Arthen Isaf.


All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins