Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire
Rural Monmouthshire
Rural Monmouthshire and anywhere not anywhere else!
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of Newport City and Rural Monmouthshire

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The Usk Valley - Caerleon to Abergavenny

Quick links to :-     Abergavenny to Talybont     The Merthyr Railway to Gilwern
Caerleon and Usk to Abergavenny     Sudbrook and the Severn Estuary     The Wye Valley

From Caerleon to Usk

Pant Gwyn limekilns, Llanhennock - ST 3678 9260

Cefn Ila, Llanbadoc - SO 3615 0045

Dating from the mid-Victorian period, Cefn Ila was a large Victorian house with extensive grounds including a pond. In 1925 the estate passed to Pontypool Hospital who used it a a convalescent, casualty and maternity unit until 1973 when it was burnt down. Since then it has been purchased by 'The Woodland Trust' who are restoring and enhancing the grounds.

Hydraulic Ram pump

The hudraulic ram pump probably ran a fountain and appears to be a "No 4 Easton & Amos (London & Erith) 3 inch new no. 30 simple ram 1854". In 2016 the pumphouse was lost in the jungle and very tumble-down but just two years later it was restored. I wonder if they can ever get the hydraulic ram working again?

Glascoed pillbox - SO 3590 0087
Cilwrgi limekilns - ST 3400 9828

Just over the fence from Cefn Ila lies this WW2 pillbox, unfortunately on the heavily protected property of what used to be Glascoed Royal Ordnence Factory. The Cilwrgi limekiln is a little further West.

Glascoed Limestone Quarries - SO 330020

Ancient underground limestone quarries rumoured to date back to the 1600s and first dug by local monks. Sometimes thought to be iron mines due to a high iron content apparently.

The Railway through Usk - SO 3753 0123

The Railway through Usk was opened in 1856 by the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway, soon becoming part of the GWR. The line closed to passengers in 1955 and goods traffic ceased soon after. The trackbed through the tunnel and over the viaduct is now a footpath.

Usk and Raglan Brickworks

Between Usk and Abergavenny

Goytre Wharf - SO 3127 0634

Goytre Wharf is now a marina but was originally a set of limekilns below the canal level fed from a small dock. The large drawholes are preserved and one of the three pots. Unfortunately the tramroad wagon and track is just a tourist tableau, wrong track, wrong wagon and there never was a tramroad here. The cast-iron railroad track is quite unusual, you see many tramplates but rarely railroad track.



Other places on the way

The Usk Valley - Abergavenny to Talybont

Even though the Monmouthshire boundary is just before you reach Glangrwyney, I've included the Usk Valley as far as Talybont as all the transport links connect to Monmouthshire, rather than Breconshire.

Quick links to :-     Abergavenny to Talybont     The Merthyr Railway to Gilwern
Caerleon and Usk to Abergavenny     Sudbrook and the Severn Estuary     The Wye Valley

Around Abergavenny

Abergavenny Town

Llanfoist and Govilon

Wilden Wireworks, Govilon - SO 2607 1345

Grwyne Fawr reservoir - SO 2323 3074

Glangrwyney Valley - Paper, Board, Corn and Woollen Mills and a Forge

The Glangrwyney Valley was a busy industrial scene from the C18th and continuing to 1950, particularly for paper and board mills producing the blue bags to contain sugar. In 1891 Straker and Son sold the Cwrt-y-Gollen Estate by auction, which included most of the mills operating then.

Usk Paper Mill, Glangrwyney - SO 2395 1611

A friend recently visited Usk Paper Mill at Glangrwyney and found much machinery inside, probably from it's paper-making days. Most exciting were the two Francis type water turbines dating from 1889 still in situ. It was originally Llangrwyne Forge, working from c1720 to 1842, and connected to the Clydach Railroad, linking it to the canal and Sirhowy Ironworks. From c1848 to 1948 it was Usk Paper Mill, in the 1960s a wood saw-dust distillery and finally an agricultural machinery repair shop.

Llangrwyne Forge - SO 2394 1611

It was originally Llangrwyne Forge, working from c1720 to 1842, and connected to the Clydach Railroad, linking it to the canal and Sirhowy Ironworks. From c1848 to 1948 it was Usk Paper Mill, in the 1960s a wood saw-dust distillery and finally an agricultural machinery repair shop.
Lot 7 in the 1891 sale describes it as a water and steam powered mill with chopping and beating houses, paper stores and loft, machine house, smithy, boiler room, weighing machine, lime house, chimney stack and other useful buildings. There was also an iron store, oil house and paper sorting shed. A substantial cottage of six rooms and larder were suitable for the foreman and the commodious residence of 'Glangrwyney House' or 'Forge House' were a convenient distance away from the mills.

Golden Grove Millboard Mill - SO 2403 1775

The 1891 lot 3, Golden Grove Millboard Mill consisted of a vat room with two vats, stove house, sorting, packing and stock rooms, rolling house, drying lofts equiped with tanks, presses and rag engine, a 15ft x 3.5ft breastshot waterwheel, all rebuilt after a recent fire and producing 6 tons of board per month, plus an office, residence and cottage.

Millbrook Millboard Mills - SO 2404 1712

In 1891 as lot 16 Millbrook Millboard Mills included rooms for two vats, sorting, chopping, drying and storage. There were two overshot waterwheels and the mill produced 2 tons of board per week. They were rented to Hallesy and Co for £45 per year.

Millbrook Flour Mill - SO 2404 1712

Millbrook Grist (flour) Mill was lot 17 and was described as a substantial three storey mill with two overshot waterwheels driving three pairs of stones, smutter, bolter, hoppers and bins. The sale included Pear Tree Cottage with 4 bedrooms, wine cellar, two-stall stable and coach house. The adjacent 'dwelling' had accommodation for 3 horses, 2 cows, calves, 3 piggeries and a cart house. The grist mill was let to George Addis at £65 per year.

Tyn-y-cae Woollen Mill - SO 2396 1662

The 1891 particulars for lot 15 describe Tyn-y-cae Woollen Mill as a water-powered three storey stone mill consisting of bioler house, drying room, carding room, spinning weaving and yarn rooms on the second floor. The third floor held the pressing, store and wool rooms. There was also a dwelling and outbuildings, all occupied by R G James at a rent of £19 p.a. on a 30 year lease since 1878.

From Crickhowell to Talybont-on-Usk

Talybont-on-Usk - SO 1145 2255

Talybont is the meeting point of three transport systems, the oldest is the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal which was soon met by the Brinore Tramroad and finally by the Brecon and Merthyr Railway. The Brinore Tramroad took a higher line from Talybont to Pen Rhiw-calch and the whole route to Trefil is covered on the Sirhowy North page.

The Brecon and Abergavenny Canal at Talybont

Between Crickhowell and talybont the canal passes through the Ashford Tunnel, the longest on the Monmouthshire network.

The Brecon and Merthyr Railway at Talybont

The Brecon and Merthyr Railway climbed the seven-mile bank from Talybont to reach Torpantau, taking a lower line below rthe Brinore Tramroad, along the side of Talybont Reservoir.

The Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway

Quick links to :-     Abergavenny to Talybont     The Merthyr Railway to Gilwern
Caerleon and Usk to Abergavenny     Sudbrook and the Severn Estuary     The Wye Valley

From Abergavenny to Gilwern

Abergavenny and Llanfoist



Sudbrook and the Severn Estuary

Quick links to :-     Abergavenny to Talybont     The Merthyr Railway to Gilwern
Caerleon and Usk to Abergavenny     Sudbrook and the Severn Estuary     The Wye Valley

Sudbrook Shipyard and Slipways - ST 5090 8775

The shipyard in Sudbrook was in operation from 1888 to 1922, after the Severn Tunnel was completed, there being many skilled workmen already on site. After 1922 small engineering and repair shops used the few remaining building but they will soon be demolished for new housing. The remains of the slipways should survive on the foreshore.

Around Sudbrook

The Sudbrook and Black Rock branch lines, the paper mill and the Severn Tunnel pumping station.

Wentwood, Penhow and Caldicot

A narrow-gauge 'Jubilee' wagon body lies upside-down beside the path between Wentwood Gate and Yewtree Cottage at ST 4006 9261. I guess it may have come from Penhow Quarry or Wentwood Reservoir but was there another railway in this area? Higher up lies this Lister pump, once servicing a tank fed by a spring.

The Wye Valley

Quick links to :-     Abergavenny to Talybont     The Merthyr Railway to Gilwern
Caerleon and Usk to Abergavenny     Sudbrook and the Severn Estuary     The Wye Valley


E Finch & Co Ltd

E Finch & Co Ltd began life building the Chepstow railway bridge for I K Brunel in 1852. It developed into a varied engineering company, notably shipbuilding. The company was sold in 1916 eventually becoming the Fairfield Mabey engineering works.

Tintern's limekilns and other treasures

The Cold Bath, Piercefield - ST 5248 9684

The ruins of an 18th century cold water plunge bath. The tile-lined pool was fed by water from a stream via a culvert. Later a hydraulic ram was installed in an adjacent brick building.

Colwell Grove limekiln - ST 5331 9975

An early 19th century limekiln with two draw holes restored in old quarry in Colwell Grove. Lots of small quarries in the hillside behind them. Look at the base of the wall on the other side of the main track to see some arched construction in the footings.

Limekiln Wood limekiln - ST 5320 9955

Behind Colwell Grove deep in the woods and on a heck of a slope are a set of substantial limekilns. There are two separate kilns a few yards from each other, each with double draw holes. Very difficult to get good photos as they are in heavy shadow and 'back a bit, back a bit' will result in serious injury. But they are well worth the effort.

Porthcasseg Farm limekiln - ST 5237 9761
Reddings Farm limekiln - ST 5313 9910

An almost buried limekiln with two draw holes near Porthcasseg Farm. A small quarry is behind it and another is to the South.
The limekiln at Reddings Farm was marked 'old' in 1900 and has now virtually disappeared.

Tintern's iron, lead and tinplate Industry

Wyndcliff Woods - ST 5298 9866

There are many old lead workings around Wyndcliff Woods, some dating from Roman times. An air shaft can be found to the right at the top of the '365 steps'.

Tintern Ironworks - SO 5140 0027

Tintern ironworks worked from the 16th century to around 1826. The charcoal blast furnace was around 9ft diameter with a waterwheel to work the bellows. The waterwjheel was fed by a leat from the upper pond, carried on short pillars at the works end. Stone pillars carried water to the wheel. At the end of the 1700s the bellows were replaced by iron blowing cylinders - a world first.

Lower Wireworks, Tintern - SO 5267 0010

Wiremaking began at much the same time as the ironworks and carried on until the Abbey Wireworks Co closed in 1875. It reopened as the Abbey Wire and Tinplate Co in 1880 and closed again in 1901, this time for good.

Tintern Wireworks railway bridge - SO 5300 0028

Before the branch from the Wye Valley Railway had even opened, the Abbey Wireworks Company had stopped trading. The line remained disused until the early 1880s when the works were taken over by the Abbey Wire and Tinplate Company but this too closed in 1901. From then on the branch was only used by horses for the sawmills and turnery works in the village. The line closed completely in 1935 and most of the tracks were lifted for scrap in 1941.

Along the Wye Valley Railway from Chepstow to Monmouth

Tidenham Tunnel - ST 5476 9729

Tintern Quarry to Tintern tunnel

Tintern Station - ST 5370 0065


Bridges and inclines on the GWR Coleford branch and the Monmouth Tramroad.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to Mike Kilner for finding the brickworks in Usk and Raglan and, in his role as warden of Cefn Ila, accompanying me on my explorations in its undergrowth.

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