Historic Landscape Characterisation
Merthyr Tydfil

064 Winch Fawr, Pen-yr-Heolgerrig, Cwm Du, and Upper Cwm Glo Workings

HLCA 64 Winch Fawr, Pen-yr-Heolgerrig, Cwm Du, and Upper Cwm Glo Workings Nationally and internationally important industrial extractive landscape associated with the Cyfarthfa Ironworks: levels (Cwmdu Drift,), pits, mine shafts, collieries, quarries, open cast workings spoil tips, airshafts and industrial buildings (such as the stables and other buildings at Cwmdu Pit); water management and drainage: leats, drains, ponds reservoirs; transport corridor: tracks, inclines and tramroads; agricultural: relict boundaries, clearance cairns, and sheep dip; religious, funerary and ritual; Bryn-y-Badell Bronze Age round cairn.

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(Photo: GGAT Merthyr 064)

Winch Fawr, Pen-yr-Heolgerrig, Cwm Do, and Upper Cwm Glo Workings character area: a series of late 18th to 20th century ironstone and coal workings.


A nationally and internationally important extractive landscape dating to the 18th and 19th century. The remains comprise a series of late 18th to 20th century ironstone and coal workings associated with the Cyfartha Iron Works, with levels, pits, mine shafts, collieries, quarries, opencast workings and associated spoil tips, industrial buildings, air shaftys, leats, drains, reservoirs, tracks, inclines and tramroads.

Historical background

The historic landscape area of Winch Fawr, Pen-yr-Heolgerrig, Cwm Du, and Upper Cwm Glo Workings comprises a complex multi-period industrial extractive landscape of national and international importance associated with the Crawshays of Cyfarthfa. The main features of the area are workings along the western outcrop of Mynydd Aberdare associated with the Cyfarthfa Iron Works on land leased from the Dynevor Estate. These workings, today visible as numerous mining and quarrying remains, exploited the ironstone and coal of the Lower Coal measures (the Garw and Five Foot; and the Middle Coal Measures: Bute; Upper Yard and Upper Black Pins and later the Seven Foot, Nine Foot, Upper Six Foot and Four Foot seams). The extractive remains, which principally date from the late 18th to mid-20th century, form an extensive and complex extractive landscape, which retains evidence of early mining techniques such as hushing/scouring, patch workings. Other remains include numerous levels, pits, mine shafts, collieries, quarries, open cast (l950s) workings and various associated spoil tips, a variety of industrial buildings, airshafts, including the scheduled Cwm-du Airshaft and Fan (SAM Gm460), leats, drains, reservoirs, tracks, inclines and tramroads.

The coal and ironstone workings of the area mainly owe their existence to the resurgence in the iron industry seen during the latter half of the 18th century, a direct result of the technical innovation that enabled coke to be used in iron smelting. The area is directly associated with the ironworks at Cyfarthfa, built 1765 by Anthony Bacon and expanded under Richard Crawshay, who leased Cyfarthfa in 1786.

The early extraction industry largely depended on surface workings using a mixture of patching (a process which scours the land of its topsoil), small pits, and levels driven into the hillsides, the latter make up the majority extractive features of the area with particular concentrations to the west of Winch Fawr, the Upper Black Pins Levels and north of Blaen-canaid. The real boom years in the industry, however, occurred during the 1820s and 1830s and it was during this period that the deep pits, such as Cwm-du Pit, Cornel Waun Pit and Winch Fawr Pit were sunk in the area. The main means of haulage within the shafts was the water balance system, which depended on a plentiful and constant supply of water (Thomas 1981, 306-308); several of the reservoirs in the study area are likely to be relict features associated with this system. The extraction of ironstone and coal in particular continued throughout the 19th century, fluctuating with economic demand. By the end of 19th century the area's levels were largely disused, the mines of the area appear to have continued until the 1920s with been a brief period of renewed mining activity during the Second World War.


For further information please contact the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust at this address. Link to the Countryside Council for Wales website at www.ccw.gov.uk or Cadw at www.cadw.wales.gov.uk