The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Clydach Gorge

Historical Processes, Themes and Background


Cwm Clydach, a deep gorge cutting the northeast edge of the South Wales Coalfield, between Llangattock Mountain (Mynydd Llangatwg) and the uplands of North Gwent, provides a natural route corridor. The geological conditions of the area, coupled with the power resource provided by the River Clydach, has ensured that the area was exploited at least from the prehistoric period as evidenced by Craig y Gaer, an Iron Age fort. The area owes its importance principally to the industrial Age; this importance is based upon a dense variety of important industrial sites and successive transport systems, which represent a compact and integrated microcosm of the Welsh industrial past.

The availability of dense woodland provided a resource of timber and charcoal for firing furnaces is thought to have been an important consideration in attracting early industry to the gorge. The geomorphology of the area, the steepness of the terrain was advantageous to early ironworking and lime-burning industries, allowing blast furnaces and limekilns to be strategically sited into the valley sides to facilitate charging of materials up-slope and withdrawal down-slope. Industrial use of the area, in particular iron working, while undocumented for the medieval period, is considered probable. Documentation indicates that organised industrial exploitation of the area took off from the end of the 16th century, when the Hanbury family of Pontypool established the Llanelly furnace and forge on the north bank of the river. Rapid increases in iron and charcoal production by the mid 17th century secured the establishment of the industrial settlement within the Clydach Gorge. Clydach House, situated nearby and built in 1693 by Francis Lewis, clerk to the furnace, ostentatiously displays his family arms above the main entrance to the property. Elsewhere in the valley, and in social contrast, are the visible remains of the former workers' houses, including the ironworkers' terraces in Clydach South. The majority of the area's communications systems primarily served the industries that sprang up in the gorge, which from historical documentary evidence were first introduced into the area during the 17th century.

The most significant of the ironworks constructed in the gorge, however, was the Clydach Ironworks, constructed some time before 1795, following the introduction of coke as the fuel for blast furnaces during the latter half of the 18th century. This works appears to have had the greatest influence on the industrial and social development of the area. It is unsurprising that the main initial upsurge in settlement construction starts at the end of the 18th century, with a substantial increase in house construction during the 2nd quarter of the 19th century. The site of the works, approached over a cast iron bridge (Smart's Bridge - dated to 1824), includes two large masonry furnaces, together with the foundations of their casting houses, a cupola and other related buildings. Production at the works continued until about 1860, by which time it had become the focal point for activity in the gorge. In its early years, the works were closely associated with the Frere family, which was to gain notoriety for a different reason when Sir Bartle Frere, born in 1815 in Clydach House, became High Commissioner of South Africa, and unwittingly helped to start the Zulu War.

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries stone quarrying and the manufacture of lime for agricultural and building purposes had supplanted ironworking as the major industry in the gorge. The first lime works, Blackrock, started production in 1795; during the following century numerous other quarries were brought into production. Llanelly Quarry supplied the Clydach Ironworks with limestone, and subsequently lime for farming and building mortars. It closed finally in 1962. The surviving Clydach Limeworks was built in 1877 to provide lime for building the adjacent railway viaduct. Its large kilns, with double draw arches for each shaft, are particularly fine surviving examples.

Lines of communication also played a fundamental role in the industrial development of the gorge. Industrial transport systems began with packhorse routes, were supplanted by railroads and tram roads in the 1790s. Initially horse-drawn these were built to link mines and quarries with emerging works. An important milestone development in the area' communication network enabled by Act of Parliament in 1793 was the construction of the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal, together with a connecting tramway system after, the first line of which ran through the gorge. The canal traverses the floor of the gorge near Gilwern on a huge earthen embankment, 25m high, with the river running in a tunnel at its base. The canal between Gilwern and Brecon opened in 1801, but the final connection with Pontymoile to the south was not made until 1812. Additional tramways and inclines were developed within the gorge during the 19th century to serve specific mines and quarries, with the consequence that the area now has the densest network of surviving early tram road routes anywhere in Wales. These were supplemented in 1862 by the single track Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway (later absorbed into the London and North Western Railway in 1866 and converted to a double track system eleven years later). The precipitous landform of the gorge, an engineering challenge, was overcome using a series of impressive tunnels, cuttings and viaducts. The route, now dismantled, remains a prominent and spectacular linear feature, which can be seen on the south side of the gorge. The present Heads of the Valleys road, the A465(T), built in the 1960s, is the latest in a series of road systems that have, from the 18th century, traversed the gorge as important connecting routes.

While all mineral and limestone extraction has since ceased in the gorge; the old-established communities still thrive. Remains associated with former industries and communications systems are plentiful, as is the evidence indicative of social conditions, including not only housing, but also surviving chapels and public houses.

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Pre-industrial Landscape General Themes and Processes

The Geological, Natural Landscape, and Administrative Background

The historic landscape area of Cwm Clydach, some 509 ha in area, is located at the eastern edge of the Blaenau or the upland region of Gwent. The topography of the Clydach Gorge has been fashioned by the action of the River Clydach, which has created a steep valley, driven through the fringe of the South Wales Coalfield between the North Gwent Uplands and Mynydd Llangatwg (Llangattock Mountain) to the north, and acts as a natural communications route between the upland areas to the west with their rich mineral resources, and the fertile lowlands, via the Usk Valley, to the east.

The main part of the area forms the valley bottom and lower slopes, the base of the valley rising from approximately 90m OD at Gilwern in the east to 350m OD at Brynmawr at its western extent. The open heights of Mynydd Llangatwg (Mynydd Pen-cyrn 529m OD) rise to the north of the gorge, while forming the southern edge of the area are the reclaimed slopes of Twyn-blaen-nant and Llanelly Hill, a flat-topped ridge which rises to over 450m OD and Gilwern Hill (441m OD).

The lower slopes of the deeply entrenched valley of the Clydach River are steeper, quite frequently quarried and scarred by communication routes and characterized by dense regenerated Ancient Woodland. Above these to the south, typically are flat-topped ridges or spurs, mentioned above, which adjoin the main southward-ranged ridges of the Blaenau (eg Mynydd-y-coety and Mynydd-y-Garn-fawr.

The solid geology of the area, revealed by the scouring action of the River Clydach, is generally Carboniferous sandstone characterised by thick massive feldspathic and micaceous sandstones and grits. Also present are Coal Measures, Millstone Grit and Carboniferous Limestone. Geology of the Devonian period, ie Old Red Sandstone, is typical of the area to the north and east. The topography of the landscape of the area was altered during the Pleistocene period, approximately 18,000 years ago, by glaciation to create the landscape we know today. The principal glacial collecting point in South Wales was the Carmarthenshire Fans and the Brecon Beacons, the northern face of which was the source of numerous corrie glaciers. The glaciation process modified the valleys of the area, including the Clydach. The drift geology of the area is generally sparse and comprises poor, grey shaley soil types.

While limited pollen analysis has been carried out on archaeological sites in the region, these have concentrated on the analysis of material associated with the Bronze Age, and later periods. As a result local evidence of the earlier environmental conditions and indeed during the immediate post-glacial period is limited. It is assumed that as climatic conditions gradually ameliorated following the last glaciation, dense native woodland gradually extended over the area. The effects of man on this woodland are fairly dramatic; with progressive felling implied at least from the Neolithic, supported by finds of axes of the period from throughout the area. Pollen analysis from the locality indicates a contemporary environment of heathland, with an open tree cover dominated by oak. Evidence suggests that by the end of the Bronze Age, the upland areas of the Blaenau, like most of the uplands were covered by extensive blanket peat (Caseldine 1990).

It is likely that the higher less precipitous slopes, including the ridge plateaux of Llanelly Hill and Mynydd Llangatwg, had been extensively cleared of woodland from an early period; at least by the early Bronze Age, given the concentrations of funerary and ritual features, especially cairns, just beyond the boundaries of the historic landscape. The regeneration of woodland was prevented through established and prolonged use for stock rearing (cattle) during later prehistoric period; this is evidenced by the presence of 'fortified' enclosures along the periphery of the upland plateaux, such as the camp on Craig-y-gaer (HLCA 004b) and Twyn-y Dinas (HLCA 006).

The extent of Ancient Woodland is demonstrated by cartographic sources; the Ordnance Survey maps of 1814, 1838 and the 1st edition 6 " OS maps 1891. It is evident that by the post-medieval period the effects of man had had a fairly drastic effect on tree coverage within the area with woodland surviving in restricted localities, a direct result of the need for charcoal for the furnaces within the area during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Today, much regeneration has occurred and the lower valley sides, in particular HLCA 004a, are now extensively wooded.

The area, which during the medieval period lay within the southern boundary of Ystradyw and Talgarth, also formed part of the Lordship of Crickhowell, fell largely within the post-medieval parish of Llanelly with a small area lying just within Llangatwg (Llangattock). The southern boundary of the area is largely coterminous with the northern boundary of Abergavenny (Gwent Uwch-Coed) and Llanfoist.

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Agricultural Landscapes

The traditional agriculture of the Cwm Clydach area would have been based on a system of mixed farming, however it was the pastoral element, the rearing of livestock, which has always been predominant in the Blaenau. Current archaeological thinking reflects this; in this area the prehistoric enclosures of Twyn-y-Dinas and at Craig-y-gaer would probably have played an important role.

Generally the surviving enclosure within the Cwm Clydach area is predominantly an evolved landscape characterised by a patchwork of small and medium-sized irregular fields, as depicted on 1st edition OS maps, with the steeper slopes formerly densely covered by woodland. Boundaries marking the extent of late medieval and early post-medieval encroachment and enclosure on the slopes are mainly of dry stone construction, though cloddiau and hedged banks and hedges are also evident on the lower areas towards the eastern edge of the landscape. The majority of the field systems in the area were established by the 18th century, if not earlier with only minor additions and some rationalisation of enclosure occurring during the period up to 1891 (OS 1st edition 6-inch).

During the post-medieval period landownership of the area was largely divided between the Dukes of Beaufort, the Capel Hanbury family of Pontypool, and the Clydach Iron Company.

Although predominantly pastoral, a limited, though sufficient, amount of arable production was maintained, chiefly oats, barley and wheat and also the traditional root crops, later supplemented by potatoes. The high plateau itself was seldom cultivated, and only then during times of extreme hardship. Cereal production was carried out on valley-side terraces, where the farms were generally located, while oats were frequently cultivated in the valleys

Farming as practiced in much of the area appears to have continued along traditional lines until at least the early 19th century; the usual form of plough in the uplands during the 18th and 19th centuries was the primitive breast-plough. The main agricultural transportation of the period was by pack-horse, or car llusg, primitive sleds used on mountains. The poorer upland agricultural holdings and likewise the small-holdings of the workers along the southern (HLCAs 005 and 006) and and western fringes of the historic landscape area appear to have been little affected outwardly by the improvements brought to agriculture from industrialisation.

The state of agriculture on the larger farms on the lower-lying areas at the eastern edge of the historic landscape area appears to have improved with the industrialisation of the valley, and the landscape reflects this: a number of farms along the periphery of the area gained large 'industrial' farm buildings during the 19th century, eg Pant-y-Beilau and Maesygwartha (HLCA 009). A further effect of industrialisation is provided by the evidence for rationalisation of the earlier irregular-field pattern of smaller fields into larger regular enclosures and holdings, where the valley broadens out into the fertile lands of the Usk Valley (HLCA 009).

Agriculture fostered a variety of crafts, trades and small-scale industries, characteristic of a self-contained and secluded rural community, these including blacksmiths, masons, sawyers, hoopers, woollen manufacturers, weavers, tailors, thatchers, shoemakers and charcoal burners. The manufacture of lime for agricultural purposes had been carried out on a small scale in the area from at least the early post-medieval period; this process was later industrialised with the coming of the iron industry (this is dealt with in more detail below).

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Pre-industrial Settlement Landscapes and Building Traditions

The earliest evidence of human settlement in the Blaenau area is represented by a small mixed assemblage of flint tools dating to the Mesolithic (10000-4400BC), Neolithic (4400-2300BC), and early Bronze Age (2300-800BC) periods, so far located beyond the historic landscape boundaries. A small amount of Neolithic evidence, in the form of isolated axe finds does come from the general area (GGAT 66: Lithics Survey 2000), though it is considered that this evidence of human activity represents temporary upland hunting camps, occupied by hunter-gatherer groups as part of a seasonal migration pattern between the coastal lowlands and the upland Blaenau.

There is significant evidence for activity in the vicinity of the historic landscape Mynydd Llangatwg area, and the immediate ridges to the south, during the Bronze Age; however this is predominantly related to upland funerary monuments. The whereabouts of settlement is largely based on stray finds of flint tools, the distribution being similar to earlier periods. The effect of human activity on the natural vegetation of the area is clear from pollen analysis carried out in the locality; this is at its height at the end of the Bronze Age, and it is perhaps no surprise that the first major impact of human settlement on the physical environment of the area dates to this and the following period, the Iron Age.

While settlement/agricultural/defensive sites of the late prehistoric period are evident in the area, the available evidence on settlement development during the late prehistoric, Roman-British, and early medieval periods is largely untested. The most visible remains in the area are relict prehistoric settlement/agricultural features with a defensive aspect. These are the impressively-sited Iron Age hillforts, which guard the natural route up the gorge: Craig-y-gaer (PRN 02499g) and Twyn-y-Dinas (PRN 02474g).

The evidence for medieval settlement in the area is almost non-existent, though it is likely that the process of encroachment on the open mountain had been initiated during the latter part of the medieval period and that the later post-medieval farmsteads may have medieval precursors. These may have been temporary seasonally occupied dwellings or hafodydd associated with migratory farming practices evidenced elsewhere in upland Wales.

The pre-industrial post-medieval settlement landscape formerly consisted of scattered farmsteads set within their own agricultural holdings, frequently dispersed, as evidenced by 18th century estate map evidence. While buildings of the pre-industrial period survive, most have been altered to varying degrees and, masked by settlement features of industrial origin, no longer form the dominant built element in the landscape.

Settlements of the area characteristically belong to the industrial period (see section 6.5, below); largely characterised by ribbon development (eg HLCAs 001, 002, and 003), and scattered 'squatter' type (see HLCA 006) patterns. The latter settlements were often established around the earlier post-medieval agricultural landscape, frequently on common land or waste, and usually at the margins of the enclosed land, which continued in production. The earlier industrial settlement is frequently associated with plots of land or allotments; the resultant pattern is one of smallholdings (HLCAs 006 and 005).

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Pre-industrial Military and Defensive Landscapes, and Parkland and Picturesque Landscapes

While there are defensive aspects to several of the landscapes within the Historic Landscape, or indeed military/defensive aspects to sites within the HLCAs, these are not by and large primary characteristics. The role of the 'late prehistoric' enclosures or 'hillforts' of the region such as Twyn-y-Dinas (HLCA 006) and Twyn-y-gaer (HLCA 004b) may not have been strictly defensive or military in nature. It is now considered that they may be better viewed as being related to pastoral upland agriculture, stock management and control of upland grazing. Defence may have been involved but it is equally likely that other issues including status, and 'administrative' function, and that these sites are indicative of social organisation and indeed may have acted as seasonally occupied settlements.

The only parkland or picturesque landscape within the area lies within HLCA 009, and takes the form of the grounds and gardens associated with the early 19th century villa of Pant-y-Beiliau; here parkland is viewed as a secondary characteristic.

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Industrial Landscape Themes and Processes

Industrial Processing and Extractive Industries

As indicated above, it is likely that some form of industrial activity was being carried out in the area from the prehistoric period, however the first direct evidence dates to the early post-medieval period when the potential of the area for iron production was fully realised.

The earliest recorded ironworks in the area was the Llanelly Blast Furnace (HLCA 001); this early charcoal-fired furnace located SW of Clydach House is considered to be that established by the Hanbury family at the close of the 17th century. The main elements of the site comprise a charging-bank at Sale Yard, faced with rubble-stone; the stub of the charging-bridge; and a substantial bank of limekilns. The contemporary Llanelly Forge (SO 236140), known to have been working between 1697 and 1878, is located nearby to the east. It was here that the cast iron produced at Llanelly Furnace was initially converted into wrought iron; no remains survive above ground at the site, though remains of the extensive masonry dam of the pool, which supplied power to the forge, are extant (HLCA 001). An associated tinworks, the Llanelly Tin Works, operated at Forge House, between Forge Row and Llanelly Forge. Early examples of associated industrial workers' housing also survive in the area (see section 6.6, below); a good is example is the aforementioned Forge Row, partly of early 18th (from the steep pitch of the roofs) and early 19th century construction this is a rare survival in Wales. Nearby are single-storey stables for horses, which worked the Clydach Railroad and Llam-march Tramroad. Forge House (HLCA 001) was built as, or became, a tin-house, and by 1878 held the tinning bays added to the rolling mills.

The Clydach lronworks (SO 229132; HLCA 003) was founded during the boom years 1793-5 following improvements to the design of blast furnaces, which allowed coke to be used in place of charcoal during the latter half of the 18th century. The importance of Clydach ironworks to the area's industrial development is conveyed by impressive remains located on the southern banks of the River Clydach, dominated by the archway of a charging house. The works, located close to the sources of iron ore, coal and limestone, became the focal point for much activity in the valley, and by 1841 had expanded to employ over 1,350 people, over two thirds of whom were engaged in extracting iron ore and coal further up the valley.

The site, excavated in 1986, originally had two blast furnaces (of 1793 and 1797); a third was added c. 1826 (unexcavated), and a fourth 1842-4. Excavation revealed that the circular refractory brick linings survived up to the 'boshes' of the furnace stacks, while the dressed stone casings had been extensively robbed. Other remains on the site include a cast-house, charging-houses, including the high gable wall of one belonging to the 1793 furnace, and the wheel pit for a massive cast-iron water wheel 42 ft (12.8m) in diameter, which drove the blowing-cylinders.

Associated remains visible in the area include the formation of a counter-balanced railway inclined plane (built before 1811), which enabled pig iron to be lifted to the higher-level rolling mills (a woollen mill was later constructed on the site). Also of note is Smart's Bridge which carried a tramroad linking the Clydach Ironworks with the Clydach Railroad across the River Clydach, the bridge, dated 1824, was constructed of cast iron and has simple lancet tracery in the spandrels of the arch.

Raw materials for the Clydach Ironworks came in part from Cwm Llam-march and Gellifelen (HLCAs 005 and 004a) and leases from the 18th century suggest a long continued use of the area as a mineral field.

Closely associated with the ironworks are the area's numerous limestone quarries and limeworks, which include Llanelly Quarry (SO 222124; HLCA 004a), which retains two pairs of limekilns, one dated 1892 and a late 19th century double limekiln (stone-built with brick-lined charging-bowl and discharge arches).

Perhaps the most impressive quarrying landscape is based around the relatively late Clydach Limeworks (SO 233127), associated with the requirement for lime mortar for the construction of the MT & A Railway and the Nant Dyar Viaduct. This works retains a pair of limekilns and other remains, (c. 1862) and a later bank (built c. 1877), probably in use when the railway lines were doubled. The other major works was the Black Rock Limeworks (HLCA 004b), above the settlement at Cheltenham, again retaining masonry limekilns. These works were in operation from 1794 - 1908.

Other industrial concerns include milling represented by Dan-y-Bont Woollen Mill, an early 19th century narrow three-storey painted rubble structure of six bays, which has been extended by a further three bays at its south end (HLCA 008).

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Transport and Communication

The earliest communication networks known in the area are the ridge-way routes, cefn-ffyrdd, which traversed the upland massif of the Blaenau, however it is the later industrial routes which are the overriding communication characteristic of today's Cwm Clydach Historic Landscape.

The network of minor roads, tracks and paths leading over the valley sides into the uplands date partially from the pre-industrial period, and are depicted on both the 1st edition OS, Tithe map for Llanelly and earlier estate maps. Many communication routes appear to have evolved to link prehistoric, early medieval and later medieval sites, such as the early medieval ecclesiastical centres at Llanelly and Llangatwg as well as civil administrative centres. This network became more complex by the early post-medieval period, to serve the freehold and leasehold agricultural holdings of the area, which were established from the late medieval period (late 14th century); this network was probably further extended during the early post-medieval period with the rise of industry. Several of the minor roads in the landscape today are the metalled routes of former packhorse routes and even horse-drawn railroads/tramroads.

The Clydach Gorge (5.6m long) is essentially a relict landscape of the Industrial Revolution. The remains of several ironworks are characteristic elements of the landscape as are the transport routes, which served them and the other ironworks on the uplands to the west. The gorge provided a natural corridor from the Blaenau and the ironworks along the Heads of the Valleys down to the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal. From the late 18th century/early 19th century four horse-worked railways were constructed; these traversed the steep slopes of the gorge and represent significant feats of industrial engineering and largely remain today as minor roads or formations of hillside terraces. The Merthyr Tydfil - Govilon turnpike was laid through the gorge 1812-13 and in 1862 the lines of the Merthyr Tredegar & Abergavenny Railway, a public steam powered railway, were engineered through the valley, partly utilising the line of an early Tramroad. The final development was the Head of the Valleys road (A465) in the 1960s, which is currently in the process of being widened.

During 1793-4 the Clydach Railroad (engineer John Dadford) was constructed as a horse-drawn railway. This (a major component of HLCA 004a) linked Wain Dew Colliery at Beaufort with Glangrwyne Forge on the River Usk. An important surviving feature associated with the railroad is the single-arched bridge of coursed rubble-stone near Maesygwartha (SO 230138), which is spectacularly set above a waterfall. John Dadford's brother Thomas Dadford was responsible for engineering the Llam-march Railroad (HLCA 004a), in the same year, built to link the Clydach Ironworks (HLCA 003) with its coal and iron-ore mines at Gellifelen and Llam-march (HLCA 005). The terraced formation beyond to Pwll-du indicates the line of the Blaenavon Stoneroad, opened in 1799; this became redundant following the construction of the lower half of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal (HLCA 008) in 1809-12 and the extension of Llam-march railroad (built 1809; HLCA 004a). Surviving features include single-arched stone bridges at SO 233 137 and SO 225 176, the latter being the Llam-march Tramroad and Aqueduct Bridge of 1811, which also carried water from the River Clydach to the Clydach Ironworks Rolling Mill (HLCA 003) via a leat.

Other industrial transport routes (also within HLCA 004a) include the Govilon Tramroad or Bailey's Tramroad of 1821 (engineer Crawshay Bailey), which traverses the southeast slopes of the Clydach Gorge on a terraced formation down-slope of and paralleling the Llam-march Railroad. This tramroad was constructed to connect the Baileys' Nantyglo Ironworks with the Monmouthshire Canal. Opposite on the high ground north of the gorge, flanking Mynydd Llangattock, is the later of J & C Bailey's Tramroads, commenced in 1828 and completed in 1830 (HLCA 004b).

The final railed addition to the transport routes in the area, constructed between 1860 and 1862, was the Merthyr, Tredegar & Abergavenny Railway (MT & A Railway); the now disused line, converted to double line between 1866-77, is carried on deep cuttings and terraces through the gorge with viaducts, two tunnels, and high retaining walls, all of rock-faced masonry. Particularly impressive is the listed Nant Dyar Viaduct, near Clydach's surviving Station building.

The eastern end of the historic landscape is characterised largely by the features associated with the Brecon & Abergavenny Canal and Gilwern, the settlement which evolved to serve the junction of the area's industrial rail network and the canal. The engineer Thomas Dadford junior constructed the Brecon & Abergavenny Canal from Gilwern to Govilon between 1802 and 1805. Important remains associated with the Canal include the scheduled and listed embankment (SO 244144), one of the largest canal earthworks in Wales (HLCA 008), which carries both the canal and an aqueduct over the Clydach River and the Clydach Tramroad. Other remains associated with the canal include the first purpose-built railway warehouses in the world, now Auckland House (built 1819-1820; SO 242146), originally warehousing for the Baileys' and Brewers stored iron from the Nantyglo, Coalbrookvale and Beaufort ironworks. Nearby is a block of rubble-built limekilns, thought to contemporary with Llanelly wharf (c1817).

Other communication features include road bridges, eg the single-span segmental-arched bridge down-stream from Gilwern Aqueduct, which carried the Valley road over the River Clydach (HLCA 008). Characteristic landscape features inclines serving the area's limestone quarries, such as those at Blackrock (HLCA 004b) and at Gilwern (HLCA 007), and ironworks such as the counterbalanced railway inclined planes, constructed in 1811 to serve the Clydach Ironworks.

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Industrial Settlement Patterns and Building Traditions (including contribution by Judith Alfrey)

The area includes several distinct settlement types, though most are characterised by a degree of informality - in the historical settlements, planning is only apparent to the degree that many of the terraces represent unified development, comprising small rows of virtually identical dwellings. This is distinct from a more additive process in which individually-built houses adjoin. The unity of the terraces has been lost in many cases by successive change, especially in the late C20. Whilst this is an interesting historical process in its own right (and here as elsewhere strongest in the remoter, most haphazardly developed areas, eg New Rank, HLCA 006), preservation of this unified character, wherever it still survives, would be desirable.

It is only in twentieth (and twenty-first) century developments that planning beyond the level of the terrace is first seen. There are at least two (post-war) council estates in Clydach - one of which comprises a small group of 'Swedish' prefabs (Park Crescent). These, which were intended to be permanent, were imported by the British government from c1934, and were mainly erected in rural areas. The other estate is probably early 1950s. There are other council estates in Llanelly Hill. There is also a small speculative built estate of c1970 in Clydach, and others in Gilwern. Twenty-first century planned enclaves at Maesygwartha. Together these chart in small scale, a modern history of housing provision.

A concentration of terraces, gives Clydach (HLCA 003) a well-defined nucleated character, though it is worth noting that there are also individually built houses here too. On the north side of the Gorge, the communities of Black Rock and Cheltenham (HLCA 002) have a strongly linear character. Units of development tend to be small (individual houses or short rows), so it is the road, which gives shape to the settlement here.

In the Llanelly Hill area HLCA 006), the pattern of settlement seems much more haphazard, perhaps suggesting origins in encroachment, or highly informal development on small plots of land. The Lodge may be an early squatter cottage. There is some evidence for organisation to this process in the building of terraces, but no sense of overall planning until public housing developments in the twentieth century.

Dan-y-Bont is a distinctive little settlement (here included as part of Gilwern HLCA 008) associated with the former woollen mill, although Rock Cottage, the main house is listed, we have no information as to its origins or history.

Chronology of Building: excepting the twentieth century developments (which obviously impact significantly on the area), the historic character is overwhelmingly nineteenth century. There are some relics of an earlier agricultural economy (the possible long-house at Gellifelen (HLCA 006) and the farmstead opposite Penrhiw Farm), but it is likely that the few other farms relate more closely to industrialisation and are either new nineteenth century establishments or rebuilds. Beiliau farm has a 17th century house (Pant-y-beiliau; HLCA 009), but exceptionally large 19th century farm-buildings; Penrhiw Farm is early nineteenth century; it is worth noting in passing that in plan and construction it is similar, though scaled up, to the industrial cottages. Of early industrialisation, only Clydach House (1693) testifies (HLCA 001). There is also a pair of very early industrial cottages (6-7 Forge Row; HLCA 001), which are listed. There may be one or two cottages of eighteenth century date (eg Weavers, Clydach), but the earliest consistent phase of building appears to be c1820-30, when the long terraces in Clydach (HLCA 003) were built. The map evidence examined during the course of the present study appears to generally confirm the early 19th century date for the earliest consistent building phases, with the earlier dispersed agricultural pattern prevailing up to the latter part of the 18th century. Unfortunately the cartographic evidence does not provide a good basis on its own for a refined chronological study of the settlement development of the area to be created, and further in-depth study of the documentary sources and physical survey is required. However, in general, chapel-building dates may be taken to reflect phases of settlement growth - those in the Cheltenham/Black Rock area (HLCA 002) are 1828 and 1829, Bethlehem is 1830 (The Wesleyan Chapel and Bethlehem are listed). Building may have been more-or-less continuous thereafter, continuing to use forms established in the early nineteenth century, but there is clear evidence for another major phase of investment in building towards the end of the century. Thereafter, little until c1940-50, and on a small scale, a continuous process of development thereafter.

It is also worth noting the extent of twentieth century and later alteration to buildings; the result is that very few retain original character intact. This needs to be acknowledged as part of a continuous history of adaptation and change characteristic of 'frontier' industrial communities, but if historic character is to be retained at all, it is important that it is now brought under tighter control.

Building Types and the social hierarchy of building: the general impression is of quite a homogeneous community, with most housing conforming to a similar scale and style. Though small size variations may have been socially significant, there is little sense of a deeply stratified society here. Clydach House (HLCA 001) marks the 'top end' of an architectural-social scale, and in the nineteenth century, similarly Clydach Villa, and Rock Cottage, Dan-y-Bont (HLCA 008). It is noticeable that there is very little obviously 'middle-class' housing (one exception is the house attached to the mill at Dan-y-Bont (HLCA 008, and the hipped roofed paired houses in Cheltenham - these are listed as 'House next to Oak House, Main Road, Cheltenham; HLCA 002).

Types and Techniques: virtually all of the industrial terraces comprise two-unit, two storeyed houses with central entrance and end-wall chimneys. They seem typically to have been built of uncoursed or roughly coursed rubble originally (though there are some exceptions of well-coursed stone block) and have characteristically low-pitched slate roofs. A possible precursor of this mode of setting-out is the small cottage called Weavers, which is limewashed, has a steeper roof and lower upper storey, but a similar plan to the terraces. There are local variations in stone type, with more red sandstone used on the north side of the gorge, and occasional exploitation of this variety for decorative effect. Some houses retain a lime-washed finish, but it is not clear how common this may have been (the house listed as house next to Oak House, main Road, Cheltenham (HLCA 002) was partly limewashed when listed - it has now been stripped). Whatever unity the common use of materials may once have lent the area; this has been eroded by extensive use of render in twentieth century and later renovation. It would be good to see resort to this halted to retain (or even reinstate) the integrity of some of the terraces. (Good examples in Clydach (HLCA 003) itself, and Waunllapria (HLCA 006), for instance).

The earliest cottages have dressed stone detailing (window and door-heads, and sometimes angle quoins). Later, brick was used for dressings, at first a distinctively mottled buff-yellow brick, and later still (c1900?) a hard yellow brick.

The early terraces were built virtually blind-backed (the canted rows in Clydach, HLCA 003, are interesting for having different orientation, alternatively facing, then backing onto the road, eg Bath Row). This marks a definite vernacular character, which is also seen in irregularities of proportion. Later houses are much more regular and taller, and at some point, a double-pile form was adopted. There may have been some experimentation with unusual forms of building, such as back-to-back rows (Clydach, near the pub; and the double-gabled row in Llanelly Hill, HLCA 006), and on steep slopes, house-over-house (in particular HLCA 002) may have been employed. The roadside houses on the north side of the gorge are of a distinctive type, with access at the upper level. There is very little obviously 'polite', commissioned building, though one exception is Clydach Station (HLCA 003): this has a definite architectural character (gothic), and is built of snecked stone. Another is the Manse at Bethlehem Chapel (HLCA 009), which makes decorative use of local building stones.

'Management' issues: the statutory List of Historic Buildings is relatively good on industrial structures, registering the importance of transport networks in the area in particular, and also of stone quarrying and limeworks. It provides a much less complete picture of vernacular building and settlement patterns in the area. For example, none of the nineteenth century industrial housing is listed, though its preservation will obviously be highly desirable. This is a clear example of where character-based work may be able to make a significant contribution to conservation planning.

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