St Illtyd’s Church
OLDEST STANDING BUILDING IN BLAENAU GWENT
Built of local stone, and including a saddle-back tower, nave and chancel, St Illtyd’s church is the oldest standing building in the county borough of Blaenau Gwent. Although currently dedicated to St Illtyd, the original dedication was to St. Heledd or Hyledd. as is shown in the parish lists of the 16th and 17th centuries.
The present Church dates from around the beginning of the 13th Century and the date of completion is generally given as 1213. The parish at that time was in the care of the Cistercian Abbey at Llantarnam. The Cistercians were an order of monks that developed out of the Order of St Benedict at Citeaux, France in 1098. They founded their Llantarnam House in 1179, and it was these monks who oversaw the construction of the nave and chancel. They were dedicated to living a simple life, and worked towards living a life of poverty and contemplation balanced by hard manual labour. The Cistercians were known as White Monks after the colour of their habits and were as focussed on shepherding their sheep as they were with shepherding souls. The network of sheep-walks over the mountains above Llanhilleth dates back to this time.
‘Funded by miners to serve their community and better their futures’
Llanhilleth Miners Institute is an historical landmark standing prominently within the former mining village of Llanhilleth. It is one of only a few remaining Institute’s still fulfilling many of it its original purposes. It was built in 1906 to meet the educational, recreational and health needs of the local miners and their families and opened with great celebration. It has remained at the heart of the local community over generations and provides a vibrant link and lasting tribute to the industrial past of the Ebbw Fach Valley.
It originally housed a library and reading room among many others, the main hall also became home to St Illtyd’s Operatic Society and a cinema. A swimming pool was built on the lower ground floor but, unfortunately, soon had to close due to water ingress from the nearby river. Although long since covered over, the pool remains intact to this day. In August 1907, a clock was placed on the front of the Institute and remains a working timepiece.
In 2008 this magnificent building was fully restored to the original glory of when it was first built in 1906 and officially re-opened by HRH The Prince of Wales. Now Grade II listed, it is run as a registered Charity and Social Enterprise with a similar ethos to its original purpose; to be the vibrant heart of the community, seeking to meet the changing needs of the people it serves, and reflect the vision of the miners who built it.
Click on the link to visit their website –
The Miners’ Legacy, The Community’s Future
Roundhouse Farm was built around 1816 by local ironmaster Joseph Bailey. It was intended as a safe retreat from a possible armed revolt by his workforce, and a way of protecting his mansion, Nantyglo House or Ty Mawr. (Big House).
The two towers, at the north-east and south-west corners of the sandstone wall surrounding the farm overlook the former site of Joseph’s Nantyglo ironworks in the valley below. These towers are the last private domestic structures built in Britain with a serious defensive purpose. All fittings for the towers were of cast-iron.
DESCRIPTION OF SOUTH WEST TOWER
The south-west tower was originally one storey higher than the north-eastern one and had been lived in tup until the 1930s. Masonry partition walls are visible in the basement and the ground-floor is substantially intact. The walls of the first floor are in a very ruined state and the top second-floor is completely missing. The stone spiral staircase (that both towers have) with slabs corbelled-out from the interior walls is still mostly intact. The cast-iron floor-joists have been cut-off at the point where they entered the stone external walls but other cast-iron fittings remain.
DESCRIPTION – NORTH EAST TOWER
The north-east tower has been restored but a main cast-iron beam holding the iron roof has recently sheared and is at present being supported by scaffolding. Lattices of main and subsidiary cast-iron beam supports for the (missing) floors remain with smaller beams fitting into sockets on the larger. The roof is made of wedge-shaped cast-iron plates getting successively smaller and there is a small parapet wall around the roof.
The Nantyglo Roundhouses are privately owned and not open to the public but can be viewed from the road.
*Loophole – a protected small opening, which allows a firearm to be aimed and discharged, while providing cover and concealment for the rifleman
Aneurin Bevan Memorial Stones
Bedwellty House and Park
Bedwellty House was originally a small house belonging to the Morgan’s of Tredegar Park. It was then bought in 1800 by the Merthyr Ironmaster, Samuel Homfray of Penydarren when he married Jane Morgan, daughter of Sir Charles Morgan. Two rear wings were added in 1825 by their son,Samuel Homfray Junior, when he became manager of the Tredegar Ironworks. From the mid nineteenth century, the house was again the property of the Morgan family, who reserved it for the managers of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company. This house is the best surviving example of an ironmaster’s house in Gwent
In 1901, the Morgan’s gave the house and grounds to the people of Tredegar for public recreation and the house was remodelled inside for offices for the Urban District Council.
After the completion in 2011 of a full restoration and conservation of the house, gardens and parkland Bedwellty House is now a very beautiful place for the general public to enjoy.
Cefn Golau Cholera Cemetery
Above Tredegar on a ridge between the Sirhowy and Rhymney valleys of Blaenau Gwent, is a lonely, atmospheric cemetery – the old cholera cemetery of Cefn Golau. This cemetery was started for victims of the 1832 cholera epidemic in Tredegar, although it is mainly occupied by victims of the more serious outbreak that occurred in the summer of 1849. One headstone is dated 1866 which refers to the third outbreak.
Similar cemeteries are known to have existed at Thomastown (Merthyr Tydfil) and Aberdare, but these have been cleared and no others are known to survive.
The cemetery enclosure measures 36m by 19m, and is bound by a modern steel fence, which was erected in 2008 to replace the original wrought-iron fence. It appears to contain six rows of graves with around 30 graves in each row. About 25 headstones are still standing although some are broken. Roughly another 25 fallen slabs are visible and other graves are marked by stone edgings or mounds. Many inscriptions are now indecipherable because of weathering but the legible inscriptions are in English and Welsh. Many headstones are directly ascribed to workers at Tredegar Ironworks.
The cholera victims were buried in this lonely and desolate spot because at the time, the stigma and horror of cholera was so great that the chapel graveyards were closed. The belief that the disease was spread by noxious mists emitted from the graves of victims was very strong and this burial ground was deliberately chosen and positioned so these contaminated mists would be dispersed by the prevailing winds.
The Sirhowy Ironworks were first established in 1778.
By 1794 the original partnership had broken up and the works were operated by William Barrow, Rev. Matthew Monkhouse and Richard Fothergill. From 1803 to 1818 they supplied Tredegar Ironwoks with pig iron. In 1818 the works were acquired by James Harford of Harford, Partridge and Co. of Ebbw Vale who ran them in partnership with Ebbw Vale Ironworks and supplied them with the pig iron. By 1844 when Abraham Darby and Co. bought the works there were five furnaces in operation. After ironmaking ceased at Sirhowy around.1883 the works continued to produce coke for Ebbw Vale until finally closing in 1905
Under Abraham’s ownership the works developed innovations, such as hot blasting, resulted in the redesigning of the site and the construction of a huge freestanding furnace that towered above the existing structures.
DESCRIPTION OF REMAINS
The remains of the ironworks are on the east side of the modern town and were built into a steep west-facing slope. They consist of 3 barrel vaulted arches, one much larger than the others, which formed part of the retaining wall against which the early furnaces were built. Above the remains of the furnaces are the footings and some infrastructure from the charging houses and calcining ovens.
The ‘bear’ from the furnace can be seen in front of the arch. This was a mixture of iron, un-burnt coke, brick and slag which accumulated at the bottom of the furnace and had to be periodically removed.
The site is a scheduled ancient monument of national importance.
Tredegar’s historic clock was erected in 1858. It is made of iron which acts as a symbolic reminder of the town’s existence and growth due to the production of iron. The clock tower is 72 feet high, and the pillar is entirely composed of cast iron. The clock itself was made by J. Joyce of Whitchurch, Shropshire. Its translucent dials were intended to be illuminated by gas so that it was prominently visible and could be seen by ironworkers and townspeople throughout the day and night. It has become a landmark of which local residents are justly proud
The site chosen for the clock was then called Market Square but is now called ‘The Circle’. The clock originally had steps around the base but these have been replaced with gardens.
MR AND MRS DAVIS
Richard Powell Davis, the manager of the rapidly expanding Tredegar Ironworks lived at Bedwellty House and he and his wife both took a keen interest in matters of the town. In 1857 the proposal to build a town clock was put forward by Mrs Davis and her husband promised a donation of £400 if she could raise money by some effort in the town. A committee was formed and preparations to hold a bazaar were made. Sadly, Mrs Davis died suddenly before this was held, but with the £500 raised, the donation of £400 by Mr Davis and the remaining £100 coming from local subscribers, the target of £1,000 needed was reached.
James Watson, an engineer at the iron works was responsible for the overall design and supervision of the erection of the main structure. There wasn’t a local foundry big enough to cope with such large castings so these were cast at the works of Charles Jordan, Iron Founder of Newport. Foundation works began in the autumn of 1858, but the tower and clock together were not completed until June the following year. In its long history, the clock has kept time with remarkable accuracy and can be said to be a fine example of iron casting and a monument to the industry of the town and its people.
Over the years the Town Clock has been the meeting place for the town’s celebrations. Each year Tredegar Town Council opens the Town Clock as part of the Cadw ‘Open Doors’ events. This gives anybody, who would like to, the opportunity to climb the steel rung ladders inside up to the top.
REASON FOR OPENING
Trefil Quarry was opened in 1794 by Edward and Jonathon Kendall to supply limestone to their ironworks at Beaufort. After a while, limestone was transported to Beaufort, Sirhowy and Talybont.
The northern quarries are now all that remain, but the quarry faces, earthworks and tramways represent several different phases of limestone quarrying from 1829 -1919.
The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of the limestone quarrying industry in the nineteenth century, particularly in regard to transportation. Limestone was an essential product in the making of iron and Trefil quarry played a vital role in the development of the iron industry in northern Blaenau Gwent, and as a result, developed the communities that were supported by them.