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The Middle Wye Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Middle Wye Valley

The Industrial Landscape

The only evidence of early industrial activity within the historic landscape area is the evidence for a Romano-British iron bloomery at Gwernyfed Gaer identified in as a result of archaelogical excavations in the 1950s.

Later industries were mostly involved with the processing of agricultural produce, and generally involved the use of water power. Two early water corn mills are recorded at Hay in the 1330s, one being mentioned in the 1340s as operating on a leat diverted from the Dulas Brook. Numerous other mills are recorded, many for the first time in the later 18th or early 19th century, including the following: one on the Cilonw at Llanigon; one at Llowes using the stream in Garth Dingle; three mills on the Clyro Brook, Pentwyn Mill, Paradise Mill and Clyro Mill itself, to the south of the village which ceased operating in about the 1920s; Little Mill, east of Maesllwch, operating on the stream running through Cilcenni Dingle, first mentioned at the beginning of the 17th century; at least four mills on the river Llynfi at Glandwr, Pont Nichol mill, Porthamel and Three Cocks; Trebarried Mill on the Dulas and at Felin-newydd on the Triffrwd, a tributary of the Dulas west of Bronllys. The history of some of the mills is reasonably well documented, though little is known of some of the others, such as former in Felin Cwm on the Nant yr Eiddil south of Talgarth. Only one corn mill within the historic landscape area was sited on the Wye itself, a mill by the bridge at Boughrood, though a water-driven sawmill was built on the north bank of the Wye at Glasbury. The function of some of the mills changed through time. Talgarth Mill, for example, is thought to have started as a weaving mill, but was later used as a corn mill and then as a mill for animal foodstuffs, and finally ceasing operation in the 1970s. In a similar way, Tregoyd Mill began life as a corn mill but was converted to a sawmill which operated between about 1920-60. The water supplies to many of the mills were poor or seasonal and many ceased operation in the later 18th to early 20th centuries due to competition with mills elsewhere once better road transport available. By 1900 only about six or seven water corn mills remained in operation in the area, at Clyro, Talgarth, Three Cocks/Aberllynfi, Hay, Llanigon, Trebarried, all of which ceased to be used for milling corn during the first few decades of the 20th century.

Water power was also harnessed at an early date to power fulling mills, which had hammers for beating cloth after weaving in order to clean and consolidating the fabric. A handful of these mills are recorded in the area in the 14th century including one in the parish of Glasbury, one in Bronllys, probably on the Dulas, one in Hay, probably on the Dulas Brook, and one in Talgarth, probably on the Ennig. Some of the fulling mills had probably already disappeared by the end of the medieval period, although a mill at Bronllys continued in operation until the 1760s. Several paper mills were built on the Dulas Brook, one near Llangwathan and one near Cusop, both of which were probably short-lived and had probably ceased production before the end of the 19th century. Water power was occasionally harnessed for use on farms. Old Gwernyfed Farm included a water-powered threshing barn installed in 1890s, fed by leat.

A number of 18th- to 19th-century stone mill buildings survive, as in the case of Talgarth Mill, some of which have been converted to other uses, as in the case of Llangwathan Mill. Tregoyd Mill is one of the few mills within the historic landscape area which retains former machinery. Traces of ancillary structures such as weirs, leats and millponds have survived in many cases, even where the buildings themselves have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished.

Various other former processing industries carried out within the area, some for only a number of years, which have left little or no visible archaeological trace. Flax growing and processing was carried out experimentally in the 1780s and 1790s in the parishes of Hay, Glasbury and Llanelieu. A saw pit belonging to a timber yard was in use near Genffordd in the mid 19th century. A local hop industry is suggested by the field-name Upper Hop Yard near Lower Porthamel, given in the mid 19th-century Tithe Apportionment, and there are records of a malting business at Bronllys at about this period. A former malting house also survives at the rear of the former Radnor Arms in Talgarth. Platforms in Park Wood and in adjacent fields, near Talgarth suggest that charcoal burning was formerly carried out here. Tanning was formerly undertaken at several businesses in Hay until the early 20th century, supporting a local saddler's workshop. A substantial wool sorting business was carried out in a large warehouse Glasbury in early 20th-century. The former flannel factory survives at Hay had been founded in the late 18th century but had closed by about the end of the 19th century, and little is known of the former flannel factory at Trefecca, said to have produced 'some of the finest flannels made in the principality'. The Trefecca mill was founded by the Methodist community in 1752 in an attempt to support an already ailing industry, but this itself declined after the death of Howel Harris, the community leader, in 1773.

Blacksmith's shops were amongst the other rural craft industries which were once widespread and which can still be identified in one or two instances. From the point of view of accessibility the smithies were sited within the towns or villages or at important road junctions. Single businesses are recorded at Trefecca, Felindre, Pontybat, Clyro, Glasbury, Llanfilo, Llanigon and Bronllys, two at Hay, two at Talgarth, and three at Three Cocks/Aberllynfi at one time or another during the 19th and early 20th century, the buisiness at Felindre and one of the businesses at Hay being associated with wheelwright's workshops. A smith's products were often distributed quite local, an example being the ironmongery of J. Jones, the Pontybat smith, whose hinges are to still to be seen on the barn doors at Trephilip Farm, only about 1 kilometre away from his former smithy.

Lime production was another important industry carried out on some scale in support of the local agricultural economy in the area in the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries, normally next to the small quarries exploiting narrow beds of limestone, and often sited in remote rural locations. Former limekilns are recorded at the following sites: New Forest in Cusop Dingle; Park Wood west of Talgarth; in Cwm Rhyd-Ellywe, west of Llanelieu; Dairy Farm limekiln, south of Ffordd-las; near Blaenycwm Wood and at Cefn, south of Tregoyd; near Blaenau-uchaf at the head of Felindre Brook; near Bwlch at the head of the Digedi Dingle; at Chwarel-ddu to the east of Twmpa; near Tredomen; near Hillis Farm; near Draen; and near Court Llwyfen. Structural remains of the former kilns survive in several instances, notably at New Forest and Chwarel-ddu. Tufa deposits on Hen Allt Common appear to have been quarried both for building stone and for lime burning. A number of kilns are only known from place-name evidence, being indicated by Welsh field-names such as Cae'r odyn ('Kiln Field') and variations such as Cae rodin and Cae y roden, including a number in the vicinity of Troed-yr-harn, on the hills south of Talgarth. A further limekiln based on a local quarry is recorded at Chancefield, evidently in operation in the late 18th century. The general incidence of the field-names appears to correspond with known outcrops of limestone, and it seems unlikely that in these instances that it is corn-drying kilns or pottery or brick kilns that are referred to. Several kilns are indicated by English field-names, including Limekiln Field south of Felindre and Kiln Piece near Pant Barn to the south of Hay. Theophilus Jones noted at the beginning of the 19th century that because of the distance from the coal-pits the expense of producing lime locally was very great. The industry declined during the later 19th century due to competition from the larger producers elsewhere, especially following the construction of the Hay-Brecon Tramroad in the early 19th century.

Numerous other stone quarries are to be seen throughout the historic landscape area. These are mostly small and were probably largely in use from the later medieval period onwards for building stone and in some instances for field walls. A small number of quarries were worked on a more commercial scale, Llanigon stone quarries, within a short distance of the Hay and Brecon tramroad, being worked in the 1840s evidently for limestone, building stone and roofing tiles. Small gravel quarries which exploited fluvioglacial deposits are recorded to the south of Llowes, near Tregunter, near Gwernllwyd to the east of Talgarth, west of Three Cocks/Aberllynfi, west of Bronllys, and south of Talgarth Hospital. Clay deposits in the side of a steep-sided stream valley to the west of Whole House farm, on the boundary between the parishes of Talgarth and Llangorse, gave rise to a local pottery kiln producing tygs, jugs, jars and slipware plates and dishes in the period between about the mid 17th century and the early 18th century. Wasters suggest that glazed ridge tiles were also produced at this period. Surface finds and clay pits in the Boatside Farm, Tir-mynach and Wyecliff area to the east of Clyro suggest that similar kilns were also operating here at about this period. Though not representing a significant local industry, brick production was carried out intensively for particular building projects, as in the case of those mentioned by the Reverend Kilvert in the 1870s, probably in the area of Clyro Brook. Three million bricks said to have been made on site from local clay, for lining the otherwise stone-built hospital at Talgarth at the beginning of the 20th century.

Other short-lived industries which have left little trace but which depended upon imported raw materials include the former gasworks at Hay, provided for street lighting from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century. More remarkably, Maesllwch Castle was provided with its own gas lighting in the 1840s, using imported coal, the remains of the retort house and gasholders being still visible in the ground to the east of the house. A small chemical works for producing Naphthalene from the distillation of coal-tar was in operation from the mid to later 19th century until the 1920s on a site adjacent to the railway to the rear of Pontithel House, which for a time was the residence of the works manager.

Cider orchards were formerly widespread throughout the historic landscape area, many farms and public houses once possessing their own cider houses and presses. The New Inn at Talgarth claimS to be the last public house in Wales at which cider was made. Little visible trace of this craft industry survives apart scattered and depleted orchards which once produced varieties such as Golden Pippin, Redstreak, Kingston Black, Old Foxwhelp, Perthyre and Frederick in profusion. The former cider press outside Penmaes Farm, Llanfilo, is one of the few examples to be seen in the area. Another example from Llanigon, made of Forest of Dean millstone grit, is now in the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans. For a time in the late 19th and early 20th century a cider works was also in operation in the town of Hay.

Streams, rivers and wells continued to provide the main domestic water supply for towns, villages until perhaps well into the 18th and 19th centuries, when many private water cisterns were built for many of the larger farms and houses in the area. The growth of the larger nucleated centres required greater investment to ensure reliable sources. Hay Water Works was built on Hay Common above the town by a private company in 1863 to supply the town of Hay, the reservoir being taken over and extended by the town council in 1895. Problems of water supply at Talgarth were only to be resolved in the early years of the 20th century, with a newly-constructed reservoir jointly supplying the town and Talgarth Asylum.

The wide range of processing and craft industries carried out within the historic landscape area are represented archaeologically by a range of buildings and structures, including mill buildings, watercourses and ponds, quarries and kilns, artefacts and machinery, ruins and buried archaeological remains, each involving a wide range of conservation and management issues. Perhaps the most widespread and vulnerable remains of importance to the history of the area is the evidence of the use of water power from the medieval period to the recent past.

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