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Crawshay Baileys Tramroad

Crawhay Bailey’s Tramroad was built in 1830 to connect to his Nantyglo Ironworks both with Darren Cilau Quarries above Llangattock and, via inclined plains, to his Brecon Canal wharf below.  Now a narrow surfaced road for some distance  connecting with Llanelly Church (Brecs)  and Llangattock in the Usk Valley, the route then continues as a footpath to the dramatic  Darren Cilau nature reserve with its (locked) entrance into “Agen “Allwedd”- Europe’s longest cave system. Less hazardous caverns are, however, open and accessible, but must still be treated with great caution.

The Clydach George – On Hafod Road east of Brynmawr

Deep-cut by glaciation and river-action into the limestone coal basin, this gorge has long provided communications between Usk Valley lowlands and the coalfield. Looking down from Crawshay Bailey’s Tramroad of 1830, the early 19th Century turnpike road – formally a mule track  - can be seen just above the A465 “Heads of the Valleys” route of the 1960’s.

Immediately below this is the 1794 Clydach Railroad, while across the valley is Bailey’s 1821 tramroad, part of whose route was later used by the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny  Railway of 1862. This single view represents the development of  local transportation in microcosm.

The Lonely Shepherd or Pica stone – On Darren Dysgwlfa above Bailey’s Tramroad &  Clydach Gorge 

Cut by early 19th Century quarrymen into an approximate human form and left attached to its bedrock, the “Lonely Shepherd” has now acquired a mythology similar to that associated with authentic prehistoric standing stones. On Midsummer’s Eve it is said to “walk to drink at the Clydach River below” and “look for a wife”, occasions that are claimed to bring death to any who witness. Until 1914 and the First World War it is said local people gathered here at Mid-Summer to white-wash and robe the stone before feasting and dancing alongside – rites probably inspired by ancient folk-memories. Clearly visible from the A465 Road, this fine viewpoint is accessible by way of a footpath from Bailey’s Tramroad.

Tom’s Thumb

This pillar was left by the quarrymen when they cut the limestone to use in the Ironworks at Nantyglo and Clydach. Known locally as Tom’s Thumb or King Arthur's Seat, many a night has been spent sitting on the top watching the sky (mainly youngsters).

Photos courtesy of Gwyn Jenkins 2021

 The first photo shows the site of the iron age fort which is below Tom Thumb or King Arthur’s Seat as some people call it on the Hafod Road. The early morning shadow shows the outline of the earthworks quite clearly.

The second one is I believe an old lime kiln which is off the side of an incline coming down from the quarry at Tom Thumb. I’ve added another view of it. The shaft is quite deep though rubbish etc. has been thrown in and we now have a tree growing out of it. - Eifion Lloyd Davies Sept 2016

Some Hafod views

The Hafod Inscribed Stones

Most living in Brynmawr know of the Inscribed Stones that are to be found near Nant yr Hafod which runs beneath the Hafod Road by the cattle grid. Here on the southern slopes of Mynydd Llangatwg above the Hafod Road/Cymro Road you’ll find these stones carved with Biblical quotations.  

They were done by Jack Rushton. He was born in 1920 and he was an upholsterer by trade and possibly lived on Well Street (the section that was demolished to build Orchard Place) above Orchard Street, Brynmawr

There are six stones in total scattered around this area with biblical quotes carved into them and Mr Rushton did these over a few years.

The stones are not easy to find but part of the fun is looking for them. The Hafod stream runs under the road at the cattle grid and the stones are above. As you walk up, on your right was a feeder pond and there would have been a leat to bring water into it from the stream. The pond was to provide water for Crawshay Bailey's famous engine “The Cymro” that ran along the Hafod dramroad. Over the years e.g. at least eight stones have now been found but there are six in the cluster mentioned above.

Looking for them adds interest to a pleasant walk out on the mountain.  Some are easy to find; others less so – grid references have been obtained using a GPS receiver for those wishing to find them the easy way.  There may be more!

The main group above Cwm-yr-Hafod read as follows:

“BE YE ALSO READY” Matthew 24.44

“HE THAT SINNETH IS OF THE DEVIL BE YE HOLY” 1 John 3.8 and 1 Peter 1.16  


“MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT” Matthew 11.30          


“I AM THE WAY” John 14.6

Others to be found are:

By the dramroad leading to the Lonely Shepherd, above Pant Draenog:


By the pylon south of the old Brynmawr reservoir:

     “I AM JESUS” Acts 9.5                

Information from Nicholas Beswick & Pearl Jones.


(There may well be others still to be found, apparently there is quite a large stone with Biblical inscription on the top dram road closer to Darren Disgwylfa quarry.)

The Cymro Engine

and the

accident  to

Joshua Morgan

in October 1871 

The gravestone of Joshua

Morgan reads thus:


In Memory of Joshua

Son of Charles and Mary Morgan

    Of Brynmawr

Who died  from injuries caused

by the Cymro Engine

OCT 20th 1871, Aged 20 Years

The accident happened on the previous Friday (Oct 13th) when Joshua Morgan, an engine stoker was riding on the Cymro engine which travelled at a slow pace. Joshua jumped down to alter some points and as he attempted to get on the buffer he lost his hold, fell and the engine passed over his left leg. Half the foot was cut off and the thigh fractured. Unfortunately the driver did not miss him and none of the other people travelling in the end tram heard anything. Joshua rolled down the steep embankment and lay there until the Saturday morning when he was discovered and taken home. The shattered leg was amputated at the thigh. Sadly he died the following Saturday.


An inquest was held at the Quarryman’s Arms pub in Brynmawr with William Lewis the deputy coroner in attendance. The verdict of “Accidental Death” was delivered by the jury and they excused the engine driver from all blame. It was recommended that a lamp be provided for the latchman and one for the engine.


The spot where this happened is beyond Hafod Farm just over the cattle grid. It was here that the Cymro engine would stop to take on water. On the right hand side was a pond; you can still see the outline of the pond and the leat that brought water to it. Crawshay Bailey had bought the engine but it gave him a lot of trouble as it was always breaking down. He said it would have been better if he’d waited a few years and bought a better quality engine.


John Bainton in his memoir of Brynmawr tells how he used to go across the Hafod to cut bracken as bedding for the pigs. He mentions the engine and shams or trams running from the Llangattock quarry and when it got near the farm gateway to take on water he would carefully hitch a ride back to Brynmawr with his load of fern and bracken. Naturally he made sure the driver did not see him.


The Cymro engine had other uses. A Sunday School outing took place every year and some would charter the Cymro engine and trams, (which were white washed for the day). The youngsters would pile into the trams, driven over to Llangattock quarry, then down the incline where they had a trip on the canal, a picnic and then back home by tram. I can’t imagine how they coped with walking back up the incline for their lift home.


Eifion Lloyd Davies

August 2016.

The Clydach Floods of 1867

Late severe weather in March 1867 caused an extraordinary accident at Pen-y Lan Fach on the Hafod Road, please click on the following link, to download a newspaper article on the floods.

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