Review: Hills Tramroad – Blaenavon World Heritage Site by Chris Barber (Amberley Publishing)

The latest Amberley railway book, Hills Tramroad, takes the reader on a historical journey of South Wales industrial landscape. The publication tells the story of the primitive railways, known as tramroads, built in order to link the iconic ironworks around Blaenavon which is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Between 1760 and 1840, a chain of ironworks established along a narrow strip of hill country stretching for some 20 miles at the ‘Heads of the Valleys’ in South Wales took advantage of the rich deposits of ironstone, limestone and coal that were the essential raw materials for the ironmaking process.  Blaenavon Ironmaster, Thomas Hill connected his ironworks with Llanfoist Wharf on the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal. Trams loaded with Pig Iron would be horse-drawn via a long tunnel to Pwlldu on the other side of the mountain. From then on, they would undertake a dramatic journey along a hillside ledge to reach Garnddyrys Forge situated at an altitude of 1,100 feet above sea level.

Painstakingly researched by the author, Chris Barber, Hills Tramroad recalls this fascinating era of precarious transport journeys that were essential to the South Wales ironworks industry with rare, previously unpublished illustrations, maps and photographs.

The book also documents the glory days of Pwlldu, declared a slum by the early 1960s and subsequently demolished, but not forgotten.

Undoubtedly a book to return to for anyone with an interest in South Wales industrial history and searching for further insight into Blaenavon’s World Heritage Site with solidified description of its history.

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