Friday, 2 December 2011

Hello All,

I made a temporary web page with links to three J. van Laun photos of the powder house here: Also there's a composite of 2011 and 1978 photos to compare the stone arrangement in the wall. The copies of the 1978 photos were taken (with permission) on my camera, so they're not the best quality.

I didn't find new information/photos on Hill Pits at Pontypool Museum. The librarian suggested that the colliery owner was the most likely to have taken photos, but they don't seem to be with the Blaenavon Company records deposited in Gwent Records Office, which Mike has searched.

Keeping on looking,

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Hello Paul,

Following on from Keith's research at Blaenavon Museum, I compared the 3 photos of the Powder Magazine taken in 1978 by John van Laun with current photos. From the stone arrangements I'm sure it's the same building - surprising because so much has gone (slate roof, 1 gable end, surrounding boundary walls).

The museum has a collection of wheels, tramroad parts and tools found at Hill Pits in 1978.


blog (now I've got one!)

Session 9:The end is coming

On Thursday 24th November Paul (GGAT Outreach Officer) displayed the template posters in which the group's Hill Pit text will be included.

Andy had carried out some research into the electoral registers at Newport library and established that the Hill Pit cottages/houses were inhabited until 1961.

Keith discovered three photographs at the museum which proved the existence of a magazine in the Hill Pit area. It was in reasonable condition with a tiled and pitched roof. It was also surrounded by a high stone wall. Dennis subsequently carried out further research into this and believed that the magazine was, in fact what we now know as the 'powder house'.

Mike was to visit the Rifleman's pub to investigate a link with the Dando family, who was reputed to have lived in the cottages until more recent times.. We believe you Mike!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011



I was at Newport Library yesterday and went through the old voters registers (Electoral Roles).

Hills Pit Cottages were actually occupied until 1961, (not the mid fifties as we thought), but the name changes by this time to Hills Pit Houses.

Resident in 1961 were:-

1) Thomas and Mary McCann, Alan Howsen.

2) Thomas and Rosalind Green.

3) Elizabeth Wilkinson.

4) Walter and Emily Matthews.

It may have been that these houses had become social housing as only Walter and Emily Matthews had been resident in 1958. Any long term occupants seem to have moved out by the mid fifties and may have been condemned at that point as the turn over of occupants is quite rapid.

I have details of occupants at roughly five year intervals going back to 1925, (not every year, although the records are there obviously), if we want to attempt to track some of them.

See you tonight,


Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Hi Paul,
I have been back on the National Library for Wales website to check about the author 'Shane Kelleher'. I thought he wrote a book, but it turns out it was an article for 'Archaeology in Wales' back in 2009. However, after searching the internet - spending hours typing in different combinations, giving the length of the article heading (Identifying, remembering and restoring forgotten landscapes, recent archaeological work at and around Blaenavon World Hertiage Site). I finally typed in ‘historic landscape Blaenavon Shane Kelleher’ and the second one down, Forgotten Landscapes Project Landscape Conservation Action Plan -and the first thing that appeared beneath the above was Shane Kelleher's name, so I am presuming he actually helped in planning the project from the start?

I have also typed in Archaeology in Wales 2009 and the Dyfed Archaeology Trust website comes up, so does Birmingham University with a tag page for Wales, but as yet I have still had no luck in finding his article, unless it was contained within the article that Andrew brought in last Thursday.


Friday, 18 November 2011


No, that’s not how the group have rated the course so far, its how many weeks we’ve been meeting! Hard to believe that we are nearly at the end. With just two future sessions the pressure is on to organise an exhibition to share our experiences and show the new material that we’ve uncovered that can add to the archaeological record. (Watch this space for details of the exhibition).

The work that we’ve undertaken over the last weeks and months will also be used to lead a walk for the Forgotten Landscapes Project from the Iron works to Hills Pit in the New Year, more information on that one from the FLP team in due course.

We haven’t completed this course yet but we’re already looking at what we can do next year. It won’t be Time Team, (it’ll be better) but we are hoping to get down and dirty and excavate one of the sites covered by our walk. It takes planning to get all the consents in place and make sure the site is safe and vegetation cleared without too much disturbance to the local fauna. To be ready to go by the summer will mean getting things moving early in the New Year if not sooner!

Last but not least over a well earned cuppa, what no course can do without, discussions became heated over where to hold the end of course function. Wherever it is we’ll probably laugh a lot, no change there then.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hi Paul

Hope you are well.

As my computer has been broken all week I am using the library's PC. Just in case I cannot get access again this week, I'm going to send you the census returns up to and including 1871.

I hope to have a brand new PC tomorrow and hopefully I will be able to send you the census results up to 1911.




Hi Paul

I've sent you some photos from are first Friday walk for the display panels.

I have been in touch with Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale and have made appointment for this Wednesday.

I was down my local yesterday talking to one of the old boys, he said he knew a Billy Morgan who is in his 80s and lives some where in Garn -yr- Erw, but he grew up on the farm behind Hill Pits, and he as said that he would ask him if he as any photos of the area, he also said that the houses was demolished in 1951 and most of the bricks re used also where.

See you Thursday!


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Session 7: Planning leaflet etc.

Tonight we had a look at photos and the GPS surveyed outlines of the enclosures and the cottages. Paul suggested we start planning a 6 panel leaflet. We also may make posters for an exhibition, plan a walk, and have been invited to give a presentation at a university summer school. Keith will continue to see if Blaenavon Museum can find photos of the HP cottages and more information.

Re: the leaflet, 4 pages will be about the course (Andy will write about his experience and thoughts on the course). Keith will write up to about 150 words on the cottages history (including the census information summary), and Dennis something about the enclosures. Paul asked us to send him our photos by next Weds for possible use in leaflet or posters.

From an OS Ed1 map (1ins to 1 mile), surveyed mainly in 1813-20 - Tyr Abraham Harry extended about 50% more than it's current area in a SW direction (covering the Hill pits and enclosures area. No buildings are shown where cottage row and pit is shown on later maps, suggesting the cottages were later than about 1820, but the detail of the cottage enclosures may not be shown on this scale map.


Session 7:Getting the Message out

For tonight's delight and delectation the group will start to assemble the information obtained from the previous workshops enhancing the Historic Environment Record and consider how best to disseminate their findings to the wider community.

Session 5: Way of the Archaeologist-Recording an archaeological site

Last nights hands-on workshop provided the group with a taste of basic archaeological recording methods.

The group split into two, half the group learned how to carry out an offset survey with Rowena Hart (GGAT Project Officer), while the rest tried their hand at planning
an archaeological feature (they never realised how fun drawing flagstones could be!) and placing levels on their drawing.

Session 4: The Way of the Archaeologist-initial site visit

An walk was undertaken by the group on the 21st October. We started at Pwll Du tunnel before walking past the Powder House, the engine brake wheel, finally finishing up at Hill's Pit.

At the Pit we carried out an initial walkover survey of the enclosure, measuring the length of the earthen and stone constructed banks.

Surprising what turns up!

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Hello Paul,
I did a search in Google Scholar for "Hill Pits Enclosures Blaenavon", and found a link to the very interesting article written by Laun in the Industrial Archaeology Review, 1979. This can be downloaded for free

Regarding enclosures: page 9 states - "Maps (ref 17) prior to the sinking of Hill Pits show the smallholding of Tyr Abraham Harry as two distinct enclosures. The enclosure to the south west (the smaller of the two) is now occupied by part of the tramroad." Regarding the maps, Ref 17 states "Various from 1812 onwards" Just for fun I overlaid the 1st edition OS (1880) map with a Google Earth photo of 2001 (having long shadows). There's a lot of room for errors in doing this - but the the enclosures align quite well on the first image.

A larger area is shown on the second picture. There seems to be an outline of a building or something in the north most enclosure on the 1st edition OS map.
Dennis Hopkins

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Session 5:The way of the Archaeologist - Workshop Recording an Archaeological Site

Tonight we will be learning about basic archaeological recording methods through a practical hands-on workshop led by a Rowena Hart (GGAT Projects Officer).

By the end of this session the group members will be have the skills to produce a visual record of an archaeological site that comprises a brief written statement, photography and measured drawing.

The principles taught in this session will be put into practice in next Fridays session on site.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tape problems

Paul, Sad man that I am.
I've been thinking about the tape we were using. as it starts at 10cm we would have to reduce the measurements shown by the tape, not add another 10cm (effectively the error is 20cm).

So the first measurement (longest side to the left looking from the tower) is OK, because I took 10cm off. All the others along the back the far right triangle are all 20cm too long. Hope this makes sense and that I caught you before you started drawing?
Andy Brown

Friday, 21 October 2011

A walk to hill pits

On a dark overcast Friday in October we made our way from the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre. Our first stop was the Pwll Ddu Tunnel (SAM:223) entrance near the Blaeavon to Brymawr road. Ascending the near-by bank we made the short steep climb to where the remains of the base of a stone walled house, which have been fenced off. These remains are all that is left of a property belonging to the engine brakeman.

From there we made our way to the old Powder House (a Grade I Listed Building) that looks like the remaining side is about to collapse at any time soon!! We then made are way to Hill's pit chimney and enclosures. Once there we took measurements of the remaining enclosure banks, which will then be plotted onto a map.

Exposed to the elements and left to nature the remains of these stone built enclosure banks take on a natural feel like the surrounding area that once was a hive of activity, now laying dormant.

It is the aim of this group through researching various media to collect and correlate the information along with archaeology surveys to once more to expose and to bring to life what it must have been like to had lived and worked during the time when these enclosures were in use.

Michael Tomboline

Session 4: The Way of the Archaeologist-Site visit

Don't forget we'll be meeting on Friday 10:30am this week! We'll meet at the World heritage Centre before driving up to the car park by the Pwll Du tunnel. This session will be our initial sit visit, so we'll walk past some of the sites we've discussed during the sessions, finally finishing at Hill's Pit.

Once there we'll carry out a written and photographic survey of the site and discuss what will take place during the topographic survey on the 4th November. See you all there.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

And then there were four

Last week we identified the Hill's Pit area to concentrate our study on. We met back at the Heritage Centre this session having completed some research of our own through the week. There appears to be a great deal of information out there, but the task will be collating and editing this for the HER.

From Michaels rummaging in the archives at the World Heritage Centre we have been able to update the HER record for the main Hill's Pit air shaft.

Using a GIS mapping system we have identified that of the features we will be studying, however, the only information on the GGAT HER is for the air shaft (at present) and so our work will help to increase the information that is available to the public on this site.

Andy Brown

Session 3: Archaeology Show and Tell

This week we will be creating new and updating historical records through shared memories, personal histories, old photographs and sketches. Hopefully!
Remember, we are back at the World heritage Centre. 7-9pm

Friday, 7 October 2011


A big 'thank you' to Mike Howell for letting use the facilities at the Communities First building and apologies to the Arts and craft class that we pushed out of their regular Thursday night spot.
Also, thanks to Andy who made us all tea and coffee at break during yesterdays session. Tea making is an essential skill for any archaeologist!

See you all next week back at the World Heritage Centre...except for Katie who's going to see Bob Dylan.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Exploring Your Heritage, Week 2, 6 Oct 2011

Today we were at the Pavillion (Communities First) with tutors Paul Huckfield (Outreach Officer), and Charina Jones (Historic Environment Record Manager) at GGAT.

We started by deciding that it would be best to investigate 1 of the 6 mentioned sites mentioned last week - Hill's Pit enclosures (we may be more sheltered from the weather).

After an introduction we searched for information according to the worksheet - using the Archwilio database, . We searched for things like St Peters School, and the scheduled monuments and listed buildings (in Legal Protection column). This was designed to give us practice in record searching, we can now go off and search to our heart's content.

Then we went on to Map regression: had a look at copies of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd edition Ordnance Survey maps of the Blaenavon area (spelt with an 'f' on 1st edition OS). We also had a look at a tithe map from circa 1820s and the information it gives (land ownership, use etc.).

To prepare for next week, where we'll be looking at adding and updating Historic Records, we were asked to research any sites where we can add more information for. Particularly investigate the current information available for Hill's Pit Enclosures.
Dennis Hopkins

Session 2: Landscape detective

Tonight's session will look at the evolution of landscape, find out how maps are used in archaeology and historic landscape studies. We'll also explore the methods archaeologists use to identify new sites, have a go at interpretation of cartographic information, plotting information onto base maps and storing results on an electronic database.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Course Details

The course runs over 10 weeks and covers such topics as:

· What’s in my area? Learn about the rich and diverse archaeological resource in the Blaenavon World Heritage area.

· Landscape detective Understand the evolution of landscape, find out how maps are used in archaeology and historic landscape studies. Have a go at interpretation of cartographic information plotting information onto base maps and storing results on a electronic database.

· Community Archaeology Show and Tell Create new historical records through shared memories, personal histories, old photographs and sketches.

· The way of the Archaeologist Learn basic archaeological recording methods through a practical hands-on workshop led by a recording specialist. Produce a visual record of an archaeological site, comprised of a brief written statement, photographs along-side measured drawings.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Community Archaeology project is GO!!

A big thank you to all those who attended the first community archaeology workshop at the World Heritage Centre in Blaenavon last night.

The course is running for 10 weeks (so it's still not too late to join!!) and aims at providing a community group with a basic ‘archaeological toolkit’ of skills in order for them to carry out a community investigation of the archaeology and history of 7 key sites in the Forgotten Landscapes Partnership area.

Why not keep visiting this site and follow all the activities of the group over the next few weeks, or even better, if you live in the Blaenavon area come and join. You never know what you might find!