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 http://blog.dchopkins.co.uk (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 http://scholar.google.co.uk/.

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