The Rooftops Of Cilfynydd

Cilfynydd today stands on the northern edge of Pontypridd as it creeps up the Taff valley towards Abercynon and beyond to Merthyr Tydfil. It sits to the east of the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (now buried beneath the A470 trunk road).

Most of the old terraced housing was built between 1884 and 1910, with the population exploding from a hundred or so people to over 3,500! This sudden population of what was originally a farming hamlet was driven by the opening of the Albion Colliery (closed 1966; today is the site of Pontypridd High School) in 1887. The village suffered great tragedy and loss in 1894 when 290 men and boys were killed by a massive underground explosion in the colliery.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilfynydd

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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East Canal Wharf

From 1794 through to at least 1951, this was the East Canal Wharf of the Glamorganshire Canal.

In the foreground runs the GWR railway (the main Swansea to London line still in major use today), built by 1850 by the South Wales Railway Company, which would have had to have bridged the canal at this point.

The red brick building in the top-right is the remains of the York Hotel, which adjoins Custom House, once the administrative home of the Glamorganshire Canal when operations were moved from Navigation House in Navigation (modern-day Abercynon).

Behind where I’m stood today is Callahan Square, but in the past this would have been the wharfs that stretched all the way down to the River Taff over a mile away: Sea Lock Pond, the first of Cardiff’s great docks.

You can clearly see in this photo how the road under the GWR bridge has to drop for cars and buses to fit underneath. My guess is that the clearance was a lot less when this was still canal!

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Lost TVR Route To The Docks

Lost TVR Route To The Docks

Lost TVR Route To The Docks

If I have this right, the abandoned bridge towers in the foreground of this shot are all that remains of the TVR railway tracks that carried trains down from Cardiff Queen Street station to the eastern bank of the Bute West Dock. Today, none of the track survives; the area south of here was until recently Tyndall Street Industrial Estate, with Cardiff’s Little Venice (the Atlantic Wharf housing development) beyond it.

The surviving bridge tower has a personal significance to me. It’s my waypoint on the way home every evening, telling me it’s time to pack up my things because we’re about to pull into Cardiff Central beyond.

I couldn’t decide on which of these three photos I preferred, so I decided to post all three.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Custom House Doors

These are the doors to Custom House, Cardiff, built at the north end of the old East Canal Wharf in 1798. They open onto St Mary’s Street, one of the main shopping streets in Cardiff.

Although once an important administrative office for the Glamorganshire Canal and its Sea Lock Pound, Custom House (and the adjoining York Hotel) has been empty for many years now. The reason for this is that the agent for the property is currently asking for an annual rent of 380,480GBP for 12,620 square feet of office space … a charge of around 30 GBP per square foot. I understand that to be quite high, and that’s before you consider the problems of turning this listed building into a modern office block that’s compliant with modern legislation such as the Disabled Discrimination Act.

Just around the corner, on Custom House Street, Chapter Arts hoped to open an arts centre right in the heart of Cardiff back in the 1970’s. To the best of my knowledge, that never happened, and the site they had in mind today appears to have been levelled and replaced by the Open University / Unison offices.

References:

www.cardiffians.co.uk/timeline.shtml
http://www.commercialroute.com/properties/?p=St.%20Lythans,%20Cardiff&i=26152&t=&page=7
http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/small/item/GTJ73166/
http://www.chapter.org/proposal.html

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Drive north along the A470 from Abercynon, and your view to the left is dominated by the Giant’s Bite, a gap in the skyline quarried from the ridge top.

The Photos

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

The Giant’s Bite is a strange sight indeed, clearly visible against the sky.

A Giant's Bite On The Landscape

Up close, the quarrying that created this unique feature of the landscape is clear to see.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

Its position on the ridge top makes it easy to take dramatic photos of the quarry face against the sky.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

This single tree growing out of the old quarry face makes a great focal point for photography.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

Further down the slopes likes the eastern entrance to the old Cefn Glas railway tunnel that runs under the mountain.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

The views from the Giant’s Bite, more formally known as Cefn Glas, are best to the east, where you have Edwardsville and Quakers Yard.

Thoughts On The Day

We’d gone out for the afternoon for a walk on Cefn Glas. There’s a choice of routes to it; you can cycle along the Taff Trail over the Pontygwaith bridge and then head south instead of north, or you can drive to it through either Quakers Yard or Abercynon. We decided to drive, and parked up right at the foot of the ridge line itself.

The walk up from the road is easy enough. The ridge itself is maybe half a mile long, running north to south, making for a nice afternoon of wandering along between the Cynon Valley to the west and the Taff Valley to the east. The Giant’s Bite itself is much rockier, and takes a bit of care to clamber around; I can imagine it being a fun place to bring the kids for an afternoon.

Post Production

Although bright and sunny on the day, there were just enough clouds in the sky to make it extremely difficult to turn the colour shots into anything usable at all without HDR. Rather than resort to HDR, I decided to turn them into a black and white set instead. I can’t decide whether or not I’m happy with the results, but they are what they are.

See Also

I’ve really struggled to find anything at all about the Giant’s Bite on the Internet, but there’s plenty to be found regarding the railway tunnel that runs underneath.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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The Pontypridd Sculpture

After the Brown Lennox site was cleared in 2009, this bright red sculpture appeared opposite, just outside the southern end of the Ynysangharad Park. It incorporates the Titanic (the chains for the Titanic were made at Brown Lennox), the old bridge that gives Pontypridd its name (which still stands today), and the flywheel from a mine lift (none of the mines have survived through to today).

It’s nice to see the much-maligned RCT making an effort in Pontypridd for a change, but like so much of what they do it just misses the mark. Why? Because if you’re coming north from Cardiff on the A470, this sculpture is mostly hidden from view by the turnoff into Pontypridd itself. Contrast that to other roadside art installations around the UK, such as the Angel of the North, which are sited specifically to be seen by approaching drivers.

I’m sure this thing must have an official name 🙂 If anyone knows what it is, please leave a comment below.

It sits close to the now-lost route of the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway, and opposite the site where the Brown Lennox factory used to stand. In the background runs the line of the old Taff Vale Railway (TVR), today the main passenger line up and down the valleys. The road curving up and to the right crosses the River Taff.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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I wasn’t around in the South Wales valleys when the mines were still here, but fellow Flickr user trelewis was. She’s posted a set of photos of the Abercynon Colliery before it was closed and cleared (the Navigation Park business park sits on the site today). Good historical photos that might interest anyone who enjoys my Merthyr Road series of photographs.

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I haven’t been to the site of the Aberfan disaster myself, but fellow Flickr user (and local history expert) thereggy has. He’s posted a poignant set of photos of the site of the Aberfan disaster and the memorial garden that stands there today. Well worth a look, and a read.

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(I’ve only just come across this – I hope John will forgive me for being remiss at moderating the backlog of comments awaiting approval. I get a lot of spam, mostly because of how heavily read my blog was back when I worked on Gentoo Linux).

If I could have one wish, it would be to take my MacBook Pro, my Nikon D200 and the whole GPS satellite system back in time to visit the places I write about back when they were more than the mostly-lost memories that they’ve become today. I’d love to be able to see what the docks were like before the Glamorganshire Canal was emptied by an unfortunate accident in 1951. I’d loved to have walked under the Walnut Tree Viaduct before it was dismantled in 1969. Heck, I’d have even loved to have seen the old power stations that have completely disappeared from Taff Vale.

But I can’t. All these things were gone before I was born, and several decades before I settled in Wales in 2000 (yup, I’m one of those ‘orrible invading English from across the border 🙂 )

Fortunately, there are folks on Flickr who are sharing their photos from these times. It’s an act of generosity that I really appreciate. I just hope the generation that follows us all one day learns to understand and respect the history of South Wales that we’re all trying to preserve before it’s gone forever.

John Briggs is one of those people kindly sharing their photos on Flickr. John’s photos, from his book Before The Deluge: Cardiff Docklands 1970’s, provide an excellent snapshot of life in the docks some twenty years after the Glamorganshire Canal had finally closed, and after the Bute West Dock too had closed.

Two photos in particular caught my eye this evening whilst taking a first look through John’s work, because they provide more information about the Junction Canal that still survives today.

Junction Canal to West is a great shot of the Junction Canal that used to link the Bute East Dock, the Bute West Dock, and Sea Lock Pond on the Glamorganshire Canal. The railway viaduct in the foreground is the Bute Viaduct, which carried trains across the Junction Canal to the western ank of the Bute East Dock.

This is the TVR Viaduct, which carried trains over Junction Canal and down to the eastern bank of the Bute West Dock (originally called the Bute Shipping Canal). From the curve, I’m guessing that this photo is looking west along Junction Canal, but I could be wrong 🙂

You can see more of John’s photos up on Flickr, or pick up a copy of his book Before The Deluge: Photographs of Cardiff’s Docklands in the Seventies.

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Past, Present and Future In Cardiff

I liked my original black and white shot so much that I went back a few days later and took this early morning shot with the Nikon. I took five separate exposures, and combined them into a single HDR image using Photomatix.

Cardiff’s Past: In the foreground is the Bute Dock Feeder, which took water from the River Taff and brought it down to the Bute West Dock. The Bute Dock Feeder was built sometime between 1830 and 1836.

Cardiff’s Present: Dominating the skyline is the futuristic-looking apartment block recently featured in the BBC’s Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.

Cardiff’s Future: See those cranes just poking out above the bushes on the left? They’re hard at work creating the St David’s 2 Shopping Centre.

Want to know more? Read the blog entry that accompanied my original black and white shoot as part of my Merthyr Road series on South Wales history.

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