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Newsletter 118, Autumn 2017  © Hampshire Mills Group


South Wales Study Tour, May 2017


Ruth Andrews


It was my aim to not write up all of this report.  As you can see I partially succeeded.  Lots of thanks to Andy Fish who not only arranged the visits and accommodation, but also did all of the driving.  As you will read, it was a very varied and educational tour.  



Eagle-eyed Eleanor spotted this machine plate at Kidwelly, but it is a good place to start.  It left us in some doubt as to which country we were in.

Newport Transporter Bridge

Our first lunch break was at Newport Transporter Bridge, where 4 intrepid HMG members (including photographer Ashok Vaidya) climbed to the top and then across to bring you this image of the gondola taking cars across (and the less energetic members of the group! – Editor).



Right : Looking up to see where we were!
Spot the man crossing the walkway


Cefn Coed Colliery Museum  
Pictures by Mick Edgeworth and Ruth Andrews




Mick Edgeworth says that in its day, this was the deepest anthracite coal mine in Britain.  They have a unique surviving gas powered tram (without machinery).



The mine’s headgear (as shown in the historic photo on the left) now lies in 3 chunks at ground level.  This apparently makes it safer! but definitely not photogenic. We were conducted round the remains of the site by 2 very knowledgeable former miners, and even had a guided tour of the mock-up of a mine interior, complete with a lesson on how to erect pit props.


Kidwelly Tinplate Works by Eleanor Yates
Pictures by Eleanor Yates and Ruth Andrews



The Kidwelly Industrial Museum Trust was set up in 1980 by a small group of enthusiastic volunteers who wished to preserve for future generations the history of the hand mill method of making tinplate.  The idea was first put forward by William Hill Morris, the then president of the Kidwelly Civic Society.  Grants were received from the Prince of Wales Trust, the Science Museum, and the British Steel Corporation.  Llanelli Borough Council purchased the site and the trust was granted a lease and applied for charitable status.

Kidwelly, on the Gwendraeth Fach river is the oldest surviving tinplate works in Europe;  it is mostly listed grade 2.  It was obvious from the start of the visit that water played a vital part in the tinplate works as we were able to see the surviving brickwork and sluices in the river and later the steam engines which powered the works.  Our guide, Malcolm MacDonald, then took us into the first of 12 buildings (there are also exhibits outside) and explained the very labour-intensive process of turning iron or steel into sheets of metal ready for tinning.  This method includes rolling, hammering, folding, and then bathing in hot sulphuric acid followed by rinsing in water before the tinman could put the sheets into the tinpot.   Both men and women were employed and the museum shows many photographs of them, advertisements of their product and of tins including those taken to Antarctica by Scott (see below).

The museum includes hot rollers, cold rollers, steam engines, shears, gears, and a Lancashire boiler with a lovely demure face (above right).  Although it took several hours to visit and would, if John Christmas had been in charge, have taken a lot longer, we highly recommend a visit to this museum. 

For information look at their website and their Youtube video





Carew Tidal Mill by Ruth Andrews


By the time the group reached Carew the minibus was running rather late, and the prospect of a long leisurely lunch had completely evaporated.  Fortunately Alison’s son Angus came up trumps by meeting us on the causeway with homemade sandwiches which he had rapidly assembled following an SOS from his mum.

Our visit to arguably the most important site on the tour was therefore rather rushed, and Andy didn’t get there at all as he had to refuel the minibus. 

The present mill, built around 1810, was abandoned in 1937 but restored in 1972 by the Carew Estate, which includes Carew Castle.  It is now again looking a little sorrowful (but very clean).  This is the mill which got me interested in milling and I was shocked to find that my memory of it was completely inaccurate.  Anyway, here are a few photos to give the general idea.




It has two 16ft undershot waterwheels with wooden paddles, which have clearly suffered from being flooded twice a day.  I believe that by 1998 the machinery and south waterwheel were operational, but I doubt if they are now.


Tregwynt Woollen Mill by Ruth Andrews

This compact and picturesque weaving mill was once water-powered and houses an iron overshot waterwheel, although it now turns only for decoration.  The fairly modern looms in a 20th century lean-to machine shed at the rear of the building are driven by electricity.  30 plus employees make blankets, throws, cushions, and so on, as seen right in the mill shop.  The site’s most popular feature is an excellent café.


National Woollen Museum, Dreifach Felindre by Ruth Andrews

I asked the group participants to each choose a site and no-one signed up for this one.  This is not surprising as it was a perfect example of how to turn a very interesting museum into something quite depressing.  I don’t know what these students from the Netherlands made of it, jammed in this narrow aisle with us as well.  

Inevitably the bale breakers, carding machines, spinning mule, Dobcross looms, and so on were all behind bars, and there was a sanitised room full of glass cases with captive examples of woollen garments and the ‘National Flat Textile Collection’.

Both the mill and the village of Drefach Felindre are a national heritage site and the museum re-opened in 2004 following a two year £2 million refit, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. 



Y Felin (The Mill), St Dogmaels
by Sheila Viner

Pictures by Sheila Viner and Ruth Andrews


I fell in love with Y Felin.  Who wouldn’t on a balmy warm and sunny day? The mill pond full of assorted ducks and geese parading and quacking about;  the relaxed old sofa in the summerhouse doorway overlooking the pond;  and the mill built of stone set lower down fitting snuggly into the incline leading to the Abbey ruins.   A second-hand bookshop is in the left-hand doorway of the mill and then, through the right hand doorway into the mill itself, there is a table covered with hen, duck, and goose eggs, recipe and mill history booklets.  A high wall of shelves is stacked with a surprisingly wide variety of flour types milled by the owners, Michael and Jane Hall, smartly packaged and beckoning buyers.  The whole scene appeared enchanting on this lazy afternoon.




The Halls bought the small corn mill, house, and mill pond in 1977 when the buildings were in a dilapidated state and the pond filled with rubbish.  In 1941 the mill had been briefly used, but otherwise it had been retired since 1926 after a well-chronicled life spanning eight centuries dating back to ownership by St Dogmaels Abbey, when it is thought to have functioned mainly as a fulling mill (1291). 

They set about restoring it to working order in 1980 and, a year later, reflooded the millpond.  Mr & Mrs Halls’ diligence paid off and the mill gained Grade 2* listing in 1993 from CADW.  Royalty descended in 2003 to the village of St Dogmaels on the Cardigan Bay estuary, and HRH Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, called in to see this little three-storeyed mill at work.

Cwmdegwel, a tributary which feeds into the River Teifi, powers the overshot 16ft metal wheel.  When we visited, the wheel’s buckets were alarmingly leaky, the water gushing at great speed in all directions where the buckets weren’t whole (some of them wholly full of holes) but at the same time the wheel’s activities loaned a homely quirkiness to the atmosphere of the place.  I do hope those wheel buckets are repaired sometime soon as a lot of energy is lost with each turn of the wheel.

I later learned that the iron wheel shrouds came from Grade 2 Listed Felin Asaf (Dewiston Mill) at St Davids which otherwise still has all its machinery in situ and is now part of a holiday home.

Three pairs of stones plus dressing and sifting apparatus are on the first floor and the meal chutes deposit the flour to the weighing and bagging area behind the shop.


From his three sets of stones, Michael produces unbleached white, garlic and chive, seed and herb, malthouse, self-raising, 100% rye, rolled oats, and bran as well as the ever popular 100% wholemeal flour – a staggering menu of flour types which must keep him and Jane very busy – and they retired for a quiet life! 

Internal Fire Museum of Power by Andy Fish
Pictures by Andy Fish and Ruth Andrews

On the Saturday of our trip to Wales we visited the Internal Fire museum at Tanygroes, Ceredigion.  The museum was founded in 2003 and was set up to cover the history and use of large engines in the 20th century.  It houses a wide range of working exhibits with engines running daily.  A selection of smaller engines runs all day from 10:30 until 5:00, larger engines are started as people come and go.  Recently it has been decided to construct a Steam Hall to save and restore stationary and marine steam engines to working order.  This includes the Hathorn-Davy triple expansion steam engine from Wessex Water’s pumping station at Sutton Poyntz near Weymouth in Dorset;  the engine arrived at the end of January.  These photos show the progress by the time of our visit in mid-May.

The members who came on our study trip to Dorset organized by John Silman and Tony Yoward around eight years ago will remember our visit to Sutton Poyntz where this engine was stored outside under tarpaulins awaiting its fate.

For more information go to www.internalfire.com.



Hetty Winding Engine by Ivor New
Pictures by Ivor New and Ruth Andrews

The shaft that was later to be called Hetty was sunk in 1851 to locate and extract anthracite, the then favoured locomotive fuel.  Great Western Railway interests obtained control of the pit and together with five additional pits became known as the Great Western Collieries.  

The shaft was named Hetty in 1875 when it was deepened and had its Barker and Cope steam winding engine installed.  Hetty was the owner’s niece who performed the opening ceremony by breaking a bottle of wine on the winding drum.


The engine was later rebuilt by Worsley Menses who added piston expansion valves.  Later still limiter equipment was added (illustrated), as a safety measure, to stop over winding.

Hetty is like a venerable old lady who when younger was present at all the major events of the day and hasmanaged to survive, mainly due to her current comparative insignificance.  Relatively early in her life the shaft shifted out of alignment during a landslip.  Hetty was then removed from production work and used as a ventilation and maintenance shaft until the Great Western colliery ceased working.  She was then utilised by an adjoining colliery as a personnel lift.  When, in turn, that colliery shut in 1983 the significance her industrial heritage was realised and she received a Grade 1 listing.

On 1 March this year The Great Western Colliery Preservation Trust signed a 30-year lease to enable it to look after this important site.  To celebrate the event the engine was operated using compressed air.  It is hoped this will become an annual event taking place late each September.

Operator's Station


Winding Drum

Blaenavon Iron Works


Our final visit of the tour was to Blaenavon Iron Works, principally for a lunch stop, which turned out to be sandwiches from the Co-op.  The site has extensive remains of several blast furnaces and casting houses (left), and a prominent water balance lift (right).

Thanks to everyone for a stimulating and enjoyable tour, even if it wasn’t all mills.  Andy is already considering next year – maybe North Wales.


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