Blaenavon World Heritage Site 2007

A part of Wales that changed the World.

Wales is an often forgotten nation, and yet it played a role in the World's development, that earned it its place in history. Wales lead the World's industrial revolution. Coal mining techniques were pioneered here. The World's first steam locomotive was made and used here. Iron and steel manufacturing processes were developed and perfected. Wales shipped its coal and iron all over the World.

Blaenavon, on the edge of the South Wales valleys and the Brecon Beacons National Park, has some of the best preserved industrial revolution heritage in Britain. Blaenavon, at its peak, was a World leader in iron and steel production. Railway lines to this day cross the Indian subcontinent carrying the Blaenavon Company stamp. Since its decline from that standing, it has become yet another valleys town, with its population of people who could not or would not leave when the industries were forced to end. This is a gallery of what remains.

For most of my younger life, I grew up on the other side of the mountain from here. As a teenager, I took part in maintaining some of the things you will see in this gallery.

Big Pit national coal mining museum

Run as part of the National Museum of Wales, entry is free, including the underground tour - the only one of its kind in Wales.

That was basically Welsh valleys life until after the World wars. The coal industry became nationalised in 1946, and made many strides towards mining safety, but at the cost of real money instead. In 1984-1985, the conservative government of Margaret Thatcher forced all the mines to close, but with nothing to replace them. The Welsh economy, and the communities that lived around the industries, were left in tatters. Unemployment rose to its highest level, almost certainly losing more money through unemployment benefits than the industries had been losing.

The UK, like many countries, still uses coal, primarily for power generation, and secondarily for heating. Most of that coal is imported. One pit - Tower Colliery - refused to give up, and the miners bought it for themselves, and continued to work it as a profitable industry. Next year, they will be closing, having worked all the available seams in the area they were working. There are still 8 billion tons of coal elsewhere in the Welsh coalfields, compared with the 3 billion tons that were extracted throughout the entire industrial revolution. Wales still has reserves to provide the entire UK with all of its power needs for many decades at current consumption levels.

Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway

Blaenavon Ironworks

Pwll Du, and the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal