Powys Digital History Project

The Elan Valley dams
Opened by the King,1904

  Ceremonial events
The ambitious civil engineering project of building the Elan Valley dams and reservoirs in the rugged terrain of mid-Wales lasted in total for thirteen years, from 1893 to 1906. The work was substantially complete, however, by 1904, when the scheme was officially opened by King Edward VII.

Laying a
stone at
Caban Coch dam.

Photograph by
kind permission of
Radnorshire Museum,
Llandrindod Wells

Stonelaying ceremony,1896There were a number of landmark stages along the way, marked by due ceremony. James Mansergh was understandably anxious to have both the full support of Birmingham Corporation, and the freedom to get on with the job in hand. Official visits by train from Birmingham were occasionally laid on, and civic leaders from the city were invited to lay foundation and commemoration stones as the dams progressed.
The stonelaying ceremony shown above is of interest in showing the open wagons of the Birmingham Corporation Water Works packed with visiting officials from the city. The wagons, perched precariously on the narrow gantry, carry the BCWW markings of the private Elan Valley Railway.

 King Edward VII
about to inspect
Craig Goch dam,
July 1904

County Archives

Royal visit to the Elan Valley,1904 The most important ceremony of them all during the creation of the Elan Valley scheme was the official opening performed by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 21st July, 1904.
The royal party boarded a special train running on the Elan railway at Rhayader station and travelled west along the valley with the trackside lined with soldiers in their best uniforms. The King, using an ornate handwheel, turned on the new supply at the filter beds near Elan Village to send water on its way to Birmingham along the 73 mile long aqueduct.
The souvenir postcard reproduced above shows the King and Queen on their way to inspect Craig Goch dam, the farthest dam from Rhayader. The trackbed of the railway line travelled by the royal party survives today as a pathway alongside Pen-y-Gareg reservoir.
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