Powys Digital History Project

Upper Swansea Valley
Craig-y-nos Castle 1
by Len Ley

  The following sequence of pages is by local historian Mr Len Ley. His local history notes on a variety of fascinating aspects of the social history of the valley can be seen at Ystradgynlais Branch Library.
Click here also to see his poem on the valley and its people
Origins and setting
The limestone deposits stretching across the northern ridge of the South Wales coal field extend westward to the Tawe valley and beyond. At Glyntawe they crown the surrounding hills and their peaks have been exploited for several centuries.


Lime kiln
on Cribarth

From the collection
of the late
John Morris

Lime Kiln on CribarthLimestone was quarried from the Cribarth and burnt in huge kilns and then mixed with mortar or spread on the land. The quarries once supplied several furnaces at Ynyscedwyn Iron Works and increasingly large quantities of the stone were taken down to the valley by pack animal.
  The lack of heavy transport created the need for a waterway along the valley floor from the port of Swansea and in 1793, Thomas Sheasby first surveyed a course that extended for twenty miles and designed to rise 605’ through 68 locks. The side elevation of the earlier plan resembled a giant staircase, climbing ever more steeply to the huge lime kilns above Pentre Cribarth at Abercrave. In the event, a second survey was undertaken, and a shorter Swansea canal was cut as far as Henneaudd, where part of its terminus can still be seen near the ‘Rheola Arms’. 
  Fortunately the clamour of the industrial revolution was avoided and our story begins in 1840, when Captain Rice Davies Powell returned to Glyntawe and decided to build an early Victorian country house alongside the River Tawe in the upper reaches of the valley. He was the son of Dr William Powell, 'scion of the Powell family of Glyn Lech Isaf', where they had farmed the land at nearby Pen-y-cae for many generations.
Captain Powell was called to the Bar and later served with the army in India. His maternal grandfather had been a wealthy surgeon with the east India Company and his father had once practised in London before returning to his birthplace and acquiring Pentre Cribarth Farm. 
  There are 10 pages on Craig-y-nos. Use the box links below to view the other pages.