By Tony Beardsell and Martyn Young
The tramway track continues almost diagonally for 184ft across field 370 (The Gables), from the silver birch tree in field 380 to a point, the other side of the fence adjacent to the brick-built weighing machine house on the heritage site.
This tramway is a smooth 10ft wide well mown area cut across the slope, with evidence of soil creep in the field. Rails and fittings were found 18in to 2ft down.
This area has produced the most interesting set of finds so far. The swampy area leaving field 380 has thrown up more complete cast iron chairs, clips and tapered keys to fit the later Birkinshaw chairs.
Several longer lengths of cast iron inverted “T” rail have been found and a section of cast iron plateway of an eared type (see Tramway Plate Below). This prompted a visit to the Museum of Iron library at Ironbridge to look at drawings and diagrams to try to put a name to the specimen found. This section of cast iron plate is an eared type, with no name cast on it and seems to match a Blorenge type of plate, used on Clydach-Blaenavon forest tramways. This means that four completely different types of plates have been excavated on site, but all of very early dates (1790-1805). Was Hazeldine in correspondence with Thomas Hill of Blaenavon or Harfords of Nantyglo? We may never know.
Cast Iron Inverted “T” Rail from Field 370
At a point 120ft along the line of the tramway a host of different things were found:
- Repair plates
- Electric arc welding rods
- Barbed wire
- Many nails
- Centre disc’s from mole traps
- Spring clips
- A sneck
- Nuts and bolts and screws
- A book hinge
- Sections of chocolate block manhole cover casting
- Tin foil
All of which gave a healthy return on the metal detector and had to be investigated. Lumps of coal were also visible in some holes possibly destined for the kilns at the top of the inclines and burnt metal paint pots were found at the 184ft mark.
The last wet metal detector finds of July 2012 in the Swamp have been plotted on a hand drawn map, and not inserted on the 1864 tramway map. This small area produced 5 stone blocks, which have pegs inserted in the base plate holes. 3 are in line, but the centres are 28 & 30 inches apart which makes them too close together. The two pegs nearest the camera make the track width 51 inches, which is too wide.
Soil creep and general disturbance over time has displaced the blocks but nevertheless a very interesting find.
This area is a very wet swampy area only 24ft wide, between the fence of Rock Cottage and The Gables. It has dense vegetation, nettles, blackthorn, birch, elder, cherry etc, and we see why it is fenced off. However, this 24ft piece and the next 40ft of tramway up from the second fence line produced:
- 3 stone blocks in situ
- 2 displaced blocks
- Several clips
- 7 inverted tramway chairs
- A unique tramway plate (Figure2)
- 5 tapered keys
- Long sections of cast iron inverted “T” rail
The cast iron chair has a hole in it and sits on the flat bit of the stone block. The white pegs have been pushed into the drilled holes of the stone blocks, to mark the tramway line. The displaced blocks are left, nearest the camera and just beside the shovel, (Above picture).