Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Echoes of Glory

A look at the vestiges of the once mighty Tuxford Incline
Blaenau from Floor 3 Diffwys (1280x960) Blaenau Ffestiniog and the Moelwyns, from Diffwys level 4

The Votty and Bowydd quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog, from being a massive concern with several mills in the 1900’s, are now little more than a few tips and one or two piles of slate buttressing. It’s hard to believe how busy this area was once, looking at it now. Only from the heights of the Diffwys levels can the foundations of the three Bowydd mills on their massive terraces be seen..  This is especially so when the Tuxford area is examined.

 The Bowydd C Mill ruins from level 6, Diffwys.

SAM_3764 (960x1280) Looking down from the top of the Tuxford Incline. The original chamber openings are below the diggers, under about 50,000 tons of rubble. It’s just possible to make out the old tramway to Cooke’s level in the rock face halfway up the photo to the right, and of course the Rhiwbach No. 2 incline climbs up in the background

Originally this was a long, multi-track incline going into chambers underground. A look at the albums on AditNow will show what an impressive place this was; a veritable honeycomb of entrances opened out at the foot of the incline.
We made our way to the incline head from Diffwys floor 4, climbing up the “new” incline that had been built by Maenofferen over Diffwys workings (and inclines!) to avoid paying tolls from the Rhiwbach tramway, whose inclines strode up the other side of the cwm. If that sounds complicated, the situation on the ground is equally confusing. The whole area has been picked over and untopped during the last forty years and it’s a wonder anything of any archaeological significance still remains.

SAM_3756 (1280x960) The Maenofferen incline house, re-used as a shelter and engulfed by spoil from untopping.

The Tuxford area is now being untopped by Llechwedd, and is a dangerous place to linger. As we walked along the terrace well above the pit (we had already made sure that blasting would not be taking place) the noise of diggers came up from below and we watched as a mighty machine picked over some rubble where the openings to the Old Robey chamber once was. The scene changes every time we look here. Sometimes the old chambers are exposed again…today they were hidden underneath a huge mass of rubble. The diggers appeared to be trying to get to the slate walls either side of the upper openings.
The pit here has been the scene of a couple of spectacular rockfalls because of the untopping and is a frightening place. The floor is covered with a strange black moss encroaching on the usual lichens and heather that grows on the higher levels.

Drumhouse Tuxford Incline (1056x1280) SAM_3765 Tuxford Incline Head (1280x910)

The old incline winding house is still very impressive, its’ slate is stained red with some kind of fungus not seen elsewhere on the site. A small building lay across from the winding house. I’d been told it was an engine shed, but now, sitting inside eating my sandwiches, that theory didn’t add up. Inside, there were concrete lined pits, but they were the wrong shape for the inspection variety usually found in an engine shed. There were strange pipes lying around, and a lot of ceramic insulators. Then I remembered a photo on AditNow from their archive here showing a transformer being crewled up to the Tuxford crimp. Now the various remains made sense. This was a generator house for the winder engines. Perhaps the strange structure to the side of the winding house was for the actual motors.

Transformer remains (960x1280) The transformer remains and pit inside the small building.

We noted a small adit on this level, too. I can tell you that it is not worth exploring- it goes hardly any way, is flooded, in places with freezing thigh deep water and is extremely unstable. So we had a look inside.  I don’t really advise following our foolish example.

To make sense of the area, it’s worth having a good look at the collection of photos in the Foty archive on AditNow. There are also some fascinating photographs by Graham Isherwood from the incline house in the eighties here on the Mine Explorer site.

Some Factoids:
Bowydd Quarry was begun in the 18th century but developed substantially after being amalgamated with Votty Quarry in the 1830s. By 1882, the quarry employed 344 workers, and by the end of the 19th century, nearly 500 men worked for the company. Slate was carried for shipment near Maentwrog, Merionethshire, until 1854 when a direct connection with the Ffestiniog Railway was built. Afterwards the quarry was taken over by Oakeley Slate Quarries Co. Ltd in 1933 and finally closed in 1963. (source: Gwynedd Archives)
Fotty or Votty is a corruption of Hafodty, meaning “Summer Dwelling”.

SAM_3782 (1280x1023)

Waggon in the Tuxford Drum House (873x1280)
Lever, Tuxford (960x1280)


Anonymous said...

Super shot looking out of the adit Iain

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks very much, Graham.

Mark A said...

I was fortunate enough to visit the Tuxford Incline a couple of times in the late 1980's, and have a slide of the classic view looking down to the open chambers. I also walked along Cooke's Level to the machine bored tunnel, but sadly did not take any pictures. How I wish I had, looking now at your image of the same location. It is difficult to believe it is the same place. However, as you say, working quarries evolve, and of course provide much needed work.

A great selection of images too, as always.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Mark. I used to spend a lot of time here with my Dad in the late sixties and we did go up to the quarries, but I was fairly young and can't remember much except a feeling of awe and excitement. I wish I had been just a little older and equipped with a time-travelling digital camera!!

Mark, please let me know if you ever decide to have a blog to show your photos, I will be the first and most enthusiastic follower, it sounds like you have some fascinating shots :-)

Mark A said...

Sorry for the satellite delay in the response.... I have been considering a blog as you suggest for some time. Planning is at an early stage, with many diversions as I revisit old images and try to decide what, if anything, might be worthy of posting.

As for the evolution of the Tuxford Incline site, have you seen this image? http://www.llechicymru.info/MainGallery/pages/L0001129.english.htm I think I might have been even more wary in my explorations had I seen this first!

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Mark. That is quite a difference down at the open chambers in that photo!! Some of Roy Fellowes' modern (1970's) photos on mine explorer are a bit like that, but from inside(!)

That is encouraging news that you are thinking of starting a blog. Don't keep us waiting for too long :-)

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