|Photo 1. Numbers correspond to places on the key map.|
On the lip of a giant crater and surrounded by looming citadels of slate waste, it is a place so changed by nature and time, that walking inside the vast machine area of the mill feels like taking a stroll through a forest. Birdsong echoes from the walls. The low beams that gave the place it's human scale have long gone, as have the saw tables. Sky is the roof, fringed with waving birch, while blackbirds bustle where the hoggia felin used to split the crawiau tenau into countesses. It now takes the eye of an aficionado to see the marks where the journals for the line-shafting used to sit, or the scoring on the slate wall caused by an ill-fitted flywheel.
|Photo 2. Inside the dressing area, where the men would split and trim the slates. The alcoves are notable...I wonder what they were for.|
So I was rather delighted to find the photographs below of the mill, taken by Tim Venton, on the 8th of July, 1974. The place had been abandoned then, of course. It had been lying quiet since 1968. The scrap man had taken all the metal of value, while the slates had been stripped from the great roof. No doubt the mighty beams would be next, to be re-used somewhere else. But these wonderful photographs mark a point in time, helping to make a little sense of what we see today. The Victorians and Edwardians didn't go too much for photography unless it was of a group of smug folk standing round an aspidistra. Photographs of a slate quarry would have given them a fit of the wilts and vapours. I'm just glad that Tim didn't have any such misgivings when he visited that fine summers' day in '74.
|Photo by courtesy of Tim Venton|
|Photo by courtesy of Tim Venton. Taken from the tip run along from the eastern pyramid in 1974.|
Today, there's a well-trodden path beside the mill. When we stopped for a couple of hours to take photos, we were aware of folk nearby, walking their dogs or just out for a stroll. Most passed by without much of a glance, except to give a friendly greeting. A couple of folk stopped and gave us little snippets of information about the place, local pride showing in their smiles. I'm always keen to get any local information from real people as opposed to books and archive finds, even if it is sometimes coloured with a sprinkling of mythology.
"He likes you", the guy nearest to me said, with what sounded like an ironic laugh. "Nice camera."
I stood up, surreptitiously wiping off the pit bull drool on to my disreputable, bramble-harried exploring jacket, telling him that I'd been taking photos of the old mill for the last two hours. The vibe immediately changed. Both the guys were smiling now. "Have you seen the engine house? The mansion over the other side of the twll? There's a tunnel there, my taid said it goes to the next village..." I could have said that I knew about the mansion, although not much, I admit. But I hate it when folk go yes, yes, they know. So I nodded politely (there was still the matter of the gun, remember.) As it happened, I did learn much of interest from the lads. Among other things, they told me they were off to shoot tigers. As the current buzz-word goes, that's proper "re-wilding" for you.
Many thanks to Tim Venton for permission to use his photos of the mill in 1974.
|Photo 4, the forge.|
|Photo 5. A nook behind the hearth for the furnace blower.|
|Photo 6. The hearth, with a chunk of metal that the scrap man missed.|
|Photo 7. One of the rear two-storey bays, housing machinery -probably some kind of engine- for powering the line shafting. Note the rubbish tramway passing under the extension at the back of the mill.|
|Photo 8. The West end of the mill. The other end can be seen as a light green square in the distance.|
|Photo 9. From upstairs in the two-storey bay structure.|
|Photo 10. The west end of the mill with Y Garn in the distance.|
|Photo 11. Marks from a flywheel and the cast horn guide box from lineshafting at the eastern gable end of the mill.|
|Photo 12. Some vintage graffiti: "A.T.W 1886."|
|Photo 14. The waterwheel pit on the edge of the Twll.|
|Photo 15. The East end of the mill.|
|Photo 13 . The Quarry Manager's office. I wonder if it was in here that the discussions about the Pumping Engine took place with W J Griffith and Brindley, the representative from Evans' pumps?|
|Key to photo locations.|