BY the mid-eighteenth century, the Torfaen Valley’s wooded slopes had largely disappeared – most of the trees had been felled to turn into charcoal to fuel the iron forges (about 18 mature trees were needed to make one tonne of iron).

In looking for an alternative fuel to run these sites as the charcoal availability dwindled, it was discovered that coal, when converted to coke, was not only an alternative but a better and more efficient source of fuel with which to fire the furnaces. Torfaen was equally as plentiful in coal as it had once been in timber.

Midlands businessmen Thomas Hill, Thomas Hopkins and Benjamin Pratt arrived in Blaenafon in 1787 when they leased 12,000 acres of upland at the head of the river from the Marquess of Abergavenny and built Blaenafon Ironworks.

The ironworks were the second in the world to be designed to use steam power and the first to be devised from the outset as a multi-furnace site.

Tinplate (made from the local iron) works had been long established in Pontypool and the south of the Eastern Valley was also becoming increasingly industrialised.

The Conway family built tinplate works at Pontnewydd (1802) and Edlogan, Pontrhydyryn (1806). Pentwyn Ironworks began producing wire and cables in the nineteenth century and it was these works that supplied the first transatlantic cable.

Nostalgia is provided by Torfaen Museum. This week's Nostalgia is an extract from The Story of Torfaen.