THIS week’s Nostalgia is an extract from The Story of Torfaen. This extract focuses on the impact of Liberal MP R.J. Blewitt on Torfaen:

In the 1830s R.J. Blewitt, Liberal MP for Monmouthshire and proprietor of the Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper, rebuilt Llantarnam Abbey as his family mansion at a cost of £60,000 and at the same time, leased land for a colliery at Upper Cwmbran.

Blewitt built Upper Cwmbran Square to house his workers and opened a tram road (Porthmawr) down the valley. This tram road dropped over 600 feet in about 1.5 miles and had three inclines.

He also built the Caerleon tram road through his own estate at Llantarnam to join the Porthmawr tram road to a wharf on the River Usk at Caerleon.

He also established an ironworks and tinplate works. Although Blewitt fled abroad in 1852 after the collapse of the Monmouthshire & Glamorganshire Bank (of which he was a director), he was the catalyst in the growth of Cwmbran from a small rural hamlet to an industrial centre.

Apart from the Blewitt and Hanbury family interests, the largest companies in the local coal mining industry were John Vipond & Co and Partridge, Jones & Co. In 1880 the Blaenavon Company opened Big Pit and it soon became the largest coal producing mine in the valley.

It is estimated that around the turn of the twentieth century the south Wales valleys had over 500 collieries which employed over a quarter of a million people.

Nostalgia is provided by Torfaen Museum.