The affect of three decades of quarry decline and closure is clearly visible in this
photograph which I took of Rhiwbryfdir (or Rhiw for short) in 1968, just one year
before moving to Blaenau.
Oakeley Quarry had become so desperate for space that they
had taken the unprecedented step of bridging the mainline railway with a high-level
viaduct to form a waste tip, and mills, on the other side. By 1914 the extent of
this tip had reached the backs of the houses (shown on the right above) and posts
for washing lines had even been embedded in its base. Also of interest here is the
long slate slabs which extend the full width of the lean-to in the foreground. Wherever
possible waste slate was put to good use.
The tip was finally removed in an Improvement Scheme early in 1970 which, although
well intentioned, went too far by removing the entire northern end, including the
abutment to the spectacular viaduct shown on my page entitled “40 years Caring for
Blaenau - Pant yr Afon section”where details of this magnificent viaduct can be
The houses are still there, but so modernised and added to, that along with the removal
of the tip, every vestige of character has now gone.
However you cannot stop change. This leaves us with “two Blaenau’s” : the original
one recorded in my pictures, and the other one being the present day reality, which
is free to change as time passes.
This photograph and sketch of Rhiw, as it was in 1968 - and Rhiw as it is now -
shows both. This should serve as a warning against further creeping loss of character
and unsympathetic redevelopment. It should be remembered that UNESCO World Heritage
status can also be withdrawn, as well as awarded.
Detail from a much larger drawing showing the rear of the houses in the photograph
from the tip itself. Note the washing line posts embedded into the encroaching tip.